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I will keep thy statutes.
THIS pious resolve of the psalmist we would seek to induce those to adopt, who having been consecrated to God in baptism, are called to ratify and confirm their vows in the ordinance of confirmation, which is shortly to be administered.
It is not among the least of the advantages of the ordinance of confirmation, that it is calculated to draw the attention, at stated periods, to those everlasting concerns which, amidst the occupations and the enjoyments of life, are often forgotten or neglected. When a solemn call is made on baptized Christians to assume the engagements by which they were originally entered into covenant with God-when the momentous duties and the high privileges of their calling in Christ Jesus are presented before those who bear his name, and who have been pledged to his service-the appeal is powerfully calculated to excite their serious reflection, to withdraw their attention from the world, and to impress on them the infinite importance of an attention to the things which belong to their eternal peace.
In the solemnity of confirmation, also, those who, in the sacraments and ordinances of the church,
have assumed the obligations, and received a title to the privileges of their Christian adoption, are reminded of the momentous force of these obligations, and of the exalted nature of these privileges: it is calculated to impress on them their great guilt, as far as they have violated these obligations and contemned these privileges; and in this case also, of the indispensable necessity of their returning unto God, resolving no longer to live in violation of their Christian duties, and in neglect of their Christian privileges. The call, especially on the young members of Christ's fold, to assume their Christian obligations, has a tendency to awaken them to a sense of the supreme importance, above all worldly concerns, of making their Christian calling and election sure.
At the period of the administration of this ordinance, Christian parents and others must feel, in more than its usual force, their awful responsibility for the spiritual welfare of those whom Providence hath placed under their charge-those immortal beings, whose happiness or misery, through a neverending existence, in no small degree depends on their instructions and care. And at this season also, the ministers and pastors of Christ's fold must be impressed with their accountability for the flock committed to them, and particularly for those young members of it whom they perhaps admitted into this fold at the sacred font, and whom they behold arrived at a season of life when generally the course is taken which leads through the ways of sin and sensuality to the chambers of misery, or through the paths of holiness to the glories of God's kingdom above.
It is a strong sense of this responsibility which VOL. II.
excites the earnest solicitude, that all they who have not received the ordinance of confirmation, should embrace the present opportunity of ratifying, in that holy rite, their baptismal engagements, in order that they may have assured to them their baptismal privileges.
The considerations which urge the reception of the ordinance of confirmation, arise from its origin, from the duties which it imposes, and from the privileges which it confers.
1. It traces its origin through the practice of the universal church to the apostolic age, in which it was considered as a divine institution. No ceremony of merely human authority would have been ranked, as the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews ranks this institution, among the principles of the doctrine of Christ. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." The expression "laying on of hands" evidently designates that particular rite which, it appears from the Acts of the Apostles, was practised by them, and in which, by this gesture, God's grace and favour are assured to baptized Christians; for the expression follows in the passage, the "doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." In the enumeration in that passage, there is no doctrine or institution which is not necessary to all Christians, and the laying on of hands therefore cannot be an excep
tion. It must mean that rite in which Christians, from the first ages, renewed their baptismal engagements, and were certified of God's favour and goodness.
There will be hazard therefore, imminent hazard in neglecting an ordinance to which God has set the seal of his authority. There will be great. irreverence in disregarding what the apostles and saints of the first ages, and the great body of Christians in every age, have valued as one of the ordinances of the church of their Redeemer, one of those inestimable means and pledges by which they were made, through faith, the subjects of his grace and the heirs of his glory. Apart from its benefits, the single circumstance that it is an institution of God, an ordinance of his church, will mark with impiety, with guilt and hazard, the wilful neglect of it. As it is the ordinance appointed for the renewal of the vows of baptism, our renewal of these vows in any other mode cannot exempt us from the duty of receiving this ordinance. On this single principle, then, of its being a divine institution, we urge the reception of it. The lesson of obedience to whatever our Maker and Almighty Lawgiver and Sovereign and Judge imposes on us, merely because he does impose it, is the dictate of reason. The duty of submitting our understandings and wills to him who has a supreme right to direct and command both, is the most useful lesson which we can practise. In the heart which is thus humble and obedient, will flourish all those virtues which adorn our nature, which perfect the Christian character; which produce in this life serenity and peace, and in the life to come a feli
city which it is not permitted the eye to see, the ear to hear, nor the heart to conceive.
If it is the institution of God, we neglect it at our peril; the High and Holy One will not be thus insulted in the neglect of his ordinances with impunity. Let not any, then, indulge the common, but dangerous opinion, that their participation of any of the ordinances of religion is left entirely to their discretion; that they may or may not receive them, as they please. We cannot neglect any divine institution without guilt, and without subjecting ourselves to the displeasure of him who, as he is able to save, is able also to destroy.
2. But the consideration of the great duty which the ordinance of confirmation imposes, strengthens the obligation to receive it.
This duty is the devotion of ourselves to God, our Maker, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, in all the powers and affections of our souls-the devotion of our understandings to the doctrines of that Gospel which he has prescribed, of our wills to the works of his commandments, and of our affections to his service, confiding in his promises, and supremely pursuing his everlasting glory. It is a devotion which implies that, in all our thoughts, words, and actions, we acknowledge our obligations and our responsibility to him, our Maker, Sovereign, and Judge; and that we unceasingly and supremely desire and aim at serving and pleasing him, from whom we derive our being, from whose bounty we receive all our enjoyments, and who only can be our strength and refuge when every other strength and refuge will fail us, in the