Page images

select! Our readers also should bear in mind, that our observations do not concern only those who are to be confirmed. It will be profitable, indeed it is necessary, that those who have been confirmed, should from time to time recal to their thoughts the pledges which they then gave, and compare those pledges with their subsequent practice.

But to have a right understanding of the nature of Confirmation, it should be viewed in its ,connexion with Baptism. And Baptism itself is an event so important in the young Christian's life, that it deserves very attentive consideration—more attentive indeed we fear than it generally obtains. If we may judge by the general conduct of professing Christians, we cannot help inferring, however charitably we may be disposed to regard their proceedings, that they consider the act of receiving Baptism as all that is requisite to attain the prize of the Christian calling. They are satisfied to be informed by their parents, or their parish register, or to presume, as a matter of course, that they have been baptized; and they then think no more about it, or of their concern to fulfil its obligations. I propose then, in the present discourse, to offer some observations upon the nature and importance of Baptism, and to show in what manner our Church connects it with Confirmation.

1 I am influenced in this selection not only by the natural connexion of the subject with parental duty, and the education of children, but also by the position in which these Sermons will thus take their station in the monthly numbers of the volume. For it is usually from July to September, that the rite of Confirmation is administered.

This design, however, will not lead us into any controversial inquiries respecting the precise manner in which Baptism may be performed, the age at which it may be received, the persons who may administer it, or other disputed matters; with which, unfortunately, human infirmity and ignorance have disturbed the peace of the Church. All that we need concern ourselves with, is that which is universally acknowledged—its institution by Christ. As to the manner in which it is administered, and the light in which it is viewed by the Established Church, those to whom these sermons are addressed, it is presumed, will be satisfied, that she has, in both these respects, conformed to primitive practice, and to the word of God. But before we proceed to remark upon the mode of its performance in our Church, it may be desirable that some notice should be taken of the importance which the Gospel has attached to Baptism. For, as we have already observed, there is too much reason to fear, that it is often sought by parents for their children, and looked upon in after life by those who have received it, as a mere matter of form, and without any sufficient consideration of its origin, its importance, and its necessity. But wheresoever a lively sense shall be kept up of the greatness, and goodness, of Him by whom Baptism was ordained; of the impressive and solemn manner in which He commanded its observance; of the reverend, and carefully recorded, obedience of the Apostles to this command; of the uninterrupted continuance of it in the Church down to this very day; of the blessings of which it is the token and pledge ; and, finally, of the perilous consequences denounced against the neglect of it: wheresoever these considerations shall be allowed their due weight, there will always prevail the greatest anxiety to secure its covenanted mercies for those dear to us; and to avoid ourselves a forfeiture of them, by forgetfulness of the engagements into which we then entered. And especially I feel it a duty to put professing Christians in mind, that a remembrance of these things is too often wanting among godfathers and godmothers. For if these were remembered as they ought to be, we should not find sponsors come, as they too often do come, either ignorant of what they are going to promise, or so thoughtless and indifferent about it, that they enter into a most awful and responsible pledge before God, with less attention and reflection than they would make the most trivial contract with a fellowcreature. For Baptism was not the ordinance of man; it is a sacrament instituted by Christ Himself. The words of the text are the words of the Lord of life Himself. This alone ought to be sufficient to ensure our obedience. To all His commandments He has applied the rule, that obedience to them is an indispensable evidence of our love to Him; and that if we obey not His commands, and profess to love Him, we are only deceiving ourselves. But here is a command given under circumstances, and connected with advantages, that not only would aggravate the ingratitude and irreverence of despising it, but also would evince the highest degree of infatuation and blindness to our own most important interests. Every imaginable circumstance, which could impart solemnity to this ordinance, and show its sacred and indispensable character, attended its institution. The Apostles, the first Bishops of Christ's Church, were, after His resurrection from the dead, specially summoned to meet Him, at a particular spot. Their commission was formally conferred upon them, after an express declaration, that all power had been given to Him " in heaven and in earth.The authority to admit persons into the Ark of His Church is then declared in these terms, and upon these conditions: “ Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you to the end of the world.

No unprejudiced person, reading this solemn institution of baptism, could suppose that Jesus regarded it as one which was to be despised with impunity, or not to be of the highest importance to His Church. If there could be a doubt on this subject, His own awful declaration, recorded by St.


Mark, must at once put an end to it: “ He that bea lieveth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned !.” Can any man take the Bible as his director, and doubt the necessity of Baptism? The Apostles, who received this ordinance, evidently entertained no doubt whatsoever upon the subject. We find them always reverently and scrupulously using it, as the sacramental means of admitting their converts into covenant with Christ. A well known and conclusive example of this occurs in the answer of St. Peter, when the multitude (impressed with his discourse, and having been made to feel the danger in which they were involved, and the necessity of having recourse to the means of salvation) earnestly applied to him and his fellow Apostles for counsel ; " Men and brethren, what shall we do?" St. Peter's answer, in the name of all the Apostles, is prompt and decisive: “ Repent,” he said, “and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost 2.” Three thousand, that very day, followed the gracious counsel ; and when, on subsequent occasions, they received persons into the Church, constant mention is made of Baptism (as the means of so doing), with a particularity which is very remarkable. And, from the ascension of Jesus down to our own times, there is in the Church

1 Mark xvi. 16.

2 Acts ji. 38.



« PreviousContinue »