If we are to make resolutions for the new year, we could consider once again following the instructions in the General Rules. This will be of great help to us as we continue to evidence our faith in our lives.
The latest edition of The Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church in Singapore (BOD) was published in 2013. It is expected that the contents will be applied comprehensively in the next four years. What I consider noteworthy is that there are two parts in the BOD that cannot be changed capriciously: Part II, “Doctrinal Statements and the General Rules” and Part III, “Social Principles”. Let me share a little about the section on “The General Rules of the Methodist Church” in Part II.
There are three general rules.
First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced.
Second: 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.
Third: By attending upon all the ordinances of God.
The General Rules presents the expectations that John Wesley had of persons who became members of his Society, and the instructions he was encouraging them to follow. On closer study of the rules, I think they are still relevant to the social context of Singapore today and our members ought to be encouraged to follow and practice them.
For example, the First Rule contains 13 statements on what not to do, including taking the name of God in vain, profaning the day of the Lord, drunkenness, brothers taking each other to court, collecting excessive interest etc. On close analysis, one can see that believers today should be urged to observe these codes of living, because they are not only practical but also very beneficial.
The Second Rule is about evidencing the Christian spiritual life. If the First Rule seems passive with its emphasis on what not to do, the Second Rule is all about active doing. This includes doing good of every possible sort, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, doing good to fellow believers as well as those who are “groaning so to be”, being diligent and frugal etc.
The Third Rule concerns the maturing of the Christian’s spiritual life, and there are six aspects listed:
1. The public worship of God.
2. The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
3. The Supper of the Lord.
4. Family and private prayer.
5. Searching the scriptures.
6. Fasting or abstinence.
John Wesley stated that the instructions in the General Rules were what the Lord taught us in the Bible. Therefore I regard these to be not only the mark of Methodists but also of every Christian. If we are to make resolutions for the new year, we could consider once again following the instructions in the General Rules. This will be of great help to us as we continue to evidence our faith in our lives.
The General Rules may be found on pages 32 to 35 of the Revised 2013 BOD.
Refer to “Discipline revised” on page 17 of this issue, about the latest revised edition of the Book of Discipline
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung was re-elected President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years and is an adjunct lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1996.