From The February, 1823 Issue of The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine
Extract of a letter from the Rev. S. Dunn, to the Rev. Dr. Clarke, dated Dec. 19th, 1822.
"When I was first put down, at the last Conference, for this station, I wrote you a note, stating that I thought my slender frame would not be able to stand the climate, necessary labors, &c. But I thank God, that you paid no attention to that note; for I now believe, that my coming to these hyperborean regions will be beneficial to both body and soul, and I trust will torn out to 'the furtherance of the gospel.' When I consider what God has enabled me to go through, since I came to these islands, I am 'lost in wonder, love, and praise.' I have preached, when in the country parts, sixty-one sermons in twenty-nine days, and had, on an average, 150 hearers each time, besides attending to various ether duties, and traveling scores of miles, over rocky and mossy hills; and yet I for years enjoyed better health, "We could not have come at a more favorable season of the year, all things considered; for in the summer, the inhabitants are chiefly employed about the harvest and fisheries; but now, having scarcely anything to do, they come in flock, to hear the 'glad tidings of great joy, unto all people.' You have appointed us to labor among a people prepared for the Lord.' 'The fields are white already to harvest.' ' Pray therefore, that the Lord of the harvest would 'send forth more laborers into his harvest.' For what are two among so many? I am certain that six Methodist Preachers might find abundance of work in these islands -- not that I expect this number, at least, for some time. I know our funds will not admit of it; indeed, I feel grieved daily, that we are any burthen to the Connection, because the people are unable to give any money towards the support of the gospel. But, many of them are willing to give us themselves, and any thing of which they are possessed potatoes, fish, yea, even sheep.
But may I not be permitted to say a word on behalf of this 'aboriginal people,' whom I also 'both respect and love.' Much has been done of late to send the 'glorious gospel of the blessed God,' to the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands. British Christians have given their thousands towards the support of that mission, and they have done well. God has blessed their endeavors, in saying 'to the South, keep not back.' But has not the same God promised to 'say to the north, give up?' Behold 'today, is this scripture fulfilled in our ears.' Here is a people that can easily be got at, without either much expense or difficulty; a people that can nearly all read a people disposed, yea eager, to hear the word of God; a people under our own unrivaled government; a people, who, though of Scandinavian descent, yet can all speak the English language. Now, I believe, I have hundreds of friends, both in England and in Wales, who sincerely love me. And as this is to be considered it home-circuit, I trust, when the next yearly and July collections shall be made, they will show their love, by giving at least twice the sum they have ever given to those important collections. Let them all know, that out of those collections this station is to be supported; and may such knowledge become a powerful, an effectual motive with them to give liberally. And O, let me beg their sincere and ardent prayers, that, as the sun approaches the vernal equinox, the penetrating rays of the great 'Sun of Righteousness' may melt down, in these northern regions, every frozen soul into tears of penitential sorrow, that 'the wilderness and the solitary place may be glad, and the desert rejoice, and blossom as the rose.' I rejoice that I have had the honor of forming the most Northerly Methodist society is the whole world. May the gates of hell never prevail against it.
O Jesus, ride on, till all are subdued, Thy mercy make known, and sprinkle thy blood! Display thy salvation, and teach the new song To every nation, and people, and tongue.'
I must now, Dear sir, give you some extracts from my journal, by which you wilt get some information relative to our proceedings and prospects. I would first, however, just observe, that a few weeks after our arrival, my worthy brother Raby left this place for Zell, a large island, about thirty miles north of Lerwick. He will probably remain there for two or three months, when we shall exchange places. I heard from him a few days ago; he was well, and doing well."
Of Mr. Dunn's extracts from his journal, we select the following specimens:
Oct. 11. -- I crossed the sound this afternoon in a boat, or yawl, 12 feet keel, 5 feet beam. All their boats are first put up in Norway, then taken down, the plank's sent over here, and then nailed together again; they are remarkably slender, yet their extreme buoyancy, and the ease with which they cut or mount the wave's with their two bow's, (for they are sharp at each end,) render their construction adapted to these seas, in which there is almost a continual swell. After walking two miles across the island of Bressa, which rises about 2,000 feet above the level of the sea, into a fine symmetrical hill, of a conoid form, and then crossing another narrow sound, I landed in the island of Noss, and was kindly received by Mr. Copeland and family. I preached at six from the sixty-third Psalm.
12. -- This morning while traveling along the steep banks of sand-stone, frequently broken into deep chasms, the rain descended in torrents, but there was no place to which we could run for shelter so we walked on, till the famous Holm of Noss came to view, bounded by precipitous cliffs; we then passed to the Noup, a tremendous perpendicular precipice. In the evening, I preached from Isa. Liii 6. 13. -- Morning, I preached in Noss; afternoon, in Bressa Church; evening, in the Independent Chapel here. 29. -- This morning I rode five miles to Tingwall; it rained every step of the way. I preached in the school-house from 1 Cor. xv. 6. Many of my hearers came from a considerable distance, and returned through torrents of rain; most of the women without either bonnet, shoe, or stocking, After they were gone, I sat by the fire, for about half an hour, tired, wet, and hungry, but not knowing where to get a bit of anything to eat; when a servant from the Rev. John Turnbull came to invite me to his house, where I with a most cordial reception. After dinner the assistant minister of Nesting arrived, who came with Mr. T. to Nallaway, two miles, where I preached, from Luke ii 29, 80, to about 100 hearers, and felt some liberty, though had two ministers by my side, with whom I returned and spent a pleasant evening in Tingwall.
30. -- Mr. T. came into town with me this morning; his kindness I shall not soon forget. We had a good deal of friendly conversation about Methodism, &c. He said that it had been sadly misrepresented by its enemies. He requested me to come that way often, and take a bed at his house like one of the family. I preached this evening in the chapel from Rev. i 18. Lord, apply it! Nov. 1. -- I visited twelve poor families, prayed with some, and gave a tract, and conversed closely on the best things with all.
5. -- I visited fifteen poor families. 6. -- Hearing that the people on the western side of the Mainland were anxiously waiting my arrival among them, and earnestly praying, 'Come over and help us,' I decided on paying them a visit for two or three weeks -- so I left, with my Bible, a hymn-book, a few tracts, and a dozen ship-biscuit's. At twelve o'clock I preached in Tingwall school-house, but could get no farther, the weather was so severe. 7. -- This has been such a rainy and windy day as to prevent my getting out of doors for anytime. This night, between ten and eleven o'clock the Aurora Borealis was so brilliant, that I read by it, without any other light. 8. -- I preached in Scallaway, from I Cor. vi. 1. 9. -- About eleven o'clock this morning, I left Mr. Turnbull's hospitable roof, and rode to Scallaway, where I met with John Nicholson; we took boat, passed several small islands, and after rowing nine miles, arrived in Sand. The news was soon circulated that I was to preach at six o'clock, when the house was full.
10. -- I preached in Sand this morning, and then traveled six miles to Reawick, where I preached at five to a large company. Though the night was dark and stormy, some of my hearers walked six miles over rocks and through bogs. 11. -- Having published last evening for preaching today in Scheld, I set off about ten o'clock; walked three miles, and preached in a school-house, which was full of very attentive hearers; and then walked back again, without either eating or drinking. I have had several unpleasant journeys, but never once like this. The roads (if, indeed, they can be so called) are, I believe, full as bad as those over which the indefatigable Shaw and his brethren travel in South Africa; twenty oxen could not draw a wagon a quarter-part of the way I have been today. The wind was so strong that it blew me several times off my legs; the rain descended in such torrents as completely to drench me; and at times the hail-stones made my face smart with their blows. After having changed my clothes, I preached from 1 Peter v. 7 and feel no worse, I hope, after my journey. 12. -- I preached this morning, and again this evening. In one of the huts, into which I entered this afternoon, I saw cows, pigs, sheep, fowls, a dog, and the family. 13. -- Gruting. -- I walked four miles this morning, and preached here at twelve o'clock, and again at five. Hearing from John Nicholson that many in this neighborhood were concerned about their souls, after the sermon I explained the nature of a Methodist society, &c.; and announced that I would be glad to converse with any who were desirous of meeting in church-fellowship. Fifteen remained, who all appeared to desire to flee from the wrath to come; 'to ten I gave note's of admittance on trial. May they never look back I read our rules. 14. -- Last night I slept with three sheep on the earthy floor of an old barn:-- there were two holes in the turf roof, about a foot each in circumference, through which the stars were visible. It blew a strong breeze from the S. W., but as I had a thick rug wrapped around me, I slept as comfortably as most who lay on softer beds. The hymn which begins, "How do thy mercies close me round," was particularly sweet. At nine o'clock I preached in Gruting, crossed a voe, walked two miles, preached at twelve o'clock, and again at five. 15. -- I preached at twelve o'clock, and again at five. There was strong wind and rain, but the houses were full." * * * * * * *