Samuel J. Levick
Levick, Samuel J. Life of Samuel J. Levick, Late of the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: William H. Pile's Sons, 1896, pages 179-185.
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Esteemed Friend: Thy communication of the twenty first instant came to hand yesterday, and I am glad that thou felt at liberty to address me. It is my hope that I may always be willing to receive inquiries, and, if able, to furnish any information that may tend to enlighten the minds of my fellow-men, to be as free to impart it as I am to be instructed by them.
Thou art one of a class of our members that I feel sympathy with, believing them to be honest in their inquiries, and desirous to be found doing that which they believe to be right. Thou art zealous in thy endeavors to promote those works which have for their object the increase and the spread of righteousness and peace. I can heartily sympathize with thee and with those who are like-minded, and can understand your feelings; for it has been with me as thou has inferred, that I have stood as one of the a ctive in the works of anti-slavery and non-resistance, and have been joined with others for the promotion of them. I have even seen the day when I felt that I could not, by an act of my own, acknowledge fellowship with the Society of Friends, bu t that I must stand aloof from them, because of their (as I then thought) apparent apathy toward these reforms. But it is meet that I should come directly to thy queries, and answer them as I now view the situation. Thou art "desirous to know" my "opinion respecting the position of' the Society of Friends at the present time; and the course to be pursued by those who feel it their duty to act in some more efficient way than, it seems to many, the Society is now doing."
I presume thou desires to know my opinion respecting the position of the Society of Friends in relation to the subjects of anti-slavery and peace. In reply, I will state that I believe, as a body, as a whole, there is in the Society a strong, an increasing feeling on these subjects, a feeling that will enable it - as light and ability are furnished - to bear to the nations of the world a testimony against the great evils of war and slavery. But, while I believe this to be the case with the Society, as a body, I do painfully acknowledge that there are, even among those who appear active, evidences of a want of a living concern for the testimonies that we are professing to bear. If we believe, as I do, that the Spirit of Truth dwells in the heart of the true Friend (let me be understood), and that those who dwell in the light and are led by the Spirit of Truth are the true Friends; then we must admit that these, and these only, who are guided by this light, constitute the Soc iety of Friends. And, as this Spirit will lead and guide into all Truth, it gives to every possessor of it a testimony to bear in accordance with itself. Those who are not guided by the Spirit of Truth are not in unity with the Society, though they may c laim a right of membership. Yet the living members feel no unity with their conduct; no more than they feel with that of the living members. These nominal members, who are ready to work without any inward call, are generally known for their much-speaking, and they would make. it appear that they speak the mind of the body. The distinguishing principle of the Society of Friends is, that the Spirit of Truth is given to man for a director, and that, if we are the children of God, we will walk by this Spirit, and know it to be the governor of our lives in all our movement s. When we come to be thus governed, we shall find that all that is good in us will be strengthened, and we shall be neither barren nor unfruitful, but" always abounding in the work of the Lord." I have confidence to believe that this Spirit is the gover nor of very many within our pale, and with these I have unity. These, being living members, cannot be dead to the cause of suffering humanity, or to any other cause which keeps the Truth in bondage to the Spirit of anti-Christ. There are but two spirits in the world - is of Christ, the other of anti-Christ. War, slavery, self-sufficiency, pride, vanity, intemperance, licentiousness, etc., are not causes, but effects, of the spirit of anti-Christ on the mind. In this, I trust, we can all unite. A nd, such being the case, we must admit that they can be overcome by the Spirit of Christ, and only by this. We must have Christ in us, and He must be our director in the work. We must, therefore, perceive that all that is in us that opposes his kingdom b eing established, must be removed, or we must, at least, be in such a state as to desire its removal. This, as I believe, is the ground upon which the Society of Friends has stood from its first rise, and upon which it now stands. The means that t he Spirit of Christ uses to perform the work of reformation are different from those used by man, who engages in the work, "regardless of superior strength, and vainly trusts his own." If we are laboring without the Spirit of Christ, we are under the inf luence of the spirit of anti-Christ. But mark - I do not say that those who are co-laboring with those who are not Friends, are acting against Christ. No; I make no such charge against them, but would have them query whether or not the actions of the organizations in which they are working are after the Spirit of Christ. Individuals may be innocent, but is the basis of the organization laid on the alone sure foundation ? Do they acknowledge that the immediate revelation of Christ's will to us sha ll be our alone motive to action, or are they based on a very different foundation, viz: That man's knowledge of the evils of war, slavery and intemperance is a sufficient reason for his crying against them ? They speak of doing the work of Christ, of endeavoring to hasten the day when Christ's government shall be established, when the sword shall be beaten into a plow-share, and the spear into a pruninghook, and men and nations shall learn war no more. But all this good work is to be done without the assistance of Christ; for many, very many, who compose these reform societies, and whose sentiments give a bearing to their course of procedure, positively deny that Christ's Spirit does teach the people immediately. How, therefore, can the true Friend unite with these, while he believes that, to perform any work for Christ, it must be done with the aid of his Spirit ?
It was not until I saw things in this light that I could understand why I "should not unite, or continue united, with those who do not acknowledge the necessity of having the aid of the Spirit of Christ, in order to promote the works of righteousness. I may say that I never felt condemnation for what I had done, for I felt I had done my duty, according to the light then given me. But it was not while I was working with the societies that I saw things thus; and when I felt it my duty to be more quiet, there was no reason shown me why I should be so. But in time it was made apparent, and I now feel I can do all that is required of me as a member of the Society of Friends, without being connected with any outside body t hat has been organized to promote reforms.
And, my friend, I believe, as thou has thy mind gathered more into a state of silent waiting, thou will be brought to see that it is not the amount of labor we perform that is acceptable, but obedience to the Divine command in all that we do. Then thine eye will be opened to see that there is room and opportunity in thy own Society for thee to perform whatever services thy Almighty Parent is requiring at thy hand. As thou art obedient to his requirements, He may perhaps enable thee to open the eyes of others, even those who are now lukewarm, to see the importance of a more faithful observance of our testimonies. Well do I remember my feelings in the days of my great zeal in the anti-slavery cause. I looked upon the Society of Friends, and felt c hilled at beholding the apathy of so many of its members, while I stumbled at the inconsistencies of many more. Some seemed to be swallowed up in political strife, some in the spirit of the world, and some who were almost willing to unite with the slave- holder for purposes of gain. The query in my mind was, How can I unite with these ? Well do I remember the reply that came to this query, Are there not those in the Society with whom thou art united ? Are not the principles of this people thy principles ? And, if not among these, where can thou find any people with whom thou can unite ? Thou art not called to unite with those who are stifling the Divine principle by their worldly-mindedness, nor yet with those who are seeking to tear down anti-Christ by their own strength, in the activity of the creature; but to the Society of Friends, to the true seed, to those who are following the Lamb whithersoever He leadeth. Since this view was opened to me, I have found that there is life in the Society o f Friends, in the body, and I have labored, as ability has been given, for the establishment of Christ's kingdom in the hearts of the children of men, and I now feel willing to go wheresoever the Master may send me, for the purpose of doing his will. But I should fear to go without his commission, lest my labor be fruitless, and, peradventure, myself perish in the attempt.
I well know the nature of the human heart when warmed with sympathy for the oppressed and afflicted, and the natural disposition to censure those who may not feel as we feel. Oh, let us beware of this untempered zeal! I well remember how I felt toward ma ny of those who were fathers in the Truth. I judged them as being pro-slavery, because they did not think as I thought. Yet, on a more intimate acquaintance with them, I found that they were alive to the subject, but were not at liberty to do as I did.
I am, very truly, thy friend,
SAMUEL J. LEVICK.