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On returning to St. Charles, Mr. Redfield found that the preacher in charge had taken a decided stand against his holding a revival meeting there. Among his reasons for so doing he said, “I have been sent here to guard the pulpit against Redfield and Coleman.”
“What have you against them?” was inquired.
“Nothing,” said he; “I believe them both to be good men; and they are doing good; but they must be sacrificed for the good of the church.”
When it became known that he had refused the pulpit to Mr. Redfield, some of the Baptist people suggested that he could have their pulpit, as their preacher was away. Accordingly, arrangements were made for Mr. Redfield to preach in their church for one Sunday, which he did morning and evening, to the delight of the pilgrims, and many outside the churches. Mr. Redfield was also invited to preach the following Sunday, to which he consented, and arrangements were made for it; but on Saturday, when too late to take up the appointment, his friends were informed that he could not have the pulpit. Mr. Howard, the Methodist pastor, had been to the officers of the church, and had presented the matter in such a light, that they withdrew their invitation. A trustee of the Universalist church, which was unoccupied at the time, overheard the conversation in regard to the Baptist pulpit, and immediately offered theirs. As it was too late to circulate the action of the Baptist people, this offer was accepted, and Mr. Redfield preached morning and evening in the Universalist church. As he would not leave the place for a few days, he also preached there Monday evening. Monday Mr. Howard went to Chicago to counsel with Bishop Simpson, who instructed him to call a meeting of the official board, and decide whether in its judgment the members who went to hear Mr. Redfield preach had withdrawn from the church, and if decided in the affirmative, he should read them out as having so withdrawn. He returned, and called together such of the official board as would follow his leadership, and they declared these members withdrawn. A majority of the official board, who were not present, nor knew of the meeting, were declared withdrawn, as well as five out of nine of the trustees of the church. Fourteen persons were thus declared withdrawn, though one of them, a brother’s wife, was not a member of the church.
Wednesday evening these persons, with no knowledge of what had occurred, went to the church prayer meeting as usual. But Mr. Howard, contrary to the usual custom in that church, announced that he would call on those he desired to have pray, and the old workers in the church were all left out. Sister Foot, a woman above sixty years of age, and more than ordinarily intelligent and cultivated, when she perceived the object of Mr. Howard, groaned aloud. He sprang to his feet and in a loud voice commanded her to be silent. Thinking she would be unable to control her sorrow, she arose and left the house; when outside the door, her feelings gave way and she cried aloud for God to have mercy.
At the close of the prayer meeting, Mr. Howard read them out of the church. On Sunday morning this was repeated, and when the quarterly meeting came some time after, they were read out as withdrawn the third time.
Under the laws of the state of Illinois, the office of a trustee of a religious corporation becomes vacant only by expiration, death, or resignation. Five of the persons read out were trustees, a majority of the board. Their places had to be declared vacant by resignation, as they were all alive, and their term of office had not expired. These men, none of them, resigned; therefore somebody had to make an affidavit before a magistrate, that they had resigned. But such was the heat of opposition to Mr. Redfield and his friends, that this was done.
I returned to my home near Elgin that same week, and hearing that Mr. Redfield was holding meetings in St. Charles, I went there on Saturday. On the train I found a lay brother from Marengo on the same errand. We got off at Wayne Station, and walked across the fields to the house of John M. Laughlin; and who should open the door at our knock, but Mr. Redfield himself. As soon as be recognized us, he asked, “Are you ready to lose your heads?” We were seated and the matter was explained, as related in this chapter.
A prayer meeting had been appointed at the house of Elisha Foote, a man seventy-five years of age, a Methodist for nearly fifty years, and a brother-in-law of Rev. John Clark, noted in Methodist history, as a missionary among the Indians. A wagon load of pilgrims from Mr. Laughlin’s went to that prayer meeting. When we arrived the old man was offering the opening prayer. In it he compared the circumstances of the company to those of the children of Israel at the Red Sea, with the mountain on either hand, the sea before them, and the enemy behind; and he pleaded for divine guidance and help. The crying of the company could be heard out into the street. When he ceased, we opened the door, and to our astonishment, instead of fourteen, there were more than sixty present. This was more than half the membership of the church.
The prayer meeting went on. Some time was spent in testimony, and save one exception, that in the old man’s prayer, was the only allusion to the trouble, in the entire meeting. In the evening another prayer meeting was held in the same room. The company was larger than in the morning. Some more of the society, and some from the Baptist and Congregational churches, met with us. The same blessed spirit prevailed. This time there was not an allusion to the trouble. The bliss of a present salvation made them blessedly forgetful of it all.
While Mr. Redfield was waiting here, he wrote the following letters which will explain themselves:
“WAYNE STATION, October 20, 1859.
“Dear Brother Rogers: — We had a visit from Brother Coleman and wife yesterday. The conference refused to grant the petition of the First church of Aurora, to supply the pulpit with Brother Coleman. Presiding Elder A_____d said he should not go back, if it shut every store, and bank, and church in the city. Presiding Elder H_____k also said, “This stuff has got to be put down.” But the people in Aurora say they will get a hall, or build a church; and Brother C_____ says if they do, he’ll preach for them.
“We have just heard from the Genesee Conference They have expelled at least three more, and probably will expel others before the conference closes. Well, bless the Lord! We expect Brother Roberts out here in a few days, and shall learn more of the particulars about the doings there.
“The pilgrims here are anxious to have us hold a meeting, here this fall. But whether the preacher will allow it or not I cannot tell. I shall not ask him if the way opens.* [This was based upon a hope that the Baptists would invite him to hold a meeting] I shall obey God rather than man. We have good news from St. Louis. God is favoring Zion in the Sixth Street church. We shall stay here without doubt two weeks longer.
“We learn that without doubt the Methodist preachers generally are going to follow the Genesee Conference, if they cannot in any other way put down this heresy, as they call it. But while Illinois is a free state for white men, I think I shall obey God rather than men; and keep going on as long as I can.
“Give the pilgrims our love.
“J. W. Redfield.”
“ST. CHARLES, Kane county, Ill.
October 24, 1859.
“My dear Sister Kendall: — We have long wondered why the mails did not bring another of your very welcome letters, all of which we preserve with great care, and read over and over again to the precious pilgrims in this western world. But we have learned from Brother Roberts that you have been quite sick.
“We have also learned of the infatuated conduct of the Genesee Conference toward those precious men, whose record of fidelity to God is recorded in the Book of Life. How my heart takes courage to breast the storm when I learn that men are found in this nineteenth century who, like Luther, can suffer, but cannot yield God’s rights. These facts are green spots in the Sahara of formalism. A chord has been touched that vibrates to this far West, in many an honest pilgrim’s heart. Yes, they feel the blow that struck Roberts and McCreery, and now has fallen on the heads of Stiles, Cooley Wells, and Burlingham. And you may confidently believe that hundreds in this region are in sympathy with these men of God. Already quite a number of prominent laymen have taken the stand of the Albion convention, that they will withhold supplies from ministers who oppose vital godliness. Some say they will use their money to help these proscribed men of God.
“I am not surprised at the developments in the Genesee Conference. But they came sooner than I expected. I think our good and hopeful brethren will soon learn that the Methodist Episcopal Church will never wholly reform. The struggle has at last come. May God help us in love, kindness, and firmness to stand for the right.
“We have just come from a most glorious revival, about sixty miles west of here. We witnessed old Bergen power beyond anything I have seen in the West before. Doors are opening all around, but there are many adversaries. The presiding elder on this district says this work must, and shall be, put down. Father Coleman, whom you know, took work in Aurora last year, as a supply, and, God was with him. The church sent a petition to conference to have him returned, but it was refused. Such is the spirit manifested by the authorities of the conference, that the people are thinking of getting a hall for him. The conference granted a similar petition from worldly men of a Universalist stamp for the return of Lyon, the little dandy from Buffalo, against the wishes of many in the society.
“If Mattie’s health will permit, we expect to go into one or two more battles in this section before we go South. The motto given Sister Roberts, “Go thorough, but hurry,” I have adopted. I shall do all I can for Jesus until I am stopped. We shall look for you and Sister Hardy to visit the people in this region before long.
“We desire more full details of the conference proceedings, and Brother Purdy’s camp meeting. I learn, in a roundabout way, that they have cracked the whip in Brother Purdy’s face. I am glad of it, for nothing but that will open his eyes to the fact that he has nothing to hope on the fence. I think, now, he will be likely to herd with the pilgrims, fight their battles, and share their persecutions.
“The Lord bless you forever.
“J. W. REDFIELD.”
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