Swansea Baptist Covenant of 1663
The Organizing Covenant of the Founders of the First Baptist Church in Swansea, Massachusetts (1663)
Whereas we poor creatures are, through the exceeding riches of God’s infinite grace and mercy, fully snatched out of the kingdom of darkness—and by his infinite power translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: and there to be partakers with all saints of those privileges which Christ, by the shedding of his precious blood, hath purchased for us.
And that we do find our souls, in some good measure, wrought on by divine grace: to desire to be found conformable to Christ in all things:
Being also constrained, by the matchless love and wonderful distinguishing mercies that we abundantly enjoy from his most free grace, to serve him according to our utmost capacities.
We also know that it is our most bounden duty to walk in visible communion with Christ and each other, according to the prescript rule of his most holy word;
And also that it is our undoubted right through Christ to enjoy all the privileges of God’s house, which our souls have for a long time panted after;
And finding no other way at present;
By the all-working Providence of our only wise God and gracious Father, one is opened to us for the enjoyment of the same;
We do therefore—after often and solemn prayer to the Lord for help and direction, in the fear of his holy name, and with hands lifted up to him the most high God—humbly and freely offer up ourselves this day a living sacrifice unto him who is our God, in covenant through Christ our Lord and only Saviour:
To walk together according to his revealed word in visible gospel relation, both to Christ our only head and to each other as fellow members and bretheren and of the same household of faith;
And we humbly engage that through his strength we will henceforth endeavor: to perform all our respective duties toward God and each other; to practice all the ordinances of Christ according to what is or shall be revealed to us in our respective places; to exercise, practice and submit to the government of Christ in this His Church:
Namely—further protesting against all rending or dividing principles or practices from any of the people of God, as being most abominable and loathsome to our souls and utterly inconsistent with that Christian charity which declares men to be Christ’s disciples;
Indeed further declaring that, as union in Christ is the sole ground of our communion with each other,
So we are ready to accept and receive too, and hold communion with all such as by a judgement of charity we conceive to be fellow members with us in our head Jesus Christ, though differing from us in such controversial points as are not absolutely and essentially necessary to salvation.
We also hope that, though of ourselves we are altogether unworthy and unfit to offer up ourselves to God or to do him a favor or to expect any favor or mark of merit of salvation, he will accept our free will offering in and through the merit and mediation of our dear Redeemer.
And that he will employ and improve us in his service to his praise, to whom be all glory and honour now and forever. Amen.
This is the oldest extant Baptist covenant in the Americas. It was attested by Isaac Bachus from the Swansea church records which he held as he wrote his Baptist history in the 18th century. The original copy within the John Myles record book (from 1649) is held at the John Hay Library, Brown University. It was most probably written by Myles and signed by a small group of men who were first associated with Obadiah Holmes in the Newman Congregational church about 1649. We date it after November 1663 when Thomas Willet was given permission to find additional leadership for the Newman congregation in Rehoboth.