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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

Knowing this custom of the Quakers


omissions of the ceremonies of the world, as begun by the primitive Quakers, are continued by the modern. They neither bow nor scrape, nor pull off their hats to any, by way of civility or respect, and they carry their principles, like their predecessors, so far, that they observe none of these exterior parts of politeness even in the presence of royalty. The Quakers are in the habit on particular occasions of sending deputies to the king. And it is remarkable that his present majesty always sees them himself, if he be well, and not by proxy. Notwithstanding this, no one in the deputation ever pulls off his hat. Those, however, who are in waiting in the anti-chamber, knowing this custom of the Quakers, take their hats from their heads, before they enter the room, where the king is. On entering the room, they neither bow nor scrape, nor kneel, and as this ceremony cannot be performed for them by others, they go into the royal presence in a less servile, or more dignified manner, than either the representatives of sovereigns, or those, who have humbled nations by the achievement of great victories.

The ground, upon which the Quakers decline the use of the ordinary ceremonies just mentioned, is, the honours are the honours of the world. Now, as that these of the world, they consider them as objectionable on several accounts.

First, they are no more the criterions of obeisance and respect, than mourning garments

are the criterions of sorrow. But Christianity is never satisfied but with the truth. It forbids all false appearances. It allows no image to be held out, that is not a faithful picture of its original, or no action to be resorted to, that is not correspondent with the feelings of the heart.

In the second place the Quakers presume, that, as honours of the world, all such ceremonies are generally of a complimentary nature. No one bows to a poor man. But almost every one to the rich, and the rich to one another. Hence bowing is as much a species of flattery through the medium of the body, as the giving of undeserved titles through the medium of the tongue.

As honours of the world again the Quakers think them censurable, because all such honours were censured by Jesus Christ. On the occasion, on which he exhorted his followers not to be like the Scribes and Pharisees, and to seek flattering titles, so as to be called Rabbi Rabbi of man, he exhorted them to avoid all ceremonious salutations, such as greetings in the market-places. He couples the two different customs of flattering titles and salutations in the same sentence, and mentions them in the same breath. And though the word "greetings" does not perhaps precisely mean those bowings and scrapings, which are used at the present day, yet it means, both according to its derivation and the nature of the Jewish customs, those outward personal actions or gestures, which were used as complimentary to the Jewish world.

With respect to the pulling off the hat the Quakers have an additional objection to this custom, quite distinct from the objections, that have been mentioned above. Every minister in the Quaker society takes off his hat, either when he preaches, or when he prays. St Paul[55] enjoins this custom. But if they take off their hats, that is, uncover their heads, as an outward act enjoined in the service of God, they cannot with any propriety take them off, or uncover their heads to men, because they would be giving to the creature the same outward honour which they give to the creator. And in this custom they conceive the world to be peculiarly inconsistent. For men go into their churches, and into their meetings, and pull off their hats, or uncover their heads, for the same reason as the Quaker-ministers when they pray (for no other reason can be assigned) and, when they come out of their respective places of worship, they uncover them again on every trivial occasion, to those whom they meet, using to man the same outward mark of homage, as they had just given to God.

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