QUESTION 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
ANSWER: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his Ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Q. 1. What do you understand by the benefits of redemption?
A. All the blessings of Christ's purchase, which may be summed up in grace here, and glory hereafter, Psalm 84:11.
Q. 2. Who communicateth these benefits or blessings to us?
A. Christ himself, who has them wholly at his disposal, Luke 22:29 -- " I appoint unto you a kingdom."
Q. 3. How comes Christ to have the disposal of them wholly in his hands?
A. By his Father's gift, John 3:35 -- "The Father loveth the Son, and hath GIVEN all things into his hand;" and by his own purchase of them; hence called a "purchased possession," Eph. 1:14.
Q. 4. What is it for Christ to communicate the benefits of redemption?
A. It is not to give away the property of them from himself, but to make us "sharers with him" in them all; that is, to make us "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ," Rom. 8:17.
Q. 5. Does Christ communicate them in a mediate or immediate way?
A. In a mediate way, through the intervention of ordinances, Eph. 4:11-14.
Q. 6. What are the ordinances by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. They are "prayer and thanksgiving, in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administering, and receiving the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him."
Q. 7. Why are these called His ordinances?
A. Because they are all of them instituted and prescribed by him in his word, as the alone King and Head of his church, to be observed in it to the end of the world, Matt. 28:20.
Q. 8. Have we any reason to expect, that the benefits of redemption will be communicated by ordinances of man's invention and appointment?
A. No; for all such ordinances, having no higher sanction than the commandments of men, are declared to be IN VAIN, Matt. 15:9:they are condemned as will-worship, Col. 2:23; and the observers of them severely threatened, Mic. 6:16.
Q. 9. Why is it said, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer?
A. Because, though the other ordinances above mentioned are not to be excluded, as being all of them useful in their own place; yet the word, sacraments, and prayer, are the chief or principal outward means for communicating the benefits of redemption, Acts 2:42.
Q. 10. What is the special usefulness of the word for communicating the benefits of redemption?
A. In the word these benefits are exhibited and offered to sinners of mankind, as the ground of their faith, that, believing they may be possessed of them all, John 20:31.
Q. 11. What is the special usefulness of the sacraments for communicating these benefits?
A. The sacraments represent to our senses, 1 Cor. 10:16, what the word does to our faith, and are designed for the confirmation of it, Rom. 4:11.
Q. 12. What is the special usefulness of prayer for the above purpose?
A. The prayer of faith fetches home to the soul all the good that is wrapped up both in the word and in the sacraments, Mark 11:24 -- "What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Q. 13. Why are the word, sacraments, and prayer, called means, by which Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. Because he is pleased to begin and carry on the work of grace in the soul, by and under these ordinances, Acts 2:41, 42.
Q. 14. Why called the outward means?
A. To distinguish them from faith, repentance, and other inward means; and particularly to distinguish them from the inward and powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, which are necessary to accompany the outward means in order to salvation, Zech. 4:6.
Q. 15. Why called ordinary means?
A. Because they are the stated and ordinary way and method, by which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to sinners of mankind, Rom. 10:14-18; Ezek, 37:28.
Q. 16. Are there any extraordinary means without the word, by which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to adult persons?
A. No; for whatever providences God may make use of, when he is beginning or carrying on his work of grace in the soul, Acts 9:3-7; yet these dispensations are always to be considered in a subserviency to the word, chap. 16:25-33, or as occasions of the Spirit's working in concurrence with it, 2 Pet. 1:18, 19.
Q. 17. Are the ordinances, of themselves, effectual for communicating the benefits of redemption?
A. No; they are made effectual, Rom. 1:16.
Q. 18. To whom are they made effectual?
A. To the elect only, Acts 13:48.
Q. 19. For what end are they made effectual to the elect?
A. For salvation, Heb. 10:39
Q. 20. What is meant by salvation?
A. Not only a begun deliverance from all sin and misery, and a begun possession of all happiness and blessedness in this life, John 3:15; but likewise a total freedom from the one, and a full and uninterrupted enjoyment of the other, in the life to come, Rev. 21:4.
Q. 21. If the ordinances are made effectual to the elect only for salvation, why have others, in the visible church, the benefit of them?
A. To show the infinite intrinsic sufficiency of the satisfaction of Christ, 1 John 4:14; and, at the same time, to render those who slight such valuable privileges the more inexcusable, John 15:22.
Q. 22. What may we learn from Christ's instituting his Ordinances to be the outward and ordinary means of salvation?
A. We may from thence learn the difference between the church militant, which sees but through a glass darkly, and the church triumphant, which sees "face to face," 1 Cor. 13:12.