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world, according to the faith of ancient peoples, in some supernatural way by a special divine creative act. The conception of man's descent after the modern evolutionary hypothesis will never quite destroy the beautiful vision, as it has been represented in art by Michael Angelo, of the first man in his first act after the creation, touching with his hand the hand of God. Poetry and art are intimately associated with religion. The primary religious question is, not whether a certain doctrine is true, for we may have no canons of determining truth; but, what does it If mean, a question we can always answer. the appearance of the first man is more truly represented to the religious imagination, as proceeding forth from the Divine will, after special deliberation in the councils of heaven, much more must the second man, who is the Lord from heaven, have entered upon the scene of His task on earth in some still more special and supernatural way. Such is, and is likely to remain, the working of the religious instinct as it seeks to reproduce the actual fact, to cover with a delicate veil the material process, to see only the spiritual, that which transcends the earthly and transfigures it. It is the very nature of religion that it tends to cultivate good taste, as well as a right heart and right living. The dig
nity of the situation demands dignity in the recognition. "It was becoming" is a response that can justify belief. We can understand how, without controversy, Augustine should in summary fashion announce that the question was closed, in regard to the mother of our Lord. Out of respect to Christ, as he said, let there be no admission in her case of actual sin. Even Martin Luther, who had the clearest anticipation of the modern view of the Incarnation after ages which had groaned in ignorance of the full truth, even Luther could not escape from the environment of the religious imagination, where poetry and art, and refined religious sensibility, played about the person of Mary.' The following exalted passage breathes the incense of the religious spirit:
66 'Behold thus did Christ take to Himself from us our birth and insert it unto His birth, and give in His own, in order that by it, we may become pure and new, as though it were our own. Every Christian, therefore, may exult and boast in the birth of Christ,
1 Cf. a very interesting passage in Dorner, "Person of Christ," Div. ii, vol. ii, p. 91 (Eng. tr.), where the thought of Luther about Mary is given. But he also maintained, says Dorner, that Christ took upon Him our fallen nature. "The roots of the idea of a purification of Mary from original sin were thus cut away,” etc.
just as though he himself had been physically born of Mary like Christ. Whoso doth not believe or doubteth this, is no Christian. This is the sense of Isaiah ix. 6: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.' Us, us, to us it is born, to us it is given. Therefore see thou that thy delight in the Gospels is derived not solely from the history itself; for it exists not long: but make thou His birth thine own; exchange with Christ, so that thou mayest get quit of thy birth and appropriate His. This takes place when thou believest. Then wilt thou of a certainty lie in the womb of the Virgin Mary and be her dear child."1
It is a generalization from our knowledge of history that all its greater epochs and moments of revelation are represented as ushered in by the miracle, or by an opening of the heavens which gives us a glimpse of a higher, more blessed world than that we see. At the creation the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted aloud for joy. When prophecy was born, there came first as its heralds the prophets who were greater in deed than in word: Elijah and Elisha, who moved in an atmosphere of the miraculous, 1 Dorner, op. cit., p. 105.
a most unusual feature of Jewish history. Before the inspired Word came the supernatural act, and the way was prepared for the prophets with whom God talked. That the Virgin-birth should form one of the prologues of the Gospel of Christ was inevitable, and its grandeur is unsurpassed, not equalled, by the glories of the first creation. The song of the angels, the heavenly message of good-will to men, go with the account of the Annunciation and they constitute an adequate setting of the event which redeems the world. Once more it was to happen that an event would take place calling for a voice from heaven, as when peace came to the persecuted Church and the triumph over the old world of force and sense; when Constantine, it may have been on Monte Mario, overlooking the Eternal City on the eve of the decisive battle of the Milvian Bridge, heard the words in a vision, "By this sign conquer."
The world will cherish these things, scholars and critics no less than the purely religious. mind, if only they be not turned into the form of dogma to be accepted on the authority of the Christian Church, as an infallible guide to religious truth. It is this tendency to dogmatize about the Virgin-birth, and to make it essential to the Incarnation, or as if a belief
necessary to salvation, which in turn begets a reaction, tempting men to become "martyrs of disgust, to deny and reject as untrue the external incident, whose misinterpretation it is and not the incident itself, which is out of harmony with Scripture and with the revelation of modern life.
It is a relief, then, and it brings freedom, to turn to Scripture as authority, and not to the tradition of the Church as an infallible guide, in matters of faith. For nowhere have we been taught in Scripture or in our formularies that the Christian Church is such a guide. On the contrary, it is declared in the Articles that the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria have erred, and that the Church of Rome hath also erred, even in things pertaining to the faith. If they have erred, and in the happier ages of the Catholic Church, what guarantee have we that the Anglican Church may not err. Certainly the Church of England does not claim for herself an inerrancy which she refuses to the ancient churches of Christendom. Nowhere in her formularies does she show any solicitude for her own infallibility. Nor does she show solicitude for the creeds. Her sole solicitude is for the maintenance of the Word of God, uncorrupted