« AnteriorContinuar »
Juden and Samaria, except the Apostles, who remain'd at Jerusalem. Among those that were scatter'd, Philip the Deacon went down to the City of Samaria, and preach'd Christ unto them. Where the People with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the Miracles done by him : for he dispoffess'd evil and unclean Spirits, and many that were troubled with Palsies and Lameness were heald by him ; which occafion'd great Joy in all the City. Now Samaria was a City or Country inhabited by Jews and Gentiles, and so they had a Medley or Mixture of Religions, partly Jewish, and partly Heathenish ; for they feared the Lord, and served their own Gods, after the manner of other Nations; 2 Kings 17.33. They mingled the Service of the true God with that of the false and heathen Gods, and blended their Worship with Idolatry. In our Saviour's time there was a great Controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans, about the Object and Place of Worship; of which we read, Fohn 4. where our Saviour told the Samaritans, that they worship'd they knew not what, ver. 22. meaning, that they were Idolaters, and wanting the Knowledg of the true God, fell down to false and idol Gods; and such they continu'd, till Philip went down and preach'd to them, and by his Doctrine and Miracles convinc'd and converted them all to the Christian Faith : infomuch that they believing what Philip preach'd concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Chrift, became Profelytes to the Gospel, and were baptized both Men and Women.
Now when the Apoftles, who were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had receiv'd the Word of God, they fent unto them Peter and John : that is, hearing the good Success of St. PhiLips Ministry at Samaria, by the Accession of so many Converts to Christianity, and knowing that Philip had gone fo far with them as his Office of a Deacon would reach, namely, to teach and to baptize them; they thought fit to send down two of their own Company with the farther Power of Apostles, to do something more for them. The Persons fent were St. Peter and St. John, two of the prime Apostles; the one the Apostle of the Circumcifion, the other the Disciple whom Jesus loved. But what was the End or Errand upon which they were sent? Why, that was partly to confirm the new Converts, and partly to ordain Elders and Pastors to instruct and govern them in the feveral Cities or Parts of the Country,
To which end, the next words tell us, that when they were come down, they pray'd for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghoft : which was the Prayer generally used at Confirmation and Ordination, and was here very seasonable and necessary; For as yet the Holy Ghost was not fallen upon any of them, only they were baptiz'd in the Name of the Lord Jesus : being perhaps as ignorant yet of the Holy Ghost, as the Disciples at Ephesus, who being ask'd by the Apostle, whether they had receiv'd the Holy Ghost since they believ'd? reply'd, that they had not so much as beard whether there was any Holy Ghoft; having had no other than John's Baptism, which had no mention of the Holy Ghost, Afts 19. 2, 3. And therefore the Apostles both here and there pray'd, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: and when they had laid their Hands upon them, their Prayers were answer'd; and 'tis said here, that they receiv'd the Holy Ghost; and there, that the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with Tongues, and prophefyd. So that from these words, which are principally meant of the laying on of Hands in Confirmation, reckon'd among the first Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, common to all Christians, Heb. 6. 2. I must treat,
First, Of the Nature, End, and Rise of this antient Rite of Confirmation.
Secondly, Of the Ceremony of laying on of Hands used in it.
Thirdly, of the Persons by whom and to whom it is to be administer'd. And,
Fourthly, Of the Graces and Blessings that accompany and accrue from it.
And, Firft, For the Nature of Confirmation, it is the ratifying or confirming of the Vow or Promifé made in Baptism: for when any are receiv'd into the Church by being baptiz'd, they folemnly promise to believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and to continue stedfast in that Belief to their Lives end. And this in adult or grown Persons, who are instructed before they are baptiz'd, is done foon after Baptism ; as it was in these Samaritan and Ephesian Converts.' But' in Children, who by the Mercy of Christ and the Charity of the Church are admitted to Baptism, and are receiv'd into the Church upon the Engagement of others, before they are capable of under
standing their Duty ; this is to be done after, when they come to Years of Discretion, to know and understand what others have undertaken and engag'd for their benefit, and in their behalf. And being taught and arriv'd to some competent Knowledg of these things, they are to renew and ratify those Promises in their own Persons, and take that upon themselves in their riper Years, which was by Sure, ties engag'd for them in their Infancy. And this is done at the time of Confirmation, fo call'd from confirming the Baptismal Vow, and binding the Obligation of it more strongly upon them; whereby baptiz’d Persons are confirm'd in their Duty, and more closely ty'd to the Observance of it.
This is no new, needless, or upstart Invention, as some have vainly objected ; but an antient, pious, and excellent Institution, tending much to the good Éducation and Salvation of Children receiv'd into the Church. It began in the Jewish Church, where, as Buxtorf and other Jewish Wri. ters inform us, Children after they were circumcis'd the eighth Day, as soon as they were capable of Instruction, were to be taught the Letter of the Law, then the Tal mud; and when they arriv'd to some competent measure of Understanding in both, were to be publickly presented in the Congregation, where they folemnly oblig'd themselves to be Filii Precepti, subject to the Law, and to keep the Sabbath, the Paffover, and other Ceremonies of the Church : and thenceforward they were to answer for themfelves, and their own Faults.
This pious and laudable Practice is from the Jewish de riv'd down and continu'd in the Christian Church to this day. We find it approv'd by our Saviour, who commanded the little Children to be brought to him, laying his Hands on them, and blessing them; Mark 10. 'Twas practis’d by the Apostles in the several places where they wenty and is come down to us thro the several Ages and Centuries of the Church,
Now this Rite of Confirmation was ever accompany'd with Prayer and the Imposition of Hands; both which are here mention'd.
(1.) I say, it was attended with Prayer : fo did Peter and Yohn for these Disciples of Samaria, who when they came down, pray'd for them that they might receive the Holy Ghoft. This is the ordinary means of conveying Divine
Grace, and is appointed by God for his conferring of the Holy Ghost, and by it of spiritual Strength fufficient to perform the Baptismal Vow.' By this we call in the Aid and Allistance of God's Holy Spirit, to supply the Defects of our Weakness, and to enable us to do that by the help of his Grace, which we cannot do for our felves. To which end, Prayer was ever attended in this Ordinance,
(2.) With laying on of Hands, and blesling those upon whom they were laid. This did Peter and Fohn here with good effect, for they laid their Hands on them, and they receiv'd the Holy Ghost. So did Paul to the Disciples at Ephesus; He laid his Hands upon them, and the Holy Ghost came on them, and they Spake with Tongu'es and prophefyd; Acts 19. 6. Indeed, laying on of Hands is one of the most antient Ceremonies used in Blessing the People. 'Twas used by Jacob in blefling his Sons, Gen. 48. 14,'15. where we find him laying his Hands on Ephraini, Manasfeh, and Jofeph, and with that imploring a blessing upon them. From his Example it was after follow'd and observd by the Jews in all their folemn Benedictions. Thus we find it used in consecrating the Levites, whom Aaron, after. laying on of Hands, offer'd unto the Lord; Numb. 8. 10,11. Moreover, God directed Moses sin blessing Joshua, to lay his Hands upon him, and thereby make him his Successor ; Numb. 27, 18. From hence this Custom descended to the Christian Church ; for our Saviour, in compliance with this antient Usage, laid on bis Hands in blessing the Children that were brought to him. And his Apostles and their Succeffors have, by the Imposition of Hands and Prayer, confirm'd Converts, and ordain'd Elders ever since. And this will lead me to consider,
Thirdly, The Persons who are to administer this facred Rite, and likewise those to whom it is to be administer'd.
For the first, the Persons by whom Confirmation is to be administer'd ; they from the beginning have been the prime Paftors and Governours of the Church. Among the Jews (as Buxtorf tells us) they who in their younger Years had learnt the Law, were brought into the holy Affembly, where Prayers were made over them, with the Inposition of the Hands of the High-Priest: which Office was perform’d by the highest Order of Priests under that Dispensation.
In the New Testament we find Confirmation confin'd to the Apostles, who were an Order by Christ's Appointment Vol. iy. Part 2.
superiour to and distin&t from the Seventy Disciples, and could do some things with Authority in the Church, which the others could not.
Hence we find in this Gospel for the Day, that when Sae maria 'had receiv'd the Word of God, and were baptiz'd by Philip; Peter and John, two of the Apostles, were fent to administer Confirmation to them: Which was an Act peculiar to the chief Rulers of the Church, and not allow'd to inferiour Officers. For tho Philip could baptize, yet'he could not confirm; yea, tho he had many miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet that did not qualify him for this Office, which belong'd only to the Apostles. In compliance with this Apostolick Practice and Pattern, the Christian Church hath ever reserv'd the Honour of dispensing this holy Rite to their Succeffors the Bishops. This we find attested by the Fathers with one consent.
St. Ambrose tells us, that to preserve the Unity and Authority of the Church, Confirmatio a solis Episcopis fieri solet, Confirmation is wont to be perform'd only by the Bishops.
To the fame purpose speaks St. Jerom, Non nisi per manus Episcopi&c. By the Hands of the Bishops only was Confirmation administer'd. Which was a Matter of fact. fo well known and attested through all the Ages of the Church, that Calvin himself plainly declares it to be the antient Practice, that Children of Christian Parents being first taught, coram Episcopa fifterentur, should be brought to the Bishop to be confirmd. And other of the wiseft Pres byterians, overcome by the Evidence of this Truth, have frankly acknowledg'd the fame. By all which it manifestly appears, that this Office of Confirmation hath been ever allign’d to the Bishops or prime Rulers of the Church, even as it continues with us to this day: and with good reason too, their Blessing being apt to be receiv'd with greater Veneration, and to beget a higher Authority and Efteen for this Sacred Rite, as also to make the People expect better Effects from that Office, which none but the highest Ministers of Religion are impower'd to performe Thus we see the Persons authoriz'd to administer this Or: dinance.
Let us next consider the Persons to whom it is to be ad. minister'd; and they are, all baptiz?d Persons competent: ly instructed in the Principles of Religion. So that the Qualifications of Persons to be confirm'd, are Baptifin and competent Instruction,