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B.V. Æ. 5. Joseph, of the house of David ; and the virgin's name was
J. P. 4709. Mary.
perfection, and therefore an exemption from the universal law of human nature, our reason tells us that his birth must take place in some peculiar or miraculous manner, differing from that which is entailed on the imperfect beings around him: or, in other words,--an immaculate conception was the only mode in which a sinless or spiritual Being could be born into a sinful or animal world, without partaking of its common nature.
If it be said, that our Lord partook of this inferior nature as the Son of the Virgin, as much as if he were the offspring also of Joseph : we answer,—In the same way as Adam, when he was created in the image of God, and therefore sinless, received from the hands of his Maker a body formed from the dust of the ground, so likewise did the second Adam receive from the Virgin an earthly body, as free from sin as that with which the first Adam sprang from the ground, yet, like that, subjected to all the weakness, infirmities, and sufferings of humanity. When we can comprehend in what manner the inanimate dust became an organized being at the first creation, we shall be able to comprehend the mystery of the creation of the second Adam. But we may as reasonably disbelieve the one as the other, if our understanding must comprehend the difficulty before we receive it. The whole doctrine of creation is one of the truths which baffles the intellect of man. We must, in this stage of our being, be contented to believe, and to be ignorant. If we will believe only what we can comprehend, we must believe nothing but mathematical demonstrations.
The declarations of Scripture, from the very beginning, assert, that “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.” It is evident that this term, “the seed of the woman,” cannot be applied to mankind in general. It must refer to a Being to whom it could be applied in some peculiar sense : and the ingenuity of man has never yet devised a mode in which this passage can be properly applied to any of the human race, unless in that manner in which the believers in divine Revelation have applied it to the promised deliverer, the second Adam. The first Adam was called the Son of God, because he was created in the image of God, in a way different from his descendants. Christ also is called the Son of God, on account of his miraculous conception. Both were created spiritual beings; and the true worshippers of God, in various parts of Scripture, are called by the same name, in an inferior sense, because they aspire to the recovery of that superior nature which the first Adam lost, but which the second restored.
The ancient Jews were decided, and, so far as we can ascertain from their remaining books, were unanimous in their opinion, that the divine person who was appointed to deliver man, should be the seed of the woman in some manner differing from mere men. This they principally learned from two passages in their prophets, which have consequently been much discussed ; these are Isa. vii. 14. and Jer. xxxi. 22. both of which require attention..
When the invasion of Rezin and Pekah had reduced the Israelites to extremity, their king, Ahaz, who in the days of his prosperity had sacrificed and burnt incense to the gods of the surrounding nations, in the groves and in the high places of their worship, and consequently had paid little attention or respect to the prophet, now, in this period of distress and calamity, applies for relief to
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said 9, Hail, B.V. 2. 5.
J. P. 4709. Isaiah The Prophet assures him that he shall be delivered from the two kings;
Nazareth. but that, within sixty-five years, the ten tribes should be carried away captive, (Isa. vii. 9.) The king is incredulous, doubting, perhaps, the inspiration of the prophet; who requests the king to require any miraculous proof he pleases that the prophecy he bad delivered should be accomplished. The king refuses to do so, when Isaiah immediately declares “ The Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold a Virgin, (or more properly, the Virgin, nabyn, with the emphatic n) shall conceive and bear a son." He tells him that the name of this son should be Immanuel; and, before he was of sufficient age to discern between good and evil, the country should be delivered from its invaders. The Virgin in question is supposed, by Abrabanel, and other Jewish writers, to denote Mahershalalhashbaz, whom Isaiah married soon after. By others the word nabyn is rendered damsel, instead of virgin, and is supposed to refer to the queen of Ahaz, who was then pregnant of Hezekiah. Dr. Pye Smith (8) follows the authority of Trypho, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and Abrabanel, in giving this last signification to the word nabyn. The inspired writings, however, do not appear to confirm this interpretation ; for they give us no account of a child born at that time who either received the name of Immanuel, or a name that would bear the same signification.
If the prophecy had ended at the 16th verse of the seventh chapter, it might perhaps bear a literal interpretation. But it seems to have been forgotten by those who would thus limit its signification, that it is only a part of one prophetical discourse which is completed at ver. 4. chap. x. and includes that still more eminent prophecy, rendered in our translation, “ Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God." The object then of the Prophet in pronouncing the words, “a Virgin shall conceive,” &c. must be collected from the scope of the whole discourse. If it be thoroughly examined it will appear, like other proplietical discourses, to make the present distress and predicted deliverance serve as a figure of some more distant and more glorious event. No king of Israel could be justly styled the Wonderful-Counsellor--the mighty God, (which latter epithet is rendered, by a learned critic (h), God, the mighty man)--the Everlasting Father-the Prince of Peace. This prophecy from necessity must be, as it always has been, both by Jewish (i) and Christian writers, referred to the Messiah, and as such is quoted by St. Matthew in his Gospel, i. 23. (k).
(g) Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, vol. i. p. 271 ; but this supposition is founded on the idea that some error has crept into the account in the sacred text of Hezekiah's age, 2 Kings xvi. 2. 2 Chron. xxviii. 1.--and it is scarcely admissible to build the right interpretation of one part of Scripture on the possible error of another. (h) Horsley's Biblical Criticisms, vol. ii. p. 65. (0) “ Quoniam puer datus est"--Targum : “ Dixit propheta ad domum David: Puer natus est nobis," &c. &c. “ Deus potens vivens in secula xnvn, Messiah, cujus temporibus pax multa erit.” Debarim rabba, sect. i. fol. 249. 4. In Sanhedrin, fol. 94. 1. * Deum constituisse Hiskiam facere Messiam, quæ quidem fabulosa sunt, sed tamen nobis in tantum utilia, quia ostendunt, Judæos In lectione horum verborum de Messia cogitasse." Schoetgenius, vol. ii. p. 160. It cannot be necessary to refer to Christian writers. But see Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. p. 97. 1726. folio. (k) The quotation in St.
• See page 41.
B.V. Æ.5. thou that art * highly favoured, the Lord is with thee : J. P. 4709.
blessed art thou among women. Nazareth. * Or, graci.
I shall close this part of the present note with a statement of Dr. Kennicott's ously,or,much graced. See v. hypothesis. 30.
He conceives hat “the text contains two distinct prophecies; each literal, and each to be understood in one sense only; the first relating to Christ, the second to Isaiah's son." The one is contained in ver. 13, 14, and 15; and the other in ver. 16. Dr. K. paraphrases them thus :
“ I. Fear not, O house of David, the fate threatened you: God is mindful of his promise to your Father, and will fulfil the same in a very wonderful manner: Behold! a virgin (rather, the virgin, the only one thus circumstanced) shall conceive, and bear a son ; which son shall therefore be, what no other has been or shall be, the seed of the woman, here styled THE VIRGIN: and this son shall be called (i.e. in Scripture language he shall be) “ IMMANUEL, God with us ;” but this great Person, this God visible amongst men, introduced into the world thus, in a manner that is without example, shall be truly man : he shall be born an infant, and as an infant shall he be brought up : for butter and honey (rather milk and honey) shall he eat; he shall be fed with the common food of infants, which in the East was milk mixed with honey, till he shall know (not that he may know, as if such food was to be the cause of such knowledge, but) till he shall grow up to know how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
“ II. But before this child (pointing to his own son) shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good ; the land that thou abhorrest, shall be forsaken of both her kings.
nyan should be rendered, THIS child :-- son of Isaiah, Shearjashub; whom God had commanded the prophet to take with him; but of whom no use was made, unless in the application of these words ; whom Isaiah might now hold in his arm; and to whom therefore he might point with his hand when he addressed himself to Ahaz, and said, But before this child shall grow up to discern good from evil; the land, that thou abhorrest, shall be forsaken of both her kings.
“ The child's name is evidently prophetical: for it signifies, a remnant, or the remainder, shall return. This prophecy was soon after fulfilled. And therefore this son, whose name had been so consolatory the year before, was with the utmost propriety brought forth now, and made the subject of a second prophecy-namely, that before that child, then in the second year of his age, should be able to distinguish natural good from evil, before he should be about four or five years old; the lands of Syria and Israel, spoken of here as one kingdom, on account of their present union and confederacy, should be forsaken of both their kings: which, though at that time highly improbable, came to pass about two years after; when those two kings, who had in vain at
הנה העלמה הרה וילדת בן וקראת שמו עמנואל
Matthew agrees almost word for word with the Hebrew :-
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his say- B.V. Æ.5.
J. P. 4709.
tempted to conquer Jerusalem, were themselves destroyed, each in his own
Nazareth. country." Kennicott's Sermon on Isa. vii. 13-16. Oxf. 1765.
The celebrated prophecy of Micah (ch. v. 2.) which St. Matthew likewise, as his countrymen would approve (1), applies to Christ, was written twenty years after the event by which this prophecy of Isaiah (Isai. vii. 14—16, &c. was occasioned. Both Dr. Hales (m) and Bishop Lowth (n) are of opinion, that Micah in this passage alludes to the former passage previously delivered by Isaiah. “Micah," says Bishop Lowth, “having delivered that remarkable prophecy which determines the place of the birth of the Messiah, the Ruler of God's people, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting, adds, that nevertheless God would deliver them up to their enemies, till she who is to bear a child brings forth.” Archbishop Newcome also confirms the authorized version (o).
The uncommon expression also, " the holy offspring,” Luke i. 35. seems to be especially adapted to denote that the child would be produced in a way different from the generation of the rest of mankind. On the appellation, Son of the Most High, Kuinoel observes, “that it seems to be used to signify that Christ was procreated by an immediate divine intervention : in which sense Adam also is called the Son of God (p).”
The next prophecy which our present subject leads us to consider, is given by Jeremiah, (xxxi. 22.) “ The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman hath compassed a man.” That new “creation of a man is therefore new, and therefore a creation, because wrought in a woman only, without a man, compassing a man ; which interpretation is ancient, literal and clear (9).”
(1) Since the application of this passage to the Christian Messiah, the Jews have been accustomed to refer the words to other circumstances, than their ancestors had done. “ Noli Lector (says Schoetgen, vol. ii. p. 213,) hanc diversitatem mirari—(I consider myself as possibly addressing some of the sons of Israel in these notes, and I omit therefore the next clause of the quotation) Hic autem Marcus Marinus, Censor a Pontifice constitutus, textus ad confir. mationem religionis valentes corrupit. In loco Sanhedrin (fol. 98. 2. had been just quoted) signum castrationis, lacuna scilicet, ubi vox nyvin, impium omissa est, aperte conspicitur: in loco autem priore longe plura deesse videntur. Dixit R. Giddell. Quare autem Hillel excipiatur a consortio istius beatitudinis ? Quia dixit: nullum amplius Messiam Israeli expectandum esse :" (Glossa Quia Hiskias fugerit Messias, et de ipso dictæ sint Prophetiæ Ezek. xxix. 21. et Micha v. 3.) Meuschen N. T. ex Talmude illust. 4to. Leipsic, 1736. p. 30. (m) Hales' Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii. p. 462, 463. (n) Lowth's Isaiah, notes, 4to. edit. p. 64. (0) Newcome's Minor Prophets in loc. (p) Comment. in Libros. Hist. N. T. vol. ii. p. 271. Apud Smith's Scripture Testimony to Mess. vol. ii.
48. (9) Pearson on the Creed, Oxford edit. 8vo. vol. i. p. 270. and vol. ii. p. 48. (r) Pearson on the Creed, Oxford edit. 8vo. vol. i. p. 270. and vol. ii. p. 201. " It is not to be denied,” he observes, " that the proper signification of and is circumdare, or cingere. R. Judah has observed but one interpretation of the verb, and Kimchi says that all the words which come from the root 230, signify compassing, or circuition. Those words therefore (Jerem. xxxi. 22.) napa DN 721 must literally import no less than that a woman shall encompass or enclose a inan; which, with the addition of a new creation, may well bear the interpretation of a miraculous conception. On this account the Jews applied the passage determinately to the Messiah. This appears in Berashith Rabba Parash. 89. where, shewing that God doth heal, with that, with which, he woundeth, he saith, as he punished
B.V. Æ. 5. ing, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this
J. P. 4709. should be.
This is the opinion of one of our most eminent divines, who proceeds to demon-
עלי לבראתו ברית חדשה וכן הוא אימר ,when his hour is come God shall say
Israel in a virgin, so would he also heal. By the testimony of R. Huna, in the
* Die sexto
Dr. Blayney, in his new translation of the prophecies of Jeremiah,