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After closing his labors in Bath Mr. Redfield went to the city of Buffalo, where he held a series of meetings in the Niagara Street Methodist Episcopal church. Rev. Benjamin T. Roberts, now senior General Superintendent of the Free Methodist Church, was the pastor of the Niagara Street society.
On inquiry of an old minister, Mr. Redfield was informed that he had nothing to fear from the pastor, and “that the truth would be given the utmost freedom. When he arrived, he was informed by Mr. Roberts, and also by a leading man in the church, that Methodism was in a very low state in the city, and that it had been quite difficult to sustain prayer meetings in this church for a year or two.
In due time the work began to move; Soon, among others, came to the altar a poor drunken local preacher, whom Mr. Roberts had found in the delirium tremens but a short time before, and God saved him. Then another one came who had been attending horse races in Canada, and he was saved. One woman of high standing made the confession that she had been wronging her own sister out of her portion of their father’s estate, and had to restore it to find peace. This created great excitement and opposition. But the work went forward with power in the reforming, converting and sanctifying of souls. Many of the people began to take a strong stand for Bible holiness and Methodism. A sister B_____, one of the most fashionable members of that church, and who wore a very large amount of jewelry, laid it all aside, and went from house to house among her fashionable friends in the church, and upon her knees confessed to them the wrong she had done them in setting such an example, and came out into the light as a true and steadfast disciple of Jesus. In the midst of this revival the meetings of the General Missionary Society came on, and one service was appointed to be held in the Niagara Street church. Mr. Redfield called on the bishop and had a talk with him in respect to the decay of primitive Methodism, and asked him to say something during this gathering that would encourage the effort to build up the work. He related to him the cases of the two local preachers, among others, as illustrations and proofs of the genuineness of the work in progress. But the bishop turned upon him, and said, very abruptly: “I don’t believe a word of it.”
Mr. Redfield saw he must now prepare himself for trouble. When the bishop preached he seemed to take especial pains to impress the congregation that he did not approve of Mr. Redfield’s work. Dr. A_____. S_____, editor of the Christian Advocate, in an address went out of his way to declare that Christianity was not opposed to the luxuries and elegances of life, and indulgence in them was not inconsistent for Christians.
At this time there was a sharp conflict in the Genesee Conference in Western New York, over the question whether the modern innovations upon Methodism should prevail. Mr. Roberts, Mr. Kendall, Eleazar Thomas, who years afterwards was massacred by the Modocs, and quite a number of others, were standing for the Wesleyan doctrine and experience of holiness, and the simplicity of Methodism. Now there crowded into the Niagara Street church the leading opposers of all this, and mingling among the membership, who were being graciously moved by the revival in progress, they circulated scandalous reports that had a tendency to stop the work. After they were gone, a lawyer V_____ came into one of the afternoon meetings to carry out the wishes of the opposition. He arose, and said, in substance, “We have been annoyed and disgusted long enough with this man Redfield, and now it shall come to an end. These meetings shall no longer be endured.”
Mr. Redfield was kept perfectly calm and sweet amid it all. When the lawyer was through speaking, Mr. Redfield asked him to state what had been preached that was contrary to the Bible and the Discipline. He sharply retorted: It’s all true enough, but we won’t stand it here anyway.” Mr. Redfield was obliged to cease his labors there and go elsewhere.
The Niagara Street Methodist church was then heavily in debt. Mr. Roberts offered to become responsible for lifting the indebtedness, if the trustees would make the seats free. His proposal was not accepted. The church was afterward sold for its indebtedness. It has since been used as a Jewish synagogue, until, within the last year, when it was purchased by the Free Masons for the purpose of erecting a Masonic temple on its site.
During this time Mr. Redfield wrote the following letter:
“Buffalo, N. Y., January 4,1853.
Dear Bro. Hicks and Company — I received your letter before I left Bath, which was last Friday. Since I last wrote you we have had hard battles, and some triumphant victories. Oh! how my heart ached when I learned how God’s house of prayer has been turned into a den of thieves. But what can be done? I don’t know! I don’t know! May God help you to hold on a little while longer. There’s a crown for you; hold on! hold on!! Hold on! !! Oh, how I want to see you! All your struggles and contests and toils make you all dear to me; and I know you are dear to him, “who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.” Think, dearly beloved, when you are writhing under persecution, God’s word hath said, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye.” Jesus has also said, “If they have persecuted me they will also persecute you.” And, again, “It were better that a millstone were hanged about his [your enemy’s] neck, and he cast into the depths of the sea than that he should offend one of these little ones which believe in me.” Fight on, fight ever! Live on, and live forever. Amen! Hallelujah! Glory to God!
“I want to hear from Mother A_____, particularly. I meant to have written her before this time, but do not remember her given name. Give my love to Sister A_____, and Brother and Sister B_____, and especially Brother S_____; in fact, all who love the Lord Jesus.
“Brother W_____ is here, running the old line straight for God. I wish he could be preacher of the Brick church for two years. But it is useless to hope; the powers and members are all on the side of the opposition. It will not always be so. Jesus will by-and-by come and straighten all these matters. O my God, my heart feels almost ready to burst with anguish when I look at the desolations! What can I do? I don’t know. What I mean to do, I know. I mean, unless I backslide, to throw myself into the hottest battles. They may ride over me, fight me, spit on me; but in the name of God, when I see them stabbing at Jesus, they shall sheathe their swords in me first, if I can get between them and him. If I cannot conquer for Jesus, I can die for him I have tried to make a bulwark of my reputation, and of all I hold clear on earth. Let them batter me, I’ll go singing, “I’ll stand the storm, it won’t be long.” But how much I need of salvation’s power, of humility, meekness, gentleness, goodness.
“It encourages me as I go from place to place to think of the precious few who are holding on. Yet when I see some coming out into the light and shining with the blessing of perfect love, I ask: Who knows what their next preacher will do? Likely enough he will try to undo the whole work. But I think of the little band at Syracuse and other places, and I am again encouraged to hold on, and I sing again, “I’ll stand the storm.”
“God bless you all.
“J. W. REDFIELD.
From Buffalo Mr. Redfield went to Townsendville to the help of his especial friend, Rev. J. K. Tinkham. A glorious revival occurred, and man were converted.
From Townsendville Mr. Redfield went to P_____ B_____ (probably Port Byron), to assist Brother P_____ (probably Purdy), in a church which once belonged to the Presbyterians, but had been sold to pay the preacher’s salary. What were the results of this meting cannot now be told, but the need of a revival is seen from the circumstance just related.
He now went again to Syracuse to visit the brethren. After a few services had been held, it was determined to build a church. A cheap building of rough hemlock boards, and plastered with one coat, was erected and dedicated to God. An engraving of it, that heads a letter written from this place to Rev. W. C. Kendall, shows it to have been the extreme of plainness and simplicity. From the beginning of the effort their meetings were attended with great manifestations of power and success. The opposition manifested by Methodist preachers during the great revival in the Congregational church, a short time before, broke out anew. But the presiding elder favored the new movement, and those engaged in the work were organized into the Third church. The course of the elder changed the controversy to the question of the wisdom and legality of his administration. But the conference was willing to accept of the new society, without regard to the question of legality, and sent them a preacher. The society soon found, however, that the preachers appointed by the conference were opposed to the spiritual freedom enjoyed by the membership.
After some years an effort was made by the preachers to disband the society; but God had raised up a layman of deep experience and determined spirit, who could not be coaxed or driven from what he thought was right. This was Charles T. Hicks, to whom the letter in this chapter is addressed. He was a man of fine business abilities, which kept him in the recorder’s office of the county, either as head officer or deputy, for more than forty years. It is said that in his work of recording, during all this time, there is not a mistake or an erasure to be found. In his religious life he seemed to follow the Lord in like manner. Radical upon every question in which morals, or the rights of God or man were at issue, pronounced in the expression of his opinions, and filled with the loving tenderness of the Christian, he was well fitted to stand in the front and take the blows and rebuffs that came in the path of duty. It was often his duty to pronounce the oath for witnesses in the courtroom, and it is said of him, that men who were expected by their employers to swear falsely, were sometimes frightened into testifying to the truth by his manner.
The new society lived and flourished, more or less, at times; had its revivals and declensions, became at one time an independent church, and, finally, when the Free Methodist Church was organized, became attached to that body.
How long Mr. Redfield remained at Syracuse after the organization of the Third church, or where and how he spent his time after leaving there cannot now be told, but the next trace of him is found in 1855, where, in Burlington, Vermont, he was engaged in one of his most successful meetings.
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