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XXII. Of the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church.
23. It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike; for they have always been different, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the rites and ceremonies of the Church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant to the word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and woundeth the consciences of weak brethren.
Every particular Church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.
XXIII. Of the Civil Government.
24. We believe it is the duty of all Christians to be subject to the powers that be; for we are commanded by the word of God to respect and obey the Civil Government: we should therefore not only fear God, but honour the King.
XXIV. Of Christian Men's Goods.
25. The riches and goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as some do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.
XXV. Of a Christian Man's Oath.
26. As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ and James his apostle; so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment and truth.
The Origin, Design, and General Rules of our United Societies.
27. In the latter end of the year 1739, eight or ten persons came to Mr. Wesley 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 he 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 he might have more time for this great work, he 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 with them (for their numbers increased daily), he gave those advices from time to time which he judged most needful for them; and they always concluded their meetings with prayer suited to their several necessities.
28. This was the rise of the UNITED SOCIETIES, first in Europe and then in America. 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."
29. That it 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 a class, one of whom is styled The Leader. It is his duty,
1. To see each person in his class once a week at least, in order, (a) To inquire how their souls prosper. (b) To advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require. (c) To receive what they are willing to give towards the support of the Ministers, Church, and poor.
2. To meet the Ministers and Stewards of the Society once a week, in order, (a) To inform the Minister of any that are sick, or of any that walk disorderly and will not be reproved. (b) To pay the Stewards what they have received of the several classes in the week preceding.
30. 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 be saved from their sins." But wherever this is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its fruits.
31. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salva
tion, First, By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practised; such as,―The taking of the name of God in vain; the profaning of the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein, or by buying or selling; drunkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless în case of extreme necessity; the buying or selling of men, women, and children, with the intention to enslave them; 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 on usury, that is, unlawful interest; uncharitable or unprofitable conversation, particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of 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 or 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 and needless self-indulgence; laying up treasure upon earth; borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.
32. 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 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 are free to it:" By doing good, especially to them who 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 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.
33. 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 as,―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 or abstinence.
34. 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 observes them not, who habitually breaks any of them, let it be known unto them who watch over that soul,