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The Doctrine of the Everlasting Covenant in the
Writings of Ellet J. Waggoner

The Anabaptists, instead of applying the covenant concept to Christian conduct, saw the covenants as normative in the areas of ecclesiastical organization and membership. Walker says it this way,

That system (Congregationalism) recognized as the constitutive act of a church was a covenant individually entered into between each member, his brethren, and his God, pledging him to submit himself to all due ordinances and officers and seek the good of all his associates. In like manner this compact bound its signers to promote the general good and to yield obedience to such law as the community would frame.12

Coupled with a democratic tendency and their firm belief that the sphere of secular politics were only a necessary evil, this view heavily favored voluntary commitment and a desire to become pure by means of doing right and avoiding evil.

De Jong summarizes the effect of these two streams of thought upon American Protestantism by saying,

The early settlers of New England were indebted to the Anabaptists for their conception of the church covenant and to the Reformed for their teaching on the Covenant of Grace and related subjects. The question challenging the Congregationalists was whether the two conceptions were homogeneous and if not, which of to be victorious at the expense of the other.13

With this understanding of the tension between the two traditions over the ways in which the covenants were to be applied, one can foresee what would happen if there was to be a strong religious revival, one that would work as a catalyst for these views. The Second Great Awakening was just that test.

The Nineteenth Century and the Second Great Awakening

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants