St. Louis

At this point, I am ready to scrap the Affirmation as a poorly conceived document, ill-fitted for any churches belonging to the pre-1977 exodus. The Affirmation needs serious amendment, qualification, or truncation. Below is a rationale if such was to be attempted at all. Meanwhile, this page, “St. Louis”, will eventually be swapped for “Mobile”, giving some detail about the founding of the older American Episcopal Church and its national vestry. 

Rt. Rev. Albert Chambers, Denver consecrator

The Affirmation. The  St. Louis Affirmation was adopted in 1977 by Continuing Episcopalians as that “specific and unswerving basis” by which innovations in ECUSA were to be opposed. The Affirmation was promoted by a coalition of 15 Episcopalian organizations and publications. Likely, the foremost societies were the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen (FCC) and the American Church Union. Despite the broad range of support, the Affirmation’s intellectual architects were Anglo-Catholics (e.g., Canon Albert duBois and Rev. Robert Morse) of whom some critics blame for inserting unnecessary tensions upon the 39 Articles, thereby rubbing rough on Anglicanism’s Protestant character.

That tension becomes fairly acute where the Affirmation invokes seven councils and sacraments. Otherwise, the Affirmation is a promising document, and it would behoove contemporary Anglicans to embrace its many parts, especially its stronger language for Holy Orders and the Eucharist. One might wonder why a shorter version was not adopted, skipping the Affirmation’s questionable if not oftentimes speculative language.

Unnecessary Language: Nonetheless, the Affirmation’s final reconciliation to the 39 Articles, and therefore classical Anglicanism itself, remains to be seen.  Constructive modification might be very minute yet theologically substantive. Below demonstrates how little need be done to better marry the Affirmation to classical standards. As a general rule, it’s always better to minimize intrusion upon a document. The exercise below purposely limits itself to the Affirmation’s most critical section, namely, the sacrament(s) clause. Below are two proposals. The first proposal highlights the problem of language but is probably too surgical (red font below). The second editing of the text, using a brief footnote instead which avoids any doctoring of the Affirmation.

Proposal #1:

Sacraments. The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance and Unction of the Sick, as objective and effective signs of the continued presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among His people and as His covenanted means for conveying His grace.

The words “objective” and “effective” are typically reserved to explain the nature of Supper and Baptism, and, in this case, the Affirmation is too egregious in language, using unnecessary terminology that creates more questions than answers.  Proposal #1 (above) simply removes controverted terms. The Affirmation’s section on sacraments would then reasonably square with Article 25 which, for memory’s sake, reads:

39 Articles:

XXV. Of the Sacraments. …There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord. Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

In Tract 90 Newman does something of a magic trick. With a sleight of hand Newman seems to reconcile the 39 articles to Trent (or Fourth Lateran Council), especially via the seven sacraments. Newman casts this spell by making a small difference between sacraments with focus on the ‘general necessity’ clause. Though Newman apparently backs his argument with Jewel’s ‘Homily on Common Prayer’, Newman really passes over the crux of Jewel’s argument, namely, how the nature of Baptism and the Holy Communion differ from the lesser five. How do they differ according to Jewel? A: Only baptism and the Supper remit sin. Here’s Jewel’s full quote from the homily partially used by Newman’s Tract 90:

Homily on Common Prayer:

And though the ordering of ministers hath this visible sign and promise; yet it lacks the promise of remission of sin, as all other sacraments besides the two above named do. Therefore neither it, nor any other sacrament else, be such sacraments as Baptism and the Communion are. But in a general acception, the name of a sacrament may be attributed to any thing, whereby an holy thing is signified.

Jewel’s use of old ecclesiastical language like “sacraments” shouldn’t be disagreeable. These terms are said by Jewel to have “general acception” or common use. However, adding “objective”, “effective”, and even “covenanted” are words that carry tremendous theological weight, blurring separations between church and gospel ordinances otherwise fundamental to Settlement thinking.

High Grace Alternative: For Anglo-catholics who insist upon a higher view of seven sacraments as an unalterable part of (medieval) catholic identity, a higher language for lesser sacraments might taken given the Affirmation differentiates the nature of the Lord’s  Supper and Baptism (with a further addition of Penance as a ‘third’ Sacrament). A high-grace view might avoid reducing the four remaining rites (marriage, burial, etc.) into trivial equivalents like the paschal candle, creche, or hallowed ash. Below is a possible form  (see bold)… Proposal #2 :

“…In particular, we affirm the necessity of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist (where they may be had)– Baptism as incorporating us into Christ (with its completion in Confirmation as the “seal of the Holy Spirit”), and the Eucharist as the sacrifice which unites us to the all-sufficient Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Sacrament in which He feeds us with His Body and Blood. Among these sacraments, Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist only remit sin.

A Second Asterisk? While open-ended questions remain regarding the “effective” and “objective” nature of seven sacraments, inserting a second asterisk after the ‘seven clause’ would probably be least invasive to the St. Louis Affirmation, adding the footnote at the bottom which says, “…only Baptism, Absolution, and the Eucharist remit sin”.  In other words, the remaining five sacraments do not ‘justify’ though they are well-known catholic rites for strengthening faith. Using an asterisk to clarify the Affirmation isn’t novel. The ACC added one to the Affirmation’s fifth section (see “The Continuation of Communion with Canterbury”) that said:

“*Because of the action of General Synod of the Church of England, parliament, and the Royal Assent, the College of Bishops of Anglican Catholic Church is obliged no longer to count the See of Canterbury as a faithful part of the Anglican Communion” (the Affirmation printed by Anglican Parish Associaiton, p.3).

If the ACC’s  printer or archbishop can unilaterally add a footnote/asterisk to the Affirmation without consent from each St. Louis church (much less ACC synod), then evidently any single member of the St. Louis Congress  should have equal freedom to amend the Affirmation in the same manner. Of course, more ardent Protestant churchmen probably would prefer more thorough clarifications. A number of additional changes might be good– perhaps replacing St. Vincent’s canon for Andrewes’ formula, or clarifying what extant ‘apostolic succession’ within a church in necessary? Indeed, Anglo-catholics and evangelicals might wish a whole slew of additions , e.g., perhaps something against birth control or women acolytes? etc.. The ACA’s Northeast canon  criticized the “exclusion of all errors” clause found after the endorsement of seven ecumenical councils. Obviously, there are Continuing clergy who are open to the Affirmation’s further amendment.

However, these clarifications are relatively minor, possibly finding a place in separate resolutions or canons at the diocesan or provincial level. For instance, a Solemn Declaration (SD) could be modified to include the 39 articles and BCP alongside the St. Louis Affirmation. Indeed, most continuing Churches have SD’s that stick pretty close to the 1893 archetype, the best example of the type being the APA’s. The Christian Episcopal Church (XnEC) standards provide another possibility where “efficacious and objective” is replaced by “divine and apostolic”, in a way, sidestepping questions of justification while admitting more than an empty rite:

4. The necessity of the two Sacraments of the Gospel: Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist; 5. The truth of the Doctrines of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist; 6. The Divine institution and Apostolic foundation of the Five Sacraments of the Christian Life: Confirmation, Penance, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Holy Unction;

A second asterisk, as proposed above,  could very well be the least disruptive way to correct the Affirmation for the sake of Protestant teaching rather than forcing churchmen into agreement with Tract 90. Dr. Peter Toon explained the ultimate dilemma:

“It is difficult to come to clarity on the question of whether the Affirmers in 1977 saw themselves as Anglo-Catholics committed to historic Anglicanism (as set forth for example in The Solemn Declaration of 1893 and printed in the 1962 Canadian BCP), who allowed their private and cherished opinions to influence their description of the Anglican Way, OR that leaving the two mainline Churches provided them with the opportunity to reform Anglicanism in a Rome-ward direction and they took this opportunity to do so, believing they were forging a new and better path for others to walk in.”


*Below are authoritative quotes regarding ‘right use’ of ceremony during Anglicana’s crucible and definitive period,1536-1661.  England’s Reformation mainly set forth ‘right use’ with respect to ceremony, thus, ordering worship according to the principles of justification. In this regard, the 39 articles might essentially be considered a treatise on worship, differentiating rites belonging to the church that contain a grace like prayer from those instituted by Christ for the remission of sin. The former increase and prepare faith while the latter make and seal righteousness. Without justification’s application in worship, we have no way to distinguish necessary vs. adiaphoric ceremony, leaving little intelligence or rationale as to why the Church of England left Rome in the first place. How we treat and define the sacraments is therefore critical. Nor should we be shy to look back to Settlement period(s).
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Starting with the Henrician Ten Articles on sacramentals:

1536 Ten Articles: “in the beginning of Christ’s church, men did more often receive than they use nowadays to do: bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, in memory of Christ the spiritual light, of whom Simeon did prophesy, as is read in the church that day: giving of ashes on Ash-Wednesday, to put remembrance every Christian man in the beginning of Lent and penance, that he is but ashes and earth, and thereto shall return; which is right necessary to be from henceforth in our mother tongue always on the same day: bearing of palms on Palm Sunday, in memory of receiving of Christ into Jerusalem, a little before his death, that we may have the same desire to receive him into our hearts: creeping the cross, and humbling ourselves to Christ before the same, and kissing of it in memory of our redemption by Christ made upon the cross; setting up the sepulture of Christ, whose body after his death was buried; the hallowing of the font, and other like exorcisms and benedictions by the ministers of Christ’s church: and all other like laudable customs, rites, and ceremonies be not to be contemned and cast away, but to be used and continued as things good and laudable, to put us in remembrance of those spiritual things that they do signify; not suffering them to be forgotten, or to be put in oblivion, but renewing them in our memories from time to time: but none of these ceremon-ies have power to remit sin, but only to stir and lift up our minds unto God, by whom only our sins be forgiven.” (Formularies set Forth during the Reign of Henry VIII, p. 16)

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From the first Henrician longer catechism on lesser sacraments:

1537 The Institution of Christian Man: “Thus being declared the virtue and efficacy of all the seven sacraments, we think it convenient, that all bishops and preachers shall instruct and teach the people committed to their spiritual charge, that although the sacraments of Matrimony, of Confirmation, of Holy Orders, and of Extreme Unction, have been of long time past received and approved by the common consent of the catholic church, to have the name and dignity of sacraments, as indeed they be well worthy to have; (forasmuch as they be holy and godly signs, whereby, and by the prayer of the minister, be not only signified and represented, but also given and conferred some certain and special gifts of the Holy Ghost, necessary for Christian men to have for one godly purpose or other, like as it hath been before declared;) yet there is a difference in dignity and necessity between them and the other three sacraments, that is to say, the sacraments of Baptism, of Penance, and of the Altar, and that for divers causes. First, because these three sacraments be instituted of Christ, to be as certain instruments or remedies necessary for our salvation, and the attaining of everlasting life. Second, because they be also commanded by Christ to be ministered and received in their outward visible signs. Thirdly, because they have annexed and conjoined unto their said visible signs such spiritual graces, as whereby our sins be remitted and forgiven, and we be perfectly renewed, regenerated, purified, justified, and made the very members of Christ’s mystical body, so oft as we worthily and duly receive the same.” (ibid, p.128-9)

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Cramner’s 13-articles proposed in 1538 explains how justification plays itself  out in terms of Anglican worship, especially with  1) the type of sacrifice found in the Papal Mass, and 2) direct prayers to saints. While #1 is quite long, it nicely sums a principle disagreement with Rome:

“the ungodly opinion of those who think that the sacrament can be received by the priest on behalf of others, living or dead, is to be condemned, as is the view that he can earn from them eternal life and the remission of guilt and punishment, and this moreover “ex opere operato”.  Such a doctrine was unknown in the ancient Church, and is foreign to the sacred scriptures, and undermines the right doctrine of justification by faith, and produces trust in the work of another person…These benefits are granted through the sacrament to the recipient, when he responds in faith to this memorial. They cannot be given to others  through the recipients. For just as everyone is baptized only for himself, and not for others, so the Eucharist was instituted by Christ so that no-one should take it on behalf of another but only each Christian for himself…Furthermore, since without thanksgiving, the memorial of Christ’s death is not rightly celebrated [by the private mass], the ancients called the celebration of the sacrament “eucharist”, which was the name given to it by many orthodox Fathers, meaning that it was a memorial of that once-for-all unique, perfect sacrifice, and not that it was itself a sacrifice applicable to both the living and the dead, for the forgiveness of sins. This papal notion is a fiction, and since it is from this ungodly opinion and practice that private masses, most of which are meant to be expiatory, derive and have multiplied enormously, though we have found no example or mention of them in the more ancient writers. We think that expiatory masses ought to be abolished, and that the other private masses be either totally abrogated or else greatly restricted and controlled, and that the greatest care be taken to ensure that a true and genuine use of this sacrament be restored, to the glory of Christ and the salvation of the Church” (Bray, pp. 211-13)

Further application of justification upon worship, Cranmer then tackles the invocation of saints:

“by which we seek their assistance [invoking], we teach that because the salvation of the body  and the soul, the forgiveness of sins, grace, eternal life and the like are solely in the gift of God, nor can be given by anyone who prays to the saints and begs them for these gifts, and seeks them from the saints, as if they could bestow them on seekers, when he cannot obtain them except by the gift of God, makes a great mistake by depriving God of his glory and attributing it to the creature.” (Bray, p. 217)

Notice how justification again applies to church ceremony. This is repeated throughout the Settlement period:

“…if rites and observances of this kind are instituted or performed for reasons other than that they are exercises, reminders and lessons which arouse and lead us to those things in which true godliness and righteousness are found, then we say that such an institution and observance must be condemned and rejected. For forgiveness of sins, justification and true godliness are not to be attributed to rites and traditions of this kind (for we obtain the forgiveness of the sinner and justification freely by faith on account of Christ). Rather, this is to be attributed to them, that just as the state needs political laws, so the order of the Church cannot be served without rites and traditions..”(Bray, p. 201)

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From the Edwardian 1547 Injunctions:

“Also, that they should instruct and teach in their cures that no man ought obstinately and maliciously break and violate the laudable ceremonies of the Church, by the King commanded to be observed, and as yet not abrogated. And on the other side, that whosoever doth superstitiously abuse them, doth the same to the great peril and danger of his soul’s health; as in casting holy water upon his bed, upon images or other dead things; or bearing about him holy bread, or St. John’s Gospel; or making crosses of wood upon Palm Sunday, in time of reading of the Passion, or keeping of private holy days, as bakers, brewers, smiths, shoemakers and such others do, or ringing of the holy bells, or blessing with the holy candle, to the intent thereby to be discharged the burden of sin, or to drive away devils, or to put away dreams and fantasies, or in putting trust and confidence of health and salvation in the same ceremonies when they be only ordained, instituted and made to put us in remembrance of the benefits which we have received by Christ.” (p.255)

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Cranmer’s criticism of Roman sacramentals in his 1547 Homily on Good Works (book 1, part 3):

“And briefly to pass over the ungodly an counterfeit religion [of Rome], let us rehearse some other kinds of Papistical superstitions and abuses, as of Beads, of Lady Psalters, and Rosaries of fifteen Oes, of St. Bernard Verses, of St. Agathe’s Letters, of purgatory, of masses satisfactory; of stations and jubilees, of feigned relics, of hallowed beads bells, bread, water, palms, candles, fire, and such other; of superstitious fastings, of fraternities or brotherhoods, of pardons, with such like merchandise; which were so esteemed and abused to the great prejudice of God’s glory and command- ments, that they were made most high and most holy things, whereby to attain to the everlasting life, or remission of sin.” (p. 38)

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Cranmer’s remarks hearken back to Tyndale,  author of the first English NT & OT. In 1528 Tyndale wrote his catechism, On Obedience, chastising the ‘efficacy’ given to sacramentals for purging sin,

Who dare handle the chalice, touch the altar stone or put his hand in the font or his finger into the holy oil? What reverence give we unto holy water, holy fire, holy bread, holy salt, hallowed bells, holy wax, holy boughs, holy candles, and holy ashes? And last of all unto the holy candle commit we our souls at last departing. Yea and of the very clout which the bishop or his chaplain that standeth by, knitteth about children’s necks at confirmation, what lay person durst be so bold as to unloose the knot? Thou wilt say do not such things bring the Holy Ghost and put away sin and drive away spirits? I say that a steadfast faith or belief in Christ and in the promises of God hath sworn to give us for his sake, bringeth the Holy Ghost as all the scriptures make mention, and as Paul saith” p. 82

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Notice how sacramentals (especially their relation to exorcist rites) recur as a problem, admitted here in Cranmer and Gardiner’s 1548 Book of Ceremonies:

“But for so much as plenary remission of sin and everlasting life is purchased unto us by the merits of Christ’s passion only, therefore all such exorcisms and prayers which attribute remission of sins, redemption, propitiation, salvation, or other like to any other creature than to Christ shall be from henceforth omitted and in no wise used.” p. 42

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Though Jewel’s Homily on Common Prayer already has been quoted above, his Apology likewise emphasized the proper use of Gospel sacraments against the ill-use of prayer tokens :

“They [Romanists] have plucked away from the people the Holy Communion, the Word of God, from when all comfort should be taken; the true worshipping of God also, and the right use of sacraments and prayer; and have given us their own to play withal in the meanwhile, salt, water, oil, boxes, spittle, palms, bulls, jubilees, pardons, crosses, censings, and an endless rabble of ceremonies, and, as a man might term with Plautus, “pretty games to make sport withal.” In these things have they set all their religion, teaching the people that by these God may be duly pacified, spirits be driven away, and men’s consciences well quieted.” (p. 54)

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The Eleven Articles were adopted in 1559  as a provisional standard until the adoption of the  39 articles in 1563.  The eleven articles sum the main points of England’s reformation, namely, Supremacy, the authority of the provincial church, and right-use of ceremony. Points #8 and 11 deal with ritualism:

“08. And although in the administration of baptism there is neither exorcism, oil, salt, spittle or hallowing of the water now used, and for that they were of late years abused and esteemed to be necessary, where they pertain not to the substance and necessity of the sacrament, that they be reasonably abolished, and yet the sacrament full and perfectly ministered to all intents and purposes, agreeable to the institution of our Savior Christ.”

“11. Last of all, as I do utterly disallow the extolling of images, relics, and feigned miracles, and also all kind of expressing God invisible in the form of an old man, or the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove, and all other vain worshipping of God, devised by man’s fantasies, besides or contrary to the Scriptures, as wandering on pilgrimages, setting up of candles, praying upon beads, and such like superstition; which kinds of work have no promise in Scripture

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The Most Reverend John Whitgift, in his Answer to the Admonition, says of certain lesser ceremonies,

“Therefore we reject all ceremonies wherein there is any opinion to salvation, worshipping of God or merit; as Creeping to the Cross, Holy bread, Holy water, Holy candle, etc..

…Furthermore, you know that the Supper and Baptism be not only ‘ceremonies’ but also sacraments, instituted and commanded by Christ, having promises of salvation annexed unto them, and so have not other Ceremonies.” (p. 180; 182, Works)

Bishop Whitgift then divides ceremonies for order vs. those for salvation:

“Therefore the reader must understand that there be two kinds of ceremonies, the one substantial, and the other accidental. Substantial ceremonies I call those which be de substantia religionis, ‘of the substance of religion’, and commanded in the word of God as necessary, and have promises annexed unto them, as the supper of the Lord and baptism. Accidental I call such as may be done or undone as order requireth, and altered according to time, place, person, and other circumstances without any opinion of justification, necessity, or worship in the same, pertaining only to external comeliness, order, decency, &c; of which kind these that the apostle St. Paul mentioneth 1 Cor. xi that ‘men should pray bare-headed, and not women,’ and such like…  Such ‘ceremonies’ I deny to be ‘matters of salvation’; and in such I say the church hath authority to appoint from time to time, as shall be thought expedient, though the same ceremonies be not expressed in the word of God” (p. 183)

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The lesser sacraments are perhaps compelling because they do point to God’s pattern of redemption. They might be said to be a mixed type– one part convention, the other divine. Of so-called mixed ceremonies, Bishop Thomas Morton was careful not to attach intrinsic power to the elements of lesser sacraments, rather reserving efficacy and objectivity to  baptism and the supper. In his 1605 reply to the Puritan grievances at Hampton Court, Morton repeated the views of the Crown, saying:

“Some ceremonies are merely ceremonies; some mixed. They that are merely ceremonies need no special warrant from scripture, but are sufficiently warranted by the general approbation for God’s Word, which giveth a permission and liberty to all the churches to make their own choice of ceremonies according to the rules of order and decency;  but the mixed ceremonies, whereunto the imposers, or the generality of observers of them, annex some superstitious and erroneous opinion (whether it be of merit or inherent holiness, efficacy, or real necessity), do in this case change the nature and become doctrinal, and in this respect are condemned as not only beside the warrant, but plainly against the precept of Holy Scripture”. —A Defense of the Innocence of the Three Ceremonies

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The 1615 Irish Articles, belonging to the 1634 convocation, were subsidiary  to the 39 and might be taken to have a certain relation to article 25:

“87. Those five which by the Church of Rome are called Sacraments, to wit, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme unction, are not to be accounted Sacraments of the Gospel: being such as have partly grown from corrupt imitation of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God, together with a promise of saving grace annexed thereunto.”

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The Rt. Reverend William Nicholson who, with Jeremy Taylor, co-authored A Plain but Full Exposition of the Catechism of the Church of England (1655), explained the terminology frequently misquoted by Anglo-Catholics. Interestingly, Nicholson accounts baptism and the supper by their relation to the final work of the atonement rather than the incarnation alone.  Nicholson says,

How many sacraments hath christ ordained in His church? …1. For the number; they are but two, and two only. For howsoever the Church of Rome hath established more, yet the ancients acknowledge no more, and Cardinal Richelieu confesseth it. It is, saith he, a common received saying among us Catholics, that all the Sacraments did flow out of the side of the Lord; but thence only issued water and blood; water as the matter of Baptism, and blood of the Eucharist; and thence concludes that properly there are no more..” (p. 150)

Nicholson then clarifies what’s meant by ‘generally necessary’. It’s not so much their universal quality but their nature or divine appointment to justify:

“That is, which all men ought to receive who desire to attain salvation; which is not so to be understood, as if God could not save without them; but that they are the means instrumental , and ordinary seals, by which God hath promised to convey and assure Christ’s merits unto us, and commanded us this way to receive them” 153

Thus, ‘generally necessary’ does not only mean something ‘universal’ but is also especially related to God’s authority and means of institution. They are generally necessary because they happen by the predestined death of the Father’s only begotten and eternal Son, and by this particular provision have a unique virtue of saving grace.

“The author of the Sacrament is God alone, and that one Mediator betwixt God and man, Jesus Christ: the reason is evident, because He hath right only to institute a Sacrament, who can bestow those graces that are sealed to worthy receivers in the Sacrament, and can withhold them, and punish unworthy receivers; which, because it appertains to God alone, He and no other must be the ordainer of it. 155

And what are the benefits of the two sacraments? Unlike the lesser sacraments, they are fully gracious or sufficient:

“The grace itself in one word, is, the whole obedience, merit, death, and passion, of our Savior; and the benefits that flow from thence, justification, wisdom, sanctification, redemption.” p. 154

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Thomas Rogers, chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, also explains the definition of sacrament given by article 25 through three criteria– it being ‘general’, or given to the whole church militant; ‘ordinary’, or having an outward sign that is natural; and ‘immediately’, or instituted by Christ himself, not indirectly by the Father’s creation or the apostles ministry, for salvation. He begins:

“A sacrament, according to the etymology of the word (as the schoolmen do write), is a sign of an holy thing. Which being true, then have there been and still are, by so many above either two or seven sacraments, as there be and have been above two or seven things which are signs of sacred and holy things…

But according to the nature thereof, a sacrament is a covenant of God his favor to manward, confirmed by some outward sign or seal instituted by himself. Which also hath been sometimes special; either to some men, and that extraordinarily by things natural sometimes, as the tree of life was to Adam, and the rainbow to Noah; and sometimes by things supernatural, as the smoking furnace was to Abraham, the fleece of wool to Gideon, and the dial to Hezekiah; or to some nation as the sacrifices, circumcision, and the Paschal Lamb, was to the Jews…

And sometimes general to the whole church militant, and ordinary, as in the time of the gospel. And then a sacrament is defined to be a ceremony ordained immediately by Christ himself, who by some earthly and outward element doth promise everlasting favor and felicity to such as with true faith and repentance do receive the same. And such sacraments in the New Testament we find only to be baptism and the Lord’s supper.” (p. , Full Exposition)

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The Reverend Henry Hammond, in his Practical Catechism (1644), handles the difference between sacraments according to Christ’s immediate institution. Hammond does not challenge their divine appointment but narrows the issue to what Christ’s earthly ministry established. We might compare that to Rodger’s blood and water pouring from His side upon the cross. Anyway, Hammond says,

“A Sacrament in this place signifies a holy rite, a sacred ceremony used in the service of God; of which sort of ceremonies in general there being many in the Church, some ordained by Christ, some by the Apostles, some by the following Church of several ages, and now accordingly used among Christians, in obedience to Christ and the Apostles in what they ordained, and in immitation of the laudable canons or practices of the primitive or ancient Church, some few there are which Christ Himself when He was here on earth, did ordain and institute; and of those particularly the question is, how many there are of this nature, of this immediate institution of Christ, because those certainly which are such will deserve more reverence from us, and more care and diligence in the use of them, than any others which any inferior authority, especially that of the after-Church, hath institued. And to this question the answer is very exact, that there are “only two, as generally necessary to salvation”. (p. 346)

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Bishop John Cosin– principle compiler of the 1662 BCP– explains the difference between lesser and greater sacraments in the same manner as Jewel, i.e., by their nature or institution:

“That there be other five that are commonly so called, but not so truely, as having not the nature, institution, force, power, or dignity, that the two true Sacraments, and properly so called, have. So it is a calumny to say that the Book maketh mention of seven sacraments promiscuously, or numberth them altogether in a lump, as if the other five had a common nature, as well as they have sometimes a common name, wit the two true ones, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For, though they be all called Sacraments, that is, Holy Mysteries of our Religion; yet they are not all generally necessary to salvation, nor have they all the same institution, power, or a visible element, ordained by Christ, as the two proper Sacraments have, according to St. Austin’s defintion, Accedat verbum ad, &c. ” (Correspondences of John Cosin, p. 131-2)

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In his Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (1653)Bp. William Beveridge correctly ascribes “seven sacraments” to medieval theology, noting the primary difference between the five ‘commonly called sacraments’ with those instituted upon the gospel accord to differences of nature.

“Lombard saying, that baptism, confirmation, the blessing of bread, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony, are sacraments of the New Testament; the papists have thence gathered, and ever since held, that there are seven sacraments instituted by Christ, truly and properly so called: insomuch that, in the council of Trent, they determined, that whosoever said there are more or less should be accursed.  Now our church, not much fearing their course, hath here declared, that only two of them, to wit, baptism and the eucharist, are properly sacraments of the New Testament, and that the other five are not to be accounted so; not but that, as the word ‘sacrament’ was anciently used for any sacred sign or ceremony, it may, in some sense, be applied to these also; but, as it is here expressed, those five have not the like nature of sacraments with baptism and the Lord’s supper.  They may call them sacraments if they please, but they are not such sacraments as baptism and the Lord’s supper are, and therefore not sacraments properly so called.” (Beveridge 1830:461)

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Nineteenth-century high churchman, Bp. Edward H. Browne, also points out the Gospel Sacraments have their unique institution vis-a-vis the lesser five according to their capacity to remit sin.

‘In this passage we see clearly our own Church’s definition of a Sacrament, and the points of difference between ourselves and the Romish divines.  The Homily defines a Sacrament of the Gospel to be “a visible sign expressly commended to us in the new Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sinsand of our holiness and joining in Christ.”  This closely corresponds with the words of the Catechism: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself, as a means whereby we receive the same” spiritual grace, “and a pledge to assure us thereof.”  And again, the definition of this XXVth Article is of similar significance: “Sacraments ordained of Christ be … certain sure witnesses, and effectual (efficacia) signs of grace and God’s goodwill towards us by the which He doth work invisibly in us.’

‘Now this definition does not exclude matrimony, confirmation, absolution, and orders, from being in some sense Sacraments; but it excludes them from being “such Sacraments as baptism and the Communion.”  No other ordinances but baptism and Communion have an express sign ordained by Christ Himself, and annexed thereto the promise “of free forgiveness of sins,and “of inward and spiritual grace given to us.”  Therefore these have clearly a preeminence over all other ordinances, and may therefore be called Sacraments of the Gospel ; being also the only ordinances which are “ generally necessary to salvation.”‘ (Exposition 1853)

To wrap it up, please read my article On Superstition.

5 responses to “St. Louis

  1. Peter Geromel

    What do you do with James 5 and Healing remitting sin?


    • Is it the prayer or the anointing oil that remits sin? v. 15, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
      Again, v. 16, “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

      Though I haven’t put together an anthology of foremost Anglican commentaries for what I believe represents the highwater mark of Anglican catholic churchmanship– say the 17th to 18th centuries– Wesley commended the ancient use of oils and wrote about their healthy effect in his popular book, the Primitive Physick. But Wesley did not attribute a salvific quality to the oil but natural and beneficial. I think that would have been the general opinion, at least during his time.


  2. The UECNA has it right, and their clarification about gospel vs. church sacraments handles it pretty well. Under UE core values it says:

    We believe that the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion were instituted by Christ Himself, and are generally (usually/normally) necessary for salvation, and are effectual signs of God’s Grace, and were instituted by Christ in the Gospels.

    Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, Holy Unction – are sacraments as they are outward signs of inward spiritual graces. However, they do not have the same nature as Baptism and Holy Communion in that they were instituted by the Church, and lack a direct mandate from our Saviour Jesus Christ.

    We might further ask if church sacraments or ordinances have the same efficacy as those of the gospel. Or, what sort of inward grace do they signify? A: if they do not remit sin, they do not have a nature to justify. However, they may posses something of a sanctifying grace as in the case of prayer and oil. So, they not only lack the direct mandate, but they lack virtue of the Promise. The church cannot ‘make’ gospel sacraments, command the presence of Christ, or pour out the benefits of his atonement by means other than Christ instituted– like conjurers– and that’s an important point. Who or what ‘institutes’ ought to make an incredible difference, so the fact Robinson differentiates between ‘church’ and ‘gospel’ is significant, indicating unlike kinds.


  3. Peter Geromel

    The UECNA’s statement is helpful and clarifying.


  4. Yes, the UECNA’s recent (from General Convention 2017) Solemn Declaration is a game changer in the continuum. Finally, a declaration that is straight Settlement Anglicanism, making the APA’s old SD look unnecessarily patient. See Preface.


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