The Art of Man-Fishing

Author: Thomas Boston

Published by: Christian Focus

Pages: 112

In 1773 Thomas Boston’s soliloquy on “The Art of Manfishing” or what he called the “scribble” was published. He wrote it as a 22 year old in 1699. It’s a very plain, simple and unassuming little book on evangelism. But the thing was that Thomas Boston was one of those spiritual giants of a bygone age. He was a man for his time and a puritan unequalled in many ways.

I am from a small fishing village, so the title appeals to me immediately. I was called into the ministry with a family background in the fishing industry. So I feel specially called to be a fisher of men (Matt 4:19). What’s so marvelous about this little work, in my opinion, is its stress free readability yet challenging and penetrating content. It’s not often we are able to pick up a brief treatment on evangelism and go away a different evangelist, but with Boston, that’s exactly what happens!

Boston’s work, of which we speak, is also a perfect introduction to puritan literature. So full of personal devotion, scripture familiarity and strong theological truth holding it all together. We shouldn’t always look over our shoulder and sigh for a return of former days and so leave place for ignoring and despising today’s work, but in reading “The Art of Manfishing” it has just that affect. Many sermons are preached today and they are almost void of the Gospel. This is sad and grieving. I say this because I believe the preached Gospel should contain rich abundance of the three things we find in puritan writing and in Boston’s writings in particular. God forbid I would be found pointing the finger at others and my preaching be weak in personal devotion, scripture familiarity and theological truth. This wee book on evangelism makes us examine these very lines of thought, for not only does it teach us how to evangelise, but it reaches down into our very motivations for evangelism and fuels us to go and preach to the lost as Christ did! It’s not only for the preacher though, as most puritan writing is all about the saint in the pew. That’s why their style is so rich and readable.

1. The promise and the duty.

– How does Christ make men ‘fishers of men’?
– But why are unconverted men compared to fish in the water?
– Ministers fishers by office?

2. How may I come by this art?

– What following Christ supposes and implies?
– Wherein is Christ to be followed?

I’m not going to outline this book in detail (one reason is that it is quite short), just to say that what you will find in “The Art of Manfishing” is mighty truth brought to you in a small package. Therefore go read and go fish!

Review by: Robert Palmer