The Memoirs


Sunderland P. Gardner

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Supplemented By Extracts From His Letters Wherever These Served

To Make The Narrative More Nearly Continuous


Third month 22d, 1853

My Dear Wife:-

I wrote yesterday, but did not tell thee where to direct, - Battle Creek, Calhoun Co., Michigan.

I had a meeting to-day at the tenth hour, nine miles south of this place, among the United Brethren, Baptists, Universalists, and, what was sad enough, some poor, lifeless Quakers. The most revolting character I ever beheld is a back-slidden Quaker; they are the greatest impediment in the way of social or religious improvement. I had hard labor among total strangers (except three whom I knew), and I was told after the meeting that I could not have described their states better if I had personally known them; I told them I was glad I was a stranger to them. I was called to rather plain dealing, but I am satisfied and they appeared to be; all behaved in a becoming manner, and some of them were evidently reached.

But oh! what poverty of soul I labored under this morning ; it seemed as though there was not one crumb to sustain my spiritual life, but I trust it all in best wisdom; such is frequently my state, and I find the more hungry I get, the sweeter the bread is to my taste when given; but when these stripping seasons are upon me I cannot see whence I am to be clothed again; it is then I feel my want and my soul seeks relief in prayer. Oh may I keep in humble dependence upon that inexhaustible fountain of light which alone is the true life of men; it leads me into the low valleys and beside the still waters, and then again through the tumultuous raging waves of the unstable elements. I believe I am willing to suffer: I ask not for a path clear of thorns, but I ask for patience to persevere and hold out to the end, for remember it is the end that crowns all; running for a little while will not insure the prize; it is continued faithfulness alone that can secure it.

23d.- Attended meeting here to-day, which was encouraging and comfortable. I am now (afternoon) about leaving for West Unity in Ohio, with Joseph Thorn, where I expect to have two meetings; thence to Battle Creek.

I cannot now see home, but if all things work favorably, I shall be able to apprise you of my coming in due time. My tarrying seems long, but I hope to be patient, and not inclined to be in haste, for if I am permitted to return, I desire to go home without any burden as regards those I leave behind. The clouds which lowered over my path when I first came seem to be measurably dispelled; I find the enemy has destroyed little beside himself. Those who had set up meetings out of the good order of Society are scattered abroad, and I believe do not hold a single meeting in Michigan, which is just what I expected would be the case, but I did not look for it so soon.

Fourth month, 22d, 1854. - Attended the meeting on the occasion of the burial of the wife of Roswell Whitcomb. She had been blind a few of the last years of her life, and otherwise considerably afflicted; he and his children appear to feel deeply their bereavement.

The fore part of the meeting was a laborious time for my poor tired spirit, but finally a little light sprang up with the comforting words of Jesus, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," from which was shown the necessity of overcoming the world in ourselves individually as he overcame its temptations, presentments, etc., in himself by the power given him by the Father. This is manifested to all who seek it, and is given in proportion to the work called for at their hands.

It was hard labor to rend the veil which seemed for some time to cover most of the assembly, and for a while I doubted if I should get relief, but finally truth got the victory, and the people were reached by the power of love and tendered in such a degree as I never witnessed before in a public assembly; strong men seemed to feel its power, and most faces present were bathed in tears. It was also a time of visitation to my soul, for which may I ever be thankful to my Heavenly Father. Amen.

23d. - First-day meeting large. Many strangers and neighbors attended. I was led to speak of the importance of divesting our minds of prejudice and the power of tradition, and of the coming to a dependence upon the revelation of the Son of God for instruction, which would lead to practical righteousness independent of the experience of others. That our prejudices and dependence upon others for tenets of doctrines too frequently placed us in the position of the children of Israel as shown by the prophet in the figure of the image of jealousy set up in the entrance.

Fourth month 26th, 1854. - Attended the funeral of a daughter of Nathan Aldrich. I sat down in the meeting in much poverty of feeling. A solemn silence becoming the occasion appeared to be observed by all, in which my mind was drawn into exercise, and finally to communication from the saying of Jesus, "Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Showing that in the midst of our mourning for the loss of our children there is still consolation in the belief that they are happy, which is fully justified by the above declaration of Jesus. I receive his words as coming from the highest authority, because whatever he said or did was by the Father's light and power, which light and power clothed his spirit and spake through him. I expressed a fear that many now, as in former times, were forbidding children to come unto Christ by setting improper examples; by attaching undue importance to the things of this world and living out its spirit.

Children being of quick discernment soon discover the prevailing interest in the middle of parents or guardians, and are soon imbued with the same disposition, thus giving them a wrong direction in their setting out, and hindering them from coming to Christ.

The training of children is a most important work, and none are rightly qualified for this service until they have themselves been taught in the school of Christ.

The subject finally led to the opening of many important doctrines concerning practical righteousness, and the doing of our portion of the work while we have the light showing us clearly the path of duty. It was an instructive season to me and I trust to others; so I returned to my home rejoicing.

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