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The holy Rite of Imposition of Hands for the giving the Holy Spirit, or Confirmation, was actually continued and practised by all the succeeding Ages of the purest and primitive Church.
NEXT to the plain words of Scripture, the traditive interpretation and practice of the church of God is the best argument in the world for rituals and mystical ministrations; for the tradition is universal, and all the way acknowledged to be derived from Scripture. And although in rituals, the tradition itself, if it be universal and primitive, as this is, were alone sufficient, and is so esteemed in the baptism of infants, in the priests' consecrating the holy eucharist, in public liturgies, in absolution of penitents, the Lord's day, communicating of women, and the like; yet this rite of confirmation being all that, and evidently derived from the practice apostolical, and so often recorded in the New Testament, both in the ritual and mysterious part, both in the ceremony and spiritual effect, is a point of as great certainty as it is of usefulness and holy designation.
Theophilus Antiochenus lived not long after the death of St. John, and he derives the name of Christian, which was first given to the disciples in his city, from this chrism or spiritual unction, this confirmation of baptized persons; Ἡμεῖς τούτου εἵνεκεν καλούμεθα Χριστιανοὶ, ὅτι χριόμεθα ἐλαίῳ Θεοῦ, We are therefore called Christians, because we are anointed with the unction of God." These words will be best understood by the subsequent testimonies, by which it will appear that confirmation (for reasons hereafter mentioned) was for many ages called chrism or unction. But he adds the usefulness of it: "For who is there that enters into the world, or that enters into contention or athletic combats, but is anointed with oil?" By which words he intimates the unction anciently used in baptism, and in confirmation both for in the first, we have our new birth; in the second, we are prepared for spiritual combat.
Tertullian having spoken of the rites of baptism, proceeds; "Dehinc" (saith he)" manus imponitur, per bene
h A. D. 170.
i A. D. 200.
dictionem advocans et invitans Spiritum Sanctum. Tunc ille Sanctissimus Spiritus super emundata et benedicta corpora libens à Patre descendit :" "After baptism the hand is imposed, by blessing, calling, and inviting, the Holy Spirit. Then that most Holy Spirit willingly descends from the Father upon the bodies that are cleansed and blessed;" that is, first baptized, then confirmed. And again'; "Caro signatur, ut anima muniatur. Caro manûs impositione adumbratur, ut anima Spiritu illuminetur:" "The flesh is consigned, or sealed" (that also is one of the known primitive words for confirmation), "that the soul may be guarded or defended: and the body is overshadowed by the imposition of hands, that the soul may be enlightened by the Holy Ghost." Nay, further yet, if any man objects that baptism is sufficient, he answers", "It is true, it is sufficient to them that are to die presently; but it is not enough for them that are still to live and to fight against their spiritual enemies. For in baptism we do not receive the Holy Ghost" (for although the apostles had been baptized, yet the Holy Ghost was come upon none of them until Jesus was glorified); ❝sed in aqua emundati, sub angelo Spiritui Sancto præparamur ;" "but being cleansed by baptismal water, we are disposed for the Holy Spirit, under the hand of the angel of the church," under the bishop's hand. And a little after he expostulates the article: "Non licebit Deo in suo organo per manus sanctas sublimitatem modulari spiritualem?" "Is it not lawful for God, by an instrument of his own, under holy hands to accord the heights and sublimity of the Spirit ?" for indeed this is the divine order: and therefore Tertullian reckoning the happiness and excellency of the church of Rome at that time, says", "She believes in God, she signs with water, she clothes with the Spirit" (viz. in confirmation), "she feeds with the eucharist, she exhorts to martyrdom; and against this order or institution she receives no man."
St. Cyprian, in his epistle P to Jubaianus, having urged that of the apostles going to Samaria to impose hands on those whom St. Philip had baptized, adds, "quod nunc quoque apud nos geritur, ut qui in ecclesiam baptizantur, per
k De Baptismo, c. 6.
1 De Resur. Carn. cap. 8.
De Præscript. cap. 36.
▸ Epist. 73.
præpositos ecclesiæ offerantur, et per nostram orationem ac manûs impositionem Spiritum Sanctum consequantur, et signaculo Dominico consummentur:" "which custom is also descended to us, that they who are baptized might be brought by the rulers of the church, and by our prayer and the imposition of hands (said the martyr bishop) may obtain the Holy Ghost, and be consummated with the Lord's signature." And again: "Ungi necesse est eum qui baptizatus est," &c. "Et super eos qui in ecclesiam baptizati erant, et ecclesiasticum et legitimum baptismum consecuti fuerant, oratione pro iis habitâ, et manu impositâ, invocaretur et infunderetur Spiritus Sanctus:" "It is necessary that every one who is baptized, should receive the unction, that he may be Christ's anointed one, and may have in him the grace of Christ. They who have received lawful and ecclesiastical baptism, it is not necessary they should be baptized again; but that which is wanting must be supplied, viz. that prayer being made for them, and hands imposed, the Holy Ghost being invocated and poured upon them."
St. Clement' of Alexandria, a man of venerable antiquity and admirable learning, tells that a certain young man was by St. John delivered to the care of a bishop, who having baptized him, "postea verò sigillo Domini, tanquam perfectâ tutâque ejus custodiâ, eum obsignavit ;" "afterward sealed him with the Lord's signature" (the church-word for confirmation) "as with a safe and perfect guard.'
Origen" in his seventh homily of Ezekiel, expounding certain mystical words of the prophet, saith, "Oleum est quo vir sanctus ungitur, oleum Christi, oleum sanctæ doctrinæ. Cùm ergò aliquis accepit hoc oleum quo ungitur sanctus, id est, Scripturam Sanctam instituentem quomodo oporteat baptizari, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, et pauca commutans unxerit quempiam, et quodammodo dixerit, Jam non es catechumenus, consecutus es lavacrum secundæ generationis; talis homo accipit oleum Dei," &c. "The unction of Christ, of holy doctrine, is the oil by which the holy man is anointed, having been instructed in the Scriptures, and taught how to be baptized; then changing a few things he says to him, Now you are no longer a catechumen, now you are regenerated in bap
9 Epist. 70. 73.
Apud Euseb. lib. 3. c. 17.
tism such a man receives the unction of God," viz. he then is to be confirmed.
St. Dionysius, commonly called the Areopagite, in his excellent book of Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, speaks most fully of the holy rite of confirmation or chrism. Having described at large the office and manner of baptizing the catechumens, the trine immersion, the vesting them in white garments, he adds, "Then they bring them again to the bishop, and he consigns him" (who had been so baptized) Jeovρyikwráty μúpq, "with the most divinely-operating unction," and then gives himthe most holy eucharist. And afterward he says ", "But even to him who is consecrated in the most holy mystery of regeneration, τοῦ μύρου τελειωτικὴ χρίσις, the perfective unction of chrism gives to him the advent of the Holy Spirit." And this rite of confirmation, then called chrism, from the spiritual unction then effected, and consigned also and signified by the ceremony of anointing externally, which was then the ceremony of the church, he calls it rǹv iepàv tñs deογενεσίας τελείωσιν, “ the holy consummation of our baptismal regeneration;" meaning, that without this, there is something wanting to the baptized persons.
And this appears fully in that famous censure of Novatus by Cornelius bishop of Rome, reported by a Eusebius. Novatus had been baptized in his bed, being very sick and like to die: "but when he recovered, he did not receive those other things, which by the rule of the church he ought to have received; 'neque Domini sigillo ab episcopo consignatus est,' 'he was not consigned with the Lord's signature by the hands of the bishop,' he was not confirmed: 'quo non impetrato, quomodo Spiritum Sanctum obtinuisse putandus est?' which having not obtained, how can he be supposed to have received the Holy Spirit?" The same also is something more fully related by Nicephorus, but wholly to the same purpose.
Melchiades, in his epistle to the bishops of Spain, argues excellently about the necessity and usefulness of the holy rite of confirmation. "What does the mystery of confirmation profit me after the mystery of baptism? Certainly
* De Eccles. Hier. c. 2.
z A. D. 260.
b Lib. 6. cap. 3.
y Et cap. 4.
a Lib. 6. Hist. Eccles. c. 43.
we did not receive all in our baptism, if, after that lavatory, we want something of another kind. Let your charity attend. As the military order requires that when the general enters a soldier into his list, he does not only mark him, but furnishes him with arms for the battle: so in him that is baptized, this blessing is his ammunition. You have given (Christ) a soldier, give him also weapons. And what will it profit him, if a father gives a great estate to his son, if he does not take care to provide a tutor for him? Therefore the Holy Spirit is the guardian of our regeneration in Christ, he is the comforter, and he is the defender."
I have already alleged the plain testimonies of Optatus and St. Cyril in the first section. I add to them the words of St. Gregory Nazianzen speaking of confirmation or the Christian signature; "Hoc et viventi tibi maximum est tutamentum: ovis enim quæ sigillo insignita est, non facilè patet insidiis; quæ verò signata non est, facilè à furibus capitur:" "This signature is your greatest guard while you live; For a sheep, when it is marked with the master's sign, is not so soon stolen by thieves; but easily, if she be not."-The same manner of speaking is also used by St. Basil, who was himself together with Eubulus confirmed by Bishop Maximinus: "Quomodo curam geret tanquam ad se pertinentis angelus ? Quomodo eripiat ex hostibus, si non agnoverit signaculum?" "How shall the angel know what sheep belong unto his charge? How shall he snatch them from the enemy, if he does not see their mark and signature ?”—Theodoret also and Theophylact speak the like words: and, so far as I can perceive, these and the like sayings are most made use of by the schoolmen to be their warranty for an indelible character imprinted in confirmation. I do not interest myself in the question, but only recite the doctrine of these fathers in behalf of the practice and usefulness of confirmation.
I shall not need to transcribe hither those clear testimonies, which are cited from the epistles of St. Clement, Urban the First, Fabianus, and Cornelius; the sum of them is in those plainest words of Urban the First: "Omnes fideles per manûs impositionem episcoporum, Spiritum Sanctum
d A. D. 370.
• Adhort. ad S. Lavacrum. In cap. 1. ad Ephes.