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Before the Vulgar Æra, 5, early in the year.
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Nazareth,
often biassed in the very same manner as the mind of his pro-
genitor. One earthly bias, or tendency, seems to be impressed
upon the human race, which compels or induces one gencration
of men to be the same as the generation which preceded them.
Man, since the fall of Adam, has never, with any one exception,
been born with a spiritual bias-the innate tendency which
always shews itself is uniformly directed towards earthly, or na-
tural, or merely animal objects; that is, to objects which have
their origin, connexion, progress, and end, in this life only.
This bias, or tendency, is what Divines call original sin. It is
that disposition (a) which is born with us; which was entailed
upon us by our first parents, and has reduced us to a state little
superior to the animal creation below us. When originally
created, the mind of man was not thus biassed to earth. The
spiritual prevailed over the inferior, or carnal nature. The fall
was the triumph of the animal nature of man, and to restore
the human race to its original spirituality, is the great object
of that one religion, which has been gradually revealed to man-
kind, under its three forms, the Patriarchal, Levitical, and
When man had fallen, we read that Adam begat a son in his
own likeness, after his image; whereas Adam had been formed in
the image of God. The son of Adam was born therefore after a dif-
ferent image from that in which his father was originally created.
The first man Adam had been created spiritual; but he became
earthly. His sons, and his sons sons, and all their descend-
ants, from that moment even to this day, partook of a nature
earthly, inferior, and animal. In the same way as a beast of
the field can only produce an offspring of the same nature as
itself (b): as the dog produces the dog; the horse the horse;
so did, and so does the fallen man Adam produce creatures of
a similar nature to himself, "That which is born of the flesh
Such being the law of animal life, impressed upon matter by the will of the Supreme Being; it becomes evident that no creature can be free from the inferior nature in which he is begotten. "Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," Ps. li. 5. No mere man can be exempt from the laws of his kind. If then a long succession of prophecies foretold that a Being should come into the world to perform certain works, which necessarily implied perfection, and therefore an exemption from the universal law of human nature; our reason tells us that his birth must take place in some peculiar or miraculous manner, differing from that which is entailed on the imperfect beings around him: or, in other words,—an immaculate conception was the only mode in which a sinless or spiritual Being could be born into a sinful or animal world, without partaking of its common nature.
If it be said, that our Lord partook of this inferior nature as the Son of the Virgin, as much as if he were the offspring also of Joseph: we answer.-In the same way as Adam, when he was created in the image of God, and therefore sinless; received from the hands of his Maker a body formed from the dust of the ground, so likewise did the second Adam receive from the Virgin an earthly body, as free from sin as that with which the first Adam sprang from the ground, yet like that subjected to all the weakness, infirmities, and sufferings of humanity. When we can comprehend in what manner the inanimate dust became an organized being at the first creation,
Julian Pe- Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Nazareth.
riod, 4709. Before the Vulgar Æra,
we can comprehend the mystery of the creation of the second
Adam. But we may as reasonably disbelieve the one as the
other, if our understanding must comprehend the difficulty
before we receive it. The whole doctrine of creation is one of
the truths which baffles the intellect of man.
stage of our being, be contented to believe, and to be ignorant.
We must, in this
If we believe only what we comprehend, we must believe
nothing but mathematical demonstrations.
The declarations of Scripture from the very beginning assert,
that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. It
is evident this term, "the seed of the woman," cannot be ap-
plied to mankind in general. It must refer to a Being to whom
it could be applied in some peculiar sense: and the ingenuity
of man has never yet devised a mode in which this passage can
be properly applied to any of the human race, unless in that
manner in which the believers in divine Revelation have ap-
plied it to the promised deliverer, the second Adam. The first
Adam was called the Son of God, because he was created in the
image of God, in a way different from his descendants. Christ
also is called the Son of God, on account of his miraculous
conception. Both were created spiritual beings; and the true
worshippers of God, in various parts of Scripture, are called
by the same name, in an inferior sense, because they aspire to
the recovery of that superior nature which the first Adam lost,
but the second restored.
The ancient Jews were decided, and, so far as we can ascer-
tain from their remaining books, were unanimous in their
opinion; that the divine person who was appointed to deliver
man, should be the seed of the woman in some manner differing
from mere men. This they principally learned from two pas-
sages in their prophets, which have consequently been much
discussed; these are Isa. vii. 14. and Jer. xxxi. 22. both of
which require attention.
When the invasion of Rezin and Pekah had reduced the Israel-
ites to extremity, their king, Ahaz, who in the days of his pros-
perity had sacrificed and burnt incense to the gods of the sur-
rounding nations, in the groves and in the high places of their
worship, and consequently had paid little attention or respect
to the prophet Jehovah, now in this period of distress and
calamity applies for relief to Isaiah. The Prophet assures him
that he shall be delivered from the two kings; but that, within
sixty-five years, the ten tribes should be carried away captive,
(Isa. vii. 9.) The king is incredulous, doubting perhaps the
inspiration of the prophet; who requests the king to require
any miraculous proof he pleases that the prophecy he had deli-
vered should be accomplished. The king refuses to do so,
when Isaiah immediately declares the Lord himself shall give
you a sign-Behold a Virgin, (or more properly, the Virgin,
byn, with the emphatic ) should conceive and bear a
That the name of this son should be Emmanuel; and before he was of sufficient age to discern between good and evil, the country should be delivered from its invaders. The Virgin in question is supposed, by Abrabanel, and other Jewish writers, to denote Mahershalalhashbaz, whom Isaiah married soon after. By others the word by is rendered damsel, instead of virgin, and is supposed to refer to the queen of Ahaz, who was then pregnant of Hezekiah. Dr. Pye Smith (c) fol
Julian Period, 4709. Before the
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, Nazareth,
Vulgar Æra, lows the authority of Trypho, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and Abrabanel, in giving this last signification to the word The inspired writings, however, do not appear to confirm this interpretation; for they give us no account of a child born at that time who either received the name of Emanuel, or a name that would bear the same signification.
If the prophecy had ended at the 16th verse of the seventh
chapter, it might perhaps bear a literal interpretation. But it
seems to have been forgotten by those who would thus limit its
signification, that it is only a part of one prophetical discourse
which is completed at ver. iv. chap. 10. and includes that still
more eminent prophecy, rendered in our translation, "Unto
us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; the government
shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Won-
derful, Counsellor, the mighty God." The object then of the
Prophet in pronouncing the words, a Virgin shall conceive,
&c. must be collected from the scope of the whole discourse. If
it be thoroughly examined it will appear, like other prophetical
discourses, to make the present distress and predicted deliver-
ance serve as a figure of some more distant and more glorious
event. No king of Israel could be justly styled the Wonderful
-Counsellor-the mighty God, (which latter epithet is ren-
dered, by a learned critic (d), God, the mighty man)-the
Everlasting Father-the Prince of Peace. These prophecies
from necessity must be, as they always have been, both by
Jewish (e) and Christian writers, referred to the Messiah, and
as such is quoted by St. Matthew in his Gospel, i. 23. (f.)
I shall close this part of the present note with a statement of
Dr. Kennicott's hypothesis.
He conceives that "the text contains two distinct prophe-
cies; each literal, and each to be understood in one sense only;
the first relating to Christ, the second to Isaiah's son." The
one is contained in v. 13, 14, and 15; and the other in v. 16.
Dr. K. paraphrases them thus:
"I. Fear not, O house of David, the fate threatened you: God is mindful of his promise to your Father, and will fulfil the same in a very wonderful manner: Behold! a virgin (rather the virgin the only one thus circumstanced) shall conceive, and bear a son; which son shall therefore be, what no other has been or shall be, the seed of the woman, here styled THE VIRGIN and this son shall be called (i. e. in Scripture language he shall be) IMMANUEL, God with us: but this great Person, this God visible amongst men, introduced into the world thus, in a manner that is without example, shall be truly man: he shall be born an infant, and as an infant shall he be brought up: for butter and honey (rather milk and honey) shall he eat; he shall be fed with the common food of infants, which in the East was milk mixed with honey, till he shall know (not that he may know, as if such food was to be the cause of such knowledge, but) till he shall grow up to know how to refuse the evil and choose the good.”
"II. But before THIS child (pointing to his own son) shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good; the land that thou abhorrest, shall be forsaken of both her kings."
66 - should be rendered, THIS child :—a son of Isaiah, Shear-jashub; whom God had commanded the prophet to take with him; but of whom no use was made, unless in the application of these words; whom Isaiah might now hold in his arm; and to whom therefore he might point with his hand when he
Julian Pe- thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: Nazareth. blessed art thou among women.
riod, 4709. Before the Valgar Æra,
addressed himself to Ahaz, and said, But before this child shall
grow up to discern good from evil; the land, that thou abhor-
rest, shall be forsaken of both her kings."
"The child's name is evidently prophetical; for it signifies,
a remnant, or the remainder, shall return. This prophecy was
soon after fulfilled. And therefore this son, whose name had
been so consolatory the year before, was with the utmost pro-
priety brought forth now, and made the subject of a second
prophecy-namely, that before that child, then in the second
year of his age, should be able to distinguish natural good from
evil, before he should be about four or five years old; the lands
of Syria and Israel, spoken of here as one kingdom on account
of their present union and confederacy, should be forsaken of
both their kings: which, though at that time highly improba-
ble, came to pass about two years after; when those two kings,
who had in vain attempted to conquer Jerusalem, were them-
selves destroyed, each in his own country."-Kennicott's Ser-
mon on Isa. vii. 13-16. Oxf. 1765.
The celebrated prophecy of Micah (ch. v. 2.) which St. Matthew likewise, as his countrymen would approve (g), applies to Christ, was written twenty years after the event by which this prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. vii. 14—16, &c.) was occasioned. Both Dr. Hales (h) and Bishop Lowth (i) are of opinion, that Micab in this passage alludes to the former passage previously delivered by Isaiah. "Micah," says Bishop Lowth," having delivered that remarkable prophecy which determines the place of the birth of the Messiah, the Ruler of God's people, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting, adds, that nevertheless God would deliver them up to their enemies, till she who is to bear a child brings forth." Archbishop Newcome also confirms the authorized version (k).
The uncommon expression also, "the holy offspring," Luke i. 35. seems to be especially adapted to denote that the child would be produced in a way different from the generation of the rest of mankind. On the appellation, Son of the Most High, Kuinoel, a very cool and cautious critic, observes, “that it seems to be used to signify that Christ was procreated by an immediate divine intervention: in which sense Adam also is called "the Son of God (()."
The next prophecy which our present subject leads us to consider, is given by Jeremiah, (xxxi 22.) The Lord hath created a new thing on the earth, a woman hath compassed a man. That new "creation of a man is therefore new, and therefore a creation, because wrought in a woman only, without a man, compassing a man; which interpretation is antient, literal, and clear (m)." This is the opinion of one of our most eminent divines, who proceeds to demonstrate, from the rabbinical and talmudical writers, that the antient Jews gave the same interpretation to this passage, and referred it to the miraculous conception of the expected Messiah.
The greater part of the events which are predicted in the Old Testament are shadowed forth by types, or partial, intended resemblances, to the event prefigured. The miraculous conception also is repeatedly typified in the Old Testament. Various women, Anna the wife of Elkanah, Sarah of Abraham, the wife of Manoah, and others, as well as Elizabeth the wife of Zacharias, are recorded to have brought forth children after their old age had begun. The design of this seems to have been, to
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his Nazareth
afford the Church of God, which expected a Messiah who
should be in a peculiar sense the seed of the woman, a certain
and miraculous proof, that as nothing was impossible with God,
he would in his own time give them the promised Messiah; of
whose birth, the birth of the children of these women were but
That the doctrine of the miraculous conception of the Mes-
Isiah is laid down in the New Testament, as well as the Old,
the Christian reader does not require to be informed. The
account is contained in the commencing chapters of the Gospels
of St. Matthew and St. Luke; which are to be found in every
version and manuscript of the New Testament extant. As
these chapters maintain the divinity of Christ, by asserting the
fact of his miraculous birth, they have been attacked with a
variety of theoretical arguments by the Socinian writers; as well
as by all, whether Deists or nominal Christians, who would reduce
the Gospel to a good and valuable system of morality; and re-
present the promised Messiah as merely the blameless man, the
exemplary teacher, and possibly a superior prophet (n). On
the same authority which induced the first ages to receive these
chapters as authentic and genuine, and to believe the narra-
tive contained in them, Christians in all ages have made the
doctrine of the miraculous conception an article of their faith.
They have believed in Him" who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary."-See the whole of the
admirable third article of Pearson on the Creed.
(a) The infection of our nature, the póvnμa oapkos, spoken of
in the 9th Article of the Church of England. (b) Moses acquaints
us that Adam begat Seth IN HIS OWN LIKENESS AFTER HIS IMAGE,
Gen. v. 3. can it be supposed that an accurate writer as Moses is,
when he had said, that God created man, in his own likeness after
his image, Gen. i. 26, 27. and here says, that Adam begat Seth IN
HIS OWN LIKENESS AFTER HIS IMAGE, did not set this expres-
sion in opposition to the other? Nothing else appears from the words
being so exactly repeated. He must therefore design to acquaint us
that Adam having lost the image and likeness of God, could not for that
reason beget Seth after the image and likeness in which himself had
been created; but in his own likeness after his image, a miserable mortal
man like himself, an heir of his toil, care, sorrow, and death. Extracted
from a manuscript letter from the first Lord Viscount Barrington,
thor of the Essay on the Dispensations, to the celebrated Dr. Lardner,
with which I have been favoured by his son, the present Hon. and Right
Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham. See also on the same subject Jones'
figurative language of Scripture. (c) Scripture testimony to the Mes-
siah, vol. i. p. 271; but this supposition is founded on the idea that
some error has crept into the account in the sacred text of Hezekiah's
age, 2 Kings xvi. 2. 2 Chron. xxviii. 1.-and it is scarcely admissible to
build the right interpretation of one part of Scripture on the possible
error of another. (d) Horsley's Biblical Criticisms, vol. ii. p. 65. (e)
Quoniam puer datus est-Targum: Dixit propheta ad domum David':
Puer natus est nobis, &c. &c. Deus potens vivens in secula xn'w,
Messiah, cujus temporibus pax multa erit. Debarim rabba sect. i. fol.
249. 4. In Sanhedrin, fol. 94. 1. Deum constituisse Hiskiam facere
Messiam, quæ quidem fabulosa sunt, sed tamen nobis in tantum utilia,
quia ostendunt, Judæos in lectione horum verborum de Messia cogitasse.
Schoetgenius, vol. ii. p. 160. It cannot be necessary to refer to Chris-
tian writers. But see Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, Part ii.
p. 97, 1726, folio. (f) The quotation in St. Matthew agrees almost
word for word with the Hebrew,