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In November, 1852, Mr. Redfield was invited to Henrietta, Monroe county, N. Y. The preacher was J. K. Tinkham, known for many years through Western New York for his powerful singing, and who passed to his reward in 1885. On his way to Henrietta, Mr. Redfield called on the presiding elder, who asked him where he was going.
“To Henrietta, to assist Brother Tinkham,” Mr. Redfield replied.
“Well, I am glad you are going there, for there you can do no hurt,” was the elder’s reply.
But Mr. Redfield was becoming somewhat accustomed to such thrusts. On his arrival at Henrietta he found, truly, there was no danger of making matters worse. A once flourishing society was now reduced to eighteen members, and these were cold and formal.
Mr. Tinkham proved to be a pleasant pastor to labor with. He feared not the truth nor its effects. In a few days came the tug of war. Men saw they must resist strongly or yield; indifferent they could not be. The Holy Spirit pressed home the truth until men began to confess their delinquencies. One night, an official member of the church confessed that although he had tried to keep up the forms of religion, yet he had been unsaved. His two boys who had grown up infidels were present in the congregation. He went to one of them and asked his forgiveness for living before him as he had. The young man was much mortified, and tried to quiet him. The father then went to the other, and confessed and asked his forgiveness; and with the same result. He then returned to the altar, and falling on his knees, cried out in agony for their salvation. There was no appearance of the answer before the meeting closed. But during the night the oldest son arose from his bed, came down the stairs into his parents’ room, and begged of them to rise and pray for him. They did so, and soon he began to pray for his brother. The father went to look for him, and found him on his knees crying for mercy. He was brought down stairs, and their prayers continued until nearly morning, and both were gloriously converted. They came to the afternoon meeting the next day, with shining faces, ready to work for God. Such was the earnestness with which they went at it, that in some instances sinners left the house to get away from them. One of these fell outside the door, and another sprang over the fence near by, and fell there. They cried for mercy, were converted, and returned to the house before the close of the service to testify of what Jesus had done for them.
The work now went on in great power, and awoke the opposition of the minister in another church. He tried first to proselyte the converts, but this failed, because of the thoroughness of their conversion. He then began to cry out against the work. Mr. Redfield now felt it his duty to speak plainly against a type of religion that would allow its possessors so to do. The opposition of the minister ceased and soon he was also saved, so that he would get happy in his pulpit, and shout, declaring he now knew what made the Methodists happy.
The man who had the charge of the church in which this revival was held, has told the writer within a few years, that such was his own indifference to religious things, under the wretched influence of the church, that for some time after this revival commenced, he would light the house and return to his home and wait for the congregation to disperse, and then go and close the house for the night. But he heard so much about the manner of Mr. Redfield and the truths he preached, and his unsparing denunciations of sin, that he ventured to hear him one night, for himself.
He says, “I thought I never heard it on this wise before. At first I rather enjoyed seeing others get it, but at last the lash came to my own back. Conviction set in, and soon I was at the altar fairly howling for mercy.”
Some of those who were saved in this revival are still living, and are illustrations of the thoroughness of the work that was there done.
Mr. Purdy was present part of the time, and assisted in this meeting, with his usual liberty and power.
While laboring at this place, Mr. Redfield wrote the following interesting letter to Brother Hicks, of Syracuse, N. Y.:
“Henrietta, N. Y., Nov. 11, 1852.
“Dear Brother Hicks & Co.
“Some time has passed away
Since I began to pray,
I love the Lord today;
Bless his name; bless his name.
“Brother P_____ as usual ran away soon after my arrival. Oh, what a pity that such talents cannot be controlled and kept at work. But it cannot be helped. I suppose we ought to be more thankful for as much as we can get out of him, rather than to mourn because we can have no more. I will not yet abandon all hope that he will see his error.
“Brother Woodruff is here. He is a man of God, and full of the Holy Ghost. Brother Tinkham and he are shoulder to shoulder pressing the battle, and resolved to have the victory. You may well judge that it will take a large degree of redemption power to raise from the dead the church in this place. But it begins to move some. About twenty have been converted, which in my judgment is equal to one hundred in Syracuse.
“Brother W_____ and myself go next Saturday, or the following Tuesday, to Painted Post, where we hope Zenas, the lawyer will meet or follow us, and not run again. leaving us right in the cramps. From that place we expect to go to Buffalo.
“Brother P_____ has not yet decided about getting the tent and going to Syracuse. Yet he seems full of faith that that is a move, which if carried out, promises much good to the old line. I think if such an arrangement could be entered into, and sanctioned and sustained by men of the right stamp, that there are many ministers who would willingly join the flying artillery, and that great and glorious results would follow. I wish that Dr. Bowen, or some one of his standing, would form a plan and lay it before one of our bishops for approval, and then I think that H_____ Mattison would find his guns spiked before he could do much damage. If the plan works, as I have no doubt it will, I think that at the next conference there will go out such a voice from that body as will make our way easy, and plain, and successful.
Could you not draft a plan and send it to Dr. Bowen, and get him to enlist others whose influence will at once protect and give character to the movement? It seems to me that such is the condition of the churches, that some unusual effort must be made to check the progress of approaching ruin, and extend the borders of Zion to fields as yet unoccupied.
“How are you all getting along? Are you at anchor? or drifting down stream? or rowing up? Don’t get discouraged; God will yet give you victory; for if you cannot carry the opposition and turn them to the Lord, you can use them as polishing brushes to make you shine the brighter. I tell you heaven is in view.
“I desire you would remember me to Sisters A_____ and A_____, Brothers B_____ and G_____, and all the disciples of Jesus. O Brother Hicks, encourage them to hold on and to fight manfully. I much desire to see you all, but at present I cannot see it possible.
“Brother Hicks, would you like to take a little stock in heaven’s savings bank? I will tell you how. You pilgrims just spend a little time every day in secret prayer that God may be with us who are laboring for souls at Henrietta, Painted Post, and Buffalo.
“I would like to select my homestead near yours on heaven’s public lands. If you assist me by your prayers we shall doubtless settle in the same neighborhood on the prairies of the New Jerusalem. Hallelujah! Amen!
“J. W. REDFIELD.”
From Henrietta, at the request of a presiding elder, Mr. Redfield went to another place, where matters were in an equally bad state, though there were more members in the church. On his arrival, he found he must commence in the presiding elder’s family, and he sternly rebuked the wife and some others for their bad example in wearing jewelry. They were much offended, of course. He found that the preacher in charge had no religious influence, because of his trifling manner among the people. But there was an old minister, who was without an appointment, but who had been on the straight track for thirty years, and who saw matters in the same light in which Mr. Redfield saw them. This was to him a source of great comfort and encouragement. He had often known ministers, in the heat of successful revivals, to take a stand for the right, but when they arrived at conference, and saw it did not meet with the approval of those in power, to look at their families, and almost empty pocketbooks, and then draw back. But here was a man who had stood; who had dared to do his duty, to follow the truth, and risk the consequences.
The work had scarce begun before it became apparent that there were serious things in the way. Mr. Redfield consecrated himself anew to do faithful work. He said to himself, “I will only stop when I must. By the grace of God I will not swerve from the right. If I go down with the truth, I know Jesus will go down with me; and he will have a resurrection. I will be as honest with the people as though I was going immediately to the judgment. I know I am already in bad odor with the worldly and pleasure. seeking, in the church, and, probably, faithful work here will not improve my reputation: but I will leave all that to be adjusted at the judgment.”
He saw that representatives of Jesus must do something to restore themselves to the confidence of those outside the church. He urged the membership to make clean and thorough work in confessing their true moral state, so that the world would have the true standard of religion.
When he had finished a sermon on this subject, an old local preacher arose and said, “This Redfield has insulted us. This church will never disgrace itself by making any such confessions as he urges. He need not come here to accuse us of having no religion. I know I’ve got religion; and, Oh! brethren, what a glorious time it will be when we all get up there.”
“If you ever get there,” suggested Mr. Redfield.
Next a son of this old man arose, who was also a local preacher, and with great vehemence denounced Mr. Redfield. The meeting closed, and one of the equally dead members of the church approached the old local preacher, and said, “I know the reason why you are so bitter upon the preacher because of this confessing business. You know you are guilty of crimes that would make a decent man blush.” Not knowing that his life was so well known, the old man tried to deny it, and asked for the proof. The other called up a man who was present, and asked him, “Don’t you know that this man is guilty of_____?” naming the crime.
“Yes, sir, I do,” said the witness. And then another, and another, was called on to testify, who witnessed to the same. The old man left the house not to return again.
Mr. Redfield then took an expression of the congregation, sinners and all, whether the truth that will do to die by was what they wanted. A large number, by the uplifted hand, declared in the affirmative.
The next night Mr. Redfield plainly saw that they had come to a point where somebody must act; and said: “I have gone to my utmost extent in preaching the word of God to you, and it all fails. I will now try one more thing; not to appeal to your conscience, for you have none. Bible truth seems to have nothing sacred in your esteem. You may possibly have some sense of honor; I will appeal to that. Now, when you joined the church you either did, or did not, know its rules. If you did not, here they are [holding out a copy of the Discipline]. They forbid doing harm, and command to do good. They forbid conformity to the world. Yet, in all that you are deficient. Now, make up your mind; can you, will you, conform to these rules? If not, then do have the honor to go to your preacher and tell that you can’t live up to the rules and ask him to drop your name.
Afterward Mr. Redfield learned that one of the principal members did so, and then said, “There, I have withdrawn from the church, for I am resolved to live and die an honest man.” He also said to Mr. Redfield: “I have been kept in the church because I was reputed to be wealthy, and that, too, when it was known that I would swear.”
But to return; this looked severe to many, but the sequel showed that God was in it. This course raised a tempest. Immediately one of the leading members arose and said, “We have borne this abuse long enough.”
Mr. Redfield asked, “Will you show me what I have preached that is not truth?”
“We believe it is truth,” he answered, “but we won’t stand it.”
The service broke up in a tumult. A large number came around Mr. Redfield and vehemently accused him of causing the disorder, — five to ten speaking at once until he could not be heard. He went to his stopping place, at the presiding elder’s, and fell upon his face before the Lord. He cried out, “O Lord, thou knowest I have not swerved from the right. I have gone as far as I can. I must now stop. I give the matter into thy hands.” He then retired to rest with the rich consciousness of the divine approval. Soon the word came that two of the most faithful men in the society had fallen to the floor in the church, both burdened for the membership, and especially for the man who had talked so to Mr. Redfield. About two o’clock in the morning, he was awakened by a rap at his door, and was informed that the wife of the pastor was almost in despair, and desired him to pray for her. She had also requested them to bring Brother F_____, one of the brethren who was prostrate in the church, and he had been brought to her house, but he was perfectly stiff, and had to be carried. When Mr. Redfield arrived, the pastor’s wife confessed that she had slyly counseled the sisters of the church to keep on their jewelry. She was now in great distress. They had not prayed long, when a messenger came and said, “Several members of the church are in a house near here, and they desire, all who can, to come and pray with them. And they especially desire Brother F_____ shall come.” Several men picked him up and carried him there. After a little, a messenger came there with the word that a number of sinners were congregated in a house near by, and desired Christians to come and pray with them. Before daylight it became evident that the whole place was under awakening; and the result was a glorious ingathering of souls.
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