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Selected Messages Book 2

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    Chapter 6

    My sisters, there is need of a dress reform among us. There are many errors in the present style of female dress. It is injurious to health, and, therefore, sin for females to wear tight corsets, or whalebones, or to compress the waist. These have a depressing influence upon the heart, liver, and lungs. The health of the entire system depends upon the healthy action of the respiratory organs. Thousands of females have ruined their constitutions, and brought upon themselves various diseases, in their efforts to make a healthy and natural form unhealthy and unnatural. They are dissatisfied with nature's arrangements, and in their earnest efforts to correct nature, and bring her to their ideas of gentility, they break down her work, and leave her a mere wreck.2SM 473.1

    Many females drag down the bowels and hips by hanging heavy skirts upon them. These were not formed to sustain weights. In the first place, heavy quilted skirts should never be worn. They are unnecessary, and a great evil. The female dress should be suspended from the shoulders. It would be pleasing to God if there was greater uniformity in dress among believers. The style of dress formerly adopted by the Friends, is the least objectionable. Many of them have backslidden, and although they may preserve the uniformity of color, yet they have indulged in pride and extravagance, and their dress has been of the most expensive material. Still their selection of plain colors, and the modest and neat arrangement of their clothing, is worthy of imitation by Christians.2SM 473.2

    The children of Israel, after they were brought out of Egypt, were commanded to have a simple ribbon of blue in the border of their garments, to distinguish them from the nations around them, and to signify that they were God's peculiar people. The people of God are not now required to have a special mark placed upon their garments. But in the New Testament we are often referred to ancient Israel as examples. If God gave such definite directions to his ancient people in regard to their dress, will not the dress of his people in this age come under his notice? Should there not be in their dress a distinction from that of the world? Should not the people of God, who are his peculiar treasure, seek even in their dress to glorify God? And should they not be examples in point of dress, and by their simple style rebuke the pride, vanity and extravagance of worldly, pleasure-loving professors? God requires this of his people. Pride is rebuked in his word.2SM 473.3

    But there is a class who are continually harping upon pride, and dress, who are careless of their own apparel, and who think it a virtue to be dirty, and dress without order and taste; and their clothing often looks as though it flew and lit upon their persons. Their garments are filthy, and yet such ones will ever be talking against pride. They class decency and neatness with pride. Had they been among that number who gathered around the mount to hear the law spoken from Sinai, they would have been chased from the congregation of Israel, because they had not obeyed the command of God—“And let them wash their clothes,”—preparatory to listening to his law given in awful grandeur.2SM 474.1

    The ten commandments spoken by Jehovah from Sinai cannot live in the hearts of persons of disorderly, filthy habits. If ancient Israel could not so much as listen to the proclamation of that holy law, unless they had obeyed the injunction of Jehovah, and had cleansed their clothing, how can that sacred law be written upon the hearts of persons who are not cleanly in person, in clothing, or in their houses? It is impossible. Their profession may be as high as Heaven, yet it is not worth a straw. Their influence disgusts unbelievers. Better if they had ever remained outside the ranks of God's loyal people. The house of God is dishonored by such professors. All who meet upon the Sabbath to worship God should, if possible, have a neat, well-fitting, comely suit to wear in the house of worship. It is a dishonor to the Sabbath, and to God and his house, for those who profess that the Sabbath is the holy of the Lord, and honorable, to wear the same clothing upon the Sabbath that they have worn through the week while laboring upon their farms, when they can obtain other. If there are worthy persons who, with their whole heart would honor the Lord of the Sabbath, and the worship of God, and who cannot obtain a change of clothing, let those who are able, donate to such a Sabbath suit, that they may appear in the house of God with cleanly, fitting apparel. A greater uniformity in dress would be pleasing to God. Those who expend means on costly apparel and extra fixings, can by a little self-denial exemplify pure religion, by simplicity of clothing, and then use the means they have usually expended needlessly in aiding some poor brother or sister, whom God loves, to obtain neat and modest apparel.2SM 474.2

    Some receive the idea that in order to carry out that separation from the world which the word of God requires, they must be neglectful of their apparel. There is a class of sisters who think that they are carrying out the principle of non-conformity to the world by wearing an ordinary sunbonnet, and the same dress worn by them through the week, upon the Sabbath, to appear in the assembly of the saints to engage in the worship of God. And some men who profess to be Christians view the matter of dress in the same light. They assemble with God's people upon the Sabbath, with their clothing dusty, and soiled, and even with gaping rents in them, and placed upon their persons in a slovenly manner. This class, if they had an engagement to meet a friend honored by the world, and they wished to be especially favored by him, would exert themselves to appear in his presence with the best apparel that could be obtained; for this friend would feel insulted were they to come into his presence with hair uncombed, and garments uncleanly, and in disorder. Yet these persons think that it is no matter in what dress they appear, or what is the condition of their persons, when they meet upon the Sabbath to worship the great God. They assemble in his house, which is as the audience-chamber of the Most High, where heavenly angels are in attendance, with but little respect, or reverence, as their persons and clothing indicate. Their whole appearance typifies the character of such men and women.2SM 475.1

    The favorite theme of this class is pride of dress. Decency, taste, and order, they regard as pride. And according to the dress of these mistaken souls will be their conversation, their acts, and their deal. They are careless, and often low in their conversation at their homes, among their brethren, and before the world. The dress, and its arrangement upon the person, is generally found to be the index of the man or the woman. Those who are careless and untidy in dress are seldom elevated in their conversation, and possess but little refinement of feelings. They sometimes consider oddity and coarseness, humility.2SM 475.2

    The followers of Christ are represented by him as the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Without the saving influence of Christians, the world would perish in its own corruption. Look upon the class of professed Christians described, who are careless of their dress and persons, and loose in their business transactions, as their dress represents, coarse, uncourteous and rough in their manners, low in their conversation; and at the same time they regard these miserable traits as marks of true humility and Christian life. Think you if our Saviour was upon earth, he would point to them as being the salt of the earth, and the light of the world? No, never! Christians are elevated in their conversation, and although they believe it to be a sin to condescend to foolish flattery, they are courteous, kind, and benevolent. Their words are those of sincerity and truth. They are faithful in their deal with their brethren, and with the world. In their dress they avoid superfluity and display; but their clothing will be neat, not gaudy, modest, and arranged upon the person with order and taste. Especial care will be taken to dress in a manner that will show a sacred regard for the holy Sabbath, and the worship of God. The line of demarkation between such a class and the world will be too plain to be mistaken. The influence of believers would be ten-fold greater if men and women who embrace the truth, who have been formerly careless and slack in their habits, would be so elevated, and sanctified through the truth, as to observe habits of neatness, order, and good taste in their dress. Our God is a God of order, and he is not in any degree pleased with distraction, with filthiness, or with sin.2SM 476.1

    Christians should not take pains to make themselves gazing-stocks by dressing differently from the world. But if, in accordance with their faith and duty in respect to their 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. Christians should follow Christ, and conform their dress to God's word. They should shun extremes. They should humbly pursue a straightforward course, irrespective of applause or of censure, and should cling to the right, because of its own merits.2SM 476.2

    Women should clothe their limbs with regard to health and comfort. They need to have their limbs and feet clad as warmly as men. The length of the fashionable female dress is objectionable for several reasons.2SM 477.1

    1. It is extravagant and unnecessary to have the dress of that length that it will sweep the sidewalks and streets.2SM 477.2

    2. A dress thus long gathers dew from the grass, and mud from the streets, which makes it uncleanly.2SM 477.3

    3. In its bedrabbled condition it comes in contact with the sensitive ankles, which are not sufficiently protected, quickly chilling them, and is one of the greatest causes of catarrh, and of scrofula swellings, and endangers health and life.2SM 477.4

    4. The unnecessary length is an additional weight upon the hips and bowels.2SM 477.5

    5. It hinders the walking, and is also often in other people's way.2SM 477.6

    There is still another style of dress which will be adopted by a class of so-called dress reformers. They will imitate the opposite sex, as nearly as possible. They will wear the cap, pants, vest, coat, and boots, the last of which is the most sensible part of the costume. Those who adopt and advocate this style of dress, are carrying the so-called dress reform to very objectionable lengths. Confusion will be the result. Some who adopt this costume may be correct in their views in general upon the health question, and they could be instrumental in accomplishing vastly more good if they did not carry the matter of dress to such extremes.2SM 477.7

    In this style of dress God's order has been reversed, and his special directions disregarded. Deuteronomy 22:5. “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” This style of dress, God would not have his people adopt. It is not modest apparel, and is not at all fitting for modest, humble females who profess to be Christ's followers. God's prohibitions are lightly regarded by all who would advocate the doing away of the distinction of dress between males and females. The extreme positions taken by some dress-reformers upon this subject cripple their influence.2SM 477.8

    God designed there should be a plain distinction between male and female dress, and has considered the matter of sufficient importance to give explicit directions in regard to it; for the same dress worn by both sexes would cause confusion, and great increase of crime. St. Paul would utter a rebuke, were he alive, and should behold females professing Godliness with this style of dress. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing Godliness) with good works.” The mass of professed Christians utterly disregard the teachings of the Apostles, and wear gold, pearls and costly array.2SM 478.1

    God's loyal people are the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. And they should ever remember that their influence is of value. Were they to exchange the extreme long, for the extreme short dress, they would, to a great extent, destroy their influence. Unbelievers, whom it is their duty to benefit, and seek to bring to the Lamb of God, would be disgusted. Many improvements can be made in the dress of females in reference to health, without making so great a change as to disgust the beholder.2SM 478.2

    The female form should not be compressed in the least with corsets and whale bones. The dress should be perfectly easy that the lungs and heart may have healthy action. The dress should reach somewhat below the top of the boot; but should be short enough to clear the filth of the sidewalk and street, without being raised by the hand. A still shorter dress than this would be proper, convenient, and healthful for females, when doing their housework, and especially, for those women who are obliged to perform more or less out-of-door labor. With this style of dress, one light skirt, or, at most two, are all that is necessary, and these should be buttoned on to a waist, or suspended with straps. The hips were not formed to bear heavy weights. The heavy skirts worn by females, their weight dragging down upon the hips, have been the cause of various diseases, which are not easily cured, because the sufferers seem to be ignorant of the cause which has produced them, and they continue to violate the laws of their being by girding the waists and wearing heavy skirts, until they are made life-long invalids. Many will immediately exclaim, “Why such a style of dress would be old-fashioned!” What if it is? I wish we could be old-fashioned in many respects. If we could have the old-fashioned strength that characterized the old-fashioned women of past generations it would be very desirable. I do not speak unadvisedly when I say that the way in which women clothe themselves, together with their indulgence of appetite, is the greatest causes of their present feeble diseased condition. There is but one woman in a thousand who clothes her limbs as she should. Whatever may be the length of the dress, females should clothe their limbs as thoroughly as the males. This may be done by wearing lined pants gathered into a band and fastened about the ankle, or made full and tapering at the bottom; and these should come down long enough to meet the shoe. The limbs and ankles thus clothed are protected against a current of air. If the limbs and feet are kept comfortable with warm clothing, the circulation will be equalized, and the blood will remain healthy and pure, because it is not chilled or hindered in its natural passage through the system.—How to Live, No. 6, pp. 57-64.2SM 478.3

    The attention of the reader is called to the fact that while Mrs. White ever kept before the church the importance of attire that was healthful, modest, economical, and in conformity with Christian simplicity, she recognized also that within the bounds of these principles the dress should be that which is “appropriate for this age.” In 1897, when certain Seventh-day Adventist women questioned whether, in loyalty to the Spirit of prophecy counsels, they should return to the particular style adopted in the 1860s, she counseled that “no one precise style” had been given her “as the exact rule to guide all in their dress.” She wrote: “the Lord has not indicated that it is the duty of our sisters to go back to the reform dress.” Her statement, setting forth the reasons for her position, appears in full as an appendix in D. E. Robinson's The Story of Our Health Message, 112-130, 166-169, 427-431 1965 edition,.—Compilers.2SM 479.1

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