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imputed superstition could, I think, have produced the change. For upon that ground the ceremony ought to be omitted also when children are brought to the font. But, as persons had been already signed with the cross, in token that hereafter they should not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, the resumption of that ceremony may have appeared superfluous, and the performance of a distinct ceremony for catechumens, in the laying on of hands, may have been thought sufficient.
It will not be amiss for me to state another alteration which has been made in our own church. I have further to tell you, that Chrism, or anointing, which certainly was practised by the earlier Christians, and which, in confirmation, and upon other occasions, is now continued in the Church of Rome, has been abolished among ourselves. But, when the practice itself had ceased, figurative allusions to it were made by the founders of the English Church, from a conviction, no doubt, that the imaginations of men had been strongly impressed by the ceremony of unction. Hence, in the first Prayer-book of Edward the Sixth, we meet with a very striking passage, which now cannot be found in the rubric, and in which there is, in metaphorical terms, a direct reference to the previous use of the Chrism. The words are these: “Sign them, O Lord, and make them to be thine for ever by the virtue of thy holy cross and passion — confirm and strengthen them with the inward unction of the Holy Ghost, and mercifully bring them unto everlasting life.” Instead of this prayer, the Bishop now says :
Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear now and for ever.” Gladly, as a teacher of the Established Church, I can in this instance set before you an alteration, which seems to me a real improvement.
Again : I told you that there was a difference of regulation about the age, at which persons are to be confirmed. There was a custom among the Jews, that, when the children had learned the law and the “mischna,” and were thirteen years old, they should be declared "sons of the precept," and were to answer for their own sins.* The opinions and practice of the Christian world have varied. About five hundred years ago, children in England were confirmed at five years old. But before the Reformation it was ordained, in the Latin Church especially, that“children should not be admitted to be confirmed till they be of fuller age, that so opportunity may be given to the parents and godfathers, and to the Rectors of the Church, to instruct and admonish them more diligently in the faith, which they have professed in baptism."* This principle is clear and judicious, and therefore our Church very properly differs from the Council of Trent, which appoints confirmation for children between seven and twelve, and the
* See Comber.
Synod of Milan, which forbids it to any under
The Canon Law fixed no express term, but requires generally that they be of perfect age, and the Gloss interprets that to be twelve, because it was supposed that they were then of competent age to understand confirmation, and to profit by it. The English Church, with great prudence, reserves confirmation, in general terms, for years of discretion; and I have great satisfaction in producing before you the very words which the Church employs. “The Church hath thought good to order, that none hereafter shall be confirmed, but such as can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and can also answer to such other questions, as in the catechism are contained : which order is very convenient to be observed; to the end that children being now come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promised for them in baptism, they may themselves, with their own mouth, and consent, openly before the Church, ratify and confirm the same; and also promise that, by the grace of God, they will evermore endeavour themselves faithfully to observe such things as they, by their own confession, have assented unto.”
Now it is merely by custom that the Bishops of our Church have fixed upon the fourteenth year, presuming that, with the aid of teachers and by the commands of parents, children are then able not only to repeat, but to understand the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, to comprehend the solemn promise made in their
names at their baptism, to have an awful sense of their responsibility to God for their subsequent conduct, and to see the necessity of virtuous habits, and of a religious disposition, for preparing them to partake, at no very distant period, in the banquet of that most heavenly food which is provided for then, when they commemorate the meritorious death and passion of their blessed Redeemer.
To conclude-It behoves me, at this season more especially, earnestly to call upon all parents and masters of families, that they should send their children and their servants to the approaching confirmation, and, according to the best of their power should impress upon the minds of these
persons the nature and ends of the duty, which they are soon to perform. To the younger part of my audience I have to offer that plain and solemn advice, which they cannot fail to understand, and which it well becomes them to reflect upon and to follow. Let them, before they appear in the presence of the Bishop, read the Catechism within their own houses let them meditate again and again upon the articles of their Creed, and upon the contents of that holy prayer, which Christ himself has most graciously taught for their benefit-again and again let 'them contemplate all the interesting and salutary truths, which are set before them in the explanation, which our Catechism gives them of the duty, which they owe to their neighbour and their God.
Most anxiously do I conjure every parent, and every young person now present, to listen to me, while I set before you the energetic and impressive language of the Greek Church in the office of confirmation. “The bonds,” says the Bishop,“ are now sealed, and Christ, who is in Heaven, hath received them-mind your promise, and fulfil your engagements, which will be openly produced at the last day-take heed that you blush not at Christ's awful tribunal, when all the powers of Heaven tremble, when all mankind stands to be judged, and when your spiritual adversary will be present to accuse you, saying-Lord, this wretch in word renounced me, but in deed was my servant. The angels shall sigh, and holy men shall bewail your wretchedness. But father and mother cannot help you—brethren and friends will not own you—every sinner will be left destitute. Consider therefore while it is in your power, and provide for your safety."* May these awful warnings be written as with a diamond upon the heart of every man who bath ears to hear. To you, my younger brethren in Christ, they are most important, and you will remember that in the Greek Church the words, just now recited to you, were uttered by the Bishop when catechumens, having in substance been called upon to answer, as you will, whether, in the presence of God and of the congregation, they would renew the solemn promise made at their baptism, they answered, as you also must, in this short and simple but most significant form of words—“I do."