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PLAIN AND AFFECTIONATE
My Young FRIENDS, The Bishop having given notice of his intention of holding a Confirmation in this Diocese, I am desirous of addressing you, as plainly as I can, on the many important subjects which you are in consequence called to consider. May God, by his Holy Spirit, bless what I may write to your spiritual and eternal benefit.
I will endeavour to explain to you,
II. WHO ARE THE PERSONS INVITED TO BE CONFIRMED.
III. WHAT IS THE PREPARATION THEY SHOULD
IV. WHAT ARE THE CHIEF PARTS IN THE ORDER OF CONFIRMATION TO BE USED BY THE BISHOP.
V. WHAT ARE THE BLESSINGS WHICH THEY WHO ARE CONFIRMED MAY EXPECT TO RECEIVE.
VI. WHAT ARE THE ESPECIAL DUTIES TO WHICH THEY WILL BE BOUND.
VII. WHAT ARE THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THEY
SHOULD BE INFLUENCED.
WHAT CONFIRMATION IS.
The word Confirmation means strengthening or establishing. It is applied to the religious rite of laying on of hands, because the young person. then confirms and ratifies, in his own person, the vows which had been made for him at his baptism; and the Bishop confirms and strengthens himn in his pious resolutions, by prayer, and imposition of his chands. The simple design of it is, that those, who have been devoted to God in infancy in the sacrament of Baptism, may, when they come to years of discretion, take upon themselves the solemn engagements which were made for them by their godfathers and godmothers, by a public and direct acknowledgment and confirmation of their baptismal covenant with God, before the Bishop, and the whole Church; and that they may receive the benefit of public prayer and episcopal benediction, with the ancient and scriptural rite of laying on of hands, in order that they may be so confirmed and strengthened by God's Holy Spirit, as to be enabled to perform their vows, and adorn their Christian profession, and may be afterwards admitted to the Lord's Table, as complete members of the visible Church of Christ.
This rite is derived from the practice of the Apostles. We are informed, that when the inhabitants of Samaria had been converted and baptized, and had received the word of God, the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John, were sent to lay their hands on these new converts, that they might receive the Holy Ghost'. And the disciples at Ephesus, after they had been baptized in the name of Jesus, were confirmed by St. Paul, who laid his hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost?. And though the extraordinary gifts of the blessed Spirit have ceased, yet the ordinary influences of his grace are still granted, and are as necessary now to the great purposes of sanctification as in the first ages of the Church; and indeed it seems evident that the Apostle Paul alludes to the continuance of this rite, as an ordinary means
I Acts, viii. 14--17.
Acts, xix. 1-7.
of strengthening the faith of Christians, by joining it with Baptism, and describing both as among the first principles of the oracles of God. It is a point beyond all doubt, that such has been the opinion of the Church from the very times of the Apostles. Tertullian, who flourished only eighty years after St. John, and is very careful in relating the practice of the primitive Church, has these words : “ After Baptism succeeds laying on of hands, by prayer calling for and inviting the Holy Spiritu.” St. Cyprian, who flourished about sixty years after Tertullian, remarks, on the History of the Samaritan Converts, “ the same thing is practised among us, that they who are baptized in the Church are presented to the governors of it, that by their prayers and imposition of hands, they may obtain the Holy Ghost, and be perfected with the seal of Christs.” “ And though,” saith St. Augustine',“ the speaking with tongues and working of miracles do not now attend the laying on of hands, as in the days of the Apostle, yet any one may know whether he has received the Holy Ghost, by the love he bears to his brother, and his desire of the peace and unity of the Church of Christ." And St. Jerome speaks of it distinctly, as recommended by the
3 Heb. v. 12. vi. 1, 2.
5 Epist. 73.