Christian Perfection
Sanctification by "The Comforter"
Methodist Method


    You can view  21   "Methodist Methods"as a Word Document

 

The Methodist Methods were practiced by the Methodist Societies for spiritual development, originally to "Flee the wrath to come".  The Methodist Methods, presented in the Word document format above, are not a complete list of every method practiced but provide a general overview.   

When John Wesley defined "Methodist" for the 1753 English Dictionary "One that (or who) lives according to the Method laid down in the Bible", he was basically referring to:

1. prevenient grace

2. justifying grace

3. sanctifying grace

4. Christian perfection 

The Methodist Society ministered to the Methodist follower based on the grace given to that follower by God.   

The society ministered to those with:

1. prevenient grace with a Methodist Class Society

2. justifying grace with a Methodist Band Society

3. sanctifying grace with a Methodist Select Society

 A focus of the:

Class Society: outer holiness

Band Society: inner holiness

Select Society: spreading holiness

 Please note the above description is a generalization, certainly some parts of some class societies practiced inner holiness and participated in community service to spread holiness.  But the general focus of the society is outlined.

 

This method of ministry to grace received is what has been missing in the Methodist Church for about 100 years. Also, weekly confession, repentance and accountability with spiritual goal of Christian Perfection, (by grace through faith ), is largely ignored.
John Wesley transformed England in the 1700's and historians have said  Many historians are quoted as saying Wesley was, “ONE OF THE GREATEST ENGLISHMEN WHO EVER LIVED" .

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                    Methodist Band Society

   Rules of the Band Societies
                                 December 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 ye 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 reason.

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 present.

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 of 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, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you ?

9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever 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 others; 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 ?


______________________________________


             The Means of Grace 

                 John Wesley

 

1.  Prayer

2.  Bible reading

3.  Communion

4.  worship

5.  service

6.  practice a method of holiness,
     society meeting

                the methodist method

  You were probably taught in confirmation class that we were first called Methodist because members of the Oxford Holy Club practiced methods of holiness. What you probably were not taught was  the specifics of how the methods fit together to disciple people.

 The significance of the method is very important, because it is the method to Christian perfection..  God anointed the Wesley’s to practice and share these methods with others so all could grow in God’s grace.  John Wesley the founder of Methodism, taught, and defined;

  A Methodist -- “one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible”.

 Have you practiced one of the methods?  Do you have one of the methods to study? 
          Or is it possible that you are you a
             Methodist without a  method?

 

The purpose of this part of this writing is to present the methods of holiness used by the Oxford Methodist and early Methodist and explain their significance from one layperson to another.  The final method will include an explanation of how they form one method that leads to Christian perfection.

                  21 methodist methods

Methodist Method # 1 Continuous Diaries

 The Holy Club  practiced this method of holiness

      In July of 1969 Richard Heitzenrater was looking through an old library in England.  He picked up a diary that was written in code.  Because he had previously worked on John Wesley’s diary he recognized the code an realized he had something.  It turned out to be the diary of Benjamin Ingham.  Ingham explained the secret code better than what had been previously found and this turned out to be a valuable find.  We learned that Charles Wesley taught the secret code to Benjamin but John Wesley was the one to make up the code.  The code was used for privacy and efficiency and served as a written conscious.  Every hour of the day the Oxford  Methodist would update the diary.

The significance of this “Method of Holiness” is the diary served as a tool for self examination, and included blessings, sins, detailed accounts of daily activities, books read, conversations with other Oxford Methodist, means of grace observed, including prayer time, and devotions, including an intensity gauge for many of the entries.

  source:

 Diary of an Oxford Methodist Benjamin Ingham,

 1733-1734 edited by Richard P. Heitzenrater

 Duke Univ. Press 1985

                                               christianperfection.com

Methodist Method #2 Comparing Diaries

 The Holy Club practiced this method of holiness

 The Oxford Methodist did not stop with keeping a continuous religious diary.  To put oneself on a path to greater holiness they would compare and evaluate each others diaries.  The secret code prohibited outsiders from understanding the diaries insuring privacy, so the only people who could participate in the diary swapping were the Methodists. 

The significance of this method of holiness is  sharing diaries provided the Oxford Methodist with a high degree of accountability.

source: ibid.

                                           christianperfection.com

Methodist Method #3 One on One Discipling

 The Holy Club  practiced this method of holiness

 The Oxford Methodist would meet one on one with John Wesley for discipling. 
source: Ibid.

 The significance of this method of holiness showed both the dedication that Wesley had for each person in his care and the time invested in each and every one

                                             christianperfection.com 

Methodist Method # 4 Temperance

 The Holy Club practiced this method of holiness

The Oxford Methodists would practice temperance when eating. A list of ten rules to follow from Wesley’s Oxford Diary IV [viii]: “As to Temperance, I resolve in eating,

1. Taste only of two flesh dishes.

2. Only one slice of each.

3. At each  [ meal ], fix your quantity before you taste.

4. If possible help yourself last.

5. When I have port, only port and water.

6. Before you sit at full table, pray for help.

7. In C[company], only a Cheese and Roots.

8. After any excess, abridge the next meal.

9. Only three dishes  of tea in the afternoon, never but six.

10. When sugar or cream in afternoon, no bread and butter.”
source:Ibid

Evidently the significance of this method of holiness, would be  that Wesley practiced control of the “flesh” through a written agreement he had with himself when he was not affected by emotion. Notice #3 he uses logic to determine what will be eaten before he will taste it and then get carried away. This written set of rules provides self control.

 

Methodist Method # 5 Spiritual Pulse Taking

The Holy Club practiced this method of holiness

 Daily examination of conscience was a method of holiness practiced by the Oxford Methodist a sample of the questions one would ask oneself;

 

1. Did I in the morning plan the business of the day?

2. Have I been simple and recollected in everything?

3. Have I been or seem angry?

4. Have I used the ejaculations (prayers) once an hour?

 Methodist Method # 6  Holy Club Small Group

      The Oxford Methodist would practice their religion in small groups  using Dr. Horneck’s Rules for Religious Societies

     The significance of this method of holiness was the spiritual fellowship bond that can only come from small groups and was something practiced by Christians since the first century.

 Methodist Method # 7  Religious Society

                  Methodist Society

 The General Rules

 Continue to be the general rules today. 
Designed to “Flee the Wrath to Come”  by watching over one another  under the direction of a group leader.  The group leader reports to his  superiors the condition of his group members.  A code of conduct is provided so members can give an account of their obedience. The most recent update of the general rules can be found in the book of discipline.

                                              christianperfection.com

Methodist Method # 8 Weekly Home Visits

     The “Original” Methodist Class Society

 The Group leader would visit each member in their home for the purpose of instruction, prayer, Bible reading and to provide the member the opportunity to practice confession, repentance, and accountability.  Because of interference from family members, this Method of Holiness was replaced with meeting in groups, with other members of the “Class” society.

 

Methodist Method # 9  Group and Individual Society Meeting

                Methodist Class Society

 The members of a Methodist Class Society would come together with their group leader once a week for worship, prayer, Bible reading, and instruction, then each member would meet with the group leader separately for confession, repentance, and accountability.

                                          christianperfection.com

 

Methodist Method # 10 Accountability with a group leader

                 Methodist Class Society

 Each member of this method of holiness would give his or her account of that week with a reply from the group leader to each in turn. This was the entry point to Methodism that comes from the General Rules of the Societies (see appendix # 1).  Usually a group of 12 persons, men and women various ages and stages in life. Prevenient grace was the spiritual level these persons were primarily ministered to, however in later years of Methodism, they were blended with those who had received justifying grace.

John Atkinson in his work “The Class Leader His Work and How To Do It” says the group leader would reply to each group member, but does not say others would reply, so evidently a “no crosstalk format”, to use a more modern term, was employed. This would mean  that there would not be conversation between group members.  Which was a more user friendly way to conduct a group meeting for beginners.  This eases the tension that may arise from dreading questions or comments from others (not qualified to ask) that might cause embarrassment.

 An example we could easily relate to would be’ prayer circle where each person prays in turn but others do not respond by asking questions of the person who prayed.  So with this method each person would offer his or her state of mind and the group leader would reply, because the accountability is being directed through the group leader  The significance of this method of holiness is that a spiritually mature Christian appointed by the pastor directed the  spiritual development. The Methodist Class Society observed the General Rules

primary source “ The Class  Leader His Work And How To Do It

John Atkinson  New York  Phillips & Hunt.

Cincinnati Walden & Stowe  1882
                                        christianperfection.com

Methodist Method # 11  Accountability with a group leader 

                      “a variable format”.

 Methodist Class Society

 Each week the format varies with this accountability with a group leader.  The weeks break down as follows:

 One evening devoted to prayer and singing exclusively.

 “One to an experience meeting with voluntary or solicited with an occasional word of encouragement, reproof, or advice as may seem best adapted, interspersed, of course with appropriate songs.”

 “Two evenings to Scripture recitations, bearing on some subject previously announced, ...”

(observed the General Rules)   Ibid.

                                               christianperfection.com

Methodist Method # 12 Accountability with a group leader 

                     “the conversational plan”

 Methodist Class Society

 The group leader opens the meeting and announces the topic of conversation.  Then the group leader gives his or her own experience concerning it, and the asks volunteers  to do the same , all the while making all they say come out in the form of natural conversation.

 There was no discussion nothing but experience.  (observed the general rules) Ibid.

                                            christianperfection.com

Methodist Method # 13
Accountability with a group leader

                         “free talk”

                 Methodist Class Society

 Arose from “Disliking the old method of a brief testimony from each person, and a reply from the leader, ...”  [ evidently they though no crosstalk was boring ] avoiding rambling and unprofitable conversation   “...the Leader gives out a scripture promise at the close of a meeting for the succeeding one.  Something of  system of texts, beginning with the Christian life, and then expressing different stages of advancement,   “

evidently crosstalk was encouraged, members observed the general rules.          Ibid.

Methodist Method # 14 Accountability with a Group Leader

              Methodist Probationers Class

 

     The Method of Holiness  for this class is unknown, but it probably followed closely one of the 3 “older methods” of the class society.  It is being listed as a separate method because the class was offered to those who were on a probationary status, and after satisfactory completion they would move onto a regular Methodist Class Society.  Some societies had a 3 month probationary period.

  Some societies allowed two visits to a Methodist class society to check it out,  some societies staggered the visiting meetings to one every other week, to protect the sensitivities of the current members.  Evidently the probationary period was sometimes served as a part of a Class Society meeting and sometimes the probationary period was served as a separate meeting from the class. These were ministered to as those with convincing or convicting grace.

 

Methodist Method # 15 Group Accountability

 Methodist Band Society

 Where the Methodist Class Society was focused to be an entry point to Methodism, the Methodist Band Society was for those who experienced justifying grace, sought sanctification and wanted to maximize James 5:16.

 

 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

 

This was a small group that practiced one method of holiness, (The Rules of the Band Societies), without an appointed group leader, crosstalk throughout, divided by sex , age, and marital status usually 4-6 members.  This was a closed meeting

observed the “General Rules” ,and the “Directions Given to the Band-Societies 12/25/1744

 

 

 

Methodist Method #16  Group Accountability

            Methodist Select Society

 No specific method of holiness.  No group leader.

Members “selected” by John Wesley or another official with senior ranking in the Methodist Societies.

usually a group of 4-6

Observed the “General Rules”  and the Directions given to the select society.  Practiced accountability for sanctification and for their gifts of the spirit.

                                           christianperfection.com 

Methodist Method #17  Accountability with a Group Leader

              Methodist Penitent Society

 This group was comprised of persons who were backsliders from either the class or maybe the band societies. The method is unknown.  Meetings usually conducted on Saturday evening to separate them from the Class and Band Society meetings usually held on Thursday evening.  John Wesley presided over many of these meetings with the no one left behind approach for those who wanted to repent and come back. Practiced accountability for their convicting grace.

 

 

Methodist Method #18  General Rules for Employing time

            from John Wesley’s diary

1. Begin and end every day with God; sleep not immoderately.

2. Be diligent in your calling.

3. Employ all spare hours in religion, as able.

4. All holidays (holy days ).

5. Avoid drunkards and busybodies.

6. Avoid curiosity, and all useless employments and knowledge.

7. Examine yourself every night.

8. Never on any account pass a day without setting aside at least an hour for devotion.

9. Avoid all manner of passion.

   Friday, March 26.  I found a great many unclean thoughts arise in prayer (or devotion), and discovered these temptations to it:

a.  Too much addicting myself to light behavior at all times.

b. Listening too much to idle talk, or reading vain plays or books.

c. Idleness, and lastly want of devotion...from which I perceive it is necessary:

  a. To labor for grave and modest carriage;

  b. To avoid vain and light company; and

  c. To entertain awful apprehensions of the presence

     of God.

  d. To avoid idleness, freedom with women an

     high seasoned meats;

  e. To resist the very beginnings of lust, not by 

     arguing with, but by thinking no more of it or by

     immediately going into company; lastly

  F. To use frequent and fervent prayer.

 

 

 

Methodist Method # 19   General Rules as to Intention

               from John Wesley’s diary

1. In every act reflect on the end.

2. Begin every action in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

3. Begin every important work with prayer.

4. Do not leave off a duty because you are tempted to do it.

 

Methodist Method # 20  A General Rule in All Actions of Life

             From John  Wesley’s diary

 

Whenever you are to do an action, consider how God did or would do the like, and do you imitate His example.

 This method is like WWJD... What would Jesus Do?

 Methodist Method # 21  Accountability According to Grace Received

 To better understand how these methods of holiness  worked together, let’s start with where they started.

 

     The entry point to  the Methodist Societies was the Methodist Class Society. This was an open meeting and if someone was drawn to Methodism by prevenient grace one would start by visiting a “class”.  Historically, on average  after 2.3 years of meeting in a class society people would experience justifying grace  and would desire to move onward.  This  next accountability step was the Methodist Band Society.  This was a small circle  of  4-6 people grouped according to age, marital status, and sex.  These  groups were designed to draw people close to one another and though accountability and prayer bring healing from the consequences of sin.  The design of this meeting was based on James 5:16 “Confess your faults  to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed...”

     Those who became leaders and would desire to go on to perfection in sanctifying grace might also be “selected” by John Wesley to enter the “Select Society”.  This was a group that John Wesley would himself attend till at least the age of 85.

     Backsliders also had a place.  The no one left behind attitude produced a special meeting called the Penitent Society, conducted on Saturday nights, apart from the Class and Band meetings (usually held on Thursday nights).

 

”The question is what to do about this? The answer is to receive the grace of God while  it is available

     Recognized  ways to make yourself available to the grace of God or the “means of grace” would include:

1.  Prayer

2.  Bible reading

3.  Communion

4.  worship

5.  service

6.  practice a method of holiness

 

. Having a pure love of God is the basis for Christian perfection which John Wesley taught.  Putting faith into practice is the follow through .

 Bibliography

 Diary of an Oxford Methodist Benjamin Ingham,

 1733-1734 edited by Richard P. Heitzenrater

 Duke Univ. Press 1985

 

“ The Class  Leader His Work And How To Do It

John Atkinson  New York  Phillips & Hunt.

Cincinnati Walden & Stowe  1882

 

The Early Methodist Class Meeting

Its Origins and significance

David Lowes Watson

Wipf and Stock Publishers  2002

 

John Wesley’s Class Meeting

A Model for Making Disciples

D. Michael Henderson

Francis Asbury Press 1997

 

The Drillmaster of Methodism

C.L.Goodell

copyright 1902

reprinted by Allegheny Publications 1987

 

The Class Meeting In Twenty Short Chapters

by O.P. Fitzgerald, D.D.

Southern Methodist Publishing House

1880

 

The Class Meeting

Hogue

 

Dr Horneck's rules for religious societies

The general rules

 

Rules of the band societies

 

Directions given to the band societies 12/25/1744

 

Directions given to the Select Society

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