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the truths delivered to the condition of mankind in general, or our own in particular, and observe how consonant the word preached has been to the holy scriptures, the standard of truth, and the agreement thereof, with the experiences of God's people. We are also to take occasion from hence, to enquire into the meaning of scripture, especially some particular texts that have been insisted on, or, in some measure, explained, in the preaching of the word, in order to our farther information and improvement in the knowledge of divine things.
The last thing that is observed in this answer, is, that after having heard the word of God, we are to endeavour to bring forth the fruit of it in our lives: This consists in a conversation becoming the gospel; and being induced hereby to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, Tit. ii. 13. And we ought to express a becoming zeal for divine truths, defending them when opposed, and endeavouring to establish others therein; that so we may recommend religion to them, as that which is the most solid foundation for peace, and leads to universal holiness, that hereby we may adorn the doctrine of God, our Saviour, in all things.
QUEST. CLXI. How doth the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
ANSW. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation; not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety and intention of him by whom they are administered; but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.
QUEST. CLXII. What is a sacrament ?
ANSW. A sacrament is an holy ordinance, instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit, unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another, and to distinguish them from those that are without.
QUEST. CLXIII. What are the parts of a sacrament?
ANSW. The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an out ward and sensible sign, used according to Christ's own appointment; the other, an inward and spiritual grace, there by signified.
QUEST. CLXIV. How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in his church, under the New Testament?
ANSW. Under the New Testament Christ hath instituted in his church only two sacraments; Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
T has pleased God, in setting forth the glory of his wisdom and sovereignty to impart his mind and will to man, various ways, besides the discovery which he makes of himself in the dispensations of his providence. These are, more especially, reducible to two general heads, viz. his making it known by words, which is the more plain and common way by which we are led into the knowledge of divine truths; or else, by visible signs, which are sometimes called types, figures, or sacraments. The former of these we have already insisted on; the latter we now proceed to consider. And, in order hereunto, we are first to explain the nature, and shew what are the parts of a sacrament, as we have an account thereof in the two last of these answers; and then consider, how the sacraments become effectual means of salvation, as contained in the first of them.
I. Concerning the nature and parts of a sacrament: In or der to our understanding whereof, we shall consider,
1. The meaning of the word. It is certain, that the word sacrament is not to be found in scripture, though the thing intended thereby, is expressed in other words; and, for this reason, some have scrupled the use of it, and choose rather to make use of other phrases more agreeable to the scripture mode of speaking: But, though we are not to hold any doctrine that is not founded on scripture; yet those which are contained therein, may be explained in our own words, provided they are consonant thereunto. The Greek church knew nothing of the word sacrament, it being of a Latin original; but, instead thereof, used the word mystery; thereby signifyin that there is in the sacraments, besides the outward and vable signs, some secret or hidden mystery signified thereby. The Lacin church used the word sacrament, not only as signying something that is sacred; but as denoting, that thereby they were bound as with an oath, to be the Lord's; as the Psalmist says, I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments, Psal. cxix. 106. and God, by the prophet, says, Unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear, Isa. xlv. 23.
The word Sacrament was used, indeed, by the Romans, to signify that oath which the soldiers took, to be true and faithful to their general, and to fight courageously under his ban
ner; but the primitive Christians signified hereby, that, when they were called to suffer for Christ, which was, as it were, a fighting under his banner, they did in this ordinance, as it were, take an oath to him, expressing their obligation not to desert his cause. Now, since this is agreeable to the end and design of a sacrament, whatever be the first original of the use of the word, I think we have no reason to scruple the using of it, though it be not found in scripture: Nevertheless, Christians ought not to contend, or be angry with one another about this matter, it being of no great importance, if we adhere stedfastly to the explication given thereof in scripture. (a)
2. We shall now consider the nature of a sacrament, as described in one of the answers we are explaining. And here,
(1.) It is observed, concerning it, that it is an holy ordinance, instituted by Christ. What we are to understand by an ordinance, and its being founded on a divine institution, which is our only warrant to engage therein, has been before considered; and, indeed, every duty that is to be performed by God's express command, which he has designed to be a pledge of his presence, and a means of grace, is a branch of religious worship, and may be truly styled an holy ordinance. Now, that the sacraments are founded on Christ's institution, is very evident from scripture. Thus he commanded his apostles, to baptize all nations, Matt. xxviii. 19. and, as to the sacrament of the Lord's supper, he commanded them to do what is contained therein, in remembrance of him, Matt. xxvi. 26, 27. compared with 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25.
(2.) The persons, for whom the sacraments were instituted, are the church, who stand in an external covenant-relation to God, and, as the apostle says, are called to be saints, Rom. i. 7. It is to them, more especially, that Christ, when he ascended up on high, gave ministers, as a token of his regard to them, that hereby they may be edified, who are styled his body, Eph. iv. 16. And, though these ministers are authorized to preach the gospel to all nations, which is necessary for the gathering churches out of the world; yet they are never ordered to administer the sacraments to all nations, nor, indeed, to any, especially the sacrament of the Lord's supper, till they profess subjection to Christ, and thereby join together in the fellowship of the gospel. As the sacraments under the Old Testament dispensation, were to be administered to none but the church of the Jews, the only people in the world that professed the true religion; so, under the gospel dispensation, none
(a) Sacrament is the word used by the Vulgate for mystery, and this is a much more probable meaning of the term as used by the early christians.
have a right to sacraments but those who are therein professedly devoted to him.
3. We are now to consider the matter of the sacraments, which is set forth in general terms; and it is also called in one of the answers we are explaining, the parts of a sacrament; these are an outward and visible sign, and an inward and spiritual grace, signified thereby; or, as it is otherwise expressed, it signifies, seals, and exhibits to those who are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of Christ's mediation. These words are often used, but not so well explained as might be desired.
(1.) It is called a sign, in which, by a visible action, some spiritual benefits are signified: This is undoubtedly true; and it is a reproach cast on God's holy institutions, in some who deny sacraments to be divine ordinances, when they style them all carnal ordinances, beggarly elements, or a re-establishing the ceremonial law, without distinguishing between significant signs, that were formerly ordinances to the Jewish church, but are now abolished; and those that Christ hath given to the gospel church. In this idea of the sacraments, we must consider, that they agree, in some things, with the preaching of the word; namely, that hereby Christ and his benefits, are set forth as objects of our faith; and the same ends are desired and attained by both, viz. our being affected with, and making a right improvement of the blessings purchased by him, together with our enjoying communion with him; and they are, both of them, sacred ordinances, instituted by Christ, and therefore to be attended on in an holy manner: But, on the other hand, they differ, with respect to the way or means by which Christ and his benefits are set forth; inasmuch, as in the preaching of the word, there is a narration of what he hath done and suffered; and, upon this account the apostle says, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Rom. x. 17. whereas, in the sacraments, there is a representation thereof by signs; in which case we may apply the words of the prophet, Mine eye afflicteth mine heart, Lam. iii. 51. as there is the external symbol of Christ's dying love, which is an inducement to us to love him again. They also differ, in that the sacraments are not only designed to instruct; but, by our act and deed, we signify our engagement to be the Lord's.
(2.) The sacraments are also said to seal the blessings that they signify; and accordingly they are called, not only signs, but seals. It is a difficult matter to explain, and clearly to state the difference between these two words, or to shew what is contained in a seal, that is not in a sign: Some think that it is a distinction without a difference. The principal ground
which most divines proceed upon, when they distinguish between them is, what we read in Rom. iv. 11. in which the apostle, speaking concerning Abraham, says, he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith. But the same thing might have been affirmed concerning it, or any other significant ordinance, if the words sign and seal were supposed to be of the like import; for it is not said he received the ordinance of circumcision, which is not only a sign, but a seal; but he received that which was a sign, or a seal of the blessing about which his faith was conversant. However, that we may explain this matter, without laying aside those words that are commonly used and distinguished in treating on this subject, it may be observed, that a sign is generally understood as importing any thing that hath a tendency to signify or confirm something that is transacted, or designed to be published, and made visible: Accordingly some signs have a natural tendency to signify the things intended by them; as the regular beating of the pulse is a sign of health, smoke the sign of fire. And other things not only signify, but represent that which they give us an idea of, by some similitude that there is therein, as the picture doth its original. Other things only signify as they are ordained or designed for that use, by custom or appointment; thus, in civil matters, a staff is a sign of power to exercise an office; the seal of a bond, or conveyance, is the sign of a right that is therein conveyed, or made over to another to possess: It is in this respect that the sacraments are signs of the covenant of grace: They do not naturally represent Christ and his benefits; but they signify them by divine appointment,
But, on the other hand, a seal, according to the most common acceptation of the word, imports a confirming sign†: Yet we must take heed that we do not, in compliance with custom, contain more in our ideas of this word, than is agreeable to the analogy of faith: Therefore, let it be considered, that the principal method God hath taken for the confirming our faith in the benefits of Christ's redemption, is, his own truth and faithfulness, whereby the heirs of salvation have strong consolation, Heb. iv. 17, 18. or else the internal testimony of the Spirit of God in our hearts. The former is an objective means of confirmation, and the latter a subjective; and this the apostle calls our being established in Christ, and sealed, having the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, 2 Cor. i. 21, 23. This is not the sense in which we are to understand the word
Και σημείον έλαβε περίομης, σφραγίδα της δικαιοσύνης της πίστεως.
When these two are distinguished by divines, the one is generally called, signum significans; the other signum confirmans; or, the former is said, significare; the latter, obsignare,