TWENTY-FIFTH LORD S DAY.
Question 66. What are the sacraments?
Answer. The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, viz: that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.
In explaining the doctrine of the Sacraments, we shall speak first of the sacraments in general, and afterwards of Baptism, and the Lord s Supper, in particular. The following questions claim our attention in speaking of the sacraments in general:
In answering this question we must consider what is meant by the term sacrament, and what bj the thing signified. The word sacramentum signified among the ancient Romans a certain sum of money deposited, by those who were at law with each other, in some sacred place, or in the hands of the high priest, upon this condition that he who gained the suit, should have his part refunded, whilst the part of the one who was defeated, went to the public treasury. This signification of the word is irrelevant.
The word also signified among the Romans the solemn oath taken in war, which was also termed a military oath, so called from the fact, that those who took it were consecrated, and pledged to their commander to serve him and none else. From this some conclude that the ceremonies to which
reference is here had are called sacraments, because as soldiers bound themselves to their commander by the military oath, (sacramentum) so we, by the use of the sacraments, or by a solemn oath, bind ourselves to Christ, our Captain, in the presence of God, angels and men. This is, indeed, beautiful and significant; but it is more . probable that the word sacrament came into ,use from the old Latin translation in which wherever the word mystery occurs in the Greek text, it is rendered in the Latin sacramentum. The word mystery comes from the Greek unew, which means to instruct, or to imitate one in holy things; whence also the German Beihn. Mnjw is again derived from unew, which means to shut, or close the mouth or lips; because as Eustathius says, “it behooved those who were initiated into the rites to shut their mouth, and not utter those things which were secret” By a mystery we usually understand some thing unknown, or the sign of something unknown, or that which has a secret signification which only those who are initiated understand. By a sign we mean something visible and material, or a divinely instituted ceremony, which denotes something invisible and spiritual, which the Greeks called a mystery, and the Latin Theologians a sacrament, by which was meant a sign having a secret signification which none understand except such as are instructed, and initiated in the chief points of the Christian religion. Such signs as these God designs should always exist in the church,, that thus he may show his good will to men, and they, on the other hand, declare their faith and obedience to him.
The term sacrament is, however, variously used by theological writers. Sometimes it is taken properly for some eternal rite and ceremony; then it is taken for the symbols themselves; then for the thing signified by these symbols; and lastly for both the symbols, and the thing specified. So much in regard to the word sacrament, We must now proceed to the definition of the thing.
Sacraments are rites, or ceremonies instituted by God to the end, that they may be signs of the covenant, or of God s good will towards us, and of the obligation of the church to repentance and faith; and that they may be marks by which the true church may be known and distinguished from all other religions. In the language of the Catechism, “sacraments are holy visible signs, and seals appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof he may the more fully declare and seal “to us the promise of the gospel,” &c. This definition consists of three parts: the first of which has respect to the kind of sacraments, whilst the other two refer to their differences. Of the first part it is said, that they are holy visible signs and seals, which means that they are divine, and signify holy things, such as pertain to the worship of God, and the salvation of men. A sign, according to the definition of Augustin, is that which signifies something different from that which is presented to the senses, thus causing something else to arise in the thoughts, or mind; or, it may be defined as that by which the under standing perceives something different from that which strikes the senses. It is in this sense that words are signs of things. A sign and seal differ from each other, as genus and species. Every seal is a sign, but not every sign is a seal. A seal certifies and confirms, whilst a sign only shows, or declares something. There are two kinds of signs. Some merely signify, whilst others also confirms as is true of those, from which we do not only understand what they signify, but also argue and reason concerning the thing which they declare, so that we are not left in doubt, whether it be true or false; or in other words, we are confirmed in regard to the certain exhibition and perception of the thing signified. Both of these are included in the above definition, inasmuch as the sacraments do not only signify, bat also seal what is promised in the gospel. They are not only figurative signs, or remembrancers and shadows, as the ancients called them, but they are also assurances, and evidences: they are signs which exhibit, and seal in their true use, inasmuch as they exhibit the things promised in the gospel to those that believe, and also seal the exhibiting or setting forth of these things. God says of circumcision, “It shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” (Gen. 17:11.) And Paul says, “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had.” (Rom. 4:11.) Sacraments, therefore, accomplish the same thing which pledges do; for they both signify that something is promised us, and at the same time confirm us in regard to the same thing. It is for this reason that the term seal is added in the definition.
These signs and seals are called holy, because they have been given unto us of God, and that for a holy purpose: for things are holy in two respects, either as they are done by God in respect to us, or by us in respect to him. They are called visible signs, (and such they ought to be) because the things which they signify are invisible. If they are to support, and strengthen our faith, there is a necessity that they should be perceived by the outward sense, so that the inward sense may be moved thereby; for that is no sign to any one which he cannot see. To make a sign invisible would imply a contradiction, and would make that a sign, which is none. The things which are signified are invisible, but not the signs; otherwise signs could not be said to signify things, much less to confirm them, because in that case that which is uncertain would be confirmed by that which is equally uncertain. Hence it is, that the Fathers define a sacrament, to be a visible sign of an invisible grace.
As it respects the things in which the sacraments differ from other holy things, the definition which the Catechism gives, specifies these two particulars: 1. They are appointed, or instituted of God. 2. They are instituted for this end, that by the use thereof, God may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel. The first difference is general, which the sacraments have in common with other signs given by God, whether they be universal, as the rainbow, or particular, as Gideon s fleece, first wet with the dew, and then dry; and as the touching of the tongue of Isaiah with a burning coal. The second difference is particular, arising from the chief end of the sacraments which properly distinguishes them from all other holy signs.
That these signs were instituted by God alone is clear beyond doubt: for as he alone reveals his own will, instructs us in it, and gives us the promise of grace, so he alone confirms this promise unto us through the sacraments. Hence none but God has the right, and authority to institute sacraments; for to do this implies these two things: the giving a certain rite and ceremony to the church, and adding to it the promise of grace, by which God declares that he will grant the thing signified to those who properly use the sign. But these things belong to God alone. For as the act of receiving into favor, and of the forgiveness of sins belongs to God, so it is also in relation to the promise of grace. And as God alone institutes public worship, so he alone is able to confirm unto us, through the ministry of the word, and the sacraments, the promise of grace, which has reference to the reception of all those benefits which are necessary to salvation, and which the ceremonies of the sacraments signify, and confirm.
The promise of the gospel is called the promise of grace; because it is chiefly in the gospel that God declares it unto us. The Catechism, in the definition which it gives of the sacraments, refers to this promise that this difference maybe the better understood; because God has promised to men other things also, and confirmed them with signs. For the sacraments are signs, not of any promise whatever, but of the promise of grace, which has respect, not to one particular individual, as the touching of the lips of the prophet, but to the whole church.
This promise given in the gospel is, furthermore, declared more fully through the sacraments. This is done by the analogy which holds between the signs, and the things which they signify, which analogy it is necessary for us to understand if we would have a proper idea of the sacraments, just as a true similitude cannot be understood, unless the points of resemblance be also perceived.
But God does not only declare to us the promise of the gospel through the sacraments; he also seals it unto us:1 . Because he is equally true when he speaks to us, whether it be through the word, or through certain signs. He, therefore, also makes us acquainted with his will, both by his word, and sacraments; but yet more especially by the latter. 2. Because the sacraments are seals, and pledges added to the promise, that they may testify to those who observe them in faith, that they shall be made the par taker of those good things which are promised.
II. WHAT ARE THE ENDS OF THE SACRAMENTS?
1. The principal end of the sacraments is embodied in the definition which we have given, in which it is said, that they are signs of the covenant, and of God s good will towards us. God testifies through them that he confers the things promised in the right use of the sacraments. Or it may be said that God teaches us concerning his will through the sacraments, exhorts us to embrace the benefits which Christ has purchased in our behalf, and by the same sacraments seals to us these benefits of Christ. That the sacraments seal these blessings to us, may be inferred from the fact that they are signs to which a promise is annexed. It is for this reason, that the Holy Ghost effectually influences our hearts by these signs and pledges of the divine favor, no less than by the word.
2. Another end of the sacraments is the profession, and acknowledgement of our gratitude and duty to God, or to bind us to maintain our faith, and a good conscience. In the use of the sacraments we bind ourselves to God, that we will be his people, as he is our God; that we will believe in him, receive the benefits which he offers unto us, and exercise true repentance.
3. The sacraments serve as marks by which the true church is distinguished from all the various sects. God designs that his church should be visible in the world, and known by these holy signs, as soldiers are known by their military badges, and sheep by the marks which the shepherd places upon them. The Jews he commanded to be circumcised, whilst strangers were excluded from the church, and were prohibited from eating the Pass over. Christ now commands Christians to be baptized, and to observe the Lord s supper, that his kingdom may thus be distinguished from the synagogue of Satan, which distinction he will have made for his own glory, and for our comfort and salvation. For as he will not himself be joined with idols, so he will not suffer his people to be associated with the kingdom of the devil.
4. The sacraments contribute to the preservation and propagation of the doctrine of the gospel, in as much as God always accompanies the use of the sacraments with the word and its application. “It shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage,” &c. (Ex. 13:14.)
5. The sacraments are bonds of mutual love. Those who have entered into a league with Christ, the Head of the church, ought not to be at variance with each other. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” The sacraments are in like manner cords that bind together the public assemblies which come together in the church. “When ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” “For we being many are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.” “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” &c. 1 Cor. 12:13; 11:33; 10:17. Eph. 4:3-5.) We cannot, however, establish this communion among ourselves, nor preserve it when once established, nor profitably shew the Lord s death, as long as we contend with each other with bitter feelings in regard to the institution of the sacraments; for they are pledges of that communion which Christians have with Christ in the first place, and then with each other.
III. IN WHAT DO THE SACRAMENTS DIFFER FROM SACRIFICES?
The distinction which exists between the sacraments and sacrifices should be observed in order that we may know what to do when we observe the sacraments, so as not to make sacrifices out of them, as the Papists do, who present their own works, and imagine that they please God, and deserve the remission of sins in view of what they have done. The difference in question consists chiefly in two things. 1. In the nature of the things spoken of. Sacraments are nothing more than ceremonies testifying to us the will of God, whilst sacrifices may be ceremonies, and moral works also; as our sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, gratitude, alms, &c., are moral works, by which we render unto God, without any ceremony, the obedience and honor due him. 2. They differ in their end. In the sacraments, God offers to us his benefits; sacrifices, on the other hand, are evidences of our obedience to God. This difference will be manifest by giving a definition of both. A sacrament is that wherein God gives us certain signs with the things which they signify; or it is that wherein God declares that he offers, and bestows his benefits upon us; whilst a sacrifice is that in which we render unto God the obedience and worship which he requires at our hands; or it is a work which we perform in faith, and with this specific object, that God may have the honor, and obedience which belong to him. They differ, therefore, in the same way in which giving and receiving differ. God gives sacraments unto us, and receives sacrifices from us. Yet it may be proper to remark, that the same rite may be both a sacrament and a sacrifice in different respects. It may be a sacrament as it is given of God, and a sacrifice as it is used by the godly, who in this way manifest their obedience and gratitude to God. Hence sacraments and sacrifices are often the same, but always in a different respect. In relation to us, all the sacraments are also sacrifices of thanksgiving, but not such as are propitiatory, for there is only one propitiatory sacrifice which is the one Christ offered for us upon the cross.
In view of what has now been said w r e may easily return an answer to the following objection: The Passover, and other ceremonies of the Old Testament, were sacrifices and sacraments. Therefore sacraments do not differ from sacrifices. Ans. There is more in the conclusion than in the premises. All that follows legitimately, is that the same thing may be both a sacrament, and a sacrifice, which we admit. So Baptism and the Lord s Supper are sacraments and sacrifices in a different respect. They are sacraments, and that chiefly, because they are the work of God, who gives us something in them, and declares to us that which is given. For just as God speaks to us through his ministers, as with his own mouth, so he also gives the sacraments unto us by the hands of his ministers, and we again receive them from their hands, as from the hands of God. And he does not merely give us the outward sign, but he gives us much more. Yea, even reaches unto us, as it were, with his hand the things signified by the sacraments in their proper use, if we only observe them with reverence and faith. But Baptism and the Lord s Supper are sacrifices only in as far as they relate to what we perform to God, or in as far as w r e receive these symbols, as it were from the hand of God, and so declare our obedience to him.
IV. WHAT HAVE THE SACRAMENTS IN COMMON WITH THE WORD, AND IN WHAT DO THEY DIFFER FROM IT?
This question will be answered in the exposition of the sixty-seventh Question of the Catechism, to which we refer the reader.
V. IN WHAT DO THE SACRAMENTS OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS AGREE, AND DIFFER?
They agree in having God for their author, and in the things which are signified; for the sacraments, both of the Old and New Testaments, signify, promise and offer the same blessings, viz: the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost through Christ alone, as the following passages of Scripture prove: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” “Our fathers were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” “In whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,” by which it is declared that we receive the same blessings in baptism which the saints of old did in circumcision. “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us.” (Heb. 13:8. 1 Cor. 10:2-4, Col. 2:11, 1 Cor. 5:7.) Augustin says, “The sacraments of the Old and New Testaments differ in their signs, but agree in the thing signified. The fathers all ate the same spiritual meat. The earthly meat, however, which they ate was different from that which we eat; they ate manna, we do not; but the spiritual meat which they did eat, is the same as that which we eat. Without Christ, who is the thing signified in the sacraments, of both testaments, no one ever has been saved, or can be saved. It follows, therefore, that the fathers, who lived under the Old Testament, had the same communion with Christ which we also have, and that this was signified no less to them, by the word and sacraments, than it is now to us under the New Covenant. Hence it is not only idolatry to seek in the sacraments another communion with Christ, than that which is in his word; but the same thing may also be said to be true, when we seek another communion in the sacraments of the New Testament, from that which was in the sacraments of the Old.
The sacraments of the Old and New Testaments differ: 1. In rites and ceremonies. There were rites in connection with the sacraments of the Old Testament, which do not belong to those of the New. When Christ came there was a change made in the outward rites to indicate the commencement of the new dispensation. 2. They differ in number. Formerly there were many and painful rites; now they are less, in number, and more simple. 3. They differ in their signification. The Old signified Christ who was to come; the New shew his death as having already taken place. 4. They differ in duration. The Old were to continue merely to the coming of the Messiah; the New will continue to the end of the world. 5. The sacraments of the Old Testament were binding merely upon the Jews; for those who were converted from other nations were not required to be circumcised; the sacraments of the New Testament are binding upon the whole church, of whatever nation they may belong. “Baptize all nations.” “Drink ye all of it.” (Matt. 28:19; 26:27.) 6. They differ in clearness. Those of the Old Testament were more obscure inasmuch as they shadowed forth things that were to come: those of the New are better understood, because they declare things which have already come to pass, and which have been fulfilled in Christ.
VI. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS, AND WHAT THE THINGS SIGNIFIED IN THE SACRAMENTS, AND IN WHAT DO THEY DIFFER?
In every sacrament there are two things; the sign and the thing signified. The sign includes the element which is used, together with the whole external transaction. The thing signified is Christ, with all his benefits; or, it is the communion, and participation of Christ, and his benefits. The signs differ, therefore, from the things signified. 1. In substance. The signs are material, visible and earthly; the things signified are spiritual, invisible and heavenly. Obj. But the body and blood of Christ consist of that which is material and earthly. Ans. The things signified are here called spiritual, not as it respects their substance; but as it respects the manner in which they are received, because they are received through the working of the Holy Ghost, by faith alone, and not by any of the members of our body. The term spiritual sometimes signifies in the Scriptures an immaterial nature or Spirit; at other times it signifies an effect, or gift of the Holy Spirit; and then again it signifies an object of the Spirit, or of spiritual influences, which is received by the influence of the Holy Spirit, or which is given to those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, as it is said, “They did all eat the same spiritual meat.” And it is in this sense that the body and blood of Christ are called in the sacraments spiritual things. 2. They differ in the mode in which they are received. The signs are received visibly with the hand, mouth and members of the body, and, therefore, by unbelievers also. The things signified are received only by faith, and the Spirit, and, therefore, by none but believers. 8. They differ in their end or use. The things are given for the purpose of obtaining eternal life; because they are eternal life itself, or a part of it, or they at least lead to its attainment. The signs are received for the purpose of sealing and confirming our faith in the things which are promised. 4. The things signified are absolutely necessary for all that will be saved; the signs are not absolutely necessary for all, but for such only as are capable of using them; for it is not the want, but the contempt of the sacraments which condemns. 5. Lastly, the signs are different in different sacraments; but the things are always the same in all the sacraments.
VII. WHAT IS THE UNION BETWEEN THE SIGNS AND THE THINGS SIGNIFIED, WHICH WE CALL SACRAMENTAL?
Union, in general, is the joining together of two or more things, so that in some way or other they become one. The hypostatical union consists in joining together the divine and human natures of Christ, so as to constitute but one person. The union which holds between the sign and the thing signified in the sacraments is called a sacramental union; and it is of this that we must now speak. The Papists imagine that the signs which are used in the celebration of the Lord s Supper, are changed into the things
signified. But a change is no union. It is necessary, also, that a sacramental union should correspond with all sacraments, or else it will not be sacramental, but will have reference merely to baptism, and the eucharist, and so be no longer general in its nature. Others suppose that there is a corporal conjunction, or union between the sign and the thing signified, as if they were one mass, and as if both existed at the same time in the same place. But such a co-existence as this, and concealment of the one in the other is no sacramental union, for the reason that it does not agree with sacraments generally. A sacramental union, therefore, is not corporal, nor does it consist in the presence of the sign and the thing signified
in the same place; much less in tran, or con-substantiation; but it is relative, and consists in these two things:1. In a likeness or correspondence between the signs and the things signified thereby, concerning which Augustin says: “If the sacraments had not a certain resemblance or relation to the things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments” 2. In the joint-exhibition and reception of the signs and things signified in their proper use, which cannot be done without faith, as we shall here after show. None but those who have faith receive from the minister the signs, and from Christ the things signified; and when they thus receive both in their proper use, we have what is called the sacramental union.
This is proven, first, from the nature of a sacrament. The word sacrament is relative. The rites and ceremonies which God has instituted constitute the foundation or ground-work. The term includes Christ, and communion with him in all his benefits. The relation, is the order or connection which exists between the rites and the things which they signify. The correlatives are the signs and the things signified. From this, it is evident that the sacramental union is nothing else, than the relation which the sign has to that which is signified, from which we obtain this infallible rule: While this relation continues the sign and the thing signified remain united; but when it once ceases, they are no longer united; by which we are to understand, that as long as the order established by God between the sign and the thing signified remains, so long are the things exhibited and sealed with the signs; but when this divine appointment ceases, the signs do not exhibit or seal anything unto us. The second proof which we advance in support of the sacramental union as just explained, is that which arises out of the analogy and correspondence of sacraments. It must be a union in harmony with all sacraments. Let us, therefore, in quire, what was the union between Christ and the sacraments of old, and we shall then see what is the nature of the union which holds in the sacraments of the New Testament; for there must be a correspondence in this respect, or else the sacraments of old were no sacraments, or the union was not sacramental, not being such as corresponds with all sacraments. The union now which belonged to the sacraments of old could only be a respective or relative union. Hence, such must now also be the nature of that union which is sacramental.
VIII. WHAT ARE THE FORMS OF SPEECH WHICH THE SCRIPTURES AND THE CHURCH USE IN RELATION TO THE SACRAMENTS?
The forms of speech used in regard to the sacraments are in part proper, and in part figurative. They are proper when the sacraments are called tokens, signs, seals, pledges, and when such other expressions are used as those which seal and confirm unto us the certainty of those things which God has promised. Thus “circumcision is a seal of the righteousness of faith.” “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your fore-skin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” (Rom. 4:11. Gen. 17:11.) So the bread is a sign of the body of Christ. The form of speech is also proper when the promise is expressly joined to the signs as when it is said that those who receive the signs shall also receive the things signified thereby, as “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:15.)
The form of speech is figurative or sacramental, 1. When the names of the things signified are attributed to the signs, as when it is said, “Our Passover is sacrificed;” “That rock was Christ;” “The bread is the body of Christ.” (1 Cor. 5:7; 10:5. &c.) 2. When the names of the signs are attributed to the things signified, as when it is said “Christ is our Pass over.” 3. When the properties which belong to the things are attributed to the signs, as “The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16.) So baptism is said to wash away sins, to save and regenerate. 4. When the properties which belong to the signs are attributed to the things themselves, as, “This is my body which is broken for you.” So we are said to be washed with the blood of Christ, to be baptized with the Holy Ghost, to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ, &c. All these forms of speech signify the same thing, which is that the signs represent, and seal the things; and that both the signs and the things are received at the same time by the faithful in the proper use of the sacraments.
Briefly, a sacramental form of speech is that in which the name, or property of the sign is attributed to the thing signified; or in which the name or property of the thing signified is attributed to the sign, and the sense which it conveys is, not that the one is changed into the other, but that the sign represents, and seals that which is signified.
The reason on account of which this form of speech is employed arises from the analogy which there is between the sign, and the thing signified, of which Augustin speaks in the following language: “If the sacraments had not a certain correspondence with the things of which they are sacraments they would not be sacraments. And it is mostly OR account of this correspondence that they receive the names of the things themselves. As, therefore, the sacrament of the body of Christ, is after a certain manner the body of Christ, and as the sacrament of the blood of Christ, is his blood, so the sacrament of faith, is faith. .” . Again, “The things which signify usually receive the name of that which is signified. Hence it is said, “That Rock was Christ” The apostle does not say, that rock signified Christ; but he speaks of it as if it were that which it was not in reality, but only in signification.”
IX. WHAT IS THE LAWFUL USE OF THE SACRAMENTS?
The sacraments are used lawfully, when the faithful, or such as are converted observe the rites which God has instituted, as signs of grace, and pledges of his will to them. It may be said to consist in these three things: 1. In observing in their purity the rites which God has instituted. Those things which Anti-Christ has added must be removed, and those which have been thrown aside must be restored. This institution of Christ must be retained in its purity. 2. When those observe these rites, for whom God instituted them. None but Christians, who by profession of faith, and repentance are members of the church ought to observe the sacraments. “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest be baptized.” “And were baptized confessing their sins.” (Acts 8:37. Math. 8:6.) 3. When the sacraments are observed with the design for which they were instituted. If any of these conditions are wanting, or if any of the rites are changed, and another design substituted without divine authority; or if the signs be received without faith, it is manifest that the sign and the thing signified do not continue united according to divine appointment. Of those who receive the sacraments it is said: “Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law,” &c. (Rom. 2:25.) When abuses are connected with the observance of the sacraments the Apostle says: “This is not to eat the Lord s supper.” (1 Cor. 11:20.) And so when the sacraments are observed with an im proper design, no benefit is received; for, says the prophet Hosea 5:6. “They shall go with their flocks, arid with their herds to seek the Lord, but they shall not find him.” God did not institute sacrifices that justification and salvation might be obtained thereby. Nor is any one al lowed to change the ordinances of God to any other end, than that to which he himself has appointed them. To do this is to disobey God, and to forfeit his promise. The sacraments, therefore, without their appointed and lawful use are no sacraments, being nothing more than vain ceremonies, and empty forms. Their proper use consists in true faith and repentance. Hence the sacraments are no sacraments to those who are destitute of these conditions, so that those persons are beside themselves who, affirm that unbelievers and infidels receive in connection with the signs the things which are signified thereby.
WHAT DO THE UNGODLY RECEIVE IN THE USE OF THE SACRMENTS?
In discussing the subject of the sacraments we must especially consider what, to whom, and how God offers and communicates in them. As it respects the wicked, although God also offers them his benefits in the sacraments, yet they receive nothing more than the naked signs, and these to their own judgment, and condemnation, in as much as they are destitute of faith. This is proven: 1. Because the benefits of Christ are received only in the proper use of the sacraments. But the wicked do not use them properly, for they receive them unworthily, having no faith, or repentance. Hence the apostle Paul says: “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27.) The ungodly now eat and drink unworthily, because they profane the sacraments. 2. To whom there is nothing promised in the word, to him the sacraments seal nothing. But the word promises nothing to the wicked; for all the promises of the gospel are made upon the condition of repentance, and faith. The sacraments, therefore, neither seal, nor confer any thing upon the ungodly. As a charter promises certain things to certain persons, and as the sign which is appended thereto promises the same things to the same individuals, and to none else; so God also bestows his benefits in the same manner, and to the same per sons to whom he promises them. But God has promised nothing to the ungodly as long as they continue in their unbelief. 3. We receive spiritual things by faith. But the ungodly have no faith. Therefore they do not receive any spiritual things. 4. To be ungodly and yet receive the thing signified in the sacraments implies a contradiction.
XI. HOW MANY SACRAMENTS BELONG TO THE NEW TESTAMENT?
This question is answered in the 68th Question of the Catechism, to which the reader is referred.
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