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Towards the close of the meetings at Bridgeport, several Methodists from New Haven visited the services, and were desirous that Mr. Redfield should come to their place. But little did they know of the conflict which preceded the victory they had witnessed. Soon an invitation came for him to spend a season there. As usual with Mr. Redfield, he underwent a season of great spiritual suffering before he gave his answer. The first question for him to settle was, always: “Is it God’s will?” Then came his natural shrinking from the conflict that awaited him. He had heard enough of the state of the church in that place to know that the struggle would be a hard one. Past experience had taught him that his spiritual conflicts would be great, and attended with great suffering. He knew, too, if the opposition prevailed, the attempt would work against him in the future. The tide of worldliness had now set in so strongly, and had become so general, that wherever he went the battle must first be fought out in the church. And it was no light matter to attempt to bring a dead church into that spiritual state where it would be a successful working power for God and souls. He had learned that the tendency of worldly policy in the church was to benumb the conscience and blind the perceptions of the membership and ministry to the spiritual truths touching consecration and holy living, and that it would take a greater degree of divine power to awaken them than to awaken the ungodly. He had also learned that the carnal reasonings and fears of a worldly church and ministry were more serious obstacles to scriptural awakening than the combined opposition of all forces outside the church. It was because of this that he suffered so in spirit. Yet he reasoned: “Somebody must do the work. Whoever enters upon it, must lay every interest upon the altar of God — reputation, the good opinions of friends, all outlook for the future; and with a single eye to the truth and the glory of God, stand for the exact right, and take whatever comes as best he can. It may as well be me as any one. If I go down in the conflict, my calamity may draw the attention of some honest and daring one who, following God fully, may finally triumph.”
Reader, would you call this cowardice? True bravery does not shut its eyes to the dangers that surround it, and then go forward blindly. He is the bravest man who is most conscious of the danger and still goes forward. Some natures less finely strung than Mr. Redfield’s would have gone forward easily and readily, but their work would have been more crudely and less thoroughly done.
After a full consideration of the matter, Mr. Redfield consented to go, and informed the messenger who had come for his final answer, that he would be in New Haven the next Thursday night.
New Haven was the seat of Yale College. The influence of this institution was hostile to Methodism, and had been from the beginning. It was a city of many churches, and these likewise all hostile to Methodism. At this particular time there was no manifestation of opposition, for Methodism had ceased to be a power in the city. The membership had cowered before the lofty claims to superiority of these churches, and had contentedly settled down in a subordinate position and almost ceased to have an independent life.
The time came for Mr. Redfield to take the cars, but it was with the feeling of a soldier going into battle, and not that of one who has gained the victory. He went with the determination to do his full duty if he was not allowed to hold more than one service. When he arrived he found a number of brethren waiting at the depot for him with a carriage to take him to his boarding place. He felt grateful for this, yet he saw that it would make the cross heavier to do his duty to them when the time came for it. He found that a great effort had been made to advertise the meetings, and by the manner in which this had been done, much curiosity had been excited to see and hear him.
When he entered the church he found a large congregation present. At the proper time the pastor arose and said: “Brother Redfield has finally come, and will preach tonight, tomorrow and next-day night,” and then sat down. Mr. Redfield arose, and addressed them somewhat as follows:
“It may be so, and it may not. You may not desire me to stay after tonight. But, by the help of God, I mean so to preach that if I am called to the judgment within five minutes after I am through, I shall be ready. And it makes no difference to me whether I stay one day or six weeks, I shall certainly preach the straight judgment truth of God, the same truth we must die by, and be judged by, — if it takes the last brick from the foundations of this church.”
With his usual unction and power, he endeavored to define the type of religion which was necessary to enable a soul to enter the kingdom of God.
The mass of the membership was frightened, and with it the pastor. But one good old man, who knew what primitive Methodism was, came and took him by the hand, and bade him Godspeed.
One of the leaders came and said: “You have altogether mistaken this people. That kind of preaching will not take in this place. You have tacitly reflected upon the other denominations in this city, and we believe they are pious people.”
An ex-mayor of the city somewhat relieved the feelings of the pastor by saying to him: “That is the kind of preaching we need in this city. We have not a minister here who dares to risk his reputation to preach like that. That is the reason why the churches have been so inefficient for the last twenty-five years. Here, give him that, as a token of my approval,” and handed him a twenty dollar gold piece.
Before the pastor got away from the church a lawyer met him, and said: “That is the kind of truth we want here.”
Soon after, several more of the influential men gave their sanction to the truths Mr. Redfield presented, which greatly allayed the minister’s fears.
In a few days the rabble began to serenade Mr. Redfield with doggerel [trivial] songs, to send him ball tickets through the post office, to hoot and shout after him in the street, to hold mock prayer-meetings and to mimic his voice and manner. The careful were greatly distressed at this, and came to him with the matter, but he rejoiced, as he saw in it the evidence that Satan was being disturbed. He told them, “The devil will soon exhaust his resources, and we’ll see many of these made happy in God.”
For seven or eight weeks he preached wholly to the church. At last he was waited upon by several members of the official board, who told him that his course would ruin the church, if not soon changed. They also informed him that they knew of more than fifty persons who were waiting for an opportunity to present themselves as seekers, and they were afraid this perpetual labor for the church would soon become stale and offensive to them. One of them said, “There are many of us, and I am one of them, who will never get out clear until we get to laboring for sinners.”
Mr. Redfield replied: “I know of many who desire to become Christians, but I tell them we are not ready for them yet. Now, brother, the trouble with you is, you desire to get on the wrong side of the altar. You can’t warm up by the exercise and call that a revival.”
“But what will become of sinners if we spend all our time praying for ourselves?” he asked.
Mr. Redfield replied by asking, “What will your prayer be worth for them if they do yourself no good? It would be better to ask the penitents to pray for the church.”
He saw, however, that nothing but a failure would convince them, and the next evening he gave an invitation for penitents to come to the altar. Before they were through singing the first verse of an invitation hymn, the altar was filled. He then invited the brethren forward to pray for them. A large number of them came. The first brother who prayed asked for the blessing of God on the missionary and the Bible cause, and almost everything else but the seekers at the altar. Others followed in like manner.
Mr. Redfield then arose, and said: “It is time to close, but if any of these penitents have been blessed, let them confess it to the people.” He tried to encourage them to do so, but it was in vain. He then said to the congregation: “I will never again while I am here ask penitents to come to the altar for the benefit of such dead, meaningless and formal prayers. We will keep to work at ourselves until we get so we can pray.”
The next night the very ones who had been so anxious to warm up by praying for others, began in good earnest to pray for themselves. One or two received such a view of their own hearts and lives that they appeared to be in despair. He now appointed two meetings to be held about an hour before preaching, in two of the classrooms, for the benefit of those who desired to seek perfect love.
In a few days God gave a few witnesses to the experience. The number of witnesses then began to increase faster and faster, until soon their aggregate power moved the entire city. Frequently there were more than one hundred at the altar at one time seeking for pardon. Other churches now availed themselves of the opportunity, and reaped great benefit from the general awakening. In one of these churches it was reported there were received above four hundred persons. The revival got into Yale College, and many of the students were converted. All hostility in other denominations, for the time being ceased, except the proselytizing to gain members.
A good deacon came to Mr. Redfield, and told him that one minister was preaching to his congregation that it made no difference how people lived, or conformed to the world in dress and manners, if only the heart was kept right. Mr. Redfield felt it his duty to say publicly in regard to this, that God’s requirements were unbending; that his word commanded them to “love not the world,” and to “be not conformed to the world.” He warned the congregation against ministers who taught the contrary. He urged that all men must settle these questions with God alone, and the Bible was to be their guide. As a result of his faithful dealing, one woman laid aside several hundred dollars worth of jewelry, and went from house to house confessing the wrong of her fashionable life. She then tried to undo the bad influence of her worldly life upon her own family, and in two weeks had the pleasure of seeing each member of it converted to God.
Another woman saw her husband, who was considered a model Christian, in such agony over his own state, that his cries aroused the whole block in which he lived. She then cried out, “If my husband sees himself in such a light, O Lord, where am I?” She sought the Lord now in the most earnest manner, and when she found him, so great was the blessing of God that she could not rise from her bed, and remained thus for more than one week. When Christian people came to see her, with her face all radiant with the glory of God, and with great power she declared, that she saw the church did not believe the Bible.
Such experiences had a powerful influence in the community, and in a few weeks from the time that the work broke out more than fifteen hundred had been gathered into the kingdom of God. The Methodist church in which this meeting was held, was so filled with members that more than thirty families were unable to find seats, and another church had to be built in another part of the city. Yet, strange to say, the pastor afterward became an opposer of Mr. Redfield and spoke disparagingly of this revival.
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