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THE BENEFITS OF CONFIRMATION.
Acts, viï. 17.
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the
In drawing your attention to the rite of Confira mation, I have now explained, First, the NATURE of that Ordinance ; Secondly, The IMPORTANCE of it; and then, Thirdly, the several particulars of the BAPTISMAL Vow which is therein ratified and confirmed. We have now, in the Fourth place, to consider the BENEFITS which thence result to the devout recipient.
Now these Benefits of Confirmation are expressed in our text, and in other passages of Scripture, by the comprehensive term, the reception of the Holy Ghost. And when, therefore, we shall have ascertained what are the ideas contained under this
term, both generally and in its specific reference to Confirmation, we shall be prepared to understand the Benefits which by this rite are still to be expected by the devout recipient.
We must begin with ascertaining what is the gift of the Holy Ghost generally, because its reception in confirmation is by no means peculiar to that ordinance, but vouchsafed through it in common with all the several means of grace which God is pleased to bless. In every method by which the heart is turned towards God with pious earnestness and expectation, - in all the exercises of meditation, reading, prayer, and social worship,—the grand result to be desired and produced is the communication of the Holy Ghost; and the several occasions of more solemn approach to God-even the Sacraments appointed by our Lord himself — differ not, therefore, from the ordinary means of grace in kind, but only in the degree of devotion roused, and of benefit communicated. The one thing which the spirit of man requires in order to all commencement and progress in religion, is the communication of the Spirit of God; and the grand prerogative of Christianity is, that it does communicate this Spirit to all who heartily seek it.
For this is the distinctive benefit which the Prophet Joel commemorated as marking out the times of the Messiah, _“I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” This, John the Baptist, with evident reference to that prophecy of Joel, taught his disciples to look forward to, as the special gift of him that should come after him—that is, of Jesus: “I, indeed, baptize you with water ; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, and he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” To this, again, Jesus himself refers when he declares, “He that believeth on me, from within him shall flow out rivers of living water;" which St. John explains to us as spoken “ of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive." This, moreover, our Lord announced to his disciples as the grand result of that glory which by his humiliation he was about to conquer for himself: “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” And this, therefore, he commanded them to look for, after his resurrection, as speedily to be vouchsafed to them: “Wait for the promise of the Father”--the gift which the Father promised by his prophets as characteristic of Messiah's times “ which ye have heard of me,” which I have so often repeated to you. “For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Such are the Scripture declarations concerning that special Benefit, the communication of which is predicted as the distinctive mark and glory of Christianity. What were the subsequent Facts in the history of the Christian church? They were in exact accordance with those declarations. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples, being assembled together, were all filled with the Holy Ghost. To their converts on that day was proclaimed by them the promise of the same benefit. This benefit those disciples experienced yet more fully when they were still more in need of it, after the threatenings of the Sadducees, when, having prayed for spiritual boldness, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” This benefit was communicated by Peter and John to the converts of Samaria, as we read in our text; by Peter, to Cornelius and his company; and by Paul, to the disciples whom he found at Ephesus. And the actual possession of this benefit we find appealed to by this last Apostle, in his letter to the Galatians, wherein he asks, “ Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?”—in his second letter to the Corinthians, wherein he claims it as the special privilege of the Christian minister above even Moses himself, that to him is vouchsafed the ministration of the Spirit ; in his letter to the Romans, wherein he refers to this as the personal mark and evidence of a truly Christian man, that he has received “the Spirit of adoption whereby
he cries, Abba, Father ;"--and in his letter to the Ephesians, wherein he commemorates this benefit as the seal and earnest of their ultimate salvation :
After that ye believed ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.”
What then is this Spirit, thus commemorated ? Being specifically The Spirit of Christianity, we might infer from thence alone that it must be the realizing of that truth which is peculiar to Christianity, and of all its animating results. And this inference is substantiated by all the statements which we find in Scripture concerning this blessed Spirit. These all run up into this one idea, that it is the temper of a confiding, loving, and obedient child ; this temper produced, maintained, and strengthened by faith—that is, by the assurance that God regards us with the feelings of a father and a friend. “ Ye are all,” says St. Paul to the Galatians, “ the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus:" iï. 26. “ And because ye are children, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father :" iv. 6. This is what is needed as essential to the peace and holiness of every one who feels his actual position with respect to God—this is supplied only through the revelation of that central truth of the Gospel, reconciliation to God by faith in Christ