Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X

Author: John Wesley


Q. 50. What is a sacrament?

Answer. A sacrament is a sensible thing which by the institution of God hath a power, as well of causing, as of signifying, holiness and righteousness. (Catech. Rom., par. 2, cap. 1, n. 11.)

Q. 51. How many sacraments are there in the Church of Rome?

A. There are seven; namely, baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. (Concil. Trid., Sess. 7, Can. 1.)

Q. 52. Is this number determined to be a matter of faith?

A. Whosoever saith, that there are more or fewer than seven instituted by Christ, or that any of the seven are not truly and properly sacraments, is accursed. (Ibid.)

Reply. Cassander saith, that we shall not easily find any before Peter Lombard, who lived about 1139, that did define the number of the sacraments. (Art. 13., sec. De Num. Sacram.) And St. Austin is very positive that there are but two of divine institution. 28 Now, that there should be sacraments of divine institution, that are neither instituted in the gospel, nor known to be so till 1100 years after our Savior, nor be made a matter of faith till 1500, may be a doctrine received in the Church of Rome, but will not easily be believed by any out of it.

Q. 53. What are the parts of a sacrament?

A. The parts of a sacrament are the matter or element, and the form of words of consecration: So the matter in baptism is water; the form is, "I baptize thee," etc.

Reply. That a sacrament should consist of matter and form, and yet either have no form, as confirmation and extreme unction; or have neither matter nor form, of divine institution, as penance and matrimony, is to make them sacraments, and to be none. Our Church rightly affirms of the additional sacraments, they have not any visible sign ordained of God. (Article 25.)

Q. 54. Of what virtue are the sacraments?

A. The sacraments contain the grace which they signify, and confer grace ex opere operato, "by the work itself," upon such as do not put an obstruction. (Concil. Trid., ibid., can. 6, 8.) For these sensible and natural things work by the almighty power of God in the sacraments, what they could not do by their own power. (Catech. Rom., ibid., n. 27.)

Reply. It is not sufficient that adult persons have no indisposition to receive the grace of the sacraments; for there is also required a mind well-instructed, a sound belief, and a heart well inclined for that purpose.

(2.) The virtue in the sacraments doth not proceed from the mere elements and words, but from the blessing of God in consequence of his promise to such only as rightly partake of them, and are qualified for it.

Q. 55 What is necessary to a sacrament on the part of those that officiate?

A. It is absolutely necessary, that those that make and consecrate the sacraments have an intention of doing at least what the Church doeth, and doth intend to do. (Concil. Trid., ibid., can. 11.)

Reply. From hence it follows, that if there be no intention, the sacraments are none. And so there is no certainty whether the Priest be a Priest, or whether in the eucharist the elements continue not elements after consecration, and what is taken for the host be no other than bread. For without the intention, neither is the Priest ordained, nor are the elements consecrated.


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Chicago: John Wesley, "Section IV. Of the Sacraments.," Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X, ed. Thomas Jackson in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X (London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872), Original Sources, accessed December 3, 2023,

MLA: Wesley, John. "Section IV. Of the Sacraments." Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X, edited by Thomas Jackson, in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X, London, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872, Original Sources. 3 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Wesley, J, 'Section IV. Of the Sacraments.' in Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X, ed. . cited in 1872, Collected Works of John Wesley, Volume X, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London. Original Sources, retrieved 3 December 2023, from