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Sponsor ;– forasmuch as, even without any such positive and verbally expressed engagement, what no one could fail of perceiving is—that by the very act of proposing the individual in question for the purpose of his being received as a member, a degree of displeasure in the breast of the other members, towards any person by whose imprudence the Society had been loaded with the supposed burthen, would, in case of annoyance received either from his deportment or his character, be a natural result:-for the fulfilment of the positive condition, an undertaking to instruct him in the several principles and practices, essential or peculiar to the society, would be an expedient altogether obvious.
In the case thus brought to view, the candidate for admission being by the supposition, in an adult state,-no absurdity-no impropriety in any shapewas attached to an undertaking to any such effect: his consent to do whatever should on his part be necessary to the fulfilment of it, was necessarily implied in the act of his appearing in the character of a candidate : in the very act of solicitation, or even without solicitation, by a bare consent on his part to his being admitted. Admit me into your Society, says the Candidate.--Yes, if you will do as we do, say the Members. So I will, as soon as I know how, replies the Candidate. I will shew him how, says a Sponsor. In this short dialogue, the nature of the engagement, and at the same time
the plain and real use of the function of Sponsor ,stand expressed.
Widely different is the state of things, in which, under the Church of England, -not to speak of other Churches,—the formulary of baptism, with the institution of sponsorship included in it, is at this time of day employed.
For the practice of sponsorship, in the present state of the religion of Jesus -in a country in which it is established-supported, or even though it were but protected against injury, by government there cannot be at any rate any general necessity,-nor even, as it should seem, any very considerable use.
By its father alone,-or some nominee of his, declared, or at any rate implied,-can a child be legally subjected to this ceremony. By the custom of the country and of the Church, it is almost immediately after birth—it is long before the dawn of reason that it takes place. At this time of life, and for one-and-twenty years thereafter,-in the hands of that parent, or of his substitute as above, dwells the power,—and, unless by accident, the habit,—of giving direction to the conduct of the child.
On the part of the father, or any such substitute of his, any such sponsorship is neither necessary, nor so much as proper. The religion of Jesus, is it in his eyes a true religion ? and that edition of it, which is in use in the Church of England, a proper mode in the belief and practice of that religion,
and in that mode, voluntarily, spontaneously, and without any such or any other engagement, will he bring up his child. In the eyes of this only proper judge, is that religion not a true one, or is this edition of it not a good edition? It is not right that by any external inducement, whether in the shape of reward, or in the shape of punishment, by any such external inducement, howsoever disguised, he should be induced, or sought to be induced, to follow it.
Considered as undertaken by the father, or his substitute, whether upon the whole defensible or not, the propriety of this sort of sponsorship is at any rate not altogether destitute of plausibility. The object being desirable—in every point of view desirable—desirable in respect of temporal, desirable in respect of eternal welfare; the guardians of the whole community, shall they refuse to do what is in their power to promote it?
Thus stands the question, as applied to the father or his substitute. Be this as it may,-applied to any person or persons other than those two, it will be found replete with absurdity and immorality.
In number, the Sponsors are commonly three : two of the same sex with the child : the third of the opposite sex: to avoid confusion, it will be sufficient to speak of one.
The course of conduct then, the maintenance of which for so long a course of years, is thus promised by him, what is it?-it is one which it never is either in his power or in his intention, so much as to commence. With the consent of his father or his substitute-yes, with that consent the power might be acquired by this person just as by any other: but, neither has he any expectation that any such consent will be given to him, nor if given, has he any such intention as that of accepting it; nor, on the other hand, in the breast of the father or his substitute, has any such intention any place.
Among the three Sponsors, suppose three irreconcilable
ways of thinking, on the subject of the religious instruction proposed to be given to the child-what in this case is the result? To this question there are two answers. One is in the spirit of the Church, viz. that no such schism-no such
guilt," as his Lordship of London would call it is to be supposed : the other is in the spirit of sincerity and experience; viz. that as this office, though without pay, and therefore reserved for the laity-belongs to the catalogue of sinecures, there cannot be two modes of executing it.
Under these circumstances, not only does a man engage, as above, for a course of action to be persevered in by himself-a course upon which it is neither in his intention nor in his power so much as to enter-but moreover for the child's entering upon, and to the last day of his life persevering in, another course of action and that a different, though a correspondent one. Over his own conduct he has power : over that
other line of conduct, viz. that of the child, to which he thus engages to give direction, he has not, as he well knows, any power whatsoever. Under these circumstances, though what he could not do is-actually to exercise over the conduct of the child any influence, yet what he could do is—to endeavour to exercise the promised influence. But what he promises to do is—not simply to endeavour to exercise, but actually to exercise it.
Amongst other acts which he promises the child shall perform, is the act of believing : in the formulary,—in the lump, and no otherwise than by a loose and general description,-a set of propositions, (and, such propositions !) are brought to view; and all these the Sponsor promises the infant shall believe.
Of the compound of absurdity and wickedness mixt
every such undertaking, nothing further will be said here: in the ensuing Commentary, something on this subject,—and what it is hoped will be sufficient, will be found.
In the tenor of the formulary, not only is the Sponsor made to take this rash vow, but the vow,--rash and absurd as it would be on the part of any person, on whom it could by possibility be obli. gatory,—is assumed to be obligatory on the infant, who took no part in it.
Of this supposed vicarious obligation, and the absurdity involved in it, something will be likewise found, as above.