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Mr. Redfield was now invited to a church in one of the suburbs of New York city. This church was sustained, mostly by the Home Missionary Society. He found a small class of humble people, who had been kept down by the proselytizing efforts of a worldly church in the same community. One of the difficulties had been that the revivals in the Methodist Episcopal Church had been of such a superficial character, that this proselytizing was possible. Deep and thorough religious experiences would not be so easily overcome. As this church was fashionable and worldly, he was satisfied that it was from no abundance of piety that it so strongly persisted in its attempts to draw away the Methodist converts. He clearly saw that the only protection to those who would be converted in his meetings, as well as the prosperity of the church for which he labored, was to lay the foundations of the revival in holiness. This would be so out of harmony with the efforts of the other church, as to make it difficult for it to sustain a claim to being Christian. At the same time the revival would be seen to be so in harmony with the Bible and the will of God, and that would make young converts strong to resist proselytizing influences. Again, it would require such a deepening of the experiences of those who were already members of the church that they would be prepared to lead young converts wisely and safely. This church struggle had been of practical benefit to the Methodist class, in that it had kept the eyes of the membership open to the evils of worldliness in the church, and also the evil of mere church zeal. It also made them the more ready to receive and stand by the strong truths of the Bible. Here he had an opportunity to labor freely, without opposition from within the fold, although there was plenty of opposition without. He scarcely had commenced operations, before two clergymen of the other church commenced to war against him. At first they advised the people to stay away, because the Methodists were simply going to have one of their usual times of excitement. When the meetings began to get hold of the people, and particularly of some of the more choice in the community, one of these preachers began to visit them and to coax them to join his church. It soon became necessary for Mr. Redfield to defeat these efforts, if possible, the immediate occasion of which, Mr. Redfield says, was as follows:
“A man who had been converted and whose wife was a seeker, had been strongly urged, and finally had consented, to join this minister’s church. One evening the man came inside the altar to labor with some of the seekers, and I said to him, “I am told that you and your wife design to join the other church as soon as she is converted.” Yes,” said he, ‘that is our design.”
“I said to him, “Don’t you do it; for they will press your religion out of you, and press final perseverance into you, and you will lose your soul by it. You won’t join them, will you?’
“No,” said he, “I will not.”
“I went to his wife, who was kneeling at the altar, and asked her, “Why is it you do not find what you are after? Do you give up your whole will to God?’
“Oh, yes; I think it is given up.”
“Well, if God wants you to join the Methodist Church, will you do it?’
“She was startled with the question, and I saw her will was against it; and fully believing that for her to join that church would be to surround her with influences that would make it almost an impossibility for her to be saved, I said to her, “You may rest assured, God will never touch your case until you are willing to join the Methodist Church.”
“Do you think so?’ she asked.
“Yes,” I know it,” I replied.
“Then, I’ll be willing,” she said.
“But, will you join the Methodists?’ I asked.
“Again she seemed to draw back, and I saw that here the difficulty lay; and I said, “I am satisfied you will never find the Lord until you make up your mind to join the Methodists.”
“Well, I will,” said she; and instantly shouted, “Glory to God! I have got it.”
“Various other plans were adopted to draw our people away from us, but without success. All the converts, without an exception, united with us, which so strengthened the society that it ceased to need missionary help, and began to help others.
“After the failure of the two preachers either to stop the revival or proselyte from us, their own people dismissed them. One of them was so displeased at this that he exposed the fact that there was but one communicant in the society, the remainder simply sustaining the minister as an item of upper-tendom luxury. The other, for drunkenness, stealing church funds, horse-racing and night-revelling, was soon after silenced.” “I have also learned that the great opposition to the thorough work of God, is from nominal professors of religion, who have never been converted, or who have backslidden from a good experience; but the severest of all is from professed ministers of the gospel. I also came to know that whatever others might say or do, I must maintain God’s rights, and will, at all risk and expense. In doing this I found I must contend against any and everything that did not bear the mark of God’s approval, and that nothing short of this will give that character to the church that will prevent it from downright formalism. The supposition that there are redeeming traits in human nature which only need disciplining, rather than a radical change; and the use of appliances to polish and adorn, instead of rooting them out, will, if allowed to prevail, banish heartfelt religion from the world.
“I have also learned another important lesson, namely, that God demands harmony and purity among his people. One night, at this place, when the altar was well filled with seekers, we came nearly to a stand-still. My soul for a moment seemed crushed within me. I cried to God to remove the hindrance; when I was instantly impressed that there were those among us of whom God would say, “Remove from before me the vile, and then offer your sacrifice., So strongly did this come, and so plainly did it appear to be in the way, that I arose from my knees, and getting the attention of the congregation, I stated my impressions, and asked that those present who were conscious of wickedness in their hearts, and of opposition to the work now going on, to have the goodness to leave the house. Three members of the class immediately left; but no sooner had they done so than the converting power of God fell upon the congregation, and souls that were seeking were soon set at liberty. What was more remarkable was the fact that for twelve or fourteen successive nights after, we had a like experience until we could succeed in getting those very persons to leave. One of those persons was afterward expelled for gross immoralities. Another was proverbially deficient in the Christian spirit, and the other was hypocritically acting the part of a friend to our faces, but behind our backs and with infidels talking against the work of God.
“While we were holding meetings at the church, the colored people held meetings in a private house, and the power of God was among them in a wonderful manner. One night a young woman who had been under deep awakening for some time, suddenly arose and ran toward the door, determined to get away from the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Before she reached the door she fell to the floor in great agony. She would rise on one elbow and cry, “O Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!” and then sink back to the floor again, to all appearances, senseless. In a few minutes this was repeated, and so continued for seven days and eight nights. Some thought she would die, and called me to go and see her, which I did. She had then been in this condition several days. I tried to offer Christ to her, and also to find out what her particular trouble was. Though I persisted in my efforts for some time, and called to her in a loud voice to tell me what the matter was, she paid no regard to me, and seemed neither to see nor hear anything. Still, at regular intervals she would rise as I have described, and utter that cry, and then sink back to the floor again. She obeyed no call of nature during this time, except once when she swallowed a few drops of milk which was put in her mouth. She lay on a bed prepared for her on the floor, and there continued during the period stated. Two Christian women slept in the room, nights, to watch her. The eighth night, when all had retired to rest, and the light put out, the poor girl continued to be exercised as before. At last she changed the wording of her prayer to, “Here, Lord, I give myself away. “Tis all that I can do,” and instantly began bounding, and jumping, and praising God. As soon as the first gust of glory passed, she sank to the floor from weakness caused by her long fasting and want of rest; and they fed her by the teaspoonful until she could bear a more hearty meal. When she came fully to herself, she said that she had seen the awful state of the damned, and it was that which had so distressed her and kept her in such agony for so long a time. She proved to be a remarkable specimen of the converting power of God.”
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