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Immediately after the camp meeting described in the last chapter, Mr. Redfield went to a small village a few miles away to spend the Sabbath. A number of retired business men, residing in the village, had built a commodious church and had presented it to the Methodists. The preacher appointed had staid away from the camp meeting to prepare a controversial sermon on baptism, which Mr. Redfield was destined to hear the following Sunday. Of course the appointment was out for this special sermon, and the door for the evangelist was closed for the morning. The minister was careful to keep it closed in the evening, also. An invitation to conclude the service gave an opportunity for a brief exhortation, in which Mr. Redfield set forth the type of religion that would save. The minister was very restless, but did not interfere. At the close of the service one of the men who had built the church came to the minister and asked who the stranger was who had spoken. The preacher thinking he was about to be reprimanded for allowing Mr. Redfield to speak, began to apologize, and said, “He is a local preacher from New York city.”
“Well,” said the inquirer, “if that is Methodist doctrine, why do you trifle with us as you have, by giving us bosh? Why not like an honest man tell us the truth?”
The poor preacher for the time was humbled.
Mr. Redfield began to observe many such instances of unfaithfulness, while men of less talent and learning but more zeal and faith, and consequently more efficient, were either kept out of the conferences, or crowded out on to the frontiers. He also found that some of these, both in the ministry and the laity, like the one just described, seemed to conspire against genuine Methodism. He saw that Asbury, Bramwell, Abbott and Nelson would not be tolerated by such ministers. He saw the lives of these worthies on sale at the book rooms, and sometimes peddled among the membership of the church by these ministers who took pains to hold up to ridicule those who strove to walk the same way. This caused him seasons of great depression of spirits. At these times he would be greatly tempted to give up the battle. Sometimes, he would conclude that he had looked on the dark side so much, that he might be deceived as to the real state of things.
Just at this time Sister Phoebe Palmer informed him of a brother in Western New York who felt the same as he did, and was engaged in the same kind of work. He determined to find this brother and by his aid settle the question that troubled him. It was also made known to him that this strange brother desired his attendance at a camp meeting about to be held, and he needed no urging to accept the invitation, and in due time was on his way to the place.
Speaking of his visit to the camp meeting and of his introduction to the man he wished to meet, Mr. Redfield says:
“I was full of conjectures as to the appearance and spirit of the man I was about to meet. I knew some Congregationalists and Presbyterians who were welcoming the doctrine and experience of holiness as it had been taught by the early Methodists; but to see a living Methodist who saw, felt, and labored, as I saw, felt and labored, was to be to me a treat indeed. On reaching the campground, Sister Palmer introduced him to me. He was very cautious, but courteous and hearty in his deportment. The next moment he was gone, I knew not where. I soon heard a voice leading a holiness meeting, to which I drew near and listened for some time, and finally said to myself, “I am not alone in my peculiar views of holiness.” I drew nearer, where I could see as well as hear, and found the speaker to be the very man whom I had come so far to see — Fay H. Purdy.
Referring to this meeting, Mr. Redfield continues: “I went into the stand one day between services, and found my friend in conversation with a pale, sickly-appearing man, who was confessing to him, with deep emotion, that he had wronged him. The sick man said: “I expect to die; I want to die in peace with all men. I have tried to injure your influence, and now I ask your pardon.” This was readily granted; and soon after I took my friend aside and said to him: “My brother, that confession is worth something, but I think you should never let it be known; let it die with you.” But how greatly was I shocked to see in the public prints a short time after, a more severe criticism on my friend from this same man than he had ever given before.
“This man included Sister Palmer and myself in these criticisms. I made no attempt to reply to him, and he soon dropped me. But Sister Palmer, or some one for her, returned the fire, and a newspaper war upon the subject of holiness here began, which to my knowledge was a prime cause of awful backsliding. I found places in my labors where confessions were made of this stamp:
“So many years ago I enjoyed the blessing of holiness; but when I saw in one of our Methodist papers articles against the doctrine of holiness, I first was shocked, and then began to reason: if ministers, who ought to know more than I do, say the doctrine is untrue, it may be I am mistaken. And giving up the doctrine, I soon lost the experience.” One of these owned up that it brought him to the gutter.
“Some of the preachers who encouraged the sickly man I have described, a few years after were glad to get rid of him.”
From this camp meeting Mr. Redfield went to another, and there found that the sickly minister, whose confession he had heard, had so cautioned the presiding elder, who was in charge, against him, that he was not allowed to labor much.
From here he went to Peekskill, where forty or fifty were converted in a few days.
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