The Sacraments

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

Mt. 28:19

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread…”

1 Cor. 11:23




Lord’s Supper
Local Church Membership: Not Necessary for Sacraments
Whether Sacraments may be Administered Privately
Sacraments in Extra-Ordinary Circumstances
7 Sacraments of Romanism



Order of Contents

How the Sacraments Work  4
.     Not Bare, Memorialistic Signs  2
Articles  8+
Books  10
Historical Theology  3
Latin  2

Who is to Administer, & to Whom?

Ministers Alone are to Administer
Pastors may Administer Sacraments outside their Congregation

Nature of & Rights to the Sacraments

Not Converting, but Confirming
Invisible Church has Proper Right to the Covenant’s Seals
Do Unbelievers in Church have a Right to Sacraments?
Christ’s Faith towards Sacraments



How the Sacraments Work


Rutherford, Samuel – ‘The Efficacy of the Sacraments’  (1644; RBO, 2014)  in Due Right of Presbyteries  (London, 1644), pp. 211-15

This is perhaps the best concise explanation of how the Sacraments work.  Rutherford gives the standard, widely prevalent, vanilla reformed view of the Reformation.  The Sacraments work:

(1) as signs
(2) as seals
(3) are instruments by which faith works
(4) they are means of grace to be used in obedience to Christ’s command

What is noteworthy about these distinctions is that one could not fully explain the sacraments without all four distinctions (the distinctions are necessary).  Nor does one need more distinctions than these four in order to explain the Biblical material (these distinctions are sufficient to account for all of the Biblical data).  Thus, one may rest assured that here is the Biblical view of how the Sacraments are means of grace.  May it stir us up to greater faith in our Savior as we see Him represented and sealed to us in baptism and the Lord’s Supper!



Ursinus, Zacharias – ‘Sacraments: The Savor of Death to Ungodly Partakers’  in Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism,
pp. 340, 350-51



Attersoll, William – ‘Word & Sacrament: Agreements & Differences’  from The Badges of Christianity...  (London, 1606), bk. 1, ch. 1, pp. 1-13

Davenant, John – Question 23, ‘The Sacraments do Not Confer Grace by the Mere External Act, or Ex Opere Operato [Out of the Working of the Work]  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 340-344  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2  Davenant is arguing against the Romanist Position.



Bannerman, James – The Church of Christ

‘Defective Views of the Sacraments: Bare Memorialism’, pp. 528-36
‘Defective Views of the Sacraments: Inherent Virtue’, pp. 536-50



The Sacraments are Not Bare, Memorialistic Signs, but are Means of Grace


Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries...  (London, 1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 216-18

“When you [congregationalists] say that ‘a seal does not make a thing that was not, but confirm a thing that was,’ while you would seem to refute Papists, who vainly teach that sacraments do confer grace ex opere operato, by the deed done, yet do you make the sacrament but a naked sign and take part with Arminians and Socinians, whose very arguments in express words you use, for Socinius goes before you in this argument, and so does Smalcius follow him:

‘To obsignation and sealing there is required the trying of the thing, and some teaching or document; but that ceremony (a baptism) and that rite, though it be holy, does nothing to the remission of sins, but it does only shadow out, and as it were delineate and point forth remission of sins by the washing of water exponed in the Word of God.’

You say, ‘Sacraments do not make a thing that was not, but confirm a thing that was before;’ you can have no other meaning than to deny all causality and all real exhibition of grace in the sacraments: for if a sacrament make not a thing that was not before, or if God give not, and really produce, confer and exhibit grace, and a stronger measure of faith, and assurance of remission of sins, at the due and right use of the sacrament [that is with faith], the Sacrament is a naked sign, and not an exhibitive seal.

But if† Christ give and in the present exhibit as surely remission of sins, as the infant is washen with water, as our divines and the Palatinate [Heidelberg] Catechism teaches, yea and the [Belgic] confession thereof, and the Synod of Dort teaches, then by the sacrament of baptism, a thing is made that which it was not.

† [That is, this does not necessarily always occur, but if it does, then etc.]

It is true a civil seal, as I said before, adds no new lands to the owner of the charter, but if Christ by his seals rightly and in faith used, do not only confirm grace and pardon, but also really exhibit and give grace and pardon in a further degree, and a new measure of assurance to the conscience which there was not before, you go not a streas [star’s?] breadth from Arminians and Socinians, especially seeing Episcopius, Henricus Welsingius say that remission of sins is not sealed by baptism, but signified only, and the Remonstrants in their Apology, while they expone our communion with Christ in the Lord’s Supper, and will reject a physical union of our souls with the physical substance of Christ’s body, which we also reject, they say that communion signifies,

only a profession of one and the same worship, whereby Christians solemnly testify that they adhere to Christ as to be partaker of the table of devils and of devils themselves, 1 Cor. 10:18,20, is a testimony of a communion with the devils’:

But the Word of God says more, Gal. 3:17, ‘As many of you as are baptized have put on Christ;’ So Rom. 6:3, ‘Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto his death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,’ Eph. 5:26, ‘That He might sanctify and cleanse his Church with the washing of water by the Word,’ Tit. 3:5, and 1 Pet. 3:21, ‘The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us, etc.’

All this is more than a naked signification, otherwise manna saved Israel, and the water of the rock did wash them from their sins, and the sacrifice of bulls and goats did cleanse from sin, and open Heaven to sinners.  Therefore by baptism and the Lord’s Supper something is made what it was not before, as by partaking of the table of devils, the partaker is really made a partaker with the devil, and an idolater; and his idolatry that he committed before was not only confirmed and signified to be what it was before.  And in this civil seals and sacraments differ…”



Rutherford, Samuel – Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: the Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter  tr. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman  (1638-1642; 1668; RBO, 2019), ch. 18, ‘On the Sacraments and Ecclesiastical Discipline’

section 5, ‘Whether baptism is only a solemn rite by which we are distinguished from others and brought into divine worship, and not rather by which grace is really conferred?  We deny against the Remonstrants and Socinians.’, pp. 126-27

section 6, ‘Whether, in the Lord’s Supper, the death of Christ is only proclaimed and commemorated, and no spiritual gifts are actually sealed?  We deny against the Remonstrants and Socinians.’, pp. 128-29




Anthology of the Post-Reformation

Heppe, Heinrich – Reformed Dogmatics  ed. Bizer, trans. Thomson  (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007)

ch. 24, ‘Sacraments in General’, pp. 590-611

Heppe references and/or quotes Cocceius, Bullinger, Calvin, Olevian, Ursin, Boquin, Sohnius, Zanchi, Ames, Rijssen, Wolleb, Polanus, Trelcatius, Beza, Bucan, Wendelin, Leiden Synopsis, Crocius, Heidegger, Mastricht, Hottinger, the Helvetic Confession, Maresius, Piscator, Alsted, Turretin, the East Frisian Confession & Alting.

ch. 25, ‘Baptism’, pp. 611-27

ch. 26, ‘The Lord’s Supper’, pp. 627-57



Yates, John – ch. 3, ‘Of the Sacraments’  in A Model of Divinity, Catechistically Composed…  (1622), pp. 329-35

Yates (†1657) was a reformed, English minister in St Andrews in Norwich.

Ames, William – ch. 36, ‘The Sacraments’  in The Marrow of Theology  tr. John D. Eusden  (1623; Baker, 1997), bk. 1, pp. 196-99

Ames (1576-1633) was an English, puritan, congregationalist, minister, philosopher and controversialist.  He spent much time in the Netherlands, and is noted for his involvement in the controversy between the reformed and the Arminians.  Voet highly commended Ames’s Marrow for learning theology.

Rivet, Andrew – 43. ‘On the Sacraments in General’  in Synopsis of a Purer Theology: Latin Text & English Translation  Buy  (1625; Brill, 2016), vol. 3, pp. 94-136

Twisse, William – ‘The First Catechism, Touching the Sacraments’  in A Brief Catechetical Exposition of Christian Doctrine Divided into Four Catechisms…  (London, 1632), pp. 3-13

Twisse was a Westminster divine.

Palmer, Herbert – ‘Questions & Answers Tending to Explain the Sacraments’  in An Endeavor of making the Principles of Christian Religion, namely the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer & the Sacraments, Plain & Easy  (London, 1644), pp. 39-47  This is a table.

Palmer was a Westminster divine.

Maccovius, John – ch. 17, ‘On the Sacraments’  in Scholastic Discourse: Johannes Maccovius (1588-1644) on Theological & Philosophical Distinctions & Rules  (1644; Apeldoorn: Instituut voor Reformatieonderzoek, 2009), pp. 259-65

Maccovius (1588–1644) was a Polish, reformed theologian.

Rijssen, Leonard – ch. 17, ‘The Sacraments’  in A Complete Summary of Elenctic Theology & of as Much Didactic Theology as is Necessary  tr. J. Wesley White  MTh thesis  (Bern, 1676; GPTS, 2009), pp. 222-42

Rijssen (1636?-1700?) was a prominent Dutch reformed minister and theologian, active in theological controversies.

Heidegger, Johann H. – 25. ‘On External Worship, Especially about the Sacraments’  in The Concise Marrow of Theology  tr. Casey Carmichael  in Classic Reformed Theology, vol. 4  (1697; RHB, 2019), pp. 177-85



à Brakel, Wilhelmus – 38. ‘The Sealing of the Believer by the Holy Spirit & by Means of the Sacraments’  in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 2  ed. Joel Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout  Buy  (1700; RHB, 1992/1999), pp. 469-87

a Brakel (1635-1711) was a contemporary of Voet and Witsius and a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation.



Binnie, William – ‘The Sacraments: Baptism & the Lord’s Supper’  in The Church, pp. 68-82

Buchanan, James – ‘The Sacramentalism of the Tractarian Movement’  in On the “Tracts for the Times”  (1843), pp. 61-74  in the context of the Oxford Tractarian Movement of the mid-1800’s



Berkhof, Louis – ‘The Sacraments in General’  in Systematic Theology  (1950)  12 paragraphs





Calvin, John – A Treatise on the Sacraments of Baptism & the Lord’s Supper  (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1837)  200 pp.  No ToC or Index

Jewel, John – Treatise II, ‘On the Sacraments’  in Two Treatises: I. On the Holy Scriptures; II. On the Sacraments  (d. 1571; Oxford: Parker, 1840), pp. 118-251

Jewel was a Calvinistic Anglican bishop.

Bullinger, Henry – Sermons on the Sacraments  (d. 1575)  300 pp.  ToC

Bullinger (1504-1575), the Swiss reformer, gives four sermons on the sacraments.  The first two are on the sacraments in general.  The third is on Baptism and the fourth in on the Lord’s Supper.

Beza, Theodore – The Other Part of Christian Questions & Answers, which is Concerning the Sacraments…  (London, 1580)  330 pp.  ToC

Rollock, Robert – Some Questions & Answers about God’s Covenant & the Sacrament That Is a Seal of God’s Covenant: With Related Texts  ed. Aaron C. Denlinger  Buy  (Pickwick, 2016)  106 pp.



Attersoll, William – The Badges of Christianity, or a Treatise of the Sacraments Fully Declared out of the Word of God, wherein the Truth itself is Proved, the Doctrine of the Reformed Churches Maintained & the Errors of the Churches of Rome are Evidently Convinced…  (London, 1606)

Rogers, Daniel – A Treatise of the Two Sacraments of the Gospel: Baptism & the Supper of the Lord…  3rd ed.  (London, 1635)  395 pp.  No ToC  Index

Rogers (1573-1652) was an English puritan, presbyterian and covenanter.

Bedford, Thomas – A Treatise of the Sacraments According to the Doctrine of the Church of England, Touching that Argument Collected out of the Articles of Religion, the Public Catechism, the Liturgy & the Book of Homilies. With a sermon preached…  (London, 1638)

Bedford (-1653) was a reformed, English minister.

Hopkins, Ezekiel – The Doctrine of the Two Sacraments  in Works  (Philadelphia: Leighton Publications, 1867), vol. 2, pp. 299-359

Calamy, Edmund – A Practical Discourse Concerning Vows, with a Special Reference to Baptism & the Lord’s Supper  (London, 1697)  310 pp.

Calamy (1671–1732) was an English presbyterian and church historian, significantly influenced by Baxter.



Historical Theology


Cunningham, William

‘Sacramentalism’  in Historical Theology  (1863), vol. 2, pp. 121-32

‘Zwingli & the Doctrine of the Sacraments’  in Reformers & the Theology of the Reformation  (1862), pp. 212-91



Holifield, E. Brooks – The Covenant Sealed: the Development of Puritan Sacramental Theology in Old & New England, 1570-1720  (Yale University Press, 1974)  255 pp.  ToC

MacLeod, Ian – The Sacramental Theology & Practice of the Reverend John Willison (1680-1750)  PhD diss.  (1994)





Alsted, Johann H.

Distinctions through Universal Theology, taken out of the Canon of the Sacred Letters & Classical Theologians  (Frankfurt: 1626)

ch. 25, ‘Sacraments in General’, pp. 120-25
ch. 26, ‘Sacraments of the Old Testament’, pp. 125-28

Wendelin, Marcus Friedrich

ch. 20, ‘Of the Sacrifices & Sacraments in General’  in Christian Theology  (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 1, ‘Knowledge of God’, pp. 325-41

ch. 21, ‘Of the Offer & of the Covenant in the Old [Testament]’  in Christian Theology  (Hanau, 1634; 2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1657), bk. 1, ‘Knowledge of God’, pp. 341-53



Who is to Administer the Sacraments, & How Far?


That Ministers Alone are to Administer the Sacraments


Johannes Wolleb

Abridgment of Christian Divinity  (London, 1626)  in ed. John Beardslee, Reformed Dogmatics: J. Wollebius, G. Voetius & F. Turretin  (Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), ch. 22, ‘The Seals or Sacraments…’, p. 121; ch. 23, p. 129.

“VI. The agents by whom sacraments are administered, are ministers who have been legitimately called.”

“III. …The instrumental cause [of baptism] is a legitimately called minister.

IV. Therefore we do not regard baptism by a layman [privatus], or by a woman, as valid, as the papists do.  If there is no circumstance in a worldly government when a private citizen may do anything without authoization, how much less could such a corruption in his Church please Christ?”


Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 1, pp. 454-455

“2.  There is no such moral necessity of the sacraments as there is of the ministry of the Word, and consequently of some use of the keys where a scandalous person may infect the Lord’s flock.  For where vision ceases the people perish, but it is never said, where baptism ceases the people perish; and therefore uncalled ministers in case of necessity, without ordination or calling from a presbytery, may preach and take on them the holy ministry and exercise power of jurisdiction, because the necessity of the souls of a congregation in a remote island requires so, but I hope no necessity in any [of] the most extraordinary case requires that a midwife may baptize, or that a private man remaining a private man may celebrate the Lord’s Supper to the Church without any calling from the Church.”


Westminster Confession of Faith  1646

ch. 27.4

“There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord; neither of which may be dispensed by any but by a minister of the word, lawfully ordained.[k]

[k] Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:20,23′ 1 Cor. 4:1; Heb. 5:4″


Leigh, Edward

bk. 8, ‘Of Oridnances, or Religious Duties’  in ch. 7, ‘Of the Sacraments’  in A System or Body of Divinity…  (London, 1654)

“XI. Whether any other but a minister. lawfully called and ordained, may administer the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

([Margin Note:] Thus the Augsburg Confession says, ‘De ordine ecclesiastico docent ecclesiae nostrae, quod nemo in ecclesia debeat publice docere, aut sacramenta administrare, nisi rite vocatus, quae confessionis verba opposita sunt calumniis pontificiorum, qui dict omnia in ecclesiis nostris confuse et sine ordine geri et cuivis in ecclesia docendi potestatem apud nos concedi.’  [Johann] Gerhard, Common Places, ‘On the Ecclesiastical Minister’, ch. 3, sect. 1, ‘Res inter se perpetuo nexu conjunctae, pascere ecclesiam salutis doctrina, et sacramenta administraro.’  Calvin, Catechism of the Christian ReligionSee Master [Richard] Baxter’s, Infant Church-Membership, part 2, errour 2 & 3)

It is held by the reformed Churches, and by the soundest protestant writers, that neither of these sacraments may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained.

1. God has appointed the ministers of the Word, lawfully called and ordained, and no other to be stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of Christ, 1 Cor. 4:1; Tit. 1:5,7.

2. He has appointed them to be pastors or shepherds, to feed the flock of God, Jer. 3:15; Eph. 4:11; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; much of this feeding consists in the dispensation of the sacraments.

3. Christ gives a commission to the apostles to teach and baptize, and extends the same commission to all teaching ministers to the end of the world, Mt. 28:19,20; Eph. 4:11-13.

Neither of the sacraments have efficacy, unless they be administred by him that is lawfully called thereunto, or a person made public and clothed with authority by ordination.  This error in the matter of baptism is begot by another error of the absolute necessity of baptism.  Mr. [Alexander] Henderson’s second paper to the king.

The Scripture joins together the preaching of the Word and dispensations of the seals, both belonging to the officers who have received commission from Jesus Christ, Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 1. Mr. [John] Ball.

Heb. 5:4, ‘No man takes this honour but he which is called, as was Aaron;’ which sentence does manifestly shut out all private persons from administration of baptism, seeing it is a singular honor in the Church of God.  [Thomas] Cartwright, 2nd Reply [to John Whitgift], 11th Tractate.

The example of Zipporah either was rash or singular, and also no way like women’s baptizing; circumcision was then commanded [to] the head of the family, baptism belongs only to ministers, Mt. 28; she circumcised her son when he was not in danger of death, as these [do that] baptize.”


Leonard Rijssen

ch. 17, ‘The Sacraments’, pp. 224-25  in Wesley White, A Translation with Introduction to A Summary of Elenctic Theology by Leonard Rijssen  a Masters thesis  (GPTS, 2009)

“Controversy 3 – Can the sacraments, especially baptism, be administered by anyone, including women?  We deny against the Papists, Socinians, Arminians, and Anabaptists.


1. Christ gave the power of administering the sacraments only to the apostles and ministers of the Church (Mt. 28:19).

2. And these alone are stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1).

3. The administration of the sacraments is joined with the preaching of the Word; thus, whoever cannot do one, cannot do the other

4. Calling is required (Jn. 1:33, 1 Cor. 1:17).

5. It is forbidden for women to speak in the Church or to do any ecclesiastical duty (1 Cor. 14:34-35).


1. Zippora circumcised her son (Ex. 4:25).  Reply: Their relation to circumcision is one thing and their relation to baptism another, and the fact that it was done by a woman is not approved.

2. Philip the deacon baptized (Acts 8:38).  Reply: First, he was a deacon.  Later, he was an evangelist (Acts 21:8).

3. So did Ananias (Acts 9:18).  Reply: He had a special command (v. 10), nor is there proof that he was not a minister.”




Cartwright, Thomas

8. ‘That the Sacraments ought Not to be Privately Administred, nor by Women’  in A Short Reply unto M. Doctor’s Brief Answer…  in A Reply to an Answer made of M. Doctor Whitgift Against the Admonition to the Parliament  ([1573]), pp. 223-34

11th Tract, ‘Against the Corruptions in Doctrine Touching the Holy Sacraments’  in The Rest of the Second Reply of Thomas Cartwright Against Master Doctor Whitgift’s Second Answer Touching the Church Discipline  (Basel, 1577)



Gillespie, George – ch. 6, ‘Whether any Other but a Minister, Lawfully Called & Ordained, may Administer the Sacraments, Baptism & the Lord’s Supper’  in A Treatise of Miscellany Questions...  (Edinburgh, 1649), pp. 86-91



Pastors may Administer the Sacraments outside of their Own Congregation


Rutherford, Samuel

ch. 17, ‘Whether or no some do warrantably teach that a pastor has no pastoral power to preach and administrate the sacraments without the bounds of his owne congregation? and from whence essentially is the calling of a pastor?’  in A Peaceable & Temperate Plea…  (London, 1642), pp. 260-71

Rutherford gives 4 arguments and answers numerous interspersed objections from the Independents and congregationalists.  Here is Rutherford’s proposition and 4 arguments:

“We hold that a pastor may officiate as a pastor without his own congregation.”

1. That which the brotherhood and communion of sister-churches requires to be done, that pastors may lawfully do.

2. If ministers may labor to convert unbelieving strangers and to add them to their flock, that they may enlarge Christ’s Kingdom, then they may exercise pastoral acts over and above others than these of their own charge.

3. Believers of diverse congregations are members of a visible politic body and are to keep Church-communion together in exhorting, rebuking and comforting one another, and so may eat bread at the Lord’s Table and be made one body, 1 Cor. 10:27, but by this [congregationalist] doctrine they may not eat at one Table of the Lord.

4. The special ground of the congregationalist position is that ordination and election of pastors are all one, and that pastors have essentially their calling from the election of the people; but there be wide differences betwixt ordination of a pastor which essentially makes him a pastor, and the people’s choosing him to be their pastor.

Question 1, ‘If pastors may perform ministerial acts in any other congregation than their own?’  in The Due Right of Presbyteries...  (London, 1644), pt. 2, ch. 4, section 5, pp. 204-10



Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline…  (London, 1658), bk. 4, ch. 10, p. 470

“Pastors cannot excommunicate those of another congregation, or heathen; Therefore, [according to a congregationalist] they cannot teach them as pastors.  It follows not, ex negatione speciei, non sequitur negatio generis [out of the negation of a species the negation of a genus does not follow]: This is not a man, therefore this is not a living creature.  So:

1. A single pastor, he alone cannot excommunicate an offender of his own congregation; for one man is not a Church, therefore he cannot preach as a pastor to this offender.  The conse∣quence is most false…

2. Paul and Barnabas preach as sent pastors authorized both by God, and the laying on of hands, and praying of the prophets at Antioch, Acts 13; but they have no power to excommunicate the gentiles, who are yet no members of the Church, nor baptized.  Paul, Acts 16:15, is sent to preach to Macedonia, without their choosing him to be their pastor; and yet Paul could not cast out those that were no members until they should be member.”



The Nature of & Rights to the Sacraments


The Sacraments are Not Converting, but Confirming Ordinances


Rutherford, Samuel – The Divine Right of Church Government…  (London, 1646)

p. 280  of ch. 6, Question 2
pp. 516-27  in ch. 23, Question 19



The Invisible Church has the Proper Right to the Seals of the Covenant


Rutherford, Samuel

The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (London, 1644), pt. 1, ch. 9, section 9

1st Question, ‘Whether the members of the visible Church be only visible saints, sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, temples of the Holy Spirit, etc.”, pp. 242-55

Rutherford makes 10 distinctions and 3 conclusions:

1st Distinction.  Any who blamelessly professes Christ is ecclesiastically, in foro Ecclesiae, a true and valid member of the Church-visible, having ecclesiastical power valid for that effect: but, except he be a sincere believer, he is not morally and in foro Dei, a living member of the invisible Church.

2nd Distinction.  That which is unseen is the form and essence of an invisible Church, and that which is visible must be the essential form of a visible Church.

3rd Distinction.  The invisible Church catholic is the principal, prime and native subject of all the privileges of Christians, the covenant promises, titles of spouse, bride, redeemed, temple of the Holy Spirit, etc.

4th Distinction.  A seen profession is the ground of members’ admission to the visible Church.  Hence there is a satisfaction of the conscience of the Church in admitting of members, either in the judgement of charity, or in the judgment of verity.

5th Distinction.  There is a satisfaction in the judgment of charity positive, when we see signs which positively assure us that such an one is regenerate: and there is a satisfaction negative when we know nothing on the contrary which has a latitude, for I have a negative satisfaction of the regeneration of some, whose persons or behaviour I know neither by sight nor report.  This is not sufficient for the accepting of a Church-membership, therefore somewhat more is required.

6th Distinction.  There be three ranks of men here considerable: 1. Some professedly and notoriously flagitious and wicked; little charity may exclude these. 2. Some professedly sanctified and holy, little charity may accept and welcome such to the visible Church. 3. Some betwixt these two, of whom we have neither a certainty full and satisfactory to the conscience that they are regenerate; nor have we any plerophory or persuasion, that they are in the state of nature.

7th Distinction.  It is no less sin to sadden the heart of a weak one, and to break the bruised reed, than out of over-plus of strong charity to give the hand to an hypocrite, as a true Church-member.

8th Distinction.  Materially it is all one not to admit members of such a Church to your church, as to separate from such a Church and to excommunicate such members: for it is a negative and authoritative leaving of such to Satan, if it be not a positive excommunication.

9th Distinction.  There is a visibility of the Church by: writing; 2. by synods which meet for consultation; 3. by martyrdom; 4. the seen profession of many churches; and these being without the bounds of a congregation, it is not justice to restrict all visibility to one single congregation.

10th Distinction.  Visible security, backsliding, over-swaying predominants tolerated may consist with the Church-membership of a visible Church.

1st Conclusion:  These two be far different: (1) there or in this company there is a true Church [Affirmed], and (2) this determinate company of such persons by name is a true Church [Denied].

2nd Conclusion:  The invisible and not the visible Church is the principal, prime, and only proper subject with whom the covenant of grace is made, to whom all the promises do belong, and to whom all titles, styles, properties and privileges of special note in the Mediator do belong. (6 arguments)

3rd Conclusion:  A visible profession of the truth and doctrine of godliness is that which essentially constitutes a visible church, and every member of the visible church; only our [congregationalist] Brethren and we differ much about the nature of this profession which is required in members added to the Church. (10 arguments)

Question 2, ‘Whether or no our [congregationalist] Brethren prove by valid aguments the constitution of the Church-visible to be only of visible saints, of sanctified washen and justified persons’, pp. 255-68

Through the whole section Rutherford answers the postive reasons of the congregationalists for their view.

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church-Discipline…  (London, 1658), bk. 1

ch. 16, ‘Of the principal and prime subject of all the privileges of special note bestowed in the Mediator Christ upon the Church’

ch. 17, ‘Whether the visible Church, as visible, can bear these styles of the Body of Christ, of the Redeemed of God, the Spouse of Christ, etc.’

ch. 18, ‘Answer to Mr. Hooker’s Arguments, That the invisible Church is not the first subject of the Seals’



Do Unbelievers in the Church have a Right to the Sacraments?  Only in a qualified way.  Or on the Conditionality of the Sacraments.

Quotes, 1600’s

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1644), ch. 4, section 5, pp. 195-6

“Peter clearly insinuates that all who have received the Holy Ghost are to be baptized, Acts 8:47, as Philip, Acts 8:37, and that if the eunuch believed, he might be baptized.  So that faith, to speak properly, does give us right to the seals; and to speak accurately, a visible profession of faith does not give a man right to the seals of grace, but only it does notify and declare to the Church that the man has right to the seals because he believes, and that the Church may lawfully give to him the seals, and that profession is a condition required in the right receivers of the seals in an ecclesiastical way;

But faith gives the right to these seals, and because the faith of the believer goes with the believer, when he goes to another visible congregation than his own, that faith giveth him right to the seals in all places and in all congregations: for faith gives right to receive Christ sacramentally, not in one congregation only, but in all, and a visible profession does, as a condition notify this faith, and Church-right in all congregations.”


Henry Jeanes

The Want of Church-Government…  (London, 1650), p. 60  Jeanes was an English presbyterian.

“A second general attribution of the Lord’s Supper, from whence it is endeavored [by opponents] to conclude to the sinfulness of giving it, in any case, unto such as are known by the minister to be unworthy receivers [though they have not been convicted by the Session of elders], is, its being a seal of the Covenant of Grace, the righteousnesse of faith.  For hence think some, it follows that administration of the Lord’s Supper unto known scandalous and wicked persons, is a practical and visible lie, a confirmation of an untruth, because it seals the Covenant and promises to those who have visibly no share in them.

For answer:  The Lord’s Supper may be said to be a seal of the Covenant, or promise of grace, either absolutely, or conditionally.

The truth of the Covenant and promises in themselves, our obligation to gratitude and obedience, are sealed absolutely by the Lord’s Supper; but interest in the Covenant and promises of grace, the Lord’s Supper seals unto those that partake thereof, but conditionally, so they believe: Unto wicked men the promises are as propounded, so sealed but conditionally.

Sacramenta (says [William] Ames) non sunt testimonia completa et absoluta nisi credentibus.  They are (says Rutherford) seals unto the wicked, not in actu secundo [by the following act of exercised power], but only in actu primo [in their first act of being, apart from that being exercised].  See Mr. [Stephen] Marshall in his Defence of Infant Baptism Against Tombs, [1646,] pp. 117-8.”


Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church-Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker  (1658)

ch. 16, ‘Of the Principal & Prime Subject of All the Privileges of Special Note Bestowed in the Mediator Christ upon the Church’, pp. 77-81

“…it becometh not Mr. Hooker with Arminians and Socinians to impeach the wisdom of the Holy One, because He appoints the giving of the seals, baptism to Judas and to Magus, who have no right, true and real in foro Dei [in the court of God], in the Decree of God, and in his holy intention, as I spake [on] pp. 248, 249, to the seals, and the grace sealed; nor to the engraven Law, and God’s teaching of the heart, and to perseverance;

Again, God giveth a right to the seals to hypocrites; that is, he commandeth the Church to give the seals to Magus, whether such really or hypocritically believe; this is a right not properly inherent in visible members, for their profession, yea, or their supposed conversion:

1.  Because all saving and real right to ordinances is relative to election to glory, and flows from the merit of Christ’s death; but visible professors, as such, of whose society Magus and Judas are, have not any saving and real right, as chosen and redeemed in Christ, by grant of our [Congregationalist] Brethren.

2.  A right flowing only from an external profession, and from composed hypocrisy in Magus, is no true right; a lie cannot give a true right: I offend that Mr. Hooker so anxiously contends for a charter to such bastards as Magus.

3.  It is a favor to hear the Gospel and partake of the seals; and jus activum, ‘an active right’ the Church and ministers have to call and admit to the seals all who profess as Magus, that the elect in the visible Church may be converted, but it is not a right proprie dictum ne quidem Ecclesiasticum [properly said with certainty to the Church], that they have who are such hypocrites as Judas and Magus; for the command and revealed Will of God most unproperly is said to give Magus a right to the seals: Except [for] Mr. Hooker, never [a] divine so spake; the command reveals the right, but gives none.

As also the right of visible professors is jus passivum, and a conditional and passive right; for Magus and Judas have no right to be visible members, or to partake of the seals, yea or to profess the Covenant and Name of God, Ps. 50:16, but upon condition of faith: for God cannot command sin and an hypocritical profession: yea, He forbids [their] treading in his courts, Isa. 1:12-13, except they repent and believe, vv. 16, 17; therefore Magus sins in professing, and in being baptized: he remaining rotten.  But the Church sins not, but does the command of Christ in calling, inviting all that profess, whether they be really, or in the judgement of charity, converts or no.

Which distinction not being observed, our [congregationalist] Brethren and Mr. Hooker mistake the nature of an ecclesiastical right; for the Lord in the command gives to all visible professors, such as Peter, who really believe, both the ecclesiastic and external right to the seals which He decreed to give them, and the same internal and real right which they have by faith, and no other than according to his eternal decree, they have given them in time by real believing.

But for hypocrites, as Magus, they have no right ecclesiastic to the seals, but a sort of active and permissive right, by which they claim room in the visible Church, and the seals from the Church.  Therefore taking the Church-visible as only visible, as contra-distinguished from the invisible and really believing: and as visibility is common to both Peter and Magus, and their external profession obvious to the eye of man, so the visible Church hath no right that is true and real to the seals.

So I retort the Argument upon Mr. Hooker:  True real believers, as Peter, and hypocrites, as Magus, have either one and the same Church-right to membership and seals, or another, and diverse.  The same right they cannot have:

1.  Because the right of truly and really believing ones, is according to the decree of election, such as the Lord ordained to be purchased to them by the merits of Christ, and also according to the Lord’s revealed Will.  He who believes hath right to eat of the Tree of Life, and to membership and seals: But this right Magus and hypocrites have not, for they have no part in Christ.

2.  The right that believers, as Peter and John, have, is by fulfilling of the condition.  He who believes, and loves to be reformed, hath right to the Covenant, promises, to perseverance, to the anointing that teacheth all things.  These are promised and decreed to them, Jer. 31:33-34 & 32:38-40; Isa. 54:10-11 & 59:20-21; compared with Acts 13:47-48; Jn. 6:44-46 & 6:37 & 10:26-27; and to them only, not to Magus and to reprobates.

3.  Magus, and such like wooden and tree-legs, might claim the same life, living membership, lively and vital operations, and to have the anointing, and to be kept through faith unto salvation by the power of God, 1 Pet. 1:4 and to have the fear of God put in their hearts, that they should not depart from God, as Jer. 31:39-40, if they have the same right to membership and the seals in their substance and grace signified with sound believers.  And this is most absurd.”


ch. 18, ‘Answer to Mr. Hooker’s Arguments, that the Invisible Church is Not the First Subject of the Seals’, p. 88

“4.  A graceless man, as [Simon] Magus [Acts 8:9-13; 18-24], hath thus far right to de­mand the seals, that he may say to the Church, ‘You sin in withholding the seals, and therefore I require you baptize me, as Christ hath commanded you’: but he cannot say, ‘I have right, even external, to receive Baptism, and I sin not in receiving it.’

And Mr. Hooker’s argument to prove it is naught:

‘Why’, saith he, ‘Graceless men have the command of God to challenge the seals’; Magus hath the command of God to challenge, and to receive the Lord’s Supper.

[Rutherford:] A command absolute he has none: show me such a command: Magus, Judas, eat and drink at the Lord’s Supper, challenge, claim and receive Baptism; All Israel eat the Passover, be ye real believers or hypocrites, be ye self-triers, and prepared or not, be ye clean or unclean.  I confess there were no better right to challenge the seals than such a command, if any such were; but if Mr. Hooker or any of his read such a command, I pray I may see and read also.

But Magus has only a conditional command, which gives him no true and real right, save only conditionally, to wit, Magus, receive the seals and the Lord’s Supper.  So thou believe and examine thyself: if not, thou hast no right to the seals, but eatest and drinkest thine own damnation.  And because these graceless men fulfill not the condition, and believe not, Mr. Hooker’s argument is wa[…]ry;

They have right from the command of God, which is the b[irth?]right: that is, they have no right at all from a conditional command, they not fulfilling the condition, but such right as robbers have to the traveler’s purse; yea, they have no command of God, but the contrary: a severe discharge, Isa. 1:13, ‘Bring no more vain obla­tions.’  Mt. 22:12, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither, not ha­ving a wedding garment?’  ‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthi­ly, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,’ 1 Cor. 11:29.”



What Kind of Faith did Christ have with respect to the Sacraments?



Voet, Gisbert – 8. ‘What Kind of Faith did Christ Have & of What Manner was it with regards to the Sacraments?’  in Select Theological Disputations  (Utrecht: Waesberg, 1655), vol. 2, pp. 155-64




Related Pages


Baptism for the Dead

Baptism of the Children of Adherents

Baptismal Regeneration

Lord’s Supper

Frequency of the Lord’s Supper

Preparation for the Lord’s Supper

Administration Administration of the Lord’s Supper


Mass – Transubstantiation

Sealing of the Spirit