"So, we must pause a moment to think about a few things. To be practical, some disputes have long been running between people who count the sacraments, and these disputes have been among those who fall into the trap of Nominalism. Careless readers have taken the Anglican Formularies to mean that we have only two sacraments, and this is simply because of those who refuse to read the explanation that our Catechism provides to Article XXV: namely, that two sacraments alone were both established by Christ himself (in the flesh, on earth) and are 'generally necessary to salvation.' Of these things we have in our archives several essays. Nonetheless, it is almost as certainly a trap of Nominalism to answer briefly 'no, there are seven,' unless we take the time to ask and answer the relevant questions...
"Looking at the words of paragraph two in the Article, we must ask, what sets these two sacraments apart? The answer has been given already, and is stated ever so simply. Only these two sacraments have been established by Christ in the Gospel. Of the other five, those sacraments that are not 'generally necessary to salvation,' and some of which are not meant for everybody (e.g., marriage and orders), the New Covenant has empowered them with deeper and richer meaning; but everyone of those five are in the Old Testament...That these five are sacraments, but not sacraments of the Gospel [to use the words of Article XXV], is not difficult, therefore, to understand...
"From earliest times, the Church began to see these seven specific mysteries as having in them certain shared properties. All were revealed by God. All involved human action that made use of Matter with Form and Intention. All seven had predictable results because of God's promises. All impart grace, even if only the gift of a state of sanctified married life as part of God's creation of human nature."
Charlie wrote: The 39 Articles plainly state that there are only 2 sacraments and the others are corruptions. How difficult is something so plainly stated?
[of course that is simply rubbish.]
Frankly, any argument about the number of sacraments is absurd. The two extremes of the "Sydney Anglicans" on the left, and the Anglo-Papalists on the right, are heretical, scholastic and simplistic. To those who want to die on that hill, I ask this question: What does the Bible say about the number of sacraments? Once we realize that the answer is silence, that it is nothing, and that this word was coined not by God, but by the Church, we realize that all seven are "commonly called" sacraments. That is, the Church used Right Reason properly, and used a word to categorize the Biblical mysteries that share the properties I have already listed above. Therefore, by the 16th century, this word had a generally accepted definition.
If the purpose of Article XXV had been to number the sacraments as two, rather than pointing out the special nature of two of them ("generally necessary to salvation" being the only Anglican position-unless someone wants to say the Anglican Catechism is not Anglican; which bit of silliness would not surprise me), then the whole venture would have been ridiculous. For, all they would have done was to redefine a word differently from its accepted definition. That anyone could imagine them engaging in such a fruitless, meaningless activity, defies common sense.
The purpose of this Article was to save souls. It was to make the people of England receive Holy Communion instead of "hearing Mass." It was to have the people take and eat, and drink, rather than thinking they needed only to gaze while a priest did all the eating and drinking for them.
Hooker, definitively explaining the mind of the English Reformers, used most of his ink on this subject writing about the Incarnation, and driving home the sacramental mystery of partaking of Christ. This also restored the mystery and flew in the face of scholasticism by refusing to honor the age old need to describe and define everything in detail, even about things concerning which God had not revealed all the details.
The English Church never tried to explain how we receive Christ by taking the sacrament, except that it is by faith. Furthermore, they did not even try to teach a specific point at which the sacrament is fully consecrated; only that when a believer receives it with faith he partakes of Christ (and an unbeliever does not [in the saving sense of John chapter 6], but rather adds sin to sin). They were restoring the faith of the ancient Church.
To drag Article XXV through the mud of any kind of scholastic non-sense, including the simplistic and wrong interpretation that it is about the number of sacraments (as if such a thing were revealed rather than "commonly called" by an exercise of Right Reason), is to destroy the truth they were trying to teach. As such, it is a distraction, not a help.