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God renewed, through the Patriarchs and the Prophets, the promise of salvation made to the first man; external symbols were used to express faith in the promised Redeemer: "all these things happened to them [the Israelites] in figure" (1 Corinthians ; Hebrews 10:1)."So we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world. Thomas (III:61:2) and theologians generally there were no sacraments before Adam sinned, i.e., in the state of original justice.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.
The redemption of man was not accomplished in an invisible manner.(a) for the people, various expiations, (b) for the priests, the washing of hands and feet, the shaving of the head, etc. Augustine says the sacraments of the Old Law were abolished because they had been fulfilled (cf.Matthew ), and others have been instituted which are more efficacious, more useful, easier to administer and to receive, fewer in number ("virtute majora, utilitate meliora, actu faciliora, numero pauciora", XIX.13). The Decree for the Armenians, published by order of the Council of Florence, says that the sacraments of the Old Law did not confer grace, but only prefigured the grace which was to be given by the Passion of Christ.The principal reason for a sacramental system is found in man. Thomas (III:61:1), to be led by things corporeal and sense-perceptible to things spiritual and intelligible; now Divine Providence provides for everything in accordance with its nature (); therefore it is fitting that Divine Wisdom should provide means of salvation for men in the form of certain corporeal and sensible signs which are called sacraments. For this reason the majority of theologians hold that no sacraments would have been instituted even if that state had lasted for a long time. Apart from what was or might have been in that extraordinary state, the use of sacred symbols is universal. Augustine says that every religion, true or false, has its visible signs or sacraments."In nullum nomen religionis, seu verum seu falsum, coadunari homines possunt, nisi aliquo signaculorum seu sacramentorum visibilium consortio colligantur" ( XIX.11).