ON THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
Consider first, that confirmation is a sacrament by which the faithful, if duly disposed, receive the Holy Ghost together with all his gifts and graces, in order to make them strong and perfect Christians. The apostles were confirmed in a wonderful manner by the Holy Ghost’s coming down visible upon them on Whitsunday; but the rest of the faithful were to be confirmed by their ministry, and by that of their successors, the bishops of God’s church; ‘receiving the Holy Ghost by the imposition of their hands and prayer,’ Acts viii. 16, 17, 18, and chap. xix. 6. Give thanks to our Lord for this sacred institution, by means of which he perpetuates in his church the mission of his Holy Spirit, and the communication of his graces. What a dignity, what a happiness to receive the Holy Ghost, the Lord of heaven and earth, and the inexhaustible source of all grace! Wheresoever he comes he brings with him all his treasures, and he is infinitely liberal in imparting them. How much then are they their own enemies, who either neglect this great means of receiving the Holy Ghost or else come to it without due dispositions, and so lose the benefit of it; and even pervert it to their own damnation.
Consider 2ndly, that the proper and peculiar grace of the sacrament of confirmation is a heavenly fortitude; that is to say, a spiritual strength, valour, and courage, in order to maintain the cause of God in our souls against the visible and invisible enemies of our faith. By this sacrament we are made soldiers of Christ; here we give in our names to be listed in the service of this great king; we put ourselves under his banner, we receive the sacred mark of his cross on our foreheads – his cross, which is the royal standard of all his troops: here we engage ourselves to fight his battles against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and we are equipped with proper arms for this warfare. O how glorious is this title of a soldier of Christ! How happy this service! What have we to apprehend, following Christ for our captain, and having his holy spirit with us to guide, strengthen, encourage, and defend us? But O, the noble pay which this great king gives to his soldiers! For he gives them nothing less than himself; and that for eternity. ‘Be thou faithful until death,’ saith he, ‘and I will give thee the crown of life.’ Apoc. ii. 10.
Consider 3rdly, that in the sacrament of confirmation the soul is in a particular manner dedicated and consecrated to God by the unction of his Holy Spirit, at the same time as the forehead is anointed with the holy chrism. This chrism is a compound of oil and balm, or balsam, solemnly consecrated by the bishops of God’s church on Maundy Thursday, kept in the church with the utmost reverence, and only used in the consecration of such things as are most solemnly dedicated to God or more nearly deputed to his divine service. So that the using of this holy oil in confirmation is to give us to understand that by this sacrament we also are solemnly dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to God to be the temples of his Spirit; inasmuch as this visible unction and consecrations of the body is the outward sign of the invisible unction and consecration of the soul by the Spirit of God, as all the sacraments are outward signs of inward grace. Christians, what are your thoughts of this consecration which your souls have received? Have you hitherto considered yourselves as a people particularly dedicated to God and sanctified by the unction of his Spirit? Have you reflected that you have been sanctified with the like consecration to that which the altars and temples of God are solemnly dedicated to his service? Remember this at least for the future, and let your lives show forth that you are indeed the living temples of the living God.
Conclude to set a high value upon the grace of your confirmation, and to live up to the glorious character you there received. See you behave in every respect as becomes strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Christ. Beware of receiving so great a grace in vain.