Jesse Kersey

Philadelphia: Emmor Kimbor, 1815. Pages 90-93.

This Document is on The Quaker Writings Home Page.

Made in Linux. Best Viewed in Any Browser. Lynx Tested.


[P. 90] The Society of Friends are of the opinion that swearing is not only unreasonable in itself, but contrary to the positive command of Christ, and in no instance ought to be submitted to by those who profess to be Christians. "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear theyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thy oaths, but I say unto you, swear not at all. Neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool. Neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. [P. 91] Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil." Mat. 5 33-38. The Apostle James appears to have very fully adopted the counsel of his Divine Master, and to believe it right to give his testimony against swearing. "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, nay, lest ye fall into temptation." James 512. Taking this general view of the antichristian practice of swearing, the Society of Friends bear their testimony against it, and believe that, among Christians, it ought to be abolished.

It would require a considerable history, were I to give an account of the many sufferings which our predecessors passed through, because they refused to take oathsand certainly it is a practice which ought to be seriously considered by every man; and more especially if he professes any claim to the character of a Christian. Because there is no point of duty enjoined by the Saviour of the [P. 92] world, more clearly stated than this, to refrain from swearing. Nor do I know of any practice in civil government so inconsistent with the end to be answered by it. But lest we should be thought to start a new doctrine in regard to oaths, it may be useful to show that an objection against the cause and practice of swearing, was made by others. Polybius has said "the use of oaths in judgment was rare among the ancients; but by the growing of perfidiousness, so grew also the use of oaths." Basil the Great saith, "swearing is the effect of sin." And Ambrose, that "oaths are only a condescendency for defect." Chrysostom saith, that "an oath entered when evil grew, when men exercised their frauds, when all foundations were overturned. That oaths took their beginning from the want of Truth." And again, "for what end wilt thou force him to swear, whom thou believest not that he will speak the Truth?" Many others might be mentioned, to show that swearing has been condemned by others, as well as Friends. But if no one had come to own this doctrine of Christ, from the time that he delivered it until now, it would even in that case be proper that a Christian Society, in conformity to his express commands, should [P. 93] refuse to swear. Having stated the forgoing, I will refer the reader to Barclay's Apology, where he will find this particular treated upon at large; and where, I am of the opinion, all the reasons for swearing, of in favor of it, are fully and clearly refuted.

Next: Of War.