What ever happened to church covenants? Many churches have covenants written into their constitutions, but serve as little more than historical novelties. “The Baptist Encyclopedia” edited by William Cathcart (1883) indicates that Baptists of 100+ years ago not only viewed their covenant with solemnity, but renewed it monthly in a corporate gathering. Notice the following two articles:
Covenant, A Church. All our older churches have ”covenants,” and most of those of later origin have followed the example of their fathers, though some have neither Articles of Faith nor church covenants. The covenant is a solemn obligation taken by each member of a church to perform certain religious duties, as the following will show:
First. We believe that the Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God, and that they are the only certain rule of faith and practice.
Second. Whereas various interpretations of the Sacred Word have been given by different denominations of professed Christians, we hereby declare that the foregoing Articles of Faith (the covenant follows the articles) express our views of the meaning of the Word of God, which Holy Word we promise to search diligently and to make the man of our counsel.
Third, We agree to contribute towards the support of the worship of God in our own church, and to spread the knowledge of Jesus in our own country and throughout the world according to our ability.
Fourth. We hereby covenant and agree to walk in love and to live in peace, to sympathize with each other under all conditions and circumstances in life, to pray with and for one another, and to exhort and stir up each other unto every good word and work.
Fifth. We solemnly promise, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to watch over each other with all kindness and Christian affection; not suffering sin to rest upon a brother, but as far as God in his providence shall make it known to us, we will, in all cases of offense, take our Lord’s direction in the18th chapter of Matthew, which says, ” Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” And we will urge our utmost endeavors to maintain a scriptural discipline in the church.
Sixth. Moreover, we covenant to meet on the first day of the week for public worship; and to fill up our places at all the appointed meetings of the church, as God shall give us health and opportunity. All and each of these duties we freely and most solemnly promise (by the assistance of the great Head of the church) to observe, until we are planted in the glorious church above. AMEN.
Covenant Meetings. Before the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, in many parts of our country, a meeting is held for the members of the church, where they relate briefly their religious experience and renew their covenant with God and with each other. After the devotional exercises at the commencement of the service are over, the pastor relates such of God’s dealings with his soul as in his judgment it is proper to communicate, then others follow, commonly in the order in which they are seated, beginning at the right or left of the pastor, and continuing until the end of the opposite side is reached. In these meetings the sisters speak as well as the brethren. No one is obliged to utter a word. In some sections of our country covenant meetings are unknown. Where they are held they are regarded as eminently profitable. They are generally observed on the Saturday before the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.