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The next morning Mr. Redfield called on Dr. William, and secured a copy of the letter from the official board, and asked for his own and his wife’s church letters. Referring to this, he says:
“I incidentally remarked that I should either go into a free state or join one of the other Northern Methodist churches in the city. And I took a copy of the letter from the trustees in order to refute the charge that Dr. Williams was its author. On my way home I met one who thus charged him, and I said, “Here is a copy of that letter, and it shows that you are mistaken.” He read it, and then replied, “Only one of those men is a trustee; and now I know that Williams is at the bottom of this affair.”
“Here, then, were the names of four persons who attempted to rule the whole congregation, and one trustee to rule a whole quarterly conference.
“From this brother I now learned that seventy-two members of the church had held a meeting the night before and sent the following declaration to the official board:
“To the members of the Official Board of the Ebenezer charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church:
“Brethren: — Whereas, by the uncalled-for exercise of official power of a few individuals of Ebenezer charge in the city of St. Louis, which has lately taken place, whereby a large proportion of the members of said church have been deprived of their rights and privileges guaranteed to them, as we believe by the word of God, and the Discipline of the church; and, whereas we deem it our duty to state the causes which have induced us to separate ourselves from said church, as well as to assure our brethren from whom we have thus separated, that in so doing we have no other motive than the promotion of the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the exercise of those privileges which we have lately been deprived of by the unlawful exercise of a power never intended to be invested in these four men holding official position in said church; and, whereas, we do not believe in the “one-man power,” nor the unlawful exercise of an authority of four men, never conferred upon them, and that for the accomplishment of an unholy purpose, such as has lately occurred, which we deem oppressive and unjust, before God and man; therefore,
“Resolved, that we ask the privilege, as we claim the right, of adhering to, and continuing in, the Methodist Episcopal Church, both from principle, and from a firm belief in the doctrines of said church.
“Resolved, 2. That we have the utmost confidence in the Christian character and the holiness of purpose of Rev. Dr. Redfield, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and that his close-pointed preaching of the gospel is in accordance with the usage of the primitive church in bringing sinners to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.
“Resolved, 3. That we hold the mandate issued by the four officials in Ebenezer charge, excluding Dr. Redfield from the pulpit, thereby denying him the privilege of preaching to a congregation assembled for that purpose, as unjustifiable, unauthorized by the Discipline, and ruinous to the church.
“Resolved, 4. That this unjustifiable and high-handed breach of trust, by the said four officials, deprives us of the social and religious privileges we have heretofore enjoyed in said church; and being thus deprived by the arbitrary act of said officials from the privileges aforesaid, we feel we have no other alternative than to separate ourselves from said Ebenezer charge, which we have now done in the fear of God, who will judge our action in the great day of account.
“Resolved, 5. That we do hereby solemnly protest in the name of the great I Am, against the course pursued by these officials in Ebenezer charge toward Rev. Dr. Redfield, and also against the known wishes of a large majority of the said church and congregation.
“Resolved, 6. That a committee of three of our number be appointed to attend the next official meeting of Ebenezer charge, to lay before it this preamble and these resolutions, and ask that they be spread upon the records of the board.”
When this paper was presented there were attached to it the signatures of ninety members of the church.
These members began now to call for their church letters. At first, Dr. Williams endeavored to dissuade them from their purpose, and after granting the request of twenty, he then refused to give any more. When at last he saw the blame thrown upon those four men, he acknowledged himself to be the author of that letter. Thus the whole thing proved to be a fraud perpetrated by himself.
There is in this document, addressed to the official board, an evidence of haste. Probably a delay of a few days would have made a great difference in the character of that paper. But there was strife in the air that affected this movement, which was not clearly apprehended by some of the actors. The following letter to the Northern Independent, written about this time, will make this plain:
“GREAT SECESSION IN ST. LOUIS.
“Mr. Editor: — I see from the Central Advocate, published in the city of St. Louis, that there has been a terrible thunderstorm, a great moral earthquake — a large secession from one of the Methodist Episcopal churches in that city. But let it not be forgotten that this secession has taken place in slaveholding territory — in one of the “border conferences.” It has taken place, too, in a city where there are but two copies of the Northern Independent taken, and they are sent to editors in exchange. Yet, strange as it may appear, Brother Brooks charges that secession on the Northern Independent. What a powerful influence the Independent exerts! From the predictions of our church papers, I had supposed that secessions were to take place in Central New York. But lo and behold, it commences in “border territory.”
“From the braggadocio and insulting style of the editor, I should think him a relative of “Bully Brooks,” of Washington notoriety. His editorial is unworthy of a Christian minister. But something must be done to put down Hosmer, Mattison, and company. Just hear him: “It is high time that decisive steps were taken for the protection of the church. We seriously question the temporizing policy which has been adopted by our eastern brethren.”
“Why, bless your dear soul, Brother Brooks, the power of episcopacy and of the conservative press, has been in full operation for the last two years to put down our beloved Independent and its friends, but without success. This “crushing out policy” don’t and will not succeed.
“But Mr. Brooks is frank enough to acknowledge that J. W. Redfield, an itinerant local preacher, has been the main instrument in bringing about the above-named secession. Now we desire to state distinctly for the benefit of Brother Brooks, that Mr. Redfield is in no wise connected with the Northern Independent, nor, so far as I know, in sympathy with it, for he does not take it. Moreover, Mr. Brooks must know that the Independent is not in sympathy with that peculiar doctrine advocated by Mr. Redfield. But the editor must have something to rant about. I hope, after this awful vomiting of bile, Brother Brooks will himself be greatly relieved. Missouri is said to be very bilious to old conservatives. If the editor would take a good use of common sense, he would be greatly relieved; otherwise, I fear his disease will prove fatal.
“But after all the rant and cant about secession, Brother Brooks says: “We have not directed attention to this subject, because we have any apprehension that the Methodist Episcopal Church is in any danger.” Good. You think just as many do in this region, Brother Brooks. No, my good brother, the Independent will not injure the church, so shed no more crocodile tears.
“Allow me, Brother Hosmer, to thank Mr. Brooks for bringing the Independent to the notice of his readers in slave territory.
“April 20, 1859.
This letter indicates that an effort was made by Mr. Brooks, editor of the Central Christian Advocate, to connect the disturbance in Ebenezer church with the Independent. We have already noticed the origin and character of that paper. William Hosmer, its editor, was a strong believer in the doctrine of holiness, and much in sympathy with the pilgrims in Western New York, and the columns of his paper often rang with warnings to the officials of the church against the high-handed usurpations of power on the part of subordinates in the church, aimed at the crushing out of the holiness revival.
For years a hot discussion had been going on in the church papers over the doctrine of holiness itself. Nathan Bangs, Jesse T. Peck, Joseph Hartwell, and others, had written in defense of it. They held to the doctrine as taught by the Wesleys. Hiram Mattison, C. P. Bragdon, and many others, had written against it. The writings of Mattison had slowly, but surely, poisoned the theology of many of the ministry, who stood ready, by one means and another, to hinder and crush out the teaching of Wesleyan views.
The cringing attitude of the church on the slavery question bad developed a policy of administration, and even of preaching along the border of Mason and Dixon’s line, that was destructive to independence of character except in opposition to every form of radicalism. This policy-spirit had undermined the spiritual life, and the conscience of the church, until such things as have been recorded in this chapter were possible with both the ministry and the laity.
When men got their eyes open to the real character of this spirit, they were filled with horror and distrust of those who still were actuated by it. Mr. Redfield’s preaching left no middle ground. He poured such floods of light upon the motives of men that they could but see themselves in their true character. Some repented, and, full of gratitude for being saved from such an abyss of moral corruption, perhaps unwisely, would speak in strong approval of the faithfulness of Mr. Redfield’s labors. This roused the jealousy of time-serving ministers, and the hatred of men who would not walk in the light. His friends were of the most spiritual in the church, his enemies of the worldly. The friendship of his friends was strong as death, while the enmity of his enemies was bitter to the extreme. Thus the gulf of separation was deeper than the width of this church action would indicate. Spiritual men, on the ground, would be convinced of its impassableness, when those at a distance would see but little worthy of notice. Of the actors in this conflict we shall see more by-and-by.
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