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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
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.
1 Timothy 2:9,10




God's Plan for Our Personal Appearance


by Vernon Sparks, M.D.


Our personal appearance is of great importance in the great controversy. Satan knows that pride of appearance endangers the morals of the wearer as well as of the beholder.

“The love of dress endangers the morals and makes woman the opposite of the Christian lady characterized by modesty and sobriety. Showy, extravagant dress too often encourages lust in the heart of the wearer and awakens base passions in the heart of the beholder. God sees that the ruin of the character is frequently preceded by the indulgence of pride and vanity in dress. He sees that the costly apparel stifles the desire to do good.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 645

Satan has laid a snare for each of us to capture our interest and to spend our time in concern regarding our outward appearance to the neglect of the inner changes which we desperately need.

“Satan has a snare laid to captivate unwary souls by leading them to give more attention to the outward adorning than to the inward graces which love of truth and righteousness display as the fruit borne upon the Christian tree. If the enemy can keep the minds of believers centered upon their dress and outward appearance, he is well pleased. They injure their influence, and the cause of truth which they profess to love.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 1.60

Through the apostles, the Christian church from its beginning was given clear counsel regarding the dangers of conforming to the world in regard to outward appearance.

“The apostle says, ‘Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.' Romans 12:2. Peter writes concerning the apparel of women, saying, ‘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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves.' I Peter 3:3- 5. And Paul writes, ‘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.' ” 1 Timothy 2:9-10; Review and Herald, vol. 2, 491

In spite of these clear warnings, Christians through the ages have tended to fall for Satan's snare rather than remain loyal to Christ. This tendency to follow the world explains to a great extent the successive rise and fall of Christian denominations.

“Human reasoning has ever sought to evade or set aside the simple, direct instructions of the Word of God. 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 leads to the adoption of the fashions, customs, and principles of the world, Vital godliness gives place to a dead formalism. The presence and power of God, withdrawn from those worldloving 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 their simplicity, have lost, in a great measure, their early power.” Messages to Young People, 354

Pride of appearance is a problem among us as a people. “I saw that God's people were on the enchanted ground; and some have lost nearly all sense of the shortness of time, and the worth of the soul. Pride has crept in among Sabbathkeepers—pride of dress and appearance. Said the angel, Sabbathkeepers will have to die to self, die to pride and love of approbation.' ” Early Writings, 120

Too often the love of outward appearance reveals itself in our workers.

“A sister who had spent some weeks at one of our institutions in ______, said that she felt much disappointed in what she saw and heard there. . . . Before accepting the truth, she had followed the fashions of the world in her dress, and had worn costly jewelry and other ornaments; but upon deciding to obey the Word of God, she felt that its teachings required her to lay aside all extravagant and superfluous adorning. She was taught that Seventh-day Adventists did not wear jewelry, gold, silver, or precious stones, and that they did not conform to worldly fashions in their dress. When she saw among those who profess the faith such a wide departure from Bible simplicity, she felt bewildered. Had they not the same Bible which she had been studying, and to which she had endeavored to conform her life? Had her past experience been mere fanaticism? Had she misinterpreted the words of the apostle, `The friendship of the world is enmity with God for whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God'?” James 4:4; Evangelism, 270

The excuse we often give for appearing as the world is so that we can have an influence with them. This manner of reasoning however is an error.

“Many dress like the world to have an influence. But here they make a sad and fatal mistake. If they would have a true and saving influence, let them live out their profession, show their faith by their righteous works, and make the distinction great between the Christian and the world. I saw that the words, the dress, and actions should tell for God. . . Unbelievers will see that the truth we profess has a holy influence, and that faith in Christ's coming affects the character of the man or woman.” Messages to Young People, 128

Excessive interest in and attention to dress endangers the spirituality of the church by drawing the members away from eternal interests. Usually those who are “rich” in outward appearance are bankrupt in the things of God.

“Christians are not to decorate the person with costly array or expensive ornaments. All this display imparts no value to the character. The Lord desires every converted person to put away the idea that dressing as worldlings dress, will give value to his influence. The ornamentation of the person with jewels and luxurious things is a species of idolatry. This needless display reveals a love for those things which are supposed to place a value upon the person. It gives evidence to the world of a heart destitute of the inward adornment. . . . An overdressed, outwardly adorned person bears the sign of inward poverty. A lack of spirituality is revealed.” The Bible Training School, May 1, 1908

Expenditures for external show are a robbery of God and His treasury. “Let those who take such delight in devoting so largely of their means to clothing their bodies, consider that they are using God's money, that might be invested in bearing the truth to those that are perishing in their sins. They need the gospel presented to them, they need to be taught that they must be clothed with the garments of the righteousness of Christ, else they cannot have a place with the saints in light. Those who have had great light, and yet continue to follow the fashions of the world in dress, are using the Lord's money to gratify their pride. They are robbing the cause of God of the means which might far better, for their present and eternal good, be invested in missionary work.” Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 10, 19

We are to deny extravagance in dress in order to help the needy among us.

“God suffers His poor to be in the borders of every church. They arc always to be among us. The orphans, the poor, the aged children of God arc not to be removed away and placed in large numbers by themselves, but the church members are to exercise their God-given tact and ingenuity to bear the responsibilities of caring for these, the Lord's people. In doing this they practice the truths of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. They arc not to pass by the Lord's poor, but they are to deny themselves of luxuries, of bows and ribbons, and the wearing of gold as an ornament, that they may make the suffering, needy ones comfortable After this they may reach still farther to help those who are not of the household of faith, if they are the proper subjects to he helped.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, 134

Those who put personal adornment above the Lord's poor are idolaters.

“There are many whose hearts have been so hardened by prosperity that they forget God, and forget the wants of their fellow man. Professed Christians adorn themselves with jewelry, laces, costly apparel, while the Lord's poor suffer for the necessaries of life. . . These are idolaters.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2. 1012

Over concern regarding our appearance in the mirror imperils our soul's salvation, for it diminished our desire to look into the law of God, the great moral mirror.

“Pride and vanity are manifested everywhere; but those who are inclined to look into the mirror to admire themselves. have little inclination to look into the law of God, the great moral mirror. This idolatry of dress destroys all that is humble, meek, and lovely in the character. It consumes the precious hours that should be devoted to meditation, to searching the heart, to the prayerful study of God's Word. . . . No Christian can conform to the demoralizing fashions of the world without imperiling his soul's salvation.” Review and Herald, vol. 6, 299

Too often parents and other adults teach children pride of appearance through inappropriate clothing and unwise compliments and praise.

“Parents frequently dress their children in extravagant garments, with much display of ornaments, then openly admire the effect of their apparel and compliment them on their appearance. These foolish parents would be filled with consternation if they could see how Satan seconds their efforts and urges them on to greater follies.” Child Guidance, 434

Mothers should spend less time in keeping pace with fashion and more time in gardening with their children. “If food were prepared with more simplicity and in less variety, if mothers dressed their children in neat, modest apparel, without striving to meet the demands of fashion, there would be far more well-balanced minds, calm nerves, and sweet tempers. Mothers wear out their nerves by doing needless things, in order to keep pace with fashion. One third of the time now devoted to this work should be spent with their children in the open air, weeding the garden, picking berries, teaching the children to help. . . . Teach your children that the garden in which they place the tiny seed represents the garden of the heart, and that God has enjoined upon you, their parents, to cultivate the soil of their hearts, as they cultivate the garden.” Notebook Leaflets, 91

One of the great evils of our times is the diminishing of the distinction in outward appearance of men and women. “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.'. . God's prohibitions are lightly regarded by all who advocate doing away with the distinction of dress between males and females. . . . “ ‘God designed that there should be a plain distinction between the dress of men and women, 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.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 459-460

In regard to wedding rings even plain ones have a wrong influence on others.

“Have not our sisters sufficient zeal and moral courage to place themselves without excuse upon the Bible platform? The inspired apostle has given most explicit directions on this point: ‘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.' Here the Lord, through His apostle, speaks expressly against the wearing of gold. . . . That ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others.” Review and Herald, vol. 1, 241

Not one penny should be spent for a wedding ring. Those living in countries where the custom is imperative, however, are not to be condemned if their conscience is clear.

“Some have had a burden in regard to the wearing of a marriage ring, feeling that the wives of our ministers should conform to this custom. All this is unnecessary. Let the ministers' wives have the golden link which binds their souls to Jesus Christ, a pure and holy character, the true love and meekness and godliness that are the fruit borne upon the Christian tree, and their influence will be secure anywhere. The fact that a disregard of the custom occasions remark is no good reason for adopting it. Americans can make their position understood by plainly stating that the custom is not regarded as obligatory in our country. We need not wear the sign, for we are not untrue to our marriage vow, and the wearing of the ring would be no evidence that we were true. I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married. In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously; but let not our missionaries feel that the wearing of the ring will increase their influence one jot or tittle. If they are Christians. it will be manifest in their Christlikeness of character, in their words, in their works, in the home, in association with others: it will be evinced by their patience and long-suffering and kindliness.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 180-181; see The Australian Years, 197

Sabbath clothes should he clean and fitting. Our clothing is to be representative of Christ. We are not to make changes in apparel mach because of fashion.

“There should be no carelessness in dress. For Christ's sake, whose witnesses we are, we should seek to make the best of our appearance. In the tabernacle service, God specified every detail concerning the garments of those who ministered before Him. Thus we arc taught that He has a preference in regard to the dress of those who serve Him. Very specific were the directions given in regard to Aaron's robes, for his dress was symbolic. So the dress of Christ's followers should be symbolic. In all things we are to be representatives of Him. Our appearance in every respect should be characterized by neatness, modesty, and purity. But the Word of God gives no sanction to the making of changes in apparel merely for the sake of fashion—that we may appear like the world.” Evangelism, 312

Too often what occurred at Ellen Harmon's baptism is repeated today.

“The same day a sister and myself were taken into the church I felt happy, till I looked at the sister by my side, and saw gold rings on her fingers, and large gold earrings in her ears. Her bonnet was filled with artificial flowers, and was trimmed with costly ribbon, which was filled with bows upon her bonnet. My heart felt sad. I expected every moment that a reproof would come from the minister; but none came He took us both into the church. My reflections were as follows: This is my sister; must I pattern after her? Must I dress like her? If it is right for her to dress so, it is right for me. I remembered what the Bible said about adorning the body. 1 Timothy 2:9-10. For some time I was in deep trial, and finally concluded that if it was so sinful as I had thought it to be to dress like the world, those whom I looked up to as being devoted Christians, and older in experience than myself, would feel it, and would deal plainly with those who went thus contrary to God's Word. But I knew that I must be plain in my dress. I believed it to be wicked to think so much of appearance, to decorate our poor mortal bodies with flowers and gold. It seemed to me that we had better be humbling ourselves in the dust, for our sins and transgressions were so great that God gave his only beloved Son to die for us.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 13

The words of Christ must be shared with those desiring to join the church.

“Today I have had an interview with one who is just taking her stand for the truth, but she is much adorned with gold bracelets and rings. I think she is good material, and will bear to hear kindly advice. The word must be presented: ‘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.' I Peter 3:3-4. 1 believe that this sister has received the truth and will practice the truth. If she loves the truth she will obey the words of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, 118

Although our religion is not to consist of finding fault with others, we are to bear a pointed testimony against their idolatry of dress among us. Ministers and their families should be examples in reproving fashionable display. “We are urged by the Spirit of the Lord to bear a pointed testimony against the idolatry of dress in this age. If we are right with God, we will discard everything of a deforming character, such as . . . fashionable arrangement of the dress upon the body. Ministers and ministers' wives should be an example in reproving the fashionable display in our sisters who claim to believe the truth. They should have their children dressed in a way that God would approve, presenting them to the church in simplicity, and modesty of apparel. Far greater pains should be taken to instruct them so that they shall have beautiful characters and keep the way of the Lord than to have them make a stylish appearance, taking the way of the Sodomites.” Pamphlet 96, 15 We are to give the trumpet a certain sound by giving the whole counsel of God. “Christ is ashamed of His professed followers. Wherein do we bear any resemblance to Him? Wherein does our dress conform to the Bible requirements? I do not want the sins of the people upon me, and I will give the trumpet a certain sound. For years I have borne a plain and decided testimony upon this subject, in print and upon the speaker's stand. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. I must be clear of the blood of all. The fact that worldliness and pride bear almost universal sway is no excuse for one Christian to do as others do. God has said: `Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.' ” Testimonies, vol. 4, 647

God holds us responsible as a people for the sin that is among us.

“There is a terrible sin upon us as a people, that we have permitted our church members to dress in a manner inconsistent with their faith. We must arise at once and close the door against the allurements of fashion. Unless we do this, our churches will become demoralized.” Ibid., 648

God is now testing those following the fashions of the world and finds them in the Laodicean condition. He is whetting His sword to cut down those who remain in the lukewarm condition.

“Young and old, God is now testing you. You are deciding your own eternal destiny. Your pride, your love to folio the fashions of the world, your vain an empty conversation, your selfishness, are all put in the scale, and the weight of evil is fearfully against you. You are poor, and miserable, and blind and naked. While evil is increasing and taking deep root, it is choking the good seed which has been sown in the heart; and soon the word that was given concerning Eli's house will be spoken to the angels of God concerning you: Your sins `shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.' 1 Samuel 3:14. Many, I saw, were flattering themselves that they were good Christians, who have not a single ray of light from Jesus. They know not what it is to be renewed by the grace of God, They have no living experience for themselves in the things of God. And I saw that the Lord was whetting His sword in heaven to cut them down. Oh, that every lukewarm professor could realize the clean work that God is about to make among His professed people!” Ibid., vol. I, 189

Now is the time to put away the idols and be separate from the world.

“The time has come when we as people should search ourselves to see what idols we are cherishing; when the shepherds of the flock should do faithful work as the sentinels of God. In dress, in speech, in deportment, we are to be a people distinct and separate from the world.” Review and Herald, vol. 4, 24

The reason we have such a struggle with pride of appearance is that we are not dead to the world.

“I was shown the conformity of some professed Sabbathkeepers to the world. Oh, I saw it was a disgrace to their profession, a disgrace to the cause of God. They give the lie to their profession. They think they are not like the world, but they are so near like them in dress, in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction. I saw them decorating their poor mortal bodies, which are liable any moment to be touched by the finger of God, and laid upon a bed of anguish. . . .Why is it so hard to lead a self-denying, humble life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. It is easy living after we are dead. But there is a hankering after the leeks and onions of Egypt. They have a disposition to dress and act as much like the world as possible, and yet go to heaven. Such climb up some other way. They do not enter through the narrow way and straight gate.” Ibid., vol. 1, 62

We need not so much the cutting away of external foliage as a sanctified heart.

“Arc we confessing Christ in our daily life? Do we confess Him in our dress, adorning ourselves with plain and modest apparel? Is our adorning that of the meek and quiet spirit which is of so great price in the sight of God? Are we seeking to advance the cause of the Master? . . . There is no use in telling you that you must not wear this or that, for if the love of these vain things is in your heart, your laying off your adornments will only be like cutting the foliage off a tree. The inclinations of the natural heart would again assert themselves. You mast have a conscience of your own.” Sons and Daughters of God, 292

We need wholehearted work if we are to be part of God's peculiar people.

“Be a living devoted Christian. You must give up pride of dress and appearance, and pride of opinion. You must be decided about it. Halfhearted work will never avail anything. You must come right down with God's humble people. God is purifying unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. This people arc peculiar. They do not dress or act like the world.” Review and Herald, vol. 1, 23

What we need as a church is true conversion.

“When the church is converted, there will be a very great reformation in dress. Church members, under the Holy Spirit's striving, will feel a solemn responsibility resting upon them in the use of the means that comes into their hands. Will you, my sisters, forget the account you must give to God for every talent, whether it is spent to please and gratify your vain desires for appearance, or whether the cause of Christ and the salvation of souls is ever a constraining power upon you, as it will be upon every one who makes Christ his personal Saviour. Many of you who profess the name of Christ, both old and young, have walked away from Jesus into much appearance and display. And the result of this is great spiritual feebleness. There is no soundness, no healthfulness in your spiritual pulse, no fervor or zeal or the perishing souls around you. The love of Christ is a sentiment strange to your hearts. You have long since forgotten that you are not your own, that you are bought with a price.” Pamphlet 157, 14

After conversion we will be as diligent in conforming to God's will as we were in conforming to the dictates of fashion. “Will not those who profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus clothe themselves in modest apparel, adorning themselves with good works, as becometh women professing godliness? Do not say, ‘After I have worn out this garment, I will make the next plainer.' What zeal, what earnest effort, what skill, what patience, you manifested in fashioning that garment according to the prevailing style; and can you not now manifest just as much zeal in refashioning it to meet the approval of God? Can you not work as hard to conform to God's order as you did to conform to the order of fashion? You could afford time, effort, and money to place yourself in harmony with the world, and can you not now manifest zeal in seeking to stand upon the Bible platform?” Review and Herald, vol. 2, 91

True Christians will have a balanced practical approach regarding their personal appearance and the dress question will not fill the mind.

“I beg of our people to walk carefully and circumspectly before God. Follow the customs in dress so far as they conform to health principles. Let our sisters dress plainly, as many do, having the dress of good, durable material, appropriate for this age, and let not the dress question fill the mind. Our sisters should dress with simplicity. They should clothe themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety. Give to the world a living illustration of the inward adorning of the grace of God.” Selected Messages, book 3, 242

This issue of pride of appearance has such an effect upon our spiritual welfare that those who refuse to conform to God's will should be disciplined by the church.

“Do not, my sisters, trifle longer with your own souls and with God. I have been shown that the main cause of your backsliding is your love of dress. This leads to the neglect of grave responsibilities, and you find yourselves with scarcely a spark of the love of God in your hearts. Without delay, renounce the cause of your backsliding, because it is sin against your own soul and against God. Be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Fashion is deteriorating the intellect and eating out the spirituality of our people. Obedience to fashion is pervading our Seventh-day Adventist churches and is doing more than any other power to separate our people from God. I have been shown that our church rules are very deficient. All exhibitions of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the Word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline. If there is a continuance, in face of warnings and appeals and entreaties, to still follow the perverse will, it may be regarded as proof that the heart is in no way assimilated to Christ. Self, and only self, is the object of adoration, and one such professed Christian will lead many away from God.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 647

Just now we need lives of self-denial that God can use to finish His work.

“Let us take heed to God's words of warning, lest at any time we let them slip, and our hearts become evil hearts of unbelief. Just as soon as those who know the truth put away their unbelief, and practice the self-denial enjoined in the Word of God, the message will go with power. The Lord will hear our prayers for the conversion of souls. God's people will let their light shine forth, and unbelievers, seeing their good works, will glorify our heavenly Father.” {RH, August 18, 1904 par. 10}