manner of acknowledging him, that will finally prove acceptable to him; and in that manner we have solemnly promised that we will acknowledge him, and serve him all our days. Thus, then, let us ever honour him-thus let us ascribe to him, who is our Prophet, our Priest, and our King, our Saviour, our Lord, and our God, "glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.





Article III. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.

AFTER setting forth, in general, the name and office of our blessed Redeemer, his relation to the Father and to us, our Creed goes on to recount the several particulars of what he did and suffered, what he continues to do still, and will do finally, for our salvation.

The first of these is, that "the Word was made "flesh :" that the eternal Son of God, wonderfully joining to himself a body and soul like ours, united the human nature with the divine into one person, thus becoming liable to the same necessities and wants, infirmities and pains; and endued with the same innocent passions, appetites, and affections that we are; on which account we read in the Gospels of his feeling hunger, and pity, and grief, and anger; nay, and "increasing as in stature, so in wisdom also ;



not, surely, in re

(1) 1 John i. 14.

(6) Pet. iv. 11. v. 11.

Rev. i. 6.
(2) Luke ii. 52.

spect of that nature, which "in the beginning was "with God, and was God," but of the other, by which he was the Man Christ Jesus. Further than these facts we are not distinctly acquainted with the extent and properties of this unparalleled union; and it is no wonder that we are not; for even that of our own souls, with our own bodies, hath many things in it utterly beyond our comprehension. We must, therefore, in all reason, without insisting to know "how these things can "be," confine ourselves to learn from Scripture what they are. And it hath plainly taught us that our blessed Lord "was conceived by the Holy "Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary."

Concerning the Holy Ghost, there will be a proper place to speak more at large, in that article of the Creed, which directly relates to him. At present we are only to consider his influence in the conception of our Saviour; which conception was not in the ordinary course of things: but God himself, being already his Father with respect to that divine nature which he had from the beginning, became again so, in a new sense, with respect to his human nature too, by the incomprehensible operation of the Spirit. "For the birth "of Jesus Christ (to use the words of Scripture) "was on this wise. When, as his mother Mary "was espoused to Joseph, before they came to


gether, she was found with child of the Holy "Ghost ;"6 in pursuance of what the angel had told her, "Thou shalt conceive and bring forth a 66 son, and shalt call his name Jesus. Then said Mary unto the angel: How shall this be, seeing "I know not a man? And the angel answered, "and said unto her: The Holy Ghost shall come "upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall



(3) John i. 1.
(5) John iii. 9,


(4) 1 Tim. ii. 5. (6) Matt, i. 18.

"overshadow thee: therefore, also, that holy thing, "which shall be born of thee, shall be called the "Son of God."7



And thus, in the fulness of time, was accomplished, what had been intimated as early as the fall of man, by that remarkable expression, that the "seed of the woman should bruise the ser"pent's head ;" and what had been expressly spoken out by the Prophet Isaiah, seven hundred years before our Saviour's incarnation, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel: "which being interpreted, is, God with us."9 When the Scripture says, that such a person, or thing, shall be called by such a name, it frequently means no more, than that they shall have a right to be so called; that what that name signifies shall be verified in them, shall be true in relation to them. There are many instances of this in the Old Testament. And, therefore, as our Saviour's coming in the flesh was the most effectual and illustrious manifestation of God's presence with men, and favour towards them, that could be; though perhaps in common speech he was seldom, if ever, called, yet in the language of prophecy he was very justly called Emmanuel, or, God with us. For in his person God was really amongst men, in such a manner, and to such purposes of grace and salvation, as he had never been before. And, therefore, this name agrees perfectly in sense, though it differs in sound, from his common name, Jesus, i. e. Saviour.

After saying that he was born of a virgin, the Creed adds, that it was of the Virgin Mary; not that we are to seek for any peculiar mystery in her being called Mary; as some in the Church of

(7) Luke i. 31, 34, 35.

(9) Isa. vii. 14.

(8) Gen. iii. 15. Matt. i. 23.

Rome have imagined, and accordingly formed groundless and ridiculous derivations of the word. But, indeed, the name was a very common one amongst the Jews; by which several women, mentioned in the New Testament, and several in other histories, went; and no intimation is given in Scripture of its having any especial propriety, or meaning, in relation to her. But the reason of inserting it into the Creed, most probably, was, because it was set down in Scripture, and that by naming the particular person, of whom our Saviour sprung, he might appear to be of that family, from which, it was foretold, he should arise, being born of this "Virgin of the house of Da" vid."1

Still we are very far from thinking lowly of one whom, first an angel from heaven, then "Elizabeth "filled with the Holy Ghost, declared to be "blessed among women:"2 and who, with the greatest reason, said of herself, "He that is "mighty hath magnified me, and holy is his "name."3 For greatly without doubt she was magnified, a high honour she received, in becoming, as Elizabeth styles her, "the mother of our "Lord." But this, however singular, was not the most valuable distinction of the holy Virgin. In Scripture, no advantage of any other kind is ever put on a level with that of a pious heart, and a virtuous life. On the contrary, when, on hearing one of our Saviour's discourses, a certain



woman of the company," in a transport of admiration and affection, had" cried out, Blessed is "the womb that bare thee, and the paps which "thou hast sucked:" his answer was "Yea, "rather blessed are they that hear the word of "God, and keep it."5 Now, of this truest blessed

(1) Luke i. 27.
(3) Luke i. 49.

(2) Luke i. 28, 41, 42.
(4) Luke i. 43.

(5) Luke xi, 27, 28.

ness the Virgin Mary enjoyed a most eminent share; appearing, in all that is said of her, to have been pious and devout, reasonable and considerate, humble and modest, mild and gracious, in the utmost degree.

But though, on account of these excellencies, as well as her peculiar relation to him, she was the object both of her Son's dutiful subjection in his younger years, and of his tender care, even when he hung upon the cross; yet, we find no footsteps of any such regard paid her, either by him or his disciples, as can give the least pretence for ascribing to her those prerogatives and powers which the Church of Rome doth. Our Saviour, in more places than one of the Gospels, treats her in so cold, and seemingly negligent a manner, that one cannot well avoid thinking he did it on purpose to discourage that monstrous notion, of her right, as a mother, to command him, who was her Lord as well as ours. In the other parts of the New Tes tament, excepting those which I have already quoted, or to which I have referred, there is only an incidental mention of her occasionally, as there is of many other persons; and not the most distant intimation of any special honour shown, or directed to be shown her. Yet doth the Romish Church appoint offices of devotion to her, bearing her name-address her as Queen of Heaven, for so they expressly call her-petition her, almost in the same breath with God and our Saviour, that she would bestow on them pardon and grace here, and everlasting life hereafter; things infinitely beyond the power of any creature whatever. Nay, some of them professedly bind themselves to pray much oftener to her, than they do to their Maker and Redeemer; and appear accordingly to place much more confidence in her. And all this, not only without the least proof, that she hath any authority in human affairs, or even any

« VorigeDoorgaan »