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Life of John Wesley Redfield
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CHAPTER 16

The annual conference came on, and there was a change of pastors. The new pastor was a younger man than his predecessor. He was evidently ambitious, and tried hard to please the party opposed to holiness, as that was the predominant party in the church. When his first year was drawing to a close, and the time for the last quarterly conference was at hand, Mr. Redfield was laboring some eight miles up the river above the city. A revival of glorious power was in progress, and it seemed to be his duty to stay with it. He called on his pastor one day and asked him to look after the passing of his character, and the renewing of his license. His pastor assured him that this would be done. He went back to his work, and soon after learned that his pastor took advantage of his absence, to bring in a complaint of heresy against him, and the question of the renewal of his license was laid over. But the presiding elder sent word to him to go on, and he would sustain him. He labored on until the next quarterly conference, and when the time came was greatly tempted to let this obstruction settle the question as to his continuing in the work; and let those who opposed bear the responsibility. Then came again the message, “Live while you preach, but no longer.” Both sides of the case were vividly presented to his mind, the fearful consequences of not going forward, and the blessedness of heaven’s approval should he diligently pursue the path of duty. Yet he suffered much over the thought that those who should have made the way smooth for him, were hedging it up. He could but say, “If they knew how much of suffering it costs me to follow this path, and would ask themselves what motive must it be that governs him, they would not do so.”

With great reluctance he attended the quarterly conference. There was a full attendance of its membership, numbering forty-five or fifty. At the appropriate time he was called upon to answer to the charge of heresy. It consisted of two points; first, his views of the nature of the millennium; and second, his views of the doctrine of Christian perfection. He arose, and invited all to correct him, if he did not tell the truth, and to prompt him, if he did not tell all the truth. When he had finished his statement of his views, respecting the first, the presiding elder said, “Brethren, we must accept of his views, for he is with Dr. Clarke. He now asked for the same thoroughness on the second complaint. He told them his experience, as much of it as had a bearing on the doctrine of specific holiness, of his teaching, preaching and belief. When he had finished, the elder again interposed, and said, “Brethren, we must accept of that, for he is exactly with Mr. Wesley.”

The call was then made for a vote on the renewal of his license, which was granted by a vote of forty to five.

He then told the conference he had a little business for them to do. He said, “During the past three months, the report has been kept in circulation that my own church would not renew my license, and the public know not the cause; and even some preachers to whose charges I have been invited, have had to search for these facts to satisfy their official boards, before they would consent to allow me to labor among them. I now desire you to give me a certificate stating that I have been examined on the points of doctrine for which my license was suspended, and that I have been exonerated from the charge of heresy, and found to be a sound Methodist.”

At this his pastor arose and said, he could not vote Mr. Redfield a sound Methodist, because, said he, “We as a church do not believe with either Clarke or Wesley on these points, but with Benson.”

One of the official board who was grieved that Mr. Redfield was let off so easily, arose and said, “If any man says there is anything in the doctrine of sanctification, he’s a liar.”

The presiding elder exclaimed, “Stop! stop! Brother Redfield is a Methodist and you are not. I did not know that this church would tolerate such anti-Methodistic doctrines as this.”

The motion was finally modified to suit the preacher in charge, and read, “That the quarterly conference having examined Brother Redfield, found nothing against him.”

Of these proceedings Mr. Redfield says, “Oh, how my heart was pained, not only to see this unsoundness as to the truth, but such quibbling and dodging when it came to the issue. I also saw that among the preachers there was an element that was not Methodistic. Still, my confidence in the ultimate success of the doctrine of holiness was unshaken.”

He soon learned that this hostility was not against himself, but against the cause which he represented. He also learned, as many have since, that he who declares himself on the side of God, has virtually declared war against earth, hell, dead formality, and ambitious ministers of the gospel.

Mr. Redfield says: “A friend of mine, an uncompromising champion for God and the truth, was so much feared, that the preachers in his conference sought his ruin. Like the accusers of Daniel, they were compelled to find the occasion in his religion. They appointed a preacher’s meeting where each was expected to give a specimen of his abilities by reading a sermon or essay, which should then be criticized by the rest. They assigned to this brother a sermon on holiness. Waiving his scruples against written sermons, he did as he was bidden. When the time came the sermon was read, and then the criticisms commenced. Said one of the preachers, “I have often heard that this brother was antiWesleyan on the doctrine of holiness, and now we have heard it from his own lips.” He then followed this with a criticism so severe that some began to sympathize with the author of the sermon. And they said to him when the first critic was through, “You have a right to defend yourself. “Never mind,” said the brother, “go on and say all you wish to.” Then another took the sermon to pieces and showed its heretical character. Then another, and still another. Finally the presiding elder was called upon to make some remarks, but he only said, “The anti-Wesleyan character of the sermon is such that I shall have to reprove the brother first, privately, according to the Discipline;” intimating by this that he would bring charges against him at the conference.

“Well, are you all through?’ inquired the brother; and on being answered in the affirmative, he said, “Now, all I have to say is, I have copied every word of that sermon from John Wesley’s, and in my manuscript you will find I have given the volume and the page from which it is taken. And I ask, Who is Wesleyan, you or I?’

This was an unexpected turn, and some began to excuse themselves by saying they had not refreshed their memories of late by reading Mr. Wesley’s writings on the subject. Another attempted to parry the stroke by complaining of unfairness in the preacher’s taking out isolated portions of Mr. Wesley’ writings and reading them as if they were his own productions.

This circumstance, when it came to Mr. Redfield’s knowledge, convinced him more strongly that the opposition was not personal, but against the cause of holiness itself. At the same time he was impressed that he would be made to feel this hostility more keenly still, and perhaps would be forced to quit the field. But he resolved to go to the last link of the chain, for God and purity, and stop only when he could go no farther.

With a clearer understanding of what it meant, he now more fully than ever committed himself to the work of spreading scriptural holiness over the land. While aware of the deep-seated opposition to holiness now beginning to be manifest, he had the hope that great success, in the conversion of sinners, would demonstrate to the preachers that God endorsed the doctrine, and at last their opposition would give way. He saw, too, that the literature of Methodism and the Discipline were in its favor, and he looked to see those who stood out against the doctrine brought to account for their criticisms and opposition.

About this time, also, Rev. L. L. Hamline was elevated to the episcopacy in the church, a man whose experience and preaching, and holy life, made him one of the brightest examples and witnesses of the doctrine in the annals of the church. For many years after this he was the confidential adviser of Mr. Redfield, and, to a great extent, guided his labors, as to place and time.

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