There are two Ordinances ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say Baptism and the Supper of our Lord.
Those five commonly called sacraments; that is to say, confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to be counted for Ordinances of the Gospel, being such as have partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles, and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lords Supper, because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about; but that we should duly use them. An in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith (I Corinthians 11:29). Scriptural support: Matthew 26, I Corinthians 11, and Matthew 28:18-20.
This article has undergone considerable alteration since the publication of the original Articles in 1553. In that year it began with a quotation from Augustine, "Our Lord Jesus Christ bath knit together a company of new people, with sacraments, (ordinances) most few in number, most easy to be kept, most excellent in signification, as is Baptism and the Lords Supper." Then followed the last paragraph of our present Article, with the insertion (after the words "wholesome effect or operation") of the following words: "and yet not that of the work wrought, as some men speak, which word, as it is strange and unknown to Holy Scripture: so it engendereth no godly, but a very superstitious sense."
The origin of what now stands as the first clause may be found in the Confession of Augsburg, from which it was taken through the medium of the thirteen articles of 1538.
The object of the Article is to condemn the inadequate views of the sacraments or ordinances held by the Anabaptists and to state their true position. The Article distinguishes between the two "Sacraments (Ordinances) of the Gospel" and the other five so-called sacraments. The Article insists upon the necessity of a right disposition on the part of the recipients of them. It consists of four paragraphs treating respectively of the following subjects, which shall be considered separately:
The Article states that they are "badges or tokens" and, that, of a Christian mans profession. They are the certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and Gods goodwill towards us, by which He doth work invisibly in us.
The Anabaptists declared that Baptism was merely a "mark of difference whereby Christian men are discerned from others
who are not baptized." They declared that the Lords Supper was nothing more than "a sign of the love that Christians ought
to have among themselves one to another." Hooker, however, states, "They are the marks of distinction to separate Gods
own from strangers."
Both Lutheran and Calvinistic divines declare the Ordinances to be "witnesses." They are outward acts testifying to Gods redeeming love, and assuring us of it in order to excite and confirm our faith in Him.
Calvin says, "Baptism testifies that we have been cleanse and washed; the Lords Supper that we have been redeemed."
Circumcision is nothing so is Baptism nothing: the communion of the Lords Supper is nothing; they are rather testimonies
and seals of the Divine will towards us. Through them is the conscience assured, if it ever doubted, of the graciousness and
goodwill of God in our regard."
An "effectual sign" is a sign that carries its effect with it. It is something more than a mere pledge. It is a "means" whereby
we receive "spiritual grace" and is not only "a picture of grace," but also "a channel of grace."
Hooker says, "It pleased God to communicate by sensible means those blessings which are incomprehensible." Another
says, "He, God, embraces us; and offers Himself to be embraced by us.
We have gone through the Ordinances ordained by Christ point by point.
According to the Catechism an Ordinance is (1) an outward visible sign of (2) an inward spiritual grace given unto us (3) ordained by Christ Himself as (4) a means whereby we receive the same, and (5) a pledge to assure us thereof."
The Catechism leaves the nature of the inward grace undefined. The homily accurately makes it include, not only pardon,
but satisfaction and incorporation in Christ.
B. The Number of Ordinances
There are only two Ordinances commanded by Christ Himself, Baptism and the Lords Supper.
Remembering Augustines statement which is quoted in the original Articles of 1553, he says, "Under the new dispensation our Lord has knit together His people in fellowship, by Ordinances which are very few in number, most easy in observance and most excellent in significance, as Baptism is solemnized in the name of the Trinity, the Communion of His Body and Blood, and also whatever else is commanded to us in Canonical Scripture apart from those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to Gods ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the prophets, and which are found in the books of Moses."
There is a marked contrast between the multiplicity of religious rites imposed upon Christians in the new dispensation.
These two ordinances were the only two required in the Church until the eleventh century. Then the Church added five more.
Here is one of the marked differences between the Protestant and the Roman Church. Rome declares seven sacraments
were instituted by Christ, but five find no Scriptural support.
C. The Five Rites Added By Rome
The five sacraments or ordinances added by Rome are: Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony and Extreme Unction.
The Protestant Fathers declared that these so-called Ordinances grew, partly, out of a corrupt following of the Apostles and, also, out of a state of life allowed by or in the Scriptures. However, they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
"Confirmation" fails to answer to the description of an "Ordinance." Although it is an Apostolic Rite, with its "outward visible sign" and its "inward spiritual grace," yet it is only traceable to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:17, 19:6, Hebrews 6:2). We cannot positively say that it was ordained of Christ.
"Penance," of which absolution is the "form in which its chief force consists," most certainly was "ordained by Christ Himself" (John 20:23), but there was no "visible sign" or ceremony ordained of God."
"Orders" too were ordained by Christ in the same chapter of John, verses 21-23. It has its "inward spiritual grace" and from the days of the Apostles has had its "outward visible signs," the laying on of hands. But once more the outward visible signs cannot be traced back to Christ Himself.
"Matrimony" is "an honorable estate, instituted by God in the time of mans innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church," and though "Christ adorned and beautified it "with His presence," it cannot be said to be ordained of Him in the Gospel, nor has it any "outward visible sign" of Divine appointment.
"Extreme Unction" wilirequire even further consideration. While the other four rites are retained in some measure in the Protestant Churches, this rite is completely dismissed by them.
The Scriptural authority pleaded by Rome is that in the Epistle of James, "Is any among sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15).
Christ never ordained it. The writings of the early Church Fathers are remarkably silent concerning this matter. It is certain that they did not regard it as a rite to be continued.
If any justification is needed for the complete disuse of the practice it may reasonably be found in the absence of any early
authority for it. The entire lack of evidence from early writers that the words of James were to regarded as an ordinance or
practiced rite would be sufficient to prove that there was no lasting obligation upon the church.
D. The Use of The Sacraments
The Article states that the Ordinances were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or carried about, but that we should use them.
This statement was included because of the Romish practice of holding up "the host" or the wine to he viewed by the congregation but not to be partaken of. Then often in ceremonies, "the host" is carried by the Romish Church though the streets in a procession. Miraculous powers are often claimed for it. This, the Protestant Church claims, borders on idolatry and causes the Lords Supper to mean more than Christ intended it to.
Then Paul warns against unworthy reception of both the bread and wine. To do so, Paul states, will bring condemnation or judgment. The word "damnation" in King James Day meant not final condemnation, but temporal chastisement. This is so expressed in I Corinthians 11:29 when we read, "we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." This was to wean the unworthy communicant from his sin and lead him to repentance.
In conclusion, we must state again that grace does not come from the Ordinances, but from Christ Himself, through the ordinances of His institution. They are effectual because of Christs institution, although they may be administered by evil men. So grace is conferred by the virtue of the act instituted by God for this end, not by the merits of the minister or the recipient. The superstitions which became enwrapped about the Ordinances were effectually excluded by the phrase "in such only as duly receive" them. Only then do they "have a wholesome effect or operation."