The Main Means of Grace (1)!

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The sacraments are used to strengthen our faith, but in a different way from the word of God, they are really added to the word. They signify and seal the promise of God in the gospel. But it is chiefly through the word that we increase in knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon the word, therefore, the sacraments are dependent. Without it they are meaningless and have no content. This would not be true, of course, if the Roman Catholic view of the sacraments were correct: for according to the Romish church the sacraments have power to work in themselves, even without the preaching of the word; grace is not really worked in the heart of the believers by the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, but the latter are grace. Just as the theory of common grace proceeds, really, from the idea that things in themselves are grace, so the Roman Catholic church teaches that grace is in the sacraments. Baptism, according to them, works regeneration; and in the Lord’s Supper we really eat and drink Christ with our physical mouth. In that case we really do not need the preaching of the word, but what need is the church and the priest, as the dispenser of grace. In distinction from them, the reformers and Protestants in general have always emphasised that the preaching of the word is the main means of grace, that is alone is really indispensable, and that the sacraments are dependent on it. And, therefore, not the sacraments, but the preaching of the word should have the chief emphasise in our churches.

(© James R Hamilton)
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