THE RECTOR'S STUDY
CONVERSATIONS ON CONFIRMATION.
BY REV. W. E. WYATT. D. D.
"BUT you have been a member of the church," said Henry to his friend, young Mr. Temple, "for several years. Why need you to be confirmed?"
"I have been a member of the church," Mr. Temple replied, "for twenty years, for I was baptized in my infancy. But having been absent from home at the periods of the Bishop's last two visits, I have availed myself of the provision of the church for such cases, and have been a communicant for two or three years."
Henry. "And do you imagine that confirmation is necessary for me, although I received adult baptism so recently."
Temple. If there were no other grounds for believing it, I should infer it from the fact, that at least a large portion of those whose confirmation is recorded in scripture, had received baptism at a mature age. Some of those confirmed by St. Paul in Syria and Silicia (Acts xv. 41.) may have had infant baptism.
Henry. This, I think, is one of the hours named by our minister for conversation with persons desiring to be informed on the subject. Let us go to him now.
Temp. Regarding him as the authorised dispenser in this section of CHRIST'S church, of the truths and privileges of the gospel, I may say without irreverence, "To whom else shall we go." Let us seek, of the gospel ministry, in the uncorrupted word, and with the promised Comforter, "to be led into all truth."
RECTOR, MR. TEMPLE, HENRY, CHRISTINA, RUTH.
Temp. We come, sir, in compliance with your request from the desk on Sunday last, that those parishioners who have not hitherto been confirmed, should visit and converse with you at this hour on the subject of the ordinance.
 Ruth. I do not mean by calling to-day, to imply that I have determined to receive confirmation during the Bishop's approaching visit; but I came because you desired it, and because I wish to know what one should do, and what we are required to renounce, in order to be qualified for so solemn a service.
Hen. Your sermon on Sunday, the purport of which corresponded with the appeal of Moses to the Israelites—"Who is on the LORD'S side," led me to painful reflections. Such instability as they manifested upon the occasion alluded to there, alarms me for myself. I am afraid to utter vows, and assume obligations. Scarcely had the ransomed tribes recovered from the panic of their flight from Pharaoh's hosts, when they were shouting before the molten calf, "These be thy gods, oh, Israel." Can it be, that human nature is still capable of the same?
Temp. There can be no doubt of it. If there were no other evidence, the history of one of the most refined nations of the globe, within the last half century, furnishes facts sufficiently conclusive of it.
Rec. This apparent incapacity to cherish lasting impressions, and at length even to feel a repetition of the most affecting considerations and occurrences, is an evil almost as common as it is deplorable. We discover it amidst all varieties of character and condition. A man who, at one period, would shudder in the chamber of a single corpse, beneath whose shroud much of the ghastly ravages of death is concealed, will, at length, learn to traverse undauntedly a field of carnage by night, that he may plunder and strip the mutilated and scarcely stiffened dead. A man who, in irrepressible consternation, would rush shrieking from his house at the first trembling of its walls in an earthquake, after dwelling long in countries subject to such convulsions, builds his neat cottage on the breast of the mountain which contains the elements of destruction, and is not deterred by its foreboding rockings, from planting there his vineyard; and sleeps without apprehension over the fiery gulph, which, bursting its barriers, may bury in a moment whole hamlets in ruin and devastation.
Chris. Strange inconsistency! Amazing thoughtlessness and rashness!
Rec. So it is; and yet it is not without its parallel among ourselves, and every where. Observe the apathy with which we learn to see processions bearing the dead to the house appointed for all living, as they urge their way through crowded and tumultuous streets. And notice the absence of lasting convictions as the companions of our active pursuits and the friends of the social circle are stricken down, one by one, and removed into the world of unchangeable retribution.—But there is yet still stronger proof of the facility with which moral impressions are effaced.
Hen. You allude to the manner in which the truths of religion are heard and are forgotten.
Rec. I do. Many of those truths approve themselves readily to [2/3] the understanding and the conscience. The sovereignty of GOD as just as it is irresistible,—who does not admit it? That the inflexible verity and faithfulness of GOD will cause Him to fulfil both his promises and denunciations; that they who will devise for themselves, independently of the gospel, conditions of salvation, must stand or fall, as they establish, or fail to establish, a meritorious claim to eternal life; and that they who hope for salvation through JESUS CHRIST, must comply with the terms of the gospel covenant; that our probation ceases at death; and that afterwards remorse for having here resisted convictions, and neglected graces, and refused to embrace the conditions of mercy, must everlastingly prove unavailing;—these are truths almost as universally admitted as they are distinctly inculcated in the sacred volume. And yet how many men act, not merely through infirmity and passion, but deliberately and intentionally, as if they believed neither the authority of GOD, nor the existence of any terms of salvation through the blood of JESUS CHRIST.
Temp. Yes, and death—of all subjects most, likely to affect one deeply,—what is sooner forgotten?
Rec. Scarcely any thing. The consignment of this cherished body of ours to solitude, the worm, decay, extinction, and the transmission of the still conscious spirit to a retributive and unchangeable state;—judgment, too, the unerring, holy judgment of every secret, as well as known action, word, and thought, according to the standard of the gospel—what topics more capable of agitating the soul! and yet, as I remarked,—as men learn to rifle without emotion the ghastly dead, and to build and sleep in the neighbourhood of groaning and trembling volcanoes, so they learn to hear calmly, and without allowing it to produce the slightest practical effect, of the sovereign authority of GOD,—which they are insulting; and of the terms of salvation through CHRIST—with which they are refusing to comply; and of death—for which they are not preparing by a holy life; and of judgment—which, if GOD be true, must condemn them. And when under various forms the gospel cries out, "who is on the Lord's side," they are not afraid to sit still, as if they did not know that CHRIST himself said, "he that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth."
Ruth. But, my dear minister, it appears to me that none deny that there are two classes or descriptions of persons in the world. Perhaps the most unprincipled and worthless admit that one of these classes may be esteemed good and the other bad, and that their future destiny may correspond with their present character.
Rec. No doubt. But—they differ in the designation and characteristics of these classes. Some appear to consider the class of unworthy persons, whose salvation is endangered, as comprehending a very small number—only those who die on the scaffold, or who have become infamous for their vices, or who have been their enemies. In the estimation of many, all that are not immoral are [3/4] the good; all that are benevolent are the good; the wealthy—if they be only liberal, and not proud; the poor—if they be industrious and sober; the professors of religion—if they be bold in their professions of faith, and zealous for the externals of piety,—these are the meritorious and entitled to salvation. But if, upon hearing such a proclamation as that which was made on Sunday from the pulpit, in the words of Moses, all these should range themselves among the followers of JESUS CHRIST, with no other qualifications than I have just described, can we imagine that they would be acknowledged by him to be his disciples and children? Be assured—to judge rightly of this matter is of indescribable importance. The consequence of an erroneous estimation or classing of ourselves, are beyond measure deplorable. And we must act; for divine providence is calling, and the religion of JESUS CHRIST is calling us, to decide the matter,—to pronounce upon it; and we do decide, and act upon the opinion formed.
Ruth. But do you think, sir, that none have thus decided and joined themselves to the cause of CHRIST, but those who are confirmed and have received the LORD'S supper.
Rec. Our attachment to any cause is most effectually tested, not by the feelings which we may suppose to exist in our bosoms, but by the conduct which it produces. Attachment to the cause of a prince is manifested by submission to his authority. Of those who do not receive the LORD'S supper, there is, at least, a large class who have hitherto done nothing of themselves to affect their covenant relation to GOD; who have uttered no vows, made no profession of faith and obedience, and who stand without the scope of the redeeming covenant, as infirmities, and accidents, and months, and years, are bearing them on towards eternity. And to all such, if there be any distinction between virtue and vice, any reality in the service of a holy GOD, every thing that is calculated to lead them to make their choice, and take their stand, is of the deepest moment.
Temp. In the whole course of one's life, scarcely any incident can, in this point of view, be as interesting as the privilege of receiving confirmation.
Hen. Especially if confirmation be considered a divinely instituted test of faith.
Chris. What is the principal design of confirmation?
Rec. In confirmation we ratify the baptismal compact with heaven. This comprises all that can be said of its nature. But this is of vast importance. And being led to expect a visit from our excellent Bishop for the administration of this ordinance, I am urged by the most indispensable obligations of my office, to entreat those who were brought into the Christian society in their infancy, that they will make their adoption and membership an act of their own public approval. Still more forcibly will most of the arguments apply, to those who have no covenant relation to GOD.
 Ruth. But, my dear minister, I cannot find that there is much written in the Bible about confirmation.
Rec. That really is the case. But the passages relating to it, are much more explicit than those which enjoin the observance of a sabbath on the first day of the week, or the administration to women of the LORD'S supper. And moreover, the subject does not require much illustration, and what is written is perfectly intelligible and satisfactory.
Ruth. Did our SAVIOUR institute this religious rite?
Rec. No. The ordinance was instituted by the Apostles, under the guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT, and acting with the authority which CHRIST gave them before his ascension, fully to organize his church; and it has been practised in the church without intermission through every subsequent age. It consists in laying the hands of the Bishop in prayer upon the heads of those who profess the faith, and devote themselves to the obedience, of CHRIST. The solemn imposition of hands is a ceremony of the utmost antiquity, employed in the designation of men to various offices; and by the Apostles in healing the sick, conferring gifts and graces, and in confirming in a public and solemn manner the engagements of believers to the service of GOD.
Hen. It appears to me that confirmation is not usually considered in the world as decidedly obligatory.
Rec. So far from its being an ordinance of a trivial or unprofitable nature, it is classed by St. Paul in the epistle to the Hebrews with baptism, repentance, faith, the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the final judgment. (Heb. 6, 12.) He speaks of it as one of the first "principles of the doctrine of CHRIST," fundamental in its importance, universal in its application, if neglected in youth, it is still binding in maturer age.
Chris. Where shall we find, sir, the most explicit instruction with regard to confirmation.
Rec. In the 8th chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, it is mentioned that Philip, who, at the time spoken of, fulfilled the office of a deacon in the church of CHRIST, went down to Samaria, and preached CHRIST to them, and multitudes were converted, and there was great joy in that city. The historian continues; "when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of GOD, and the name of JESUS CHRIST, they were baptized, both men and women. (v. 14.) Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word of GOD, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the HOLY GHOST. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the LORD JESUS. Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the HOLY GHOST." Another instance of a similar kind is related in 6th verse of the 19th chapter of the Acts. It is the point to be remarked in both of these passages, that when the people had been converted and baptized in the name of the [5/6] LORD JESUS the full influences of the HOLY GHOST, notwithstanding, were not imparted to them. Baptism placed them in a covenant relation to GOD, and afforded them a conditional title to salvation. A subsequent public profession of faith, and application for authorised means of grace, were among the conditions of the title.
Temp. This arrangement, too, does not appear to have been made by a single Apostle.
Rec. No, but the assembly of those holy men, who were commissioned by the SAVIOUR to promulge his gospel, and organize his church, hearing of the converts baptized by Philip, sent two of their own order, of which bishops are the successors, who, when they had laid their hands upon them, with prayer, obtained, for them, through this outward religious ordinance, the communications of the HOLY GHOST.
Hen. This then, I suppose, is the reason that none but bishops are allowed to administer confirmation.
Rec. Certainly: Not merely because it has been the immemorial usage of the church, but because Apostles were especially appointed and sent to perform a duty in a city in which others had baptized. St. Paul also confirmed in Ephesus those who were just baptized by some other minister. Possessing the highest qualifications for promulgating the gospel, and not having time to afford the minute instructions which should precede and follow baptism, they were contented with maintaining the unity of the church, and the dependence of all its members and orders upon the chief shepherd, by thus bringing every believer within their own cognizance in this interesting rite.
Temp. There is singular plainness and fitness in all the circumstances of this institution. But I believe that, if it were necessary, the writings of the early fathers contain a satisfactory comment upon it.
Rec. Yes, Tertullian who wrote in the latter part of the second century, observes that, "after baptism, succeeds laying on of hands, with prayer, calling for the HOLY SPIRIT." St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and others, bear the same testimony. The ordinance corresponds, moreover, with a religious service practised among the Jews, who presented their children at the age of thirteen before the congregation. "The children then, having been properly instructed in the precepts of their law, were thenceforth regarded as themselves accountable for their sins, and were styled sons of the precepts."
Chris. How naturally and beautifully the rite belongs to a system of religious education!
Rec. In the hallowed chain of means of grace, it is a link connecting the first ordinance, by which in infancy we obtain membership in the Christian society, with that later and more exalted sacrament, which is the consummation of Christian privileges upon the earth. It is a measure of prudence, by which we approach, [6/7] with suitable caution, to the highest responsibilities of the Christian life. It is an act of justice and gratitude to our parents and guardians, thus publicly to avow our approbation of the principles in which they have educated us. It is a noble employment of the intellect in its earliest maturity, and of our character and influence before they have been sullied by much communion with the world, that we should declare our conviction in favour of virtue and holiness. It is a voluntary and heroic dedication of one's self to the cause of the cross, testifying that we are not ashamed of him that died for us. And it is a part of that moral discipline by which we are trained up, through a regular series of sanctifying dispensations, to a fitness for communion with GOD everlastingly.
Temp. How far above even the applause that genius elicits, the pride of wealth, the pleasure of sensuality, the boast of the infidel, is such a dedication of one's self to the nobler pursuits and objects of our being!
Rec. Yes, and how unmanly the indecision of those, who, unable to cast off principles of religion which great and good men every where venerate, cannot yet prevail upon themselves to practice them consistently; and who neither admired by the profligate nor trusted by the believer, neither enjoying the peace of their own conscience, nor the advantages which decided and persevering guilt may sometimes, for a moment obtain, subject themselves, both in the judgment of the gospel and of the world, to the imputation of a timid and ignoble spirit.
Chris. There can be no difference of opinion in this matter among those who will examine the subject candidly and dispassionately. But I believe the greatest obstacle which the ordinance often encounters, is an impression that it is a matter in the truth or falsehood of which one need give himself no concern.
Rec. If the Apostles, in the fulness of their divine direction and authority, instituted confirmation for the strengthening and renewing of believers, can any man maintain with impunity that we may safely slight and contemn it? May we imagine that CHRIST ordained trivial unprofitable ordinances; or that we can determine more justly than the Maker, and Governor and Judge of our spirits, "what we must do to be saved."
Temp. So far from confirmation being a duty of inconsiderable moment, may not infant baptism be regarded as imperfect, in the case of persons surviving to adult age without it?
Rec. Infant baptism is but a conditional compact between GOD and man, through the instrumentality of agents, the minister acting on the part of JEHOVAH, and the parents in behalf of their offspring. A period and means are appointed for consummating the covenant. To refuse that prescribed means is to throw back the compact. To refuse to ratify is virtually to annul it; especially when we consider that faith, which is the great comprehensive object of the revelation of God's will to us, if it be genuine, and if [7/8] it can have, even in a subordinate sense, any saving efficacy, must produce obedience to the several institutions of the covenant.
Hen. There is, I am told, another view of the subject, common, I should hope, only among those who are strangers or unfriendly to the principles of our church; I mean, that to receive confirmation is regarded by us as a matter of mere form and ceremony, and that no decided religious affections and principles are required in the recipient. Is not this a shocking doctrine, sir?
Rec. It would be a shocking perversion and abuse of sacred things, if any reflecting christian, and especially if a clergyman, could entertain such an opinion. But I have never met with one who did so.
Temp. I have occasionally heard such sentiments ascribed to members and ministers of our church; and it has always reminded me of venders of patent medicines, who are seldom satisfied with applauding their nostrums, without a sly intimation that all others are injurious or worthless, or at least are compounded with less care than their own; and who strive to magnify the cures they have wrought, by adding that regular and eminent practitioners had been applied to in vain.
Rec. It is worse than ludicrous, for it painfully reminds one of the spirit of the Pharisee, "thanking GOD that he was not like other men," and scornfully exclaiming, "stand aside I am holier than thou." There is no doubt that confirmation, like other duties, civil as well as religious, may be perverted and abused; and that nominal churchmen are sometimes found partaking of this Apostolic rite, as in every christian society, nominal professors of religion perform all their sacred exercises, as a matter of course, and because others, of the same age and under similar circumstances, are doing the same. But such views of qualification for the ordinances, however common in the world, are not less deplorable. They give a tone to the whole character, frustrate the whole design of the revelation of JESUS CHRIST, afflict the church, dishonour the gospel, and send the unsanctified soul into eternity burdened—in addition to all the other fruits of its vanity and passion—burdened with the guilt of profaning sacred things.
Temp. When we reflect upon the scope of our future existence, and the entire dependence of its eternal bliss or wretchedness upon our present conduct and principles, life assumes an aspect of the most awful importance. And yet, what a season of vanity and delusion, of frivolous pursuits and unprofitable cares, does the influence of the world, in a multitude of cases, cause it to be!
Rec. Yes; and how many sorrows and humiliations are required, before it can be chastened by the gospel! It is painful to trace the successive steps of what is esteemed a sufficiently religious life, in the judgment of the world. Upon the birth of a child, the friends and relatives are assembled, with much of the arrangement usually found to attend upon any other social circle; [8/9] and the infant heir of a fallen, guilty, perishing nature during a momentary pause in the conversation, is placed under the most awful obligations to JEHOVAH, admitted a member of a spiritual society, and devoted to the service and imitation of a crucified Master. After fourteen or sixteen years passed in the usual occupations and indulgences of childhood, when perhaps the whole amount of christian education is comprised in the attainment of the church catechism, (time not having been allowed for much additional instruction of the minister,) the youth is advised that the next step in his religious life is Confirmation. To urge his reluctant feet to the altar of his GOD, he is assured that nothing material shall be required of him there; the alarmed parent himself would stipulate that nothing shall be abandoned, which could in any degree interfere with the accomplished introduction of the youth into society. It is represented to be only a proper measure, with which other young persons comply; and that while it exonerates the parents from farther responsibility, it confers moral independence on the child. With the asperities of a religious life thus broken down, and the path to heaven made broad and accommodating, the young candidate for immortality, ensnared into a profession of faith, practised by a few hours of study occasionally, to reply to the inquiries of his no less ensnared minister, coldly or tremblingly takes this first step in devotion. Through the constant influence of the examples, the conversations, and the books, which meet his eye and his ear every hour, his soul becomes enveloped in the most profound delusion respecting what is necessary for its safety. Provided with certain specious notions of rational religion, and some convenient explanations of scripture, he is able to ward off all the arrows of the gospel; and he is prepared to resent, as an infraction of his privileges, any future attempt to awaken him to a higher estimation of duty. Years roll over him, years of vanity, and passion, and care;—and, at length, wearied with the turmoil of pleasure, and made uneasy with the consciousness of approaching infirmity, and decay, and death, he begins, as the next matter in course, to make himself worthy—I am employing, you know the language of the world—worthy of receiving the LORD'S Supper. This he does, after as many paroxysms of devotion, once or twice in the course of a year. This series of ordinances is at last to be crowned by a prayer, and a few words of admonition from his pastor, in his chamber, before he expires. And thus the season of probation which CHRIST had purchased, which the Spirit would have sanctified, which mercy had protracted with infinite forbearance, which providence had blessed, upon which an eternity of Heaven or of Hell depends, being closed, the immortal but recoiling spirit is borne before that tribunal which must pronounce, "WITHOUT HOLINESS NO MAN SHALL SEE GOD."
Ruth. I confess you terrify me.
Christ. Such I have no doubt is the religious life, such the work of salvation, of multitudes who stand very fair in the world. And [9/10] yet externally, very little of this delusion and guilt may appear. The defect is far less in the ordinary action, than in the spirit.
Temp. But a spirit so dangerously in error is not peculiarly manifested in the preparation for this apostolic rite of which we were speaking.
Rec. Not at all; it is that estimation or observance of the institutions of christianity in general, which curses a portion, a class, of all denominations of professing christians with spiritual barrenness; which leaves the soul to encounter all the sorrows and perils of life, without the succour that redeeming love had provided for it; and gives to infidelity its boldest triumph. And, in opposition to such a spirit, and to such views of confirmation in particular, I must repeat to you what I have said from the pulpit, that the obligations assumed in confirmation, cover the whole broad ground of christian duty; that there is no offence, whether of omission or commission, which at any mature age, or under any temptations, you may with impunity commit; that there is no virtue, no grace, which you are not bound to cultivate; that the LORD'S Supper imposes no higher responsibilities; except, that being usually received by those who are more mature in age and experience, less allowance can be made in their case for the effects of frailty and passion.
Temp. Because there is but one law upon obedience to which our eternal destiny depends GOD can never make a compromise with his creatures, nor sanction, by lenity in enforcing our obligations, any kind or degree of negligence and impiety.
Hen. I am to understand then, that Baptism, Confirmation, and the LORD'S Supper all impose, without mitigation or qualification, the same duty, which is obedience to the whole gospel of
Rec. Yes, and your alternative is to live virtually a stranger to the covenant of promise, and to all the benefits of the SAVIOUR’S death,—or to take the gospel of that SAVIOUR, as the model of your affections, and the guide of your whole life.
Hen. What a fearful accountability are we under! How difficult to shun the opposite extremes; and justly to portray for ourselves "that wise servant whom his lord, when he cometh shall find watching."
Rec. Not so. The character, from what has been said, may be easily defined. It is he who, neither setting aside the institutions of christianity, as without authority to govern him, nor embracing them merely from a principle of conformity to the practices of the world; neither supposing religion to consist in ceremonial observances, nor believing that a saving—that is, a true and living faith exists, where a single divine ordinance or precept is knowingly and intentionally slighted, surrenders himself, without reservation, to the guidance of the gospel,—studies its plan of salvation, professes its faith, cherishes its spirit, builds his hope upon the stability of its promises. And all this he does, not [10/11] with the arrogant spirit sometimes discovered by men who appear to imagine it a condescension to be devout; and who will be required to advance no farther in piety than their pride, and habits, and prejudices, and (what they esteem) the requisitions of society from persons of their age or rank, will admit. But he is astonished at the condescending mercy of GOD, in calling him to a knowledge of salvation through JESUS CHRIST. It is his abiding desire and care to strengthen the principle of faith; because, conscious of his fallen, guilty, and perishing state by nature, he regards the gospel scheme, with all its provisions and arrangements, as the only means of rescuing him from utter ruin. And to imbibe the spirit of that system; to receive a new and spiritual life under the operation of its truths; to "live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of GOD;" to be like clay in the potter's hand, as he casts himself in his closet, or in the sanctuary, before GOD, and invokes the transforming any elevating power of the ordinances, are the predominating and most anxious desires of his soul.
Ruth. Much as I should enjoy the privileges of a christian, I am sure I can never attain all that you have now described. I might as well go into a monastery at once.
Rec. And does this represent christian heroism as too difficult and painful an attainment? Is it then, in your estimation, too costly a privilege to be under the protection of GOD'S providence—too painful a virtue to be grateful—too great a demand upon your faith and devotion, to act consistly among the friends of JESUS CHRIST?
Hen. A friend with whom I was lately conversing on this subject, appeared to think, that christians often obtrude their principles needlessly and offensively upon the world; that religion is a concern between man and his Maker, with which society has nothing to do; that we are not at liberty so to act as to imply a censure of our friends, who cannot discover a necessity for being as zealous as we may be inclined to be; that in the essentials of faith we all agree; and that if a man entertains a proper respect for religion in his own heart, there can be no necessity for much outward manifestations of it.
Rec. What degree of zeal would you esteem a satisfactory evidence of a friendly spirit, of a man's being upon your side, if you and your neighbour were engaged in a deep and lasting feud—if your property were at stake in the contest—if your fame and friends were involved in the issue? What are the lengths to which a partizan is accustomed and expected to go in political conflicts? And will you venture to offer your GOD what the world would reject with scorn? Shall CHRIST accept a service without zeal and attachment? each one of you—every man—is "the friend, or the enemy of CHRIST." To subserve the cause of the prince of darkness, it is not necessary to perpetrate atrocious crimes, nor to cherish passions diabolical in their intensity. To be devoid of the spirit of CHRIST, frustrates as effectually his [11/12] redeeming labor and atoning death, and despoils the throne of GOD of its glory.
Chris. But after all that can be said in favor of ceremonial worship, is not the influence of religion over the heart the more important consideration?
Rec. I should undoubtedly answer that it is so, if the terms of your inquiry are properly understood. But you should not forget, that what you now call ceremonial worship, is the divinely authorised means of entering into and maintaining a saving covenant with CHRIST; and, that the life of GOD in the soul, requires the nourishment derived from those means, as the life of the body must be sustained by the means which nature is ordained to supply. I would have you always remember, that it is not the ordinance in itself, upon the efficacy of which, for salvation, so much stress is laid; but it is the principle of faith, which, according to the divine wisdom and decree, is tested and manifested by ordinances, and which is counted dead unless accompanied by works of holy obedience. In this view of the subject, one should weigh well his objections to so easy a service,—objections which would forbid his approach to the altar for any of its sealing privileges.
Hen. Do you tell me then, sir, that we cannot be saved without them; and that if we do our duty, and live without sin, GOD will notwithstanding reject us, if we should omit what you acknowledge are comparatively trivial ceremonies?
Rec. Who shall be esteemed the safe judge of what is our duty? Who shall determine what the Almighty shall regard and punish as sin? Has not GOD most solemnly declared, that "if any man shall keep the whole law, with a single exception"—that is, offending in one point—"he is guilty of all?" In other words, may not a man, by a single voluntary transgression, cast contempt and defiance upon the authority which enjoins the whole code? Has not CHRIST himself said, "ye are my friends if ye do what soever I command you?" And would you esteem it a trivial offence in your child or friend, if you had solicited some small favor as an express test of affection, and were obstinately refused?
Ruth. If the service of confirmation were privately administered, I should have less objection to it. But I am sure that I could never go up publicly in the church to be confirmed before the whole congregation.
Rec. If you have any repugnance to it, I do not recommend that you should offer yourself to the bishop for confirmation. The mercies of GOD must be humbly and gratefully sought. But must I then infer that you are ashamed of a public profession of faith? Incredible as it would seem, such backwardness, I know, does sometimes exist. There are some who say, "at their age, so young," and others, "at their age, so mature and grave,"—"in their station, so obscure," or, "in their station, so elevated and dignified," it would be humiliating, they would blush to come before the members of the christian society, for admission to their common privileges. [12/13] But you tell me, Ruth, that you could not appear before the congregation to make a public profession of faith in CHRIST. Are crowded assemblies of pleasure, are the public halls for the transaction of business, are legislative bodies, avoided by many through the influence of this principle? Did you ever appear in an assembly of pleasure? But, beholding the expiring Son of GOD upon the cross, enduring the torture and the ignominy of "the propitiation for your sins," you would excuse yourself from entering into a sanctifying and saving covenant with him, because of your backwardness publicly to acknowledge faith and devotion! I have only his own words to give you, in reply to such a pretext:"—Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father in heaven. But whosoever shall be ashamed of me or of my words, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels."
Hen. I trust that I have no difficulties of that kind to contend with. But even since my baptism, I still sometimes fear my inability to fulfil the obligations assumed.
Rec. Such is the suggestion of remaining unbelief; as if GOD's Spirit were insufficient to qualify man for obedience to GOD's laws:—as if a refusal to promise allegiance could absolve us from the duty of paying it:—as if they who refuse and they who conform, do not live under the same obligation:—as if every inarticulate breath that we draw were not in itself, sustained in being, as we are, by GOD's providence, a pledge and vow of our devotion.
Temp. Persons, in confirmation, "renew the solemn promise and vow that was made at their baptism;" and it was a part of that vow "to renounce the vain pomp and glory of the world." May not christians, sir, be sometimes perplexed to define justly the import of the terms, and to draw an accurate line between safe and innocent privileges, and those vain indulgences which the baptismal covenant binds them to renounce?
Ruth. Ah! I fear that would be a great obstacle in my path. If I were to be confirmed, I could never mingle in the world as I see so many professors of religion do; and at my age, and situated as I am, it is impossible for me now to give up the pomp and vanities which the church condemns.
Rec. The safety and innocence of some of our indulgencies, must depend, in a measure, upon the circumstances under which divine providence has placed us; and, in many respects, the experience of one, can furnish no standard of what is admissible in the condition of another. There is discretion, at least, in the precept that forbids us to "judge another man's servant; to his own master he standeth or falleth." The whole chapter (Rom. 14th) in which this caution is found, contains most valuable maxims, for the use both of the accusers and the accused, in regard to this subject. But there are, no doubt, usages and indulgencies in the world which properly belong to the class of its criminal vanities or pomps; and some of these, though possibly not in their own nature criminal [13/14] become so to the christian, from the arrangements with which they are generally found to be allied. Another description, however, must be considered as necessarily and uniformly hostile to the spirit of the gospel. It is not a favorable indication of character to be very scrupulous in discriminating between these classes. The spirit of the christian will not admit great anxiety, lest religion should invade the prerogative of the world, and narrow too much its innocent pleasures; although, at the same time, he is not unmindful of the import of the Apostle's maxim, "The kingdom of GOD is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the HOLY GHOST." I have often observed with pain, the solicitude manifested by frequent discussions respecting the pomps and vanities to be renounced, while the not less weighty portions of the same vow, "to avoid the works of the devil, the covetous desires of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh," certainly comprehending a duty of the highest obligation, seem to awaken but little concern.
Chris. But, sir, I should be very glad to know your opinion of some of those amusements which are generally sanctioned and defended in the world, and in which I sometimes see persons professing godliness venture to participate. Does not the abandonment or enjoyment of them furnish almost an unerring criterion of the christian, or of the worldly character?
Rec. Oh, not at all. To the heart not properly influenced by the spirit of true religion, it is much easier to make such sacrifice and impose upon itself such restraints,—to endure penances, to strip off ornaments, and practise austerities, than to bring itself to the pure, and meek, and benign standard of CHRIST'S example, and CHRIST'S spirit.
Temp. I think I have heard you remark, sir, that in examining the extent and comprehensiveness of the injunction, "be not conformed to this world;" where any uncertainty exists, it is our duty to remember another maxim of the same Apostle, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Rec. Yes, I think a proper regard to these two passages, would be calculated to cherish in us a suitable tenderness of conscience in regard to worldly conformity.
Hen. I find myself often drawn into conversation with several young friends on the subject of the moral tendency of the amusements of the world: and I, also, should be obliged, would you assign some of the reasons for supposing them unfriendly to growth in grace?
Rec. With all my heart. There are certainly institutions and practices in society, which are calculated to lower its grade of morals, which sap the foundation of its highest interests, while the best equivalent they can offer, is the cultivation of a spurious refinement. The world and satan have their faithful and zealous adherents. Vice, under any and every form, that can obtain a decent name, finds a ready advocate. Artful enticements, gaudy [14/15] and imposing descriptions of pleasure, even a shew of arguments, and appeals to your gratitude and benevolence are resorted to, to recommend what!—That you should be "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of GOD:"—to promote your conformity to the world, which the gospel teaches "is enmity with him,"—to encourage your attempt to reconcile "the service of two masters." The press pours out perpetual solicitations and ensnarements on these subjects. Here there is no timidity, caution, or sensibility. The followers of CHRIST then should not be backward in marking out "the narrow path that leadeth unto life."
Hen. I scarcely need mention the sports of the ring and the pit, whose vulgar brutality ought to be sufficient to prohibit them, without the influence of Christian principle.
Rec. No. Admonition and rebuke are wasted upon the subject of amusements in which the skill and the triumph, the emolument and the delight, depend upon the wounds, and the agony, and the blindness, and the rage, which one animal may be provoked to inflict upon another.
Temp. There are some games, sir, which are thought less incompatible with the christian character than many other popular amusements.
Rec. They will scarcely be esteemed so, if tested by the principles which you were advancing just now. I can only ask, is gambling, under any form, and to any amount, resorted to for "the glory of GOD?" Does it cherish amiable and disinterested affections! Does it recreate and invigorate the body? Does gaming prove harmless in its general influence upon society? Is it not liable to be abused,—to be inordinately loved,—to be employed to the ruin of individuals and of families? Will a recollection of many hours and evenings thus occupied, support the trembling spirit in its approach to the throne of its judge?
Ruth. But it is not gambling if one only plays for amusement, and not for money?
Rec. That may be true. But imagine what would appear to be the value of the distinction, if I should propose to one just about to acquire a knowledge of games, that he should pray, "Lord, lead me not into temptation to gamble."
Hen. There is perhaps less to be urged against that amusement which tends to improve the qualities of that noble animal, the horse, and which appears to enjoy the sanction of the most refined countries of Europe.
Rec. I cannot think so. It is its universal tendency to draw from their homes and business into the suburbs of the city, a promiscuous multitude; and when thus assembled, who can deny that it affords the most favorable opportunity for the practice of every species of licentiousness? Here the gentleman, and the gambler, the youth and the profligate woman, the needy mechanic, and he who can ostentatiously squander large sums with impunity, are almost indiscriminately associated: and the loss sustained by [15/16] many individuals of such an assembly, in health, reputation, property, morals, can never be justly appreciated. The moralist will anxiously inquire, What equivalent can be found for so much mischief? Should it be supposed, that the bodily vigor, or intellect, or morals, of a few of the Africans in this country were to be improved by such means,—I submit it, whether there is a man in the country who would not indignantly reject the whole. There can be no rational doubt, that much cruelty to a generous and valuable animal is inflicted in the various stages of it. And, moreover, the fact of its advancing the main object proposed, is very much questioned by many most capable of appreciating the system. It will not, at least, admit a question, whether this city, or mankind at large, are compensated for the impulse given to dissipation, and for the fearful peril of accountable, immortal beings, by the partial improvement of a race of brutes.
Ruth. I hope, sir, you will judge more favorably of an amusement to which I am excessively attached. Can you think, sir, there is any thing criminal in mere dancing?
Rec. The question you propose is very much like that of a glutton, who, "willing to justify himself," might ask if there was any thing criminal in eating: or, like that of one devoted to ostentatious dress, and costly ornaments, who might demand, if it were sinful to be clothed. "But I will also ask you a question, and answer me," Do you find that the assembly room is more anxiously desired than the house of the LORD? Do you find that it has a tendency to cherish vanity and pride, and sometimes to awaken the passions of envy and jealousy? Is it liable to involve inordinate expenditures in dress? Does the preparation for it consume time unprofitably? Does it leave the mind disqualified for a return to the grave and quiet duties of domestic life? If much enjoyed, does it invest the world with a dangerous fascination? If attended with disappointment, does it not painfully try the affections and temper? Does it not obstruct or impair that moral discipline, by which immortal beings are trained here, in spirituality of heart, for the vision of GOD in glory? If your experience or reflections constrain you to answer all, or any of these interrogatories in the affirmative, must not the gospel reply to your question, "Come out from among them and be ye separate."
Ruth. But, living in society, as it is constituted, it is not easy for one to keep out of the way of all this.
Rec. It may be easier than to endure the penalties of a worldly spirit eternally. But you contribute to introduce or foster such a state of society. You create a supposed necessity for frivolous and dissipated diversions. You withdraw from safe and moral recreations the means of support; and then affectedly lament the necessity of complying with the customs of the world, which you acknowledge render the work of salvation so difficult.
Temp. Among the enticing indulgences of the world, there are none contended for more zealously than theatrical entertainments. [16/17] Do you think, sir, that they are necessarily as injurious as they are generally represented to be?
Chris. Oh you surely need not ask such a question. For what more infallible sign can be given of an unconverted heart than a taste and love for the theatre?
Rec. If you would have me reply, I must say, that the unchristian spirit may afford many and more unerring signs of its existence. Genius, literature, and taste are by no means the highest qualities that have sometimes adorned the stage; and it has numbered among its patrons, persons as distinguished for their worth, as eminent for their talents. But we have a higher standard of morals, than the taste of any particular age;—a safer criterion of piety, than the judgment and practice of any individuals, however eminent they may have become. There is no doubt a strong conviction on the minds of a large portion of believers of every christian name, that public dramatic representations endanger the morals and piety of the community. Through a combination of means, theatrical representations powerfully affect the senses, presenting every object and quality that belongs to this world,—its pomps, pleasures, principles, under a false, but imposing and fascinating aspect. The moral or rule of conduct inculcated, is often radically bad. Unworthy characters are so represented as to engage sympathy and tenderness, admiration of some of their specious qualities, and a very mitigated disapprobation of their vices. The higher exhibitions of the drama are almost invariably marked by profanity and irreverent appeals to heaven. At theatres, in many cases, every description of profligacy may find its gratification, or excitement. The hour, the scene, the personal decorations, the dance, the promiscuous assembly, the refreshments, the melody of the voice and the instruments, the gaiety of the incidents represented, or the subdued tenderness which tragedy may inspire,—what an assemblage of ensnarements! How many perils to the soul! Is any thing wanting here to sensualize the heart, to bewilder the judgment, to lull and disarm principle, and to insinuate passion and vice into the unsuspecting bosom,—to make men "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of GOD?" Is this a suitable recreation for the followers of a crucified master! Is it in correspondence with your baptismal obligations, your solemn vows to renounce the vain pomp of the world! approaching such a scene, would it not be mockery to pray, that it might aid the cause of the Cross? Is it a dignified entertainment for females to see depicted on the stage, what would not be tolerated by the fire side; to listen to the expressions of ardent but illicit passion, to gaze at the corresponding deportment, which justice to the drama may demand! I anticipate the reply, that you would witness, only the more unexceptionable representations. But, thus far—that is, by example and pecuniary contributions what more can the most unprincipled do, to uphold and sanction an institution, from which, mere regard to decorum must frequently banish you? If now, the [17/18] child of GOD, you are experiencing the power and privilege of his religion, you need not such gratifications. If, contending unsuccessfully with temptations, you have before you the whole awful work of preparation for eternity, have you time to lavish in this manner, have you grace to trifle with, have you principles which will secure your safety under temptation?
Ruth. But, my dear sir, my own observation entirely coincides with the remark which I have very often heard, that the theatre is capable of being made a school of morals, that it may impart the most virtuous impressions. I am sure I have often felt more deeply in the theatre, than I ever did in church.
Rec. So I imagine may those who witness the effects of violent passions every where. During a long intercourse with such scenes, the despair of the gambler, the occasional convictions and remorse of the most abandoned in the haunts of profligacy, the violence and bloodshed that proceed from sudden and uncontrolled wrath, may sometimes leave upon the mind of the observer salutary convictions. But who would frequent such scenes for the refinement of their taste, or the strengthening of their morals? The true question is, what is the acknowledged, common influence of the stage upon society at large,—upon the thoughtless and unguarded? If we infer what is to be expected hereafter from the character which in other countries, and in all ages, it has invariably assumed, we must pronounce the expectation of its moral influence to be a gross delusion. Did ever a dying parent, anxious for the piety and welfare of his son, enjoin him diligently to frequent the theatre, for the improvement of his morals?
Temp. There may be, however, more force in the remark that, as society is constituted, amusements of some descriptions are indispensable, and that the theatre and other entertainments that have been named, should be patronized to prevent a resort to worse gratifications.
Rec. Conclusive as this argument appears to many, let us not admit it, without inquiring for a moment the force of the terms employed. The various departments of natural philosophy, the practice and the exhibitions of the fine arts, music and painting in particular, the charms of poetry, the power of eloquence, the study of the vegetable and mineral world,—these are all admitted to be not only innocent, not only improving, but in the highest degree entertaining. The resources of pleasure are here perfectly exhaustless, and what is more, they are often adapted to the humblest condition of the mechanic and tradesman. And who are they then, that must have other amusements than those which I have named? Who cannot pass through life without other pleasures than may be afforded by the fine arts, and by literary and scientific associations—capable as they are of being brought down to the capacity and convenience of all? Are they practical believers in JESUS CHRIST earnestly engaged in working out their salvation?
 Ruth. No, sir; it is meant that persons not possessed of a genuine devout principle, are in danger of going into criminal excesses if they are not allowed to enjoy the amusements of the world in the society of christians.
Rec. And is this then the powerful argument of universal application, for patronizing successively games, and theatres, and other similar amusements, that unless believers in CHRIST sanction—support—institutions acknowledged to be hostile to the spirit of the gospel, irreligious persons might choose others still more demoralizing? The children of this world must be encouraged in one corrupting gratification, to prevent their resort to another! They who are at enmity with GOD, and careless of eternity, demand some ensnaring indulgencies, and—therefore, it is admissible for christians to partake with them! In truth, there is a vast amount of delusion in the world.
Temp. And through that delusion, many do not realize that the power of the world is an unrighteous usurpation of the government of their hearts,—that there is any thing in it so very contrary to their welfare, and GOD'S glory, and they are prone to suspect the understanding, or the honesty of the men, who would disturb them in their quiet enjoyment. The moral despotism of the world destroys the energy of one's principles, it deludes the understanding, it infatuates the will; its victims love their fetters.
Christ. When I observe the great number of passages in the Bible designed to warn us against the guilt and danger of being "conformed to the world;" and compare them with the lives of the great mass of those who are esteemed sincere in their piety, I am perfectly perplexed and confounded. It seems to me that the sacred writings must be very obscure, or believers strangely infatuated.
Hen. Is it not sir, difficult to define justly in what criminal conformity to the world consists?
Rec. Is it be difficult, it is a subject not less worthy of our most careful consideration. Perhaps all that the scriptures teach in relation to it may be comprised in this passage of St. John, (1 John, 2. 15.) "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Now against what is the admonition of the apostle here directed? In proclaiming, "Love not the world," what does he enjoin upon you? Not to love to shed blood? Not to delight in rapine an violence, in drunkenness and profligacy, in swearing and lying? There is a wide range of duty beyond and above all this. The same apostle writes, "the whole world lieth in wickedness." But the whole world of indevout men are not conscious of being even tempted to the commission of those atrocious crimes. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat." And yet, of this great multitude going down, in spiritual darkness, to eternal ruin, how small a proportion have ever come under the verdict, or scrutiny of an earthly tribunal! How large a proportion of them enjoy the [19/20] esteem, and confidence of society! That love of the world which is the prevailing cause of ruin to so many souls, is far more universal, more deeply seated, more insidious, in its assaults. It is the guilt to be apprehended by all,—which may reign in the cottage, steal into the cloister, glow in the zeal of the sectarian, unhallow the worship of the believer in the temple. And with a frightful universality and power, it lurks in the unconverted heart every where. What is it renders a man a plunderer of others, or a squanderer of his own property? Conformity to the world in its pride. What is it renders another intemperate and gluttonous? Conformity to the world in its habits of luxurious indulgence. What is it causes a man to shed the blood of his friend? Conformity to the world in its notions of honor. What tempts him to expose his heart to the excitement of passions, which when aroused, may hurry him on to every species of folly and crime? Conformity to the world in its estimation of what is safe and innocent in pleasure. Conformity to the spirit of the gospel is the opposite of all this. Retirement, moderation, self-denial, spiritual vigilance, heavenly mindedness, simplicity and godly sincerity in conversation, the almost ceaseless exercise of prayer, a clear and firm conviction that every thing in which we allow ourselves to engage, may have a favourable influence upon eternity,—in other words, a reference in all things "to the glory of GOD,"—all these are characteristics of the believer's heart and life.
Temp. If the injunction to come out and be separate from the world, were merely designed to forbid our association with persons as guilty as the vilest criminals and convicts, the urgency and frequency of the precept do not correspond with the nature of the temptation; or, we must infer that the several classes of society are like the departments of a vast prison.
Rec. On the other hand, however, recollect we are not required to be distinguished from the world, only in those trivial observances which cost the heart no sacrifice. Nothing, it is admitted, is too small to be made an offering to GOD; and he who will not sacrifice a small gratification, to the dictates of conscience, and the interests of religion, would not surrender a greater. But living and mighty passions must sometimes be extirpated; the most cherished objects abandoned; warm solicitations resisted; ridicule encountered; scorn endured; a moral martyrdom in some cases submitted to; in furtherance of the purposes of the gospel of JESUS CHRIST. "They that are CHRIST'S have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lust."
Hen. You named one principle, or test of principle, expressly asserted in the sacred volume as applicable to every instance of moral conduct, "whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of GOD." How, sir, should that passage be understood?
Rec. Not as teaching that each particular action should originate in this principle; not that the motive and impulse to every measure should be a conscious design to advance the divine glory. [20/21] But merely that such a design should be the uniform and abiding principle in all our conduct, and should prevent every thing inconsistent with it. We exist for GOD'S glory. To magnify his forbearance we are preserved in life, notwithstanding our provocations of him. And it is for his glory, that redeeming love placed us under the discipline of the christian law. The most trivial actions of life may be subject to this fundamental principle. If a man's vocation in the world be attended by much bodily fatigue, he should fill his intervals of repose from labor with some of those pursuits, which enlarge our apprehensions of divine goodness, while they expand and refine the intellect. If his occupation be sedentary, and his mind liable to be wearied by the duration and intensity of its exercises, then means of invigorating the frame, while the intellect recovers its elasticity, become his duty. While this view of the matter seems to sanction the trite remark, that we must have recreations of some class, the necessity acknowledged, is not that of gratifying the frivolous propensities of a worldly spirit. Nothing connected with us may be regarded as strictly our own. Our time is not our own, for it is given us that we may do the work of GOD. Nor our health and strength, for we cannot preserve it one day; nor our intellectual powers, for they may be annihilated in an hour, by a blow, a fever, a sudden alarm. By no principle can we be justified in employing any part of our probationary existence in mere amusement, unless it be to derive augmented power for GOD's service. And without this ultimate object,—austere as the principle may seem,—no amusement of any kind can be deemed innocent. Should we study the loftiest productions of the poet, or listen to the most ravishing strains of devotional music, or contemplate on the canvass a delineation of the most affecting incidents recorded in history, at a moment when, under providence, we are called to active duty, when some helpless victim feels the malice or cupidity of the oppressor, when some heedless youth is threatened with ruin through the snares of the world, and when our agency might avert the evil, those indulgences, refined and improving as they are delightful, become criminal. Now, there is always some service to be rendered to GOD or man in our respective stations; and we are dismissed from that service occasionally, only that it may be discharged more effectually upon our return. In the selection of our amusements, however, it is not sufficient to justify them, that we, as individuals, experience no influence unfriendly to piety. If it be their natural, usual, acknowledged, tendency, to obstruct the progress of the christian life, to dissipate the fervors of the devout spirit, and to augment the power of the world over the heart, it is criminal to incur the danger. Nothing, in itself indifferent, continues to be so when, through the sanction of our example it may ensnare the weak or the unwary.
Hen. However warmly young persons defend the privilege of enjoying what they consider the pleasures of the world, there are [21/22] none of them, I imagine, who suppose that such pleasures will be agreeable to their taste, or consistent with their religious attainments, when they shall be a few years older. Many in the congregation, I have no doubt, who will not be confirmed at the present season, are satisfied that they will be prepared for it by the next opportunity.
Rec. That is, in other words, they are unwilling yet to abandon what the church, and even they themselves, regard as "the vain pomps of the wicked world," for the privileges of the believer. They pray GOD to bless and provide for them some years longer, while they are indulging their love of the world, with its vanities,—the flesh, with its lusts,—and the devil, with his ensnaring schemes for their ruin,—and they leave to CHRIST the privilege of converting them when they are about to die. The present moment, or the present year, as they are apt to suppose, is their own. This they give to the world. The future which is GOD'S, which they may never see upon the earth, that they appropriate to CHRIST and their salvation. This is plainly the design of those who conclude to postpone their compliance until the next opportunity. They forget the admonition, so impressively conveyed in the SAVIOUR'S cursing the barren fig tree. (St. Mark, 11. 18.)
Ruth. Perhaps they do not understand it, Sir. I confess it always seemed to me hard, that the tree should be condemned for barrenness, when the historian acknowledges, that the season of bearing had not yet arrived.
Rec. It is in this manner, from imperfect acquaintance with his purposes and revelations, that men so often venture to impeach the wisdom and goodness of their Maker. It is a circumstance well known to naturalists, that among the various species of the fig tree, there are some kinds which bear fruit repeatedly during the summer. Of these, one description produces an inferior kind of fruit as early as the month of April; and the blossoms of the more valuable sort appear, when the first fruit is just ripe. Now it is imagined, most rationally, that the tree which our SAVIOUR beheld, was of this kind, known usually to produce an early fruit, though the season for the more valuable sort was not yet. Seeing its foliage from a distance, he knew that it was in a healthy state. But when he came near and saw neither figs nor the blossoms which would have promised the later harvest, "he cursed it," to use the language of St. Peter, and said, "let no man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. And the fig tree withered away." And we are thus taught, 1st, that God requires, at an early age, the fruits of his providential and spiritual mercies. And 2nd, that when these are not rendered, he may pronounce a malediction, which inflicts barrenness upon the soul; a curse, which leaves us unable to produce, at a more mature age, the virtues of the christian character.
Chris. But this surely, does not afford a representation at the manner of GOD's dealings with his creature's now.
 Rec. I have no doubt, that there is much more of this fearful retribution than many imagine. No withering sentence need come forth from heaven. No abandonment to desolating vices is necessary, to mark the man, from whom the Spirit is withdrawn. Such evidences, indeed, are sometimes exhibited. And in the obduracy or insensibility, the ruinous prodigality, or the licentious excess, of the sinner, we discover the first of those successive stages, of moral debasement and chastisement, which shall pervade the whole dark career of his future existence. But these are comparatively rare instances. It is not the design of a gracious Providence to disturb social order and enjoyment, and to punish the unoffending, by inflicting judgments prematurely upon the impenitent. Tares are permitted to grow together with the good seed, until the harvest. But as St. Peter said, "be not unmindful of this one thing, that one day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." And St Paul admonishes us, that although "He endures with much long suffering the vessels of wrath," yet "the day of the LORD will at length come, as a thief in the night." All things are easy with GOD. But nothing is more easy, than, without disturbing in the least the apparent order of his providence, or the dispensations of his religion, to seal up, under judicial blindness, those who bear leaves without fruit, professions without godliness, who have resisted and quenched convictions,—all that is necessary, is to leave them under plausible delusions.
Temp. There very often appears to be, sir, a strong sensibility to the propriety and decorum of the christian character, in irreligious persons. None seem to be more scandalized at the inconsistencies of believers, nor to judge them with more severity.
Rec. Yes; I have often heard such persons assert, that if they could entertain our opinions, they would infinitely surpass us in zeal and devotion; with our hope of immortality, that their lives should exhibit a series of the most splendid achievements to qualify them for it; with our sense of obligations to a crucified Redeemer, that no temptation should quench their love, no trials abate their devotion. The lukewarmness of christians, no doubt, casts both reproach and suspicion upon their principles. But you will generally find, that these lofty speculations respecting what professing christians ought to do, proceed from men, who fall far below the moral standard which they have themselves chosen. And, after indulging in reveries concerning the graces which shall adorn them at some future time, they return to the vanity, and passion, and malevolence, and excess, that are dishonourable to any rational creature, and inconsistent with every profession.
Hen. We have detained you, sir, for a long time, and are grateful for the patience with which you have answered our inquiries.
Rec. I shall rejoice to find that I have been able to satisfy your doubts, and confirm your convictions of duty. And now I must ask, are you on the LORD'S side or, rather, I should say, the [23/24] angels of GOD are asking it, as they behold you and your companions called to the discharge of a sacred obligation. The church of CHRIST is asking it, interested, as the whole community is, in those who have "one faith, one baptism, one GOD and Father of all." GOD'S recording spirit is asking it, about to register transactions upon which, in the great inevitable day, your eternal destiny shall depend. At this moment the decision is in your own hands. But remember,—the hour speedily approaches in which you must adhere, without the possibility of change, to the party that you may now choose. Even in that hour, midst the thunders and shouts, the triumph and despair, which shall attend the appearance in the clouds of CHRIST'S awful tribunal,—even then it shall be asked, in a voice that shall startle all the assembled generations of men, who is on the LORD'S side." What choice, think you, will then appear to have been the wisest and the best? Strive to imagine something of the rapture of those that "have taken the LORD for their GOD." Call upon GOD for direction, for firmness, for wisdom, for love, to cast in your lot with the righteous. And in that day, the Messiah, in his kingdom, amidst the myriads of the angelic hosts, amidst the triumphant shouts of the redeemed,—CHRIST "shall not be ashamed of you."
Soldiers of CHRIST, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which GOD supplies
Through his eternal Son.
Strong in the LORD of hosts
And in his mighty pow'r,
Who in the strength of JESUS trusts,
Is more than conqueror.
Stand then in his great might,
With all his strength endu'd;
And take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of GOD.
That having all things done,
And all your conflicts past,
Ye may behold your victory won,
And stand complete at last.
 A Prayer for Grace to resign Ourselves to God.
My great and glorious Maker, my continual preserver and benefactor, my gracious Redeemer, thine I am by all the ties of duty and love, and to thee I should resign and devote myself by my own free choice and voluntary act, for thou hast formed me for thyself; and dearly ransomed me, after I had destroyed myself.
But with confusion and remorse, O LORD, I acknowledge that I have often sacrilegiously alienated myself from thee; I have foolishly and wickedly forsaken thee, to be under the power and servitude of my own vain humours and lusts. O my GOD, forgive and mortify this presumptuous and destructive selfishness. Suffer me no longer to withhold myself from thy covenant, nor expose myself to ruin, by attempting either to live in the world without thee, or, divided between GOD and mammon, to hope that I may be the friend of both. Make me consistently and cheerfully to surrender myself to the blessed Author of my being; that I may answer the end for which I was made, and attain the happiness whereof I am capable. For this I have no sufficiency in myself; but derive every good desire, and all my spiritual powers, and privileges, from union with my GOD. As all that are far from thee shall perish, as branches cut off from the living root that feeds them, let me never separate myself from my GOD. Be not thou far from me, for then will ruin be at hand; but do thou maintain thy right in me, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
O my LORD, break all the ties that would detain me from thee, and keep me in thy fear and love to my life's end. Show me the vanity of the idols which would seduce my heart from thee; and upon my mind and conscience, upon my will and affections write—holiness to the LORD. Reign, LORD JESUS, supremely in me. May I judge as thou judgest, let thy will be mine in all things, and let me love and hate, and approve, and condemn as thou dost. Let my soul and body, and all the faculties and powers of both, be sanctified by thy spirit, guarded by thy providence, and employed to thy glory. Let all that I am, and all that I have, be thine. And may I never grieve to renounce all for thee, my satisfying, my everlasting portion. Be thou all in all to me. And may it ever be my great aim, and endeavour to please thee, to promote thy glory, to imbibe thy spirit, to be conformed to thy likeness, that I may dwell with thee in the perfection of my glorified nature, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD.
For one about to be Confirmed.
Most merciful GOD, by whose gracious providence, I was born of Christian parents, and early dedicated to thee in baptism, wherein I was made a member of the holy catholic church, whereof [25/26] JESUS CHRIST is the head; I most heartily thank thee for calling me to this state of salvation, and for bestowing upon me such blessed privileges.
And now, O LORD, that I am called to receive a further degree of thy grace and favour, I humbly beseech thee to enlighten my mind with the true knowledge and understanding of that solemn vow which I made at my baptism, and which I am about to ratify and confirm publicly in thy presence.
Give me, O LORD, unfeigned repentance for all my past offences: that the many and great sins I have committed, may not deprive me of the assistance of thy HOLY SPIRIT, but through the merits of CHRIST, pardon all that is past, and give me power and strength to mortify and subdue them for the time to come. I am unable, O LORD of myself to help myself, but I solemnly give myself unto thee for the rest of my days; mercifully grant, that thy blessed SPIRIT may, in all things rule my heart, that by his holy inspiration, I may think those things that are good, and by his gracious guiding, may perform the same, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. Amen.
Thanksgiving and Prayer for One recently Confirmed.
I desire with all my soul to adore and magnify thy name, O LORD GOD, for all the expressions of thy bounty, particularly for those renewed assurances which thou hast vouchsafed me, of thy favour and gracious goodness towards me this day. Let the blessing of the rite which I have received by the hands of thy authorised servant, the bishop, be and remain with me, and most powerfully help and support me in all trials and temptations, when I most need the aid of thy HOLY SPIRIT. Leave me not a moment to my own frailty, or without his assistance; but, through his succors, enable me to adhere to that public and solemn profession of my faith which I have made in the presence of GOD and the congregation, and faithfully to perform the promises I have renewed, of observing and keeping thy holy commandments; that walking uprightly before thee all my days, and being found watching when my appointed time shall come, I may, from a life of righteousness, be translated to a life of glory.
LORD, what is man, that thou art so mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him. And what am I, one of the most unprofitable and thankless of men, that the great LORD should deal so graciously with me! O make me to know the things that are freely given me of GOD; give me a heart deeply sensible of thy mercy, and steadfastly purposing to live to thy glory; that I may shew my thankfulness for thy benefits, by obedience to thy precepts. Keep me mindful of the vows of GOD upon me; and help me to live, as having my holy Redeemer now dwelling in me.
May the covenant into which I have now entered with thee, my GOD, and the spiritual succors derived from it be to me, health and [26/27] recovery under all my weaknesses and infirmities, safety and defence against all the attacks of my spiritual enemies; vigour and strength to all my holy purposes and resolutions; comfort and support under all the afflictions and calamities of life; assistance and direction under all difficulties and doubts; courage and constancy under all dangers and persecutions, especially in times of sickness, and at the hour of death; finally, let it be to me the pledge of pardon and peace in this life, mercy and favour at the day of judgment, and a never fading crown of glory in thy heavenly kingdom.
And O that the sacrifice of CHRIST JESUS, that sacrifice of himself, which he offered upon the cross, may atone for all the failings and miscarriages in my preparations and performances. And to him with the eternal Father and HOLY SPIRIT, be all thanks, and praise, and honour, and glory, ascribed by me, and by thy whole church, now and for evermore. Amen.
O happy day, that stays my choice
On thee, my SAVIOUR and my GOD!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell thy goodness all abroad.
O happy bond, that seals my vows
To him who merits all my love;
Let cheerful anthems fill his house,
While to his sacred throne I move.
'Tis done, the great transaction's done;
Deign gracious LORD, to make me thine
Help me, through grace, to follow on,
Glad to confess thy voice divine.
Here rest, my oft divided heart,
Fix'd on thy GOD, thy SAVIOUR, rest;
Who with the world would grieve to part
When call'd on angels' food to feast.
High heav'n, that heard the solemn vow
That vow renew'd shall daily hear;
Till in life's latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.
PRAYER BOOK AT SEA.
FROM THE 107th PSALM.
Thy wondrous power, Almighty LORD,
That rules the boist’rous sea,
The bold adventurers record,
Who tempt that dang'rous way.
At thy command the winds arise,
And swell the tow'ring waves;
While they astonish'd mount the skies,
And sink in gaping graves.
Dismay'd they climb the wat'ry hills,
Dismay'd they plunge again;
Each like a tott'ring drunkard reels,
And finds his courage vain.
Then to the LORD they raise their cries
He hears their loud request,
He calms the fierce tempestuous skies,
And lays the floods to rest.
Rejoicing, they forget their fears,
They see the storm allay'd:
The wish'd-for haven now appears;
There, let their vows be paid!
O that the Sons of men would praise
The goodness of the LORD!
And those who see his wondrous ways
His wondrous love record!
"Save, Lord! or we perish." St. Matt. viii. 25.
When through the torn sail the wild tempest is streaming
When o'er the dark wave the red lightning is gleaming,
Nor hope lends a ray the poor seaman to cherish.
We fly to our Maker: "Save, LORD! or we perish."
O JESUS, once rock'd on the breast of the billow
Aroused, by the shriek of despair, from thy pillow,
Now seated in glory, the mariner cherish,
Who cries in his anguish, "Save, LORD! or we perish"
And O! when the whirlwind of passion is raging,
When sin in our hearts its wild warfare is waging,
Then send down thy Spirit thy ransom'd to cherish,
Rebuke the destroyer; "Save, LORD! or we perish."