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From Lima Mr. Redfield went to Rochester, N. Y. For several years he had felt that he had a work to do in that city, and now for the first time the way had opened for him to go there. The meeting was held in the First Methodist Episcopal church. The pastor, Rev. Jonathan Watts, was one of the corresponding editors of the Northern Independent, a brave man who dared to stand alone where principle was involved. Mr. Redfield thought he had reason to believe him prejudiced against him, personally, yet he acted like a nobleman. The presiding elder seemed to have been of another type, for knowing the revival meeting to be in progress, he appointed a special meeting to be held in the same house and at the same hour it was being occupied. The pastor, knowing his own rights, refused him the church. The other city preachers began to utter their protests against the work. One of them said to his flock, “If you don’t keep away from the First church, I will vacate this pulpit.” Some answered, “Then give us something to eat.” When such efforts failed, the preachers collected together and discussed the propriety of allowing Mr. Redfield to stay any longer. In the midst of this, when the pressure was so great that he could hardly endure it, a man came to him one day and said, “We have $3,000 pledged towards building a church if you will stay and be the pastor.” But he saw the result of this would be such a storm about him as he had never experienced before; and he replied that he could not accept of the offer.
Just at this time he received a letter from Rev. David Sherman, of St. Charles, Illinois, inviting him to come there and hold a meeting. In the next chapter we shall see the beginning of his work in the West.
During the time of his labors in Rochester, Rev. Charles G. Finney, the evangelist, was also holding meetings in the city, and occasionally came to the afternoon meetings conducted by Mr. Redfield. He, a Congregationalist, could endure and endorse what the Methodist preachers of the city could not. The two men seemed to enjoy each others’ society, and to bid each other Godspeed in their mission of calling souls to Christ.
Among the results of this meeting, quite a number of persons entered into the enjoyment of perfect love. Some of these have gone to their eternal reward, while others still hold on their way. Among those who experienced this great blessing was the wife of the world-renowned florist, James Vick, who has now, for more than thirty years, held up the light of a full salvation.
Mr. Redfield was reluctant to leave the field and the little band who had been led into the light and who were beginning to walk with God. But the thought that perhaps he might find a field in the West, where the truth would be given free course, where the regular ministry were more humble and had more of the self-sacrificing spirit of the Master, helped him to a willingness to go.
Before leaving here he wrote to Samuel Huntington, a full outline of his life, giving all the details of his family troubles, and the circumstances that led to his last marriage. It is not necessary to go over these again, as there is so much of it in these pages now. Suffice it to say, this was Mr. Redfield’s first attempt at anything like a vindication of himself. The letter now before me is in his own handwriting, and corroborates the narrative of his sorrowful life contained in former chapters of this book. In this letter he authorizes Mr. Huntington to use the facts put in his hands in any way he sees fit. He also authorizes him to say, to those who are maliciously following him, that the matter has reached point where he feels that the cause of Christ demands that he shall hold them accountable to a bar of justice if they do not cease. The date of the letter discloses the fact that this correspondence was going on during a revival meeting of extraordinary power, in which were some marvelous manifestations of the divine presence. The whole gives us a view of a wonderful man, in many phases of his character; for no ordinary man could have done such work in such circumstances.
April 9,1856, he wrote to the same brother as follows:
“Dear Blessed Brother Sammy: — “Your last came to hand, and no one can know but those who have been compelled to endure a living cancer, and smother it, and yet have the very misfortune made the occasion of persecution; I say none else can know how heart cheering it is to feel that there is here and there one to whom these trouble can be unbosomed, and who can appreciate them and offer consolation. But after writing you what I did, I felt some misgivings for troubling you; and on maturely weighing the whole matter, I thought I would trouble you no more with my woes. A main reason for telling you what I have, was to furnish you with reliable facts, to meet the preachers and people who defame me, and defend, not me, but the straight salvation; for I know that that is the true cause of all this opposition. I can give, if called upon, a justifiable reason for every act of my life, and good names and testimony of all matters connected with my whole misfortune. I have been so rasped and harrowed that I have thought I must give up and retire to private life. Finally, while conversing with Brother Burdick (a conference preacher), I made up my mind to make one more move, and take upon myself the responsibility to be myself, and cut off any further occasion for such slanders as were afloat in Burlington. And as there was no moral or legal impediment in the way, I have taken to myself a wife, one that is pious and well fitted to cooperate with me in labor meant to have seen you and laid the whole matter before you, but could not get the opportunity. And I further thought I was under no obligation to ask or inform the gossipers about the matter. You can find out all you wish to know of Brother Burdick.
“I mean, if I can, to be at your dedication; but of that I must determine when I get West. When I see you, if you can bear with me, I will tell you frankly all the rest of my sorrows, if any good end can be secured by it.
“I go from here to St. Charles, Kane county, Illinois, next Monday, for my last protracted effort. Brother Purdy left here this morning, I think rather discouraged as to any great results. If I can open his way satisfactorily, I think he will go West this summer. I shall try hard for it.
“I have been in Rochester two weeks last Monday. The church will not get right, but the pilgrims from all churches come in. The altar is frequently filled, and we have some strong conversions. The house is very large, but will not hold the people. I never saw a greater chance for a great work in any place. But as soon as we get to a boiling point, the moderators put the fires out, and we have to start anew. My only hope is to strengthen the pilgrims, and get them to work for a salvation church. Many begin to see no other way than to go at it as you did in Burlington, and have a church where they can practice religion. But my ever blessed brother, happy day! God helping me, I will go the strong salvation to the last link of my chain.
“Yours as ever, and forever,
“J. W. Redfield.”
The sainted William C. Kendall was still laboring at Albion, only thirty-five miles away, and Mr. Redfield could not think of leaving the East without a brief visit with that blessed man. The visit was made, and again blessed in prayer, with and for each other, they parted in the early morning the next day, never to meet again on earth.
At this time persecution was raging fiercely against many of Mr. Redfield’s friends in Western New York. The Christian Advocate, a semi-official paper, published in Buffalo, was made the organ of those opposed to the doctrine and experience of holiness and the revival of the usages of Methodism. The columns of this paper were open to rumors, slanders, and ridicule of these devoted men. And even ex-Bishop Hamline was not spared, evidently, because of his identification with that doctrine.
The only opportunity there was for defense was through the Northern Independent, a Methodist paper, published at Auburn, N. Y., edited by Rev. William Hosmer, a man noted for his piety and integrity. He had been editor of the Northern Christian Advocate, the official organ of several conferences in central, northern and western New York, but because of his radical and outspoken views on the question of slavery, which was then agitating both church and state, the preceding General Conference had elected a conservative man in his stead, against the wishes of the patronizing conferences. This led to the founding of the Northern Independent, with Mr. Hosmer as editor. Several prominent ministers were appointed corresponding editors, among whom was Mr. Redfield’s, friend, Rev. B. T. Roberts. Over his own signature about this time, he attempted to show the character of this opposition to holiness, in two papers, entitled, “Old School Methodism” and “New School Methodism.” For writing those articles, he was arraigned before his conference at its next session, on the charge of unchristian conduct. There was no attempt to deny the truthfulness of those articles, neither was Mr. Roberts allowed to prove his statements. Yet he was declared guilty, and sentenced to be reprimanded by the bishop. From this, he appealed to the General Conference. The following year Mr. Roberts was expelled on a charge of contumacy, for publishing an account of his trial the year before, and republishing in tract form, the articles on “Old School” and “New School Methodism”; though he proved by the real publisher that he had nothing to do with it, and the only evidence against him was that of one minister, who testified that Mr. Roberts handed him a package of the tracts for distribution; and the character of that minister, as a witness, was impeached.
Mr. Roberts joined the church again on probation, immediately after his expulsion, and the following year, the minister who received him into the church, and several more who allowed Mr. Roberts to speak in their churches, were expelled for so doing.
These historical matters will help to explain some things in Mr. Redfield’s letters that otherwise would not be understood.
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