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§ 14. The Miraculous Events that accompanied the Birth of Christ.

The Divine purpose in the supernatural conception of Jesus could not have been accomplished without some providential forewarnings to his parents; nor could these intimations of the certainty of the approaching birth of the theocratic King have been given by ordinary, natural means. In the sphere of the greatest miracle of human history, the miracle which was to raise mankind to communion with Heaven, we do not wonder to see rays of light streaming from the invisible world, at other times so dark.

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From the very nature of the case, we can expect no full account of those extraordinary manifestations of which, naturally enough, Mary alone could testify.3939   Mary could only have been taught to expect the Saviour in a way harmonizing with her views at the time, and with the prevailing Jewish ideas of the Messiah, viz., that the Messiah should come of the line of David, to establish an everlasting kingdom among the Jews. But this was only a covering for the higher idea of the Redeemer, the founder of the eternal kingdom of God. But a mere mythus, destitute of historical truth, and only serving as the veil of an ideal truth, is a very different thing from what we are here stating, viz., that a lofty history may be imparted in a form which must have more than its mere literal force and that events of a lofty character necessarily impart their higher tone to the language in which they are conveyed. In this latter case, we may harmlessly differ in our modes of arranging the materials, and of filling up the chasms of the history, so that we only hold fast the substantial facts which form its basis. The course of the events described in Matt., i., 18-25, may be arranged as follows: When Mary informed Joseph of the remarkable communication that had been made to her, he could not at once bring himself to believe it; which was not at all strange, considering its extraordinary character, and how little he was prepared for it. A struggle ensued in his feelings, and then occurred the night vision which brought his mind to a final decision.4040   We need be the less afraid of a free, unliteral interpretation when we find a difference in the subjective conception of these events by even the evangelists themselves, Matthew speaking only of dreams and visions, and Luke of objective phenomena, viz., the appearance of angels.


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