THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
By A. T. Jones
The official and "infallible"
doctrine of the immaculate conception as solemnly defined as an article of faith
by Pope Pius IX, speaking ex cathedra, on the 8th day of December, 1854, is as
"By the authority of our Lord
Jesus Christ, of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority,
we declare, pronounce, and define, that the doctrine which holds that the most
blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a special grace
and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the
Saviour of mankind, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, has been
revealed by God, and, therefore, is to be firmly and steadfastly believed by all
"Wherefore, if any shall presume,
which may God avert, to think in their heart otherwise than has been defined by
us, let them know, and moreover understand, that they are condemned by their own
judgment, that they have made shipwreck as regards the faith, and have fallen
away from the unity of the church."–"Catholic Belief," p. 2141 1
It may be well to remark in
beginning that there is a large number of Protestants as well as other
non-Catholics who entertain the mistaken view that the doctrine of the
immaculate conception refers to the conception of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. The
truth is that it refers not to the conception of Christ by Mary, but to the
conception of Mary herself by her mother.
It is true that in the dogma the
words arc "at the first instant of her conception;" and in strictness of idea
perhaps, this form of expression ought to refer to conception on her own part,
and therefore to her conception of Jesus. But this is not the idea of the dogma.
In the dogma, the sole idea and purport, of the words "her conception" is the
conception of her by her own mother. Accordingly, to English readers it would
more clearly express the thought to put it in the words, "at the first instant
of the conception of her," etc. For in all the controversy and literature on the
subject, there is no thought of applying the phrase "immaculate conception" to
anything but to the conception of Mary herself by her mother, whom "tradition"
says was Anne.
In these days of the general
acceptance of Catholicism as Christianity; and of compromises with the Catholic
Church, and apologies for her on the part of "Protestants," it is well that we
should study such things as this that we may know for ourselves what is their
real effect upon the doctrine of Christ, and what their consequences, in those
who accept the dogma.
The first consequence of it to
him who believes this doctrine is to make the Virgin Mary, if not actually
divine, then the nearest to it, of any creature in the universe; and this, too,
in her human nature. In proof of this we have the following statements of
Catholic fathers and saints:–
"The ancient writer of 'De
Nativitate Christi' found in St. Cyprian's works, says: Because [Mary] being
'very different from the rest of mankind, human nature, but not sin,
communicated itself to her'
"Theodoret, a father that lived
in the fifth century, says that Mary 'surpassed by far the cherubim and the
seraphim in purity.' "
"In the Greek Liturgy of St.
Chrysostom, a father of the fourth century. … the following words are directed
to be chanted by the choir during the canon of the mass 'It is truly meet that
we should praise thee, O mother of God, … thou art the mother of our God, to be
venerated in preference to the cherubim; thou art beyond comparison more
glorious than the seraphim.'
"Theodore, patriarch of
Jerusalem, said in the second council of Nice, that Mary 'is truly the mother of
God, and virgin before and after childbirth; and she was created in a condition
more sublime and glorious than that of all natures, whether intellectual or
corporeal.' "–Ibid. pp. 216, 217.
Lest these statements should seem
too ancient for "Protestants" we present a passage from our own times. In the
"Manual of Devotion to Good St. Anne De Beaupre [pronounced boo-per], in the
province of Quebec, and bearing the imprimatur of E. A. Cardinal Taschereau,
present Archbishop of Quebec, it is said of Mary, that she–
"Is purer than angels, holier
than the Archangels, higher than the Thrones, more powerful than the
Dominations, more enlightened than the cherubim, more inflamed with the divine
love than the seraphim."–p. 72
These statements show that in the
view of the Catholic Church and of the dogma of the immaculate conception, the
nature of Mary was so "very different from the rest of mankind," so much "more
sublime and glorious than that of all natures" and "surpassed by [so] far the
cherubim and seraphim" as to be "beyond comparison more glorious than" they, and
therefore to be venerated "in preference" to them. This, then, puts the nature
of Mary infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship to mankind.
Having this clearly in mind, let
us follow to the next step. And here it is in the words of Cardinal Gibbons:–
"We affirm that the Second Person
of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God, who, in his divine nature is, from all
eternity, begotten of the Father, con substantial with him, was in the fullness
of time again begotten, by being born of the virgin, thus taking to himself from
her maternal womb, a human nature of the same substance with hers.
"As far as the sublime mystery of
the incarnation can be reflected in the natural order, the blessed virgin, under
the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, by communicating to the Second Person of
the adorable Trinity, as mothers do, a true human nature of the same substance
with her own, is thereby really and truly his mother."–Faith of Our Fathers, pp.
Now put these two things
together, First, we have the nature of Mary defined as being not only "very
different from the rest of mankind," but "more sublime and glorious than all
natures;" thus putting her infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship
to mankind as we really are.
Next, we have Jesus described as
taking from her a human nature of the same substance as hers.
It therefore follows as certainly
as that two and two make four, that in his human nature the Lord Jesus is "very
different" from mankind, is in a condition more sublime and glorious than all
natures, is beyond comparison farther from us than are the cherubim and the
seraphim, and is therefore infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship
to us as we really are in this world.
We know the answer that "the
Church" makes to this–that Mary and Anne and Joseph and Joachim especially, and
all the other eleven hundred and fifty saints, intercede with Him for those who
have his help, and that through these he is enabled to reach mankind though he
himself is so far beyond us. Even as the "Manual of Devotion to Good St. Anne"
says further of Mary, that she–
"Is the ladder to heaven, the
anchor of the shipwrecked, the star of the mariner, the bridge whereby God
crossed the abyss which separated us from him,"–p.73.
But this is as great a fraud as
is all the rest of the scheme. For the Virgin Mary, and Anne, Joseph, and
Joachim and all the rest of the Catholic saints are dead, and cannot intercede
for anybody. For the word of God says plainly that "the dead know not anything."
Eccl. 9:5. And "in death there is no remembrance of thee." Ps. 6:5. And Jesus
said to his disciples, "Whither I go ye cannot come." John 13:33.
The situation then as presented
by the dogma of the "Immaculate Conception" is this: By it Jesus, even in his
"human" nature, is put so far from sinful men that we cannot reach him nor
approach him except through the intercessions of Mary, and Anne, and the other
Catholic saints. But Mary, and Anne, and the other saints are dead and so know
nothing at all about anybody, and therefore can do nothing whatever for anybody.
Therefore with Jesus so far away that we cannot find him without the
intercessions of these saints, and with Mary and Joseph and the other Catholic
saint all dead, and consequently unable to intercede for anybody, it is certain
that the dogma of the immaculate conception puts Jesus Christ infinitely beyond
the reach of mankind; as far from us indeed, as though he had never offered
himself at all, and robs the world of the Saviour to the extent that that dogma
But it is true that the Lord
Jesus, in his human nature, was made lower than the angels, and took our nature
of flesh and blood just as it is, with all its infirmities. The Scriptures are
plain as anything can be on this point, and are worthy to be set down here
against this papal invention of the immaculate conception. Having found that the
papacy puts Christ as far away from men as possible, it will be well to know how
near to men he really is.
In the first chapter of Hebrews,
Jesus the Son of God is presented in his divine nature as equal with God and as
God and as God indeed, the Creator and Upholder of all things, as "so much
better than the angels," that he has "a more excellent name than they," and as
so much higher than the angels that "all the angels of God worship him."
In the second chapter of the same
book, he is presented in his human nature as "lower than the angels," even as
man himself. Thus it is written: "One in a certain place testified, saying, What
is man that thou art mindful of him? or the Son of man that thou visitest him!
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory
and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all
things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But
now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a
little lower than the angels."
Thus, instead of his human nature
being "beyond comparison" higher than angels, cherubim, and seraphim, it was
made as much lower than they as man himself was made lower.
Nor is it only as man was lower
than the angels before he sinned. It was not as man was lower than the angels in
his sinless nature, that Jesus was made lower than the angels in his human
nature; but as man is lower than the angels in his sinful nature, as he is since
he by sin became subject to suffering and death. For so it is written: "We see
Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, …
that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. For it became
him, for whom are all things, and by all things, in bringing many sons unto
glory to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering."
Thus, as man in his sinless human
nature was made a little lower than the angels, and then by sin stepped still
lower to suffering and death; even so Jesus, that he might bring man back to the
glory of God, in his love followed him down even here, partakes of his nature as
it is, suffers with him, and even dies with him as well as for him in his sinful
human nature. For "he was numbered with the transgressors"–he died as a
malefactor between two malefactors. This is love. This is Jesus our Saviour, for
he comes to us where we are, that he may reach us and lift us up from ourselves
Yet this blessed saving truth is
even more plainly stated, thus: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of
flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." Heb. 2:14. He,
in his human nature, took the same flesh and blood that we have. All the words
that could be used to make this plain and positive are here put together in a
single sentence. See: The children are partakers of flesh and blood. Because of
this he took part of the same flesh and blood as the children have. Nor is this
all: he also himself took part of the same flesh and blood as we. Nor yet is
this all: he also himself likewise took part of the same flesh and blood as man.
The spirit of inspiration so much
desires that this truth shall be made plain and emphatic that he is not content
to use any fewer than all the words that could be used in the telling of it. And
therefore it is declared that just as, and just as certainly as the children of
men are partakers of flesh and blood, he also, himself, likewise took part of
the same flesh and blood as we have in the bondage of sin and the fear of death.
For he took this same flesh and blood that we have, in order "that through death
he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject
Therefore, instead of its being
true that Jesus in his human nature is so far away from men, as they really are,
that he has no real likeness nor relationship to us, it is true that he is in
very deed our kin in flesh and blood relation–even our Brother in blood
relationship. For it is written: "Both he which sanctifieth and they who are
sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them
brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren." Heb. 2:11
This great truth of the
blood-relationship between our Redeemer and ourselves is clearly taught also in
the gospel in Leviticus. There was the law of redemption of men and their
inheritance, or himself had been brought into bondage, there was redemption
provided. If he was able of himself to redeem himself or his inheritance, he
could do it. But if he was not able of himself to redeem, then the right of
redemption fell to his nearest of kin in blood-relationship. It fell not merely
to one who was near of kin among his brethren, but to the one who was nearest of
kin who was able. Lev. 25:24-28, 46-47; Ruth 2:20; 3:12, 13, 4:1-12.
Thus there has been taught
through these ages the very truth which we have found taught here in the second
chapter of Hebrews: the truth that man has lost his inheritance and is himself
also in bondage. And as he himself cannot redeem himself nor his inheritance,
the right of redemption falls to the nearest of kin who is able. And Jesus
Christ is the only one in all the universe who is able. He must also be not only
near of kin, but the nearest of kin. And the nearest of kin by blood
relationship. And therefore he took our very flesh and blood, and so became our
nearest of kin. And so also, instead of being farther away from us than are the
angels and cherubim and seraphim, he is the very nearest to us of all persons in
He is so near to us that he is actually one of us. For so it is written: "Both he which sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Heb. 2:11. And he and we being one, he being one with mankind, it is impossible to have a mediator between him and men, because he and mankind are one and "a mediator is not a mediator of one." Gal. 3:20. And as certainly as Jesus Christ is one with mankind and "a mediator is not a mediator of one," so certainly this truth at once annihilates the "intercessions" of all the Catholic saints in the calendar, even if they were all alive and in heaven instead of being all dead. He is so near to us that there is no room for anybody and much less for from one to eleven hundred and fifty people to come between him and us. He is so entirely one with us and of us–of our very selves, our very flesh and blood–that it would be impossible to get the Virgin or a single one of the other saints between us, even if they were alive. No, he is one of us; and as a mediator is not a mediator of one, it is impossible that there could be a mediator between Christ and men–even sinful men.
But the Scripture does not stop
even yet with the statement of this all-important truth. It says further: "For
verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of
Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his
brethren that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the things
pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in
that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are
tempted." "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the
feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet
without sin." Heb. 4:15. Being made in his human nature, in all things like as
we are, he could be, and was, tempted in all points like as we are.
As in his human nature he is one
with us, and as "himself took our infirmities" [Matt. 8:17], so he could be
"touched with the feeling of our infirmities." And so also, he can help and save
to the uttermost all who will receive him. As in his flesh, and as in himself in
the flesh, he was as weak as we are, and of himself could "do nothing" [John
5:30], when he bore our grief's and carried our sorrows" [Isa. 53:4], and was
tempted as we are, by his divine faith he conquered all by the power of God
which that faith brought to him and which in our flesh he has brought to us.
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in
bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect
through sufferings." Heb. 2:10.
And thus "what the law could not
do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the
likeness of sinful flesh" did. The law could not bring us to God, nor could it
find in the flesh the righteousness which it must have, because the flesh had
fallen away from God and could not reach him again. But though the sinful flesh
could not reach God, yet God in his eternal power and infinite mercy could reach
sinful flesh. And so "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace
and truth." [John 1:14], even "sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the
flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:3, 4.
This is Christianity. To deny
this, to deny that Jesus Christ came not simply in flesh, but in the flesh, the
only flesh that there is in this world, sinful flesh,–to deny this is to deny
Christ. For "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the
flesh, is not of God." the Catholic Church does not confess this; but on the
contrary declares it to be "shocking to Christian minds" and the "revolting
consequences" of denying the immaculate conception.–Catholic Belief, pp. 217,
218. Therefore this is the spirit of antichrist, "where of ye have heard that it
should come; and even now already is it in the world." But, "every spirit that
confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." "Hereby know ye
the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." 1 John 4:2, 3, 6.
O, his name is called Immanuel,
which is "God with us." Not God with him in eternity, and could have been with
him even though he had not given himself for us. But man through sin became
without God, and God wanted to be again with us. Therefore Jesus became us, that
God with him might be God with us. And that is his name because that is what he
Therefore and finally, as
certainly as in his human nature Jesus Christ is one with us. and as certainly
as God with him is God with us, so certainly the nature of the Virgin Mary was
just like that of all the rest of us, and so certainly the dogma of the
immaculate conception is an absolute fraud; and the doctrine a ruinous
O! then, receive Him. He stands
at the door and knocks; let him in. No ladder is required to reach him, for he
himself is the Ladder which reaches from the earth where we are, to the highest
heaven; and by which alone we can reach the presence of God. No bridge is
needed. There is no abyss between us and him, for he is of ourselves as we are
on the earth. And "with his divine arm he grasps the throne of God and with his
long human arm he gathers the sinful, suffering human race to his great heart of
love," that we may be one with God.
Confess to him your sins: he will
never take advantage of you. Tell him your griefs: he has felt the same and can
relieve you. Pour out to him your sorrows: "he hath carried our sorrows," he was
"a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," he will comfort you with the
comfort of God. (A. T. Jones–The Religious Liberty Library, No. 25, 1894.)
1. "Catholic Belief," is "a short and simple exposition of Catholic doctrine," by the Very Rev. Joseph Faa Di Bruno, Rector-General of the pious Society of Missions: Church of S S mo Salvatore in Ouda, Ponte Sisto, Rome, and St. Peter's Italian Church, Hatton Garden, London, E. C. Author's American Edition, ideated by Rev. Louis A. Lambert, author of "Notes on Ingersoll," etc., etc. One Hundred Thousand. Benziger Brothers, printers to the Holy Apostolic See, New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago." Imprimatur, John Cardinal McCloskey, Archbishop of New York, June 5, 1884; and Imprimatur, Heuticus Eduardus, Carn. Archiep, Westmonast, Die 19 Julii 1983.