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capable by faith, and repentance, and application of the blood of Christ, to ratify and perform his part of the contract; as by devoting and bringing him up to God, the parents have alredy performed theirs.
To this intent the rite of confirmation has been established: a brief and beautiful service, which supposes the previous examination of every candidate and satisfaction received, as far as profession can give it, that he is indeed born anew of the Spirit, and a living member of the body of Christ, meet to sit down at the table of the faithful. Such examination made and attested by those who ought to be most competent to judge-as the leper of old was admitted to the congregation when by certain divinely-ordained tests the priests pronounced him cleanso the church does again, as we have observed her to do throughout, accept the profession of which God alone can judge; and with the onlaid hand of blessing, pronounces their souls regenerate and their sins forgiven; prays for a continuance of the grace and increase of the divine life assumed to be received; and can at no time after, I believe, except by occasion of gross and outward transgression, refuse the communion, or claim to re-examine the communicant. Impressed as I am with the excellent wisdom and fitness of this whole arrangement, I cannot but be impressed also with the careless and inadequate manner with which the pur
pose of the church has come to be executed. Whether from the persuasion that the actual assumption of the Christian profession takes place in baptism, without the consent or knowledge of the professor, and contrary to all subsequent experience, or from the belief that it cannot be verified by any form at all, confirmation has come to be treated very lightly, as something indifferent, to be done or let alone. To me, I confess, the letting alone seems less objectionable than the so doing: for the church itself does not consider the act indispensable, provided the person is ready and desirous to perform it, should occasion serve: whereas in the actual performance as usually effected, there is neither readiness nor desire: the parent performs the baptismal proxy over again, directs the child when to be confirmed; and with some better understanding, perhaps, of the nature of the engagement, it remains just as little voluntary as it was before. I fear I may cross the opinions of the pious, as well as the practice of the careless, in expressing my views upon this subject; but considering confirmation as in a manner the completion of the baptismal ceremony, I think it ought in nowise to be performed, until the young person is seriously determined to take upon himself the baptismal engagement, and enter into covenant with God in Jesus Christ: until they are believed to have, and believe themselves to have, not by their
sureties but in themselves, what is required of them that come to be baptised—“Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament." The case is not now what it was before: the church can no longer assume that the baptised child may die; and without repentance for the sin it has been incapable of committing, or faith in Him whom it has been incapable of knowing, be admitted to the benefits of a free salvation. The candidate for confirmation appears in the visible likeness of the fallen Adam, the possessed inheritor of Adam's sin-in a position, therefore, in which, without faith and repentance, he has no right to suppose himself, or be by us supposed, the subject of salvation; nor can be called upon to assert it on the authority of others: still less be pronounced by faith and hope an elect-member of the church of Christ: his calling and election can only now be made sure by the manifestation of divine life within. Before the infant eye is capable of distinguishing objects or indicating its notice of them, the mother believes and hopes her babe will have its eye-sight; but the time comes when she can only know it by the manifest exercise of the visual powers. So in the spiritual life of her offspring, she may hope and believe, and if her babe dies be assured of it— For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” If it lives, in faith she may still en
joy the substance of things hoped-for, the evidence of things not seen: she may believe that God will at some time manifest his blessing on her care, and his acceptance of her prayers, by imparting his life-giving Spirit to her child. Most firmly I believe he will do so--not because He has said—“ Whosoever is baptised shall be saved;" —for He has never said it;-but because he has said, “ Bring up a child in the way that it should go, and when it is old it will not depart from it.” But to persist in thinking that her offspring has been so made alive, and teaching it so to believe, when not a symptom of spiritual vitality appears, is to my mind, on the part of the parent a most awful presumption, and to the child a most ruinous delusion: making of none effect or value the whole testimony of Scripture, which requires that the tree be known by its fruit, and admits no testimony of of a justified state, but the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
While the child is yet uninstructed and irresponsible, it is the parent, not the child, that fulfils the baptismal engagement-fulfils on its behalf what on its behalf they have undertaken; by allowing nothing that is contrary to the vow, and enforcing such habits, and instilling such precepts as are in exact conformity with it. As the child becomes capable of understanding the will of God, and the method of salvation, its own duties and responsibilities are unfolded and en
forced; not because it has made an engagement to that effect, which the child will very early discover to be a fiction, but because it is a divine and universal obligation to believe and obey the Gospel. As long and to the extent that the young person's actions continue to be under parental control, I think the parents continue bound by the utmost extent of the vow-not because the child has taken it, but because they have. If I tell my daughter that I cannot indulge her in worldly pomps and pleasures, because she has promised to renounce them, it is no argument, and she perceives the fallacy: she knows she has not done so, and perhaps is not determined that she ever will. If I tell her on the contrary that these things are contrary to my own profession as a child of God, and to my engagement to bring her up in the paths of godliness, and therefore, cannot be consented to whilst I have the right to control her actions, she is competent to appreciate the argument, as founded on truth and candor.
How early young people are capable of taking the engagement upon themselves, and voluntarily entering upon a life of faith, I feel it impossible to decide. The seeds of divine life sometimes spring up so very early, that the age at which it is possible for a child to be ready and desirous to be confirmed, cannot be taken for that at which it may commonly be expected. I do not wish to prescribe an age; but I should