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1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed for a moment; never be trifingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary. 

2. Be serious. Let your motto be, Holiness to the Lord. Avoid all lightness, jesting and foolish talking.

3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women in private.

4. Take no step towards marriage without first acquainting me with your design.

5. Believe evil of no one; unless you see it done, take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on everything; you know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.

6. Speak evil of no one; else your words especially would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast til you come to the person concerned.

7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, and that plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.

8. Do not affect the gentleman. You have no more to do with this character than with that of a dancing-master. A preacher of the gospel is the servant of all.

9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; not of fetching wood (if time permit), or of drawing water; not of cleaning your own shoes, or your neighbor’s.

10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time; and, in general, do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath but for conscience’s sake.

11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always not to those who want you, but to those who want you most.

12. Act in all things not according to your own will but as a son in the gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct, partly in preaching and visiting the flock from house to house; partly in reading, meditation and prayer. Above all, if you labor with us in the Lord’s vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory.

Quoted in J. C. Ryle, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, page 86.

Do some of these seem extreme to you? I have met missionaries, pastors, and Christian businessmen who voluntarily have bound themselves by similar – and even more stringent – rules. Interesting thing is, these are some of the most joyful, alive, interesting, focused and effective people I know.

Perhaps Wesley understood what we so often forget: we are at war. In war, luxuries are few. R and R is necessary, but only to prepare to re-engage the enemy. Soldiers in combat know that their success – and survival – depends on strict obedience, commitment to their buddies, training that toughens them, a sense of humor, and disciplines that minimize distractions and maximize the possibility of success.


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