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may be, we trust that the fault will not affect the child thus dedicated to God; we trust that the prayer of the minister offered up
in behalf of the unconscious infant, shall avail in the sight of a merciful God; we trust that the child so received within the pale of the church, is a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; and that they who shall thus be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shall be capable of taking upon themselves, when they come to years of discretion, the ulterior pledges which are demanded by the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Infant baptism is the general custom and doctrine of the church; and parents and guardians are strictly called upon, as early as possible, to bring their children so that they may be dedicated to God:--but it very frequently happens, from accidental circumstances, negligent and irreligious parents, parents differing from the doctrines of the church of England; orphans, or deserted children ; that they have grown up to man's estate, that they become, under God's grace, sensible of the religious obligations under which they stand towards God; and would desire to be partakers in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, even as they behold their companions and equals in age.
But it is evident, from what I have already stated, that they would be incapable of so doing. They would
be strangers and foreigners towards God. They would be alienate from him, and must not think that they can in any case dispense with the previous sacrament of baptism. Do not let them imagine, that baptism is meant for infants only, that it was only little children in body that Christ commanded to be brought unto him. It was little children in religion also. Do not let them imagine, that Christianity is merely an internal emotion of the feelings, and disdains those outward helps which forms and ceremonies furnish, that they may be baptized of the Spirit, may feel the inward regeneration of the soul, without the outward form of water. Jesus himself said not only, “ Except a man be born of the Spirit,” but he said, “Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” He was himself baptized. It became him to fulfil all righteousness. He was baptized according to the baptism of John, in the river Jordan; and God the Father gave testimony to God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove, confirming the seal of the new covenant, and thus displaying to the world the commencement of that ordinance, which was afterwards more fully developed in his parting words. “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Baptism, then, was appointed by Jesus Christ himself as a sacrament, and the way of admittance into his church; and we cannot question its value, or deny its obligation. Jesus himself is the door, and we must not seek admittance by any other door ; but, like the eunuch of queen Candace, repenting of our sins, and believing with all our heart; there is nothing, whatever our age may be, which will prevent our baptism. The church recognizes it, and has set apart a service expressly for it; and this being once done, we may then, in company with our associated brethren, communicate in the Supper of our Lord.
II. Next to baptism, and as an appendage to baptism, there is another ordinance which the church has considered as a fit preparation for the Eucharist. It is that of confirmation. The laying of the hands of the bishop on such as have been baptized, and have arrived at years of discretion.
The obligations of baptism being entered into as infants, while the mind is yet immature and unconscious of the real nature of Christianity, and when the solemn pledges of faith and repentance, being unintelligible to the baptized person, have been undertaken on their part by the sponsors; it seems natural, that there should be a time when those sponsors may be released of their promises, and the baptized persons, in their own name, may ratify that which was pledged
for them by others. This is confirmation. It is a ceremony of our church, taken from that account, which is given in the Acts of the Apostles, of the church of Samaria. Philip the deacon, went down to Samaria, and baptized, in the name of the Lord Jesus, a very great number of new converts. And when the apostles at Jerusalem heard this, they proceeded thither themselves, and “ laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." In imitation of this, our bishops lay their hands on the baptized persons presented to them at the altar. The person so presented takes upon himself, in the presence of God and of the congregation, the solemn vows and promises of the Christian profession, and the bishop laying on his hands, prays for the gift of the Holy Spirit, to direct and sanctify the renewed promise, and to confirm and establish the heart in every good word and work : “Defend, O Lord, this thy servant, with thy heavenly grace, that he may continue thine for ever; and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until he come into thine everlasting kingdom.”
How necessary our church considers this ceremony as a preparation for communion in the Eucharist, we may gather from the rubric direction, at the end of the service: « And there shall none be admitted to the holy communion until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” This last expression, “ or be ready and desirous to be confirmed,” shews that we do not look upon the ceremony in the same light as that of baptism; the one being only of apostolic, the other of divine institution ; but only as wise and appropriate, where opportunity occurs; and not to be neglected, unless under the pressure of peculiar and urgent circumstances. If such circumstances should occur, such as the absence of the bishop, or sudden attack of sickness before the time of the bishop's attendance, or any such temporal chances ; then it appears to be the desire of our church, that the Christian should not wait for confirmation, but pass on directly to the more important sacrament of the Eucharist. *
* Our church takes the will for the deed, -insists on outward forms as conveying inward grace,—yet where the outward forms are impossible to be obtained she dispenses with them, and supposes that the inward grace may be vouchsafed to the sincere intention. This is conspicuous in the rubric above cited, in reference to confirmation, but more strongly in another rubric relating to the Eucharist, where the Christian is said to receive the benefits of the sacrament, in certain circumstances, without actually eating and drinking the bread and wine. The following is the rubric, which will be found at the office for the communion of the sick: “ But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, the curate shall instruct