¶ 39. In the latter end of the year 1739, eight or ten persons came to Mr. Wesley in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin, and earnestly groaning for redemption. They desired, as did two or three more the next day, that. he would spend some dine with them in prayer, and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come, which they saw continually hanging over their beads. That be might have more time for this great work, be appointed a day when they might all come together, which, thenceforward, they did every week, namely, on Thursday, in the evening. For these and as many more as desired to join with them, for their number increased daily, be gave those advices from time to time which he judged most needful for them, and they always concluded their meetings with prayer suited to their several necessities.
¶ 40. This was the rise of the “United Society,” first in Europe, and then in America. Such a society is no other than “a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”
¶ 41. That it may be the more easily discerned whether they are indeed working out their own salvation, each society is divided into smaller companies, called classes, according to their respective places of abode There are about twelve persons in a class, one of whom is styled the leader. It is his duty,
I. To see each person in his class once a week, at least, in order,
First, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced; such as,
The taking of the name of God in vain.
The profaning of the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein, or by buying or selling.
Drunkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors; or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity.
The buying, selling, or holding of a human being as a slave.
Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling.
The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty.
The giving or taking things on usury—that is, unlawful interest.
Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation, particularly speaking evil of magistrates or ministers.
Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
Doing what we know is not for the glory of God; as,
Belonging to secret societies.
The putting on of gold or costly apparel. 3
The taking of such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Singing those songs or reading those books which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.
Softness or needless self-indulgence, especially snuffing, chewing, smoking, growing, manufacturing or selling tobacco, or the habitual use of opiates.
Laying up treasure upon earth.
Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.
Second, by doing good, by being in every kind merciful after their power, as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort and as far as possible to all men.
To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked. by visiting or helping those who are sick or in prison.
To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all with whom they have any intercourse, trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine, that “we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to do it.”
By doing good, especially to those who are of the household of faith, or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others, buying of one another, helping one another in business; and so much the more, because the world will love its own, and them only.
By all possible diligence, and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed.
By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely for the Lord’s sake.
Third, By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are,
The public worship of God;
¶ 46. These are the general rules of our societies, all of which we are taught of God to observe, even in His written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule both of our faith and practice; and all these we know the Spirit writes on truly awakened hearts. If there be any among us who observe them not, who habitually break any of them, let it be known unto them who watch over that soul as they who must give an account. We will admonish him of the error of his way. We will bear with him for a season. But if then he repent not, he hath no more a place among us. We have delivered our souls.
1 The United Societies,
founded in the United States by the Apostolic Asbury, were organized into
the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784. The terms “society” and “societies”
have always been retained In the Methodist Discipline, however, being used
in the sense of church and churches. These terms have also always been
used with the same signification in the Free Methodist Discipline.—Editors
of the Discipline of 1911.
2 This part refers to towns and cities, where the poor are generally numerous, and church expenses are considerable.
3 See Paragraph 406.