This I Believe

Stevens, Lewis Miller

  • Lewis Stevens discusses the importance of the spirit, affection and faith in God's love to withstand the trials and calamity of the material world.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Lewis M. Stevens is a lawyer. He is also a member of the City Council of Philadelphia. In addition, he is the president of the Board of Trustees of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His activities, unsurprisingly, give a hint to his philosophy, which is based upon a thoughtful interweaving of the wealth of books and personal experiences. This is what Mr. Stevens believes.
It seems to me that the most important thing to know about a person, and for a person to know about himself, is his view of the universe, those convictions, that in Thoreau’s phrase, “he notches on his stick.” It is easy for me to believe in the divine orderliness of the physical world. It is the world of Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn,” of the serenity of the setting sun and of the bird’s song. But it is also a world of disease and death, in their so often tragic forms. Thus I can understand why Matthew Arnold says that “by itself this physical world, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath really neither joy nor love nor light, nor certitude nor peace, nor help for pain.”
It is also easy for me to stand alongside the great affirmation that we are a part of a moral universe
of which we are just as real a part as our bodies are a part of the physical world. “The starry heavens above and the moral law within,” was Kant’s expressive phrase. But there is no solace, no help for standing against the overwhelming in either the physical world or the moral law. They evidence God’s power, not his love. Joy, light, love, certitude, peace, and help for pain are of the spirit, and are not to be found anywhere else.
I believe in the worth of every human being and think that the finest thing about us is our capacity to love. My parents were simple people who never attempted to spin out in words a formal philosophy of life. But they had the capacity to subordinate self to the needs of other people. They gave us an
unshakable faith in the worthwhileness of human life and an optimistic belief that despite man’s abuse of freedom, and his many defeats in the lifelong contest between good and evil, God wants us to win the battle, not to lose it.
Not long ago, one very close to me was told she might have cancer. As she left the doctor’s office, not his words but St. Paul’s took possession of her mind: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor death, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God.”
Over against the simplicity and seeming finality of death, and over against God’s apparent disregard of
justice in the human lot, I believe the rock bottom thing to be, that I am part of a spiritual universe at whose heart is a redemptive love, which can create out of calamity the best things God has placed within my reach. To find out if that is so, I must give up self-dependence and let God take me by the hand. It is as simple and as difficult as that.
That was Lewis M. Stevens, a partner in the law firm of Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young in Philadelphia.