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The success of the meeting described in the last chapter, deepened Mr. Redfield’s convictions that the preaching of holiness would conquer the world for Jesus, and that it was his duty to follow the same course wherever he went, since it had proved successful in every instance heretofore. In conscience he could choose no other course.
In response to a call, he went to a neighboring city. Before he commenced work in the church to which he had been invited, he met the pastor of another society in the same city, who desired his services for a few days first. A meeting had been in progress here for six weeks, but not one conversion had occurred. He accepted the invitation, and went to work.
Speaking of his experience here he says, “I tried to preach the class of truths which the Holy Ghost led me to preach. I called upon the membership as Methodists to seek the blessing of holiness, as the sure course to have a revival among sinners. But they would not move.” The preacher then expressed to them his surprise at this, and urged them to come. But they did not respond to his invitation. After the meeting was dismissed some of them sharply reproved him for pressing them to take such a stand before the world. To save himself he threw the blame on Mr. Redfield, and the next day told him plainly that he did not like his preaching, and that he believed he was backslidden, and for that reason thought everybody else was. Mr. Redfield says, “A few years afterward the same minister astonished me with his attentions and endorsement, in a place of considerable importance, where the dignitaries of the church, because of my success in the place, were paying me unusual attentions. here he could not do enough in words and affability to show himself friendly. But his course deeply pained me. I thought, if I am not right I ask no man to endorse me, and I value no man’s friendship who cannot do it when I am an object of scorn for representing an unpopular truth.”
He returned to the church which first called him. Here he found a people and pastor right in theory and effort, and the first night fifteen professed to have found the blessing of holiness. The work among sinners also broke out in great power; and in a short time about three hundred were converted.
He now felt sure that the church would see that success would follow the preaching of holiness, and the effort would become general. But he was doomed to disappointment. He says, “I learned little by little that there was a deep-seated hostility to holiness, especially among the preachers, who evidently leaned towards a worldly policy, and a desire to prune Methodism of all that was objectionable to pleasure-loving professors. I had heard that one of our preachers had said in urging worldly people to become religious, “The time has come when a man without a profession of religion cannot find access to genteel society.” I also had another proof that a worldly policy was gaining ground in many places, and that a time-serving spirit swayed the councils of the church sometimes. One of the bishops, who has since learned that it is hazardous to stand with God against all sin, told me of some things that indicated the downward tendency of Methodism to an extent that I had not known. He was deeply grieved over it, and feared the final results. But he gave me some counsel, advice and encouragement, that led me anew to hope for success and to resolve undauntedly to pursue the thorough way. I could now say, “I know of one bishop and one preacher who will try to stand for God and the right.” I believe that the most of them were as they thought in favor of a high degree of piety; but I was equally sure that they had more confidence in their own ideas of propriety and consistency than they had in the leadings of the Holy Ghost. But in charity to them I believed that, taking a rational standpoint, they did the best they could. I thought that with the accession of new preachers who were clear and straight (and I knew a goodly number of them that were about to enter the work), and with one bishop who could be relied upon, that the work of holiness would certainly be revived, and we should again see our Fletchers and Bramwells and Abbotts, blessed men, whose influence would be like ointment poured forth. Again I was doomed to disappointment, for I found not only hostility to the doctrine, but successful efforts were put forth to put down these revivals, and when it was accomplished, the sneering remark would be made, “It is another of Redfield’s revivals, and you see what it has come to.”
At times he would be greatly discouraged, and almost give up the struggle. Then the words would come, “Live while you preach, but no longer,” and again he would arouse to greater diligence and faithfulness than before. At such times the manifestations of the divine favor that he received were beyond even his wonderful powers to describe. He would say at such times, “It is worth a life of toil and disgrace to feel that God approves, and none can know the sweetness of it who has not tasted it.”
He found new fields of labor were opening before him, and calls came on every hand; but, usually, they came from mortgaged churches, and nearly extinct societies. Here there was but little to lose, and the authorities would give him freedom. This was good so far. To succeed in such places it was necessary for him to raise the standard of piety to where the Bible puts it, and this would greatly shock both pastor and people. The piety and even the morals of the membership were generally of so low a type, and the contrast between the standard he presented and the characters they manifested was so great that it was with difficulty sometimes that he could induce the pastor to suspend judgment until God could redeem his cause by giving unwonted success. In speaking of this he says, “The good results of course would follow, as God’s Holy Spirit will always work with the truth.” When the victory came, pastors would say, “I did not think your course would result so gloriously. I shall now know what to do at my next station.”
One said to him about this time, “I once saw things in this light, and tried to pursue the course you do, and had the same results; but I found that influential ministers in the conference began to look upon me suspiciously, and to utter murmurings against me, such as “unsafe,” “injudicious,” “behind the times,” “an old fogy,” and “not a good representative of our church.” Besides, I knew what they did to other men who took the same course you do; they were proscribed, sent to starvation appointments, or were located.”
Mr. Redfield says the ministers would sometimes ask him, “What system do you use, that works so successfully? Do you preach a regular course of sermons?”
“My answer would be, sometimes, “Oh, no! I take the rough, unpopular Methodist truths that preachers who hope to be bishops and presiding elders dare not use. Though I would leave them at such times evidently in the best of feeling, thanking the Lord that one more preacher was won back to primitive piety, and could now be depended upon to do thorough work for Jesus; still, I have been shocked often to find that within one year the same preacher had fallen back to the same state of cowardice, inefficiency and indifference, and some of them would enter their protests against the Redfield revivals.”
In one place to which he went, the preacher was sick and unable to attend the meetings. The work broke out in glorious power. Some of the members immediately began to seek and obtain the experience of perfect love, while others opposed it. “When the former would go to the pastor,” says Mr. Redfield, “and speak favorably of the meetings, he would fall in with them and approve of all. When the latter would complain to him of my preaching on dress, etc., he would fall in with them and promise to stop me when he could get out. After a little he began to circulate slanderous stories about me. These came out after I left. I remarked to some one that I would not be surprised if he was out of the ministry in less than five years. In a very short time he was called to account for a scandalous crime, and deposed from the ministry.”
He found in this place some who had once enjoyed perfect love, but who, from yielding to persuasion not to testify of it, had lost the experience. One of them was a Class Leader. When Mr. Redfield began to preach holiness, he was the first to come out and seek it. The baptism came upon him in great power. He was employed in a large factory, and the next time he went to work he asked permission of the foreman to address the other employees on the subject of salvation. This was granted, and Catholics and infidels listened to him as, with streaming eyes, he told them of Jesus’ power to save. Some cold members of the church heard of it, and were terribly shocked at his course. But God wonderfully blessed the man; so much so that when he got home from his work he sat down and shouted aloud the praises of God. One member of the church, greatly shocked, came in great haste for Mr. Redfield to go and see the brother. From the words and manner of the messenger he supposed the brother was in a fit of some kind, and he caught up his medicine case and hurried to the house; but on entering he found the brother clapping his hands and shouting, “Glory, glory to God!” while his face shone with a heavenly radiance. The excited messenger was now more shocked to hear Mr. Redfield join the brother in the praises of God. Excitedly he exclaimed:
“I don’t like this, at all!”
“Well, it’s none of your business,” replied Mr. Redfield; “this brother is not your property; he belongs to God, and God has a perfect right to bless him all he pleases.”
“But,” said the other, “what if he never gets over this? what will become of him?”
“He’ll never be fit for another horse-race, as long as he lives,” was the reply.
“Well, I wouldn’t have that spell on me for five hundred dollars,” said the frightened man.
“Make yourself perfectly easy about that matter,” said Mr. Redfield, “for I assure you, you are in no danger, for God will keep clear of you while you are in this mood.”
“About this time,” says Mr. Redfield, “I was called to go and visit a lady, dying with the consumption. She was reduced to a mere skeleton, and to all appearances, might die that night. I tried to point her to Jesus as the great physician of souls, and besought her to cast herself upon him at once. To encourage her, I told her of a man whom I had lately visited, who was sick like her, and without hope, but who was so desirous of salvation that he tried to get on his knees, though he was so weak that as often as he made the effort he would fall over. But he found the Lord, and died in peace. I told her she need not try to get on her knees; that the Lord could hear her just as well when she was lying down. But as soon as I was gone she insisted upon getting on her knees, and with the assistance of a woman who was watching with her, she was enabled to do so, and while kneeling by her bedside the Lord saved her and healed her in the same moment. One or two Sabbaths after that she was in church, giving glory to God, who had healed her soul and body.
“Soon after this, I was called to see a brother who had lately been converted, but was now dying with the consumption. I found him apparently breathing his last. His wife and sister stood weeping by his bedside; and looking on was his only child, just old enough to know that his father was sick, and that his mother and aunty were feeling badly. The sick man was suffering terribly from suffocation, but his face was filled with smiles. I said to him, “Dear brother, if you are able to speak again, tell me if you feel Jesus sustains you.”
“With a desperate effort, in monosyllables, he answered, “Oh, — yes; — I — am — so — hap — py — I — don’t — feel — it — and — if — this — is — to — be — my — heaven — for — ev — er, —its —e — nough.”
“I was also invited to go and see a good old sister who, for many years, had enjoyed a deep experience in the things of God, but who was now passing away to the spirit land. I went in company with her Class Leader, and when we entered the stairway leading to her room, the counseling physicians in the hall at the head of the stairs had just given the opinion that she was then dying. We were invited into the room, and her daughter told her that we had come, and then with her ear close to the old lady’s lips, she was able to get her request for us to pray. This we did, and then withdrew but scarcely had we got outside the door when her spiritual vision caught a full view of her coming Lord, and so great was the strength imparted by it that she raised to a sitting posture in the bed, and waving her hand in triumph, declared that she saw Jesus; and continued thus to triumph until she passed beyond the clouds.”
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