“Non Nobis, Domine!”
“Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.” Psalm 115:1.
EVERY careful reader can see the connection between this 115 th thPsalm we see the gracious and grateful Jews sitting around the Passover table, having eaten of the lamb and singing of the miracles of Jehovah at the Red Sea and the Jordan. It must have been a very jubilant song that they sang! I think I can hear them singing, “What ailed you, O you sea, that you fled? You Jordan, that you were driven back?” When that joyful hymn was finished and the cup of wine was passed around the table, they struck another note. They remembered their sad condition, as they heard the heathen say, “Where is now their God?” They remembered that perhaps for many a year there had been no miracle, no Prophet, no open vision–and then they began to chant a prayer that God would appear–not for their sakes, but for His own name’s sake, that the ancient Glory which He won for Himself at the Red Sea and the Jordan might not be lost–and that the heathen might no longer be able to tauntingly say, “Where is now their God?” because the wonders worked by God would cause them to tremble before Him.
Remember that when the Israelites came up out of Egypt and were marching through the wilderness, the Lord put “the dread of them and the fear of them” upon all the nations in their track, so that they were half defeated through the terror that had made them almost like dead men in the Presence of the mighty God of Israel! So, the Psalmist’s prayer here is, practically, “Lord, do the same again–not for our sakes, but for Your own name’s sake–that once again the heathen all around may know that there is a God in the midst of Israel–and that they may be caused again to tremble as they did before–and no longer blaspheme or defy the God of Jacob.” These observations will, I hope, show you how suitably this Psalm would be chanted while still the Paschal Supper was proceeding.
Now let us take the words of our text by themselves and examine them under the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit. They are, I think, instructive to us in five ways."
- First, they furnish us with A POWERFUL PLEA IN PRAYER–“Not unto us, O Jehovah, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.”
There are time when this is the only plea that God’s people can use. There are other occasions when we can pleadwith God to bless us for this reason or for that, but, sometimes, there come dark experiences when there seems to be no reason that can suggest itself to us why God should give us deliverance, or vouchsafe us a blessing except this one–that He would be pleased to do it in order to glorify His own name. Moses is an example of how this plea prevails with the Lord. When he was on the mount with God and Jehovah threatened to destroy the idolatrous Israelites, Moses pleaded, “Why should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own Self, and said unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of Heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. And the Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people.”
Joshua also used the same plea when he said to the Lord, after Israel’s defeat at Ai, “What will You do unto Your great name?” He could not say, “Lord, hear me for Israel’s sake,” for they were utterly unworthy. He did not dare to say, “Deliver us for my sake”–he had not conceit or self-righteousness enough to present such a plea as that! He could not even say, “Hear us for Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob’s sake,” for the people had broken the Covenant which God had made with their fathers. So he pleaded with the Lord, “Think of Your own honor. Think of Your great name. Think of Your repute among the heathen.” And thus he prevailed. It is noteworthy that that awful attribute of holy jealousy, which, under some aspects, is like a terrible flame, is the very one which helps us when everything else fails. Jehovah is very jealous of His own honor and therefore it is that when the heathens say, “Where is now their God?” He answers their taunt by ceasing to chasten His people–not for their sakes, but for His own mercy and truth’s sake, that the heathen may not think Him unmerciful to His people, nor be able to accuse Him of being unfaithful to His Covenant.
Brothers and Sisters, in all your times of distress, you will do well to urge this plea with the Lord. Possibly you are pleading for a certain class of men or women who have grossly sinned. It may be that you have on your heart the case of one person who has gone to great lengths of iniquity. You can always plead, “Lord, save that sinful soul to make Your Grace the more illustrious. Do it that others who have witnessed his sin may admire Your wonderful compassion–that his relatives and friends who have heard his blasphemies and been horrified by them, may see what You can do when You bare Your almighty arm and magnify Your deeds of Grace.”
You may be emboldened to urge that plea, notwithstanding the vileness of the person for whom you plead. In fact,the sinfulness of the sinner may even be your plea that God’s mercy and loving kindness may be seen the more resplendently by all who know of the sinful soul’s guilt. And if your prayer should not be on behalf of some gross transgressor, but on behalf of a fallen church–suppose it should be for a church that has lost its first love, a church that has turned aside from the Truth of God, a church which has ceased to be zealous, a church like that of Laodicea, fit only to be spewed out of the mouth of Christ–you may still come before Him and say, “Lord, revive it–not for that church’s sake, for You might well make it a desolation, like Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant was at the first–but do it for Your name’s sake that all may see that You can trim the lamp when it already smokes and gives forth a nauseous stench–that You can take the fig tree before it is utterly barren, and dig about it, and dung it, and make it bring forth fruit, O You wondrous Vinedresser of the vineyard!” I leave that thought with you, suggesting that in your solitude when you withdraw to pray–I mean you who, like Jacob, have your Jabboks and your Peniels–you will find that this is one of the mightiest weapons that you can wield in that secret midnight conflict. There is a sacred art of gripping even the Angel of the Covenant in that time of mysterious wrestling. Say, “For Christ’s sake, for God’s name’s sake, for His love’s sake, for the Gospel’s sake”–for all these are mightily prevalent pleas with the Most High.
Let me just whisper a word in the ear of anyone who has scarcely learned to pray. Poor Sinner–
“Laden with guilt and full of fears”–
you say, “How can I plead with God for mercy? I have rejected it for years. I have often been rebuked and I have hardened my neck. I fear I have no plea with which to urge my suit in craving God’s mercy.” Here is one for you to use–say to Him, “For Your mercy and Your love’s sake, have pity upon me, the least deserving of all Your creatures, for, surely, if You will but save me, it will be an eternal wonder to men and to angels! If you will save me, then I will sing–
“All Your mercy’s depths I prove,
All its heights are seen in me!”
I remember one who said, “Oh, if the Lord Jesus Christ will but pardon me, He shall never hear the last of it!” And this is what all poor guilty souls may truly say, “Should there be mercy for such a sinner as I am–so old a sinner–so daring a sinner–so God-provoking a sinner? God’s Grace blot out my sin? Will the Lord put me into His family andcall me His child? Then, tell it in the deeps of Hell and let all the devils know what great things God can do! And tell it in the heights of Heaven and let all the principalities and powers there learn new music as they sing of the greatness of the loving kindness of the Lord who can pardon and save the very chief of sinners!” I suggest that every seeking sinner here should plead the name of God and the Glory of Christ–plead that He will be honored, that men will magnify His great name and the preciousness of His atoning blood and the power of His Gospel if it shall save you. This is a good plea–take care that you use it.
II. Now, secondly, my text appears to me to embody THE TRUE SPIRIT OF PIETY. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.” That is to say, true religion does not seek its own honor.
Self-seeking is the exact opposite of the spirit of a true Christian. He would rather strip himself and say, “Not unto me, but unto You, O Lord, be all honor and glory!” He seeks no crown to put upon his own head. Twice he refused to wear it. Even if the world would press it upon him, he says, “Not unto me; not unto me.” He does not wish for honor. He has done with self-seeking. His one great objective, now, is to glorify God–“Unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.” Do you not think, dear Friends, that if this is the true spirit of religion, we shall very often have to condemn ourselves for being so faulty in it?
For instance, suppose, in preaching the Gospel, a man has, even as a small part of his motive, that he may be esteemed an eloquent person, or that he may have influence over other men’s minds–I will not suppose that he has so sordid a motive as worldly gain–but I need not “suppose” what I have suggested, for it is lamentably true that this mixture of motives may steal over the preacher’s soul. Ah, but we must fight against this evil with all our might! Somebody once told Master John Bunyan that he had preached a delightful sermon. “You are too late,” said John, “the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” Satan is very skillful in teaching us how to steal our Master’s Glory. Yet, if ever we speak aright, it is because we are taught of the Spirit and not because of our own wisdom. Even when we have had the undoubted help of the Holy Spirit, we are far too apt to attribute at least some little power to ourselves. But a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ loathes himself when he finds that this evil habit has fastened itself upon him–and he cries, “No, Lord! Not unto me, not unto me, but unto Your name give all the glory and praise.” We are to preach so as to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves–and the man who occupies the pulpit merely that he may manifest his own cleverness ought to be hurled from it, forthwith, for he has no right there whatever! “Glory be to God,” should always be the preacher’s motto.
And as it should be so with our preaching, do you not think that the same thing is true concerning our praying? Arethere no petitions presented at Prayer Meetings in which there is at least some idea that we are saying very proper things, and very pretty things, and that people will think we have a great gift of prayer? Did you ever have such a feeling as that steal over you? Yet, my Brothers, the only prayer of the right kind is that which is offered for the Glory of God. If I turn from your public prayers and look into your private supplications, shall I not see self there?
The right spirit in which to do everything is to do all , for instance–a practicewhich, I trust, will never die out, though there are some who tell us that it is wicked to give to the poor–in almsgiving is it not possible to do it simply to get rid of the applicant, or to satisfy your own conscience, or that you may be thought generous? That is not right! We must give our alms to God alone. Let not our right hand know what our left hand gives, for it is not to man that we are giving it, but as unto the Lord. Let our offering be dropped into the box and nothing be said about it. Let us get as far as possible from the spoiling glance of the human eye, that the whole act may be as a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, something done for Jesus and for Jesus only, that He may have it and have all the glory of it.
And in any service that you may render, do you not know that it must be done simply and only for Christ’s sake if itis to be acceptable to Him? Yet, often, you can scarcely set a man to open pew doors, or to give out a hymn, or to teach a Sunday school class, but “great I” will be sure to lift its head unless it is constantly kept under! Pride grows swiftly, like other weeds. Yet remember that whatever we do in order that we may make ourselves the end and object of it, is spoiled in the doing and is not pleasing to God. Indeed, we are not offering it to God–we are offering it to ourselves! May God grant us Grace that we may never be swayed by the fear of man, or the wish to win human approbation! May we do that which we believe to be right because it is right and because we wish to honor and glorify God in doing it! And when weare rendering any service to the Master, let us never wish for human eyes to see it. That is the true spirit of piety–may God grant that we may have it to the full!
But oftentimes we cherish another kind of spirit. Even the sweet singer among you may be singing a hymn “to the praise and glory of God,” yet be thinking to himself or herself, all the while, “Do not those who are listening to me think that I have a very sweet voice?” Or, possibly, you are in the Sunday school and you feel, “Well, now, I really am one of the most efficient teachers here. They must think a great deal of me, or they ought to, at any rate.” Very often, even in the household, when we have done some little thing, we congratulate ourselves upon it and feel that everybody ought to pat us on the back and burn a little incense in our honor. Ah, dear Friends, if we think anything like this, may the Lord speedily drive it out of us! Such poor creatures as we are, if the Lord would let us be doormats for all His saints to wipe their dirty boots upon, it would be an honor to us. If He only allows us to be hewers of wood or drawers of water, like the Gibeonites of old–and if He accepts what we do, it will be all of His Grace. But for us to set up on our own account, to live to ourselves and to want honor and glory for ourselves–this will never do! We say, of some people, that they are “poor and proud” and, truly, that is what we are when we begin to boast! Lord, take away our pride–our poverty will not so much matter then!
III. I leave that point and come, thirdly, to use the Psalmist’s words in yet another sense. I think that the spirit of my text is A SAFE GUIDE IN THEOLOGY.
When I am going to read the Scriptures, to know what I am to believe, to learn what is to be my creed–even before I open my Bible, it is a good thing to say–“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.” This is, to my mind, a test of what is true and what is false. If you meet with a system of theology which magnifies man, flee from it as far as you can! If the minister, whom you usually hear, tries to make man out to be a very fine fellow and says a great many things in his praise, you should let him have an empty place where you have been accustomed to sit. This shall be an infallible test to you concerning anyone’s ministry. If it is man-praising and honors man, it is not of God! The Negro said of a certain preacher in America, “He do make God so great.” I would that it might be said of all of us that our preaching made God great. That plan of salvation that makes man to be somebody, is a wrong one, depend upon it, for he is a nobody and nothing. That kind of preaching which leaves a great deal for man to do and tells him he can do it–well, Brothers and Sisters–let those people who are so very good, strong and great, go and listen to it! But as for you and me–at any rate, for the most of us–we know that, by nature, we are dead in trespasses and sins, that our strength is perfect weakness and, therefore, the kind of preaching that exalts man does not suit our experience. We do not ask for it, nor do we want it. It will poison those who receive it, for it comes not from God.
This is why I believe in the Doctrines of Grace. I believe in Divine Election because somebody must have the supremewill in this matter–and man’s will must not occupy the Throne of God–only the will of God. The words of Jehovah stand fast like the great mountains. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” The Sovereignty of God is a Doctrine which lifts Him up high and, therefore, I accept it and reverently bow before it. According to some men, it seems that salvation is mainly the work of the creature. Christ died for him, but Christ may have died in vain unless he, by something that he does, makes Christ’s death effectual. That kind of teaching I do not believe because it throws the onus of redemption, after all, upon man, and makes him to give efficacy to the redemption of Christ! No, verily, but I believe that those for whom Christ gave Himself as a ransom shall surely be His forever–and that He did really redeem them and needs not that they add anything to make that everlasting ransom price sufficient and available for their deliverance.
There are some who seem to think that the sinner takes certain steps towards God before God comes to him, but it is not so. The sinner is dead and life must come to him from God before he can stir from the grave, or even have a wish tostir from it. And there are some who teach that after man is saved, he still needs to keep himself and confirm himself in Grace–in fact that his salvation depends upon himself. But it is not so, for He who has called us and saved us, has given us gifts which He will never take back and, having once loved us, He will love us to the end. We are firmly persuaded that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. From top to bottom, salvation is all of the Grace of God! From its first letter, Alpha, to its last letter, Omega, it is all Grace, Grace, Grace! There is no room for human merit and no room for confidence in self whatever! There is room for good works, yet no room for glorifying in them, “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” You know that jewelers have certain tests by which, if you take them a ring or a coin, they can tell you at once whether it is gold or silver. Here is a test for you to apply and by it you may tell whether a thing is true or not. Does it glorify God? Then, accept it. If it does not, if it glorifies man–puts human will, human ability, human merit into the place of the mercy and the Grace of God–away with it, for it is not food fit for your souls to feed upon! I wish that all Christians were more concerned for the Glory of God than they are. Surely, then, they would become sounder in doctrine than many are nowadays.
IV. The fourth way of using our text is this. It seems to me to be A PRACTICAL DIRECTION IN LIFE.
You want to know, young man, how to direct your steps aright, and how to cleanse your way. This text will help you, dear Brother, in the selection of your sphere of service. You will always be safe in doing that which is not for yourown glory, but which is distinctly for the Glory of God. Have you two situations offered to you? Are they equally remunerative, or equally difficult? Select that one in which you may hope to glorify God more than you could in the other! This is the voice behind you which says, “This is the way; walk you in it.” Are you choosing a profession, or seeking an honorable career in life? Then, I pray you, let this text guide you. Adoniram Judson, full of ambition, seeking a great name, met with this text and rebelled against it. But he says that all his bright visions for the future seemed to vanish as these words sounded in his soul, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.” Are you going to live, young man, to get glory to yourself? It will not do! It will not do. If the Lord loves you, He will not let it be so. “But what, then, am I to do?” you ask. Why, labor so to live, in any calling, that you may bring glory to God in it!
Sometimes my text will guide you as to which you should choose out of two courses of action that lie before you. DidI understand that you have had a little tiff with your brother or sister, and the question with you is, “What shall I do in this dispute?” Something says, “Go and make up and say that you were wrong.” But something else says, “Oh, but you know that we must not always be giving way and yielding because some people, if you give them an inch, will take a mile!” So, possibly, you do not know which course to take. Which is the one you do not wish to follow? Why, you do not like to humble yourself! Then that is the plan you should adopt! What flesh revolts against, your spirit should choose.Say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory. I will do that which will most honor my Lord and Master–and not that which would best please myself.”
Or it may be that there are two ways in which you might serve God and you are rather perplexed about which one to choose. One of them would give you a good share of honor. The other would involve more work and you would not be likely to get much credit out of it. You really do not know which of the two you ought to choose. I suggest, Brother, that the probabilities are that that is the right one for you from which you will get the least credit. At any rate, I am afraid that if you hold the scales impartially, as you think, your hand will incline just a little to give the preponderance to that which would bring you into fame. Do not do it–school yourself so that you can say, “For my Master’s sake alone will I choose that which shall be my course, and I will follow where He leads the way, seeking to give Him all the glory.” That is a direction post which, I think, will guide you out of many of the perplexities of life.
- Now, fifthly, and lastly, my text seems to contain within itself THE ACCEPTABLE SPIRIT IN WHICH TO REVIEW THE PAST.
Brothers and Sisters, this is the spirit in which to live. Has God blessed us? Do we look back upon honorable anduseful lives? Has our Sunday school class brought in souls for Christ? Have we been privileged to preach the Gospel and has the Lord given us converts? Then let us be sure to stick to the text–“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.” Now, young man, if you are beginning to serve the Savior and He has given you success, your conduct in this first time of testing may decide the whole of your future life. “As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.” There are very few men who can bear success–none can do so unless great Grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it–I will teach them”–you will have to go into the back rank, Brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise. But if, when God gives you blessing, you give Him every atom of the glory and clear yourself of everything like boasting, then the Lord will continue to bless you because it will be safe for Him to do so. He is not going to put His treasure, let me tell you, into the leaky vessels of self-exaltation. No, no–He wants good sea-going ships which bear at the masthead the flag on which is inscribed, “Not unto us O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”
Yes, and when the time comes for us to die, this is the spirit in which to die, for it is the beginning of Heaven. Whatare they doing in Heaven? If we could look in there, what would we see? There are crowns there, laid up for those that fight the good fight and finish their course–but do you see what the victors are doing with their crowns? They will not wear them! No, not they–they cast them down at Christ’s feet, crying, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.” Brother, Sister–living, dying–let this be your continual cry! If the Lord favors you, honors you, blesses you, always say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, be the glory.” Are you prosperous in business? Do not be proud of your riches. Are you getting on in education? Do not boast of what you know, for there is a great deal more that you do not know. Has God given you a few converts? Do not begin thinking that you are a mighty soul-winner, for there are many more yet to be won. The way up is downward! Your Master descended that He might afterwards ascend and fill all things–and your way of ascent must be downward, downward, downward–so that you become less and less, and less. Say over and over again, “Not unto us, not unto us,” till you utterly loathe the idea of human glory and let the Lord have all the praise!
As a Church we can look back upon many years of spiritual prosperity, but we must still sing, “ Non nobis, non nobis, non nobis, Domine.” We can bless and magnify the Lord for unity, peace, concord and perpetual increase and success in all the works of our hands. Glory be unto the Lord for it! But, as Paul shook off the viper from his hand into the fire, so would we shake off everything that looks like attributing success to ourselves, even to our prayers, our tears, our devotion. Let all the glory be given to God alone, for–
“To Him all the glory belongs.”
Now I finish by saying that perhaps there is someone here who is longing to be saved and the only thing that stands in his way is that he will not come to this point and say, “Not unto us, not unto us.” Ah, my Friend! You want to be a little somebody! You want to do something, or be something. Brother, be nothing, for then shall Christ be your All-inAll! Remember that the end of the creature is the beginning of the Creator. When you have done with every other confidence, then you can have confidence in God. The Lord bless you to this end, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen,