Luk_1:35; Luk_1:38. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.
AS none can tell what devices Satan is plotting for their ruin, or what snares he may bring them into; so none can tell what thoughts of peace and love God may have towards them, or what mercies he may speedily vouchsafe unto them. Little did the persecuting Saul think, when on his journey to Damascus, what God would do for him before he leached the place of his destination: and as little did the blessed Virgin imagine, when engaged in her domestic duties, what was in reserve for her, or what a single day should bring forth. The time fixed in the Divine counsels came at last, when the Messiah was to be brought into the world; and the Virgin Mother was to be informed of God’s designs respecting her. Methinks, at the first address of the angelic messenger, she was filled with surprise and terror: but having been fully instructed respecting that peculiar favour which God had prepared for her, she acquiesced in the Divine proposals, and committed herself with all her concerns, into the hands of her Almighty Friend.
We propose to consider,
The honour promised her—
She was informed, that God had ordained her to be the happy instrument of bringing into the world his only dear Son: and, on her inquiring how that should be accomplished in her virgin state, she was told that the Holy Ghost, who at the first creation of the world “moved upon the face of the waters,” and reduced the chaotic mass to order and beauty, should, by his almighty power, form in her that Holy Being, who should, in his human as well as his divine nature, be the Son of God.
But here a question arises, why should the Messiah be born in this way? Why might not the privilege of bearing him be vouchsafed to her in a way more agreeable to the common course of nature? We answer, that there was, if we may so speak, a necessity for it:
That he might not be involved in Adam’s guilt—
[Adam was not a mere individual, but the head and representative of all his posterity; and, when he violated the covenant which God had made with him, he brought a curse, not on himself only, but on all his descendants also. This is evident from the death of infants, who cannot have contracted personal guilt, and yet suffer the punishment of sin. This could not be, if sin, in some shape or other, were not imputed to them. It is by “the transgression of Adam that they are accounted sinners, and that judgment comes upon them to condemnation [Note: Rom_5:12-19.].” “In Adam all died [Note: 1Co_15:22.].”
Now if the Lord Jesus had descended from him in the common way, he would have lain under the same sentence of condemnation with others, and therefore would have needed a deliverer himself, instead of becoming a deliverer to others.]
That he might not partake of Adam’s corruption—
[When Adam fell, he became corrupt in every member of his body, and in every faculty of his soul. And we are particularly informed, that “he begat a son in his own likeness,” not in the likeness of God in which he was created, but in his own image as a fallen creature. An awful evidence of this truth he soon beheld, in Cain’s hatred, and murder, of righteous Abel.
Of this corruption Christ must have participated, if he had been born in the way of other men: for “who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one [Note: Job_14:4.],” says Job: and again, “How can he be clean that is born of a woman [Note: Job_25:4.]?” In this case, he could not have been “a Lamb without spot or blemish;” and consequently not a proper sacrifice for sin. He must be without sin himself, if he is to take away the sins of others [Note: 1Jn_3:5.]; and “offer himself without spot to God,” if he is to purge away the guilt of a ruined world [Note: Heb_9:14.].]
That the Scriptures might be fulfilled in him—
[The very first promise which announced his future birth, designated him as exclusively “the Seed of the woman [Note: Gen_3:15.].”We might not perhaps have so limited the import of that passage, if subsequent prophecies had not thrown the true light upon it: but Isaiah expressly says, that “a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel [Note: Isa_7:14.]; and an inspired Apostle assures us, that this Scripture had an exact and literal accomplishment in the birth of Jesus [Note: Mat_1:22-23.]. The Prophet Jeremiah also, encouraging the Jews to return to their native land, tells them, that “God would create a new thing there, namely, A woman should compass a man [Note: Jer_31:22.];” that is, should bear a man-child in her virgin state, which had never taken place from the foundation of the world, and which would in a peculiar manner require the exercise of his all-creating power.
Now the Scriptures cannot be broken: if therefore Jesus was to be the Messiah spoken of in the prophets, he must be born in this very manner; and the honour of bearing him must be enjoyed in this way alone.]
From the conferring the honour, we are naturally led to consider,
Her acceptance of it—
Here, while we behold her virgin modesty, unalloyed with any mixture of pride or boasting, we are of necessity called to admire,
Her faith in the promise—
[When Zacharias, an aged and pious priest, had been informed by the angel that he should have a son in his old age, he doubted the truth of it, and required a sign for the confirmation of his faith [Note: ver. 18–20.]: but when this holy Virgin was told of a thing far less credible, she doubted not one single moment: her question was, not for the assuring of her mind about the truth of the promise, but merely for information respecting the mode of its accomplishment. Now in this she shewed the eminence of her piety: and for this she was particularly commended by God himself, who inspired Elizabeth, at the first appearance of the Virgin, to exclaim, “Blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord [Note: ver. 45.].”. It was such an exercise of faith that made Abraham so distinguished among all the sons of men, and so eminently beloved of his God [Note: Rom_4:3; Rom_4:13; Rom_4:18-22.]. This also was the grace which most particularly characterized all the saints of old [Note: Hebrews 11.]; which also our blessed Lord invariably honoured with his peculiar approbation; which therefore should exalt his Virgin mother exceeding highly in our esteem.]
Her submission to the appointment—
[She could not but know that the honour proposed for her acceptance might entirely ruin her character, and possibly even affect her life: for God himself had commanded, that a virgin betrothed should, if unfaithful to her engagements, be punished with death, exactly as she would have been if actually married [Note: Deu_22:23-24.]. On these grounds she might well have suggested doubts, and inquired, how she should be protected from these awful consequences. But she felt no doubt, but that He, whose power and love could confer upon her the proposed honour, would exercise a watchful care over her, and either entirely prevent, or richly recompense, these dreaded evils. Like “Abraham, who at the call of God went out, not knowing whither he went,” she cheerfully committed herself to the Divine protection, knowing in whom she had believed, and assured that he would never leave her nor forsake her. That there was just ground for such fears, appears by the very purpose which Joseph formed, of putting her away as an adulteress: and which was only prevented by the intervention of God himself, who sent an angel to inform him by what means she was pregnant, and to commend her to his peculiar care.
Here again we cannot but admire that resignation and fortitude, whereby she rose superior to all those fears and apprehensions, which such a situation was calculated to inspire.]
Her gratitude for the favour—
[At the first, as we might expect, her frame was that of meek and humble submission. But, when she had had time to reflect upon the greatness of the mercy vouchsafed unto her, and the blessings which would come upon the world by her means, she broke forth into the most exalted strains of praise: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” She justly acknowledged, that, “He who was mighty had done to her great things,” in the contemplation of which “all generations would call her blessed.” She viewed with ineffable delight the accomplishment of that promise which had been made to Abraham; and doubtless, to the latest moment of her life, adored that God, who had made use of her as his honoured instrument to fulfil it.]
In the review of this mysterious subject, we may learn,
How God fulfils his promises—
[The difficulty here seemed insurmountable: the Son of God, in order “to redeem them that were under the law, must be made under the law,” yet not really obnoxious to its curse; and be “made of a woman,” subject to all the infirmities of our nature, and yet be free from sin [Note: Gal_4:4-5. Heb_2:17; Heb_4:15.]. But God is never at a loss: “with him nothing is impossible:” he devised and executed a plan, whereby we might have “such an high-priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners [Note: Heb_7:26.];” a plan, that filled all heaven with wonder. Thus, in other dispensations of his providence and grace, he often permits difficulties to arise, which preclude all hope of our attaining the object of our desire. But, in the best and fittest season, he interposes, and “makes light to arise in obscurity, and our darkness to be as the noon-day.” At this hour, as much as in the days of Abraham, is that saying true, “In the mount the Lord shall be seen.”]
How we ought to receive them—
[Amongst the many promises which God has given us, there is one “exceeding great and precious,” not unlike to that which has been the subject of our present consideration; namely, that “Christ shall be formed in our hearts [Note: Gal_4:19,]; that being so formed, he “shall dwell in us [Note: Eph_3:17.];” and that so dwelling in us, he shall be to us “the hope of glory [Note: Col_1:27.].” This promise is even greater than that which was fulfilled to the blessed Virgin, inasmuch as a spiritual union with the Lord exceeds that which is merely carnal [Note: Luk_11:27-28.]. And how should we receive this promise? I answer, precisely as the blessed Virgin did. We should not stagger at it through unbelief: we should not account it too good for his love to grant, or too great, for his power to execute. We should be alike unmoved by either the difficulties that may obstruct its accomplishment, or the dangers that may follow it. Our reputation, our interests, our life, we should commit to the hands of a faithful Creator, equally ready to suffer for him, or to he more illustrious monuments of his paternal care. O happy should we be, if in this manner we could embrace every promise he has given us, and in full expectation of its accomplishment say, “Behold the servant of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.”]