Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 8 (1893)

157/291

Lt 123, 1893

White, J. E.

Wellington, New Zealand

June 21, [1893]

Portions of this letter are published in 4Bio 95-97.

Dear Son Edson:

(Edson, please read this carefully. Do not cast it aside or burn it.) 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 1

Why should you express yourself as you have done? Why use such firm language? Why do you have any satisfaction in this selfish independence? If you were a man unacquainted with truth, I could address you in a different way, approach you by presenting the truth in all its beauty and attractive loveliness, but this would not move you. The answer would be, “I knew all that before. I am not as ignorant as you suppose.” 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 2

It is most difficult to find words which will reach the mind with a power that will make an impression. You have had light shining all around you but refused to walk in the light. Is not your position clearly defined in these words, “We want not thy ways, O God, but our own ways”? Is it not wisdom to give up your ways, and your independent judgment? Your soul is in peril. Your own course of action has brought the sure result. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 3

The Lord has endowed you with precious qualities of character which would have made your influence a savor of life unto life had you not perverted these amiable traits in bringing yourself down to a cheapness of words and unreliable deportment, in choosing to follow a course that is not the way of the Lord. This has lessened confidence in you, and this distrust has ripened into action, painful to you and doubly painful to me, because I am credited with sustaining you by keeping myself linked up with you in business. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 4

You feel we have cut ourselves loose from you, but if you could only know how much we studied how to hold fast to you and have the approval of God, and not serve with your wrong course of action, you would pity us, for we have had soul agony and sent up our prayers to God with many tears. When we have not complied with your wishes it has been because we were forbidden of God to do so, for it would not be the means of accomplishing the thing we so much desired, but would prove in the end a stumblingblock to you; in the place of helping you it would for the time be a selfish gratification to you, but leave you more entangled than ever in Satan’s net. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 5

You need not place yourself where you make it hard for you and for us. You should receive my counsel. But if you refuse to receive counsel and warnings from your mother, whom you should respect, honor, and obey, and will go on as you please, we cannot, knowing you have separated from God, have confidence in your judgment or course of action. If you surrendered to God and brought Christ and His instructions into your business, then the future would not be as forbidding as it now is. But as you choose to work apart from Christ, I cannot see how we can bind up with you in any way. We can and do pray for you. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 6

June 21. I awoke quarter past one o’clock full of terror. I had a scene presented before me. You and four other young men were upon the beach. You all seemed too careless—unconcerned, yet in great danger. Many had collected on the beach to observe your movements, and this seemed to make you more determined and venturesome. The waves were rolling up nearer and still nearer and then would roll back with a sullen roar. Gestures and warnings were given by the anxious ones looking on, but in answer to all their warnings you were more presumptuous. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 7

Someone placed his hand on my shoulder. “Did you know that is your son Edson? He cannot hear your voice, but he can see your motions. Tell him to come at once. He will not disobey his mother.” I reached out my hands. I did all I could do to warn. I cried with all my power of voice, “You have not a moment to lose! The undertow! The undertow!” I knew that once you were in the power of the treacherous undertow no human power could avail. A strong rope was brought and fastened securely around the body of a strong young man who ventured to risk his own life to save you. You seemed to be making light of the whole performance. I saw the merciless undertow embrace you and you were battling with the waves. I awoke as I heard a fearful shriek from you. I prayed most earnestly in your behalf and arose and am writing these lines. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 8

The undertow! I have had opportunity to watch the movements of the waves as I have often visited Island Bay, four miles from Wellington. In Napier, I had a chance to see its more powerful movements. A few weeks before, a strong young man registered his name in the hotel books and walked out on the beach; no trace of him has ever been found. His hat was washed ashore. They supposed he was ignorant of the treacherous undertow, and once in its embrace there was no hope. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 9

A few weeks since, I read the account of four young men, experts in the water, who were caught in the undertow. After having their sport in the water they attempted to reach the beach, but it required desperate energy, for the treacherous undertow would take them back. Many gathered on the beach to see them wrestling with the waves for their lives, but were perfectly helpless to rescue them. They battled bravely for a long time, and then with a fearful, agonizing cry gave up the struggle. One only was saved, and not by his own energies, for he gave up like the rest; but after being taken under by the undertow, a wave threw his supposedly lifeless body on the beach, and after some patient, lengthy efforts he was restored to consciousness. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 10

I have since pondered on this representation almost constantly. “Not at all religiously inclined.” These are the words of Satan, not of my son. There is nothing more sacred on earth than for a child to defend and shield his mother from any taint of misapprehension and reproach, a widowed mother who has felt so much alone, dependent upon that help which her sons could give her and which they promised to give her at the death of the husband and father. Your mother’s worth, and the goodness, verity, and truth of her mission were assailed, her judgment questioned, her discernment pronounced unreliable, her influence limited. Should not her sons rally around her then, and give evidence of the fact of the untruthfulness of these statements? Should they not, in their own lives and character, vindicate the honor of the mother? Should they not throw over her their protecting shield, and show to the world, to angels, and to men that they honored their mother and would not, by their course of action, place her in a position to be misapprehended, her usefulness lessened, her judgment dishonored? 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 11

You say you are “not at all religiously inclined.” What record does this bear to the world? I cannot say now, as one expressed in a letter to me not long since, “If my children are not saved, I do not care to be saved and know they perish.” No! No! I have seen the happiness and joy and glory of the blessed and I feel more and more my weakness and inability. Sometimes with remorse I look upon my efforts made in my intense desire to save my children, and see how worthless have been my efforts in some respects in your behalf. Then I go over the ground nearly entire nights, take up every action where I thought I was doing right, and review and criticize myself to ascertain where I have made a mistake, that even one of my children will not be a recommendation to the efforts, the prayers, the appeals, the counsel of the mother. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 12

I shall not but go with remorse to the grave that it may be my best efforts in behalf of my own son have been as naught, that I should be brought to reproach and be a byword to my enemies and to apostates, to evil angels, and to men. They point to you, who have lived with me, traveled with me, and say, “He has no faith in his mother’s messages and mission;” and they build themselves up in their rebellion. I am grieved, sick to the heart, as I consider your case, one who will be judged according to the light he has received. All heaven is looking on with interest to see the case, to see you wrestling with the powers of darkness in your own human strength and Satan gaining inch by inch, victory upon victory, in playing the game of life for your soul. Shall Satan triumph? Shall apostates point to my children to substantiate their evil reports of me? God forbid this state of things should be regarded by you with indifference. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 13

You seem to think you can say, “I will do as I please, serve with the adversary of God and man as long as I please, then I will serve God.” How do such plans look with the God of heaven? Your life is in His hands. I have cause to feel deeply wounded and sorrowful. Carry out your resolution and I shall mourn over you as a soul lost to God, lost to your mother. Woe is me that I have brought into the world a son that helps to swell the rebel’s ranks, to stand in defiance against God. You can in the strength of Jesus change this order of things. You can now, while it is called today, harden not your heart. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 14

God alone knows the limit of His forbearance. Your life, my life, is in His hands. The cold may be contracted, may pass on for a few weeks without awakening any concern, but it may prove the arrow of death. In one instant the blood of the living agent may cease its circulation. Accident may quench the life in a moment. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 15

Last Thursday morning a gentleman, a proprietor of a water-cure establishment, was conversing with Mrs. Tuxford, agent and secretary of International Tract and Missionary Society. This was at twelve o’clock [noon]. He looked to be in good health, talked pleasantly of the beautiful sunshiny day. Between two and three o’clock he was silent in death. He ate a hearty dinner and worked in his garden and became quite heated, came into the house thirsty and asked his wife for a cup of water. He drank a glass of water, and she passed into the next room. He took the second glass and she entered the room again. He said, I have a pain in my stomach. She went out of the room to get him something and she heard him fall. She came into the room and said, “Husband, do you not know me?” He fixed his eyes upon her a moment and gasped his last breath. Any exposure to dampness, to rain, may lay any one of us upon the bed of our last sickness from which we may never rise. There are many ways that life may become extinct in a moment. God alone is able to guard your life and my life and the life of Emma. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 16

The undertow—what does it represent? It represents the power of Satan and a set, independent, stubborn will of your own which has reached even against God. You have not preserved a surrender to God. It is easy for you to make your calculations as to what you will do. So did the rich man whose grounds, through the blessing of God, produced abundantly. His treasures were not vague, in anticipation, but tangible, right before him. He thought them so sure he counted on years when he would enjoy them and he said to his soul, “Soul, ... take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” [Luke 12:19.] The Lord sees that good bestowed upon that man did not bring into his heart any gratitude to God, but he would use heaven’s gifts without one thought of the Giver, and he would misapply the blessings God had granted him to lead others into false paths, to forget God. The mandate goes forth, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” [Verse 20.] 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 17

It has been easy for men to make grievous miscalculations and to leave Christ behind. “Without me ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5.] You have decided to go a warfare at your own charges, and you may be occupied putting forth strenuous efforts but without results that will in any way correspond with the effort put forth. Your life has been wasted in the laborious effort that bears not the signature of the divine. Will it pay you when your accounts are settled in the judgment? 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 18

When I was observing your peril, I cannot express the feelings I passed through. It seemed that my soul would dissolve. I have not recovered from the impressions made on my mind as I cried to you, The undertow! The undertow! 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 19

When you were eighteen months old you were in my arms and part of the time in the arms of Clara Bonfoey. We had just gained a victory in prayer for your father, who had the cholera. Clara called me into the chamber where she slept. She said, “Edson is acting strangely. He sees something invisible to me.” I found you fighting with both arms and hands an invisible foe. I took you in my arms. You clung to my neck tenaciously and then your eyes were filled with terror and you fought desperately, striking at something, saying, “No, no!” Then wearied out you would cling to me as if for protection. Now that very morning I had to go to Centerport, about three miles. When I came back you were apparently breathing your last. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 20

Elder Rhodes was on the packet boat and he had been gone one hour. I said to your father, Take Charlie and go for Brother Rhodes. Charlie was already harnessed. He went on the tow path as fast as Charlie could travel and that was with remarkable swiftness. I know there was never a ride more swift. No one stopped him, although it was against the law for horse and carriage to go on the towpath. All thought him an officer of justice and cleared the way before him. Well, he brought back Elder Rhodes. The Lord heard prayer in your behalf and you were saved to us, and there was great rejoicing. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 21

Next night your father was taken, and we prayed for him nearly all night. The next night you were again fighting this invisible foe, with terror-stricken countenance. We prayed again all night and yet several times you awoke and it was to go over the same process until we rebuked Satan in the name of the Lord. Your head then rested peacefully upon my breast, and you slept and there was no more of this. We had the victory. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 22

Several times has the Lord heard and answered prayer in your behalf and raised you up when your case was apparently hopeless. And now I see that invisible foe, lurking, alluring and deceiving your soul to your ruin. I know your only hope is to cling to God and to your mother and brother. This I have seen repeatedly. I have been made to feel there is a sorrow deeper than bereavement by death. It is breaches in affection—the closest ties rudely sundered and those who have done everything they could do in your behalf treated as your enemies, your love turned to hatred, the door of the heart rudely closed against those who have made your interest their own and lavished upon you every kindness in thought and in affections. Think you that your mother’s heart is stone? Hopes are blighted. When there should be the reaping time and the treasures gathered in, there are only sand pillars. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 23

You are no more a child. I would that you were. I would cradle you in my arms, watch over you as I have done. But you are a man grown. You have taken the molding of your character out of the hands of your mother, out of the hands of God, and are placing defective, rotten timbers into the building. Evil influences are accepted; the good and saving influences refused. You would almost fail to recognize yourself should your present picture of character be presented by the side of the former one when you tried to walk in the fear of God. And you tell the mother who wept and prayed, cautioned and warned, giving you the word from the Lord again and again, you are “not at all religiously inclined,” and coolly state you will not change your course—that is, as I understand it, come into submission to God—until your debts are paid and you have a reliable competency. The pronunciation against the rich man may be made any hour against you. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 24

Your religious history need not have been vacillating, but firm and true; but you would be independent and take your own course. You have been strong one hour, vacillating the next. I am now determined to press upon your notice and make you hear: “This is the undertow.” While you coolly calculate as though you had all power and sufficiency to shape your destiny, you will do your will, you will stand as an apostate in the sight of the world and angels and of men, working under the banner of the prince of darkness from your own deliberate choice; and after you have dishonored God and your Redeemer as long as you choose to do so, then you will take up the work in the Master’s service. The undertow! The undertow! Charlie Stone made his calculations, but in a moment he lost his life. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 25

I will testify before the angels of God, before Him who sitteth upon the throne, I take no stock in this dishonoring of God. Of the sons of Eli it was said their sins should not be purged with sacrifice or offerings forever. “Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” 1 Samuel 2:30. I have moved in matters according to the best light given me of heaven, which to you is a great offense. I shall make no plea for Willie, for he must stand for himself. His own life and character should be his vindication to you. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 26

I cannot say, “If my son Edson is not saved, blot out my name from the book of life.” No! No! I shall sorrow while you live in disobedience to God who is just and holy, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. I have love, deep and fervent love, for my two children that are living, and Emma my daughter. I hope to do them good as long as they both shall live, but I hope not to show respect and honor to either of them if in thus doing I dishonor God. I have respect to truth, to verity, to righteousness. When you surrender to God, I am one with you; but God forbid I should even appear to sanction your course in any respect when you are in rebellion against God, because you want to be revenged, on whom? Your mother, your brother, your God. And show resentment to those you think have injured you. What has the Lord Jesus done for you that He should be treated with contempt and put to open shame and crucified afresh? 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 27

My son, I am deeply sorry for you. I would turn your course if I could, but you are your own worst enemy. When you told me before I went to California that mother need not worry any more about you in regard to boats, for you would have nothing more to do with boats, I could be assured and easy, I believed your words. I trusted you. But you did not keep your word and have passed over the disrespect shown to your mother without one word of reference to the matter, as though it was nothing with which you were concerned. And the course you have pursued toward your Saviour, dishonoring Him, is grieving the Spirit of God and putting Him to open shame before the enemies of truth and righteousness. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 28

I am sorry to have lost confidence in your word. The Lord is very merciful, but when you state you will pursue a certain course until there are certain results, and then you will begin to work, how does Heaven look upon such words? Just as it regarded the men who refused to go up and take possession of Canaan. The Lord told them His purpose in regard to the Canaanites. Then they said they would go up, but they were warned not to make the trial. God would not go with them. But they had their way and went, and the result you know full well. God will not be trifled with. That which ye sow ye shall also reap. No. When you plan had you not better plan in the fear of God?—Lead me, guide me. It will require an effort to unbind yourself from Satan’s chariot. Nevertheless it is life or death with you. I would not have written you this letter, but I am exhorting you day and night and I shall try to leave you now with God. I cannot save you; God alone can save you. But work, while Jesus invites you, in harmony with God. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 29

Mother.

I am sorry to send you such a poor scribbling letter, but you know I do not want to put it in the hands of the typist. 8LtMs, Lt 123, 1893, par. 30