Page images

plainness in dress, like that of several other particulars of conduct and conversation, was by no means uniformly of the highest or strictest order. Thus, among the gifts which Abraham sent to Rebekah, were earrings and bracelets, with jewels of gold and silver ;' and the virtuous wife who is so much commended by King Lemuel, is described as making for herself “ coverings of tapestry,” and as being clothed in “purple.” Nevertheless, we may learn, from the apostle Peter, that many of the holy women of old were exemplary in this respect;, and we know that the profusion of ornament, by which the Jewish women, of a worldly character, displayed their personal vanity, called forth the righteous indignation of the Supreme Being. “Moreover, the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks, and wanton eyes, walking, and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore, the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion. In that day, the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, the rings, and the nose-jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods and the veils,” &c.

I have endeavoured to show that the sentiments which Friends entertain, on the subject of plainness of apparel, arise out of the principles of that branch of the divine law which enjoins the mortification of the carnal affections and vanities of the human heart of the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” Now, it will, probably be allowed, that the extent of the demands of the law of God, in these respects, was made fully apparent only under the more spiritual dispensation of Christianity ; and, accordingly, it is in the New Testament alone that ornament or finery in attire is expressly forbidden. There are in the apostolic epistles two passages to this effect. “I will, therefore,” says Paul to Timothy,“. that women adorn (or dress themselves in modest (or neat) apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered (or curled

1 Gen. xxiv. 53.

3 1 Peter iii, 5.

2 Prov. xxxi. 22.
4 Isa. iij. 16-24.

192 The

[ocr errors]

and braided") hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." apostle Peter gives very similar directions. “Likewise, ye wives," says he, “ be in subjection to your own husbands, &c. .... 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.”

It has been sometimes remarked, that, in the two passages now cited, the female Christian is not absolutely required to disuse ornament in dress, but only to make the graces and fruits of the Spirit (which, by these apostles are described as ornaments,) the principal object of her attention and pursuit. But I would submit, that the impartial examiner of the words of Paul and Peter will by no means accede to such an observation. Each of these passages contains both a positive and a negative injunction : each of them teaches us how Christian women ought, and how they ought not to adorn themselves—what things are, and what things are not, to be their ornaments. Peter assigns to them, for an ornament, “a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price;" and Paul, a modest dress with good works. On the other hand, Peter declares that their adorning ought not to be “that outward adorning of plaiting the hair and of wearing of gold, and of putting on of (splendid) apparel;” and Paul plainly commands them not to adorn themselves with “curled or braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” Between the positive and the negative injunction, respectively given by the two apostles, there is evidently preserved a complete parallel. Both are to be taken according to their obvious meaning, and both must, in all fairness, be considered as binding on the followers of Christ. Since, therefore, a decent and modest dress, good works, and a meek and quiet spirit, are here plainly enjoined, it must surely be allowed, that the wearing of splendid apparel, the curling and braiding of the hair, and the use of other personal ornaments, are forbidden.

adópamayuuga notat cincinnos, crines intortos, capillos artificiose flexos et inter se nexos :" Schleusner in voc.

2 1 Tim. ii. 8-10.

3 It plainly appears from the context, that, by “the putting-on of apparel,” the apostle means, the putting on of costly or splendid apparel. The Syriac and Ethiopic translators have added epithets to that effect. “The apostle,” says Gill, “means such apparel as is unbecoming and unsuitable; for he cannot be thought to forbid the putting on of any apparel :" Com. in loc.

4 1 Pet. ïïi. 1-4.

It was the remark of a noted infidel writer, in reference to that plainness of dress so customary in the Society of Friends, that there is no quakerism in the works of nature ; and nothing, perhaps, is more usually urged, in justification of splendid and ornamented apparel, than the brightness of the flowers, and the gay plumage of the feathered tribes. True, indeed, it is, that the great Creator, who has made so many gracious provisions for the gladdening of our hearts, and for the gratification of our eyes, has scattered his ornaments in rich profusion over the face of nature ; nor is there any thing, save redeeming mercy, more calculated to excite, in the Christian, the feeling of humble adoration, than the harmony and beauty of created things. Were, then, our objection against finery in dress grounded on the absurd principle that nothing beautiful or splendid can be good, such an objection must, undoubtedly, vanish before the plumage of the peacock, the beauty of the rose, the gayety of the butterfly, and the variegated radiance of the setting

But we are not so foolish as to object to beauty, under any of its forms, merely because it is beauty; we disapprove only such a misapplication of things supposed to be beautiful, as is attended with an evil effect on the human mind. In a happy sense and grateful admiration of the ornaments of nature, there is nothing inconsistent with a religious objection to those ornaments which deck the persons of the children of fashion. The former appertain to the excellent order of God's creation, and are so far from producing any undesirable moral effect, that they tend to exalt his praises, and teach his intelligent creatures to adore his power, his wisdom, and his goodness. But the latter are ornaments misplaced and perverted: they serve only to amuse the thoughtlessness, and to gratify the vanity, of fallen man.

Besides the objection entertained by Friends to the indulgence of so antichristian a passion as personal vanity, there is a further reason why they regard a plain dress as peculiarly adapted to the profession and views of the Christian ; namely, that it demands very little thought, and occupies very little time. Every one, on the


other hand, who has followed the footsteps of the fashionable world, must be well aware that there are few things which engage more attention, or consume a greater number of precious hours, than a gay, fanciful, and studied attire. The advantage, in this respect, of plain apparel, over that of an ornamental character, will be most properly appreciated by those persons who desire to devote their time and talents to their Redeemer, and who are looking forward to the day when they must render, to the judge of all flesh, an account of their stewardship.'

On reverting to the principal heads of this essay on plainness, the reader will recollect that the subject has been treated in reference respectively to speech, manners, and dress. The plainness of speech, which distinguishes Friends, consists in the disuse of a complimentary mode of speech, to which they object, first, because it is intended to flatter the pride of man, and, secondly, because it is made up of falsehoods. To the plainness of behaviour, observed by all true Christians, Friends have added the peculiarity of avoiding bodily obeisances; first, because, like the phraseology already adverted to, they are merely complimentary; and, secondly, because some of these obeisances are the known outward signs of the worship of God himself. Plainness of apparel has been adopted by the Society partly to prevent the undue engagement of time, but chiefly, because ornament in dress is employed to gratify that per

The general principles, on which Friends consider it their duty to maintain plainness in their apparel, are applicable, in a great extent, to the subject of furniture. A due moderation in this respect is particularly recommended to us in those general advices of the Yearly Meeting which are ordered to be read once in the year in our Quarterly, Monthly, and Preparative, Meetings. See Book of Extracts. The following caution, on the subject of furniture, contained in the printed epistle from the Yearly Meeting of 1909, is well worthy of our continued attention: “A fear has prevailed among us, at this time, that not a few elder Friends, and even some who take part in our discipline, have not been sufficiently exemplary with regard to plainness; particularly in the furniture of their houses. It seems, therefore, right to caution all against giving way, in this respect, to the varying and often costly fashions of the age. Though it is a weakness which does not seem to savour so much of personal pride as does vain attire; yet it bespeaks a mind engaged with trifles, and a fondness for show, which is inconsistent with the Christian character; and it disqualifies for duly advising such as may rush into further degrees of extravagance :" See Book of Ext.

sonal vanity which, with every other modification of the pride of the human heart, Christians are forbidden to indulge, and enjoined to subdue. It will, moreover, be recollected that these peculiarities in our conversation, carriage, and appearance, grounded as they thus are on certain plain principles of the divine law, are severally supported by explicit injunctions contained in the New Testament.

This branch of our subject suggests, in conclusion, one or two general remarks.

I. We are much accustomed to denominate our scruples respecta ing speech, behaviour, and apparel,“ minor scruples ;” and since it is evident that supporting a paid ministry, the awful practice of swearing, and engaging in warfare and bloodshed, would constitute a more serious infraction of what we deem to be our religious duty, than a failure of strictness with respect to plainness, it may be allowed, that the word minor, as thus used, is not improperly applied. But let it be remembered, that, while the particulars of conduct into which these scruples lead, are comparatively little, the principles on which they are founded are great. Nothing is insignificant which really appertains to the divine law; nor are there any parts of that law more important than those with which our sentiments, respecting plainness, are connected, and which enjoin upon the followers of Christ, a godly sincerity, a true simplicity, and a consistent humility. The present life is, in a great measure, filled up with comparatively trifling circumstances: and, although the Christian is sometimes called upon to act on occasions of moment, his conduct, if narrowly examined, will be found to consist, generally and chiefly, in the constant succession of the little fruits of great principles. If plainness of speech, behaviour, and apparel, is reckoned, as I think it clearly ought to be, among the little fruits of great Christian principles, let it not be disregarded or despised : for, its importance is to be estimated not so much by the minuteness of the particulars in which it is manifested, as by the magnitude of the fundamental rules out of which it arises.

II. Plainness of speech, behaviour, and apparel, being thus grounded on great and important principles, and being required, as we apprehend, to complete the circumspect walk of the Christian, is attended with certain practical consequences very influential in promoting our religious welfare. Such a plainness produces a striking distinction, which is, in itself, of real value. Who does not

« PreviousContinue »