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SERM. Lord, is by the archangel Gabriel expressed to be XXIV. from the supervention of the Holy Ghost, and the Luke i. 35. divine power overshadowing the blessed Virgin; the which words being of so general interpretation,

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and as to precise meaning so little intelligible by us, may well serve to bound our curiosity, and to check further inquiry. Some indeed (as the followers of Valentinus and Apollinarius, of old; as Menno, Servetus, and others, of late) have been so bold, as to determine, that the Holy Ghost did bring from heaven a body, which he did convey into the blessed Virgin; or that our Saviour's flesh was formed of a divine seed, from the substance of God himself; or that in his conception the Holy Ghost did create and impart somewhat of matter; but it is enough to say, that these are rash and groundless conceits; the holy Fathers, having weighed and discussed such imaginations, to prevent dangerous or misbecoming thoughts and speeches, about a point of so sacred nature, more soberly do teach, that our Saviour was Damasc.iii. conceived by the Holy Spirit, not σepμatikās, semiJust. Mart. nally; but dμcupyikes, operatively; où dià σuvovoías, not by copulation; but dià dvváμews, by power; not de substantia Spiritus Sancti, of the substance of P. Leo de the Holy Ghost; but de potentia, by the virtue of it; and further than this, say they, Generationem ejus quis enarrabit? Who can declare his generation, or exactly describe the manner of a performance so very wonderful and sublime; to the which no experience doth furnish any event like or comparable? When therefore it is said, that the conception, or generation, was ek Пveúμaтos άyíov, of the Holy Ghost, the preposition ek is to be taken for the same with Vò, or dia, (as it is very commonly used,) denoting,


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not matter out of which, but efficiency by which the SERM. effect was derived. But,

2. Why was our Saviour conceived by the Holy Ghost? Divers reasons for it may be assigned.

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I Chron.

2 Sam. vii.

Ps. lxxx.

John i. 34,

49. xi. 27.

1. It was needful for assuring the divinity of our Saviour, or his being the eternal Son of God. That the Messias, the Redeemer of the world, should be the Son of God, was necessary, according to the purpose of God, the ancient predictions, the general opinions and expectations of God's people, (often implied in the Gospels ;) accordingly such he was as the Psal. ii. 7, coeternal Word in his divine nature; but it was requisite that he should also be such according to his xxii. 10. human nature; that by his extraordinary genera- 13. tion, as man, his other more sublime generation (so 27. much transcending human conceit) might be more credible, and the world might be convinced of his divinity; for men hardly would have been capable 16. to believe him more than a man, whom they saw 61. born in the common way of men: Is not this the Matt. viii. son of Joseph? was an argument which they urged Mark i. 24. against him, when he spake about his descent from heaven, John vi. 42. and caused them to admire, when they observed the power of his miracles (Matt. xiii. 55.) and the wisdom of his discourse, (Luke iv. 22.) but easily might they be induced to admit a mystery, which was countenanced by so grand a miracle, as the birth of a child, by the divine power, without a father.

2. This was the most fit way of accomplishing that so necessary conjunction of the divine and human nature: a work of such grandeur and glory, of such grace and goodness, was not to be achieved by any other agent than by him, who is the substantial

Matt. xvi.

Mark xiv.

xxvi. 63.


Luke iv.34.

SERM. virtue and love of God; by whom we see all exXXIV. traordinary and most eminent works to have been Acts ii. 11. managed, to whom commonly the μeyaλeîα Оe, the

Jer. i. 5.

Luke i. 15.

Gal. i. 15.

majestic and magnificent things of God are ascribed; for in the creation of the world, it was the Spirit of God which moved upon the waters, forming things, and impregnating them with all kinds of life and vigour natural; he it is, to whom those signal works of Providence, the revelation of divine truth, the prediction of future events, the performance of miracles, the renovation of men's minds, and reformation of their manners, in a peculiar manner are attributed; so likewise to him this incomparably supernatural, glorious, and important act was most properly due.

3. It being necessary that our Saviour should be consecrated to his great functions, and perfectly sanctified in his person, as man; and those performances (according to the mystical economy of things among the divine Persons) being appropriated to the Holy Ghost, the natural spring of all derived sanctity; his efficacy must needs intervene to this purpose: if Jeremiah, St. John Baptist, and St. Paul, (persons designed for offices and employments in dignity, in consequence so far inferior,) were sanctified, and separated by the Holy Ghost from their mother's womb; in how more excellent kind and degree was it requisite that he should be sanctified thereby, who was sent into the world to redeem and purify it from all filth and fault? According to that John x. 36. saying of our Lord, Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? whereas the style of Gods was given to persons devoted to far meaner services.

4. It was needful, that the human nature, which SERM.


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God did vouchsafe so highly to advance, by assum- XXIV. ing it to a personal conjunction and union with him-Futurum self, should be clear from all stain and pollution; Salvatorem such as in ordinary propagation doth adhere to our decebat, sinful flesh and corrupt nature; that he whom God qui et in se even as man would so dearly love, and so entirely man subbe pleased with, should be void of the least inclina-. humanæ tion to iniquity or impurity; for, as the Psalmist carnis intelleth us, God is not a God that hath pleasure in menta newickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him; is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot so Na much as look upon iniquity; how then would he re- Rom. viii. ceive any defiled thing into so near an union, into Psal. v. 4. so dear a regard, into so full a complacence? He therefore was to be thoroughly sanctified; and thence it was needful that his humanity should issue from the fountain of holiness, God's most holy Spirit.


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Hab. i. 13.

Heb. vii.26,

5. It in like manner was necessary, that he who was ordained to appease God's displeasure, and fully to reconcile him toward us, to expiate all our offences, thoroughly to redeem mankind from the guilt and from the power of sin; who with absolute authority was to teach, to exemplify, to command all righteousness, should himself know no sin: Such an High 2 Cor. v. 21. Priest, as the apostle saith, became us, who was 27. holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners ; who had no need first to offer up sacrifices for his own sins: the sacrifice expiatory for our offences was to be a lamb without blemish and without spot: 1 Pet. i. 19. whence he was to be fully sanctified; and to become To ayov, that holy thing, (absolutely,) as he was Luke i. 35termed by the celestial messenger: whence from the source of sanctity, the Holy Ghost, whose proper

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SERM. name doth import holiness, whose proper work it is to sanctify, he was to derive a perfect sanctity and purity in his sacred conception.

6. We may add, as an observable point, the analogy, or apposite resemblance thereof, between the Gal. iv. 19. conception of our Saviour for us, and his formation in us; his natural generation and the spiritual regeneration of Christians; his becoming our brother in the flesh, and our being made his brethren in the Spirit; both being effected by the same agent: as Christ was made true man, and partaker of our naOsias pass ture, so we become true Christians, and consorts of 2 Pet. i. 4. the divine nature, by the operation of the same diEph. i. 10. vine Spirit: as he by the dispensation of God, so we by his grace are born, not by blood, nor by the will of flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God; hence doth accrue a new relation, and we become his brethren, not only as he was made like to us, but also


John i. 13.

1 John iii.

1 Pet. i. 23. as we become like to him; and are begotten of God, by the same heavenly virtue, the same incorruptible seed.


It may indeed be an admonition to us, to labour after this spiritual conception, which will render us conformable to our Lord, and far more truly allied to him, than even his partaking our nature hath done; and indeed without that spiritual one, this carnal alliance will not signify any thing of benefit to us; it will little profit us, that he was born in 2 Cor. v. 16. the flesh, if we are not born of the Spirit; withJohn iii. out which generation we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


3. The proper application of this point is to engage us on a thankful adoration of the divine goodness and wisdom; so fully, so fitly carrying on that

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