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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ON SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL


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    DISPUTATION LX

    ON SACRAMENTS IN GENERAL

    We have thus far treated on the church, her power, and the ministry of the word; it follows that we now discuss those signs or marks which God appends to his word, and by which He seals and confirms the faith which has been produced in the minds of his covenant people. For these signs are commonly called "sacraments" -- a term, indeed, which is not employed in the Scriptures, but which, account of the agreement about it in the church, must not be rejected.

    I. But this word, "sacrament," is transferred from military usage to that of sacred things; for, as soldiers were devoted to their general by an oath, as by a solemn attestation, so, likewise, those in covenant are bound to Christ by their reception of these signs, as by a public oath. But because the same word is either taken in a relative acceptation, (and this either properly for a sign, or by metonymy for the thing signified,) or in an absolute acceptation, (and this by synecdoche for both,) we will treat about its proper signification.

    II. A sacrament, therefore, is a sacred and visible sign or token and seal instituted by God, by which he ratifies to his covenant people the gracious promise proposed in his word, and binds them, on the other hand, to the performance of their duty. Therefore, no other promises are proposed to us by these signs than those which are manifested in the word.

    III. We call it "a sign or token, and a seal, both from the usage of Scripture in Gen. xvii, 11, and Rom. iv, 11, and from the nature of the thing itself, because these tokens, beside the external appearance which they present to our senses, cause something else to occur to the thoughts. Neither are they only naked significant tokens, but seals and pledges, which affect not only the mind, but likewise the heart itself.

    IV. We call it "sacred" in a two-fold respect:

         (1.) Because it has been given by God; and

         (2.) Because it is given to a sacred use. We call it "visible," because it is of the nature of a sign that it be perceptible to the senses; for that which is not such, cannot be called a sign.

    V. The author of these signs is God, who alone, is the lord and lawgiver of the church, and whose province it is to prescribe laws, to make promises, and to seal them with those tokens which have seemed good to himself; yet they are so accommodated to the grace to be sealed, as, by a certain analogy, to be significant of it. Therefore, they are not natural signs, which, from their own nature, signify all that of which they are significant; but they are voluntary signs, the whole signification of which depends on the will or option of him who institutes them.

    VI. The matter is the external element itself created by God, and, therefore, subject to his power, and made suitable to seal that which, according to his wisdom, God wills to be sealed by it.

    VII. As the internal form of the sacrament is ek twn prov ti of things to their relation, it consists in relation, and is that suitable analogy and similitude between the sign and the thing signified which has regard both to the representation, and to the sealing or witnessing, and the exhibition of the thing signified through the authority and the will of him who institutes it. From this most close analogy of the sign with the thing signified, various figurative expressions are employed in the Scriptures and in the sacraments: as, when the name of the thing signified is ascribed to the sign, thus, "And my covenant shall be in your flesh;" (Gen. xvii, 13; ) and, on the contrary, in 1 Corinthians v, 7, "Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us." Or, when the property of the thing is ascribed to the sign, as "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst." (John iv, 14. ) And, on the contrary, "Take, eat: this is my body." (Matt. xxvi, 26.)

    VIII. The end of sacraments is two-fold, proximate and remote. The proximate end is the sealing of the promise made in the covenant. The remote end is,

         (1.) the confirmation of the faith of those who are in the covenant, and by consequence the salvation of the church that consists of those covenanted members; and

         (2.) the glory of God.

    IX. Those for whom the sacraments have been instituted by God, and by whom they are to be used, are those with whom God has entered into covenant, all of them, and they only. To them the use of the sacraments is to be conceded, as long as they are reckoned by God in the number of those who are in covenant; though by their sins they have deserved to be cast off and divorced.

    X. But these sacraments are to be considered according to the varied conditions of men; for they have either been instituted before the fall, and are of the covenant of works; or, after the fall, and are of the covenant of grace. There was only a single sacrament of the covenant of works, and that the tree of life. Those of the covenant of grace are either so far as they have regard to the promised covenant, and belong to the church while yet in her infancy and placed under pedagogy [the law being her schoolmaster] as were those of circumcision and of the passover; or so far as now they have regard to the covenant confirmed, and belong to the Christian church that is of adult age, as are those of baptism and the Lord's supper. The points of agreement and difference between each of these will be the more conveniently perceived in the discussion of each.

    COROLLARY

    Though in some things, sacrifices and sacraments agree together, yet they are by no means to be confounded; because in many respects the latter differ from the former.

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