IT is ordered Rubr. 1. at Confirm. That none should be confirm'd till they come to the use of reason, and can say their Catechism, for these reasons.
Lest any man should think it any detriment to the child to stay till such years, holy Church assures us out of holy Scripture, that children baptized, till they come to years to be tempted, have no need of confirmation, having all things necessary for their, that is, childrens salvation, and be undoubtedly saved. The same saies Antiquity, S. Aug. Ser. 2. post Dom. Palmar. You are coming to the holy Font, ye shall be washt in baptism, ye shall be renewed by the saving laver of regeneration; ascending from that laver, ye shall be without all sin: if so, then safe; for blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, Psal. 32. 1.
S. Chrys. Hom. 11. in ep. ad Rom. c. 6. Quemadmodum corpus Christi sepultum in terra fructum tulit, universi urbis salutem, ita & nostrum sepultum in baptismo, fructum tulit, justitiam, sanctificationem, adoptionem, infinita bona, feret autem & resurrectionis postea donum. The body of Christ buried in the earth, brought forth fruit, namely the salvation of the whole world; so our body buried in baptism hath brought forth fruit, righteousness, sanctification, adoption, infinite good things, and shall afterwards have the gift of the Resurrection.
It were too long to cite particulars, take the COUNC. of MILEVIS for all, Can. 2. Ideo parvuli qui nihil peccatorum in semetipsis committere potuerunt, in peccatorum remissionem veraciter baptizantur, ut in eis regeneratione mundetur, quod generatione contraxerunt. Therefore infants, who could not sin actually, are truly baptized for the remission of sins, that that which they have contracted by their birth might be cleansed by their second birth. And the Council pronounces Anathema to them that deny it.
But more than all this is the express words of Scripture, Gal. 3. 26. where S. PAUL proves that they were the children of God, for, or because they were baptized; if they be children, then are they heirs of God, Romans 8. 27. 1 S. Pet. 3. 21. Baptism saves us. Again, Gal. 3. 27. As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ, and that surely is enough for salvation. By all this, we see the effect of Baptism is salvation: Now if children be capable of baptism, as hath been proved, then sith they no way hinder or resist this grace, it necessarily follows that they are partakers of the blessed effects of baptism, and so are undoubtedly saved.
The children that are to be confirmed are to be brought to the Bishop by one that shall be their Godfather, who may witness their confirmation. The Godfather may be the same that was at baptism, but in most places, the custome is to have another. De Cons. Dist. 4. c. 100.
And the Bishop shall confirm them. Rubr. before confirmation. So was it of old S. Aug. de Trinit. l. 15 c. 20. Chrys. hom. 18. in Act. speaking of Philip, when he had baptized, He did not give the holy Ghost to the baptized, for he had no power, for this was the gift of the Apostles alone. Before him Cyprian ep. 73 Those that were baptized by Philip the Deacon, were not baptized again, but that which was wanting was supplyed by Peter and John, by whose prayers and imposition of hands the holy Ghost was called upon, and poured upon them. Which very thing is done amongst us now; they that are baptized, are offered up to the Bishops of the Church, that by our prayer and imposition of hands they may receive the holy Ghost. Before him Vrban Anno Dom. 222. tells us, that Bishops only did confirm. And S. Hierom. dial. adv. Lucifer. saies it was, Totius orbis consensus in hanc partem, the general acknowledgement of the whole Christian World.
This holy Rite hath been too little understood by many, and therefore too lightly esteem'd and valued: for the remedy whereof, it may not be amiss to shew the benefit of it in these conclusions following.
D. Or laying on of hands.] As the tongue is to the heart, such is the hand to the tongue, an interpreter: celere partes, saith the excellent orator, loguentem adjuvant, he (prope est ut dicam) ipse loquuntur. In demonstrandis personis atque locis adverbiorum atque pronominum obtinent vicem: “ other members do help the speaker, but the hands I almost say speak themselves: in demonstrating places and persons, they serve instead of adverbs and pronouns.” Adverbs for place, and pronouns for persons. So according to the ancient mode of renunciation in baptism, the party to be baptized was commanded, protensa manu, ὡς παρόντι, Satane renuntiare, “to renounce Satan, by stretching out his hand as to one present ;” where the protending of the hand towards the west, that quarter of the heaven whence darkness begins, the prince of darkness by this prosopopea was indigitated. So also, according to the universal mode of all nations, the hands in prayer are lifted up towards heaven, the place whither our prayers tend. So when our prayers are limited and restrained to any one peculiar thing or person, the manner is to lay the hand upon that object relative to the invocation. So the paternal benediction given by Jacob to the children of Joseph, was performed by “laying his hands upon their heads,” Gen. xlviii. 14. After the same manner also did persons of remarkable sanctity bless such infants as were upon that account brought to them, as our Saviour, Mark x.16. And in analogy, or resemblance of that practice, is the ceremony of imposition of hands in this office of Confirmation, whereby the Church, using the ministration of the venerable fathers, the bishops, invocateth the divine benediction upon her children, now entering their adult state and riper years.
TWO of the rubrics, which relate to this office, are printed at the end of the Catechism, which, till the last review, was rather a part of the order of Confirmation, than an office by itself; it being inserted between the rubrics relating to Confirmation, and the order for the administration of it.
I Rubric 1. The age of persons to be confirmed. The former of these rubrics is, in the first place, concerning the age of the persons to be confirmed, which it determines shall be as soon as children are come to a competent age, and can say, in their mother-tongue, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and also can answer to the other questions of the Catechism. In the primitive Church indeed, such persons as were baptized in the presence of the Bishop, were immediately presented to him in order for Confirmation. Nor was this only true with respect to adult persons, but also with regard to infants, who, if a Bishop was present, were frequently confirmed immediately upon their Baptism; as may be shewed from direct testimonies of the ancients, as well as from that known usage or custom, of giving the holy Eucharist to infants, which ordinarily presupposes their confirmation. The same is practised by the Greek Church to this day. And in our own Church indeed, those who are baptized after they are come to years of discretion, are to be confirmed by the Bishop as soon after their baptism as conveniently may be. But in relation to children, their Confirmation is deferred, and with a great deal of reason, till they come to a competent age, and can say the Catechism. For it being required that at Confirmation they renew the vow that was made for them at their baptism, and ratify the same in their own persons; it is fit they should know and understand the nature of the obligation, before they bind themselves under it. Nor can any detriment arise to a child, by deferring its Confirmation to such an age; because, as our Church has declared, (on purpose to satisfy people that are scrupulous in this very matter,) it is certain by God’s word, that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved. Their original sin is done away by Baptism, and they are confirmed and secured by death itself from any future guilt; so that no danger can ensue, if their Confirmation be deferred till such time as it can be of use.
Bucer indeed (who generally runs into extremes) finds fault with our Church for administering it too soon; and would have none admitted to this holy rite till such time as they have had an opportunity of giving sufficient testimonies of their faith and desire of living to God by their life and conversation. But we have already shewed, that the enabling persons to give such testimonies of their faith and practice is the end of Confirmation; and therefore surely Confirmation is to be administered, to assist them in manifesting their faith and practice, and not to be deferred till they are already manifested. For this reason it is very evidently the design of our Church, that children be confirmed before they have opportunities of being acquainted with sin; that so the Holy Spirit may take, early possession of their youthful hearts, and prevent those sins to which, without his assistance, the very tenderness of their age would be apt to expose them. It is highly expedient, that those who are confirmed should be old enough to understand the nature and advantages of the rite they are admitted to, and the obligations it lays upon them: and if they are duly apprized of this, they are deemed by our Church qualified enough. For they that are capable of this knowledge, are yet at years to discern between good and evil: and therefore that must be the proper time to secure them, by the invocation of the Spirit, in the paths of virtue. Accordingly, it was declared by the rubric prefixed to the order for Confirmation, in all the Common Prayer Books before the last review, That forasmuch as Confirmation is ministered to them that be baptized, that by imposition of hands and prayer they may receive strength and defence against all temptations to sin, and the assaults of the world and the devil; it is most meet to be ministered when children come to that age, that partly by the frailty of their own flesh, partly by the assaults of the world and the devil, they begin to be in danger to fall into sundry kinds of sin. The reason why this was not continued at the review in 1661, was not because the Church had altered her mind, but because the foregoing part of the rubric was changed into a proper preface, with which the office is now introduced.
§.2. Bishops the only Ministers of Confirmation. The next thing mentioned in this rubric, is the Minister of Confirmation, who, it declares, must be a Bishop; consonant to the first examples we read of it in the Acts, or proceedings of the Apostles themselves. For Peter and John were sent by them from Jerusalem to confirm the Samaritans, though Philip had been there to convert and baptize them: which plainly shews, that the office was beyond a deacon’s province, and limited indeed to the highest order of the Church. For which reason the honour of dispensing this holy ordinance was always reserved to the ministry of Bishops.
I have had occasion indeed to shew that the administering the chrism, or the unction which was used as a part of Confirmation, was often, for certain reasons, allowed to Presbyters. But even in such cases I have observed, that the right of consecrating the unction, and of imposing the hands, were both very strictly reserved to the Bishop. A few instances indeed may be produced of Presbyters, and even Deacons, being allowed to perform this office. But then it was by a special licence or commission from the Bishop, and in cases, for the most part, of some great extremity or danger. Though indeed the allowing this in any case whatever seems very much to run counter to the general practice and sense of the Church, which at all times and places very religiously looked upon the imposition of hands, as the peculiar and incommunicable prerogative of Bishops.
Who ought therefore to do it often. But then as the Bishops have the sole honour, so have they also the whole charge of this institution. And since it must be wholly omitted, if they do not perform it, the Church hath enjoined the frequent administration of it by those reverend fathers. In former ages (as our Church declares) this holy action has been acctistomed to be performed in the Bishop’s Visitation every third year: for which reason she wills and appoints, that every Bishop or his Suffragan, in his accustomed Visitation, do in his own person carefully observe the said custom. And if in that year, by reason of some infirmity, he be not able personally to visit, then he shall not omit the execution of that ditty of Confirmation the next year after, as he may conveniently: though the Reformatio Legum (as cited by Bishop Gibson) seems to appoint, that Confirmation be administered every year.
§.3. A godfather or godmother necessary at Confirmation. The remaining part of this rubric is concerning the godfather or godmother, which every one that is confirmed is obliged to have as a witness of their confirmation. Dr. Nichols tells us that “our wise reformers, because there was not the like reason for them as there was before the Reformation, and because it gave the parents an unnecessary trouble in procuring them, have laid that usage aside.” But one would wonder how the doctor should be so much mistaken, immediately after he must have printed and corrected this very rubric; and at the same time that, to account for the alteration, he cites the rubric immediately following. Nor can any reason be given, why the doctor should so freely charge the providing these godfathers as an unnecessary trouble. They are certainly as useful at the confirmation of a youth, as they are at the baptism of a person that is adult. In both cases they are witnesses of the engagements, which the persons so baptized or confirmed lay themselves under; and consequently, will be proper and continual monitors to check or reclaim them, should they at any time hereafter be tempted to abandon the interest of Christ, and take part with his enemies. And for the prevention of any one’s entering upon this trust, who will not be careful to discharge the duty of it, the Church provides, that no person be admitted godfather or godmother to any Child at Christening or Confirmation before the said person so undertaking hath received the holy Communion?
II. The Minister to prepare his parishioners for Confirmation. The next rubric relates to the care which the Curate of every parish is to use preparatory to Confirmation, who, whensoever the Bishop shall give knowledge for children to be brought unto him for their Confirmation, is either to bring or send in writing, with his hand subscribed thereunto, the names of all such persons within his parish, as he shall think fit to be presented to the Bishop to be confirmed. And by the sixty-first canon he is further enjoined to use his best endeavour to prepare and make able, and likewise to procure as many as he can, to be then brought; though he is also to take especial care that none be presented, but such as can render an account of their faiths according to the Catechism. When they are brought, if the Bishop approve of them, he is to confirm them in, manner following.
Upon the day appointed, all that are to be then confirmed, being placed, and standing in order, before the Bishop; he (or some other Minister appointed by him) shall read this Preface following.
I. The first rubric and preface. Upon the day appointed, all that are to be then confirmed, being placed and standing in order before the Bishop, he (or some other Minister appointed by him) is to read the preface, with which the office begins, and which, as I have already hinted, was only a rubric in all the old Common Prayer Books; but at the last review was changed into a preface, to be directed to those that shall offer themselves to be confirmed; that so the Church might be sure they are apprized of the qualifications that are requisite to this holy ordinance, and of the solemn engagements under which they are going to enter themselves by it.
II. The question and answer. The end of Confirmation being thus made known, the Bishop in the next place, by a solemn question, (which was added at the last review,) demands of the candidates an assurance that they will comply with it: asking them, in the presence of God and the congregation, whether they will renew their baptismal vow, and ratify the same in their own persons, &c. To this every one to be confirmed, as a token of his assent, is audibly to answer, I do.
Then shall the Bishop say,
And every one shall audibly answer, "I do."
The Office begins on this wise, Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord. Of such short ejaculations in general hath been said in the Morning Prayer; concerning these in particular, that they are fitted to the Office, will appear to them that consider, that Confirmation is appointed for the strengthning of us against all our ghostly enemies; which though they be many and great; yet is there no reason to despair of obtaining strength enough to resist them, for Our help stands in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth: who is therefore able enough and willing also to help them that call upon his Name, Blessed therefore be the Name of the Lord hence forth and for ever.
III. The versicles and responses. After this follow two or three short versicles or responses betwixt the Bishop and the congregation, with which the order of Confirmation in all the old Common Prayer Books used to begin. They are a proper preparation to the following solemnity, are often used in ancient Liturgies, and are taken out of the Book of Psalms: though the last of them has been varied since the first book of king Edward, in which, in the room of it, was the usual salutation of, The Lord be with you: And with thy spirit.
After these Versicles follows a Prayer, that God would strengthen the baptized, with the holy Ghost the Comforter, who had in their baptism received him as a Sanctifier. These two wayes, to omit others, we are taught in holy Scripture, that the holy Ghost may be received, as a sanctifier and cleanser in holy baptism, Tit. 3. 5. He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy Ghost: and after baptism we may receive him again as a Comforter and strengthener. The Apostles, who received him the first way in baptism, are promised to receive him the second; S. Iohn 16. 7. Acts 1. 8. which was performed Acts 2. 4. They were filled with the holy Ghost.
IV. The Collect. The Bishop and people having thus joined their requests, the Bishop, in the next place, proceeds alone to collect their petitions into a continued form; in which he prays that God, who had vouchsafed to regenerate the persons who now come to be confirmed, by Water and the Holy Ghost, and had given unto them forgiveness of all their sins, would now strengthen them with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them the gifts of grace, viz. the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are transcribed into this prayer from the old Greek and Latin translations of Isaiah 11:2, and which were repeated in the very same words in the office of Confirmation, as long ago as St. Ambrose’s time: from whence, and the Greek Liturgy, this whole prayer is almost verbatim transcribed.
Then shall the Bishop lay his hands upon them severally. By this sign certifying them of Gods Goodness towards them, and consigning it upon them. This is the most ancient and Apostolical Rite of Confirmation, Acts 8. 17. and by this name it is known, Heb. 6. 2. The doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands.
E. Then the bishop shall lay his hands upon, &c.] Our Saviour being near His ascension, having given His last charge and commission to the Apostles, tells them what should be the sequence of that faith which should result from their predication and doctrine: “in My name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover,” Mark xvi. 17, 18. Which miracles, though believers did afterward perform, yet were not those operations the mere results of faith, nor did they do them as believers, but the power enabling them thereto was conveyed to them by the gift of the Holy Ghost; which gift not only imported an extraordinary collation, upon new regenerated converts, of the invisible graces of God’s Spirit, confirming their faiths daily more and more, and assisting them in the exercise of a holy and sanctified life and conversation; but also in outward qualifications, suitable to the exigent of those times for the working of miracles. Nor were those believers to expect or receive those gifts by any other prayers or any other hands than of the Apostles, that the world might know God had a more than ordinary value for their function, and consequently would require the highest honour deferred to it ; upon this very account the Apostles, hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, and were baptized by Philip the evangelist, they sent Peter and John from Jerusalem to them “to pray for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost,” implying thereby, that though Philip had commission to baptize and preach, yet could he not give the Holy Ghost. And when Simon Magus perceived what strange feats were done by those believers, after such prayer and imposition of hands of those Apostles, he thinking it would prove a money matter, bade liberally for it, till he understood he was in the wrong.
And though in tract of time, and by degrees, whole nations being converted to the Christian faith, the main cause of those miracles ceasing, they themselves began to abate both in number and quality ; and so confirmation was not practised much upon that pretence; yet it being an Apostolical usage, and instituted also for another end, viz., an invocation of God’s inward sanctifying the person new baptized, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, a petition necessary at all times; the bishops succeeding the Apostles in the government of the Church, thought fit to continue it still, retaining it, as the Apostles did, to themselves alone, and not communicating it to any of the inferior clergy: qui in Ecclesia baptizantur prepositis Ecclesia offeruntur, saith Cyprian, “they who are baptized in the Church, are straightways presented to the presidents of the Church,” ut per nostram orationem ac manus impositionem Spiritum Sanctum consequantur, “that by our prayers and imposition of hands they may obtain the Holy Ghost.” The reason whereof is this; that whereas the bishop had condescended and delegated the power of baptizing to presbyters, which was originally resident in himself, as hath been said already, yet seeing requisite it was that God’s blessing should be implored upon those neophytes by them, and blessing is an act of paternal authority, it was convenient it should be reserved to himself, ad honorem sacerdotii, as St. Jerome saith, “in honour of his priestly superiority.” Other impositions of hands have been performed, some by presbyters and bishops indifferently, as that in receiving penitents to the peace of the Church, as that in consecrating of marriage; some by presbyters with bishops jointly, as that of ordination. But never any mere presbyter assumed this of confirmation, nor was it ever in the primitive Church permitted to any but to the bishop alone. To the contrary whereof, never was there produced any testimony authentic. Authentic, I say, for that Ambrose upon the Ephesians, whom some urge against it, is by the men who cite him confessed supposititious and a counterfeit.
But be he who they please, what says the man? Egypivn presbyteri consignant, si presens non sit episcopus ; ‘in Egypt the presbyters consign if the bishop be not present.” Now if consignant here should prove not to import confirming, this shadow of a father will stand them in little stead. And who dares positively say it? not Blondellus I am certain, and yet he would as gladly have it so as another, for he is put to his sive’s, “ either confirmation’, or blessing of penitents, or consecrating persons by ordination,” not knowing on which to fix. So that this, they know not who, speaks they know not what. And of all these sive’s which stand in competition, that of confirmation is least like to prevail; for the words are apud Aigyptum, “in Egypt.” Now in Egypt, and the patriarchdom of Alexandria, of all places in the world, presbyters were, for their fellow presbyter, Arius’s sake, in most disgrace; so as it was not allowed them in Alexandria, so much as to preach, and therefore they were the most unlikely to be indulged so great a favour as confirmation. Whence we may conclude, confirmation is not to be understood by consignation ; and if not, no matter to this dispute which of the other two carry it ; and if it were, yet is there odds against them too ; for a learned Doctor is positive, that neither blessing of penitents, nor consecrating of persons to be ordained, can rationally be meant in this place, but that consignant is equivalent to consecrant, and so hath reference to consecrating of the elements; which even Blondellus himself doth also elsewhere admit as probable, and the Doctor proves it by a parallel place of the same supposed author: in Alexandria, et per totam Aigyptum si desit episcopus consecrat presbyter; “in Alexandria, and all over Egypt, the presbyter consecrates in want of a bishop ;” where consignant in the former passage is changed into consecrant. And if both these pieces hath one father, be he Hilary, as some conjecture, or any other, the Doctor’s sense is passable enough: but if they were the issues of several persons, theu this author might intend somewhat more than hath hitherto been apprehended, and what the word consignare in his native and genuine sense imports, viz., chrismation, not confirmation. For though unction was more anciently annexed to, as a continued act with confirmation, yet at that moment of time when Ambrose or Hilary wrote, if this piece be theirs, it was abstracted and separated from imposition of hands, and (upon what account shall be seen anon) transmitted to presbyters. And because it was constantly applied with the sign of the cross, the joint act of both ceremonies was very properly called consigning, answering what the Greeks called σφραγίζειν τῷ μυρῷ , “to seal with unction.” And so this nameless author will be interpreted thus: “in Egypt, if the bishop be absent, the presbyters anoint the person baptized, signing him with the cross;” which was not only true in Egypt, but elsewhere also, as shall presently be made manifest ; which notwithstanding, the essential and perficient act of confirmation, viz. imposition of hands, was reserved as a peculiar of episcopacy.
Imposition of hands an essential rite in Confirmation. THE preparatory part of this office being now finished, and all of them in order kneeling before the Bishop, (which is a suitable posture for those that are to receive so great a blessing,) the Bishop is to lay his hand upon the head of every one severally. This is one of the most ancient ceremonies in the world; and has always been used to determine the blessing pronounced to those particular persons on whom the hands are laid; and to import that the persons, who thus lay on their hands, act and bless by divine authority. Thus Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasses, not as a parent only, but as a prophet: Moses laid his hands on Joshua, by express command from God, and as supreme Minister over his people: and thus our blessed Lord, whilst in the state of humiliation, laid his hands upon little children, and those that were sick with divers diseases, to bless and heal them. When indeed our Saviour gave the Spirit to his Apostles just before his ascension, he acted by a power paramount and inherent. He gave of his own, and therefore dispensed it with authority; for he breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. But now this would have been absurd in any that acted by appointment or delegation: and the Apostles, from so ancient a custom and universal a practice, continued the rite of imposition of hands for communicating the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, which was so constantly and regularly observed by them, that St. Paul calls the whole office laying on of hands; a name which is usually retained amongst the Latin Fathers; Confirmation being never administered for many centuries afterwards, in any part of the Church, without this ceremony.
A blow on the cheek used instead of it by the Church of Rome. It was the custom indeed, in some places, for the Bishop to lay both his hands across upon the head of the party confirmed, in allusion to our Saviou’s death upon the Cross, in whom we believe, and from whom we receive the Holy Ghost. But in no Church whatever was the imposition of hands omitted or discontinued till the Church of Home of late years laid it aside, and now uses in the stead of it to give the person confirmed a little blow on the cheek, to remind him that for the future he must be prepared to undergo any injury or affront for the name of Jesus. But, notwithstanding this, the Romanists themselves seem to be apprehensive, that imposition of hands is essential to this office. For whenever they are charged with laying it aside, they endeavour to defend themselves by pleading, that hands are imposed, when the person is hit on the cheek, or when the ointment is applied to him. But every body must see through the ridiculousness of this, since the hands are no otherwise concerned in either of these ceremonies, than as they cannot be performed without them. For this reason our Church, at the Reformation, wisely discontinued the blow on the cheek, and restored the ancient and apostolical use of laying on of hands.
§.2. Prayer another essential to Confirmation. But though the laying on of hands is a token that the Bishops act in this office by divine authority; yet at the same time, they sue to heaven for the blessing they bestow, in humble acknowledgment that the precious gifts hereby conferred are not the effect of their own power and holiness, but of the abundant mercy and favour of Him who is the only fountain of all goodness and grace. Under a due sense of this, even the Apostles themselves, when they laid their hands upon the Samaritans, prayed that they might receive the Holy Ghost. And after their example do their successors with us pray, that the person on whom they lay their hands may be defended with the heavenly grace of God, and continue his for every and daily increase in his holy Spirit more and more, until he come into his everlasting kingdom. Amen.
This form indeed is very different from what was appointed to be used by the first book of king Edward VI., in which immediately after the prayer, beginning. Almighty and everlasting God, the Minister was to use the following words:
Sign them, Lord, and mark 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, mercifully unto everlasting life. Amen.
Then the Bishop was to cross them on the forehead, and lay his hand upon their heads, saying,
N. I sign thee with the sign of the Cross, and lay mine hand upon thee; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
These forms were certainly much more conformable to those that were used in the primitive Church, than that which we have now. What was the occasion of changing them, I do not find: though it is probable the first might be laid aside, because it referred to the ancient ceremony of anointing, which was discontinued at the Reformation, except the Unction, that was ordered by the first Liturgy to be used at Baptism, was accounted preparatory to Confirmation, which I have already shewed to be not unlikely. But however, in the second book of king Edward, the ceremony of anointing was thrown entirely aside, even out of the office of Baptism: and therefore it is probable they threw out this form at the same time, which indeed, if it had continued after the Unction was totally removed, would only have looked like the ruins of an ancient superstructure.
§.3. The use of Unction in Confirmation primitive and catholic. It must indeed be owned in behalf of this ceremony, that it was very ancient and very significant. Some contend that it was practised by the Apostles, and interpret the texts of Scripture referred to in the margin, of a material unction administered in Confirmation. But those texts have been better judged to mean a spiritual unction of the Holy Ghost, by which persons were in those days anointed or consecrated to the office of the ministry. However, it is certain, that within a very few years after the Apostles, the holy Fathers used to apply Oil and Balm to those that were confirmed, as an external sign of this inward unction of the Holy Spirit, and to represent the Baptism of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost with fire, of which oil we know is the properest material. Theophilus Antiochenus, who lived and flourished within seventy years of the Apostle St. John, and many others of the ancientest Fathers, speak of it as a rite long established and used; insomuch that it is to discover from them, whether it was of apostohcal practice or not. I need not shew that the use of it was continued in all parts of the Church, through every century, quite down to the Reformation: for this may he gathered from the very names by which they have always chose to distinguish this office, viz. the Anointing or Chrism, the same name which the Greek Church also uses for it till this day, as keeping religiously to the primitive usage.
§.4. As also the sign of the Cross. Another ancient ceremony retained by our Church at the first Reformation, (as appears by the rubric which I have cited above,) was the sign of the Cross. This was used (as I have already observed) by the primitive Christians, upon all occasions; and therefore we may assure ourselves, they would not omit it in so solemn an action as in that of Confirmation. Tertullian is clear for the use of it in his time; and in after-ages testimonies are so numerous, that it is endless to cite them. I shall therefore only observe, that the name Consignation (which was another name by which, it is well known, the Latin writers distinguish Confirmation) seems to have taken its rise from this ceremony of signing the person, at the time of Confirmation, with the sign of the Cross. And from hence too, it is probable, it is sometimes called Σφραγὶς by the Greeks, a name which they generally use to denote the sign of the Cross.
But now neither this nor the unction having any text of Scripture that is clear on their side; and since it cannot be made to appear that either of them was practised or used by the Apostles; we may reasonably suppose that they were taken up at first by the authority and discretion of every Church for itself; and that therefore every Church has liberty, as to herself, to lay them aside, since nothing appears essential to the office, but what we find the Apostles used, viz. Prayer accompanied with Imposition of Hands.
Then all of them in order kneeling before the Bishop, he shall lay his hand upon the head of every one severally, saying,
I. The Versicles and Lord's Prayer. AFTER the persons were all confirmed, it was usual for the Bishop, in the primitive Church, to salute them with peace, to denote that peace (both temporal and eternal) was the happy fruit of the Holy Ghost conferred and received in this solemnity. Accordingly, in king Edward’s first Common Prayer Book, the Bishop, immediately after he had laid his hands upon all that were brought and presented to him, was to say. The peace of the Lord abide with you: to which the answer returned was, And with thy spirit. What offence this was capable of giving I cannot discover; but it is certain that it was thrown out when Bucer revised it: though at the last review, soon after the Restoration, the usual salutation of, The Lord be with you, And with thy spirit, was added in the room of it, together with, Let us pray, and the Lord’s Prayer, which should not be left out of any office, especially where it comes in so properly; and therefore (all kneeling down) the Bishop is here directed to add it.
Then shall the Bishop say,
And (all kneeling down) the Bishop shall add,
The Collect. After this, the Bishop, in the next place, prays that what he has done may not be an empty and insignificant sign. And this he does with so noble a mixture of humility and faith, as well agrees with the purest times. Depending upon the faith and promise of God, he knows that the graces he has now been conferring are as sure a consequence of the office he has performed, as if he had in himself a power to give them. But still he considers from whom these gifts and graces come, and who alone can preserve and secure them; and therefore, under a due sense of this, he makes his humble supplications, that, as he has now laid his hands upon these people (after the example of the Apostles) to certify them thereby of God’s favour and gracious goodness towards them; the fatherly hand of God may be over them, his Holy Spirit he ever with them, and so lead them in the knowledge and obedience of his word, that in the end they may obtain everlasting life.
III. The second Collect. And because the ancients believed Confirmation to be a preservation both of body and soul, an additional collect was added at the Restoration, from those that are placed at the end of the Communion-office, that God would direct, sanctify, and govern, both our souls and bodies in the ways of his laws, and in the works of his commandments, &c.
After a most excellent prayer for their continuance in Gods love, & obedience to him, the Bishop departs them with a Blessing. Of such blessings hath been said already.
I. And there shall be none admitted, &c.] The participation of the blessed Eucharist was anciently an immediate consequent of confirmation or baptism: his obluta plebs dives insignibus, ad Christi contendit altaria, dicens, et introibo ad Altare Dei, saith St. Ambrose, speaking of the white vestments; “the now baptized flesh, decked with this bravery, maketh hasteto the Altar of Christ, saying, And I will go up tothe Altar of God.”
It is here said, that none shall communicate until they can say their Catechism and be confirmed. But shall they be admitted to the Eucharist always when they can say their Catechism and have been confirmed? This rubric seemeth to imply as much; but then withal it may be interpreted to intend that confirmation be delayed until children come to years of better understanding, that is, nigh unto fourteen.
IV. The blessing. A blessing concludes all offices; and therefore one ought more especially to end this, it being as it were an epitome of the whole administration, which is but one continued and solemn benediction.
The Rubric. After all is added a rubric, that none he admitted to the holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed. This is exactly conformable to the practice of the primitive Church, which always ordered that Confirmation should precede the Eucharist, except there was extraordinary cause to the contrary: such as was the case of clinick baptism, of the absence of a Bishop, or the like; in which cases the Eucharist is allowed before Confirmation. The like provision (as I have already observed) is made by our own provincial Constitutions, as well as the rubric which is now before us, which admit none to communicate, unless in danger of death, but such as are confirmed, or at least have a reasonable impediment for not being confirmed. And the glossary allows no impediment to be reasonable, but the want of a Bishop near the place.
Then the Bishop shall bless them, saying thus,
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.