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Him, and serve Him with continually increasing delight in this world, until you shall be translated into the kingdom of his dear Son in heaven, is the prayer
Of your affectionate and faithful Minister,
July 24, 1835.
ACTS viii. 14-17.
Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
THE laying on of hands is a ceremony, which has always been used in the Christian Church. It seems to be a natural and significant way of denoting the blessing of any person. Nature itself suggests it; and if we would signify, that any thing is communicated from God through the ministration of man, we can scarcely imagine any other outward sign which could express well, as the stretching out, or the laying on, of the hands.
Moses, in his ministerial character, was the representative of God. In this character his hand was stretched out, to signify the exertion of that Divine power, by which the miracles in Egypt were performed; and all nature became immediately obedient to him, not for any virtue inherent in himself, but because the hand of the Almighty concurred with the hand of his minister. When the highpriest of the Jews delivered the solemn form of blessing, he stretched out his hands to the people. Thus Aaron lifted up his hand towards the people, and blessed them'. When Jacob, with a parental and authoritative affection, pronounced a blessing on the two sons of Joseph, he stretched out his hands upon them, And said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel (viz. Christ the Redeemer) which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads'. Again, Moses laid his hands upon the head of Joshua, when he appointed him to succeed him, as a prophet and leader of the people of Israel. The Apostles also used the same form in conferring the Holy Ghost'.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we find the laying on of hands joined with the first principles of the Christian profession; as repentance, faith, baptism,
1 Lev. ix. 22.
3 Deut. xxxiv. 9.
2 Gen. xlviii. 15, 16.
resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment'. In the text we learn, that when the Apostles had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent among them Peter and John, who, having prayed for them, laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. Again, when Paul and Barnabas were minded to go and visit their brethren in every city, where they had preached the word of the Lord, Paul went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches2. It appears, then, that Confirmation, or the laying on of hands, was used in the time of the Apostles. And that it was not a part of Baptism, must be concluded from what took place at Samaria. When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. The Apostles, Peter and John, afterwards laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when they brought young children to Christ, that he should touch them, he put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
That the rite of Confirmation did not cease with the Apostles, is shown by the custom of the Church to the time of the Reformation, and by the writings of those who lived near to the days of the Apostles,
1 Heb. vi. 2.
2 Acts xv. 41.
3 Acts viii. 12.
which not only prove the use of this rite, but also state one particular purpose for which it was used, viz. that of praying for the Holy Spirit on those who had been baptized.
Tertullian says, "After Baptism succeeds laying on of hands by benediction, calling for and invoking the Holy Spirit." St. Cyprian, speaking of the Confirmation of the Samaritan converts, saith, "The same custom is observed among us, that they who are baptized may be presented to the Governors of the Church, that by our prayer and imposition of hands, they may receive the Holy Ghost, and be perfected with the seal of Christ." St. Jerome asks, "Are you ignorant, that now this is the custom of the Churches upon those who have been baptized, afterwards to lay hands, and thus invoke the Holy Spirit? Do you ask,-where is it written? In the Acts of the Apostles. Although," he observes, "if there were no authority of Scripture for it, the consent of the world, in this particular, has the force of a command." Other testimonies of the use and design of this institution might be quoted, but these are sufficient for our present purpose.
A ceremony, which traces its origin to men inspired with the extraordinary gifts of God's Holy Spirit, and which is supported by the practice of all succeeding ages, must be admitted to have a