Man or God?
James Smith, 1859
Ever since Satan suggested to Eve, "You shall be as gods," man has wanted to reign. In the pride of his heart, he wishes to be first in everything, and considers that his dignity should be consulted, and that his honor should be sought. This has introduced a controversy — for God can not give up his prerogative, and proud man will not surrender his arrogant claims.
In the matter ofsalvation, the question is, "Who is to be first?" Shall God or man, have the credit of commencing the work? Shall it be ascribed to God's sovereign grace — or to man's proud free will? If to sovereign grace — then God has all the glory; if to proud man's free will — then man at least shares with his Maker.
Now the Scriptures everywhere teach, that salvation is of the Lord. That God originates, carries on, and completes the glorious work. Man gets all the benefit — but God claims all the glory. This man does not like, and it takes much inward exercise, much severe discipline, before man will yield to be saved fully and freely by grace alone. And yet it must be so, for man must be saved by sovereign grace — or not at all. He cannot be saved without an atonement for his sins — and grace must provide that. He cannot be saved without a righteousness to justify his person — and grace must provide that. He cannot be saved without the Holy Spirit to sanctify his nature — and grace must confer that.
The first thought of salvation flowed from sovereign grace — the plan of salvation was drawn by grace, the entire provision necessary was made by grace, and the completion of salvation will be of grace. It is a free favor from first to last. God is the author, worker, and supplier of salvation — and man is the favored, the honored, the happy recipient. It is therefore God, not man. God on the throne, and the creature in his proper place — the dust before God.
In the dispensations ofprovidence, the question is still appearing, "Who is to be first?" Man thinks that he ought to be allowed to choose for himself — but if one man ought, then every man ought — and all would be oppression, confusion, and misery. No, no! God must rule in providence, as well as in grace. He puts the question to us often which was put to Job, "Should it be according to your mind?" We have liberty enough left us to make us accountable, and keep us responsible. Our nature is respected. Our position among the creatures is regarded. Nothing that we can justly claim as a 'right', is ever interfered with. Yet, "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of Heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?"
He has appointed our lot. He has managed the entire plan
of our lives, and he works all things after the counsel of his own will.
He consults first, his own glory;
then, the general good of his creatures;
and then, our individual welfare.
Surely we cannot complain of this! Yet, man is directly, or indirectly finding fault with God's plan, and wishing that he could alter God's arrangements! If he might, he would extract every beneficial bitter from his cup, he would remove every obstacle out of his road, he would prevent any cloud from crossing his sky. And what would he have in their place? All sickening sweets, all burning sunshine, and a level unencumbered road. But it must not be! God says, "I will work — and who shall hinder met" He works without hindrance, and none should question his plan, for "he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
Beloved, let us be convinced of the folly of wishing to
put men before God in anything, or at any time. Let us never wish to precede
our Maker — but let us . . .
meekly follow his leadings,
cheerfully submit to his choice,
and lovingly acquiesce in his pleasure.
In the past, his people testified that he has done all
At present, all things work together for our good.
In the future we shall have to confess, that goodness and mercy followed us all the days of our life.
Heartily therefore may we say, "You shall choose our inheritance for us." Devoutly therefore may we pray, "Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day."
Gracious Lord, give us humbling grace, that we may bend our necks to your yoke, and ever bow to your paternal will. Bring our wills into sweet and hallowed submission to your will — that both in providence and grace, we may crown you, Lord of all. Help us, with admiring gratitude to rejoice, that you have saved us from the wrath to come, by your free and sovereign grace; and that you will lead us by your counsel, and afterward receive us to glory. To you will we give all the glory of every good thought, holy emotion, and useful work; for all things come of you. Glory and honor, thanksgiving and power, be ascribed therefore unto our God, and the Lamb, forever! Amen.