§. 6.

Holy Jesus, who, for the morerational engagement[1] of the Virgin’s faith, didst further acquaint her by the same Angel, Behold, thy Cousin Elizabeth, who was called barren, she also hath conceived a Son in her old Age[2].

I magnify thy Holy Name[3],

Because with God nothing shall be unpossible[4].

This Maxim may suffice to silence all the cavilling inquiries of human reason[5],

How this should be:

For the same power that makes the barren Womb fruitful,

can with the same facility dispense with those Laws of Nature

that render it unlikely there should be a Virgin-Mother[6]:

And that Spirit, which, by breathing on them, was able to make dry bones live[7],

may be very rationally believed[8] of sufficient power to impregnate a Virgin’s Womb.

And therefore, in considering this transcendent mystery[9] of my Savior’s Incarnation,

I will rather admire and recount his Goodness and Truth,

than question his Power, or pry into the manner of its accomplishment;

and in all his trials of my faith or patience, my Soul shall say,

as  Mary of the Lord did, Be it unto me according unto thy word.[10]

[1] By rational engagement, he means a good ground for believing the announcement to be true.

[2] Here we learn that the announcement of John (the Baptist’s) birth which opened the book of Luke was to Mary’s cousin.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:30–37 (KJV)

[3] In this instance, the comment following the Scripture quotation is not in the form of a prayer as much as a meditation. The first line is an allusion to

          Bless the Lord, O my soul:

And all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 103:1 (KJV)

[4] Luke 1:37. There is a further allusion to the birth of Isaac:

13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Genesis 18:13–14 (KJV)

[5] Contrary to our modern prejudice that we only recently figured out that virgins cannot become pregnant and dead men to do not resurrect from the dead, questions about these matters were debated and considered since before Jesus. The claims of the Gospel beginning with a virgin birth and ending with a resurrection have been matters of philosophical debate since time of the Gospels. The claims were not received because the people back then were credulous. Traherne is putting the question on a different foundation: The power for this miracle to occur is a power of God, alone. When asking how, the answer should be, God has that power. Trying to figure how that power could be exercised based upon my understanding of physics and physiology is beyond the point.

[6] The narrow argument here is that if God can make a woman can have no children to bear a child (Elizabeth), God can make a virgin pregnant ( Mary). The broader argument is that even normal pregnancy and birth are miraculous, we are just used to such things.


The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

Ezekiel 37:1–5 (KJV)

[8] One cannot admit the power of God and then say, this particular miracle is not possible.

[9] It is a thing which can be admired though not completely understood.

[10] Mary becomes the model of faith: I cannot understand how God will do this miracle. But rather than question it I will receive and admire it: Let God act and I will believe. He has been careful to argue this is not a bare fideism or an irrational conclusion: I have good reason to believe God can this present thing, because God has shown his power in these past things.