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CHAPTER 61

In a short time Mr. Redfield returned to St. Louis. The evening before he started was spent in company with the writer. No one else was present, Mrs. Redfield and the family with whom they were stopping being away at a prayer meeting. Mr. Redfield gave the entire evening to a review of his life work. It was more in the form of soliloquy, or thinking aloud, than a narrative. He dwelt much on the gloomy side. He spoke of place after place where he had labored, places where Methodism was nearly extinct, or struggling for an existence, where by the blessing of God he had been instrumental in increasing the membership until the societies were strong enough to support the other class of ministers, who would then go to work deliberately to destroy their peculiarly Methodistic character. After spending some time in this manner, during which for several minutes at a time the large tears would run down his face, he at last began to look on the brighter side. In Burlington, Vermont, he could name a few who were holding out firm and strong. In Syracuse, Rochester, and Albion, in New York state; in Appleton and Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; in Marengo, Woodstock, Elgin, Mount Pleasant, St. Charles, and Quincy, in Illinois; and St. Louis, Missouri, there were some tried and true. As he talked of them and the probability of their getting through to the skies, he became joyous in the extreme. This singular evening was concluded with prayer, in which he prayed for many of these pilgrims by name, with evidently a keen perception of their peculiarities and difficulties. Could those favored ones have been within hearing of that remarkable prayer, it would have been to them a matter of almost priceless value. It is not every one who has such a friend, or a friend in such communion and power with God.

On their arrival at St. Louis, he found that disaster had overtaken the new society, and its membership reduced from two hundred and seventy-five to about one hundred. After he left them in the spring, they employed a man by the name of Dunbar to preach for them. He was the reputed author of the Sunday School hymn, titled, “A light in the window for thee.” He came, and for a season his sensational style drew large crowds. He insisted upon the society going into larger quarters, at an expense of $1200.00 per year, and their paying him nearly as much; besides which he rented a theater for a Sunday afternoon appointment. Altogether, the financial burden became so great, that soon murmurs began to arise. Brother Wickersham, a careful, successful financier, in his own business, remonstrated. He thereby got in the way of this lofty man, and was crowded by him until he could endure it no longer, and he withdrew from the church. This caused others to do the same. The enthusiasm was checked; the revival spirit was lost. The society now refused to be led by this hair brained fellow; and then he left them, taking what would go with him to the Mariners’ Bethel. In a few months he fled the city, and three or four years after he was arrested and tried on a charge of bigamy, and sent to the penitentiary in Minnesota.

When Mr. Redfield saw the desolation this man had caused, he was nearly heartbroken. It so wrought upon his mind as to induce a slight stroke of paralysis. He was now obliged to cease entirely from all public labor for a season, and put himself under medical treatment. By spring he had so far recovered as to be able to preach again, but the society had lost its prestige, though those who had followed Dunbar returned.

But the work in other parts was prospering.

Three miles south of Elgin, on Fox River, was a village of about fifteen hundred inhabitants, then known as Clintonville. Years before, it had been a Methodist appointment, but long since had been abandoned. There were a few faithful Methodists living in and round about the place. Two local preachers, C. E. Harroun, the one saved in Mr. Redfield’s first meeting in St. Charles, and D. F. Shephardson, went into the place and commenced a meeting. Soon the Spirit began to be poured out in great power and many were converted.

The little band in St. Charles, which had been read out of the church, within a fortnight found their number to be about sixty, and that something must be done to provide for them. They rented some rooms on the ground floor of an unoccupied hotel, and by taking out some partitions, prepared and seated a place for worship, which would seat about two hundred people. The first Sunday in which they occupied it, the writer and another local preacher were present, and were invited to preach. At the close of the morning service, the writer was invited by this band to preach for them, and accepted the invitation. By the following March, they numbered one hundred and twelve.

Rev. I. H. Fairchild, a local preacher belonging in Woodstock, invited the family of his brother-in-law, L. H. Bishop, to assist him in holding a protracted meeting at a country schoolhouse, where there had been no preaching for about fifteen years. He was no singer, while they, five in number, were all good singers, and could be of great help to him in the work. In a few weeks about forty had been converted, many of them heads of families.

The question now arose at each one of these places, “What shall we do with the converts?” and Mr. Redfield was sought for advice. What the advice was and his reasons for it, can be best given in his own words. He says, “I well knew that we must now show our hand, if we meant the Methodist Church to see the need of permitting Methodists to enjoy Methodism. So I wrote to them for the first to keep every one, and organize under the Discipline as we had in St. Louis. This was being done in the East also, and I thought that it might lead the General Conference to meet in May of the next year, to correct the abuses from which we had suffered, reinstate the members and ministers who had been excluded, and give us guarantees that the preaching of living Methodism would be sustained.”

This advice was accepted, and three societies were organized; and waited the action of the General Conference in May.

But there were some encouragements to Mr. Redfield amid all that he was called to suffer. Some good fruit remained, and some of the saints who had gone through the fire with him were passing away to their reward in clouds of glory that showed that the narrow way he had chosen led to joys immortal.

The following account of the life and death of Mary Ferguson, of St. Louis, furnished by Mrs. T. S. La Due, formerly Mrs. Kendall, relates to one of these. She says:

“Mary Ferguson was a favorite everywhere, welcomed alike by young and old in the church. No church party or sociable was considered complete without her wit and beauty. Pastors and presiding elders made her welcome to then families, the more as she was the only daughter of a widowed mother, and refined and very intelligent as a companion. Not one of them, she told me had ever treated her otherwise than as a perfect-creature ready for heaven at any hour.

“Her beauty was uncommon, and her brothers and friends were anxious to see it set off in ornaments and gay apparel as the world judges of beauty. She needed none. Her graceful form, intellectual head, large, lustrious black eyes, with tender drooping lashes, glossy raven hair, parted smoothly back from a high, white forehead, delicately molded features, which usually wore a very thoughtful expression, needed no setting by human arts. “No minister or Class Leader had ever intimated to her that the ornaments she wore were not in keeping with her profession — their own families wore them.

“She had been taken into the church without a change of heart, or even conviction, which to all real Methodists means a putting off the old man so completely that by the power of the Holy Ghost the new man is put on, and as an evidence that Christ is within the fruits are seen. Up to the time she heard Dr. Redfield’s searching sermons on the new birth, the crucifixion of self, the strait gate and the narrow way, Mary never had dreamed of such experiences as the right of the believer in Jesus. With other formalists, she gaily looked on, full of caviling and doubt.

“She ventured in one day, however, to a social meeting with other church members. She was drawn by a love for the honesty and earnestness of the doctor’s appeals. That day he was lead very clearly, he said, to pray for her as one who was stabbing Jesus to the heart, by giving the lie to her profession -- living, dressing, acting like a child of the devil, while solemnly pretending to be a child of God.

“She was shocked, mortified, outraged that a minister should so dare to insult her before such a company. She declared she would never be found in his presence again; and when, after a few evenings, she was persuaded to hear him once more in the Sixth street church, near her mother’s house, she was still so indignant that as he arose in the pulpit, she resolutely turned her back to the end of the pew that she might not see his face.

“He had not proceeded far, however, when the truth came with such power that she said she was seized as by an invisible hand and wrenched around in her seat till she found herself gazing into his face, and felt the tears rolling down her cheeks, with neither power nor disposition to turn away. That night she was converted — born again — and, for the first time in her life, tasted rest and everlasting joy. Oh, how she praised God that one minister had dared to deal faithfully with her soul. That prayer, which had roused all the slumbering rebellion in her heart had revealed her real condition and constrained her to fly to Christ and be saved. She hastened home, and told her mother. Stepping to the glass, she caught a glimpse of the long, white plume upon her hat. “Slowly and solemnly,” her mother told me, she laid aside the hat, took off the plume, stripped the heavy gold rings from her fingers, unfastened the brooch at her throat, and the glittering pendants from her ears; then stepping to the grate, where a bright live was burning, laid the costly plume upon the glowing coals, and stood and watched it burn with evident satisfaction, saying to her mother, “Oh, how light I feel! The world is gone!

“Her mother, for a moment, feared she did not realize all she was doing, but was very soon reassured by her account of what the Holy Spirit had that evening written upon her heart.

“She talked with members and ministers of her former inconsistent course of life, living like a mere butterfly of fashion, going the round of pleasure, sociable, party, ride, concert, etc., like a very child of the world, an utter stranger to the joys of everlasting life.

“She told me she wrote very plain letters to those ministers who had been foremost in leading her into these gay scenes, expostulating with them for their lack of faithfulness, and warning them that unless they repented as she had, they must expect to wake up in the world of woe! These letters were never answered. One by one, old friends and flatterers forsook her, even ministers and presiding elders that ought to have rejoiced with her.

“She had turned her back upon the world, and the world turned its back upon her. This gave her a fresh evidence that she was a child of God, and all alone in her chamber she settled it with the Lord, again, and again, that she would endure unto the end. As her consecration was tested and she did not waver, immortal joys were poured into her heart, such as she had never dreamed a mortal could know!

“But consumption brought her to an early grave. Yet oh! the glory that was let down into that sick-chamber! I used to love to sit by her bedside and hear her tell of the visits from Jesus she was permitted to enjoy, in the long night watches. As pain increased and she was confined to her room, and only now and then one came in, to whom she could confide the joys and conflicts of her heart, Satan pressed her sore to complain, but she looked to Jesus, and power came to rejoice! There were times she said, when heavenly music was given to quiet her restless nerves. I think it was even so, for at times such an unearthly beauty would gather on her fair face, and the eyes glow with such spiritual depth and beauty as we talked of the things of God, and she tried to describe to me the strains of melody that floated down into her soul from the upper choir, that I felt like one entranced, such was the heavenly hush of sacred awe!

“She said to Dr. Redfield one day, as he was leaving the city for a short time, and he was telling her of the many temptations he had to discouragement, on account of the murderous spirit that was roused in the M. B. Church, ministers and presiding elders publishing and threatening to arrest him, official members declaring if they could meet him on the street anywhere they would horsewhip him, etc., etc. “Doctor, you ought to praise God that you ever came to St. Louis, if only my soul is saved! I mean to endure to the end, and I may go soon — I think I shall, and I want you to preach my funeral sermon. Tell them what I was saved from; and remember if I go first, and I am permitted, I will stand on the battlements of glory and be the first to hail you as you come up!” The Doctor promised to remember her request, and wept for joy to see such fidelity to God in one so young and so lately separated from all the world calls promising.

“A few weeks after this, she fell asleep in Jesus, witnessing to the last, that she had no regrets in leaving the world. Jesus’ image was so reflected, from her very countenance lit up with glory, and her calm, joyful messages to the brothers away, that no one ever doubted for a moment, but that she was ready, when Jesus called her to the mansions above.

“She gave directions to her mother for the funeral, requesting as a favor, that there be no display beyond the presence of her Bible class as pall-bearers.

“She desired to be laid out in a simple white mull, without flowers, except in her hand; and as was the custom for young people, in a plain white velvet coffin. Dr. Redfield was in the city, and preached as she had desired, dwelling much on the rich reward of those who are to “come up through great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

“To me it was the most glorious funeral I ever attended! Sorrow seemed to flee away, as the white coffin was borne down the aisle of the church to the front, and those twelve young ladies dressed in pure white, were seated around it, bearing a faint resemblance to the purity of her who had gone, and to the home where she was now safely housed forever and ever!

“A large concourse of people were present. The brothers from a distance were there, who had been very proud of their sister while she was gay, and when they heard the account of her glorious conversion and happy death, and messages to them, trembled like stricken men, and were forced to acknowledge there was a reality in the religion of Jesus Christ. The Doctor was deeply affected as he gave the closing scenes of her life, and her last exhortation to him, to praise God if only she was saved as fruit of all his toil and suffering in spirit in St. Louis. Perhaps he remembered the counsels of his own sister Mary, who had so often encouraged him to endure unto the end! As the saints were singing at the close the favorite hymns of the pilgrims in those days, “We’re going home to die no more,” and the “Beautiful world,” when they came to the chorus, “Palms of victory, crowns of glory, we shall wear in that beautiful world on high,” the glory of God filled the place, and many who had been saved in the Sunday School were greatly blessed. The relatives kindly furnished a number of carriages, so that several of us could accompany the remains to their resting place in the cemetery six miles south of the city of St. Louis.

“We gathered about her after she was tenderly laid away, and sang as a band of pilgrims traveling to the same home, that song again, over her grave, “Beautiful world”; and as often as we came to the refrain, “Palms of victory, crowns of glory, we shall wear in that beautiful world on high,” waves of joy rolled over us as we thought that one more was added to “the innumerable company,” “redeemed through the blood of the Lamb!” As we returned to the city, some of us were so blessed as we sang on our way, that several lost their strength in the carriages, and shouted loud hallelujahs! Never have I known of such a glorious funeral as that was, the first fruits unto God of Dr. Redfield’s labors in the city of St. Louis. By several, it was thought to be a remarkable coincidence, that when Dr. Redfield received his final stroke of paralysis, that those in the room with him as he breathed his last, felt a strong and clear impression that Mary’s spirit was indeed hovering near. Who knows but that she did come to the battlements, and looking over, send a salute down to hail the one who had dared to tear off the bandage from her eyes when closed by sin, and cause her so to see herself that she flew to the foot of the cross, gave up all forever, and was saved!”

On February 14, 1860, Mr. Redfield wrote the following letter referring to events then occurring in various quarters:

“Dear Brother and Sister Foot: — “So greatly does my large correspondence press me that I am compelled to make one letter do for a place, or I should have written to you before. I learn by way of Brother Tyler of your prosperity. I am learning from various quarters where they have heard of the stand you have taken that the same thing for the same cause is contemplated. I feel deeply burdened at the melancholy sight of the Methodist Episcopal Church in arms against effective Methodism; and putting fidelity to Methodism down as a capital offense, and rending the church in an effort to rid it of soul-saving piety. I have long seen the tendency to this, and trembled at the threatening division, which must come if one party or the other would not abandon its position. But I saw clearly that if the pilgrim party compromised God’s rights, and lowered the standard of piety at the demand of the other, all efficiency for soul-saving would be at an end, and our church would sink into a powerless formalism.

“February 27.

“You see by my dates that I have been interrupted. The fact is, we have been passing through a squall. Our preacher here proved to be well calculated to stir up strife, by going from one to another and retailing the stuff that our enemies invented. Both he and one of our leading men have been, and still are, trying to rend us in pieces. That man is bent on ruling or ruining us. But God is still with us, and though they have left and taken as many as they could persuade to go with them, trusting in God, we expect to live and enlarge our borders. We have a good and reliable membership, who are now engaged in planning for a new church. We expect that our late preacher will soon run his race and leave the city.

“I have just received a call from Mt. Vernon, Iowa, to come, or send some one to preach the salvation that saves. The writer, a stranger to me, saw the report given of my connection with your affairs at St. Charles, and wrote to me for explanations. I answered, giving a full account of the matter. I have now received another letter stating that the same opposition had developed there, and for the same cause; and the faithful are now threatened with expulsion if they persist in praying for and exhorting the church. The spirit of the letter seems to be right, and as well as I can judge from its tone, and the manner of reporting the facts, that it is not a faultfinding spirit, but an honest desire to see the cause of God prosper.

“I write this much to prepare the way to ask if Brother T_____ cannot go to their relief. At all events I wish he would write and learn the state of things, and get what items of information as may be needed to form an opinion as to what is best to be done. Please communicate with Brother T_____ about it.

“Has Brother Cooley come yet? Brother Roberts wrote me that he would hasten him on, although he was greatly needed there. But they are careful to do nothing, more than they can help, to prejudice their case before the coming General Conference. After that, if nothing is done to make things right, a conference will be organized, and then your place will be provided for regularly.

“Love to all.

“J. W. Redfield.”

On March 26th, he wrote to Brother Rogers as follows;

“I long to hear from you, and learn of the state of religion among you. We have been having a trying time here, but the Lord has conquered for us. We expect to go to work to build a new church at once.

“This mighty work is rapidly spreading, and my calls are far more than I can accept. I expect from present appearances, that after the General Conference, we shall have another conference organized, which will carry the battle to the gates, and we shall see a great and glorious revival of genuine Methodism, carried on by local preachers. If the conference preachers will not go the way, in the name of the Lord, the local preachers will.

“J. W. Redfield.”

April 6th, 1860, he writes again to Brother and Sister Foot, as follows:

“Your welcome letter was duly received; but my large correspondence prevented me from answering until now. Every sentiment of my heart is enlisted in your behalf God is raising up a great people, and you in St. Charles have the honor and disgrace of standing foremost. I have written Brother Roberts to hold on, and not send a preacher to you until after the General Conference. It begins to look as though we will have to organize immediately after that, in a permanent form. I am greatly rejoiced that God has raised up a preacher for you. Please send a statement of your wants and condition to Brother Roberts.

“I send you a number of circulars, and desire that all the pilgrims will give us at least ten cents each towards building a church here. The lot will cost $10,000. We want to build two more to meet the wants of this great city. But we are poor, and need help.

“Yours,

“J. W. Redfield.”

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