The following church covenant, written in 1790, was drawn up by the Baptist Church in Horse Fair, Stony Stratford, Bucks, England. Every church would indeed be a little bit of heaven on earth if its members would observe this precious and godly agreement.
We whose names are underwritten do now declare that we embrace the Word of God as our only guide in matters of religion, and acknowledge no other authority whatever as binding upon the conscience. Having, we hope, found mercy at the hands of God, in delivering us from the power of darkness, and translating us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, we think and feel ourselves bound to walk in obedience to His divine commands.
On looking into the sacred Scripture, we find it was common in the first ages of Christianity for such as professed repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, voluntarily to unite together in Christian societies called churches. Their ends in so doing were to honor God and promote their own spiritual edification.
Having searched the written Word, in order that we may know how to act, as well as what to believe, and sought unto God by prayer for divine direction, we heartily approve of, and mean to follow their example. With a view to this, we now solemnly, in the presence of the all-seeing and heart-searching God, do mutually covenant and agree, in manner and form following.
1. To maintain and hold fast the important and fundamental truths of revelation.
2. To seek by all proper means the good of the church with which we stand connected. To this end we engage to attend regularly, as far as we have opportunity, all seasons of public worship, church meetings, and meetings of prayer appointed by the church. When we are absent we will be ready to give an account why we were so, if required. We will diligently watch for the appearances of God’s work in our congregation; and if we see any setting their faces Zion-ward (towards Heaven) , we will endeavor to instruct and encourage; and having hopeful evidence of the reality of God’s work upon their souls, will lay before them the privileges they have a right unto, and the duties they ought to be found in, of following Christ in His ordinances and institutions.
If called to the painful work of executing the penalties of Christ upon the breakers of the laws of His house, we will endeavor to exercise it in the spirit of the gospel, without respect of persons.
Also we engage that according to our ability, we will contribute our share towards defraying all necessary expenses attending the worship of God. We likewise promise to keep the secrets of the church and not to expose its concerns to the world around.
3. To esteem our pastor highly in love for his work’s sake, this we will endeavor to manifest by frequently and fervently praying for him; diligently attending on his ministry; encouraging his heart and strengthening his hands to the utmost of our power in the work of the Lord; freely consulting him as we have occasion and opportunity, respecting our spiritual affairs; treating him affectionately when present, and speaking respectfully of him when absent.
As he is a man of like passions with others, we will endeavor to conceal and cover with a mantle of love, his weaknesses and imperfections; also to communicate unto him of our temporal good things, knowing that the Lord hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
4. To walk in love toward those with whom we stand connected in bonds of Christian fellowship. As the effect of this, we will pray much for one another.
As we have opportunity, we will associate together for religious purposes. Those of us who are in more comfortable situations in life than some of our brethren will administer as we have ability and see occasion, to their necessities.
We will bear one another’s burdens, sympathize with the afflicted in body and mind, so far as we know their case, under their trials; and as we see occasion, advise, caution, and encourage one another. We will watch over one another for good. We will studiously avoid giving or taking offenses. Thus we will make it our study to fulfil the law of Christ.
5. To be particularly attentive to our station in life, and the peculiar duties incumbent on us in that situation. We who are husbands or wives will conscientiously discharge relative duties towards our respective yoke-fellows. We who are heads of families will maintain the daily worship of God in our houses, and endeavor to instruct those under our care, both by our words and actions. We who are children will be obedient to our parents in the Lord.
We who are masters will render unto our servants that which is just and equal. We who are servants engage to be diligent and faithful, not acting with eye-service as men-pleasers, but with singleness of heart as unto God, knowing we have a Master in heaven. We will in our different places of abode, inquire what we can do for the good of the church to which we belong, and as far as we have ability, we will open or encourage the opening of a door wherever we can, for the preaching of the Word, remembering that we ought to be as the salt of the earth.
6. To walk in a way and manner becoming the gospel, before them that are without, that we may by well-doing put to silence the ignorance of gainsayers. We will practice the strictest honesty in our dealings, and faithfulness in fulfilling all our promises.
We will abstain from all vain amusements and diversions, by which time would be foolishly spent, money wasted, our minds carnalized, and we exposed to many dangerous temptations.
We engage in a special manner to sanctify the Lord’s Day. It shall be our study to keep our garments unspotted by the flesh, and walk as becometh saints.
7. To receive such, and only such, into communion with us we think are born again; have been baptized according to the primitive mode of administering that ordinance, and profess their hearty approbation of, and subjection to, this our solemn church covenant.
These things, and whatever else may appear enjoined by the Word of God, we promise in the strength of divine grace to observe and practice. But knowing our insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good, in and of ourselves, we look up to Him who giveth power to the faint, rejoicing that in the Lord we have not only righteousness but strength. Hold thou us up, O Lord, and we shall be safe! Amen.