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CHAPTER 23

As Mr. Redfield’s health began to improve, he entered the evangelistic field again. He was now more hopeful than ever before that the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which he belonged, would have her commission renewed “to spread scriptural holiness over these lands.” His views of the doctrine and the experience, and his methods of advancing them, had undergone a new test to him — a thorough and solemn review on the brink of eternity. He now entered the field with stronger faith, and courage, and determinations than ever. Several ministers of prominence and promise had entered into the experience and were clearly and boldly teaching it to their people, and the blessed fruit of it, in the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of believers, was gloriously manifest. He was now invited by one of these ministers to come to his assistance. A protracted meeting had been in progress for some time, and a goodly number had been converted. All at once the work stopped. Mr. Redfield immediately was in an agony, not knowing the cause. He resorted to prayer as usual at such times, and one night in church, while thus engaged, his distress was almost unendurable. He afterwards thought he ought to have given vent to his feelings before the people, but instead of that, he deliberately cast it off. As he did so the impression came very strongly to him, “Let them alone;” and then he had such a view of their desolation, and being forsaken of God, and of their being visited by death, that he could but pray it out before the people. He left the place, but meeting with the pastor some time afterwards, he was informed that a peculiar disease broke out among the people after the meeting closed, and many were swept into eternity. The minister also informed him that one cause of the revival being checked had come out, and that was the banding together of a large number of young men to resist it.

Again he was invited to a place where he had been before, and was assured by the Lord that it was not his will for him to labor there. But the correspondence opened the way for him to go to another place where Methodism had never succeeded in gaining a footing. Here he experienced much opposition from other churches. It was about ten miles from G_____ (probably Goshen). There was one church in the place occupied by a bigoted old minister who claimed the ground as a sort of a parish. He had another flock about three miles east, and still another about five miles in another direction, to whom he preached about twice a year, besides attending their weddings and funerals. A short time before Mr. Redfield’s visit, a Methodist man attempted to hold a prayer meeting in the village schoolhouse, but so great was the opposition that the doors were nailed up so he could not get in. When Mr. Redfield arrived he found an Episcopalian lady who knew something of the power of salvation, and she invited him to make her house his home. Her husband was an infidel, and apparently made so by the unholy type of religion he saw about him. The schoolhouse was now open and Mr. Redfield gave out an appointment to preach in the evening, and though the weather was severe the people came in large numbers. The women kept closely veiled, or stood outside and looked in at the windows, and he had to do his own singing and praying. He commenced a regular visitation of the people from house to house. As an illustration of his reception he records the following as having occurred in the house of Deacon_____:

“Good morning, Deacon. How are you prospering in the way to heaven?’ I inquired.

“We don’t want any of your fanaticism here,” was the answer.

“But I suppose you love God, and his ways?”

“I tell you, we don’t want any elements of discord introduced here.”

“I suppose you have often prayed for the salvation of your children?”

“Yes, sir; I have.”

“Well, suppose we pray for them now.”

“You are not wanted here, sir; we want none of your disturbance, for we are all at peace now.”

“But, Deacon, I think we will pray for your children now.”

“I want you to leave my house.”

“Well, but I think I will pray first.”

“So down on my knees I went, and prayed for the old man and his family; and then went on to another deacon’s house. I found him alone. His face was white with rage. I tried to draw him into religious conversation, but he would not answer me. After a long and fruitless effort to get him to say something, I at last asked to pray with him before I left. “Pray if you have a mind to,” was his short and gruff reply. I needed no further invitation, and I knelt down and thanked God for the kind and Christian deportment of the deacon who was so willing to let me pray in his house. The next day the deacon was in the schoolhouse, and as soon as there was an opportunity he arose and asked the privilege of speaking. I gave him permission, and he proceeded to tell the congregation that I was at his house the day before; how mad he was at the sight of me; how roughly he treated me; and how I prayed for him like a Christian. “But,” said he, “after Mr. Redfield was gone I began to reflect, and when night came, I went to bed, but not to sleep; for I could not. Finally my agony of mind was so great that I got up and knelt down before the Lord. It seemed to me I should die before morning, and I dared not sleep. I remained all night upon my knees praying for my soul, and about daybreak God spoke peace to me, and now I have got religion.”

“This testimony took hold upon the congregation with great power.”

Concerning his method of work in this place, Mr. Redfield continues: “I did not feel called upon to put any great task or cross upon the people, such as coming to any particular place or bench. I could discern by their manner those who were sufficiently awakened to make the right move. So I asked, simply, that all who desired to be saved to stand up. The work soon broke out in great power.

“An old lady sent for me one day, whose two daughters had been very clearly saved, and whose bright testimonies had put the old lady’s hope in the shade. When I reached the house and was introduced to her, I saw her face was the picture of despair. With great emotion she said, “O sir, my daughters tell me they know their sins are forgiven, and that they know they are the children of God; and I don’t know what to think of myself.” Not to shock her too badly, I thought best to accommodate my language to her by the use of the terms in which her church was accustomed to speak of religious states of mind. So I replied: “I suppose, madam, that you already entertain a hope.”

“Oh, no!” said she with evident horror; “I would not dare to be so presumptuous;” and then in a nervous, sententious manner, she said, “I — do — think — I — can — say — that — I — have — a — desire — that — I — might — have — a — hope.”

“This is a type of most of what passed for religious experience in this place.

“I found one, however, who knew the power of salvation. She was in the last stages of the asthma, and in great suffering from suffocation. Her minister had been sent for to visit her, but he did not come. When I entered her room I was greatly moved to see her gasping for breath. As she could not lie down, she was bolstered up in the bed; her face was swollen, her breathing very short and labored, and her voice could be heard but a few feet from her. Her sister, with her ear to the sick woman’s lips, could catch the answers to my questions and repeat them to me. I asked her if she found religion a satisfying portion in the midst of such great distress.

“She answered: “I am so filled with comfort and joy that if this agony of dying is to be forever I am perfectly content and happy.”

“I went to the afternoon meeting, and there saw the minister, who had been persuaded to come and give this poor flock an extra sermon. He was about opening the services, so I took my seat and listened. After a formal opening, he began his sermon by stating that he was set for the defense of the gospel, and while he was upon the walls of Zion he must protect his flock from ravening wolves. He then opened his batteries on John Wesley and the Methodist Church, and warned his people to keep clear of them, and not to forsake the religion of their fathers. He then, in substance, told them that he would relate to them what he had read in a New York paper. (I had read the same and knew what was coming.) “But,” said he, “I shall not call names? He then proceeded to say: “A man came from New York to a village about thirty miles from there, and told the people that they had the devil in them, and they must take an emetic which he had prepared for the in, and vomit him up. But I am not going to speak his name now. Well, he got some to take it, and it was found that they would die, and the constable was after this man, but I shall call no names.”

“The meeting closed, and one of the principal men in the place said to the minister: “You had better stay to the meeting tonight, Mr. E_____, and hear this man preach, and see if you have treated him just right.”

“No,” said the minister, “I cannot stay with you?

“But you have implied some very hard things against Mr. Redfield, and I think it no more than right that you should be at some pains to learn what you evidently know nothing about.”

“But away he went. One of his members approached me and said: “Mr. Redfield, I have hated the very sight of you; and when I saw you passing along the street it has been with difficulty that I could refrain from whipping you. But I won’t see you so abused. And if you will build a Methodist Church here I’ll give you fifty dollars.” Another immediately said: “I’ll give you a lot.” And still another: “I’ll give fifteen dollars.” And so it went on, and in a short time we had a church erected and dedicated, and the last I heard from the place they had a flourishing Methodist circuit there. The minister’s opposition laid the foundation for three new churches and built one, and made a good appointment for a preacher, and has been regularly supplied from conference ever since.” (1863.)

Soon after the close of these labors Mr. Redfield attended a camp meeting where he met many of the preachers who had promised him to stand by the work of holiness; but he found they had backed down and did not know it. They took him one side to counsel with him. They said: “Brother Redfield, you know that everywhere you go revivals break out in great power, and the people are converted by the hundred and sometimes by the thousand.”

“Yes,” said he, “I know it, and I know too that it is but the legitimate workings of holiness in the hearts of the people.”

“Well, well,” said one, “that is all granted; but, Brother Redfield, are you willing to take advice?”

“Most certainly, if it is good.”

“Well, now if you could adopt any way by which thousands would be converted where now you see only hundreds,”--

“Most gladly do I desire to do all I can.”

“Well,” said he, and the rest all concurred in it, “if you will not say so much about “holiness,” “perfect love,” and “sanctification,” and not press any one up to these things, for that makes many people in mad, and many of our preachers afraid of you; some say you can never do good enough to overbalance the harm you have already done; and you get so many prejudiced against yourself, and it must be very uncomfortable for you to have to meet so many prejudices,”

“Well, what would you have me do?” said Mr. Redfield.

“We would have you cease to use these terms which arouse the prejudices of some, and, Brother Redfield, you can preach up Bible religion as high as the Bible warrants, but drop the objectionable terms.”

One of the preachers then said: “I am pastor of the church in, where the people were so offended at you that they would not let you stay; but I have preached the doctrine of holiness up very strong, and have done it so cautiously, that no one knew what I was preaching about. And they have endorsed it; and now they are willing to have you come back.” (Mr. Redfield says: “I afterwards went back, and found them worse than before.”)

In speaking of this advice, he says: “It is just the thing to take with me, I thought. What a Godsend that these brethren have helped me out of all my difficulties! I do find, certainly, all the opposition I can stand under. I am willing to work without fee or charge, but my nature shrinks when called unflinchingly to stand for God, and either in word or tacitly tell the time-serving preacher that he is the enemy of God. I don’t ask any office in the church higher than that of a local preacher, but I dare not do otherwise than take that. But now I have found an easier way apparently, and a way to accomplish much more for God; a way to be for once and forever free from slanders and misunderstandings which follow, me all over the land. So out I went as soon as the season for protracted meetings began, and attempted to preach the best I knew how, and yet avoid the objectionable terms. But I found my power with God and man was gone. Two or more weeks resulted in but one person being moved, and she so slightly that she did not stand a week. Well, thought I, my mission is ended, and God has got through with me. So I can now go home and attend to business, and bid farewell to this rough, toilsome and heartaching cause. How good it will be to feel once more that 1 am not an Ishmaelite, with my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me. But before I leave the field I’ll take counsel of some good man. In casting about for some one to give me that counsel, I thought of a pious old colored man who, I thought, would be unprejudiced in every way. I went to his home and took him out into a grove, and told him all my experience in holiness; about my labors; how God had manifested himself in saving souls through me, when the doctrine of holiness was preached. I then told him that my mission with the great power God had given me was gone and that I thought God was done with me.

“My brother,” said the old man, “haint you nebber compermised?’

“Compromised?’ said I, ‘why, no! I would as soon cut off my arm! I dare not do that.” But recollecting myself, I said: “I have been counseled by some good preachers to avoid the use of the terms, perfect love, sanctification, holiness, etc., because the people’s prejudices were so strong against it that they became angry at me and I could not do them the good I desired. But I try to preach the Bible truth as high as ever.”

“Dat is it. Dare is lust where de trubbel lie. Now what God call sanctification, you no bizness to call anysin else. It isn’t you de people hates; ’t is de Lor’.”

“God so let the light shine through this old black diamond that I saw there was the very place where I lost my mission and power; and I said: “I’ll go right back and preach these doctrines right in the notch where I used to, and in the meantime seek my power over again.” But scarcely had I touched the old key before the power came. God had not condemned, but dropped me, that I might learn this lesson, that we must follow him in all things, great and small.”

He now went to a place where the parish minister not only cautioned his people against him, but brought to light an old law which gave him authority over the people, even to the use of the rod on minors, and he threatened to use it if they did not stay away from the meetings. This moved the hearts of the people in the right direction, and a Methodist church was built and supplied with preaching as the result.

He then went to the place where the preacher had won the people over to love holiness by preaching it in such a guise that they did not know what he was at. But Mr. Redfield found the state of affairs bad enough. There again, he had one of his awful burdens. He thought he must be fainting away, and went to a window and raised it, and when he found the fresh air did not help him, he knew it was a burden. But so intense was his agony that he thought he could not endure it, when the suggestion came: “Cast thy burden on the Lord.” He knelt down, and gave vent to his feelings in sobs and groans and tears. The burden passed away, and as it did so left him with the feeling that God had withdrawn from the place, and his labors there were at an end. This proved to be true, and he left.

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