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A committee now waited on Mr. Redfield, and asked him to become the pastor of the new organization. But he answered, “I cannot do that unless you are regularly organized and recognized by the presiding elder.”
They went to see him, and he told them he was glad to know of their taking this course, and he would recognize them. They returned and drew up a formal petition to that effect, which was signed by the members interested, and then presented to the elder again. He now had changed his mind, and declined doing it.
In the meantime, many of those who had withdrawn from Ebenezer were demanding an organization; and if that was not done, they declared their intention to join some other of the city churches; but were unanimous in a determination not to return to the Ebenezer church.
Dr. Williams came to Mr. Redfield soon after, and commanded him to bring back the people he had taken away, or he would expel him, and then publish him to the world.
Mr. Redfield replied, “I cannot do that. I never took them away, and I can never bring them back.”
“You have split my church all to pieces,” said he.
“You know better than that,” was Mr. Redfield’s reply.
Soon after this, Mr. Redfield received the following letter:
“ST. Louis, January 26, 1859.
“To Rev. Dr. Redfield:
“Dear Sir and Brother: — We are pained with the disruption of our church which has occurred recently in this city. With the present light upon the subject, we are persuaded that the responsibility rests chiefly with you. That a more perfect understanding may be reached, and the schism, if possible, be healed, we respectfully ask an interview with you this afternoon at three o’clock, at the office of the Central Christian Advocate, 7 N. Fourth street.
“We trust you may not fail to meet us.
Pastor of the Ebenezer Church.
“WINTER R. Davis”,
Pastor of Hedding Church.
Editor of the C. C. Advocate.”
In a note at the foot of this letter, the time was changed to 10 a.m. of the next day.
Mr. Redfield says: “I did not feel willing to meet these men, especially Dr. Williams, who was capable of that fraudulent letter; and Mr. Brooks, whom I too well knew, from report and otherwise, and trust myself with them. So instead of going to meet them I thought it best to answer the call by the following letter:
“ST. Louis, January 26, 1859. 11:30 p. m.
“To Rev. Dr. Williams, Rev. J. Brooks, and Professor Davis:
“Dear Brethren —Your note of today, received after church, greatly surprises and grieves me. I know Brother Brooks intimated to me last night that I was the principal cause of the disaffection complained of, but I could not make myself believe that the sober second thought, after a fair investigation, would at all warrant such a conclusion. I claim to be a North Methodist, and have tried to build up the cause of Wesleyan Methodism, and am confident that all my teachings in this city will bear a comparison in their orthodoxy with our standard authors. I have acted conscientiously and trust your charity will award to me an approval consistent with this statement. I cannot see that I am blameworthy if others show an attachment, as Methodists, for Methodist doctrines. It is thought I can heal, by correcting all the causes of the state of affairs complained of. I honestly believe I am not the cause, and I feel just as sure that I cannot heal what I have not wounded. I am willing to do, and will do, anything consistent with right, which you may prescribe, to reach such an end. When I took my letter I did design, quietly, to change my relation, either to another Northern Methodist church, or to go to a free state, hoping to get away from so troublesome a state of things. I knew not that another person besides myself and wife had any design to take letters; neither did I state to any one that I had done so, till I learned that others had done the same, fearing that it would be construed into hostility to Ebenezer church. I designedly refrained from expressing opinions, and likewise from attending preliminary meetings, having in view steps of separation. But when it was announced that a new organization was a fact, and the papers were duly made out to petition the elder to perfect the organization, and there was a unanimous desire that I should preach for them until the proper officers should make provisions to supply them, I accepted their invitation, believing I was violating no obligations in so doing, as a loyal member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. If others think I have, and will convince me of the same, I will correct my mistake if it is in my power to do so.
“Now if you can find one person who has taken a letter, and who will state that I, by word or act, directly or indirectly, have incited them to do so, I will quietly retire out of your midst, into a free state. Or if you can find a majority of two-thirds, or one-quarter, even, who will state that if I were gone out of the city they would go back and return their letters to Ebenezer, I will then leave.
“But will you permit me to ask you, brethren, if your united wisdom cannot devise some plan by which the cause of Methodism may be so extended that we all can work without this, to me, very unpleasant state of things? I am ready to serve the church free of charge, and I ask, will you not try some plan to meet the increasing demands of this great city? Will you not try in your wisdom to husband the present tide of religious influence? Are we not brethren? and shall we not harmonize in the great battle for the right? I will do anything that is right at your suggestion to reach so happy an end. God knows I desire to see St. Louis saved, and a fair proportion of the people gathered into our beloved North church. I trust you will weigh my motives in an even balance, when I state to you that I have no personal interest to serve in the part I act in trying to promote this end.
“I have chosen to write what I have to say to you, that I might say it more deliberately, and that you might review at any time what I have said, in making up your minds.
“Yours, most respectfully,
“J. W. Redfield.”
The next day he received the following reply:
“ST. Louis, January 27, 1859.
“To Dr. Redfield:
“Dear Brother: — As you have declined to meet with the pastors of the Methodist Episcopal Church of this city, this morning, according to our request, to endeavor to heal the unfortunate disruption that has taken place since you came to this city, we feel compelled by a stern sense of duty, in the fear of God, as pastors of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to seek an adjustment of this painful affair in another form, so far as your responsibilities are involved in the matter. Therefore, at the request of these pastors, it becomes my painful duty to request, in accordance with the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, that you deposit your letter without delay in one of the charges of this city, and have your name enrolled in a class-book.
Mr. Redfield says:
“I had a warning not three hours before, and I believe from the Spirit of God, that trouble was ahead, and said to my wife, “Something is coming, and I feel impressed to send our church letters away at once.” So I had a letter written, and our church letters inclosed in it, and sent to the post office, and then went to church. At the close of the service I received Dr. Williams’ reply. He came to me soon after, and said, he should now go ‘war to the knife.’99The writer, when a pastor in St. Louis in 1866. was told by a lady that she heard Dr. William, make that declaration in front of the church where Mr. R_____ was then laboring. Others said, a plan was being laid to compel me to leave the city; and that a course was to be pursued that would shut me out from all Methodist churches of the land. Another friend came to me with the word that he had reason to believe that the preachers would raise a mob against me, by the cry that I was an Abolitionist. Then Dr. Williams came to me one Saturday, and said, “If you will go to our church once tomorrow, I will let you off”; and I promised him I would. When my friends found this out, they stoutly resisted it, as they felt sure there was a plot of some kind in it. But I thought I would risk it and keep my word; but I was taken suddenly sick, and was unable to get out for three weeks. I suffered much from fear and grief. Every noise at night seemed to me like the noise of a mob, and I expected to see the windows burst in at any moment. I was grieved to think that ministers in my beloved church would resort to such means to accomplish wicked ends. I became so sick that I despaired of life, and said to my wife, “You’ll have to leave my bones in St. Louis.” At the end of this time I was taken to the church one Sunday morning, in a close carriage, and as I entered, the singers sang, as a voluntary,
“Jesus look with pitying eye,
Saviour help me or I die.”
Oh, how I felt the meaning of every word! On attempting to read a hymn, I found that my eyesight had failed, and from that time I had to wear glasses.
“I was soon able to resume the charge of the society, and we thought it best that we should form ourselves into a Methodist church on the Congregational plan, but adding a rule against slavery. In the meantime I thought best to prepare to let the annual conference adjust our difficulties. Some said there was no use, but I thought there was. But sure enough, when the time came, the conference refused to look into the matter. At last we settled down to look after our work. New appointments sprang up, and calls began to come for me to labor. Visitors came from Richmond, Virginia, New Orleans, Natchez, Baltimore, Chicago, and other places; who had heard so much about us. They came to see for themselves, and said, “This is what we need at our place.” So the good work went on.”
The conflict continued to rage hotly in St. Louis for considerable time, as the sequel shows. During this time Mr. Redfield wrote the following letters, which are of interest by way of throwing light upon the character of events then occurring, and also by way of revealing the true character of the man himself:
“ST. Louis, Mo., Dec. 25, 1858.
“My dear Sister Kendall — We received a letter from Brother Hicks last evening, from which we learned the results of the Laymen’s Convention at Albion, but not all the particulars.
“We are now settled for the present in this wicked city, and are trying to clear away the rubbish so as to get down to the foundation rock. The novelty of the doctrine of holiness, and the measures we use, as well as the little power sometimes manifested, is startling to them here. One man lost his strength night before last, and fell hack on the floor. Some say such a thing never took place in Ebenezer church before. Some few profess to have received the blessing of perfect love, but the stamp does not come quite up to my wishes. Most of the people seem sincere, but timid and halting. Among the reclaimed backsliders is the son of Father Wait, of Albion. He has been backslidden for fifteen years. He is one of the city justices, has a great deal of energy, and uses it among his associates, lawyers and others, and deals as plainly with the church as Brother Purdy used to, is just about as impulsive, and feels he has a duty to do, and I am of the same impression. We have a few here who know what salvation is, and they stand up in defense of the definite work. How it will finally turn I cannot say, but hope and pray that before the fight comes on, which surely will come, that God may have one victory which will establish a gospel standard.
“Our church is quite central, but small and old, while the South church has its full supply of large commanding churches, proud, fashionable, and world-loving. They frown upon the North church, call us intruders, and set us down with Negroes (bless the Lord!). But the strong gospel doctrines are taking hold of the honest-hearted sinners, and I hope they will have one chance to show what they can do.
“I can see that Brother Kendall’s triumphant translation has done for the pilgrims what nothing else could have done. That solemn vow of the preachers over his coffin has told upon that little band, and nerved them to acts which are felt for God. He died well. The pilgrims saw the divine approval of his course. Those who waited to see how he would fare have been thrown upon their own resources. The gospel did not succeed so well until after our Lord ascension.
I am strongly impressed that God designs in this movement, to fit the pilgrim preachers for their work. How could they better learn to guard the entrance to the Christian ministry than by their sufferings from bad men in the ranks?
The experience they are obtaining will help them, when the time comes, to frame a discipline that will put the devil to many years of hard toil to get it tangled up again. I am sure the movement must end in division and a new church at last; and yet I hope they will hold on until pushed from the last plank.
“Firm in the Lord and in the power of his might,
“J. W. Redfield.”
“ST. Louis, Mo., Jan. 13, 1859.
“Dear Brother and Sister Foot: — We have long contemplated writing to you, but the great number of our correspondents, and the fact that we had written to some in St. Charles, has caused this delay. We greatly desire to hear from you, and are particularly desirous to know how matters have turned in that region.
“We have reason to believe God sent us to this city. The contest is very severe. Presiding elders and other preachers, who have advised the members to conform to the world, are greatly stirred. But God is raising up witnesses to testify to the fullness of salvation. Members of other churches are taking a bold stand for the truth. Some have expressed a great interest in the doctrine of holiness. One Congregationalist has experienced it, and now blazes with the fullness. A goodly number of Methodists now rejoice in a complete salvation. But the jeweled saints fight with a zeal worthy of a better cause.
“Some ask me to go into other churches and preach this blessed fullness there. Some ask me to set up a new church, and many outsiders and Presbyterians and Congregationalists are ready to sustain it.
“The powers of our church permitted me to preach a few times, and as the people received it the slaying power came, and then they stopped me. They tried to get along alone a few nights, but they could not make it move; and then they called for me again, and again the work moved with power. Then there was shouting, and that was stopped, and I was stopped again. Again they tried to make the work go their way, but it would not move. I am now holding off, and shall continue to do so until they pledge themselves that Bible religion shall be sustained. The outside pressure upon them, to have me preach, is getting very strong, and the contest waxes hotter and hotter. I am calmly waiting, standing still to see the salvation of God.
“You would not wonder at this, if you could see the jewels, flummeries, feathers, and the whole wardrobe of perdition, passing on the backs of Methodists, like loaded camels. And further to hear some backsliders confess their wrong, and then declare that preachers had told them to “Dress up; put on all you can get on; and shine in the world.” And further, that they need not attend class, etc. You cannot wonder that such kind of stuff and Bible religion will strike fire when they come together. How matters will turn I don’t know. One thing I do know. God helping me I will stand for truth or die trying. I know you pray for us. I do not ask you to pray that we may be released from the burden, the labor or the reproach, but that our faith and fidelity fail not.
“J. W. Redfield.”
“ST. Louis, Jan. 30, 1859.
“Dear Brother and Sister Foot: — Your letter was duly received. Glad we were, indeed, to hear from you. Yet we are sorry that salvation cannot have a fair chance in St. Charles, to save and bless the people with a full salvation.
“We are now convinced that God sent us to St. Louis. But such a battle we never had before. Our pastor blew up the official board for introducing a resolution to invite me to conduct the meetings. I was called upon, however, to preach, and the Bible salvation took most wonderfully. The people came out in great numbers, and then the preacher stopped me. The people urged, and now and then he would permit me to preach, and when the house would fill up he would stop me again. The church murmured, and he threatened to leave. On the 20th, I went into the church to preach, when he took me into the parsonage, and showed me a letter from the official board forbidding me to preach again. The people found it out, and seventy-two members demanded their letters. I asked how it happened that the leaders’ names were not on the letters; and he said it came from the trustees. Then it came out that only one of the four names was that of a trustee. When the people repudiated the dictatorship of the four men, the preacher owned up that he was the author of the letter. The people then formed a new church at once, with the promise of 150 members. The preacher lays the separation to me, and has demanded my letter, and threatens to expel me, and cut off all that left. He has got the presiding elder, the editor, and all the conference preachers on his side against us, but the outsiders, and the members of other churches, sympathized with us, and opened a fine church for our use. This made our enemies more angry than before. God came in power, and sinners have been saved. The people and the Lord seemed to leave them, and then they threatened us with war to the knife. It so happened that I expressed no opinion about dividing, nor counseled it directly or indirectly, but I have to bear the blame. Our friends have drawn up a writing, stating positively that I did nothing in any way to promote the separation, which they have all signed. This has been published. Then came a charge that I split the St. Charles’ church; but a man from there happened along here, who gave the facts, and that story was spoiled.
I am waiting now to have the organization perfected, when I expect again to enter the field. We need your prayers, that God may defend the cause of righteousness. Holiness is our theme. God comes in power. Mattie says, such a class meeting as she attended today she never attended before. There were ten seekers of religion.
“Many honest-hearted sinners desire that we build a new church of our own, and are ready to help.
“Yours in love,
“J. W. Redfield.”
In a letter to Mrs. Kendall dated February 17, after recounting the history of the work in St. Louis down to that date, almost exactly as in the foregoing letter, he says:
“Now the question comes up: Where shall we attach ourselves? We have offered ourselves to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and they spurn us. We cannot go to the Methodist Church South on account of slavery. We are Methodists, and cannot be anything else. I said to them, “Perhaps the pilgrims of Western New York will receive you, and look after you.”
“So they have organized congregationally until they can open up negotiations with the East. We have written to Brother Roberts to come on and take charge. There are a number of other places where matters are somewhat as they are here.
“I must go up to Quincy, Illinois, next week, if it is at all possible, to hold another meeting this season. That is about 130 miles north, on the river.
“The opposition have sent for Bishop Janes to come and help them out of their difficulty. He is expected today. But it is too late. The new church voted night before last, to make no further attempt at reconciliation.
“I have for years seen that we must come to this; but never once supposed that it would be done in my day. But we are forced into it.
“I think I never suffered more in so short a time in my life, than while I have been here. The trouble laid me up, sick-a-bed for a fortnight, but I dared not run. It cheers my heart to think that the pilgrims are praying for me.
“J. W. Redfield.”
On March 2, 1859, he wrote again to Brother and Sister Foot of St. Charles, Illinois, as follows:
“My dear Brother and Sister Foot: — Your welcome and cheering letter of February 27, was received last night. I answer thus early, and your questions in particular, that you may be able to form a just opinion of all matters pertaining to the division here.
“The Ebenezer charge, when the division of the church on the question of slavery occurred, eleven years ago, had more members and better prospects than at the time of our arrival here last fall. At the last conference there were reported 140 members. Those who have left to form the new church are all the spiritual members of the flock, with a few exceptions. Over one hundred of them left. Seven of them are local preachers. There are a few spiritual ones left, but their hearts are with us. Before deciding to form a new church, several joined the South church, and a large portion of the remainder were determined to go to some other church if we did not organize. To save them to the church North, it was necessary to form a new society. Just at the time when we were discussing the question, Where can we hold meetings? and a committee was seeking a place, a gentleman, the owner of a large church, offered it to us on such terms that we accepted it. It is in the heart of the city, large and commodious. It was formerly occupied by the Baptists, but about this time the society broke up.
“If the new society was to dissolve today, it is not likely that ten of the members would return to the Ebenezer church. They have organized under a congregational form of government, and will wait until conference to see what is best to be done. If at conference they cannot get a pledge to be supplied with Methodist preachers, at least religiously inclined, they will then unite with the pilgrims of Western New York. The pilgrims here have not as much of the laboring power as they need, but they are seeking it. And yet they are comparatively free to what they were before they left. There, if any got to shouting or exhorting, the preacher would stop them, and in private call them “grannies.”
“Already we have a large, growing Sunday School, and are looking for one or two more places in which to hold meetings, with the hope of establishing new societies.
“The people say we must not leave St. Louis, but I see they are leaning upon us. I dare not tell them, but I always feel like running away when I see symptoms of that nature. The most of those left in the old church, you may set down as like Brothers_____, _____, and Sister _____, except the few I spoke of, who, like Nicodemus, are disciples, but secretly for fear of the Jews. The piety, the talent, and the working force, are in the new organization.
“God is with us, and the number is daily increasing. Our church on Sundays is crowded to its utmost capacity, and many are obliged to go away for lack of accommodations.
“Dr. Williams and the few who stand by him, have been trying every possible way to upset and destroy us, but so far have signally failed. They sent for Bishop Janes, but since he has gone, they have lowered the tone of their opposition and their threatenings have ceased. It is surmised that the bishop has advised this.
“Wife and I expect to go to Quincy for a short time. The people here say we must return, and stay; but I very much need rest, and I feel I must have it. I would gladly go to St. Charles and spend a short time.
“Our fight here has been the most severe I have ever known. I don’t wonder that Satan contends sharply to hold his own in this Vanity Fair. Theaters, masquerade halls, rum holes, with Sabbath breaking, abound. The churches have so far kept in the good graces of his Satanic Majesty, that but little damage has been done to his kingdom since the city has had a being. Somebody has got to get a broken back for disturbing this state of things, and it may as well be I as anybody. The thing must be done, or St. Louis is lost. I have suffered so much that it seems as though I could never go into another such conflict. It laid me on my back for two weeks. I am hardly able to do anything of moment now. Yet God keeps my head above water, and the people are very kind and sympathizing. My whole heart goes out in prayer that God may remember them, for they have not been ashamed of my chain. I tell you this strong salvation makes strong friends and hot enemies.
“I don’t feel equal in giving you advice in relation to your meetings. Yet I must say, dear sister, I cannot see how you can be true to God and truth, without throwing your whole weight into the scale of right. Will not some of the Marys, “last at the cross, and earliest at the grave,” stand in the way and lift up the voice like a trumpet? God’s cause must not go down! But who will hazard all, and die a moral martyr for Christ?
“The Lord bless you all.
“J. W. Redfield.”
Mr. Redfield, during the time of these troubles and afterward, passed through severe mental conflicts in regard to the course he had taken. His naturally sensitive and shrinking nature drew back from everything like severity and cruelty. Anything like mental or physical pain in others would cause him the most intense anguish. The accidental injury of a bird, or beast, or even a fly, would cause him to weep. Such a nature felt intensely all the attacks made upon his character, the questioning of his motives, the withdrawal of friendship, and the open hostility of his enemies. Naturally he was a coward; religiously, the bravest and most faithful of men. In the pulpit or in the social circle, when he felt he stood forth in the name of Jehovah, his hearers would be impressed with his bravery and fidelity; but when merely himself, they would think him a marvel of human weakness. He relates this incident in his experience at the time of the troubles in St. Louis.
“I was now beset by enemies who tried to annoy me in every possible way; and I felt heartbroken to think that after being so pressed in spirit and crowded by the Lord to go this thorough way, I must meet with such opposition from ministers of the gospel. It seemed more than I could endure. And I could but examine my whole course and motives, and then ask the Lord, “If I am right, why are these things permitted?” I was talking like this to Sister M_____, one day, when she related to me the following:
“When we moved here from Cincinnati three years ago, I told my husband I could not join the Southern church for I was an Abolitionist. I went to the Ebenezer church, but it was so dead that I could not think of joining that. I saw so little of spiritual life in the city, that it seemed as though I could not stay here. So I went to the Lord about it in prayer, and he told me to hold on, and he would send a man to preach the true gospel. About the time you came, I began to feel that the man had come, but I had heard nothing about you. I said to my husband one Sunday morning, “I must go to Ebenezer church, for I feel the man has come the Lord promised me he would send.” But he said, “Your health is so poor, it will not do for you to go; and your doctor will be displeased.” But I felt I must go, though the church was two miles away from us. I finally persuaded husband to go along, and when we entered the door and saw you in the pulpit, I said, “That is the man the Lord promised me.” The Lord had let me see you, and I knew you.”
“This was of great encouragement to me, and allayed all toy fears for the time being.”
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