Believe His Prophets


Chapter 13—Ellen G. White’s Message on Dress 2

Relatively speaking not many people will come to our churches or to our evangelistic meetings to hear the message; but people everywhere are watching Seventh-day Adventists. They are learning our message by what they see revealed in our daily lives. They are actually forming their opinion of God and His remnant church by what they see in you and me. BHP 249.1

“Ye are my witnesses,” says the God of heaven. Here in this world we are to be a demonstration of the kind of people God wants and will have in His eternal kingdom. We should walk the streets of our home town just as we expect to walk the streets of the New Jerusalem. BHP 249.2

That paragraph gives us plenty to think about. If we are not God’s witnesses in our own home city, we shall not be His witnesses in the New Jerusalem. The consequences of our study are just that serious. Our witness in our home town must be so correct as to cause people to say, “There is one of the loveliest, finest, and best persons in this city. I wish I could live as she does.” BHP 249.3

Someone has said, “Your clothes, and that includes every detail, should be the perfect background for your personality. They should add confidence to your manner, assurance and poise to your bearing.” Since clothes do so much to make a person either attractive or unattractive, we do well to begin with a statement on this important point made by Ellen G. White at a time when some thought our sisters should adopt a healthful but very mannish attire known in the early 1880’s as the American costume: BHP 250.1

“No occasion should be given to unbelievers to reproach our faith. We are considered odd and singular, and should not take a course to lead unbelievers to think us more so than our faith requires us to be. Some who believe the truth may think that it would be more healthful for the sisters to adopt the American costume, yet if that mode of dress would cripple our influence among unbelievers so that we could not so readily gain access to them, we should by no means adopt it, though we suffered much in consequence. But some are deceived in thinking there is so much benefit to be received from this costume. While it may prove a benefit to some, it is an injury to others.” Testimonies for the Church 1:456, 457. (Italics supplied.) BHP 250.2

“Oddity and carelessness in dress have been considered a special virtue by some. Such take a course which destroys their influence over unbelievers. They disgust those whom they might benefit.” Testimonies for the Church 1:275. BHP 250.3

Thus we have the question before us, and we hasten to add that our Seventh-day Adventist women are anxious to know just what Mrs. White did teach on the subject of dress, so that they may be able to meet God’s ideal for them in this, as in all other essential matters. One of them wrote a letter to our church paper, the Review and Herald, and here it is: BHP 251.1

“Dear Editor: BHP 251.2

“I read an article in one of the recent Reviews on the subject of women’s dress. I know that our people have grown lax on that subject and have followed after the world in their customs and fashions. It is my belief, as was said, that we should take the standard of the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy for our guide. But it is hard to know just what that standard is, without going from one extreme to the other, in the matter of length. I quote from Testimonies for the Church 1:464: BHP 251.3

““I was shown that we should shun both extremes. By wearing the dress reaching about to the top of a woman’s gaiter boot we shall escape the evils of the extreme long dress, and shall also shun the evils and notoriety of the extreme short dress.” BHP 251.4

“I would judge from that statement and the context of the whole chapter in volume 1 that the standard is nine inches from the floor. That is very neat and becoming for a woman in her seventies or eighties, but I can hardly see it for a young person or middle-aged person. I quote again from volume 1, page 458: BHP 251.5

“Christians should not take pains to make themselves a gazingstock by dressing differently from the world. But if, when following out their convictions of duty in respect to dressing modestly and healthfully, they find themselves out of fashion, they should not change their dress in order to be like the world; but they should manifest a noble independence and moral courage to be right, if all the world differ from them. If the world introduce a modest, convenient, and healthful mode of dress, which is in accordance with the Bible, it will not change our relation to God or to the world to adopt such a style of dress.” BHP 251.6

“Of course, the world has not introduced such a style of dress, and we will have to be different. But do you think the plain statements made in volume 1 are for our time? BHP 252.1

“My sister and I are about twenty and we both have a sincere desire to do what is right and carry out God’s instructions fully and yet shun any extremes. Do you think a dress three and a half or four inches below the knee is a modest length for us; and for a woman about fifty, six inches below the knee? BHP 252.2

“If that length is modest for our times, why did not Sister White give us as definite a standard for our time as was given for her time; because she could look ahead into the future, could she not? BHP 252.3

“I am sorry to take any of your time, but this has been a question between us for several years, and I would like to get your opinion. BHP 252.4

“Sincerely yours, BHP 252.5

------” BHP 252.6

“Dear Sister: BHP 252.7

“The editor of the Review has appealed to me to answer the questions raised in your letter with regard to the specific length of dresses for our time, in the light of standards of the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy counsel. You refer to the length of the skirt as mentioned in the testimony in 1867, as well as to the caution against extremes, and you ask the relation of this counsel to the determining of a proper present-day standard of skirt length. In order to reply satisfactorily, I have spent some time in reading, and now wish to share with you some of my findings.” BHP 252.8

That which follows represents the answer to that appeal. BHP 253.1