From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger.
I. THE. INSIGNIFICANCE OF MAN WHEN COMPARED WITH THE STUPENDOUS UNIVERSE. The heavens, the earth, the moon, the stars: how much mere do these terms convey to us than they did to the psalmist! His inspiration, it is probable, did not extend to the realm of physical science; and his views of the wonders of the earth and of the heavens would be limited by the knowledge of his day. But since the telescope has shown us that our world is but as an atom, and the microscope that in every atom there is a world; since millions on millions of stars have come into the astronomer's field of vision; and, since the conceptions of the time during which the orbs have been revolving and the earth has been preparing for man's use have so immeasurably grown, - the larger the universe seems, the more does man dwindle to a speck. And when we look at the slender frame of man, his weakness, and the momentary duration of his life, compared with the vast masses, the ceaseless energy, the incalculable duration to which the universe bears witness, - it is no wonder if at the greatness in which we are lost we stand appalled, and are ready to say, "In the midst of all this sublimity, what am I? A shred of entity, a phantom, a breath, a passing form on this earthly stage. Here is this great machine, with a mighty Unknown behind it, rolling and grinding, grinding and rolling, raising up one and setting down another. Ever and anon a wave of liquid fire will heave up mountains and overturn cities and hurl them into an abyss, and the cries of myriads will rend the air; and never will nature spare one relenting sigh or drop one sympathizing tear. All is fixed. Law is everywhere. What I am, or do, or say, or think, can matter nothing to the Great Unknown. Prayer is but empty breath. Amid the vastness I am lost, and can be of no more consequence than a mote in the sunbeam, and were I and all this generation to be swept away in the twinkling of an eye, we should no more be missed than a grain of dust when blown into the crater of a volcano! What is man?" So men argue. Even good men are overwhelmed with such thoughts, and say, "Our way is hid from the Lord, and our judgment is passed over from our God." While the unbeliever declares that a being so insignificant can never be the subject of Divine care, still less of Divine love; that man is no more to the Supreme than are the insects of a summer's day. But this is only one side of a great question. Let us therefore note -
II. THE DIGNITY OF MAN AS DISCLOSED BY THE GRACIOUS VISITATION OF GOD.
1. His actual dignity.
(1) In the structure and capacity of his nature. Mass however great, force however persistent, can never equal in quality the power of thinking, loving, worshipping, suffering, sinning. One soul outweighs in value myriads of worlds. Our estimate of things must be qualitative as well as quantitative. And a being who can measure the distance of a star is infinitely greater than the star whose distance he measures. Man is made in the image of God
(a) mentally, - he thinks as God thinks;
(d) regally, to have dominion.
Man is made to see God in all things. Babes and sucklings in this put to shame the rebellious atheist.
(2) God has revealed his "Name ' to man; and this gracious visitation from the Father of our race has raised man in the scale of being.
(3) When renewed by the Holy Ghost, he is elevated still higher in the scale, for "after God he is created in righteousness and true holiness."
(4) When the Son of God became "the second Man, even the Lord from heaven," then, indeed, was our nature "crowned with glory and honour." Nothing so exalted our race as the Son of God inserting himself into it by his incarnation, and so becoming the Son of man.
2. His prospective dignity. The psalm includes the vision of the seer as well as the song of the saint. Its repeated quotation (1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6-9) in the New Testament shows us that its words await a grander fulfilment than ever. The preacher may indefinitely expand and illustrate the following points:
(1) The dominion of man over nature is vastly greater even now than it was in David's time, and is destined to be more complete than it even now is. David includes the sheep and oxen, beasts of the field, etc. Now fire, water, light, air, lightning, etc., are made to serve man.
(2) The renewing process is going forward in the Christianized part of man. The image of God in man is to be perfected.
(3) All things are now put under man's feet, in being put under Christ's feet as the Lord of all. But, as Bishop Perowne suggestively remarks, St. Paul's "all things" are immeasurably more than David's "all things." Just so. This is a beautiful illustration of the progress of revelation. The later the date, the brighter the light. And words caught from men who were in the ancient time borne along by the Holy Ghost, are shown to have a very much broader and deeper meaning than their human penmen could possibly have conceived. "The New Testament is latent in the Old. The Old Testament is patent in the New" (Augustine). Note:
1. The true greatness of man can only be manifested as he is renewed by the Spirit of God; and comes to grow up into him in all things who is the Head, even Christ.
2. How incomplete would the plan have been of permitting man to have dominion over nature, without the corresponding purpose of God's love gaining dominion over man! Dominion is safe only where there is righteousness. - C.
e.g. "There was once a great drought, and the most pious men wept and prayed for rain, but none came. At length an insignificant person prayed, and instantly the heavens covered themselves with clouds, and the rain fell, 'Who are you,' they cried, 'whose prayers have alone prevailed?' And he answered, 'I am a teacher of little children.'" Again, "When God was about to give His law to His people, He asked them whom they would offer as guarantees that they would keep it holy, and they said, 'Abraham.' God said, 'Abraham has sinned; Isaac, Jacob, Moses himself, they have all sinned; I cannot accept them.' Then they said, 'May our children be witnesses and our guarantees?' And God accepted them, even as it is written. 'From the mouth of the little babes has He preached His empire.'" The literal rendering is to he preferred. This verse is quoted in the Gospel by Matthew in a way which is quite decisive of the meaning. That we should thus understand them is shown —
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THERE IS A CONFLICT. Our text speaks of enemies. We know who they are — the seed of the serpent. We know how it began, and it goes on, on the enemy's part, in the same fashion. God uses weapons, mainly, of a moral and spiritual sort. He has used, and He can and will, when needful, use others.
II. IN THIS CONFLICT THE WEAPONS ARE VERY SINGULAR. "Out of the mouth of babes," etc. Bring hither that sweet babe. See that little mouth — it challenges a kiss: and note with joy that God may use that little mouth as His conquering weapon against the devil. I have seen many an ancient cannon upon which were moulded in bronze the words, "The last argument of kings." Yes, but the gracious arguments of the King of kings are sent home by a human mouth, and that of a little child. How Satan must be angered that his craft is not met by craft. Already the testimony of feeble men has been used as the great power of God. How are these weapons used? These strangely soft, yet sharp, feeble, yet mighty weapons — how are they used?
1. They smite by prayer. Children pray and they are heard.
2. By praise, which louvers the pride of His adversaries, while they cry "Hosannah!" and sing the praise of Jesus' name.
3. And by testimony. We never know what one child's mouth can do. Christ is the Word, but these mouths supply the voices by which it is sounded forth. The Hebrew reads, "hast Thou founded strength," as if the very foundation of the Church's strength lay in the mouths that God moves to speak.
III. THE WARRIORS IN THIS WARFARE ARE VERY SPECIAL. "Babes and sucklings" (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:1). Such are those who proclaim Christ in the world. Our Lord would get little honour from our race if all children's voices were hushed, and all childlike spirits with them. Scribes and Pharisees never cry "Hosannah!" they are so busy binding on their phylacteries, washing their hands, and devouring widows' houses. The first to cry "Hosannah!" are the children, and the next are those who are like them. Some say, "To shout and sing is children's work"; so it is, and it is ours because we are children too. Now, note
IV. That THE QUALIFICATION OF THESE WARRIORS LIES IN THEIR WEAK SIDE. If it lay on the strong side, we should react, "Out of the mouth of men of middle age, in the prime of life; of wise old men, who have had long experience, God ordaineth strength." But no, it is "Out of the mouths of babes," etc. Thus the Lord puts the adversary to a perpetual reproach. He puts a child against His giant foe, and overcomes him. Our power to serve God lies on our weak side. He uses not our greatness, but our littleness. You know what the learned men say is the weak part of some of us — they put it something like this: "We regret the preacher's total inability to keep abreast of the times; his incapacity for modern thought; and his want of affection for the higher culture." That is our weakness. Yes, and our strength, and therefore we glory in it. "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." If all God's servants will come to this, they will do far more good than by the so-called "culture," which is nothing but the science of growing more weeds than usual I have desired to be a little child again, and wished that I had never heard of the existence of a quibbler. We hear now-a-days much of "great thinkers"; we prefer to be great believers. When the Church gets back to her simple faith in Jesus, she shall be qualified for victory. She shall vanquish the world. When she has thrown aside the wooden sword of carnal reason and has taken up the true Jerusalem blade of faith in God. Then because of all this, let me plead —
V. FOR A LOVING REVERENCE FOR CHILDHOOD. It seems to me that in the Lord's battle there is always a babe in the forefront. The child found in the ark of bulrushes crushes the power of Pharaoh; the boy David, Goliath; and the still loftier story of the battle of the Lamb opens in like manner, "Unto us a Child is born," etc. Never doubt the possibility of children's conversions. Never despise them. Do not say, "Oh, they are only a parcel of boys and girls!" What if they are? May they not be a better parcel than some of you? If we could get the simple trustfulness of childhood back again, it would be a great gain. Let us not undervalue the praises or the service of children. That is a sweet vein. "And Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child. In the victory of the Church it is written, A little child shall lead them." This city of ours is better evangelised by our Sunday schools than by all the rest of us put together. Little Mary and Tommy come back from school, and they find that father is hardly dressed; he has not been to a place of worship, but reading the Sunday paper; he don't want any of your singing and preaching. But the children begin to sing, and when dinner is over, they talk about What teacher said, and perhaps say something about the sermon. And so the father gets more singing and preaching than he bargained for. When they go to bed, they clasp their little hands and pray for their father, and he is obliged to hear them. Thus he gets praying as well as singing. The children are missionaries. They enter where others cannot. Tommy and Mary can't be shut out.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. From the general drift of the Psalm. The little children trust and love and are at peace, though men be so different.
2. From sympathy and agreement in this truth, which we find in other great poets, such as Wordsworth, "Trailing clouds of glory," etc.
3. From our own experience, children suggest helpful, restful thoughts. If in his origin man is so pure and so divine, must he not be capable of a Divine strength and blessedness?
(Samuel Cox, D. D.)
(Dean Farrar, D. D.)Matthew 21:16), to prove that Christ must reign till He has subdued all His enemies under His feet. He that reads this whole Psalm would think it were nothing else but a description of man's excellency, whom God had made next to the angels in dignity, and given him dominion over all things He had made. How is that which is a description of mankind in general, a prophecy of Christ in special! The key of the interpretation of this Psalm is to be sought in the words, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings," etc.
1. The meaning of the words as they stand in the Psalm. The whole drift of the Psalm is to praise and glorify God for the dignity wherewith Fie hath invested man. This glory and honour is seen in two particulars.
(1) (2) 2. The purport of these words was fulfilled in our blessed Saviour's incarnation. The devil by sin brought mankind into thraldom, and became the prince of this world, himself with his angels being worshipped and served everywhere as gods. To vanquish and exterminate this enemy, and redeem the world from this miserable thraldom, the Son of God took on Him, not the nature of angels, but the nature of weak and despicable man, that grows from a babe and suckling. And the Son of Man enables also other sons of men, His disciples and ministers, to do the like in His name. 3. This victory, as for the event, so for the manner of achieving it, is agreeable to our prophecy. Forasmuch as Christ our General nor fights, nor conquers by force of arms, but by the power of His Word and Spirit, which is "the power of His mouth," according to the text, "Out of the mouth," etc. (Joseph Mede, B. D.)
(2) 2. The purport of these words was fulfilled in our blessed Saviour's incarnation. The devil by sin brought mankind into thraldom, and became the prince of this world, himself with his angels being worshipped and served everywhere as gods. To vanquish and exterminate this enemy, and redeem the world from this miserable thraldom, the Son of God took on Him, not the nature of angels, but the nature of weak and despicable man, that grows from a babe and suckling. And the Son of Man enables also other sons of men, His disciples and ministers, to do the like in His name. 3. This victory, as for the event, so for the manner of achieving it, is agreeable to our prophecy. Forasmuch as Christ our General nor fights, nor conquers by force of arms, but by the power of His Word and Spirit, which is "the power of His mouth," according to the text, "Out of the mouth," etc. (Joseph Mede, B. D.)
2. The purport of these words was fulfilled in our blessed Saviour's incarnation. The devil by sin brought mankind into thraldom, and became the prince of this world, himself with his angels being worshipped and served everywhere as gods. To vanquish and exterminate this enemy, and redeem the world from this miserable thraldom, the Son of God took on Him, not the nature of angels, but the nature of weak and despicable man, that grows from a babe and suckling. And the Son of Man enables also other sons of men, His disciples and ministers, to do the like in His name.
3. This victory, as for the event, so for the manner of achieving it, is agreeable to our prophecy. Forasmuch as Christ our General nor fights, nor conquers by force of arms, but by the power of His Word and Spirit, which is "the power of His mouth," according to the text, "Out of the mouth," etc.
(Joseph Mede, B. D.)