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then, nourish it, watch over it: pray for the Holy Spirit to nourish it and strengthen it in your hearts and its blossom shall be peace in this and its fruit everlasting joy.
ANSWERABLE, AND NOT ANSWERABLE;
WHAT IS CONFIRMATION?
GALATIANS vi. 5.
Every man shall bear his own burthen.
SEVERAL of you are going ere long with God's grace before the bishop to be confirmed. I will therefore take this opportunity of saying a few words to you about confirmation. I shall divide what I have to say into two parts. First I shall tell you what confirmation is not; and next I shall tell you what confirmation is.
First then, as to what confirmation is not: it is not, what some appear to fancy it, a taking of our sins on our own shoulders. There is, I believe, a
notion held by many persons, that a child's god-
answerable, in the sense in which the word is here understood, for the sins of another. Every one who has a burthen to bear, must bear his own burthen. Every one who has sins to answer for, must answer for his own sins. The moment a child gets to know right from wrong, and children begin to acquire that knowledge at a very early age indeed, that moment does it likewise begin to be answerable before God for what it does. So long as the child did not know right from wrong, so long it was incapable of sinning: for sin consists in doing what we know, or at least ought to know, to be wrong. But when the child has learnt that there is a difference between right and wrong, it has already begun to be a reasonable creature; it has already begun to be answerable for its sins; it has already set out on its journey either toward heaven or toward hell.
Wonder not that I speak thus to you of children. It is the neglecting to consider them in this serious light, it is the habit of saying, when a child does
wrong, "O, what does it signify! it is only a
child ;”—it is the forgetting the trust which God puts into the hands of parents, when he gives them children, that occasions half the vice and wickedness in the world. While the foolish parent is saying, "It is only a child," the seeds of evil are taking root and spreading; sinful habits are forming,-habits of lying perhaps, or habits of sulkiness, or habits of greediness, or habits of anger: and so the child grows up uncorrected and unchecked, into a stubborn lawless boy, or into a bold bad girl, a grief and shame to its father and mother.
Now are we to believe that, for all this stubbornness and naughtiness of all kinds, the boy and girl are not answerable, because the bishop has not laid his hand on their head, and said a prayer over them? That can never be. Verily they must each bear his own burthen. The boy must be prepared to bear the burthen of his sins against God, -the girl must be prepared to bear the burthen of her sins against God,-whether they go to be confirmed or not. I say sins: because there is no child,--none at least that we can have to do with, —but has been taught the outlines and elements of its duty. Every child knows that it ought to speak the truth: every child knows that it is wicked not to speak the truth. When a child therefore, after knowing this, tells a lie, it sins a wilful sin
against God. What I have said of lying, applies equally to pilfering, to sulkiness, to disobedience, to the being in a passion, to a child's neglecting its lessons, to its not saying its prayers, in a word, to every breach of that which it knows to be its duty. They are all sins.
Is it not foolishness then to imagine that the godfathers and godmothers, when they bring a child to church, undertake to bear the punishment of all these sins, until the child is old enough to be confirmed? No man living, no man that ever lived, can bear the burthen of another man's offenses, excepting only the man Christ Jesus. He indeed, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, did bear the sins of many, yea, even of the whole world: "he was wounded for the transgressions of mankind, and was bruised for their offenses; and on him was laid the iniquity of us all." But this, which is true of the man Christ Jesus, because, being God as well as man, he came on purpose to take on himself the punishment due to our sins, and so to reconcile us to the Father, neither is, nor can be true of any other man that ever lived. Much less can it be true of every godfather and godmother. In sooth they have all more need to cast their own burthens upon Christ, than to volunteer taking upon themselves the additional burthen of their godchild. The thing is impossible;