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THE MISSION TO NEW YORK CITY AND THE "VOICE OF WARNING"
In July, 1837, Parley Pratt came to New York and looked up its one member, who was also an elder, Elijah Fordham. The missionary was a saddened man, for a few months before, the beloved wife of his youth, Thankful, had been laid to rest near the Temple, several hours after the birth of her longed-for child. She had enjoyed almost perfect health since the prophecy given to Pratt before he went to Canada, and had gone back there with him in July, 1836, and spent several months with the Saints, sharing for the first time his missionary work. After making provisions for his baby son, Pratt sought to lose himself in his work.
While he was attempting to get a hearing in New York, he wrote day and night on a book which he hoped would help him in his missionary work. He called it the Voice of Warning, and though he had to go in debt with the publisher to get four thousand copies printed, he hoped that he would soon be able to pay for the printing and have much needed help in his work. This book has been reprinted in many editions since that day, and translated into many different languages. Thousands have been converted by reading the Voice of Warning.
Never before had he encountered the difficulty in getting a hearing that he did in New York. From July to January, with the help of Elijah Fordham, he "preached, advertised, printed, published, testified, visited, talked, prayed and wept in vain." He was used to opposition, but no one opposed him. The people simply did not care to hear. Six members in six months! The case seemed hopeless. The six had been organized into a branch, and after renting "chapels" time after time, and seeing them empty, the little group satisfied themselves with a small upper room in Goerck Street.
One night in January, Pratt announced a prayer meeting that was to be his farewell to New York. He had concluded to give up the mission and go to New Orleans. The few members and several of their friends had retired to this little room for the last meeting. Each prayed in turn, when suddenly the room seemed filled with light, and one after another spoke in tongues and prophecy, mostly concerning the mission in New York.
Says Pratt of this occasion:
The Lord said that he had heard our prayers, beheld our labors, diligence, and long-suffering towards that city, and that he had seen our tears. Our prayers were heard, and our labors and sacrifices were accepted. We should tarry in the city and not go thence as yet, for the Lord had many people in that city, and he had now come by the power of his Holy Spirit to gather them into his fold. His angels should go before us and co-operate with us. His Holy Spirit should give the people visions and dreams concerning us and the work of the Lord. He would make bare his arm to heal the sick and confirm the word by signs following, and from that very day forward we should have plenty of friends, money to pay our debts with the publishers, means to live, and crowds to hear us. And there should be more doors open for preaching than we could fill; crowds, who could not get in, should stand in the streets and about the entrance to try to hear us and we would know that the Almighty could open a door, and no man could shut it.
Pratt gave up going to New Orleans and concluded to try again, though he says, "I was almost ready to say in my heart with one of old: If the Lord should make windows in heaven, could these things be?"
In the meeting that night was a man by the name of David Rogers, a chairmaker whose heart was touched. He fitted up a large room, and seated it with the chairs from his warehouse, and invited Pratt to preach there. To his surprise the place was crowded. He then, with the help of one of the members, a joiner, secured another place for a regular meeting place, and seated it. That also, was generally crowded.
One night at the conclusion of a service, a man came to him and introduced himself. He was a Methodist minister by the name of Cox, and wished Pratt to come to his house near the East River and preach. He soon joined the church with all his family and many of his congregation. While preaching here a lady asked for preaching in her home in Willett Street, "For" said she, "I had a dream of you and of the new church the other night." There was still another invitation for preaching in Grand Street.
Within three weeks from the little prayer meeting in the upper room Pratt had fifteen preaching places in the city, all of which were filled to overflowing. A Free Thinkers' Society asked him to deliver a series of lectures in Tammany Hall, which he did. His practice now was to give eleven appointments for sermons each week, and spend his spare time in visiting! Not a long time passed before he added to his program almost daily baptismal services. The baptisms that winter were in the East River.
As had been promised, wonderful hearings followed. One crippled woman arose and walked, instantly healed, another who had been in bed for four years with palsy was restored to health. This woman had complete paralysis of her right side also. She was restored to perfect health. A child of Wandle Mace, who was suffering from brain fever and was given up to die by physicians, was healed and in a few hours was playing about the floor. Upstairs above the Maces lay a woman who had been ill in bed for six months, and her child with her suffering from the same disease. Her mother was at the Maces when the baby was healed, and was so amazed that she rushed upstairs and told her daughter that there was a man below who healed the sick as in days of old, by laying on of hands in the name of Jesus. Mrs. Dexter, for that was the sick woman's name, had not a moment of skepticism. She exclaimed, "Thank God, then I can be healed." Pratt was called upstairs and both Mrs. Dexter and her child were healed in the hour, and a few days later she walked two miles from her home in Redford to the East River for baptism, and walked home again, in spite of the snow and rain, "the sidewalks being shoe deep in mud and snow." Mr. and Mrs. Wandle Mace, and Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Curtis, and Mrs. Dexter's mother were also baptized that day, all witnesses of the three miracles in Redford Street.
When the missionary left New York in April, 1838, he left branches of the church not only in New York, but in Brooklyn, Jersey, Sing Sing, and parts of Long Island, and had also baptized a group at Holliston, Massachusetts.
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