The Signs of the Times


March 31, 1887

How Should Christians Dress?


“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.” 1 Peter 3:3, 4. ST March 31, 1887, par. 1

The human heart has never been in harmony with the requirements of God. Human reasoning has ever sought to evade or set aside the simple, direct instructions of his word. In every age, a majority of the professed followers of Christ have disregarded those precepts which enjoin self-denial and humility, which require modesty and simplicity of conversation, deportment, and apparel. The result has ever been the same; departure from the teachings of the gospel has led to the adoption of the fashions, customs, and principles of the world. Vital godliness has given place to a dead formalism. The presence and power of God, withdrawn from those world-loving circles, are found with a class of humbler worshipers, who are willing to obey the teachings of the sacred word. Through successive generations, this course has been pursued. One after another, different denominations have risen, and, yielding to their simplicity, have lost, in a great measure, their early power. ST March 31, 1887, par. 2

Will the people of God learn nothing from the history of the past? There are few who understand their own hearts. The vain and trifling lovers of fashion may claim to be followers of Christ; but their dress and conversation show what occupies the mind and engages the affections. Their lives betray their friendship for the world, and it claims them as its own. ST March 31, 1887, par. 3

Notwithstanding their profession of godliness, many can hardly be distinguished from the unbelievers. They do not enjoy a religious life. Their time and means are devoted to the one object of dressing for display. Will not my Christian sisters reflect candidly and prayerfully on this subject? Will they not seek to be guided by the word of God? The extra time spent in the making up of apparel according to the fashions of the world should be devoted to close searching of heart and the study of the Scriptures. The hours that are worse than wasted in preparing unnecessary adornings might be made of untold value if spent in seeking to acquire right principles and solid attainments. But the mental powers, that might be developed by thought and study, are suffered to lie dormant and the affections are undisciplined, because the outward apparel is considered of more consequence than spiritual loveliness or mental vigor. ST March 31, 1887, par. 4

Will the followers of Christ seek to obtain the inward adorning, the meek and quiet spirit which God pronounces of great price, or will they squander the few short hours of probationary time in needless labor for display? The Lord would be pleased to have woman seek constantly to improve both in mind and heart, gaining intellectual and moral strength, that she may lead a useful and happy life, being a blessing to the world and an honor to her Creator. ST March 31, 1887, par. 5

I would ask the youth of today who profess to be followers of Christ, wherein they deny self for his sake. When they really desire some article of dress, or some ornament or luxury, do they lay the matter before the Lord in prayer to know if his Spirit would sanction this expenditure of means? In the preparation of their clothing, are they careful not to dishonor their profession of faith? Can they seek the Lord's blessing upon the time thus employed? It is one thing to join the church, and quite another thing to be united to Christ. Unconsecrated, world-loving professors of religion are one of the most serious causes of weakness in the church of Christ. ST March 31, 1887, par. 6

In this age of the world, there is an unprecedented rage for pleasure. Dissipation and reckless extravagance everywhere prevail. The multitudes are eager for amusement. The mind becomes trifling and frivolous, because it is not accustomed to meditation or disciplined study. Ignorant sentimentalism is current. God requires that every soul shall be cultivated, refined, elevated, and ennobled. But too often every valuable attainment is neglected for fashionable display and superficial pleasure. Women permit their souls to be starved and dwarfed by fashion, and thus they become a curse to society, rather than a blessing. ST March 31, 1887, par. 7

I have seen poor families struggling with debt, and yet the children were not trained to deny themselves in order to aid their parents. In one family where I visited, the daughters expressed a desire for an expensive piano. Gladly would the parents have gratified this wish, but they were embarrassed with debt. The daughters knew this, and had they been taught to practice self-denial, they would not have given their parents the pain of denying their wishes; but although they were told that it would be impossible to gratify their desires, the matter did not end there. The wish was expressed again and again, thus continually adding to the heavy burden of the parents. On another visit I saw the coveted musical instrument in the house, and knew that some hundreds of dollars had been added to the burden of debt. I hardly know whom to blame most, the indulgent parents or the selfish children. Both are guilty before God. This one case will illustrate many. These young persons, although they profess to be Christians, have never taken the cross of Christ; for the very first lesson to be learned of Christ is the lesson of self-denial. Said our Saviour, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” In no way can we become disciples of Christ, except by complying with this condition. ST March 31, 1887, par. 8

We must take more interest in spiritual things than in those of a worldly nature. We must know more of Jesus and his love than of the fashions of the world. In the name of my Master, I call upon the youth to study the example of Christ. When you wish to make an article, you carefully study the pattern, that you may reproduce it as nearly as possible. Now set to work to copy the divine Exemplar. Your eternal interest demands that you possess the spirit of Christ. You cannot be like Jesus and cherish pride in your heart. You cannot give any place to envy or jealousy. You must consider it beneath the character of a Christian to harbor resentful thoughts or indulge in recrimination. Let the law of kindness be sacredly observed. Never comment upon the character or the acts of others in a manner to injure them. In no case make their failures or defects the subject of ridicule or unkind criticism. You lessen your own influence by so doing, and lead others to doubt your sincerity as a Christian. Let peace and love dwell in your soul, and ever cherish a forgiving spirit. ST March 31, 1887, par. 9

I wish to emphasize this thought, Study the fashions less, and the character of Jesus more. The greatest and holiest of men was also the meekest. In his character, majesty and humility were blended. He came to earth, veiling his dignity [divinity] with humanity. He had the command of worlds, he could summon the hosts of Heaven at his will; yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. The attractions of this world, its glory and its pride, had no fascination for him. In the cluster of Christian graces, he made meekness and humility prominent. He would have his disciples study these divine attributes, and seek to possess them. “Learn of me,” he says; “for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” ST March 31, 1887, par. 10

Of how little value are gold or pearls or costly array, in comparison with the meekness and loveliness of Christ. Physical loveliness consists in symmetry, the harmonious proportion of parts; but spiritual loveliness consists in harmony with Christ, the likeness of our souls to him. The grace of Christ is indeed a priceless adornment. It elevates and ennobles its possessor, and it has an influence upon others, attracting them also to the Source of light and blessing. ST March 31, 1887, par. 11

“Our conversation is in Heaven,” said the apostle; “from whence also we look for the Saviour.” While others are dwarfing the intellect, hardening the heart, and robbing their Maker by devoting themselves to the service of the world, the true Christian lifts his soul above the follies and vanities of earth, seeking God for pardon, peace, and righteousness; for glory, immortality, and eternal life. And he seeks not in vain. His fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Through this close intercourse with God, the soul becomes transformed. By beholding, we are changed into the divine image. But those who seek only to gratify the desires of the unconsecrated heart, will float with the current of worldliness and fashion. They will talk of what they love most, and give thought and study to that, until by beholding they are changed to the same earthly image. Their conformity to worldly customs holds them in captivity to the god of this world; for “his servants ye are to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey.” ST March 31, 1887, par. 12

Jesus is our only safe pattern; and his life is one continuous experience of privation, self-denial, and sorrow. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Seeing that our Saviour has endured all this for us, what will we endure for him? Will we show our love and gratitude by manifesting his spirit, and by self-denial in obeying his words? ST March 31, 1887, par. 13

There is work to be done for the Master. How many souls might be saved, if each professed follower of Christ would do all that it lay in his power to do! My brother, my sister, there are all around you the poor, who may receive from you the words of Christ after you have fed and clothed them. There are the sick, whom it is your duty to visit. There are sorrowing ones to be comforted and prayed for. If the Lord has blessed you with this world's goods, it is not that you may greedily hoard your means, or expend it in the indulgence of pride. Remember that he will one day say, “Give an account of thy stewardship.” Let us invest in the bank of Heaven the means intrusted to our care, by using it to supply the wants of the needy or to advance the cause of God. Then the Master, at his coming, having found us faithful over a few things, will make us each ruler over “many things” in the kingdom of his glory. ST March 31, 1887, par. 14