Book: THE OBEDIENCE OF A CHRISTIAN MAN & How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern

IF Confirmation have a promise, then it justifieth as far as the promise extendeth. If it have no promise, then is it not of God, as the bishops be not. The apostles and ministers of God preach God’s word; and God’s signs or sacraments signify God’s word also, and put us in remembrance of the promises which God hath made unto us in Christ. Contrariwise, antichrist’s bishops preach not; and their sacraments speak not; but as the disguised bishop’s mum, so are their superstitious sacraments dumb. After that the bishops had left preaching, then reigned they this dumb ceremony of confirmation, to have somewhat at the leastway, whereby they might reign over their dioceses. They reserved unto themselves also the christening of bells, and conjuring or hallowing of churches and churchyards, and of altars and super-altars, and hallowing of chalices, and so forth; whatsoever is of honor or profit. Which confirmation, and the other conjurations also, they have now committed to their suffragans; because they themselves have no leisure to minister such things, for their lusts and pleasures, and abundance of all things, and for the cumbrance that they have in the king’s matters and business of the realm. One keepeth the privy seal; another the great seal; the third is confessor, (that is to say, a privy traitor and a secret Judas;) he is president of the prince’s council; he is an ambassador; another sort, of the king’s secret council. Woe is unto the realms where they are of the council. As profitable are they, verily, unto the realms with their counsel, as the wolves unto the sheep, or the foxes unto the geese.

They will say that the Holy Ghost is given through such ceremonies. If God had so promised, so should it be; but Paul saith, ( Galatians 3) that the Spirit is received through preaching of the faith. And ( Acts 5) while Peter preached the faith, the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and on his household. How shall we say then to that which they will lay against us, in the eighth chapter of the Acts of the apostles, where Peter and John put their hands on the Samaritans, and the Holy Ghost came? I say, that by putting, or with putting, or as they put their hands on them, the Holy Ghost came. Nevertheless, the putting on of the hands did neither help nor hinder: for the text saith, “They prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost.”

God had made the apostles a promise, that he would with such miracles confirm their preaching, and move other to the faith. (Mark, the last.) The apostles, therefore, believed and prayed God to fulfill his promise; and God, for his truth’s sake, even so did. So was it the prayer of faith that brought the Holy Ghost; as thou mayest see also in the last of James. “If any man be sick,” saith James, “call the elders of the congregation, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall heal the sick.” Where a promise is, there is faith bold to pray, and God true to give her her petition. Putting on of the hands is an indifferent thing. For the Holy Ghost came by preaching of the faith, and miracles were done at the prayer of faith, as well without putting on of the hands as with, as thou seest in many places. Putting on of the hands was the manner of that nation, as it was to rend their clothes, and to put on sackcloth, and to sprinkle themselves with ashes and earth, when they heard of or saw any sorrowful thing, as it was Paul’s manner to stretch out his hand when he preached; and as it is our manner to hold up our hands when we pray, and as some kiss their thumb-nail, and put it to their eyes, and as we put our hands on children’s heads when we bless them, saying, ‘Christ bless thee, my son, and God make thee a good man:’ which gestures neither help nor hinder. This mayest thou well see Acts 13, where the Holy Ghost commanded to separate Paul and Barnabas to go and preach. Then the other fasted and prayed, and put their hands on their heads, and sent them forth. They received not the Holy Ghost then by putting on of hands; but the other, as they put their hands on their heads, prayed for them, that God would go with them, and strength them; and couraged them also, bidding them to be strong in God, and warned them to be faithful and diligent in the work of God, and so forth.