The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies
in London, Bristol, Kingswood, and Newcastle upon Tyne
1. In the latter end of the year 1739 eight or ten persons came to me 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 I would spend some time with them in prayer, and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come, which they saw continually hanging over their heads. That we might have more time for this great work I appointed a day when they might all come together, which from thenceforward they did every week, namely, on Thursday, in the evening. To these, and as many more as desired to join them (for their numbers increased daily), I gave those advises from time to time which I judged most needful for them; and we always concluded our meeting with prayer suited to their several necessities.
2. This was the rise of the United Society, first at London, and then in other places. 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’.
3. That is may the more easily be 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 every class, one of whom is styled the Leader. It is his business:
(1). To see each person in his class once a week at the least; in order
To receive what they are willing to give toward the relief of the poor;
To inquire how their souls prosper;
To advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require.
(2). To meet the Minister and the stewards of the Society once a week, in order:
To pay in to the stewards what they have received of their several classes in the week proceeding;
To show their account of what each person has contributed; and
To inform the Minister of any that are sick, or of any that walk disorderly and will not be reproved.
4. 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,
First, By doing no harm, by avoiding all evil in every kind — especially that which is most generally practised. Such is:
The taking the name of God in vain.
The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work thereon, or by buying or selling.
Drunkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors; or drinking them (unless in cases of extreme necessity).
Fighting, quarrelling, 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 uncustomed goods.
The giving or taking things on usury.
Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation, especially speaking evil of ministers or those in authority.
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 or costly apparel’, particularly the wearing of calashes, high-heads, or enormous bonnets;
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, and 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.
5. It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
Secondly, 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 is 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 they have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine of devils, that ‘we are not to do good unless our heart 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 that 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 that 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 their Lord’s sake’.
6. 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; and
Fasting, or abstinence.
7. 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 one of them, let it be made known unto them who watch over that soul, as they that must give account. We will admonish him of the error of his ways. We will bear with him for a season. But if then he repent not, he hath no more place among us. We have delivered our own souls.
Spending Time with Others
(for the week of September 27, 2020)
(PDF at the bottom of lesson)
Note to Group Leaders: More than anyone else, you are aware of the size of your group, time constraints, the needs of your group, etc. Please read through the Scripture and material below and use whatever you believe will be most helpful to your group.
This Week’s Scripture: Acts 9:19b-31 and Mark 2:1-12
Pastor Phillip’s Key Idea
“Learning, Loving, and Living Jesus involves influencing others for the sake of Jesus. Be the kind of person who brings others to Jesus.”
Discussing the Scripture
Applying the Scripture
ACTS (A prayer guide for this lesson)
John Wesley’s Questions for Self-Examination
Spending Time with God
(for the week of September 20, 2020)
(PDF file at bottom)
This Week’s Scripture: Luke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Pastor Phillip’s Key Idea
“Mary wanted to take advantage of Jesus' presence and for that reason sat at his feet to hear his teaching. We get to go into God’s presence!”
Discussing the Scripture
ACTS (A prayer guide for this lesson)
This is Lesson 9 in our series on the Book of James, "Living Wisely in Turbulent Times." In this video David and I discuss James 2:14-26. This is a text that has often been misunderstood through the years and so David and I do our best to clarify what James did and did not mean when he wrote in verse 24, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." Join us as we dig into God's Word.
This is Lesson 2 in our series on Spiritual Power. This lesson focuses on God's powerful outpouring of his Spirit in Acts 2. When we repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given the precious gift of his Holy Spirit to empower us to live the spiritual life.
The Spiritual Life, Part 1: Spiritual Power. Lesson 1: Meet The Holy Spirit
This is the first lesson in the new video series, The Spiritual Life. This first part is on spiritual power and focuses on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. This lesson is an introduction to who the Holy Spirit is.
This is part of our ongoing study of the Book of James entitled, Living Wisely in Turbulent Times. This discussion focuses on James 2:1-13. Thanks for watching. Enjoy.
This is an introduction to a new video series on the spiritual life from a Christian perspective.
Good morning brothers,
In this political season we're in (of course, now everything seems to be political, so I'm not sure we're ever out of this "season"), I thought this was a timely message from God's Word. The Apostle Paul wrote,
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8)
In seminary, as part of our training in sermon preparation, we learned it's essential for us to draw the meaning of a text out of the Scripture (exegesis), as opposed to going to the Scripture and putting upon it what we want it to mean (eisegesis). That's true for how all Christians ought to approach God's Word.
Every generation of Christians has to face the variety of competing "philosophies, empty deceits, human traditions, and elemental spirits of the world." There are many of them and they continually compete for our allegiance with Christ. And if we follow them, they can lead us off the narrow path Christ walked before us - the same path he has called us to walk after him.
I love politics. I definitely have my own deeply held convictions. But if I'm not regularly aligning my beliefs against the truth of God's Word, (instead of the other way around), I'll end up going astray, all the while thinking I'm on the side of the angels.
This is not a message against having opinions or even expressing them. But it is an admonition to remain diligent and vigilant in God's Word brothers. Let God alone mold and shape your mind. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, take every thought captive and bring it under the lordship of Christ. Let Christ and Christ alone set the agenda for your life - not just your politics or your views on society, justice, or college football - but for every sphere of your life.
Have a great day.
Your Brother in Christ,
In the previous post, I mentioned a book by George Grant that radically changed how I think, minister, etc. It’s called The Micah Mandate. Once again, I highly recommend it! I would now like to share how God used an audio message (also by George Grant) about an obscure man from the pages of history whom most folks have never heard of. Like Grant's book mentioned in the previous post, his message about Gerard Groote blessed my life and ministry in ways I could not even have imagined as I put the "tape" into the tape-player of my car. Here’s what I wrote about twenty years ago…
Earlier this year God poured his grace upon me as he placed in my hands an audiotaped lecture entitled, “Gerard Groote and the Brethren of the Common Life.” Providentially, this also was by George Grant. I can’t express how moved I was by what I heard in this message. In this lecture Grant basically revealed what a biblical worldview should look like in the “everydayness” of a Christian’s life and ministry. He accomplished this by sharing God’s work and power in and through the life of a man named Gerard Groote. Groote lived in the 14th century, and, as Grant says at the beginning of his address,
“It would be difficult to find a single page of modern history written about him. But it would be even more difficult to find a single page of modern history not affected by him.”
Below are the notes I took from Grant’s message on Groote. I’m sure much of it will not have the same impact I experienced in this format. But I believe the ideas taught and lived out by Groote and expounded by Grant are more than worth passing on and meditating upon.
Notes on Gerard Groote: Brethren of the Common Life
Based on a lecture by George Grant
The Devotio Moderna was to be a comprehensive lifestyle rooted in a biblical worldview. Let’s take a look at the distinctives of this “radical discipleship.”
1.) The Devotio Moderna , first of all, emphasized holiness for every Christian – not just for a few. Groote wanted common piety for common folk – this was the heart of his message.
2.) Secondly, the Devotio Moderna emphasized the importance of self-examination, as a way of cultivating humility.
3.) Groote’s Devotio Moderna emphasized the importance of covenantal communities, as the real-life context for discipleship.
4.) Groote’s Devotio Moderna emphasized the importance of a Confessional Standard (standards rooted in the biblical antithesis).
5.) Therefore, Groote’s Devotio Moderna placed a high premium on teaching every man, woman, and child, the Bible.
Together, these distinctives: Holiness, Humility, Covenantal Community, Antithesis, and Catechizing – comprised what Groote called “Classical Christianity” or what we might call, “Biblical Orthodoxy.”
“Lay foundations that will endure in the hearts of your children. For there are only two things that are eternal in all of the created order: the children under your care, and the Word of God.”
Grant’s Prayer at the end of the message…
O Father; Almighty Father, I confess to you that I am often diverted by pleasant alternatives. I am often tantalized by that which will bring success, effectiveness, suasion in the here and now. I pray that you would give me eyes to look beyond the horizon of just this moment. Enable me to invest for all eternity. Enable us to have a distinctive vision of discipleship – like that of Gerard Groote before us. Enable us to quest for holiness, humility, covenantal community, antithesis, catechizing – classical Christianity – in the hearts of our children – first and foremost.
Lord God, I pray that we will produce not just successful businessmen, or men and women effective in their vocations. We yearn for REFORMATION. Change the world, O God! And use us in the process.
We pray this in Jesus name. Amen and amen.
Here’s an introduction on Groote that George Grant wrote for Ligonier Ministries.
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