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CHAPTER 20

When the spring came Mr. Redfield went to Long Island to spend the summer and recruit. He preached in the villages on Sunday and attended prayer and class meetings during the week. Before preaching he would go into the woods and plead with God until he received assurances of divine help.

Referring to these times, he says: “While under the Spirit’s influence and power in preaching, I would often see and proclaim truths that put my own experience and piety to the test. I have profited more by trying to practice the truths which I have seen at such times, than from the preaching of others.”

At a camp meeting in the early fall, his presiding elder requested him to supply a vacant pulpit until the season for holding revival meetings. This charge had been abandoned by the preacher appointed by the conference. Mr. Redfield had no sooner consented to go than he was advised by an old preacher not to go, for, said he: “In all my labors for twenty six years I have never seen a place so hopeless.” But Mr. Redfield resolved to make the trial. When he arrived at the place, he learned that the society was organized by Jesse Lee, of blessed memory, who at the time was sent of God in answer to prayer; that the church had once been in a flourishing condition; that four classes had been reduced to one; that many of the members had not been in class for three years; that one leader had not met his class for a year; that some of the members were Universalists; that some were habitual drinkers; and that there was an old, unsettled quarrel of twenty years’ standing between some of the members. This made him very sad. He says: “My first visit was to an old man, the principal on one side in that quarrel. He asked me if I had come to be their preacher. I told him I had. “Well,” said he, ‘there is no use, unless you put the people through a course of discipline.” He then, in a rapid and zealous manner, began to bring their sins to light, and to tell me how much he had suffered by them. I said, “Hold on a moment.”

“I tell you,” said he, “they are not worthy of church fellowship.”

“Wait a moment I interposed.

“Oh, there’s no use of your trying to do anything here amid so much of wrong; and everybody knows it.”

“I had to let him go on. When at last he was almost out of breath, I managed to make him hear me and got him stopped. I then said: “Now, brother, you are much older than I am, and I don’t feel myself capable of attempting to settle the matter until I have asked God for wisdom.” At this I knelt, and he knelt with me. I then determined not to rise until God melted his heart. I struggled in prayer for some time, when at last he began to cry out, “O my God, what have I been about! Lord, have mercy upon me! Oh, how wickedly have I sinned against thee!” Finally he said, “I want a meeting called, so that I can confess my wrong and my sin, for I am the one to blame. A meeting was called and the offended members readily received the old man’s confession and forgave him, and the breach was healed.

“One of my visits was to old Brother V_____’s, who was one of the first members that joined the society. At his house, for many years, the few pious ones used to meet to ask God to send them a preacher “after his own heart”. It was in answer to their prayers that Jesse Lee came and organized them into a class. The old brother bad been a very efficient leader and exhorter, but now his understanding and memory were in ruins. His good wife said to him, “Father, here is the preacher who has been sent to us.” The old man raised from his stooping position in the chimney corner, and, with a vacant, wavering stare, said, “Why-how-is your mother? Well? Why you look good.” I had heard that pious old people, however broken, would sometimes remember well matters of religion; and after satisfying myself that he was only able to converse in a very incoherent manner, I abruptly inquired, “Father V_____, do you know one Jesus of Nazareth?’ Instantly his whole demeanor changed, and, with an intelligent air, he answered, “Yes, I have known him a great many years. He is my Saviour, and he’ll not turn me off;” and then repeated many passages of Scripture and several hymns, so appropriate to the thought he first expressed that I was amazed and could hardly assure myself that he had not been trying to play a deception upon me.

“The Sabbath came, and I went to church. A goodly number had come, probably from curiosity, to see the new preacher. I had resolved to deliver my own soul regardless of persons or conditions, by declaring the whole counsel of God. But I saw no favorable indications. After a few efforts during the week following to bring about a change, and finding it all in vain, I went to sinners and exhorted them to flee from the wrath to come. The response from them was, “Go look after your ungodly members.” Sabbath came again, and I delivered my message in view of the judgment. When I was leaving the church, I met the principal member of the official board, who accosted me thus, “We don’t like your preaching here at all, nor the chapters you read from the pulpit. Hell is not very popular here.”

“I inquired, “Will you tell me, brother, what I have preached that is not Bible truth?’

“Well,” said he, “I believe it is true.”

“Do you want me to preach lies?’ I asked.

“I went home, weeping along the street. I now saw if I was going to accomplish anything, I must do it with my might. So Monday morning I went to the grove, and knelt before the Lord in prayer. It seemed as though the powers of darkness were all about me. The sensations I experienced were as if by the hardest effort I was overcoming great obstacles and rising higher and higher until my head struck against a rock, and I sank back overcome. I arose and sought another place to plead with God, and there experienced the same. Thus I continued day after day through the week. I would go to the house once in a while and get something to eat, and then return to the struggle. Sometimes my agony was such that it seemed to me I could rend the heavens with my cries for the salvation of sinners. It seemed to me that if I could hold on until the victory came I should see them saved. When Saturday night came my very brain seemed sore, and the jar of my step gave me pain. I felt a kind of bewilderment coming on, but I had received no answer I had resolved, in the name of God, to see a break and salvation come to the church on the next Sabbath, or an end put to its standing as a stench in the nostrils of the Almighty and the world.

“Sunday morning came, and with eyes sore from weeping, and my brain tender from the continual struggle of the week, I walked softly and carefully to the church, and into the pulpit. In opening the service, I said to the membership: “This day ends my labors in this place. You do not want me here, and I do not want to stay, for I am heartily tired of pouring water on to rocks. But if God will help me, I will either see a break today, or see this ungodly apology for Methodism annihilated. I have asked no man’s money; I go at my own expense; but I shall go straight for God.” Nothing seemed to move in the morning. In the evening I went into the pulpit again, and announced that I should redeem my pledge. Of course this aroused their hate to a high pitch. As God helped, I pointed out the track of an acceptable disciple, and the only one that could possibly pass the gates of Paradise. At the close of the sermon, I asked those, and only those who meant it and would take this track, and where needed go to their neighbors and confess to them, and pray with them, and who would seek for the blessing of holiness until they knew they had it, to rise. I didn’t believe I could get them to come forward. Two only arose, and they were of the most lowly. “Well,” said I, “there seem to be but three of us, counting myself as one, and God besides; but I think we will try and have a prayer meeting.” Those two and myself were all that would kneel, I in the altar, and they at their seats, about halfway down the church. I opened with a short prayer, and began to rise in spirit until I struck that rock again. I then asked some one else to pray, but no one responded, and I tried again with the same experience and result, and the third time, and the fourth, and fifth, until the sixth time, in immediate succession. I now felt that this is the last time, and that if I did not get the victory, God would say to me, “Let them alone.” The case was a desperate one, and I knew the world and the devil were against me, and the church members who would not kneel; but I said in my prayer, “O God, I’ll go as far as I can.” Again in spirit I began to rise, and soon I struck that rock again, and it seemed to shiver to atoms. Instantly the house was filled with the divine glory. The two who were kneeling with me fell, and their shouts and screams were so loud that they alarmed the village. The people came running in to see what was the matter, and as they crowded up the aisles and saw the two prostrate under the power of God, tears chased each other down their faces; and the poor tempted members began one after another to confess their hostility, and ask for pardon, and promised to take the track pointed out to them. I staid one more week, and forty-five sinners were converted. The preacher who had abandoned the work returned, and the revival went on in power for some time. Ten or fifteen years afterward, I heard from that society, and it still was doing well.”

He was now waited upon by a preacher from a place about seven miles away, who said, “I want you to come to our church. We have been holding meetings for three weeks, and not one soul is yet converted. And it is the request of the Baptist and Presbyterian ministers also, for you to come. He went, and without consulting the minister as to what course he should pursue, he followed what be believed to be the leadings of the Holy Spirit. The first night while he was preaching, some arose and went out of the house in great haste, slamming the doors as they went; but they soon returned, and did the same thing over again. He learned after the meeting was dismissed that they were members of the church who took this method to show their disapproval of his preaching. They went to the preacher and told him that he must send Mr. Redfield away, or he would ruin the church. The Baptist and Presbyterian ministers gave him similar advice. The next night the congregation was larger than before, though these opposers had prophesied to the contrary. He preached as he felt God desired him to. Now none even came to the altar, and it was said he had broken up the revival. Two or three who had been forward before he came now refused to come. He sent the next day to see what the difficulty was, and was informed that they had no design of changing their lives at all, but had thought if the Methodists praying for them would do them any good, they were willing to let them do it. Now they did not care to go any farther. From this Mr. Redfield was satisfied that he had not harmed the revival, and resolved to keep on in the track on which he had started. Now the opposers became very angry, and began to advise the people to stay away, for the preacher was not fit to be heard, and was no proper representative of Methodism. A prominent infidel met some of them face to face, and said, “Let that man alone; he is the only honest man among you, for he dares to tell the whole truth. He cuts me up ‘“fore and aft,” but I shall still go, for I like to see a man who is honest for his God.” He did keep on, and was converted. Now the war began in dead earnest. Ministers of other denominations continued to counsel and advise, and their conclusions were that to allow him to stay any longer would be the ruin of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This greatly emboldened the opposers in the church. The Baptists and Presbyterians left their churches and appointed meetings each side of him to keep their members away.

Mr. Redfield went before the Lord with the matter. He says, “I felt to say, “O Lord, thou knowest I don’t know what to do. Give me thy help for this once. Tell me what the message is.” A text and subject were presented to my mind from which I shrank. I said, “O Lord, that will never do; for the people are so much offended now that this will produce a perfect tempest and break up the meeting.” The instant I shrank I was in the dark, and distressed beyond endurance; I now cried out, “Lord, show me the way, and I’ll follow.” Then that text and subject came again. Finally I asked the Lord to direct me to some appropriate text as corroborative, if that was his will. I opened the Bible at random and put my finger down on the words, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace, but speak for I am with thee,” etc. — Acts xviii. 9, 10. I said, “Lord, I will venture it at all hazards, although I am sure that I shall be stopped before I am through.” When I went to the church I found instead of a small congregation the house was so crowded that it was necessary to throw open the unfurnished galleries, which had never been used before. The two meetings on either side of us, which had been appointed to draw off the people, were deserted. But now was to come the tug of war. One thing encouraged me: the preacher in charge was a very devoted man. Though he said but little, I knew he was ready to identify himself with the right and to rise or fall with it. But I expected trouble with the people, and especially with the official board. When I went into the pulpit I thought, “They will order me out before I can read the first hymn; but I will proceed until they stop me.” I read for the first hymn the one commencing:

“Shall I for fear of feeble man,

The Spirit’s course in me restrain?

Or undismayed in deed and word,

Be a true witness of my Lord?”

“Such an unction was given that every word fell upon the congregation with great power. When I had finished I thought, “Well, I have read my hymn, and I have not been ordered out yet;” but the temptation came: “If you pray as you feel you will be collared by some of the officials and taken out.” I resolved to go as far as I could, and just as the Holy Ghost should prompt me. When I finished the prayer I thought, “I have prayed, and I am not ordered out yet.” I read another hymn, and after the singing, I announced for my text: “I AM hath sent me unto you;” and as the Spirit gave me utterance, I tried to show them, first, that my authority was from God; second, that the message was from God; third, that the message was unbending in its requirements, and was not to be trifled with.

“I felt an unearthly thrill charging me from head to foot, while the place was filled with a sense of the awful presence of God. I soon saw that the minds of the congregation were in great commotion; and in a few minutes the power of God broke like a thunder clap upon the people, and such screaming, falling, shouting, and crying for mercy I had no thought of seeing in that place. All denominational lines were obliterated in an instant, and Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists took each other by the hand, and with deep emotion declared this God to be their God. After this the work went gloriously. One brother said to me that night: “I now see what was the matter with our revival five years ago; we did not go deep enough. It was for the want of the strong doctrine of holiness that it all fell away, for out of five hundred converts we had hardly one left that has not backslidden.”

Mr. Redfield was now invited by a good old brother to come to his help in a place about five or six miles away. He had been doing his best to start the work without presenting the heart-stirring doctrines of holiness. Mr. Redfield felt it his duty to tell the people how gloriously the work of holiness would move the work of conversions forward, and called upon the church to begin to seek the experience. He then asked those who desired to seek pardon to rise to their feet, when fifteen immediately responded. The next day the preacher and he visited from house to house. At the first house at which they called they found the woman rejoicing in the fullness of salvation, while busy at work over the wash-tub. She said: “I came from the church last night fully resolved to seek for perfect love, and immediately set about it, and before morning came God gave me the desire of my heart. It does seem as though I never found it so easy to get along before. I tried to sweep this morning, and the very broom seemed to move itself. My children never seemed so obliging and good as they do this morning. Oh, glory to God in the highest!

His calls to help the preachers were now so numerous that he could spend but a short time in each place. He had met with a preacher at a camp meeting in the fall who now desired him to come to his assistance. It was about ten or fifteen miles distant, in a large and fashionable church. There had been a very extensive revival in the church the winter before. He went, but with great misgivings about coming under the minister’s influence, for he seemed to be very superficial in his work. They had hardly commenced before he informed Mr. Redfield one day that they were invited out to tea. This Mr. Redfield feared was a trick of the devil to dissipate his communion with God, and he frankly told the minister he dared not go out to afternoon parties of any kind, for he had only time and strength to do God’s work, and he felt the need of being closeted with God every moment when not at church, or traveling from place to place. The preacher told him he need not fear any irreligious tendencies. Mr. Redfield says: “I was over-persuaded, and for once I yielded. When we arrived, I found the parlors filled with gay, but intelligent women, some of whom were members of the church. My heart sank within me, and I desired to withdraw. But the preacher assisted in giving a religious tendency to the gathering; yet this forced apology for religion only pained me. Tea was soon passed around, and I had paid all the compliments I desired to. As soon as this was over I sang a spiritual hymn, and then knelt in prayer, and we continued until all the nice and shaped-up order was broken, and God came in slaying power. This good beginning was a sample after which we patterned, an held social meetings every afternoon in private houses. These fitted us for the public services at night in the church, where God saved a multitude of sinners. Yet I must say, I think it is hazardous to undertake a system of fashionable visiting in connection with a revival meeting.

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