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young people to the primary'principles of religious truth and duty, at the very crisis when they are the most likely to profit by the consideration of them: that is, when they are about to encounter the temptations of the world, which will be sure to meet them, in all the different employinents wherein they may be engaged; and for which they cannot be prepared, but by the holy armour of religious principle and resolution. If it were only the summons brought on parents, to attend to this important department, in the cultivation of the minds and the manners of their children; it may be beneficial to both, that thus there is an especial occasion for the performance of a duty; which, because it may be performed at any time, is, on that very account, in danger of being neglected.
There is a further use, in revering and perpetuating this ancient ordinance: ancient, not in the sense to which the term is sometimes applied, to sanction errours introduced many centuries after the apostolick age; but as including that age itself. The use referred to, is a general tendency to uphold whatever of doctrine or of discipline, being found in the ages immediately subsequent to the age of the apostles, and received as of indisputable authority, must be supposed to have been delivered by them. In late ages, there are many matters propagated with great zeal, and held to be of the last importance, which are so absolutely unknown in the remains of the ages here referred to; that if such matters were really in the minds of the apostles, it may be truly said of them, that in this respect, their me. morial had perished with them, until it revived under modern illumination. We need not to be ashamed to avow the sentiment, that all novelty in religion and under the term novelty, may be comprehended whatever has come under that name for at least fifteen hundred years past, carries the brand of errour on the very face of it. We go back far beyond that period, even to the beginning, for the origin of the rite of Confirmation: And being thus ancient, it will never be duly respected, without proportionate respect for whatever comes under the same description.
pass to the intended notice of some particulars in the service
It begins with an admonition, against the presenting of children at too early an age. This caution appears to have been inserted, at a period subsequent to the compiling of the service; and was doubtless designed for the remedy of an abuse. The precise age is wisely left undetermined, because of the difference in capacities. In England, the age of fourteen is generally recommended; although not without allowance of coming forward sooner or of being detained longer, according to the circumstances of cases. It has been my desire, to follow that example; from an opinion, that the generality of young people may be made to comprehend, at the time of life specified, the grounds of their duties to God and to their neighbours; and to have distinct ideas of the several articles in the creed. For it would be a mistake, to confine the preparation to an ability to repeat the Catechism. The form here referred to, supposes them to have learned what their sponsors promised for them; which cannot be, without their knowledge of the sense, as well as of the letter of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandinents. On this subject of age, there is evidently an extreme to be avoided on each side. At too early a period, the promise of the sponsor would be unsuitably exchanged for that of the child: but more than useful postponement, is the loss of the fittest season of holy resolution; to serve as preparation for the ensuing season of temptation. . The demand made by the bishop, goes simply to the ratifying of the baptismal vow: And the answer is merely an assent to the proposition.
We are well aware, that this is far from amounting to what would be called for, by sentiments current in the religious world; and which would imply an examination into the question of the sensible conversion of the parties. But our whole ecclesiastical system is
constructed upon principles opposite to this. It was a considerable object in the preceding lectures on the Catechism, to show, that in baptism duly performed on the suitable subjects of it, these become subjects of Christ's spiritual kingdom, in the most ample sense of the expression. In the case of infants, receiving religious education, and living in religious and virtuous habits, there is no need of their being converted. The contrary is the case with those, who have fallen into sin. But although we earnestly inculcate this, and require such evidence of it, as may be the result of profession and of conduct; yet we make no scrutiny into what are called experiences; for which we have no warrant in scripture, or in the institutions of our Church; nor any prejudice in its favour, from what we hear of its effects. Yet this hinders not the resolv. ing of doubts, and the clearing of difficulties, when the hearts of people are laid open to us, for that intent. And if our Church, for not carrying the scrutiny into the other department, should fall under censure, and be charged with limiting the sphere of religion to the producing of decorum in the conduct; her members may be .content with referring, for a contradiction of this, to her institutions. These show, that she knows of no real religion in the conduct, but such as is expressive of sensibilities; that the essence of the work of grace, is the renewal of the inward man; and that the progress of this must be a subject of experience; and a testemnot indeed of a right to Church communion, but of acceptance with the great Being to whom all hearts are open.
There follow a few sententious petitions, with suitble responses; and then a prayer, in which is the request, that God, “who hath vouchsafed to regenerate these his servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hath given them the forgiveness of all their sins, would strengthen them with the Holy Ghost the Comforter. Some of the terms here used, still sustain the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; of which out
Church speaks so strongly in her Baptismal Services, in her Catechism, and in her Articles; as was opened in my late lectures. To the transaction of baptism, there also refer the terms of " forgiveness of all their sins;" meaning such as are personal in the cases of those who were adult at baptism; and means of deli. verance from the penalty of Adam's sin, in the cases of all. In the event of a state of sin after baptism, the expressions also apply, on the condition of sincere repentance.
The form pronounced by the bishop, at the imposition of hands, requires no explanation; neither does there seem to be a call for it, in any thing that follows; unless in the Collect, in which are these words"We make our humble supplications unto thee, for these thy servants; upon whom, after the example of thy holy apostles, we have now laid our hands, to certify them, by this sign, of thy favour and gracious goodness towards them." These words have been caviled at, as savouring of the erecting of Confirmation into a Sacrament: which is defined" An outward and visi. ble sign, of an inward and spiritual grace.” In this criticism, there is fastidiousness in the use of words. Since the Church, in her Catechism, declares for two Sacraments only, of which Confirmation is not one; and since this is by name excluded from the number of them, in her twenty-fifth Article; it is evident, that she uses the word “sign" as synonimous with gesture, and not as expressive of any material substance: of which there is none appropriated to the ordinance in question, but which she defines to be essential to a Sacrament.
The brevity aimed at ought not to be so strict, as to prevent the concluding with an exhortation to those, who have just now been the subjects of the ordinance.
My brethren and my sisters; you have assumed no obligation, beyond what lies on you, independently on any promise exacted of you in the service: For we are bound as rational and accountable beings, to lead religious and virtuous lives; and this is the amount of your stipulation. The occasion of any solemn resolution to the effect, is for the purpose of the more impressing of our duty on our consciences: and the use of doing this in an ordinance of divine appointment, is not only for the additional solemnity hereby given to such a determination of the mind; but because we must believe, that God will bless the means which his own wisdom has instituted; making them the channels of his grace, if it be fervently implored, with a disposition to improve it.
It is not my design, to unfold the various duties to which you have just now assented, in the promise made before God and before the Church. But I wish to exhort you to bear in mind the promise; and especially to recal it to your remembrance, whenever it may thereby prove a restraint from sin, or an incitement to any Christian work.
It may be of use to notice the influence of this sin. gle intimation, as it relates to a sense of religion in the mind--to a profession before the world, and to the evidencing of the sincerity of the one and the existence of the other, in a holy life and conversation.).
It has been already remarked, and the repetition of it ought not to be tedious, that the seat of all religion is in the mind; whatever does not reach the movements of it, being no more than worldly prudence at the best, in itself perhaps commendable, but not uniting us to the Father of our spirits. Therefore we are instructed in the Scriptures, to "worship him in spirit and in truth;'* we are cautioned that “ with the heart" meaning with that only—“Man believeth unto righteousness;”+ and we are told, that “a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good.”+ This right state of the affections, is what we have not from nature: Accordingly it is always described in the same Scriptures, as operated by a divine agency; the effect of which is “ a renewal after the image of him who created us.”If it be asked
* John iv, 23. f Rom. x, 10. | Matt, xii. 352 $ Col.iii. 10.