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…
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