IN every particular, the birth of Christ was the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Isaiah had foretold the miraculous conception: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son.” This expression is unparalleled even in Sacred Writ; of no other woman could it be said beside the Virgin Mary:, and of no other man could it be written that his mother was a virgin. The Greek word and the Hebrew are both very expressive of the true and real virginity of the mother, to show us that Jesus Christ was born of woman, and not of man. Just as the woman, by her venturous spirit, stepped first into transgression, — lest she should be despised and trampled on, God in His wisdom devised that the woman, and the woman alone, should be the author of the body of the God-man who should redeem mankind. Albeit that she herself first tasted the accursed fruit, and tempted her husband, (it may be that Adam out of love to her tasted that fruit,) lest she should be degraded, lest she should not stand on an equality with him, God hath ordained that His Son should be sent forth “born of a woman,” and the first promise was that the seed of the woman, not the seed of the man, should bruise the serpent’s head.
Moreover, there was a peculiar wisdom ordaining that Jesus Christ should be the Son of the woman, and not of the man, because, had He been born of the flesh, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and merely flesh, and He would naturally, by carnal generation, have inherited all the frailties and the sins and the infirmities which man hath from his birth; He would have been conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, even as the rest of us.
Therefore He was not born of man; but the Holy Ghost overshadowed the Virgin Mary, and Christ stands as the only man, save one other, who came forth pure from His Maker’s hands, who could ever say, “I am pure.” Ay, and He could say far more than that other Adam could say concerning his purity, for He maintained His integrity, and never let it go; and from His birth down to His death He knew no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.
Oh, marvelous sight! Let us stand and look at it. A child of a virgin, what a mixture! There is the finite and the Infinite, there is the mortal and the Immortal, corruption and Incorruption, the manhood and the Godhead, time, married to eternity, God linked with a creature, the infinity of the august Maker come to tabernacle on this speck of earth; the vast unbounded One, whom earth could not hold, and the heavens cannot contain, lying in His mother’s arms; He who fastened the pillars of the universe, and riveted the nails of creation, hanging on a mortal breast, depending on a creature for nourishment. Oh, miraculous conception! Oh, marvelous birth! Verily, angels may wish to look into a subject too mysterious for us to comprehend.
Isaiah did not say, “A princess shall conceive, and bear a Son,” but a virgin. Her virginity was her highest honor. True, she was, of royal lineage; she could reckon David and Solomon amongst her ancestors. Nor was she, in point of intellect, an inferior woman. I take it that she had great strength of mind, otherwise she could not have composed so sweet a piece of poetry as that which is called the Virgin’s Song, beginning, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” She is not a person to be despised by Protestants.
Because Roman Catholics pay too much respect to the Virgin Mary, and offer prayers to her, we are apt to speak of her in a slighting manner. She ought not to be placed under the ban of contempt, for she could truly sing, “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” I suppose Protestant generations are amongst the “all generations” who ought to call her blessed. Her name is Mary, and quaint George Herbert wrote an anagram upon it, “How well her name an ARMY doth present, In whom the Lord. of hosts did pitch His tent. ” Though she was not a princess, yet her name, Mary, by interpretation, signifies a princess; and though she is not the queen of Heaven, yet she has a right to be reckoned amongst the queens of earth; and though she is not the lady of our Lord, she does walk amongst the renowned and mighty women of Scripture.
Yet Jesus Christ’s birth was a humble one. The Lord of glory was not born in a palace, but in a stable. Princes, Christ owes you nothing; He is not your debtor. He was not wrapped in purple, ye had not prepared a golden cradle for Him to be rocked in. And ye mighty cities, which then were great and famous, your marble halls were not blessed with His little footsteps! He came out of a village, poor and despised, even Bethlehem; when there, He was not born in the governor’s house or in the mansion of the chief man, but in a manger. Tradition tells us that His manger was cut in the solid rock; there was He laid, and the oxen likely enough came to feed from the self-same manger, the hay and the fodder of which formed.
His only bed. Oh! wondrous condescension, that our blessed Jesus should be girded with humility, and stoop so low!
But let us take courage from this fact. If Jesus Christ was born in a manger in a rock, why should He not come and live in our rocky hearts? If He was born in a stable, why should not the stable of our souls be made into a habitation for Him? If He was born in poverty, may not the poor in spirit expect that He will be their Friend? If He thus endured degradation at the first, will He count it any dishonor to come to the very poorest and humblest of His creatures, and tabernacle in the souls of His children? Oh, no! we can gather a lesson of comfort from His humble parentage, and we can rejoice that not a queen, or an empress, but that a humble woman became the mother of the Lord of glory.
Our Lord was so poor that His mother, when she had to redeem Him, could not bring a lamb, which was the sacrifice for all who could afford it, but she presented the poorer offering, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, and so she came as a poor woman, and He was presented to the Lord as a poor woman’s Child. Herein lies rich comfort for lowly hearts.
When I think of the Prince of glory and the Lord of angels stooping so low as this, that a poor woman bears Him in her arms, and calls Him her Babe, surely there must be salvation for the lowest, the poorest, and the most sunken. When the all-glorious Lord, in order to be incarnate, is born of a poor woman, and publicly acknowledged as a poor woman’s Child, we feel sure that He will receive the poorest and most despised when they’ seek His face. Yes, Jesus, the Son of the carpenter, means salvation to carpenters and all others of lowly rank.