« AnteriorContinuar »
Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles, who remain'd at Jerusalem. Among those that were scatters Philip the Deacon went down to the City of Samaria, and preach d Christ unto them. Where the People with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the Miracles done by him: for he difpossess'd evil and unclean Spirits, and many that were troubled with Palsies and Lameness were heal'd by him which occasion'd great Joy in all the City. Now Samaria was a City or Country inhabited by Jews and Gentiles, and so they had a Medley or Mixture of Religions, partly Jewish, and partly Heathenishfor they seared the Lord, and served their own Gods, after the manner of other Nations; 2Kings' 17.33. They mingled the Service of the true God with that of the false and heathen Gods, and blended their Worship with Idolatry. In our Saviour's time there was a great Controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans, about the Object and Place of Worship; of which we read, John 4. where our Saviour told the Samaritans, that they worstnpd they knew not what, ver. 22. meaning, that they were Idolaters, and wanting the Knowledg of the true God, fell down to false and idol Gods; and such they continu'd, till Philip went down and preach'd to them, and by his Doctrine and Miracles convinc'd and converted them all to the Christian Faith: insomuch that they believing what Philip preach'd concerning the Kingdom of God, and the Name of Jesus Christ, became Proselytes to the Gospel, and were baptised both Men and Women.
Now when the Apostles, who were at Jerufalem, heard that Samaria had receiv'd the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: that is, hearing the good Success of St. PhiJ'p's Ministry at Samaria, by the Accession of so many Converts to Christianity, and knowing that Philip had gone so far with them as his Office of a Deacon would reach, namely, to teach and to baptize them; they thought fit to fend down two of their own Company with the farther Power of Apostles, to do something more for them. The Persons sent were St. Peter and St. John, two of the prime Apostles i the one the Apostle of the Circumcision, the other the Disciple whom Jesrn loved. But what was the End or Errand upon which they were sent? Why, that was partly to confirm the new Converts, and partly to ordain Elders and Pastors to instruct and govern them in the several Cities or Parts of the Country,
To which end, the next words tell us, that when they Were come down., they pray'd for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: which was the Prayer generally used at Confirmation and Ordination, and was here very seasonable and necessary ; For M yet the Holy Ghost was not sallen upon any of them, only they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus : being perhaps as ignorant yet of the Holy Ghost, as the Disciples at Ephefits, who being ask'd by the Apostle, whether they had receiv'd the Holy Ghost since they believd? reply'd, that they had not so much as heard whether there was any Holy Ghost; having had no other than John's Baptism, which had no mention of the Holy Ghost, AtJg 19.2,3. And therefore the Apostles both here and there pray'd, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: and when they had laid their Hands upon them, their Prayers were answer'd; and 'tis faid here, that they receiv'd the Holy Ghost; and there, that the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with Tongues, and prophesy d. So that from these words, which are principally meant of the laying on of Hands in Confirmation, reckon'd among the first Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, common to all Christians, Heb. 6. 2. I must treat,
First, Of the Nature, End, and Rise of this antient Rite of Confirmation.
Secondly, Of the Ceremony of laying on of Hands used in it.
Thirdly, Of the Persons by whom and to whom it is to be administer'd. And,
Fourthly, Of the Graces and Blessings that accompany and accrue from it.
And, First, For the Nature of Confirmation, it is the ratifying or confirming of the Vow or Promise made in Baptism: for when any are receiv'd into the Church by being baptiz'd, they solemnly promise to believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, and to continue stedfast in that Belief to their Lives end. And this in adult or grown Persons, who are instructed before they are baptiz'd, is done soon after Baptism as it was in these Samaritan and Ephefian Converts. But in Children, who by the Mercy of Christ and the Charity of the Church are admitted to Baptism, and are receiv'd into the Church upon the Engagement of others, before they are capable of understanding standing their Duty this is To be done after, when they come to Years of Discretion, to know and understand what others have undertaken and engag'd for their benefit, and in their behalf. And being taught and arriv'd to some competent Knowledg of these things, they are to renew and ratify those Promises in their own Persons, and take that upon themselves in their riper Years, which was by Sureties engag'd for them ia their Infancy. And this is done at the time of Confirmation, so call'd from confirming the Baptismal Vow, and binding the Obligation of it more strongly upon them ., whereby baptiz'd Persons are confirms in their Duty, and more closely ty'd to the Observance of it.
This is no new, needless, or upstart Invention, as some have vainly objected; but an antient, pious, and excellent Institution, tending much to the good Education and Salvation of Children receiv'd into the Church. It began in the Jewish Church, where, as Buxtorf and other Jewish Writers inform us, Children after they were circumcis'd the eighth Day, as soon as they were capable of Instruction, were to be taught the Letter of the Law, then the Tali mud; and when they arriv'd to some competent measure of Understanding in both, were to be publickly presented in the Congregation, where they solemnly oblig'd themselves to be Filii Pracepti, subject to the Law, and to keep the Sabbath, the Passover, and other Ceremonies of the Church: and thenceforward they were to answer for themselves, and their own Faults.
This pious and laudable Practice is from the Jewish deriv'd down and continu'd in the Christian Church to this day. We find it approv'd by our Saviour, who commanded the little Children to be brought to him, laying his Hand's oh them, and blessing them j Mark 10. 'Twas practis'd by the Apostles in the several places where they went» and is come down to us thro the several Ages and Centuries of the Church.
Now this Rite of Confirmation was ever accompany'd with Prayer and the Imposition of Hands •, both which are here mention'd.
(i.) I fay, it was attended with Prayer: so did Peter and John for these Disciples of Samaria, who when they came down, pray'd for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. This is the ordinary means of conveying Divine
Grace, Grace, and is appointed by God for his conferring of the Holy Ghost, and by it of spiritual Strength sufficient to perform the Baptismal Vow. By this we call in the . Aid and Assistance of God's Holy Spirit, to supply the Defects of our Weakness, and to enable us to do that by the help of his Grace, which we cannot do for our selves. To which end, Prayer was ever attended in this Ordinance,
(2.) With laying on of Hands, and blessing those upon whom they were laid. This did Peter and John here with good effect, for they laid their Hands on them, and they receiv'd the Holy Ghost, So did Paul to the Disciples at Ephefus; He laid his Hands upon them, and the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with Tongues and prophesy d; Acts lo. 6. Indeed, laying on of Hands is one of the most antient Ceremonies used in Blessing the People. . 'Twas used by Jacob in blessing his Sons, Gen. 48.14V15. where we find him laying his Hands on Ephraim, Manasseh, and Joseph ., and with that imploring a blessing upon them. From, his Example it was after follow'd and observ'd by the Jews in all their solemn Benedictions. Thus we find it used in consecrating the Levites, whom Aaron, after, laying on of Hands, offer d unto the Lord; Numb. 8. Io,it. Moreover, God directed Moses (in blessing Jojlma, to lay his Hands upon him, and thereby make him his Successor , Numb, zj. 18. From hence this Custom descended to the Christian Church ., for our Saviour, in compliance with this antient Ufage, laid on his Hands in blessing the Children that were brought to him. And his Apostles and their Successors have, by the Imposition of Hands and Prayer, confirm'd Converts, and ordain'd Elders ever since. And this will lead me to consider,
Thirdly, The Persons who are to administer this facred Rite, and likewise those to whom it is to be administer'd.
For the first, the Persons by whom Confirmation is to be administer'd they from the beginning have been the
5rime Pastors and Governours of the Church. Among the ews (as Buxtorf tells us) they who in their younger Years had learnt the Law, were brought into the holy Assembly, where Prayers were made over them, with the Imposition of the Hands of the High-Priest: which Office was persorm'd by the highest Order of Priests under that Dispenfation.
In the New Testament we find Confirmation confin'd to the Apostles, who were an Order by Christ's Appointment Vol. IV. Part z. F tope-. superiour to and distinct from the Seventy Disciples, and coulH do some things with Authority in the Church, whiclt 'the others Gould not.
Hence we' find in thisXjospel for the Day, that when Sa' ?naria had' reeelv'd' the Word of God, and were baptiz'd' by Philip; Peter and John, two of the Apostles, were sent to administer Confirmation to them::- which was an Acts peculiar to the chief Rulers of the Church, and not allow'd to inferiour Officers. For tho Philipcould baptize, yet he could not confirm yea, tho he had many miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet that did not qualify him for this •Office, which belong'd only to the Apostles." In compliance' •with this Apostolick Practice and Pattern, the Christian Church hath ever reserv'd the Honour of dispensing this holy Rite to their Successors- the Bishops. This we find attested by the Fathers with one consent,
St. Ambrose tells us, that to preserve thetlnity and Authority of the Church, Confirmatio a solis Episcopit fieri so* let, Confirmation is wont to be perform'd only by tha Bishops.' . '•''
To the fame purpose speaks S^Jerom, Non nisi per manus Episcop'u, &c. By the Hands of the Bishops only was Confirmation administer'd. Which was a Matter of Fact so well known and attested through all the Ages of tho Church, thit•Calvin himself plainly declares it to be the antient Practice, that Children of Christian Parents being first taught, coram Episcopa 'slsterentur, should be brought to the Bishop to be confirm'd. And other of•the wisest Presbyterians, overcome by the Evidence of this Truth, have frankly acknowledg'd the fame. By all which it manifestly appears^ that this Office of Confirmation hath been ever allign'd to the Bishops or prime Rulers of the Church) even as it continues with us to this day: and with good reason tbtt, their' Blessing being apt to be receiv'd with greater Veneration, and to beget a higher Authority and Esteem for this Sacred'Rite, as also to make the People expect better Effects from that Office, which none but th& iiighest Ministers of Religion are impower'd to perform, Thus we fee the Persons authoriz'd to administer this Orr cjinance.
Let us next consider the Persons to whom it is to be ad. minister'd •, and they are, all baptiz'd Persons competent* Jy instructed in the Principles or Religion. So that th^ Qualifications of Persons, t$b$ confirm'd, are Baptism and ^cpmpstentlnstructionj For