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miracle, that gave the utmost evidence of our Saviour's di. vine authority, was his raising himself from the dead on the third day; a matter of fact, which all Christians have not only believed, but esteemed the great foundation on which they build the proof of their whole belief *.
Besides the spirit of prophecy resided in him, and his divine authority was made manifest by the accom- from his plishment of his own predictions; for, whenever prophecies of the predictions have been plain and clear, and the bimself. event answerable, it hath been always counted a fure proof of a divine mission; upon which account the angel tells St. John, that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Thus our Saviour foretold his own death, with the manner of it, and circumstances of his sufferings; the treachery of Judas, the cowardice of his disciples, and St. Peter's denying him; his own resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts. He prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem, which came to pass in forty years after his own death, within the compass of that generation, as he had foretold; the very foundations of the temple and city were destroyed, and the ground plowed up, so that there was not left one stone upon another that was not thrown down; according to our Saviour's prediction: and indeed the signs that he foretold should forerun the destruction of that city, with the circumstances that came with it and followed after, exactly agree with the punctual and credible history of the fact related by Jofephus. And he assured his disciples, that his gospel should be published in all nations, and that his religion fhould prevail against all the opposition of worldly power and malice, and that the gates of hell should not prevail against it: which things being purely contingent in respect of us, and many of them unlikely to happen, the fulfilling of such predictions argues a prophetic fpirit in our Saviour, and consequently, that he was sent from God.
If christianity was an imposture, it was a strange from the imposture indeed ; an imposture beneficial to the Aas of ibe world, but destructive to the authors, in the na- spojiles. ture and tendency of the thing itself: beneficial, I say, to the world, since it forbad every vice, and injoined every virtue, that could make a man more happy in himself, more serviceable to the world, and more acceptable to God. There are few or no other public actions, but what a witty malice may put some sinister interpretation upon; and the best deeds in appearance may, and often, no question, do, proceed from a principle of vanity; but theactions of Christ and his apostles will stand the test of the severest scrutiny. For the Apostles could not act upon any indirect and interested views of worldly honour, ambition, or gain; they must have been supported by a determined resolution of mind, to bear the utmost pressures of misery and torment, in thecause of truth, founded upon a profpect of future happiness. Therefore, Unless we believe in this article, where is our faith and hope
world, • See this article treated of Sunday 4, Sell, iv.
in the redemption that was wrought by the facriWhy we mult believe fice of Christ Jesus, which could never have been in this arti- performed by any person, but by him, who is God
as well as man? He must have been a sacrifice of infinite dignity, and nothing less could bear any proportion to the infinite guilt of our sins, as being committed against a God of infinite goodness and majesty. And by this belief we areencouraged and freed from all doubt and scruple in giving to Christ that divine honour, which is due to him: which if we ascribe to him, without being satisfied that it is his due, we cannot wholly free ourselves from that idolatry which is a breach of the first commandment. By this faith also of the inward dignity of Christ, we may learn to raise our affections to theutmost pitchour nature is capable of, in the admiration of that wonderful goodness of the Father in sending his beloved son to die for us, while we were his enemies, rebels, apostate creatures, and that wonderful love and condescension of the Son, in so far debafing himself for our sakes, who deserved the most grievous vials of his wrath and indignation to revenge the breach of his covenant.
VII. In those words by which the angel told the virgin Of the an. Mary, that she should be the mother of Jesus Christ; gel's mes that her son should be great, and called the son of Jage. : the Highest; that the Lord God should give unto him the throneof his father David, that he should reign over
the house of Jacob for ever; and that of his kingdom there should be no end; is contained an astonishing message, looking back to the prophecy concerning the Messiah, which soretold, that the government should be upon his shoulder, and his name should be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, everlasting with the Father, the Prince of Peace; of the increase of whose government and peace there should be no end; upon the throneof David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. For the angel's description of the Messiah imports, that God would settle upon the Mesa fiah a spiritual kingdom (of which that temporal one of David was butan imperfect representation) the absolute government of his church, that spiritual house of Jacob; and that this kingdom of his should never be destroyed, as the kingdom of the Jews was to be; and which is now fulólled.
This declaration was preceded by the falutation made to the blessed Virgin by the same angel, in these words, His falutes Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with tion. thee, blessed art thou among women. The meaning of which was, that the blessed Virgin was most excellently disposed to receive the greatest honour that ever was done to the daughters of men; her employment being holyand pious, her body chaste, and her soul adorned with all virtues, particularlywith humility, which is in the fightof God of great price: for, though she was to be the mother of an universal andeverlasting blessing, which all former ages had desired, and all future times should rejoice in; yet she resigns all this glory to him that gaveither, and declares, whence she received it, that no other name, but his, might have the honour. When she received this falutation, she was troubled at the saying of the angel, and cast in her mind what manner of falutation it should be; judging herself unworthy of so great an honour, and be. ing surprised with the strangeness of such an appearance in her retirement. But when the angel positively affirmed that The could conceive and bring forth the Messiah, she inquires how that could be, since she knew not a man? yet this implied in her no doubt concerning the thing, or any diffidence in respect to the issue of it; but rather admiratica in respect to
the wonderful manner of effecting it; at most it implies that she desired to be satisfied in the manner as well as in the matter of this mystery: and therefore the angel answers the difficulty, by declaring the wonderful manner how his message should be brought about, viz. That the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and that the power of the Highest should overshadow her ; and then furnished her with an example of fomewhat of like nature in her cousin, and referred her to the power of God, to which nothing is impossible to be done. Upon this the demonstrated an intire faith and obedience in Mary's ré. her reply: Behold the hand-maid of the Lord, be Jignation. it unto me according to thy word. Then the blersed virgin expresses her gratitude in that admirable hymn called the Magnificat ; wherein she shews such a thankful sense of the great honour that was conferred upon her, and testifies her humility and devotion, as wellas the infinite power and goodness of God, that, it appears, as she was highly favoured, so she was also full of grace, and had a mind plentifully inriched with the gifts of God's holy spirit. Thus
The only-begotten Son of God was conceived by the HOLÝ God made Ghost, and took man’s nature in the womb of man. the blessed Virgin, of her substance: fo that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the godhead and manhood, were joined together in one perfon, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man: Who was seen and handled; who was arraigned, condemned, and crucified, and afterwards laid in the grave;' not indeed in his divine, but in his human nature, to reconcile his Father to *us, and to be a facrifice, not only for original guilt, but also • for the actual fins of men.'*
When we profess that we believe our Saviour Jesus Chrift of the birth was born of the Virgin Mary, we are alfo to believe of Christ. that the Virgin Mary, espoused unto Joseph (who, before and after her e pousals, was a pure and inspotted virgin) having, by the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, conceived within her womb the only-begotten Son of God, did bring him forth after the natural time of other women. So that the Saviour of the world was born of a woman, made
-under See she z. Article çf Religion,
under the law, without the least pretence of any original corruption; that he might deliver us from the guilt of sin: For thus our church expresseth it, Christ, in the truth of
our nature, was made like unto us in all things, fin only • excepted, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, * and in his spirit. He came to be a lamb without spot, • who, by facrifice of himself once made, should take away
the sins of the world : and fin (as St. John faith) was not • in him. But we all (altho' baptised and born again in * Christ) offend in many things; and, if we say we have no * fin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' *
And he was born of a Virgin, of the house and lineage of David, that he might fit upon his throne, and rule Oribe boule for evermore. And that the promised Messiah was of David. to be born after this miraculous manner, the prophecies of the Old Testament foretold. One says, the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth, a woman shall compass a man. Another says, behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a fon, and shall call his name Immanuel. In consequence whereof his mother that bore him was a pure virgin, as ap- of a pure peared both from her own account, and that of Jo- virgin. seph her reputed husband; for, when Joseph doubted of her chastity, an angel was dispatched to clear her honour, and to assure him that what was conceived in her was not by man, but of the Holy Ghost. And when she objected the conscieved impossibility of her being a mother, the angel ex- of the Holy plains it to her by the Holy Ghost coming upon Ghoft. her, and the power of the Highest overshadowing her. This was sounquestionable to the apostles and primitive christians, that they universally and firmly believed it, and thought it a point of so great moment, as to deserve a place in that summary of the christian faith, called the apostles creed.
The place of our Saviour's birth was Bethlehem, whither Joseph and Mary went in obedience to the decree of Born as Augustus to be taxed, the providence of God mak- Bethlehem. inguseof this conjuncture by verifying a prophecy, to signify and publish the birth of the true Messiah. The concourse of people to Bethlehem was so great, that they could find no ac
com. Sre the 15th Articles of Religion.