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A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer
by Anthony Sparrow, D.D.

London, 1672.


IT is ordered Rubr. 1. at Confirm. That none should be confirm'd till they come to the use of reason, and can say their Catechism, for these reasons.

1. Because then they may with their own mouth ratifie and confirm the promise made for them by their Godfathers.

2. Because they then begin to be in danger of temptation, against which they receive strength in confirmation.

3. Because this is agreeable with the usage in times past; by times past, we must not understand the first times (for then confirmation was administred presently after baptism,) but later times; in which the first order hath been of a long time omitted for these reasons given; and this order, which our Church observes generally received throughout Christendom.

Lest any man should think it any detriment to the child to stay till such years, holy Church assures us out of holy Scripture, that children baptized, till they come to years to be tempted, have no need of confirmation, having all things necessary for their, that is, childrens salvation, and be undoubtedly saved. The same saies Antiquity, S. Aug. Ser. 2. post Dom. Palmar. You are coming to the holy Font, ye shall be washt in baptism, ye shall be renewed by the saving laver of regeneration; ascending from that laver, ye shall be without all sin: if so, then safe; for blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, Psal. 32. 1. S. Chrys. Hom. 11. in ep. ad Rom. c. 6. Quemadmodum corpus Christi sepultum in terra fructum tulit, universi urbis salutem, ita & nostrum sepultum in baptismo, fructum tulit, justitiam, sanctificationem, adoptionem, infinita bona, feret autem & resurrectionis postea donum.

The body of Christ buried in the earth, brought forth fruit, namely the salvation of the whole world; so our body buried in baptism hath brought forth fruit, righteousness, sanctification, adoption, infinite good things, and shall afterwards have the gift of the Resurrection.

It were too long to cite particulars, take the COUNC. of MILEVIS for all, Can. 2. Ideo parvuli qui nihil peccatorum in semetipsis committere potuerunt, in peccatorum remissionem veraciter baptizantur, ut in eis regeneratione mundetur, quod generatione contraxerunt.

Therefore infants, who could not sin actually, are truly baptized for the remission of sins, that that which they have contracted by their birth might be cleansed by their second birth.

And the Council pronounces Anathema to them that deny it. But more than all this is the express words of Scripture, Gal. 3. 26. where S. PAVL proves that they were the children of God, for, or because they were baptized; if they be children, then are they heirs of God, Romans 8. 27. 1 S. Pet. 3. 21. Baptism saves us. Again, Gal. 3. 27. As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, and that surely is enough for salvation. By all this, we see the effect of Baptism is salvation: Now if children be capable of baptism, as hath been proved, then sith they no way hinder or resist this grace, it necessarily follows that they are partakers of the blessed effects of baptism, and so are undoubtedly saved.

The children that are to be confirmed are to be brought to the Bishop by one that shall be their Godfather, who may witness their confirmation. The Godfather may be the same that was at baptism, but in most places, the custome is to have another. De Cons. Dist. 4. c. 100.

And the Bishop shall confirm them. Rubr. before confirmation. So was it of old S. Aug. de Trinit. l. 15 c. 20. Chrys. hom. 18. in Act. speaking of Philip, when he had baptized, He did not give the holy Ghost to the baptized, for he had no power, for this was the gift of the Apostles alone. Before him Cyprian ep. 73 Those that were baptized by Philip the Deacon, were not baptized again, but that which was wanting was supplyed by Peter and John, by whose prayers and imposition of hands the holy Ghost was called upon, and poured upon them. Which very thing is done amongst us now; they that are baptized, are offered up to the Bishops of the Church, that by our prayer and imposition of hands they may receive the holy Ghost. Before him Vrban Anno Dom. 222. tells us, that Bishops only did confirm. And S. Hierom. dial. adv. Lucifer. saies it was, Totius orbis consensus in hanc partem, the general acknowledgement of the whole Christian World.

The Office begins on this wise, Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord. Of such short ejaculations in general hath been said in the Morning Prayer; concerning these in particular, that they are fitted to the Office, will appear to them that consider, that Confirmation is appointed for the strengthning of us against all our ghostly enemies; which though they be many and great; yet is there no reason to despair of obtaining strength enough to resist them, for Our help stands in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth: who is therefore able enough and willing also to help them that call upon his Name, Blessed therefore be the Name of the Lord hence forth and for ever.

After these Versicles follows a Prayer, that God would strengthen the baptized, with the holy Ghost the Comforter, who had in their baptism received him as a Sanctifier. These two wayes, to omit others, we are taught in holy Scripture, that the holy Ghost may be received, as a sanctifier and cleanser in holy baptism, Tit. 3. 5. He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy Ghost: and after baptism we may receive him again as a Comforter and strengthener. The Apostles, who received him the first way in baptism, are promised to receive him the second; S. Iohn 16. 7. Acts 1. 8. which was performed Acts 2. 4. They were filled with the holy Ghost.

Then shall the Bishop lay his hands upon them severally. By this sign certifying them of Gods Goodness towards them, and consigning it upon them. This is the most ancient and Apostolical Rite of Confirmation, Acts 8. 17. and by this name it is known, Heb. 6. 2. The doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands.

After a most excellent prayer for their continuance in Gods love, & obedience to him, the Bishop departs them with a Blessing. Of such blessings hath been said already.

This holy Rite hath been too little understood by many, and therefore too lightly esteem'd and valued: for the remedy whereof, it may not be amiss to shew the benefit of it in these conclusions following.

1. The Holy Ghost was given to persons baptized, by the Apostles prayers and laying on of hands, Acts 8. 14, 15, 16. Acts 19. 6.

2. This gift of the Holy Ghost so given, was not only, nor principally, the gift of miracles or speaking with tongues. For, first, Confirmation is reckoned by S. Paul amongst Fundamentals, Heb. 6. 1, 2. which were necessary to all ages of the Church; but the gift of miracles was not such, for that lasted but a while, as experience hath taught us. Again, confirmation was administred to all baptized persons, Acts 8. 15. 19. 6. but all baptized persons were not to have the gift of miracles, 1 Cor. 12. 8, 9. To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the working of miracles. And again, 29. verse, Are all workers of miracles? It is true that in the Apostles times, the inward grace of confirmation was attended with miracles, but it will not thence follow that miracles were the principal intended gift in confirmation, no more than that the visible opening of Heaven is the proper effect of baptism, because at our Saviours baptism, the heavens were so opened, S. Matthew 3. or that the proper effect of preaching is to work miracles, because that at the Apostles preaching miracles were wrought, Acts 10. 44. In those first times, the Holy Ghost fell upon Believers and they spake with tongues. Signa erant tempori opportuna, [Those signs were seasonable to those times:] does any man now expect that those, that receive the holy Ghost by our prayers and imposition of hands, should speak with tongues? and if they do not speak with tongues, is any man of so perverse a heart, as to say, that they have not received the holy Ghost? S. Aug. in ep. S. Ioh. tractat. 6. In the beginning of spiritual and marvellous dispensations, outward signs appeared to confirm the new preached faith, but now that the faith is sufficiently confirm'd, although such miracles be not wrought, yet we receive those inward graces and vertues, which were signified and demonstrated by those signs, Chrys. in S. Matth. Hom. 13.

3. The proper and principal effect of confirmation was, and is, Ghostly strength and power to resist temptations, as our Church teaches Rubr. 1. before the Catechism. That the baptized, when they come to years and the use of reason, may have, not their baptism confirm'd (which needs no confirmation to perfect it,) but themselves and their souls, by some new vertue and power, or by an addition and increase of former graces, by which they may be enabled against those temptations that shall assault them, whence it is called Confirmation. Regeneramur ad vitam per baptismum, in hoc confirmamur ad pugnam. [By baptism we are regenerated to life, in confirmation we are strengthned to fight, against our enemies: Melchiad. ep. ad Epis. Hisp. about the year 311.] In Confirmation the Holy Ghost is given for strength, as he was given to the Apostles at Pentecost, that Christians may boldly confess the Name of Christ. Conc. Flor. Tertul. de bapt. Cypr. ep. 2. ad Donat. For our fuller perswasion of this, it will be necessary to consider that our Lord Christ promised to his Apostles after they had been baptized, that, When he went away, he would send them the holy Ghost to be their Comforter or strengthener, S. Iohn 16. 7. to make them able to bear witness of Christ, notwithstanding all the threats and terrors of men, S. John 15. 27. 16. 1, 2, 3. And Acts 1. 5. he promises them, that, Not many daies hence, they should receive the holy Ghost, or the power of the Holy Ghost, whereby they (that forsook him formerly and fled) should be henceforth emboldned and encouraged to bear witness to him all the World over, vers. 8. This promise was performed at Pentecost, Acts 2. 4. They were filled with the holy Ghost, and began to speak, and to bear witness of Christ with courage, verse 36.This very promise made to the Apostles formerly, and perform'd at Pentecost, belongs to every one of us that are baptized, Acts 2. 38. Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the holy Ghost: For this promise of the holy Ghost fulfilled on us, verse 33. is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off. And what S. Peter here promises them, was fulfilled by him and the other Apostles; for by their prayer and imposition of hands, they received, after baptism, the holy Ghost, not only enabling them to speak miraculously, but also strengthening and comforting them inwardly, as he did the Apostles. For the same that was promised to the Apostles, belonged to them and their children, and was given by imposition of hands. Now that which was promised to the Apostles, was principally, ghostly strength and comfort, on which that gift of miracles was an attendant, as we have seen: this then is the principal effect of confirmation, the gift of the holy Ghost by way of eminence, Acts 2 38. Hence this phrase, Full of the holy Ghost, is interpreted by Scripture to be the same in effect with this, Full of ghostly courage and strength. Act. 4. 8. 31. They were all filled with the holy Ghost, and spake with boldness the word of the Lord, Acts 7. 55. and Acts 6. 5. Stephen full of faith and the holy Ghost, that is, full of faith and power, verse 8.

4. This Office of Confirmation, as well as that of Baptism, is to continue in the Church as long as that shall be Militant here on earth. For S. Paul Heb. 6. 1, 2. joyns them together, calling them Fundamentals; and a Fundamental in one age is so in another. Besides we have seen that Confirmation was the means used by the Apostles, (and doubtless not without their Lords direction and guidance of his Spirit,) for conveying the holy Ghost the Comforter into persons baptized: and since that all ages have as much need of that ghostly strength as the age of the Apostles had, and that the promise of it belongs to us all, as well as to them, as formerly hath been proved; and since that we find no other means appointed instead of Confirmation, for the conveighing of the gift of the holy Ghost, then given by confirmation; it remains, that we conclude, that Confirmation is still to continue. And so the Church Catholick hath taught us both by her doctrine and practice: as may be seen by the quotations cited above.

5. That Bishops, who succeed the Apostles, are to be the Ministers of this holy Rite hath been shewn above.

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