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Martin Luther's Catechism, the Augsburg, and later the Westminster, Confessions are strongly sacramental in their tone, putting to shame the degenerate followers of those who compiled them" (ibid., p.7, 8) The reasons underlying a sacramental system are as follows: Taking the word "sacrament" in its broadest sense, as the sign of something sacred and hidden (the Greek word is "mystery"), we can say that the whole world is a vast sacramental system, in that material things are unto men the signs of things spiritual and sacred, even of the Divinity.
The sacrifice of Melchisedech, the sacrifice of the friends of Job, the various tithes and oblations for the service of God are mentioned by St.But when the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4:3-4). Man's dignity was so great that he was raised above the natural condition of human nature.The Incarnation took place because God dealt with men in the manner that was best suited to their nature. His mind was subject to God; his lower faculties were subject to the higher part of his mind; his body was subject to his soul; it would have been against the dignity of that state had he been dependent, for the acquisition of knowledge or of Divine grace, on anything beneath him, i.e., corporeal things.It is not really a necessity, but the most appropriate manner of dealing with creatures that are at the same time spiritual and corporeal.In this assertion all Christians are united: it is only when we come to consider the nature of the sacramental signs that Protestants (except some Anglicans) differ from Catholics.Of this there is no reasonable doubt, as regards the very ancient days, of which St. Cyril's catechetical lectures may be taken as characteristic documents.
Nor was it otherwise with the more conservative of the reformed bodies of the sixteenth century.This truth theologians express by saying that the sacraments are necessary, not absolutely but only hypothetically, i.e., in the supposition that if we wish to obtain a certain supernatural end we must use the supernatural means appointed for obtaining that end. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church and of Christians in general that, whilst God was nowise bound to make use of external ceremonies as symbols of things spiritual and sacred, it has pleased Him to do so, and this is the ordinary and most suitable manner of dealing with men.Writers on the sacraments refer to this as the , the necessity of suitableness."To sacraments considered merely as outward forms, pictorial representations or symbolic acts, there is generally no objection", wrote Dr.Morgan Dix ("The sacramental system", New York, 1902, p. "Of sacramental doctrine this may be said, that it is co-extensive with historic Christianity."The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands" (Psalm 18:2). God], from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity" (Romans ).