Wilson has responded (somewhat) to my Warfield posts. Basically, Wilson’s point is this: God’s grace is mediated through means. Warfield denies that, and thus his view of the sacraments must be that of empty signs. Warfield (according to Wilson) not only denies the mediation of humanity with regard to God’s grace, but also he denies created mediation in the form of water, bread, and wine.
First of all, the quotations that Wilson provides say nothing about water, bread, and wine. His focus is on human intervention. Look again at the quotations provided: “this human factor indeed, is made the determining factor in salvation…has not suspended any man’s salvation upon the faithlessness or caprice of his fellows.” Warfield says, at the beginning of the quotation that the means of grace are seen (by sacerdotalists) as being mediated by human beings in such a way that the human factor is the essentially efficacious aspect of the sacrament. Logically, it looks like this (according to the sacerdotalist system): means of grace –> human factor–> salvation dependent on humans. However, it is this system *as a whole* that Warfield is rejecting. That is, it is the means of grace *seen as dependent on humanity* that Warfield rejects. Warfield is not denying here that the Sacraments have efficacy as signs and seals (distinct, of course, from what they signify and seal). Obviously, Warfield woulod be stupid if he said that human beings were not involved in the administration of the sacraments. So, it’s a good thing that he doesn’t say that. But is the efficacy of the sacrament dependent on the human being, or on the Holy Spirit? This is the vital question. Everyone will admit that the administration of the Sacraments requires an ordained minister. This is not the question. Does the Sacrament do what it is supposed to do by the power of the Holy Spirit, or by the mediation of the minister? It is the former, and not the latter. No doubt, many will accuse me of positing a false dichotomy here. But regeneration is not dependent on baptism. Regeneration is dependent on the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human soul (as John 3 amply demonstrates). Regeneration can happen before baptism, during baptism, or after baptism. Therefore, it is not dependent on baptism. Regeneration is the direct operation of God’s grace on a human soul such that the soul is born again to everlasting life. The means of regeneration are the Word and Spirit, as WCF 10.1 says (“by His Word and Spirit”). Now, all will also admit that the Word comes by hearing, and people hear because someone is sent to tell them about the Word. The external call is by the Word. The internal effectual call is by the Spirit. The latter is dependent for its efficacy upon nothing. This is what Warfield is trying to safeguard. But to say that Warfield denies the means of grace, or that he denigrates the means of grace simply does not accord with the facts.
I have shown quite adequately (in quotations which Wilson did not engage at all) that Warfield’s position on the sacraments is Confessional. Warfield simply does not deny that God uses means to accomplish salvation, contrary to Wilson’s assertion. He merely denies that these means are dependent for their efficacy on the whims, faithlessness, or caprice of his fellows. I would appreciate Wilson’s engagement with the quotations I provided that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Warfield was Confessional on the Sacraments, and that he was no rationalist (as has also been shown quite thoroughly in the new Warfield book, as well).