The word Sacrament comes from the Latin word Sacramentum, used in connection with the Roman army when a man enlisted, who pledged himself to obedience of every command of his officers. It eliminated him from all responsibility when obeying orders. Such is not the nature of a Sacrament in the visible Church of Christ in the present day.
A Sacrament is a mystery to all who have not been initiated into the meaning of the word. The word is used as a means by which God can communicate with man; this is necessary because God is a Spirit, and we are flesh, hence the use of Sacraments. They are in common use in every day life, but not under this name. A mother whose little one has passed into the beyond treasures some little garment it had used, by which she is kept in touch with the little one. The flag connects the soldier with his country, etc.
Sacraments are not arbitrary Divine enactments; they are simply means of intercourse between God and man. In the Temple worship some vessels were cleansed by passing them through the fire, others were cleansed with water; it was water that was used in relationship with man when the Temple worship ceased.
The Christ died for our sins in our stead; faith in this work of the Christ for us was signified by baptism, when we yielded ourselves to God’s plan of salvation. “Know ye not, that as many as are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death; therefore we are buried with Him by baptism, that like as Christ was raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Baptism is the visible sign of an inward grace given unto us, ordained by Christ Himself as a means whereby we receive the same and a pledge to assure us thereof.”
In like manner was the Lord’s Supper ordained. Our Saviour and His disciples were about to be parted; they were eating their last supper together. He took Bread and brake it, and gave it to the disciples to eat in remembrance of His presence with them in memory, though absent in the flesh. Likewise, He took the Cup and gave it to them after drinking some of it; they were all to drink of it in remembrance of Him who was absent. The Church of England Communion Service emphatically lays emphasis on receiving these elements in memory of Him and His work for them. The whole Service is free from any thought of transubstantiation or even of consubstantiation. This is emphatically laid down in the Rubric at the end of the Communion for the Sick; the words are these: ” If any man, either by reason of the extremity of sickness, or want of warning in due time to the curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, the curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed His Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of Our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.”
It is greatly to be feared that this instruction is not imparted as often as it might; it would altogether do away with the “reservation of this Sacrament for the Sick,” which is strictly forbidden in other Rubrics.
One more point to be noticed is this. Our Blessed Saviour, shortly before His departure from His disciples, told them it was expedient for Him to go away, because if He did not go away the Comforter or Holy Spirit would not come to them. When He came to them He would instruct them and bring to their mind all things He had told them.
If Our Saviour’s body ascended into heaven, it could not be on the earth at the same time; if by any means His bodily presence were in the Sacrament the Holy Spirit would be withdrawn from the earth, in which case we would be without both guidance and instruction.
The instruction laid down in the Prayer Book of the Church of England is sufficient for all purposes that were intended by Our Saviour; they were simply means by which He who was a Spirit might communicate with His believing children on earth, during His absence from us.
“A Sacrament is 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 and a pledge to assure us thereof.“ AMEN.