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ever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Simon saw that by laying on of hands St. Peter and St. John bestowed the Holy Ghost, and he said in fact, "Give me the same power. Give to me that when I shall lay my hands on any person he may have the Holy Ghost and speak with tongues, as these do on whom you have laid your hands. It is quite clear that Simon thought that without the laying on of hands there would be no gift, and that laying on of hands was the medium through which the gift was given. And the case of the Ephesians confirms the correctness of Simon's judgment, for we are told, “When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.” When,—not before St. Paul's hands were laid, but when he laid his hands, then, as a consequence, the gift followed. Indeed, so essentially is laying on of hands connected with the rite of confirmation that it is called by the name of “laying on of hands” by St. Paul in the epistle to the Hebrews. “The doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands,” is the expression of St. Paul when speaking of the sacrament of the new birth, and of the rite of confirmation, which is its filling up and consummation.
The fact is, laying on of hands is an old and usual method of communicating goods and blessings. The hand is the instrument of a man's power, and the organ by which he works his greatest operations. Whatever physical works a man does, he does by means of his hands. And hence the hand, becoming the sign of power and the symbol of authority, is used as the instrument of benediction and the channel through which grace is made by God to flow. Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph laying his right hand on
Ephraim and his left upon Manasseh. The priests when they blessed the people lifted up their hands. When Moses appointed Joshua he laid his hands upon him. When the Apostles ordained the seven deacons they laid on them their hands. When Paul and Barnabas were sent from the Church at Antioch to preach among the Gentiles, they were sealed and designated to their office by laying on of hands. When Timothy was appointed bishop to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us that the gift of ordination was communicated to him “by the putting on of my hands.” So that whenever any gift or blessing was to be communicated,—the blessing of a saintly father to his child, the blessing of a priest upon his people, the gift of ordination to a deacon or priest, or of consecration to a bishop, or the gift of confirmation to one who having been baptized was to be strengthened with grace that he might become a mature and perfect Christian, whatever the gift or blessing might be,-prayer and laying on of hands was the instrument used in the bestowal. When Jacob laid hands upon his grandsons, blessings descended on them through his hands. When Aaron lifted holy hands above his people, those hands drew blessing out of Heaven and let blessing fall upon the people's heads. When the apostle or bishop ordains to the offices of the ministry the gifts of ordination drop on him who is ordained. And when the Spirit is invoked in confirmation to be the strengthener, quickener, supporter, comforter, sanctis fier of the soul, the bishop is empowered to communicate the Spirit by laying on of hands. As his hands are laid the Spirit descends. At the time when the body feels, the spirit receives the grace of strength. Our Lord is present in His own ordinance and makes
it effectual, when resistance is not offered, to the sanctifying of the soul.
You must believe these things, my brethren. It is a portion of the office of the clergy to bless the people. Our Master gives us power to bless you. We bless you every time you come to church,
and giving you peace. We bless you in marriage. take you up into our arms and bless you at the font. We bless you when we visit you in sickness, and whenever else you ask our blessing. And the bishop blesses you with the special gift of the Holy Ghost in confirmation when he
and lays on you his hands. You must believe these things. Simon Magus believed them. Simon Magus was sure that the Holy Ghost was given by laying on of hands.
III. But who is the minister of confirmation ? I answer, a bishop or apostle. St. Philip the deacon was an admirable man, who could preach with great power and even work miracles. But St. Philip could not confirm ; St. Philip could not give the Holy Ghost. St. Peter and St. John could do this, but St. Philip could not. And why? Not because St. Peter and St. John were better than St. Philip ; for they were all good, all saints. It was not a matter of goodness or badness; it was a matter of office and power. St. Philip could not do it because he was only a deacon. St. Peter and St. John could do it, because they were chief ministers of Christ. To confirm belonged to their office as SA postles. For certain wise reasons,-and among them for this especially, that the Church might be bound in unity by the reception of so great a gift through the hands of the one spiritual father of the Christian family within a given territory, and by the acknowledgment of his rightful superiority, which was
involved in the act of coming to obtain from him a blessing,—the power of imparting this high gift was reserved for the chief order in the ministry; and none but bishops have power from God to lay hands upon the people for the confirming them in the truth and the bestowal of the Holy Ghost.
Simon Magus, you may perceive, was well aware of this. He did not address any chance Christian whom he met with and
and I will give you money. He did not even speak to St. Philip, by whom he had been baptized, and who had done miracles before him. He knew perfectly well that the power did not reside in ordinary Christians, or even in all orders of the ministry, but that the highest order alone possessed this power. He went, therefore, to the fountain-head from whence the stream issued, and asked for this power at the hands of the Apostles. In them the power dwelt and from them he asked it. When he said, “ Give me this power,” it was to St. Peter and St. John that he said it, for they were the stewards to whom God had intrusted this great and most mysterious gift.
And that which was so clear that even Simon Magus saw it has been the constant practice of the Church in all ages. The doctrine and habit of the primitive Church, received from the Apostles, allowed to no one but the bishop the right to confirm the people, and the Church of later times has carried on the tradition. As it was held always that none but a bishop could ordain to the office of the ministry, so has it been held also that none but a bishop could communicate the Holy Ghost.
Here then in the mouth of one unexceptionable witness are these three words established :
1. There is a gift in confirmation—the Holy
Ghost. 2. This gift is communicated by laying on of
hands. 3. The hands to be laid on are bishops' hands. But now I can fancy that two objections may be offered. First it may be said, If there was really a gift of the Spirit there would also be the gift of tongues. No, it is not so, my brethren. Tongues and miracles have ceased generally. We do not need them now. These were extraordinary gifts and powers, sent as signs to an unbelieving world, and were the least and lowest of the spiritual gifts ; bestowed at that particular crisis but withdrawn when no longer necessary. The true and highest gifts were strength, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. These continue, and these are slow in growth and spiritually discerned. The extraordinary and transient gifts of the Spirit have departed. The ordinary and essential gifts remain,
But then it may be said next, 'Oh, but the ordinary are not given. Many a man departs from confirmation to lead a life of sin. Does such an one receive the Holy Spirit ? Nay; the Spirit of God is not bestowed on him ? So it may be said, and to this I answer, Such an one received the Spirit and yet rejected Him. Or rather, to such an one the Spirit was given but He was not received. The Spirit was offered but was resisted. God has done for such an one all that love could do. God has sealed and anointed him, and has brought him within reach of the Holy Spirit's influence. If the man sins, of course the Holy Spirit so far from doing him good, can only increase his