When Rev. Samuel Oliver Wylie of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, primary author of the Covenant of 1871, died, a document was found among his papers that shows that he made a personal covenant with the Lord while he was a seminary student. It was the practice that many of God's people in the past followed as well - notable examples include Philip and Matthew Henry, and Thomas Boston.
Thomas Sproull, writing S.O. Wylie's obituary, introduces Wylie's personal covenant thus:
"The following is a copy of a covenant found among his papers. From its date I learn it was entered into the second year that he was in the seminary, on a day observed by professors and students as a day of fasting and humiliation. I have a pretty distinct recollection of the exercises of that day, and of the solemnity of the occasion. It seems that he went to his lodging impressed with the services, and gave himself in this formal manner to God. Would that such exercises were still observed with similar results.
"Having spent this day as a clay of fasting, humiliation and prayer unto God, with an acknowledgment of sins, original and actual, all of which duties have been attended with very great imperfection, I, Samuel O. Wylie, desiring to be fully sensible of my ruined and helpless condition by nature, and believing that there is no way of salvation but through the covenant of grace entered into by the Father and the Son from all eternity, and made with the sinner in the day of effectual calling, do this evening of the twenty-fourth of December, 1840, enter into personal covenant with the Lord God of my salvation, which covenant is contained in the following words:
'1. I avouch the Lord to be my God and covenant Father, and give myself unreservedly to him, earnestly desiring to be recorded amongst the number of his sons and daughters.
2. I take the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the adorable Trinity, to be my Saviour, confiding entirely in the merits of his death, both for justification and sanctiflcation. I do most solemnly engage to take him in his three-fold relation of prophet, priest and king, discarding all dependence upon the flesh and my own works of righteousness, each one of which in God's sight is inconceivably filthy and polluted.
3. I take the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Trinity, to be my sanctifier, relying upon his gracious operations for advancing the work of sanctiflcation in my soul, in enabling me to maintain a walk and conversation becoming the gospel.
4. In the strength of divine grace, I engage to live in a holy and habitual reliance upon God for all things pertaining to life and godliness, giving diligent attention to the means of grace as ordained by God for my good, promising to wait upon him in secret prayer morning and evening, to attend family, social and public worship, with submission to the courts of the Lord's house.
To the performance of these and all other duties, through divine strength, I solemnly pledge myself, calling to witness my sincerity in this transaction the persons of the Godhead and all holy angels.
In testimony whereof I hereunto affix my name, Samuel O. Wylie.
'December 24, 1840.'"