American Quakers Face the Civil War
Baltimore Yearly Meeting
From ANSWERS TO THE QUERIES
Friends appear to be generally careful to bear our testimonies against a hireling ministry, oaths, clandestine prize goods and lotteries; but all the reports admit a want of faithfulness in the support of our important testimony against military services and requisitions.
Baltimore 10th Month 27, 1863
The Committee appointed at a former sitting to endeavor to embody the exercises of this Meeting whilst engaged in the consideration of the State of Society, produced the following Minute, which was approved by the Meeting, viz:
A precious solemnity has prevailed over the Meting during its several sittings, and much unity and harmony of feeling were manifested throughout. Many lively testimonies were borne during the examination of the State of Society, to the efficacy of that pure love, which is a redeeming principle in the hearts of all who yield to its benign influence, and wholly resign themselves to the Divine disposal. Many hearts were tendered and contrited under the baptizing influence of that living Gospel ministry that reached the witness in their own breasts, and much affectionate advice and tender counsel were held forth, particularly to the younger members, to come forward to the help of the fathers, in maintaining the testimonies of this people, being assured that to willing and obedient hearts, the yoke of Christ becomes easy. These were encouraged to greater faithfulness in the attendance of all our Meetings, and to unreserved dedication of heart to every feeling of duty required of them. Faithful obedience in little things leads to increased strength and greater openings, for we rarely stand still in religious experience, but are either advancing or retrograding in our course, and lamentable, indeed, is a condition of degeneracy. Let us all be awakened to increased watchfulness over ourselves and one another, and renewed concern to seek first the kingdom of heaven, and to walk answerable to the high and holy calling wherewith we are called.
Our predecessors in this Religious Society, by faithfulness to the manifestations of the Divine Power, wrought a great work in the earth, and to us is bequeathed this rich inheritance, the fruits of their labors. Shall we then let fall these great testimonies that have enlightened mankind, and modified human governments? Shall we suffer the brightness of the light of these ancient worthies to be eclipsed by our unfaithfulness? Such, alas, is to much our condition. Many deficiencies appear amongst us, and we fall far short of their primitive faithfulness. Yet such is the condescending goodness and mercy of our great heavenly Parent, that with all our frailties, He suffers not our light to be put out, but still raises up faithful standard-bearers to exalt His name in the earth.. . . .
A considerable number of our members, who live within the lines of military operations, being now in attendance with us, represent, that although they have been subjected to great trials, they have generally been preserved from personal injury, and have cause of thankfulness to the Shepherd of Israel. Two members of Fairfax Monthly Meeting [Virginia] have been arrested as hostages by the Southern troops, and so far as we know, are still held as prisoners, but measures have been taken to obtain their release, which, it is hoped, will prove successful.
On considering the condition of our beloved country, now subjected to the calamities attendant on a civil war, our hearts are affected with sorrow for the many victims who have fallen in the conflict, the many widows and orphans who mourn their bereavement, and the demoralizing effects of military service. We nevertheless hold fast our confidence in the wisdom, goodness and power of that Almighty Being, who rules in heaven and on earth, who permits the passions of men to work out their own chastisement, and brings forth, in the operations of His providence, results that cannot be foreseen by human wisdom, nor frustrated by human depravity.
The testimony to the peaceable nature of Christs kingdom, maintained by our fathers, is still dear to our hearts, and notwithstanding the cloud of discouragement that now overshadows us, we trust the Son of Righteousness will yet arise, and the glory of the Lord be made manifest to the nations. As the Prophet saw, in the visions of light, a stone cut out without hands, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth, so, we believe, will the Redeemers be established in the fullness of time, by the word of Divine Power.
In order that this precious testimony maybe advanced, there have been raised up in every age of the Christian Church, witnesses for the truth, who have often prophesied in sackcloth, or been slain for the testimony of Jesus. Such were the members of this Religious Society at its rise. They were faithful to the civil governments under which they lived, and when they could not actively comply with laws that conflicted with their conscientious convictions, they patiently endured the penalties, until through suffering they obtained relief, and were thus made instrumental in promoting the cause of religious and civil liberty. May we be faithful in following their example, so far as they followed Christ. How instructive is the reply of the blessed Jesus to the disciple who inquired "what shall this man do?" "if I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me." It is not our place to judge others, who may believe themselves called to pursue a different path from that in which we walk, but to follow the foot-steps of our Holy Exemplar, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to Him, that judgeth righteously."
Much solicitude and religious concern have been felt in this Meeting, that in the education of our dear children we may seek for a qualification to lead them, both by precept and example, in the way of righteousness. In order to promote this end, provision should be made for a guarded religious training at school, and suitable books for use in the family. . . .