The Autobiography


Sunderland P. Gardner, Part Four

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*By his wife, A. H. Gardner

Here ends, we regret to say, the narrative written by himself; and for the rest we have only to depend upon memory, scraps of journals, and letters.

We see he was brought, while yet a child, close to the Father's heart. The large stone yet remains in its native bed on the north end of the hill he has cultivated for so many years, where he used to kneel and pray when a boy, as he drove the cows to and from the pasture; and we have heard him say that on this spot he has conversed with and been instructed by his Heavenly Father, even as a man would commune with his friend. We see he thus continued humbly seeking for knowledge of spiritual truth, until, as is too often sadly the case with our youth, evil companions broke in upon the sacred security of innocence, to entice him into the broad road; but, we also see that he did not long continue under their influence, and his calm, determined answer, "Now," when asked by the monitor "When ?" seemed to be the turning-point from slavery to salvation. In the testimonies borne to his own family during the quiet home opportunities, while instructing his sons in the important lessons of life and conduct, we have heard him say that whenever he had recognized a temptation to wrong in any form, he knew where to look for strength and power to say "No" decisively.

The writer of these notes did not become acquainted with him until after many years of his public ministry had passed, but it seems right to bear this testimony from an association with him of over thirty-four years. He seemed ever on the watch to do his Master's bidding; often when answering calls of religious duty has he been known to go through storms and severe cold, sometimes through the darkness of night on foot and alone, poorly clad and even without his proper meals, not having time or money by which to attain them. A large part of his time was taken up in attending funerals, often long distances from home, and his work was one of love; though he was called to warn against sin, he could speak tender words of comfort and encouragement to the mourner and the erring; and we have felt that he might have said, as did the Master: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

During some periods of his work he bore much persecution, doubtless from those who knew him not and from those who knew not themselves, but now, while we mourn our own great loss, we fully believe we may rejoice for him, that he has been permitted to lay down the cross and take the crown of life, with those who "have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat, for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

We have known him to arise from a sick-bed, and, though trembling with weakness, go several miles from home to attend a funeral or other meeting, and when assisted to his place in the house by friends, would sit in silence for a time until he received strength to stand up, when he would deliver a powerful sermon, bearing evidence of the anointing Presence; and after the close of the meeting appeared to be strong and well, and declared himself as well as any time in his life. We looked upon this as a miracle.

But for many years he enjoyed, as a general thing, very good health, and was at home, able to labor on his farm successfully for the support of his family, also thus obtaining means with which to travel. He never gained much of this world's goods, for his necessary expenses abroad took all the surplus earnings, yet by strict economy he was enabled to retain his home and maintain his family comfortably.

In the year 1882, when he was about eighty years of age, and had become too feeble to labor as hard as in the past, and not having much means to depend upon, prospects looked rather dark for the future, but he uttered no word of apprehension. He had sometimes been offered money from families concerned for his services abroad, but had not felt at liberty - as a general practice - to take it, nor in any way to balk the testimony concerning a hireling ministry, and this being a matter of clear principle, no complaint was uttered or sorrow expressed; yet to the mother, whose health was now failing, many anxious thoughts arose, especially as to the future of their three sons, the eldest of whom was but thirteen. One day while she was alone in the field meditating, perhaps rather despondently, upon their circumstances, a strong and sudden impression came to her - an impression full of life and hope - a feeling not to be controlled by her want of hope - and a strong intimation was given that the cloud should be lifted off from them - and the words, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein," were brought forcibly to her mind. Her faith was weak, for there was no outward reason why this blessing should be expected. Hard labor and self-denial had covered the past, - what should change the future? Yet the impression would remain - though doubting instead of trusting deserved not the comfort. But the change came! the Lord's promise was sure; and through His willing stewards the work was done. An excellent suit of clothes was sent him by a Friend in New York (Jane C. Russell), whose name at that time he did not even know, but whom we now know as one whose hands are always filled with good works. Immediately after this, other Friends, some of them living far from his abode, joined with her in this work of love, Friends and neighbors near his home not failing to lend their assistance; and a pleasant and comfortable house was built for him and other help received equal to his then present need. We believe this to have been a miracle of God's care, and but another evidence that his hand is not shortened, but his mercies and his promises are sure. For this reason I relate the circumstances, and also to acknowledge our united gratitude to all those who were so willing and active in this work of Christian generosity. I desire our children to always remember it, that they may know the kindness of our friends and the providence of our Heavenly Father.

After this, his life was made comparatively easy, and he was enabled to continue his work without the exposure and self-denials of the past. About two years before his death he suffered from La Grippe, after which he did not regain his former strength, but was still able to labor in the vineyard both at home and abroad. The next year he had another attack of the same disease, from which he never rallied so as to be able to travel far from home. He told us that he had prayed to the Father for strength sufficient for his necessity, and it was given; he was permitted to receive calls from Friends attending the Yearly Meeting, which was held in his neighborhood in Sixth month, and was a great pleasure and help to him, for it seemed as if peace and love came hand in hand with every one in their tender visits. He loved Friends, and these opportunities were precious to him and I believe to them; he felt that it was the last time, and it proved to be so.

After this he gained enough strength to attend meeting at home and to walk out a little - and was easy and comfortable except when the pains of neuralgia attacked him, and they were often very severe. His mind remained strong and clear, and during the remainder of his frail earthly existence, his cheerful encouragements and wise counsels were a daily strength and comfort to us. On the last Seventh-day of First month (1893) he was taken very ill, neuralgia striking to the stomach. The attention of a skillful and kind physician relieved his pain; but he could not recover. During the few days he remained with us he gave us much useful advice and excellent counsel. He desired us not to mourn as those without hope, saying "he had been spared to us many years, but now his time had come to depart and be at rest. He had enjoyed his family and would gladly remain with them, but he was ready to cross the river," yea, rejoiced to go on his journey; and at a little past six o'clock p.m., on the thirteenth of Second month, he left the suffering clay and went to that other home - the place prepared for those who die in the Lord, where there is no pain nor sorrow nor tears.

He had desired that our dear friend Isaac Wilson, of Bloomfield, Canada, should be requested to attend his funeral, and named the day on which he thought it might be best to hold it, "Sixth-day, the seventeenth of the month," which was accordingly attended to. On the day named, Isaac was present, who, during a time of solemn waiting at the house, knelt in earnest supplication; the meeting was held at the meeting-house where he had so many years attended; the day was severely cold, but the attendance was very large.

Isaac spoke with great power and tenderness from the words, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." - Ps. 37: 37.

We will now gather together what we can of a dear life passed away, by consulting his papers, consisting of short notes of diary and promiscuous letters, unfortunately many of them not dated. Many of his choice papers were burned when his house was burned, so we are limited in material, but we preserve what we can, because they are his own written experiences.


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