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Just before the time came to start for St. Louis, a few of Mr. Redfield’s friends came together for a season of prayer. And those St. Charles pilgrims were mighty in prayer in those days. During this prayer meeting Mr. Redfield was greatly impressed with the saying of St. Paul, “I go bound in the Spirit . . . not knowing what may befall me, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth, that in every city bonds and afflictions await me.” He was afflicted to think he could not adopt the remainder of the passage, and say, “but none of these things move me.” Referring to this experience he says, “If I had dared to turn back, I would have done so. I was confident that God had called me to St. Louis, but I knew no one there, and besides I had not money enough to run any hazard.”
They stopped at Princeton, in Bureau Co., Illinois, about one hundred miles on the way, to visit Rev. Charles French, with whom he had labored in St. Charles, the winter before. While here, a friend said to him, unasked, “I have some money for you,” and handed him enough to take him to his destination and a little more. While waiting at Princeton, he penned another letter to Mrs. Kendall, of which the following is a copy:
“Princeton, Bureau Co., Ill., Nov. 18, 1858.
“My dear Sister Kendall: — We received your letter dated the 11th instant, and with deep emotion, read the filling out of what was lacking in the reports we had received of the doings of the Genesee Conference. This gave us a clear view of the spirit as well as to doings of the Regency.88A name given to the opposition in that conference I confess that my anxieties for the future are most intense. I am continually asking myself, “Will the pilgrims hold on amid this furnace of affliction? or will they tire out from the discouragements of this evil time, and abandon the work God has given them to do?’ You have nothing more to lose. You will never regain the forfeited favor of those deluded men if you forsake the work, and if you fail, who will dare to repeat the experiment? And yet your work must be done, if vital godliness is ever reinstated in the church. Remember the years of toil, and, apparently almost profitless, which it cost to lay the cornerstone of Christianity in Burma! Think of the many martyrs who fell before Africa received the gospel! And think of the self-sacrifice, toil, weeping, and groaning before God, amid slander and reproach, of a Luther and a Wesley! What if they had fainted? What would have become of the reformations which they led? Great moral reforms have always had their victims. Reformers must be content to let their reputations lie over, at least, for one generation.
“But I’ll stop this strain. I hardly know why I should be led out like this. But let me say, there are many hearts in these regions who pray for you, and who are with you heart and hand, and stand ready to enlist in any feasible project that bids fair to reestablish the primitive life, power, and simplicity of Methodism. And their number is increasing. I am glad the scribes, Pharisees, and Oddfellows were led to overt acts which have done more to open the eyes of the honest to see the necessity of some decisive plan of operations in returning to the “old paths.”
“You speak of severe mental conflicts, in which your reason seems to suffer. May I ask, is it like unto a bit of my own experience? While struggling to fulfill my obligations to God, enduring to my utmost power of endurance, groaning and weeping before God, my labors were questioned, my motives impugned, my character slandered, — and that by a Methodist preacher, who all the time flattered me to my face. I cared not for myself, but when I found that the cause of Christ was suffering because of this, I was almost wild with grief, and was on the point of abandoning the field. Oh, what agony I experienced! The world never looked so desolate to me before. My bleeding heart would ask, why does the Lord suffer this? Why don’t he remove the woe, and let me spend my days in quiet? I knew not what the Lord was doing with me. But I learned a lesson that I could have learned in no other way. I found two things in me that needed correction: One was, that I had taken more care upon me for God’s cause than I could well endure, and had come to think that I was somewhat essential to its welfare. I forgot that God had to carry me and the cause also. The second thing was, that God held me responsible for fidelity, and not for success. How I then saw I was groaning over a few wrongs, while Jesus carried, endured, and wept over the wickedness and backslidings of the whole world. By this light I saw that God holds me responsible for duty, whether men hear or forbear. I now saw that my bewilderment arose from an attempt to settle these matters by my own reason. Then this simple track was presented to me: Look only to Jesus when he commands; stop when he bids you; do the exact right; leave no duty undone, and let God manage the results. This saves from all policy working even to outwit the devil. It saves from all planning, and all fear for results. It is resting wholly in Christ, and in the use of God’s word and plan for the redemption of the world.
“Down deep in my soul I feel God is with you and will lead you, if you give him a fair chance. You will be led to duties that will test your views of propriety. Our views of propriety are usually from our reasoning, which needs this discipline. This disturbance of our reasoning is due to the conflict between our sense of propriety and that unadorned simplicity which the Spirit of God would institute. Let God move you in harmony with his word and the history of the past, and all will be well.
J. W. Redfield.”
The next day after receiving the money from his friend, they took the train for Burlington, Iowa, where they expected to take a steamer for St. Louis. Here they had to wait a week, as it was late in the season, and many of the boats had stopped running. Mr. Redfield’s state of mind was anything but pleasant. It seemed to him that he was going to meet with trouble.
On reaching St. Louis they put up at a hotel, at great expense. In a few days he began to look for cheaper quarters. For awhile matters looked as though they would have to leave the city, but at last he found a place where they could board at $12.50 per week, and this to be paid in advance. As soon as they could get settled he went in search of a Methodist church. There were plenty of southern Methodist churches, but he desired a northern church, as he did not feel free to become identified with a slaveholding people. It was difficult to find any who knew of such a church as he desired. He had letters of introduction to Rev. Dr. Williams, but no one seemed to know his residence. Sunday morning came, and he found the Ebenezer church and Dr. Williams its pastor. At the close of the morning sermon, he handed the pastor his letters of introduction, also their church letters. The 5th of December, he preached for the first time, at the invitation of the pastor. After this, in one of the official meetings a motion was made to invite him to assist the pastor in revival meetings. But the pastor refused to put the question, saying, “I propose to hold the reins of this pulpit in my own hands, and only invite to assist me whom I please. If you are dissatisfied with me, and desire this man, I can pack my carpetbag and leave.” Mr. Redfield was not present, and knew nothing of the proposition to invite him until some time after.
During this time he had been in search of a still cheaper boarding house, and finding one that was more reasonable, he was about to remove, when his landlady refused to let him take his trunks unless he would pay another week’s board. He went to a bank to get a draft cashed, and found it imperfect, and that it must be sent back to northern Illinois to be corrected before he could draw the money on it. To get out of his difficulty he had to pawn his watch. Before the draft returned, a Jew, learning of the circumstances, unsolicited, went and redeemed his watch and returned it to him.
But now the news came to him of what took place in the official board. He said nothing to any one but his wife, but he felt that jealousy was at the bottom of the trouble, and that he had better leave. But his wife said, “No. God has sent us here, and we must stay.” They then concluded that if there was to be trouble in the church, their mission would be to the people in house to house visitation. They made some visits, and God began a glorious work, in which quite a number were blessedly saved. But this was called sowing dissension.
About this time he was invited to preach in a colored people’s church, and when he consented to do so, advised that the white people be not informed of it, lest they come to the meeting, and he be accused of drawing off the congregation from Ebenezer church. The first night God blessed the truth, and nearly every sinner in the house was at the altar for prayer. This could not be kept secret, and soon white people from Ebenezer church began to come. Occasionally he was allowed to preach in Ebenezer, and his congregations, when it was known beforehand, were large. The doctrine of holiness, as he presented it, attracted much attention, and the membership, not only of this church, but of other churches, became much interested in it; and a general revival was manifestly coming on.
He says “I was in the company of the pastor one day, and was desirous of convincing him of my honesty and sincerity; and this especially as I had heard that he and other preachers had branded me as a fanatic, and an impostor, and that instead of being a Methodist, I was a Campbellite, etc. Without adverting to this, I said, “Doctor, I am so burdened for St. Louis, it seems as though I must see salvation come, or I cannot endure it.”
“Oh,” said he, “I never allow myself to get such burdens. If they do come, I go to bed and sleep them of.”
“I saw I could awaken no chord of sympathy in him on that line, and I said:
“I am a Methodist, and you, yourself, cannot find any thing in my preaching at variance with John Wesley.”
“But,” said he, “there are many of us Methodist preachers who do not believe with John Wesley.”
“And so every effort to bring myself into communion with him failed.
“Soon after this, the quarterly conference met, and a vote was taken on inviting me to hold meetings in the church, from one to three weeks; and only one man voted against it. When the pastor saw the unanimity of the vote, he remarked, “Well, give us a good collection next Sunday, and after next Tuesday he can preach.”
“I was not present, but this was reported to me by one who was. When the time came for me to begin, I felt a presentiment that I would meet with trouble of some kind, and so I went in good season. But when I arrived at the church, a presiding elder, who was known to be an opposer of the doctrine of holiness, was in the pulpit, and had commenced the service. After the singing and prayer, Doctor W_____ said to me, “Come forward and preach.” I went into the pulpit and commenced. I had felt impressed to take a copy of the Discipline, and also a copy of Rev. Joseph Hartwell’s tract, giving quotations from Wesley’s views on sanctification, with me. In the midst of my discourse, I thought it best to say to the congregation that the official board had invited me to stay and preach from one to three weeks; but if I do, it is due to you to know what I am. I then said, “I am a Methodist,” and drawing the Discipline from my pocket, I repeated the rules to which I had subscribed, and which I tried to live to. “You may want to know also what are my views on the doctrine of holiness”; and then drawing from my pocket the extracts from Wesley, I said, “Here are my views, straight out of Wesley’s works.” These I read, giving page and section. I then said, “If I stay, I must preach the same class of truths to which you have listened from me since I have been here. And I think it is due that I make this frank statement, that if I stay, I must so preach the whole law that I can meet it again. And I think it is due to me to know whether you want it, and will abide by it. So I will ask all, saints and sinners, to say, by vote, whether you--
“I was going to say, ‘will do so or not.” But I was interrupted by Dr. W_____, ho caught me by the arm and said, “Stop, sir; I am responsible for this pulpit.”
“I felt perfectly calm, and turning to him, said, “Doctor, I was not going to transcend the proprieties of the pulpit, but”--
“Stop, sir”; said he. “I am responsible for this pulpit.”
“I tried again and again to make an explanation, but he forbade it, and then commanded me to go on with my sermon.
“Afterwards, this was reported to have been an effort on my part to take a vote of the congregation whether I or he should occupy the pulpit.
“While this was taking place in the pulpit, my soul was talking with God. An unearthly power rested upon me. God seemed to be all around me. He seemed to say, “I want you to preach the straight truth for once; will you?’
“My heart said, “I will.”
“But if you do, you may be stopped.”
“Well,” said I, “I will go on till I am stopped.”
“You, probably, never will be permitted to preach again.”
“I will go the straight way for this once, if it is the end of my preaching.”
C. H. Underwood, at that time a business man in St. Louis, but who was afterward converted and became a minister of the gospel, once told the writer, that Mr. Redfield’s sermon that night was awful, in its arraignment of the unsaved and particularly the unsaved of the church, before the bar of God.
In the pulpit and around it, were seated, two presiding elders, one church editor, and several city pastors. While the sermon was in progress, these men seemed to listen in breathless amazement. Many were smitten by conviction that night, among whom was Mr. Underwood.
The next night, as Mr. Redfield was walking down the aisle to the pulpit, Doctor Williams met him, and said:
“I have received a strange letter from the official board. Let us go into the parsonage and read it.”
When Mr. Redfield opened it he found it to read as follows:
“St. Louis, Jan. 20, 1859.
“To Rev. Dr. Williams:
“Dear Brother: — The undersigned members of the official board of Ebenezer charge have witnessed with regret the unprecedented conduct of Dr. Redfield since the commencement of his labors, and more especially on last night. Shocked at his proceedings, and believing that his labors are calculated to do more harm than good, by creating schism and dissension in the church, and feeling an abiding interest in the welfare of the church, and prosperity of the cause, earnestly request that you quietly tell Dr. Redfield that he cannot occupy the pulpit any more.
“J. W. HEATH,
“J. W. Hathaway,
Mr. Redfield was greatly shocked, to see that so few could reverse the action of the quarterly conference; that this could take place in so short a time; and that part of the complaints were of matters that occurred before the action of the quarterly conference that invited him to hold the meetings; and he said to Dr. Williams:
“Can you tell me why there are so few names to this letter?”
“This is from the board of trustees, and the trustees can control me and the pulpit.. I am sorry”, said he, “but I cannot help it; you and I are good friends.”
“Well,” said Mr. Redfield, “what shall I do? Should I go into the church tonight?”
“I think,” said he, “you had better not.”
Mr. Redfield sent some one in to call out his wife, and while waiting for her to come out, he was approached by one who said, “Is anything amiss?”
“No,” answered he, only the board of trustees have requested the doctor to shut me out of the pulpit.”
Another said, “That is one of Williams’ tricks.”
“No,” said Mr. Redfield, “that cannot be, for I read the letter and saw the names of those who signed it.”
It was soon whispered through the church, that Mr. Redfield was shut out of the pulpit, and a large proportion of the congregation arose and left the house.
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