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CHAPTER 51

In December, 1857, we find Mr. Redfield in St. Charles, Illinois, again, endeavoring to break through the crust of which he spoke in a former letter; but for some reason, never explained, he was unable to reach the signal victory here, which he experienced in other places. A few were saved, the pilgrims strengthened, while those in the church who resisted the light, settled into a deeper hostility to the doctrine and experience of holiness.

On the 21st of December, he wrote a letter to Brother and Sister Kendall, of which the following is a copy:

“St. Charles, Ill.

“My dear Brother and Sister Kendall: — We received your very welcome letter before we started for this place. How glad we were once more to hear from you! We had heard from you and many of the pilgrims through Brother J. D. R_____., a few weeks ago; and now and then we get a little information through Eastern papers, which give us a little clue of what is going on. But we want to see you, if the Lord permit.

“We are now on our way to a southern clime — Texas, probably -- where we wish if possible to find a place for a colony, where we can establish a type of salvation which will live. We think that not less than one hundred and fifty to two hundred will go between this spring and next fall. Among them will be a number of preachers, and most of the remainder will be Methodists. We shall only invite those who have a living religion. I go to select, if I can, from ten to fifty thousand acres of land, in a body in some eligible location, this to be distributed among the colonists. A prominent object is to get a location where invalids like Mattie will be likely to gain health, more surely than in northern latitudes. What information I have with respect to Texas is, the climate is most delightful, fully equal to the best portions of California.

“We have been holding meetings here, and have seen some as powerful conversions as I ever knew. But our plow has run into some old roots, of from five to twenty years old. We tugged, and ground, put on more team, and cut our way through, until some thought we had got through all. But I think there is more yet, and may be worse than any we have yet seen. Whether we can force our way clear through is more than I can tell. Mattie is afraid to have me press it through, but I have no fears for myself, and would sooner run under than leave the work half done. How we shall succeed remains to be seen.

“We expect to leave here by the middle of January, and I wish to hear from you once more before then.

“Yours in love,

“J. W. Redfield.”

An appendix to this letter, written by Mrs. Redfield, says they had been in St. Charles three weeks. God had been with them in power. Quite a number had been converted. She refers to the troubles, and thinks the preacher in charge ought to take hold of them, and not leave so much for Mr. Redfield.

This preacher in charge was Rev. Charles French, a good man, who loved God and the truth, and was in hearty sympathy with an earnest salvation. He remained a firm friend to Mr. Redfield for years.

How soon the visionary scheme, described by him in the last letter was given up, there is nothing to show; but this is the first and the last trace of it to be found.

About the first of January he went to Elgin, Illinois. The pastor was Rev. C. M. Woodward, who knew many of the ministers in the Genesee Conference, of which he had been a member. He knew much of Mr. Redfield’s work in the East, and was prepared to receive him here. The notion that it was best to keep the control of the services in his own hands, as preacher in charge, was somewhat in Mr. Redfield’s way, as the latter’s experience in revival work enabled him to surmount difficulties, where others knew not what to do. In this meeting Mr. Redfield did the preaching and invited seekers to the altar, but Mr. Woodward managed the prayer service. Mr. Redfield’s success was due largely to his skillful management of seekers at the altar.

The work moved slowly at first, but after a little, it began to take hold of the membership. Quite a number of them entered into the experience of perfect love. But there was no general break among sinners.

While engaged at Elgin, Mr. Redfield was visited by Mr. M. L. Hart, of Marengo, a village twenty-five miles away, at the instance of the official board of the Methodist Church, to request him to assist in a revival at that place. Mr. and Mrs. Hart had been somewhat acquainted with Mr. Redfield’s labors in the East, and when they heard of his being in Elgin, they recommended him to the Marengo church. He consented to go, on condition that the official board would allow him the liberty to preach according to the Bible and the Methodist Discipline. On Mr. Hart’s return, a meeting of the board was called, and a motion to invite Mr. Redfield on his own conditions was unanimously adopted. Mr. Redfield on learning of this determined to go as soon as he could leave Elgin. In the midst of this he received a telegram as he entered the church one Saturday evening, that his friend, William C. Kendall, was lying at the point of death. After the service Sunday night he wrote the following letter:

“ELGIN, Ill., 12:30, Sunday Night.

“My dear Brother and Sister Kendall: — I received your dispatch while going into church last night. And as there was no mail or train until Monday afternoon, it afforded me time to think and pray over the matter. Brother Woodward had already left for Marengo, to fill my appointment there until I came, that I might stay here over the Sabbath. I laid the matter before the Lord last night, and in great distress of mind, I asked: “What shall I do?” When I thought of the work of God, and of your sickness, I said: “We cannot spare Brother Kendall.” Then I said: “Lord, tell me which way I shall go”; and a sweet, blessed influence came over me, which seemed to say: “You attend to God’s business, and he will attend to Brother Kendall better than you can.” And I feel at perfect rest when I trust Brother Kendall in his hands.

“Elgin has about 3,000 people, and it is said they have never known such power as we have in our meetings. And there is a fear that if I leave it will go down. This night we have had one of the most awful and glorious times. The straight way of holiness has most signally triumphed. Tomorrow I must go to Marengo, about twenty-five miles from here. The preacher there is used up, can preach no more, and must have help. Here they are pressing me to stay. There they say I may go the straight way. There are also two other places awaiting me; one twenty miles south, and the other at Galena, a city of 10,000 or 12,000 people. Amid these calls and promises to let God have a fair chance, together with what we now have, you may well judge of the rack on which my mind was cast by your dispatch.

“All I can get from the Lord is: “Keep at work, and I’ll take care of Brother Kendall.” I fear to get out of God’s order, and it seems to me to be his order that I confine my labors at present to Marengo and Elgin. I feel at rest about you, some way. You know I had got started for the South, but as this door opened, I felt I must risk Mattie’s health, and she is now better. This, to me, is another evidence that I am in the right field for the present.

“You did not state what is the matter with Brother Kendall. Write to me at Marengo.

“I feel wonderfully at rest in regard to Brother Kendall. It doesn’t seem as though the Lord would take him to glory yet. I could die for him, and nothing but the strong impression of duty keeps me here. If it were not for that, I would take the first train to come to you.

“Glory to God, all is well. Hallelujah!

J. W. Redfield.”

When Mr. Redfield arrived at Marengo, he had an opportunity to listen to the religious testimonies of some of the membership, and saw that it would take very thorough work to give the stamp of piety that was needed in that place. It was also evident that a large portion of those who had professed to be converted knew but little about religious experience. In his first sermon he endeavored to show that it was the privilege of Christians to live in the land of Beulah constantly. This so shocked some of the membership that they could scarcely endure him from that time. One member of the official board has informed the writer, that if it had not been for the pledge that they would let Mr. Redfield go straight on the Bible and Discipline, it would have been difficult to have gained their consent to let him continue. They never had heard the truth presented in that way before.

General Superintendent E. P. Hart, of the Free Methodist Church, son of the M. L. Hart who bore the request to Mr. Redfield to come to Marengo, says:

“I had professed religion during the meetings that had been held previous to the Doctor’s coming, but I knew scarcely anything of real religion. I had heard father and mother speak of the Doctor in such strong terms, and such wonderful reports had come to us of the meetings at Elgin, that I was full of expectation of listening to marvelous eloquence. I went to a friend and relative of mine, a lawyer by the name of Rogers, and invited him to go with me and listen to the wonderful man. I became very anxious that Rogers should be favorably impressed, and remarked as we approached the church, “He may be a little embarrassed to night, as he is a total stranger, and may not do as well as when he becomes better acquainted.” When we got inside the church, I found it very difficult to get Rogers a seat, and was obliged to take one of the pulpit steps for myself. As soon as the Doctor commenced, I forgot all about Rogers. My hopes of heaven were all swept away by the truth, and from that time I could not conscientiously profess religion. The Doctor had taken tea at our house, and now went home with us to tarry for the night. As soon as we had got seated around the stove, after our return, he asked me how I enjoyed the meeting. I replied, “Oh, very well; I am not used to quite so much noise.”

“My brother,” said he, “has the Lord made you ear inspector of this community?’

“This settled me, as far as that was concerned, but I did not get out into a good experience until long after the protracted meeting closed.”

This revival swept the town and the surrounding country. People came from five to twenty miles in their own conveyances, and often the house would be well filled an hour and a half before the time for service. Many were converted in their wagons on their way home. The number converted has been estimated at from four to five hundred. Every whiskey shop in the place was closed, and many of the worst of people were converted. Large numbers were entirely sanctified, and a light was kindled that has never gone out. Many have died, who were saved in that meeting, who honored God while they lived, and who triumphed gloriously in their last moments.

Among the many trophies of divine grace was that of the village drayman, a man by the name of Boyington. He was very wicked and blasphemous. When he was saved he became more remarkable for his piety. Endowed with remarkable good sense, and with a quaintness of expression peculiarly his own, he was always interesting, whether in private conversation, or in public testimony. He lived for about twenty-five years, a monument of mercy, and then fell asleep in Jesus.

A physician by the name of Richardson entered into the experience of perfect love, and though rejected by the conference, when he applied for work, was taken to Minnesota, by a visiting presiding elder,66Rev. D. D. Cobb and given employment. He became very successful, and was made a great blessing to the church and the world.

As at St. Charles, so here, there were a number of deeply experienced Christians, who quickly recognized the work of God, and who rallied around Mr. Redfield, and gave great aid to the work. One of these was “Mother Cobb,” who for many years was the only living witness to the experience of perfect love in all those parts. She had then walked in the steady light of it for more than forty years. She lived for nearly twenty more in the light of that experience, when God took her home. Another was, “Mother Combs,” a woman of deep piety, clear understanding, and consistent life. Another was, the mother of Superintendent Hart. She had been led into the experience by Rev. James Caughey.

The pastor of the church was no help to the work, and providentially kept away. Soon after the close of the meeting he was arraigned before the presiding elder on a charge of drunkenness. He soon after went to one of the frontier states and engaged in the practice of law.

One of the results of this meeting was the starting of a Monday evening holiness meeting at the home of a brother Bishop, several miles out in the country, that was sustained through summer and winter for several years. It was nothing unusual for people to come from six to nine miles to that meeting, and return the same night. Many were converted and many were sanctified in those meetings.

During this revival meeting, the news came of the death of Mr. Kendall. The following is Mr. R_____ ’s letter of condolence to Mrs. Kendall:

“Marengo, Ill., Feb. 22, 1858.

“My dear Sister Kendall — I cannot realize that our dear fellow laborer is really reaping his reward in heaven. I could not make it seem possible, that one so faithful, and so honored of God, could be spared. I did not feel that God would take him so soon. But there must have been the best of reasons why our heavenly Father took him up to the society of the glorified. He is now associated with the sainted Fletcher, whom he much resembled. Brother Kendall’s face came up before me in a remarkable manner two or three hours before I received your dispatch, and during the evening after. I deeply mourn with you over your loss. I am persuaded that angels are rejoicing over his arrival among them. I pray that his mantle may fall on me. From Sister S_____’s letter, I judge that he was past help when I received your first dispatch; or, at least, would have been before I could have reached him.

“Like Mrs. Fletcher, you may tarry behind to do much for God. You now realize, as never before, the power of religion. Yours is a hot furnace, but remember the white robed throng came up out of great tribulation. I try to make your case my own, and often fear, should I be called to see my best earthly friend laid in the cold grave, that I could never smile again. God and my own heart only know what a jewel I have, and I fear I have not religion enough to sustain me in such a calamity. But I may go first. I do not allow myself to think of it, but keep to work, and trust that he who has called me, if I am faithful, will sustain me in that awful hour, whether she or I go first. If you could only be with us here, God would make you a great blessing, and I am sure that he and your sainted husband would be pleased with your labors. Be as cheerful as you can; you will have friends below as well as above.

“Yours affectionately,

“J. W. Redfield.”

In another letter to Sister Kendall, written about the same time, after discussing the idea of the departed being ministering spirits to their friends here, the idea of which he somewhat favored, he wrote thus of Brother Kendall:

“I always felt, and do now, a kind of inspiration to say: “Blessed, persecuted, faithful man!” While he lived, God had one man that would not swerve a hair’s breadth from the exact right. Yes, God had one man in the old Genesee Conference that could be trusted in any place; who in the darkest night of discouragement was at his post. Yes, blessed saint! Glory be to God, that I ever saw him! I feel the inspiration of his faithful spirit. I never felt so strong in God, and so firm to stand up for the exact right as I have since he, like an Elijah, has gone on before. It seems to me he is commissioned to infuse his own daring, faithful spirit into those who are ready to halt. I praise God that he ever lived. I sometimes relate his experiences, persecutions, and triumphs, to my congregations, and always with good effect. He is now above the reach of flattery, and I can say what is in my heart, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I may yet drink of his bitter cup, but shall I ever be with him and see his glory? In imagination I can see him, on the occasion of which you wrote, when he was so grieved to think he stood so alone for God; and in my inner heart I say: “Well done, blessed man.”

“J. W. Redfield:”

Mr. Redfield was pained at one thing in connection with his work in Marengo — the want of care with respect to the results of the meeting. He says: “Could the Methodist Church have been persuaded to take care of the work, rather than to contend against it, it might have spread farther, and a more glorious harvest have been reaped.” The presiding elder could but endorse the character of the work, but thought in the end it would work harm, as it would be impossible to supply it with preachers who would be acceptable to the people — that is, it was unfortunate to have such a revival, because there were so few preachers in the conference who were in sympathy with it.


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