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After a short time, the sign appeared again, directing him to another field. Yet he secretly resolved to go home. Carelessly he signified this intention to one who immediately said: “I should think you would be afraid the judgments of God would follow you.” The following morning, as he was making preparations to go home, he was suddenly seized with great pain, and to find relief, he consented to obey God. As soon as the pain was gone, however, he made another attempt to return home. He finished dressing, and reached the top of the stairs, when the same agony of body again came on, and with it the impression, “If you do not consent, you will die and be lost.” He says: “I then told the Lord if he would relieve me, I would go, and instantly I was free from pain, and as happy as I could be.”
“After breakfast,” he continues, “I started. It was very cold, and the snow was deep, but I went on, singing, “December’s as pleasant as May.” I visited every house as I went, warning the people to flee from the wrath to come. My name and manner of work had gone before me, and some were so much afraid of me that they left their houses at my approach.
“When I reached the place of my destination, I was led to go to the class leaders first. The day had been too severe for the children to attend school, and they were all at home. I asked the father and mother: “Are you on the way to heaven?’ The father replied: “We trust we are.” Said I: “God has sent me to tell you that you are on the road to hell. and you will certainly be lost unless you repent and seek the pardon of your sins.” I had no sooner spoken than the tears began to stream down my face; but my words aroused a turbulent spirit within him, and with vehemence he ordered me out of the house. I told him I could not go until I had obeyed my instructions from God. “Then,” said he, “I’ll use means to get you out,” and he seemed about to raise a chair to strike me. I said to him: “You will strike me at your peril while I am delivering God’s message to you.” I then turned to the children and asked them: “Do you wish to go to hell with your father and mother?’ With tears, they said: “No, sir.” I asked: “Will you kneel down while I pray for you? You need not fear that your father will hurt me, for God will defend me.” Down they knelt, and that brought their parents to their knees, and they began in good earnest to seek God. When I arose, the man and his wife began to confess their backslidings, and invited me to stay for the night. This I did, but feeling in the morning that my work was done in that place, I returned. The class leader went to work for God, and was the means of reviving the work of the Lord in that neighborhood.”
Soon after his return, he met the preacher in charge, who informed him that it was the desire of the presiding elder that he unite with the church, be licensed to preach and take regular work on a circuit. To this he finally consented, and went to the next quarterly meeting. The elder preached as usual at the Saturday service, and held the quarterly conference immediately after. While the congregation was passing out, and the members of the conference were waiting for it to become quiet, the elder related a ridiculous story that produced boisterous laughter, in which he joined; and when it was at its height, he said, “Let us pray,” and immediately led in prayer. The effect of this upon young Redfield can best be given in his own words:
“This was too much for my sensitive conscience, and the devil took the advantage of it by setting me to reasoning thus: “Does this man believe the Bible? Did Jesus set such an example of trifling in the presence of a perishing world? Is it true that sinners are now passing away, every hour, to the judgment? Is this like Paul, who for the space of three years, night and day, with tears, labored for the salvation of sinners? Am I in a hallucination? Am I wild, or blind? Be it as it may be, all I can see from my standpoint is the Saviour of the world, staggering under a world’s sin, while its masses in proud procession are on their way to eternal night. If the Bible is true, the world is on the eve of a terrible catastrophe, and about to pass into eternity unprepared. I can hardly stop to sleep lest men be lost while I am at rest. There must be a mistake somewhere, and it is quite probable I am the one that is mistaken. The elder is a man of years, and in all probability when young was as zealous and ardent as I am, but he has found that religion is a sham, and now continues to preach for the profit it is to him. I will never accept of a license until I settle the question for myself of the truth or falsity of the Christian religion.”
He refused the license, and after the quarterly meeting went home to his father’s house. In after years he could look back and see that here was the great mistake of his life. He says: “Little did I dream that I had undertaken one of the most absurd tasks imaginable. I might as well have attempted to solve a question in algebra, by the principles of music, or the science of astronomy by the rules of grammar, as to attempt to solve the problems of religion by the light of reason. However, I began the attempt. But I again found myself beset with people who would urge upon me their impressions of my duty to go into the gospel field. To get rid of this annoyance, I again resolved to go where I was not known. My motives for going I kept a secret, lest I should involve others in my perplexity.”
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