Come, let us use the grace divine,
And all with one accord
In a perpetual covenant join
Ourselves to Christ our Lord,
Give ourselves up thro’ Jesu’s power
His name to glorify,
And promise in this sacred hour
For God to live, and die.
The covenant we this moment make
Be ever kept in mind!
We will no more our God forsake,
Or cast his words behind;
We never will throw off his fear,
Who hears our solemn vow:
And if thou art well-pleas’d to hear,
Come down, and meet us now!
Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Let all our hearts receive,
Present with thy celestial host
The peaceful answer give;
To each the covenant-blood apply
Which takes our sins away,
And register our names on high,
And keep us to that day!
Although it is not known whether Charles Wesley specifically intended this hymn to be sung at Methodism’s annual Covenant Service, it has subsequently become an integral part of that liturgy. First published in the second volume of Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures (1762), it is prefaced there with a quotation from Jeremiah 1:5: “Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord, in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.” Wesley expands on the idea of a “perpetual covenant” in a way that makes clear the early Methodist emphasis on personal and social holiness. The commitment to holy living is most apparent in the second stanza, but the final couplet of the first stanza contains an especially striking expression of the depth of true commitment: not only to holy living, but to be unafraid of dying for the Faith. As Methodism’s recent Covenant liturgies have sought to emphasise that the renewal of the covenant is sealed in the celebration of Holy Communion, the second half of the final stanza takes on further significance: linking covenant, sacrament, and salvation.
Although widely recognised as a distinctive feature of Methodism, the original Covenant Service developed by the Wesleys had its roots in earlier Puritan practice. More recently, other liturgical traditions have sought to borrow and adapt elements of the service for their own contexts. However, in The Renewal of the Covenant in the Methodist Tradition, David Tripp argues that the act of renewing the covenant has a broader ecumenical significance as an example of a “realized baptism”. He draws a parallel with the renewal of baptismal vows commonplace in many traditions. Wesley’s hymn – with its reference to “our solemn vow”, its commitment to holy living, and the sacramental resonance of its final stanza – might be seen as equally fitting for the renewal of our baptismal identity as for the renewal of the covenant.