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About this time the preacher from Bridgeport, Connecticut, came to Mr. Redfield and invited him to assist him in revival services at that place. He said:
“We must have a revival or lose our church. Our people have been robbed for years of the fruit of their labors by the proselytizing system of other churches; and they at last came to the conclusion to build a church which would overtop all others, and thus gain a position in the community which would command respect. But now we must lose it, for we are owing twelve thousand dollars, and we cannot raise that amount. You must come and help us.”
Mr. Redfield replied, “I am sorry your people have been trying to win a name by worldly policy. I dread to meet the spirit which such a state of things is sure to foster. My experience has taught me that such a state of things is against the faithful preaching of the doctrine and experience of holiness.”
The preacher acknowledged the mistake of the people, but said, “We have it and can’t afford to throw it away. What can we do? Must we give it up and let Methodism be driven out of the place? Or shall we try to save it?”
Mr. Redfield finally said, “I will go;” but it was with a heavy heart. He knew God would hold him responsible for the faithful presentation of the truth and thorough dealing with men. He was almost certain that he would meet with great opposition. Referring to the state of things at this place, he says:
“When I arrived I saw a stately edifice, eclipsing all others in exterior splendor. Two great towers, one bearing a bell and the other a clock, reared their massive proportions in front; the whole of antique architecture and “loud” appearance. My heart ached in view of the prospect. I thought, “This course will destroy the last vestige of real Methodism, unless God come to the rescue.” I could see none among the ministry who dared to risk their chances of preferment by attempting to stem the tide. But somebody must fearlessly take sides with God, and he will possibly be crushed for his pains. I thought I comprehended the situation; I realized my own weakness; but I resolved in the name of God and pure religion to do my duty. When I had done so, I felt a strengthening of my soul, and the sweet assurance that God approved of the vow.”
In his preaching, from the commencement, he endeavored to arraign the conscience before God. At the close of the first service the pastor, on the way home, asked if a less objectionable class of truths could not be used. Mr. Redfield replied: “Do you think Jesus would mutilate the truth, and tacitly give men to think that he had preached the whole? and this when he had not touched the real evil of the case?”
“Well,” said he, “I am afraid your course will ruin us.”
“Brother,” said Mr. Redfield, “what time does the next train leave here?”
“Why, you must not leave?”
“O my brother,” said Mr. Redfield, “I certainly shall leave if I cannot go the Bible track. I will allow you to call me to account at any time when you find me outside the Bible and the Methodist discipline, but I insist be free to preach the whole truth.”
“Well,” said he, “you must stay, and we must have a revival or lose our church.”
“I feel no interest in your saving your church in the present condition of things. It would be no calamity to religion to lose it, unless it can better represent Methodism than it does at present.”
Said the preacher, “You must stay; and do be as easy with us as you can.”
Mr. Redfield replied, “I’ll be as easy as God will let me, but no more so; and I wonder that any one can ask me to lower the standard of the only religion that can save!”
Mr. Redfield went on with his work in the name of God and truth. In one of the afternoon meetings Fay H. Purdy, who was assisting him, fell to the floor while Mr. Redfield was praying. This was something new to the congregation, and unexpected to the minister.22Rev.Clement Combes, who was present. The husband of one of the members, a man who paid well, but was without salvation, arose, apparently in great anger, and left the house. At this the preacher became alarmed. After a little, one sister arose and began to confess to dancing, playing cards, novel reading, and conformity to the world. The preacher became very uneasy, and finally arose and cautioned the people against looking on the dark side, and referred them to the old prophet who complained that he only was left to serve God; and how God corrected him with the assurance that there were seven thousand in the land who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Mr. Redfield saw the tendency of this was bad, and arising, said: “That is all true in the case of the old prophet; but I insist that if these members have been dancing, card-playing, novel-reading, and behaving in general as the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus ought not, it is due to him and the truth and the world that they confess their sins as publicly as they have committed them. It is only thus they can restore themselves to the confidence of the world as the representatives of the religion of Jesus. The cause of Jesus has been slandered by their conduct; and is in disrepute because of it. Common honesty demands that the wrong should be charged where it belongs. If Jesus has not disgraced his own cause, do not compel him to bear the odium that now rests upon it. If they have done this thing, it is the honorable way for them to say to the world that neither Jesus nor his gospel is at fault.”
The Lord soon began to manifest himself in great power in the conviction, conversion, and sanctification of souls. When victory began to seem certain, the other churches began to accuse Mr. Redfield of bigotry, because he had not invited them to participate in the meetings. His experience in other places enabled him to perceive the motive that underlay this, and that was their desire to gather the converts into their own churches. He also saw that it would not do arbitrarily to rule them out, and that it would be for the good of all concerned if they, like the Methodists, should become as thoroughly reformed. He then gave them an invitation to unite in the work, but at the same time insisted that they should humble themselves before the Lord, and that as many of them as had been addicted to dancing, and card playing, etc., should make the same confessions the Methodists had. He told them they would have to do this if they ever regained the confidence of the community, and were in a condition to assist in the work. This had a salutary effect. It removed the objection which had been made, and put the responsibility of their non-affiliation where it belonged.
One of the ministers still stood out upon the technical objection that he had not been invited in writing. But his motive was so apparent that his attitude was no hindrance to the work. He was the one above all others who had despised the Methodists, and yet had labored the hardest to gather their converts into his church.
The skeptical portion of the community now put forth an effort to check the work by disturbing the services, and the strong arm of the law had to be invoked to stop their proceedings. The same persons then attempted to accomplish their purpose by petty annoyances beneath the notice of the law. To meet this, one Sunday evening at the opening of the service, Mr. Redfield told the Christians present not to fear the opposition, for victory was as certain as that God was the author of the gospel. God might allow these annoyances and persecutions for a while, but if they were likely seriously to hinder the work, he would take life if necessary to stop them. He then related a number of instances of this character which had come under his own observation. The next day, at dinner, in a house opposite the church, a daughter of the family residing there, aroused the company by relating what Mr. Redfield said, and characterized it as an attempt to frighten the people, and said, “I would like to know who will be the first to be knocked down in this place for ridiculing religion. Let us try it!” She then began clapping her hands, and shouting, “Glory, glory, glory,” and instantly fell to the floor in great agony. Word went out that she was dead, and was smitten down while ridiculing religion. An eyewitness of the scene related it in a large boarding house, where were a number who had been engaged in a similar manner, and who were now greatly shocked at what they heard. All opposition of this kind now ceased and the revival went forward with increased power. In a few weeks over five hundred were converted.
The young girl who was so suddenly stricken down lay four or five days in that condition, and then was restored, but with a permanently impaired mind.
As Mr. Redfield was about to go to another place, the minister in B_____ said, “Before you go you must take the converts into the church.” It was arranged for this to be done the following Sunday. At the close of the sermon in the morning, Mr. Redfield requested all who desired to unite with the church, to come forward and be seated in the front pews. A large number came, when he addressed them as follows:
“It is your duty to unite with some church. You need to be under its watch-care. I do not ask you to join the Methodists, nor do we want you unless you are in every essential point a Methodist. I do not know as one here desires to join the Methodists, but if there should be, I will tell you what we shall expect of you. We desire no one to come among us who will engage in proselytizing from other churches. We shall expect you to live up to our rules. (Here he read the General Rules of the Discipline, commenting on them as he passed along.) You perceive from these, there can be on your part no more dancing, nor card-playing, nor novel-reading, nor pleasure parties, nor wearing of jewelry, nor worldly conformity. This may seem hard to you, but there are other churches that are not so strict as this, where you will be welcome. You will only be a curse to us by your example and influence if you do not conform to our rules. Some of you know how faithfully we have had to deal with some here during these meetings, who have lived contrary to these rules. And I would say, if there are any still among us who are not in sympathy with our rules, and have not determined to obey them, you had better do so immediately, or take your letters and go where things are more to your mind.” (Here the preacher became very uneasy, and Mr. Redfield expected to be called to order, but he was allowed to proceed.)
“I have now told you only what you cannot do and be a Methodist. I will now tell you what you must do to be a Methodist. We shall expect of you a faithful attendance upon all the means of grace; class and prayer meetings, the preaching services, and family religion. We shall expect you to be active in seeking the conversion of sinners, by personal labor for them and with them. You will be expected to make religion the first business of your lives. All worldly matters are to be considered but the small chores of life. If you cannot make this pledge to us, that you will conform to these rules, you had better go where it will not be required of you. If you go elsewhere to have the privilege of a life of inactivity in the cause of Christ, and of doing as you please in loving the world and conforming to it, you will come, by and by, to death, how soon none can tell; it may be a year; a month; a week; and you will open your eyes to see that you have exerted an influence, which is still in operation, that turns immortal souls out of the way to heaven and into the way to ruin. Now pass on to the judgment and see how it will appear there. Behold the souls over which your influence preponderated, like the grain of sand which turns the scale, and fixed their destiny forever among the lost. On the other hand, if you choose to join where all these things are required of you, which you perceive are in harmony with the word of God, your influence will be felt, and will tell on the side of salvation. If your probation in this life should be long or short, in death you may pillow your head on the bosom of Jesus, and leave behind you an influence in the Christian activity of those whom you helped to decide aright, that shall work on through the ages while you are sleeping in the dust; and in the great day of God there shall stand among the redeemed the blessed fruit of your decision, to rejoice with you forever.”
Both the church and the preacher, if Mr. Redfield rightly interpreted the indications, were in great fear as to the results of this address. But when he asked those who wished to do so, to give their names to the church, more than one hundred responded; and in a few days some four hundred more did the same. And what was peculiar, not a single one united with any other denomination. Soon after this, the debt that hung over their church property was paid, and a second church had to be built to accommodate the congregation. This demonstrated that faithful work makes good Methodists.
About this time Mr. Redfield met with the following anecdote which gave him much encouragement:
“When Elijah Hedding who afterwards became bishop, was stationed in or near Boston, a servant girl of the celebrated Hancock family, was a member of his church. One Sunday she took home from the church library a volume of Wesley’s sermons. Soon after the lady of the house picked it up and after reading in it for some time, called the girl and asked where the book came from. The girl informed her, and added, “Our minister preaches just like that every Sunday.” The lady inquired his name, his street and number, and then ordered her carriage and drove to his house. Mr. Hedding himself answered the bell, and she asked, “Is this the house of Rev. Mr. Hedding?’
“That is my name,” he replied, and invited her in. When they were seated, she said,
“I have come to talk with you about joining your church.”
“Mr. Hedding looked at her in surprise, at her attire, at her carriage before the door, and concluded there must be some mistake in the matter. He asked: “To what circumstance am I indebted for this call?’
“She then related to him the incident of the volume of sermons, and the remark of the servant girl, and then added: “Those so fully accord with my views of what a Christian life should be that I hasten to identify myself with the people who hold to those views.”
“But, madam,”. said Mr. Hedding, “do you know our discipline, and can you conform to our rules?’
“He then opened the book and read them to her, and repeated the question.
“She replied promptly: “I can, and will.”
“Still desirous of dealing faithfully with her, and to get rid of her if she was not willing to be a Methodist indeed, he said: “Madam, you are a stranger to me, but as we are to have a love-feast next Sunday morning, you had better come to that; and in the meantime I will consult with my official brethren, and, if there is no objection, I will receive you on probation.”
“She came to the love-feast, was received into the church, and became a worthy Methodist.”
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