« PreviousContinue »
ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was presented in the temple, in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Acts viii. 14–17.
NOW WHEN THE APOSTLES WHICH WERE AT JERUSALEM HEARD
THAT SAMARIA HAD RECEIVED THE WORD OF GOD, THEY SENT UNTO THEM PETER AND JOHN; WHO, WHEN THEY WERE COME DOWN, PRAYED FOR THEM THAT THEY MIGHT RECEIVE THE
FOR AS YET HE WAS FALLEN UPON NONE OF
THEM: ONLY THEY WERE BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF THE
THEN LAID THEY THEIR HANDS ON THEM, AND
THEY RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.
The preceding sermon treated of Baptism, with the special intention of showing its connexion with Confirmation'. We are now to consider the ordi
'This sermon is compiled chiefly from Shepherd on the Common Prayer, and from the Tracts published by the Society
nance of Confirmation itself; and the following heads will afford us the opportunity of giving a tolerably comprehensive and practical view of it.
I. The manner in which it is administered in the Church of England.
II. The grounds upon which she has appointed its administration.
III. The benefits to be derived from it.
IV. The qualification and duties required of those to be confirmed.
V. The persons interested in the observance of it.
I. Confirmation appears to take its name from its connexion with Baptism. The parties come personally forward before God and the congregation, to ratify and confirm the vows made for them in their Baptism, and to declare their resolution evermore to perform faithfully their part of the covenant, into which they were then admitted.
This is done under circumstances of peculiar solemnity. The Bishop, one of the highest order of ministers in the Church of Christ, puts the question to the candidates for Confirmation,-“ Do you, , here in the presence of God and of this congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that was made in your name at your Baptism ; RATIFYING AND CONFIRMING the same in your OWN PERSONS, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe, and to do, all things which your Godfathers and Godmothers then undertook for you?” To which every one is directed to answer in an audible voice “ I DO.”
for Promoting Christian Knowledge, generally adopting their materials, and sometimes their words. I do not mark those passages as quotations, because I have seldom transcribed them word for word, and this acknowledgment may be sufficient, and save useless trouble.
Then follow some versicles, or short sentences, expressing our dependence upon God, giving Him the glory, and imploring His attention to the prayers we are to offer.
The first prayer is in conformity with the sentiments of the early Christian church ; that at Baptism the grace conferred was sufficient to cleanse us from the pollution of original sin ; but that at Confirmation a more abundant increase of grace was vouchsafed, and additional spiritual strength was given. The prayer accordingly acknowledges former mercies, “ regeneration and forgiveness of sins,” in Baptism. It then petitions, that they, on whom the Bishop lays his hands, may be strengthened with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and that God will “daily give the increase of grace," and the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit.
The resolution of the persons to be confirmed, to take upon themselves the vows and engagements made in their names, being declared, and the prayer for power to fulfil it being offered, the Bishop then proceeds to the ceremony of the laying on of his hands upon them. This act denotes the authority and commission of the Bishop, to convey the blessing of God to them. But the Church carefully guards against the misunderstanding of this authority and commission. There is no pretence that the Bishop himself is the fountain from which the blessing springs: he humbly beseeches God, the Giver of all grace, to defend those on whom the hands are laid, with His heavenly grace, that they may continue for ever, and daily increase in His Holy Spirit, until they come to His everlasting kingdom.
The office proceeds with prayer, that this rite may not be an einpty, and unmeaning ceremony; but that when the Bishop's hands shall be withdrawn, removed, and himself no longer present, the hand of God may be over all those confirmed, and His Holy Spirit always with them, producing fruits in virtue and holiness of life. The Bishop concludes with his solemn Benediction.
II. On what grounds has our Church appointed this rite?
She has authority to decree rites and ceremonies; but she is bound, and has always been especially careful, to see that they be not only edifying, but also conformable to the spirit of the Gospel, the principles of apostolic rule, and the best authenticated opinions and practices of the primitive church. In all these respects, Confirmation will be found to justify her appointment. Its forms are according to ancient Scriptural usage, and its use and intention sanctioned by the clearest evidence.
The ceremony of laying on of hands as a sign of conferring Divine Blessing, or of investing the person on whom their hands were laid with office or privileges, is of great antiquity, and described in Scripture as used on the most solemn occasions. For example, when Joseph brought his two children to receive their grandfather's dying benediction, this was the ceremony employed. The simple but sublime account of that event in the book of Genesis, may suggest some notion of the veneration attached to the ceremony. The aged Patriarch, feeling that he was now to be gathered to his fathers, exerted himself to go through this important and affecting office. Raising himself in his bed, and laying his right hand upon Ephraim's head, and his left hand upon that of Manasseh, he exclaimed, “ God -before whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, did walk-the God which fed me all my life long unto this day—the Angel which redeemed me from all evil-bless the lads! And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Again, on another occasion, equally august and solemn, the formal appointment of a successor to Moses, we find the same ceremony used. And it has been justly observed, that the history records the significant nature of the ceremony, the direct connexion of it with the blessing which it both represented and conveyed. The power and privilege is expressly stated to have followed, and to