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The subject of Confirmation cannot be justly viewed without the aid of correct notions respecting other important points of Christian doctrine. These latter appear to me to be, in too many instances, obscured by the prevalence of indeterminate and erroneous opinions; and (as one error must, in the process of reasoning, generate another) I also think that there has arisen, from this circumstance, a loose and latitudinarian fashion of speaking respecting Confirmation.
It was at one time my intention to connect with the present treatise, a full vindication of the true principles of the Church respecting the points to which I thus allude. But I have abandoned this intention for the following reasons. The work itself having a chief regard to the excitement and furtherance of practical piety in young persons, I thought that the introduction, further than was necessary, of any polemical disquisition, would involve an incongruity with its purpose, and probably be attended with a prejudice to any humble measure of good effect which it may possibly have. It also appeared to me, that I had a right, in a work of this nature, to presume upon the acknowledged and essential principles of the communion to which I belong, and to the members of which I address myself.
Lest, however, the general argument, as it now stands, should be thought unsustained by an adequate basis, I will venture to advert to two topics, which have unavoidably been introduced into it, but which could not, without great inconvenience, have been fully discussed in the body of the work. This I do in the hope that the present brief remarks may remedy the absence of more extended consideration. If there be not time for a long citation of authorities,--a critical examination of texts,—an anticipation of some objections,-a notice of others, and a sifting of all; it will still be of use to shew, with respect to any important positions which have been advanced, that they have not been assumed merely because they suited the partiality, or pleased the fancy, of a writer. For the cause of religion is rather hurt than promoted, by any efforts to awaken piety or enliven the devotional character on principles, which disclaim the alliance of sound reason and of rigid truth. And possibly, after all, the briefer representation may be the more desirable : for the longest argumentative discourses have seldom been so successful as to satisfy all men; and simplicity of statement is, with the bulk of mankind, more adapted to conviction, than prolixity and complication 1. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles *, that the gift of the Holy Spirit was conferred on the early Christians as a consequence of the Apostles' laying their hands upon them. But we are told that this gift related exclusively to the extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit: that the usage of the apostles does not therefore apply to a state of the Church, in which we seek and expect only his ordinary graces. Now, common as this remark is, it will appear that, in the following treatise, though I have considered it as an error, I have not offered a single argument for its confutation.