Monday, March 10, 2008

John Wesley's rules for Methodist evangelists

"1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed for a moment; never be trifingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.

2. Be serious. Let your motto be, Holiness to the Lord. Avoid all lightness, jesting and foolish talking.

3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women in private.

4. Take no step towards marriage without first acquainting me with your design.

5. Believe evil of no one; unless you see it done, take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on everything; you know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner's side.

6. Speak evil of no one; else your words especially would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast til you come to the person concerned.

7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, and that plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.

8. Do not affect the gentleman. You have no more to do with this character than with that of a dancing-master. A preacher of the gospel is the servant of all.

9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; not of fetching wood (if time permit), or of drawing water; not of cleaning your own shoes, or your neighbor's.

10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time; and, in general, do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath but for conscience's sake.

11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always not to those who want you, but to those who want you most.

12. Act in all things not according to your own will but as a son in the gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct, partly in preaching and visiting the flock from house to house; partly in reading, meditation and prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord's vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory."

Quoted in J. C. Ryle, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, page 86.

Some of Wesley's rules will strike us today as meaningful, even obvious. Others of them will strike us as extreme and regimenting, especially outside an episcopal system of governance. One consideration that might make his position appear less strident in its demands is this. For a combat unit going into warfare, the disciplines of military life make sense. The soldiers know that the success of their mission, and their very lives, depend on every man being at his best.

Men of war accept disciplines that civilians might not even understand.