The Necessity of Reformation by the 1679 Synod of Boston in New-England, quoted in Richard Owen Roberts, ed., Sanctify the Congregation: A Call to the Solemn Assembly and to Corporate Repentance, pp. 31-32:
Solemn and explicit renewal of the Covenant is a Scripture expedient for reformation. We seldom read of any solemn reformation but what was accomplished in this way, as the Scriptures abundantly declare and testify. As the judgments which befell the Lord’s people of old are recorded for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11), so the course which God led them to observe in order to gain reformation and to avert those judgments is recorded for our imitation. And this was an explicit renovation of covenant. That the Lord calls us to this work, the following considerations seem to prove.
- If implicit renewal of Covenant is an expedient for reformation and to divert impending wrath and judgment, then much more an explicit renewal is so. The first of these is too obvious to doubt. In prayer and more especially on days of solemn humiliation before the Lord, there is an implicit renewal of Covenant. The very dictates of natural conscience put men upon such duties when they are apprehensive of a day of wrath approaching. If we are afraid to renew our Covenants with God for fear some men will not be true and faithful in doing what they promise, then we must not observe days of fasting and prayer. None will say this.
- When the church was overrun with idolatry and superstition, those whom the Lord raised up as reformers called for the solemn renewal of the Covenant. You can find this in the records of Asa, Jehoiada, Hezekiah and Josiah. By a parity of reason, when churches are overgrown with wordliness (which is spiritual idolatry) and other corruptions, the same course may and should be observed in order to provoke Reformation.
- We find in Scripture that when corruption of manners (though not in worship) has prevailed in the church, renovation of Covenant has been the expedient whereby reformation has been attempted and in some measure attained. The Jews have dreaded the sin of idolatry ever since the Babylonian captivity (John 8:41). In Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s time, sensuality, Sabbath breaking, oppression, strait-handedness respecting the public worship of God (the very same sins that are found among us) were common, prevailing iniquities. In consequence, those reformers called the people to renew their covenant and to solemnly promise God that they would endeavor not to offend by those evils as formerly (Ezra 10:3; Nehemiah 5:12,13; chapter 10 in total; 13:15).
- The things which are mentioned in the Scriptures as grounds for renewing Covenant are applicable to us. The averting of divine wrath is expressed as a sufficient reason for attendance upon this duty (2 Chronicles 29:10; Ezra 10:14). Again, being circumstanced with difficulties and distresses is mentioned as the ground of explicit renovation of Covenant (Nehemiah 9:36-38). Hence, the Lord’s servants, when so circumstanced, have been accustomed to make solemn vows, an express form of covenanting (Genesis 28:20,21; Numbers 28:1,2; Judges 11:30). Clouds of wrath are now hanging over our churches. Every one sees that we are circumstanced with some distressing difficulties. This consideration alone ought to be enough to bring us to the renewal of our solemn engagements unto the Lord our God.
- Men are hereby brought under a stronger obligation to better obedience. There is an awe of God upon the consciences of men when so obliged. Just as is true in respect to oaths, those that have any conscience in them, when under such bonds, are afraid to violate them. Some that are merely legalists and hypocrites may, under solemn Covenants with God, feel such an awe that they are brought at least to an outward reformation, but this may be sufficient to divert temporal judgments. Those that are sincere will, thereby, be engaged unto a closer and more holy walk before the Lord and so become eminent blessings unto the societies and places whereto they belong.
- This is the way both to prevent and to recover from apostasy. In this respect, even if there were no visible degeneracy among us, this renovation of Covenant would be of singular advantage. There was no public idolatry nor other outward transgressions allowed in the days of Joshua (Joshua 23:8; Judges 2:7). Yet Joshua persuaded the children of Israel to renew their covenant. This was doubtless so that he might thereby restrain them from future idolatry and apostasy (Joshua 24:25).
- The churches which have lately and solemnly attended this Scripture expedient for reformation have experienced the presence of God with them, signally owning them therein. Think how much more of a blessing might be expected if there should be a general concurrence in this matter!