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TWENTY-FIFTH LORD S DAY.

Question 68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant or testament?

Answer. Two, namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

 

EXPOSITION.

There are only two sacraments in the New Testament which are of perpetual, and universal use in the Church, according to the testimony of Ambrose and Augustin. The one is baptism which has taken the place of circumcision, and the various forms of purification prescribed by the law.  The other is the Lord s supper, which was adumbrated by the Paschal Lamb and the various sacrifices of the law. These are the only sacraments of the New Testament; because they are the only ones instituted by Christ, and which he requires us to observe, adding thereto the promise of grace. This argument is conclusive: The definition of a sacrament agrees with only two rites established in the New Testament.  Therefore we have only two sacraments.

The Papist add to these two sacraments five others; confirmation, penance r ordination, extreme unction, and matrimony. But these are not properly called sacraments. Confirmation and unction are indeed ceremonies, but they were not instituted by Christ for the whole church, nor have they the promise of grace annexed to them. Confirmation, or the laying on of hands in the primitive church was a sign of the miraculous giving of the Holy Ghost, which soon passed away; or of a calling to the office of teaching.

The thing signified by extreme unction, with other miraculous gifts has also ceased in the church. Penance, or private absolution is nothing more than the preaching of the gospel, which ought not to be confounded with the signs and appendages of the promise of grace. Order, or the ordination of ministers does indeed declare the presence of God in the ministry; but God may work effectually by the ministry, even though the men who hold the office do not please him. Matrimony is no ceremony, but a moral work.  The Papists enumerate this among the sacraments, because it is called a mystery, and because the old translation renders the Greek undtnjion, sacramentum. But Paul ought rather to be heard than the authority which is here adduced. No one is ignorant that mystery (undtnjion) among the Greeks is of as broad a signification as arcanum among the Latins.  Hence, to make their argument good, the Papists must admit that every mystery is a sacrament marriage will then be the seventh sacrament; the will of God the eighth; (Eph. 1:9.) the calling of the Gentiles the ninth; (Eph. 1:9.) godliness the tenth; (1 Tim. 3:16.) and so perhaps many others might be enumerated: for in all these references the Latin translation renders the word mystery a sacrament. But Paul in Eph. 5:32, uses the word mystery to designate the union between Christ and the church, and not that between husband and wife.

Theses concerning the sacraments in general.

1.   God has always joined to the promise of grace and eternal life, certain signs and rites, which the church calls sacraments. Circumcision was given to Abraham. By Moses, the sacrifices and rites of the church were greatly increased. These continued to the coming of Christ, who instituted baptism and the holy supper.

2.   Sacraments are, therefore, the signs of the everlasting covenant between God and the faithful; that is, they are rites which God has instituted, and which he commands to be observed in the church, being added to the promise of grace, in order that he may thus, as it were by visible and certain signs, declare and testify that he communicates Christ and all his benefits to those who use these symbols by a true faith, according to the promise of the gospel, and that he may also in this way confirm their faith in the divine promise: whilst the faithful, on the other hand, by par taking of these signs publicly profess their faith and gratitude to God, and bind themselves to his promise, preserve and spread abroad the knowledge of Christ s benefits, be distinguished from sectarists, and excite and provoke one another to love under one head, even Christ.  

3. Rites not commanded by God, or which have not been instituted for this end, that they may be signs of the promise of grace, are not signs of the church; for a sign can confirm nothing except by the consent and promise of him from whom the thing promised and signified is expected.  Hence, no creature can institute signs of the divine will.

4.   There are two things to be considered in all sacraments: the signs which are visible, earthly and corporal; these are the rites and ceremonies the things which are visible and corporal which God exhibits to us by the minister, and which we received corporally; that is, by the members and senses of our body. Then we have the things signified, which are invisible, heavenly and spiritual, which include Christ himself and all his benefits, which are communicated unto us of God by faith spiritually; that is, by the virtue and power of the Holy Spirit.

5.   The change of the signs is not physical, or natural, but merely relative; it has no respect to their nature or substance which remains the same, but only to their use.  

6.   The union between the signs and the things signified is in like manner not natural or local; but relative, by the appointment of God, by which things invisible and spiritual are represented by those that are visible and corporal, as by visible words, and are exhibited and received in connection with the signs in their lawful use.

7.   The names and properties of the things signified are attributed to the signs; and, on the other hand, the names of the signs are attributed to the things signified, on account of their analogy, or on account of the signification of the things through the signs, and on account of the joint exhibition and reception of the things with the signs in their lawful use.

8.   The lawful, use of the sacraments consists in this, that the faithful observe those rites which God has prescribed to those ends for which the sacraments were instituted of God. The institution consists of rites, per sons and ends, which being violated, it is abused.

9.   The things signified, are always received in connection with the signs in the lawful use of the sacraments. The signs are, therefore, not by any means empty or insignificant, notwithstanding the things are received in one way, and the signs in another.

10. Without that use of the sacraments which God has appointed, neither the ceremonies have the nature of a sacrament, nor are the benefits of God signified by them, received with the signs.

11. The godly receive the signs to salvation; the ungodly to condemnation. It is, however, only the things signified, which the godly can receive to salvation.

12. Yet in the elect, after they are converted, the fruit of the sacrament unworthily received is at length obtained. And in them, also, the unworthiness which concurs on account of their faults and infirmities, even if they are sometimes chastened of God for the same, is so pardoned unto them, that this unworthiness does not endanger their salvation.

13. Some sacraments are to be received but once; others frequently. Some are to be given to adults only; others to infants also, even as they were instituted by God, either in once making the covenant with all the elect, and those who were to be received into the church, as circumcision and baptism, or, after many falls and conflicts, for the renewing of his covenant, for cherishing and promoting the unity of the church; as the ark, the passover, and other sacrifices; arid also the Lord s Supper.

14. Those things which are included in the definition, belong in common to the sacraments of the old and new covenant, with these differences: that the old exhibited Christ, who was to come, with his benefits; whilst the new exhibit him as already come. The rites of the old were different and more in number, as circumcision, sacrifices, oblations, the passover, the sabbath and worshipping at the ark. Christians have only two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord s Supper. The old were more obscure; the new are clearer, and more apparent. The old belonged properly to the posterity of Abraham and their servants; the new are binding upon the whole church, gathered from the Jews and Gentiles.

15. The sacraments and the preaching of the gospel agree in this, that they are the work of God, which he exercises towards the church by his ministers, who teach, promise and offer unto us the same communion of Christ and all his benefits. They also agree in this, that they are the external means by which the Holy Ghost influences the heart to believe, and so by means of faith makes us partakers of Christ and his benefits., Yet, notwithstanding all this, the Holy Ghost is not here limited or restricted in his operations; nor do the sacraments profit, but rather injure tho8e who do not apply to themselves by faith what the word and sacraments signify.

16. The sacraments differ from the word in this, that they signify by actions and gestures what the word does by language. Faith is begun and confirmed by the word; by the sacraments it is only confirmed, as in the supper. The word teaches and confirms without the sacraments, but the sacraments not without the word. Adults are not saved without a knowledge of the word; but men may be regenerated and saved without the use of the sacraments, if this omission be not accompanied with any con tempt. The word is preached to unbelievers and wicked men; the church should admit none to the sacraments, but such as God will have us to regard as members of his kingdom.

17. The sacraments have this in common with sacrifices, that they are works which God has commanded to be performed in faith. They differ in this, that God signifies and declares to us by a sacrament the benefits which he confers upon us; whilst we offer and show our obedience to God by a sacrifice.

18. The same ceremony may, therefore, be considered as a sacrament and sacrifice, as when God in giving us visible symbols declares his benefits to us, whilst we in receiving them testify our duty to him. Yet this declaration of our faith and gratitude, depends upon the declaration of God s benefits to us, as arising out of the chief and proper end and use of the sacraments, and is by this excited in the minds of the faithful.

 

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