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Bible Dictionaries

The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia


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The word "Sacrament" is derived from the Latin Sacramentum, meaning the military oath required of the soldiers of ancient Rome. Its outward sign was the uplifted hand whereby the soldier pledged himself to loyalty, which may be regarded as the thing signified by that outward gesture. The word came to be used for those ordinances of the Christian Church possessing an "outward sign" and conveying an "inward grace." Thus the Church Catechism treating of the two Sacraments "generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord," defines a sacrament as being an outward and visible sign ordained by Christ, of an inward and spiritual grace given by Him as its accompaniment. This definition has reference to the Sacramental system of the Church and means that Christ appointed only two Sacraments that are generally or universally necessary to salvation. It does not imply that there are not other Sacramental agencies in the Church—but only that these two are absolutely necessary to salvation. For example, if a man would be saved he must receive Holy Baptism and Holy Communion where these Sacraments are to be had; but for his salvation it is not necessary that he should be married, or ordained to the Sacred Ministry, and yet Marriage and Ordination are thoroughly sacramental in character in that they are grace conferring, and therefore, in her book of Homilies the Church calls them Sacraments, The great English divines generally take this position in regard to the Sacraments and the Sacramental System of the Church. Thus Archbishop Bramhall declares: "The proper and certain Sacraments of the Christian Church, common to all, or (in the words of our Church) generally necessary to Salvation, are but two, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. . . . The rest we retain, though not under the notion of such proper and general Sacraments,—as Confirmation, Ordination, Matrimony, Penitence and lastly, the Visitation of the Sick." So also, Bishop Jeremy Taylor says, "it is none of the doctrine of the Church of England, that there are two Sacraments only, but that 'two only are generally necessary to salvation.'"

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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Sacrament'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. 1901.

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