God's Work — and Man's Work
James Smith, 1860
I sometimes meet with people, who cannot, or will not, distinguish between God's work — and man's work. In the economy of grace there is both, God works in us — and we work out our own salvation. There are some things man cannot do — and there are some things that God will not do. Man cannot do God's work — and God will not do man's.
It is just so in nature: man cannot command the rain, the winds, or the sun; and God will not plow, fertilize, or sow the land. The latter is man's work, and he must do it, or have no crops. The former is God's work, and he does it faithfully. God will not dispense with man's efforts — and yet he will keep man dependent. He holds him responsible — while he proves him weak.
Just so in grace: we can preach, teach, and pray — but we cannot command the blessing. God will neither dispense with our efforts — nor put the blessing in our power. He will be the agent — but he will have us be the instruments. Yet in general, he has so connected the blessing with the means — that if we use the one, we may expect the other; though he always leaves room for the exercise of his own sovereignty.
Not that we can labor in vain — if our motive is good, and the means we employ are scriptural; for if we do not accomplish the end upon which our heart may be set — we shall be sure to get a blessing for ourselves. "You know," said Paul, "that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." And again, "In due season you shall reap — if you faint not."
Let me then be always at work for God, either writing or speaking, or giving; remembering that it is as much my business to work, as if I could command success, and all rested upon me. And yet while I work, I will endeavor to realize, that Paul may plant and Apollos water — but God alone gives the increase.
Some will not work, except they can be agents — this is pride. Others will not work, but for wages — this is selfishness. But there are some who work from love, and consider themselves honored in being permitted to do anything for God.
Lord, I would work for you; I would not only work for you — but I would work from a right motive. I would be satisfied to be anything, the meanest instrument, that you may be the Almighty agent. I would be satisfied to do all I can — and then ascribe all the glory to you. Give me grace that I may plough up the fallow-ground, sow the good seed of the kingdom, and expect to reap thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold; and then enable me to pray, look up, and wait upon you for the blessing, saying with Paul, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it — but God made it grow! So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything — but only God, who makes things grow!" To God be glory, all the glory forever and ever. Amen.