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As winter approached Mr. Redfield was invited to return to Stamford to one of the forsaken churches in that place. The condition of Methodism in the vicinity may be seen from the following facts. Three miles away was a church which had not been occupied for three years; one and a-half miles away was one to be closed the following spring; two miles in another direction was one that had been unoccupied for many years.
The pastor who had invited Mr. Redfield was a devoted man, but poorly adapted to resurrect a dead church. Under the strong truths preached by Mr. Redfield a general awakening was coining on, when other Methodist societies in the vicinity opposed to the resuscitation of this one, forced the meetings to close. The African Methodists then opened their doors, and the revival went to them. Here God wrought mightily, and some of the most wealthy and influential people of the city came to the altar and were saved; some of them that the deadness which had reigned in the churches had well nigh made infidels. Among themselves they started a subscription to build a new church, and desired Mr. Redfield to become their pastor. He consulted his presiding elder, who advised against it, and the matter was dropped.
He was now having all the calls he could fill; and to have accepted that proposition would have turned him aside from his peculiar mission. He had many friends among the more spiritual of the ministry, who would have called in question the propriety of such a step; and the step once taken, might have involved him in circumstances such as would have rendered it impossible to retrace it.
Before leaving Stamford, he went with the pastor to hold one more service in the old church that had been closed so long. During the service he observed a young man in the congregation who seemed deeply interested and who closely watched everything that was said and done. When the invitation was given for seekers of sanctification, he came forward boldly. He was a Methodist preacher, and after the service closed he invited Mr. Redfield to go to his charge five miles away to labor with him for a season. He said the church was not inclined to receive him when he was appointed the spring previous; but after pleading with them for some time, they yielded, and let him stay. He now desired Mr. Redfield to go with him to assist in a revival meeting. The following conversation then passed between them.
“Now will you go?” said the young preacher.
“Do you believe in the doctrine of sanctification as held by the Methodists?” inquired Mr. Redfield.
“I do,” was the ready answer.
“Do you enjoy it?” asked Mr. Redfield.
“I do not,” the preacher answered.
“Will you seek it with all your heart until you find it?” further inquired Mr. Redfield.
“I will,” was the immediate reply.
“But let me tell you what may be the consequences of your taking this stand,” said Mr. Redfield. “If you obtain this experience and preach it, you will have a living, active church, and sinners will be converted in great numbers. They will be converted so they will know it in power. Then perhaps when conference comes, some one else will be appointed to the charge. And the membership and converts may injudiciously speak in great love of yourself as their former pastor; and if the new preacher has not the grace to endure it, he may become jealous, and will speak lightly of you to the other preachers; and by impressing the conference that you are an unsafe man, and poorly calculated to keep up the dignity of Methodism, as a result you may find yourself crowded out of the best paying appointments, and on to frontier work. Now, if you thus lose caste and standing among the preachers, and have to go on alone, unappreciated, will you seek for this experience, and preach it to your people? Can you afford to wait for the great day of judgment to adjust all these matters?”
With great emphasis, the young preacher replied, “I will accept the conditions.”
“Very good,” said Mr. Redfield, “I will go to your place: and further, if ever you get into a hard spot, because you take the honorable course for God, just let me know, and I will come to your help.”
Mr. Redfield went to the aid of this young preacher, and found the utmost freedom “to go the straight way for God and the exact right.” At the close of the first sermon, the young minister took his stand as he had promised. He said:
“It may seem strange to my congregation that I have never preached this doctrine to you. But as an honest man I could not preach to you what I did not enjoy as an experience. When I joined the conference, I told the bishop and the preachers that I believed in this doctrine, and would seek it. And now, ask you to forgive me for not having done it before; and I also ask you to come forward and pray for me.”
He then knelt at the altar, and the members of his church around him. The power of God fell upon them in a wonderful manner. The work of God began with unusual power, and soon the entire community was deeply moved. Skeptics, who had not entered a church for twenty years, were convicted, until unable to leave their homes.
The place of worship stood on a corner where five streets came together, and was the scene of glorious things. Sometimes the saved, as they returned to their homes, made the night air ring with their shouts.
This young minister, soon after, thought it best to take a transfer to a Western conference. We will not consider his case further at present, but shall hear from him again.
Mr. Redfield was now called to go to the aid of a conference preacher who had made himself offensive by his plainness. He had been appointed to a village that could boast of, a tavern, two churches, one blacksmith shop, and four or five painted houses. But the people rebelled at the “imposition,” as they called it, of having a preacher appointed to them, who was so far behind the times as to be opposed to worldly amusements. Mr. Redfield staid but a few days, as he could not discern that he would have any especial help from God in the work.
A short time after he went to a camp meeting in Central New York. There he found strong opposition to the doctrine of holiness among the preachers. This was very painful to him, and aroused his fears for the future of the doctrine and the church. One preacher, in a sermon, opposed the doctrine as taught by the early Methodists. In the midst of his argument against it, one of the preachers in the stand quoted two or three passages from the Bible that upheld the doctrine, but was told by the presiding elder to “stop”; yet, this elder had no rebuke for the man who was antagonizing Wesley, Clarke, Watson, and other standard authors in the church. This sermon threw the people into great confusion, and many of them left the congregation, thinking to strike their tents and go home. Mr. Redfield and others went to them and endeavored to dissuade them from this, while the elder, seeing the disaster the sermon was bringing upon the meeting, required the minister to stop. Rev. Hiram Mattison, who at this time was the leader of this opposition to the doctrine of holiness, was present, and attempted to allay the excitement by speaking somewhat as follows:
“The doctrine of sanctification is true and good. There are various opinions in regard to some of the details of it. I can best express mine by using an illustration: On an orange tree you will find blossoms and green fruit and ripe fruit. My experience is similar to that. When I was converted I was partially sanctified. When I joined the church I was a little more sanctified. When I took a license to preach I was still a little more sanctified. And so you see we are more and more sanctified as we pass along; and the way to become sanctified is to progress in the divine life.”
He said much more, but this was the substance of it all. This made the matter no better with the dissatisfied brethren. Brother Purdy was present, and in his inimitable manner tried his hand upon the storm. He prepared a place for a prayer meeting in an unoccupied part of the ground and called the people together. He then said: “I think it will be well to take the testimony of the people upon this question. Now, how many of this company know, by a heartfelt experience, that entire sanctification is distinct from justification and regeneration, and that it is received instantaneously by faith? Arise and stand upon your feet.” About three hundred arose. “Now,” said he, “let all those who know they have experienced it, but received it gradually, and not instantaneously.” Not one arose.
This was thought by the opposition to be a very unfair proceeding; and yet they saw nothing wrong in staying in the church and openly opposing one of its fundamental doctrines.
The following are some of Mr. Redfield’s reflections in regard to the matter:
I could but think, when a preacher, in a place like this, will be allowed to attack one of the fundamental doctrines of the church, and receive encouragement from the presiding elder, we are in a very bad state. Methodism must come to an end, or another people be raised up to carry on the work. But I shall probably be numbered with the dead when that day arrives. God helping, I will do all I can to save what spirituality remains, to check the waning of its power, and to keep it as efficient as possible while I live.”
These circumstances led him to see the necessity of a greater degree of spiritual power than he had ever known, that he might be more efficient in the Master’s service.
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