The doctrine of laying on of hands. — Heb. vi. 2.

You are about to receive, by the laying on
of hands, the solemn rite of confirmation.
It is highly important that you should know,
and well consider, what this rite is in itself,
and what blessings it is designed to bestow
on those who devoutly, and in faith, attend
to it. The laying on of hands is called “a
doctrine” — a truth, important to be taught,
and to be known. (Heb. vi. 2.) It is ranked
among “the principles of the doctrine of
Christ.” It is one of the starting-points in
religion. It belongs to the fundamentals
of Christianity. It is, therefore, in religion
what a foundation stone is in a building.

It is ranked by the holy Apostle among
such doctrines and principles as repentance,
faith, baptisms, resurrection of the dead,
and eternal judgment. Thus we are im-
pressed with its solemnity by the company
in which it appears. This shows us the im-
portance of the doctrine. This should also
create in us a desire to understand what this
doctrine is.

Let us look first id the history of this doc-
trine and ordinance.

If we look into the history of this ordi-
nance, we find it first practised by pious
parents in behalf of their children, and by
patriarchs to their generations. By the lay-
ing on of hands Jacob blessed his own sons
(Gen. xlix. 28); and also his grandchildren,
the two sons of Joseph. (Gen. xlviii. 9-14.)
It was done to the sacrifices which were to
be offered for sin. (Num. viii. 12.) It was
done by Moses to Joshua, when he became
his successor. (Num. xxvii. 18-23.) It was
done by our Saviour to little children, which
were brought to Him for that purpose.
(Matt. xix. 15.) It was often done by our
Saviour to the sick, and afflicted, when he
healed them. (Mark vi. 5; Luke iv. 40;
xiii. 13.) The disciples were directed to do
the same. (Mark xvi. 18.)

We find also that it was done by Paul to
a sick man. (Acts xxviii. 8.)

It was done to Christians, after they had
believed and had been baptized, by way of
confirming their faith, and completing their
baptism, through the communication of the
Holy Ghost. (Acts viii. 17; xix. 6.) In the
latter case it was done immediately upon
baptism — that baptism might not be only
a “washing away” but also a “putting

It was done in setting apart sacred per-
sons to office. Thus it was done to Paul
and Barnabas. (Acts xiii. 3.) So also was
Timothy set apart and endowed with a holy
gift. (1 Tim. iv. 14.) So also did Timothy
endow others. (1 Tim. v. 22.)

Such is the Scripture history of this ordi-

We find that in all these different ways
has the “laying on of hands” been con-
tinued in the practice of the church.

The act of blessing children, by laying
the hand upon their heads after the manner
of Jacob, has been imitated by many a dying
parent — a solemnity of which we have all
read, and which we have perhaps all wit-
nessed. It is an act prompted by piety and
parental love, sanctioned by scriptural pre-
cedent, and wonderfully significant, solemn,
and impressive.

The custom of blessing little children,
after the manner of Christ, though it has
never been a formal ordinance in the church,
has always existed in the familiar practice
of the pious. Many a child has felt upon its
head the hand of a pious elder, sponsor, pas-
tor, or aged saint, accompanied with a “God
bless you, my child,” and some simple word
of pious admonition which was never forgot-
ten. Who can fail to see in this the natural
and appropriate spirit of childlike piety?
Who will say such a blessing does not truly
bless, when it is imparted devoutly, by
prayer, and by faith.

Do not some of us recollect such acts of
piety and love bestowed upon us in our
childhood? and has not the remembrance of
such acts often reminded us anew, and with
increased solemnity, of our early consecra-
tion to God? The very thought that hands,
which are now turned into ashes in the grave,
and pious spirits which are now before the
throne, have once blessed us, is full of inspi-
ration and holy savor to our hearts.

The laying of the hand upon the sick, as
Christ and his apostles did, though it may
not pretend to impart any miraculous heal-
ing power, is an act of piety, of love, and
of sympathy, which is as truly prompted by
warm Christian feeling as it is sanctioned by
precedent of the Holy Scriptures.

Even as a merely natural act, it is not
without its consolations, its encouragement,
and its alleviating and reviving influence
upon the spirits of the sick. The pressure
of a hand, when we are well, is not without
its life to the soul, indicating to us that an-
other cares that we exist; how much more
quickening to the drooping spirits of the
sick is the pressure of the hand of sympa-
thizing love upon an aching head and fevered
brow! This we have all felt. It is as if we
had hold upon the strength of the living,
and as if one who has power himself to do
so, had said to us in the friendly touch,
“Rise and walk — revive and live!”

But we have no right to regard such an
act as merely natural. It belongs to the
sphere of faith and grace. It is a pious act,
like prayer, if it be done piously, and in the
name of Jesus. We may, therefore, believe
that the natural act is, through faith and
prayer, sanctified by supernatural power,
and rendered a true blessing by the mighty
efficacy of grace.

The laying on of hands in connection with
baptism, and after baptism, as the apostles
did to the believers in Samaria, has in all
ages been practised by the Church. Those
who were baptized in their infancy, had that
act and grace confirmed to them when they
themselves assumed their baptismal vows.
It seems to be this rite that the apostle refers
to in Hebrews vi. 2. The laying on of hands
there comes, in order, after repentance, faith,
and baptism. It is the act of full initiation
into the Church, and of confirmation in

Let us further inquire,

What is the substance of this act, and
what blessing or grace does it bestow?

We must not regard it as an empty form-
as an unmeaning, powerless, graceless act.
This would be to charge God with folly.
With God form and power are always one.
We must not neglect it, set it aside, and
treat it as though it did not exist. This
many persons practically do. It exists in
the practice of the Church as a divine fact,
and is presented to us as one of the princi-
ples and doctrines of Christ. It is an ordi-
nance that exists for us; and it becomes us
to inquire what it is to us, and what we are
to seek in it, and expect from it.

1. Confirmation is a divine act by which
those who receive it are laid hold of by God,
and are claimed for Him.

This is already signified to us by the act
itself. The person from whom we receive
the laying on of hands is one who acts for
God. He is God’s representative — through
his hands God reaches forth to us, and lays
hold on us. Hence always the higher lays
his hands on and confirms the lower — the
ordained minister confirms the catechumen.

To lay hands on anything, in the Scrip-
ture sense of that expression, means to take
it, to claim it, to secure it. (Obad. 13.)

In reference to Paul and Barnabas, the
Holy Ghost said: “Separate me Barnabas
and Saul for the work, whereunto I have
called them. And when they had fasted
and prayed, and laid their hands on them,
they sent them away.” (Acts xiii. 2, 3.) By
this act they separated them — seized them
for God — claimed them for his special

So the ram, on which Aaron and the Le-
vites laid their hands, was now, by that act,
claimed as the sin-offering. So elders, dea-
cons, and ministers are, by the laying on of
hands, claimed of God as his special ser-
vants. So pious dying parents claim their
children for the service of that God whom
they have served, and to whom they now
solemnly commend them.

So, in Confirmation, God lays His hands
on those who are His by the covenant, and
by vows, and claims them for Himself.

The act now requires on their part to yield
to Him; to own the claim, and not to tear
themselves out of God’s hands. The solemn
act asks from them a consecration to God of
that which He claims as His own.

He has a right to claim our services as
private Christians — He has a right to lay
His hands upon us, and set us apart as a
royal priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
to Him by Jesus Christ. We must find our
happiness in cheerfully yielding to His

2. The laying on of hands also imparts
power and grace to act in God’s name.

This also the act itself signifies and repre-
sents to us. It means to shed forth, to be-
stow, to communicate. It is the act of
blessing — of giving or transferring power,
authority, and grace.

Thus this signification of the act only
carries out, and completes, the other. For
those whom the Lord claims He also blesses.
The same hand which claims us for God also
imparts to us His blessing, and bestows on
us His grace. The laying on of hands is
therefore a double act: In it God takes us to
Himself, and gives Himself to us. Jesus
took little children to His arms, and then
blessed them.

God commanded Moses to lay his hands
on Joshua, and to give him a charge. (Num.
xxvii. 18-23.) That this was a bestowment,
not only of office as his successor, but also
of power and grace to fulfil that office, is
evident. It is afterward said: “And Joshua
the son of Nun was full of the spirit of
wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon
him; and the children of Israel hearkened
unto him.” (Deut. xxxiv. 9.)

We find that Jesus always communicated
healing power to those sick upon whom He
laid His hands. (Mark vi. 5: Luke iv. 40;
xiii. 13.) We find also that the people ex-
pected, and believed, that healing power
was communicated in this way. Hence the
ruler of the synagogue asked directly that
this might be done. He does not say, come
and heal her, but “come and lay thy hands
upon her, that she may he healed.” (Mark v.
23.) This was known to him as the divine
order and way of bestowing renovating

The apostles bestowed healing power upon
the sick in the same way. (Acts xxviii. 8.)

We find also that the gift of office — the
right, the power, the grace to act for God,
was bestowed in the same way. Paul says
to Timothy: “Neglect not the gift which is
in thee, which was given thee by prophecy,
with the laying on of the hands of the pres-
bytery.” (1 Tim. iv. 14: 2 Tim. i. 6, 7.)

This gift, or grace, was given with the
laying on of hands. It was the grace needed
in the office to which the same act conse-
crated him. That grace was now in him —
it had not been in him before — and he is
exhorted not to neglect it.

It seems that Paul himself had also laid
his hands on Timothy; perhaps he was also
assisted in it by presbyters. He says to
him: ‘I put thee in remembrance, that
thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee
by the putting on of my hands.” Here
again he speaks of a gift or grace which
was thus imparted. He also immediately
adds: “For God hath not given us the spirit
of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a
sound mind.” (2 Tim. i. 6, 7.)

The laying on of hands also bestowed the
gift of the Holy Ghost. In regard to those who
“received the Word” at Samaria, it is said:
“Then laid they their hands upon them, and
they received the Holy Ghost. And when
Simon saw that through laying on of the
apostle’s hands the Holy Ghost was given, he
offered them money.” (Acts viii. 17, 18.)

In reference to the newly baptized at
Ephesus, it is said: “And when Paul had
laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost
came on them.” (Acts xix. 6.) In both
these cases they were private Christians,
and not such as were ordained to office. We
may, therefore, claim the bestowment of the
Holy Ghost in the confirmation and conse-
cration of private Christians. Thus they are
ordained to the universal priesthood of saints,
by the solemn rite of Confirmation.

Why may we not expect the same effects
to flow from the same act now? We are
under the same dispensation. We have still
“the doctrine of the laying on of hands.”
God, and grace, have not changed! Do we
not find also that this is the very gift pro-
mised to all believers — namely, the gift of
the Holy Ghost. He is given us to abide
with us forever. He is to dwell in the saints
as in His own temple. Are not Christians
to live and to walk in the spirit? Is not He
to be the life of all our services — our Light,
our Guide, our Sanctifier, and our Com-

If He strives with us, reproves us, woos us,
and convinces us of sin, of righteousness,
and of a judgment to come, before we are
Christians, why should not He be given us,
in a peculiar manner, when we at length
yield to His power and grace? If He is so
given, why may not this great and glorious
gift be bestowed by “the laying on of
hands?” — and bestowed in just such mea-
sure as we need. Yea, the Holy Ghost is so
given, as we are divinely assured; — blessed
are they who have faith to receive Him!

Let it be remembered that no human
being professes, from himself, to bestow
such a grace. Human hands are only the
means and the medium — the power is of
God. It can only be done in His name, and
in dependence upon Him.

It is remarkable that when the apostles
laid their hands on any, the act was always
preceded by prayer. When our Saviour did
it, it was not so preceded. The reason is
plain, and at once evident. Our Saviour
had the power in Himself—the apostles had
it by gift from God, for which they found it
necessary to ask. (Acts iii. 12.)

So now, the gift is through the hands of
ordained men, but not from them or by them.
Yet in answer to prayer it is bestowed. We
must look away from the feeble instruments,
to Him who has ordained that through “the
laying on of their hands” all needed autho-
rity, power, and grace should be freely given.

As it requires prayer on the part of those
who administer Confirmation, so also does it
require preparedness on the part of those
who receive it. Even when Jesus Himself
gave a blessing by the laying on of His
hands, it had to be received by faith. Even
He could only do mighty works to those who

“When the apostles gave the gift of the
Holy Ghost to those who believed at Sama-
ria, one who was in the gall of bitterness
and the bonds of iniquity, also desired it,
and would have purchased it with money.
He had no inward preparation for it — no
faith, no prayerful spirit. To him they
said: “Thou hast no part nor lot in this
matter; for thine heart is not right in the
sight of God.” He received not the bless-
ing, because he had not the preparation for it.

Have faith in the ordinance, for it is or-
dained to communicate a blessing. See that
you approach it with an humble, penitent,
and believing heart. Once more solemnly
review your life. Once more renew your
vows. Once more, in the strength of Christ
Jesus, renounce the world, the flesh, and the
devil. Once more cast yourself down upon
your knees before Him, and implore the
help of His grace. Then come with a firm,
believing heart, unto the altar of God — unto
God, your exceeding joy.

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