« PreviousContinue »
For the first, none are capable of the Benefit of Confir mation, but fuch as have been before baptiz'd, for Persons › must be first receiv'd into the Church, before they can receive the Bleflings promis'd and beftow'd after it. And therefore thefe Samaritans were first baptiz'd by Philip the Deacon, before they were confirm'd by Peter and John the Apoftles. And the Difciples at Ephefus were baptiz'd in the Name of the Lord Jefus, before Paul laid his Hands onthem to blefs and confirm them. And our Church, by the Warrant of thefe Examples, acts accordingly.
But because the Charity of the Church hath ever ex-) tended to Infants, upon the Promifes of Sureties undertaking for them, and Children both under the Law and the Gospel have been receiv'd into the Covenant before they understand the Nature, End, or Obligations of it; therefore, fecondly, Inftruction must always go before Confirmation: that Children may be taught, as foon as they are able to learn, what a folemn Vow, Promise, and Profeffion hath been made by others in their Name, to fit them to renew and ratify in their own Perfons the Engagement of Sureties in their behalf; and to enable them to know and take upon themfelves the Obligation of what, when they come to Age, they ftand bound to perform. Which fhews us the Usefulness and Neceffity of Catechizing, to prepare Children for Confirmation, and to receive the Benefits convey'd by it: which is
The laft thing propounded to be fpoken to, viz. the Graces and Bleffings confer'd in and convey'd by this Rite of Confirmation: And they are held forth here by receiving the Holy Ghoft; Then laid they their Hands upon them, and they receiv'd the Holy Ghoft. Where by receiving the Holy Ghoft, is meant the Participation of the Gifts and Graces of God's Holy Spirit, which are the greatest Bleflings that ever were or can be imparted to the Sons of Men.
As for the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, they are either extraordinary and miraculous, as the Gift of Tongues, of Miracles and Prophecy, and the like; which were given to the Apofties and others in the beginning of Christianity, for the planting and propagating of the Gospel, as we read, Acts 2. 1, 2, &c. and Chap. 19. 6. & 1 Cor. 12. Or common and ordinary, as the acquir'd Knowledg of the Tongues, the Improvements in Learning, Skill in the Arts and Sciences, and the like; which come from the fame Spirit, F 2
tho not in the fame extraordinary way: the former by fudden Infusion, the latter by the Methods of Study and Diligence. And tho the former ceas'd with the Reafon of them, yet the latter being of standing Use in the Church, will be continu'd to the world's end.
But befides the Gifts, the Graces of the Spirit are by Prayer and Impofition of Hands confer'd in Confirmation. This the Fathers generally affirm: By Prayer and laying on of Hands (faith St. Cyprian) they that are baptiz'd receive the Holy Ghoft. The Flesh is feal'd by Impofition of Hands (faith Tertullian) that the Soul may be illuminated by the Spirit. We read in Scripture of a Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, a Spirit of Counsel and Might, a Spirit of Knowledg and of the Fear of the Lord. All which, in the Office of Confirmation, we are directed to pray for ; and by a due and devout Ufe of this Ordinance will be granted and bestow'd upon us. By this we fhall be enabled to perform our Baptifmal Vow, to have fpiritual Strength enough to refift and conquer our ghostly Enemies: for his Grace will be fufficient for us, to vanquish Satan, overcome the World, and fubdue the Flefh, the Enemies we renounc'd in Baptifm; which, without the Help of Divine Grace, will be too hard for the best of us.
Wherefore let all good Christians have a high Esteem and Value for this Sacred Rite of Confirmation, by which we receive the Holy Ghost to all the Ends and Purposes of Religion. Let none run to it merely for Company, or for Fashion's fake, but reverently obferve it as a Means of Grace, and a Step to Glory. Let it not be neglected either by thofe that are to give, or those that are to receive it. But let the former be ready duly to administer it, and the other to be carefully brought to it, confidering how much it tends to the advancing of Knowledg, and increafing of Piety in the World. Let all Parents, who tender the Welfare of their Children, take care by catechizing and inftructing of them to fit and prepare them for this Office, and be as mindful of the Good of their Souls, as they are wont to be of their Bodies. Let all Sureties and Undertakers for Children, who ftand bound to fee them taught in the Principles of Religion, and brought to Confirmation, take care that this be effectually done, to release themselves of the Obligation; which elfe will lie heavy upon them, and fwell their Accounts by the Violation of fuch foleman Engagements. Ia
In a word, let us all endeavour to preferve this antient, pious, and laudable Inftitution of the Church, and to anfwer the End, that we may receive the Benefit of it, which. is to fit us for the Holy Sacrament, and Fellowship of Chriftians here upon Earth, and to prepare us for the Communion of Saints hereafter in Heaven: Which God grant, for the Merits of Christ, &c,
The GOSPEL for Tuesday in Whitfun-Week. St. John x. 1-ȚI,
Verily, verily I fay unto you, He that entreth not by the Door into the Sheepfold, but climbeth up fome other way, the fame is a Thief and a Robber. But he that cometh in by the Daor, is the Shepherd of the Sheep; to him the Porter openeth, and the Sheep hear his Voice, &c.
N this Gospel for the Day, St. John brings in our Saviour by a Parable of the Shepherd and the Sheep, proving himself the true Meffias, and his Minifters the true Meffengers of God; and that all other Pretenders to either, are no better than Cheats and Impoftors. For the better clearing whereof, I fhall confider the Parable both in the Literal and Mystical Senfe, and fhew our Saviour's Drift and Defign in it with relation to himself, and his Ministers fent by him.
The Parable is ufher'd in with the Term of Affeveration, Verily, to fignify the undoubted Truth and Certainty of it; which Term is doubled, Verily, verily I fay unto you, to fignify moreover the exceeding great Weight and Importance of what comes after it. And having thus prepar'd the way to gain Attention and Reception to what follows, he enters upon the Parable; which begins,
If, He the
First, With the Character or Account of a falfe Shepherd, faying, He that entreth not by the Door into the Sheepfold, but climbeth up fome other way, the fame is a Thief and a Robber: This, in the literal Senfe, is known, and will be acknow ledg'd by all Men to be true; for he that is the Owner of Sheep, or the Shepherd to whom the Care of them is committed, is wont (you know) oftimes to fhut them up in the Fold, and to lock the Door, to keep them from breaking out, or going aftray, and fo from the danger of being loft. Now if any come in the Evening, or by Night, and enters the Sheepfold not by the Door, which he finds lock'd for the Security of the Sheep, he cannot be a true Shepherd; and if he climbs up fome other way, to be fure he hath fome bad defo upon the Sheep, and is no better than a Thief and a Robber. The myftical Senfe or Defign-of thefe Words is to detect falfe Chrifts, and falfe Teachers, and to difcover the Falfhood of their Ways and Pretences, As," pretends to come as the promifed Meffias, or Saviour of the World, and comes not as he ought, in the way and manner in which he was promis'd; that is, brings not a Commiffion from God, attefted by a Power of working Miracles; fuch a one comes not in by the Door, or right way of Entrance, but climbs up fome other way by the Steps of Ambition and Avarice, and is no better than a Lyar and Impoftor, who seeks to deceive and deftroy those that follow him. Such a one was Theudas, mention'd in the Acts of the Apoftles, who boafted himself to be somebody, that is, a Perfon fent by God to relieve and advance those that came to him, which drew a Number of Men, about four bundred, after him, but doing nothing to fhew his Power or Commiffion from God, he was feiz'd and Main for an Impoftor, his Followers were all fcattered, and the whole Defign brought to nought, Acts 5. Such another was fudas of Galilee, who in the Days of the taxing, and enrolling the People, drew away many after him; but he also perished, and all that obey'd him were difpers'd, as we read in the fame Chapter.
Again, 2dly, He that pretends to be a Minifter of Chrift, and takes upon him the Office of publick Teaching, and comes not in by the Door of Ordination, or a lawful Call, but climbs up or intrudes into it fome other way, taking 'ois Honour upon him without being called, as was Aaron; uch a one too is no better than a Thief and a Robber,
elpecially if he thrufts himself into another's Charge, and pretends to inftruct the People committed to him without or against the Confent of the lawful Paftor: he is a spiritual Sheep-ftealer, or Church-robber, that divides and makes a Prey of another's Flock, and does but feduce and ruin those that follow him.
And having given the Character of falle Chrifts, and falle Teachers, he next gives an account of the true Meffias, and the true Minifters or Meffengers fent by him, in thefe words; But he that entereth in by the Door, is the Shepherd of the Sheep: which, in the literal Senfe, fignifies, that he who is the right Owner or Mafter of the Sheep, or the Shepherd appointed by him to overfee them, he hath the Key of the Sheepfold, and enters into it by the Door, and fo goes in like a good Shepherd with no other defign than to feed and preferve the Flock..
In the myftical Senfe it teaches us, (1.) The Character and Proof of the true Meffias; he that comes in by the Door of Prophecy, and brings with him the Seal of Miracles to teftify that he is fent fom God, by fulfilling of Prophecies, and doing things that are above the Reach and Activity of all human Power, is to be receiv'd as a Divine Perfon, and to be own'd for the true Meffiah, or the great Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls. And by this our Saviour prov'd and demonftrated the Truth of his Miffion and Meffiahfhip; faying in the following part of this Chapter, The Works that I do in my Father's Name, they bear witness of me, ver. 25. & ver. 37, 38. If I do not the Works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, tho ye believe not me, believe the Works, that ye may know and believe that the Father, is in me, and I in him: meaning, that the Works wrought by him made it evident, that the Father acted in and by him, and that all that he did was by his Power and Commiflion. Which things fo convinc'd Nicodemus, a Ruler of the Jews, that he confefs'd him to be the Meffias, or Teacher come from God, for none could do the Works that he did, except God were with him; John 3. 2. And a great Multitude of People, upon the fight of the Miracle of the Loaves, faid, Of a truth this is that Prophet that should come into the World. Chap. 6. 14.
Moreover, (2.) Thefe words teach us the Character and Qualifications of the true Minifters and Meffengers of Chrift; He that entreth in by the Door of Ordination, and