FOURTEENTH LORD'S DAY.
Question 35. What is the meaning of these words, “He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary?”
Answer. That God s eternal Son, who is, and continueth true and eternal God, took upon him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, that he might also be the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.
The exposition of this question is necessary on account of ancient and modern heretics, who have denied, and who now deny, that the flesh of Christ was taken from the substance of the Virgin. The Eutychians argue: Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost ; therefore the flesh of Christ was produced from the substance of the Divinity, or from the essence of the Holy Ghost, and by this means the divine nature was changed into the human. The fallacy of this argument arises from an incorrect use of a figurative mode of speaking ; for the terms for, from, or of the Holy Ghost do not signify a material, but an efficient cause, the power, efficacy, virtue, or operation of the Holy Ghost; for it was by the virtue, or operation of the Holy Ghost that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of the Virgin, according to the words of the angel: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” (Luke 1:35.) Christ is also called the seed of Abraham, the Son of David.
Therefore he took his flesh from these fathers, and not from the Holy Ghost. As we are born of God because he made us, so Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost ; because it was by his virtue and operation that he was conceived ; and not because he was formed from the substance of the Holy Ghost.
Obj. But if the particle of or by does not signify a material cause when used of the Holy Ghost, then, in like manner, it cannot signify this when it is said of Christ that he was born of the Virgin Mary. Ans. The cases are not exactly parallel, for in relation to the latter article, it behooved Christ to be born of the seed of David ; but when it is said he was conceived of, or by the Holy Ghost, the particle by cannot refer to or signify a material case, for these reasons : 1. Because, if this were true, then that which immediately follows, viz., that he was born of the Virgin Mary. would not be true. 2. Because God is not susceptible of any change, and therefore, cannot be changed into flesh. 3. Because the Word assumed flesh, but was not changed into it. What, therefore, does the conception of Christ by the Holy Ghost signify? Three things are comprehended in it. 1. That Christ was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin, by the immediate action, or operation of the Holy Ghost, without the seed and substance of man, so that his human nature was formed from his mother alone, contrary to the order of things which God has established in nature, as it is said, “The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” (Luke 1:35.) If it be here objected, that God has also formed us, we reply, that we have been formed mediately, and not immediately as Christ was, from which it is evident that the examples are not the same.
2. The Holy Ghost miraculously sanctified that which was conceived and produced in the womb of the Virgin, so that original sin did not attach itself to that which was thus formed; for it did not become the Word, the Son of God, to assume a nature polluted with sin, for the following reasons: 1 . That he might be a pure sacrifice ; for it behooved him to make satisfaction for sin. 2. That he might also, by his purity, sanctify others. 3. That we might know that whatever the Son says is truth ; for that which is born of flesh, which is sinful, and not sanctified, is flesh, falsehood and vanity.
Obj. But Christ was born of a mother that was a sinner. Therefore he himself had sin. Ans. The Holy Ghost knows best how to distinguish and separate sin from the nature of man ; for sin is not from the nature of man, but was added to it from the devil.
3. That the hypostatical union of the two natures, the divine and the human, was formed by the same Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin, immediately and at the very moment of his conception.
The meaning, therefore, of this article, he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, is, that the Holy Ghost was the immediate author of the miraculous conception of the flesh of Christ that he separated all impurity of original sin from that which was thus conceived, and united the flesh with the Word in a personal union in the very moment of conception.
He was born of the Virgin Mary. It behooved the Messiah to be born of the Virgin according to the predictions of the prophets, that he might be a High Priest without sin, and the type or figure of our spiritual regeneration, which is not of the will of flesh, but of God. Hence it is added in the Creed, that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary :
1. That the truth of the human nature assumed by the Son of God might thus be signified, that is to say, that Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, and was born a true man from the substance of Mary his mother; or, the flesh of Christ, although miraculously conceived, was nevertheless taken, and born of the Virgin.
2. That we may know that Christ has descended from the fathers from whom Mary also was, that is to say, that he was the true seed of Abraham, being born from his seed, and that he was the Son of David, being born from the daughter of David, according to the prophecies and promises.
3. That we may know that the Scriptures are fulfilled, which declared, “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent s head.” (Is. 7:14. Gen. 3:15.) From this fulfillment of prophecy, by which it was foretold that Christ should be born of a Virgin of the family of David, and that by a miraculous conception, which the prophets did in a manner foretell, it is most clearly manifest that this man Jesus, born of the Virgin, is the promised Messiah, or the Christ, the redeemer of the human race.
4. That we may know that Christ was sanctified in the womb of the Virgin, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and is, therefore, pure and without sin.
5. That we may know that there is an analogy between the nativity of Christ, and the regeneration of the faithful; for the birth of Christ of the Virgin is a sign of our spiritual regeneration, which is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
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