We have had the blessing of baptizing six people over the past three Sundays at Redeemer. Before last Sunday's baptism, I did some personal re-reading on the subject and thought this quote from Berkhof worthy of sharing-
Strictly speaking, only the Word and the sacraments can be regarded as means of grace, that is, as objective channels which Christ has instituted in the Church, and to which He ordinarily binds Himself in the communication of His grace...They are in themselves, and not in virtue of their connection with things not included in them, means of grace. Striking experiences may, and undoubtedly sometimes do, serve to strengthen the work of God in the hearts of believers, but this does not constitute them means of grace in the technical sense....The Word and the sacraments are in themselves means of grace; their spiritual efficacy is dependent only on the operation of the Holy Spirit...
The mystics stress the fact that God is absolutely free in communicating His grace, and therefore can hardly be conceived of as bound to such external means. Such means after all belong to the natural world, and have nothing in common with the spiritual world. God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or the inner light, work directly in the heart, and both the Word and the sacraments can only serve to indicate or to symbolize this internal grace. This whole conception is determined by a dualistic view of nature and grace...[The rationalists] thought of the means of grace as working only through moral persuasion, and did not associate them at all with any mystical operation of the Holy Spirit. In fact, they placed the emphasis more on what man did in the means of grace than on what God accomplished through them, when they spoke of them as mere external badges of profession and (of the sacraments) as memorials. The Arminians of the seventeenth century and the Rationalists of the eighteenth century shared this view.
--Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology