COVENANT, CHURCH, the formal and public act of mutual engagement that, according to the theory of the New England clergy, must be entered into by the founders of a particular church before the church could be considered legitimate. All New England churches were established upon such an agreement, and later recruits subscribed to the covenant; at times of revival, the covenant was often unanimously "renewed." The clergy of New England wrote more voluminously in defense of it than on any other single subject. Their argument contained the seeds of principles later transplanted to the realm of political theory, particularly the assertion that no society can have power over a man until he has voluntarily and explicitly contracted to accept its regulations.
Foster, Stephen. The Long Argument: English Puritanism and the Shaping of New England Culture, 1570–1700. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.
See alsoMeetinghouse .
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