Calvin on our Duty Towards the Church

“Let us, therefore, diligently retain those characters impressed upon Our minds and estimate them according to the judgment 0/ God. For there is nothing that Satan labours more to accomplish, than to remove and destroy one or both of them (i.e., the marks of the true church); at one time to efface and obliterate these marks, and so to take away all true and genuine distinction of the Church; at another to inspire us with contempt of them, and so to drive us out of the Church by an open separation.

“By his subtlety it has happened, that in some ages the pure preaching of the word has altogether disappeared; and in the present do.y he is labouring with the same malignity to overturn the ministry; which, however, Christ has ordained in his Church, so that if it were taken away. the edification of the Church would be quite at an end.

“How dangerous, then, how fatal is the temptation, when it even enters into the heart of a man to withdraw himself from that congregation in which he discovers those signs and characters which the Lord has deemed sufficiently descriptive of his Church!

“We see, however, that great caution requires to be observed on both sides. For, to prevent impost are from deceiving us, under the name of the Church, every congregation assuming this name should be brought to that proof, like gold to the touchstone. If it have the order prescribed by the Lord in the word and sacraments, it will not deceive us; we may securely render to it the honour due to all churches. On the contrary, if it pretend to the name of a Church, without the word and sacraments, we ought to beware of such delusive pretensions, with as much caution as, in the other case, we should use in avoiding presumption and pride.”

Institutes of the Christian Religion, bk. IV, ch. I, xi.