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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


XCII. Ques. What is a sacrament?
Ans.
A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied unto believers.

Q. 1. What is the proper signification of the word sacrament?
A. The proper signification of the word sacrament, as it was of old used, is a military oath, whereby the general did oblige himself to be faithful unto his soldiers, and the soldiers did engage themselves to be faithful unto their general.

Q. 2. Why are any of Christ's ordinances called sacraments, when we do not find the word sacrament used in any place of the Holy Scriptures?
A. Although the word sacrament be not used in the Scripture, any more than the word Trinity, yet, because the things signified by Sacrament and Trinity, and other words, are in the Scriptures, therefore we may lawfully make use of such words.

Q. 3. What is the thing signified by the word sacrament?
A. The thing signified by the word sacrament is a seal of the covenant of grace, whereby as the Lord doth oblige himself to fulfil the promise of the covenant unto us; so, by our receiving this seal, we oblige ourselves to be the Lord's, and to be true and faithful unto him.

Q. 4. Whose ordinance is the sacrament which we are to make use of?
A. The sacrament which we are to make use of is an ordinance, not of man's institution and appointment, but a holy ordinance of Christ's institution and appointment, who, being the only King of the Church, hath alone authority to appoint holy ordinances and sacraments.

Q. 5. How many parts are there in a sacrament?
A. There are two parts in a sacrament— l. The outward sensible signs. 2. The things signified by the signs.

Q. 6. How do the sensible signs and the things signified, in a sacrament, differ?
A The sensible signs and the things signified, in a sacrament, do differ, as the sensible signs are an object of the understanding and faith, being represented by the outward signs.

Q. 7. What kind of signs are the sensible signs in a sacrament?
A. 1. The sensible signs in a sacrament are not natural signs, as the dawn of the morning is a sign of the approaching day, or as smoke is a sign of fire; but they are arbitrary signs, and by the appointment, not of men, but of Jesus Christ. 2. They are not bare signifying or representing signs, but withal exhibiting, conveying, and applying signs; as a stral unto a bond, or last will and testament, doth both signify the will of him whose bond or last will and testament it is, and doth also exhibit and convey, confirm and apply, a right unto the things promised and engaged therein. When the minister doth give forth the signs or outward elements, in the sacramental actions, the Lord doth give forth and convey the things signified unto the worthy receivers.

Q. 8. What are the things signified by the outward sensible signs in a sacrament?
A. The things signified by the outward sensible signs in a sacrament, are Christ and the benefits of the new covenant.

Q. 9. What is the use of a sacrament, in reference unto Christ and the benefits of the new covenant?
A. The use of a sacrament, in reference unto Christ., and the benefits of the new covenant, is— 1. To represent Christ and tile benefits of the new covenant. "This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and your seed after you: Every man.child among you shall be circumcised."— Gen. 17:10. 2. To seal and apply Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant. "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised."— Rom. 4:11.

Q. 10. To whom doth a sacrament represent, seal, and apply Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant?
A. A sacrament doth represent, seal, and apply Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, not unto all that partake thereof, but unto believers only; faith being the eye of the soul, to discern the things represented, and the hand of the soul, to receive the things sealed and exhibited in the sacrament.

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