The Sacraments

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Subsections

Baptism

The Lord’s Supper

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Order of Contents

How the Sacraments Work
Articles
Book
Historical Theology
That there is No Necessity for Non-Ministers to Administer the Sacraments
Whether Local Church Membership is Necessary to Partake of the Sacraments?
Do Unbelievers in the Church have a Right to the Sacraments?

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How the Sacraments Work

Rutherford, Samuel – The Efficacy of the Sacraments  1644  5 pp.  being pp. 211-215 of his Due Right of Presbyteries

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!

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Articles 

Berkhof, Louis – The Sacraments in General, 1950, 12 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology 

Binnie, William – The Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, p. 68, 14 pages, from his The Church

Buchanan, James – The Sacramentalism of the Tractarian Movement, 1843, p. 61, 13 pages, in the context of the Oxford Tractarian Movement of the mid-1800’s, from his On the “Tracts for the Times”

Cunningham, William – Sacramentalism, 1863, p. 121, 11 pages, from his Historical Theology, vol. 2

Cunningham, William – Zwingli and the Doctrine of the Sacraments, 1862, p. 212, 79 pages, from his Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation

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Book

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

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.

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Historical Theology

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

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That there is No Necessity for Non-Ministers to Administer the Sacraments

Quote

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.”

 


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Whether Local Church Membership is Necessary to Partake of the Sacraments?

Articles

The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France – Ch. 12, ‘Of the Lord’s Supper’, Canon XII  1559  in Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, vol. 1, p. xlviii

This canon assumes that Christians (part of the universal, visible Church of Christ) that were not joined in membership to a local church were allowed to take the Lord’s Supper.  If this state of affairs was abused, such persons were to ‘be reproved and admonished of their duty’ to join a particular church. 

Rutherford, Samuel – Whether the Seals of the Covenant can be Denied to Professors of Approved Piety, because they are not Members of a Particular Visible Church, in the New Testament?  in The Due Right of Presbyteries, Pt. 2, pp. 185-203  1644

Ball, John – 3rd & 4th Positions  in A Trial of the New-Church Way in New England  1644

Daniel, Cawdrey – The Inconsistency of the Independent Way, with Scripture and itself, Manifested in a Threefold Discourse…  3.  A Diatribe with the same Mr. [Thomas] Hooker Concerning Baptism of Infants of Non-Confederate Parents, ch. 2 of his Third Part  ToC  Buy  1651

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The Westminster Confession of Faith  1646

Intro

Notice that the Confession does not make being a member of a local Church, under the government of the Church, to be a requirement to having a right to the sacraments.  When the Confession speaks of the visible Church, it had already defined this in 25.2 as “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children,” as the government of the Church is not of the essence of the Church.  Likewise, those externally in the Covenant of Grace are not simply all persons on the rolls under the government of the Church, but are all visible, professing believers and their children.

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27.1  ‘Of the Sacraments’

“Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him; as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.”

28.4, ‘On Baptism’

“Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents, are to be baptized.”

[Notice the obligation that the Confession places upon ministers to baptize such qualified persons.]

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See Also

The Baptism of the Children of Adherents

This question, amongst other things, involves the issue of baptizing children of professing believers who are members of the universal, visible Church, but are not under the government of a local church.

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Do Unbelievers in the Church have a Right to the Sacraments?

Samuel Rutherford

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

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

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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 hath 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 hath 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.”

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