God died upon the Cross, and in that nature He pleads before the
Throne for the race of men. It is because Christ's Person is Divine,
that His life means to us Christians what it does.
"No person," says Hooker, "was born of the Virgin but the Son of
God, no person but the Son of God baptized, the Son of God
condemned, the Son of God and no other person crucified; which one
only point of Christian belief, the infinite worth of the Son of
God, is the very ground of all things believed concerning life
and salvation by that which Christ either did or suffered as man
in our behalf."* "That," says Bishop Andrewes, "which setteth the
high price upon this sacrifice is this, that He which offereth
it to God is God."+
* Eccl. Pol., v. 52. 3.
+ Second Sermon on the Passion.
"Marvel not," says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "if the whole world
has been redeemed; for He who has died for us is no mere man,
but the Only Begotten Son of God."^ "Christ," says St. Cyril
of Alexandria, "would not have been equivalent [as a sacrifice]
for the whole creation, nor would He have sufficed to redeem the
world, nor have laid down His life by way of price for it, and
poured forth for us His precious Blood, if He be not really the
Son, and God of God." #
^ Catech., xiii. 2.
# De Sancta Trinitate, dial. A. (quoted Liddon, B. L., p. 477).
How different is all this from the language of those who would
deny or question the Virgin-Birth! With them the Resurrection is
denied as a literal fact; the whole meaning of the Atonement as
being a real sacrifice for sin, a real propitiation, is
eviscerated of its meaning, and is reduced to a moral appeal to
man; and finally, we find that whereas Christians have been
thinking and speaking of Christ as truly God, who in becoming man
"did not abhor the Virgin's womb," modern writers really mean a
very good man who does not, however, differ in kind but only in
excellence of degree from any saint; and by Incarnation they mean
that moral union which a good man has with God, only illustrated
in the case of Christ in an altogether unique degree. If,
however, the Incarnation be what Christendom believes it to have
been; if the Son of God did really take flesh in the womb of Mary,
and became man, not by assuming a human personality, but by
assuming human nature, by entering into human conditions of
life, - it is indeed difficult to imagine any other way of such an
Incarnation save by way of the Virgin-Birth, by which the entail
of original sin was cut off, and humanity made a fresh start in
the Eternal Person of the Second Adam. And if He is indeed
sinless, the sinless Example, the sinless Sacrifice, how
could He be otherwise born? Adam, at his fall, passed on to the
human race a vitiated nature, which we all share - a nature
biassed in a wrong direction. It descended - this vitiated
nature - from father to son to all generations of men. If this
entail of original sin was to be cut off, if there was really to
be a new Adam, a second start for the human race, how could it
be contrived otherwise than by a Virgin-Birth? The Son of Mary
was indeed wholly human - completely man - but "in Him humanity
inherited no part of that bad legacy which came across the
ages from the Fall."*
When a modern writer says, "We should not now, h priori, expect
that the Incarnate Logos would be born without a human father,"+
we may reply that we are hardly in a position to expect anything
a priori in the matter; but when once we have learnt that this
Incarnate Logos was to be the Second Head of the human race - the
sinless Son of Man - and that in Him humanity was to make a fresh
start, it is indeed difficult to see how this could be without
the miracle of the Virgin-Birth.
* Liddon, Christmas Sermons, p. 97.
+ See Contentio Veritatis, p. 88.
I should like to say, in conclusion, that I cannot disguise my
conviction that just as in the early days we find no denial of
the Virgin-Birth except among those who denied and objected to
the principle of the Incarnation (on the ground, apparently, of
the essential evil of matter), so, conversely, that the attempt
now being made (or the suggestion put forward) to separate the
Incarnation and the Virgin-Birth will prove to be an
impossibility. Once reject the tradition of the Virgin-Birth,
and the Incarnation will go with it. For a few years, indeed,
men will use the old language, the word "Incarnation" will be on
their lips; but it will be found before long that by that term
they do not mean God manifest in human flesh, but they mean a man
born naturally of human parents, who most clearly manifested to
men the Christian idea of a perfect human character. Such a
conception as this brings no solace to human hearts. No saint,
however great, could be our Saviour; no saint could have atoned
for sin; and assuredly no saint could be to any of us the source
of our new life - the well-spring and fountain of Divine grace.
NOTE ON ISAIAH VII. 14
THE word for "the Virgin" in the Hebrew text is ha-almah. It is
an ambiguous word, and does not necessarily imply, though it
certainly does not necessarily exclude, the idea of virginity.
Etymologically it means puella nubilis - a maiden of marriageable age.
In four* out of six other places in the Old Testament where it is
employed, it is used of virgins. Its use in the two other passages+
is doubtful, but does not with any certainty imply virginity.
* Gen. xxiv. 43; Exod. ii. 8; Ps. lxviii. 25; Cant. i. 3.
+ Prov. xxx. x 9; Cant. vi. 8.
The Septuagint translators, some two hundred years before Christ,
translated the word h√™ parthenos.
Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, in the second century of our
era (apparently in order to vitiate the Christian appeal to
this passage), translated the word neanis.