« AnteriorContinuar »
frail as its proprietor-and present opportunity may suddenly pass away with all its pleas and privileges upon its wings.— Oh! seize the apt occasion while it stays, and, clinging fast by Him who holds eternity in his hands, cry mightily as Jacob did,- "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me!" And with reverence apply this prayer alike to the text and to the solemn ceremony about to be performed. Let not your spiritual ruler go throughout these districts, "Confirming the Churches," without confirming you. Do you go, and practically address this language to the Father of the Diocese,-" I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."
THE PRACTICAL REASONABLENESS OF
"PROVE all things: hold fast that which is good."-1 THESS. v. 21.
It is a common and idle saying among the sectaries—perhaps to cover the obscurity and recency of their own original-that "the Church of England is the daughter of the Church of Rome." If she were so, she would be like Rachel who brought away her father's Gods, or rather she would resemble Ruth, the daughter of Moab, who left her home, and kin, and father-land, to become a citizen and worshipper of the God of Israel, and ancestral Mother of the Messiah; but the allegation is a falsity, equally disproved by the Ecclesiastical history, and doctrinal of our Apostolic, Episcopal, and Protestant Church. That we did not reject every article of doctrine, or of discipline, which the Church of Rome holds in common with the reformed Churches, was because it was the wisdom of our English Fathers, according to the grace given unto them, to separate the chaff from the wheat, and not to burn both in the fire-to reform, and not to subvert the Church-to bring the whole body of ordinances and doctrines, "to the Law and to the
testimony:"-to the Law of Revelation, and to the testimony of the Church :-to establish and confirm all things that stood the test, "which were saved yet so as by fire:"-and to reject, as the convalescent limb casts off the putrefaction of disease, every excrescence of novelty and error.-In a word, it obeyed the injunction of the text―(the spirit of the passage seemed to have brooded over the solemn deliberations of the Reformers, inclining, directing, and enabling them)-" to prove all things, and then to hold fast that which was good."
Among the ritual observances thus retained, because of its Scriptural proof and Ecclesiastical testimony, as we have fully discovered to you in the two preceding discourses,-was the ordinance of Confirmation. This rite is still solemnized among us, because we deem it to be equally binding upon us, both "to prove all things, and also to hold fast that which is good:" and that Confirmation is one of "the good things" of the Church of Christ, we desire to approve to your consciences, in the series of discourses at this seasonable time in delivery. And forasmuch as there is no one ordinance of the Church, upon which the wantonness of the carnally-minded have heaped so much reproach and contempt, and which has likewise excited so much obloquy, and "foolish talking, and jesting, which are not convenient," from the disaffected spirit of schism, I shall devote this third discourse to the elucidation of those views of the ordinance, in which its practical reasonableness may plainly appear to an impartial and unprejudiced mind.
Oh, my beloved brethren, bear with me in my anxiety to persuade you of the truth of this spiritual ceremony-an anxiety
arising from my conviction that it is spiritual; otherwise it might "perish as the dung at Endor,"-and leave behind no mourner. We are jealous for "the truth, and for the whole truth, and yet for nothing but the truth," because all truth is necessary for the weal of the immortal souls committed to our charge. We believe there are no supererogatory means of grace, any more than there are supererogatory works of faith. We deeply need all the helps which God, in His sovereign love, has vouchsafed to us, for we are poor, weak, sickly, and incapable creatures, ever tottering, often stumbling, and apart from the outstretched-arm of grace, should fall eternally. If we contend for this ordinance, or that, the contest is for what we believe to be a means of grace.
The Church of England has no more interest at stake in retaining or declining Confirmation, than those who despise it have. Our earnest prayer and longing after the simple truth, is, we trust, as sincere, and certainly less captious, than theirs: and we take comfort in the possibility of our own error, as also in the view of theirs, that "we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth." The judgment of this party or of that, does not affect the real facts of the case. If the ordinance in question, "be of man, it will come to nought, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."
May the Holy Spirit,-to communicate whose grace to the penitent and believing, Confirmation breathes its prayer, and pleads its Apostolic sanction,-overshadow the feebleness and infirmity of our discourses, that they may bear conviction on their wings, to the support and encouragement of our souls.
The main design of this third address, will be to exhibit the REASONABLENESS OF CONFIRMATION.
I remark first: we are not obliged to enter upon the defence of the ordinance. If we have succeeded in proving its Scriptural origin, we have no right to argue upon the expediency of this or that ordinance of Scripture. There is no passage in the word of God which gives man the prerogative of judging which part of Revelation he is at liberty to receive and which part to reject. The Gospel has its scheme of ordinances-its spiritual Leviticus-as well as the Law. The Revelations of the New Testament conclude like the statutes of the Old dispensation, with a Divine anathema against any man who should presume to add to, or take away a word, and Christ in his means of grace will surely exact the obedience which Moses challenged with so great a penalty, "cursed is every man that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." It is a two-edged sword, that anathema, which stands by the canon of Revelation like the Angel at the gate of Eden, to prevent the entrance or the egress of a syllable to or from the Scriptures, so that Popish interpolation, and sectarian abstraction, are alike interdicted. It has been the mercy of God to lead our privileged Churchas in the case before us-safely through either extreme; we have divested the ordinance of its spurious sacramental character, yet retained it in the simplicity of its Apostolic original. Having proved this last position, without fear of a successful contradiction, and fortified the argument of our Scriptural interpretations by the unanimous testimony of the primitive and catholic Church, we might be content to leave our opponents in their ecclesiastical minority, if we were not