[Material requested by F. D. Nichol for a Review and Herald article, published, March 20, 1958.]
As I have seen many Sabbathkeeping Adventists becoming worldly in thought, conversation, and dress, my heart has been saddened. The people who claim to believe that they have the last message of mercy to give the world are attracted by worldly fashions, and make great exertions to follow them as far as they think their profession of faith allows them to go. Worldly dress among our people is so noticeable that unbelievers frequently remark, "In their dress you cannot distinguish them from the world." This we know to be true, although there are many exceptions.
Those who meet the world's standard are not few in numbers. We are grieved to see that they are exerting an influence, leading others to follow their example. When I see those who have named the name of Christ aping the fashions introduced by worldlings, I have the most painful reflections. Their lack of Christlikeness is apparent to all. In the outward adorning there is revealed to worldlings as well as to Christians an absence of the inward adorning, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.
For years our hearts have felt sad over this matter. Errors on the point of dress in Battle Creek, the great heart of the work, affect the whole body.At that important post are some of our most important institutions--the publishing house, where the truth is printed and scattered to the world; the College for our youth; and the Health Institute, now bearing the name of a sanitarium, in which reform is taught and practiced. Parents send their children from the different States to Battle Creek, feeling a sense of security in regard to them because of the moral and religious influences prevailing in these institutions.
The garden of Eden was created by God. He made it a beautiful and holy place. But Satan found entrance to the garden, leaving his slimy trail of sin and disobedience. Battle Creek is not a place from which either the tempter or defective human beings are excluded. The tempter and the tempted have access to Battle Creek. We are sorry to say that pride, vanity, and love of display are evident, testifying to all beholders that some, at least, care more for outward dress than for the heavenly adornment.
Superfluous tucks, ruffles, and ornaments of any kind should be avoided as contradictory to our profession of faith as followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Frequently the trimmings of a dress cost more than the material for the dress itself. We warn our Christian sisters against the tendency to make their dresses according to worldly styles, thus attracting attention. The house of God is profaned by the dress of professedly Christian women of today. A fantastic dress, a display of gold chains and gaudy laces, is a certain indication of a weak head and a proud heart.
In order to follow in the wake of fashion, many of our youth incur expenses which their condition in life does not justify. Children of poor parents seek to dress as do those who are wealthy. Parents tax their purses and their God-given time and strength in making and remodeling clothing to satisfy the vanity of their children. If our sisters who have abundance of means would regulate their expenditures, not in accordance with their wealth, but with regard to their responsibility to God, as wise stewards of the means entrusted to them, their example would do much to stay this evil now existing among us.
Satan stands in the background, devising the fashions which lead to extravagance in the outlay of means. In forming the fashions of the day, he has a fixed purpose. He knows that time and money which are devoted to meet the
demands of fashion will not be used for higher, holier objects. Precious time is wasted in keeping pace with ever-changing and never-satisfying fashions. No sooner is one style introduced, than new styles are devised, and then, in order for fashionable persons to remain fashionable, the dress must be remodeled. Thus professing Christians, with divided hearts, waste their time, giving to the world nearly all their energies.
This entirely unnecessary burden is taken up and willingly borne by our sisters. Half of their burdens come from an attempt to follow the fashions; yet they eagerly accept the yoke, because fashion is the god they worship. They are as truly held in shackles of bondage as is the veriest slave; and yet they talk of independence! They do not know the first principles of independence. They have no mind or taste of judgment of their own.
Satan is wonderfully successful in infatuating minds with the ever-varying styles of dress. He knows that while the minds of women are continually filled with a feverish desire to follow fashion, their moral sensibilities are weak, and they cannot be aroused to realize their true spiritual condition. They are worldly, without God, without hope.
We do not discourage taste and neatness in dress. Correct taste in dress is not to be despised or condemned. While needless ruffles, trimmings, and ornaments should be left off, we encourage our sisters to obtain good, durable material. Nothing is gained in trying to save means by purchasing cheap fabrics. Let the clothing be plain and neat, without extravagance or display.
Young ladies who break away from slavery to fashion will be ornaments in society. The one who is simple and unpretending in her dress and in her manners shows that she understands that a true lady is characterized by moral worth. How charming, how interesting, is simplicity in dress, which in its comeliness can be compared with flowers of the field!
When I see Christian women leading out in temperance campaigns, presenting to the liquor inebriate a pledge to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, I think it would also be well for them to present to every Christian woman a pledge to abstain from all needless display and extravagance in dress, for the bondage of a woman to fashion is usually as great as is the bondage of a liquor inebriate to his appetite. By dressing simply, thus saving time and means, Christian women can do more to encourage and sustain the cause of temperance than by anything else. The means thus saved will clothe the destitute, feed the hungry, and close a most effectual door against the temptation of drunkenness.
Pride of dress is not a small matter, but a serious evil. It causes time, thought, and money to be spent in the decoration of the body, while the culture of the heavenly graces is neglected. Precious hours that our Saviour has exhorted us to devote to prayer and the study of the Scriptures, are given to an unnecessary preparation of apparel for outward display. By and by there will be a sad reckoning of the waste of our Lord's goods in needless display.
Those who practice simplicity in dress have time to visit the afflicted, and are better prepared to pray with and for them. On every Christian man and woman rests the solemn duty of regulating and contracting personal expenses, that by so doing they may be able to help the needy, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.--Ms. 1, 1877, pp. 1-5. ("Simplicity in Dress," Oct. 23, 1877; printed in RH March 20, 1958.) Released Oct. 24, 1958.