VI. The question is one of history, not of faith, the solution of which, therefore, is not necessary to salvation. It suffices for the private Christian to know and be persuaded that that assembly in whose connection he lives is the true church, since in it as he has what fully suffices for his salvation and nothing which hinders it, although he may know nothing of where the church was in times past. For although it is a most pleasing spectacle to behold the face of the whole church in all ages, still no man can do that (nor is it necessary to our faith and salvation; nor can this be ascertained except by those best acquainted with history; nor can this be discovered with any other than a historical faith; nor will any discussion be instituted concerning this thing on the day of judgment, so that our salvation will not be endangered by an ignorance of it). Imagine a man in childhood carried to ultima Thule school by the force of a tempest, yet having a knowledge of prayer and of the true religion, but wholly ignorant of history. Will he on that account be the less saved because he does not know where the church was before him? Imagine a city plundered by pirates, the fathers and mothers and grandparents carried away into slavery, the infants alone remaining, who both from books and from the traces of instruction retained the same piety—who would exclude them from the church, although they knew nothing about this question?
VII. No more does it concern us to know where our church was in the time of the fathers and where it was in the time of the Decian persecution (which though it seems to be wholly extinct, nevertheless sprang to life again from the ashes). This must be held a certain—that the church existed and revived. God knew the place; he is the one who marks out his own church; he provides places and support; when men are wanting, he substitutes ravens; when bread fails, he feeds with his words; he knows who are his, stamped by his sacred seal. This can do more properly be said for the reason that we certainly know that on the Christian church such times and evils will come and fall as will stain the Christian name with foul apostasy but not destroy it. Wherefore the book of Revelation was written and left to posterity for the singular consolation of the church, that in so great darkness we might have a sure polestar.
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology 18.10.6–7.
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