On the Immaculate Conception [Commentary on Browne: Article XV (2)]

Browne’s Exposition originally appeared in two volumes, the first volume—which ended with his discussion of Article XV—being published in 1850, a few years before the Romish doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was declared a dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.[1]

Browne’s brief treatment of the question of Mary’s sinfulness may thus be accounted for by the fact that, at the time, the Immaculate Conception was merely a pious opinion (albeit widely held) rather than an essential tenet of the Roman Faith. Bishop Williams, writing some years later as editor for the American edition of the Exposition, adds a brief supplementary footnote on the doctrine’s gradual ascent in various papal pronouncements before the dogma was formally defined by Pius IX. However, considerations of space necessitated that Williams’s contribution be limited as well. It therefore seems appropriate to say a bit more on the topic, while still taking care not to exceed our present scope. A few basic points should suffice, which are as follows:

1. Scriptural support for the Immaculate Conception is tenuous at best

Polemical apologists are likely to insist that scriptural evidence for the Immaculate Conception is “all over the place,”[2] suggesting that the doctrine is plain to see for any who will take up and read. Romanists who are more candid admit that “Scripture does not speak explicitly about the Blessed Virgin’s conception.”[3] Rather, the doctrine is said to be “contained implicitly (implicite).”[4] Verses often mentioned include Genesis 3:15, Luke 1:28, and Luke 1:42, among others.[5] However, as Darwell Stone bluntly observes, “The passages which have been cited by controversialists to support the doctrine of the immaculate conception have nothing to do with the subject.”[6] Many of these passages require an allegorical reading to establish any connection with the Immaculate Conception, such as Genesis 3:15, which is said to foretell Mary as the second Eve. Small wonder, then, that one Romanist scholar grants the necessity of “the added witness, and interpretive ‘lens’ of ancient Tradition”[7] to prove the doctrine from Scripture. Another author, perhaps feeling the weight of attempting to make a case from Scripture, disclaims the importance of biblical evidence altogether:

The truth or falsehood of any doctrine depends upon evidence, and is established or refuted according to the credibility of the witness testifying. If the witness be as the Church, infallible, the doctrine is established beyond all controversy. The Church teaches that the Most Blessed Virgin was conceived without sin. This is enough for every sincere Catholic.[8]

On this account, the “infallible guide” for doctrine is the Church, while the Bible is relegated to the role of “concurrent testimony.”[9] Marginalizing Holy Scripture to this degree is atypical even for Romanists, but such comments indicate the felt need to seek support for the Immaculate Conception elsewhere in light of its dubious scriptural foundation.

2. Eastern Orthodox reception of the Immaculate Conception has been mixed

Accounts differ as to how the Immaculate Conception has been received within Eastern Orthodoxy. One Romanist scholar attributes to the Orthodox a broad acceptance of the doctrine, pointing out that from the early medieval period “the Greek doctors, whose theology of original sin had not been developed with great precision, seem to have found no difficulty in this belief.”[10] Another makes the sweeping claim that “the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not accepted outside Catholicism.”[11] If nothing else, it seems fair to say the Orthodox have not been so receptive of it in the wake of its pronouncement as a dogma by the Roman Church, over which some Eastern theologians “have even expressed bewilderment.”[12] For example, Sergius Bulgakov criticizes what he calls “the unsuccessful Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God”: “The immaculateness and sinlessness of the Ever-Virgin refer not to her nature but to her condition, to her personal relationship to sin and her personal overcoming of it.”[13] In the same vein, Vladimir Lossky writes, “Like other human beings…the Holy Virgin was born under the law of original sin, sharing with all the same common responsibility for the Fall. But sin never could become actual in her person; the sinful heritage of the Fall had no mastery over her right will.”[14] Andrew Louth places both Bulgakov and Lossky within a larger, modern “conscious reaction against developments in modern Catholic theology,” which includes “a rejection of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.”[15] There may be some contemporary Orthodox who affirm the Immaculate Conception, but it is apparent just from the above excerpts that whatever positive reception exists among them has been anything but universal.

3. The Immaculate Conception was historically disputed within Roman Christianity prior to its definition as a dogma

Notwithstanding Romish attempts to emphasize the Immaculate Conception’s widespread acceptance among Christians both unlearned and scholarly in the early medieval period, considerable opposition to the doctrine persisted throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.[16] Browne mentions an example of this when he writes that “in the year 1136 the Canons of Lyons brought the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin into the ecclesiastical offices; for which act of rashness they were severely censured by St. Bernard.” Bernard’s belief that “the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin and sanctified in the womb” is said to have been “the general opinion in the twelfth century.”[17] Many notable scholastics held this view in the thirteenth century as well, including Bonaventure, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Alexander of Hales, among others.[18] After Duns Scotus offered a defense of the Immaculate Conception, support for the doctrine became common among the Franciscans, of whom Scotus was one, while opposition was generally associated with the Dominicans, of whom Cardinal Cajetan was a later example.[19] At the Council of Trent, Browne writes, no decision was made on the doctrine, although it was stated that “there was no intention to include the Blessed Virgin in the decrees concerning original sin. It was therefore left an open question, although the Franciscans had the better reason of the two parties to be satisfied.”[20]

The agreement that Mary was conceived in original sin, shared by many eminent Roman divines—not least Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor”—is an awkward historical fact for contemporary Romanists. One response to this has been to valorize the intuition of the masses at the expense of these learned men:

It was the piety of Mary’s clients that had “discovered” the Immaculate Conception, through their loving meditation on the Mother of God. If this “popular belief,” which the greatest theologians had once opposed, and which even now they find so difficult to defend, has proved to be an authentic insight into divine revelation, then it becomes obligatory to look with greater respect upon the beliefs of the faithful, and to be cautious about ascribing to legend, ignorance or superstition beliefs which may not have any obvious foundation in the fonts of revelation, but which seem to strike a responsive chord in the heart of the Christian people.[21]

Whether it be wise to resort to popular appeal in defense of a purported dogma of the Faith is a question the Romanists can sort out for themselves. In any event, this popular fervor did not prevent some ordinary Roman Catholics from strongly protesting when the dogma was pronounced. In a letter to Bishop Ullathorne, Frederick William Faber wrote that “we found many good lay folks, frequenters of the sacraments, who were scandalised at the definition, and on different grounds.”[22] Moreover, when Pius IX solicited input from a number of bishops and archbishops on the question of whether the doctrine should be dogmatized, several of them doubted there were sufficient grounds in Scripture and tradition to justify this.[23] After the dogma was pronounced, a French priest named Abbé Laborde published a book in which he argued that “there was a time in which a belief in the immaculate conception did not yet exist,” for which reason “this opinion can never, on any grounds, be declared an article of faith.”[24] One Romanist journal gave positive coverage to Laborde and the trials he underwent in attempting to make his case at Rome, expressing sympathy for “the wrongs and insults inflicted on this learned and heroic champion of truth by the tyranny of ecclesiastical authority at Rome, more worthy of the middle ages than the nineteenth century.”[25] Such resistance availed nothing in the face of papal authority. Still, while the passage of time since the dogma’s pronouncement—to say nothing of the threat of excommunication—may have quieted objections and left no Romanist voices of dissent in the present, it cannot erase the lasting historical testament to the doctrine’s once-disputed status even within the Roman Church.

4. Anglican reception of the Immaculate Conception has been mixed as well

The near-ubiquitous rejection of the Immaculate Conception in Protestant churches is too well known to require discussion of every denomination,[26] leaving us free to discuss the one with the most complicated relationship to the doctrine, the Anglican tradition. Mary was not the subject of much theological controversy during the English Reformation—putting aside the larger issue of veneration and prayer to the saints—meaning the Immaculate Conception was typically “left on one side in silence.”[27] The doctrine is occasionally mentioned, such as in a sermon preached by Hugh Latimer on Luke 2, in which Mary and Joseph left Jesus at the temple: “Here, is to be noted a negligence in Mary and Joseph; therefore they, which go about to make Mary to be without sin, are much deceived: for here it appeareth plainly, that Mary was in a fault.”[28] Similarly, he writes that we should not follow the example of any saint (including Mary) “universally…for they did many things amiss.”[29] In Mary’s case, he says “Chrysostom and Augustine plainly affirm, that Mary was somewhat arrogant” at the wedding in Cana.[30] Richard Hooker declares, “Now concerning the righteous, there neither is, nor ever was, any mere natural man absolutely righteous in himself: that is to say, void of all unrighteousness, of all sin. We dare not except, no not the blessed Virgin herself.”[31] It might be supposed that Bishop Pearson affirms the doctrine when he says that “we believe the mother of our Lord to have been not only before and after his nativity, but also for ever, the most immaculate and blessed Virgin.”[32] However, this reading is undercut by the fact that he spends the next eight pages defending the perpetual virginity of Mary, without addressing a word to her supposed sinlessness.[33] Other brief mentions of the doctrine throughout the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries could likely be adduced.

The Oxford Movement brought about a “renewal of popular devotion to Mary within the Anglican Communion,” in addition to “theological consideration” of the role of Mary in the church. One of the results was that some Anglicans began to “adopt, sometimes uncritically and perhaps unwisely, the fully developed cultus and theology of Mary as it has been worked out in the Roman Catholic Church since the time of the Reformation.”[34] Thus when the dogma was pronounced in 1854, responses varied, at least among those who would later be called Anglo-Catholics. On the one hand, there were some who did “welcome the doctrine.”[35] One prominent example is E. L. Mascall, who in The Mother of God accepts Mary’s “virginity in partu and post partum, her Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption, though he does not think any of these doctrines ought to be imposed as of faith.”[36] On the other hand, even before the pronouncement John Keble resisted the doctrine on the grounds that it had “not a shadow of appearance in antiquity or in Scripture either.”[37] John Mason Neale, in a sermon preached to the Sisters of St. Margaret’s after one of their number left for the Roman Church, observed that the Roman Faith has not remained constant, as, for example, what is taught about the Immaculate Conception is not what Bernard once taught, who “wrote against what he calls the blasphemy of the Immaculate Conception.”[38] Broadly speaking, “Advanced [i.e., Anglo-Catholic] Anglicans generally, although not invariably, rejected the Immaculate Conception.”[39] Crucially, though, many of the same Anglo-Catholics who rejected the Immaculate Conception also “adopted the original Dominican position that she had been born, if not conceived, without original sin.”[40] Hence they held that Mary was conceived in original sin but cleansed from it not long after (or at least before her birth), thereby making her free from personal sin.

However, a plain reading of Article XV tells us that Christ alone was without not only original sin, but personal sin as well, for “all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Bishop A. P. Forbes, while denying the Immaculate Conception, brazenly maintains that the Article “does not speak of exceptional cases” with regard to personal sin: “It says, ‘all we the rest.’ It does not commit itself to what may be the case with regard to saints whom God may by a special prerogative save from grave sin,” such as the Virgin Mary, “with whom, for the honour of her Son, we can associate no idea of sin.”[41] No lengthy reflection is needed to appreciate the strenuous eisegesis required to rend “all we the rest” into “most we the rest.”

This is not to derogate from Mary’s demonstrable personal holiness. As Browne observes, “Doubtless among women there never lived a holier than she who was chosen to the highest honour that ever befel created being.” Yet it remains the case that she was not totally free from personal sin.[42] As Browne points out, “It has been remarked that on three separate occasions our Lord and her Lord used of, and to her, language at least bordering on censure,” these being the wedding at Cana (John 2:4), Mary and Joseph finding Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:49), and His mother and brothers seeking to speak with Him (Matthew 12:48‒50).[43] Here it is critical to recognize that many of the church fathers acknowledged these and other passages in the gospels as bespeaking Mary’s imperfect character, with Browne mentioning Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Theophylact by name. Other examples include Origen, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Amphilochius of Iconium, Cyril, Tertullian, and Hilary of Poitiers.[44] Multiple commentators on the Articles cite various of these fathers in support of their contention that Mary was not free from personal sin.[45] In characteristic fashion, then, Article XV’s affirmation that Christ alone was free from both original and personal sin rests on Scripture interpreted in light of the church fathers.


Browne, alongside other commentators, defends Article XV on the basis of Scripture and the patristic witness, in a way that lives up to his own characterization of the Articles as “Scriptural and Catholic.” In contrast, for the Roman Church the Bible, whatever its value, is not enough: “The Sacred Scriptures were not intended to contain all the things which the Christian Church was to believe and do.”[46] Moreover, if the fathers clash with the Church, then the fathers must give way to “the teaching of the magisterium.”[47] The Church alone is sufficient for the task of establishing Christian faith and practice, says Archbishop Manning:

[Ineffabilis Deus] does not say that [the Immaculate Conception] is true, it offers no logical or historical proofs of its truth; it declares that it is revealed: that it was contained in the Revelation of the Day of Pentecost. And we receive it, not upon argument or criticism, but upon the witness of the Church, which is the sole witness of the mind of God.[48]

What is more, to qualify as part of “the witness of the Church” does not require anything so broad as a general council, or even the consensus of unwritten Tradition. All that is needed is the word of the pope ex cathedra, a precedent that was cemented by the pronouncement of the Immaculate Conception:

The Immaculate Conception was a particularly significant point on which to exercise the papal magisterium: it involved not merely a public reaffirmation of what was obviously Scriptural teaching, nor a decision as to the precise sense in which a Scriptural text should be taken, but the assertion of a truth about which Scripture (as well as ancient patristic tradition) appeared at first sight to be quite mute. Hence, Pius IX was passing judgment, not only on the Immaculate Conception itself, but also on His own and the Church’s authority to discern the most delicate meanings of God’s Word, and to read aright the most implicit signs of God’s intentions.[49]

Contemporary Anglicans appreciated the significance of this development, as indicated by E. B. Pusey’s remark that the manner of the dogma’s pronouncement was just as momentous as the substance of the dogma itself: “It is not the less a great change, both in the constitution of the Church and the principles upon which it declares any matter to be de fide. ‘In the constitution of the Church,’ because the personal infallibility of the Pope, by himself, comes out in the strongest way.”[50] He continues:

The natural issue of the precedent now set is, step by step to declare as matter of faith any and every thing which is taught about the Blessed Virgin, so soon as it has, through the constant and diligent teaching of the priesthood, taken root enough. And this decision, by a further precedent, now made, would depend not on a General Council, not on the consent of the whole Roman Communion, but on the will of the Pope of that time. And not only this, but the way also in which any decree on any given subject is to be framed, would, according to this precedent, rest with the Pope or his consistory.[51]

The Episcopalian editor and translator for Abbé Laborde’s book against the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Arthur Cleveland Coxe, expressed much the same sentiment in his preface:

What then was the motive or real object of the publication of the Bull Ineffabilis on the 8th of December, 1854? It was to extinguish the Gallican and to erect the ultramontane theory as the true doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. It was an ecclesiastical coup d’ état, by which the powers of a General Council were seized and usurped for all futurity, by the Sovereign Pontiff alone. For if a Gallican or American Roman Catholic accepts the Bull, he admits the authority of the Pope to define an article of the Faith, without a General Council, and in so doing he becomes an ultramontanist.[52]

In sum, the Immaculate Conception is an illustrative showcase of how doctrine and authority function in the Church of Rome. Browne’s discussion of Article XV, in turn, equally exemplifies the Anglican approach. Let the reader decide which approach is better founded.


  1. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 8 December 1854, https://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm. See also Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican: Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2012), par. 490‒94, https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1K.HTM.
  2. Tim Staples, “Where Is the Immaculate Conception in the Bible?” Catholic Answers, 8 December 2021, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.
  3. Edward D. O’Connor, “Preface,” in The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception: History and Significance, ed. Edward D. O’Connor (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1958), vi. Compare Darwell Stone, Outlines of Christian Dogma, 3rd ed. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903), 58; Francis J. Hall, Theological Outlines, 3rd ed. (New York: Morehouse-Gorham Co., 1933), 160; and Francis J. Hall, Anglican Dogmatics: Francis J. Hall’s Dogmatic Theology, ed. John A. Porter, vol. 2, Bk. VI, The Incarnation (Nashotah, WI: Nashotah House Press, 2021), 42n1.
  4. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. James Canon Bastible, trans. Patrick Lynch (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1954), 198. See also James Delavau Bryant, The Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary (Boston: Patrick Donahoe, 1855), 37, 61, and O’Connor, “Preface,” ix.
  5. See, e.g., Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, https://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm; Bryant, Immaculate Conception, 56, 60‒61; Ott, Fundamentals, 198‒99; Charles Journet, “Scripture and the Immaculate Conception: A Problem in the Evolution of Dogma,” in O’Connor, Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 24, 26; Robert A. Stackpole, “The Immaculate Conception in Catholic Apologetics,” in The Immaculate Conception in the Life of the Church, ed. Donald H. Calloway (Stockbridge, MA: John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, 2004), 23‒28; Chris Maunder, “Mary and the Gospel Narratives,” in The Oxford Handbook of Mary, ed. Chris Maunder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 29; and Staples, “Where Is the Immaculate Conception in the Bible?” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture.
  6. Stone, Outlines, 58‒59. Compare Abbé Laborde, The Impossibility of the Immaculate Conception as an Article of Faith, ed. and trans. Arthur Cleveland Coxe (Philadelphia: Herman Hooker, 1855), 86, and Scot McKnight, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2007), 116.
  7. Stackpole, “Immaculate Conception,” 28.
  8. Bryant, Immaculate Conception, xiii.
  9. Bryant, Immaculate Conception, xiii.
  10. O’Connor, “Preface,” xii.
  11. Chris Maunder, “Introduction,” in Maunder, Oxford Handbook of Mary, 11.
  12. Francis Dvornik, “The Byzantine Church and the Immaculate Conception,” in O’Connor, Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 88. See also Stone, Outlines, 58.
  13. Sergius Bulgakov, The Burning Bush: On the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God, trans. Thomas Allan Smith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 7, 10, italics original.
  14. Vladimir Lossky, “Panagia,” trans. Edward Every, in In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. John H. Erickson and Thomas E. Bird (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 204.
  15. Andrew Louth, “Mary in Modern Orthodox Theology,” in Maunder, Oxford Handbook of Mary, 234.
  16. See Richard Field, Of the Church, vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849), 205‒223; Bryant, Immaculate Conception, 162‒69; Laborde, Impossibility of the Immaculate Conception, 35‒83; Ott, Fundamentals, 199; Carlo Balić, “The Mediaeval Controversy over the Immaculate Conception up to the Death of Scotus,” in O’Connor, Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 161‒212; Wenceslaus Sebastian, “The Controversy over the Immaculate Conception from after Scotus to the End of the Eighteenth Century,” in O’Connor, Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 213‒70; and Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, part 1 (London: Christian Classics Westminster and Sheed & Ward, 1985), 210‒322.
  17. Balić, “Mediaeval Controversy,” 183‒84.
  18. Balić, “Mediaeval Controversy,” 188‒89.
  19. Sebastian, “Controversy over the Immaculate Conception,” 256, and Field, Of the Church, 205‒209.
  20. See J. Waterworth, ed. and trans., The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Œcumenical Council of Trent (London: C. Dolman, 1848), Fifth Session, “Decree Concerning Original Sin,” 21, https://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct05.html.
  21. O’Connor, “Preface,” ix. Compare Mathieu Orsini, The Blessed Virgin Mary: The Life of the Mother of God (New York: McMenamy, Hess & Co., 1874), 11‒12. For an example of Roman opposition to this attitude, see Laborde, Impossibility of the Immaculate Conception, 21.
  22. Frederick W. Faber, Faber: Poet and Priest, ed. Raleigh Addington (Glamorgan, Wales: D. Brown & Sons, 1974), 270, italics original, quoted in Carol Engelhardt Herringer, Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England, 1830‒85 (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 121.
  23. E. B. Pusey, The Church of England a Portion of Christ’s One Holy Catholic Church, and a Means of Restoring Visible Unity: An Eirenicon (London: Gilbert and Rivington, 1865), 351‒407.
  24. Laborde, Impossibility of the Immaculate Conception, 25.
  25. “The Abbe Laborde at Rome,” The Catholic Layman 4, no. 41 (May 1855): 55.
  26. It is worth mentioning that Martin Luther believed Mary was “without sin,” as he writes in his commentary on the Magnificat (Martin Luther, “The Magnificat,” trans. A. T. W. Steinhaeuser, in Luther’s Works, vol. 21, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956], 327). That said, according to Beth Kreitzer he held that “Mary was conceived normally, but purified from sin at the moment of her ‘second’ conception, that is, at animation when her soul entered her body” (Beth Kreitzer, “Mary in Luther and the Lutheran Reformation,” in Maunder, Oxford Handbook of Mary, 450). Luther’s nuanced views on the subject did not carry over into Lutheranism, as later Lutheran dogmatists are clear in their rejection of both the immaculate conception and Mary’s freedom from personal sin: “Since Holy Scripture condemns all men as sinners, Rom. 3, 4—23, the papistical doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary must be rejected as anti-christian” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934], 215); “The Virgin Mary does not form an exception [to original sin]. Not Scripture, but the decretal of Pius IX, 1854, took her, in the interest of Mariolatry, out of the category of sinners and ascribed to her an immaculate conception” (Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. I [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950], 550); “The universal scope of Job 14:4; John 3:6; Rom. 5:12 leaves no room for excepting the Virgin Mary [from original sin]. She did not except herself, but placed her sole hope of salvation in her ‘Saviour’ (Luke 1:47)” (Edward W. A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Oakland, CA: Alfred W. Koehler, 1952], 70).
  27. A. M. Allchin, “Mary, Virgin and Mother: An Anglican Approach,” Marian Library Studies 1 (1969): 99, https://ecommons.udayton.edu/ml_studies/vol1/iss1/7/.
  28. Hugh Latimer, “A Sermon Preached on the First Sunday after Epiphany,” in The Fathers of the English Church, vol. II (London: John Hatchard, 1808), 464.
  29. Hugh Latimer, “On the Epistle for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity,” in Sermons, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 514.
  30. Latimer, “Epistle,” 515.
  31. Richard Hooker, A Learned Discourse of Justification, in The Works of That Learned and Judicious Divine, Mr. Richard Hooker, 6th ed., ed. John Keble, vol. III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1864), 484.
  32. John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, revised ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1882), 328.
  33. Pearson, Exposition, 329‒36.
  34. Allchin, “Mary,” 105.
  35. Herringer, Victorians and the Virgin Mary, 129.
  36. Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, part 2 (London: Christian Classics Westminster and Sheed & Ward, 1985), 134.
  37. Bodleian Library, Oxford, MSS Wilberforce, c. 67, letter from John Keble to Robert Isaac Wilberforce (transcription), undated (?1851), fol. 209, quoted in Herringer, Victorians and the Virgin Mary, 128.
  38. John Mason Neale, Secession. A Sermon Preached in the Oratory of S. Margaret’s, East Grinsted, 4th ed. (London: Joseph Masters, 1868), 10.
  39. Herringer, Victorians and the Virgin Mary, 128.
  40. Herringer, Victorians and the Virgin Mary, 133.
  41. A. P. Forbes, An Explanation of the Thirty-Nine Articles, 2nd ed. (Oxford and London: James Parker and Co., 1871), 223‒24.
  42. See, e.g., James Beaven, A Catechism on the Thirty-Nine Articles (Oxford and London: John Henry Parker, 1850), 50; William Baker, A Plain Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: Rivington’s, 1883), 93; and John Macbeth, Notes on the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co., 1894), 81.
  43. Compare Gilbert Burnet, An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles, ed. James R. Page (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1842), 185, and Edward Arthur Litton, Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, ed. Philip E. Hughes (London: James Clarke and Co., 1960), 144.
  44. Georges Jouassard, “The Fathers of the Church and the Immaculate Conception,” in O’Connor, Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 51‒86. See also Ott, Fundamentals, 201, and Bulgakov, Burning Bush, 7.
  45. William Beveridge, An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: James Duncan, 1830), 349‒50 note e; T. P, Boultbee, An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1871), 131; and Robert Louis Cloquet, An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1885), 300.
  46. Bryant, Immaculate Conception, 61.
  47. Jouassard, “Fathers of the Church,” 84, italics original.
  48. Henry Edward Manning, Sermons on Ecclesiastical Subjects, 2nd ed., vol. I (London: Burns, Oates, and Co., 1870), 121.
  49. O’Connor, “Preface,” viii‒ix, italics original.
  50. Pusey, Eirenicon, 124.
  51. Pusey, Eirenicon, 145‒46. Compare Bulgakov, Burning Bush, 48.
  52. Laborde, Impossibility of the Immaculate Conception, iv, italics original.


James Clark

James Clark is the author of The Witness of Beauty and Other Essays, and the Book Review Editor at The North American Anglican. His writing has appeared in Cranmer Theological Journal, Journal of Classical Theology, and American Reformer, as well as other publications.

'On the Immaculate Conception [Commentary on Browne: Article XV (2)]' has 1 comment

  1. June 6, 2024 @ 1:08 pm Chris

    You can be certain of the Immaculate Conception because the Blessed Virgin Mary said it herself at Lourdes in 1858 nearly 4yrs after Pope Pius IX issued Ineffabilis Deus defining the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is also the evidence from Pontevedra and San Nicolas. Please scrutinise the evidence below.

    At Our Lady of Lourdes Mother Mary asked St Bernadette on 11th Feb 1858 to pray the Rosary with Her and she did but Bernadette did not know who She was at that point. After seventeen apparitions and the miracle spring, on March 25th 1858, the feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette asked the Lady who She was and Mother Mary replied “I am the Immaculate conception” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48RKRYPirXs Our Lady of Lourdes & St. Bernadette (11 February)

    I expect you have heard of Our Lady of Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun. One of the three children Mother Mary appeared to, Lucia, went on to become Sister Lucia. Please find a link below to the account of Pontevadra where Jesus Christ and Mother Mary both gave messages to Sister Lucia. Below are some extracts

    On December 10, 1925, the Most Holy Virgin Herself appeared, and beside Her, borne by a luminous cloud, the Child Jesus. The Most Holy Virgin put Her hand on her shoulder and showed her, at the same time, a Heart surrounded by thorns which She held in the other hand. At that same moment, the Child said to her:

    ‘Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.’

    Then the Most Holy Virgin said:

    ‘Look, My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and announce in My name that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to Me.’

    Also – Jesus Christ said

    ‘My daughter, the reason is simple. There are five kinds of offenses and blasphemies uttered against the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
    • Blasphemies against the Immaculate Conception.
    • Blasphemies against Her perpetual Virginity.
    • Blasphemies against Her divine Maternity, while refusing at the same time to recognize Her as Mother of men.
    • The blasphemies of those who publicly seek to place in the hearts of children indifference or scorn, or even hatred towards this Immaculate Mother.
    • The offenses of those who outrage Her directly in Her holy images.

    ‘There My daughter, is the reason why the Immaculate Heart of Mary asked Me to request this small act of reparation, and in consideration of it, to move My mercy to forgive souls who have had the misfortune to offend Her. As for you, seek unceasingly, through your prayers and sacrifices, to move My mercy with regard to these poor souls.’ https://fatima.org/the-apparitions-at-pontevedra/

    At San Nicolas. December 30, 1989, the Son of God said: “Formerly, the world was saved by the ark of Noah. Today the Ark is My Mother. Through her, souls will be saved, because she will lead them to me. He who rejects My Mother rejects Me! Many are letting the grace of God pass by in these days.”

    Our Lady of the Rosary San Nicolas Mother Mary asked us to pray the Rosary through visionary Gladys. A miracle healing and Gladys received the gift of stigmata. Gladys received messages from Mother Mary and Jesus Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmOw2OLq5rQ Fr. Mark Goring -Apparitions of Mary in Argentina, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of St. Nicolas

    Jesus Christ is clear that denying the Immaculate Conception of Mother Mary is blasphemy and causes Her hurt.

    God bless you


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