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During the following August, the writer, then a local preacher, was invited by the local preachers of Mt. Pleasant circuit, to assist them in revival meetings. The invitation was accepted, and immediately after the Coral camp meeting I went to that place. I found the preacher appointed by the conference, had been obliged to resign because of ill health, and the work was being supplied by the local help. The meeting was held in a large country church, in a thickly-settled farming community. From the first the interest was strong, and the meeting increased constantly in power. At the end of the second week the newly-appointed preacher came on, but refused to take part in the meetings until he was moved and settled. Being in poor health and in need of help, and knowing Mr. Redfield, I was requested to write for him to come. A letter was at once forwarded to a friend, inquiring for Mr. Redfield’s address. The letter was taken to Mr. Redfield at St. Charles, where he was awaiting the result of an effort to get him an opportunity to hold a meeting in that place. He answered at once, saying he would come on the following conditions:
- “That the preacher in charge of the circuit requests it.”
- “That I can go straight on the Bible and the Discipline.”
- “That the preacher in charge will take hold of said work with me.”
When his letter was received at Mt. Pleasant, it was taken immediately to the preacher in charge, who replied, “I want him to come; I want him to be Dr. Redfield; I will take hold with him and do the best I can.” A letter was now written to Mr. Redfield to come, indorsing the words of the preacher in charge. He arrived on Wednesday.
That night he preached and the preacher in charge sat back in the congregation near the door. The text was, “For he that will save his life shall lose it, but he that will lose his life for my sake, and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”
The congregation was large, and very attentive. Many had complained of my preaching, but now they heard what they never had heard before. The truth came with such vividness and strength, and was attended with such an unction of the Holy One, that Christians were compelled to look over their hopes, and sinners were in amazement.
About thirty had been converted, and fifteen had entered the experience of perfect love. One of the latter, then a Class Leader, but since a traveling preacher, was put on such a searching of heart that for eight days he dared not profess to be a Christian.
At the close of the sermon Mr. Redfield sat down, and turned the meeting over to me. I arose, and asked for seekers; but none came. There had been fifteen the night before. Then the church members were asked to come forward for a prayer meeting; but not a person came. Opportunity was then given for any to speak; but none embraced it. After offering prayer, I dismissed the meeting. Immediately I was surrounded by members of the church, who asked, “Is this going right?” I replied, “Yes; you look to the Lord.”
The next night Mr. Redfield preached more strongly still. The interest was intense. The pure truth in its searching power came upon the mind and heart with marvelous clearness. There was no playing upon the sympathies or passions of the people, but the most honest dealing with the understanding and the conscience. Toward the close of the discourse the feeling of the audience may be described as awful. When he had finished, he said, “While I sing two short-meter verses, if any one will forsake the world and come out on the Lord’s side, come.” He sang to the tune “Shawmut,” the words,
“And can I yet delay,
My little all to give?
To tear myself from earth away,
For Jesus to receive?”
At first the congregation attempted to sing with him, but he desired them to think. To bring this about, he varied the tune and the words, and repeated both, until every voice but his own was hushed. He then sang the second verse with great sweetness and power:
“Nay, but I yield, I yield,
I will hold out no more;
I sink by dying love compelled,
And own Thee conqueror.
Not a person had moved. He then said, “Perhaps some one has a confession to make.” No one responded to this. He then pronounced the benediction, and the congregation dispersed in great quietness.
Many came to me and asked, “Is this going right?” to whom I answered, “Yes; you look to the Lord.”
The next night the truth seemed to come with still greater power than the night before. The house was packed to its utmost capacity. Every eye was fixed intensely upon the speaker. The minds of the people were led to the judgment scene, and made to look over the acts of the life and the feelings of the heart under the light of God. The people began to lean toward the speaker; here and there one rose to his feet. A deathly pallor spread over every face. But all was still, save the preacher’s voice, which, in measured tones, with great clearness and distinctness, pronounced the truth that arraigned all at the bar of God. At the close of the sermon, more than twenty were standing on their feet, while the very hush of the congregation was painful. He closed, and gave the invitation. The congregation arose, and before a word could be sung, there was a simultaneous rush from all parts of the house toward the altar, with wailing and lamentations, and scream for mercy. There could be no orderly praying, but every one broke out for himself. Christians, and backsliders, and sinners, were mingled. More than eighty had come as penitents. One of the most fastidious of ladies came screaming most disagreeable hallelujahs; and continued them after she reached the altar. It awakened my curiosity, and I watched her with much interest. At last she screamed out, “There; I’ve said I’d go to hell before I’d shout.” In an instant the power of God fell upon her. Her hallelujahs were changed to the sweetest tones. She rose to her feet, and flew about the house, shouting “Hallelujah” as she went.
So great was the feeling among the seekers that it was about impossible to instruct them, or even to gain their attention. Now and then, with shining face, one would spring to his feet to tell what Christ had done for him; but the screaming for mercy by those still seeking, drowned their voices. Thus the meeting went on until a late hour. Finally the seekers, from sheer exhaustion, quieted down, and the service was closed.
Up to this time there had been no opportunity even to introduce the two preachers. Each night the preacher in charge had seated himself in the rear of the congregation, and when the service closed, would immediately leave the house. But now, after the service closed, he came forward and was introduced. It is quite possible that if Mr. Redfield’s effort had been a failure, he would not have come forward at all. He said, “I have taken no part in these meetings heretofore, but now I will be on hand every night to assist.” Turning to me, he said, “I will take charge of the prayer meeting, before preaching tomorrow night, and you take charge of it after the preaching. Hereafter we will alternate in that manner.”
On the way to our lodgings, I remarked to Mr. Redfield. “Doctor, that was glorious.”
“Oh, but we must go forty feet deeper yet!” he exclaimed.
The next night, Saturday, the preacher in charge was on hand, and in a very systematic manner took charge of the prayer meeting before preaching.
The scene during the remainder of the evening, the matter and manner of the discourse, and the results, were similar to those of the evening before. It seemed as though the forty feet deeper stratum was reached. On the way home, I again remarked, “Well, that was glorious!”
“We must go ten feet deeper yet,” said Mr. Redfield, in a very impulsive manner.
Sunday morning came. A testimony meeting for an hour before preaching gave an opportunity for any to speak freely. Some very humiliating confessions were made, and some very clear experiences related. The sermon was in the same line of those which had preceded it. An altar service lasted until two o’clock. Many were converted, and many entered into the experience of perfect love; among them the invalid preacher of the year before.
In the evening the house was filled, and many could not get in. A deathly stillness pervaded the congregation while Mr. Red field preached. There was the same rush to the altar as on the preceding nights. The preacher in charge stepped forward to take the management of the prayer meeting. But when he wanted them to pray, somebody wanted to speak, and when he wanted them to speak, somebody wanted to pray. He became greatly excited, hurried from one end of the altar to the other, and at last turned to me and inquired, “How do you do it? How shall I manage it?”
“Let it manage itself,” I replied.
“Is that the way?” he asked.
He quietly dropped out, and took no active part in the meetings after that.
On Monday night, Mr. Redfield preached on the Way of Faith. But he saw before the service closed, that the subject was premature. He went groaning all the way home. He remarked as we entered the house, “We must go sixty feet deeper yet. In such meetings, you must go down, down, down, until all is broken up; then the work will go of itself if there is not a preacher within forty miles.”
The next night, the plow of truth went in deeper than at any time before. How the power of God came with it! A doctor of medicine by the name of Roe, had been listening to the truth night after night but had made no move. He was a member of the church, but wholly backslidden. During the altar service he was heard screaming for mercy with all his might; and was found rolling upon the floor in great agony. He was a large man, with a powerful voice, which soon drowned all others. He at last began to confess that he had been called to preach the gospel, but had run away from duty. Late in the evening he found peace.
One night, Mr. Redfield preached a discourse of marvelous eloquence. His subject was, the Final Catastrophe of Earth. He drew a vivid picture of the earth with its inhabitants; the various elements of the earth subject to their Maker, performing their offices, men engaged in their various avocations, when, in an instant, at the bidding of Jehovah, the falling rain became drops of fire, the rivers, and the lakes and the oceans, all liquid flame, etc., etc. A student, who was preparing for the law, who sat on the front seat, said afterwards, he found himself looking upward to see the drops fall; and many in the congregation thought the time had come.
Another passage in the sermon was as follows:
“Suppose, that in the judgment, your soul and your body should be remanded to the grave, there to be confined forever, with no want, from cold, or heat, or hunger, or thirst, but only this, “I want to get out.” And when age after age has gone by, and the confinement has become almost unendurable, you cry out in your anguish, “How long, O Lord, must I lie here?’ and back should come the answer, “Eternity! eternity!” And age after age again goes by, and you cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?’ and the answer comes, “Eternity! eternity!” You would jump into a hell of liquid fire to be free.”
Mr. Redfield was with us two weeks and then returned to St. Charles. During this time he had won a permanent place in the affections of every fully consecrated man and woman, and every young convert. With weeping eyes they bade him good-by the last night.
The meeting continued for three weeks longer, ending in a quarterly meeting. The presiding elder took great pains to explain to the saints when they should say amen, and when they should shout, but his motive was so apparent, and his instructions so void of spiritual wisdom, that they failed to make any permanent impression.
We now began to note the permanent fruit of the meeting. More than one hundred had been converted, and about seventy-five had experienced perfect love.
The Sunday night after Mr. Redfield left, Mr. F_____, the preacher in charge, preached with unusual liberty for him. When the invitation was being given for seekers, a lady who had lately been converted, and then sanctified a few days after, went to him and asked him to go forward as a seeker; but he repulsed her. With a scream she fell to the floor in great agony. A large number came forward, and the prayer meeting commenced. When the service had closed, as I turned to prepare for leaving the house, the lady referred to, who was still prostrate on the floor, cried out to me, “He says you set me at him.” This arrested the attention of the congregation, the greater part of which remained to see what it meant. In the pulpit, on the floor, reclined Mr. F and the invalid preacher in consultation about something. In answer to my inquiry as to what the difficulty was, the latter replied, “Brother F_____ is in an awful state if he did but know it.” Aware that my name had been mentioned in connection with the case, I refrained from saying anything further. In a few moments Mr. F_____ arose, stepped forward to the desk, and began an explanation. The lady, who was still prostrate on the floor, evidently in burden for him, cried out, “You have a confession to make.” He then said, “I have been very angry since these meetings have been in progress. One night when passing out of the house, I said in the hearing of several persons, “It makes me mad to see how these preachers act; and a sinner near me said, “If that is so, you had better go forward for prayers.”
“You have not confessed all,” said the burdened sister.
The preacher continued, “I have been in the habit of writing for mere literary papers to piece out my salary; and my articles have not been of a character consistent with my call to the Christian ministry. I see now I have done wrong in this; I must stop it; I will.”
“There, that will do,” said the burdened sister.
It was now eleven o’clock, and the entire congregation was still waiting to see the end. He now went down into the altar, and asked the prayers of the congregation.
Some of the membership who had stood aloof from the work, and whose character for consistent piety was not the best, now gathered around him, and began to pray for, and to talk to him. I finally interfered, and said, “You had better keep still, and let Sister B_____ lead him. She can do more for him than any of us.”
Twelve o’clock came, and still his friends and the congregation were waiting for him. He now began to talk out his thoughts and feelings. “It is plain to me,” he said, “that if I do not consent to take the track Dr. Redfield does, God will leave me.” Some time elapsed, and his ministerial friend asked, “Brother F_____ what are you thinking about?” He replied, “I am thinking of what occupation I shall take up?”
About two o’clock in the morning, he suddenly arose, and said to his wife, “Let us go.” Sister B_____ and her husband went with them to their place of stopping, and as soon as he came from his room in the morning, she renewed her labors with him. He finally refused to go any further and in a short time became an opposer of the work. A few years after he left the Methodist Episcopal Church, and united with an unorthodox denomination.
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