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have been given by, the laying on of hands. “Joshua,” says the inspired writer, “ was filled with the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him ; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
This will be sufficient evidence from the Old Testament, of the antiquity and use of the “ laying on of hands.” In the New also, similar instances abound. In healing the sick, ordaining to the ministry, appointing deacons, and conveying gifts of the Spirit, or offices in the church. Every reader of the New Testament must know, that “the laying on of hands” is a practice frequently mentioned. These, however, are only general examples, to show the scriptural acknowledgment, that gifts and dispensations of spiritual grace and power, were conferred by the laying on of the hands of God's servants. Not that we are to suppose, that the mere action of " laying on of hands” would operate as a charm or spell to produce these effects, but that it was an impressive and significant rite, denoting the authority of the minister, and, by the ordinance of God, made the channel of conveying his blessings. The hands, first upraised, point to heaven, as the only source, from which all authority and every blessing must be derived ; and then, falling upon the head of the person, eloquently figure the blessing descending on him from the hand of the Almighty.
Now let us advance a step nearer to our point,
and, from considering the general examples of the ceremony of " laying on of hands," next contemplate it, as applied to the particular case before us; as used for the very purpose for which the Church of England appoints it to be used—as a sequel to Baptism, or, in one word, Confirmation.
Our text is a case in point. After the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, they preached the Gospel and baptized. The inferior ministers did the same. Philip in particular, who is supposed to have been the second of the seven deacons, and next to Stephen, preached and baptized many at Samaria. These converts partook of all the privileges and benefits conferred by Baptism. Still it is evident that the Apostles held something more to be requisite. For the text distinctly states, 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.” Now if some additional ministration had not been necessary, for what reason should two Apostles have gone from Jerusalem to Samaria, to lay their hands upon those who had been already baptized ?
It was not necessary that they should be baptized again ; but, to adopt
the words of Hooker, who describes the practice, and speaks the language of the primitive church, it was necessary to add to Baptism imposition of hands, with effectual prayer, for the illumination of God's most Holy Spirit, to confirm and perfect that which the grace of the same Spirit had already begun in Baptism.
And that it may not be inferred, that in this case Confirmation was necessary, only because those, who baptized, were not Apostles, we have the fact that Paul himself, when he had baptized the disciples at Ephesus, “laid his hands upon them, and the Holy Ghost came upon them.” And there is a very remarkable passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which St. Paul appears not only to describe Confirmation as a fundamental point of Christian doctrine, but also to speak of it in such an order, as implies its association with Baptism. He says, “ Leaving, therefore, 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 baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment "."
The case is clear as to the practice of the Apostles themselves; and Shepherd quotes the authority
It might be questioned whether the “ laying on of hands," in this passage, referred to Confirmation, or to any other case in which the ceremony is used. But Shepherd very conclusively reasons from the context, that it can refer to nothing else.
of Cyprian, an early Christian writer, for asserting that the practice of the Apostles in this respect is not a mere example, but a rule and precedent for the Church to follow.
That the Church did follow the rule and precedent, and has continued to do so to the present day, a cloud of witnesses may be adduced to prove; but our plan and limits will not admit’ of the introduction of passages from the fathers to this effect. I select a single example from the father above named, and quoted by Shepherd. He declares that, “where any one has been baptized, he must not be baptized again. What is wanting must be supplied by prayer, imposition of hands, and invocation of the Holy Ghost.”
III. Proceed we next to state the benefits to be derived from Confirmation.
These benefits have been, in some degree, already set forth, in stating the effects, which all the examples of Scripture, and of the primitive church, we have quoted, uniformly describe to follow the laying on of hands, and which are represented by that action. The blessings of God, and the gifts of the Spirit, are declared to be thus conveyed. These are very important, indeed, all important. But there are others incidentally connected with it, and
1 Those who wish authorities on this point, will find them in Shepherd, Hooker, Taylor, and in a more accessible and very comprehensive little tract on Confirmation, by the Rev. D. J. Eyre.
by no means to be despised. It affords a stimulus to exertion, by the publicity and solemnity of the act, by which we ratify and confirm, before God and the congregation, the engagements entered into in our name at our baptism. It is an earnest call to holy resolution, and to acquaint ourselves, in the outset of the journey of life, with that powerful Protector, and that unerring Guide, who will conduct us through its difficulties and perils, to the home eternal in the heavens. This we shall the more clearly perceive, as we consider the next head of our discourse.
IV. The qualifications and duties required of those to be confirmed.
As in Confirmation you take upon yourselves the vows made for you in your Baptism, and pledge yourselves to the fulfilment of your part in the covenant then entered into, in your name, you must know what those vows were, and what are the obligations you undertake to fulfil. The promises made by your godfathers and godmothers in your name, are classed under three general heads; what you should renounce, what you should believe, and what you should do. For the use of those to be confirmed, and to assist them in acquiring a general knowledge of those things, the Church has appointed a Catechism containing a brief and summary sketch of Christian faith and duty. This, at least, every candidate for Confirmation ought to have learned. Not, however, that your acquaintance with religion