W0877 TO MARGARETTE B. [LERNED] MCQUESTEN from her friend Sarah T. Smith
Mar 10 1837
To: Margarette B. Lerned McQuesten, Brockport, New York, [U.S.A.]
From: New York, New York, [U.S.A.]
My dear Mrs. McQuesten,
Your welcome letter has touched a cord to which every emotion of my soul readily vibrates, for it carries me back to the happy days of childhood, and brings before me scenes and persons dearer than any I can ever see or know again. I am sorry that you should deem an apology necessary for writing to me, because independently of our union as sisters in Christ, I feel that we have special claim on each other, in virtue of the intimate friendship which formerly existed between those beloved mothers who have long ere this, met on the plains of the heavenly Jerusalem. I intended to write you immediately after hearing from brother Sanford who you were, but we are now in the midst of a protracted meeting and this together with other pressing duties has completely occupied my time.
You enquire my dear friend concerning the best method of conducting the meeting of your Society. I would premise before answering the question that experience has been an only teacher, and that all our ideas on this subject have been gained by carefully watching the results of different meetings on the minds of the community. In this way, after prayerful deliberation we have been led to the conclusion that a meeting conducted solely by Ladies was not only more beneficial in its results, but far more interesting to those present than one in which the different sexes united, even if none but a lecturer were present.1 The grand object of these meetings is to secure an unrestrained interchange of thought and feeling, and this from the very nature of the case can only be expected where none but females are present. We are not to become public teachers, or to usurp authority, but both God and nature unite in pointing out the propriety of our exhorting each other to love and good works, and devoting to the service of our Redeemer those talents which have been hitherto buried in a napkin, or used only for the purposes of a vain and selfish display. There have been in all ages females of commanding intellect who have not hesitated to consecrate themselves publicly to the service of Satan, and shall we do less for our blessed master than they have done for theirs?
I blush for the folly and degradation of my sex when I think of the capacities for extended usefulness which our God has given us, and how we have been cheated out of our allegiance to the Savior, by a false picture of modesty and humility while thousands of our sisters were falling around us and our lips closely locked in silence. And I can never sufficiently bless God for awakening us to a sense of our duties and responsibilities while yet the day lasted, that we might have the glorious privilege of being co-workers with him, in the nation of a guilty and ruined world. We possess as females an influence almost unbounded, it would be the madness of affectation to deny it, and when this truth falls on our ear in the language of adulation, it is never denied or doubted. But when duty is pressed upon us in view of this solemn fact, how many excuses are urged by those deceitful hearts for thinking poor its performance! We fear the imputation of forwardness or indelicacy or unfeminine boldness, and we cannot make so great a sacrifice for the uncertain prospect of doing good to others.
Beside, we trust there will be enough to bear this burden, who have not our peculiar feelings, for we do believe the cause to be of God, and wish it success, though we are not prepared to sacrifice our love of popularity on the altar of benevolence. Do you ask me my dear sister how I know all this? Because I have read it in my own heart, and I am told by God that "as in water face answereth face, so the heart of man to man."
Oh! it was not until I was made willing to be like my blessed master, "of no reputation," that I was brought to throw myself into a work which I now believe to be second to none that ever engaged the energies of men or angels. For, what is our object? We seek to direct the attention of Mothers to the temporal and eternal welfare of their children, and by casting the salt of divine grace into the deep fountain of maternal love to pacify the streams that shall flow out carrying life and blessedness to the latest generations. Is this an object of trivial importance to the philanthropist or the Christian?
We seek to throw around the young and inexperienced the sweet influences of maternal and sisterly affection and to make them feel that while wisdom's ways are pleasantness and all her paths peace, they cannot forsake them without losing all that gives value to this life or hope to that which is to come. We wish to strip vice of the false garb under which she has deluded so many, and show her to the world in her own hideous deformity. Now I appeal to every mother who has a beloved child to be saved or lost; to every daughter or sister whose reputation for unsullied virtue is dearer to her than life; to every lady who has a mind to perceive and a heart to feel the force of truth; what is there in these objects of injurious or even doubtful tendency? Beloved, we are all Sisters, we have all been bought with a great price, we have but a few days to work for Jesus, and then our rest will be glorious, shall we not then do what we can, to arrest the progress of an evil which must be removed before God's will can be done on earth as it is in Heaven? Believe me there is nothing unfeminine in the work, for instead of carnal weapons, we bring to the field of conflict only the love that attracts, the patience that endures, and the union that is strength.
But I remember that I have not yet answered your question my dear Margarette. You will find the answer however in the last no. of the Advocate together with a report of our last quarterly meeting which will perhaps be interesting to you. I think the meeting should be opened by the reading of an appropriate passage of scripture and prayers and then after a statement of what the Soc has done, and is doing, there should be familiar conversation or remarks illustrated by such interesting facts as are in the possession of any of the ladies. We can talk easily and fluently in a parlor, why not in a lecture-room? We can state our belief on any subject and the reasons for it, in a large party even of both sexes, and why should we be afraid to open our mouths for God when the honor of his cause requires it and before an audience of ladies only? My dear sister, we must have the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and then the love of Christ will so fill our hearts, as to leave us room for that fear of man, which bringeth a [snare?].
That there will be difficulties at first I doubt not, but a determination to persevere in the strength of the Lord, will overcome them and our self-denial will be richly rewarded by the blessing thus brought upon our own souls. Those that honor God, he will honor. You and I, with all the dear sisters engaged in the blessed cause have been called of God to enter into it, and if we go forward in the spirit of Christ, looking only to him for strength and guidance, he will bless our feeble & unworthy efforts in a way we have never yet even conceived of. Only let us believe and we shall see the salvation of our God. With regard to special subjects for prayer, I would say that we have come to the determination that we will give names to the public in our paper in all cases where it seems expedient to do so, and we would commend this experiment for such we feel it to be, to the fervent prayers of all who love the cause; that it may give a new impulse to the work, and carry conviction & repentance to the hearts of those concerned. As to ourselves, we know we have an interest in your progress and this is worth more to us than millions of gold and silver. Do write me again dear Margarette and believe me yours affectionately,
Sarah [T.?] Smith
[Envelope wrapper:] Margarette B. McQuesten, Brockport, N.Y.
1 The "Moral Reformer" publication in W0873 may also be a reference to this women's movement.
2 To learn more about Margarette Barker Lerned [McQuesten] please see W0609.