MATT. i. 22, 23. “Now all
this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of
the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with
MANY readers of the Bible must have been struck by
St. Matthew’s reason for the occurrences connected with
Christ’s birth. It would have seemed more natural to say
that the prophecy existed for the sake of the event than
the event for the sake of the prophecy. There were other
reasons for the birth of Jesus of a virgin mother, but one
reason was this, that it was foretold on Divine authority.
St. Matthew’s plan throughout his Gospel is to show that
the life of Jesus in all particulars corresponded to what
Jewish prophecy had said about the Messiah.
I. The importance of the event to which Isaiah looks
forward, and which the evangelist describes as fulfilled.
1. The occurrence was of preternatural character. The
birth of Christ is often discussed now as the birth of a
great man, but without reference to the virginity of his
mother, as if it were not of importance. It is necessary to
say plainly that the account in the Gospel is true or false :
if false it ought to be repudiated by every honest man as
baseless superstition; if true, as we Christians believe, then
it is a very momentous truth. To raise us from degrada-
tion, Christ must Himself be sinless. Evil had descended
from generation to generation like a torrent, ever since
Adam by transgression fell, and the millions of mankind
had ever to say with David, “Behold I was shapen in
iniquity.” How was this fatal entail to be cut off? The
virgin birth was the answer.
2. Christ’s birth marked the entrance into the sphere of
sense and time of One who had existed from eternity.
3. No other birth has ever involved such important con-
sequences to the human race. Who of all the greatest of
mankind has left behind him a work comparable with that
achieved by Jesus? What was the empire of Alexander,
or of Caesar when compared to that of Christ? Theirs
were transient and limited; Christ’s is lasting and ever
extending. The institutions which make life tolerable
to the suffering classes—such as hospitals—all date from
Jesus Christ, and from the promulgation of His teaching.
The position of woman in Christian society is due not only
to our Lord’s teaching, but to the circumstances of His birth.
The incarnation of Jesus was a bridge across the chasm
which parted earth and heaven.
II. The contrast between the real and the apparent
importance of Christ’s birth. The kingdom of God had
entered into history without observation. That birth-place
at Bethlehem seemed commonplace enough. Caesar’s
palace seemed to be more important to the world than the
manger. The apparent is not always the real.
III. What is the practical meaning of this birth to us,
and what relation have we to Him who, for love of us, was
born of the virgin?
Henry Parry Liddon, D.C.L.