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She was the espoused of a carpenter. She alludes, herself, to her "low estate.” (Luke 1: 48.)
Her "low estate, however, must not be regarded as referring to moral character. There is that in all her conduct and words, which shows her to have been deeply pious. Nor does it refer to her intellectual character. Her prudence, her discretion, her deportment, her wonderful dignity and self-possession, in the most delicate circumstances that could be well imagined, entitles her to the character indicated by her name "exalted.” Besides this, her song, in which there is manifest a ready acquaintance with the Old Testament Scriptures, blended with a vein of the purest poetry, mingling with the warmest and holiest feeling and sentiment, shows that she was not defective in strength and polish of mind. Her lowliness refers altogether to her humility of heart, and her social position.
2.) She was modest, retired, quiet, and meditative. Her character, in this respect, is fully and beautifully portrayed in the words: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke2: 19.) The shepherds "made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds." (17, 18.) “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart !"
When the annunciation was made by the angel, "she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be." (Luke 1: 29.) Here is deep anxiety and earnest thought.
2. What she was-her state or condition.
This is designated by a name added to her original name-Virgin. In this there is a fulfillment of prophesy. “Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Is. 7: 14.) That she continued a Virgin, has been piously believed by the Church, which called her “Ever-virgin Mary.”
3. What she did-her action. Two things are attributed to her.
1.) She conceived Jesus. He assumed true human nature, as to His soul and His body, from her. Some have taught, that as He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, His human nature, and the flesh of His body, was formed from the substance of the Spirit. But the essence of the Spirit is divine, not human; it could only be human by being taken from that which is human. So it was predicted. (Is. 7: 14.) So it was announced by the angel. (Luke 1: 31.) So is He, after His birth, declared to be. (Luke 1: 42.)
2.) She gave birth to Jesus. He was born of the Virgin Mary. (Luke 2: 5, 6, 7.)
Thus she was, in the true sense of that word, the mother of Jesus, as she is frequently styled by the sacred writers. Elizabeth calls her the motber of the Lord ; and, by the general consent of the Church, Deipara, the mother of God. (Pearson on Creed; 271.)
The declaration that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, rests upon several passages of Scripture. (Luke 1: 35 ; Matt. 1: 18.) It was originally aimed against the Ebionites and Cerinthians, and such like errorists, who taught that He was conceived in the same natural way as are other men, and that Joseph was not only His reputed father, as the Scripture expresses it, but Ilis true father. These did not allow the extraordinary and mysterious conception of Christ, but reduced the mystery to the level of nature.
The agency of the Holy Ghost, in the conception, includes sev. eral things.
1. By His mysterious action or operation to produce tbe effect of conception, in the absence of the natural and ordinary condition, so that the human nature of Christ might be formed of the mother alone. (Luke 1: 35.)
2. "The Holy Ghost miraculously sanctified that which was conceived and produced in the womb of the Virgin, so that original sin did not attach itself to that which was formed ;" so that the human nature of Christ might be boly. (Luke 1: 35.) “Therefore, also, that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God”
If we keep in mind that Christ assumed human nature, the divine heing thus present and positive; and, also, that the Holy Ghost presided over the mystery of the conception, we need have no difficulty in knowing how Christ could be born without sinful defilement, even though we should not admit the immaculate char. acter of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Ghost could so preside over the assimilation of His substance, as to prevent any contagion of depravity from affecting the Holy Child.
It must be remembered, too, that sin is not something natural to human nature, but was rather brought upon it from a foreign source, and by foreign influences. We may easily, therefore, sup. pose it possible for Christ, under the operations of the Holy Ghost, to assume human nature in its true original character, without the admixture or taint of natural depravity.
3. “That the hypostatical union of the two natures, the divine and the human, was formed by the same Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin, immediately, and at the very moment of conception." If the union of God with man took place either before or after, then it was not effected by conception and birth; and then, also, the Incarnation was not a true, but an unreal and fantastic conjunction with our nature. That, only, is a true human being, and that, alone, belongs to a true human being, which is conceived and born.
The whole Trinity was active in the Incarnation. “The Father prepared for His son a body. The son took upon Himself the form of a servant. Prominently active was the Holy Ghost, who rendered the Virgin fruitful, sanctified that fruit, united soul and body; also, the divine and human nature in one person.” (Schodde.)
III. We have yet to consider the object, or end, of the Incarnation. Why did the Son, who is, and continueth to be, true and eternal God, take upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and the blood of the Virgin Mary? “That He might, also, be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted."
1." He was born of the Virgin Mary, “that He might, also, be the true seed of David.”
This was necessary to the fulfillment of prophesy. "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David, my servant, Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up Thy throne to all generations.” (Psalms 89: 3, 4.) “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and sball execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely : and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jer. 23: 5, 6; Is. 11: 1.)
That Christ was a descendent from David, through the Virgin, is seen from the genealogical tables in Matthew 2, and Luke 3. To this, also, the angel alludes, when He announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds. (Luke 2: 11.) This is directly mentioned by the angel that announced His conception to the Virgin Mary. " He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the House of David forever; and of His Kingdom there sball be no end.” (Luke 1: 32, 33.)
How wonderfully confirmatory of the true mission of the Godman, is this fact. The family of David had, at this time, lost all its royal dignity and position. They moved in the circles of the lowly. Mary was espoused to a carpenter. There was thus a humiliation in the family of David, similar to that of the Messiah, himself. Those wbo were of royal blood, and belonged properly, by birth and by promise, to the high places of the earth, were dwelling in humble, peaceful and pious obscurity. They occupied exactly that position which was adapted to the parentage of lim, “who, though He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, for our sakes, took upon Him the form of a servant."
But how unlikely such an event to the unbelieving! How strongly confirmatory of its heavenly origin, when it proved itself true by its wonderful accompaniments, and the gradual increase of its power and glory!
2. He was born of the Virgin Mary, tbat He might be "like unto His brethren in all things."
“Wherefore, in all things, it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren ; that He might be a merciful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the peo. ple.” (Heb. 2: 17.) If He had not been a true man, He could not have had true sympathies with men. But in that He, himself, hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.” (Hob. 2: 18.) He could only become like His brethren in all things, by becoming human.
Though to establish and fulfill prophesy, and also rightly and naturally to claim a Kingly character, He must come from a royal family; yet, that He may be like His brethren in all things, He must, at the same time, enter human life on its humblest level. This He did in being born of the espoused of Joseph; in being born in Bethlehem, a place “ little among the thousands of Judah," in being born in a stable and cradled in a manger, having not where to lay His head; in having taken upon Him the form of a servant, and, for cur sakes, becoming poor!
We think too little of the advantage which Christianity has derived from the humble, and strictly human birth of our adorable Redeemer. Never could His mission have gained such access to, and acceptance with what the sacred record calls “the common people,” had He entered our nature as an official dignitary, out of some high place and position. It would have been regarded, tben, with suspicion, as a device to save the interests of those occupying place and power. All His success would then have been ascribed to the influence and accompaniments of His station ; and all His success would have been regarded as favoring the assumptions and privileges of the few, and as endangering the interests of the many. So far as He could have won upon the people, He would only have inspired them with awe and fear, instead of winning them with love, and to love.
3. He took upon himself our nature, being conceived by the Holy Ghost, that He might differ from His brethren only in one point : “That He might be without sin.”
"Sin excepted.” This does not render Him the less truly human; for sin did not originally belong to human nature. It was thrust in upon it by a foreign source. It did not adhere to our first parents, and yet they were truly human. So the saints in Heaven are free from it, though they are still human.
A GEM OF THOUGHT.
There is not a heath, however rude,
But hath some little flower,
And scent the evening hour.
By grief and sorrow down,
To love and call its own!
Hearts good and true have wishes few,
In narrow circles bounded;
Is Christian hope well founded.
To rank and wealth are given,
Bear humble souls to heaven !
Our present state demands instruction. No one can accomplish the designs of his present being and reach the end of life that now is, without instruction or training. Though we are all created with certain capacities and powers for knowledge, we are not created with knowledge itself. Knowledge is acquired by a slow process, and by dint of close observation and hard study. It is not the result of our physical growth. Full stature does not bring with it full knowledge. To grow wise and to grow tall are two very different things, bave different principles, and look to wholly different powers. Yet it is universally felt that the two should, by some means, be made to keep pace with each other. Henco independent agencies are created to expand our original capacities and draw out and cultivate our powers. These are at hand early in life. The first school is the lap of the mother, whose looks, and gestures, and tones, and caresses are the agencies to excite the young energies and create, in the tender mind, a demand for further progress. Here, more frequently than we often imagine, is laid the ground of destiny. Just as rivers take their rise in little mountain springs, so do great mental powers, that sweep with the majesty of the storms, through the domain of science and morals, receive their first kindlings from the eye and tone of the mother. Stepping from this school, children find others ready for their reception on every hand. The State bas shown wisdom in lending its aid for their increase and multiplication, knowing full well, that without education among the people, there could be no power to accomplish the ends of our ordinary natural life. Without it no one could properly appreciate the natural and civil blessings by which he is surrounded; nor could any be qualified properly to carry forward the various forms of business, which go to enrich the nation and spread comfort through all the departments of domestic and social life. It is universally felt, that men must be educated and instructed in order, that they may be qualified to attend to the ordinary duties of the present life and reach the true end of their natural being.
Now if natural instruction is every where conceded to be so necessary and important, then it must be also conceded that spiritual instruction is much more so. If, in order properly to transact the affairs of our natural life, every man must be educated and instructed, then it is very easy to perceive that our spiritual lifo involves a still greater demand in this view. For just as the spiritual is bigher than the natural-longer and more important, so much more urgent is the demand for instruction.