While none were compelled to adopt the reform dress, our people could and should have appreciated its advantages and accepted it as a blessing. The evil results of an opposite course may now be seen. At the sanitarium, physicians and helpers have greatly departed from the Lord’s instructions in regard to dress. Simplicity is now rare. Instead of neat, unadorned apparel, which the pen of Inspiration has prescribed, almost every style of fashionable dress may be seen. Here, as elsewhere, the very ones who complained of the labor required to prepare the reform dress have now gone to great extremes in needless adornment. All this involves so much time and labor that many are obliged to hire their work done at twice what it would have cost had the garments been made in simplicity as becomes women professing godliness. The making of these fashionable dresses frequently costs more than the dress itself. And double the value of the material is often expended for the trimmings. Here pride and vanity are displayed, and a great lack of true principle is seen. If they would be content with plain, simple clothing, many who are dependent on their weekly earnings could do the most of their own sewing. But this is now impossible, and the dressmaker’s bill takes from their small wages a considerable sum.
God designed the reform dress as a barrier to prevent the hearts of our sisters from becoming alienated from Him by following the fashions of the world. Those who removed that barrier did not take upon themselves the burden to avert the dangers which must follow. Some in responsible positions have exerted an influence in favor of worldly customs and entirely at variance with the Bible standard. They have done their part in bringing about the present state of worldliness and backsliding.
God has been testing His people. He allowed the testimony concerning dress to become silent, that our sisters might follow their own inclination and thus develop the real pride existing in their hearts. It was to prevent the present state of worldliness that the reform dress was recommended. Many scorned the idea that this dress was necessary to preserve them from following the fashions; but the Lord has permitted them to prove that pride was cherished in their hearts, and that this was just what they would do. It is now shown that they needed the restriction which the reform dress imposed.
If all our sisters would adopt a simple, unadorned dress of modest length, the uniformity thus established would be far more pleasing to God, and would exert a more salutary influence on the world, than the diversity presented four years ago. As our sisters would not generally accept the reform dress as it should be worn, another, less objectionable style is now presented. It is free from needless trimmings, free from the looped-up, tied back overskirts. It consists of a plain sack or loose-fitting basque, and skirt, the latter short enough to avoid the mud and filth of the streets. The material should be free from large plaids and figures, and plain in color. The same attention should be given to the clothing of the limbs as with the short dress.
Will my sisters accept this style of dress and refuse to imitate the fashions that are devised by Satan and continually changing? No one can tell what freak fashion will take next. Worldlings whose only care is, “What shall we eat, and what shall we wear?” should not be our criterion.
Some have said: “After I wear out this dress, I will make the next plainer.” Now, if conformity to the fashions of the world is right and pleasing to God, where is the need of making a change at all? But if it is wrong, is it best to continue in the wrong any longer than is positively necessary to make the change? Right here we would remind you of the zeal and earnestness, the skill and perseverance, you manifested in preparing your dress according to the fashion. Would it not be praiseworthy to manifest at least equal earnestness to make it conform to the Bible standard? Precious, God-given time and means were used in fashioning those garments; and now what are you willing to sacrifice to correct the wrong example you have been giving to others?
It is a shame to our sisters to so forget their holy character and their duty to God as to imitate the fashions of the world. There is no excuse for us except the perversity of our own hearts. We do not extend our influence by such a course. It is so inconsistent with our profession of faith that it makes us ridiculous in the eyes of worldlings.
Many a soul who was convinced of the truth has been led to decide against it by the pride and love of the world displayed by our sisters. The doctrine preached seemed clear and harmonious, and the hearers felt that a heavy cross must be lifted by them in taking the truth. When these persons have seen our sisters making so much display in dress, they have said: “This people dress fully as much as we do. They cannot really believe what they profess; and, after all, they must be deceived. If they really thought that Christ was soon coming, and the case of every soul was to be decided for eternal life or death, they could not devote time and money to dress according to the existing fashions.” How little did those professedly believing sisters know of the sermon their dress was preaching!
Our words, our actions, and our dress are daily, living preachers, gathering with Christ or scattering abroad. This is no trivial matter to be passed off with a jest. The subject of dress demands serious reflection and much prayer. Many unbelievers have felt that they were not doing right in permitting themselves to be slaves of fashion; but when they see some who make a high profession of godliness dressing as worldlings dress, enjoying frivolous society, they decide that there can be no wrong in such a course.
“We are,” said the inspired apostle, “made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” All heaven is marking the daily influence which the professed followers of Christ exert upon the world. My sisters, your dress is telling either in favor of Christ and the sacred truth or in favor of the world. Which is it? Remember we must all answer to God for the influence we exert.
We would not by any means encourage carelessness in dress. Let the attire be appropriate and becoming. Though only a ten-cent calico, it should be kept neat and clean. If there are no ruffles, the wearer cannot only save something by making it herself, but she can save quite a little sum by washing and ironing it herself. Families bind heavy burdens upon themselves by dressing their children in accordance with the fashion. What a waste of time! The little ones would look very inviting in a dress without a ruffle or ornament, but kept sweet and clean. It is such a trifle to wash and iron a dress of this style that the labor is not felt to be a burden.
Why will our sisters rob God of the service due Him, and rob His treasury of money which they should give to His cause, to serve the fashions of this age? The first and best thoughts are given to dress; time is squandered and money wasted. The culture of the mind and heart is neglected. The character is considered of less importance than the dress. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is of infinite value, and it is the wickedest of folly to waste in frivolous pursuits our opportunities to secure this precious adorning of the soul.
Sisters, we may do a noble work for God if we will. Woman does not know her power. God did not intend that her capabilities should be all absorbed in questioning: What shall I eat? what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed? There is a higher purpose for woman, a grander destiny. She should develop and cultivate her powers, for God can employ them in the great work of saving souls from eternal ruin.
On Sunday the popular churches appear more like a theater than a place for the worship of God. Every style of fashionable dress is displayed there. The poor have not courage to enter those houses of worship. The following remarks were made in my hearing by an attendant at one of those fashionable churches: “It affords such a fine opportunity for studying the fashions. I can see the effect of different styles of dress; and, do you know, I gain great benefit in my business by watching the effect of various dresses on different forms and different complexions. Did you notice that grand trail and that lovely hat? I know just how they were made. I have been taking lessons all day, which I shall put to a practical use.”
Not one word was said of Christ or of the sermon preached. How, thought I, can Jesus regard that company, with their display of ornaments and extravagant dress? What dishonor is shown to the house of God! Were Christ upon earth, and should He visit such churches, would He not drive out those desecrators of His Father’s house?
But the greatest evil is the influence upon the children and youth. Almost as soon as they come into the world they are subjected to fashion’s demands. Little children hear more of dress than of their salvation. They see their mothers more earnestly consulting the fashion plates than the Bible. More visits are made to the dry goods dealer and the milliner than to the church. The outward display of dress is made of greater consequence than the adornment of the character. Sharp reprimands are called forth for soiling the fine clothing, and the mind becomes peevish and irritable under continual restraint.
A deformed character does not disturb the mother so much as a soiled dress. The child hears more of dress than of virtue, for the mother is more familiar with fashion than with her Saviour. Her example too often surrounds the young with a poisonous atmosphere. Vice, disguised in fashion’s garb, intrudes itself among the children.
Simplicity of dress will make a sensible woman appear to the best advantage. We judge of a person’s character by the style of dress worn. Gaudy apparel betrays vanity and weakness. A modest, godly woman will dress modestly. A refined taste, a cultivated mind, will be revealed in the choice of simple and appropriate attire.
There is an ornament that will never perish, that will promote the happiness of all around us in this life, and will shine with undimmed luster in the immortal future. It is the adorning of a meek and lowly spirit. God has bidden us wear the richest dress upon the soul. By every look into the mirror, the worshipers of fashion should be reminded of the neglected soul. Every hour squandered over the toilet should reprove them for leaving the intellect to lie waste. Then there might be a reformation that would elevate and ennoble all the aims and purposes of life. Instead of seeking golden ornaments for the exterior, an earnest effort would be put forth to secure that wisdom which is of more value than fine gold, yea, which is more precious than rubies.
Those who worship at fashion’s altar have but little force of character and but little physical energy. They live for no great purpose, and their lives accomplish no worthy end. We meet everywhere women whose whole mind and heart are absorbed in their love of dress and display. The soul of womanhood is dwarfed and belittled, and her thoughts are centered upon her poor, despicable self. As a fashionably dressed young lady was passing several gentlemen on the street, one of them made some inquiries in regard to her. The answer was: “She makes a pretty ornament in her father’s house, but otherwise she is of no use.” It is deplorable that those who profess to be Christ’s disciples should think it a fine thing to imitate the dress and manners of these useless ornaments.
Peter gives valuable instruction concerning the dress of Christian women: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves.” All that we urge is compliance with the injunctions of God’s word. Are we Bible readers and followers of Bible teachings? Will we obey God, or conform to the customs of the world? Will we serve God or mammon? Can we expect to enjoy peace of mind and the approval of God while walking directly contrary to the teachings of His word?
The apostle Paul exhorts Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” But many who profess to be children of God feel no scruples against conforming to the customs of the world in the wearing of gold and pearls and costly array. Those who are too conscientious to wear these things are regarded as narrow-minded, superstitious, and even fanatical. But it is God who condescends to give us these instructions; they are the declarations of Infinite Wisdom, and those who disregard them do so at their own peril and loss. Those who cling to the ornaments forbidden in God’s word cherish pride and vanity in the heart. They desire to attract attention. Their dress says: Look at me; admire me. Thus the vanity inherent in human nature is steadily increasing by indulgence. When the mind is fixed upon pleasing God alone, all the needless embellishments of the person disappear.
The apostle places the outward adorning in direct contrast with a meek and quiet spirit and then testifies of the comparative value of the latter: “In the sight of God of great price.” There is a decided contradiction between the love of outward adorning and the grace of meekness, the quiet spirit. It is only when we seek in all things to conform to the will of God that peace and joy will reign in the soul.
The love of dress endangers the morals and makes woman the opposite of the Christian lady characterized by modesty and sobriety. Showy, extravagant dress too often encourages lust in the heart of the wearer and awakens base passions in the heart of the beholder. God sees that the ruin of the character is frequently preceded by the indulgence of pride and vanity in dress. He sees that the costly apparel stifles the desire to do good.
The more means persons expend in dress, the less they can have to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; and the streams of beneficence, which should be constantly flowing, are dried up. Every dollar saved by denying one’s self of useless ornaments may be given to the needy or may be placed in the Lord’s treasury to sustain the gospel, to send missionaries to foreign countries, to multiply publications to carry rays of light to souls in the darkness of error. Every dollar used unnecessarily deprives the spender of a precious opportunity to do good.
My sister, how much time have you spent on needless trimming, time for which you must render an account to God? How much money expended to please your fancy and win the admiration of hearts as vain as your own? It was God’s money. How much good you might have done with it! And what a loss have you sustained in this life, and in the future, immortal life, by not doing this! Every soul will be judged according to the deeds done in the body. God reads purposes and motives. Every work and every secret thing is open to His all-seeing eye. No thought, word, or action escapes His notice. He knows whether we love and glorify Him or please and exalt ourselves. He knows whether we set our affections upon things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, or upon things earthly, sensual, and devilish.
When you place a useless or extravagant article of clothing upon your person, you are withholding from the naked. When you spread your tables with a needless variety of costly food, you are neglecting to feed the hungry. How stands your record, professed Christian? Do not, I beseech you, lay out in foolish and hurtful indulgences that which God requires in His treasury, and the portion which should be given to the poor. Let us not clothe ourselves with costly apparel, but, like women professing godliness, with good works. Let not the cry of the widow and the fatherless go up to heaven against us. Let not the blood of souls be found on our garments. Let not precious probationary time be squandered in cherishing pride of heart. Are there no poor to be visited? no dim eyes for whom you can read the word of God? no desponding, discouraged ones that need your words of comfort and your prayers?
As God has prospered you, has not the indulgence of pride and vanity been steadily increasing? While you are devoting precious time to the study of dress, the inward adorning is neglected; there is no growth in grace. Instead of becoming more heavenly-minded, you are becoming more and more earthly-minded. Foolish and hurtful lusts, groveling appetites, becloud your sense of sacred things. Why will not everyone who professes to love Jesus flee from these soul-destroying indulgences! The world is crazy after show and fashion and pleasure. Licentiousness is steadily and fearfully on the increase. Why will not Christians be true to their high profession!
Christ is ashamed of His professed followers. Wherein do we bear any resemblance to Him? Wherein does our dress conform to the Bible requirements? I do not want the sins of the people upon me, and I will give the trumpet a certain sound. For years I have borne a plain and decided testimony upon this subject, in print and upon the speaker’s stand. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. I must be clear of the blood of all. The fact that worldliness and pride bear almost universal sway is no excuse for one Christian to do as others do. God has said: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.”
Do not, my sisters, trifle longer with your own souls and with God. I have been shown that the main cause of your backsliding is your love of dress. This leads to the neglect of grave responsibilities, and you find yourselves with scarcely a spark of the love of God in your hearts. Without delay, renounce the cause of your backsliding, because it is sin against your own soul and against God. Be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Fashion is deteriorating the intellect and eating out the spirituality of our people. Obedience to fashion is pervading our Seventh-day Adventist churches and is doing more than any other power to separate our people from God. I have been shown that our church rules are very deficient. All exhibitions of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline. If there is a continuance, in face of warnings and appeals and entreaties, to still follow the perverse will, it may be regarded as proof that the heart is in no way assimilated to Christ. Self, and only self, is the object of adoration, and one such professed Christian will lead many away from God.
There is a terrible sin upon us as a people, that we have permitted our church members to dress in a manner inconsistent with their faith. We must arise at once and close the door against the allurements of fashion. Unless we do this, our churches will become demoralized.
Chap. 63 – Proper Education
Education comprises more than a knowledge of books. Proper education includes not only mental discipline, but that training which will secure sound morals and correct deportment. We have had many fears that those who take students into their houses will not realize their responsibility and will neglect to exert a proper influence over these youth. Thus students will fail to obtain all the benefit which they might receive at the college. The question too often arises: “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ What care, what burden or responsibility, should I have for the students who occupy rooms in our houses?” I answer: The very same interest that you have for your own children.
Says Christ: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” The souls of the youth that are brought under your roof are as precious in the eyes of the Lord as are the souls of your own dear children. When young men and women are separated from the softening, subduing influences of the home circle, it is the duty of those who have the care of them to make home influences for them. They would thus supply a great lack and would be doing a work for God as verily as the minister in the desk. To throw around these students an influence which would preserve them from temptations to immorality, and lead them to Jesus, is a work which heaven would approve.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4 pp. 639-648