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From Marengo, Mr. Redfield went to Woodstock, the county seat, twelve miles distant. Here he found the Methodist society weak, and worshipping in a hired hall. Quite a number of the newly saved, from various places, gathered here to assist in the meetings.
Among them was C. E. Harroun, spoken of in the account of the St. Charles meeting. Mr. Redfield’s manner and matter in preaching were new to the people, and as usual drew large crowds to hear him. The curiosity of the masses, the cold indifference of the church, and the hesitating, doubtful policy of the pastor, for a time made the effort for a revival very hard. One brother, from Marengo, who had experienced the holy baptism, while engaged in prayer at the altar, suddenly was without voice or thoughts. Having never had such an experience before, he was filled with surprise, and looked about him in amazement. With Mr. Redfield this was no new thing, and fully aware of the feelings of the brother, he shouted a word of encouragement, and soon all was right. Inquiry showed that all the rest of the praying ones had a similar experience at the same time. It was but one of those onsets of the powers of darkness often met by those engaged in evangelistic work. The writer remembers an instance of the kind, during Mr. Redfield’s labors in Elgin. A sudden hush came upon the meeting. Every voice at the altar was silenced, and soon the congregation was boisterous with merriment. Mr. Redfield, standing in front of the pulpit, suddenly stamped his right foot, and at the top of his voice cried out, “Lord, smite the devil.” In an instant, the merriment in the congregation ceased, and every praying one broke out in loud supplication, which lasted for some moments, when the praying was turned to praising, and the noise of the latter equaled that of the former. For such emergencies Mr. Redfield seemed especially endowed. At Woodstock, determined opposition set in against the work. At first the Baptist and the Presbyterian ministers appointed a union prayer meeting and invited both the Universalist preacher and Mr. Redfield to attend it. Mr. Redfield saw that it was an attempt to crowd him into a position where he would be misunderstood by the people; that is, where he would be obliged to refuse to attend the meeting because of the liberty given the Universalist minister. They well knew this from what they had heard and observed of his preaching. But if he refused to accept of their invitation, they would charge him with uncharitableness, and that with apparent grounds for it. But he met it squarely, by answering, “No! I have no fellowship with infidels.” He then spoke plainly of what he considered the design of the thing.
Then an eminent minister, living at a distance, was sent for, to preach in one of the churches, and that failed. Then a prominent member was found standing at the entrance of the hall one night, asking persons if they were not ashamed to be seen at a Methodist meeting; and that failed. Then threatening letters were sent to Mr. Redfield, and that failed. Then a band of roughs congregated together, and pledged themselves to each other to mob Mr. Redfield, and he was guarded to and from the hall a number of nights. A dentist, an old Methodist backslider, by the name of Murphy, a man of great physical strength and daring, was his principal escort. But one night nearly every one of this gang was at the altar crying for mercy; and so that scheme failed. Then reports began to be circulated that Mr. Redfield was a gambler, and a drinking man. Some men went so far as to say that they had seen him engaged in both; but that failed. The Universalist preacher was annoyed by so many of his flock attending the meetings at the hall, and asked them: “Why do you go there?”
“To hear Redfield preach holiness,” was their answer.
“Well, if that is your reason, I can preach holiness,” he replied; and he attempted to do so.
But all this failed to stop the work.
One night, after an ineffectual effort to preach, Mr. Redfield said to the congregation: “I have been trying for two weeks to preach to you the truth. For some reason it does not do its work as it should.” He then turned to the pastor, who sat in the pulpit with him, and asked:
“How long is it since you joined the conference in full connection?”
“Fourteen years,” was the answer.
“Did you not say then you were earnestly groaning for full redemption?”
“Are you any nearer to it tonight than you were then?”
“Don’t you see that something is wrong?”
“Will you get right?”
“Will you go forward right here, and now, and on the seekers’ side of the altar, and seek it?”
“I will,” said the now deeply-moved pastor, and immediately left the pulpit and knelt on the outside of the altar.
With a scream, a woman, a member of the church, some distance, back from the altar, sprang to her feet, and came running, and knelt by her pastor’s side, and in a loud voice said, “O Brother B_____, you said I need not take off this jewelry; that it was no matter if my heart was only right. O Brother B_____, you have stood right in my way.” At this, a number more ran to the altar.
That night the work broke. The revival swept the town and the surrounding country. Every county officer, including the sheriff and the judge, nearly every lawyer, and many other prominent men, were converted. One lawyer became a traveling preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the sheriff became a useful local preacher. The next fall, the conference sent Rev. Joseph Hartwell, a sound Methodist, and one who enjoyed and preached holiness, to supply the pulpit, and the weak society became strong and vigorous.
Before leaving Woodstock, Mr. Redfield had one of his old signs again; and he said to his wife one day, “Mattie, we’ll have to spend the winter in St. Louis.” For more than twenty years he had felt he had a work to do in that region, although the precise place was not made known to him until now. The more he considered the matter, the more he became satisfied that duty led him there, and he planned his work accordingly. He did not go to St. Louis immediately, but made his visit there at a later date, as we shall hereafter see.
His successes at Marengo and Woodstock, and encouraging reports from Western New York, cheered his heart, and gave him courage to drive the battle on.
From Woodstock, Mr. Redfield went to a country church, on Queen Anne prairie, a few miles away. Here God poured out his Spirit also, and many were raised up to testify to the power of the cleansing blood. Some of these have gone to their reward, while others are still contending for the faith.
When in June, the St. Charles camp meeting came on, there was a host of witnesses to perfect love, from Aurora, St. Charles, Elgin, Marengo, Woodstock, Queen Anne, and other places, reached indirectly by Mr. Redfield’s labors. What power there was in the services! with what unction the witnesses spoke and prayed! It was the writer’s first camp meeting, and all its scenes and events are still vivid to his memory.
Again, Elder Gammon gave Mr. Redfield great liberty, and entire sanctification was the theme of the meeting. But the last day the Rev. C. P. Bragdon, the minister alluded to in another chapter, who preached the sermon, when Purdy saved the day so gloriously; this man preached the same sermon here. His text was:
“Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”
The first part of the sermon was anti-rum; the second part was anti-tobacco; and the third part was anti-holiness. In the last he set forth the idea that all the experience a believer had after his conversion, is growth in grace. The experience of entire sanctification as a second experience, was ridiculed and denied. This was the first manifestation of hostility to the doctrine and experience among the Methodists of Fox River valley; but it was only the beginning of what proved afterward the occasion of division in the church.
Elder Gammon desired Mr. Redfield to preach in the afternoon after Mr. B_____’s strange discourse. But he replied: “I shall have to meet the false doctrine of this forenoon, if I do.”
“But,” said the elder, “it would hardly do to have any controversy on the campground.”
So Mr. Redfield did not preach.
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