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description) “of communicating to the faithful the gift of the Spirit.”
But I must not let “ø,” or any other, suppose that the true doctrine of confirmation rests only on the authority of the primitive fathers. No, those holy men were not inventors of novelties, like the degenerate Romans, but witnessed to those things which were taught in the Holy Scriptures; and when they applied to the rite of confirmation the term of " sealing with the Spirit,” they were but using the language in which the apostle Paul had spoken of it; 2 Cor. i. 22; Ephes. i. 13, and iv.30; as the church had received and taught.
If “ W. D.'s” opinion on confirmation is thus sustained, by inquiry at one of the two sources of authority which “Q” admits, I am sure there is nothing in the rubric and service of the church of England to contradict it. For what is the language of all the rubrics that touch upon it? Do not they all agree in representing, not that persons should confirm themselves, according to the common practice, but be confirmed; not as if it were something to be done by them, but something to be received by them ? And what that something is, if it be not grace, I must own myself at a loss to understand. And if a solemn service, to be administered to each person but once in his life, in which special grace is prayed for, for each person, by the apostle, or chief pastor of the church, with imposition of hands, be not " a special means of communicating the gift of the Spirit to the faithful,” all language is unintelligible, and all religious service an imposture.
But “ " seems to be afraid that, by this means, we shall raise it into a sacrament. Indeed, as considered as a necessary and supplemental part of baptism, that very term is used to it by St. Cyprian and others; but then their notion of a sacrament was vague and undefined. According to the English and Roman definition for in that the churches are agreed—there is (I conceive) no fear of such a result; at least, in catechizing my children, I have fancied no difficulty in drawing the distinction; and if “Q” were to ask them in what respects confirmation differs from the sacrament, they would answer him-Ist, Because it has “no outward and visible sign.” 2ndly, Because we have no proof that it “ was ordained of Christ himself.” “Q” seems (if I do not mistake) to think that there is an outward sign. I am at a loss to find it out. In baptism, water, which cleanses the body, is an outward visible sign of the grace which cleanses the soul. In the eucharist, bread and wine, which strengthen the body, are outward visible signs of the body and blood of Christ, which strengthen the soul; but I know not what benefit the imposition of hands is capable of conferring upon the body, that it should be a visible sign of any corresponding benefit conveyed to the soul. any rate, it cannot be shewn to have been ordained of Christ himself; which is a sufficient mark of distinction, even without the other.
I will add two testimonies of divines of our church, to convince “Q” that this exposition of the doctrine of confirmation has not been cunningly sought out by “W, D.” or myself, but has been the received opinion of our church. It would, I conceive, be easy to cite twenty instead of two; but I will content myself with these, which will be deemed unexceptionable: Bishop Taylor, in the seventeenth century, and Bishop Wilson in the eighteenth; and as neither of them is two hundred years old, they will, I hope, be thought sufficiently modern to answer the purpose.
Thus Bishop Taylor speaks :-“Confirmation is the consummation and perfection, the corroboration and strength, of baptism and baptismal grace." Again,-"In confirmation we receive the Holy Ghost, as the earnest of our inheritance, as the seal of our salvation.” To which purpose he cites Nazianzen :-“We therefore call it a seal, or signature, as being a guard, or custody, to us, and a sign of the Lord's dominion over us." Again, “ The Holy Ghost is promised to all men, to profit withal; that is plain from Scripture. Confirmation, or prayer and imposition of the bishop's hand, is the solemnity and rite used in Scripture for conveying that promise; and the effect is felt in all the sanctifications and changes of the soul; and he that denies these things hath not faith, nor the true notices of religion, or the spirit of Christianity."
In his “Treatise on Confirmation," vol. xi., next hear the apostolic Wilson :-“ The effect and blessing of confirmation. It is to convey the inestimable blessing of the Holy Spirit of God, by prayer, and the imposition of hands of God's ministers, that he may dwell in you, &c.” " “ Confirmation is the fulfilment of baptism. The Holy Ghost descends invisibly upon such as are rightly prepared to receive such a blessing, &c.” This is reprinted in the Oxford Tracts, 42. But if this is so---if the sacred Scriptures, if the records of the church, primitive and catholic; if the rules and formularies of our own branch of that church, and the voices of its divines, all join in bearing harmonious witness to the truth of the doctrine of confirmation, for which I am now contending,-how comes it (perhaps "0" will ask) that so few tracts are now to be found, teaching this truth? Alas ! ' need he ask the question ? If the sacraments themselves have not escaped dishonour, how can it be supposed that the subordinate means of grace should fare better? The subtle machinations of our enemy, in regard to the sacraments, making use of unhappy men, who will have cause to rue through time, and it may be through eternity, the success of their blind and infatuated attempts to rob the Christian church of her glory, her consolation, and salvation, have been forcibly alluded to by your correspondent “Laicus Londinensis," to whom the thanks of the church are due, for his plain and calm exposure of our danger. Surely, if he that shall break one of the least of Christ's commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, theirs can be no common guilt and danger who seek to invalidate the fundamental ordinances of his religion, to shake the faithful of Christ's little ones, and teach them to regard his own appointed means of heavenly grace, and spiritual communion, as little better than bare (and if bare, then, unquestionably, superstitious) signs. May God forgive them, and awaken them to a sense of the fearful hazard of immortal souls which they are thus occasioning; while they themselves are walking by sight, and not by faith, disbelieving the grace of the sacraments, because they cannot see with their eyes the
operations of the invisible Spirit! And may the extremity of their error afford a useful warning and lesson to the young, both clergy and laity, that they attempt not to break the harmony of Christian truth, by advancing one portion of it to the obscuring and injury of the rest! For these very men, who are trying to root out faith in the appointed ordinances of religion, are the same who have sought, in their own conceits, to extol faith in the abstract, as though, where it is present, it superseded the necessity of anything else. They would make the whole of religion consist in faith, or, at the most, in faith and repentance. Happily, the danger of their error scarcely equals its absurdity; which our blessed Lord's Prayer will enable us easily to expose. If a wedding garment will fill a hungry belly, then it may be admitted that faith and repentance (expressed in the parable by that figure) will feed a hungry soul. But if a wedding garment does no more than qualify a man to partake of the bridegroom's bounty, at his appointed feast, then it must be maintained, that faith and repentance do no more than qualify men to be partakers in Christ's grace, at his appointed ordinances. “ If thou believest with all thine heart,” said St. Philip, to the eunuch, “thou mayest”—what ? dispense with the ordinances of religion, and obtain salvation without them ? No; but be baptized, and so receive the grace of it. “Repent," saith St. Peter, “and”-what? despise the ordinances of grace? No; but “ be baptized, every one of you, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Arise,”
,” said Ananias to Paul, “when he was brought to a state of faith and repentance, and”—what? think yourself sure of salvation, by reason of your faith ? No; but “ be baptized, and” (50) “ wash away your sins.” “ Let a man examine himself,” (as to his faith and repentance,) saith St. Paul, “and so”—what ?' let him despise the eucharist? No; but “so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup,” which is the food of heaven, and nourisheth to eternal life,
I think I hear those who have so turned their attention to preaching as to think the ministration of the word the only ordinance of grace, objecting that, by this scheme, no room is left for it. How so? Does not faith come by hearing ?-_and repentance, also ? It was by the ministration of the word that the eunuch was brought to that repentance which made him desire grace, and to that faith which made him believe that it was to be obtained by the use of the appointed means. It was by the ministration of the word that St. Peter awakened repentance, and faith, in the hearts of the multitude; and if the ministration of the word be necessary for the first awakening these feelings, it must needs be profitable always to revive and rekindle them. By instruction from God's word, men are brought to a conviction of sin past, and the desire of forgiveness, and to a fear of sin future, and a desire to escape it: this is repentance. By instruction from the same word they are brought to believe that this pardon, and assisting grace, has been purchased for them by the Son of God, and may be obtained by the use of his appointed means : this is faith. When this hath led them humbly to make use of those means, then hath faith wrought with their" works, and by works hath faith been made perfect, and the Scripture is fulfilled, which saith, “not of Abraham only, but of every child of his in faith and obedience. He believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” And thus we see the meaning of that saying, “how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only;" while “the word,” “ faith,” “repentance," and the “means of grace," have each their due and allotted place in the scheme of human salvation.
“0” says, that if the common opinion of confirmation “ be wrong, it is time we should be better informed.” It is, indeed, time that we should avail ourselves of the information so copiously afforded by the records of the church, to defend and maintain the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, in all points, as our church has received and taught it. If the devices of the adversary are such, that while the establishment is assailed from without, the church is being betrayed from within,—and there is danger (to speak in the mildest way) lest the arsenal, which we had stored for the defence of the truth, be employed to undermine and suppress it,—it is indeed time that every one, who knows what the doctrines of the catholic church really are, should lend his aid, however feeble, to help to maintain them. It is time that, with regard to the Society in Lincoln's-inn Fields, some decided steps were taken, that they who have to defend the catholic faith may know whether they are to count that powerful engine with them, or against them. Happily, their eventual success will not be dependent upon the answer, but their method of carrying on the contest must needs be, in some degree, influenced by it.
In the meantime, if the following Tract on Confirmation, which has been drawn up in consequence of “W. D.'s” letter in the Magazine, will be of use to him, or any others, it shall be printed in the cheapest form, and offered for sale at the lowest price that will cover the cost, at the publishers of the Magazine.
TRACT ON CONFIRMATION. 1. What is confirmation ?- Ans. One of the appointed means of grace in the Christian church. 2. What grace is conveyed in it?
-A. When rightly received, it assures and seals those who have been baptized, imparting to them an increase of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
3. In what respects does it differ from a sacrament ?-A. First, Because it has no outward visible sign. Secondly, The Scriptures do not say that it was ordained of Christ himself.
4. By whom then was it ordained ?-A. The first mention in Scripture is, that it was practised by the Apostles.
5. In what does it consist ?—A. In the laying on of hands, accompanied with prayer, by the chief pastors of the church.
6. But did not miraculous effects frequently follow from the exercise of this rite by the first Apostles ?-A. They did so.
7. How then do we know that it was a rite to be continued in the church, when miracles had ceased ?- A. St. Paul speaks of it as one of the foundation principles of Christianity, which cannot be supposed to be temporary.--Heb. vi. 2.
8. Does he speak of it on occasions when we have reason to suppose miraculous effects did not follow ?-A. Yes! He speaks of it in reference to the whole church at Ephesus ; and we have reason to conclude from what he says, (1 Cor. xii. 29,) that all the members of a church, even at that time, were not endowed with miraculous gifts.
9. Repeat the passage to which you refer?-A. “In the which, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”—Ephes. i. 12.
10. Why do you suppose that by the word * sealed,” he here alludes to confirmation ?- A. Because it is the word used to express it in the primitive church.
11. Have we undoubted evidence that this rite was retained in the church, after the death of the Apostles ?--A. The clearest and most convincing. The universal prevalency of it was such that St. Jerome, speaking of this ordinance, says, do you demand where we find our authority for it? I answer, in the Acts of the Apostles. But although we could produce no positive authority of Scripture, yet the consent or practice of the whole world, in this respect, would have the force of a command.
12. What is to be thought of such persons as affect to despise this rite, and refuse to receive it?-A. They dishonour the ordinances of the Holy Spirit; disturb the order of the church ; they shew disrespect to the spiritual rulers; and are forgetful of the example of their Lord, who, when he persisted to receive the baptism of Johu, said “ Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
13. What injury do they suffer hereby?-A. They deprive themselves of the grace and blessing which they might have received; and they render themselves inadmissible to the Holy Eucharist.
14. What blessing may those look for who rightly receive this holy ordinance ?A. An increase of the grace of the Holy Spirit, as I said before.
15. Do they thereby become entitled to any new privilege ?- A. Yes; to the communion of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, to which persons unconfirmed are not admitted.
16. Do they thereby become engaged to any new duty ?-A. Yes; to the duty of partaking in the Holy Eucharist, the highest and most essential act of religious worship, and the chief means of grace.
17. Is confirmation necessary for those who have been baptized when grown up, as well as for those who received infant baptism ?- A. It was so administered by the Apostles; and has ever been required by the Christian church.
18. What is required of them who would rightly receive this ordinance ?-A. Repentance and Faith.
19. What do you mean by repentance ?--A. A conviction of past sin, and a desire for forgiveness : a fear of sin for the time to come, and a desire to overcome and escape it.
20. What do you mean by faith ?-A. Belief that the pardon and assisting grace which we thus need, has been purchased for us by the death of the Son of God, and may be obtained by those who will seek them in the appointed means.
21. Ilow are these dispositions ordinarily produced in the mind ?-A. By instruction drawn from the word of God.
22. Is anything more required of those who have been baptized in infancy?-A. Yes; that they openly engage to fulfil the duties required of them by the Christian covenant, to which they were then unconsciously admitted.
23. What are those duties ?-A. First, to avoid all sin, and everything which is displeasing to God, whether suggested by the devil, or the wishes of the body, or the love of the world. Secondly, to believe all God's declarations to men, as contained in his holy word, especially his gracious promise of pardon for what is past, and assisting grace for the time to come, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to those who will seek for these graces in his appointed ways. Thirdly, to obey all God's commandments, and to discharge the duties to God and man which are therein set forth.
24. Can a man perform these things ?- A. He can do none of them by his own strength, but by the help of the Holy Ghost he can do them so as to please God, and find acceptance before him through Jesus Christ.
25. How is the help of the Holy Spirit to be obtained ?-A. Chiefly by partaking in the Holy Eucharist; but, in subordination to that, by private and public prayer, and devout meditation on sacred things, and the practice of piety and charity, and the reading and hearing God's holy word, and the advices drawn from it.
26. Are you then resolved to endeavour to perform what is required of you, and to seek in the ways just mentioned for the assistance of the Holy Ghost that you may be able to do your duty ?- A. I am so resolved, and have thus determined, with the help of God. Vol. IX.-May, 1836.