The quotation Man proposes but God disposes may come down to us
as a direct translation from a work of devotion written in Latin by Thomas a Kempis. This work, his celebrated
Of the Imitation of Christ,
is the second most widely read Christian text after the Bible itself.
It contains many sensitively and wisely expressed insights into spirituality and morals.
In Chapter 19 of Book 1 we find :-
"For the resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom;
and in Him they always put their trust, whatever they take in hand. For man proposes, but God disposes;
neither is the way of man in his own hands".
The exact Latin phrase translating as man proposes, but God disposes; being Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit;
Many of the numerous insights contained in the Of the Imitation of Christ are very well
phrased and judiciously
expressed restatements of insights that themselves originate in the Bible.
In relation to this insight that man proposes but God disposes there are several originals
in the Bible to chose from:-
Thus in the Book of Proverbs, attributed to Solomon the Wise, we read:-
A man's heart
deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9
and again in Proverbs 19:21:-
"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord,
that shall stand."
With these verses we may also compare Jeremiah 10:23:-
O Lord, I
know, that the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to
direct his steps.
Shakespeare, too, has something to say on this:- "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."