Of the Sacraments of the Church of Christ
THE SACRAMENTS [ARE] ADDED TO THE WORD AND WHAT THEY ARE.
From the beginning, God added to the preaching of his Word in his Church
sacraments or sacramental signs. For thus does all Holy Scripture clearly
testify. Sacraments are mystical symbols, or holy rites, or sacred actions,
instituted by God himself, consisting of his Word, of signs and of things
signified, whereby in the Church he keeps in mind and from time to time recalls
the great benefits he has shown to men; whereby also he seals his promises, and
outwardly represents, and, as it were, offers unto our sight those things which
inwardly he performs for us, and so strengthens and increases our faith through
the working of God’s Spirit in our hearts. Lastly, he thereby distinguishes us
from all other people and religions, and consecrates and binds us wholly to
himself, and signifies what he requires of us.
SOME ARE SACRAMENTS OF THE OLD, OTHERS OF THE NEW,
TESTAMENTS. Some sacraments are of the old, others of the new, people. The
sacraments of the ancient people were circumcision, and the Paschal Lamb, which
was offered up; for that reason it is referred to the sacrifices which were
practiced from the beginning of the world.
THE NUMBER OF SACRAMENTS OF THE NEW PEOPLE. The sacraments
of the new people are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There are some who count
seven sacraments of the new people. Of these we acknowledge that repentance.
the ordination of ministers (not indeed the papal but apostolic ordination), and
matrimony are profitable ordinances of God, but not sacraments. Confirmation
and extreme unction are human inventions which the Church can dispense with
without any loss, and indeed, we do not have them in our churches. For they
contain some things of which we can by no means approve. Above all we detest
all the trafficking in which the Papists engage in dispensing the sacraments.
THE AUTHOR OF THE SACRAMENTS. The author of all sacraments
is not any man, but God alone. Men cannot institute sacraments. For they
pertain to the worship of God, and it is not for man to appoint and prescribe a
worship of God, but to accept and preserve the one he has received from God.
Besides, the symbols have God’s promises annexed to them, which require faith.
Now faith rests only upon the Word of God; and the Word of God is like papers or
letters, and the sacraments are like seals which only God appends to the
CHRIST STILL WORKS IN SACRAMENTS. And as God is the author
of the sacraments, so he continually works in the Church in which they are
rightly carried out; so that the faithful, when they receive them from the
ministers, know that God works in his own ordinance, and therefore they receive
them as from the hand of God; and the minister’s faults (even if they be very
great) cannot affect them, since they acknowledge the integrity of the
sacraments to depend upon the institution of the Lord.
THE SUBSTANCE OR CHIEF THING IN THE SACRAMENTS. But the
principal thing which God promises in all sacraments and to which all the godly
in all ages direct their attention (some call it the substance and matter of
sacraments) is Christ the Savior — that only sacrifice, and that Lamb of God
slain from the foundation of the world; that rock, also, from which all our
fathers drank, by whom all the elect are circumcised without hands through the
Holy Spirit, and are washed from all their sins, and are nourished with the very
body and blood of Christ unto eternal life.
THE SIMILARITY AND DIFFERENCE IN THE SACRAMENTS OF OLD AND
NEW PEOPLES. Now, in respect of that which is the principal thing and the
matter itself in the sacraments, the sacraments of both peoples are equal. For
Christ, the only Mediator and Savior of the faithful, is the chief thing and
very substance of the sacraments in both; for the one God is the author of them
both. They were given to both peoples as signs and seals of the grace and
promises of God, which should call to mind and renew the memory of God’s great
benefits, and should distinguish the faithful from all the religions in the
world; lastly, which should be received spiritually by faith, and should bind
the receivers to the Church, and admonish them of their duty. In these and
similar respects, I say, the sacraments of both peoples are not dissimilar,
although in the outward signs they are different. And, indeed, with respect to
the signs we make a great difference. For ours are more firm and lasting,
inasmuch as they will never be changed to the end of the world. Moreover, ours
testify that both the substance and the promise have been fulfilled or perfected
in Christ; the former signified what was to be fulfilled. Ours are also more
simple and less laborious, less sumptuous and involved with ceremonies.
Moreover, they belong to a more numerous people. one that is dispersed
throughout the whole earth. And since they are more excellent, and by the Holy
Spirit kindle greater faith, a greater abundance of the Spirit also ensues.
OUR SACRAMENTS SUCCEED THE OLD WHICH ARE ABROGATED. But
now since Christ the true Messiah is exhibited unto us, and the abundance of
grace is poured forth upon the people of The New Testament, the sacraments of
the old people are surely abrogated and have ceased; and in their stead the
symbols of the New Testament are placed — Baptism in the place of circumcision,
the Lord’s Supper in place of the Paschal Lamb and sacrifices.
IN WHAT THE SACRAMENTS CONSIST. And as formerly the
sacraments consisted of the word, the sign, and the thing signified; so even now
they are composed, as it were, of the same parts. For the Word of God makes
them sacraments, which before they were not.
THE CONSECRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS. For they are
consecrated by the Word, and shown to be sanctified by him who instituted them.
To sanctify or consecrate anything to God is to dedicate it to holy uses; that
is, to take it from the common and ordinary use, and to appoint it to a holy
use. For the signs in the sacraments are drawn from common use, things external
and visible. For in baptism the sign is the element of water, and that visible
washing which is done by the minister; but the thing signified is regeneration
and the cleansing from sins. Likewise, in the Lord’s Supper, the outward sign
is bread and wine, taken from things commonly used for meat and drink; but the
thing signified is the body of Christ which was given, and his blood which was
shed for us, or the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. Wherefore, the
water, bread, and wine, according to their nature and apart from the divine
institution and sacred use, are only that which they are called and we
experience. But when the Word of God is added to them, together with invocation
of the divine name, and the renewing of their first institution and
sanctification, then these signs are consecrated, and shown to be sanctified by
Christ. For Christ’s first institution and consecration of the sacraments
remains always effectual in the Church of God, so that these who do not
celebrate the sacraments in any other way than the Lord himself instituted from
the beginning still today enjoy that first and all-surpassing consecration. And
hence in the celebration of the sacraments the very words of Christ are
SIGNS TAKE NAME OF THINGS SIGNIFIED. And as we learn out
of the Word of God that these signs were instituted for another purpose than the
usual use, therefore we teach that they now, in their holy use, take upon them
the names of things signified, and are no longer called mere water, bread or
wine, but also regeneration or the washing of water, and the body and blood of
the Lord or symbols and sacraments of the Lord’s body and blood. Not that the
symbols are changed into the things signified, or cease to be what they are in
their own nature. For otherwise they world not be sacraments. If they were
only the thing signified, they would not be signs.
THE SACRAMENTAL UNION. Therefore the signs acquire the
names of things because they are mystical signs of sacred things, and because
the signs and the things signified are sacramentally joined together; joined
together, I say, or united by a mystical signification, and by the purpose or
will of him who instituted the sacraments. For the water, bread, and wine are
not common, but holy signs. And he that instituted water in baptism did not
institute it with the will and intention that the faithful should only be
sprinkled by the water of baptism; and he who commanded the bread to be eaten
and the wine to be drunk in the supper did not want the faithful to receive only
bread and wine without any mystery as they eat bread in their homes; but that
they should spiritually partake of the things signified, and by faith be truly
cleansed from their sins, and partake of Christ.
THE SECTS. And, therefore, we do not at all approve of
those who attribute the sanctification of the sacraments to I know not what
properties and formula or to the power of words pronounced by one who is
consecrated and who has the intention of consecrating, and to other accidental
things which neither Christ or the apostles delivered to us by word or example.
Neither do we approve of the doctrine of those who speak of the sacraments just
as common signs, not sanctified and effectual. Nor do we approve of those who
despise the visible aspect of the sacraments because of the invisible, and so
believe the signs to be superfluous because they think they already enjoy the
things themselves, as the Messalians are said to have held.
THE THING SIGNIFIED IS NEITHER INCLUDED IN OR BOUND TO THE
SACRAMENTS. We do not approve of the doctrine of those who teach that grace and
the things signified are so bound to and included in the signs that whoever
participate outwardly in the signs, no matter what sort of persons they be, also
inwardly participate in the grace and things signified.
However, as we do not estimate the value of the sacraments
by the worthiness or unworthiness of the ministers, so we do not estimate it by
the condition of those who receive them. For we know that the value of the
sacraments depends upon faith and upon the truthfulness and pure goodness of
God. For as the Word of God remains the true Word of God, in which, when it is
preached, not only bare words are repeated, but at the same time the things
signified or announced in words are offered by God, even if the ungodly and
unbelievers hear and understand the words yet do not enjoy the things signified,
because they do not receive them by true faith; so the sacraments, which by the
Word consist of signs and the things signified, remain true and inviolate
sacraments, signifying not only sacred things, but, by God offering, the things
signified, even if unbelievers do not receive the things offered. This is not
the fault of God who gives and offers them, but the fault of men who receive
them without faith and illegitimately; but whose unbelief does not invalidate
the faithfulness of God (Rom. 3:3 f.).
THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH SACRAMENTS WERE INSTITUTED. Since
the purpose for which sacraments were instituted was also explained in passing
when right at the beginning of our exposition it was shown what sacraments are,
there is no need to be tedious by repeating what once has been said. Logically,
therefore, we now speak severally of the sacraments of the new people.