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At the close of the camp meeting mentioned in the last chapter, Mr. Redfield went to Syracuse, N. Y., in company with a Brother Hicks and wife. While tarrying there for a few days, he attended a prayer meeting with them at the church where they belonged. On leaving the church there came to him his old sign which had always tokened to him a great outpouring of the Spirit. He said to Brother Hicks, “I tell you God is going to visit this city in awful and glorious power.”
“Yes,” said Brother Hicks, “I believe it. A goodly number of us have been praying for it, and we feel that he has answered our prayers; and now we are looking for it.”
These friends were desirous that Mr. Redfield should come and lead a revival meeting, but were fearful that their pastor would be unwilling, as he had not manifested any sympathy with the doctrine of holiness. Mr. Redfield had never before received this peculiar token of a revival except when he was to be an active laborer in it; and as yet there was no indication that he would be connected with this. So without waiting further he started for his home in New York city. But before a great while he received a letter from a preacher stationed at Salina, now a suburb of Syracuse, requesting his services. He accepted the call as a possible step towards Syracuse.
On his way while traveling up the Hudson river on a night boat, he began to have a wonderful manifestation. The especial impression was of the presence of the heavenly host; and its effect was to comfort, cheer and strengthen him. This lasted all through the journey. He seemed rapt in a contemplation of God, and the work of God, such as no words could express.
As he approached Syracuse, there came to him again the same token of the coming revival. He reached the city, and went to the house of Brother Hicks. Here he took courage again, for this man could appreciate the strongest type of salvation. His house was like the temple of God, where the altar fires were constantly burning. It was a sanctuary for the oppressed and the persecuted. For years one could not enter it often without finding there some one who had made it a refuge. Seasons of prayer there often lasted all night, and sometimes complaints of this were made to the magistrates.
Brother Hicks took Mr. Redfield to the home of the minister he was to assist; and on crossing the bridge that lies between the two towns, the old token appeared again, but this time, it stood over the place to which he was going. When he reached the minister’s house, he found him in very poor health. The state of religion was such, that because of a small amount of indebtedness on the church property it was about to be sold. The society had about concluded to dismiss their preacher, because of the lack of funds to pay him. There could be no possible objections to Mr. Redfield’s labors in such a place. For some time he had found that ministers were perfectly willing that he should work in such places, and that with the greatest freedom, for he could not possibly make things any worse.
He also found that this place had been overrun with mesmerism, spiritism, and finally unionism; that is, the discarding of all denominational distinctions. The next step was to Unitarianism.
There was a fear upon the part of good people that if a revival should take on the old-fashioned type that characterized early Methodism, it would be called spiritism, or mesmerism, or something else besides real religion. His reply to them was, “I believe that the old gospel has as much power today as it ever had, and that God will come to our rescue; and if men try to imitate the work, as in the days of Moses, the rod of Jehovah will swallow up their rods, and they will be obliged to confess the true God.”
The revival had not been in progress long before a good woman from another town felt constrained to come to see Mr. Redfield. She came to the house where he was stopping, was introduced, and when about to shake hands, she gave two piercing screams, so sudden as to startle him. He had never heard anything like them before, and knew not what to make of them. He thought it best to wait until he had an opportunity to investigate them before he allowed himself to be disturbed with them. When meeting time came he started for the church, and this woman with some friends followed. Occasionally he would hear her give the same two peculiar screams as they came along the walk. When he had reached the pulpit and turned about, he saw her coming in at the door, holding her hands over her mouth. She came up near the pulpit, and as she turned to enter a pew she gave the same two screams again, so loud as to shock all in the house, and then clapped her hands over her face and appeared greatly mortified; but, evidently, could not control her voice.
In a subsequent conversation with her upon the subject, she told him the history of this strange phenomenon. She said, “Once while conversing with an honorable gentleman, a member of the Methodist Church, he complimented me upon the quiet and unostentatious character of my piety. I replied, “It is a source of gratification to me that I am not as demonstrative as some.” Instantly a power seized me that I could not resist, and I uttered those two screams. Since then I have found it in vain to resist when that power is upon me.”
As soon as Mr. Redfield could get the attention of the congregation, he began the service. But often during the evening she gave those two peculiar screams. The curiosity of the people was aroused to know what it could mean; yet when the invitation was given for seekers of holiness, the altar was crowded with them. The prayer meeting began, and in a few minutes a seeker at the altar screamed in like manner; and then another, and another. Finally, one woman’s scream was entirely different from the rest. It sounded as you would imagine a woman would scream if a knife was suddenly and unexpectedly thrust through her heart. A sister of hers came, took hold of her, and shook her, commanding her to stop; but it was all in vain. Some six or eight were exercised in that manner during the altar service.
In the midst of this, Mr. Purdy, who was assisting in the meeting, asked, -
“Don’t you think you had better check it?”
“I do not yet. If God makes the duty plain I will; but not till then.”
“Well, what do you make of it?”
“I don’t know. But I shall not wonder if God is preparing to meet and overcome the magicians in this town. You perceive no one can possibly make such a sound of themselves. Besides, there is no fear of hypocrites attempting it, for it is too humiliating.”
The service closed, and Mr. Redfield returned to his boarding place.
The sister of the lady of the house was stopping there also, and she was one of those who had been so strangely exercised. Mr. Redfield now thought he would have a good opportunity to study the phenomena. This woman was about thirty years of age, and married. She, as well as all the rest of those so exercised, was of good report and good standing in society. Before retiring for the night the entire company knelt in prayer. She commenced those screams again, and continued them for about five minutes with a rapidity that he believed no one could imitate. After rising from prayer, all retired for the night. In the morning Mr. Redfield had an opportunity to talk with her in regard to the exercises of the evening before. She appeared very solemn when she came into the room, and immediately, in a subdued tone of voice, and in humbleness of manner, asked him:
“Can you tell me what this means? When I went to bed last night it all stopped, but commenced again when I arose this morning. You know what a spell I had at family prayer last night. Well, I thought I saw my dead sister who passed away triumphantly a few years ago. I also seemed to see my father’s house, and my mother very sick; and that they want me to come home.”
Her sister, the lady of the house, then came into the room, and asked, “What do you make of this?”
He replied: “I cannot tell; and yet my opinion is, that it is something God has sent, or permitted, to put cavilers to silence.”
“Do you think it would be right for me to pray the Lord to stop it?” she asked.
“I do not, sister. My impression is, that you should not court it, nor fight it. Let it alone; seek only to be right with God, and if it is allowed to come, then there is an object it will serve. Let it come, or go, upon you.”
“Oh, I would not have it come upon me for ten thousand worlds.”
With a scream, her sister replied, “It will come upon you.”’
At that she began to tremble, and sat down. She was holding a wash bowl and pitcher in her hands, and so violently was she shaken that Mr. Redfield feared they would be broken, and he took them from her. At this, with a shriek louder than any he had yet heard, she was thrown upon the floor, and then, as if seized by a giant power, she was lifted up and taken into another room. This was attended with those screams, or rather those movements attended the screams, for the screams came first. After a little she was able to converse.
“Well, what do you think now?” asked Mr. Redfield.
“Oh,” said she, “I would not have the in taken from me for ten thousand worlds.”
“Are you in pain when you scream?”
“I was at first, but soon it was the joy that filled me. It was beyond anything I ever dreamed could be this side of heaven.”
“Is it because you feel such joy that you put forth an effort to scream; that is, is the scream the result of your effort?”
“Oh, no! I put forth no effort at all. But a power seems to take hold of me, and I am compelled to scream. I cannot resist it.”
Of all the other cases which he examined, and there were a large number of them, some of screaming, some of jumping, and others of a kind of dancing, in every case they testified the same; that is, it was produced by an unseen power, unexplainable by them, that took hold of them, and over which they had no control. In one case, the woman prayed that it might leave, and it did leave; but she was instantly in an agony of despair, and found no rest until she prayed for its return. Another had a similar experience.
In the case of the first one he examined, who seemed to have the vision of her father’s house and the sickness of her mother, in a few hours after her statement to Mr. Redfield, she received a letter by mail, in which the foregoing was corroborated.
Whatever the reader may think of these incidents, if candid, he must admit the wisdom of Mr. Redfield’s advice: “They are not to be courted, or fought.” Since that day there has been much of such demonstrations. Some of the best of Christians, persons of clear understanding, and of pure lives, have had them. It is also true, that many of inconsistent, and in some cases of impure lives, have had them.
Usually where there has been extreme encouragement of them, it has resulted in mischief. The same may be said where there has been determined opposition to them. Those who have neither courted nor fought them have got along with them the best. It has been demonstrated, — beyond all doubt, in the minds of the observing, — that they are not infallible marks of piety. Another thing is also true, — as yet mankind knows but little of mental science, and probably many of the strange phenomena of mental operation are yet to be explained.
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