페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

think generally that confirmation in our church takes place too soon. I confine this observation to our own church, because I am not informed at what age the Presbyterian and dissenting churches examine their young people preparatory to their admission to the communion. I take it for granted that some such public profession is required in every Christian community; and whatever it be that stands in the place of our act of confirmation, I consider it in the same light: it is not the form that signifies, it is the intention; it is that, whatever it be, by which, as far as human insight can, the communion is guarded from the intrusion of the unconverted. I can only say for myself, that whatever be the practice of our own or other communities, I could not, as a parent, a guardian, or a sponsor, bring a child to be confirmed till it manifested a voluntary, well-considered, and well-instructed desire, to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and to fight under his banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end: or whatever form of profession to the same effect any church communion may prescribe.

The form of confirmation is very simple and very explicit; and with the same tenderness for the weak and ill-assured that pervades our whole ritual, the demand upon the candidate is so very moderate, that it need not falter the most timid and conscientious replicant, provided he be in

deed of the miud to take these vows upon him. Nothing is asked of what has heretofore been done—nothing is said of broken vows and baptismal promises unkept. I must again remark, that the candidate for confirmation is not addressed on his actual adoption into the family of God, reminded of his previous responsibility as a child of God, or confessed or prayed for as a transgressor of a covenant, assumed to have been made by him in baptism; all which I should have expected, had the church taken the view of that Sacrament which some persons inculcate. “Children being come to years of discretion," and fully instructed in all the Christian faith,“ having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promised for them in baptism," and being supposed to understand the nature of repentance, whereby they forsake sin, and faith whereby they receive the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament, are called upon to say before God and that congregation, whether they will ratify and confirm the engagements made for them, and do consider themselves bound to believe and to do the things therein specified, and will by the grace of God endeavor faithfully to observe tnem. On the part of the young proselyte, the ceremony ends with this: the remainder of the performance is the prayer of the church on their behalf, and her assurance, not theirs, that in so confessing their obligation and desiring to fulfil it, they are influenced by

the Holy Spirit, accepted of the Father, and received into the faith of Christ. The category proceeds no farther; the pledge is taken for no more; the young confessor is not called upon to say that he has repented and believed; has washed himself in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, or received forgiveness of his sins, and the earnest of the Spirit in his soul. This would be too mueh to say, because on their young experience and indistinct self-knowledge, it is more than they can generally know. Selfknowledge is the acquisition of maturer yearsthe latest growth of intellect and the autumn fruit of grace. In very youug persons whom God prepares for an early removal to glory, the most perfect and vivid experience and enjoyment of the life in Christ is sometimes manifested, a realised hope so unmixed and unperturbed, that one might fancy the great enemy had seen them cradled from their birth in the panoply of heaven, and never ventured to lay his hand upon them. But these are not creatures of the earth, or long to remain upon it. Generally, so far from soliciting, I could scarcely welcome in young people a precocious confidence of their own calling and election in Jesus Christ. I should think hope a better blossom than assurance, and desire a safer evidence than experience. Not because the youngest, even the infant member of Christ is less safely and eternally united to him than the most matured

saint; but because it is a time when feelings are so liable to take the form of principles, and the perceptions have so much the advance of the understanding, the most artless mind is only the most exposed to self-deception. Again, therefore, I would bear testimony to the wisdom and moderation of the church in requiring no profession or promise, from the candidate for confirmation, but such as at the appointed age instructed youth is fully competent to make: namely, whether they consider themselves bound to do and believe the things in which they have been instructed, and by the grace of God will evermore endeavor faithfully to observe that, which by their own mouth and consent they acknowledge that they ought to do: the first developement of living faith-assent to the truth of the Gospel, and determination to obey it. This profession solemnly and publicly made, and every means used on the part of the minister and other spiritual instructors to ascertain its sincerity, the church admits the confessor to the exclusive privilege of the faithful—the most holy communion of the body and blood of our Saviour Christ: and it is generally expected that they should appear at the table on the earliest opportunity subsequent to confirmation. All is thus done that can be done by others: and most deep, and serious, and entire becomes now the responsibility of the young Christian“ To examine themselves whether they repent

them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death, and are in love and charity with all men.”

“I am the true vine," says the Lord, " and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit." In vain the church's blessing and assurance, the sponsor's faith and parent's anxious cares; in vain the water sprinkled, the precious emblems taken and received; if this engrafted bud become not a living, growing and fruit-bearing branch of that life-giving, life-sustaining stem. True, the Father is a patient husbandman. He does not look to gather of his vintage in the spring time, or cull his grapes before the flower is set: but He is skilful too, and knows the first germinating promise of the future fruit, and sees if it is not there. We need not fear to carry the figure on, for it is his own chosen imagery, exhibiting by things familiar to the simplest and the youngest, the most mysterious secrets of his truth. Have we not seen the carefully-tended plant, trained and watered and cultured day by day; and watched some branch of it that never buds: that keeps its wintry aspect all the year: and though to sight attached to the vigorous root, it draws no nour

« 이전계속 »