"Humbled for past unworthiness, let elders work on steadily and prayerfully, looking for and expecting the blessing. There will be fruit of our sowing, for that is promised; and usually we shall see fruit, though that is not promised. Some men have passed away from their work to their reward thinking that they had been of little or no use in the world, when it was found that much good had been done by them. With others, again, there is a tendency to exaggerate in their own minds what they have been enabled to do. While it is very encouraging to know that the Lord has blessed our work, it requires much grace for ourselves to safely see much fruit. Everyone is not led to say, or at least to feel, as Dr. Chalmers did when told of a conversion under his preaching, "That is very humbling."
"Then we are apt to forget a great principle of God's Word: "One soweth and another reapeth" (John 4:37). In the rescue of a drowning man, one person might give the alarm, a second might bring a rope, a third might throw it to him, and a fourth might draw him to shore. It could be said truly of all these four that they were instruments in saving the man from death. So it is in the salvation of souls, as proved by the history of individuals. God works all in all, but he often uses several different instruments for the ingathering of his elect, "that no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Cor. 1:29). How often would our poor hearts try to get credit for being the only instrument in the salvation of a sinner! Now, we can be of much use, and I believe often are of much use, where we see no necessary connection between our own work and the salvation of men. It is, in one sense, a humbling view. It excludes all boasting in ourselves. It is well for many that the good they do is hidden from them till they are able to bear it. And yet it is very encouraging too, for though we may not be able to do any great thing, we can yet do many little things. Let us rejoice to be even the smallest and humblest link in that chain of love and grace by which Jesus is drawing sinners to himself. How well for us and the souls we care for that, from first to last, "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9)!"
From David Dickson (eds. George Kennedy McFarland and Philip Graham Ryken), The Elder and His Work, P&R, p. 126-127.
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