1. Do no harm. This includes the obvious ways in which we might harm others (“brawling” was specifically prohibited, as were other things, including buying, having, or selling slaves), but it also meant that they would seek to be aware of and avoid any of the more subtle ways that harm and evil happen. When we do not have rhythms of resting on the Sabbath, or when we cheat on our taxes, or do things to others which we don’t want done to us, harm happens.
2. Do good. John Wesley never said one of the statements most often attributed to him, but it must have come from some early Methodist who was committed to the method. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Even though Wesley didn’t write those words, it seems certain that he would have been in favor of them, as the method clearly included doing good and being merciful to the bodies and souls of all others, as far as we have opportunity.
3. Practice the means of grace. The early Methodists were committed to doing the things that would give God some open space to work in them. It wasn’t an option for them to do no harm and do good but neglect practices like prayer, reading the Scriptures, and receiving the Lord’s Supper.
* Regularly answer, “How is it with your soul?” to others living this method. Central to the way that the early Methodists were committed to living this method was that they would gather each week with a group of other Methodists and answer, “How is it with your soul?” If you have trouble knowing where to begin with a question like that, perhaps it is helpful to reframe it:“How is your life with God as you are seeking to live this method?”
Just as it wasn’t an option for them to practice any one or two of the General Rules by while neglecting the others, neither was it an option for the early Methodists to live the method in isolation from one another. The only way to commit to their method was to commit to it together.