The General Rules
The Southern Methodist Church
General Conference Board of Administration
Statement on “The General Rules”
The Southern Methodist Church recognizes the historic value of The General Rules written by John Wesley in 1743, adopted by Methodism in its infancy, published in thirty-nine editions in Wesley’s life, and preserved by Methodism to the present time. The purpose of The General Rules is that each individual embrace a life of holiness. The original rules are preserved for Methodists of today.
John Wesley made specific applications of these three rules to the culture of his day. The applications Wesley made were a matter of the heart for him and his fellow Methodists as they strove to understand the Scriptures and live a life of holiness. Methodists today are called upon to make similar applications according to Scripture and Scriptural principles. In applications considered disputable, because they are not expressly taught in Scripture, let each believer hold his convictions in love and faith before the Lord and refuse to judge fellow believers. In areas clearly taught by Scripture, let each believer order his or her life accordingly. Let each believer remember the inspired words of Scripture, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (l Corinthians 10:31)
Adopted and Recommended for inclusion in the Discipline of the Southern Methodist Church as an interpretation of the General Rules by the 2002 General Conference – March 9, 2000.
The General Rules
There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission into these societies, a “desire to flee from the wrath to come and 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 shall continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
- I. 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 the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling;
- Drunkenness, or drinking spirituous liquors unless in cases of necessity;
- 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, i.e., 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,
- The putting on of gold and costly apparel;
- The taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus;
- The singing those songs or reading those books which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God;
- Softness or needless self-indulgence;
- Laying up treasures upon earth;
- Borrowing without a probability of paying, or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.
- It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
- II. Secondly: By being 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 them that are sick or in prison;
- To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; 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 them that are of the household of faith, or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another; helping each other in business; and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only.
- By all the 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.
- III. It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
- Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God: such are,
- The public worship of God;
- The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded;
- The Supper of the Lord;
- Family and private prayer;
- Searching the Scriptures;
- Fasting and abstinence.
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 His Spirit writes on truly awakened hearts. If there be any among us who observe them not, who habitually break 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 ways; we will bear with him for a season; but if he repent not, he hath no more place among us; we have delivered our own souls.