THE VIRGIN BIRTH.
THERE is (it may be said) but one miracle in the Christian Faith, comprehending and involving all others, and that miracle is the coming of a Supernatural Person into the world; and it was inevitable that the entrance of such a Person, like His exit, should be supernatural too. Thus the whole Church held the Virgin Birth of Christ, until challenged by the Ebionites and the Gnostics ; and for another fifteen hundred years it was held by the entire Church, until the modern denial, springing from Paine and Voltaire, was reinforced by Strauss and Renan. Ignatius, a disciple of the Apostle John, says :-" Stop your ears when anyone speaks to you at variance with the truth that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Virgin Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost." The first Professed Christian teacher to deny the Virgin Birth was Cerinthus, the deadly Gnostic opponent of John.
FOR MESSIAH HAD TO BE THE SON OF A VIRGIN. "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign " - a miracle ; a natural conception would be no miracle : "behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name IMMANUEL"(Is. vii. 14), which, Matthew is careful to explain (Matt. i. 23), means "God with us." If from stones God could raise up children to Abraham - and the Scripture says so - miraculous conception cannot be impossible ; for, as Gabriel assures Mary, "no word from God shall be void of power " (Luke i. 37) that is, every utterance of God carries in it the dynamic of its own fulfilment. - "God can form man in four ways:- from a man and a woman, as constant custom shows; from neither man nor woman, as Adam; from a man without a woman, as Eve ; or from a woman without a man, as the Son of God " (Anselm). Jehovah's interdict had irrevocably barred the ancestry of Joseph from producing the Messiah (Jer. xxii. 30 ; Matt. i. ii) if Jesus was Joseph's Son, He was not the Messiah.
MESSIAH ALSO HAD TO BE THE SON OF GOD. " For unto us a child is born, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God "(Is. ix. 6). So Gabriel says to Mary :- "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the. Most High shall over shadow thee: WHEREFORE also that which is to be born shall be called (1) holy, (2) the Son of God " (Luke i. 35) ! that is, both the sinlessness and the Deity of Jesus spring wholly and exclusively from the virgin birth ; not, shall be holy, the Son of God, for these He always was ; but, for the first time on human lips and in the human arena, "shall be called holy, the Son of God." The Branch of God was grafted into human stock from without so, in the manner of all grafts, it bore its own fruit, not the fruit of the stock. (The alleged heathen "virgin births" are not virgin births at all ; but angelic fornications which brought the old world to ruin Gen. vi. 2, 4 - and form the basis of all heathen mythology). Vital and momentous is the truth ; for if the birth was not of the Holy Ghost, since it was also not of Joseph, himself being witness (Matt. i. 19), Jesus was base-born, bastard-born: there is but one step between belief and blasphemy.
All requirements of Messiahship mingled, as only God could blend them, in our Lord. MESSIAH HAD TO BE THE LEGAL HEIR OF JOSFPH. Both Joseph and Mary were in unbroken descent from David, Joseph through Solomon, Mary through Nathan; but Joseph was heir of the elder branch ; no Jew, therefore, could accept Jesus as Messiah, unless, in the eyes of the Law, he was son of Joseph. Betrothal, under the Law, involved the legal status of wedlock(Dent. xxii. 23, 24) ; so, after the espousal, and before the marriage, took place the conception by the Holy Ghost. So also God's angel said : " Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife" (Matt. i. 20) ; and Gabriel could say, with the Law on his side, " the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David " (Luke i. 32). For Jesus was the legal Heir of the Head of the eldest branch of the Royal House.* [*It is contended that "only" Matthew and Luke assert the Virgin Birth. now often must God say a thing before it becomes true? One utterance of the Holy Ghost is decisive : moreover, only Matthew and Luke record anything about our Lord's infancy at all" "At the mouth of two witnesses shall a matter be established." (Deut. xix. 15.)]
So all competing claims of Scripture coalesce in the Virgin Birth, with which the Christian faith is established, without which it is destroyed. In Joseph, the legal Heir (Luke iii. 23 ; "supposed " - regarded legally) ; in Mary, the human Sacrifice ; in the Holy Ghost, Immanuel: in Joseph, the Son of David; in Mary, the Son of Man ; in the Holy Ghost, the Son of God: in Joseph, Heir of Israel(Matt. xxi. 38) ; in Mary, Heir of the world (Rom. iv. 13) ; in the Holy Ghost, Heir of all things (Heb. i. 2). But where lay the supreme reason of the Virgin Birth ? MESSIAH'S BODY HAD TO BE THE SOLE BURNT OFFERING. The reason for Bethlehem is in Calvary. " It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh into -the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a BODY didst Thou Prepare for Me ; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast no pleasure: then said I, Lo I -with a Body prepared, not so much for the birth, as for the bruising (Gen. iii. 15) am come to do Thy will, O God " (Heb. x. 4). God could not die, for He only hath immortality; God could not be a sacrifice for human sin, for the sacrifice must be in the nature that sinned; God could not be bruised for our iniquities : but God incarnate could be, and was; for " the Word WAS GOD, and the Word became flesh" (John i. 1, 14). It was impossible for the blood of balls and goats to take away sin: it is impossible for the blood of the Son of God not to take away sin. "Feed the Church of God, which He purchased WITH HIS OWN BLOOD" (Acts xix. 20).
D. M. PANTON.