From The April, 1823 Issue of The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine We insert this month extracts of a letter from Mr. Dunn to the Rev. Dr. Clarke, President of the Conference, containing further particulars of his proceedings in that division of the Shetland Isles which is the scene of his labors. To this we shall subjoin a short extract of a letter from Mr. Raby, also addressed to the President. Mr. Raby's letter communicates much other valuable information of a general nature, respecting the Island, and their inhabitants, for which we hope to find room hereafter.
Extracts of a Letter from Mr. S. Dunn to the President [Adam Clarke].
"Lervick, Shetland Feb. 3d, 1823. -- Think of my feelings, last evening, when, sitting alone, by my little fire, supping on potatoes and water, after having preached three sermons, given an exhortation, and walked several miles through the snow in the day, I received your very instructive and affectionate letter. Tears flowed from my eyes, while I thanked God for past mercies; and resolved on taking courage, and going forward. Your seasonable advice shall be stored in my mind, and direct my conduct."
After mentioning some difficulties which had occurred, Mr. Dunn proceeds as follows:-
"I trust none of these things will move me, especially while I see that God builds his church in 'troublesome times'. I have every reason to believe, that full three-fourths of the inhabitants wish me success. Numbers apply for information on our doctrines, &c., and when I find that their object is truth, I endeavor, with meekness and fear, to explain and defend them. When I perceive that they wish to provoke a controversy, I reply, 'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?' But extracts from my journal will give you the clearest idea of my encouragements and impediments, joys and sorrows. As I know the interest you feel in our welfare, I believe you will readily pardon me, should I be rather too particular in mentioning some things.
"Dec. 24th, 1822. -- The days are now so short, (though not so short as I expected to find them, since I can see to read seven hours by the daylight,) and so many persons from town and country call on me to get information on our doctrines, and to be instructed about their souls, that my time is nearly all taken up in giving advice, &c., so that I have little left for study. This is a great sacrifice, but one to which I cheerfully submit. I recollect where it is written, "He that winneth souls is wise."
"I preached this evening, in the Island of Bressa, to nearly twice as many as I have had there before, notwithstanding the opposition which has lately been made here. O my God, let me never be discouraged!
"25th. -- Though sermons had never before (as I have been informed) been preached in Shetland at the festival of Christmas, I could see no reason why I should not commemorate an event of such importance. I preached at twelve, and at six. The chapel was well attended, at both services, and some seemed to feel. [This is an odd ending to a sentence, but perhaps a common usage then. -- DVM] "26th. -- I preached in Sound this evening, in a house full of very attentive hearers. "Shall not the dead hear the voice of the Son; of God, and live?"
"27th. -- In the Island of Bressa, the congregation increases every time I go, both in number and seriousness. This afternoon there was much swell in the Sound, but we got safely back. The Shetlanders think little of shipping a few seas.
"Having conversed last night with some professors, very weak in faith, I preached this evening upon, 'If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.'
"28th. -- I spent this afternoon in visiting the poor, and distributing tracts.
"29th. -- I preached three times this day. God has enabled me to cry aloud and spare not; and some, I believe, have felt the word 'as a hammer, breaking the rock in pieces.'
"30th. -- I preached in Fingwall at noon, and in Scalloway at night. Since I was here last, two or three young men have begun to think about their souls, and appear to promise well. May they never look back! I visited, after preaching, twenty poor families, by the moon light.
"31st. -- A woman, whom I visited this morning, said that she has been distressed about her soul, for twenty years; and that she was now afraid there was no mercy for her. I believe that, if she had suitable advice, she would soon obtain comfort.
"The School-house was crowded at ten o'clock. After preaching, I took boat for Burra Island, four miles from Scalloway. The wind was right against us, and so strong, as nearly to blow our slender boat out of the water, which, with the cold hail-showers, made me glad to row, to keep myself warm.
"When I landed, I knew not a single person on the island, nor had a letter of introduction to any one. [I again thought of you (Adam Clarke) when you entered Alderney in a similar circumstances.] I therefore entered the first cottage I saw. It was full of smoke: and an old woman was sitting enveloped in it. I preached at five, from 'It is appointed unto men once to die,' to about eighty hearers; after which, as I could find no place in which it was convenient for me to sleep, I was obliged to take boat for House Island, about a mile south, though the night was very dark, and it blew a gale of wind. But through divine providence, I arrived in safety I and after taking a little refreshment, having tasted nothing since early in the morning, I again went out, and called on fourteen families, who heard me talk about the best things gladly.
"It is now eleven o'clock: many of my brethren, in different parts of the world, are endeavoring to improve this solemn season. I am just going to lay myself down on a straw bed, in the corner of a cottage, truly thankful to Him 'who never sleeps,' that I am not out in the storm, which is raging furiously:
'For, lo a place he hath prepar'd For me, whom watchful angels keep.'
"Jan. 1st, 1823. -- I preached in Burra Kirk, at eleven; about two miles to the north at three; and in the Island of House at seven. Surely God has opened a door here. The people come several miles to hear the word of life. May this be the best year I have ever lived! Make me wise Make me holy! And O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity!
"2d. -- I preached in Burra at eleven; and in the afternoon in House; and then visited twelve cottages. My method of proceeding in these visits, is, first, when I enter the houses, to make a few general observations on some important subject; then to give personal advice to all present; to pray, if there be any sick, or distressed about their souls; and then to leave a tract for them to read, until I call again. The inconvenience which attends the performance of this part of ministerial duty is of small account, when weighed against the important end answered by so doing. Ministers should teach from 'house to house,' as well as 'publicly.' Ought we not to 'watch for souls as they that must give account?'
"3d. -- I preached in House in the morning, and Burra afternoon. This is a time of trial. The wind is so strong, that there is scarcely any standing out of doors; and in doors, the peat-smoke is very disagreeable. It makes my eyes smart, and is so thick, as frequently to prevent us from seeing each other at the distance of a yard. The inhabitants of these two islands are very poor. There is not one person of property in them. No wheat bread of any kind is used; and very few, if any, of what we should call the conveniences, much less the luxuries, of life, are to be had. Not a fish has been taken since I arrived; my fare has been chiefly potatoes. Today, I have begun to eat Burstan Broonies, thick oaten cakes, baked on the gridiron.
"4th. -- I visited several cottages, and preached twice in the house of a poor widow, who a few years ago lost her husband, and two eldest sons, at one time, when they were at the fishing. I thought of going to Lerwick today; but as the storm is not abated, there is no getting from this place. We have not seen the sun for the week. Thank God, the great Sun of Righteousness need never be so clouded so as to prevent the believer from 'taking an observation:' 'I am the light of the world, &c.'
8th. -- This is Old Christmas-day, to which the natives attend. They formerly kept it in 'rioting and drunkenness.' Today they have come in flocks to hear 'the gospel of peace.'
"In the morning I took boat for the Island of House. The sea was so rough, that I had several mouthfuls of salt-water. I preached twice. The congregation reminded me of what I have often seen in my native county, (Cornwall.) They were rather numerous; most came from a distance; all were attentive; several were in tears. I returned to Burra, and preached at six.
6th. -- Burra and House lie a little to the West of Mainland, very near to each other. The former is seven miles long, and one or two broad, containing about 350 inhabitants; the latter, five miles long, and one broad, with 150 inhabitants. They all attend Burra Kirk, and get from the minister, who resides on an island on the east side of Mainland, ten or twelve sermons in the year, chiefly in the summer season. There are five other small inhabited islands, near those, which I intend shortly to visit. Surely they are almost as 'sheep having no shepherd.' I left Burra this morning, having given personal advice to a great portion of the people, and preached sixteen sermons, in seven days. O my God, let them not fall to the ground! "I was rowed four miles to Mainland, and then had to travel five miles to Lerwick, across the rugged hills, where not a hut was to be seen. The snow descended, and the winds blew most tremendously; but I arrived in safety; and, after changing everything from head to foot, I feel quite comfortable. I know many of my dear friends, if they were to hear these things, would think me imprudent. But they do not see and hear what I do. -- Souls, souls of an infinite value, purchased 'by blood divine,' are 'perishing.' Can too many sacrifices then be made, to save such 'from death?' O I am astonished; that I do not feel more, and do more, for immortal spirits!
"Jesus, I fain would find, Thy zeal for God in me, Thy yearning pity for mankind, Thy burning charity."
"7th, 8th, & 9th [of January, 1823]. -- I visited, &c., sixty-six poor families. May they be 'rich in faith!'
"12th. -- I preached this morning from Psalm cxxvi. 6. In the afternoon I went to Bressa, and had twice as many hearers as I have seen there before; two hundred, I should think, at least. It being Old New-year's Day, which the people here keep, I spoke in the evening from 'The time is short.' -- Lord, fasten the word!
"13th. -- I was disturbed very early this morning by the firing of guns, and the shouts of the people, who were running up and down the street with lighted brands in their hands, &c.; thus ushering in the New-Year, as yesterday was the Sabbath. 'O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.' In the afternoon I visited the houses.
"14th. -- The appearance of the high hills, now covered with snow, is remarkably grand. In the afternoon I preached in Bressa, then traveled two miles, crossed a sound, and preached in the Island of Noss, at seven.
"15th. -- I preached on the east side of Bressa, at twelve; and in Noss, at night. Lord, bless the word!
"16th. -- I preached in Bressa this afternoon, on my way home, and had more hearers than I have yet had on a week day.
"17th. -- I preached in Sound at three, and in the chapel at seven some appeared to feel. May it may be lasting!
"18th. -- I spent the afternoon in visiting, &c., about twenty houses.
"19th.- I preached in the chapel at eleven; walked to Sound, over the snow, and preached in a house full of people, at two; and here again at six. After the sermon I stated, for the first time publicly in Lerwick, our design in coming to Shetland, &c., and gave notice of preaching in a room, which I have taken for the purpose, on Tuesday evening. "20th. -- I have distributed a few tracts, and given a Note of Admittance to a person with whom I have frequently conversed. He enjoys a clear evidence of his acceptance with God. May he never look back, but live close to Him who 'giveth more grace!'
"21st. -- I walked to Sound, over roads like glass, through the frost. I spoke to a full congregation; returned, and preached, for the first time, in the room, which is thirty-two feet by fourteen, from II Thess. iii. 1. Numbers were obliged to go away, not being able to get in: it was so crowded.
"22d. -- Two men rowed me this afternoon to Quarf, a parish six miles south of Lerwick. I visited a few cottages, and preached at six to about thirty hearers.
"23d. -- I preached in Quarf this morning, and had many more hearers than last night, who were remarkably attentive to the word, and kind to me. I left immediately after preaching, in a boat with one man, and, after rowing about three hours against a north wind, and some snow, got safely to Lerwick. I have since, by moonlight, visited thirty houses, and distributed tracts. My God, make me holy and useful!
25th. -- I preached in Sound this afternoon, to a very full congregation. I have just received a letter from Brother Raby. Thirteen weeks had elapsed yesterday since we saw each other. Thank God, we are both well, and, I hope, doing well.
26th. -- That I might not interfere with church and chapel hours [of the Church of England], I preached this morning at ten o'clock. Though it was an earlier hour than that at which the people here have been accustomed to attend, yet the room was quite full. I then went to the Kirk. In the afternoon I preached in Bressa, to at least two hundred hearers. At six I preached here again. I think I never saw a room so crowded, and yet great numbers could not possibly get in. Thank God for the mercies of another Sabbath-day!
"27th. -- I walked five miles over the hills, through the snow, early this morning; then took boat for Trondra, an island containing about 120 inhabitants, where but one sermon had been preached in twelve months. The room was full of attentive hearers, in a very short time after my arrival; some of whom appeared to feel, while I preached on Matt. ix. 9.
"At three I preached in Hull, a small village on Mainland. At six the large School-house in Scalloway was well filled. I am now quite ready for bed, having walked this day seven miles, preached three times, and visited twenty cottages, with only a few potatoes for dinner, and barley-cake for supper. But, O, how much better is this than I deserve!
'Ten thousand thousand precious gifts My daily thanks employ; Nor is the least a thankful heart, That tastes these gifts with joy.'
"28th. -- I preached in Scalloway this morning. These were formerly a most careless people; they now attend well. In several, I believe, a good work is begun; two or three have obtained a sense of pardon.
'O that all might catch the flame, All partake the glorious bliss.'
After preaching I immediately set off for Lerwick. The roads are remarkably rugged; and, as the hills on Mainland extend north and south, in going across the country the traveler has no sooner ascended one hill than he has to ascend another. These inconveniences, with the blowing of the wind, the descending of the rain, and the thawing of the snow, rendered traveling this day very disagreeable, and so difficult, that I was three hours in walking five miles. After, however, I had taken a little refreshment, and changed my clothes, I was able to preach in the room full of hearers.
"10th. -- Those who have not visited Shetland, can scarcely have any idea of the quick transition we frequently see in the weather. Yesterday there was no venturing out into the Sound, the sea was so rough; this morning it was as smooth as a lake. In the afternoon I preached in Bressa; in the evening here, to a crowded congregation, from I Pet. iii. 15. After the sermon, as some have lately stated that our doctrines are unscriptural, &c., I told the congregation that we were very willing to take the advice of the apostle in the text.
"31st. [of January, 1823] -- I preached this afternoon in Sound. O, my God, awaken these souls! In the evening I gave an exhortation in the chapel. Another month is gone, with those beyond the flood. I feel truly thankful to God for having hitherto preserved me, and given me strength, notwithstanding the unfavorableness of the weather, &c., to preach forty-seven sermons, besides attending to various other duties, since its commencement. Let me not labor in vain!
"Feb. 1st. -- I visited two poor sick women, one of whom has been bedridden four years, the other eighteen years; also a man who has had a cancer seven years, which has nearly eaten away all his face. A painful sight to behold! I have distributed tracts, and taught personally, in about twenty houses. Several persons have called on me this week. Some have said, as the Jews of Rome did of the apostle, 'We desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest, for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.' A few, however, have put the important question of the jailor at Philippi, 'What must I do to be saved?'
"2d. -- Though the snow was descending this morning when we went to the room, it was well filled with attentive hearers; many of whom appeared to tremble, while I enforced the important question, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?' I then went to the Dissenters' chapel, where I was unexpectedly called upon to give an exhortation. In the afternoon I walked to Sound through the snow, and preached to one hundred hearers, in a cottage. In the evening, the room here was excessively crowded. I believe if it were twice as large it would be filled. O that we had but the means of enlarging our tents!
"4th. -- Having previously published my intentions of preaching to young people this evening, the room was excessively crowded. Many appeared to be deeply affected while I spoke from these words, 'Those that seek me early shall find me.' I then briefly explained the nature of a Methodist class-meeting, and stated that I was willing to give instruction to any who desired to flee from the wrath to come. After the congregation was dismissed, twenty-one remained, to whom I gave general advice.
"6th. -- After preaching this evening, I mentioned that our class-meetings were designed for those who wished to become members of our society. We had eighteen present, to whom I gave personal advice. On the whole, I was highly pleased with them. O what wisdom and piety I now need!
"9th. -- At ten this morning the room was quite full. After speaking from Isai. lxiii. 1, I went to the chapel, where Mr. Reid called upon me to give an exhortation. In the afternoon I spoke in Bressa to a crowd of people. In the evening the room here was full beyond everything. The people cram in, as long as there is a foot of ground to stand on; they are then obliged to go away, as there is no possibility of hearing on the outside. The heat [in the room] is very oppressive. But, I thank my God, he gives me strength proportioned to my day.
"11th. -- Though a very wet evening, the room was excessively crowded. I preached, and afterwards met the class; sixteen were present. They all appear resolved to serve God. May they never look back! I feel such a love for them as I never felt for any people before."
In a Postscript, dated Feb. 12th , Mr. Dunn adds: "You will perceive from the above extracts, that we have already had the droppings of a shower. The seed is beginning to spring up. May He quickly pour all the Spirit of his love!
"Some have been kept back from joining us, under a fear lest we should leave the islands again. Hence I was obliged last evening to pledge myself, that we will continue here as long as we have any prospects of usefulness, or get other Wesleyan ministers appointed, which quite satisfied them. I shall be glad to have this confirmed by you [Adam Clarke]: for my own part, I believe that we shall have preachers in Shetland as long as the world lasts. We have received ú50 from Mr. Blanshard altogether, and shall be obliged to draw on him for ú20 more, in a week or two. We have expended the money in traveling, lodgings, board, &c. I wish we could do without taking a farthing from the fund but I believe we shall require a less sum every year.
I have this day been warned out of the room in which I have been preaching. The landlord says, that the beams cannot support the crowd of people that attends. What shall I now do? There is not another in Lerwick, that I can find, of any size. Will any kind friend, or friends, in England, give us ú50? I will engage, in that case, to beg ú50 more, and then build a chapel for ú150. We must have a chapel in Lerwick, which is the only town in the islands, and to which the country people are continually coming. It contains above 2,200 inhabitants, and is much frequented by sailors, especially in their going to and coming from Greenland. A great many Dutch and Danish ships put in here, &c.
"When we were in London, tracts were given to us from the Book-Room to the amount of ú5. After our arrival here we divided them; the part which fell to me I have nearly distributed. What shall I do for more? Shall I be so bold as to request another parcel? When I say that the people are eager to get them, though in general they have no money to purchase, and that I have already seen good effects produced by them, I believe you will use your influence on behalf of poor Shetland. The memoirs [of Adam Clarke possibly?] are much inquired after. I hope soon to be able to tell you how the people generally are supplied with Bibles."
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