THAT HOLY ORDINANCE.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York
Printed by T. & J. Swords
This Catechism first appeared in "The Candidate for Confirmation Instructed," and the answers are taken principally from the Sermon on Confirmation, published in that work. Several alterations are made in this edition, in which the author has availed himself of some judicious remarks of the Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania.
Q. What is Confirmation?
A. Confirmation is a sacred rite of Divine appointment, in which baptized persons take upon themselves their baptismal engagements; and by the laying on of the hands of the Bishop, with prayer and benediction, are certified of God's favour and goodness; of the grace of his Holy Spirit; and of all the other privileges of their baptism.
Q. Why is this ordinance called Confirmation?
A. The title Confirmation, which is of modern origin, is very properly applied to this rite; because it is a confirmation, or ratification, on the part of those who receive it, of their baptismal engagements; and a confirmation, or renewal by Almighty God, of all the privileges of their baptism, of his mercy, his grace, and his everlasting favour.
Q. What is the title by which this rite was called in Scripture and in the primitive Church?
A. The "laying on of hands" was the appellation by which this ordinance was known in Scripture and in the primitive Church. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the Apostle ranks it among "the principles of the doctrine of Christ." Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of Baptism and laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." [Acts vi. 1, 2.] The laying on of hands following in this passage immediately after baptism, we are naturally led to conclude that the expression refers to some rite connected with baptism.
Q. How do you prove that the "laying on of hands," ranked by the Apostles among the principles of the doctrine of Christ, denotes Confirmation?
A. Imposition of hands was, indeed, employed in conveying the ministerial authority; and by the same ceremony the sick were healed, and pious and holy men invoked blessings on the objects of their regard. These acts, however, cannot be denoted by the laying on of hands, to which the Apostle refers; which being stated as a "principle of the doctrine of Christ," must refer to all Christians. But these acts related not to all Christians; only to the ministry, who, by the laying on of hands, received the ministerial authority; to the sick, who, by this rite, were healed; or to the individuals on whom, by this ceremony, pious men invoked blessings. These acts, therefore, of the imposition of hands, could not be ranked among "the principles of the doctrine of Christ," in the same station with "repentance, with faith, with a resurrection from the dead, with a judgment to come." We must, therefore, refer this appellation to that rite which universally prevailed in the primitive Church, and which is known, in modern times, by the name of Confirmation.
Q. How do you prove the Apostolic origin of this rite?
A. The Apostolic origin of this rite is traced to the instances recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritan converts who had been baptized by Philip the Deacon, and "they received the Holy Ghost;" and where Paul laid his hands upon the disciples at Ephesus, the "Holy Ghost came upon them."
Q. How do you prove that he ordinary grace of the Holy Spirit was conferred by the imposition of hands?
A. "The laying on of hands" being ranked among the "principles of the doctrine of Christ," must refer to some rite necessary for all Christians. Hence it [4/5] results, that not the miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost alone accompanied the imposition of hands in the Apostolic age; for these gifts were not essential, and probably not common, to all Christians. There would be absurdity, therefore, in the supposition , that the converts on whom the Apostles laid their hands were particularly distinguished, and that they all received these gifts. They all, however, received the Holy Ghost. His ordinary grace, therefore, that which is necessary to enlighten and aid Christians in the spiritual life, must have accompanied the imposition of hands. And this grace being necessary for Christians in every age, the ordinance, which, by the power of God, who can render efficacious the most humble institutions, is made the merciful mean and pledge of conveying and assuring it, becomes of permanent obligation, and is ranked among the principles of the doctrine of Christ. A rite would not be thus distinguished which was not of standing obligation.
Q. Is there not evidence that Confirmation was practised in the primitive Church?
A. Tertullian, who lived in the second century, speaks of it as a practice universally prevailing. "Hands were laid upon them," (baptized persons,) "by benediction; calling for, and invoking the Holy Ghost." [Tertul. de Bap.] "The flesh is overshadowed by the imposition of hands, that it may be enlightened by the Spirit." [Tertul. de resurrect. carnis.] Cyprian, who lived in the next century, traces the origin of Confirmation to the imposition of hands by the Apostles. "They who believed in Samaria, were baptized; prayer was said over them, and hands laid upon them, that the Holy Ghost might be invoked and poured upon them; which is still the custom with us, that they who are baptized into the Church should be solemnly dedicated by the Bishops of the Church, and may receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands." [Cyprian ad Jub Ep. 73] To the same purpose, Jerome [5/6] testifies. "As for them who are baptized afar off in the lesser towns by Presbyters and Deacons, the Bishop travels out to them, to lay hands upon them, and to invoke the Holy Spirit." [Hieron. Dial. adv. Lucif.]
Q. Could Confirmation have universally prevailed thus early, if it had not been an Apostolic institution?
A. Confirmation could not have universally prevailed at so early a period, if it had not been prescribed by the Apostles. It is a principle capable of moral demonstration, that whatever, in the early ages of the Church, was believed or practiced, always, every where, by all, must have originated in the Apostolic institution.
Q. Was not Confirmation retained by the Lutheran Churches when they separated from the Church of Rome?
A. So strong and decisive is the testimony to the Apostolic origin of Confirmation, that this ordinance was retained by all the Lutheran Churches.
Q. Do not the celebrated reformer Calvin, and his successor Beza, acknowledge that it was practiced by the Apostles?
A. The celebrated reformed Calvin, in his commentary on the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which is reckoned "the laying on of hands," considers it as evidence, that Confirmation was practiced by the Apostles. And, in his Institutions, he acknowledges that "it was an ancient custom for children, when grown up and instructed, to be brought to the Bishop, in order to make confession of their faith, and that they then received the laying on of hands, and his benediction." "Such an imposition of hands as this, which is used purely as a blessing, I very much approve of, and wish it were now restored to its pure and primitive uses."
And his successor, the celebrated Beza, bears testimony, in his comment on the same passage, to the Apostolic institution of this rite, speaking of an [6/7] "explication of Christian doctrine, which was delivered to the catechumens in baptism, and imposition of hands."
Q. Why does not our Church consider Confirmation as a sacrament?
A. Our Church deems one essential sign of a sacrament-"an outward and visible sign"--that is, some material substance, denoting "an inward and spiritual grace." Her authority for this is, that there are outward and visible signs in baptism and the Lord's Supper-water in the one, and bread and wine in the other. There is no such sign in Confirmation; no material object denoting inward and spiritual grace; and, therefore, she does not consider Confirmation as a sacrament.
Q. What does the word "sign," in the office of Confirmation, denote?
A. The word "sign," in the office of Confirmation, denotes not some material substance, for none such is used; but the gesture of laying on of hands.
Q. How does the Church provide for the administration of this rite with decorum and solemnity?
A. She directs, in a rubric preceding the office of Confirmation, that "all who are to be confirmed, shall be placed and stand in order before the Bishop." Hence it is expected that those persons to be confirmed, who cannot be accommodated around the rails of the chancel, will stand in the parts of the aisles adjacent thereto; that those who receive first the imposition of hands will give place to others; and that all persons confirmed will remain in their stations near the chancel, and the congregation in the Church, until the office is finished, that they may join in its devotions.
 Q. What is the rubric concerning Confirmation at the end of the Catechism?
A. The Church, in a rubric at the end of the Catechism, directs that "whensoever the Bishop shall give knowledge for children to be brought unto him for their Confirmation, the Minister of every parish shall either bring, or send in writing, with his hand subscribed thereto, the names of all such persons within his parish as he shall think fit to be presented to the Bishop to be confirmed."
Q. Wherein consists the propriety of this regulation?
A. It provides for the judicious administration of this rite; guards it from an ignorant, rash, and irreverent reception; and is calculated to induce the Clergy diligently and faithfully to prepare the young members of their folds for a solemn devotion of themselves to God. With respect to "children" or young persons, there is peculiar propriety in this injunction.
Q. What further provision does the Church make for an enlightened and serious reception of this holy ordinance?
A. The Church also endeavours to secure an enlightened and serious reception of this holy ordinance, by directing, in a rubric at the end of the Catechism, and in the preface to the office, "that none shall be confirmed" but such who are come to "a competent age," to "years of discretion," and "who can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; [8/9] and can answer to such other questions as in the Short Catechism are contained," and "have leaned what their Godfathers and Godmothers promised for them in baptism.
Q. What does the Church mean by this order?
A. By this order, she evidently designs more than that they should be able merely to say the words of the Catechism. They must have a full knowledge of its meaning. And as it embraces a comprehensive view of the plan of redemption, of Christian doctrine and duty, and of the privileges of Christians, these must be understood and realized before children can be qualified for receiving that holy rite in which they pledge themselves to the belief of Christian doctrine, and to the practice of Christian duty, and in which their Christian privileges are assured to them. The age at which this knowledge can be attained doubtless differs in different persons. And the particular age of admission to this rite is not authoritatively determined. It seems necessary, however, to have some standard of age which children must attain before they can receive this rite. And the age of fourteen is generally recommended by the Bishops of the Church.
Q. Should persons of mature age, and particularly those who have been admitted to the Communion without having received Confirmation, come forward to this holy rite?
A. Merely on the principle of fulfilling all righteousness, of showing respect and submission to all the divine institutions, it is proper that those who have been admitted to the Communion, without having received Confirmation, should receive this holy rite.
Q. Is not this proper on another principle?
A. Confirmation is the ordinance appointed by God for the ratification of the vows of baptism, for conveying the influences of divine grace, and for confirming all the privileges of the baptismal covenant. It is, therefore, fit that Christians of all ages, and in all [9/10] situations, should embrace the first opportunity of receiving an ordinance appointed by God for such important purposes, even though they may have renewed the vows of baptism, and their title to its privileges in the Lord's Supper. The reception of one ordinance of the Gospel cannot render it unfit to observe the other ordinances which it prescribes; for they are all of divine origin, and are the means of grace, and the pledges to those who worthily receive them, of eternal felicity.
Q. How often should Confirmation be received?
A. Confirmation, like Baptism, is to be but once received. For the renewal of our baptismal vows after Confirmation, the Lord's Supper is the appointed ordinance.
Q. What is the edifying design of Confirmation?
A. The Preface to the Order of Confirmation states the edifying design of this holy rite; which is, that baptized persons, having learned what was promised for them in baptism, "may themselves, with their own mouth and consent, openly before the Church, ratify and confirm the same: and also promise that by the grace of God, they will evermore endeavour themselves faithfully to observe such things as they, by their own confession, have assented unto."
Q. Is it not proper that infants who are baptized, should ratify the engagements of baptism when arrived to years of discretion?
A. The vows of baptism being made for infants by their sureties, it is proper that they should solemnly ratify these engagements in their own persons when arrived at the years of discretion.
Q. Are not the advantages of Confirmation numerous?
A. The advantages of Confirmation are so numerous, that were it an institution merely human, it would be worthy of observance.
Q. What is the advantage of Confirmation as to the increase of Christian knowledge?
A. It tends to increase Christian knowledge in both [10/11] the young and the old; the young being then solemnly called to review all the parts of Christian truth and duty; and the old guiding and accompanying them in this review.
Q. What is the advantage of Confirmation as to the Christian life?
A. It affords new and strong excitements to a Christian life, in the solemn engagements which are then made to God, through his minister, in the presence of the congregation, and of those who are the dearest objects of human affection.
Q. Does not Confirmation remove an objection to infant baptism?
A. It also removes one objection to the administration of baptism to infants, that they are unconscious of its obligations and privileges. In Confirmation they assume those obligations at an age when they can understand them, and receive a renewed title to the privileges of the Christian covenant. Thus, while those are admitted by baptism into covenant with God, of whom Christ pronounced "of such is the kingdom of heaven," provision is made in Confirmation for the ratification, at a suitable age, of the engagements of the Christian covenant which were implied in their baptism. And thus, the objection of infant baptism, that the subjects of it are incapable of assuming its obligations, is removed.
Q. What is the advantage of Confirmation as to the minister, in the discharge of his duty to the young?
A. Confirmation affords to every minister an opportunity particularly favourable for impressing on the young their Christian obligations, and exciting them to a religious life.
Q. What is the advantage of Confirmation as to the unity of the Church?
A. It tends to preserve the unity of the Church, and to prevent heresy and schism, by instilling good principles at an early period of life; by rescuing the young from the misfortune of evil guides; and by making men sensible that it is their duty "to hold [11/12] communion with the ecclesiastical superior, who is endowed with all those Episcopal powers which were left by the Apostles to their successors:" [Nelson and Comber on Confirmation.] "the safety of the Church depending on the dignity of her chief superiors; to whom, if some eminent offices of power above others were not given, there would be in the Church as many schisms as Priests." [Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, book v. sec. 66.]
Q. What are the most important benefits of Confirmation?
A. When we consider also that Confirmation, as a divine institution, ratifies, on the part of God, through his authorized minister, the privileges of baptism, and conveys new supplies of the Holy Spirit, the benefits of this holy rite must appear of the first magnitude.
Q. Is not the scene exhibited at Confirmation interesting?
A. Interesting, indeed, is the scene exhibited at the administration of this holy rite. Baptized Christians, in obedience to the exhortations of the Church, to the calls of their God and Saviour, come forward for a purpose the most important and affecting; to devote themselves to the service of the Lord of Heaven and earth, their Maker, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and to receive the means and the pledge of his favour, and of his manifold gifts of grace.
Q. What is the question propose to all who are to be confirmed?
A. In the midst of the congregation, and in the presence of him who searcheth the heart, the question is proposed to them:
"Do ye here, in the presence of God and this congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that ye made, or that was made in your name at your baptism, ratifying and confirming the same, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and do all those things which ye then undertook, or your sponsors then undertook for you?
 Q. What is the answer which they return to this question?
A. These disciples of Christ, urged by the sense of their Christian obligations, by a supreme concern for the salvation of their souls, by the dictates of reason, of conscience, of the spirit of god, and in dependence on that strength which this spirit confers, audibly answer,
Q. What is the belief which you profess in this answer?
A. I do believe in God, the greatest and best of Beings, my Maker, Preserver, Benefactor.
I do believe in God the Son, Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, through whose merits and mediation I hope for salvation.
I do believe in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the people of God.
I do believe in the holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God.
I do believe in that Holy Church of which Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and Head; over which he hath set divers orders of his Ministers, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; and in communion with which, through its sacraments and ordinances, I am to be prepared for everlasting life.
Q. What do you solemnly renounce?
A. I do renounce all the temptations of the Devil; all irreligion and immorality, of which he is the author, and to which, by his secret suggestions, he excites the mind; and particularly all pride, malice, and envy; all lying, revenge, and cruelty, which are peculiarly his works.
 I do renounce all the sinful lusts of the flesh; all the inordinate desires of my corrupt nature; all lascivious and wanton thoughts, conversation, and actions; all intemperance in the indulgence of my appetites and passions; all sloth and idleness, which are incentives to sin; and, more particularly, those sinful indulgences to which I am most prone.
Q. What do you solemnly promise, by God's grace, to endeavour to perform?
A. I do resolve, by God's grace, to endeavour to keep God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of my life.
I do resolve, by God's grace, to love and to obey God; to pray to him, and to praise him, in private, and in the services of his holy temple; to revere his holy name, never taking it in vain; to honour his word, his ministers, and his ordinances; to submit to his blessed will; to act always as in his presence, and as one who is to render an account to him.
I do resolve, by God's grace, on all occasions, to observe the dictates of truth and justice; to love, honour and obey my parents; to be submissive to all those whom God in his providence hath set over me; to discharge all my duties to my relations, my friends, and my fellow men; at all times seeking to do unto them as I should wish that they in like circumstances should do unto me.
I do resolve, by God's grace, to endeavour to acquire and practice the virtues of modesty, temperance, sobriety, purity, humility, and contentment; and to seek supremely not the transitory objects of this world, but the spiritual and eternal happiness of the world to come, of that heavenly kingdom of which, through God's grace, I am made an heir; and to submit to any inconveniences and sacrifices rather than to disobey God, or to renounce his service and my eternal hopes.
I do resolve, finally, whenever I shall fail in my duty, or sin against God, to return to him by sincere repentance, to implore his forgiveness through the [14/15] mercies of his blessed Son, to seek the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit, and to watch over all my ways with great diligence and care.
Q. What do all these solemn engagements constitute?
A. These solemn engagements comprised in the solemn promise, "I do," constitute those exercises of repentance and faith which are the conditions of our baptismal privileges, and which must, therefore, be sincerely professed by us when we come to that ordinance which is designed to confirm to us these privileges. They constitute, indeed, that "renewing of the mind" which is designed to render us acceptable to God, and meet for the joys of Heaven. No one should deceive himself with the hope that, destitute of these qualifications, his receiving Confirmation will prove a benefit to him.
Q. Will a person who abstains from Confirmation escape these solemn engagements?
A. No one by abstaining from Confirmation will escape these solemn engagements. They are the immutable law of his being, and enjoined by God, under the awful sanctions of everlasting felicity or endless woe. And he who thinks that by avoiding personal vows to God in the rite of Confirmation, he will escape the obligations of piety and virtue, will find, at last, that to the guilt of violating these obligations, he has added that of willfully contemning an ordinance of God, designed to confer on him the most exalted benefits.
Q. Should any person be deterred, by the solemnity and sacredness of these engagements from assuming them?
A. No person should be intimidated, by the sense of the solemnity and sacredness of these engagements, from assuming them in the ordinance appointed for this purpose. They are engagements indispensable to his happiness in this life, as well as to his eternal felicity. And God, who exacts these engagements, will mercifully grant him the strength to fulfil them, will have [15/16] compassion on his infirmities, and will be ever ready to grant him pardon on his sincere repentance.
Q. After the engagements of baptism are thus solemnly assumed, what follows in the office of Confirmation?
A. After the engagements of baptism are solemnly assumed by those who present themselves for Confirmation, the Church proceeds to invoke for them that divine help, and those manifold gifts of grace, which are necessary to their continuance and progress in the Christian life, in several short supplications, and in a prayer, in which the Church speaks of those who present themselves for Confirmation, as "regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost," and as having received "the forgiveness of all their sins."
Q. What is the distinction between Regeneration and Renovation?
A. The change of spiritual state produced in baptism is styled, in the language of Scripture, of primitive antiquity, and of our Church, Regeneration. The change of heart and life in the exercise of holy affections and in the practice of good works, through the influences of the Divine Spirit, is styled Renovation, the "renewing of the mind."--"the renewing of the Holy Ghost." The terms Regeneration and Renovation, are, indeed, sometimes used by sound divines of our Church, in the same signification, to denote a change of heart and life; but their appropriate and distinct meaning is that which has been stated.
Q. How may we be said to be regenerated in baptism?
A. In the sacrament of baptism we are taken from the world, where we had no title to the favour of God, and placed in a state of salvation in the Christian Church; where we enjoy a title to all the blessings and privileges of the Gospel covenant; and, as members of Christ's mystical body, the influences of the Holy Spirit, which animates that body, are pledged to us to enable us to fulfil our baptismal engagements. In this sense, as it respects a change of state, baptizes persons [16/17] are regenerated; according to the Apostle, who expressly calls baptism "the washing of regeneration," distinguishing it from the "renewing of the Holy Ghost." "According to the mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."
Q. What authority is there for this view of the sacrament of baptism?
A. This view of the sacrament of baptism, as conferring a title to the privileges of the Gospel covenant, is agreeable to Scripture; for the language of the Apostles is, "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins." "Repent, and be baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." "By one spirit we are all baptized into one body." And they style in their Epistles all Christians, the called, the elect of God, justified, sanctified, and adopted as sons. Thus our Church has authority for stating in her Catechism, that all baptized persons, actual repentance and faith being supposed in the case of adults, but not exacted in the case of infants, who are incapable of them, are "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven;" and that, "being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath," they are, by baptism, made "the children of grace," called into a state of salvation: a state in which salvation is promised to them, and attainable by them.
Q. Will baptismal regeneration avail to salvation without the renewing of the Holy Ghost?
A. Neither did the Apostles, nor does our Church, consider baptismal regeneration as availing to final salvation, in the case of adults, without the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The Apostles, in their epistles, consider Christians as elected into a state of salvation, and then exhort them to "make their calling and election sure." Christians who fall into sin after baptism, are not exhorted to be regenerated, but "to repent," and [17/18] to be "transformed by the renewing of their minds." This was the language of the Apostle to Simon Magus, who, though baptized, and thus called into a state of salvation, in which all the privileges of the Gospel were conditionally conferred on him, yet not exercising true repentance and faith, was in "the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." He was exhorted not to be regenerated, but to "repent." Our Church prays, in her offices for baptism, that those who in this sacrament were "regenerate" and "born again," and "made heirs of everlasting salvation," may "crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin," "and may continue God's servants, and attain his promises." And, in the Collect for Christmas-day, she prays that all Christians, "being regenerate, and made God's children by adoption and grace," may "daily be renewed by his Holy Spirit."
Q. Does not this view of baptism afford the most powerful motives to repentance and holiness?
A. This view of baptism, as being the sacrament of regeneration, the instrument whereby the grace and mercy of God are signed and sealed, so far from being an encouragement to carelessness and indifference, and to a state of sinful security, affords the most powerful motives to repentance and holiness. For if Christians receive in baptism the privileges of being "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven, great must be their guilt if, by a life of sin, they contemn and forfeit these exalted privileges. If in baptism they receive the succours of divine grace, they are without excuse if they do not work out their salvation. None of these most powerful motives to holiness can be urged when baptism is considered not as a mean and a pledge of divine grace, but merely as "a mark of difference between Christian men and others:" which is considered by our Church, in her Articles, as an inadequate view of baptism. [Art. xxvii.]
 Q. In what sense then does the Church, in the prayer of Confirmation, speak of baptized Christians as "regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost;" and declare that god has "given them the forgiveness of all their sins?"
A. In baptism they are born into a new state, in which they receive the influences of the Holy Spirit to enable them to work out their salvation. They receive also a title to the forgiveness of all their sins, on the conditions of true repentance and faith, when they are capable of the exercise of them; and coming to Confirmation in the exercise of repentance and faith, the baptismal privilege of the forgiveness of sins is assured to them.
Q. What is the only ceremony employed by the Church in Confirmation?
A. Imposition of hands, the ancient ceremony of benediction, has the sanction of Apostolic practice, and is the only ceremony employed by our Church in Confirmation. [The Church of Rome, however, has laid aside this rite, and has introduced others. To denote the anointing of the Holy Ghost, the Bishop, in Confirmation, anoints with Chrism, which is a compound of oil of olives and balm of Gilead. And to denote the trials and injuries to which the Christian life is exposed, the Bishop gives the person confirmed a slight blow on the cheek. These ceremonies not being connected by the Apostles with the laying on of hands, and the latter not being significant or dignified, were laid aside by our Church; and the Apostolic ceremony is alone retained.]
 Q. Who are the agents in laying on of hands?
A. Our Church makes the first order of the ministry, the Bishops, the agents in laying on of hands. In this she follows the practice of the primitive and universal Church; and is warranted by the authority of Scripture: for though Philip the Deacon baptized the Samaritans, Peter and John, of the first order of the minister, "came and laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost."
Q. Why do Bishops alone confirm?
A. "By the sacrament of baptism, men being admitted into God's Church, it was both reasonable and convenient, that if he baptise them not, unto whom the chiefest authority and charge of their souls belongeth, yet for honour's sake, and in token of his spiritual authority over them, because to bless is an act of authority; the performance of this ceremony should be sought for at his hands." [Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, book v. sect 66, vol. ii. p. 322. This judicious writer could not mean to confine "blessing" to the Episcopal office; but simply to denote the great propriety of seeking this ceremony from Episcopal hands.] "Preaching was common to all ranks of ministers: baptizing was performed usually by the lower rank: but, perhaps, to maintain a due subordination, it was reserved to the highest, by prayer and laying on of hands, to communicate further measures of the Holy Ghost. It was, indeed, peculiar to the Apostles, that on their intercession his extraordinary and miraculous gifts were bestowed; which continued in the Church no longer than the need of them did; nor can we suppose that all were partakers of them. But, unquestionably by their petitions they procured, for every sincere convert, a much more valuable, though less remarkable [20/21] blessing, of universal and spiritual necessity, his ordinary and saving graces." [Archbishop Secker's Sermon on Confirmation.]
Q. Explain the words of supplication and benediction, which the Bishop pronounces when he lays on hands?
A. The Bishop lays his hands upon the persons to be confirmed, kneeling, the posture of humility, reverence, and devotion; and looking to God for that spirit which is his gift alone, pronounces the words of supplication and benediction:--
"Defend, O Lord, this thy servant with thy heavenly grace"--"Defend, O Lord, this thy servant," exposed to the temptations and sorrows of a wicked and miserable world, with that "heavenly grace" which is the only source of strength and consolation--"that," now adopted into thy family, made they child and heir, "he may continue thine for ever; and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit," in all those virtues which thy spirit quickens in the soul, "more and more, until," shining with every grace, and rich in every good work, "he come unto thy everlasting kingdom."
Q. While these words are pronouncing, how should those present be engaged?
A. While these words are pronouncing, the hearts of all present, and particularly those who are confirmed, should be lifted up in secret prayer to God, that this gracious benediction may be fulfilled in regard to all who are the subjects of this holy rite.
Q. What assurance may those enjoy who have in sincerity ratified their baptismal engagements?
A. Those who have thus ratified in sincerity their baptismal engagements, may be fully satisfied, that, by the imposition of hands, the sign of God's favour and goodness, the grace of God's Holy Spirit, and all the inestimable privileges of their baptism, are assured to them; they may rejoice in the confidence that they [21/22] are, indeed, members of the family of Christ, children and sons of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Q. Why do not the evidences of the presence of the Holy Spirit appear in those who are confirmed?
A. That those graces and virtues which are the evidences of the presence of the Holy Spirit do not always appear, must be ascribed not to any failure of God's promise, but to the unworthiness, or the neglect of those who receive these ordinances, which are the means and pledges of his gracious influence. He works in us not irresistibly, but by moral motives and aids. If we do not, by sinful indulgences, or by indifference, or negligence, resist his grace, it will be effectual in our daily victory over sin and temptation, and in our daily progress in all the virtues and consolations of the Christian life.
Q. What follows the imposition of hands in the office of Confirmation?
A. When, by the imposition of hands, the mercy and grace of God have been thus certified to the members of his spiritual family, the Bishop and the congregation offer their prayers for each other--"The Lord be with you;" "and with thy spirit;" and then their united supplications for those who have now engaged in the Christian course.
Q. Why is the Lord's Prayer used?
A. It is a characteristic of our Church, that she accompanies every office of devotion with the Lord's Prayer. It is used with peculiar propriety in a solemnity, which, confirming the vows and privileges of baptism, gives those who have participated of it a title to address God as their Father in Heaven.
Q. What follows the Lord's Prayer?
A. The devotions are continued in a fervent supplication, in which God is acknowledged as the author of the spiritual life, making us to "will and to do those things which are good and acceptable to him." Those to whom, after Apostolic example, and by Apostolic authority, his favour and gracious goodness are certified, are commended to the protection of his [22/23] "Fatherly hand," to the guidance of his "Holy Spirit;" that, "led in the knowledge and obedience of his word, they may, in the end, obtain everlasting life," through the merits of him who, "the Lord Jesus Christ, liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end." This supplication for those who have been confirmed is followed by a prayer for the whole congregation.
Q. What closes the office of Confirmation?
A. The blessing pronounced by the Bishop on the persons confirmed closes this interesting and edifying solemnity.
Q. What should you constantly bear in mind, with respect to your own character and the method of salvation?
A. By nature I am corrupt and sinful; I am obnoxious on account of my actual transgressions, to the justice of God.
And I can be saved only through the grace and mercy of God, in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Q. What should you constantly bear in mind with regard to baptism?
A. By baptism I was "by one spirit, baptized into one body," (1 Cor. xii. 13.) the Church of Christ.
Being thus, "by the washing of regeneration," called into a state of salvation, made "a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven," I was regenerated and born again from my natural state, in which I was a child of wrath, that is, destitute of all covenant title to the favour of God, and made a child of grace--entitled to his favour and mercy.
Q. What should you constantly bear in mind with regard to your renovation?
A. The inestimable privileges of the Christian Church, to which, by baptism, I became entitled, can [23/24] be secured only by my obtaining the renewing of Holy Ghost."
This spiritual "renovation" can be obtained only by sincere repentance and lively faith; by earnest prayer and watchfulness; by constant endeavours, through God's grace, to abound in all holy tempers, and in the fruits of righteousness; and by devout communion with that spiritual body, the Church, of which Christ is the head, and through which, by a lively faith, we become united to him, and partake of his Holy Spirit.
Q. What should you bear in mind with regard to your communion with the Church?
A. My communion with the Church must be preserved by devout and humble attention on its ministrations and ordinances.
These ministrations being rightfully performed by Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, who, "appointed by God's providence, and by his Holy Spirit," "it is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, have been from the Apostles' times;" I may be assured that, in union with these orders of the ministry, I am in union with the Church of Christ.
Q. Is not the Church a divinely constituted society, of which Jesus Christ is the head?
A. The Church is a divinely constituted society, of which Jesus Christ is the head. "He is the head of the Church, the Saviour of the body."
Q. Is not union with this Church the appointed method of salvation?
A. Union with this Church is the appointed method of salvation. "The Lord added unto the Church daily, such as should be saved." "Ye are the members of his body." The Apostle condemns "not holding the head, from which all the body increaseth with the increase of God."
 Q. Is it not then a fundamental duty to preserve our union with the Church?
A. It must be a fundamental duty to preserve our union with the Church; since, through the Church, we keep our union with its Divine Head.
Q. In what method is our union with the Church, into which we are admitted by baptism, to be preserved?
A. Our union with the Church is to be preserved, not only by continuing in the sincere profession of Apostolic doctrine, in the devout attendance on Apostolic ordinances and worship, but also by continuing in "the fellowship of the Apostles."
Q. When do we continue in the fellowship of the Apostles?
A. We continue in the fellowship of the Apostles, when we adhere to the ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, who "have been from the Apostles' times."
Q. When do we separate from the fellowship of the Apostles, and commit the sin of schism?
A. We separate from the fellowship of the Apostles, and commit the sin of schism, when we join the ministrations of those not legally commissioned by the Bishops of the Church, who, "appointed by God's Providence and the Holy Spirit," have, "from the Apostles' times," derived, in succession, the Apostolic power of "ordaining, sending, or laying hands on others," of conferring that external commission to minister in holy things, without which no man "is called of God, as was Aaron." We also commit the sin of schism, when we promote parties and divisions in the Church, or in any way disturb its peace.
Q. Is not schism a "carnal" sin?
A. The Apostles regarded even the lowest degree of schism, making parties in the Church, a "carnal" sin. Much more must that degree of it be considered as a carnal sin, which consists in separating from the ministrations of the lawful ministers of the Church. It was the prayer of Christ for his followers, that "they [25/26] all might be one." It is the injunction of the Apostle to "keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." There must, therefore, be great guilt in rending the body of Christ, by disturbing its peace, or in separating from its lawful ministers.
Q. What should you bear in mind in regard to the ordinances of the Church?
A. The ordinances of the Church, of which, in order to obtain the renewing of the Holy Ghost, I should participate, are public prayer, and hearing God's word, Confirmation, and the Supper of the Lord.
It is, therefore, my duty, reverently and devoutly to attend the worship of the sanctuary, to join in its prayers and praises with my heart and with my voice; and humbly to hear and to receive the Divine truths which are there read, or delivered, as the means of my salvation.
It is my duty to renew my baptismal engagements in the ordinance of Confirmation, humbly supplicating those manifold gifts of grace, by which my soul will be restored to the Divine Image.
Above all, it is my duty, truly repenting of my sins, steadfastly purposing to lead a new life, having a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death, and being in charity with all men, to partake of the Lord's Supper, strengthening and refreshing my soul by the body and blood of Christ.
Q. What will be the happy state of the Christian who thus lives?
A. Thus, living a life of faith in the Son of God; humble and fervent in prayer and devotion, in secret, in his family, and in the house of God; walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; and evermore studying, through God's grace, to keep a conscience void of offense towards God and towards man; the Christian will continually advance in piety and virtue, in superiority to the world, in desires after Heaven, and in a holy preparation for it, until he is finally admitted to the fruition of its joys.
O Almighty God and Heavenly Father, I heartily thank thee, that, by baptism, I have been admitted into that holy Church which was purchased by the precious blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Blessed be thy name, that, being by nature born in sin, subject to evil propensities and passions; and the child of wrath, without any covenant title to thy mercy and favour; I was, in baptism, made a child of grace, and born into a state of salvation; made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven. Grant, I beseech thee, that, being thus regenerate and made thy child by adoption and grace, I may be renewed by thy Holy Spirit.
And, for this purpose, O Lord, grant me the aids of thy grace, that I may sincerely take upon me, in the holy rite of Confirmation, the promise and vow of my baptism. May I sincerely resolve to believe in thee, God, the Father, who made me; God the Son, who hath redeemed me; and God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies me; and to love thee with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength. May I not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified; but may I sincerely resolve to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the Devil; and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto my life's end; keeping thy holy will and commandments, and walking in the same all the days of my life.
O Lord, I beseech thee, for Jesus Christ's sake, my blessed Lord and Saviour, give me pardon and peace; [27/28] cleanse me from all my sin, make clean my heart within me, and grant me thy salvation. And, forasmuch as I can do no good thing without the help of thy grace, direct me now with thy most gracious favour. Turning to thee in true penitence of heart, in lively faith in thy mercy through my blessed Redeemer, and steadfastly purposing to serve thee in newness of life, may I be certified, by the laying on of hands, of thy gracious favour and goodness; and may I receive those manifold gifts of grace, by which all sinful and corrupt affections may die in me, and all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in me; and by which, lead in the knowledge and obedience of thy word, I may, in the end, obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Other Prayers, suitable for those who are preparing for Confirmation. In the Language of the Liturgy and Offices of the Church. From the Christian's Manual.
ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit. Do thou, O God, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, grant me the aids of thy grace, that I may examine myself, and judge myself, [28/29] that I be not judged of thee; that I may repent me truly of my sins past, and turn to thee with full purpose of heart to serve and please thee. And make me, I beseech thee, O God, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life. In the midst of life I am in death: O God, to thee only can I look for succour. And yet thou for my sins art justly displeased. But, O most merciful Father, who hast declared in thy holy word that thou dost not will the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his sin and be saved, mercifully receive me. Spare me, good Lord. Enter not into judgment with me, a miserable sinner. Create and make in me a new and contrite heart; stir up in me a godly sorrow, that, acknowledging my wretchedness, and truly lamenting my sins, I may obtain of thee perfect remission and forgiveness. Hear me, O Lord, for thy mercy is great; and after the multitude of thy mercies, look upon me through the merits and mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
O Almighty God and Heavenly Father, who hast purchased to thyself an universal Church by the precious blood of thy dear Son; I heartily thank thee, that by baptism I have been admitted into this thy family, and called into a state of salvation. But, O merciful Father, I have erred and strayed from thy ways. I have done the things which I ought not to have done, and have left undone the things which I ought to have done; and there is no health in me. In thought, in word, and in deed, I have most grievously offended thy Divine Majesty; and have justly provoked thy wrath and indignation against me. But, O Lord, who art a merciful God, full of compassion, [29/30] long-suffering, and of great pity; who sparest when we deserve punishment, and in thy wrath thinkest upon mercy; spare me, good Lord, spare me; enter not into judgment with me, a miserable sinner. Saviour of the world, who by thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed me, save me and help me. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant me thy peace. Christ, have mercy upon me. Lord, have mercy upon me. Christ, have mercy upon me. O most merciful God, who dost so put away the sins of those who truly repent, that thou rememberest them no more; impute not unto me my former sins; for thy Son Jesus Christ's sake forgive me all that is past; and strengthen me with thy blessed Spirit, that I may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life. Grant that I may both perceive and know what things I ought to do, and may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same. Lord of all power and might, of whom only it cometh that I can render unto thee true and laudable service; let thy grace always direct and follow me, that my heart and all my members being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, I may, in all things obey thy blessed will; may truly and faithfully serve thee; and thus keeping thy commandments both in will and deed, may finally obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partaker of thy heavenly kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer. Amen.
A Prayer after Confirmation, to be used while others are confirming, in private Devotion. (In the Language of the Liturgy and Offices of the Church.)
ALMIGHTY God and Heavenly Father, I bless and praise thy holy name, that thou hast vouchsafed to call me to the knowledge of thy grace and faith in thee, [30/31] and hast certified to me, by the laying on of hands, the remission of my sins, thy favour and goodness, the inheritance of everlasting life. Grant, I beseech thee, that I may continue in this state of salvation, in the holy fellowship of thy Church, the mystical body of thy Son, and, by thy grace, may do all such good works as thou hast prepared for me to walk in.
But, O gracious God, who knowest the frailty of my nature, and that I am set in the midst of many and great dangers, grant me thy strength and thy protection--support me in all dangers, and carry me through all temptations; may I never cast away my confidence in thee, nor place it any where but in thee. Keep me, I beseech thee, from all things hurtful to my salvation; and lead me to all things profitable to it. May I remember always that I am bound by the most solemn obligations to follow the example of my Saviour Christ, to die unto sin, and to rise again unto righteousness. Mortify and kill all vices in me, and strengthen me by thy grace, that by the innocence of my life, and constancy of my faith, even unto death, I may glorify thy holy name. Constantly beholding, by faith, the glory that shall be revealed, the good things which thou hast prepare for those that love thee, may I forsake all worldly and carnal affections, all covetous wishes, and inordinate love of this world, and seek supremely those heavenly treasures, those true joys which are at thy right hand, and which exceed all that I can desire. Grant this, I beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.