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By Rev. B. T. Roberts
Dead trees can be made into blocks, or boards of the same length, and breadth, and thickness. But plant two seeds from the same tree, in the same soil, exposed to the same influences, and they will grow up resembling and yet unlike each other. You can easily tell them apart. Life abhors uniformity.
In a dead church ministers may be essentially alike. They may all go through with the same routine duties, in the same manner, and with the same results. But let spiritual life get into a church, and men are raised up to do ministerial work outside of the regular ministerial channels. The church itself may recognize but one class of ministers — it may insist upon their absolute equality, and require of all the same service; but when life divines comes thrilling through its members, some will break through all their regulations, and exercise the functions of an office which the church does not recognize. And thus in face of all human provisions to the contrary, the Scriptures are fulfilled, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” — I Cor. xii. 28. The phrase “hath set” denotes a permanent arrangement. In the original it is a word frequently translated “ordained.” It does not refer to a short-lived plan that was to last for but a single generation. So the error is apparent, of the assumption that there were but twelve apostles; and that the apostleship ceased with these. In fact the New Testament speaks expressly of other apostles besides the twelve. The Church of England has an order of ministers which it calls “priests,” for which order the gospel of Christ makes no provision. Not once in the New Testament are any of the ministers of the gospel called priests. They are called by a great variety of names, but this is not found among them. A priest is one that offers sacrifices; and in Christ, the High Priest of our profession, the priesthood as a ministerial order ceased. James is nowhere in the New Testament called a priest, nor is Peter, nor Paul, nor any other minister of the gospel. The term priest is applied in the New Testament to all of God’s people. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” — I Peter ii. 5. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” — v. 9. So Christians are required as priests to present their bodies a living sacrifice. (Romans xii. 1.) To present to God broken hearts and contrite spirits, — for these are sacrifices which he will not despise (Psalm li. 17.) To abound in good works. “But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (See also Phil. iv. 18.) To offer praise to God. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” — Hebrews xiii. 15. But none of these things can we do by proxy. No priest can step between us and God to do them for us. If not done in our own proper person, and from our own free will, they are not done at all. Others may persuade us; but any other sacrifice than that which Christ has made for us — once for all, we ourselves must make. So those who would be real Christian s must reject all assumptions of priestly authority.
Though the Church of England does not recognize the order of apostles as still in existence; yet from the ranks of its ministry, John Wesley stood forth before the world an apostle sent of God.
The Methodist Church of today acknowledges no apostles, yet William Taylor has shown himself to be as truly an apostle, as was St. Paul or John Wesley.
Among Independents, Dwight L. Moody has shown himself to be an evangelist, though the Independent churches know no ministers but pastors.
So John Wesley Redfield stood forth in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the most wonderful evangelist of his day, though that church makes no provision for evangelists among its ministers.
He went into the work, because of an overwhelming conviction from God that this was his calling. Like Paul, his “own hands ministered to his necessities”; and when he felt called of God to go to a place to hold meetings for the salvation of souls, he never stipulated that he should receive anything for his services, or even that his traveling expenses should be paid. But where he went without the promise of purse or scrip he never lacked anything. The Lord, in one way or another, provided for his wants.
I first became acquainted with Dr. Redfield when I was a student at Middletown, Connecticut. He held a protracted meeting in the Methodist Episcopal Church. There was a large society, but a low state of religious experience. He preached in the afternoon to the church, in the evening to sinners. A great excitement was soon stirred up. Such preaching and such praying had never before been heard in that city. Many of the most prominent members of the church went forward for prayers, and obtained a new experience of entire sanctification. A spirit of opposition was manifested, and it seemed doubtful for a time how the tide would turn; but Dr. Stephen Olin, president of the University, who was suffering from a general nervous prostration, got up from his bed and went out to hear him. He gave the work his strongest endorsement, saying in substance, “Brethren, this is the work of God and you must stand by it.”
The college faculty, and the church generally, did stand by it, and a revival remarkable for its depth, and for the number of its converts, was the result. Some twenty-five young men who afterwards became preachers were converted, The whole city was in commotion and the country for miles around. The influence of that revival is still felt, not only in this country, but also in Europe, and Asia and Africa. No mortal can tell where a mighty wave of salvation once set in motion will end.
The following pages, written by one who was converted under Dr. Redfield’s labors, will give the reader a correct idea of the wonderful work which God carried on through the instrumentality of his devoted servant.
We have heard many able, distinguished preachers, but we never heard another who would stir the human conscience to its depths like Dr. Redfield. His statements were clear, his descriptions vivid and eloquent; but his appeals to the conscience were overwhelming. He made those who would not obey God feel that they were utterly without excuse. Those who were justified or sanctified wholly under his labors were not easily drawn away unto the gospel of expediency. They were governed by principle rather than by policy. Time-serving preachers did not like his converts. They had no relish for religious theatricals or church festivals. They were hard to manage. Hence, Dr. Redfield generally encountered, wherever he labored, fierce opposition from ecclesiastics. A whole city would be moved by his preaching, while the presiding elder, and such as he could influence, were doing all they could to destroy his influence. But when once started the work went so deep and so strong, that no degree of violence permitted under our laws could kill it out. All through the land are still to be found those who were saved through his instrumentality, and they are generally characterized by the their uncompromising opposition to sin in all its popular forms; by their firm belief in the power of the Holy Ghost, and by their clear, strong, definite testimony.
We trust that this book will be extensively read, and that it will carry a saving influence into thousands of families.
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