« PreviousContinue »
ng as at an ordinary meal. And this is what is called "the not discerning of the Lord's body," that is the not noting of the difference between the appointed sign of it and common food. sedy CHA It is the more surprising, that there should be so often mistaken the sense of the word unworthily;" as it is utterly inconsistent with humility in the best of Christians, to suppose themselves worthy of the benefits assured to them in the Lord's Supper. But let the idea of worthiness be transferred from the person, to the demeanour during the celebration; and understood as expressing no more than its suitableness to the occasion; and immediately, a different sense is visible on the passage. That this is the true sense, the connexion shows.
The "damnation,"—that is the condemnation.or judgment spoken of, is the being subjected to certain temporal punishment, by which God, in the infancy of his Church, vindicated the sanctity of this sacred rite. For that reference is had not to judgment in another world, but to temporal punishment in this, appears from what is said" for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep:" And "we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." In short, the precise fault of the Corinthians is avoided, by the merely recollecting with reverence, that the bread and wine which are the objects of our senses, are representations of the body and blood of Christ, which were offered as a sacrifice for our sins. Doubtless, in addition to such recollection, the occasion should be an excitement of pious affections and holy resolution. But the obligation to this, is the result of the nature of the subject generally; and not of the particular handling of it, in the said passage to the Corinthians.
To bring the whole matter to a single point, we may fairly rest it on this ground. Has the ordinance in question been instituted by the divine author of
our religion? If the question be answered in the negative, it bars all further inquiry. But if the affirmative be the correct decision and I address myself to those who are convinced of this-there can be no state of mind which should exclude us from the celebration of it, except such as we ought to be afraid to live or to die in. Accordingly they to whom this applies, are thus particularly addressed in one of the exhortations of our Church" Wherefore do ye not repent and amend?" As for those who are not conscious that they are living in any course of conduct, which blasts their hopes of happiness hereafter; they are now earnestly entreated to conform to this appointed profession of Christianity; which, as was said in the beginning, must be imperfect at the best, in any other form. And it is to be hoped, that this exhortation will be especially regarded by those, who are in the afternoon to be the subjects of the holy rite of confirmation; which, in all the ages of the Church, has been considered as preparatory to the eucharistick celebration of the great sacrifice of the cross; by the merit of which alone, there can be an acceptance of ourselves, or of our devotions, or of any of our works. [See Disertation VIII.]
The Design of this Lecture.-Scriptural Authorities.-The Fathers. English and Lutheran Churches.-Opinion of Calvin and Beza. Uses of the Ordinance.-Particulars in the Service. Exhortation to Subjects of the Rite.-Espe cially to Young Persons.
THE present Lecture, is on the ordinance of Confirmation; and may properly be considered as a part of the lectures which were proposed to be delivered on the Catechism: because the title of the instrument is-" A Catechism, that is to say an instruction, to be learned by every person, before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop."
It is not uncommon to find within our communion, persons who are uninformed of the grounds on which we practise the rite to be discoursed of. In regard to those who have this day submitted to the administration of it; we may hope, that there needs not any thing to be now said, in the way of explanation: because, as every person offering is expected to have previously applied to one of the clergy, there is thus an opportu nity afforded of obtaining all the satisfaction which may be required. It is therefore principally for the information of those who have been witnesses of the transaction, that there is to be given the following brief statement of the reasons of our retaining of this ancient rite: to which will be added an explanation of such parts of the service, as may seem liable to be misunderstood.
The origin of it was as follows: We read in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, verses
The Lecture was delivered immediately after the administration of the rite.
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 them; 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 miraculous 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 Christians generally; and to be of perpetual obligation. But if 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 circumstance 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 chapter; 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