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Mr. Redfield’s extreme and incessant labors now began to tell severely upon his naturally frail constitution. For some time each effort to preach had greatly exhausted him, and sometimes it had seemed as though he would never be able to preach again. Severe attacks of vomiting had now set in that indicated cancer of the stomach. He became so weak that he was obliged to lie down at the close of his sermons, and let others take charge of the altar work. All remedies failed, and, obliged to leave the field, he went home, as he supposed, to die. For a long time his sufferings were of the most excruciating character. It was six months before he entered a church again, and eight months before he preached another sermon. During this time his communion with God was uninterrupted, and, as the sequel shows, his affliction was to be a means of building him up more strongly in the faith. He says:
“In the midst of the severest pain my soul was so filled that sometimes I would cry out, “O Lord, I would not have one pain less.” My happiness at the thought of having fallen with my armor on, and that I was suffering for my zeal for God, and not for wickedness, was indescribable.
“I had found a home with a very kind family who did all for my comfort that lay in their power. To all appearances I could live but a short time; yet I would not allow any one to sit up with me, and these dear friends, without my knowledge, would come into my room in the night to look after me. When I found this out, I desired them not to do so. One night I locked my door so that they would feel themselves excused from watching me. I had scarcely laid down before I felt a peculiar sensation like a wave pass over me, from my head to my feet; and with it an impression as of a clear voice saying: “This is death.” I realized my condition, and thought, “They will find my door locked in the morning, and after awhile will force it open and find me dead.” Then I thought, “If this be death, I’ll go singing;” so I began the song commencing:
“I am on my way, passing over.”
I sung the first verse and began the second, when my voice failed, and I finished it in a whisper. I tried the third verse and my breath stopped. I then tried to move a hand, and then a foot, but could not. I felt a sensation all through me as though my spirit was about to leave the body. My eyes turned upward, and myriads of angelic spirits seemed to be hovering over me, as if waiting to bear me home. All my previous conceptions of the “innumerable company” were eclipsed by this vision. I thought: “How great must be the whole number if the escort for one poor man is so without number!”
“With the same suddenness with which it came on, that wave of death passed, and my heavenly visitors were gone.
“I had often prayed that I might have some testimony that was reliable, that the visions that dying Christians so often declare they have, are true, and this seemed to be in answer to my prayer.
“I had seen two sisters, both of them Christians, in quick succession, pass away with the consumption. Both of them professed to have found the experience of perfect love in one of my meetings. The first one gave me a kiss with her dying lips, and declared she saw angels, and heard them singing, and that children were mingled with them. She called upon her watchers to listen and to look. But one suggested to the other that she was out of her mind, to which she responded: “Oh, no! now look there! now listen!” But the scene and sound were only for herself.
“Soon after I was called, in company with the attending physician, to make the last visit to the other sister. On approaching the sick room, she asked:
“Who has come?’
“Your physician,” was the answer.
“Well, let him come in. And who is the other?’ she asked.
They told her, and she said: “Let him come in, too.”
“I approached the bed; around it stood her weeping husband and friends. Her eyes were already dimmed with the clouds of death. She asked her physician: “Doctor, am I not dying? I think I have been all day.” But the doctor knew not the power of divine grace and dared not answer. The more he hesitated the more she urged an answer. “Say, doctor, am I dying? You must tell me.” He touched her pulse and then her temple, and finally said: “Yes, you are now dying.” An indescribable smile instantly spread over her face; and she said: “Now let everybody come in that I may testify to them of the power of salvation in death.” She then sank into a gentle doze for a moment, and then again aroused herself, and with that heavenly smile upon her face she said: “Oh, yes, bless the Lord, I am dying.” She then reached out her hand, with the chill of death upon it, and, taking mine, she asked: “Oh, do you see those beautiful stars? I want to testify once more if I can to the power of this great salvation. O brother, do continue to preach holiness, for, oh, how it saves!”
“She had been quite offended at first, because I pressed her so strongly to give up conformity to the world, but now she seemed eager to encourage me to press it on others with all my might, for the glorious results were so rich.”
These incidents had made a deep impression upon his mind, and the vision described at the opening of this chapter he always thought was the fruition of the desire that was created by them.
While recovering from his sickness, he was invited to preach in one of the New York churches. After service he went to Dr. Palmer’s to dinner. When he had an opportunity to do so, he related some of these incidents to Sister P_____ and asked her views in regard to them. She replied, “I believe we should have more of them than we do, if we would not make a bad use of them;” and then added, “I wish Sister B_____ was here to tell you some facts concerning her mother.” The door bell that moment rang, and in came Sister B_____. Sister Palmer turned to her and said, “I wish you would tell Brother Redfield about the remarkable scenes at your mother’s death-bed.” When seated, Sister B_____ related the following:
“My mother enjoyed the blessing of perfect love for more than forty years. When she came down with the sickness that ended her life, my sister and I watched with her by turns all through it, until the last night, when mother said, “Now daughters, you must go to rest, for it will disturb me if you do not, for you are so worn. But I said to her, “Mother, you do not know how sick you are.” But she replied, “I now feel quite easy, but I cannot rest and know that you are not resting, when you are so weary.” My sister left the room, and I fixed me a place to lie down out of mother’s sight, and hid the light behind the fire-board. I had scarcely laid down when the room became as light as day. I could see all the furniture plainly, and the texture and stitches of the bedding that was spread over me.”
“But were you not dreaming?” asked Mr. Redfield.
“No,” she replied, “that could not be, for I thought of that, and I arose, and felt of myself, and tried various expedients to assure myself of the truth of the matter. I finally turned and looked at the bed where mother was, when I saw a crowd of angels hovering over her, with most heavenly faces. They were looking most intently toward where I knew mother’s face was. I gazed, and wondered that I felt no fear. Thus I continued, until I finally thought, “I must have some sleep, and will now lie down.” But the instant I closed my eyes, my mother called me. I sprang up and ran to her side. Daylight had come, and as I approached her, she raised her hands and said, “Oh, what a night I have had!”
“Why, mother,” I asked, ‘were you in pain? Why did you not call me? I did not leave the room.”
“Oh, no! daughter,” she said, “I was in no pain, but as soon as you left me, the angels came and staid with me all night.” The family were now called at her request; she gave them her last charge, and then passed away.”
Sister Palmer then related a circumstance of interest concerning a young lady of deep piety; who, with those around her when she was dying, heard most delightful music over their heads; and what was more strange, when the funeral procession was on the way to the grave the same music attended them, and returned with the family to the house. For months afterwards, it was occasionally heard over the place where she died.
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