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[Preached on Ascension-day, 1688.]
THE GENERAL AND EFFECTUAL PUBLICATION OF THE GOSPEL BY THE APOSTLES.
So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.—Mark xvi. 19, 20.
IN these words you have these two great points of Christian doctrine:
I. Our Saviour’s ascension into heaven, and exaltation at the right hand of God; “he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”
II. The effect or consequence of his ascension and exaltation, which was the general and effectual publication of the gospel; “they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” And both these are very proper for this day; but I shall at this time handle the latter point, namely, the effect or consequence of our Saviour’s ascension into heaven, and exaltation at the right hand of God; “they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”
And these words contain two things in them.
I. The general publication of the gospel by the 359apostles; “They went forth and preached every where.”
II. The reason of the great efficacy and success of it; namely, the Divine and miraculous power which accompanied the preaching of it; “The Lord wrought with them, and confirmed the word with signs following.”
I. The general publication of the gospel by the apostles; “They went forth and preached every where.” And, indeed, the industry of the apostles and the other disciples, in publishing the gospel, was almost incredible. What pains did they take! what hazard did they run! what difficulties and discouragements did they contend withal in this work! And yet their success was greater than their industry, and beyond all human expectation: as will appear, if we consider these five things.
1. The vast spreading of the gospel in so short a space.
2. The wonderful power and efficacy of it upon the lives and manners of men.
3. The weakness and meanness of the instruments that were employed in this great work.
4. The powerful opposition that was raised against it.
5. The great discouragements to the embracing the profession of it. I shall speak briefly to each of these.
1. The vast spreading of the gospel in so short a space. This is represented (Rev. xiv. 6.) by “an angel flying through the midst of heaven, and preaching the everlasting gospel to every nation and kindred, and tongue, and people.” No sooner was the doctrine of the Christian religion published and made known to the world, but it was readily embraced 360by great numbers, almost in all places where it came. And, indeed, so it was foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament. (Gen. xlix. 10.) “That when Shiloh (that is, the Messias) should come, to him should the gathering of the people be:” and (Isa. ii. 2.) that “in the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house should be established in the top of the mountains, and be exalted above the hills, and that all nations should flow unto it.” Isa. lx. 8. The prophet, speaking of men’s ready submission to the gospel, and the great number of those that should come in upon the preaching of it, they are said “to fly as a cloud, and as the doves to the windows.”
So quick and strange a progress did this new doctrine and religion make in the world, that, in the space of about thirty years after our Saviour’s death, it was not only diffused through the greatest part of the Roman empire, but had reached as far as Parthia and India. In which we see our Saviour’s prediction fully verified, that, before the destruction of Jerusalem, the gospel should be preached in all the world: (Matt. xxiv. 14.) “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.” But this is not all; men were not only brought into the profession of the gospel; but,
2. This doctrine had likewise a wonderful power and efficacy upon the lives and manners of men. The generality of those that entertained the gospel, were obedient to it in word and deed, as the apostle tells us, concerning the Gentiles that were converted to Christianity. (Rom. xv. 18.) Upon the change of their religion, followed also the change of their manners, of their former course of life. They that 361took upon them the profession of Christianity, “did thenceforth not walk as other gentiles did, in the lusts of the flesh, and according to the vicious course of the world; but did put off, concerning their former conversation, the old man which was corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and were renewed in the spirit of their mind, and did put on the new man, which after God was created in righteousness and true holiness.” So strange an effect had the gospel upon the lives of the generality of the professors of it, that I remember Tertullian, in his apology to the Roman emperor and senate, challengeth them to instance in any one that bore the title of Christian, that was condemned as a thief, or a murderer, or a sacrilegious person; or that was guilty of any of those gross enormities, for which so many pagans were every day made examples of public justice, and punished and executed among them.
And this certainly was a very admirable and happy effect, which the gospel had upon men, to work so great and sudden a change in the lives of those who entertained this doctrine, to take them quite off from those vicious practices which they had been brought up in and accustomed to; to change their spirits and the temper of their minds; and of lewd and dishonest, to make them sober and just, and “holy in all manner of conversation;” of proud and fierce, contentious and passionate, malicious and revengeful, to make them humble and meek, kind and tender-hearted, peaceable and charitable.
And that the primitive Christians were generally good men, and of virtuous lives, is credible, because their religion did teach and oblige them to be such; which, though it be not effectual now, to make all the professors of it such, as it requires they should 362be; yet it was a very forcible argument then, in the circumstances in which the primitive Christians were: for Christianity was a hated and persecuted profession: no man could then have any inducement to embrace it, unless he were resolved to practise it, and live according to the rules of it; for it offered men no rewards and advantages in this world; but, on the contrary, threatened men with the greatest temporal inconveniences and sufferings; and it promised no happiness to men in the other world upon any other terms, than of denying “ungodliness and worldly lusts,” and “of living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
And besides this consideration, we have the best testimony in the world of their unblamable lives, viz. the testimony of their professed enemies, who did not persecute them for any personal crimes which they charged particular persons withal, but only for their religion, acknowledging them otherwise to be very innocent and good people. Particularly Pliny, in his letter to Trajan the emperor (who had given him in charge, to make particular inquiry concerning the Christians), gives this honourable report of them: “That there was no fault to be found in them, besides their obstinate refusal to sacrifice to the gods; that at their religious meetings it was an essential part of their worship to oblige themselves by a solemn sacrament, against murder, and theft, and adultery, and all manner of wickedness and vice.” No Christian historian could have given a better character of them than this heathen writer does. But,
3. The success of the gospel will appear yet more strange, if we consider the weakness and meanness of the instruments that were employed in this great 363work. A company of plain and illiterate men, most of them destitute of the advantages of education, went forth upon this great design, weak and unarmed, unassisted by any worldly interest, having no secular force and power on their side, to give countenance and authority to them; and this not only at their first setting out, but they remained under these disadvantages for three ages together.
The first publishers of the Christian religion offered violence to no man; did not go about to compel any by force to entertain the doctrine which they preached, and to list themselves of their number: they were not attended with legions of armed men to dispose men for the reception of their doctrine, by plunder and free quarter, by violence and tortures: this modern method of conversion was not then thought of; nor did they go about to attempt and allure men to their way, by the promises of temporal rewards, and by the hopes of riches and honours; nor did they use any artificial insinuations of wit and eloquence to gain upon the minds of men, and steal their doctrines into them: but delivered themselves with the greatest plainness and simplicity; and without any studied ornaments of speech, or fine arts of persuasion, declared plainly to them the doctrine and miracles, the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, promising life and immortality to them that did believe and obey his doctrine, and threatening eternal woe and misery in an other world to the despisers of it.
And yet these contemptible instruments, notwithstanding all these disadvantages, did their work effectually, and, by the power of God going along with them, gained numbers every day to their religion, and in a short space drew the world after them.364
Nor did they only win over the common people, but also several persons considerable for their dignity, and eminent for their learning, who afterwards became zealous assertors of Christianity, and were not ashamed to be instructed in the saving knowledge of the gospel, by such mean and unlearned persons as the apostles were; for they saw something in them more Divine, and which carried with it a greater power and persuasion, than human learning and eloquence.
4. We will consider the mighty opposition that was raised against the gospel. At its first appearance it could not be otherwise, but that it must meet with a great deal of difficulty and opposition, from the lusts and vices of men, which it did so plainly and so severely declare against, and likewise from the prejudices of men that had been brought up in a contrary religion; no prejudice being so strong as that which is founded in education; and of all the prejudices of education, none so obstinate and so hard to be removed, as those about religion, yea, though they be never so absurd and unreasonable: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods?” Men are very hardly brought off from the religion which they have been brought up in, how little ground and reason soever there be for it; the being trained up in it, and having a reverence for it implanted in them in their tender years, supplies all other defects.
Had men been free and indifferent in religion, when Christianity first appeared in the world, and had they not had their minds prepossessed with other apprehensions of God and religion, and been inured to rites and superstitions of a quite different nature from the Christian religion; or had they at 365that time been weary of the superstitions of their idolatrous worship, and been inquiring after a better way of religion; then, indeed, the Christian religion had appeared with great advantage, and would in all probability have been entertained with a readiness of mind proportionable to the reasonableness of it. But this was not the case: when the doctrine of the gospel was first published in the world, the whole world, both Jews and gentiles, were violently prejudiced against it, and fixed in their several religions.
The Jews indeed, in former times, had been very prone to relinquish the worship of the true God, and to fall into the heathen idolatry: but after God had punished them severely for that sin, by a long captivity, they continued ever after very strict and firm to the worship of the true God; and never were they more tenacious of their religion and law, than at that very time when our Saviour appeared in the world: and though he was foretold in their law, and most particularly described in the authentic books of their religion, the prophets of the Old Testament; yet, by reason of certain groundless traditions, which they had received from the interpreters of their law, that their Messias was to be a great temporal prince, they conceived an invincible prejudice against our Saviour, upon account of the mean circumstances in which he appeared; and upon this prejudice they rejected him, and put him to death, and persecuted his followers: and though their religion was much nearer to the Christian than any of the heathen idolatries; yet, upon this account, of our Saviour’s mean appearance, they were much more averse to the entertainment of it, than the grossest idolaters among the nations.366
Not but that their prejudice also was very great; the common people being strongly addicted to the idolatry and superstitions of their several countries; and the wiser, and more learned (whom they called philosophers) were so puffed up with a conceit of their own knowledge and eloquence, that they despised the rudeness and simplicity of the apostles, and looked upon their doctrine of a crucified Saviour as ridiculous, and the story of his resurrection from the dead, as absurd and impossible. So St. Paul tells us, that “the cross of Christ was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.”
But, besides the opposition which the gospel met withal, from the lusts and prejudices of men, the powers of the world did strongly combine against it. Among the Jews, the chief priests and rulers did, with all their force and malice, endeavour to stifle it in the birth, and to suppress it in its first rise; and several of the Roman emperors, who were then the great governors of the world, engaged all their authority, and their whole strength, for the extirpation of it, and raised such a storm of persecution against it, as swept away greater numbers of mankind than any famine, or plague, or war that ever was in the Roman empire: and yet this religion bore up against all this opposition, and made its way through all the resistance, that the lusts and prejudices of men, armed with the power and authority of the whole world, could make against it, And this brings me to the
5. And last consideration I mentioned, the great discouragement that was given to the entrance of this religion.
There was nothing left to invite and engage men 367to it, but the consideration of another world; for all the evils of this world threatened every one that took the profession of Christianity upon him. Whoever was known to be a Christian, was liable to reproach and ruin, to cruel mockings and scourgings, to banishment, or imprisonment and confiscation of estate; but these were slight and tolerable evils, in comparison of others that were commonly inflicted upon them; they were condemned to the mines, and to the lions, and all imaginable cruelties were exercised upon them; the most exquisite torments that could be devised, and death in all its fearful shapes was presented to them, to deter men from embracing this religion, and to tempt them to quit it: and yet they persisted in the profession of their religion, and for the sake of it did not only take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, but the most barbarous usage of their persons; and demeaned themselves, not only with patience and courage, but with exultation and triumph, under those tortures, which no man can hear or read of without horror; and they did not only bear up thus man fully for one brunt; but when these violent persecutions were renewed and repeated upon them, Christianity supported itself under all these daunting discouragements for almost three hundred years, and held out, till the very malice of their persecutors was out of breath, and their cruelty had tired itself.
Nay, it did not only support itself, under all these oppositions, but grew and prospered, and the blood of martyrs became the seed of the church, and Christians sprang up faster, than any persecution could mow them down: for men by degrees became curious to inquire into the cause of such sufferings, 368and the reason of so much constancy and patience under them; and upon inquiry were satisfied, and became Christians themselves; and many times their very persecutors were ready to sacrifice their lives the next day, for that very cause for which but the day before they had put others to death.
And it cannot here be reasonably objected, that Christians yielded up themselves to all these sufferings, upon the same account that some brave spirits among the heathen laid down their lives for their country; namely, out of a desire of fame, and to perpetuate their names in after ages; this, I say, cannot reasonably be said in this case; because these sufferers were not the great and ambitious spirits, the flower and select part of mankind, but the common people, and many of them of the tenderer sex and age, who have usually a greater sense of pain than of glory; and yet so were they animated by their religion, and transported beyond themselves, as not only to submit, but many times to offer themselves to those sufferings, by declaring themselves to be Christians, when no man accused them, and when they knew they should die, for making that profession; so that it is harder to justify their forwardness to suffer, than the sincerity of their sufferings. Besides that, nothing could be more foolish, and unreasonable, than for men to hope to get a name by suffering in a crowd, and to be particularly remembered to posterity, when they died in such multitudes, that no man knew the names of the greatest part of the sufferers.
You see then how strongly the gospel prevailed, how soon this new religion overran the world, how suddenly it subdued the spirits, and changed the manners, of men; and by what mean and despicable 369instruments, to all human appearance, this great work was done; and how, in despite of all opposition and discouragements, it was carried on. Can any one of the false religions of the world pretend to have been propagated and established in such a manner, merely by their own force, and the evidence and power of truth upon the minds of men; and to have borne up and sustained themselves so long under such fierce assaults, as Christianity hath done?
As for the religion of Mahomet, it is famously known to have been planted by force at first, and to have been maintained in the world by the same violent means. So that great impostor openly declares, that he “came not to plant his religion by miracles, but the sword.”
And as for the idolatries of the heathen, they came in upon the world by insensible degrees, and did not oppose the corruptions of men, but grew out of them; and being suited to the vicious temper and disposition of mankind, they easily gained upon their ignorance and superstition, by custom and example. They were just such a corruption of natural religion, in such times of darkness and ignorance, and by such insensible steps, as there hath been since, of the Christian religion in some parts of the world, which we all know. But no sooner did the light of the gospel shine out upon the world, but the idolatry and superstition of the heathen fell before it, like Dagon before the ark of God; and though it had the power of the world, and countenance of authority on its side, yet it was not able to maintain its ground; and no sooner was that prop taken away, which was the only support of it, but it presently sunk and vanished; it was not 370driven out of the world by violence and persecution, but upon the breaking in of so great a light, it silently withdrew, as being ashamed of itself: and when afterwards the Emperor Julian endeavoured to retrieve it, by his wit and authority, and used all imaginable arts and stratagems, to suppress and extinguish Christianity, he was able to effect neither; for the Christian religion kept its ground, and paganism, after it had made a little blaze, died with him.
Now to what cause shall we ascribe this wonderful success and prevalency of the gospel in the world? there can but these two be imagined; the excellency of the Christian religion, and the power and presence of the Divine Spirit accompanying it.
1. The excellency of the Christian religion, which, both in respect of the goodness of its precepts, and the assurance of its rewards, hath plainly the advantage of any religion, that ever yet appeared in the world. And this is a great advantage indeed: but by this alone it could never have been able to have broken through all that mighty opposition and resistance which was made against it; and therefore, that it might be able to encounter this with success,
2. God was pleased to accompany the first preaching of it, with a mighty and sensible presence and power of his Spirit. And this brings me to the
Second part of the text—the reason of the wonderful efficacy and success, which the apostles had in the preaching of the gospel; “the Lord wrought with them, and confirmed the word with signs following.” Which words express to us that miraculous power of the Holy Ghost, which accompanied the first preaching of the gospel; by which I do not 371intend to exclude the inward operation of God’s Holy Spirit upon the minds of men, secretly moving and inclining those to whom the gospel was preached to embrace and entertain it; which the Scripture elsewhere speaks frequently of, and may possibly be intended in the first of these expressions, “the Lord working with them;” and the lat ter may only be meant of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, with regard to which God is said to “confirm the word with signs following,” or accompanying it. But I rather think they are both in tended to express the same thing, and that the lat ter is only added by way of explication of the former, to shew more particularly how the Lord wrought with them; namely, by giving confirmation to their doctrine, by those miraculous gifts and powers of the Spirit, which they were endowed withal, “the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following;” that is, with those miracles, which accompanied the first preaching of the gospel. For these words do plainly refer to the promise of the Spirit at the 17th verse; “and these signs shall follow them that believe;” which is the reason why they are here called “signs following;” that is, miracles which accompanied the word that was preached.
And that this is the full meaning of this text, will appear by comparing it with one or two more, (Rom. xv. 18, 19.) where St. Paul, speaking of the things which Christ had wrought by him, to make the gentiles obedient to the gospel, he says, “they were done through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God;” which is the same with that which is said here in the text, of “the Lord’s working with the apostles, and confirming 372the word with signs following.” So likewise (Heb. ii. 3, 4.) the apostle there tells us, that “the gospel which was first spoken by the Lord, was confirmed by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” So that the great confirmation, which is said here to be given to the gospel, was by “the miraculous gifts of the Spirit,” which were poured forth upon the apostles and primitive Christians.
In speaking of which, I shall briefly do these two things:
I. Give an account of the nature of these gifts, and of the use and end to which they served: and then shew, in the
II. Second place, how the gospel was confirmed by them.
I. For the nature of these gifts, and the use and end to which they were designed.
They are those miraculous powers which, by the descent of the Holy Ghost, upon the day of Pentecost, the apostles were endowed withal, to qualify them to publish the gospel with more speed and success. Such was the gift of speaking divers languages, (and these two gifts were not necessarily united in the same person, for the apostle tells us, that some had the one, and some the other;) the gift of prophecy and foretelling things to come, which was always a sign of a person divinely inspired; the miraculous powers of healing diseases, of raising the dead, and of casting out devils; a power of inflicting corporal diseases, and punishments, upon scandalous and obstinate Christians, who would not submit to the apostles authority and government; which is in Scripture called, “a delivering 373up to Satan, for the destruction,” or tormenting, “of the body, that the soul may be saved;” nay, in some cases, this power extended to the inflicting of death itself, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.
Not that all these miraculous powers were given to every one of the apostles, or that they could exercise them at all times; some were bestowed upon one, and some upon another, according to God’s good pleasure, and as was most expedient for the use and benefit of the church, and most subservient to those ends for which God gave them; only we find that all the apostles had the gift of tongues; and that the power of “casting out devils in the name of Christ,” was common to every Christian, and continued in the church for a long time after the other gifts were ceased; as Tertul. Arnob. and Min. Felix do testify, even of their own times.
But, II. I shall briefly shew how the gospel was confirmed by these miraculous gifts.
Now, besides the particular uses and ends of those miraculous gifts (as the gift of tongues, did evidently serve for the more speedy planting and propagating of the Christian religion in the world; and the power of inflicting corporal punishments, in a miraculous manner, upon scandalous and disobedient Christians, did maintain the power and authority of the apostles, and was instead of an ordinary magistratical power, which Christians were destitute of, whilst the Roman empire continued heathen:) I say, besides the particular ends and uses of all these miraculous gifts, they did all in general, as they were miracles, serve for the confirmation of the gospel.
The apostles delivered the doctrine of Christ, and 374 were witnesses of his resurrection from the dead, “as the great miracle,” whereby his doctrine was confirmed; now there was all the reason in the world to believe them, to whom God was pleased to give such a testimony from heaven; for who could make any doubt of the truth of their testimony, concerning the resurrection of Christ, who were enabled to raise others from the dead, and by many other wonderful things which they did, gave such clear testimony that “God was with them?”
Never had any religion fewer worldly advantages to recommend it, and so little temporal countenance and assistance to carry it on; but what it wanted from men, it had from God; for “he gave witness to it with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.” God seems on purpose to have stripped it of all secular advantages, that the Christian religion might be perfectly free from all suspicion of worldly interest and design, and that it might not owe its establishment in the world to the wisdom and contrivance of men, but to the arm and power of God.
The inferences I shall at present make from this discourse shall be these:
I. To give us satisfaction of the truth and divinity of the doctrine of the Christian religion, which hath had so eminent a confirmation given to it from heaven, and did at its first setting out so strangely prevail in the world, against all human probability; “not by might, nor by power; but by the Spirit of the Lord.” .
No man can well suppose a religion in circum stances of greater disadvantage, and, upon all human accounts, more unlikely to sustain and bear up it self, than the Christian religion was, The first appearance 375of it was so mean, and its beginnings so small, that no man but would have thought it would presently have come to nothing; and no other account can be given of the strange success and prevalency of it, but that “it was of God,” and therefore it could not be overthrown.
II. This discourse may likewise satisfy us of the reason why this miraculous power, which accompanied the gospel at first, is now ceased; because there is not the like reason and necessity for it, which there was at first.
It was highly necessary then, to introduce the Christian religion into the world, and to be a sensible evidence to men of the divinity of that new doctrine which was preached to them; but now that the gospel is generally entertained, there is not the same reason why this miraculous power should still be continued. Acquisito fine, cessant media ad finem, when the end is once obtained, the means cease; and the wise God, who is never wanting in what is necessary, does not use to be lavish in that which is superfluous. Now that the Christian religion hath got firm footing in the world, God leaves it to be propagated and advanced by its own rational force, upon the minds of men: now that the prejudices of education in a contrary religion are removed, and the powers of the world are reconciled to Christianity; there is no need of such violent and extraordinary means for the continuance of it: now that it stands upon equal advantages with other religions; God hath left it to be carried on, in more human and ordinary ways, and such as are more level and accommodate to the nature of man.
That miracles are long since ceased, is acknowledged by the fathers, who lived an age or two after 376the ceasing of them; particularly by St. Chrysostom, who gives the same reason for it which I have just now assigned. But the church of Rome would still bear us in hand, that this miraculous power does still continue in their church, and, according to Bellarmine, must always continue; because he makes it an inseparable property and mark of the true church.
But we pretend to no such power, nor have we any reason so to do; because all the doctrines of our religion are the ancient doctrines of Christianity, delivered by our Saviour, and by his apostles published to the world; and these are sufficiently confirmed already, by the miracles which our Saviour and his apostles wrought in the primitive times of Christianity. But the church of Rome hath great occasion and need of new miracles, to confirm their new doctrines; and therefore, as they have reason, they usually apply them to the confirmation of their new doctrines; some to confirm purgatory, and to give countenance to indulgences; others to encourage the worship of the blessed Virgin, and the saints; others to confirm that which all the miracles in the world are not sufficient to confirm I mean the doctrine of transubstantiation; which, because it overthrows the certainty of sense, is, in the nature of it, peculiarly incapable of being confirmed by a miracle.
III. and lastly, The consideration of what has been said, does justly upbraid us, that this religion, which was so powerful at first, and hath such characters of divinity upon it, coming down to us confirmed by so many miracles, should yet have so. little effect upon most of us who call ourselves Christians.377
We have all the advantages of the Christian religion, having* been educated and brought up in it; and yet it hath less effect upon us, than it had upon those whose minds were prejudiced, and whose manners were depraved, by the principles of a false religion: for those who were reduced from paganism to Christianity, did on a sudden become better men, and were more holy and virtuous in their lives, than the greatest part of us, who have been instructed and trained up all our lives in the doctrine of Christianity.
The true reason of which is, that many of us are Christians upon the same account that they were at first heathens; because it was the religion of their country, and they were born and bred up in it. But Christianity was the religion of their choice, and there were no motives to persuade them to the profession of that religion, but what were as powerful to oblige them to the practice of it. Let us also be Christians, not only by custom, but by choice; and then we shall live according to our religion.
He that takes up a religion for any other reason than to obey and practise it, does not choose a religion, but only counterfeits the choice of it. We have, beyond comparison, the best and most reason able religion in the world; a religion that hath the greatest evidence of its truth, that contains the best precepts, and gives men the greatest assurance of a future happiness, and directs them to the surest way of attaining it. Now the better our religion is, the worse are we, if we be not made good by it. The philosophy of the heathen made some virtuous: and there were many eminent saints under the imperfection of the Jewish institution. What degrees then of holiness and virtue may be expected from us, 378upon whom the glorious light of the gospel shineth so brightly!
I will conclude all with the words of the apostle: (Heb. ii. 1, 2, 3, 4.) “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angel’s was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience receive a just recompence of reward: how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”379
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