Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HICKS, Elias, minister of the Society of Friends, born in Hempstead, New York, 19 March, 1748; died in Jericho, New York, 27 February, 1830. His youth was passed in carelessness and indifference to religious subjects, but not without frequent checks of conscience for his neglect of duty. At the age of about twenty years the subject of religion deeply affected his mind, and wrought a thorough change in his conduct. He became interested in the principles and testimonies of the society of which he was a member, and when about twenty-seven years of age he began his ministry, soon became an acknowledged minister of the society, and for more than fifty years labored with unwearied diligence. He travelled through almost every state in the Union, and also through Canada several times, and, notwithstanding the fact that his circumstances were not affluent, he never received the least compensation for his services. When not engaged in religious service, he was diligently occupied with his own hands upon his farm. He was in early life deeply repressed with the injustice and cruelty of keeping slaves, and was among the first that brought the subject frequently and forcibly before his religious society. Not only in his public discourses, but also by his pen, his views on this subject widely diffused themselves throughout the community, and through his exertions, conjoined with those of other philanthropists, the state of New York was induced to pass the act that on 4 July, 1827, gave freedom to every slave within its limits. As a preacher he was lucid and powerful, and wielded an influence that has been scarcely attained by any other member of his society. The prominent theme of his ministry was " obedience to the light within," which he considered as the foundation of true Quakerism. In the latter years of his life he gave ground for uneasiness to some of the society by his views concerning the dogmatic opinions of theologians concerning the pre-existence, deity, incarnation, and vicarious atonement of Christ. He considered that the personality of the meek, wise, majestic prophet of Galilee was overlaid with theological verbiage and technicality, which greatly impaired its practical value and authority as all example to mankind. Hicks's ministry was marked by much dignity and power. Notwithstanding his pure, blameless, and upright walk among men, his doctrinal views became the cause of dissatisfaction, which led to a separation in all, or nearly all, the yearly meetings on the continent, his friends and supporters in most of the yearly meetings being largely in the majority. The contest was conducted with much acrimony, which, to the credit of all concerned, is rapidly passing away. Those members of the society that adhere to the teachings of Elias Hicks are commonly known as "Hicksites," a name that was originally given in derision, but they recognize no other name than that of "Friends." Mr. Hicks published "Observations on Slavery" (New York, 1811); "Sermons" (1828); "Elias Hicks's Journal of his Life and Labors" (Philadelphia, 1828); and "The Letters of Elias Hicks" (1834). See also Samuel M. Janney's "History of the Religious Society of the Friends" (1859).
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