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"useful, and a necessary institution."* But, did you not consider, Sir, that you were highly reHecting upon the wisdom and goodness, not of the holy apostles only, but also of your great lawgiver, Jesus Christ? How came it to pass that the great founder of the christian church never happened to think of these special advantages for growth in goodness and holiness? You do not pretend it to be an institution of Jesus Christ's, and yet are not afraid to call it a wise, an useful, and even a necessary institution. Strange! that Christ, in whom were hid all the treasures of wisdom, and who loved the church so as to lay down his life for it, should not know this institution to be so especially advantageous and necessary to the growing goodness of his church; or that knowing it to be so, he should unkindly omit it; and that we are obliged to the superior wisdom and goodness of after ages for supplying this defect. It has usually been thought that the apostles de clared the whole counsel of God, and kept back nathing from the church which was profitable to it; and that the scriptures are a perfect rule; but this, it seems, is not true; you have discovered it, Sir, to be not true : for here you shew us a wise, an useful, and a necessary institution, which they really kept back; and which, had it not been for the superior sagacity and discernment of their successors, the church had been so unhappy as never to have known. Into what mazes inen plunge themselves when they deviate from the truth !
Of the same temerity you are guilty, when treating of another institution of your church, confirmation, and glorying over us in the want of it, you observe, “ Another administration of " our church is confirmation: this, you know,
" you have wholly discarded : and, surely, you “ will be obliged to acknowledge you have lost “thereby a very great advantage,-greatly con« ducive to future boliness of life.”* Yes, Sir, this we will freely own, when you also will ace knowledge that you are wiser than the apostles, and can better judge what is conducive to holiness, and to the advantage of the church, than its great Jawgiver Jesus Christ. Had this ceremony of confirmation been really of great advantage, and conducive to holiness, it is very strange that nej. ther Christ, vor his apostles, should have ordained it. That it is an apostolic institution you have not so much as attempted to prove, unless Calvin's conjecture must be admitted as proof.
The text usually urged for it, (Acts viii. 14.) I presume you are fully sensible has no weight. Peter's and John's going down to Samaria to pray, and laying their hands on those whom PhiJip had baptised, is surely, no precedent, no direction, no institution, nor command, for our bishops to do likewise. For, the end for which the apostles did it, it is expressly said, (ver. 15. 17.) was, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, i. e. its miraculous gifts; and they prayed for them, and laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. That it was the miraculous gifts (such as prophesying, speaking with tongues, &c.) to form them into a church, cannot be disputed, because they were something visible and obvious to the sense ; something which struck the wonder and ambition of the wicked sorcerer; for, it is said when Simon saw, that through laying on of the apostles hands, the Holy Ghost roas given, he offered them money. Besides, as Dr. Whitby justly observes, if they laid not their hands on all who were baptised, it makes nothing for confirmation ; if they did, then Simon Magus also
Lettes I. p. 61.
was confirmed, and received the Holy Ghost, which
you will by no means admit. It was then, to give the newly baptised converts at Samaria the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, that Peter and John went and laid their hands on them. But, do our bishops, Sir, pretend that by their praying and laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit is given ? Do they not disclaim any powers of this kind ? Seeing then they make no pretensions to the end, why, with such solemnity do we see them practising the means? Migli they not as well stretch themselves upon the dead body of a child, in imitation of Elisha, or make ointment with spittle for the cure of the blind, in imitation of our Saviour, as pray and lay their hands on those who were baptised, in imitation of Peter and John, who did this to the Samaritan converts only, that they might receive the miraculous gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit?
“ As for the open and solemn renewal of the baptismal covenant before God and
witnesses, which, you say, baptised persons ought “.to make when they come to years of discre" tion;" this they make with us, in the other sacrament for the supper, which Christ himself has appointed, and which is the only institution his wisdom bas thought fit to appoint for this purpose.
But to speak freely, Sir, this ceremony of confirmation, as it is at present appointed and practised in your church, is so far from being greatly conducive to holiness of life, that there is great reason to apprehend it may be productive of quite different, and even dangerous consequences, by cherishing in men's minds false and presumptuous hopes, or by deluding them into wrong notions, as to the safety of their state, and the terms of acceptance and favour with God.
By the order of your Common Prayer, all persons baptised, when they come to compelent years, and are able to say the Lord's prayer, creed, and ten commandments, and the answers of the short catechism, are to be brought to confirmation. The bishop having asked, " whether they renew “ the soleinn promise and vow which was made “ in their names in baptism,” &c.—upon their answering, we do, he proceeds thereupon to declare in the most solemn manner, even in an address to God himself, that he has vouchsafed to regenerate these his servants by water and the Holy Ghost; (note, not by water only, but also by the Holy Ghost) and to give them the forgiveness of all their sins; and, laying his hand upon the head of each particular person, he certifies him by that sign of God's favour and gracious goodness towards him.
I pray you, Sir, in the name of God, inform me, what warrant has the bishop to pronounce a man's sins all forgiven, and himself regenerated by the Holy Ghosi, upon no other grounds than bis being able to say the short catechism, and declaring that he stands by his baptismal engagements? Will you say that this is the christian doctrine concerning the terins of acceptance and forgiveness with God? Are good vows and resolutions, declared in the church, infallible or proper proofs of a regeneration by the Holy Ghost? Is a man's professing that he repents, and promising that he will live godly, that actual repentance and amendment of life which alone can ensure the divine pardon and favour? Are there not multitudes who call Christ their Lord, and publicly profess to stand by their baptismal covenant, whom, however, he will reject with abhorrence at last ? You will inform me then, Sir, how the bishops, upon this mere profession and promise, presume to declare to Almighty God, and to assure the person, that he is regenerated, forgiven, and unquestionably in a state of favour with heaven!
The expressions, you must acknowledge are couched in strong and absolute terms: nor do I find that there is any intimation that their forgiveness depends upon their care to keep, and to live up to their baptismal engagements. No: but though their whole life hath hitherto been scandalously corrupt, yet, upon their being able to say the Lord's prayer, &c. the bishop solemnly pronounces a most absolute pardon over them, appeals to Almighty God that he hath forgiven them all their sins, and, lest this should be too little to satisfy the doubting sinner and appease his upbraiding conscience, he lays his hand upon his head, and certifies him by that sign of God's favour and goodness towards him.
This bishop, Sir, the multitudes who come to be confirmed, are taught to consider as an ambassador of Christ, a successor of the apostles, and a special minister of God. When they hear then, this sacred person so solemnly declaring that they are fully justified, pardoned, and regenerated, by the Holy Ghost, can you blame them if they believe it, and rest satisfied that their souls are in a safe and happy state? And, as full remission of sins and the favour of God are to be had on such easy terms, can you wonder, should you see thousands eagerly flocking from all quarters to accept it; or, that persons of very vile and profligate characters should often thrust themselves in to partake of this benefit, and be seen receiving upon their knees, episcopal absolution, and solemn assurances of God's favour and grace?
You know the aptness of mankind to deceive themselves with false hopes, and to substitute good. purposes, professions, and vows, in the place of real repentance and amendment of life. You also know, Sir, (and have no doubt, often declared it from your pulpity) that this is one of the chief hindrances of men's becoming truly