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orders, will as soon give the Holy Ghost to a Simon Magus, as to an apostle; and with his perfect ignorance of the secret working of the human mind, to assume the privilege of disposing, to whom he pleases, of one of the sacred persons in the Godhead, is shockingly profane.
But there is no contradicting facts. The bishops do not give the Holy Ghost. They do not confer his extraordinary gifts; for neither the ordainer nor the ordained can speak with tongues, or discern spirits, or work miracles. They do not confer his ordinary gifts; for they neither regenerate their priests, nor shed the love of God abroad in their hearts, nor impel them forwards in the paths of holy obedience.
It is as foolish, therefore, as it is wicked to make such pretensions.
If we are to judge from the conduct of the bishops, they have got the Spirit completely in their power. He is permitted to excite some inward motions in deacons ; but they have not a sufficient measure of his influence to enable them to absolve the sick, and administer the Lord's supper! When they receive priests' orders, they are favoured with another portion of his influence; but still they have not enough to qualify them to govern the church; much less have they any to spare to give to others; hence presbyter ordination is deemed good for nothing! The Holy Ghost must, therefore, be received a third time, to qualify for the office and work of a bishop. No text of scripture is quoted to support the practice of giving the Spirit of God by piece-meal in this way; and it is altogether indefensible, except as necessary to uphold a monstrous system of priestcraft. Some religious ceremonies may be laughed at for their foolishness; but when the divine Spirit is halved and quartered in such a manner, the shocking impiety of the thing must excite, in every virtuous breast, a struggle betwixt terror and indignation.
If it were supposed possible to receive the Holy Ghost immediately from God, in answer to prayer, it would be unnecessary to apply to a bishop. It will, therefore, avail high churchmen nothing to prove merely, that the apostle conferred the Holy Spirit, and authorised their successors to do the same, (though it is shown that they can prove neither,) except they can also make it appear, contrary to the express
words of scripture, that our heavenly Father will ” not
give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ;" because if God has reserved to himself the power of answering the prayers of his people, a dissenter may possibly be as successful by supplication to a throne of grace, as a churchman by kneeling devoutly to a bishop.
The authority of the reformers will weigh more with some people, than either scripture or reason. Cranmer gives his judgment upon this point in the following words: “ In the admission of many of these officers (of the church) bee divers comely ceremonies and solemnities used, which be not of necessity, but only for a goodly order and semely fashion. For if such offices and ministrations were committed without such solemnitye, that were nevertheles truly committed. And there is no more promise of God, that grace is given in the committing of the ecclesiastical office, then it is the committing of the cyvile.” These sentiments are christian. Use as many ceremonies as you please lay on holy hands, breathe holy breath, etc. Only allow that these things are not necessary, and do not unchristian those who have so much film
their eyes, that they cannot perceive them to be quite so comely, as they appear to your view. The apostles put the overseers of the poor into office by the imposition of hands; and the same, or other ceremonies may be used in conferring other offices. Let it be allowed, that you can give as much grace to an exciseman, or to a constable, as a bishop can to a priest, and the sentiment is candid and admissible. By the by, it is a pity that ceremonious ordination to civil offices is not more frequent; it might make the ordinations of bishops more cheap!
Stillingfleet's Irenicum, part ii., chap. 8, p. 391.
Nelson says, that, “the words, 'Receive thou the Holy Ghost,' etc., are in none of the ancient rituals.'* In fact, there is no evidence whatever that the clergy affected to give the Spirit before the thirteenth century; but when they had claimed the titles, it is no wonder that they usurped the prerogatives of the supreme Being.
In the primitive church, the presbyters were ordained by imposition of hands and prayer, and every bishop used what form of prayer he pleased on the occasion. The only form preserved in the Constitutions f runs in these words : Look, O Lord, upon this thy servant, who is chosen into the presbytery by the suffrage and judgment of all the clergy, and fill him with the spirit of grace and counsel, that he may help and govern thy people with a pure heart. In like manner, as thou hadst respect to thy chosen people, commanding Moses to make choice of elders, whom thou didst replenish with thy Spirit. And now, Lord, do the same thing, preserving in us the never-failing spirit of thy grace; that he, being full of healing powers and instructive discourse, may with' meekness teach thy people, and serve thee sincerely, with a pure mind, and willing soul, and unblamably perform the sacred services for thy people, through Christ,” etc.
The form used at the ordination of bishops was in these words: “Grant to him, O Lord Almighty, by thy Christ, the communication of the Holy Spirit," etc. I
In these instances, it is clear enough that the ordainers had no idea that they possessed a power of conferring the Spirit of God; they besought his influence from heaven, perfectly unconscious that it resided in their own hands. Not a single trace can be found of prelates pretending to confer the Holy Ghost, for the first twelve hundred years. Our English form of ordination, it is well known, is taken from the Roman pontifical. After all the talk, therefore, of Jesus Christ giving bishops a power to confer the Holy Spirit, their anthority is derived, not from the gospel according to the evangelists, but from the gospel according to the popes.
* Rights of the Clergy. Art. Ordination. + Constit. Apost., lib, viii., chap. 16. | Constit. Apost., lib. viii., chap. 5.
In the ceremony of confirmation, a bishop lays his hands upon the heads of young people, and assures them that this holy touch is a sign to certify them of the gracious goodness of God towards them. But how the imposition of a bishop's hands can be any sign, evidence, proof, or confirmation, to any one, of the divinity of the christian religion, and of his own personal, saving interest in it, is a “mystery of godliness” which will require all the sagacity of his lordship to explain. It must be noted, that no virtue is necessary in order to enjoy this sacred and soul-reviving sign. The only qualifications required of candidates for confirmation are, that they be able to say the creed, the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, answer the other questions in the short catechism,” and promise to be very good for the future. These things being duly certified to the bishop, without a single inquiry being made into their past conduct, he prays, " Almighty and everlasting God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins,” etc., and then proceeds to lay his hands upon them, which he assures them is a sign of the gracious goodness of God towards them. Thus, churchmen may be pardoned, sanctified, and assured of their acceptance, without having paid any attention to the moral precepts of the gospel.
The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit which followed
the laying on of the hands of the apostles, were a confirmation to the first christians that their religion was of God. But what confirmation can the imposition of a bishop's hands be of the divine original of christianity, when no sensible influence of the Spirit follows the use of the rite? If a professor of astronomy, should undertake to demonstrate the truth of the Copernican system, by laying his hands on the heads of students, the man would be deemed fit for a strait jacket.
The laying on of hands was performed by the apostles immediately after baptism; (Acts viii. 14-17; xix. 5, 6;) and this practice obtained in the church for many centuries; hence infants were confirmed as well as adults. “ The custom ought to have been laid aside when the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit ceased; and it is as ridiculous to continue it now, as it would be for bishops to stretch themselves upon dead persons, because a prophet and an apostle used this ceremony in restoring the dead to life.
Confirmation was soon magnified far above baptism, and many most ridiculous ceremonies were added to it, to command the reverence of the superstitious. A compound of oil and balsam, called chrism, was consecrated by the bishop, and with this he anointed the forehead and other parts of the body. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, tells those who were baptized, that “they were first anointed in the forehead, to wipe away that shame which the first man by his transgression had contracted; and that they might now with open
face behold the glory of the Lord. Then they were anointed on the ears, that they might have ears to hear the divine mysteries. After that on the nose and breast, that they might be a sweet savour unto the Lord, and being armed with the breast-plate of righteousness, might be able to withstand all the insults of the devil.” (Cyril. Catech. Myst. iii., c. 3.) Baptism, without all this nonsense, was supposed to be incomplete ; hence the author of the Constitution represents a person who has been baptized, but not confirmed, as no better than a Jew; he has put away the filth of the body by water, but is