|« Prev||Chapter 58||Next »|
Subsequent events proved the wisdom of Mr. Redfield’s refusal to submit to trial by the Ebenezer quarterly conference. The trial of a number of local preachers took place, which developed the policy of the administration. The trials of two were postponed from time to time, until the sickness of one and the business of the other prevented them from attending, and then they were published as having refused to appear. Another was tried, and cleared, and when his character was “passed,” he asked for his letter, and united with the new society. Another local preacher, whose drunkenness had been a great scandal to the church, had his license renewed after signing the temperance pledge.
Mr. Redfield had now taken his letter again, and for the time being put it in the keeping of a minister in the church South, thinking the mutual jealousies of the two churches would make that a safe asylum for the time being. But Dr. Williams was constantly on the search for it, finally discovered it, and immediately published Mr. Redfield as having compromised his antislavery principles. This drew letters in large numbers from all parts of the country, asking for explanations. But what was painful to him was that some staunch friends for this cause now forsook him. Among these was ex-Bishop Hamline. Down to this time their friendship had been close. and Mr. Redfield had received much encouragement from the good man. Often, fields of labor had opened to him through the bishop’s influence. For some reason, probably from the evil reports then in circulation, their fellowship was broken. But a few years elapsed before they both had passed away, and doubtless in heaven mutual explanations have been made, and t hey have entered into a fellowship to be no more broken. During the Summer following, Mr. Redfield went East, on a visit, and met with handbills, stating that he and the new society in St. Louis were slaveholders, and belonged to the Southern Methodist church. From this time he found his way in the Methodist Episcopal Church almost entirely closed.
In the autumn of 1858, Rev. Seymour Coleman, a superannuated preacher of the Troy Conference, settled in Aurora, Illinois. For many years he had been noted for the advocacy of the doctrine and experience of holiness. This was his theme, and his preaching was in great simplicity and power. He has the honor of being the first Methodist preacher who invited seekers of holiness to the altar for prayer. At his next conference his character was arrested by his presiding elder, for so doing.
Mr. Coleman had attended most of the laymen’s camp meetings in Western New York, and knew the “pilgrims” well.
In the spring of 1859, a vacancy occurred in the pulpit or the First church, in Aurora, and he was employed to fill it until the ensuing conference. Almost immediately the Spirit of God began to be poured out upon the Aurora church, and large numbers of the membership entered into the experience of perfect love, and a general awakening among the unconverted soon became apparent. His first more public appearance was at the district camp meeting held near Sycamore in De Kalb Co. At this camp meeting were large numbers from Marengo, Woodstock, Elgin and St. Charles, who had been brought into the experience of perfect love through Mr. Redfield’s labors. There were visitors also from long distances, who were full of holy fire, and ready for work. Mr. Coleman was invited to preach the opening sermon. In this he pitched the keynote for the entire meeting. Full salvation was the theme, and all the full salvation folks walked out in glorious liberty. Mr. Coleman preached again Friday afternoon, on the Vine and the Branches. In this sermon he handled the timid and the unsound theologians in the church “without gloves.” During the sermon he gave expression to the following:
“I understand there are preachers in this country, who are afraid of the Bible terms, sanctification, holiness, perfect love clean heart, and talk about “a little more religion,” “a deeper work of grace,” etc. The Lord pity the poor things. Jesus has said, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of the Father with the holy angels.” Presiding Elder H_____, gently pulled Father Coleman’s coat, as a check to such severity, but the old man, with a dignity and almost majesty of manner, that thrilled all who observed it, turned and laid his hand upon the elder’s head, and said, “It will not hurt you, elder.” At the close of the sermon, Father Coleman was about to sit down, when the elder told him to go on. He then turned back to the congregation, and asked to have the whole altar cleared. The altar was one of the old-fashioned kind, with a railing around to keep off the crowd from the seekers and laborers. In a moment, almost, the whole altar was cleared. He then asked for seekers for holiness; and, about as quick, the place was filled again, until only two persons could get in to labor with the seekers. More than 150 were on their knees consecrating all to Christ.
Many of the ministers present were astonished at the power of the truth of a full salvation to move and bless the people. The evidence of the divine approval of preaching the doctrine was apparent to all.
While a group of Christians were talking together of the wondrous scene a little while after, a gentleman approached, and said, “I saw the old man this forenoon far out in the grove stretched flat on the ground, with his coat and vest off, struggling in prayer; and again, since dinner, I went out, and he still was there engaged in prayer.” This explained it all.
The next morning the love-feast started off in glorious power. Many were the testimonies to entire sanctification. Some would say, “Thank God, three years ago,” or “two years ago,” or “one year ago,” “I saw the light.” This meant when Mr. Redfield came into this section. These testimonies seemed to disturb the presiding elder much. At last, apparently in great indignation, he arose, and said:
“Brethren, you are doing us preachers a great wrong. You talk as though this was a new thing. But we have been preaching it all these years. I thank God that three weeks after my conversion I was led to the altar by my mother, though I was only nine years old, and there and then I consecrated myself wholly to God. It has cost me many a struggle to keep all on the altar, but by the grace of God I have been enabled to do so.”
A sister Irvine, the wife of one of the conference preachers, a contributor to the Ladies’ Repository, and an advocate of holiness, was present, and her swift pencil took down the elder’s testimony, and the next week it appeared in the Northwestern Christian Advocate.
But there were on the camp ground, a brother Bishop and his brother-in-law, Fairchild, the latter a local preacher, who were differently moved by the testimony than most others who heard it. At noon, when they came together in their tent, the following conversation took place:
“What do you think of the elder’s testimony?”
“I don’t know what to make of it.”
“When he came to our first quarterly meeting in Woodstock, last fall,” said the local preacher, “I asked him at the close of his Saturday afternoon sermon, if he enjoyed the blessing of holiness, and he answered, “No; but I am seeking it; and I want the friends to pray for me.” “
“But,” said Father Bishop, “at our last quarterly meeting at Franklinville, on Sunday-morning, he preached against the use of the technical terms, sanctification, etc. Monday morning I felt so badly about it, I went to the parsonage to talk with him about it. He then told me he had “been reading Mattison on the subject, and had grown skeptical.”
In the minds of these brethren and those who listened to them, there was great confusion as to what the elder meant by that testimony.
In the city of Aurora, the work of holiness went forward with great power under the labors of Father Coleman. Here were strong men who stood by the doctrine and experience; and whose hearts were loyal to God. Some of these had entered into the experience and others had not.
In August, a camp meeting was held near Aurora, which was largely attended by the lovers and advocates of holiness. Benjamin Pomeroy was there from New York state, but for some reason did not get free, and failed to make much impression. Father Coleman was at his best. How he preached, and how he prayed! Dr. T. M. Eddy, editor of the Northwestern Christian Advocate, preached Sunday morning. The only minister who felt free to follow him in the afternoon was Father Coleman, who preached from “Tarry ye at Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” It was a characteristic discourse. There was no comfort in it for an unfaithful and cowardly ministry; there was much that gave offense to the fastidious and time-serving; but God was glorified.
About five o’clock two prayer meetings were started, one in a large Aurora tent, led by Father Coleman, and the other in a St. Charles tent, led by a boy preacher. God came in great power, and many were saved. Among the rest who attended this meeting was the Hon. Benjamin Hackney, of Aurora. He had been converted but a short time, and under the preaching of Father Coleman, had come to see the doctrine of holiness clearly, but had not yet entered into the experience. Sunday evening, just before the preaching service, he was walking back and forth across the grounds in meditation, when he met Father Coleman, and said, “Father Coleman, I’ve got everything upon the altar; what shall I do next?”
“Oh, just leave it there,” said the old veteran, and passed on.
Mr. Hackney resumed his walk, and his meditations. But to himself he said, “Well; that is a strange way to treat a man! Why did he not try to help me? Perhaps that is the way to do. Well; I’ll do that.” He continued his walk, thinking and praying, and waiting upon the Lord. Little by little his faith took hold, and little by little came the peace of believing. The assurance began to spring up in his heart, and at last he was enabled to say:
“Tis done, thou dost this moment save,
With full salvation bless.
Redemption through thy blood I have,
And spotless love and peace.”
The next day was a busy one with him up town in his office, and on the campground, looking after his own tent, and a number of others he had provided for those who could not provide for themselves, and he had no opportunity to testify in public. It was the same on Tuesday, until the meeting broke up. In the afternoon while quite a company was waiting for a train, and he was superintending the removal of the tents under his care, an impromptu service was held in the altar. After awhile Mr. Hackney arose and testified. He said:
“I have dealt in railroad stocks, and canal stocks, and bank stocks, and state stocks, and in all kinds of stocks, but I never got hold of anything that yields such dividends as the stock I have in Jesus.”
In a few days another camp meeting commenced on the old ground near Coral. Here the holiness people were out in force. Elder Crews again had charge, and Mr. Redfield was present to preach and help on the battle. A wonderful spirit of prayer prevailed. At almost every hour of the day, the woods were vocal with the sound of prayer. A Rev. N. P. H_____ preached the Sunday morning sermon. It was a strained effort to do a great thing. In the afternoon Mr. Redfield preached, in his characteristic manner. While touching upon the subject of dress, the Rev. H_____ was evidently disturbed, and pointing towards Mr. Redfield’s back, said, “But he wears buttons on the back of his coat.”
These three camp meetings greatly strengthened the holiness people, and as greatly exasperated their enemies. In the city of Aurora lived Rev. A_____d, the presiding elder of Chicago District, who held to the development theory of sanctification. He became greatly stirred over the growth of the holiness sentiment, and the spread of the work. The First church desired Father Coleman to supply them another year; but Elder A_____, though it was not within his jurisdiction, said, “He shall not supply a pulpit in Aurora, if it shuts every church, store and shop in the city.”
Elder Crews, of the Rockford District, took to the conference the recommendations of Edward P. Hart and I. H. Richardson, both from the Marengo Quarterly Conference. Elder H_____, of the St. Charles District, opposed both of them, because, as he said, they were tainted with Redfieldism. In his speech against their reception, he said: “Redfieldism has nearly driven me from my district during the year.” He was the presiding elder whose testimony created such a sensation at the Sycamore camp meeting in June.
One fact should be borne in mind, namely, that in all these conflicts, East and West, the opposition to these holiness workers came from men who did not hold clearly to the doctrine of entire sanctification as a distinct experience.
But to return to the session of the Illinois Conference. It was argued by some, that as Mr. Hart was a young man, he might be cured of his Redfieldism, but Mr. Richardson was too old for that. Mr. Hart was admitted, and Mr. Richardson was rejected.
Rev. D. D. Buck, a presiding elder of the Minnesota Conference, had been present, listening to all that was said, pro and con, against Mr. Richardson, and after the adjournment for the day, went to him, and putting his arm around him, invited him to come to Minnesota to his district, for he had a place for him. Mr. Richardson went to Minnesota, and became a useful and successful minister of the gospel.
They were greatly mistaken in Mr. Hart, for they were unable to cure him of Redfieldism, and he is still tainted with it, and spreads it wherever he goes, as one of the general superintendents of the Free Methodist Church.
|« Prev||Chapter 58||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version