ON THE OBLIGATIONS OF OUR CONFIRMATION
Consider first, that confirmation is one of those three sacraments which imprint a character or spiritual mark on the soul. The nature of this character of confirmation is such as to carry with it a certain dedication of the soul to the service of God in the quality of his soldiers – as the character of baptism marks us out for the people of God, and the character of Holy Orders for the ministers of God. Hence it is that these three sacraments, after they have been once received, cannot be received any more, because the character which they leave in the soul, which is the mark of the consecration of the soul to God, can never be lost, and therefore can never be repeated. But then these three sacraments carry also with them a strict obligation of living up to this character and to this consecration, which they impart to the soul; and thus this sacrament of confirmation in particular obliges us to observe the whole discipline of the soldiers of Jesus Christ – to stand to our colours; to fight manfully the battles of our Lord; and rather to die than change sides or to go over to the enemy by any wilful sin. This is the allegiance we owe to Christ in quality of his soldiers; this we oblige ourselves to when we receive the character of confirmation.
Consider 2ndly, that the soldiers of this world profess a strict regard to all the laws of their calling and to the orders of their officers. They expose themselves to all kinds of labours and dangers in marches, in sieges, and in battles. They endure heats and colds, and all the inclemency of the weather and the seasons; they suffer hunger and thirst, watchings, and all other hardships to which their station of life exposes them; and all this for the trifling consideration of a small pay. What lessons are here for Christians, who, by the sacrament of confirmation, have enlisted themselves soldiers of Christ! How much more ought they to embrace with courage all the labours and sufferings to which their spiritual warfare exposes them, especially as they fight under the banner of so great a King, in his presence and company, and for so great a reward. But, alas! the soldiers of this world will, I fear, one day rise up in judgment, and condemn us for having done and suffered so little in the warfare of Christ, in comparison with what they have done and suffered in the warfare of the world.
Consider 3rdly, that whatsoever is once dedicated and consecrated to God ought to continue for ever dedicated and consecrated to his divine service. And it is no less a crime than sacrilege to pervert any thing dedicated to him to profane uses. Therefore, the soul which, by the sacrament of confirmation, has been dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to God, and which always carries about with her the mark of this consecration, is strictly obliged thereby to be ever his; to be ever faithful, and to be ever holy, as a thing dedicated to his divine service, both in quality of his soldier and of his temple. O remember, Christians, that the character which the soul receives in this sacrament can never be effaced, neither in this world nor in the world to come; that if we live up to the obligations of it it will shine most brightly in our souls to eternity, and be no small addition to our everlasting glory and happiness; but if we should defile and profane this sacred mark of Christ by a sinful life, and, after these solemn engagements and the consecration of our souls to him, should become rebels and deserters, this same mark would appear in judgment against us; it would continue with us at the bar of divine justice, it would continue with us for ever as a mark of disgrace, a perpetual reproach among the damned, and an additional torture and gripe to the soul, for having once been dedicated to God, and having been so mad, so wretched, so wicked as to apostatize from him.
Conclude to bear always in mind the sacred character of thy confirmation, as well as that of thy baptism, that thou mayest live up to the obligations of them both. Be not terrified at the prospect of the conflicts thou must sustain or the crosses and hardships thou wilt have to go through in this warfare; ‘the grace of God and his peace, which surpasseth all understanding,’ Phil. iv. 7, ‘will support thee, and never suffer thee to be tempted above thy strength,’ 1 Cor. 13, ‘but bring thee oft with comfort and victory.’ In token of which, the bishop, when he confirmed thee, gave thee a blow on the cheek, as a declaration of the adversities thou wast to sustain, but, at the same time, gave thee God’s peace, that thou mightest understand that God would be with thee in them all, and never leave thee.