True sacraments…being for the Church as a whole, are limited to “only two sacraments”–Baptism for entrance into the Church, and the Supper for edification amidst the Church, the first portraying union with Christ and the second communion with Christ.
An African proverb says in part, ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick…’ American President Theodore Roosevelt popularized this proverb by his ‘big stick diplomacy’ of anticipating foreign aggression with pre-laid plans to repel it. Surely there’s something to be said for speaking softly. A biblical Proverb advises us, ‘He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him.’ (Prov. 27:14) Speaking softly is advised when others in our houses or neighborhood are still yawning. It’s proven wise, too, for U.S. foreign policy when accompanied by a big stick. There’s a Reformation Sola that speaks softly. (Truth be told, it also carries a big stick.) This soft-spoken Sola has five other friends. By comparison, they are more vocal, and people hear their voices more easily. Their names are Sola Gratia (‘grace alone’), Sola Fide (‘faith alone’), Solus Christus (‘Christ alone’), Sola Scriptura (‘scripture alone’), and Soli Deo Gloria (‘To God alone glory’).
Among this august company stands an often overshadowed and therefore, by comparison, ‘soft-spoken’ Sola personage: Sacramentum Duo Tantum (‘only two sacraments’). ‘Tantum’ is an adverbial syno-name to Sola, given later in his life. But let’s abbreviate, and call him S.D. Tantum. If we ask him, ‘How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?’ this soft-spoken friend replies, ‘Under the New Testament Christ hath instituted in his church only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper.’ (WLC, 164) ‘I’m sorry, I may not have clearly heard you,’ we respond politely. ‘There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord,’ he repeats with more volume. (WCF, 27:4)
Now we hear the truth loud and clear, but notice what looks like a stick at his side. We might expect, that as ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath’ (Prov. 15:1), S.D. Tantum would set people at ease. Regrettably he doesn’t. Indeed a significant number are more agitated by the truth he conveys. The Church of Rome holds S.D. Tantum and his biblical brothers in contempt, and quite sadly surrounds this soft-spoken voice with its own band of brothers – five sacramental knaves, and another two imposters who dress up in the same outfit S.D. Tantum wears. Rome officially dispatched these knaves at the Second Council of Lyon (1274), again at the Council of Florence (1439), and especially again at the Council of Trent (1547) because of Tantum’s unbroken fellowship with the other Solas.
Of the two imposters, Rome’s Baptism has all the dress of water, cleansing, its foreshadowing in various Old Testament events like the Flood and the Exodus through the Red Sea, and even the Trinitarian name. But his outfit is a mere costume, in that he speaks of this sacrament’s cleansing of the soul as justification. Here a sinner is regenerated by grace infused into the soul. This justified man, now cleansed, must keep himself clean; and if he doesn’t, then his justification might be restored through Rome’s other sacraments. It is no wonder that the Sola brothers lift their voices to preach justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scripture alone, and for God’s glory alone. And as they do, S.D. Tantum adds, ‘Only two sacraments.’