Nor only in the heavens above is the Lord seen, but the earth beneath is telling forth his majesty. In the sky, the massive orbs, rolling in their stupendous grandeur, are witnesses of his power in great things, while here below, the lisping utterances of babes are the manifestations of his strength in little ones. How often will children tell us of a God whom we have forgotten! How doth their simple prattle refute those learned fools who deny the being of God! Many men have been made to hold their tongues, while sucklings have borne witness to the glory of the God of heaven. It is singular how clearly the history of the church expounds this verse. Did not the children cry “Hosannah!” in the temple, when proud Pharisees were silent and contemptuous? and did not the Saviour quote these very words as a justification of their infantile cries? Early church history records many amazing instances of the testimony of children for the truth of god, but perhaps more modern instances will be most interesting. Foxe tells us, in the book of martyrs, that when Mr. Lawrence was burnt in Colchester, he was carried to the fire in a chair, because, through the cruelty of the Papists, he could not stand upright, several young children came about the fire and cried, as well as they could speak, “Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise.” God answered their prayer, for Mr. Lawrence died as firmly and calmly as any one could wish to breathe his last. When one of the Popish chaplains told Mr. Wishart, the great Scotch martyr, that he had a devil in him, a child that stood by cried out, “A devil cannot speak such words as yonder man speaketh.” One more instance is still nearer to our time. In a postscript to one of his letters, in which he details his persecution when first preaching in Moorfields, Whitfield says, “I cannot help adding that several little boys and girls, who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit while I preached, and handed to me people’s notes–though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, &c., thrown at me– never once gave way; but, on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me. God make them, in their growing years, great and living martyrs for him who, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, perfects praise!” He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honour himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children. What a contrast between the glory above the heavens, and the mouths of babes and sucklings! yet by both the name of God is made excellent.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Verse 2.–“_Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength_,” etc. In a prophetic manner, speaking of that which was to be done by children many hundreds of years after, for the asserting of his infinite mercy in sending his Son Jesus Christ into the world to save us from our sins. For so the Lord applieth their crying, “Hosannah to the Son of David” in the temple. And thus both Basil and other ancients, and some new writers also understand it. But Calvin will have it meant of God’s wonderful providing for them, by turning their mothers’ blood into milk, and giving them the faculty to suck, thus nourishing and preserving them, which sufficiently convinceth all gainsayers of God’s wonderful providence towards the weakest and most shiftless of all creatures.–^John Mayer, 1653.
Verse 2.–Who are these “_babes and sucklings_?” 1. Man in general, who springeth from so weak and poor a beginning as that of babes and sucklings, yet is at length advanced to such power as to grapple with, and overcome the enemy and the avenger. 2. David in particular, who being but a ruddy youth, God used him as an instrument to discomfit Goliath of Gath. 3. More especially our Lord Jesus Christ, who assuming our nature and all the sinless infirmities of it, and submitting to the weakness of an infant, and after dying is gone in the same nature to reign in heaven, till he hath brought all his enemies under his feet. #Ps 110:1; 1Co 15:27|. Then was our human nature exalted above all other creatures, when the Son of God was made of a woman, carried in the womb. 4. The apostles, who to outward appearance were despicable, in a manner children and sucklings in comparison of the great ones of the world; poor despised creatures, yet principal instruments of God’s service and glory. Therefore ’tis notable, that when Christ glorifieth his Father for the wise and free dispensation of his saving grace (#Mt 11:25|), he saith, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes,” so called from the meanness of their condition. … And you shall see it was spoken when the disciples were sent abroad, and had power given them over unclean spirits. “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” This he acknowledged to be an act of infinite condescension in God. 5. Those children that cried _Hosanna_ to Christ, make up part of the sense, for Christ defendeth their practice by this Scripture. … 6. Not only the apostles, but all those that fight under Christ’s banner, and are listed into his confederacy, may he called babes and sucklings; first, because of their condition; secondly, their disposition. … 1. Because of their condition. … God in the government of the world is pleased to subdue the enemies of his kingdom by weak and despised instruments. 2. Because of their disposition: they are most humble spirited. We are told (#Mt 18:3|), “Except ye be converted, and become as little children,” etc. As if he had said, you strive for pre-eminence and worldly greatness in my kingdom; I tell you my kingdom is a kingdom of babes and containeth none but the humble, and such as are little in their own eyes, and are contented to be small and despised in the eyes of others, and so do not seek after great matters in the world. A young child knoweth not what striving or state meaneth, and therefore by all emblem and visible representation of a child set in the midst of them, Christ would take them off from the expectation of a carnal kingdom.–^Thomas Manton, 1620-1677.
Verse 2.–“_That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger_.” This very confusion and revenge upon Satan, who was the cause of man’s fall, was aimed at by God at first; therefore is the first promise and preaching of the gospel to Adam brought in rather in sentencing him than in speaking to Adam, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, it being in God’s aim as much to confound him as to save poor man.–^Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 2.–The work that is done in love loses half its tedium and difficulty It is as with a stone, which in the air and on the dry ground we strain at but cannot stir. Flood the field where it lies, bury the block beneath the rising water; and now, when its head is submerged, bend to the work. Put your strength to it. Ah! it moves, rises from its bed, rolls on before your arm. So, when under the heavenly influences of grace the tide of love rises, and goes swelling over our duties and difficulties, a child can do a man’s work, and a man can do a giant’s. Let love be present in the heart, and “_out of the mouth of babes and sucklings_ God ordaineth strength.”–Thomas Guthrie, D.D.
Verse 2.–“_Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings_,” etc., That poor martyr, Alice Driver, in the presence of many hundreds, did so silence Popish bishops, that she and all blessed God that the proudest of them could not resist the spirit in a silly woman; so I say to thee, “_Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings_” God will be honoured. Even thou, silly worm, shalt honour him, when it shall appear what God hath done for thee, what lusts he hath mortified, and what graces he hath granted thee. The Lord can yet do greater things for thee if thou wilt trust him. He can carry thee upon eagles’ wings, enable thee to bear and suffer strong affliction for him, to persevere to the end, to live by faith, and to finish thy course with joy. Oh! in that he hath made thee low in heart, thy other lowness shall be so much the more honour to thee. Do not all as much and more wonder at God’s rare workmanship in the ant, the poorest bug that creeps, as in the biggest elephant? That so many parts and limbs should be united in such a little space; that so poor a creature should provide in the summer-time her winter food. Who sees not as much of God in a bee as in a greater creature? Alas! in a great body we look for great abilities and wonder not. Therefore, to conclude, seeing God hath clothed thy uncomely parts with the more honour, bless God, and bear thy baseness more equally; thy greatest glory is yet to come, that when the wise of the world have rejected the counsel of God, thou hast (with those poor publicans and soldiers), magnified the ministry of the gospel. Surely the Lord will also be admired in thee (#1Th 1|.), a poor silly creature, that even thou wert made wise to salvation and believest in that day. Be still poor in thine own eyes, and the Lord will make thy proudest scornful enemies to worship at thy feet, to confess God hath done much for thee, and wish thy portion when God shall visit them.–^Daniel Rogers, 1642.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Verse 2.–Infant piety, its possibility, potency, “strength,” and influence, “that thou mightest still,” etc.
The strength of the gospel not the result of eloquence or wisdom in the speaker.
Great results from small causes when the Lord ordains to work.
Great things which can be said and claimed by babes in grace.
The stilling of the powers of evil by the testimony of feeble believers.
The stilling of the Great Enemy by the conquests of grace.