Wesley's Class Meetings

Jim Watt jmbetter at gmail.com
Thu Mar 12 21:56:37 PDT 2009


*Jim & Marie Watt*

*Tel: 253.874.4265 -- Email: jmbetter at gmail.com*

*Web: www.2rbetter.org*

   *2009-03-12 - WESLEY'S CLASS MEETINGS*

*John Wesley's Accountability Discipleship Groups*

 The heart of Methodism during the life of John Wesley was the Methodist
Class Meeting. This was a small covenant discipleship support group where
members were accountable to each other. They confessed their faults one to
another, prayed for each other, and stirred up one another to love and good
works. Here the teachings of the Bible were examined in light of actual
personal experience. Here leaders were nurtured and equipped.

 Consider two outside reasons for seriously looking into these groups. The
French Revolution took place in 1789, nearing the close of Wesley's life,
and completing 51 years of the operation of the Class Meetings. At that time
an English Sociologist, himself an unbeliever, made the following remarks:
“Except for Wesley's Class Meetings, the French Revolution and the
guillotine would have leaped the English Channel, and devastated Great

 At that time Wesley saw 70,000 members in his Class Meetings, composed of
some 8 or so members each. They took place in England, Wales, Scotland and
Ireland. Wesley traveled over 50,000 miles on horseback to oversee these and
the churches. He wrote the majority of his books on horseback. Membership in
their churches was dependent upon membership in these groups.

 Then - prior to the formation of Communism in Russia in 1917, Lenin visited
England. He was profoundly impressed with Wesley's Class Meetings. So much
so - that he adapted the principle, and formed Communist Cell Meetings.

 *John Wesley's Rules for the Band-Societies (drawn up Dec. 25, 1738)*

 *The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, “Confess your
faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.” -
James 5:16. *To this end, we intend:

 1. To meet once a week, at the least.

 2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary

 3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing
or prayer.

 4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our
souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the
temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.

 5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person

 6. To desire some person among us; to speak his own state first, and then
to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be,
concerning their state, sins and temptations.

 *Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us
may be to this effect:-*

 1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins?

 2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?

 3. Have you the witness of God's Spirit with your spirit, that you are a
child of God?

 4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?

 5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you?

 6. Do you desire to be told your faults?

 7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home?

 8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time,
whatever is in his heart concerning you?

 9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatever we think, whatever
we fear, whatever we hear, concerning you?

 10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible,
that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?

 11. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions,
entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without
exception, without disguise, and without reserve?

 ** Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion offers;
the four following at every meeting:-*

 1. *What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?*

 2. *What temptations have you met with?*

 3. *How were you delivered?*

 4. *What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be
sin or not?*

 *Conditions of Membership into Methodist Society:*

 *There is one only condition previously required in those who desire
admission into these societies: a desire “to flee from the wrath to come, to
be saved from their sins:”* But, wherever this is really fixed in the soul,
it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue
therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation.
Thus we say to those who unite with us:

 *You are supposed to have the faith that “overcomes the world.” To you,
therefore, it is not grievous:*

 *I. Carefully to abstain from doing evil; in particular:*

 1. Neither to *buy nor sell anything at all on the Lord's day.*

 2. To taste* no spirituous liquor*, no dram of any kind, unless prescribed
by a Physician.

 3. To *be at a word both in buying and selling.*

 4. To *pawn nothing*, no, not to save life.

 5. *Not to mention the fault of any behind his back*, and to *stop those
short that do.*

 6. To *wear no needless ornaments,* such as *rings*, *earrings*, *necklaces
*, *lace*, *ruffles*.

 7. To *use no* needless self-indulgence, such as taking *snuff or tobacco*,
unless prescribed by a Physician.

 *II. Zealously to maintain good works; in particular:*

 1. To *give alms* of such things as you possess, and that *to the uttermost
of your power*.

 2. To *reprove all that sin in your sight*, and that in love and meekness
of wisdom.

 3. To *be patterns* of *diligence* and *frugality*, of *self-denial*,
and *taking
up the cross daily.*

 *III. Constantly to attend on all the ordinances of God; in particular:*

 1. To *be at church* and at the Lord's table *every week*, and *at every
public meeting of the Bands*.

 2. To *attend the ministry of the word every morning*, unless distance,
business, or sickness prevent.

 3. To *use private prayer every day*; and *family prayer*, if you are the
head of a family.

 4. To *read the Scriptures, and meditate therein, at every vacant hour*.

 5. To observe, as days of *fasting or abstinence, all Fridays* in the year.

 *These are the General Rules of our societies;* all which we are taught of
God to observe, even in his written word, the only rule, and the sufficient
rule, both of our faith and practice. And all these, we know, his Spirit
writes on every truly awakened heart. *If there be any among us who observe
them not, who habitually break any of them*, let it be made known unto them
who watch over that soul as they that must give an account. *We will
admonish him of the error of his ways; we will bear with him for a season:
But then if he repent not, he has no more place among us. We have delivered
our own souls. *- Wesley's Works Vol. 8, pgs 270, 271, 272-274.

 *Examples of John Wesley's Discipline in Action:*

 *Detailed account of those who had left the society**: *since Dec. 30 - was

 14 (chiefly Dissenters) because otherwise their Minister would not give
them the sacrament.

9 because their husbands or wives were not willing they should stay in it.

5 because their master and mistress would not let them come.

7 because their acquaintance persuaded them to leave it.

5 because people said such bad things of the society.

9 because they would be laughed at.

3 because they could not spare time to come.

2 because it was too far off.

1 because she was falling into fits.

1 because people were so rude in the streets.

2 because Thomas Naisbut was in the society.

1 because he would not turn back on his baptism.

1 because it was time enough to serve God yet.

 *Detailed account of those who were expelled from the society**: *since
Dec. 30 - was 64:

 2 for cursing and swearing.

2 for habitual Sabbath-breaking.

17 for drunkenness.

2 for retailing spirituous liquors.

3 for quarreling and brawling.

1 for beating his wife.

3 for habitual, willful lying.

4 for railing and evil-speaking.

1 for idleness and laziness.

29 for lightness and carelessness.

- Wesley's Works Vol. 1. p. 415 - March 4, 1741

 *The Importance of Discipline:*

 “Through all Cornwall I find the societies have suffered great loss from
want of discipline. Wisely said the ancients, 'The soul and body make a man;
*the Spirit and discipline make a Christian.'”*

* Wesley's *Works Vol. 2, pg. 204.

 “Dear Adam [Clark], *Discipline *is the great want in Guernsey; *without
which, the work of God cannot prosper. *You did well to *set upon it without
delay, and to be as exact as possible.”*

- Wesley's Works Vol. 13, pg. 101.

 *John Wesley would not employ time on people if they would not meet in the
Class Meeting:*

* *May 26, 1759 ... “I found the little society which I had joined two years
since had so split in pieces. In the afternoon I met several members of the
praying societies: and *showed them what Christian fellowship was, and what
need they had of it*. About forty of them met me on Sunday the 27th, in Mr.
Gillies's Kirk, immediately after Evening Service. *I left them determined
to meet Mr. Gillies weekly, at the same time and place. If this be done, I
shall try to see Glasgow again: If not, I can employ my time better.”* -
Wesley's Works Vol. 2, pg. 482.

 “*Those who will not meet in class cannot stay with us.” *- Wesley's
Letters Vol. 7 pg. 154; Dec. 7, 1782


 *I am no longer my own, but Yours.*

*Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will.*

*Put me to doing, put me to suffering.*

*Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,*

*exalted for You or brought low for You.*

*Let me be full, let me be empty.*

*Let me have all things, let me have nothing.*

*I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.*

*And now, O glorious and blessed God:*

*Father, Son and Holy Spirit,*

*You are mine, and I am Yours.*

*So be it.*

*And the covenant which I have made on earth,*

*let it be ratified in heaven.*


 * NOTE:** *Throughout the years people have been interested to see the
insight and steps Wesley used, that produced through the Class Meetings such
a surging spread of vital results, that continued decade after decade. This
with the 100-year Moravian Revival at Herrnhut, are two of the
longest-continuing revivals of the church age. It will be clear to readers
that our present day and culture would require adaptation of the rules of
Wesley's day. Nonetheless, in areas of persecution such as England
experienced in Wesley's day, it is remarkable how closely the above rules
are followed in deeply persecuted lands of our day. America and Canada are
fast losing religious freedom. What will it be like just prior to the soon
return of our Lord? - Jim Watt

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