Manuscript Releases, vol. 19 [Nos. 1360-1419]


MR No. 1364—Severe Reproof for Faultfinding Spirit and Carelessness in Dress

(Written in March, 1861, to “Mrs. H.”)

I have felt it my duty to write you but have lacked opportunity. The letter Brother H sent to my husband containing one from you was received, which greatly discouraged me in regard to your case. 19MR 30.1

You say, “I believe the visions.” How can this be? Were you not especially reproved in the vision because of your faultfinding and watching others’ dress and finding fault with them because their manner of dress did not just suit your idea? I saw that you were entirely out of your place in talking with anyone upon dress, for you have not the right views of this matter; that in this very matter you must reform, for you were altogether too neglectful of your [own] appearance, were untidy in your dress, were not careful to dress your children neatly and orderly, and your house was left in disorder. Confusion reigned in your dwelling. 19MR 30.2

While you have such a great work before you in order to become a consistent Christian, I beg of you to hold your peace upon dress. You greatly injure the cause of God by your appearance and by your course. You can effect nothing by all that you may say upon dress, but only disgust persons. You do not possess the qualifications of a Christian. You must be converted and reform or you are lost. If you believe the visions, why not act upon them? Why not control that unconsecrated tongue? Why not heed the reproof given you in regard to your lack of order, neatness, and cleanliness? Why not bridle your tongue? You have not kept truth upon your side. You talk so much. You prepare material when it is not right at hand and you exaggerate greatly. Cease talking so much and reflect more. 19MR 30.3

You say that you have read [Testimony] No. 6 and you refer to the last two paragraphs, that when people have asked you how Sister White was dressed you had to tell them you were disappointed to find that my dress was not in accordance with what I had written in regard to dress. I would say, I consider my dress to be in strict accordance with what I have written in regard to dress. If I write one thing and act another, I am a hypocrite. I hope none will conclude from my writings that I consider it a virtue to be loose and untidy in dress. I hope no soul will follow your example, for I have been shown that you dishonor the cause of truth and disgust others by your neglect in the matter of dress. 19MR 31.1

You have reported that I was dressed very richly at Knoxville. I had on an old velvet bonnet that I was wearing the second season. I washed the strings and placed them again on the bonnet. I had on a merino [Merino is a soft fabric made from the wool of a hardy breed of sheep originally from Spain.] dress that was three years old, and the only other dress I wore on the journey beside my overdress was a dress [which cost] three shillings per yard when new. I had worn it out once, but before I left home for that journey [I] took it to pieces, turned it, and put it together again to finish on that journey. Why I took this trouble to turn it was that I might save the trouble of buying another dress, and yet look decent and orderly. My overdress was made out of an old debeige dress. By putting in front a breadth of another kind, I made it answer on that journey. 19MR 31.2

My apron was made out of an old silk dress which once belonged to Anna White, and I had worn it two years. I had on a merino cape which cost 60 cents per yard, with a bit of velvet around the edge. This is the only unnecessary article about my dress. A sister made the cape and put on the velvet to keep the lining from sagging. This constituted my “rich dress” at Knoxville. I generally purchase good clothing and then take good care of it, and it lasts me some time. 19MR 31.3

I will not countenance this faultfinding spirit. I will drive it [out] wherever I find it. You would lower the standard of Christianity into the very dust. Read again the vision I sent you. You must have forgotten the contents. In order for you to live according to the light given in vision, you must reform or be weighed in the balance and found wanting. It is only the faithful overcomer who wins eternal life. I cannot acknowledge you as a Christian until you bring forth fruit meet for repentance. “By their fruits ye shall know them” [Matthew 7:20]. 19MR 32.1

You are very unhappy yourself and make others unhappy. I fear—yes, have reason to fear—that your course will ruin the influence of your husband and get him down from the work. He should never answer you impatiently but should sincerely pity you, for when one has contracted a habit of fretting it is hard to overcome it. Nevertheless, it must be overcome. And, again, God frowns upon him when he lets your envious feelings against the brethren weigh on his mind and he becomes embittered toward his brethren. Be careful of the influence you exert, for you must meet it again. 19MR 32.2

A church is to be presented to God without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” [Ephesians 5:27]. A great work must be accomplished for you before you can be brought into this position. When you manifest impatience and fretfulness to your husband or children or any member of your family, there is a spot in your Christian character. When you become jealous of your husband, there is another spot, for “jealousy is cruel as the grave” [Song of Sol. 8:6]. When you talk against your brethren and sisters and influence others who do not know them, when you report things in regard to them which are incorrect, there is a spot. 19MR 32.3

“The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! ... The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.... The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5, 6, 8). “Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor” [Psalm 15:1-3]. 19MR 33.1

In a letter to my husband you express surprise that he judges of you as he has, but your fruits have testified of you. You may feel friendless, but if you do you may thank yourself for it. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Peter 2:20). 19MR 33.2

You must reform if you expect to be beloved of the brethren and sisters. You do not take a course to gain their affections. You think that you have been in the truth some time and disdain the idea of being instructed by persons who have recently embraced the truth. But don't deceive yourself here. You have not yet learned the first principles of our faith and what it requires to constitute a Christian character. 19MR 33.3

I allow that you have taken hold of the truth, but cannot admit that the truth has yet taken hold of you. If I should admit this, I dishonor the cause of truth. I believe and know that there is power in the truth, and when it takes hold of an individual it commences to purify, to refine the taste, sanctify the judgment. It will make the receiver meek, patient under censure even if it is undeserved. It will make him forbearing, cheerful, contented, and happy, yet his life will be marked with sobriety. The truth works an entire reformation in [the] life, makes the receiver orderly, neat, and causes him to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. 19MR 34.1

All the profession of truth which you might make would only lower you in my estimation unless you carried it out in your life. I would rather receive the veriest babes in the truth, who had not only taken hold of the truth but the truth taken hold of them, than individuals who make an exalted profession yet fail to carry out the principles of truth, for in the conscientious young disciple there is something to build on. If we are truly converted to God, the principles of truth and holiness will be in us. 19MR 34.2

You fail to understand what constitutes a Christian, a true follower of Jesus. You seem to think that if you are careless of your dress and manifest no taste whatsoever in regard to your apparel, that you manifest a special grace. The principal burden you have is to notice a person's dress and thus decide in regard to his character.—Letter 4, 1861. 19MR 34.3

Ellen G. White Estate

Washington, D. C.,

April 14, 1988.

Entire Letter.