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SECT. VII. The providence of God in preserving the Christian doctrine is very wonderful.

In this particular, as in numberless others which relate to the government of human affairs, the Divine Providence is very wonderful; which notwithstanding so many differences, as were of old, and are at this day amongst Christians, yet hath preserved the books of the New Testament entire, even to our times; that the Christian doctrine may be recovered out of them as often as it happens to be corrupted. Nor has it only delivered down to us this treasure entire, hot also in the midst of the hottest differences, has so secured the Christian doctrine itself, that the sum of religion has never been forgot amongst Christians.

No inconsiderable number of Christians at this day contend, that many errors, in former ages, crept by degrees in amongst the sects of Christians; which when others denied, in the sixteenth century after the birth of Christ, that famous separation in the west was made upon that account, by which Christianity was divided into two parts, not very unequal. Yet in those ages, whose errors are reproved by that part of the Christians which made the separation 264I now mentioned, and whose faults were highly. aggravated by both sides, and that not without grounds, the sum of the Christian religion before drawn up by us was all along maintained. There is no age so thick clouded with ignorance and vice,885885   None have a worse report than the tenth and eleventh centuries, as is granted by those who stick to the see of Rome, as much as by those who have made a separation front it. Yet if any one, for his own satisfaction, will read amongst the books of the fathers, the writings of those centuries, he may easily collect all the doctrines mentioned in the fourth section. At the beginning of the twelfth century, lived Bernard, abbot of the monastery of Claravallis, whose learning, piety, and constancy, are commended by very many, and whose writings were often read in the following ages, and never condemned. Now from thence an entire body of the Christian doctrine may easily be collected: and it is no less certain of the following centuries down to the sixteenth. Nor is there any doubt of those that follow. but the fore-mentioned articles of faith may easily be collected from their writings that remain. It must not, indeed, be dissembled, that many things foreign and unknown to the books of the New Testament have been added and thrust into the Christian theology; whence it is, that the true wheat of the sower in the Gospel, hath not brought forth so much fruit as it would otherwise have done, had the ground been cleared of thorns and hurtful and unprofitable weeds. Many vices and faults were not only admitted or borne wills, but applauded also. Yet was not sound doctrine ever the less safe, whilst the books of the New Testament remained, and whilst Christians were endued with common sense; for by this means, very eminent men were often raised up, who corrected the errors and vices of their age, and ventured to oppose the torrent. Thus, according to the promise of Christ, God hindered the gates of death from prevailing against the church;886886   So we explain πύλας ἄδου, because neither that word, nor the Hebrew, שאל Scheol, which answers to it, ever signifies in the sacred writings, an evil spirit, but only the grave, or the state of the dead, as Grotius and others have observed. Therefore, this one thing may be gathered from this place, that it will never happen that the Christian church should entirely perish, or that there should be no society left, amongst whom the sum of the doctrine of the Gospel should not remain. that 265is, did not suffer every society wherein the Christian doctrine was preserved entire to be extinguished; though sometimes they were blended and obscured with foreign and contrary opinions, and sometimes were more sincere and pure. Wherefore, (to observe this by the way), unless this doctrine was really sent to us from God, it could never have escaped out of such a deluge of vices and errors, but would at length have been overwhelmed by the changeableness and folly of human nature, and have entirely perished.

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