The Autobiography


Sunderland P. Gardner, Part Two

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My father was steady in the attendance of Friends' meetings, and was careful to take me with him - hence my acquaintance with that people commenced in my early years. I was also permitted to attend meetings of the Methodists when held near our house, and though the Friends' meetings were held mostly in silence, and the Methodists always had singing, vocal praying, and generally preaching, yet I preferred attending the former. There was that steady, uniform exemplary course of conduct, that genuine friendly feeling manifested toward each other, that plainness and simplicity of dress and address, that dignity of demeanor and general deportment which caused me to love and respect them. they were not easily turned out of the course of apprehended duty, but faithful and seasonable in the attendance of their meetings; such was the Society of Friends when I first became acquainted with it. Although I could not unite with the Methodists, yet I never showed any lightness or improper conduct in their meetings, and I believe many of them were well-meaning and sincere in their devotions.

Among the first ministers of the Society of Friends whom I heard preach were Samuel Carey, Ruth Spencer and Christopher Healy - the latter being the first that I ever heard, which was on the occasion of my grandmother Gardner's funeral, and I but little thought at that time that the tongue which spake so sweetly would ever become an accuser of the brethren, and utter things concerning them inconsistent with the Christian spirit of brotherly kindness and charity.

There was a young man in our neighborhood who professed to be under religious concern and turned his attention towards Friends. They encouraged him to be faithful; he became very zealous, adopted the external appearance of a Friend, and by some was thought much of. I was at his father's house one day on a visit to his younger brothers; he also had a visitor, a young friend about his own age, with whom he talked much on the subject of religion. After a while he said he would go to the garden and get a melon; one of his younger brothers hearing it went out, and in bringing the melon in met the elder brother going after it. He was so offended at the boy for picking the melon as to kick him and use improper and unbecoming epithets, which, when I heard and saw, I thought to be very inconsistent. He, however, became a member and frequently spake in meeting; he married a very exemplary and consistent member of Society, but they had not been long united before a difference arose between him and his father-in-law, and he soon came out a deist; his general conduct being such as to make his wife unhappy in her domestic relations during her life, and his principles and behavior were injurious to all with whom he had influence. He had a large share of low cunning, and I have no doubt but that he contributed much towards poisoning the low circle in which he has moved during the most of his life. Some thought him to be an apostate, but I think only to the extent of profession and external appearance, for I never had evidence in his case that the strong man was ever bound and cast out with his goods; yet he was apostate enough to manifest that revengeful, envious spirit towards religion which apostates generally do. He has always appeared to be discontented and unhappy, loving few if any himself, and no one having real respect for him; he was not in a situation even to appreciate the comforts which the world affords.

I would here say to all young people, Never give ear to any that cavil at the religion of Jesus Christ, or that speak lightly of virtue, which is the first pillar in the Christian building. Flee from the company and conversation of such as from your greatest outward enemy.

About the seventh year of my age my father became a member of the Society of Friends, after which they frequently visited our house, on which occasion their conversation was interesting to me, especially when they had religious opportunities in the family. My mother was much opposed to my father's uniting with Friends, but I believe she soon became reconciled to it.

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