Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary


Now follows ChristŐs incarnation in these words, Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary. And they contain in them one of the most principal points of the doctrine of godliness, as Paul saith (1 Tim. 3:16), Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, which is, God is made manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit etc. And that we may proceed in order in handling them, I will first speak of the incarnation generally, and then after come to the parts thereof.



In general we are to propound three questions, the answering whereof will be very needful to the better understanding of the doctrine following:


1. The first question is: Who was incarnate, or made man? Answer: The second Person in Trinity, the Son of God alone, as it is set down in this first article, according to the Scripture. St John saith (John 1:14), The Word was made flesh; and the angel saith (Luke 1:35), The Holy One which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of the Most High. And Paul saith (Rom. 1:3), that Christ Jesus our Lord was made of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. And there be sundry reasons why the second Person should rather be incarnate than any other:


(1) By whom the Father created all things, and man especially; by Him, man being fallen is to be redeemed, and as I may say re-created. Now man was at the first created of the Father by the Son; and therefore to be redeemed by Him.


(2) It was most convenient that that which is the essential image of the Father, should take manŐs nature that He might restore the image of God lost and defaced in man; but the second Person is the essential image of the Father, and therefore He alone must take manŐs nature.


(3) It was requisite that that Person which was by nature the Son of God, should be made the Son of man, that we which are the sons of man, yea the sons of wrath, should again by grace be made the sons of God. Now the second Person alone is the Son of God by nature, not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost.


As for the Father, He could not be incarnate. For to take flesh is to be sent of another, but the Father cannot be sent of any person, because He is from none. Again, if the Father were incarnate, He should be father to him which is by nature God, and the son of a creature, namely, the virgin Mary, which things cannot well stand.


And the Holy Ghost could not be incarnate; for then there should be more sons than one in the Trinity, namely, the second Person the Son of the Father, and the third Person, the Holy Ghost, the son of the virgin Mary.


It may be objected to the contrary on this manner: The whole divine essence is incarnate, every Person in Trinity is the whole divine essence, therefore every Person is incarnate. Answer: The whole Godhead indeed is incarnate, yet not as it is absolutely considered, but so far forth as it is restrained and limited to the Person of the Son; and to speak properly, the Godhead itself is not incarnate, but the very Person of the Son subsisting in the Godhead. And though all the Persons be one and the same essence, yet do they really differ each from other in regard of the peculiar manner of subsisting; and therefore manŐs nature may be assumed of the second Person, and be not assumed either of the Father or of the Holy Ghost; as in the like case the soul of man is wholly in the head and wholly in the feet, yea, wholly in every part; and yet the soul cannot be said to use reason in the feet or in any other part, but only in the head.


Again, it may be alleged that the incarnation, being an outward action of God to the creature, is not proper to the Son. Answer: The incarnation stands of two actions, the first is the framing and creating of that manhood which was to be assumed by the Son, or Word of the Father; and this action is common to all three Persons equally. The second, is the limiting or the receiving of it into the unity of any Person, and in respect of this action, the work of incarnation is peculiar to the Son. To this purpose Augustine speaks, That creature (saith he) which the virgin conceived and brought forth, though it appertain to the Person of the Son alone, yet was it made by the whole Trinity; as when three men weave one and the same garment, and the second only wears it.



2. The second question is: What manner of man was the Son of God made? Answer: He was made a proper or particular man, and a perfect or a very man.


I say that He was a particular man to shew that He took not unto Him the general form or idea of manŐs nature conceived only in mind, nor the common nature of man as it is existing in every man; but the whole nature of man, that is, both a body and a reasonable soul, existing in one particular subject.


I say further that He was and is a true and perfect man, being in everything that concerns manŐs nature like unto Adam, Abraham, David, and all other men, saving only in sin. For, first of all, He had the substance of a true body and of a reasonable soul. Secondly, the properties of body and soul: in the body, length, breadth, thickness, circumscription etc.; in the soul, the faculties of understanding both simple and compound: will, affections, as love, hatred, desire, joy, fear, etc., the powers also of hearing, feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting, moving, growing, eating, digesting, sleeping etc. Thirdly, he took unto Him the infirmities of manŐs nature, which are certain natural defects or passions in body or mind, as to be hungry, thirsty, weary, sad and sorrowful, ignorant of some things, angry, to increase in stature, and wisdom, and knowledge etc.; yet this which I say must be understood with two caveats: The first is that infirmities be either certain unblameable passions, or else such defects as are sins in themselves. Now Christ taketh the first only, and not the second. Secondly, infirmities be either general, or personal. General, which appertains to the whole nature of man, and are to be found in every man that cometh of Adam; as to be born unlearned, and subject to natural affections, as sorrow, anger etc. Personal, are such as appertain to some particular men, and not to all, and arise of some private causes and particular judgments of God, as to be born a fool, to be sick of an ague, consumption, dropsy, pleurisy, and such like diseases. Now the first sort be in Christ, and not the second; for as He took not the person of any man, but only manŐs nature, so was it sufficient for Him to take unto Him the infirmities of manŐs nature, though He took not the private infirmities of any manŐs person. And the reason why Christ would put on not only the substance and faculties of a true man, but also his infirmities, was that He might shew Himself to be very man indeed, also that he might suffer for us both in body and soul, and that He might give us an example of patience in bearing all manner of evil for GodŐs glory, and the good of our neighbour.


Now the things which may be alleged to the contrary for infringing of the truth of ChristŐs manhood, are of no moment. As first, because Christ appeared in the form of a man in the Old Testament, being no man; therefore He did so at His coming in the New Testament; but the reason is not like. For Christ in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:9ff.), as the angel of His Father in some special affairs, took unto Him the body of a man for some space of time; but He did not receive it into the unity of His Person, but laid it down when the business which He had enterprised with men was ended. Now in the fulness of time, He came from heaven as the angel of the Covenant, and for that cause He was to unite into His own Person the nature of man, which thing was never done before. And when as Paul saith (Rom. 8:3) that Christ came in the similitude of sinful flesh, his meaning is not to signify that He was a man only in resemblance and shew; but to testify that being a true man which was indeed void of sin, He was content to abase Himself to that condition in which He became like to a miserable sinner in bearing the punishment for our sin. For Paul doth not say that He took upon Him the similitude of flesh simply as it is flesh, but of the flesh of sin or sinful.



3. The third question is: Why must the Son of God become man? Answer: There be sundry reasons of this point, and the most principal are these:


(1) First of all, it is a thing that greatly stands with the justice of God, that in that nature in which God was offended, in the same should a satisfaction be made to God for sin. Now sin was committed in manŐs nature. Adam sinned first, and in him all his posterity. Therefore it was necessary that in manŐs nature there should be a satisfaction made to GodŐs justice, and for this cause the Son of God must needs abase Himself and become man for our sakes.


(2) Secondly, by right of creation every man is bound in conscience to fulfil even the very rigour and extremity of the moral law. But considering man is now fallen from his first estate and condition, therefore it was requisite that the Son of God should become man, that in manŐs nature He might fulfil all righteousness which the law doth exact at our hands.


(3) Thirdly, He that is our Redeemer must die for our sins; for there is no remission of sins without shedding of blood. But Christ as He is God cannot die; for no passion can befall the Godhead. Therefore it was needful that He should become man, that in manŐs nature He might die and fully satisfy GodŐs justice for manŐs offence.


(4) Lastly, He that must make reconciliation between God and man, must be such an one as may make request or speak both to God and man. For a mediator is as it were a middle person making intercession between two other persons, the one offended, the other offending. Therefore it is necessary that Christ should not only be God, to speak unto the Father for us and to present our prayers unto Him; but also man, that God might speak to us and we to God by Christ. For howsoever before the fall, man could speak to God even face to face, yet since the fall, such fear possesseth manŐs corrupt nature that he cannot abide the presence of God, but fleeth from it.


Now, whereas I say that it was necessary that the Son of God for the causes before alleged must become man; the necessity must be understood in respect of GodŐs will, and not in respect of His absolute power. For if it had so pleased God, He was able to have laid down another kind of way of manŐs redemption than by the incarnation of the Son of God; and He appointed no other way, because He would not.



Thus much of the incarnation in general. Now follow the duties which arise of it.


1. And first, we are taught hereby to come to Christ by faith, and with all our hearts to cleave unto Him. Great is the deadness and sluggishness of manŐs nature; for scarce one of a thousand care for Him, or seek to Him for righteousness and life everlasting. But we should excite ourselves every way to draw near to Him as much as possible we may; for when He was incarnate, He came near unto us by taking our nature upon Him, that we again whatsoever we are, might come near unto Him by taking unto us His divine nature. Again, when Christ was incarnate, He was made bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and therefore proportionally we must labour to become bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh; which we shall be when we are mystically united unto Him by faith, and born anew by His Spirit. Moreover, Christ by His incarnation came down from heaven to us, that we being partakers of His grace, might ascend up to heaven by Him. And thus we see how the meditation of ChristŐs incarnation should be a spur to prick us forward still more and more to come to Christ.


2. Secondly, ChristŐs incarnation must be a pattern unto us of a most wonderful and strange humility. For as Paul saith (Phil. 2:6,7), Being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, He made Himself of no reputation; and took on Him the form of a servant; and humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even to the death of the cross. Yea, so far forth He abased Himself, that as David saith (Psa. 22:6), He was a worm and no man. And this teacheth us to lay aside all self-love and pride of heart, and to practise the duties of humility, as the apostle exhorts the Philippians in the same place, and that shall we do when we begin to cast off that high opinion which every man by nature conceives of Himself, and become vile and base in our own eyes. Secure and drowsy Protestants think themselves blessed, and say in their hearts as the angel of the church in Laodicea said (Rev. 3:17), I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; whereas indeed they are most miserable and wretched, and poor, and naked and blind. And the same fond opinion possesseth the minds of our ignorant people, who chant it in the very same tune, saying that God loves them, and that they love God with all their hearts and their neighbours as themselves; that they have perfect faith in Christ and ever had, not once so much as doubting of their salvation; that all is well with them and that they are past all danger whatsoever, in the matter of their salvation, and therefore need not take so much care for it. Thus ye may see how men are commonly carried away with vain and fond conceits of their own excellency. And truly so long as this overweening of our own righteousness reigns in our hearts, let preachers speak and say what they will, we can never become followers of Christ in the practice of humility. Some will say, peradventure that they never had any such opinion of their own righteousness; but I answer again that there was never yet any man descended of Adam, save Christ, but he had this proud fantasy ruling and reigning in him, till such time as God gave grace to change and alter his heart. And this inward pride, the less we discern it, the more it is; and the more we discern it, the less it is. Therefore though as yet thou see it not in thyself, yet labour both to see and to feel it, and to strive against it, casting down thyself for thy own misery after ChristŐs own example, who being God, abased Himself to the condition of a miserable man. For thou shalt never be filled with the good things of God, till thou be emptied of self-love and self-liking. For this cause let us purge and empty ourselves of all conceit of our own righteousness, that God may fill our hearts with His grace.


Furthermore the incarnation of Christ is the ground and foundation of all our comfort, as the names of Christ serving to express the same do testify. Jacob in his last testament saith (Gen. 49:10) that the sceptre shall not depart from Judah till Shiloh, that is the Messiah, come. Now the name Shiloh signifieth the tunicle or skin that lappeth the infant in the motherŐs womb, called by the physicians the secundine; and by a kind of figure it is put for the Son of God in the womb of the virgin made man. And Job (Job 19:25) to comfort himself in his affliction saith, I know that my Redeemer liveth. Now the word which he useth to signify his Redeemer by, is very emphatical, for it signifieth a kinsman near allied unto him of his own flesh that will restore him to life. And the Lord by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 7:14) calleth Christ Immanuel, that is, God with us; which name importeth very much, namely, that whereas by nature we have lost our fellowship with God, because our sins are a wall of partition (Isa. 59:2) severing us from Him; yet nevertheless the same is restored to all that believe, by the Mediator Christ Jesus (Col. 1:21); because His divine nature is coupled to manŐs nature, and so the Word is made flesh. And this strait conjunction of two natures in one Person joins God to men, and men to God; yea, by Christ we are brought to God and have free access unto Him; and again in Him we apprehend God, and are made one with Him.


And further, whereas Christ beside our nature took our infirmities also, it is a wonderful comfort to GodŐs church, for it shews that He is not only a Saviour, but also a very compassionate and pitiful Saviour. As the Holy Ghost saith (Heb. 2:17), In all things it became Christ to be like unto His brethren, that he might be merciful and a faithful High Priest in things concerning God. Let a man be sick of a grievous disease, and let a friend come that hath been troubled with the very same disease, he will presently shew more compassion than twenty others. And so Christ having felt in His own souls and body the anguish and the manifold perplexities that we feel in our temptations and afflictions, hath His bowels as it were yearning towards us, evermore being pressed and ready to relieve us in all our miseries. In the days of His flesh, He wept over Jerusalem when He saw it afar off, because she continued in her old sins, and did not know the time of her visitation; and no doubt, though now He be exalted in glory in heaven, yet His compassion to His poor members upon earth is no what diminished.




Now we come to speak of the incarnation more particularly; and the Creed yet further expresseth it by two parts: the first, is the conception of Christ in these words: Conceived by the Holy Ghost; the second, is His birth, in the words following: Born of the virgin Mary.



The conception of Christ is set down with His efficient cause, the Holy Ghost, as the angel said to Joseph (Matt. 1:20), Fear not to take Mary for thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Here it may be demanded, why the conception of Christ should be ascribed to the Holy Ghost alone, which is common to all the Persons in Trinity, as all other such actions are? Answer: It is not done to exclude the Father or the Son Himself from this work; but to signify that it comes of the free gift and grace of God (which commonly is termed by the Holy Ghost) that the manhood of Christ being but a creature, should be advanced to this dignity, that it should become a part of the Son of God. And again, the Holy Ghost is the author of His conception in a special manner; for the Father and the Son did cause it by the Holy Ghost from them both immediately.


In the conception of Christ, we must observe and consider three things: (1) the framing of the manhood, (2) the sanctifying of it and (3) the personal union of the manhood with the Godhead. And howsoever I distinguish these three for orderŐs sake, yet must we know and remember that they are all wrought at one and the same instant of time. For when the Holy Ghost frames and sanctifies the manhood in the womb of the virgin; at the very same moment it is received into the unity of the second Person.


(1) In the framing of ChristŐs manhood, two things must be considered: the matter and the manner.


(i) The matter of His body was the very flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, otherwise He could not have been the son of David, of Abraham, and Adam according to the flesh. As for His soul, it was not derived from the soul of the virgin Mary as a part thereof, but it was made as the souls of all other men be; that is, of nothing by the very power of God, and placed in the body; both of them from the first moment of their being, having their substance in the person of the Son. And here we must take heed of two opinions:


(a) The first is of the Anabaptists which hold that the flesh of Christ came down from heaven, and passed through the virgin Mary as through a pipe, without taking any substance from her. The places which they allege for the purpose are manifestly abused. For whereas Christ saith of Himself (John 3:13) that He descended from heaven, His speech must be understood in respect of His Godhead, which may be said in some sort to descend, in that it was made manifest in the manhood here upon earth. And whereas Paul calleth Him heavenly, and the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:47,48), it is not in respect of the substance of His body, but in respect of His glorious qualities which he received after His resurrection.


(b) The other opinion is of the papists, that hold the bread in the sacrament to be turned substantially into the body of Christ; which thing if it be true, then the body of Christ is made of bread kneaded and tempered by the hand of the baker, and not of the substance of the virgin Mary.


(ii) As for the manner of the making and framing of the human nature of Christ, it was miraculous; not by generation according to the ordinary course of nature; but by an extraordinary operation of the Holy Ghost above nature; and for this cause, it is not within the compass of manŐs reason, either to conceive or express the manner and order of this conception. The angel ascribes two actions to the Holy Ghost in this great work, the one to come upon the virgin Mary, the other to overshadow her (Luke 1:35). By the first is signified the extraordinary work of the Holy Ghost in fashioning the human nature of Christ, for so much the phrase elsewhere importeth (Jud. 14:6). The second signifieth that the Holy Ghost did as it were cast a cloud over her (Acts 1:8), to teach us that we should not search overmuch into the mystery of the incarnation.


It may be objected against this which hath been said, that if Christ be in this manner conceived by the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost shall be Father to Christ, and Christ His Son. Answer: The reason is not good; for he that is a father, is not a bare efficient cause, but one which in the effecting of anything confers the matter unto it from himself, whereof it shall be made. Now the Holy Ghost did not minister any matter unto Christ from His own substance, but did only as it were, take the mass and lump of manŐs nature from the body of the virgin Mary, and without ordinary generation made it the body of Christ, as Basil saith, Christ was conceived not of the substance, but of the power, not by any generation, but by the appointment and benediction of the Holy Ghost.


(2) The second point in the conception is the sanctifying of the mass or lump which was to be the manhood of Christ. And that was done upon special cause: First, that it might be joined to the Person of the Son, which could not have been, if it had been defiled with sin. Secondly, Christ was a Saviour as He is both God and man. Now then, being man, if He had been sinful Himself, He could not have saved others, but should have stood in need of a Saviour Himself.


This sanctification hath two parts: The first is the stay and stoppage of the propagation of original sin, and of the guilt of AdamŐs sin; which was on this manner: God in the beginning set down this order touching man, that what evil or defect soever he brought upon himself, he should derive the same to every one of his posterity begotten of him. And hereupon when any father begets his child, he is in the room of Adam, and conveys unto it beside the nature of man, the very guilt and corruption of nature. Now for the preventing of this evil in Christ, God in great wisdom appointed that He should be conceived by the Holy Ghost without any manner of generation by man. And by this means He takes substance from the virgin without the guilt and corruption of the substance. But it may further be objected thus: All that be in Adam have sinned in him; but Christ was in Adam as He is man; therefore He sinned in him. Answer: The proposition is false, unless it be expounded on this manner: All that were in Adam have sinned in him, so be it they come of him by generation. Paul saith (Rom. 5:12) not, out of one man, but by one man sin entered into the world, to shew that man propagates his corruption to no more than he begets. Again, Christ is in Adam not simply as other men are, but in some part; namely, in respect of substance which He took from him, and not in respect of the propagation of the substance by ordinary generation. Other men are both from Adam and by Adam. But Christ is from him alone and not by him as a begetter or procreant cause. The second part of sanctification is the infusion of all pureness and holiness into the manhood of Christ, so far forth as was meet for the nature of a Redeemer.


The duties to be learned hence are these: First, whereas Christ was sanctified in the womb of the virgin Mary, we likewise must labour to be sanctified in ourselves, following the commandments of God (1 Pet. 1:16), Be ye holy as I am holy. St John saith (1 John 3:3) that he which hath hope to be with Christ in glory in heaven, purifieth himself even as He is pure; no doubt setting before himself the example of Christ as a pattern to follow in all His ways. And because our hearts are as it were seas of corruption, we must daily cleanse ourselves of them by little and little, following the practice of the poor beggar that is always piecing and mending, and day by day pulls away some rags and puts better cloth in the room. And if we shall continually endeavour ourselves to cast off the remnants of corruption that hang so fast on and make supply thereof by some new portion of GodŐs heavenly grace; we shall be vessels of honour sanctified and meet for the Lord, and prepared unto every good work. Christ could not have been a fit Saviour for us unless He had first of all been sanctified, neither can we be fit members unto Him unless we be purged of our sins and in some measure truly sanctified.


The comforts which GodŐs people may reap of the sanctification of ChristŐs manhood is great: For why was He sanctified? Surely, if we mark it well, we shall find it was for the good and benefit of His elect. For Adam and Christ be two roots, as hath been shewed. Adam by creation first received GodŐs image, and after lost the same for himself and his posterity. Now Christ to remove the sin of man is made the second Adam, and the root and very head of all the elect. His manhood was filled with holiness above measure; that from thence as from a storehouse it might be derived to all His members. And therefore by His most holy conception, our sinful birth and conception is sanctified, and His holiness serves as a cover to hide our manifold corruptions from the eyes of God. Yea, it serves as a buckler to award the temptations of the devil; for when he shall say to our hearts on this manner: No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of heaven; but thou by reason of the remnants of original sin art unclean, therefore thou canst not enter into the kingdom of heaven; we return our answer, saying that ChristŐs righteousness is our righteousness, serving to make us stand without blame or spot before God. And as Jacob put on EsauŐs garments that he might get his fatherŐs blessing; so if by faith we do put on the white garment of righteousness of our elder brother Christ Jesus, and present ourselves in it unto our heavenly Father, we shall obtain His blessing, which is eternal happiness.


(3) Now remains the third and last part of the conception, which is the union of the Godhead and the manhood; concerning which, many points are to be particularly handled:


(i) The first is: What kind of union is this? Answer: In the Trinity, there be two sorts of unions: union in nature, and union in person. Union in nature is when two or more things are joined and united into one nature, as the Father, the Son the Holy Ghost, being and remaining three distinct Persons, are one and the same in nature or Godhead. Union in person, is when two things are in that manner united that they make but one person, or substance; as a body created by God, and a reasonable soul joined both together make one particular man, as Peter, Paul, John etc. And this second is the union whereof we entreat in this place; by which the second Person in Trinity, the Son of God, did unite unto Himself the human nature, that is, the body and soul of man; so as the Godhead of the Son and the manhood concurring together, made but one Person.


(ii) The second point is: In what thing this union doth consist? Answer: It consists in this: that the second Person the Son of God doth assume unto it a manhood in such order that it, being void of all personal being in itself, doth wholly and only subsist in the same Person. As the plant called mistle, or mistletoe, having no root of its own, both grows and lives in the stock or body of the oak or some other tree; so the human nature having no proper subsistence, is, as it were, engrafted into the Person of the Son, and is wholly supported and sustained by it so as it should not be at all, if it were not sustained in that manner. And for the better understanding of this point, we must consider that there be four degrees of the presence of God in His creatures:


(a) The first is His general presence, and it may be called the presence of His providence, whereby He preserveth the substances of all creatures, and giveth unto them to live, move and have being; and this extendeth itself to all creatures good and bad.


(b) The second degree is the presence of grace, whereby He doth not only preserve the substances of all His creatures, but also giveth grace unto it; and this agreeth to the church and people of God upon earth.


(c) The third degree is the presence of glory peculiar to the saints and angels in heaven; and this stands in three things: for God not only preserves their substances and gives them plenty of His grace, but also admits them into His glorious presence, so as they may behold His majesty face to face.


(d) The fourth and last is that whereby the Godhead of the Son is present, and dwells with and in the manhood, giving unto it in some part His own subsistence. Whereby it comes to pass that this manhood assumed is proper to the Son, and cannot be the manhood of the Father or of the Holy Ghost, or of any creature whatsoever. And this is a thing so admirable and so unspeakable, that among all the works of God there cannot be found another example hereof in all the world.


Hence it follows necessarily that the manhood of Christ consisting of body and reasonable soul, is a nature only, and not a person; because it doth not subsist alone, as other men, Peter, Paul, John do; but wholly depends on the Person of the Word, into the unity whereof it is received.


(iii) The third point is in what order the divine and human nature of Christ are united together. Answer: The common consent of divines is that, albeit all the parts of the manhood and the Godhead of Christ be united at one instant; yet in respect of order, He unites unto Himself first and immediately the soul, and by the soul, the body. And it seems unmeet that God being a most simple essence, should immediately be joined to a compound body; and therefore it may well be said that He is united unto it by the more simple part of man, which is the soul. Again, the manhood of Christ is first and immediately joined to the Person of the Son Himself, and by the Person, to the Godhead of the Son.


(iv) The fourth point is whether there remain any difference or diversity of the two natures after that the union is made. Answer: The two natures concurring make not the Person of the Son to be compounded properly, but only by analogy, for as body and soul make one man, so God and man make one Christ; neither are they turned one into another, the Godhead into the manhood, or the manhood into the Godhead, as water was turned into wine at Cana in Galilee. Neither are they confused and mingled together as meats in the stomach; but they now are, and so remain without composition, conversion or confusion, really distinct, and that in three respects:


(a) First, in regard of essence. For the Godhead of Christ is the Godhead, and cannot be the manhood. And again, the manhood of Christ is the manhood, and not the Godhead.


(b) Secondly, they are distinguished in properties. The Godhead is most wise, just, merciful, omnipotent; yea, wisdom, justice, mercy and power itself; and so is not the manhood, neither can it be. Again, Christ as He is God hath His will eternal and uncreated, which is all one with the will of the Father and the Holy Ghost. And as He is man, He hath another will created in time, and placed in His reasonable soul, and this Christ signifieth when He saith (Luke 22:42), Not my will, but thy will be done.


(c) Thirdly, they are distinct in their actions or operations; which though they go together inseparably in the work of redemption; yet they must in no wise be confounded, but distinguished as the natures themselves are. Christ saith of Himself (John 10:18), I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again; and hereby He shews the distinctions of operation in His two natures; for to lay down His life is an action of the manhood, because the Godhead cannot die; and to take it up again is the work of the Godhead alone, which reunites the soul to the body after death.


(v) The fifth and last point is: What ariseth out of this union? Answer: By reason of this hypostatic union, though the Godhead receive nothing from the manhood, yet the manhood itself, which is assumed, is thereby perfected and enriched with unspeakable dignity. For, first of all, it is exalted above all creatures whatsoever, even angels themselves, in that it hath subsistence in the second Person of the Trinity. Secondly, together with the Godhead of the Son, it is adored and worshipped with divine honour, as in like case the honour done to the king himself redounds to the crown on his head. Thirdly, by reason of this union, the Godhead of Christ works all things in the matter of our redemption, in and by the manhood. And hereupon the flesh of Christ though it profit nothing of itself, yet by the virtue which it receiveth from that Person to which it is joined it is quickening flesh, and the bread of life (John 6:35). Again, from this union of two nature into one Person, ariseth a kind of speech or phrase peculiar to the Scripture called the communication of properties, where the property of one nature is attributed to the whole Person, or to the other nature; as when Paul saith (Acts 20:28) that God shed His blood, or (1 Cor. 2:8) that the Lord of glory was crucified. And when Christ saith that He, talking with Nicodemus, was then in heaven (John 3:13).



The use of the personal union is threefold:


Use 1. First, it serves to shew the heinousness of our sins, and the greatness of our misery. For it had not been possible to make a satisfaction to GodŐs justice in manŐs nature for the least offence; unless the same nature had first of all been nearly joined to the Godhead of the Son that thereby it might be so far forth supported and sustained that it might overcome the wrath of God.


Use 2. Secondly, it sets forth unto us the endless love of God to man. For whereas by reason of AdamŐs fall we were become the vilest of all creatures, except the devil and his angels; by this mystical conjunction, our nature is exalted to such an estate and condition, as is far above all creatures, even the angels themselves.


Use 3. Thirdly, it is as it were the key of all our comfort; for all found comfort stands in happiness, all happiness is in fellowship with God, all fellowship with God is by Christ, who for this cause, being very God, became very man, that He might reconcile man to God and God to man.




Thus much of the conception of Christ; now follows His birth, whereby in the ordinary time of travail, according to the course of nature, He was brought forth into the world by the virgin Mary. And it was the will of God that Christ should not only be conceived, but also born, and that after the manner of men, that He might be known to be very man indeed. In the birth we may consider four things: the time, the place, the manner, the manifestation of it:


(1) The time was in the last days (Isa. 2:2), toward the end of the seventy weeks of Daniel (Dan. 9:24), which are to be accounted from the end of the captivity of Babylon, and make in all 490 years; or more plainly 3,900 years and more from the beginning of the world, and as Paul saith (Gal. 4:4), in the fulness of time. And the evangelists have noted of purpose the time to have been when Augustus Caesar taxed the Jews and all nations under his dominion (Luke 2:1); to signify that Christ was born at the very time foretold by Jacob, when the crown and sceptre was taken from Judah (Gen. 49:10); and withal to shew that His kingdom was not of this world. And it was the good pleasure of God that Christ should not be born either later or sooner, but so many ages from the beginning of the world. And this consideration of the very time itself, serves greatly for the confirmation of our faith. For thus may we reason with ourselves: If God who in the beginning made a promise to our first parents concerning the seed of the woman, deferred it almost 4,000 years, and yet at length accomplished the same to the very full; then no doubt God having promised the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting, will in His good time bring them to pass, though as yet we see them not. And thus by the accomplishment of all things past, should we confirm our hopes concerning things to come.


(2) The place was not at Jerusalem, nor Nazareth, nor any other city, but only a village of Judah called Bethlehem, that the prophecy of Micah (Mic. 5:2) might be fulfilled: Thou Bethlehem Ephrathah art little to be among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall be come forth unto me, that shall be ruler in Israel. And here we may observe a memorable example of GodŐs providence which overruleth the proceedings of civil tyrants, to the accomplishing of His own will, they themselves for their parts intending nothing less. Augustus, not so much as dreaming of the birth of the Messiah, gave commandment that every man should go to his own city to be taxed; and hereupon Joseph and Mary take their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; which journey God Himself appointed and disposed to this end: that the Messiah might be born in the place which he preordained and foretold by His prophets.


(3) The manner of ChristŐs birth was very base and poor; for the place where He was born was a stable, and the cradle where He lay was a cratch. And He willingly took upon Him this poverty for sundry causes:


(i) That the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith that He should be the shame and contempt of the people (Psa. 22:6); and that He shall grow up as a root out of a dry ground and have neither form nor beauty (Isa. 53:2).


(ii) That He might afterward from this base condition be exalted even in His manhood to that rich and glorious estate in which He should manifest Himself to be Lord of heaven and earth.


(iii) He was born in exceeding poverty that He might shame the wise men of this world, who exceedingly esteem of their riches, power and glory, persuading themselves that without such means nothing can be done. And yet for all this they cannot so much as reconcile one man to God by all their might and wealth; whereas Christ Himself hath done the same both in poverty and weakness; and can enlarge and preserve His kingdom without earthly helps. When He hung upon the cross, the soldiers stripped Him of His garments; and being naked, He brought that to pass which all the monarchs of the earth in all their royalties could never have performed. And whether Christ lie in the manger between the ox and the ass, or in the palace of the king, it matters not in regard of our salvation.


(iv) He came in this manner that there might be a difference between His first coming in the flesh and His last coming to judgment. In the first, He came only for this end: not to make any outward alterations in the world, but to change the conscience and to put in execution the work of our spiritual redemption; and therefore He hath reserved the overturning of all earthly estates, with the manifestation of His own glory, to the latter.


(v) Lastly, He was born in a poor estate that He might procure true riches for us in heaven; and withal sanctify unto us our poverty upon earth. As Paul saith (2 Cor. 8:9), Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He being rich, for your sakes became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich. He was content to lie in the manger, that we might rest in heaven.


This serves to teach us to be content to bear any mean condition that the Lord shall send upon us; for this is the very estate of the Son of God Himself. And if for our cause He did not refuse the basest condition that ever was, why should we murmur at the same? For what are the best of us but miserable sinners, and therefore utterly unworthy either to go or lie upon the bare earth? And though we fare and lie better than our Lord Himself, yet such is our daintiness, we are not pleased therewith; whereas He for His part distained not the manger of the ox. And if the Lord of heaven and earth coming into the world find so little entertainment or favour, we for our parts, being His members, should willingly prepare ourselves to take as hard measure at the hands of men.


(4) The last point is the manifestation of ChristŐs birth that it may be known to the world. Where, consider two circumstances:


(i) The first: To whom? Namely, to poor shepherds tending their flocks by night, and not to great or mighty men, lovers of this world, not to the priests at Jerusalem, contemners of GodŐs grace; and that for two causes: one, because the shepherds were the fittest persons to publish the same at Bethlehem; the other, it was GodŐs pleasure to manifest that in the birth of Christ, which Paul saith (1 Cor. 1:26,27), Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.


(ii) The second is: By whom? By the angels of the Lord appearing in great glory unto the shepherds. For the priests of Jerusalem and the rulers of the synagogues, to whom this office did belong, held their peace; being blinded in their manifold errors and wicked ways.



The duties to be learned of the birth of Christ are these:


(1) First, we are admonished hereby to magnify and praise the name of God, saying with Mary (Luke 1:46,47), My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour. And with Zachariah (Luke 1:68), Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people. And with the angels of heaven (Luke 2:14), Glory to God in the highest heavens. For in this birth is made manifest the wisdom, the truth, the justice and mercy and goodness of God towards us, more than ever it was before; yea as Christ, God and man, is more excellent than the first Adam, created according to GodŐs own image; and as the spiritual life is better than the natural life; and as the eternal and most holy marriage of Christ the husband and His spouse the church, arising as it were out of the blood that trickled out of His side, is more wonderful than the creation of Eve of the rib of Adam; lastly, as it is a far greater matter by death to overcome death and to turn it unto eternal life, than to command that to exist and be which was not before; so is the work of redemption begun in the birth of Christ more unspeakable and admirable than the first creation of man. Hereupon, not six cherubim, as in the vision of Isaiah, nor twenty four elders, as in the Apocalypse, but a great multitude of angels like armies were heard to praise God at the birth of Christ; and no doubt the like sight was not seen since the beginning of the world. And the angels by their example put us in mind to consider aright of this benefit and to praise God for it. But alas, this practice is very rare in this fruitless and barren age of the world; where sin and iniquity abounds, as may be seen by experience; for by an old custom we retain still in the church the feast of the nativity of Christ, so commonly called; which nevertheless is not spent in praising the name of God who hath sent His Son from His own bosom to be our Redeemer, but contrariwise in rifling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, and in all licentious liberty for the most part, as though it were some heathen feast of Ceres or Bacchus.


(2) Secondly, Christ was conceived and born in bodily manner that there might be a spiritual conception and birth of Him in our hearts, as Paul saith (Gal. 4:19), My little children of whom I travail till Christ be formed in you; and that is when we are made new creatures by Christ, and perform new obedience to our Creator. When this people said to Christ that His mother and His brethren sought Him, He answered (Mark 3:35), He that doth the will of God is my brother, my sister, and mother. Therefore let us go with the shepherds to Bethlehem, and finding our blessed Saviour swaddled and lying in a cratch, let us bring Him thence and make our own hearts to be His cradle, that we may be able to say that we live not, but Christ lives in us. And let us present unto Him ourselves, our bodies and souls, as the best gold, myrrh and frankincense that may be; and thus conceiving Him by faith, He remaining without change, we shall be changed into Him and made bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. The world, I know, never so much as dreameth of this kind of conception and birth, for as David saith (Psa. 7:14), Men travail with wickedness, conceive mischief, and bring forth a lie. And St James saith (Jam. 1:14,15), Men are drawn away by their own concupiscence, which when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin. And these are the ugly and monstrous births of these days. But let us, I pray you, contrariwise wail and mourn for the barrenness of our hearts that do so little conceive the grace of Christ in heart, and bring it forth in action. The mother of Christ undoubtedly was a blessed woman; but if she had not as well conceived Christ in her heart as she did in her womb, she had not been saved, and no more can we unless we do the same.


The birth of Christ to them that have touched hearts, is the comfort of comforts and the sweetest balm of confection that ever was. Behold, say the angels to the shepherds (Luke 2:10,11), we bring tidings of great joy that shall be to all people. But wherein stands the joy? They add further, Unto you this day is born in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And no marvel, for in that birth is manifested the good will of God to man, and by it we have peace, first, with God; secondly, with ourselves in conscience; thirdly, with the good angels of God; fourthly, with our enemies; lastly, with all the creatures. For this cause the angels sang (v.14), Peace on earth, good will towards men.



In the last place the Creed notes unto us the parent or mother of Christ, the virgin Mary. And here at the very first it may be demanded how He could have either father or mother, because He was prefigured by Melchizedek who had neither father nor mother. Answer: Melchizedek is said to be without father and mother, not because he had none at all; for according to the ancient and received opinion it is very likely he was Shem the son of Noah, but because where he is mentioned under this name of Melchizedek in the 14th chapter of Genesis there is no mention made of father or mother. And so Christ in some sort is without father or mother. As He is man, He hath no father; as He is God, He hath no mother. And whereas Christ is called the son of Joseph, it was not because He was begotten of Him, but because Joseph was His reputed father; or, which is more, because he was a legal father, namely, according to the Jews; in that (as sundry divines think) He was the next of his kin, and therefore to succeed him as his lawful heir.


Mary became the mother of Christ by a kind of calling thereto, which was by an extraordinary message of an angel concerning the conception and birth of Christ in and by her; to which calling and message she condescended, saying (Luke 1:38), Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word. And hereupon she conceived by the Holy Ghost. This being so, it is more than senseless folly to turn the salutation of the angel, Hail freely beloved etc., into a prayer. For it is as much as if we should still call her to become a mother of Christ.


And she must be held to be the mother of whole Christ, God and man; and therefore the ancient church hath called her the mother of God, yet not the mother of the Godhead.


Furthermore, the mother of Christ is described by her quality, a virgin, and by her name, Mary:


(1) She was a virgin, first, that Christ might be conceived without sin and being a perfect Saviour. Secondly, that the saying of the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled (Isa. 7:14), Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; according as it was foretold by God in the first giving of the promise (Gen. 3:15), The seed of the woman, not the seed of the man, shall bruise the serpentŐs head. Now the Jews to elude the most pregnant testimony of the prophet, say that alma signifies not a virgin but a young woman which hath known a man. But this is indeed a forgery. For Isaiah there speaks of an extraordinary work of God above nature, whereas for a woman having known man to conceive, is no wonder. And the word alma, through the whole Bible is taken for a virgin, as by a particular search will appear (Gen. 24:16; Exod. 2:5).


As Mary conceived as a virgin, so it may be well thought that she continued a virgin to the end, though we make it no article of our faith. When Christ was upon the cross, He commended His mother to the custody of John; which probably argueth that she had no child to whose care and keeping she might be commended. And though Christ be called her firstborn, yet doth it not follow that she had any children after Him; for as that is called last after which there is none, so that is called first before which there were none. And as for Joseph, when he was espoused to Mary, he was a man of eighty years old.


And here we have an occasion to praise the wisdom of God in the forming of man. The first man Adam was born of no man; but immediately created of God; the second, that is Eve, is formed not of woman but of a man alone; the third and all after, begotten both of woman and man; the fourth, that is Christ, God and man, not of no man as Adam, not of no woman as Eve, not of man and woman as we; but after a new manner, of a woman without a man He is conceived and born.


And hereupon our duty is not to despise, but highly reverence the virgin Mary, as being the mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:48), a prophetess upon the earth, a saint in heaven. And we do willingly condescend to give her honour three ways: first, by thanksgiving to God for her; secondly, by a reverend estimation of her; thirdly, by imitation of her excellent virtues; yet far be it from us to adore her with divine honour, by prayer to call upon her as though she knew our hearts and heard our requests, and to place her in heaven as a queen above the Son of God.


(2) The name of the mother of Christ is added to shew that He came of the lineage of David, and that therefore He was the true Messiah before spoken of. It may be objected that both Matthew and Luke set down the genealogy of Joseph, of whom Christ was not. Answer: Matthew sets down indeed in ChristŐs genealogy, the natural descent of Joseph the husband of Mary, having Jacob for his natural father; but Luke taking another course, propounds the natural descent of Mary the mother of Christ; and when he saith that Joseph was the son of Eli, he means of a legal son. For sons and daughters in law are called sons and daughters to their fathers and mothers in law. Mary herself and not Joseph being the natural daughter of Eli. And whereas Luke doth plainly say that Mary was the daughter of Eli, but puts Joseph the son in law in her room, the reason hereof may be because it was the manner of the Jews to account and continue their genealogies in the male and not in the female sex, the man being the head of the family and not the woman. And though Ruth and Rahab and other women be mentioned by Matthew, yet that is only by the way; for they make no degrees herein. Again, it may be further demanded how Christ could come of David by Solomon, as Matthew saith, and by Nathan, as Luke saith; they twain being two distinct sons of David. Answer: By virtue of the law whereby the brother was bound to raise up seed to his brother, there was a double descent in use among the Jews, the one was natural, the other legal. Natural, when one man descended of another by generation, as the child from the natural father; legal, when a man not begotten of another, yet did succeed him in his inheritance; and this Salathiel is the natural son of Neri, and the legal son of Jechonias. Now St Luke sets down a natural descent of Christ from David by Nathan, and St Matthew the other descent which is legal, by Solomon; whom Christ succeeded in the right of the kingdom, being born the king of the Jews; none that could possibly be named having more right to it than He.


By this descent of Christ we have occasion to consider that Christ was even in His birth the most excellent and notable man that ever was, descending of the eternal Father as He is the Son of God, and as He is man, descending of the patriarchs and of the renowned kings of Judah. And this His nobility He conveys in part to His members in that He makes them the sons of God, a royal priesthood, and a peculiar people to Himself; enriching them also with the revenues of the whole world, and with title and right to the kingdom of glory in heaven, as their inheritance.


And withal, Christ, being the lively pattern of true nobility, by His example men of blood are taught not to stand so much on their pedigree and their ancestors, as though nobility stood in this: that man descends of man; but to labour withal that they may be the sons and daughters of God by regeneration in Christ. This indeed is the ornament of the blood, the best part in the noblemanŐs skutcheon and the finest flower in his garland. And though a man be never so noble or great in estate, yet if he be not a repentant sinner, he is base and vile, and his nobility stinks in the nostrils of God. Christ in His genealogy doth not so much as vouchsafe to name those His ancestors that ruled wickedly; and hereupon St Matthew omitteth three kings of Judah, Ahaziah, Jehoahaz and Amaziah; whereas nevertheless heinous offenders that repented are mentioned, as Ruth and Tamar and Bathsheba.


Thus much of the incarnation of Christ.