John Wesley and his friends were appalled at what the Church of England had become. In the words of Wesley historian Kenneth Collins, the church "had grown quite comfortable with and had been compromised by broader cultural trends." In addition, Wesley was concerned that "the articulate and well-constructed theologies" of his day "left men and women in their sins under the most grievous bondages."
In late 1738 and early 1739, under the influence of Moravian pietists, the Wesleys began forming small groups for mutual accountability. These groups, called "bands," comprised about six people and made radical demands on the lives of believersthough no more radical than the gospel. Here are the 1744 Rules of Bands.
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The design of our meeting is to obey that command of God, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (James 5:16).
To this end, we intend:
- To meet once a week, at the least.
- To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
- To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
- To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt since our last meeting.
- To end every meeting with prayer suited to the state of each person present.
- To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.
Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us may be to this effect:
- Have you the forgiveness of your sins?
- Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?