« הקודםהמשך »
ration for a due use of the several formularies of our church consists in the devout and intelligent study of those formularies themselves. It is only as we set ourselves to analyse, consider, and apply them, with a personal interest, that we shall enter into their meaning, or catch their spirit. With such application, comments become almost unnecessary: without it, they must be ineffectual. Not by reading many and various books, but by reading the same book much and often, do we truly benefit either the understanding or the heart.
Turning, therefore, to the Order of Confirmation, we find the nature and object of that rite there stated to be simply this:- First, that “ children being come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promised for them in baptism, they may themselves, with their own mouth and consent, openly before the church, ratify and confirm the same.” Secondly, that having thus “ acknowledged themselves bound to believe and to do all those things which their godfathers and godmothers then undertook for them,” they may “promise that, by the grace of God, they will evermore endeavour themselves faithfully to observe such things as they, by their own confession, have assented to.” And, Thirdly, that having thus adopted and renewed their baptismal Vow, they may receive the assurance
of God's favour, and the communication of God's Holy Spirit, to encourage and enable them to fulfil the same.
A public Recognition of our baptismal vow
-A public Dedication of ourselves to fulfil that yow
And a public Reception of Divine encouragement and grace to accomplish that fulfilment; these are the purposes for which Confirmation is ordained.
Confirmation, then, though not a Sacrament, (for the distinctive mark of a Sacrament is, that it is
an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace thereby vouchsafed to us, ordained by Christ himself,” and there are no rites so ordained but Baptism and the Supper of the Lord) is nevertheless a most important and salutary ordinance, worthy of our deepest sympathies, and to be entered on with both gratitude and expectation. Its antiquity is undoubted. For St. Jerome admits that, “ where persons, in the inferior towns had been baptized by priests and deacons, it was the custom of the churches that the bishop should travel out to them, for the purpose of invoking on them the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands.” And St. Cyprian expressly grounds this custom on the example of the Apostles, in the case of the Samaritan converts ; declaring, “ The believers in Samaria had already been baptized ; only, that which still was needful for them Peter and John supplied by prayer and laying on of hands, in order that the Holy Ghost might be poured out upon them :" and adding, “ This same practice is now customary among us ; for, those who have received baptism in the church are presented to the Governors thereof, that by means of our prayers and the laying on of our hands, the Holy Ghost may be imparted to them, and their Christian privileges may be consummated by the seal of Christ.” Nor does it less commend itself to us as a matter of propriety and fitness. So much so, that wherever infant baptism is practised, some method of personal and conscious recognition of our baptismal obligations, at a maturer age, is felt to be almost essential to the full completion of that rite. born again,” says the same St. Cyprian, “not by the laying on of hands, but in our baptism ; that, having been thus born again, we may, by laying on of hands, receive the Holy Ghost.” And hence the requisition that is made by some denominations of Christians, of a statement of experience, to be examined and approved by the society, before young persons can be admitted into full communion, and accounted members of the church.*
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• A similar feeling of the necessity of some personal recognition of a covenant made in infancy has led the Jews to practise a similar solemnity with reference to Circumcision. When their children have attained the age of thirteen, and have learned
Now, Confirmation responds to this feeling, and supplies this need. It affords the opportunity to every opening mind to pause upon the threshold of active life, to recollect the character which has been stamped upon us in our infancy, and intelligently and deliberately to adopt that character for
It brings the youth of our congregations into personal contact with their minister, just at the time when they are most susceptible of friendly and affectionate advice. It enables them to open out the thoughts and feelings which may have already begun to stir within them in secret. It wins their confidence towards an intelligent guide, who can direct their inexperienced minds, and preserve them from the errors of youthful enthusiasm. It, institutes a connexion and communication, of which they will be ready to avail themselves in after-seasons of perplexity, of sorrow, or of temptation. It developes in them the first feelings of social piety, and awakens interest for the general welfare of the church of which they are members. It introduces them to their spiritual ruler, the Bishop of the Diocese, and connects the idea of his supervision with the more local ministrations of their stated pastor. And it thus reminds them of their relation to the National Church, and of all the sympathies and duties which should flow therefrom. I speak, dear brethren, feelingly upon this subject. I owe much, personally, to the period of my own confirmation, which stands out prominent as an epoch in the history of my life. I owe much, relatively to my people, to this blessed rite, the occasions of which have afforded just those soft and gentle moments of access to the heart, in which the words of truth drop as the dew upon
the law and the Mishna, they are brought before the congregation to make public avowal of their responsibility, and are thenceforth called “Sons of the Precept,” i. e. self-dedicated and obliged to its fulfilment.
the tender herb.
O. may such an occasion be now blessed to us ! O that the fertilizing Spirit of God may now descend into many a youthful heart, and quicken it into life and fruitfulness !
Let us turn now to the Sign by which the benefits of Confirmation are symbolized. This also is a practice of remote antiquity. We find it employed by the patriarch Jacob, when the two sons of Joseph were brought to him that he might bless them. For, “ Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, and he blessed Joseph and said, 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 !” Gen. xlviii. 14, 15.