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Apostles used the same Form when they healed the sick; and our blessed Saviour laid his hands on the little children when he gave them his benediction. A sign so frequently applied, and upon such important occasions, cannot be without its proper signification; and a few words will be sufficient to shew what it is.
The hands are the instruments of action and power. If any gift is presented, any assistance offered, or any commission given, from one man to another, the hands are the means of communication. The power of the human body is so eminently fixed to the hands, that hand and power are put for the same thing in the sacred language. And anciently among the Latins, manumission or a sending away from the hand, signified the releasing of a servant from the power of his master. So that if any thing is visibly communicated from God through the ministration of man, no outward sign can express this so properly as the stretching out and laying on of the hands of those persons,
who act under him and for him in a ministerial capacity. Such a substitution is necessary in our present state, because we can forın no idea of spiritual things without
the mediation of bodily objects. Moses, in his ministerial character, was the Represen. tative of God, according to what was said of hin, See, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh In virtue of this substitution, the hand of Moses was stretched out, to signify the exertion of that divine power which effected the iniracles in Egypt. All nature became obedient to the motion of his hand; not for any power it had in itself, but because the Almighty hand of God concurred with the hand of his Minister. When Christ gave his plenary commission to his Apostles after his Resurrection, he told them they should lay hands upon the Sick, and they should recover. The sense of which sign is referred to in the Hymn or Prayer recorded in the 4th Chap. of the Acts" And
now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and “ grant unto thy Servants, that with all “ boldness they may speak thy word, by “ stretching forth thine. Hand to heal." Whence it appears, plain enough for our present purpose, that when the hand of God was stretched forth for any act of divine Power, it was outwardly expressed by the
hands of his ministers. Their hands touched, but it was the hand of God which healed, confirmed, ordained, and performed such other acts
were beyond the reach of human power.
VII. That the ceremony might be effectual, the Apostles first prayed for those on whom their hands were to be laid. Notwithstanding the propriety of the sign and the plentitude of their Commission, the effect still depended on the will of God, who expects humiliation on the part of his ministers, and whose power never was nor will be at the disposal of men but at the instance of their prayers.
When the Truth of God is pledged that he will be with his Church and fulfil his promises to it, this condition is always understood, that there is a devout profession of dependence in those who distribute his gifts, and faith in those who receive them. Our Church, which retains the use of the sign, and prescribes such preparatory forms of Devotion as are suited to the occasion, is every way agreeable in its practice to the sense of the Gospel, and the example of the Apostles, when Christianity was in its purest State.
VIII. The divine Spirit is every where present. Ihither shall I go then (saith the Psalmist) from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I uscend up into Heaven thou art there : If I make my bed in Hell thou art there also. If I take the IVings of the Morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the Sea, even there shall thy Hand (i. e. thy Spirit) lead me, and thy right Hand shall hold me. If we should ask how it comes to pass, that the Spirit of God is in all places, and yet not in all men; I fear the question is too deep to be answered in a satisfactory manner. I am not able to define the presence of a Spirit. My own Spirit exercises its power in a state of association with my body, so can give me no idea of Spirit in a state of Abstraction. When my mind is present to that from which my body is remote, I know not what that presence is but memory and imagination : so that my conceptions are as imperfect as before. If I consider the natural or created Spirit of the World, that brings me nearer to the properties of the divine Spirit : for the Air, which is every, where present, is moying in some places and stagnant in others; it bloweth where it listeth. It is the breath of life, and E E 2
present to all bodies dead and alive, but it supports no respiration in a dead carcase.
The question will be more profitable, if we ask why the wisdom of God, in the distribu- . tion of his grace, hath thought fit to make use of the ministration of man? For this there are many reasons.
Our condition while we are in the body requires that we should be ministered to in a bodily manner.
Order and Decency require, that self-deceit, imposture, and confusion should be prevented in the Church. But chiefly it is expedient, that our faith and subinission to the Will of God should always find something to exercise them in every sacred Institution. This method of proceeding puts us to the proof, whether we will trust to the promise of God for the receiving of those gifts by other hands under his appointment, which he doth not vouchsafe to give us immediately from himself. It is thought to have been the cause of offence in Satan, that he was too proud to hold with the consequences of the Incarnation, and would not submit to worship God in the person of a man. It is now a like trial of our humility, whether we will ackuowledge the power and authority of God in men of like passions with ourselves, whose