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custom of the whole Christian world; and then adds, “ When persons are baptized in the inferior towns by priests and deacons, the Bishop travels out to them, to lay his hand upon them and invoke the Holy Spirit?.” Indeed, the ceremony of imploring the divine grace, by the laying on of hands, seems to have been derived from the pious and simple practice of the Patriarchs, to have been preserved among the usages of the Jews, adopted and authorized by our blessed Saviour, employed by the Apostles, and continued in the church to the present time. In fact, the observance is so natural, so pleasing, so important, and so free from superstition, that, if there were less argument for it to be derived from Scripture, it might be safely allowed to rest on the obvious ground of its eminent simplicity and usefulness.
A more affecting sight is scarcely to be seen than that of a number of young persons coming forward, in the presence of the Church, to join themselves publicly to their Saviour, in the bonds of his covenant, and to seek the paternal prayers and blessings of their Bishops on their tender and newly-formed resolutions. Every visible Church of Christ has accordingly retained either this rite of Confirmation, or some other analogous to it, by which those, who were devoted to God in their infancy, might be confirmed in their pious designs of personally following the Saviour, and might be admitted into the full communion of the body of Christ. The corrupt Church of Rome has indeed debased this primitive ordinance, as it has almost every doctrine and practice of the Scripture, and has loaded it with many unscriptural and superstitious ceremonies; but this may only serve the more to recommend to us the native and lovely character of the rite itself, as it is retained in our Protestant Church.
5 Tom. ii. p. 56.
WHO ARE THE PERSONS INVITED TO BE CONFIRMED.
They are the younger members of Christian families, who have enjoyed the blessing of being dedicated to God in their infancy, who have had prayers offered and vows undertaken in their behalf, who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and been made partakers of all the privileges of a covenant relation to God. These persons having attained the age of reason, and being disposed and assisted by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to take upon themselves the profession of their Christian faith, and ratify, in
their own name, the vows formerly made for them, are invited to present themselves to the Bishop to be confirmed. The age is not determined by the Church, but is expressed generally by the words, “a competent age,” which implies that none should be admitted till they can understand the nature of the obligations they are to take upon themselves, and are capable of forming, in dependance on divine grace, a determination to love and serve their Redeemer. It is commonly understood, however, that young persons who have attained the age of fourteen years, seriously desiring to devote themselves to God, under a sense of their need of pardon, reconciliation, and spiritual grace, are the proper persons to be encouraged and invited to join in this delightful and honourable duty.
WHAT IS THE PREPARATION TO BE MADE BY THOSE
WHO ARE ABOUT TO BE CONFIRMED.
This is a most important part of my subject, and will require to be entered into at some length. May God be with us by his Holy Spirit in considering it!
I observe then, in general, that this preparation consists in a penitent sense of sin, in an humble faith in the merits and atonement of Jesus Christ, in a sincere desire to be renewed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and in a resolution to be devoted to the service and glory of God, according to the covenant of grace. Repentance, faith, and obedience, are the sum of what you are to seek for.
Remember, therefore, that you are not to prepare for Confirmation as a mere matter of form or ceremony; much less with a blind superstitious reliance on the outward duty: neither are you to imagine that you can make yourselves worthy of God's grace, nor are you in any respect to depend upon the performance of this duty in a way of merit or desert before God: this would be to lay the foundations of this act in pride, ignorance, and presumption. The
preparation you are to make is that which becomes a sinner in approaching the Holy God as revealed in Jesus Christ, in order to enter into covenant with him.
To this end, First, Be firmly persuaded of the truth of Christianity. When you are about to enter on so solemn an engagement, it is important for you to review the evidences of your faith. Recollect, then, the arguments which are to be derived from the accomplishment of prophecies, and the performance of miracles; from the character of Christ; from the purity of his doctrines, and the excellency of his precepts, confirmed by his resurrection from the dead; from the rapid propagation of the Gospel through the world; from its suitableness to our state and wants; from its actual effects on the hearts and lives of those who obey it; and from the inefficient and debased nature of every pretended revelation.
Secondly, Labour to be deeply affected with your lost estate as transgressors before God. Let it be your prayer to be abased and humbled for your original and actual sins. Consider that you were born in sin, and shapen in iniquity; remember the Holy Law of God, which requires truth in the inward parts; compare your heart, motives, dispositions, temper, and conduct, with this unerring rule; hear the law pronounce you accursed; see the just indignation of the righteous God hanging over you; think of the terrors of death and judgment, and the awful state of those who die in their sins; pray to the Blessed Spirit to enable you to perceive and feel, with genuine contrition of heart, the whole ruin, misery, condemnation, guilt, and helplessness, of your fallen condition.
Thirdly. View by faith the stupendous mercy of God in his only begotten Son. Consider the boundless grace and love of God in giving his own Son as the Saviour of sinners;