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1. THAT there was such a practice as Con
firmation in the primitive Church, is clear from the express words of the New Testament; and that the proper subjects of it were those Christians who had already been admitted to Baptism. For the proof of which, we need only attend to the following account of this matter, which is delivered to us in the Acts of the Apostles—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 Holy Ghost. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then layed they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost". The occasion which called for the exercise of Confirmation, and all the circumstances which attended it, are here so exactly related, that I shall endeavour to explain the subject by selecting the particulars of this account, and making such remarks as are naturally suggested by each of them.
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II. It does not appear that the Christian Church subsisted any where as yet in its due form but at Jerusalem. This City was the common seat of the Apostles, who resided there, with the Elders and Deacons, as a Collegiate body; consulting together for the propagation of the Faith, sending abroad occasionally such members as they thought proper, from their own society, for the work of the ministry, and receiving intelligence from their agents in all quarters concerning such questions as arose, and such occurrences as
a Acts viii. 14, &c.
happened to them in the course of their labours.
When they heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, that is, that the people of Samaria had repented, believed, and been baptized; it is no question amongst them what ought to be done next, but it follows, as a thing of course, that they sent out Peter and John, two persons of the Apostolical Character
Here I cannot help observing, though it is somewhat foreign to my subject, that this occurrence seems by no means consistent with that superiority which some have attributed to St. Peter, over the assembly of the Apostles: it being plain that he was among his Peers, and subject to be sent out by them in common with other persons of the same order:
Peter and John being sent upon this work without any previous consultation concerning the expediency or necessity of it, it may be collected, that the Order and Discipline of the Church was already settled as to this affair, and that Confirmation by the imposition of apostolical hands was appointed to succeed regularly to the sacrament of Baptism. St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, reckoning
up the principles of the Christian, doctrine, places repentance first in order, then faith, then baptism, and after that the laying on of hands : which cannot signify the imposition of hands in ordination ; for then it could never have been placed among the first elements of instruction, proper to those only who were unskilful in the word of righteousnessa. His meaning is best explained by his own example, who, when he had found some disciples but partially instructed at Ephesus, baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then laid his hands upon them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. From all which it certainly follows, that the laying on of hands was the ordinary practice of the Christian Apostolical Church, and that it was next in order to Baptism. That it was not a part of Baptism itself, appears from the example of those at Samaria, whom Philip had baptized, but had left them to be confirmed at some other time by some other hands.
This matter being so clear according to the terms of the Scripture, I think it needless to enquire into the practice of the first Ages of the Church next after the Apostles. It is cer