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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

As remnants of ancient flattery


in his preface to the translation of the New Testament, makes an apology for differing from the customs of the times in the use of thou, and intimates that you was substituted for it, as a word of superior respect. "I had rather, says he, faithfully keep to the express words of Paul, than exactly follow the polished style of our tongue. Therefore I always use that form of calling God in the singular number not in the plural, and therefore I say rather thou than you. I confess indeed, that the civility and custom of this word, requires him to be honored after that manner. But it is likewise on the contrary true, that the original tongue of the New Testament hath nothing common with such manners and civility, so that not one of these many old versions we have doth observe it. Let not men believe, that we give not respect enough to God, in that we call him by the word thou, which is nevertheless far otherwise. For I seem to myself (may be by the effect of custom) more to honor his divine majesty, in calling him after this manner, than if I should call him after the manner of men, who are so delicate in their forms of speech."

Erasmus also in the treatise, which he wrote on the impropriety of substituting you for thou, when a person addresses an individual, states that this strange substitution originated wholly in the flattery of men.


_Other alterations in the language

of the Quakers--they address one another by the title of friends--and others by the title of friends and neigbours, or by their common names--the use of sir and madam abolished--also of master or mister--and of humble servant--also of titles of honor--reasons of this abolition--example of Jesus Christ._

Another alteration, that took place in the language of the Quakers, was the expunging of all expressions from their vocabulary, which were either superfluous, or of the same flattering tendency as the former.

In addressing one another, either personally or by letter, they made use of the word friend, to signify the bond of their own union, and the character, which man, under the christian dispensation, was bound to exhibit in his dealings with his fellow-man. They addressed each other also, and spoke of each other, by their real names. If a man's name was John, they called him John; they talked to him as John, and added only his sir-name to distinguish him from others.

In their intercourse with the world they adopted the same mode of speech: for they addressed individuals either by their plain names, or they made use of the appellations of friends or neighbours.

They rejected the words sir or madam, as then in use. This they did, because they considered them like the word you, as remnants of ancient flattery, derived from the papal and anti-christian ages; and because these words still continued to be considered as tides of flattery, that puffed up people in their own times. Howell, who was before quoted on the pronoun thou, is usually quoted by the Quakers on this occasion also. He states in his history, that "sir and madam were originally names given to none, but the king, his brother, and their wives, both in France and England. Yet now the ploughman in France is called sir and his wife madam; and men of ordinary trades in England sir, and their wives dame, which is the legal title of a lady, and is the same as madam in French. So prevalent hath pride and flattery been in all ages, the one to give, and the other to receive respect"

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