Matthew 18:10
The "little ones" here are childlike followers of Christ (cf. ver. 6). Reference to the infants to whom humble Christians are likened is not excluded. The infant seed of the faithful are of the family of Jesus. Neither the disciple nor the infant must be despised.

I. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ARE THE SPECIAL CHARGE OF HOLY ANGELS.

1. The universe is dual, having material and spiritual complements.

(1) Matter has characteristic properties. The properties of spirit are no less characteristic and distinct.

(2) Between the complements subsist mutual relations and interactions. The conflicts of the moral and invisible are propagated outward into the physical and visible. So contrariwise.

2. In this system holy angels have special relations to good men.

(1) Angels have a commission of guardianship (cf. Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14). Probably they see the countenance of the Father in the countenance of the children. Note: Evil angels sustain corresponding relations to bad men.

(2) The ancient notion may have countenance here, viz. that each individual has a peculiar guardian angel. Corresponding to the holy guardian is the "familiar spirit" of the wicked.

3. They cannot with impunity be despised whose guardians are so influential.

(1) Special favourites only, according to Oriental custom, came into a monarch's presence (cf. 1 Kings 10:8; 1 Kings 12:6; Esther 1:14; Psalm 103:21; Jeremiah 2:15; Tobit 12:15; Luke 1:19).

(2) It is perilous to be at enmity with those who are so attended. "Angels that excel in strength." The stronger angels have charge of the weaker saints. Those who would not offend the holy angels should imitate them in their care of little ones.

II. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ENJOY THE SPECIAL FAVOUR OF GOD.

1. Those who have the angels of God for their angels have the God of angels for their God. This honour is superlative.

2. Some interpret the "angels of the little ones to be the disembodied spirits of the sailors, which do always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven."

(1) They argue that guardian angels cannot" always" be "in heaven" and yet ministering to their charge on earth.

(2) What the disciples in John Mark's prayer meeting thought to be Peter's spirit, they called "his angel" (Acts 12:15).

(3) The reason why we should not despise the little ones, viz. that their angels see God, reminds us that the pure in heart alone can see God.

(4) In this view the" angels of God," in whose presence" there is joy over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10), will be "the spirits of just men made perfect." For the context in Luke shows that this is a parallel case.

3. Those whose disembodied spirits would be honoured with the vision of God cannot be despised with impunity.

(1) The little ones of Christ are despised by corrupting them. By failing to edify them. They are despised when innocency and simplicity are treated as weaknesses.

(2) Those guilty of despising them will encounter the resistance of the will of God. "It is not the will," etc. (cf. ver. 14; Ezekiel 18:23). If there be joy in heaven for the finding of one of the little ones turned out of the way, there is wrath in heaven for the offending of them.

(3) "As God wilt be displeased with the enemies of his Church if they wrong any of the members of it, so he is displeased with the great ones of the Church if they despise the little ones" (Henry).

III. THEY ARE THE REVERSE OF DESPICABLE WHO ARE THE SPECIAL SOLICITUDE OF CHRIST. In the parable of the sheep we have:

1. The flock.

(1) Holy angels are included in its unity (cf. Hebrews 12:22). These are by some accounted to be the "ninety and nine who went not astray."

(2) The ministration of angels is founded on the mediation of Christ. This is expressed in the words, "For the Son of man," etc., relegated, however, to the margin in the Revised Version. So in the vision of Jacob's ladder (cf. Genesis 28:12; John 1:51). Through Christ the holy angels are reconciled to us.

(3) The ninety and nine who went not astray may be such as the scribes and Pharisees of the better sort; not the hypocrites, but those who, like the elder brother, never left their Father's house - those whose respect for the Law kept them from committing gross offences.

2. The wanderer.

(1) The sheep sees better herbage at a distance, and wanders after it; then discovers more yet farther off; wanders by degrees further and further; mistakes the way back, and is lost in the wilderness. So the soul wanders from pleasure to pleasure, and gets lost.

(2) Now the sheep is exposed to the dangers of the lion or the wolf, the ditch or the precipice, and is in wretchedness and terror.

3. The Shepherd.

(1) He cares for those in the fold. They have his care in the provision of food, as well as shelter and protection. We should sympathize with Christ in striving to keep his sheep (see Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11, 12). As he is the great Shepherd, having many sheep, so is he the good Shepherd, knowing each lamb.

(2) He cares especially for the wanderer. It is the shepherd's duty to look more particularly after the stray sheep than after those abiding in the fold. Jesus, who came to save a world, makes special efforts to save even one. The whole flock suffers when one sheep wanders.

(3) "if so be that he find it." The finding of a sinner is a contingent event. Grace is not irresistible. Yet the wanderer should know that the Shepherd is very near him. Are we as anxiously seeking Jesus as he is seeking us?

(4) The tender sheep is not driven, but carried by Christ. "And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders" (see Luke 15:5). He carries us and our sins.

(5) Jesus rejoices over the conversion of a sinner, as a shepherd over a recovered sheep; as a woman over a recovered piece of silver; as a father over a recovered son. The rejoicing affects heaven as well as the Church on earth. It is natural to feel uncommon joy at the fortunate accomplishment of an unexpected event.

4. The enemy. Those who would injure the sheep of Christ are special objects of his displeasure.

(1) The nations that injured Israel of old were severely reckoned with.

(2) The antichristian nations who persecuted his people are doomed to a fearful retribution.

(3) Every contemptuous son of pride will be confronted at the judgment of the last day. - J.A.M.







Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.
Look at the sources of contempt; and what are its correctives.

I. THE SOURCES OF CONTEMPT.

1. Want of knowledge will produce contempt. You could not despise the smallest and meanest in God's great universe if only you had a true and enlarged conception of what that universe is. God watches over all; how can we treat with contempt the meanest object of His care.

2. Want of wisdom produces contempt. I cannot imagine it being said it is hardly true that enlarged knowledge diminishes contempt. As we grow older we find out the weaknesses of those we were taught to reverence. But no wisdom lies in that. A wise man newt despises; he reads beneath the surface. There is an angel behind the meanest form.

3. Want of reverence produces contempt.

II. THE REMEDY. Sympathy is the antidote to contempt, as love is the restorative of all the ills of the universe. This shows that in the meanest men there are splendid possibilities,

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

And just as surely as a crushed finger is understood and felt by the thrill and ache in the brain, so the wounded one here, or the little one injured and offended and despised here, is not simply a thing isolated from the rest of God's universe, but one bound with it in the whole relationship and web of life. so intimately connected, that its grief and its sorrow and its wound is felt right away up there, where God sits enthroned. As He gives us that conception of life, so He says it it impossible now you should despise. Let a larger knowledge of being enter rote your thoughts, and then you will see all creation is interlocked and interlaced in such a way that to understand one is to understand the whole; that there is no creature, however mean, that is outside the range of Divine superintendence and Divine knowledge, "Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven."

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

A wise man never despises. See one moment. Unwise men are ready to despise because they do not understand, or think out the meaning of little things. But the man of wisdom sees there is nothing in the world, however mean, that cannot have a real significance, and that just as you can see that the universe is one so you may see in a single thing the whole universe reflected. Here is the man who will not despise. Other men have been looking day by day at the same thing, but they have not had the wisdom to read beneath the surface. To them this is merely a bit of broken crystal; but the eyes of the man of wisdom look underneath the fractured morsels and see the law of form. This is but a swinging lamp in the eye of the world; but this man sees in it the angel of the law of movement. There again is only a falling stone, and yet he, with his keen eye, shall read beneath it the law of order in the universe. Surely, it is true, where great wisdom exists there is an inclination to banish contempt, for contempt hinders the growth of knowledge.

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

The man who is above all these things looks with profound disdain upon the toys of the little children around him. Do you think he is nobler at that moment when he says he is above all these things, than that other who stoops from out of his range of knowledge to help the little child with the broken toy? There is a contrast of character. The one has knowledge and conceit, which is always twin brother to contempt, and the other has the sympathy and the reverence, and these are linked in their kinship together. Or it takes the form in another man's nature of that determination to view himself as exempt from the laws which govern other men. Other men are studious, other men are prayerful, and other men watch their characters and examine themselves. He says, "I never could do that sort of thing." There is the spirit of contempt for that which is the help of others. But is it a great thing to hold ourselves above our fellows, or is it not the very teaching of Jesus Christ that the noblest thing for man is to recognize that he is man. and that his best manliness is in submitting himself to those laws and orders which are needful for the education and discipline of man? It is always Satan's method to say, "Ye shall be as gods;" and it drops in well with our conceit, and it ministers to our contempt.

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

There comes a time when we esteem ourselves so great and others so little, we get into a habit of a nil admirari, and we never think it noble or great to show pleasure or admiration at anything. And thus it happens that a human being, born into God's world with all the rich glories of creation falling thick and fast in light and form and colour about him, stands there where thousands and tens of thousands of men, poets, painters, orators, and historians, have stood and gazed upon that world, with its growth and beauty, with admiration aghast, and he sees nothing to admire in it. What a miserable distortion of humanity! What a miserable falling back into a vain and irretrievable egotism, because he has allowed the spirit of contempt to get hold of him!

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

Is it not true also in regard to human life? Over all the dark angel of contempt hovers. But is there not, if we look wisely at human life, a marvellous display of real angelic force? Mark this life you will be disposed to despise. Who can find anything of angel ministers and poetry in that of a mere labourer of the fields, whose to-day is just like yesterday — rising early, ploughing, casting in the seed, reaping, and with an ignorant and dull brain following the plough, and pursuing the field labour from day to day, no other thought leaping up in his mind but a moody anticipation of next year's harvest. Yet, if you look aright, there is a light as of an angel's presence behind such a life as that. This is one of God's ministers. Is it nothing to stand before the face of the great Creator and receive from His hand, as the disciples did of old, the bread to be distributed to the sons of men? Behind the most prosaic life there is an angel form for those who look through it. Take the dull round of the man of medicine. With its weariness there grows upon him the feeling that life is nothing but a monotonous round of visits — fruitless visits if he has to minister to the miserable hypochondriac — and then follows despair that his life is a useless one. Yet behind it there is the light of the angel's wing, for when he is present that poor hypochondriac has her powers and energies strengthened to excite themselves against the weakness of her nature. His is the soothing hand that restores to the tired nerves their power. Yes, the dullest life, the hardest existence, the most monotonous career, has an angel of light behind it.

(Bishop Carpenter, D. D.)

The offices of the guardian angels are —

1. To avert dangers both of the body and the soul.

2. To illuminate and instruct those committed to their charge, and to urge them to good works.

3. To restrain the devil, that he may not suggest wicked thoughts, or furnish occasions for sin.

4. To offer to God the prayers of him whom He guards.

5. To pray for him.

6. To correct him if he sin.

7. To stand by him at the hour of death, to comfort and assist him in his last struggle.

8. After death to convey the soul to Paradise.

(Lapide.)

I. How great is the dignity of souls, that they have angels for their guardians.

II. How great is the condescension of God, that He assigns to us such guides.

III. How great is the humility and love of the angels, who do not disdain these offices, but delight in them.

(Lapide.)

The knowledge of nature is a conception which has broadened our thoughts and ensured our convictions. And in proportion as this is true, does not the thought rush upon us that this great creation, with its law, and system, and organization, becomes ministerial in its aspect? Everything ministers to another. Our angels are not vanished, but our conception of angel ministers is enlarged. We need not to wait for some angelic beings as guardian angels to direct our steps and hold us up in their hands. Now every law and every force becomes God's angel. The flame that leaps up from our hearths, the wind that beats in our face, and star that shines in the sky, these are God's angels as much as ever were the guardian around us. The flowers that dispelled their fragrance in our faces, the great blue sky, and the cheery breezes, all these excited our admiration and stimulated our reverence.

(Bp. Carpenter.)

Ministry of angels to Christian children. Practical lessons.

I. BEWARE LEST YOU PUT STUMBLING-BLOCKS IS THEIR WAY. It is impossible to say how early the real moral and spiritual character begins to form itself — long before we can externally trace what is going on. Flowing from this is the great blessedness of being allowed to deal with such creatures. "Workers together with God." The great danger that you should do your work badly through any fault of yours. The nurse who lets the child drop and gets crippled for life never forgives herself. But what if they should become spiritual cripples!

II. HE GUARDS AGAINST DOING THIS. Knowing what the treasure is that is committed to you. Not a class, but souls, for whom Christ died, etc. This idea, once laid hold of, settles all difficulties about what should be taught. Deal with them separately.

(S. Wilberforce, D. D.)

Louis IX., king of France, was found instructing a poor kitchen boy, and, being asked why he did so, replied, "The meanest person hath a soul as precious as my own, and bought with the same blood of Christ." Despising the little ones: — Anniversary address to parents. We all need this text and its kindly warning, for we are all in danger of " despising the little ones." See how —

I. BY UNDERVALUING THE INFLUENCE THEY CAN EXERT. Especially on a mother. On a home. In saving men from vice.

II. BY UNDERESTIMATING THE CARE AND HELP THEY NEED IF THEY ARE TO GROW UP GOOD.

III. BY MISUNDERSTANDING THE PECULIARITIES OF THE LITTLE ONES.

IV. BY CHERISHING THE NOTION THAT THEY MUST BE BIG BEFORE THEY CAN REALLY LOVE AND SERVE CHRIST.

(R. Tuck, B. A.)

1. Think of His words, and you will see that Jesus isolates each of us, setting us man by man apart: "despise not one"; "if one of them be gone astray." He who counts our hairs, much more counts us.

2. Jesus measures the worth of each human being by God's special and separate care of him. Feebleness commends us to His care; much more does sin. He has more pity even for the "lost," more than for the "little ones." He seeks them.

3. Such teaching from the lips of Jesus was a new thing in the world, and wrought a revolution. How cheap men held human life till Jesus taught the equal worth of manhood.

4. It deserves special notice in what way it is that the teaching of Jesus has cut the roots from that self-valuing or self-praising which has always led men to undervalue and despise others. There are two ways in which to correct the boastful man's estimate. I may seek to sober his conceit by showing him man's littleness at his best. Christ did not lower the dignity of human nature; He came to cure contempt for the little and lost by making us think more. He came to put our self-esteem on its true footing; not on what is accidental or peculiar to one man, but on what is common to the race. In such an atmosphere as Christ lived in pride dies.

5. Let me show you one or two of these inward prerogatives which assert your personal value in God's reckoning to be as great as any other man's.(1) From each one of us God claims a separate responsibility. We have each a moral constitution of our own, as recognizable as the features of our face.(2) From the moment of birth God subjects each person to a separate course of training.(3) That God is Father as well as Judge to all, and permits each soul ready access to Him.(4) Perhaps you say, "can a man be of value to God after his soul is ruined." God's love is indestructible by human sin — He came to save sinners.(5) Let us embrace in a hopeful charity the worst of our fellow men.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

I pray you note how at one stroke Jesus has thus annihilated our pride and heightened our self-respect. Pride lives on the petty pre-eminences which here for a little lift one mortal an inch or two higher than another; an extra handful of gold, a better education, a longer pedigree, a title, a serener, and less tempted life. Among the ups and downs of society these look mighty things, as straws and leaves look large to emmets' eyes, and they fill the foolish hearts of men with vain conceit and unbrotherly scorn. From the height from which God and His Son Jesus survey this human world, such paltry degrees of more and less dwindle into insignificance, and are lost in the broad, equal level of a common manhood.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

Next, from the moment of birth, God subjects each person to a separate course of training. Men never appear before God's sight clustered in crowds; never like the countless pines which on the lower ranges of the Alps stand undistinguishable, row behind row, in thickset serried masses like a host; but like the singled vines of the vineyard, each of which the husbandman knows and tends with a care that is all its own. To each of you He has ordained your own career, with its early influences, domestic or educational, its companionships, its experiences, its trials, duties, losses, labours. All through your life He is moulding it to suit both what He made you to begin with and what He means you to become at last; so that from your deathbed you look back along a life history, wholly your own and not another's, the match of which no mortal man ever lived through before.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

I. A strict prohibition, and that ushered in with a severe charge by way of caveat (Take heed!).

1. Whom Christ means by these little ones.

2. What it is to despise them.

II. A solemn reason given for the prohibition; and this reason backed with our Saviour's own authority and sacred Word. Those little ones have angels for their guardians and attendants, and those angels none of the lower form, but the most eminent favourites, who continually stand in God's presence, and do always behold His face.

(Adam Littleton.)

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