The friends of Elias Hicks
did not adopt his views or the views of any other man as a standard of opinion.
On the subject of the Trinity
, for instance, there were various shadings of opinion among them.
The probability seems to be that the influence of Unitarian
sects, and of Orthodox sects had, in the course of years, gradually glided in among the Quakers, and more or less fashioned their theological opinions, though themselves were unconscious of it; as we all are of the surrounding air we are constantly inhaling.
But it was not the Unitarianism of Elias Hicks
that his adherents fought for, or considered it necessary to adopt.
They simply contended for his right to express his own convictions, and denied the authority of any man, or body of men, to judge his preaching by the assumed standard of any creed.
Therefore, the real ground of the struggle seems to have been resistance to ecclesiastical power; though theological opinions unavoidably became intertwisted with it. It was a new form of the old battle, perpetually renewed ever since the world began, between authority and individual freedom.
The agitation, which had for some time been heaving under the surface, is said to have been brought into open manifestation by a sermon which Elias Hicks
preached against the use of slave produce, in 1819.
A bitter warfare followed.