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When Mr. Redfield received the letter from Mr. Sherman requesting him to come to St. Charles, according to his custom, he refused to go, unless he was also invited by the official board of the charge. Accordingly a meeting of the board was called, and a resolution inviting him to come was unanimously adopted, and immediately forwarded to him. As we have already seen, he accepted of the invitation, and soon was on his way to the place.
On his arrival he found Mr. Sherman to be the young minister to whom he made the promise, when laboring with him in New England, that if he ever got into a place where he needed help, to send for him, and he would come to his assistance. He had been transferred to the West a few years before, and in the fall of 1855 was appointed to St. Charles and Geneva, in Kane county, Illinois. Mr. Sherman was one of that class of ministers who, in the absence of pulpit talent and commanding personality, was endowed with a copious fountain of tears; where he could not command, nor persuade, by forceful thought or well-put words, he could succeed by his tears. But for some reason he had failed to make much of an impression upon either the church or the world at St. Charles, and in his extremity he sent for Mr. Redfield. Mr. Redfield had preached but a short time before the various elements in the society were thoroughly aroused. The few who were endeavoring to serve the Lord drank in his teachings of the doctrine and experience of perfect love with avidity and delight. Some of these really understood him and appreciated his efforts. A brother and sister Osborne who had known something of his work in Western New York., promptly responded in approbation. Then there was Sister Snow, afterwards known as “Mother Foot,” a Methodist of many years, well read in the theology, history and biography of the church, and who, because of her intelligence and force of character, had been a Class Leader for a number of years. Her watchful eye ever on the alert for any departure from “sound words,” perceived that the doctrine, the experience, and the methods of Mr. Redfield were Methodistic, and she gave her hearty approval of them. Father and Mother Garton, who had listened to the preaching of Finley, and Strange, and Christie, and Bascom, and many others of like character, were now made to think of olden times, and the old man would sing his old-time songs and hymns with new unction and relish. And with these was Sister Emily Laughlin, daughter of Father and Mother Garton, a woman endowed with remarkable good sense, deep insight into character, and an excellent faculty of saying the right thing in the right time and the right place. And there were others who had not forgotten God, who listened and took fresh courage, buckled the harness a little closer, and went into the conflict again.
Some forty of the membership entered into the experience of perfect love. Some held back and refused to walk in the light. Several old church quarrels were stirred up, and the dirty sediment that by its settling to the bottom had deceived many with the idea that all was well, now rose to the surface in all its loathsomeness. Some became angry, some were frightened, and some “cared for none of these things,” and the meetings were forced to a close.
But there were some glorious cases of conversion and sanctification. Among these was that of Charles Elliott Harroun, now and from that time a preacher of the gospel. At this time he was a member of the church and choir. One night he arose and spoke as follows: “Brethren I think if this is religion I never knew anything about it. And yet I’ve been a member of this church for more than three years.” He soon afterwards was gloriously saved. He had been forward for several nights, and seemed to be struggling hard to find peace. At last, one night, he arose, and after a perfect silence for a few moments, and the congregation waiting breathlessly to hear what he had to say; he suddenly screamed at the top of his voice, “I’VE GOT IT!”
Enough entered into the experience of perfect love, in addition to those who already enjoyed it, to make “the St. Charles Pilgrims,” as they began to be called, noted through all that region for their power in prayer, the clearness of their testimonies, and the joyfulness of their lives. Their prayer meetings became seasons of glorious power, and the church was often made to ring with the praises of God.
April 30,1856, Mr. Redfield wrote to Samuel Huntington again as follows:
“ST. Charles, Kane Co., ILL.
“My dear blessed Brother Sammy: — I did not leave Rochester at the time I expected to, for the people would not let me off, and of course I did not receive your letters directed to this place, until I arrived here last Thursday.
“I had felt for years a strong drawing to Rochester, but the way did not open until this spring. But such a clinch and contest I never had before. Brother Purdy came and staid a few days, but the opposition was so strong that he left, and I fear that he blamed me for not leaving also. But I did not feel at liberty to do so while so many of the pilgrim stamp were urging me to stay.
“We opened meetings in the First church, and soon we were so crowded that large numbers could not find a place to stand in the church or its vestibule. In our congregation were the workers of all the Methodist churches and Presbyterians and Baptists, numbers of whom procured letters from their own churches and came and joined ours. Then the war began in earnest. Some of the Methodist preachers threatened to leave their charges if the members did not stay at home; and the answer they received was, “Give us something to eat, or we will continue to go.” This brought the ecclesiastical batteries to bear on me. The presiding elder came down upon us, and appointed a business meeting in our audience-room, but the preacher-in-charge would not let him have it, and the elder behaved so badly that he brought himself under great odium. Then the preachers began to preach against us as croakers; but that did not take; and then they held an indignation meeting, and threatened the pastor with a conference castigation, and to publish me as an irresponsible ranter, a heretic, a divider of churches, a maker of the people crazy, etc.
“Then the men of the world took it up, and I was informed that about five hundred in number proposed to build me a church where the great salvation could be preached without hindrance. You may rely upon it that we began to have pretty hot work by that time; and wonderful to tell, amid all this, God came in power and some of the most hopeless cases in the city were saved.
“But I thought it best amid such a clatter, to break away and come West. It was hard parting with the multitude who followed us to the train; numbers of whom followed us for twenty miles on the cars, and who gave us their blessing and one hundred dollars in cash to help us on our way. They also insisted that we should come back next winter, and if the fight against us is too hot, to take the city hall until a salvation church can be built.
“But I don’t know about the propriety of such a move. My heart sank within me, and I asked, “Who and what am I, and what have I done, to merit such opposition?’ I must say, I could but appreciate the great kindness of the true pilgrims who came long distances to meet us at Albion, our first stopping place, on our way to the West. Not withstanding all we passed through in Rochester, I feel confident, dear Brother Sammy, that the good Lord has made a mark in that place that will not soon be wiped out.
“We arrived here on Thursday last. We found the people in waiting, and a goodly number of whom had been praying for our coming. This is very hard soil, but I do not expect much opposition, yet for a while, from the preachers; for they are, in many instances, too much engaged in speculation, some of whom make their thousands yearly. One presiding elder keeps a real estate office, and does business up to the last moment on Saturday, before going to his quarterly meetings, and then returns immediately Monday morning. This is a great field, and must be cultivated for Immanuel. Night before last we had a powerful demonstration in this place. I believe, if we can get down under the crust, we shall see salvation power of the right stamp.
“This is a great place for backsliders who have come here from the East.
“I have done as you requested, and have written a note to the paper where my wife used to live, and from where our certificate dates her residence. I told you one of my reasons for not publishing the fact of our marriage at Burlington. I knew I was doing nothing morally or legally wrong. I knew I would be a subject of suspicion; and I did design to make it known, believing that good people would appreciate it, and others would be quiet after the first blast was blown. But my wife had suffered so much from surmises and stories, that she was unwilling to have anything more said for the gossipers and scandal mongers to use. Her cancerous affection is such that any great disturbance of the mind aggravates her most agonizing symptoms. In one instance, after one of these disturbances, I had to watch over her night and day for ten days, before I could subdue her agony. Even your kind letter, which we found in waiting here, so overcame her, that I was fearful of the results for three days and two nights. There was evidently a transfer to the brain. She became almost wild. I feared, that in spite of all I could do, she would lose her mind. Her great trouble was the fear that our marriage would injure my influence. Under this, her distress became so great that I feared her cancer would break out, and then there would be no hope; and she must endure the most painful of deaths.
“But, thank God, your last letter set all things right. O Sammy, how I did love you when I got that last letter! We both knelt down, and gave thanks to God for that blessed letter. I did think that my kind heavenly Father put it into your mind to write us that letter. May he bless you a thousand times.
“But your first letter led me to a deep heart-searching of the whole transaction, and I fail yet to see but that I have done just right. I did believe that God led me to make the selection I did. I had learned about the gossip concerning her, and I went to the proper source and found that it was all false. I have since seen a number of the most precious saints I ever knew, who had been acquainted with her for years, and they, with one voice, pronounced her one of the most blessed Christians of their acquaintance. And I believe her to be one of the best Christians I ever knew. In each place where we have been, God has given her seals of her mission. Her very large correspondence, reaching all over the country, even to England, with those who have been helped in their religious experiences by her personal efforts, is to me a consoling proof that God owns her, and that she is the very one to go with me and labor as she does from house to house, as well as at church. She is a praying, devoted woman. How I have wished that her enemies could happen in upon her devotions and listen to the ardent prayers she offers for them.
“I regretted that it was against her wishes for me to be open and to state what I had done, and what I meant to do; but when I saw how it affected her, I knew it was best to do as I did. In this I deceived nobody, for I was under no obligations to publish my moves and doings, as long as I did no wrong. I thought then, and I still think, that I was led by my heavenly Father to make the choice I did, and especially so after I found that she had been led to devote her life to religious work, visiting poorhouses and prisons, the sick and the suffering, distributing tracts and praying with the people.
“If I had time to tell you the many strange providences which conspired to bring us together, and to show you the fruit of her labors, and how happy we are amid all our conflicts, and the protection she is to me many times when opposers who neither fear God, nor man, nor the devil, but who show a little deference to a woman, I think you would come to the conclusion that our union is of the Lord.
“Yours in great affection,
“J. W. Redfield.”
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