A Sermon by ELIAS HICKS, Delivered at Ohio Yearly Meeting in Mt. Pleasant, September 7th, 1828.
The Quaker, Vol. 3, No. 10 (October, 1828,) Pages 213-224.
A Sermon in Direct Response by ELISHA BATES.
The Quaker, Vol. 3, No. 10 (October, 1828,) Pages 224-233.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Section Three: The 19th Century.
We have met on a solemn occasion, and in this crowded assembly there is one thing that appears
important, that is, for every one of us to be still, that if any thing should he said, every one may
the better hear.
As a short portion of scripture has been revived in my remembrance, I have believed it right to
communicate it. We read, that "God made man upright, but they have sought out many
In reading the scriptures of truth, we often put wrong constructions upon them, and apply them
improperly; and I apprehend it has often been the case in relation to this portion, particularly that
part in relation to man's seeking out many inventions. For I do not apprehend that this alludes to
inventions in moral things, such as contriving machinery of various kinds to accommodate
ourselves; but it means inventions contrived in the wisdom of man, to avoid being righteous, and
to get to heaven without righteousness. You know there are a great many inventions for this
purpose, that are as perfectly distinct from righteousness, the only pathway to heaven, as any
thing can be. They are something without, some formal religion or bodily exercise, which requires
a profession or belief in this, that, or the other thing, which is no way essential in the great work
of salvation. I might enumerate many things, but I will, in a brief way, give my view of the thing.
There are many busying themselves about water-baptism, and holy days, many of which were set
apart under a former dispensation; and what was set apart by the Almighty under that
dispensation, it was the duty of that people to attend to, but it is nothing to usunder the gospel
We find from the history of the church what dreadful massacres were made about these outside
things; what cruel persecutions, and even great disputes, about a day which people should keep as
holy, the day called Easter, and a multitude of lives were lost about that foolish thing. And so
about many other things of the same nature, we are trying to make people believe these things,
and we make creeds of them; and thus we continue to do our own will, which is the ground of all
sin. And as man's will is the ground and occasion of all sm, so righteousness consists in nothing
but obeying the will of God, and crossing our own will. But some would be saved by an
imputative righteousness, the righteousness of one who lived 1800 years ago. And here they will
contend about it, and likewise assert that his crucifixion on the Cross atoned for the sins of
Now, if we were to reflect seriously for a few moments, we should see clearly, that those who try
to believe in these things, try to save themselves in their sins, instead of repenting of their sins, and
turning from their sins, to God, to obey his will. And yet these people profess to believe in those
scriptures that tell us the truth--and the whole scope of them tells us one great, eternal truth that
nothing but the spirit of God can show us the things of God. Even under that low dispensation of
the law to the Israelites, nothing but the spirit of God, was to be their rule--nothing but what
sprung from it, and was derived from immediate testimony, through God's servant Moses, and the
other successors and elders whom the Almighty raised up among his people to judge them, and
order them, according to the covenant that God made with them.
All these were spoken to by the spirit of God--they knew nothing, any more than we do of the
things of God, but by the revelation of the spirit of God; and in order that man should not be
obliged to depend on man, he gave substantial evidence that what Moses and the prophets
declared to them was manifested to them by the spirit only. But as they were carnal and sensual,
and not willing to be spoken to immediately by the Almighty, and requested that the Lord would
speak through the medium of a fellow creature, here he set up Moses as a prophet, a leader, and a
god to them, and to Pharaoh to whom he was sent to deliver Israel from bondage. But they were
not to believe him without greater testimony than his own, or any ,thing he could do of himself;
hence all his testimonies were sealed by external miracles--for as they were external they could
only be understood by the external senses.
Here we see the goodness of a gracious God to his workmanship in every age of the world. We
may go back to our first parents, to Enoch, to Isaac and to Noah, who was taught to construct an
ark to save himself; and it was all through the immediate revelation of the spirit of God; and it
was in such a way that Noah had no contrivance at all, no part in the invention; he did nothing but
remain passive to the divine will and command, otherwise the ark would not have saved him. And
nothing can save the soul~ under the gospel dispensation, but the power of God--as there was
nothing that could have saved Noah and his family, but Noah's building an ark for the salvation of
their outward bodies. And as he did it in tile way and manner that the Almighty commanded, he
had no will about it but was perfectly passive, and obeyed the command of God. So was the case
with Abraham; so with Moses and the prophets, and so with his blessed son Jesus Christ; he did
nothing but what his heavenly Father commanded, if we will believe the scriptures of truth; and he
carried the evidence in all his works. And yet you see the weakness of external evidence-and
outward miracles; they were not sufficient to make true believers, or to make the Israelites believe
that Jesus was their promised Messiah. There was nothing then but the revelation of the spirit-of
God that could make any of the Israelites understand and believe that he was their proper
Messiah. Here then is the ground upon which the gospel dispensation is built; because it is the last
and blessed dispensation of God to man, and therefore supersedes all external evidences. It
supersedes them all, although, those testimonies of the scriptures, under the law dispensation,
point us to the same thing, as Jesus and his disciples pointed men to, as the only medium by which
salvation could be experienced. Here how full the prophecies are, how fully their truth is displayed
in the records that are given of the blessed Jesus; how full they are, and how they corroborate his
testimony clearly and positively to us.
That I feel a desire, my friends, that we in this latter day of the world, in which light is fast
spreading, that we should be willing to attend to those portions of the Scriptures of truth that
direct us home to the foundation. As in the beginning and early part of the writings of the New
Testament, where Jesus speaks to his disciples on this wise: "Whom do men say that I, the son of
man, am?" The disciples declare, some one thing, and some another, and another, just as it is in
the present day, where men are seeking out many inventions to get along without righteousness;
for no man knows Jesus Christ after the flesh, but according to the revelation of the spirit of God.
He put the question to them again. "But whom say ye that I am? Simon Peter answered and said,
thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, blessed art
thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in
Now here again, let us think a little what is meant by flesh and blood? All external evidence by
which we can understand and know outward things: none could know him by this; for Jesus
Christ,-for the true Saviour Was actually hid from their eyes, they could only see the garment
wherein he dwelt. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto
thee, but my Father which is in heaven, and upon this rock I will build my church. And what is
that rock? It is this revelation of the spirit of God, by which they were made to understand that he
was their promised Messiah; and this is the rock on which he said he would build his church, and
against which the gates of hell should not prevail.
It was of the greatest moment, and consequence, that they should believe in him when he came,
for they could receive no benefit from him without believing him to be their Messiah. This we find
verified; for those who were not enlightened by the spirit of truth, to know that he was their
Messiah, received no benefit from him--they Persecuted, and even crucified him. These are strong
facts and powerful evidences of the testimony of the scriptures of truth; for they all direct us to
the spirit, to the spirit of truth, the Holy Ghost, to the Unction, as the apostle John declares: "But
ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;" and nothing but this can give us
the true and necessary knowledge; for this unction from God contains an assurance, an evidence
of our being reconciled to our heavenly Father; but without this divine spirit we cannot
understand the things which God has prepared for us. The apostle has clearly shown it. "Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard; neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath
prepared for them that love him." And I judge it to be a truth, my friends, that not all the writings
in the world, nor all the teachers in the world--not all the power of man--can describe the
blessings which God hath prepared for the righteous; but as the apostle tells us, "God hath
revealed them unto us by his spirit: for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him, even so the
things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God.
How wonderful it is to see the goodness of a gracious God to the children of men,--it is so plain,
that every one that runs can read and understand. We all know that no creature below man can
have a knowledge of the things of man, or ever enjoy the happiness of man; for nothing but the
spirit can enable man to know the things of a man, or come into tile enjoyment of man. And the
apostle likewise adds, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they
are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Now, I conclude, that most of the professors of Christianity believe these doctrines, and that they
are so apparent and conclusive, that if all the rest should attempt to contradict this, it would
amount to nothing, for they are fundamental points; and it is the way the Almighty has taught his
creature man the things that belong to his everlasting peace; it is only by an immediate intercourse
with him by his spirit: and as nothing can show us the things of God but the spirit of God, so
nothing can enjoy the happiness of God but as it is born of his divine nature. Therefore, all his
children, like his beloved son, when they come to be obedient as he was, and follow up his
example, are brought into the image of God. Just as a son, to be a son of man, must be of the
same nature and spirit of his father; so with the sons of God, and so it will be with all who are
born of the spirit of God.
What encouragement the apostle holds out to us. O my friends, that we might leave all our
pretensions, and come to the truth in our own hearts. For the apostle tells us, "As many as are led
by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God's;" the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are the children of' God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with
Jesus Christ." See what encouragement--and were not these things left for our encouragement?
But we cannot come to the enjoyment of these things without we pursue the same course that
Jesus did, for he came not to do his own will; and so none of us are sent-to do our own will, for
the will of man never wrought the righteousness of God~ and never can; for all man's will goes to
counteract the will of God.
We learn this by the precepts that Jesus left. He observed that the people were looking outward,
and assured them that the kingdom of God cometh not with outward observation; and for this
reason, that it was only to be known in man. "Whatsoever is to be known of God is manifest in
man," as the apostle declared. Here now he says, to what shall we liken it? The kingdom of
heaven is like a little leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meals till the whole
was leavened. Now what adorable mercy a gracious God has opened up through his blessed son;
it is so plain and clear that none can misunderstand it if they will but attend to it. But we know
that we must become, like the meal, perfectly passive to the will of. God, to that measure of the
leaven of the kingdom that is dispensed to us for the purpose of bringing us to be, like meal,
leavened into the spirit, till body and spirit become subject to the will of God; for the leaven
makes all like itself. And it is high time that we lay aside our inventions all our by-ways to get to
heaven; for if we don't we shall fall short in the end. We may remember what is said, "Where the
tree falleth there it shall lie," and, of consequence, according to every reasonable consideration, as
death leaves us, so judgment finds us--not Romanist believes, in purgatory; no such thing; but-if
we die in our sins, where Christ is we cannot come; we cannot enter into that place where the
spirits of the just eternally praise god. If we die in our sins we are east out, and when cast out,
there will be that between ns and our God, that will for ever separate us from this happy state,
and, therefore, we must enter in eternal condemnation.
Now, when we consider it, is not the way plain, in which we can be raised up out of innocency,
into a perfectly glorified state, and be prepared to be with the Holy One in the eternal state. But if
we continue in sin, and rebel and harden our hearts, we shall become so inured and fixed in it, that
it will be natural, and we shall choose it from time to time. And if we are in this state, if we had an
eternity of probation, what reason have we to suppose that we should profit by it--if we had ever
so long a time to chose for ourselves we should pursue our own will, to gratify our carnal I
desires. You know that we have a great variety of ways to gratify our own desires. There is the
drunkard, the covetous man, the worldly-minded man, and a thousand more different states in
which men indulge.." The covetous mas in the night season, in the cool of reflection, may feel his
distress, may feel conviction; but when the morning light comes, he pursues his covetous desires,
and goes in to his covetousness, and it becomes a hell to him for the time being. And so men go
on till they become hardened in sin. And is it not wonderful to consider the mercy of a gracious
God; and how it is manifested in various passages of the scriptures, and especially in that where
Jesus was upon the cross, in company with two thieves. Here we see there may be a real
advantage in the creature's being brought to that point in which he has no hope of living--it may
be to him as a last caution or exhortation; but if he has hardened himself, then he may be left in a
hardened state. One of these thieves did not become so hardened but that after he was
condemned, he was brought to a state of repentance, and made reconciliation for his sins;
therefore the blessed Jesus said, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." While the other thief
reviled him, having become so hardened that the sight of death did not operate upon him--for such
there is no hope, and if they had an eternity of probation, we have no reason to think they would
Therefore, don't let sinners take courage to think they will be favoured like the thief on the cross;
for we see on the other side, they may be like the hardened one, and reproach death itself.
I want, therefore, that we should learn while we are going along, to improve the day and time; for
there are said to be twelve hours in the day for work, and then the night cometh, wherein none
can work. O that our hearts were enlarged in love to God, that we might turn inward, to the
blessed comforter, that the blessed Jesus said the Father would send. And the same blessed power
that did his miracles, would come into our hearts and work greater miracles than ever Jesus did
outwardly. For this is one great miracle to be wrought, to make Christians. "If any man be in
Christ he is a new creature." Then, certainly, to be a Christian is to love God above all, and our
neighbour as ourselves. Now, every one that has come to know this, has a witness that is above
all external evidence of outward miracles--every one that is brought to love God, to love God
above all, and his neighbour as himself. This is the kind of Christian miracles---the power of God
operating on the soul. And as it becomes like meal to the leave, it is brought under its influence,
and our souls are thus brought to know that God is our Father, by the operation of his own spirit
Upon us, by which a birth is brought forth; and it is only this begotten of God in the soul, that can
know God, or call him Father. And this is all done by the spirit of God, and not by the letter. The
letter points us to the spirit, but it is only an effect of the one great First Cause, and that is nothing
but the LIGHT. This is a plain simple thing.
People talk about revelation, and say it has ceased; but what ignorance it bespeaks, when man
knows not the least thing on earth without revelation. Take away the light of the sun, and see
what would become of all outward things. And we see that it is not necessary for man to exercise
his reason to see things; all is instantaneous revelation. Then, surely, must it not be so with the
things of God? There is nothing but instantaneous revelation that ever did or can give us any
knowledge of God or the things of God. And, as the revelation of outward things is
instantaneous, our reason must, necessarily, remain dormant till the light reveals things, and then
our rational understanding can make use of the things that are thus given to us. So that, without
revelation man can know nothing in nature or in grace. We can bring these things home to
ourselves and prove them. If the light of the sun should cease, all the arts and sciences and
inventions of men would cease, and the next generation would know nothing about them, as it is
not only the light, but the life of this world, under God; and as there is but one sun, one great
cause of light to this lower world, so it is with the upper world.
I delight not in spreading any thing mysterious, for I consider it all lost time; but the things that all
of us can see and know if we will. So that in this communication, my concern is, to gather us to
the foundation principle that Jesus laid, that his disciples corroborated--that the Almighty laid with
our first parents, with Noah, with the holy Abraham, and the prophets. Therefore, nothing but the
Spirit of god can tech us the things of God, and nothing else ever did do it.
I do not wish to take up much time, because there are brethren present, who may have something to communicate. To this light, then, would I recommend all, with mine own soul,--to this sure way of salvation.
It is very desirable that there should be stillness and quietness on this solemn occasion. I conceive
it to be my duty, as a member of this religious society, to give to this large assembly some
information in order to prevent mistakes and misapprehension. It has long been a practice and
privilege throughout christendom~ that various religious societies have been by general consent,
permitted to hold their meetings themselves~ not merely when assembled for the transaction of
business relating exclusively to the concerns of the society, but the meetings which have been
appointed or set apart for the purpose of public or social worship, have been considered as not
being expected to be intruded upon or interrupted; or their time occupied by members of any
other religions society whatever. And while on these occasions there may have been public
invitations given to the professors and members of other religious societies to attend, and unite
with them in public devotion, there has been a distinct understanding, that none of these should
occupy the public service of the meeting. And there is an understanding among all classes that
when they attend the public meetings of any society whatever, they expect if they hear public
communications, to hear the doctrines of the society communicated by themselves,
But, although this has been so general a practice and of such universal exten, yet it is broken
down in the present day~ and the society of Friends are exhibiting to the world the novel
spectacle of being imposed upon in this way.
There are such persons in this meeting, and the person who has just taken his seat, Elias Hicks, is
one of this description. There are several persons of this character now present, imposing upon
the Society of Friends; and among these are Elias Hicks and Amos Peaslee. They are attached to a
society--a separate and distinct society of their own. They have organized or, as they call it,
reorganized meetings of their own, in which they are not interrupted by the society of Friends, and
there they can exercise and enjoy their own peculiar privileges. They have formed these separate
meetings professedly and avowedly for the purpose of being separate from us, whom, in derision,
they call orthodox. This term has been bestowed on the society of Friends in a contemptuous
manner, but we are willing to accept the term, because it means sound in religion, not heretical.
They have formed societies and meetings of their own for the avowed purpose of being separate
from us; and we conceive it highly reasonable that we should enjoy an exemption from their
intrusion. And yet they are determined not to allow us the privilege, but come into our religious
meetings when they are regularly appointed, and sit down, or occupy the time and exercises of
these meetings to proclaim and publish to the world doctrines, as those of the society of Friends,
which the society of Friends never acknowledged, and against which they have borne undeniable
The society of Friends, in its official capacity, has borne a recent testimony against these
doctrines, and against Elias Hicks by name. The Yearly Meeting of Indiana has borne such a
testimony, which has been adopted and published by the representatives of the adjourned meeting
of Ohio. North Carolina Yearly Meeting has borne a, similar testimony, and Virginia a similar one;
and so has the Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia, and the Yearly Meeting of New York; and the
Yearly Meeting of New England bears strong and decided testimony against those doctrines,
without naming the name of the individual.
Under these striking circumstances, this individual has procured a certificate from the Monthly
Meeting to which he belonged, (and over which he had a decided influence,) and some
countenance and corroboration from his Quarterly Meeting, and with this document, is
performing an extensive visit to the society of Friends, disregarding the solemn testimonies, rights,
and consciences of the society of Friends at large.
Not only does he come into our appointed and regular meetings, and occupy them over our heads,
as he has done this day, but so anxious is he to occupy the time, that he commenced his
communication before the meeting was gathered. And many direct violations of good order have
been committed under his auspices, still more glaring and striking. But a few days ago, a
meeting-house was broken open forcibly and violently, in the presence of those intrusted with the
care of the property, and contrary to a prohibition of the meeting that it should be opened for him;
and yet he claims to enter all our meetings under these circumstances.
And I am obliged to declare, as the sense of the society, that there never was an instance of an
individual traveling abroad, under certificates, thus circumstanced. His certificate, too, has been
held as irregular--it was decidedly and strongly opposed in his own Quarterly Meeting; not less
than forty-three respectable individuals entered their solemn protest. So conscious was he that he
had not the unity of the meeting, that he did not communicate his prospect to the women's
meeting, according to discipline, and his own previous practice. And he is now solemnly and
officially ordered home, to answer to the charge of unsound ministry, exhibited against him. The
document was formally forwarded and presented to him no longer ago than yesterday morning.
Such is the course of proceedings--such the glaring inconsistency of proceedings now going on in
violation of the rights of a large religious society; and we wish clearly to announce it to this
assembly, composed of a large number of other societies, and we ask them to bring the case home
to themselves; and say whether they would submit to this infraction of their solemn religions
But this is not all, this is but the very threshold of the business--the more important and imposing
view of the subject remains, upon the doctrines on which this separation has taken place.
Doctrines which are not only fundamental principles of the society of which he has been a
member, but of the christian religion in the most extensive sense of the word.
Elias Hicks denies the existence of a devil as a distinct being, but holds this to be the propensities
of men. And in order that you may form some idea of the glaring inconsistency and absurdity of
his views, I will mention a few passages from his printed discourses. He represents the
propensities of men as being the devil. He says that man was created and placed in a garden full of
trees. And what were the trees of the garden? They were the propensities of man in his animal
body, and the propensities of man are the devil. And yet he says that the tree-of the knowledge of
good and evil was God, that there was no other tree of the knowledge of good and evil but God;
hence, this was one of the propensities of man in his animal body, and the propensities, generally
speaking, are the devil.
But it is proper to state, in bringing this subject to view, that in the progress of the ministers of
this separate society, they leave out of view those striking features of their doctrine, which might
lead sober and serious inquirers to detect them.
He denies, positively that we receive any injury from Adam's fall or any benefit from the sacrifice
of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Here, then, the very condition of man is represented as
entirely on different ground from that on which it is placed by divine revelation. Our early Friends
have distinctly and positively declared, that they believed in the universal extent of the injury of
Adam's fall; and Robert Barclay has communicated this in their name in the broad ground which
he has taken in advocating the universal efficacy of the death of Jesus Christ. But, it is not
necessary to enter largely into quotations, which might be easily done to show that the declaration
of the faith of the society is, that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ was a sacrifice for the sins of
mankind. Yet, in this day, and only a few days ago, Elias Hicks positively declared that he had no
belief in these two important doctrines of the Christian religion.
He represents heaven and hell as only states and conditions, and these to be experienced here; and
in relation to this, in New York he brought forward the case of the drunkard, who, he said, was in
his heaven when in a state of inebriety, and in hell when he got sober. And in a formal written
reply not only does he not deny this statement, but calls on the writer of the statement, to say if he
has found a heaven or a hell without him; and if so, in what place it is to be situated. Thus trifling,
in the most contemptuous manner, with this most awful subject. These very charges were made
against our early Friends. Robert Barclay notices the charges, and declares positively, in the
presence of God, that they are false.
It is proper, further to take into view the manner in which the members of this new society, and
Elias Hicks particularly, represent the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. They represent him as
an individual not placed in a state of perfection, for if he had been placed thus, in a state from
which he could not turn aside, it would be impossible for him to be tempted any more than for
God Almighty to be tempted--perfection is perfection, and cannot be tempted. These declarations
are made in Elias Hicks' printed discourses, taken down by one warmly devoted to his cause; in
which Christ is spoken of as liable to fall, and it is asserted, that if he had been fixed in a condition
from which he could not fall, or words to that effect, he could have been of no worth to the
children of men, or to himself as a rational being.
The Lord Jesus Christ is represented as frail, fallible man, liable to fall and come under all the
dreadful consequences of disobedience, under all the dreadful consequences of eternal judgment.
Such are the views held out against Jesus Christ. In another place, he says, the Almighty could
never place-any of these above us, Jesus Christ included in the number; for if he had done so, he
would have been a partial God.
Thus, dear friends, in the passage which he recited in your hearing, he, has said, that men have
sought out many inventions; that the active mind of man has been indulging itself to find out some
way for man's salvation, which God Almighty has not prepared. Our Lord emphatically declared,
that he was the way, the truth, and the life, the door into the sheep-fold, bu which we may go in
and out and find pasture. But all those who climb up by any other way, he calls thieves and
robbers. And I appeal to the witness for God, in the consciences of this assembly, if these views
do not bring the character of Jesus Christ to that of frail man, and if these views are not bold
attempts to climb up some other way, thus bringing these individuals under the character of
thieves and robbers.