Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Means of Grace

     The critical edition of Wesley's Conference Minutes was just released by Abingdon Press (Works, v. 10).  At 1046 pages this is more of a reference book than a reading book.  To facilitate use of this volume my blog posts will point out sections that I have found particularly helpful in the hopes that others will as well once they know where to look.
     Starting with the 1763 edition, the 'Large' Minutes contains Wesley's most complete* list of Instituted and Prudential Means of Grace. Several of his sermons discuss the Means of Grace, but for the full list you will want to refer to this new volume.  Unlike the sermons, the commentary on each Means is brief so reading the Minutes in conjunction with the sermons is advisable.
     I've outlined Wesley's Means of Grace below because I think it would be a helpful guide for Covenant Discipleship groups.  Each member of the group could pick one of the Means and practice it until the next meeting.  Then when the group meets again everyone could report on how often they used their Mean and discuss whether or not it was a means that conveyed God's grace to them.  This is an eighteenth-century document after all.  Wesley's list may need to be adapted for current contexts.  Did the spiritual exercise that you find the most beneficial make the list?

Large Minutes (1763), pp. 855-858, [§40.1-7]
I. Instituted Means
A. Prayer
B. Searching the Scripture
C. The Lord’s Supper
D. Fasting
E. Christian Conference: (i.e., holy conversations--  “Is it always in Grace?  Seasoned with Salt?  Meet to minister Grace to the Hearers?”)
II. Prudential Means
  1. Common Christian Means: rules for avoiding evil, doing good, growing in grace, arts of holy living
  2. Methodist Means: society, class, band meetings
  3. Preacher Means: meet with society, leaders, bands, visit the sick and well, instructing in homes, relative duties
  4. Assistant Means: regulate the societies, bands, and books. hold watch-nights, love feasts, and quarterly examinations. Send Wesley account of preachers’ defects
  5. Fruitful Means: watching, self-denial, taking up our Cross, exercise the presence of God
These instructions remain the same in the 1770-1772 editions of the Large Minutes ([§44.1-7]) and are slightly revised in the 1780-1789 editions ([§48.1-7]).

*The only category missing from this list is Works of Mercy.

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