But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay be nay. – James 5:12
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The Quaker refusal to take oaths, with its Scriptural counsel repeated here, comes straight from the command of Jesus in Matthew 5:34: “Do not swear at all,” which is then amplified: “All you need to say is ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One” (NJB).
Seemingly quaint actions, such as the Quaker “hat testimony” – refusing to doff one’s hat in the presence of royalty or one’s “social superiors” – and the use of the distinctive Plain speech, with its first-person directness, have their origin in passages such as those that open the second chapter of James.
And our quaint custom of naming the days of the week and the months of the year with numerals – a practice shared with some other nonconformists – recognizes their derivation from the names of pagan gods, and the admonition from the Apostle Paul “to throw off everything that belongs to the darkness” (Romans 13:12) and to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). And so on.
Sometimes spiritual practice resemble a huge tangle where you begin loosening one loop and quickly encounter many more. But that’s how it goes.
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And in Behalf of the Thessalonians, Paul prayeth, That the very God of Peace would sanctify them wholly; that their whole Spirit, Soul and Body, might be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)