The Case Stated

It is the object of this paper to show that those who take the lines of denial on the Virgin birth just sketched do great injustice to the evidence and importance of the doctrine they reject. The evidence, if not of the same public kind as that for the resurrection, is far stronger than the objector allows, and the fact denied enters far more vitally into the essence of the Christian faith than he supposes. Placed in its right setting among the other truths of the Christian religion, it is not only no stumbling-block to faith, but is felt to fit in with self-evidencing power into the connection of these other truths, and to furnish the very explanation that is needed of Christ’s holy and supernatural Person. The ordinary Christian is a witness here. In reading the Gospels, he feels no incongruity in passing from the narratives of the Virgin birth to the wonderful story of Christ’s life in the chapters that follow, then from these to the pictures of Christ’s divine dignity given in John and Paul. The whole is of one piece: the Virgin birth is as natural at the beginning of the life of such an One — the divine Son — as the resurrection is at the end. And the more closely the matter is considered, the stronger does this impression grow. It is only when the scriptural conception of Christ is parted with that various difficulties and doubts come in.

The Historical Setting

It is time now to come to the Scripture itself, and to look at the fact of the Virgin birth in its historical setting, and its relation with other truths of the Gospel. As preceding the examination of the historical evidence, a little may be said, first, on the Old Testament preparation. Was there any such preparation? Some would say there was not, but this is not God’s way, and we may look with confidence for at least some indications which point in the direction of the New Testament event.

Sources of the Narratives

As to the sources of the narratives, not a little can be gleaned from the study of their internal character. Here two facts reveal themselves. The first is that the narrative of Luke is based on some old, archaic, highly original Aramaic writing. Its Aramaic character gleams through its every part. In style, tone, conception, it is highly primitive — emanates, apparently, from that circle of devout people in Jerusalem to whom its own pages introduce us (Luke 2:25, 36-38). It has, therefore, the highest claim to credit. The second fact is even more important. A perusal of the narratives shows clearly — what might have been expected — that the information they convey was derived from no lower source than Joseph and Mary themselves. This is a marked feature of contrast in the narratives — that Matthew’s narrative is all told from Joseph’s point of view, and Luke’s is all told from Mary’s. The signs of this are unmistakable. Matthew tells about Joseph’s difficulties and action, and says little or nothing about Mary’s thoughts and feelings. Luke tells much about Mary — even her inmost thoughts — but says next to nothing directly about Joseph. The narratives, in short, are not, as some would have it, contradictory, but are independent and complementary. The one supplements and completes the other. Both together are needed to give the whole story. They bear in themselves the stamp of truth, honesty, and purity, and are worthy of all acceptation, as they were evidently held to be in the early church.

The Proof Within

Or take it subjectively. Every Christian has within himself the proof of the transforming power of Christ, and can repeat the blind man’s syllogism: Why herein is the marvel that ye know not whence He is, and yet He opened my eyes. “Spirits are not touched to fine issues who are not finely touched.” “Shall we trust,” demands an eloquent reasoner, “the touch of our fingers, the sight of our eyes, the hearing of our ears, and not trust our deepest consciousness of our higher nature — the answer of conscience, the flower of spiritual gladness, the glow of spiritual love? To deny that spiritual experience is as real as physical experience is to slander the noblest faculties of our nature. It is to say that one half of our nature tells the truth, and the other half utters lies. The proposition that facts in the spiritual region are less real than facts in the physical realm contradicts all philosophy.” The transformed hearts of Christians, registering themselves “in gentle tempers, in noble motives, in lives visibly lived under the empire of great aspirations” — these are the ever-present proofs of the divinity of the Person from whom their inspiration is drawn.

The supreme proof to every Christian of the deity of his Lord is then his own inner experience of the transforming power of his Lord upon the heart and life. Not more surely does he who feels the present warmth of the sun know that the sun exists, than he who has experienced the re-creative power of the Lord know Him to be his Lord and his God. Here is, perhaps we may say the proper, certainly we must say the most convincing, proof to every Christian of the deity of Christ; a proof which he cannot escape, and to which, whether he is capable of analysing it or drawing it out in logical statement or not, he cannot fail to yield his sincere and unassailable conviction. Whatever else he may or may not be assured of, he knows that his Redeemer lives. Because He lives, we shall live also — that was the Lord’s own assurance. Because we live, He lives also — that is the ineradicable conviction of every Christian heart.

[1] For the evidence, see my volume on “The Virgin Birth,” Lecture VII.