Acts viii. Ver. 14, 15, 16, 17.
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 on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
’Tis most clearly deliver’d in God’s Word, that the Gifts and Graces, which are necessary to fit us for the Kingdom of Heaven, are to be derived from the Holy Ghost : Nay, the continu’d and efficacious Presence and Influences of that Blessed Spirit, are as requisite towards our leading a truly Holy and Spiritual Life, as the Presence of the Living Soul is unto the Body, in order to our living the Life of Nature.
And ’twas upon a strong Apprehension of it, that many of late Years have made more than ordinary Pretensions to the Gifts and Endowments of the Holy Ghost, which Christ purchased for us, and so often promised to pour out upon the Members of his Church.
But we have good Reasons to believe, that the highest Pretenders to this Spirit, have not had the best and clearest Title to it ; and that not only because their avowed Factious and Schismatical Practices did savour much more of the Works of the Flesh, than of the Fruit of the Spirit ; but also, because the chiefest of these Pretenders have been professed Undervaluers and Despisers of those very Means and Methods, which God and his Church have especially prescribed to them, for the giving and receiving the various Gifts of this glorious Spirit. For, as in all Arts and Sciences, they cannot in reason be look’d upon to be the most sound and expert Professors, who have least used the proper Means of attaining that Knowledge they pretend to ; so it ought to be a standing Rule in Divinity, that they ought not to be thought to have the greatest Share in the Gifts of the Holy Ghost of any Kind, who have made the least Use of the true, proper, and most approved Means for the attaining of them.
And the real Truth is, we have lived in Times wherein some of the very chiefest Ordinances for conferring and gaining the Graces of God’s Holy Spirit have been much misunderstood, undervalued, and neglected by all Sorts of Christian Professors, to their own great Loss and Damage, no doubt, and to the common Decay of the Life of true Religion amongst us.
Doctrine as taught in Sacred Scripture.
Most certain it is, that no one Means of Grace is so worn out of Knowledge, and has been so much mistaken and slighted of late Years, as that which is clearly recommended to us in the Words of the Text, and which is here manifestly distinguish’d from that of Baptism, and hath constantly been administred by a Hand, differing from that which is the most usual Instrument of conferring Baptismal Grace upon us ; or else it had not been said, as here we find it in the Words before us, That 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 on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
From which Passage of Holy Scripture, I shall undertake to Treat of these following Matters.
I. I shall endeavour to set forth and prove the Doctrines of the Text, relating to the Holy and Beneficial Ordinance of Confirmation, or of giving and receiving the Holy Ghost, by Prayer, and the Imposition of the Bishop’s Hands ; and then answer an Objection or two.
II. I shall declare what is the true Intent of our Church in her Use of this Holy Rite, and in her recommending it so carefully to all her Children.
III. I shall show the blessed Advantages that might accrue to this Church and the Members of it, by reviving the constant, due and regular Use of this Holy and Apostolical Institution.
IV. And Lastly, I shall hint, in short, what is the Duty of those, who present themselves to the Church for the receiving this Confirming Gift of the Holy Ghost.
And now for the setting forth the Doctrines of the Text. In the first Place, ’Tis clear that from thence these Things following may be gathered, which are greatly to our Purpose.
1. That there is another Gift of the Spirit given by Christ, and to be received by Christians, besides that which was given them at their Baptism ; or else why were Peter and John here sent down to Samaria by the College of the Apostles for the Conferring of it ? Or else what is the Meaning of those Words at the 16th Ver. Only they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
2. We may thence gather what Persons they are who are qualified for the receiving this Gift, viz. only Believers and Baptized Persons ; for ’twas upon the Apostles hearing that the City of Samaria had received the Gospel, and were Baptized, that they sent Peter and John to Confirm them.
3. We may learn from the Words of the Text, How the Gift of Confirmation, or that Grace of the Spirit given by it, is to be Conferr’d, and by whom ’tis to be done ; for we here read, they were Apostles only who did it, and that ’twas done by Prayer, and the laying on of their Hands.
And as these Matters already mentioned, are clearly to be deduced from the very Words of the Text, so we may naturally, in the 4th Place, from thence take Occasion to inquire, What this Gift of the Spirit is, and to what Purposes it is given ; for we are here told only in the general, That upon the Apostles praying and laying of their hands on those Baptized Believers at Samaria, they received the Holy Ghost, Ver. 17.
Of these Four Things I will Treat in their Order, for the acquitting myself of the First Part of my present Undertaking.
And first I shall examine, Whether there be not another Gift of the Spirit which Christ promised to bestow, and Christians may receive, besides that which was given them in their Baptism.
’Tis manifest, the Holy Ghost, with all his Gifts and Graces, was most eminently and remarkably typified under the Law by the holy Oil, and the anointing with it, of which we so often read in the Books of Moses, and with which the Kings, High-Priests, and Prophets, amongst God’s People, were to be anointed, as being great Types of Christ, and of the most eminent Members of his Church ; and indeed, in sano sensu, of all good Christians who have received the holy Spirit, and are thereby made Kings and Priests unto God, Rev. i. 6. and 1 Pet. ii. 5.
And Oil is the most lively Emblem of the Holy Ghost of any inanimate Thing in Nature, on the Account of the piercing, searching, purifying, softening, healing, quickening, beautifying, cheering, strengthning and preserving Qualities that are in it, and the many other such like excellent Properties which belong unto it ; therefore we meet with frequent Allusions to it, and to the Anointing with it both in the Old and New Testament, for setting forth the Nature, Gifts and Presence of the Holy Ghost. The Places are too many, and too obvious to be named.
And hence it has come to pass, that this Gift of the Spirit I am treating of, is described in the Writings of the ancient Fathers, by Words that signify or have Relation to Oil and Anointing, such as
χρίσις, &c. amongst the Greek, and
Unguentum, &c. among the Latin Fathers and Councils ; and this Observation is absolutely necessary to the understanding the Testimonies of the Primitive Church concerning this Matter.
And as the giving the Spirit to Christ and his Church was typified in the Law, so was it foretold by the Prophets ; the chief Places are these, viz. Isaiah ix. ver. 2. where speaking of Christ, who was to spring out of the Root of Jesse, the Prophet saith, The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Might, the Spirit of Knowledge, and of the Fear of the Lord. And ’twas because from Christ’s Fullness of these glorious Gifts of the Spirit, the Members of his Church were to receive their several Measures, that these Words are grafted by our Church into her Office of Confirmation.
And that Place in the 61st of Isa. ver. 1. &c. is also to this Purpose, where Christ himself cries out, saying, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good Tidings unto the Meek, &c. This Passage is quoted by Christ himself, and applied to himself when he first began his Ministry, Luke iv. 18. And being full of the Holy Ghost, ver. 1. of that Chapter ; and ’twas soon after his own Baptism and solemn Confirmation by the Spirit, of which you read in the Chapter foregoing, ver. 21, 22.
And Isa. xliv. ver. 3. we have a most clear Promise of the Spirit unto the Church, and no doubt with a special Respect to this so remarkable a Rite of Conferring of it ; and there it is said, I will pour Water upon him that is thirsty, and Floods upon the dry Ground : I will pour my Spirit upon thy Seed, and my Blessing upon thine Off-spring. See also Ps. xlvi. 4. and that famous Place of the Prophet Joel, chap. ii. ver. 28, 29. so much misapplied by the Quakers in our Days, is expressly applied, by St. Peter, to the first great and solemn Confirmation of the Church at Pentecost, Acts ii. ver. 16, 17, 18. I will not repeat the Words in either Place for Brevity sake, but leave the Reader to compare them.
The first visible Exemplification of this giving of the Spirit we have in Christ himself, who was the great Exemplar to his Church. And of him we read thus, Matth. iii. 16. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the Water, and lo the Heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a Dove, and lighting upon him. This Heavenly Oil of Gladness first fell on our great High Priest, as the Oil upon Aaron‘s Head, before it descended from him on the Members of his Church, and went down to the Skirts of his Garment. Here it was that God the Father sealed his Son Jesus ( which is another most common Word to denote the giving of the Spirit ) and distinguish’d him from all other persons, and solemnly declared him, by a Voice from Heaven, to be his beloved Son in whom he is well pleased, and consequently the fittest Person to be the only Saviour of the World.
And this coming of the Spirit upon Christ immediately after his Baptism, the Ancient Fathers look’d upon to be his Confirmation by the Spirit, and the Pattern of it to his Church ; and the rather, as being done just before he was led up into the Wilderness to be tempted of the Devil, of which we read in the next Chapter.
And they have constantly taught, that according to this Pattern of their blessed Lord, all baptized Christians are to be strengthned by the Gift of the Spirit that is given after Baptism, before they can go forth in their full Strength to combat with the Devil and all those Spiritual Enemies they promised to fight against, when they were baptized, and listed Soldiers of Christ.
’Tis this Gift of the Spirit to Believers which Christ promised, John vii. ver. 38. where he saith, He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his Belly shall flow Rivers of living Water ; and in the next Verse ’tis added, But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet, ( i. e. this Gift of the Holy Ghost was not yet ) because Jesus was not yet glorified. Where St. John the Evangelist remarks, That this Gift of the Spirit which is given in Confirmation, was not bestowed on any of Christ’s Followers ’till after his Death, and Ascension up into Glory, according to that of the Psalmist, Psal. lxviii. 18. Where speaking Prophetically of Christ’s Triumphant Ascent into Heaven, and his receiving this most glorious Gift of the Holy Ghost, to bestow on the Members of his Church, he saith, Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led Captivity Captive, and received Gifts for Men, yea even for thine Enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Where by the Lord God dwelling among them is undoubtedly meant God the Holy Ghost, who, upon Christ’s Ascension, was sent down to dwell in the Hearts of faithful and penitent Men, many of which had been open Enemies to God through their wicked Works, and greatly rebellious against him. And St. Paul quotes this Place of the Psalmist, and applies it to Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, and to his giving from thence his Spiritual Gifts unto Men ; but he seems to intimate also, that these Spiritual Gifts were given with the Apostles and chief Ministers of the Church, and that they were to be lodged, as it were, in their Hands, as being Christ’s special Instruments entrusted to minister them orderly and in due Season, for the Spiritual building up and perfecting the Members of his Church : See the Place at large, Ephes. iv. from ver. 7. to the 14th. And St. Peter teacheth most expressly, that the Gift of the Holy Ghost was receiv’d upon Christ’s Ascension and Exaltation, Acts ii. 33. saying, Therefore, being by the Right Hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the Promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. And this is exactly agreeable with St. John‘s Observation upon our Lord’s Words beforemention’d, John vii. From all which it appears, ’twas another Gift of the Spirit, different from that given in Baptism, that Christ promised to bestow on the Members of the Church after his Ascension into Heaven ; and you see ’tis promised not to the Apostles only, or to some peculiar Persons, but in general to them that believe on him. And St. Peter confidently promiseth this Gift of the Spirit to all his Hearers if they did repent, and would be baptized into the Christian Faith for the Remission of their Sins, Acts ii., ver. 38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the Remission of Sins, and ye shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. And in the next Verse he makes the Promise of this Gift of the Spirit to be Universal and common to all that should be called and admitted into the Church, saying, For the Promise is unto you, and to your Children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And tho’ the Apostles themselves had been Baptized and Ordained before the Ascension of their Lord into Heaven, and therefore had received the Holy Ghost to some Purposes, as to list them Christ’s Disciples, to wash away their Sins, to authorize them for their Ministry, &c. John xx. 22. yet they did not receive this Confirming Gift of the Holy Ghost ’till Pentecost ; but Christ bids them wait for it, in those Words we read Luke xxiv. 49. where he said unto them, just before his last parting with them ; and behold I sent the Promise of my Father upon you, but tarry ye in the City of Jerusalem, ’till ye be endued with Power from on high. Christ had also promised them and his Church this Comforting, Strengthning, and Truth-teaching Spirit several times in his large Discourses before his Passion, John xiv. 16. and chap. xv. 26. and chap. xvi. 13. &c. And we read fully how this Gift of the Holy Ghost was sent down upon them in a wonderful Manner, Acts ii. when there appeared unto them Cloven Tongues, like as of Fire, and it sat upon each of them, ver. 3.
Now the Fathers of the Church do generally teach, that this was the Confirmation of the Apostles ; and there is indeed no doubt to be made of it, but so it was.
But ’twill be said, that of Christ himself, and this of his Apostles were extraordinary Confirmations, and they were extraordinary Persons that received them, therefore cannot in all Respects be Patterns to us ; to which ’tis answer’d, we do not take them to be so ; but what was done at first in an extraordinary Way for many peculiar Reasons, may point out what ought to be done afterwards in an ordinary Manner, as ’tis plain in many Instances besides this ; and ’tis certain the Apostles themselves thus understood it ; and hence it came to pass that we have in the Text a most remarkable Instance of an ordinary Confirmation, where great Multitudes of common Believers of all Sorts were Confirmed, as far as we can judge by the Words of St. Luke, for he expresseth it, as if the greatest Part of the City of Samaria had received this Gift of the Holy Ghost by the Hands and Prayers of St. Peter and St. John.
Then ’tis supposed by some, that we have another Instance for the establishing this holy Rite of Confirmation, Acts xiv. 21, 22. where ’tis said of Paul and Barnabas, that when they had preached the Gospel to that City, ( viz. Derbe ) and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the Souls of the Disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the Faith, and that we must through much Tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. Where the Word (
Ἐπισηρίζοντες ) may very well signify the Confirming I am speaking of, and the Circumstances of the Place, and Expressions here used, viz. Exhorting them to continue in the Faith, and their telling them of the Tribulations they were like to meet with in their Christian Warfare, are very agreeable to the Design of this Ordinance ; the same Word is used, and the same Thing may be meant also, Acts xviii. 23.
But ’tis certain we have a clear Instance of this holy Rite in the next Chapter, Acts xix. 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. where we read St. Paul asks certain Disciples which he had found at Ephesus this Question, viz. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ? which is as if he had asked them, whether they had ever been Confirmed ; and they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, unto what then were ye baptized ? and they said, unto John’s Baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the Baptism of Repentance, saying unto the People, That they should believe on him which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his Hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with Tongues, and prophesied. Which is a clear and remarkable Instance to our Purpose ; for hence we may plainly perceive, that neither John’s Baptism, nor Christ’s Baptism added to it, made a compleat Christian without Confirmation, or without receiving this Gift of the Holy Ghost. And hence we may gather, ’twas a usual Thing for the Apostle to enquire whether Persons had been Confirmed, since they believed and were baptized.
’Tis also further to be observed, that the Apostle St. Paul puts the Christians in Remembrance of this Gift of the Holy Ghost, which they received at their Confirmation, and that in several Places of his Epistles. Thus, Ephes. i. 13. speaking of Christ, he saith, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise ; meaning they were marked up, and appropriated to God, and to his peculiar Service and Blessings, when they received the strengthning and preserving Gift of the Spirit at their Confirmation, which Christ had so often and so solemnly promised to his Apostles, and all true Believers ; and therefore is here styled by the Apostle, the Holy Spirit of Promise ; and as ’twas the sure Seal and Conveyance of God’s Grace and Favour to them for the present, so the Apostle makes it to be the Pledge and Earnest of their Salvation in Time to come ; saying, in the next Verse, which is the Earnest of our Inheritance. And again, chap. iv. 30. and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the Day of Redemption.
And 2 Cor. i. 21, 22. Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God ; who hath also sealed us, and given the Earnest of the Spirit in our Hearts. Which Expressions of the Apostle are exactly agreeable to what you heard before.
And ’tis from those Scripture Expressions here used altogether by the Apostle, that the ancient Christian Writers have most frequently expressed this Rite of Confirmation by the Terms of Sealing, Anointing, Establishing or Confirming, as well as by laying on of Hands ; which sufficiently teacheth us, that ’twas their settled Opinion, that this sacred Ordinance was the proper Means of conferring the Earnest of the Spirit upon us. And ’tis not to be omitted, that the Apostle to the Hebrews reckons it up amongst the first and chiefest Principles of the Christian Religion, Heb. vi. 12. saying, 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 of laying on of Hands, and of the Resurrection of the Dead, and of Eternal Judgment. Where by laying on of Hands is meant Confirmation, according to the Opinion of the best Divines, both Ancient and Modern ; and as might be proved by many Arguments ; but I shall content myself with two Observations on this Passage : The first is, that the Apostle in the 4th Verse, by those Words [ once enlightned ] seems to have respect unto Baptism, which by the Greek Fathers was commonly called
φωτισμος, Enlightning : See Chap. x. ver. 32. of this Epistle to the Hebrews, where, by ( after ye were illuminated ) is most probably meant after ye were baptized, and entered into the Christian Church, which Baptism Persons received upon their professing Repentance and Newness of Life, and Faith in the Gospel Promises, rehearsed by the Apostle, ver. 1. and then the following Words in the 4th Verse, viz. [ and have tasted of the Heavenly Gift, and were made Partakers of the Holy Ghost, ] must have respect to the laying on of Hands, or Confirmation, which followed next after Baptism, and was the Ordinance whereby this Heavenly Gift of the Holy Ghost was then received by the Faithful.
2dly, The next was, what Persons they be which are qualified for the receiving this Gift. And that they are only Believers and baptized Persons, appears clearly from the Text ; for ’twas upon these Samaritans receiving the Word preached to them by Philip, and their being baptized by him, that they had Peter and John sent down to confirm them.
And so I proceed to the Third Enquiry that was to be made from the Text ; which was, How this Gift of Confirmation, or Grace of the Spirit given by it, is to be conferr’d, and by whom ’tis to be done.
And the Text plainly shows us, they were Apostles who were sent to do it, and that was accomplished by Prayer, and the laying on of their Hands. For tho’ Philip were there present, and had been in all Likelihood the principal Instrument to bring these Samaritans over to the Christian Faith, and had baptized great Multitudes of them, yet he then being but a Deacon, had no Power to lay on his Hands for the conferring this Gift, ( as St. Chrysostom hath here expresly observed, and many others after him ) it being that special Blessing which Christ reserved to be bestowed by the highest and chiefest of all his Ministers, his own most immediate Representatives, which were the Apostles and their Successors the Bishops. And hence ’tis that we here read, That the whole College of the Apostles at Jerusalem thought it necessary to send some of their own Company down to Samaria to accomplish this Work. And according to this Pattern before us in the Text, it has ever been the Custom and Practice of the Church, to reserve this Office ( as well as that of Ordination ) to be performed by the Bishops only. And the Witnesses to be met with in the Records of the Church are most full and uniform for reserving both these Offices only to the Bishop’s Hands ; and the Variations from this Practice thro’out all Antiquity, are far few and inconsiderable in both Respects, that they may well be look’d upon as no other than irregular and unjustifiable Actions. I intend not here to produce the Evidence ; but ’tis notorious to all Learned Men ; That they were only the Bishops, the chief Heads, and High Priests in the Christian Church, by whom Christ, our Great High Priest, did ever impart and bellow this Gift and Blessing upon his People.
And ’tis at their Confirmation that Christians do, as it were, put themselves under the Care and Charge of their Bishop, and own him for their chief and common Spiritual Father in Christ, by whom he is especially to bless them, and by that Means they voluntarily unite themselves to Christ’s Fold, and engage they will will be his innocent and tractable Sheep, and that they will continue under the Guidance of such faithful Shepherds, as he by Christ’s Authority shall set over them, &c. For inferior Pastors and Teachers in Christ’s Church, are sent forth by Christ, ’tis true, but ’tis by the Hands of the chief Shepherds they are so sent ; and therefore both the inferior Shepherds themselves, and all their Flocks, should be united under the one chief Shepherd their Bishop ; and should be always ready to take Directions from him for the promoting of Purity and Peace, and for the restoring and preserving of Unity, and all manner of good Order and Government in the Church. So that this very Rite of Confirmation, if it were well understood and practised as it ought to be, would contribute very much to the healing the Breaches of this distracted Church and Nation. Therefore I would have none that have any Love for God, and Religion, for their own Souls, or the Good of their Country, to neglect and slight it.
And now, That the whole of this Sacred Rite was finished by Prayer and the laying on of the Apostles Hands, may be concluded likewise from the Text ; for we here read not of any thing more that was added to these. And to have recourse unto the original Practice, is the surest Means to find out the Essentials in this, and every other holy Ordinance. However, it cannot be denied, but the Use of Oil was added in the very early Times of the Church, as being the ancient Type and Symbol of the Holy Ghost ; and ’thas been most generally continued throughout all Ages of it ever since.
But the Reformers of this Church piously aiming to reduce all holy Administrations to the most Scriptural and simplest Practice, thought fit to lay aside the Chrismation, as ’twas called in this Administration. If they had retained it, none ought in reason to have been offended at it ; but by parting with it, we are sure they loft no essential Part of this Ordinance.
And so I come, in the Fourth and last Place, briefly to examine what this Gift of the Spirit is, which is given and received at Confirmation ; for ’tis expresly said at the 17th Verse, That upon the laying on of these two Apostles Hands, the Christians at Samaria received the Holy Ghost.
But some will be ready to say, did they not receive the Holy Ghost before at their Baptism, when they were born of Water and the Spirit, John iii. 5. and had been baptized by one Spirit into one Body, 1 Cor. xii, 13. and ’tis at Baptism we are regenerated and renewed by the Holy Ghost, as the same Apostle teacheth, Tit. iii. 5. How then are we to expect to receive this Spirit again at Confirmation, or by the laying on of the Bishop’s Hands ? I answer, A Portion of God’s Spirit may be given to us many ways, and in several Ordinances, and for diverse Ends and Purposes. ’Tis given, no doubt, by conscientious hearing and reading of God’s Word, and other good Books, by frequent meditating on holy and heavenly Things, by our own earnest Prayers unto, and Praises of Almighty God, &c. But besides these and other suchlike Means of conveying the Spirit of Grace into our Hearts, and the encreasing of it in us, the Church hath ever taught, ’tis given at Baptism for spiritual Life, and for the washing away our Sins. And that ’tis given again at Confirmation, to arm and strengthen us, to seal us for Christ’s Soldiers, and to enable us to stand manfully against our spiritual Enemies in the Day of Battle. We have a clear Instance of this in the Apostles themselves ; for tho’ they were baptized, and had received some Degree of the Holy Ghost at that Time, and on several other Occasions before Christ’s Death, yet still we find they were very weak and timorous, and when they saw their Master and themselves in Danger, they all forsook him and fled, notwithstanding all the good Instructions and Admonitions they had received from him. But after the Holy Ghost came upon them at Pentecost, to Confirm them, they were filled with Courage and Resolution, and feared no Dangers, but waxed bold in testifying to the Truth of Christ’s Gospel, though they did it with the utmost Peril of their Lives, and they were ready to be led unto Prison, and unto Death for his Name’s sake ; and we never read of any the least Signs of Fear or Cowardice in them any more.
Therefore the Fathers of the Church have deliver’d it with a full Consent, that the Grace of the Spirit given in Baptism, is for the bestowing Spiritual Life upon us, who were born in a State of Sin and Death ; and that the Grace of the Spirit, or the Holy Ghost given in Confirmation, is for bestowing upon us Spiritual Strength, or Christian Courage and Fortitude, that we may be able to stand against all the fiercest Assaults of the Devil ; and, indeed, for the encreasing in us all those Gifts of the Spirit which were in Christ, Isa. xi. 2. before rehearsed, and which are prayed for in our excellent Office for Confirmation.
But we have had so many Errors and false Notions broached and published amongst us of late Years concerning these Matters, and Men have been perswaded they might expect to jump into all the Gifts and Graces of God’s Spirit all at once, merely by hearing their New Teachers, and without ever proper Means and Methods which God in his Word hath appointed and recommended to us for the receiving of them. And this Rite of Confirmation hath been so little used, of what it ought to have been, that what I have delivered about it from the Text, may seem new and groundless to many Persons : Therefore, for their better understanding upon what sure Foundations we teach these Things, I shall here rehearse, altogether, some few Passages that are to be met with in the Writings of the Ancient Fathers, touching this Holy Rite ; from whence all these four Things I have deduced from the Text, and the main Doctrines I have taught concerning it, will appear to be true. I shall quote the English faithfully translated out of their Greek and Latin Writings.
First then, Theophilus Antiochenus ( a very Ancient Christian Writer ) saith, Therefore are we called Christians, because we are anointed with the Oil of God. Theoph. Antioch. ad Autolic. lib. 1. Where he teacheth, that Christians have their very Name of Christians from their Confirmation, or their being anointed with the Spirit of God, ( all know Christ hath his Name from thence. ) This same Author adds, in the same Place, What Man is he that comes into this Life, or is to combat with his Enemies, and is not anointed with Oil ?
And Tertullian, a most Learned and Ancient Writer of the Latin Church, having spoken of Baptism a little before saith, And afterwards Hands are laid on, by Blessing, calling for, and inviting the Holy Spirit. Tertull. de Baptismo. cap. 8. And he there goes on to illustrate this Matter, with the Example of Jacob’s blessing the two Sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasses, by laying his Hands upon them. And soon after he shows, This giving the Holy Ghost after Baptism, was like God’s sending the Dove to the Church in the Ark, after it had been saved by Water.
And in another Place, where he is proving that the Flesh of God’s Saints shall rife again, he saith, But the Flesh is washed, that the Soul might be cleansed. The Flesh is anointed, that the Soul might be consecrated. The Flesh is sealed, that the Soul might be defended. The Flesh is overshadowed by the Imposition of Hands, that the Soul might be enlightned by the Spirit. The Flesh is fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, that the Soul might might be fattn’d from God. Tertul. de Resurrectione Carnis. Lib. cap. 8.
Where ’tis plain he speaks of the Three Ordinances of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Lord’s-Supper, as of constant Use in his Time, intimating also to what Purposes they were all used.
And in another Place, ( also with respect unto these Three Sacred Ordinances ) speaking of the Church of Rome that then was, he saith thus : She mingleth the Law and the Prophets with the Evangelical and Apostolical Writings, ( he means, I suppose, in their reading the Holy Scriptures ) and from thence she draweth that Faith, ( spoken of just before ) she signs it with Water, she cloatheth it with the Holy Spirit, and feeds it with the Eucharist. Tertul. de praescriptionibus. c. 36.
The next Writer of the Latin Church that is very Ancient and Famous, and who was himself a most Holy Bishop and Martyr for the Christian Faith, is St. Cyprian, and he is most clear to our Purpose. For pleading with another Bishop, That they ought to be baptized again, who were baptized by Hereticks, he speaketh in this Manner.
We do see, ( Dearest Brother ) that that Place, meaning this of the Text, doth not at all pertain to the present Cause ; for they which had believed in Samaria, had believed in the true Faith, and within the Church, which is but one, and to whom alone ’tis permitted to give Baptism, and to remit Sins : They were baptized by Philip the Deacon, whom those very Apostles had sent. And therefore because they had obtained lawful and Ecclesiastical Baptism, they needed not to be baptized any more, but only that which was wanting was performed by Peter and John ; that they should pray for them, and lay on their Hands, that the Holy Ghost might be called down, and be powered upon them ; which Thing is now done with us, that they who are baptized in the Church, should be offered or presented to the Bishops of the Church, that by our Prayer and Imposition of Hands, they may obtain the Holy Ghost, and be compleated by the Sealing of the Lord. Cypr. Epist. 73. ad Jubaianum. Sect. 8.
And in another Place, after he had spoken of the Necessity of Baptism, he adds, And he which is baptized, ought to be Anointed, that having received the Chrism, that is the Unction, he might be the Anointed of God, and have in him the Grace of Christ, Cypr. Epist. 70. Sect. 3.
Again, No Man is born by Imposition of Hands, when he receives the Holy Ghost ; but he is born in Baptism, that he may receive the Spirit after he is born ; as ’twas done in the first Man Adam. For God formed him first, and then breathed into him the Breath of Life ; neither can the Spirit be received, unless he be first in Being who should receive it. Cypr. Epist. 74. Sect. 8.
Our next Witness shall be St. Cyril of Jerusalem ; and he speaking of Christ saith, And he being washed in the River Jordan, went up out of the Waters, and the Holy Spirit made a substantial Descent upon him, or came on him in a bodily Substance, Like resting upon Like. So in like Manner, when you ascended out of the Waters of Baptism, the Chrism was given you, which answereth to that with which Christ was anointed. And as Christ after his Baptism, and the coming of the Holy Ghost upon him, went forth and vanquished the Adversary ; so you after Baptism, and the Mystical Anointing, being cloathed with the whole Armour of the Spirit, do stand against the Power of the Enemy, and overcome him. Cyr.
Κατηχ. μυσαγωγ. γ.
And of Christ’s Baptism by John, and what followed upon it, Optatus writeth as followeth. Christ, saith he, descended into the Water, not that there was any thing in God that needed to be cleansed, but that the water ought to go before the Oil which was about to come upon him ; that he might Begin, Ordain, and Perfect the Mysteries of Baptism ; and being washed while in the Hands of John, the Order of the Mystery followed, and the Father did fulfill what the Son asked, and the Holy Spirit had foretold. The Heaven is opened while the Father is anointing, and the Spiritual Oil presently descended in the Shape of a Dove, and sat upon his Head, and anointed him, whence he began to be called Christ, when he was anointed by God the Father ; and lest he should seem to want Imposition of Hands, the Voice of God is heard from the Cloud, saying, This is my Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him. Optatus Milevit. contra Parmen. Lib. 4.
I cannot stand to make any Observations on so remarkable a Passage, but shall pass on to St. Jerome, who is most clear to our Purpose, in his Dialogue betwixt an Orthodox Person, and a Luciferian. Do you not know, saith the Luciferian, ’tis the Custom of the Churches, that Hands should be laid on those that are baptized, and that so the Holy Spirit might be called down ; dost thou demand where it is written ? in the Acts of the Apostles ; but although there were no Authority of the Scripture for it, the Consent of the whole World in this Case, would sway like a Precept ; for many other Things, which by Tradition are observed in the Church, have gotten the Authority of a written Law. The Orthodox answers, I do not deny that this is the Custom of the Church, that the Bishop should go forth to lay his Hands for the calling down of the Holy Ghost on them, which before were baptized by the Priests and Deacons in the lesser Cities at a Distance from him. Hieron. Dialogo contra Luciferaneos. Tom. 2.
St. Augustine is also a clear and ample Witness for us ; I will name but a Place or two of many, that may be met with in his Writings. Nor did, saith he, any of his Disciples give the Holy Spirit ; but they prayed, that he might come on them on whom they laid their Hands, which Custom is also now observed in the Church by her Bishops. Aug. de Trinitate. Lib. 15. Cap. 26. Tom. 2.
And in another Place, But the Holy Spirit, because ’tis said only to be given in the Church Catholick by the Imposition of Hands, &c. and then soon after, Neither is the Holy Spirit so given by Imposition of Hands, as to be attested by temporal and sensible Miracles, as before ’twas given for recommending the Faith, when ’twas newly come into the World, and for the Enlargement of the Churches Beginnings. For who doth now expect, that they, on whom Hands are laid for the receiving the Holy Spirit, should begin to speak with Tongues ? But the divine Love is understood invisibly and secretly, through the Bond of Peace, to be inspired into their Hearts. Aug. de Baptismo contra Donatistas. Lib. 3. Cap. 16. Tom. 7.
There is one Passage more which should not be omitted, because ’tis so full to our Purpose in many Respects, tho’ it be somewhat uncertain who was the Author of the Homily where ’tis to be found ; whether it were Eucherius Lugdunensis, Eusebius Emissenus, Caesarius, or some other ; certainly he was an Ancient Writer, and he delivers himself thus. That which laying on of Hands now giveth at Confirmation to single Persons initiated into the Church, That the coming down of the Holy Ghost upon the Believers at Pentecost, did give to them altogether. But because we have said, That Imposition of Hands can do Good to him that is born again and regenerated in Christ ; perhaps some may think with himself, what Good can the Ministry of Confirmation do me, after the Mystery of Baptism ? Why, saith he, presently after, as an Emperor, when he receives a Soldier into his Army, not only giveth him a Mark or Badge, but when he is about to fight, he gives him sufficient Armour likewise. So the Blessing in Confirmation is the Armour or Defence to the baptized Person. Hast thou made a Soldier, give him also the Helps of his Warfare. The Holy Ghost comes down upon the Waters of Baptism with a saving Influence, or so as to bring Salvation, and gives what is sufficient for present Innocency ; but in Confirmation, it gives Grace for encreasing ; in Baptism we are Regenerated unto Life ; after Baptism, we are Confirmed unto Fight ; in Baptism we are washed, after it we are strengthned. Regeneration saves by itself, those that are received immediately into the Peace of the other blessed World ; Confirmation arms and fits for Combat those which are to be for the Battles or Combats of this World. Therefore before the coming down of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles were terrified, even to the Denial of their Master : But after his Visitation of them, they are armed with Courage for Martyrdom, even by the Contempt of Death itself. Euseb. Emissen. Homil. in die Pentecost. Pag. 287.
Now, tho’ I have not named the tenth Part of what is to be found in the Records of the Church for the Establishing of this holy Rite, yet from these few Passages it may be sufficiently and clearly understood, what the Meaning of it is ; and we may from thence perceive, that all these Ancient Fathers and Bishops do agree in teaching the same Things about this Matter that I have now taught from the Text.
And we may plainly see, first, that they believed and taught, there is such a Gift of the Holy Ghost promised by Christ, and that may be received by Christians, which is differing from that given in their Baptism.
2. They teach with one Consent, that ’tis to be sought for, and received, after Baptism, and by none but Baptized Persons.
3. That ’tis given and received by Prayer and the laying on of the Bishop’s Hands, according to the Example before us in the Text.
4. They teach, That the Design of it is to give Christians a new Portion of Spirit, to enable them the better to live according to their Christian Profession, and to fight more manfully against all their Spiritual Enemies, which in their Baptism they had renounced ; which were the four Things I had endeavoured to prove. And it ought to be considered what high Things they say of it, and how clearly they do bear witness to the constant Practice of it in the Church, how they fetch the Grounds of it from the Holy Scriptures, particularly from the Confirmation of Christ himself, by the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon him after his Baptism, and from the coming down of the Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost, and from Peter and John’s Confirming these new-converted Christians at Samaria, and from the Anointing and Sealing with the Spirit, of which St. Paul speaketh, &c.
And I shall proceed in the next Place to answer two Objections.
The first is, That this Gift was an extraordinary Thing, and peculiar to the Times of the Apostles, and was attended with miraculous Gifts in those that received it ; and therefore those miraculous Effects of it being ceased, this Gift of the Spirit ought not now to be expected, and the Office for conferring of it ought to cease, and be laid aside. I answer, Tho’ this Objection be of little Weight, and is sufficiently answer’d in the foregoing Discourse, and particularly by St. Augustine ; yet for fuller Satisfaction I will here add,
First, That they who depend on this Objection, do boldly contradict the Sense, and despise the Wisdom and Authority of the whole Church of God, most clearly and fully delivered by Writing and Practice, for the perpetual Continuance of this Ordinance.
2. ’Tis certain also, that all who received Benefit by it in the Apostles Times, were not endowed with miraculous Gifts, as appears 1 Cor. xii. 29. Are all Workers of Miracles ? but those miraculous Gifts were bestowed only on some choicer Persons, to fit them for the Ministry, and to make them the more proper Instruments for propagating the Faith in the World, and indeed to manifest unto all, that the Spirit did really come down upon the Church, according to Christ’s Promise ; whereas this Promise of the Spirit I have been contending for, was made to all Flesh, who would become Believers, and be ready to keep Christ’s Commandments ; but ’tis a wild Fancy to think, that all Believers in the Primitive Times were endowed with some miraculous Gift. And now I am obviating this chief Objection drawn from the miraculous Gifts which fell on some of them which were Confirmed in the Apostles Times, I would have it here noted, That when ’tis recorded recorded in the 10th of the Acts, ver. 44. That the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the Word, spoken by St. Peter, and that the Jews were astonished at it, For that they heard them speak with Tongues, and magnified God, ver. 45, 46. I say, I would have it observed, that to me it seems most probable, the Holy Ghost fell at that Time on Cornelius and his select Company ( who were pure Gentiles no way Proselyted to the Jewish Religion, and, in this Kind, the first Fruits of the Gentiles, as ’tis generally thought ) only in miraculous Effects, and that chiefly to satisfy St. Peter fully, and by him all other Christians of the Jewish Nation, that the Gentiles were capable of being made Christ’s Disciples as well as the Jews ; so that the coming of the Holy Ghost on them at that Time, was not their Confirmation, but only an effectual Means to convince St. Peter, and Multitudes of others, of a most weighty Matter about which they had been doubtful before ; nay, concerning which they had with the deepest Prejudice entertained a quite contrary Opinion. And whereas St. Peter said, Acts xi. ver. 17 ( in his rehearsing over this History ) Forasmuch then as God gave them the like Gift as he did to us who believed in the Lord Jesus, &c. it doth not from thence necessarily follow, That the Gift given to Cornelius and his Company, was in all Respects, and to all Intents and Purposes, like that given to the Apostles, and the rest who were gathered together at Pentecost ; but that ’twas like, in their speaking with Tongues, and magnifying God in strange Languages, as they at Pentecost did. And it doth not appear that St. Peter made any other Conclusion from it, than that Baptism and Discipleship were not to be denied to Believers from among the Gentiles ; for his Inferences are these, Can any Man forbid Water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we ? chap. x. 47. and chap. xi. 17. What was I, that I could withstand God ? Therefore, as ’tis certain, Cornelius and his Relations and Friends received Baptism after this falling of the Holy Ghost upon them, as we read expresly, ver. 48. so ’tis likely they received Confirmation also ; or else this must pass for an extraordinary and excepted Case, where Confirmation went before Baptism, of which we have no Example elsewhere.
I pass now to the other Objection : For it may be further alledged, that if a Matter of so great Moment as the receiving a special Gift of the Holy Ghost, does certainly depend upon the due Use of this holy Rite ; then what will become of those that want it ? and how comes it about that we hear so little of it ? and why is it no more used in the Church, &c. To which I reply, That I am heartily sorry there should be any Occasion at all for such Objecting, and ’twould require much Discourse to answer it fully ; but I shall make as satisfactory an Answer to it as I can, in few Words.
First then, we have firm Grounds to believe, ’tis the general Method of God’s dealing with Men, in bestowing on them his free Gifts and Graces ; that if, thro’ their own Defaults, they use not the Means whereby they are promised to be given, they shall then want, and go without those Portions of his Spirit, which, by the due Use of them, they should certainly have received.
And this is true, with respect to all the Means of Grace, and of this amongst the rest. For if we do not think the Gifts of God’s Spirit worth our asking and seeking after, ( the least of which is of far more Value than the best Gift Man can bestow upon us ) we shall have no Reason to imagine God shall account us worthy of them.
Therefore, if Men want this Gift of the Holy Ghost through their own Carelessness, gross Negligence, &c. they must thank themselves if they want all the Benefit and spiritual Advantage they might have received by it.
But then, 2dly, If Persons are sensible of this Gift of Christ, and are desirous to partake of it with the rest of those many Blessings he hath procured for them, and promised to them ; and only wait for a fair Opportunity to receive it ; we have great Reason to hope they do not suffer much, if any thing at all, by their Want of it ; but that their sincere Desire and ready Mind shall be accepted for the Deed, as in many other Cases.
Intent of the Church in Confirmation.
And to declare what is the true Intent of our Church in her Use of this Holy Rite, which she so carefully recommends to all her Children, was the second General Matter which I undertook to speak unto in this Discourse.
If we narrowly view the Rubricks and Office, and all Matters relating to this Holy Ordinance, we shall find them, as they are prescribed by our Church, to be most Rational and Pious ; for she seems to aim, that all Persons she hath to do with, should be made Partakers of every Benefit which comes by Christ, as soon as they are capable of it ; and therefore she orders them to be entered into Covenant with God thro’ Christ by Baptism, in their very Infancy, by the Prayers and Promises of others ; and she believes that they there receive the Forgiveness of Original Guilt, are Born again, and Adopted to be the Children of God. And because she would have them to continue in Obedience to their Heavenly Father, and to grow up and increase in his Favour and Friendship, as they grow in Years and bodily Stature, she desires they may be instructed about the Nature of the Covenant of Grace which they made with God in Baptism, as soon as they are able to learn, that they might know what blessed Promises God therein made to them, and what great Duties they engaged to perform to him. But then considering those Engagements were made without Children’s own Acts and Deeds, being made without their Knowledge or Desire, ( tho’ to their own great Advantage ) the Church doth therefore direct and earnestly desire, that when they come to Years of Discretion, and have attained to some competent Knowledge of what was done for them, they should come solemnly and voluntarily to take their Christian Profession upon themselves, and to ratify and confirm their Baptismal Promises in their own Persons ; and that then and there they might also receive this other Gift of God’s Spirit, to enable them to fight manfully against all those Spiritual Enemies, which, as Christ’s Disciples, they have renounc’d.
And now, supposing all this were done, according to the true Intendment of our Church, then I demand, where were the Necessity of begetting or regenerating all grown Christians by their Preaching, which the Presbyterians and Independants talk so much of, and which they make to be the very Foundation of all their Spiritual Building ; and indeed, ’tis the very Principal Engine by which they catch their unwary Disciples, and hold them fast to their Obedience. But contrary to these Men’s main Principle, the Holy Scriptures, and the Church of Christ from thence have ever taught, that a new Birth is given by Baptism, ( tho’ it be but a weak and tender Life that is there received ) and a Spiritual as well as a Natural Life is given and received but once. Therefore if grown Christians have greatly strayed from God and his Ways, and have grossly broken their Baptismal Covenant, their Return to their Duty with Godly Sorrow and Contrition of Heart, is not, in the Language of the Scripture or of the Church, called Regeneration or New Birth ; but Repentance, Repentance from dead Works, renewing again unto Repentance, Heb. vi. 1, 6. and in some good sense Conversion, or returning to their Heavenly Father, like that of the Prodigal Son, and as one who had a Relation unto God, and was in Covenant with him before. So the Church supposeth, that none but her Spendthrifts, her Rebellious, Lost and Prodigal Sons and Daughters, do need the Great Repentance, and Solemn Return to their Heavenly Father ; and that none of her Children do need any other New-Birth, but what they received in Baptism ; but she directeth and prayeth, that that weak and tender Life should be continually preserved, strengthned, and nourish’d in them, by such proper Means as God hath appointed, until they come to a Spiritual Manhood, unto the Measure of the Stature of the Fullness of Christ, Eph. iv. 13. Hence it doth appear, That the Grand Principle of the Presbyterians and Independants about Regenerating People by their Preaching, is utterly groundless, and ’twould quickly be manifest unto all Men that it was so, were the Laws and Directions of our own Church, observed so well as they might and ought to be.
And if the Anabaptists would well consider, that the Church doth at their Confirmation call all her Members to actual Faith, and to the making a voluntary Profession of Christianity in their own Names, and that as soon as they are capable of doing it, they would see much less Cause for crying out against her for Baptizing Children in their Infancy, which yet they make to be the chief Ground of their Separation.
Again, did the Quakers well weigh it, that those Gifts and Graces of the Spirit, which they pretend so much to, and make such a Stir about, are to be receiv’d by Degrees, by the due Use of those Holy Rites and Ordinances of God’s own Appointment, ( amongst which Confirmation hath been accounted a Principal one ) they would not, we hope, be so confident, that they do engross the choicest Gifts of the Holy Ghost unto themselves, without ever making any Use of the chief and most especial Means which Christ and his Apostles ordained and made Use of, for the conferring such Spiritual Gifts on the Members of the Church. And indeed, did every Sort of these Dissenters seriously call it to their Remembrance, that they do all want the only proper Means of bringing down this Gift of the Holy Ghost upon Persons of their Communions, I mean Episcopacy, it would certainly startle them, if they be really People of tender Consciences, as they all profess themselves to be ; and it might be a Means to put them in the Way of discovering some of their other Errors and great Defects, ( which, no doubt, they have many of them unawares fallen into ) and occasion them to think of returning home to the Bosom of the Church. But however, it must needs be said, that all these Sorts of Men do greatly err, not knowing the sound Meaning of the Scriptures, nor the Power and Vertue of the holy Ordinances of God, nor yet the true Intent of our Church in the Use of them.
And from this Discourse all Persons may observe the Soundness and Wisdom of the Church of England in her Practice of Confirmation, and that she recommends nothing to her Children in this Matter, but what she hath learned from the Holy Scriptures, as they are interpreted by the Primitive Fathers, and the constant Practice of the Catholick Church ; and in the Use of this Holy Rite she excels, and hath a manifest Advantage over all her home-bred Dissenters of every Sort, for they do all want this great Spiritual Benefit, and all regular Means of conferring of it on their Disciples, as was intimated before. And as they are all defective and do grossly err about this Great Point of Christianity, so if the sure Grounds of this Practice, and the true Intent of the Church in the Use of it were better and more generally understood, it would appear ( at least to our own Members ) that the regular Administration thereof did naturally and directly tend to the overthrowing the main and darling Principles of our Sectaries of every Denomination.
Blessings & Advantages of Confirmation.
But before I come to speak of the Preparation to this Ordinance of Confirmation, I shall go on to recount some more Advantages the Church might receive, by bringing of it into due Use and Practice.
First then, We might hope, it might make the Members of the Church generally more Spiritual-minded, strong, and steadfast, than now they are : For they who use aright all the certain outward Means of Grace, are surely most likely to have all those inward Gifts of the Spirit, they seek for in them. And ’tis not to be thought how much the outward and fixed and standing Means of Grace, such as Baptism, Confirmation, and the Lord’s-Supper, would contribute towards the inward working, keeping up, and increasing God’s Holy Spirit in Men’s Hearts, were they well understood, rightly used, and in humble Manner depended upon. These would assure them, they wanted nothing that was needful on God’s Part, to enable them manfully to accomplish their Christian Warfare ; and when they fail’d in any Point of their Holy Profession, they might be certain ’twas for want of their own honest Care and Watchfulness ; and when they felt themselves in any Measure weakned and decayed in their Spiritual Strength, they might infallibly know whither they were to resort for the renewing and recovering of it again.
And the very Thoughts that we have all Helps which are requisite for us, on God’s Part, should make us resolute and courageous in all our Combats with our Spiritual Enemies. But if any principal Part of our Armour be wanting to us, through our own great Default and Negligence, we shall have just Cause to fear, that might occasion our Weakness, and gave our Enemies Advantage against us. How resolute was little David, when he went against the great Goliah ; and not on the Account of Saul‘s cumbersome Coat of Mail, for he put it off again, or any other Natural Defence, but because he had the Seal of God’s Presence upon him, in the Circumcision of his Flesh, which he knew his Adversary wanted ; and therefore he confidently cried out, saying, For who is this Uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the Armies of the Living God ? 1. Sam. xvii. 26.
And when we have all the Seals of God’s Grace upon us, we may confidently conclude his Power is with us, and that all the Armies of Heaven are on our Side. And in all our Trials we meet with in this Life. God would have us, with humble Confidence, to depend on his Strength, when we have duly used all the Means he hath appointed for the obtaining of it ; whereas to be confident of God’s Help, without the right Use of such means, hath always something of Presumption in it.
Secondly, This would be a Means to bring all Kind of catechizing and instructing of Children and Youth unto a more constant, steady, and uniform Practice ; without which ’tis impossible sound Religion can be revived, and made to flourish among us. For while Persons receive Baptism in their Infancy, and are not afterwards taught to understand the Meaning of these Benefits and Engagements, which were derived upon them from thence, nor prepared for their further Advances in Christianity, by the timely Use of the following Ordinances of Confirmation and the Lord’s Supper, they must needs look more like Heathens than Christians ; I am sure, nothing can be more contrary to the Nature of Things, more opposite to the Intent of the Church, or more pernicious to the Thriving and Increase of sound Religion, than such Practice as this.
Thirdly, ‘Twould be hoped likewise, it might contribute much towards the bringing Persons by Degrees, to a better Sense of Devotion, and to their constant using Private and Family Prayers, which have been so greatly neglected and laid aside by many of late Years ; not only to the unspeakable Decay of true Christian Piety, but also to the gross scandalizing all Manner of Persons who pretend to any Seriousness in Religion. And therefore all should be made to know, that Prayer ( which implies some Degree of Faith and Repentance ) is the common Instrument, by which we are to obtain every Gift and Grace of Christ, and indeed, all Manner of Blessings from God ; and People should be constantly accustomed to this Duty from their very Childhood, for without it they will not be capable of receiving the true Benefit by any Ordinance of Religion. For God hath made our desiring, asking, and seeking, the very Conditions upon which he hath promised to give us the Spirit, and Spiritual Things, Luke xi. 13. Matth. vii. 7, 8.
Fourthly, This would be a special Means rightly to distinguish the Superiority, and to preserve the Dignity of the Episcopal Order ; and ’twould make that highest Ecclesiastical Office to appear necessary, and beneficial to the Church in a very great Degree. For when Men became generally sensible, that the Bishops are the Persons who fill the Rooms of the Apostles of Christ, and that ’tis by their Hands that the Gifts and Graces of God’s Spirit are derived down upon the Members of the Church, first in Ordination, wherein the regular Power of administring Baptism and the Lord’s-Supper, and other holy Ordinances, is by then conferr’d on Priests and Deacons ; and that the conveying this singular Gift of the Holy Ghost, I have been treating of, has ever been reserved to their own proper and peculiar Ministry ; these Things must needs make their Order to appear very venerable, and to be much esteemed among all sound Christians, as it ought to be.
Fifthly, It might be a ready Means to reform several Irregularities that are crept into the Usage of Godfathers and Godmothers, in the Administration of Baptism ; and make that Apointment look fitting and reasonable, as it really is in itself, but as ’tis now often performed, ’tis liable to Cavil, and deformed by some Undecencies, which are directly contrary to the Mind of the Church.
Preparing yourself for Confirmation.
It still remains, That I speak somewhat of the 4th and last General Matter I proposed to treat of at the Beginning of this Discourse ; which was to hint, in short, What is the Duty of those who present themselves to the Church for the receiving this Confirming Gift of the Holy Ghost.
And ’tis a true Rule in Divinity, as well as in Philosophy, that
quicquid recipitur, recipitur ad modum recipientis ; whatsoever is receiv’d, is receiv’d according to the Disposition of the Receiver ; and thus all the Gifts of God are received by us more or less perfectly, to greater or less Advantage, according as we are fitted and prepared to receive them. And nothing is more clear in the Gospel of Christ, than that Persons received Benefits from him, when he was upon Earth, according to their Fitness and Preparedness to receive them. He ever look’d for some Degree of true Repentance, Faith, Thankfulness, Humility, and a good Use of former Benefits from those on whom he was about to bestow any new Act of his special Favour ; as appears from many Rules, and many more Examples that are to be met with in the holy Gospels ; and ’twas ever according to their Faith, ( including other good Dispositions ) that Persons received Help from him, and obtained the Petitions they asked of him. And therefore when he came amongst a People who had little or no Faith in them, or any good Preparations to receive Favours from him, ’tis said, And he did not many mighty Works there, because of their Unbelief, Matth. xiii. 58.
And the doing all this with an honest and sincere Mind, firmly purposing by God’s Help to live according to their Christian Profession, comprehends what is needful for the due receiving of Confirmation ; or the Duty of those that desire to be Confirmed, may be reduced to these following Particulars.
1. They should be able to answer to such Questions as may be put to them concerning the principal Points of the Christian Religion, at least so far as they are summ’d up in the short Catechism of the Church ; and above all things, they should understand, what is implied in their Baptismal Covenant, both the unspeakable Benefits which they are thereby intituled unto, and the great Duties they therein engaged to pay unto Almighty God, as they are excellently express’d in the Entrance of their Catechism.
2. They should be ready ( with penitent Hearts for their former Failings ) solemnly to renew their Baptismal Vow and Promise ; and in their own Names, and by their own free Act, take their Christian Profession upon themselves before the Church.
3. They should do this chearfully, and with truly thankful Hearts, as being sensible of the present Privileges they enjoy, and the infinite Advantage they hope to receive by it.
4. They should know, That by such their holy Profession, they owned themselves to dissent from all Heathens, Turks, Jews, Hereticks, Schismaticks, and profane Persons, so far as they depart, in Faith or Practice, from the sound Doctrine of the Christian Church.
5. They should firmly purpose with themselves to continue and persevere in this their holy Faith and Profession, and that they would seriously endeavour to increase in the Knowledge and better Practice of the same unto their Lives End.
Containing some short Rules of Direction, to be observed for the better receiving of Confirmation, and for the preserving and encreasing of the Holy Spirit in the Confirmed Persons, &c.
As soon as Notice is given you of a Confirmation, ( if you be a Person of some Years of Discretion, and intend to be Confirmed ) labour to put your Mind into a pure and heavenly Frame ; considering you are seriously to take the most holy Christian Religion, upon yourself, in solemn Manner ; and to promise, before God and the Church, that you will endeavour to act and behave yourself according to the Laws of it all the Days of your Life ; and also because you expect to be visited by the holiest Guest, and to receive one of the best Gifts into your Soul, that, Christ hath promised to bestow on you in this World.
2. To this End, take care to be very constant, intent, and earnest in your daily Prayers ; and be sure to add some of the Prayers at the End of this Book, to your usual Devotions, if you are not otherwise better provided.
3. Read or say over your Catechism with much Care, and strive to understand the great Importance of it as well as you are able, and beg of God to give you a Knowledge cf your Duty to him, suitable to your Years and Condition ; and above all, you must firmly purpose to live agreeably to that Knowledge of Spiritual Things you have already attained unto, and by no Means to allow yourself to go on in any Sin against your Conscience ; and this very Disposition of Mind will fit you for an Increase in Grace and Spiritual Understanding.
4. You should often, both before and after your Confirmation, meditate on the Nature and Operations, the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which I have briefly hinted at, and described, to help you in such your Meditations.
5. And if the Persons to be Confirmed be of sufficient Years, ’tis fit they should add some Fasting to their Prayers, as the Church intimates those that are baptized in riper Years ought to do. [ See the First Rubrick for the Baptism of those of riper Years. ] And, indeed, considering that Baptism is now generally administred to Persons in their Infancy, ’tis the more requisite they should be most careful to receive Confirmation with the greater Preparation, when they are capable of doing of it.
6. When you come to the Church for the receiving this Gift of Christ, behave yourself with all Modesty and Seriousness, and be sure to be reverently intent on the Business you are about ; join devoutly in all the Prayers, mind what is your Part in the holy Office ; and if you are conscious to yourself, that you come to this Ordinance with an honest Heart, and firm Purpose to fulfill your Part of the Baptismal Covenant, doubt not but Christ will fulfill his Promise of giving you his holy Spirit to assist you in that great Work. So that when the Office is over, and you are gone from the Church, you must not imagine your Work is all over, and that you need never think of this Matter any more, ( as I fear it too often happens ) but you must remember and consider, that you have now solemnly taken the great Work of a Christian on yourself, and that it must be the chief Business and Concern of your whole Life to accomplish it happily. And this you must never expect to do, but by keeping and increasing in yourself that Gift of the Spirit which you have received, to which Purpose all good Rules that are given for a holy Life do conduce ; but I will here lay down a few Directions that may bear some peculiar Respect to this Matter in Hand.
1. You should endeavour to keep up a settled Will and Desire in your Heart, that all carnal Affections may die in you, and that all Things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in you, as the Church prayeth for you at your Baptism, and much to the same Effect are the Prayers that are made to God for you at your Confirmation ; which you should well weigh and consider.
2. You should often most seriously and earnestly pray to God to give you his Holy Spirit, to continue and increase the Gifts of it in you, and to grant that you may more and more bring forth the Fruits of it in your Conversation ; that he would by no Means take his holy Spirit from you ; and you should remember, Christ hath expressly taught us, our Heavenly Father is most ready to give his holy Spirit to them that ask him, Luke xi. 13. And to this End, you should take especial Notice of those Passages in the Service of our Church, which are to the present Purpose, and resolve to join in those Petitions most affectionately. Thus in the Prayer of Absolution, which is the next after the Confession, you pray to God to give you true Repentance, and his holy Spirit, i.e. to renew in you whatsoever hath been decay’d by your late Sins and Frailties, &c. In the Responses, That God would not take his holy Spirit from you. In the Litany, That you may bring forth the Fruits of the Spirit, and that God would endue you with the Grace of his holy Spirit, to amend your Lives according to his holy Word. In the Prayer for all Sorts and Conditions of Men, you pray, That the Catholick Church may be guided and govern’d by God’s good Spirit, &c. And in the first Collect for the Communion-Service, Cleanse the Thoughts of our Hearts by the Inspiration of thy holy Spirit. And as you should be careful to put up such short Petitions as these unto Almighty God with devout Hearts, so should you frequently make use of those Collects which are purposely composed for the begging the Guidance of this good Spirit, and for the increasing his Gifts and Graces in us ; and such you shall meet with at the End of this Book.
3. You should take great Care also, that you do not quench, grieve and drive away this blessed Spirit from you by any evil Actions ; therefore study to avoid all those Works which the Apostle styles the Works of the Flesh, and which he reckons up Gal. v. and which stand in Opposition to the Fruits of the Spirit ; particularly take heed of Gluttony, Drunkenness, and of all and unclean Practices, of Wrath, Envy, Malice, &c. remembring the Spirit of God is a most pure, loving, gentle, and Dove-like Spirit. And the Apostle hath taught us, That our Bodies are the Temples of this holy Spirit, and that he dwelleth in them, but he will not dwell in a polluted Habitation. And the same Apostle exhorts us, not to be drunken with Wine, wherein is Excess, but to be filled with the Spirit, Eph. v. 18. Where ’tis intimated, if we be used to be too much filled with the one Spirit, we shall not be much filled with the other.
4. On the other Side, you should sincerely endeavour to root and cherish in yourselves the Seeds of those Graces which the Apostle styles the Fruits of the Spirit, and recounts also Gal. v. being assured that none of those do naturally spring out of your own corrupt Hearts, but are to be sown and raised thence by God’s holy Spirit, and must be nourish’d and preserv’d there by his continued Influence, and by your own great Care and Watchfulness. And as you hope such excellent Fruits should arise and prosper in you, you should aim to love and delight in those Things that are most agreeable to the Nature arid Operations of the Holy Ghost, such as Works of Purity and Holiness, of Kindness and Beneficence ; you should strive to be of meek and humble, of innocent and Dove-like Spirits in yourselves, and so comfort, relieve, and cheer up the Spirits of others that are labouring under Troubles and Infirmities of any Kind.
5. In order to your increasing in the Spirit, and growing in true Religion and Godliness, you should endeavour by Degrees, and as soon as you can, to gain a tolerably good Apprehension of the whole Catechism ; I mean to have some distinct Knowledge of all the main Parts of it settled in your Minds, that you may be able to think and meditate upon it, even while you are about your daily Business, and to make use of it at all times.
Thus you should understand the great Design and Purpose of the Covenant of Grace you enter’d into with God at your Baptism, and ratified at your Confirmation ; you should have a right and sound Apprehension of the Benefits received, and of the Duties to be performed by virtue of that Covenant ; and be sensible also of the absolute Necessity that lies upon you to perform the Conditions, if ever you hope to receive the Benefits of it.
You should understand the main Import of every Article in the Creed, the Substance at least of what each Article teacheth you to believe concerning God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, concerning the holy Catholick Church, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting.
You should know likewise what Sins are forbidden, and what Duties are enjoined in every one of the Ten Commandments, that you may be able the more perfectly to avoid the former, and to perform the latter.
The same is to be said in respect to the Petitions of the Lord’s-Prayer, and the Doctrine of the Sacraments.
And tho’ it must be confessed, that the Covenant of Grace, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s-Prayer, and the Doctrine of the Sacraments are in good measure explained in the Church Catechism : Yet if those large Heads of Christian Doctrine were more particularly and distinctly explained in short Tables added to each of them, and put out by Authority, it might be of good Use for instructing the People in the Principles of the Christian Religion. But certainly such a distinct and particular Knowledge of those Things I have been speaking of, would be very advantageous to young Persons towards their making a Progress in Grace, because ’twould fit them to pray at all times with more Understanding and better Devotion, to read and hear the Holy Scriptures and other good Books and Discourses with more Judgment, and to better Purpose than otherwise they will be able to do ; to examine themselves the more soundly and rationally when they come to the Lord’s Supper ; to bring up their Children in the same Knowledge, and the like.
6thly, and lastly : You should seek by the best and most effectual Ways frequently to stir up afresh this Gift of God which is in you, by the putting on of the Bishop’s Hands ( as the Apostle admonisheth Timothy with respect to that Gift of the Spirit which he received at his Ordination, 2 Tim. i. 6 ) the Word there used for stirring up, is known to be taken from the blowing up or any way reviving of Fire after ’tis decay’d, or has lain hid in the Ashes or Embers, that it may burn afresh. And nothing is more certain, than that the Gifts and Graces of God in us, will be apt by Degrees to languish and decay, as well as the Fire, if they be not frequently stirred up, renew’d, and reviv’d by us ; and this is to be done by a greater Watchfulness, by a more chearful and vigorous Exercise, by serious reading and hearing of pious Discourses, by more deep Meditation on good Things, and by more earnest Prayer than ordinary, and especially by the often receiving of the blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s-Supper, when all these Exercises should meet together.
Therefore as you tender the keeping of God’s Spirit with you, and the growing of it in you, defer not after your Confirmation ( being sixteen Years of Age ) to receive the Lord’s Supper, and then be sure to do it pretty frequently and devoutly all the Days of your Life ; once a Month where you may have it, or at least once a Quarter ; but never wilfully fail to partake of it three Times in the Year, where you usually have it no oftner.
Some brief Account of the Nature and Operations of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Ghost is in his own Nature the Eternal, Ever-living, All-powerful, Infinitely Wise, Active, Most Holy and Loving Spirit of God the Father, and of God the Son, proceeding from them both, in Glory Equal, in Majesty Co-eternal with them both, the Third Person in the Ever-blessed and undivided Trinity.
2. In his Works and Operations he is the Lord and Giver of Life, both Natural and Spiritual, the Teacher of Truth and Wisdom, the Author of all Sanctification, Comfort, Joy, Peace, and the Worker of every good Spiritual Gift in us, that is necessary to make our Life comfortable here, in any worldly Condition, and to fit us for Glory hereafter.
3. His Gifts in particular are such as will make us truly wise unto Salvation ; and they are commonly reckon’d to be these Seven, from Isa. xi. 2. 1. The Spirit of Wisdom, 2. Of Understanding, 3. Of Counsel, 4. Of Might or Fortitude, 5. Of Knowledge, 6. Of Piety, 7. Of the Fear of the Lord ; which may thus be distinguished and understood.
The first Beginning and lowest Degree of this Heavenly Wisdom, which is able to make us wise unto Salvation, is the Fear of the Lord : See Prov. i. 7. and Prov. ix. v. 10. Psal. cxi. 10. Therefore Children should begin to root this in their Hearts as soon as they are able to know any thing of God or Religion ; they should learn to be afraid of offending him, who is so infinitely able either to bless or to curse them, to make them happy or miserable, both here, and hereafter ; and especially to destroy them, Body and Soul in Hell, Matth. x. 28.
2. The next Gift of the Spirit is Piety ; this adds Love to Fear, for a Reverential Fear and Love mix’d together, is Piety. This inclines us to serve God out of a Sense of his Fatherly Goodness to us as we are adopted by him to be his beloved Children in Christ ; and Christian Children should learn betimes to fear God as their Lord and Sovereign, and to love him as their most gracious and tender Father ; and this would rightly dispose them for a pious and truly Christian Life.
3. The 3d Gift of the Spirit is Knowledge, i. e. a Spiritual Knowledge, the Knowledge of the first Great and Fundamental Principles of true Religion, which are necessary in order to the serving God aright and with some Understanding ; and when Persons Minds are once piously disposed, they are fit to attain by Degrees a sound Knowledge of God’s Will, and of all such Things as he hath made necessary to be known in order to their Salvation.
The 4th is Fortitude, that is, Spiritual Strength and Courage to stand to our Duty in the Time of Trial and Temptation ; and when Persons know their Duty to God in good measure, the next Thing that is needful for them, is their standing stedfastly to it, amidst all Opposition from their Spiritual Enemies, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
5. Counsel. This Gift is to enable Persons to find out and to follow the best Means and Methods for attaining the great End which Religion aims at ; ’tis to keep them from running themselves into Errors, Dangers and Temptations, and to make them stand safely and securely against the Assaults of their Spiritual Enemies.
6. Understanding. This Gift implies a well-grounded Knowledge in Spiritual Matters, and a Mind firmly fixed to act prudently according to such sound Knowledge ; and any one endowed with this Gift, we rightly call an Understanding Person.
7. Wisdom. This is the top Gift of the Holy Spirit, and includes in it all the other Six already spoken of ; and consists in the right understanding of the best Things, ( such as relate to the glorifying of God, and the attaining Man’s true Happiness ) and in a Will fully purposed to choose such Things, and to pursue them resolutely against all Opposition, by due and proper Means.
And now I proceed, in the next Place, to distinguish and describe a little the Fruits of the Spirit, as they are reckon’d up by the Apostle, Gal. v. 22, 23. and they are these Nine : Love, joy, Peace, Long-Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance.
For good Reason the First of them is Love or Charity, because this is the Top of them all, and the Perfection of all the rest ; and is the sincere Love of God for his own sake, and on the Account of the infinite Excellencies and Perfections which are in him, and of the inestimable Benefits of Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification received from him, and a rational Love of ourselves, and of all other Men for God’s sake ; and that we may thereby express our Love and Thankfulness to him. And this first Fruit of the Spirit doth incline Men inwardly and from their Hearts to seek God’s Glory, and the eternal Good of their own and other Men’s Souls above all Things else, for these are the Effect and End of true Charity ; I mean, it moves us to desire that God in all Things may be glorified, and that ourselves and all others may be benefited in every thing ; and that at the last all may receive the highest Benefit which God hath designed for Mankind, which is their Eternal Salvation. Therefore so far as Men want such a Desire, so far they are defective in this first Fruit of the Spirit : This stands in Opposition to carnal Selfishness, to the Contempt and Neglect of God and Man, and to the many other evil Fruits which flow from these.
2dly, Joy : By which is meant that Satisfaction and Lightsomness of Mind which ariseth from a Sense of our having done, in some measure, that which Charity required of us ; i. e. from having sincerely expressed our Love to God, to ourselves, and to all the World. For when we have a sure and quiet Conscience by the true Exercise of Charity, the Joy and Comfort of God’s Spirit doth from thence arise in our Hearts, which is far more refreshing than what all the Enjoyments of this World can afford. The End of this Fruit Fruit of the Spirit is to make us serve God with Chearfulness and Alacrity, it hath its Effect upon ourselves, and others ; it gives us Encouragement to go on with Delight in the Ways of God and our Duty, and it maketh us the better able to give Example to others to follow us in the same Ways. The Apostles and first Christians, who were continually under worldly Troubles and temporal Sorrows, did, no doubt very much abound with this blessed Fruit of the Spirit ; an ’twas for this Grace especially, that the Apostle so solemnly blessed God, 2 Cor. i. 3, 4, where he saith, Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies, and the God of all Comfort, who comforteth us in all our Tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any Trouble, by the Comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. And then he adds in the next Verse, ( speaking still of the inwards Joy of the Spirit ) For as the Sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our Consolation, i. e. Comfort or Spiritual Joy, aboundeth by Christ ; and ’tis in and through this Spiritual Joy, that the Kingdom of Christ beginneth in the Hearts of holy Men here upon Earth, as the Apostle intimates, when he saith, Rom. xiv. 17. For the Kingdom of God is not Meat and Drink, but Righteousness, and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost. This Grace is of admirable Use to carry us on chearfully and contentedly at least thro’ all the Afflictions, Troubles, Disappointments, Losses and Crosses, and all manner of Calamities and Sufferings that we meet with in this Life. For so long as Men feel a secret Satisfaction and Joy within, which is as it were a Kind of Foretaste of the Eternal Comforts and Joys of Heaven, they will far more easily bear all the Afflictions which God shall be pleased to lay upon them in this Life, which is but for a Season. This stands in Opposition to worldly Carefulness or Solicitousness, to Envy, to Sadness and Sourness of Spirit.
3. The third Fruit of the Spirit is Peace : This implies a Peace within us, and a labouring for Peace without us ; and a Readiness to comply with all reasonable Terms of Peace when offered to us. So that this Peace, as ’tis a distinct Fruit of the Spirit, denotes an inward Peace of Conscience arising, as the former of Joy, from a Sense of our having in some measure done our Duty, and shown our Love to God and Man ; only this Grace of Peace implies a more continued and settled Habit of Mind than that of Joy ; and therefore Christ saith to his Apostles, when he was about to leave them, My Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you ; not as the World giveth, give I unto you, John xiv, 27. Where our Lord speaks of this inward and spiritual Peace, as of a continuing Thing, which was to last and abide with them, I suppose when their Spiritual Joy might not be so lively in them. But then this Peace doth imply also a peaceable Disposition of Mind. For they that are at Peace with God and their own Consciences, would willingly be at Peace ; with all the World upon such reasonable Terms as they are always ready to offer, and to accept at least, according to their own Apprehension of Things. ’Tis to the exercising this Fruit of the Spirit, that the Apostle exhorts us, when he bids us follow Peace with all Men, Heb, xii, 14. and that if it be possible, and as much as lieth in us, we should live peaceably with all Men ; Rom. xii, 1 S. This Fruit of the Spirit stands in Opposition to an unquiet, discontented and contentious Spirit, that can neither have Peace in itself, nor keep Peace with others.
4. Long-Suffering : This Grace or Fruit of the Spirit consists in bearing the Injuries and Provocations offered by Men ; and it enables us to endure with the Weaknesses and Follies, and even with the spiteful Carriages of others towards us sometimes. Thus it appears to be a Divine Branch springing forth from the Heavenly Root of Charity, that, the Apostle tells us, beareth all Things, endureth all Things, 1 Cor. xiii, 7. and he saith of himself, and other his Companions in the Gospel, That they approved themselves by Long-suffering, as well as other Graces, 2 Cor. vi. 6. and he beseecheth the Ephesians, that they would walk with all Lowliness and Meekness, with Long-suffering, forbearing one another in Love, Eph. iv. 2. and in several ocher Places of Holy Scripture this Grace or Fruit of the Spirit is commended to us ; and while we live in this foolish, unreasonable, ungrateful, and every way provoking World, there is Grace more necessary for us ; for this includes Patience, and is a Perfection of it, and stands in Opposition to a Spirit easily provoked, and ready to make Resentments, and to he discomposed on every slight Occasion.
5. The next Fruit of the Spirit is Gentleness ; the original Word is
χρησότης, which properly denotes Kindness in Disposition, expressed both in Wards and Actions ; ’tis a Readiness of Mind to perform all Kindness to others, as Ability and Opportunity shall serve, and as Reason and truly Christian Charity shall direct. This Grace inclineth Men to conform themselves to the Tempers, Humours, and all other perhaps troublesome Qualities and inconvenient Circumstances of others for their Good, and that we may better express our Respect and Charity towards them ; and when this Grace is true and sincere, and not mixed with Hypocrisy and feigned Courtesy, as too often it is, it is of admirable Use for the winning upon all Sorts of People, especially on such as have any good Dispositions in them ; and ’tis a Means of preserving all from giving needless Offence and Scandal to their Brethren ; and on this Account ’tis to be sought after, and should be shown forth by every good Christian : ‘Twas this Grace that the Apostle exercised, when in his Carriage he became all Things to all Men, that he might by all means save some. 1 Cor. ix, 22. This Grace stands in Opposition to a stiff, surly, morose, disobliging, rude and ill-natur’d Behaviour.
6. The next is Goodness,
Ἀγαθωσύνη ; it denotes the Virtue of Benefaction, the doing Good to, and real conferring of Benefits upon others. They who are endowed with this Grace are common Blessings to the World, because their chief Design and Business is to do Good. This Grace was most eminent in Christ while he was upon Earth, executing his Prophetical Office ; for tho’ he lived in a low and mean Condition, in respect of worldly Things, yet St. Peter testifies, That he went about doing Good, and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil, Acts x. 38. and such was the Life of his Apostles, tho’ they had not much Silver and Gold, yet of such as they had, they bestowed freely, and did much Good with it, viz. with their Spiritual Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge, &c. And hence the Apostle could say, Tho’ they were poor, yet making many rich, 2 Cor. vi. 10. and if we would be Christ’s true Followers, and would show forth this Fruit of the Spirit, we must do Harm to none, but seek to do Good to all, as we are able, and as true Wisdom shall direct. This Grace is opposite to Covetousness, Niggardliness, and Narrowness of Mind.
7. The next is Faith ; which here denotes, in all Probability, Fidelity or Faithfulness : It implies Constancy to our Words and Promises, and Faithfulness to our Trusts, and Men that are endowed with this Grace, are such, as we say, may be trusted to, and we may have Confidence in what they say, or what they engage for. This Grace is of very great Use in Religion, as also in all worldly Business, because it inclines Men to be true to all their Covenants and Engagements they make to God and Man : It stands in Opposition to Inconstancy, Treacherousness, False Dealing, &c.
8. The Eighth is Meekness, which denotes Humility, and Lowliness of Spirit ; and it makes those that are endow’d with it utterly averse to Faction and Sedition, to the causing of Divisions, broaching of Heresies, and raising of Disturbances amongst Men. This Grace was especially eminent in our blessed Saviour, and he bids us all to learn of him, for that he was meek and lowly in Heart ; and he pronounceth a Blessing to the poor in Spirit, and to the meek, Matth. v. 3, 5. It stands in Opposition to a proud, restless, imperious, self-conceited Spirit, that is ever seeking for Preeminence in all Things.
9. The Ninth and last is Temperance,
ἐνκράτεια, Continence : It denotes the Virtue of abstaining from all unlawful bodily or fleshly Delights, Moderation in Eating and Drinking, and so it includes both Temperance and Sobriety ; and likewise the abstaining from and bridling all unlawful and inordinate Lusts, and thus it comprehends in it Chastity also. It stands in Opposition to all manner of inordinate following after, and undue gratifying the Desires of the Flesh.
And now, even from this very short Account of these Fruits of the Spirit, you may easily understand what is meant by them, and how they are distinguished one from another ; and how happy Men would be, did they seriously labour to bring forth all these blessed Fruits of the Spirit, instead of the opposite and quite contrary Works of the Flesh, which do so much abound in the World.
O Merciful God, grant that the Old Adam ( in me, and in all Christian People ) may be so buried, that the New Man may be raised up in us Day by Day. Amen.
Grant that all carnal Affections may die in us, and that all Things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in us. Amen.
Grant that we may have Power and Strength to have Victory, and to triumph against the Devil, the World, and the Flesh. Amen.
Grant that whosoever dedicates himself willingly and sincerely to Thee, and thy Service, in the Holy Rite of Confirmation, ( as I purpose to do, or as I have done ) may also be endowed with Heavenly Virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy Mercy, O Blessed Lord God, who dost live and govern all Things, World without End. Amen.
Prayers to be used before and after Confirmation, and at other Times, for the procuring and increasing the Gifts and Graces of God’s Holy Spirit in us.
[The Three first may be used before Confirmation.]
Almighty God, and my most merciful Father, who by thy holy Baptism hast made me a Member of thy Son Jesus Christ, and adopted me to be one of thine own Children, and put me in the right Way to inherit thine everlasting Kingdom of Heaven : I humbly beseech thee to give me ( at my Confirmation ) such a Gift of thy Holy Spirit, that, according to my bounden Duty, I may rightly and truly renounce and withstand the Devil and all his Works, the Pomps and Vanities of this wicked World, and all the sinful Lusts of the Flesh ; believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and keep thy holy Will and Commandments, and walk in the same all the Days of my Life : And all this I beg for thy dear Son’s sake, Jesus Christ, my, blessed Lord, and Saviour. Amen.
Most Gracious God, and my Heavenly Father, I give thee humble and hearty Thanks, that thou hast vouchsafed, at, and in my Baptism, to call me to a State of Salvation, through thy Son Jesus Christ, my Saviour ; and as I do verily think, That I am bound to believe and to do as my Godfathers and Godmothers then promised for me ; so I humbly and earnestly beg of thee, for the same our Lord Jesus Christ his sake, to give me ( now at my Confirmation ) so plentiful a Gift of thy Holy Spirit, that I may always abide in thy Favour, and increase in the same to my Life’s End. Amen.
Defend, O Lord, me thy Servant ( and all other thy Adopted Children ) with thy Heavenly Grace, that we may continue thine for ever, and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until we come unto thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.
These Four following may be used either before or after Confirmation, or at other Times.
God, who didst teach the Hearts of thy faithful People, by the sending to them the Light of thy Holy Spirit, grant me, and all who profess and call themselves Christians, to have a right Judgment in all Things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy Comfort, through the Merits of Christ Jesu our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the Unity of the same Spirit, one God, World without End. Amen.
O God, forasmuch as without thee, we are not able to please thee, mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all Things direct and rule our Hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and Ever-living God, who hast vouchsafed to Regenerate me thy Servant by Water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto me Forgiveness of all my Sins, strengthen me, I beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in me thy manifold Gifts of Grace, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Ghostly Strength ; the Spirit of Knowledge, and true Godliness ; and fill me, O Lord, with the Spirit of thy holy Fear, now, and for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, I being sensible, by thy Grace, that no good and wholsome Fruit can grow out of our own Natures, without the blessed Influence of thy Holy Spirit, do most humbly beseech thee to give and continue to me, and to all Christian People, such Portions of that thy gracious Spirit, as may enable and incline us to bring forth more and more the Heavenly Fruits of Love, Joy, Peace, Long-Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance, to the setting forth of thy Honour and Glory, and the increasing our Happiness both here and hereafter, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These following to be used after Confirmation.
O Merciful Father, I give thee most humble and hearty Thanks, that thou hast been pleased ( now at my Confirmation ) to make me a Partaker of that Heavenly Gift of thy Holy Spirit, which thou didst promise by thy Son Jesus Christ, that they that did believe on him should receive ; and which by Prayer, and the laying on of his Apostles Hands ( for an Example to thy Church ) thou didst bestow on the first faithful Christians ; I heartily beg of thee, that I, and all others, who have been Confirmed, may always sincerely endeavour to walk worthy of this glorious Blessing ; that we may never do any thing that may quench or grieve this Holy Spirit : And to that End, let thy Fatherly Hand, I beseech thee, ever be over us ; let this thy Sanctifying Spirit ever be with us ; and so lead us in the Knowledge and Obedience of thy Word, that in the End we may obtain Everlasting Life, through our Lord Jesus Christ ; who with thee, and the Holy Ghost, liveth, and reigneth, ever one God, World without End. Amen.
O Almighty Lord, and Everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify and govern both our Hearts and Bodies in the Ways of thy Laws, and in the Works of thy Commandments, that thro’ thy most mighty Protection, both here, and ever, we may be preserved in Body and Soul, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be upon me, and upon all the Members of the Church, and remain with us for ever. Amen.