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It was clearly, therefore, the doctrine of Holy Writ, and nothing else, which the fathers asserted in terms borrowed from the schools of philosophy, when they affirmed that the very principle of personality and individual existence in Mary's Son was union with the uncreated Word ; a doctrine in which a miraculous conception would have been implied, had the thing not been recorded, — since a man conceived in the ordinary way would have derived the principles of his existence from the mere physical powers of generation : union with the divine nature could not have been the principle of an existence physically derived from Adam ; and that intimate union of God and man in the Redeemer's person, which the Scriptures so clearly assert, had been a physical impossibility.
But we need not go so high as to the divine nature of our Lord to evince the necessity of his miraculous conception. It was necessary to the scheme of redemption, by the Redeemer's offering of himself as an expiatory sacrifice, that the manner of his conception should be such that he should in no degree partake of the natural pollution of the fallen race whose guilt he came to atone, nor be included in the general condemnation of Adam's progeny. In what the stain of original sin may consist, and in what manner it may be propagated, it is not to my present purpose to enquire : it is sufficient that Adam's crime, by the appointment of Providence, involved his whole posterity in punishment. “ In Adam,” says the apostle, “ all die.”
And for many lives thus forfeited, a single life, itself a forfeit, had been no ran
Nor by the Divine sentence only, inflicting death on the progeny for the offence of the progeni
tor, but by the proper guilt of his own sins, every one
Thus you see the necessary connection of the mira
culous conception with the other articles of the Christian faith. The incarnation of the Divine Word, so roundly asserted by St. John, and so clearly implied in innumerable passages of Holy Writ, in any other way had been impossible, and the Redeemer's atonement inadequate and ineffectual ; insomuch, that had the extraordinary manner of our Lord's generation made no part of the evangelical narrative, the opinion might have been defended as a thing clearly implied in the evangelical doctrine.
On the other hand, it were not difficult to show that the miraculous conception, once admitted, naturally brings up after it the great doctrines of the atonement and the incarnation. The miraculous conception of our Lord evidently implies some higher purpose of his coming than the mere business of a teacher. The business of a teacher might have been performned by a mere man, enlightened by the prophetic spirit; for whatever instruction men have the capacity to receive, a man might have been made the instrument to convey. Had teaching therefore been the sole purpose of our Saviour's coming, a mere man might have done the whole business ; and the supernatural conception had been an unnecessary miracle. He, therefore, who came in this miraculous way, came upon some higher business, to which a mere man was unequal : he came to be made a sin-offering for us, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
So close, therefore, is the connection of this extraordinary fact with the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, that it may be justly deemed a necessary branch of the scheme of redemption. And in no other light was it considered by St. Paul; who mentions it among the characteristics of the Redeemer, that he should be “made of a woman. In this short sentence, St. Paul bears a remarkable testimony to the truth of the evangelical history, in this circumstance. And you, my brethren, have not so learned Christ, but that you will prefer the testimony of St. Paul to the rash judgment of those who have dared to tax this “ chosen vessel ” of the Lord with error and inaccuracy.
The opinion of these men is, indeed, the less to be regarded, for the want of insight which they discover into the real interests and proper connections of their own system. It is by no means sufficient for their purpose that they insist not on the belief of the miraculous conception : they must insist upon the disbelief of it, if they expect to make discerning men proselytes to their Socinian doctrine : they must disprove it, before they can reduce the Gospel to what their scheme of interpretation makes it, - a mere religion of nature, a system of the best practical deism, enforced by the sanction of high rewards and formidable punishments in a future life ; which are yet no rewards and no punishments, but simply the enjoyments and the sufferings of a new race of men to be made out of old materials ; and therefore constitute no sanction, when the principles of the materialist are incorporated with those of the Socinian in the finished creed of the modern Unitarian.
Having seen the importance of the doctrine of the miraculous conception, as an article of our faith, let us, in the next place, consider the sufficiency of the evidence by which the fact is supported.
We have for it the express testimony of two out of the four evangelists, of St. Matthew, whose Gospel
was published in Judea within a few years after our Lord's ascension; and of St. Luke, whose narrative was composed (as may be collected from the author's short preface) to prevent the mischief that was to be apprehended from some pretended histories of our Saviour's life, in which the truth was probably blended with many legendary tales. It is very remarkable, that the fact of the miraculous conception should be found in the first of the four Gospels, — written at a time when many of the near relations of the holy family must have been living, by whom the story, had it been false, had been easily confuted ; that it should be found again in St. Luke's Gospel, written for the peculiar use of the converted Gentiles, and for the express purpose of furnishing a summary of authentic facts, and of suppressing spurious narrations. Was it not ordered by some peculiar providence of God, that the two great branches of the primitive church, — the Hebrew congregations for which St. Matthew wrote, and the Greek congregations for which St. Luke wrote, should findan express recordof the miraculous conception each in its proper Gospel ? Or if we consider the testimony of the writers simply as historians of the times in which they lived, without regard to their inspiration, which is not admitted by the adversary, — were not Matthew and Luke, — Matthew one of the twelve apostles of our Lord, and Luke the companion of St. Paul, competent to examine the evidence of the facts which they have recorded ? Is it likely that they have recorded facts upon the credit of a vague report, without examination ? And was it reserved for the Unitarians of the eighteenth century to detect their errors ? St. Luke thought himself particularly well qualified for the work in which he