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Edwards’ Covenant with God 1744

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

As Communicated in a Letter to the Rev. Thomas Prince of Boston, MA

In the month of March, (1742) I led the people into a solemn public renewal of their covenant with God. To that end, having made a draft of a covenant, I first proposed it to some of the principal men in the church; then to the people, in their several religious associations in various parts of the town; then to the whole congregation in public; and then I deposited a copy of it in the hands of each of the four deacons, that all who desired it might resort to them, and have opportunity to view and consider it. Then the people in general that were above fourteen years of age first subscribed the covenant with their hands; and then, on a day of fasting and prayer, all together presented themselves before the Lord in his house, and stood up, and solemnly manifested their consent to it, as their vow to God. The covenant was as follows:

COPY OF A COVENANT

“Entered into and subscribed by the people of God at Northampton, and owned before God in his house as their vow to the Lord, and made a solemn act of public worship, by the congregation in general that were above fourteen years of age, on a day of fasting and prayer for the continuance and increase of the gracious presence of God in that place.

March 16th, 1742. Acknowledging God’s great goodness to us, a sinful, unworthy people, in the blessed manifestations and fruits of his gracious presence in this town, both formerly and lately, and particularly in the very late spiritual revival; and adoring the glorious majesty, power, and grace of God, manifested in the present wonderful outpouring of his Spirit, in many parts of this land, in this place; and lamenting our past backslidings and ungrateful departings from God, and humbly begging of God that he would not mark our iniquities, but, for Christ’s sake, come over the mountains of our sins, and visit us with his salvation, and continue the tokens of his presence with us, and yet more gloriously pour out his blessed Spirit upon us, and make us all partakers of the divine blessings he is, at this day. bestowing here, and in many parts of this land; we do this day present our-selves before the Lord, to renounce our evil ways, we put away our abominations from before God’s eyes, and with one accord, to renew our engagements to seek and serve God: and particularly do now solemnly promise and vow to the Lord as follows:

In all our conversation, concerns, and dealings with our neighbor, we will have a strict regard to rules of honesty, justice, and uprightness, that we don’t overreach or defraud our neighbor in any matter, and either willfully, or through want of care, injure him in any of his honest possessions or rights, and in all our communication will have a tender respect, not only to our own interest, but also to the interest of our neighbor; and will carefully endeavor, in everything, to do to others as we should expect, or think reasonable, that they should do to us, if we were in their case, and they in ours.

And particularly we will endeavor to render everyone his due, and will take heed to ourselves, that we don’t injure our neighbor, and give him just cause of offense, by willfully or negligently forbearing to pay our honest debts.

And wherein any of us, upon strict examination of our past behavior, may be conscious to ourselves, that we have by any means wronged any of our neighbors in their outward estate, we will not rest, till we have made that restitution, or given that satisfaction, which the rules of moral equity require; or if we are, on a strict and impartial search, conscious to ourselves that we have in any other respect considerably injured our neighbor, we will truly endeavor to do that which we in our consciences suppose Christian rules require, in order to a reparation of the injury. and removing the offense given thereby.

And furthermore, we promise that we will not allow ourselves in backbiting; and that we will take great heed to ourselves to avoid all violations of those Christian rules, Titus 3:2. ‘Speak evil of no man’; James 4:2 ‘Speak not evil one of another, brethren’; and 2 Corinthians 12:20. ‘Let there be no strifes, backbitings. whisperings’; and that we will not only not slander our neighbor. but also will not feed a spirit of bitterness, ill will, or secret grudge against our neighbor, insist on his real faults needlessly, and when not called to it, or from such a spirit, speak of his failings and blemishes with ridicule, or all air of contempt.

And we promise that we will be very careful to avoid doing anything to our neighbor from a spirit of revenge. And that we will take great care that we do not for private interest or our own honor, or to maintain ourselves against those of a contrary parry, or to get our wills, or to promote any design in opposition to others, do those things which we on the most impartial consideration are capable of, can think in our consciences will tend to wound religion, and the interests of Christ’s kingdom.

And particularly, that so far as any of us, by Divine Providence, have any special influence upon others, to lead them in the management of public affair, we will not rake our own worldly gain, or honor, or interest in the affections of others, or getting the better of any of a contrary party, that are in any respect our competitors, or the bringing or keeping them down, our governing aim, to the prejudice of the interest of religion, and the honor of Christ.

And in the management of any public affair, wherever there is a difference of opinions, concerning any outward possessions, privileges, rights, or properties, we will not willingly violate justice for private interest: and with the greatest strictness and watchfulness will avoid all unchristian bitterness, vehemence, and heat of spirit; yea, though we should think ourselves injured by a contrary party; and in the time of the management of such affairs will -ally watch over ourselves, our spirits, and our tongues, to avoid all unchristian inveighings, reproachings, bitter reflectings, judging and ridiculing others, either in public meetings or in private conversation, either to men’s faces, or behind their backs; but will greatly endeavor, so far as we are concerned, that all should be managed with Christian humility, gentleness, quietness, and love.

And furthermore we promise that we will not tolerate the exercise of enmity and ill will, or revenge in our hearts against any of our neighbors; and we will often be strictly searching and examining our own hearts with respect to that matter.

And if any of us find that we have an old secret grudge against any of our neighbors, we will not gratify it but cross it, and endeavor to our utmost to root it out, crying to God for his help; and that we will make it our true and faithful endeavor, in our places, that a party spirit may not be kept up amongst us, but that it may utterly cease; that for the future, we may all be one united in undisturbed peace and unfeigned love.

And those of us that are in youth do promise never to allow ourselves in any diversions or pastimes, in meetings, or companies of young people, that we, in our consciences, upon sober consideration, judge not well to consist with, or would sinfully tend to hinder, the devoutest and most engaged spirit in religion, or indispose the mind for that devout and profitable attendance on the duties of the closet, which is most agreeable to God’s will, or that we, in our most impartial judgment, can think tends to rob God of that honor which he expects, by our orderly serious attendance on family worship.

And furthermore we promise that we will strictly avoid all freedoms and familiarities in company, so tending either to stir up or gratify a lust of lasciviousness that we cannot in our consciences think will be approved by the infinitely pure and holy eye of God, or that we can think, on serious and impartial consideration, we should be afraid to practice, if we expected in a few hours to appear before that holy God, to give an account of ourselves to him, as fearing they would be condemned by him as unlawful and impure.

We also promise with great watchfulness to perform relative duties required by Christian rules, in the families we belong to, as we stand related respectively, towards parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, masters or mistresses, and servants.

And we now appear before God, depending on Divine grace. and assistance, solemnly to devote our whole lives, to be laboriously spent in the business of religion; ever making it our greatest business, without backsliding from such a way of living, not hearkening to the solicitations of our sloth, and other corrupt inclinations, or the temptations of the world, that tend to draw us off from it; and particularly that we will not abuse a hope or opinion that any of us may have, of our being interested in Christ, to indulge ourselves in sloth, or the more easily to yield to the solicitations of any sinful inclinations; but will run with perseverance the race that is set before us, and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

And because we are sensible that the keeping these solemn vows may hereafter, in many cases, be very contrary to our corrupt inclinations and carnal interest., we do now therefore appear before God to make a surrender of all to him, and to make a sacrifice of every carnal inclination and interest, to the great business of religion and the interest of our souls.

And being sensible of our weakness and the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and our proneness to forget our most solemn vows and lose our resolutions, we promise to be often strictly examining ourselves by these promises, especially before the sacrament of the Lord’s supper; and beg of God that he would, for Christ’s sake, keep us from wickedly dissembling in these our solemn vows; and that he who searches our hearts, and ponders the path of our feet, would, from time to time, help us in trying ourselves by this covenant, and help us to keep covenant with him, and not leave us to our own foolish, wicked, and treacherous hearts.