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family of David, and thus related by her parents to Mary. But we see the same liberty taken by other tribes. David, at least, who belonged to the tribe of Judah, had a daughter of Saul, a Benjamitess, for his wife. Nor do we find any law to the contrary; for in Numbers xxxvi. 6. we have the determination of a special case relating to young women that are heiresses,* on whom the whole inheritance devolves, all the male issue being dead, whose marriages were limited to men, not merely of their own tribe, but also of their own family. A special determination of that sort, however, serves rather to confirm, than to destroy, the liberty which was generally enjoyed. Besides, it is really not improbable that Mary was one of those young women to whom that determination referred, and therefore espoused to Joseph, as her nearest kinsman. It is not our intention to involve ourselves at present in other genealogical difficulties, which are sufficiently perplexing. Learned men have given very satisfactory replies to the cavils of impious mockers of the Scriptures.
XXI. That the Messiah should be born of a VIRGIN, was foretold in Isaiah vii. 14." On this passage the blind and infatuated Jews contend to no purpose about the signification of the word y, than which none stronger is furnished by the Hebrew language, to denote a female of unspotted virginity. Mary professes before the Angel, that she was a female of this description; nor does the Angel accuse her of falsehood. Joseph, too, was informed by an Angel, that the woman whom he had espoused, was found with child, not from
the knowledge of a man, but from the power of the Holy Ghost. And who would now presume to question that a virgin conceived, that a virgin brought forth; since even the most inveterate enemies of Christ, amidst the numerous reproaches which they cast upon him, never ventured to upbraid him with the least disgrace attached to his mother's bed; since nothing would have been easier, had she been guilty of adultery, than to convict and punish her, the law requiring this, and her husband not objecting; and since they might have been able, at a single stroke, to ruin the whole glory of the Son, by the ignominious punishment of the mother? How, too, could it have come into the mind of any woman not entirely lost to modesty, to pretend that when a Virgin she had brought forth a child? How could she believe such a thing of herself? How could she expect or require, that others should give her credit? How, in particular, could a woman of low rank and in indigent circumstances, hope to obtain credit to a story, which would not have been believed from the lips of a Queen in her kingdom, or palace? Truly unless the testimony of her conscience, the invincible force of truth, the miracle of the overshadowing Spirit, and the assurances of Angels, had obliged her to profess her virginity, what effrontery is sufficiently bold and shameless to induce her to make pretensions so utterly incredible ?5
XXII. With these particulars relating to the blessed Virgin, derived from the sacred records of the Gospels, we rest satisfied, exploding the tales which inconsiderate writers of fables have added about her extraordi
P Mat. i. 20.
5 See NOTE V.
nary birth and education in the temple, or even in the Holy of Holies, and her vow of perpetual virginity, and the examination of her chastity by the priest and by a female named Salome, and other impertinent stories of the same kind, taken from the spurious Gospel of James,* from Nicephorus, and from other injudicious authors. Baronius, amidst all the light of this literary age, has not been ashamed to repeat, and, in a great measure, to countenance those ridiculous fables. Xavier the Jesuit, too, more impudent than he, has detailed them in the History of Christ which he has composed in the Persian language, and obtruded them on the nations of the East, as if they were of the same certainty with the divine and infallible records of the Gospel; for which he has been justly chastised by Ludovicus de Dieu. The curious will find a specimen of the Gospel of James in Boxhorn's Universal History.†
XXIII. Let us now go on to show that Mary was, in reality, the Mother of Christ. It is certain that she is often called his Mother. But she could not have been so, unless Christ had taken his human nature from her substance. Accordingly it is said that he was "made of a woman,"-that he was "the fruit of 'Mary's womb," and "the seed of the woman."
XXIV. These expressions overthrow the opinion of certain Anabaptists, who assert that Christ brought down his human nature from heaven, that it was form
+ Boxhornii Histor. Univers. p. 49.
Ex illius substantia, sive semine ac sanguine.
Mat. i. 18. Luke i. 43. John ii. 1. and in other places passim.
Gal. iv. 4.
• Luke i. 42.
'Gen. iii. 15.
• Sce NOTE VI.
ed of the essence of the Father or the Holy Ghost, or of the dew of the eternal godhead, or of celestial, starry, or elementary matter; which, however, passed through Mary, as water through a pipe, or as the beams of the sun through glass. Such sentiments are truly impertinent and absurd, since the Scripture affirms, that, by the power of the Holy Ghost, Mary conceived Christ, that she bore him in her womb, and that, like other mothers, she brought him forth at the stated time; all which assertions are directly contrary to those bold unauthorised similitudes.
XXV. That we often read in the Scriptures that Christ" descended from heaven," we do not deny. But this expression is not to be understood precisely of the human nature, but of the person of the Son of God; who is said to have descended from heaven, because he showed himself present among men in a singular manner, appearing in human flesh personally united to himself. Nor is there greater weight in the argument drawn from the following words: "I am the living bread, which came down from heaven;-and “the bread that I will give, is my flesh." For these expressions teach us, that the Son of God, in order to become the Author of a true life to sinful men, manifested himself in the flesh which he assumed; and that, not by the labour or care of men, but by a Divine and heavenly appointment and agency, that flesh was prepared to be spiritual food, the cause of a true and blessed life.
XXVI. This controversy ought not to be deemed of small moment, as if it concerns us nothing to know
" John vi. 33. 1 Cor. xv. 47, 48. Ephes. iv. 9, 10.
whence Christ hath his flesh, provided it be evident that he has real flesh. It was necessary that the Messiah should not only be man, but also our Kinsman and our Brother, the seed of Abraham, and the fruit of David's loins. They who give us any other representation of the Messiah, feign one different from him who was promised by the prophets, and expected by the fathers.
XXVII. Let it not be thought that the Apostle sets aside or derogates from the necessity of this knowledge, when he says," Yea, though we have known Christ "after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no "more;" that is, according to the flesh. w In that passage, the expression "according to the flesh" is not connected with Christ, as in some other places, but with our knowledge; in reference to which a distinction is made between the knowledge which is according to the flesh, or carnal, and the knowledge which is according to the Spirit, or spiritual. Knowledge according to the flesh, consisted either in the sight of the bodily eye, on account of which some who had seen or touched Christ in the flesh, and particularly after his resurrection, pronounced themselves happy, or were pronounced happy by others; or in consanguinity, for which the Jews, as the natural branches, were esteemed more happy than the Gentiles. The Apostle renounces such boasting as carnal and frivolous; as the celebrated Cloppenburg, who once adorned the University of Friesland, has learnedly remarked.*
XXVIII. Let us now inquire, in the last place, what FRUIT accrues to us from all these things. We
* De Instaur. Hom. laps. Disput. iii. Sect. 9, 10.