The Review and Herald


July 8, 1880

Extravagance in Dress


In Christ's sermon on the mount he exhorts his followers not to be over-anxious in regard to earthly things, and plainly says, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” RH July 8, 1880, par. 1

These words are full of meaning. They were applicable in the days of Christ, and they are applicable in our day. Jesus here contrasts the natural simplicity of the flowers of the field with the artificial adorning of raiment. He declares that the glory of Solomon could not bear comparison with one of the flowers in natural loveliness. Here is a lesson for all who desire to know and do the will of God. If Jesus has noticed the devotion and care given to dress, and has cautioned us, yea, commanded us, not to bestow too much thought upon it, it is time we were thinking seriously of the matter ourselves. Solomon was so engrossed with thoughts of outward display, that he failed to elevate his mind by a constant connection with the God of wisdom. Perfection and beauty of character were overlooked in his attempt to obtain outward beauty. He sold his honor and integrity of character in seeking to glorify himself before the world, and finally became a despot, supporting his extravagance by a grinding taxation upon the people. He first became corrupt at heart, then he apostatized from God, and finally became a worshiper of idols. RH July 8, 1880, par. 2

As we see our sisters departing from simplicity in dress, and cultivating a love for the fashions of the world, we feel troubled. By taking steps in this direction, they are separating themselves from God and neglecting the inward adorning. Our sisters should not feel at liberty to spend their God-given time in the unnecessary ornamentation of their clothing. How much better were it employed in searching the Scriptures, thus obtaining a thorough knowledge of the prophecies and of the practical lessons of Christ. RH July 8, 1880, par. 3

As Christians, we ought not to engage in any employment upon which we cannot conscientiously ask the blessing of the Lord. Do you, my sisters, in the needless work you put upon your garments, feel a clear conscience? Can you, while perplexing your mind over ruffles, and bows, and ribbons, be uplifting your soul to God in prayer that he will bless your efforts? The time spent in this way might be devoted to doing good to others, and to cultivating your own minds; and the means expended would be better used in helping some poor sisters to more comfortable and respectable clothing, so that the contrast between your dress and theirs would not be so marked. This would be an excellent way of showing that you love your neighbor as yourself. RH July 8, 1880, par. 4

There are many of our sisters who are persons of good ability, and if their talents were used to the glory of God, they would be successful in saving many souls to Jesus Christ. Will they not be responsible for the souls they might have saved had not extravagance in dress and the cares of this world so crippled and dwarfed their God-given powers that they felt no burden of the work? Satan invented the fashions, in order to keep the minds of women so engrossed with the subject of dress that they could think of but little else. RH July 8, 1880, par. 5

The duties devolving upon mothers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord cannot be discharged while they continue their present manner of dress. They have no time to pray or to search the Scriptures that they may understand the truth and teach it to their children. It is not only the privilege, but the duty, of every one to increase daily in the knowledge of God and the truth. But Satan's object is gained if he can invent anything which shall so attract the mind that this cannot be the case. The reason why so many are not desirous of attending prayer-meeting and of engaging in religious exercises, is because their minds are devoted to other things. They are conforming to the world in the matter of dress; while they are so doing, souls whom they might have helped by letting their light shine in good works, are being strengthened in their unbelief by the inconsistent course of these professed Christians. RH July 8, 1880, par. 6

God would be pleased to see our sisters clad in neat, simple apparel, and earnestly engaged in the work of the Lord. They are not deficient in ability, but if they would put to a right use the talents they already have, their ability would be greatly increased. If they would devote one-half the time they now spend in needless work to searching the word of God and explaining it to others, their minds would be enriched with gems of truth, and they would be strengthened and ennobled by the effort made to understand the reasons of our faith. Were our sisters conscientious Bible Christians, seeking to improve every opportunity to enlighten others, we should see scores of souls embracing the truth through their self-sacrificing endeavors alone. Sisters, in the day when the accounts of all are balanced, will you feel a pleasure in reviewing your life, or will you feel that the beauty of the outward man was sought while the inward beauty of the soul was almost entirely neglected? RH July 8, 1880, par. 7

Some have said, “After I wear out this dress, I will make the next more plain.” 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 fashioning your dress according to the fashion. Would it not be praise worthy to manifest at least an 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? RH July 8, 1880, par. 8

Have not our sisters sufficient zeal and moral courage to place themselves without excuse upon the Bible platform? The inspired apostle has given most explicit directions on this point: “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.” Here the Lord, through his apostle, speaks expressly against the wearing of gold. Let those who have had experience see to it that they do not lead others astray on this point by their example. That ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others. RH July 8, 1880, par. 9

Especially should the wives of our ministers be careful not to depart from the plain teachings of the Bible on the point of dress. Many look upon these injunctions as being too old-fashioned to be worthy of notice; but He who gave them to his disciples understood the dangers from the love of dress in our time, and sent to us the note of warning. Will we heed the warning, and be wise? Extravagance in dress is continually increasing. The end is not yet. Fashion is constantly changing, and our sisters follow in its wake, regardless of time or expense. There is a great amount of means expended upon dress which should be returned to God, the giver. RH July 8, 1880, par. 10

The plain, neat dress of the poorer class often appears in marked contrast with the attire of their more wealthy sisters, and this difference often causes a feeling of embarrassment on the part of the poor. Some try to imitate their sisters, and will frill, and ruffle, and trim goods of an inferior quality, so as to approach as near as possible to them in dress. Poor girls, receiving but two dollars a week for their work, will expend every cent to dress like others who are not obliged to work for their living. These youth have nothing to put into the treasury of God; for their little fund is too soon exhausted. Besides, their time is so thoroughly occupied in making their dress as fashionable as that of their sisters, that they have no time for the improvement of the mind, for the study of God's word, for secret prayer, or for the prayer-meeting. The mind is entirely taken up with planning how to appear as well as their sisters. To this end, physical, mental, and moral health are sacrificed. Nor is this all. Happiness and the favor of God are laid upon the altar of fashion. RH July 8, 1880, par. 11

Many will not attend the service of God upon the Sabbath because their dress would appear so unlike that of their Christian sisters in style and adornment. Will my sisters consider these things as they are, and will they fully realize the weight of their influence upon others? By walking in a forbidden track themselves, they lead others in the same path of disobedience and backsliding. Christian simplicity is sacrificed to outward display. My sisters, how shall we change all this? How shall we recover ourselves from the snare of Satan, and break the chains that have bound us in slavery to fashion? How shall we recover our wasted opportunities, how do we bring our powers into healthful, vigorous action? There is only one way, and that is to make the Bible our rule of life. Then, dear sisters, work earnestly to do good to others, watch unto prayer, take up your long-neglected cross, and heed the warnings and injunctions of Him who has said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” RH July 8, 1880, par. 12

My Christian sisters, those of you who have thought enough of the fashions of this age to patronize them, face the mirror, the law of God, and test your course of action by the first four commandments. These explicitly define the duty of man to God. He claims the undivided affections; and anything which tends to absorb the mind and divert it from God assumes the form of an idol. The true and living God is crowded out of the thoughts and heart, and the soul temple is defiled by the worship of other gods before the Lord. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” says the commandment. Search the heart, compare the life and character with the statutes and precepts of Jehovah, and then look diligently for the defects of character. RH July 8, 1880, par. 13

Take the last six commandments, specifying the duties of man to his fellow-men. Here are shown solemn obligations which are trampled upon every day by professed commandment-keepers. Those who have been enlightened by the grace of God, who have been adopted into the royal family, ought not always to be children in the work of the Lord. If they use, to the best of their ability, the grace given, their capacity will increase, and their knowledge become more extensive, and they will be intrusted with a still greater measure of divine power. In putting forth earnest, well-directed efforts to bring their fellow-men to a knowledge of the truth, they will become strong in the Lord; and for working righteousness on the earth, they will receive the reward of eternal life in the kingdom of Heaven. This is the privilege of our sisters. And when we see them using God's time and money in needless display of dress, we can but warn them that they are breaking, not only the first four but the last six commandments. They cannot make God the supreme object of their worship, neither can they love their neighbor as themselves. RH July 8, 1880, par. 14

Christ is our example. We must keep the Pattern continually before us, and contemplate the infinite sacrifice he has made to redeem us from the thralldom of sin. As we look into the mirror, if we find ourselves condemned, let us not venture farther in transgression, but face right about and wash our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb, that they may be spotless. Let us cry as did David: “Open thou’ mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Those to whom God has intrusted time and means that they might be a blessing to humanity, but who have squandered these gifts needlessly upon themselves and children, will have a fearful account to meet at the bar of God. RH July 8, 1880, par. 15

Dear sisters, shall this order of things continue; or will you resolve to put off your ornaments, and turn your attention fully to seeking the Lord? Bring in your trespass-offerings, your thank-offerings, and your freewill-offerings; humble your hearts before the Lord, and he will be found ever ready to receive and pardon. RH July 8, 1880, par. 16