1996-09-17 - Topical
Personal covenanting is a product of the Reformation. By the 18th century personal covenanting was a common practice in a life of devotion to Christ. The personal covenant was a private document whose existence was usually only known by the writer. It was often the result of a spiritual milestone like conversion. C. H. Spurgeon made the following covenant a month after his conversion:
"O great and unsearchable God, who knowest my heart, and triest all my ways; with a humble dependence upon the support of Thy Holy Spirit, I yield up myself to Thee; as Thy own reasonable sacrifice, I return to Thee Thy own. I would be forever, unreservedly perpetually Thine; whilst I am on earth, I would serve Thee, and may I enjoy Thee and praise Thee forever! Amen."
This type of personal covenant is taking God to be our God and submitting to be one of His people lies at the heart of this kind of covenant. Another form of this is a looking back upon our conversion after some time has elapsed. For example Jonathan Edwards wrote out a covenant upon his conversion and then wrote several others on some of his spiritual birthdays as he reflected on his conversion. Another form would be at the start of something new or grand in the life of the covenanter, such as a new job, or a new school year. These are often similar to what we would call New Years day resolutions.
Philip Henry wrote out a baptismal covenant for his children and would repeat it with them every Sunday evening. It goes:
"I take God the Father to be my chiefest good, and highest end. I take God the Son to be my Prince and Saviour. I take God the Holy Ghost to be my Sanctifier, Teacher, Guide, and Comforter. I take the word of God to be my rule in all my actions. And the people of God to be my people in all conditions. I do likewise devote and dedicate unto the Lord, my whole self, all I am, all I have, and all I can do. And this I do deliberately, sincerely, freely, and for ever."
When the children grew up they each wrote out this covenant in full and signed it. Henry kept the documents and warned his children that they would be produced as evidence against them if they ever departed from the Lord.
Personal covenants are a grateful response and consecration to God by serious-minded Christians. Of course one can be a Christian and serious about it without setting out a covenantal pledge in written form. What a written covenant gives is a formality that engages the mind, heart, and will and allows the person to produce a document that can be referred to later or memorized. It is a practice much of the church has forgotten about, but one that should not be forgotten. Try to write one out today if you are curious about this practice.
Soli Deo Gloria