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While at St. Charles, Mr. Redfield wrote the following interesting letter to Mr. and Mrs. Kendall, which was evidently designed to minister encouragement in the midst of those degenerate times:
“June 2, 1856.
“Our very dear Brother and Sister Kendall: — How greatly did we rejoice this day in getting a few lines from you; and though we sympathize with you, yet with you we rejoice that your ties are accumulating in heaven. This may startle you, but I think I have good reason to believe that it is not essential to breathe the outer air to secure a sentient immortality. We often look at your very life like pictures, and I never see them without a spring of joy, and a kind of sweet assurance that the originals have written on their every motive, ‘Fidelity to God’. God bless you. We do love you; we can’t help it; and we don’t want to.
“St. Charles has never been truly broken up; and the standard of a genuine, living, active, aggressive Christianity has never been preached here until Brother Sherman came. Much yet remains to be done, but I do think it looks somewhat hopeful, when pilgrims dare to pass through the streets, giving glory to God with a loud voice.
“We would rejoice to be with you at your camp meeting, but we must be in Green Bay city, Wisconsin, and at a camp meeting near there about the 15th of June.
“I thank the Lord that you still hold on, and press towards the narrowest of the narrow way. You will see great good, but it will be limited. You will be able to gather but little wheat among the many tares. Be content to be in the minority, for you will never triumph; but if unflinchingly faithful, the wheat you gather will be pure wheat. The wrong always has been, and always will be, in the ascendency. “Many will say Lord, Lord.” Christ alone will end the contest, gather the little wheat, and burn the many tares. But, oh, my heart says, Go on; go straight: the salt of the earth, the seed of the church, are the martyrs. God will — he does — bless you; I know it, I feel it when I pray for you.
“I think the pilgrims will yet have to organize a new church, and yet that will fail, if they do not guard every part of the Discipline against hard feelings against their oppressors . . . The opponents of holiness will conquer the pilgrims as long as they remain in the church, as slavery will certainly conquer in the legislation of the church. There is no hope but in getting away from so great a mass of corruption.
“We must maintain the right though in the minority. It is better that few be really saved than that many be only half saved, and be lost at last. Your opponents may be silent, but not dead. They will bide their time, mature their plans, and make you at last feel their power.
“Your presiding elder, _____ _____, is fairly in for it, and must now stand fire. I pray God that he may stand firm for the right. If he keeps to the right, God will see him out in the end, but not now. Now he must suffer, but the next generation will see him righted. Above all, God will approve him at the last.
“Yours as ever,
“J W. Redfield.”
After this meeting closed, Mr. Redfield spent a few days in Aurora, a young and flourishing city twelve miles south. Some of the St. Charles pilgrims went with him, and were a great help in the services. Here quite a number, also, entered into the experience of perfect love.
The next trace we have of Mr. and Mrs. Redfield is at Mackinaw Island, recruiting their strength for the next season’s campaign.
While at Mackinaw, Mr. Redfield writes the subjoined letter to Mr. and Mrs. Kendall, which, to many, will be of special interest because of the views it expresses concerning the division of the church which he believed would result from the opposition the revival of primitive Methodism was destined to bring with it:
“Mackinaw, Mich., July 27, 1856.
“Dear Brother and Sister Kendall: — Your letter of June 23 reached us day before yesterday. While we most deeply sympathize with you in your affliction, we thank God and take courage for the assurance we have that your faces are still toward Mt. Zion. The pamphlet you sent us is a rich and rare omen for good. It was read by the preacher at St. Charles before he forwarded it to us, and from his report I believe it has greatly strengthened him to hold on unflinchingly to the right.
“Now I am no prophet, but I think we will never succeed in cleansing the church. God and truth have always been in the minority. Men act out the impulses of their moral state, they always have, and always will. You may, if you can, overwhelm and check their schemes, by gaining numbers to the cause of truth, but the devil never was known to surrender the wrong and to contend for the right. This will always be so as long as a single person is left unsaved.
“Some ministers have never been converted; and others have backslidden. None of them can be brought to appreciate what we know to be right, until they are saved. God himself cannot make them love and sustain a cause at which their nature revolts. There are two distinct and totally opposite elements in the church, which can never harmonize until one gives way to the other. There seems no possibility of this. As God lives there is no rational hope but in separation; and yet I would by no means hoist the banner of separation, for you cannot then keep out the spirit of carnal warfare, and that will be death to spirituality. If our daring brethren will persistently hold on to their plan of resuscitating Methodist usages, and keep the central idea of Jesus and a full salvation before the people, they will yet see the day when the masses will be saved and go with them, and formalists will compel the separation. You have the right men for your leaders, and you have more sympathizers than many of you are aware of. Some of these have not the daring to stand alone, or even with a few in a cause which though right is unpopular. May the Lord bless the faithful ones.
“We are getting recruited for the fall campaign. We have invitations to go into Illinois and Wisconsin, which, the Lord willing, we will respond to about the first or the middle of September.
“Remember us to Sister S_____. If it is the Lord’s will we would be glad to welcome Sister Kendall and her to this place. I don’t know what success she will meet with in her application to Dr. Durbin [missionary secretary at that time, for a field of labor on missionary ground. I have my fears that she will not succeed, but hope for the best. However, the will of God be done. If I had a bank, and knew it was the will of God, I would open up a field in the West where she might begin to work for God at once.
“My dear wife says, “Send her my love, with all my heart”; so you see you’ll have to come here to bring it back.
“Yours as ever,
“J. W. Redfield.”
Early in September they left Mackinaw, for Wisconsin. After a short visit with an old friend, they went to Fond du Lac, where a glorious work began. Here he was greatly annoyed by the jealousy of the pastor. After vainly attempting to array the members of the church against Mr. Redfield, he wrote to the East to find what he could to injure his influence. One of the parties to whom he wrote informed Mr. Redfield of this. Some one communicated to this pastor some rumors of Mr. Redfield’s old family trouble, of which the most was made. Mr. Redfield went to him about it, but found him in a warlike mood, and concluded to let it go.
Under great temptation to give up the struggle, Mr. Redfield left this place with the thought of looking up a home, and engaging again in his profession. But his way in that direction was providentially closed up, and he turned again to the work of the Lord. He was engaged for a short time in A_____ (probably Auroraville), where he found kind friends, and where God came to his help in old-time power, and many were saved.
From here he went to New London, where he found a good, kind preacher, but a small society, and only one, a Quakeress, to pray at the altar. Because of this, Mr. Redfield was led to invite forward only those who would do their own praying. They did come, and God blessed them with great power.
From New London Mr. Redfield went to Jefferson, Wisconsin, at the invitation of a preacher whom he had known in the East, Rev. G. H. Fox. Here the Spirit of God had free course, and blessed were the results.
While here he received the news of the grievous fall of one who had been a strong advocate of holiness. Several allusions in some of his letters which follow are explained by this.
In a letter to the Kendall family, dated at this place, he writes:
“Jefferson, Wisconsin, December 20, 1856.
“My very dear Brother and Sister Kendall — Your letter came to hand yesterday, confirming what I would not entertain for a moment before. Well, God would not let the Israelites have the body of Moses to worship, and, as you say, we must learn that we cannot trust in any one but Jesus. But oh, how I feel for _____. I cannot but believe if all the circumstances of the case were known, sympathy and sorrow would be our prevailing feelings towards him. I wrote part of a letter to him this morning, but after reading it over, I burned it. I will try again. But enough of this.
“I am glad to hear such good news of Johnny, as to both physical and spiritual things. My thoughts often turn to the poor pilgrims. My heart almost sinks when I hear that the tried and true are being driven from the field, and weakening the little band who stand for the right. Shall the enemy yet triumph? I am more and more confirmed in the opinion I expressed long ago that amputation alone will save vital piety. It has come to this, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, in order to election, must guarantee the people that he will do his best to crush out the humanitarian spirit that inspires the abolitionists, and offer premiums to its opposite; and in some of our conferences candidates to be received into the ministry, instead of being required to pledge themselves to uphold the doctrines and spirit of Methodism, are required, virtually, to oppose them.
“Just take a commonsense view of the facts. In contending for the right, some will weary of the conflict, and for the sake of peace will leave the field. Every instance of this will give fresh courage to the opponents of spiritual religion. Others will become dispirited and call for a cessation of the struggle, and when the little band is reduced small enough, they will be surrounded, and made an easy prey. To be in a minority is to be rebellious, while to be in the majority is to be loyal. You think that some already fear that you are too fond of war. But I ask: Have you any selfish motive in this matter? Is it to have your own way? Is it not because you see the cause of Christ suffering, and men perishing? You answer: “Yes.” Well, should you not contend against everything that wars against Christ? Whenever the church ceases to be aggressive, ceases to be a conquering power, — she loses in spiritual life. No! no! dear brother and sister, “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” Contend, at least, until you are equal in zeal, faith, fidelity, and purity with the early saints; then if the Lord intimates that you may slack your pace, or ease up in your thoroughness, you will be at liberty to do so. But if you contend, not for an improvement, but for the right, you will have battles, and all manner of evil will be spoken against you. Remember, it is of small concern what men may think of you. The judgment day will adjust all wrongs. How cheering the anticipations of the words from our Father, “My child, you have done right.” Oh, that is enough! Let us fight on.
“This great West is famishing for the bread of life. It is all hurry and bustle, hastening to be rich. You can scarcely turn without running against a backslider. I went out early to build a fire in the church last evening, and in came an old backslidden Class Leader from Scottsville, N. Y., all broken down, and said, “Sir, this is the first time I have been in a church in seven years. Myself and wife, and children, are all backslidden. But if there is any hope for me, I want to get back to the Lord.”
“There is an awful spell on the whole place. Brother Fox went into a store the other day, and as soon as he spoke to the first man, he broke down and wept, and soon all in the store were affected in like manner.
“We expect to go to Appleton about the first or the fifteenth of January.
“You don’t know how I want to see your faces in the flesh once more, and with you have another season of salvation and power. My wife is being greatly blessed. She is trying to do her duty. She spoke to a man the other day, -- one who is very prominent in the church, and had more piety than all the rest, -- but he became offended because of her close questions, and went to Brother Fox, and requested him to send us away. But a few nights after he was gloriously blest, and confessed clear down to the bottom, and now is being used mightily to break down others. He has forgiven Mattie.
“The Lord knows I love you. Remember us to all the pilgrims.
“J. W. Redfield.”
On leaving Jeffersonville, Mr. Redfield went to Waukesha, where he found another old friend in charge of the work, and who was willing to let the truth and the Holy Spirit have free course. God came in glorious power, and many were saved.
Mr. Redfield now made his contemplated visit to Appleton, Wis., the seat of Lawrence University. This was a Methodist institution, and with the church, made the place a strong Methodist community. Rev. William McDonald, now editor of the Christian Witness of Boston, and also president of the National Holiness Association, was pastor of the church. Then, as now, he was an earnest advocate of the experience of entire sanctification, and boldly stood by Mr. Redfield’s work. Among the professors in the university, was Rev. N. E Cobleigh, who afterwards as known as a strong man in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Professor F. O. Blair, who was a student in Middletown, Connecticut, at the time of Mr. Redfield’s great meeting there. Mrs. Blair was preceptress in the university, and with her husband entered heartily into the work of saving souls. For a long time, there had been a strong infidel influence in the community, and in the university an infidel club had been organized by some of the students. Regular meetings were held, and the members of the club were active in propagating their opinions. Christianity was unmercifully ridiculed, and professors of religion were subject to sneers and scoffs. Just before the revival opened, the faculty had forbidden the meetings of the club; and about the same time, Dr. Cobleigh preached a sermon in which he declared that personal experience was the true test, to each individual, of the truth and reality of the Christian religion, and proposed to these skeptics to make an honest test of the matter by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. An invitation was then given them, to come forward to the altar, and several of the most prominent came. Of course they experienced no benefit, and they went away boasting that they had tested the matter, and found there was nothing to it.
The most aggressive of these skeptics was a young South Carolinian. He was very intelligent and an excellent scholar. Aside from his infidel sentiments, he was a model young man.
A daily prayer meeting was started in the college at the commencement of the revival meetings, for the benefit of the students. In one of these this young man arose and declared that there was not, nor could be such a thing as experimental religion, and that the idea was a delusion and a snare. Before he was fairly seated, Professor Blair arose and related the story of Gallileo and the priests who condemned him for teaching that the world moved. He described the scene: Gallileo recanting on his knees, but as he rises, whispering aside to a friend: “But it does move.” He then remarked, that the truth of the gospel did not depend on the belief of any man or of the world of mankind. The meeting then went on without any further interruption.
The revival had such an effect upon the students that from that time Christianity was so in the ascendency that the skeptical felt the atmosphere too uncongenial, and one after another dropped out from the college ranks and went away. Not one of that infidel club ever graduated from that institution.
The young Carolinian already described was the last to go. He was a member of a class in mental philosophy with Professor Blair as instructor. One day he was called upon to recite a lesson wherein the author makes the statement, and lays it down as a principle, that no one can have any knowledge of a sensation, emotion, or feeling which he has never experienced. He presented the author’s views clearly and distinctly. The professor then asked him: “Do you think that principle correct?”
He answered promptly, “I do.”
“Then you think that a person who has never enjoyed religion can have no knowledge of that experience?”
The infidel paused; for he saw the dilemma this placed him in, and remembered his words spoken in the prayer meeting. A deep crimson blush rushed upward from his collar over his neck and face till lost in his abundant hair; and then he gasped out, “I suppose not.” He never recovered his assurance, and at the close of the term departed never to return.55Prof. F. O. Blair
When the summer came (1857), Mr. Redfield made his way to St. Charles, Illinois, again. He came in time to attend a camp meeting, held in June, near that place. The presiding elder, Rev. E. H. Gaunnon, was a good man, and stood nobly by the work. He gave Mr. Redfield the utmost liberty. On Friday evening he preached. A storm had driven the people into the tents. This was before the day of large tabernacles and rented tents. Each family had their own tent of their own construction; except when several families, or a whole society, united and occupied a very large one. In such a society tent, Mr. Redfield preached on perfect love.
Toward the close of the sermon he used the following illustration of the reason so many fail to obtain it. He said: “An old lady once, on reading the eleventh of St. Mark before retiring for the night, said: “There, that is just what I want to have done. Here is this great hill between me and my neighbor’s house. I’ll just ask the Lord to take it away. So down upon her knees she went, and prayed accordingly. In the morning, as soon as it was light, she hurried to the window, and there stood the hill where it did before she prayed. “Well,” said she, “I thought it would be just so.” “So,” said Mr. Redfield, “many pray, and when the answer does not come, they feel, “I thought it would be just so.”
The meeting closed, and most of the preachers retired to the tent provided for them, and went to bed. Soon one of them asked the question: “What do you think of the doctor’s sermon?”
“It was all right,” answered another.
“If he is right, we are all wrong,” said still another.
“If we are wrong, we had better get right,” said still another.
“I’ll go at it now, if you will,” said still another.
In a few minutes they were up and dressed and on their knees in prayer. Soon the people from the tents were kneeling round the preachers’ tent, on the outside, engaged in prayer; some of them for their pastors, and some for themselves. On past midnight this impromptu service ran. One after another of the preachers entered into the experience, until fifteen were rejoicing in its possession.
This was the beginning of better days for the people of God in this section of the country. In the following winter — 1857 — 1858 — memorable as that of the great revival, these preachers, all aflame, entered into the work with a zeal born of the Holy Ghost, and in any were the victories for Christ, strong and permanent. The work in what was called the “Fox River region” took on a type of thoroughness and clearness that made the converts marked and distinct wherever they went. Some were called Redfieldites who had never seen or heard of Mr. Redfield.
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