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fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth:“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 then; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Similar to this, is what we find in the nineteenth chapter of the same book, from the first verse to the sixth-" And it came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth; Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus. And finding certain disciples, he said unto them, have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard, whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him that should come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied.
It is evident, in each of the passages here recited, that the ceremony of the imposition of hands, was with an especial view to the participation of those miracu. lous gifts, which began on the day of Pentecost, and were continued through the apostolick age, for the founding of the Church: And therefore, we ought not to be backward to confess, that the places in themselves give no evidence of a rite, 'designed for Chris. tians generally; and to be of perpetual obligation. But Sif it can be proved, that there was a rite of this deescription, in and immediately after the apostolick age; we may infer, that the rite began in the manner recorded in the Acts, and that the difference between it, as it appeared in the beginning, and when it came under
subsequent administration, consisted altogether in there having been attached to the former, a circume stance of temporary duration.
That this was indeed the case, we prove from the first of the two verses of the sixth chapter of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews" Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and the laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment."
It is evident from several particulars in this Epistle to the Hebrews, that the apostolick writer of it considered them as having undergone a very great declension, from the original zeal of their profession: And he had seen occasion to admonish them, a few verses before the text—" Ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” Having reproved them thus, and in other sayings like it, towards the conclusion of the fifth shapter; he begins the sixth, with exhorting them to rise above such a quiescent state, and to go on to the higher attainments of the Christian life. In doing this, he refers to the primary elements of Christianity. It was natural, in the enumeration of these, to begin with
repentance and faith," the qualifications for “ baptism.” It was equally natural, that this should follow, as a rite of standing obligation. There was no reason for its being followed by the laying on of hands; unless it were also a rite, which concerned the members of the Church in general, and occupying the very place which we assign to it, in the arrangement of our religious services. The representation is confirmed by the mention of “the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment:" primary articles of our Creed, and interesting to people of all descriptions. There seems no possible way of accounting for the introduction of " the laying on of hands," in the enumeration here made, except as designed of what we call Confirmation: for as to the notion of a reference to the conferring of miraculous gifts, it would be very improper to class this, as one of the elements; so properly contrasted with the “
going on unto perfection:" which must have been either intellectual or moral; or most probably both.
We do not allege any other text of scripture, as relative to the institution: But in the way of sustaining our sense of scripture, by a recurrence to facts; we have much to offer from primitive practice. We find the ordinance in question celebrated in very early times, in the Churches throughout the Christian world. It is impossible to account for this, but on the principle of its having been handed down from the beginning: which accordingly rests this fact on some of the clearest principles of moral evidence. After the best ages of the Church had passed over; the opinion of the necessity of the ordinance grew to so extravagant a height, that there was introduced the practice of ad. ministering it to infants: which was a natural attendant on another faulty practice that of administering the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, to persons of the same description. And these two corruptions prevailed for a time only. :: At the reformation, the Church of England saw the propriety of continuing the ancient and apostolick rite of Confirmation. It was also continued by the Churches, which reformed under the direction of Dr. Martin Luther; with this difference, that there being no bishops over them, their presbyters confirm. * But the ordinance was dropt by some, although retained by others of the Churches, which reformed on the maxims of the celebrated John Calvin. And yet, this eminent man gives the following testimony in favour of the ordinance, in the first chapter of the fourth book of his principal work, called “The Institutions of the Christian Religion”-" It was an ancient custom, that the children of Christian parents, when they were
This is to be understood with the exception of the Churches of Sweden and Denmark, which are Episcopal
grown up, should be presented to the bishop, to do that office which was required of persons who were baptized at adult age. Forasmuch as that being baptized in infancy, they could not then make any confession of their faith before the Church, they were again brought by their parents before the bishop, and examined by him in the Catechism, which they had then in a certain form of words. And that this act, which ought to be grave and sacred, might have the greater reverence, the ceremony of the imposition of hands was used in the exercise of it. And so the youth, after their faith was approved, were dismissed with a solemn benediction." Soon after he adds—" Such an imposition of hands as this, which is used purely as a blessing, I very much approve of, and wish it were now restored to its pure and primitive uses."*
The same Calvin, commenting in another work on the second yerse of the sixteenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, considers it as abundantly proving, that the origin of Confirmation was from the apostles. He explains the passage as meaning a rite, administered either, to persons not within the Church, who had not made a profession of their faith antecedently to baptism, or to those who had been baptized in infancy, and being afterwards instructed in the faith, presented themselves at Catechism.t
• Between the two passages quoted from the Institutions of Calvin, he considers Jerome as mistaken in representing Confirmation as an apostolick appointment: by which he is here understood as denying, not its being practised by the apostles, but its being appointed by them for perpetual observ. ance. See the next pote..
† Calvin's interpretation of the passage, is the reason of the construction put in the preceding note, on a sentence in his Institutions, between the two quotations from that work.
His sense of Heb. vi. 2. is taken as it stands in Poole's Synopsis. The present au hor has not access to the particular work of Calvin, in which the exposition is given: but Poole.
considered as accurate. And he was a Calvinist in doctrine, belonging also to a communion, among whom the rite of Confirmation did not obtain.
The immediate successour of Calvin to the theological chair of Geneva--the learned Theodore Beza-delivers the same opinion in his annotations on the same place. His words(rendered)are-"The doctrine which used to be delivered, especially to the ignorant, in baptism, and in the imposition of hands: that is, when there was an assembling for the baptizing of either infants or adults; also for the laying on of hands on such.” Beza evidently speaks of the rite as originating in apostolick times, and as here sanctioned by the apostle of the Gentiles.
Although we look to divine appointment and to that only, for the obligation of the ordinance; yet we may allow it to be the more venerable in our eyes, and to be the more perseveringly adhered to, because of its obvious uses in practice.
However great the errour of rejecting trom baptism those children of believers, whom Christ acknowledg. ed as the members of his Church; yet it is undeniable, that infants are unconscious of what is transacted in their behalf; and that in this heavenly citizenship, as in the earthly one, it lies on certain persons, whether in the character of parents or of sponsors, to instruct them in the duties bound on them by the act of others, and in which they bore no part. An ordinance which
pro vides for the child's assuming of the duties in due time, does away even the appearance of imperfection in the system: and therefore it should be acceptable, even on the grounds of expediency; and as helping to obviate those prejudices, which represent Christianity as less beneficial to the children of believers, than was Judaism; which contemplated them as objects of a divine covenant.
Another use, is the calling of the attention of
The result of the testimonies from Calvin, taken together, is, that whatever he may have thought of the perpetuity of the obligation of the ordinance, he believed it to have been prac. tised by the apostles, and to have been very beneficial in the ensuing ages of the Church