« ÎnapoiContinuați »
Spirit more and more, until he come unto thy everlasting kingdom. Amen.”
Now in regard to this, more correctly termed the ceremonial part of the ordinance, two points suggest themselves to our notice, which, at the beginning of this discourse, I promised to consider here in their proper places. The first of these points is, the person who officiates; the second is the form or gesture which is used. Why, in the first place, it may be asked, is the bishop appointed as the most proper person to act upon this occasion ?
Have we any express order given us in the Scriptures, that the bishops alone, who are of the highest order of the priesthood, should perform the ceremony ? It might further be asked; could not the ratification and the confirmation be undertaken in the presence of a subordinate minister, as well as in the presence of a bishop? Undoubtedly, my brethren, it could, and in cases of extreme urgency or necessity, such probably has been the case. Yet, in those things which are not directly enforced by God himself, our national church has acted most wisely in following the examples which have been given in the Holy Scriptures, a rule in respect to which she assimilates herself to the primitive church, and to the church as it was established immediately after the age of the apostles. Now, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find that though the inferior and subordinate ministers performed the rite of baptism, yet it always happened that the apostles, or others who were dis
tinguished from the common order of ministers, were selected to bless and confirm the minds of those who had been previously admitted into the church by baptism. In compliance with such a practice, we read that when many of the inhabitants of Samaria had been baptized by Philip the Deacon, there went unto them the apostles “ Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”* Many other passages of similar im. port might likewise be mentioned, but our text will suffice for the present.
“ And Paul,” an apostle, “chose Silas and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches.” And that such a practice was not only scriptural, but reasonable, will appear the more clearly when we consider the form of “ laying on of hands,” used at confirmation. The whole ceremony, indeed, must be regarded in the light of a blessing on the part of him who officiates, to whom his superior dignity will secure him more attention and respect. Now the dignity of the party who blesses, as well as the gesture which he uses on the occasion, are authorized by examples of great antiquity. Accordingly we find Noah, Abraham, and Isaac, all preeminent in years and dignity, conferring a blessing on those who were inferior to them in these respects, and though, in the account of the blessings which
Acts, viii. 17.
those patriarchs conferred, we do not find that they placed their hands upon the heads of their children, yet it by no means follows that they did not do this, for in the above cases, only the bare act of blessing is mentioned, and no particulars are given respecting it. The case, however, is different in regard to the narrative of the blessing conferred by Jacob upon his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh. Here we have full particulars given us, part of which are as follows: “ And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim's head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh's head, guiding his hands wittingly.” This custom was likewise observed by the apostles, one example of which has been given in the case of Peter and John, who went down to Samaria to visit those who had been before baptized by Philip. The custom has been followed ever since by the Christian church, from generation to generation, and by such reasons has our own church been influenced, both as to the person who blesses, and the form which he observes in conferring his blessing.
As the substance of the blessing, which I have already recited, is similar to the preceding prayer, there is no necessity that I should now make any remarks upon it. I will simply observe, that Jacob's blessing was conferred in the form of a prayer to the Almighty It ran thus: may “the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads ; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” a And so, seventeen hundred years afterwards, we find that Peter and John prayed for those upon whom they were about to lay hands, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. And, in like manner, the bishop lays on his hands, and says: “Defend, O Lord, this thy child with thy heavenly grace, that he may continue thine for ever; and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until he come unto thy everlasting kingdom.”
a Gen. xlviii. 14.
The ceremonial part of the confirmation being thus performed by the blessing, and the imposition of hands, conferred upon each party separately; the bishop, in conclusion, proceeds to recommend the whole of those together, who have been newly confirmed, to the protection of the Almighty. This he does by means of a short ejaculatory prayer, which follows the belief in the morning and evening services; “ Then shall the bishop say," (the Rubric proceeds to direct,) “The Lord be with you;” and the congregation, as it were in grateful acknowledgment of his prayers for them, immediately respond, “ And with thy spirit.” “ And" then, according to the directions of the Rubric, “(all kneeling down) the bishop shall add: Let us pray.” After this he at once proceeds to recite the Lord's prayer, which from its frequent use is too well known to need any comment at present. “ And” then comes “this collect,” as the
a Gen. xlviii. 16.
Rubric goes on to direct : “ Almighty and everlasting God, who makest us both to will and to do those things that be good and acceptable unto thy divine Majesty; 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. Let thy fatherly hand, we beseech thee, ever be over them; let thy Holy Spirit ever be with them; and so lead them in the knowledge and obedience of thy word, that in the end they may obtain everlasting life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth ever one God, world without end.” At the opening of this address, the bishop undoubtedly alludes to the good work which they have just been performing, by the grace of God,
of God, “ who maketh us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” He then appro. priately supplicates the protection of the Almighty upon those who have just been confirmed, and, as I have already explained, according to the manner which was formerly adopted by the holy apostles ; in order that by so doing, that is, by using the sign of the laying on of hands, they might be certified of God's goodness towards them. And that this sign is sufficiently indicative of this, in the case of all who have taken part in the performance with sincerity, must be evident from the comparison which has been already made between the custom of the Christian church, and that of the patriarchs of