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Christianity, so long as men loved religion, and walked in the Spirit, and minded the affairs of their souls, to have the prayers and the blessing of the fathers of the synagogue and the fathers of the church, was esteemed no small part of their religion, and so they went to heaven. But that which I intend to say is this, that prayer and imposition of hands were the whole procedure in the Christian rites: and because this ministry was most signally performed by this ceremony, and was also by St. Paul called and noted by the name of the ceremony, imposition of hands;' this name was retained in the Christian church, and this manner of ministering confirmation was all that was in the commandment or institution.
But because, in confirmation, we receive the unction from above, that is, then we are most signally made kings and priests unto God, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,' and to enable us to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of it,' and that the giving of the Holy Spirit is in Scripture called 'the unction from above; the church of God in early ages made use of this allegory, and passed it into an external ceremony and representation of the mystery, to signify the inward grace.
Post inscripta oleo frontis signacula, per quæ
"We are consigned on the forehead with oil, and a royal unction and an eternal chrism are given to us:" so Prudentius gives testimony of the ministry of confirmation in his time. Τοῦτο φυλάξατε ἄσπιλον· πάντων γάρ ἐστι τοῦτο διδακ τικὸν, καθὼς ἀρτίως ἠκούσατε τοῦ μακαρίου Ιωάννου λέγοντος καὶ πολλὰ περὶ τοῦτου χρίσματος φιλοσοφοῦντος, said St. Cyril: "Preserve this unction pure and spotless: for it teaches you all things, as you have heard the blessed St. John speaking and philosophizing many things of this holy chrism z. Upon this account the holy fathers used to bless and consecrate oil and balsam, that, by an external signature, they might signify the inward unction éffected in confirmation. Μύρον τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστι ψιλόν, οὐδ ̓ ὡς ἄν τις εἴποι κοινὸν κατ' ἐπίκλησιν, ἀλλὰ Χριστοῦ χάρισμα, καὶ Πνεύματος ἁγίου παρου σία, τῆς αὐτῆς θεότητος ἐνεργητικὸν γινόμενον, “ This chrism is not simple or common when it is blessed, but the gift of
* Prudent. in ψυχομαχία.
YA. D. 400.
7 Catech. Mystag. 3.
Christ, and the presence of his Holy Spirit, as it were effecting the divinity itself;" the body is indeed anointed with visible ointment, but is also sanctified by the holy and quickening Spirit: so St. Cyril. I find in him and in some late synodsa other pretty significations and allusions made by this ceremony of chrisms. "Nos autem pro igne visibili, qui die Pentecostes super apostolos apparuit, oleum sanctum, materiam nempe ignis ex apostolorum traditione, ad confirmandum adhibemus:" "This using of oil was instead of the baptism with fire, which Christ baptized his apostles with in Pentecost; and oil, being the most proper matter of fire, is therefore used in confirmation."
That this was the ancient ceremony is without doubt, and that the church had power to do so hath no question, and I add, it was not unreasonable; for if ever the Scripture expresses the mysteriousness of a grace conferred by an exterior ministry (as this is, by imposition of hands), and represents it besides in the expression and analogy of any sensible thing, that expression drawn into a ceremony will not improperly signify the grace, since the Holy Ghost did choose that for his own expression and representment. In baptism we are said to be "buried with Christ." The church does according to the analogy of that expression, when she immerges the catechumen in the font; for then she represents the same thing which the Holy Ghost would have to be represented in that sacrament: the church did but the same thing when she used chrism in this ministration. This I speak in justification of that ancient practice: but because there was no command for it, λόγος γεγραμμένος οὐκ ἔστι, said St. Basil; "concerning chrism there is no written word," that is, of the ceremony there is not; he said it not of the whole rite of confirmation; therefore though to this we are all bound, yet as to the anointing, the church is at liberty, and hath with sufficient authority omitted it in our ministrations.
In the liturgy of King Edward the Sixth, the bishops used the sign of the cross upon the foreheads of them that were to be confirmed. I do not find it since forbidden, or revoked by any expression or intimation, saving only that it is omit
a Synodus Bituricensis, apud Bochel. lib. 1. decret. Eccl. Gal. lit. 5,
ted in our later offices: and therefore it may seem to be permitted to the discretion of the bishops, but yet not be used unless where it may be for edification, and where it may be by the consent of the church, at least by interpretation; concerning which I have nothing else to interpose, but that neither this, nor any thing else which is not of the nature and institution of the rite, ought to be done by private authority, nor ever at all but according to the Apostle's rule, εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν, 4 whatsoever is decent, and whatsoever is according to order,' that is to be done, and nothing else for prayer and imposition of hands for the invocating and giving the Holy Spirit, are all that are in the foundation and institution.
Many great Graces and Blessings are consequent to the worthy Reception and due Ministry of Confirmation. It is of itself enough, when it is fully understood, what is said in the Acts of the Apostles at the first ministration of this rite; "they received the Holy Ghost;" that is, according to the expression of our blessed Saviour himself to the apostles, when he commanded them in Jerusalem to expect the verification of his glorious promise, "they were endued with virtue from on high;" that is, with strength to perform their duty which although it is not to be understood exclusively to the other rites and ministries of the church of divine appointment, yet it is properly and most signally true, and as it were in some sense appropriate to this. For, as Aquinas well discourses, the grace of Christ is not tied to the sacraments; but even this spiritual strength and virtue from on high can be had without confirmation: as without baptism remission of sins may be had; and yet we believe one baptism for the remission of sins; and one confirmation for the obtaining this virtue from on high, this strength of the Spirit. But it is so appropriate to it by promise and peculiarity of ministration, that as, without the desire of baptism, our sins are not pardoned, so without at least the desire of
e Part. 3, qu, 72. art, 6, ad prim.
confirmation, we cannot receive this virtue from on high, which is appointed to descend in the ministry of the Spirit. It is true, the ministry of the holy eucharist is greatly effective to this purpose; and therefore in the ages of martyrs the bishops were careful to give the people the holy communion frequently. "Ut quos tutos esse contra adversarium volebant, munimento Dominicæ saturitatis armarent," as St. Cypriand with his colleagues wrote to Cornelius; "that those whom they would have to be safe against the contentions of their adversaries, they should arm them with the guards and defences of the Lord's fulness." But it is to be remembered that the Lord's supper is for the more perfect Christians, and it is for the increase of the graces received formerly, and therefore it is for remission of sins, and yet is no prejudice to the necessity of baptism, whose proper work is remission of sins; and therefore neither does it make confirmation unnecessary: for it renews the work of both the precedent rites, and repairs the breaches, and adds new energy, and proceeds in the same dispensations, and is renewed often, whereas the others are but once.
Excellent therefore are the words of John Gersone, the famous chancellor of Paris, to this purpose: "It may be said that in one way of speaking confirmation is necessary, and in another it is not. Confirmation is not necessary, as baptism and repentance, for without these salvation cannot be had. This necessity is absolute; but there is a conditional necessity. Thus if a man would not become weak, it is necessary that he eat his meal well. And so confirmation is necessary, that the spiritual life and the health, gotten in baptism, may be preserved in strength against our spiritual enemies. For this is given for strength. Hence is that saying of Hugo de St. Victore; What does it profit that thou art raised up by baptism, if thou art not able to stand by confirmation?' Not that baptism is not of value unto salvation without confirmation; but because he who is not confirmed, will easily fall, and too readily perish." The Spirit of God comes which way he pleases, but we are tied to use his own economy, and expect the blessings appointed by his own ministries and because to prayer is promised we shall receive whatever we ask, we may as well omit the receiving the holy d Epist. 54. In Opusc. Aur. de Confirmat,
eucharist, pretending that prayer alone will procure the blessings expected in the other, as well, I say, as omit confirmation, because we hope to be strengthened and receive virtue from on high by the use of the supper of the Lord. Let us use all the ministries of grace in their season; for we know not which shall prosper, this or that, or whether they shall be both alike good:" this only we know, that the ministries which God appoints, are the proper seasons and opportunities of grace.
This power from on high, which is the proper blessing of confirmation, was expressed, not only in speaking with tongues and doing miracles,-for much of this they had before they received the Holy Ghost,-but it was effected in spiritual and internal strengths; they were not only enabled for the service of the church, but were endued with courage, and wisdom, and Christian fortitude, and boldness, to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and unity of heart and mind, singleness of heart, and joy in God; when it was for the edification of the church, miracles were done in confirmations; and St. Bernard, in the life of St. Malachias, tells that St. Malchus, bishop of Lismore in Ireland, confirmed a lunatic child, and at the same time cured him: but such things as these are extra-regular and contingent. This which we speak of, is a regular ministry, and must have a regular effect.
St. Austin said that the Holy Spirit in confirmation was given "ad dilatanda ecclesiæ primordia," " for the propagating Christianity in the beginnings of the church."-St. Jerome says, it was "propter honorem sacerdotii," " for the honour of the priesthood."-Ambrose says, it was "ad confirmationem unitatis in ecclesia Christi;"" for the confirmation of unity in the church of Christ."—And they all say true: but the first was by the miraculous consignations, which did accompany this ministry; and the other two were by reason that the mysteries were τὰ προτελεσθέντα ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου, they were appropriated to the ministry of the bishop, who is caput unitatis,' the head,' the last resort, the firmament of unity' in the church. These effects were regular indeed, but they were incident and accidental: there are effects yet more proper, and of greater excellency.
Now if we will understand in general what excellent fruits are consequent to this dispensation, we may best re