« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
improvement of her young members, clearly fhews what fenfe the Church of England has ever entertained of the affiftance afforded her for that purpose by that strengthening, fanctifying ordinance, which after the two bleffed facraments of our religion, holds the next distinguished place in her facred offices, and with refpect to which, fhe has wifely ordered to the end that confirmation may be mi"nistered to the more edifying of such as shall re"ceive it," that they fhall, on that folemn occafion, renew the promise and vow that was made "in their name at their baptifm, ratifying and confirming the fame in their own perfons, and in a public manner before the church, acknowledging "themselves bound to believe, and to do all those "things, which were then undertaken for them." The fame care is taken by the Episcopal church in this country, and the fame provifion made for the edification of her members: A provifion, which is regularly embraced by all who confcientiously adhere to her communion, and cannot be neglected, without the most obvious inconfiftency, by any who profefs to be of Epifcopal principles. How far this neglect may be excufed by an apparent want of opportunity, it is not for us to determine; nor can we prefume to go any farther in admitting fuch excufe, than the church has gone before us. She has accepted a "readinefs and defire to be con"firmed," and God himfelf has promifed to accept a "willing mind, according to the ability
"which a man hath." But as in this cafe, the ability must be exerted to the utmoft, and God cannot be mocked, or deceived by appearances; fo in the other cafe, muft the " defire" of confirmation be manifested, and made fo vifible by evident proofs, that the church may fee, as far as man can fee, the fincerity of it.
A real defire to obtain any benefit, will always excite men of good fenfe to use the means that are neceffary for obtaining it. And if confirmation be confidered as a benefit, which is plainly intimated by the language of the church, when pointing out the proper manner of receiving it as fuch, it will neceffarily follow, that they who are defirous to be made partakers of it, ought to have recourse to the means appointed for conferring it, and be ready to receive it by the hands of those, who have ever been efteemed the fole adminiftrators of it. Where no regular bishop can be found to adminifter this facred ordinance, agreeably to the rules of the church, we may hope, that the defect arifing from fuch a want of apoftolic fucceffion, will not be imputed as a fault, to those who have had no hand in contributing to fuch an unhappy failure, but would do all in their power to get the want fupplied. Even where the Epifcopal order has been regularly preserved, but fubjected to fo many legal restraints, and depreffing prohibitions, as would almoft feem, in the eye of the world, to have put a period to its existence, fome plaufible reafon may be affigned, why the be3 'г
nefits arising from it, have not been seen in a proper light, nor had their juft value put upon them. Political reafons and motives of a worldly nature, are very apt to have an undue influence in matters of religious concern, and to prevent men from acting fo confiftently as could be wifhed, with the principles, which they are fuppofed to entertain, and the profeffion, by which they are distinguished.
While the Epifcopacy of Scotland was confidered but as another name for difaffection to government, we do not wonder that any benefit, which the Chriftian church has ever derived from the apoftolic appointment, and fpiritual powers of her bishops, was deemed to be legally withheld from the Epifcopalians of this country, and therefore to be no longer defired by fuch of them as thought it their duty to interpret the prohibitory ftatutes in the ftricteft fenfe, and to pay all due regard to the very letter of the law. But as this political mark of diftinction has at last been happily removed, and the privilege of toleration is alike extended to all of the Epifcopal perfuafion in Scotland, whether their clergy be ordained by English, Irish, or Scottish bishops, there is now nothing to hinder any congregation of that communion from obtaining the benefit of confirmation to its young members by the hands of the bifhop, the particular bifhop of the diocefe or diftrict, in which fuch congregation is locally fituated. And when no impediment lies in the way, no obftacle is prefented, either political or religious, it
may furely be hoped, that the whole pious and good work of Chriftian edification will be allowed to go on without interruption, and the bleffed and beautiful rite of confirmation be no longer denied its place in the public fervice, as ordered by an Epifcopal liturgy.
Among all the orders and offices, which our excellent liturgy contains, next to the administration of baptifm, and the Lord's fupper, there is none better calculated to excite the pureft fentiments of devotion and delight in every pious and good heart, than that which prefents a felect body of the young foldiers of Jefus Chrift, publicly and folemnly declaring their fidelity and attachment to his fervice, and receiving from the fanctified inftitution of his church, that grace and ftrength which may enable them to fight their Christian warfare against all the enemies of their falvation. If there be pleasure and fatisfaction in beholding such a fight as this, why fhould any Chriftian affembly be deprived of that fhare of the enjoyment, which their principles give them a right to expect? And why should any of the rifing members of Chrift's church be thus excluded from the honour of profeffing an inviolable adherence to the faith and obedience which were promifed for them at their baptifm? Why fhould they be deprived of the comfort of that heavenly benediction which the apoftles administered, and the first Chriftians received, as a pattern and pledge of what was to be done for them that came after, according 3T2
to "the promise," which St. Peter affured the Ifrael of his day," is to you, and to your children, "and to all them that are afar off, even as many as "the Lord our God fhall call;" that is, to the whole Chriftian church, to the end of the world? These are questions, not fuch as a heathen governor accufed the Jews of bringing forward, about "words and names," and indifferent matters.Whatever may be thought of them by those who, like what was faid of the fame Gallio, "care for "none of these things," they are fuch as ought to be duly and seriously attended to by all who "pro"fefs and call themfelves Chriftians," and particularly by that part of the Episcopal profeffion in this country, to which they are more immediately addreffed, and from which the author would now beg leave to folicit that calm, difpaffionate review of the fubject, which is no lefs due to its importance, than neceffary to its being rightly understood. If I have been able to do any juftice to its merits, or to imprefs on the minds of my readers a just conception of the object, which has been chiefly in my view, while employed in putting together the arguments of this concluding addrefs, there feems to be no occafion for preffing the matter farther; and as little ground to fuppofe that these arguments can receive any additional weight, from an appeal to the motives which have led to their being brought for
+ Acts, ii. 39.