Posted on

by A.W. Tozer  (1897-1963)

When God gave to Moses the blueprint of the Tabernacle He was careful to include every detail; then, lest Moses should get the notion that he could improve on the original plan, God warned him solemnly, “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shown thee in the mount.” God, not Moses, was the architect. To decide the plan was the prerogative of the Deity. No one dare alter it so much as a hairbreadth.
The New Testament Church also is built after a pattern. Not the doctrines only but the methods are divinely given. The doctrines are expressly stated in so many words. Some of the methods followed by the early New Testament Church had been given by direct command; others were used by God’s specific approval, having obviously been commanded the apostles by the Spirit. The point is that when the New Testament canon was closed the blueprint for the age was complete. God has added nothing since that time.
From God’s revealed plan we depart at our peril. Every departure has two consequences, the immediate and the remote. The immediate touches the individual and those close to him; the remote extends into the future to unknown times, and may expand so far as to influence for evil the whole Church of God on earth.
The temptation to introduce “new” things into the work of God has always been too strong for some people to resist. The Church has suffered untold injury at the hands of well intentioned but misguided persons who have felt that they know more about running God’s work than Christ and His apostles did. A solid train of box cars would not suffice to haul away the religious rubbish which has been brought into the service of the Church with the hope of improving on the original pattern. These things have been, one and all, positive hindrances to the progress of the Truth, and have so altered the divinely-planned structure that the apostles, were they to return to earth today, would scarcely recognize the misshapen thing which has resulted.
Our Lord while on earth cleansed the Temple, and periodic cleansings have been necessary in the Church of God throughout the centuries. Every generation is sure to have its ambitious amateur to come up with some shiny gadget which he proceeds to urge upon the priests before the altar. That the Scriptures do not justify its existence does not seem to bother him at all. It is brought in anyway and presented in the very name of Orthodoxy. Soon it is identified in the minds of the Christian public with all that is good and holy. Then, of course, to attack the gadget is to attack the Truth itself. This is an old familiar technique so often and so long practiced by the devotees of error that I marvel how the children of God can be taken in by it.
We of the evangelical faith are in the rather awkward position of criticizing Roman Catholicism for its weight of unscriptural impedimenta and at the same time tolerating in our own churches a world of religious fribble as bad as holy water or the elevated host. Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message. Old-line Protestantism has long ago been smothered to death by extra-scriptural rubbish. Unless we of the gospel churches wake up soon we shall most surely die by the same means.
Within the last few years a new method has been invented for imparting spiritual knowledge; or, to be more accurate, it is not new at all, but is an adaptation of a gadget of some years standing, one which by its origin and background belongs not to the Church but to the world. Some within the fold of the Church have thrown their mantle over it, have “blessed it with a text” and are now trying to show that it is the very gift of God for our day. But, however eloquent the sales talk, it is an unauthorized addition nevertheless, and was never a part of the pattern shown us on the mount.
I refer, of course, to the religious movie.
For the motion picture as such I have no irrational allergy. It is a mechanical invention merely and is in its essence amoral; that is, it is neither good nor bad, but neutral. With any physical object or any creature lacking the power of choice it could not be otherwise. Whether such an object is useful or harmful depends altogether upon who uses it and what he uses it for. No moral quality attaches where there is no free choice. Sin and righteousness lie in the will. The motion picture is in the same class as the automobile, the typewriter, or the radio: a powerful instrument for good or evil, depending upon how it is applied.
For teaching the facts of physical science the motion picture has been useful. The public schools have used it successfully to teach health habits to children. The army employed it to speed up instruction during war. That it has been of real service within its limited field is freely acknowledged here.
Over against this is the fact that the motion picture in evil hands has been a source of moral corruption to millions. No one who values his reputation as a responsible adult will deny that the sex movie and the crime movie have done untold injury to the lives of countless young people in our generation. The harm lies not in the instrument itself, but in the evil will of those who use it for their own selfish ends.
These pictures are produced by acting a religious story before the camera. Take for example the famous and beautiful story of the Prodigal Son. This would be made into a movie by treating the narrative as a scenario. Stage scenery would be set up, actors would take the roles of Father, Prodigal Son, Elder Brother, etc. There would be plot, sequence and dramatic denouement as in the ordinary tear jerker shown at the Bijou movie house on Main Street in any one of a thousand American towns. The story would be acted out, photographed, run onto reels and shipped around the country to be shown for a few wherever desired.
The “service” where such a movie would be shown might seem much like any other service until time for the message from the Word of God. Then the lights would be put out and the picture turned on. The “message” would consist of this movie. What followed the picture would, of course, vary with the circumstances, but often an invitation song is sung and a tender appeal is made for erring sinners to return to God.
Now, what is wrong with all this? Why should any man object to this or go out of his way to oppose its use in the house of God? Here is my answer:
1. It violates the scriptural law of hearing.
The power of speech is a noble gift of God. In his ability to open his mouth and by means of words make his fellows know what is going on inside his mind, a man shares one of the prerogatives of the Creator. In its ability to understand the spoken word the human mind rises unique above all the lower creation. The gift which enables a man to translate abstract ideas into sounds is a badge of his honor as made in the image of God.
Written or printed words are sound symbols and are translated by the mind into hearing. Hieroglyphics and ideograms were the first symbols used to represent ideas. These ideograms were, in effect, not pictures but letters, and the letters were agreed-upon ideas. Thus words, whether spoken or written, are a medium for the communication of ideas. This is basic in human nature and stems from our divine origin.
It is significant that when God gave to mankind His great redemptive revelation He couched it in words. “And God spake all these words” very well sums up the Bible’s own account of how it got here. “Thus saith the Lord” is the constant refrain of the prophets. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” said our Lord to His hearers. Again He said, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.” Paul made words and faith to be inseparable: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And he also said, “How shall they hear without a preacher?”
Surely it requires no genius to see that the Bible rules out pictures and dramatics as media for bringing faith and life to the human soul.
The plain fact is that no vital spiritual truth can be expressed by a picture. Actually all any picture can do is to recall to mind some truth already learned through the familiar medium of the spoken or written word. Religious instruction and words are bound together by a living cord and cannot be separated without fatal loss. The Spirit Himself, teaching soundlessly within the heart, makes use of ideas previously received into the mind by means of words.
If I am reminded that modern religious movies are “sound” pictures, making use of the human voice to augment the dramatic action, the answer is easy. Just as far as the movie depends upon spoken words it makes pictures unnecessary; the picture is the very thing that differentiates between the movie and the sermon. The movie addresses its message primarily to the eye, and the ear only incidentally. Were the message addressed to the ear as in the Scriptures, the picture would have no meaning and could be omitted without loss to the intended effect. Words can say all that God intends them to say, and this they can do without the aid of pictures.
According to one popular theory the mind receives through the eye five times as much information as the ear. As far as the external shell of physical facts is concerned this may hold good, but when we come to spiritual truth we are in another world entirely. In that world the outer eye is not too important. God addresses His message to the hearing ear. “We look,” says Paul, “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This agrees with the whole burden of the the Bible, which teaches us that we should withdraw our eyes from beholding visible things, and fasten the eyes of our hearts upon God while we reverently listen to His uttered words.
“The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” Here, and not somewhere else, is the New Testament pattern, and no human being, and no angel from heaven has any right to alter that pattern.
2. The religious movie embodies the mischievous notion that religion is, or can be made, a form of entertainment.
This notion has come upon us lately like a tidal wave and is either openly taught or tacitly assumed by increasing numbers of people. Since it is inextricably bound up with the subject under discussion I had better say more about it.
The idea that religion should be entertaining has made some radical changes in the evangelical picture within this generation. It has given us not only the “gospel” movie but a new type of religious journalism as well. It has created a new kind of magazine for church people, which can be read from cover to cover without effort, without thought—and without profit. It has also brought a veritable flood of religious fiction with plastic heroines and bloodless heroes like no one who has ever lived upon this well known terrestrial ball.
That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something else is not only futile, it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest. The hope that they can convert a man while he is occupied with the doings of some imaginary hero reminds one of the story of the Catholic missionary who used to sneak up on sick people and children and splash a little holy water on them to guarantee their passage to the city of gold.
I believe that most responsible religious teachers will agree that any effort to teach spiritual truth through entertainment is at best futile and at worst positively injurious to the soul. But entertainment pays off, and the economic consideration is always a powerful one in deciding what shall and what shall not be offered to the public—even in the churches.
Deep spiritual experiences come only from much study, earnest prayer and long meditation. It is true that men by thinking cannot find God; it is also true that men cannot know God very well without a lot of reverent thinking. Religious movies, by appealing directly to the shallowest stratum of our minds, cannot but create bad mental habits which unfit the soul for the reception of genuine spiritual impressions.
Religious movies are mistakenly thought by some people to be blessed of the Lord because many come away from them with moist eyes. If this is a proof of God’s blessing, then we might as well go the whole way and assert that every show that brings tears is of God. Those who attend the theater know how often the audiences are moved to tears by the joys and sorrows of the highly paid entertainers who kiss and emote and murder and die for the purpose of exciting the spectators to a high pitch of emotional excitement. Men and women who are dedicated to sin and appointed to death may nevertheless weep in sympathy for the painted actors and be not one bit the better for it. The emotions have had a beautiful time, but the will is left untouched. The religious movie is sure to draw together a goodly number of persons who cannot distinguish the twinges of vicarious sympathy from the true operations of the Holy Ghost.
3. The religious movie is a menace to true religion because it embodies acting, a violation of sincerity.
Without doubt the most precious thing any man possesses is his individuated being; that by which he is himself and not someone else; that which cannot be finally voided by the man himself nor shared with another. Each one of us, however humble our place in the social scheme, is unique in creation. Each is a new whole man possessing his own separate “I-ness” which makes him forever something apart, an individual human being. It is this quality of uniqueness which permits a man to enjoy every reward of virtue and makes him responsible for every sin. It is his selfness, which will persist forever, and which distinguishes him from every creature which has been or ever will be created.
Because man is such a being as this all moral teachers, and especially Christ and His apostles, make sincerity to be basic in the good life. The word, as the New Testament uses it, refers to the practice of holding fine pottery up to the sun to test it for purity. In the white light of the sun all foreign substances were instantly exposed. So the test of sincerity is basic in human character. The sincere man is one in whom is found nothing foreign; he is all of one piece; he has preserved his individuality unviolated.
Sincerity for each man means staying in character with himself. Christ’s controversy with the Pharisees centered around their incurable habit of moral play acting. The Pharisee constantly pretended to be what he was not. He attempted to vacate his own “I-ness” and appear in that of another and better man. He assumed a false character and played it for effect. Christ said he was a hypocrite.
It is more than an etymological accident that the word “hypocrite” comes from the stage. It means actor. With that instinct for fitness which usually marks word origins, it has been used to signify one who has violated his sincerity and is playing a false part. An actor is one who assumes a character other than his own and plays it for effect. The more fully he can become possessed by another personality the better he is as an actor.
Bacon has said something to the effect that there are some professions of such nature that the more skillfully a man can work at them the worse man he is. That perfectly describes the profession of acting. Stepping out of our own character for any reason is always dangerous, and may be fatal to the soul. However innocent his intentions, a man who assumes a false character has betrayed his own soul and has deeply injured something sacred within him.
No one who has been in the presence of the Most Holy One, who has felt how high is the solemn privilege of bearing His image, will ever again consent to play a part or to trifle with that most sacred thing, his own deep sincere heart. He will thereafter be constrained to be no one but himself, to preserve reverently the sincerity of his own soul.
In order to produce a religious movie someone must, for the time, disguise his individuality and simulate that of another. His actions must be judged fraudulent, and those who watch them with approval share in the fraud. To pretend to pray, to simulate godly sorrow, to play at worship before the camera for effect—how utterly shocking to the reverent heart! How can Christians who approve this gross pretense ever understand the value of sincerity as taught by our Lord? What will be the end of a generation of Christians fed on such a diet of deception disguised as the faith of our fathers?
The plea that all this must be good because it is done for the glory of God is a gossamer-thin bit of rationalizing which should not fool anyone above the mental age of six. Such an argument parallels the evil rule of expediency which holds the end is everything, and sanctifies the means, however evil, if only the end be commendable. The wise student of history will recognize this immoral doctrine. The Spirit-led Church will have no part of it.
It is not uncommon to find around the theater human flotsam and jetsam washed up by the years, men and women who have played false parts so long that the power to be sincere has forever gone from them. They are doomed to everlasting duplicity. Every act of their lives is faked, every smile is false, every tone of their voice artificial. The curse does not come causeless. It is not by chance that the actor’s profession has been notoriously dissolute. Hollywood and Broadway are two sources of corruption which may yet turn America into a Sodom and lay her glory in the dust.
The profession of acting did not originate with the Hebrews. It is not a part of the divine pattern. The Bible mentions it, but never approves it. Drama, as it has come down to us, had its rise in Greece. It was originally a part of the worship of the god Dionysus and was carried on with drunken revelry.
The Miracle Plays of medieval times have been brought forward to justify the modern religious movie. That is an unfortunate weapon to choose for the defense of the movie, for it will surely harm the man who uses it more than any argument I could think of just offhand.
The Miracle Plays had their big run in the Middle Ages. They were dramatic performances with religious themes staged for the entertainment of the populace. At their best they were misguided efforts to teach spiritual truths by dramatic representation; at their worst they were shockingly irreverent and thoroughly reprehensible. In some of them the Eternal God was portrayed as an old man dressed in white with a gilt wig! To furnish low comedy, the devil himself was introduced on the stage and allowed to cavort for the amusement of the spectators. Bible themes were used, as in the modern movie, but this did not save the whole thing from becoming so corrupt that the Roman Church had finally to prohibit its priests from having any further part in it.
Those who would appeal for precedent to the Miracle Plays have certainly overlooked some important facts. For instance, the vogue of the Miracle Play coincided exactly with the most dismally corrupt period the Church has ever known. When the Church emerged at last from its long moral night these plays lost popularity and finally passed away. And be it remembered, the instrument God used to bring the Church out of the darkness was not drama; it was the biblical one of Spirit-baptized preaching. Serious-minded men thundered the truth and the people turned to God.
Indeed, history will show that no spiritual advance, no revival, no upsurge of spiritual life has ever been associated with acting in any form. The Holy Spirit never honors pretense.
Can it be that the historic pattern is being repeated? That the appearance of the religious movie is symptomatic of the low state of spiritual health we are in today? I fear so. Only the absence of the Holy Spirit from the pulpit and lack of true discernment on the part of professing Christians can account for the spread of religious drama among so-called evangelical churches. A Spirit-filled church could not tolerate it.
4. They who present the gospel movie owe it to the public to give biblical authority for their act: and this they have not done.
The Church, as long as it is following the Lord, goes along in Bible ways and can give a scriptural reason for its conduct. Its members meet at stated times to pray together: This has biblical authority back of it. They gather to hear the Word of God expounded: this goes back in almost unbroken continuity to Moses. They sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs: so they are commanded by the apostle. They visit the sick and relieve the sufferings of the poor: for this they have both precept and example in Holy Writ. They lay up their gifts and bring them at stated times to the church or chapel to be used in the Lord’s work: this also follows the scriptural pattern. They teach and train and instruct; they appoint teachers and pastors and missionaries and send them out to do the work for which the Spirit has gifted them: all this has plain scriptural authority behind it.
Now, for the religious movie where is the authority? For such a serious departure from the ancient pattern, where is the authority? For introducing into the Church the pagan art of acting, where is the authority? Let the movie advocates quote just one verse, from any book of the Bible, in any translation, to justify its use. This they cannot do. The best they can do is to appeal to the world’s psychology or repeat brightly that “modern times call for modern methods.” But the Scriptures—quote from them one verse to authorize movie acting as an instrument of the Holy Ghost. This they cannot do.
Every sincere Christian must find scriptural authority for the religious movie or reject it, and every producer of such movies, if he would square himself before the faces of honest and reverent men, must either show scriptural credentials or go out of business.
But, says someone, there is nothing unscriptural about the religious movie; it is merely a new medium for the utterance of the old message, as printing is a newer and better method of writing and the radio an amplification of familiar human speech.
To this I reply: The movie is not the modernization or improvement of any scriptural method; rather it is a medium in itself wholly foreign to the Bible and altogether unauthorized therein. It is play acting—just that, and nothing more. It is the introduction into the work of God of that which is not neutral, but entirely bad. The printing press is neutral; so is the radio; so is the camera. They may be used for good or bad purposes at the will of the user. But play acting is bad in its essence in that it involves the simulation of emotions not actually felt. It embodies a gross moral contradiction in that it calls a lie to the service of truth.
Arguments for the religious movie are sometimes clever and always shallow, but there is never any real attempt to cite scriptural authority. Anything that can be said for the movie can be said also for aesthetic dancing, which is a highly touted medium for teaching religious truth by appeal to the eye. Its advocates grow eloquent in its praise—but where is it indicated in the blueprint?
5. God has ordained four methods only by which Truth shall prevail—and the religious movie is not one of them.
Without attempting to arrange these methods in order of importance, they are prayer, song, proclamation of the message by means of words, and good works. These are the four main methods which God has blessed. All other biblical methods are sub-divisions of these and stay within their framework.
The whole preach-the gospel-with-movies idea is founded upon the same basic assumptions as Modernism, namely, that the Word of God is not final, and that we of this day have a perfect right to add to it or alter it wherever we think we can improve it.
A brazen example of this attitude came to my attention recently. Preliminary printed matter has been sent out announcing that a new organization is in process of being formed. It is to be called the “International Radio and Screen Artists Guild,” and one of its two major objectives is to promote the movie as a medium for the spread of the gospel. Its sponsors, apparently, are not Modernists, but confessed Fundamentalists. Some of its declared purposes are: to produce movies “with or without a Christians slant”; to raise and maintain higher standards in the movie field (this would be done, it says here, by having “much prayer” with leaders of the movie industry); to “challenge people, especially young people, to those fields as they are challenged to go to foreign fields.”
This last point should not be allowed to pass without some of us doing a little challenging on our own account. Does this new organization actually propose in seriousness to add another gift to the gifts of the Spirit listed in the New Testament? To the number of the Spirit’s gifts, such as pastor, teacher, evangelist, is there now to be added another, the gift of the movie actor? Instead of the Holy Spirit saying, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them,” these people will make use of what they call a “Christian talent listing,” to consist of the names of “Christian” actors who have received the Spirit’s gift to be used in making religious movies.
Thus the order set up in the New Testament is openly violated, and by professed lovers of the gospel who say unto Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” but openly set aside His Lordship whenever they desire. No amount of smooth talk can explain away this serious act of insubordination.
Saul lost a kingdom when he “forced” himself and took profane liberties with the priesthood. Let these movie preachers look to their crown. They may find themselves on the road to Endor some dark night soon.
6. The religious movie is out of harmony with the whole spirit of the Scriptures and contrary to the mood of true Godliness.
To harmonize the spirit of the religious movie with the spirit of the Sacred Scriptures is impossible. Any comparison is grotesque and, if it were not so serious, would be downright funny. Try to imagine Elijah appearing before Ahab with a roll of film! Imagine Peter standing up at Pentecost and saying, “Let’s have the lights out, please.” When Jeremiah hesitated to prophesy, on the plea that he was not a fluent speaker, God touched his mouth and said, “I have put my words in thy mouth.” Perhaps Jeremiah could have gotten on well enough without the divine touch if he had had a good 16mm projector and a reel of home-talent film.
Let a man dare to compare his religious movie show with the spirit of the Book of Acts. Let him try to find a place for it in the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. If he cannot see the difference in kind, then he is too blind to be trusted with leadership in the Church of the Living God. The only thing that he can do appropriate to the circumstances is to drop to his knees and cry with poor Bartimaeus, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.”
But some say, “We do not propose to displace the regular method of preaching the gospel. We only want to supplement it.” To this I answer: If the movie is needed to supplement anointed preaching it can only be because God’s appointed method is inadequate and the movie can do something which God’s appointed method cannot do. What is that thing? We freely grant that the movie can produce effects which preaching cannot produce (and which it should never try to produce), but dare we strive for such effects in the light of God’s revealed will and in the face of the judgment and a long eternity?
7. I am against the religious movie because of the harmful effect upon everyone associated with it.
First, the evil effect upon the “actors” who play the part of the various characters in the show; this is not the less because it is unsuspected. Who can, while in a state of fellowship with God, dare to play at being a prophet? Who has the gall to pretend to be an apostle, even in a show? Where is his reverence? Where is his fear? Where is his humility? Any one who can bring himself to act a part for any purpose, must first have grieved the Spirit and silenced His voice within the heart. Then the whole business will appear good to him. “He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside.” But he cannot escape the secret working of the ancient laws of the soul. Something high and fine and grand will die within him; and worst of all he will never suspect it. That is the curse that follows self-injury always. The Pharisees were examples of this. They were walking dead men, and they never dreamed how dead they were.
Secondly, it identifies religion with the theatrical world. I have seen recently in a Fundamentalist magazine an advertisement of a religious film which would be altogether at home on the theatrical page on any city newspaper. Illustrated with the usual sex-bate picture of a young man and young woman in tender embrace, and spangled with such words as “feature-length, drama, pathos, romance,” it reeked of Hollywood and the cheap movie house. By such business we are selling out our Christian separation, and nothing but grief can come of it late or soon.
Thirdly, the taste for drama which these pictures develop in the minds of the young will not long remain satisfied with the inferior stuff the religious movie can offer. Our young people will demand the real thing; and what can we reply when they ask why they should not patronize the regular movie house?
Fourthly, the rising generation will naturally come to look upon religion as another, and inferior, form of amusement. In fact, the present generation has done this to an alarming extent already, and the gospel movie feeds the notion by fusing religion and fun in the name of orthodoxy. It takes no great insight to see that the religious movie must become increasingly more thrilling as the tastes of the spectators become more and more stimulated.
Fifthly, the religious movie is the lazy preacher’s friend. If the present vogue continues to spread it will not be long before any man with enough ability to make an audible prayer, and mentality enough to focus a projector, will be able to pass for a prophet of the Most High God. The man of God can play around all week long and come up to the Lord’s Day without a care. Everything has been done for him at the studio. He has only to set up the screen and lower the lights, and the rest follows painlessly.
Wherever the movie is used the prophet is displaced by the projector. The least that such displaced prophets can do is to admit that they are technicians and not preachers. Let them admit that they are not God-sent men, ordained of God for a sacred work. Let them put away their pretense.
In conclusion
One thing may bother some earnest souls: why so many good people approve the religious movie. If it is an evil, why have not these denounced it?
The answer is, lack of spiritual discernment. Many who are turning to the movie are the same who have, by direct teaching or by neglect, discredited the work of the Holy Spirit. They have apologized for the Spirit and so hedged Him in by their unbelief that it has amounted to an out-and-out repudiation. Now we are paying the price for our folly. The light has gone out and good men are forced to stumble around in the darkness of the human intellect.
The religious movie is at present undergoing a period of gestation and seems about to swarm over the churches like a cloud of locusts out of the earth. The figure is accurate; they are coming from below, not from above. The whole modern psychology has been prepared for this invasion of insects. The Fundamentalists have become weary of manna and are longing for red flesh. What they are getting is a sorry substitute for the lusty and uninhibited pleasures of the world, and it saves face by pretending to be spiritual.
Let us not for the sake of peace keep still while men without spiritual insight dictate the diet upon which God’s children shall feed. The religious movie represents amateurism gone wild. Unity among professing Christians is to be desired, but not at the expense of righteousness. It is good to go with the flock, but I refuse mutely to follow a misled flock over a precipice.
If God has given wisdom to see the error of religious shows we owe it to the Church to oppose them openly. We dare not take refuge in “guilty silence.” Error is not silent; it is highly vocal and amazingly aggressive. We dare not be less so.


Should MEN (and women) leave home to work?

Posted on

HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING THE BOOK, “From Cottage to Work Station: The Family’s Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age

FOUND HERE: http://www.amazon.com/From-Cottage-Work-Station-Industrial/dp/0898704294/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385491451&sr=8-1&keywords=from+cottage+to+work+station

Below is an excerpt from a home educating conference with some quotes from the book “From Cottage to…….”

Part of my purpose this evening will be to explain why these observations by Mr. Berry are generally true.

But I am also aware that this audience is very different. Of equal importance is the fact that a gathering of home education leaders, such as this, could not have occurred twenty-five years ago. In 1970, the practice of home education could be found, of course, but mostly among scattered eccentrics, often tied to “the counterculture,” or among special cases, such as American families living overseas.

For an historian, the obvious question becomes: Why now? Put another way: What historical forces and accidents combined to create a “home school movement” in 1995, one embracing hundreds of thousands of families, and over one million American children?

To gain a full answer, I believe, we must reach back 150 years into the American past. Before 1840, let us remember, the vast majority of Americans–over 90 percent–lived on farms or in small villages: the life of the cottage. While many adults had a specialized trade, most households aimed at–and commonly achieved–self sufficiency in food, clothing, and other essentials. Even many so-called “urban” families of the day kept a cow, a few pigs, chickens, and a kitchen garden. American families in the pre-1840 period commonly preserved their own meat and vegetables, and prepared their own meals. They spun and wove their own cloth, and sewed their own clothing. They made the chairs they sat in, the candles that gave them light, and they either walked or rode their own horses and drove their own wagons.

As one historian has phrased it, these Americans raised and educated their children to succeed them, not just to succeed. By age five, children were active participants in the work of the household, as were elderly or unmarried kin. Husbands and wives were bound together in a partnership of home-centered work; they specialized in tasks, to be sure, but each needed the other to create the self-sufficient home, which they believed to be essential to their dignity and liberty. Divorce was out of the question. Children were everywhere, with the average family counting seven. Family loyalties rested not only on love and emotional companionship, but also on need: wife and husband, child and parent were functionally intertwined. Phrased another way, these household economies operated on the principle of sharing: from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need.

This American world began to change, about 1840, as industrialists harnessed the logic of the division of labor to the steam engine and to finance capital. The results included a considerable increase in productive efficiency, an accelerated output of goods such as wheels, shoes, and clothing, and a sharp lowering of their costs relative to the work of cobblers, tailors, smiths, and other displaced craftsmen. Decentralized, small, family-held enterprises gave way to large, centralized, joint-stock, limited liability firms. What economist Joseph Schumpeter has called “the creative destruction” of modern capitalism had begun its work.

The impact on the family was mostly negative. Although families could now purchase an array of cheaper consumer goods, much of this new freedom represented the surrender of productive family functions such as candle making, food processing, and weaving to the industrial sphere. It also meant moving the family production of goods, normally uncounted, into a cash nexus, where it would be counted, and transformed into profit (and, later, into taxes as well).

In addition, the employer in the factory had no obvious economic reason to consider family ties in labor questions. Some, then as now, felt a moral obligation to pay heads-of-households a so-called “family wage,” sufficient to support a normal family at home. But the immediate interest of employers lay in keeping wages low and the pool of potential workers large. In most cases, wives, husbands, and children would compete against each other in the sale of their labor, driving wages toward the level of individual subsistence.

In this new order, the home became separated from the factory and the office, a revolutionary shift in human living patterns. People now worked in one place–what we would someday call their “work station”–and slept in another. With mothers and fathers pulled out of the “cottage,” the care of children became a social question; again, something altogether new in human affairs. Time for tending the cottage garden or the family cow disappeared, and families were forced to enter the market to buy all of their food. In general terms, the ownership of productive property such as land and tools gave way to a reliance on cash wages and factory-produced goods. Economic loyalties were no longer rooted in family relationships, but increasingly on the employing firm, which was, after all, the source of the cash needed for subsistence.

In 1898, the feminist economist Charlotte Perkins Gilman concluded, with glee, that home production had already been reduced in most urban families to but three functions: cleaning, cooking, and early child care. There was reason to believe, she added, that these three functions would also be industrialized in the new 20th century, and she described–in 1898 I repeat–a future world of fast food restaurants, commercialized day care centers, and professional cleaning services that is disturbingly familiar.

Over these same years, 1840 to 1940, the modern social welfare state took form as it, too, claimed nurturing functions that had throughout human history belonged to the family. The first and most important of these transferred functions was education. Beginning in the 1840’s, in the same time and place as early industrialization, the common school movement, backed by compulsory education laws, took children out of the home for moral and practical training. Established in Massachusetts under the tulelage of Horace Mann, the Movement in its early years aimed at the indoctrination of immigrant Catholic children into the liberal Unitarianism of the Boston elite. After the Civil War, the New England system would be imposed on the defeated South, as a tool of political reconstruction. By 1900, the Movement adopted the sentimental, atheistic socialism of John Dewey and his colleagues at the Columbia Teachers’ College.

The consistent goal was state control of children. As one turn-of-the-century school inspector in South Carolina explained, “The schools exist primarily for the benefit of the state rather than for the benefit of the individual. The state seeks to make every citizen intelligent and serviceable.” More recently, Princeton university sociologist Norman Ryder has described (appropriately enough, in the UNITED NATIONS BULLETIN ON POPULATION) the basic challenge posed by state schools to the family. “[State] education of the junior generation is a subversive influence….The reinforcement of the [family] control structure is undermined when the young are trained outside the family for specialized roles in which the father has no competence….Political organizations, like economic organizations, demand loyalty and attempt to neutralize family particularism. There is a struggle between the family and the state for the minds of the young.” In this conflict, Ryder continues, the state school serves as “the chief instrument for teaching citizenship, in a direct appeal to the children over the heads of their parents.” The public school also is the medium for communicating a “state morality” and a state mythology to replace those of family and religious faiths.

This aggressive social welfare state siezed other family functions as well. For example, the years near 1840 also marked the advent of the American legal concept of parens patriae, or “the parenthood of the state.” Twisting ancient English chancery law to new purpose, a Pennsylvania court used the term to justify the siezure and incarceration of children, over the protests of families, when the natural parents were deemed “unequal to the task of education or unworthy of it.” Reform schools, the “child saving” movement, the juvenile justice system, and the vast child abuse and neglect apparatus, all built on the parens patriae, representing as it did the family’s surrender of its protective functions to the state.

Child labor laws, despite their benign appearance, further expanded the modern state’s socialization of children’s time. Parents’ control over the training and future of their children, advocates said, must be subordinated to the higher interests and superior wisdom of the government bureau, and the family retreated again.

The creation of state-level pension programs, and ultimately of the national Social Security system, dismantled other basic functions of the family economy: security between the generations and care of the ill and infirm. Until modern times, grown children and other relatives provided security and support to elderly persons without resources. Adults bore an obligation, moral as well as social and legal, to care for their own; and they also knew that their personal security might depend someday on the children they had reared and on the example they had set in giving care to their own aged and infirm parents. New systems of state pensions and health insurance shattered these security bonds between the generations of a family. Indeed, since the state now funded pensions and nursing care through general payroll taxes, the incentives toward children actually reversed. A person would be ahead if he avoided children altogether: “let others raise the children who will support me in my old age,” became the new and ruthlessly correct logic.

From the 1840’s thru the 1930’s, then, the modern state and the industrial sector grew side by side, strange allies in constructing a new way of life on the wreckage of a family-centered world. The supposed opposition between industry and government, a theme underlying much of our standard political mythology, was–so far as the family is concerned–mere illusion. Applying a rough metaphor, the state and the factory might better be viewed as two jackals quarreling over the body of the natural family and the scraps of its shattered economy.

During those one hundred years, 1840 to 1940, we can also chart a steady decline in the quality of American family life. Divorce–virtually unknown at the beginning of this period–showed a steady increase in frequency. The average age of first marriage, for both men and women, climbed as well, as the practical logic for entering a marital union weakened. Most dramatically, the birthrate steadily declined, from an average of seven children per family to about two by the early 1930’s.

There is direct evidence here of cause and effect. For example, demographic historians have shown that the spread of state schooling was a principal cause of family shrinkage. U.S. data from 1871 to 1900 reveal a remarkably strong negative relationship between the fertility of white women and an index of public school expansion, a bond evident even in rural districts where children still bore some positive economic value. Indeed, these calculations show that for each additional month that rural children spent in a state school, the average size of affected families declined by .23 children. This is the most direct evidence that I have seen of how state education liberally consumes children.

Laments about the crisis of the family were heard in the early twentieth century. A disturbed genius named Ralph Borsodi described the situation in his 1929 book, THIS UGLY CIVILIZATION:

The large family is [now] an economically handi capped family. Every additional child is merely

an additional handicap. In the family of today the children, the aged, and the home-staying women are on the liability side of the family balance sheet; only the actual moneymakers are on the asset side. Hence the family of today tends to restrict the number of its children; to shift the responsibility for caring for its aged relatives to public institutions; to drive even the wife and mother out of the home into money-making and to place its infirm and crippled members in hospitals of various kinds.

With a keen eye, Borsodi also described how the modern position of children as “economic catastrophes” for families must lead to ever more contraception, abortion, and sterilization. Family renewal, he said, could come only if families became functional again, with the home rebuilt as “an economically creative institution.” He even understood that education would be the key to restoring “normal family living” in productive households. But at this critical point in his argument, Borsodi’s confidence in the family failed, and he called instead for “superior men” to impose family values by gaining control of existing government schools.

Such voices, in any case, had little effect at the time. More characteristic were advocate/scholars such as Arthur Calhoun, who concluded in his influential SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY, first published in 1917: “American history consummates the disappearance of the wider familism and the substitution of the parentalism of society….[Children now pass] into the custody of community experts who are qualified to perform the complexer functions of parenthood….which the [natural] parents have neither the time nor knowledge to perform.”

Startling all observers, though, family renewal of a sort actually did come in the middle decades of the 20th century, roughly from 1940 to 1965. In light of the accelerating family decline of the prior 100 years, the statistics from the 1940’s and 1950’s are truly astonishing: The average age of first marriage fell to historic lows (age 20 for women; age 22 for men), while the proportion of adults who were married soared; the divorce rate after World War II declined by 50 percent; and the birth rate surged ahead 60 percent, with average completed family size climbing from 2.3 children in 1940 to nearly 4 children in 1957. It is imperative that we understand what happened in this remarkable period, both the original sources of renewal and the causes of ultimate failure.

The first source of family renewal in the 1940-65 period was, I believe, a strengthened “family wage” culture. Since the 1840’s, as noted earlier, eccentric business leaders, labor unions, reformers, and religious theorists had struggled to blunt the pressures of industrialism on the home through creation of a “family wage,” delivering an industrial income to male heads-of-households adequate to sustain a family. Their proudest achievement was the liberation of many married women from toil in the factory, so that they might care for the home and children and so prevent the full industrialization of human life. To be sure, such a system did rest on intentional job and wage discrimination against women: the widely accepted argument was that women workers deserved only an “individual” wage, since they usually had no dependents or worked only to supplement a husband’s wage.

It is true that U.S. wartime regulations in 1942 ended direct wage discrimination against women: equal pay for equal work was basically achieved by 1945. But for another 20 years, through 1965, “job segregation by gender” more than compensated for this. Women workers crowded into so-called “women’s jobs” such as clerk typist or nursing that invariably paid less than “men’s jobs,” and the “wage gap” between males and females actually grew. As Nobel-prize winning economist Gary Becker has shown, this sort of change should be associated with more marriages and more births, which is just what occurred.

Public policy proved supportive. Tax reforms in 1944 and 1948 created a strongly pro-family U.S. tax code. While marginal tax rates were high, the personal exemption was set at $600 per person, roughly 18% of median household income. In effect, the progressivity of the Federal income tax was being offset by family size. Congress also introduced “income splitting” in 1948, giving a strong incentive to marriage and placing a real financial penalty on divorce. Through these reforms, legal marriage and children became a citizen’s most valuable tax shelters. Meanwhile, federal housing subsidies for families grew dramatically. Tax benefits included the exemption of both imputed rent and mortgage interest from income taxation. Subsidized VA and FHA loans were restricted by custom and regulation almost exclusively to young, married-couple families.

A third factor was the renewal of family-centered religion. The fertility increase in the late 1940’s was largely the consequence of new marriages and a “catching up” on babies deferred during World War II. But something else occurred in the period after 1950: a deliberate return of large families of four or more children. This was particularly true among American Catholics. In 1953, only 10 percent of Catholic adults under age 40 reported having 4 or more children, virtually identical to the 9 percent for U.S. Protestants. By 1958, the Protestant figure was still 9 percent, but the Catholic figure had more than doubled, to 22 percent. More amazingly, these new large families defied a law of sociology: they were concentrated among the better educated, with the greatest increase among Catholic women with college degrees. The fertility increase among Catholics also was positively associated with weekly attendance at Mass. In short, it could be fair to label this real U.S. “Baby Boom” largely a “Catholic event.”

Fourth, the militarization of society played, I believe, an indirect role in family renewal. Instead of demobilization after victory in World War II, as had happened after all other U.S. wars, Americans entered a “Cold War” and sustained a large peacetime standing military force throughout the 1950’s and early ’60’s, a unique development. For a majority of American males, military service became a common experience, and the conformity and obedience learned there seems to have passed over into conformity in the civilian domain, as so-called “organization men” settled into family life.

And fifth, INTELLECTUALS lent their support as well. Harvard University’s Talcott Parsons, the era’s most influential sociologist, celebrated the “upgraded” family system of the 1950’s, which he called the “companionate family,” focused on the “personality adjustment” of adults in the suburbs. In the field of psychology, John Bowlby set the tone by stressing the importance of a full-time mother for children, particularly infants. And the discipline of Home Economics reached the peak of its influence, in the effort to give content to the title, “household engineer.”

This reorganized U.S. family of the 1950’s–whether in the sociologists’ image of “an organization man” married to “a household engineer” in a “companionate marriage” focused on “personality adjustment” in the suburbs or in the alternate image of the large religious family—was a unique, and partially successful effort to restore family living in a modern, industrialized environment. But it also proved to be of very limited duration. Statistics from the 1965-80 or “baby bust” period tell the tale:

  • The marriage rate for women, ages 20-24, fell a stunning 55 percent;

  • the divorce rate soared by 125 percent;

  • meanwhile, the U.S. birth rate tumbled 46 percent.

What lay behind this rapid collapse of the “traditional family” of the 1950’s? (Or, viewed another way, this return with a vengeance of the long term trends?):

The obvious cause was the reversal or collapse of the social forces that had created the sense of family renewal a quarter century earlier. To begin with, the conformist America, rooted in a patriotic militarizing of society, was a casualty on the rice paddies of Vietnam.

More importantly, Christianity failed in its family-sustaining tasks. Not only did sermons on “chastity” and “fidelity” disappear from many Protestant pulpits. So-called “Mainline” Protestant leadership actually went on the attack, with a National Council of Churches panel in 1961 labeling marriage an “idolatry” and embracing the “sexual modernist” agenda of opposition to population growth, readily available abortion, and the promotion of contraception. The Roman Catholic laity, meanwhile, grew disoriented in the wake of the Vatican II conference of the mid-1960’s, opening divisions on family and sexual issues that have still to be closed. Given the widely publicized disputes among Catholic theologians over sexual issues, it appears that the Catholic laity simply followed the easiest of several contested paths of obedience. Even the large family ideal vanished. In 1967, 28 percent of “devout” Catholics still planned to have five or more children; by 1971, a mere four years later, less than 7 percent did.

For a time, American Mormons–or Latter-Day-Saints–seemed to be the religious exception here. While fertility tumbled elsewhere in the U.S. during the “baby bust” of 1965-80, the birth rate actually rose in Mormon-dominated Utah, along with average completed family size. Doctrinal constancy relative to procreation and the desirability of large families appears to have caused this divergence from the U.S. norm. However, after 1980, Mormon fertility began to fall, a shift apparently linked to the flow of wives and mothers into the paid labor force. Large families could no longer be easily sustained on one income, while the two-career family could scarcely accommodate a large number of children. The Catholic and Mormon examples suggest that religious enthusiasm, by itself, can defy modern economic incentives for only a generation or so, before surrendering to material pressures.

Public policy changes further eroded the “Fifties family.” The addition, as an afterthought, of the word “sex” to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, became by 1970 the chief tool used by the state to eliminate job segregation by gender. This brought to an end the nation’s informal “family wage” system and increased the pressures and incentives in favor of the outside employment of married women. From the Tax Reform Act of 1963 through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Congress and the Presidency also dismantled the pro-family/pro-marriage tax code created in the late 1940’s, sharply increasing the relative tax burden of married-couple families with children. Government welfare programs, in effect, transferred still more income from families based on marriage to families created through “out-of-wedlock births.” Payroll taxes rose dramatically, falling with their full regressive weight on younger families. Meanwhile, regulatory changes stripped federal housing subsidies of their pro-marriage/pro-family biases, in favor of “non discrimination.” By the early 1980’s, the evidence even suggested that Federal housing subsidies were encouraging divorce and discouraging children.

A legal revolution commenced in the U.S. Courts, where the “rights” of individuals triumphed almost completely over duties toward family and community, a change summarized by the labels “no fault divorce,” “children’s rights,” “the right to privacy,” and “abortion on demand.”

During the 1960’s, the leading intellectuals turned on the recently praised suburban “companionate” family, labeling it “distorted,” “sexist,” even “fascist.” As fear of global overpopulation increased, U.S. political leaders mobilized support for restrictions on fertility. In fact, the 1972 Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future declared an open policy war on the U.S. “three child family system.”

But there were deeper sources of failure, as well, suggesting that the restored family of the 1940-65 era–what most call “the traditional family”–was in fact a fragile creation, a jury-rigged structure lacking a real foundation.

One subterranean force was the mounting sexual revolution. The mobilization of 28 million young men and women for war and factory work in World War II shook traditional restraints on courting and sexual behavior, changes summarized in John Costello’s able book, VIRTUE UNDER FIRE. Alfred Kinsey’s infamous volume, SEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN MALE, appeared in 1948, raising pornography to the level of popular science. The first issue of PLAYBOY arrived on the newsstands in 1953. American film makers quickly moved from the light portrayal of seduction in THE MOON IS BLUE (1953) to the extra-marital entertainment of THE APARTMENT (1960). While most statistical measures of family life suggested social renewal, rates of illegitimacy and venereal disease climbed at a startling pace in those supposed “happy days.”

More important, though, was the failure of this family renewal to return functions or tasks to the family household, in any meaningful way. The field of “home economics,” rather than focusing on the restoration of productive tasks in the home, tended instead to emphasize the informed consumption of factory-made goods (as in “whiter than white toilet bowls”). Except among Roman Catholics, public education enjoyed nearly complete triumph in the America of the 1950’s, with somewhat healthy local variations progressively snuffed out through school consolidation and bureaucratic controls. Using the new medium of television, advertising lept forward in the 1950’s as well, whetting ever more appetites for consumer goods, and by its very nature discouraging all forms of family self sufficiency. The “small farm” sector of American agriculture in the South and Midwest, still alive even if deeply troubled as late as 1940, collapsed in these years, sending a last great stream of economic refugees into the cities and factories.

Unleashed sexuality and expanded consumerism: These, rather than the authentic family and the household economy, were the true winners of the 1950’s. When fresh ideological challenges to the family arose in the following decade–from feminists, militant atheists, neo-Mathusians, and members of the “New Left”–the “traditional family” cobbled together in the 1950’s simply vanished, as smoke in a gust of wind.

G.K. Chesterton had diagnosed the deeper linkage of perverse sexuality and consumerism back in 1934, for the brilliant, short lived journal, THE AMERICAN REVIEW. He wrote: “Now the notion of narrowing [household] property to merely enjoying money is exactly like the notion of narrowing love to merely enjoying sex. In both cases an incidental, isolated, servile, and even secretive pleasure is substituted for participation in a great creative process; even in the everlasting Creation of the World.”

Yet the story does not end there. Despite the corruptions of greed and lust, the wages of sin, the desire to create and live in families cannot be wholly extinguished. To be “familial” is part of the nature of human beings. The urge is planted in our genetic inheritance, in our hormonal systems, and in our souls. Humans can try to deny this aspect of their nature, but the desire still returns, in some way, to each generation, opening again the possibility for renewal.

And so, in the 1970’s, specific events–Federal efforts to regulate public and parochial education, Supreme Court decisions blessing the sexual revolution, the breakdown of discipline and standards in local schools–inspired a critical mass of Christian pioneers to bring their children home. They soon discovered that home was, indeed, a very good place for the education of their children. These pioneer families also found that the nature of their relationships changed, almost overnight, from being consumers sharing the same roof and television set, to being members of a learning enterprise, who needed each other and who profited–morally and practically–from each other.

A key productive function lost to the family over a century ago–education–had come home, and the results were at once remarkable, and predictable. Most of these families began to find ways to bring other functions home as well–gardening, food preservation, or a family business and they began to taste the satisfactions of an independence unknown to several American generations. Home educators created a demand for appropriate books, curricula, and software, and new, family-held, “cottage businesses” blossomed. Families shared with friends and neighbors the fruits of their radical break with the recent past. “Home schooling” communities emerged locally, regionally, and–finally–nationally, which in a sense brings my narrative to this time and place.

Allow me to summarize: viewed from the historic angle, home schooling is the most promising effort at family institutional reconstruction undertaken in America during the last 150 years. The family, born to and naturally residing in the symbolic “cottage” but then torn apart to the advantage of factory and state, has found a path back to its true home.

But I also give a warning: In shaking free from standardization, statism, and consumerism, and in seeking true liberty and autonomy, home schooling families pose a basic threat to the existing regime. Bringing the children home endangers both the government’s economy and the economy’s government, to use Mr. Berry’s phrases. Indeed, when you bring your children home, not only do school districts lose money; the Gross National Product also goes down, as schooling passes back into the uncounted realm of home production. This joint threat explains the legal obstacles that home education faces in every state, and now in the Federal domain as well. As the number of home schooled children climbs beyond the “insignificant” category–and it probably now has–the dangers will only grow. These realities explain the vital need for organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association and The National Center for Home Education, which provide the legal, political, and intellectual shelters behind which home education might survive during this critical phase of growth.

A second, and more subtle, danger lies in what my colleague Thomas Fleming calls the American genius for spoiling something fine and true by transforming it into a standardized, marketable lifestyle. I urge you to resist that temptation. While maintaining high standards, encourage the eccentrics and experimenters among you. Patronize the cottage businesses, even if the short-term price advantage appears to lie with the mega-store. Defend the creative anarchy of home education from all efforts at centralization: whether from state, industry, or home schoolers themselves.

Residing again in the family cottage, it is possible to recover certain philosophical truths. Two hundred years ago, Adam Smith, the philosopher of liberty, wrote: “Domestic [or home] education is the institution of nature–public education is the contrivance of man. It is surely unnecessary to say which is likely to be the wisest.” Closer to our time, the leading American sociologist (and co-founder of The Rockford Institute), Robert Nisbet, wrote:

We can use the family as an almost infallible touchstone of the material and cultural prosperity of a people. When it is strong, closely linked with private property, treated as the essential context of education in society, and its sanctity recognized by law and custom, the probability is extremely high that we shall find the rest of the social order characterized by that subtle but [powerful] fusion of stability and individual mobility which is the hallmark of great ages.

And so a cultural revolution has begun, with home education at its heart, aimed at recovering learning standards, family integrity, and sustainable community. The next five to ten years will be crucial in determining this revolution’s success or failure; whether it will be the catalyst for rebuilding a family-centered nation, or merely another passing social oddity, of brilliant but brief duration. Much depends on those in this audience. I urge you to meet your leadership responsibilities with steadiness, wisdom, and courage.
As always like, follow, and comment below!


Posted on


By J. Parnell McCarter

It is a cardinal principle of scriptural interpretation that the most clear and explicit scripture passages on a doctrine should be our guide in interpreting those that are less easy to discern the implication thereof.  Even as the Westminster Confession points out, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”

Arguably the most explicit passages in scripture on the ethics of attire are I Timothy 2:8-10 and  I Peter 3:3.   There are many other passages in scripture where jewelry and attire are mentioned, but a clear and explicit command regarding what Christians should actually wear is not offered in most of these other passages like it is in I Timothy 2:8-10 and  I Peter 3:3.

Before we consider I Timothy 2:8-10 and  I Peter 3:3, we should first note that jewelry and lavish attire are signs of wealth and luxury in scripture.  For example, in James 2:2-3 we read: “For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool…”  We should also note that wealth per se is not forbidden in scripture.  For example, I Corinthians 1:26 implies some wealthy men are called and elect, even if not many: ” For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]” (I Corinthians 1:26).   Due to pride and other factors, it is harder for the wealthy to be saved, yet some wealthy people are saved and are fine Christians.  But we should not confuse the issue of wealth with the issue of attire.

Now let’s consider the passages themselves.  In I Timothy 2:8-10 we read: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 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.”

Contained within this passage is the command for women to ” adorn themselves in modest apparel”.  The apparel is to be characterized by shamefacedness and sobriety.  Shamefacedness means “a sense of shame orhonour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect.”  But why would shamefacedness be especially called for in clothing?

People are wont to forget the primary purpose of clothing in the first place: to show due shame for our sin before a righteous and holy God.  Clothing is first mentioned in Genesis 3:7: ” And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”  Matthew Henry comments upon the shame attendant with their sin: “The text tells us that they saw that they were naked, that is, [1.] That they were stripped, deprived of all the honours and joys of their paradise-state, and exposed to all the miseries that might justly be expected from an angry God. They were disarmed; theirdefence had departed from them. [2.] That they were shamed, for ever shamed, before God and angels. They saw themselves disrobed of all their ornaments and ensigns of honour, degraded from their dignity and disgraced in the highest degree, laid open to the contempt and reproach of heaven, and earth, and their own consciences. ”

The Geneva Bible commentators wrote this concerning Genesis 3:7: “They began to feel their misery, but they did not seek God for a remedy.”

Calvin comments on Genesis 3:7, “In short, the cold and faint knowledge of sin, which is inherent in the minds of men, is here described by Moses, in order that they may be rendered inexcusable. Then (as we have already said) Adam and his wife were yet ignorant of their own vileness, since with a covering so light they attempted to hide themselves from the presence of God.”

So clothing first arose because man had a “cold and faint knowledge of sin”, and were rightly ashamed (at least to some extent), even if they did not seek the right solution.  Nevertheless, God graciously supplied man with clothing, and in so doing taught man many lessons, as we read in Genesis 3:21: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.”   The Geneva Bible comments as follows on Genesis 3:21:3:21 “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God {u} make coats of skins, and clothed them.  (u) Or, gave them knowledge to make themselves coats.”

One lesson of God’s provision of clothing for the man and woman was that the man and woman were right in being ashamed of their sin, and in putting on clothing as a mark of that shame.  God gave them clothing, which means He must have approved of it, even if it was something else than Adam and Eve had made for themselves.

Another lesson was what the nature of the apparel should be.   John Calvin supplies the following comments concerning it:

21. Unto Adam also , and to his wife , did the Lord God make , etc . Moses here, in a homely style, declares that the Lord had undertaken the labor of making garments of skins for Adam and his wife. It is not indeed proper so to understand his words, as if God had been a furrier, or a servant to sew clothes. Now, it is not credible that skins should have been presented to them by chance; but, since animals had before been destined for their use, being now impelled by a new necessity, they put some to death, in order to cover themselves with their skins, having been divinely directed to adopt this counsel; therefore Moses calls God the Author of it. The reason why the Lord clothed them with garments of skin appears to me to be this: because garments formed of this material would have a more degrading appearance than those made of linen or of woolen. God therefore designed that our first parents should, in such a dress, behold their own vileness, — just as they had before seen it in their nudity, — and should thus be reminded of their sin.   In the meantime, it is not to be denied, that he would propose to us an example, by which he would accustom us to a frugal and inexpensive mode of dress. And I wish those delicate persons would reflect on this, who deem no ornament sufficiently attractive, unless it exceed in magnificence. Not that every kind of ornament is to be expressly condemned; but because when immoderate elegance and splendor is carefully sought after, not only is that Master despised, who intended clothing to be a sign of shame, but war is, in a certain sense, carried on against nature.”

So, in Calvin’s opinion, the fact that God has subsequently allowed men to dress in cloth is luxurious enough.  To seek excessive extravagance- such as the wearing of jewelry – is to forget the purpose for which God gave us clothing in the first place.  It is as it were to thwart the purpose of apparel being a mark of due shame for our sin and nakedness.  The fact that mankind was given animal skins was to accentuate the fact that man’s clothing was to be plain and not fancy or extravagant, and to reflect an attitude of shame and repentance for sin.  It is analogous to the way God accentuated that men should not make images of Him by not appearing visibly at the giving of the Law (Deut 4:415-16), even though there have been other times in history that God has appeared in visible form (eg, in the person of Jesus Christ).

We witness that John the Baptist – a man who most significantly was to call the Jews to consider their shame and sinfulness before God – wore camel hair and a leather girdle (Matthew 3:4).  Matthew Henry comments upon this attire of John the Baptist as follows:

“His dress was plain. This same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; he did not go in long clothing, as the scribes, or soft clothing, as the courtiers, but in the clothing of a country husbandman… John appeared in this dress, (1.) To show that, like Jacob, he was a plain man, and mortified to this world, and the delights and gaieties of it. Behold an Israelite indeed! Those that are lowly in heart should show it by a holy negligence and indifference in their attire; and not make the putting on of apparel their adorning, nor value others by their attire. (2.) To show that he was a prophet, for prophets wore rough garments, as mortified men (Zec. 13:4); and, especially, to show that he was the Elias promised; for particular notice is taken of Elias, that he was a hairy man (which, some think, is meant of the hairy garments he wore), and that he was girt with a girdle of leather about his loins, 2 Ki. 1:8. John Baptist appears no way inferior to him in mortification; this therefore is that Elias that was to come. (3.) To show that he was a man of resolution; his girdle was not fine, such as were then commonly worn, but it was strong, it was a leathern girdle; and blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he comes, finds with his loins girt, Lu. 12:351 Pt. 1:13.”

We are reminded too of Jesus, whose appearance is described in this wise: “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him. For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2).  Commenting upon this verse, A.R. Faussett points out:
and when we shall see–rather, joined with the previous words, “Nor comeliness (attractiveness) that we should look (with delight) on Him.”

there is–rather, “was.” The studied reticence of the New Testament as to His form, stature, color, &c., was designed to prevent our dwelling on the bodily, rather than on His moral beauty, holiness, love, &c., also a providential protest against the making and veneration of images of Him.

Although it seems Jesus wore cloth raiment (Matthew 9:16-21), unlike John the Baptist, it would seem it was plain.  It was in contrast to the purple raiment placed on Jesus to mock Him: “And they clothed him with purple…And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:17-20)  If  “the disciple is not above [his] master, nor the servant above his lord”, we must ask ourselves the propriety of dressing in a manner that is not plain and simple.  The King of Kings, as well as the Captain of our salvation, has set the pattern for His disciples.

Jesus is the second and last Adam, and the very plainness of Jesus’ appearance seems to be a mark of the New Creation He is ushering in for His elect. As Jesus well pointed out, “why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  We do not need worldly “fashionable” embellishments to be beautiful, for true beauty is moral in nature.   Even in Solomon’s day this was known, even if in New Testament times it is to be more consistently implemented: “Favour [is] deceitful, and  beauty [JPM- that is worldly beauty] [is] vain: [but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”

We should recall that in the original Creation Adam and Eve’s beauty was a simple and plain beauty.  They did not have to put on costly array to be beautiful, for their beauty was in their innocence and moral uprightness. The Fall changed that, and there became a rationale to look for costly array to emphasize grandeur and beauty, since man lacked it in the inner man.  It seems God tolerated more use of costly array in Old Testament times, just as He tolerated a bill of divorcement and the more ornate vestments of the priesthood and Temple, while the church was yet in its youth.  But Jesus – starting with His First Advent – is preparing mankind for a new heaven and new earth.  The church has matured from the Old Testament era, and it is nearer to the consummate state.  The attire of the brethren should reflect this fact.   On the one hand, we must maintain the clothing as children of Adam who must cover our sinful nakedness.   We have not been removed from the body of our remaining sin.  Yet on the other hand, that appareling should be plain and simple, as we head towards the consummate New Creation, where moral purity is our adornment and our beauty.  Just as our worship is more simple than that under the ceremonial law, so our attire should be more simple.  We should not need the earthly embellishments, as we head towards the consummation of the New Creation.

Returning then to I Timothy 2:8-10, we can better understand why it commands attire that is plain, modest, and shamefaced.  There should be an appropriate shame for sin, and that shame should even be expressed in the manner of clothing worn.  Namely, it is to be plain.   This hearkens back to Exodus 33:5-6, where the people were commanded to “take off thy ornaments from thee” in order to express their shamedfacedness for sin:

“For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye [are] a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.  And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.”

Too, there should be modesty of attire to convey humility and lowliness appropriate to a disciple of Jesus Christ, and in anticipation of a consummated New Creation where moral purity is our adornment.   So the term “modest” in I Timothy 2:8-10 not only seems to address the matter of being covered (as opposed to being naked), but also the matter of plainness and simplicity of appearance. This exhortation is apparently directed to women in particular, for women are peculiarly wont and feel peculiarly compelled to violate it.

The scriptural passage provides examples of excessive or extravagant attire, so that we might be better informed as to what is meant.  The examples include “broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.”  As John Calvin notes, God here “expressly censures certain kinds of superfluity, such as curled hair, jewels, and golden rings…”  It should not surprise us then when we read of Calvin’s Geneva, that “no rouge or “powdering,” no jewelry, no immodest dress” were legally permitted (Gene Edwards John Calvin Revisited).   William Manchester points out that among the things prohibited in Geneva were  “staging or attending theatrical plays, wearing rouge, jewelry, lace, ‘immodest’ dress, swearing, gambling, playing cards…” The prohibitions of wearing rouge, jewelry, lace, and ‘immodest’ dress all flow out of what we have thus far discussed concerning attire, for modesty and plainness affect the issues of wearing jewelry and make-up.

Nor was this prohibition of jewelry limited to Geneva, as we can discover from such sources as the commentary notes of the Geneva Bible.  “A number of English Protestant divines settled in Calvin’s Geneva: MilesCoverdale, John Foxe, Thomas Sampson, and William Whittingham. With the protection of the Genevan civil authorities and the support of John Calvin and the Scottish Reformer John Knox, the Church of Genevadetermined to produce an English Bible without the need for the imprimatur of either England or Rome – the Geneva Bible.  The Geneva translators produced a revised New Testament in English in 1557 that was essentially a revision of Tyndale’s revised and corrected 1534 edition. Much of the work was done by William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of John Calvin. The Geneva New Testament was barely off the press when work began on a revision of the entire Bible, a process that took more than two years. The new translation was checked with Theodore Beza’s earlier work and the Greek text. In 1560 a complete revised Bible was published, translated according to the Hebrew and Greek, and conferred with the best translations in divers languages, and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I. After the death of Mary, Elizabeth was crowned queen in 1558, once again moving England toward Protestantism. The Geneva Bible was finally printed in England in 1575 only after the death of Archbishop Matthew Parker, editor of the Bishop’s Bible.   While other English translations failed to capture the hearts of the reading public, the Geneva Bible was instantly popular. Between 1560 and 1644 at least 144 editions appeared.”  Included in this Bible were commentary footnotes, which tell us much about Reformed and Puritan theology in Geneva, England, and Scotland at the time.   The Geneva Bible footnotes comment as follows on I Timothy 2:9:

I Timothy 2:9 – {7} 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;

(7) Thirdly, he appoints women to learn in the public assemblies with silence and modesty, being dressed pleasantly, without any overindulgence or excess in their clothing.

Accordingly, the Puritans of England and America, as well as the Church of Scotland (starting with Knox) prohibited jewelry.  The Puritans even opposed the use of wedding rings, which High Church Anglicans supported, along with vestments for their priesthood.  As well, the Church of Scotland rejected the use of wedding rings.   The Reformed and Puritan wing of the Protestant Reformation sought simplicity and plainness, for they rightly saw this is where Jesus Christ was leading His New Creation.

For clothing to be plain and modest, it must avoid that which is excessive, such as “broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”.  Scripture offers an illustrative example of a woman dressed in that which is the opposite of modesty and sobriety.   Revelation 17:4 says “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.”

Matthew Henry comments on I Timothy 2:8-10 as follows:

“They must be very modest in their apparel, not affecting gaudiness, gaiety, or costliness (you may read the vanity of a person’s mind in the gaiety and gaudiness of his habit), because they have better ornaments with which they should adorn themselves, with good works. Note, Good works are the best ornament; these are, in the sight of God, of great price. Those that profess godliness should, in their dress, as well as other things, act asbecomes their profession; instead of laying out their money on fine clothes, they must lay it out in works of piety and charity, which are properly called good works.”

And John Calvin offers this commentary on the passage:

“9 In like manner also women As he enjoined men to lift up pure hands, so he now prescribes the manner in which women ought to prepare for praying aright. And there appears to be an implied contrast between those virtues which he recommends and the outward sanctification of the Jews; for he intimates that there is no profane place, nor any from which both men and women may not draw near to God, provided they are not excluded by their vices.

He intended to embrace the opportunity of correcting a vice to which women are almost always prone, and which perhaps at Ephesus, being a city of vast wealth and extensive merchandise, especially abounded. That vice is — excessive eagerness and desire to be richly dressed. He wishes therefore that their dress should be regulated by modesty and sobriety; for luxury and immoderate expense arise from a desire to make a display either for the sake of pride or of departure from chastity. And hence we ought to derive the rule of moderation; for, since dress is an indifferent matter, (as all outward matters are,) it is difficult to assign a fixed limit, how far we ought to go. Magistrates may indeed make laws, by means of which a rage for superfluous expenditure shall be in some measure restrained; but godly teachers, whose business it is to guide the consciences, ought always to keep in view the end of lawful use. This at least will be settled beyond all controversy, that every thing in dress which is not in accordance with modesty and sobriety must be disapproved.

Yet we must always begin with the dispositions; for where debauchery reigns within, there will be no chastity; and where ambition reigns within, there will be no modesty in the outward dress. But because hypocrites commonly avail themselves of all the pretexts that they can find for concealing their wicked dispositions, we are under the necessity of pointing out what meets the eye. It would be great baseness to deny the appropriateness of modesty as the peculiar and constant ornament of virtuous and chaste women, or the duty of all to observe moderation. Whatever is opposed to these virtues it will be in vain to excuse. He expressly censures certain kinds of superfluity, such as curled hair, jewels, and golden rings; not that the use of gold or of jewels is expressly forbidden, but that, wherever they are prominently displayed, these things commonly draw along with them the other evils which I have mentioned, and arise from ambition or from want of chastity as their source.

10 Which becometh women; for undoubtedly the dress of a virtuous and godly woman must differ from that of a strumpet. What he has laid down are marks of distinction; and if piety must be testified by works, this profession ought also to be visible in chaste and becoming dress.”

Some have been confused on reading Calvin, and thought he taught something different on attire from the Puritans (of England) and the Presbyterians (of Scotland), as they have thought he does on the topic of the Christian Sabbath.  But a closer examination of all his writings and his endorsement of the practices in Geneva, reveals that his position on attire, like the Christian Sabbath, is essentially the same as the Puritans and Presbyterians. Calvin endorsed virtually the same legal prohibition on jewelry in attire as endorsed by the Puritans and Presbyterians.  And Calvin wrote: “Two things are to be regarded in clothing, usefulness and decency; and what decency requires is moderation and modesty … excessive elegance and superfluous display, in short, all excesses, arise from a corrupted mind.”  This, in essence, was the same position as the Puritans and Presbyterians of the British Isles.  As the Geneva Bible, so important to understanding the Puritans and Presbyterians, reads: “he appoints women to learn in the public assemblies with silence and modesty, being dressed pleasantly, without any overindulgence or excess in their clothing.”

Calvin wanted to be very careful that he did not give the impression that “gold is evil” or “pearls are evil”, when in fact “all things are lawful”, if used lawfully.  So he differentiated their use for functionality and their use for ornamentation in attire (i.e., “superfluous display”).  When Calvin wrote the following, he simply wanted to make clear that there are lawful uses for things such as gold, silver and pearls : “He expressly censures certain kinds of superfluity, such as curled hair, jewels, and golden rings; NOT THAT THE USE  OF GOLD AND JEWELS IS EXPRESSLY FORBIDDEN, but that, wherever THEY ARE PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED, these things commonly draw along with them the other evils which I have mentioned, and arise from ambition or from want of chastity as their source.”  There are a wide variety of uses for these commodities, from use as currency, table instruments, etc.

A passage paralleling I Timothy 2:9 is I Peter 3:3.  God had both the Apostle to the Jews as well as the Apostle to the Gentiles speak in uniformity on this issue, to emphasize that both Jews and Gentiles were to comply with the doctrine.  I Peter 3:3-4 reads: “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.”

Matthew Henry insightfully comments upon this verse: “In preferring the ornaments of the mind to those of the body. [1.] He lays down a rule in regard to the dress of religious women, v. 3. Here are three sorts of ornaments forbidden: plaiting of hair, which was commonly used in those times by lewd women; wearing of gold, or ornaments made of gold, was practised by Rebecca, and Esther, and other religious women, but afterwards became the attire chiefly of harlots and wicked people; putting on of apparel, which is not absolutely forbidden, but only too much nicety and costliness in it. Learn, First, Religious people should take care that all their external behaviour be answerable to their profession of Christianity: They must be holy in all manner of conversation. Secondly, The outward adorning of the body is very often sensual and excessive; for instance, when it is immoderate, and above your degree and station in the world, when you are proud of it and puffed up with it, when you dress with design to allure and tempt others, when your apparel is too rich, curious, or superfluous, when your fashions are fantastical, imitating the levity and vanity of the worst people, and when they are immodest and wanton. The attire of a harlot can never become a chaste Christian matron. [2.] Instead of the outward adorning of the body, he directs Christian wives to put on much more excellent and beautiful ornaments, v. 4. Here note, First, The part to be adorned: The hidden man of the heart; that is, the soul; the hidden, the inner man. Take care to adorn and beautify your souls rather than your bodies. Secondly, The ornament prescribed. It must, in general, be something not corruptible, that beautifies the soul, that is, the graces and virtues of God’s Holy Spirit. The ornaments of the body are destroyed by the moth, and perish in the using; but the grace of God, the longer we wear it, the brighter and better it is. More especially, the finest ornament of Christian women is a meek and quiet spirit, a tractable easy temper of mind, void of passion, pride, and immoderate anger, discovering itself in a quiet obliging behaviour towards their husbands and families. If the husband be harsh, and averse to religion (which was the case of these good wives to whom the apostle gives this direction), there is no way so likely to win him as a prudent meek behaviour. At least, a quiet spirit will make a good woman easy to herself, which, being visible to others, becomes an amiable ornament to a person in the eyes of the world. Thirdly, The excellency of it. Meekness and calmness of spirit are, in the sight of God, of great price-amiable in the sight of men, and precious in the sight of God. Learn, 1. A true Christian’s chief care lies in the right ordering and commanding of his own spirit. Where the hypocrite’s work ends, there the true Christian’s work begins. 2. The endowments of the inner man are the chief ornaments of a Christian; but especially a composed, calm, and quiet spirit, renders either man or woman beautiful and lovely.

The Geneva Bible comments on this passage as follows:


I Peter 3:3 {3} Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

(3) He condemns the unrestrained indulgences and excesses of women, and sets forth their true apparel, such as is precious before God, that is, the inward and incorruptible, which consists in a meek and quiet spirit.


1 Peter 3:4 But [let it be] the {a} hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is {b} in the sight of God of great price.

(a) Who has his abiding place fastened in the heart: so that the hidden man is set against the outward adorning of the body.
(b) Precious indeed and so taken of God.

And John Calvin comments:

“3. Whose adorning. The other part of the exhortation is, that wives are to adorn themselves sparingly and modestly: for we know that they are in this respect much more curious and ambitious than they ought to be. Then Peter does not without cause seek to correct in them this vanity. And though he reproves generally sumptuous or costly adorning, yet he points out some things in particular, — that they were not artificially to curl or wreath their hair, as it was usually done by crisping-pins, or otherwise to form it according to the fashion; nor were they to set gold around their head: for these are the things in which excesses especially appear.

It may be now asked, whether the Apostle wholly condemns the use of gold in adorning the body. Were any one to urge these words, it may be said, that he prohibits precious garments no less than gold; for he immediately adds, the putting on of apparel, or, of clothes. But it would be an immoderate strictness wholly to forbid neatness and elegance in clothing. If the material is said to be too sumptuous, the Lord has created it; and we know that skill in art has proceeded from him. Then Peter did not intend to condemn every sort of ornament, but the evil of vanity, to which women are subject. Two things are to be regarded in clothing, usefulness and decency; and what decency requires is moderation and modesty. Were, then, a woman to go forth with her hair wantonly curled and decked, and make an extravagant display, her vanity could not be excused. They who object and say, that to clothe one’s-self in this or that manner is an indifferent thing, in which all are free to do as they please, may be easily confuted; for excessive elegance and superfluous display, in short, all excesses, arise from a corrupted mind. Besides, ambition, pride, affectation of display, and all things of this kind, are not indifferent things. Therefore they whose minds are purified from all vanity, will duly order all things, so as not to exceed moderation.

4. But let it be the hidden, man of the heart. The contrast here ought to be carefully observed. Cato said, that they who are anxiously engaged in adorning the body, neglect the adorning of the mind: so Peter, in order to restrain this desire in women, introduces a remedy, that they are to devote themselves to the cultivation of their minds. The word heart, no doubt means the whole soul. He at the same time shews in what consists the spiritual adorning of women, even in the incorruptness of a meek and quiet spirit. “Incorruptness,” as I think, is set in opposition to things which fade and vanish away, things which serve to adorn the body. Therefore the version of Erasmus departs from the real meaning. In short, Peter means that the ornament of the soul is not like a fading flower, nor consists in vanishing splendor, but is incorruptible. By mentioning quiet and a tranquilspirit, he marks out what especially belongs to women; for nothing becomes them more than a placid and a sedate temper of mind. 1 For we know how outrageous a being is an imperious and a self-willed woman. And further, nothing is more fitted to correct the vanity of which Peter speaks than a placid quietness of spirit.

What follows, that it is in the sight of God of great price, may be referred to the whole previous sentence as well as to the word spirit; the meaning indeed will remain the same. For why do women take so much care to adorn themselves, except that they may turn the eyes of men on themselves? But Peter, on the contrary, bids them to be more anxious for what is before God of a great price.”


And, finally, A. R. Faussett  comments as follows:


3. Literally, “To whom let there belong (namely, as their peculiar ornament) not the outward adornment (usual in the sex which first, by the fall, brought in the need of covering, Note, see on JF & B for 1Pe 5:5) of,” &c.
plaiting–artificial braiding, in order to attract admiration.
wearing–literally, “putting round,” namely, the head, as a diadem–the arm, as a bracelet–the finger, as rings.
apparel–showy and costly. “Have the blush of modesty on thy face instead of paint, and moral worth and discretion instead of gold and emeralds” [MELISSA].

Clearly I Peter 3:3-4 is contrasting two types of human ornament: the material versus the spiritual.  It avers the far greater worth of spiritual ornament over material ornament.  An analogy will help us understand the implications here.  Suppose that in a museum display we were to see the Hope Diamond and some Cracker Jack jewelry.  (The Hope Diamond is a large (45.52 carat), deep blue diamond, currently housed in theSmithsonian Natural History Museum.)  Would we not be discomfited that a thing of such meager value as Cracker Jack jewelry would be placed on display beside something of such high value?  But is not the difference in value between material ornaments such as jewelry and spiritual ornaments like meekness even greater?  If we think rightly about the value of spiritual ornaments with which we ought to ornament ourselves, then we shall not be so prone to ornament ourselves with things such as jewelry.

There are a number of verses in the Old and New Testaments which have led people to reject some of the doctrinal conclusions I have come to.  For instance, these passages have led some to believe that jewelry is now all right, since some godly people in the past have worn jewelry.  But, in my opinion, these fail to see the progress the church should be making in its path to the New Creation.  Along these lines we read in Mark 10:4-5:  “And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put [her] away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” And in Acts 17:30 we read: “the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent”.

For example, here is how the Geneva Bible addresses the case in Genesis 24:22-30:

“And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten [shekels] weight of gold…And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister’s hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.”

“(k) God permitted many things both in apparel and other things which are now forbidden especially when they do not suit our humble estate.”

John Calvin in his Commentaries addresses the same passage as follows: ” His adorning the damsel with precious ornaments is a token of his confidence. For since it is evident by many proofs that he was an honest and careful servant, he would not throw away without discretion the treasures of his master. He knows, therefore, that these gifts will not be ill-bestowed; or, at least, relying on the goodness of God, he gives them, in faith, as an earnest of future marriage. But it may be asked, Whether God approves ornaments of this kind, which pertain not so much to neatness as to pomp? I answer, that the things related in Scripture are not always proper to be imitated. Whatever the Lord commands in general terms is to be accounted as an inflexible rule of conduct; but to rely on particular examples is not only dangerous, but even foolish and absurd. Now we know how highly displeasing to God is not only pomp and ambition in adorning the body, but all kind of luxury. In order to free the heart from inward cupidity, he condemns that immoderate and superfluous splendor, which contains within itself many allurements to vice. Where, indeed, is pure sincerity of heart found under splendid ornaments? Certainly all acknowledge this virtue to be rare. It is not, however, for us expressly to forbid every kind of ornament; yet because whatever exceeds the frugal use of such things is tarnished with some degree of vanity; and more especially, because the cupidity of women is, on this point, insatiable; not only must moderation, but even abstinence, be cultivated as far as possible. Further, ambition silently creeps in, so that the somewhat excessive adorning of the person soon breaks out into disorder. With respect to the earrings and bracelets of Rebekah, as I do not doubt that they were those in use among the rich, so the uprightness of the age allowed them to be sparingly and frugally used; and yet I do not excuse the fault. This example, however, neither helps us, nor alleviates our guilt, if, by such means, we excite and continually inflame those depraved lusts which, even when all incentives are removed, it is excessively difficult to restrain. The women who desire to shine in gold, seek inRebekah a pretext for their corruption. Why, therefore, do they not, in like manner, conform to the same austere kind of life and rustic labor to which she applied herself? But, as I have just said, they are deceived who imagine that the examples of the saints can sanction them in opposition to the common law of God…”

When mention is made of Genesis 24:22-30 by supporters of the wearing of jewelry, Genesis 35:1-5 is often forgotten.  There we read of the reformation and purification of the Hebrews.  It consisted not only of the putting away of idols, but also changing the garments, including the taking off of earrings.   This reformation was surely preparative for the New Testament reformation, which would call for a complete and abiding cessation of the wearing of jewelry, as part of a broader reformation.

Another such passage is James 2:1-4 (“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?“).  Commenting on this passage, Calvin points out: “Let us therefore remember that the respect of persons here condemned is that by which the rich is so extolled, wrong is done to the poor, which also he shews clearly by the context and surely ambitions is that honor, and full of vanity, which is shewn to the rich to the contempt of the poor. Nor is there a doubt but that ambition reigns and vanity also, when the masks of this world are alone in high esteem.”  We should not infer from James 2:1-4 that all is fine in a man wearing ornamental jewelry.  It was rather to be admonished that the people fawned upon him who had the worldly emblems of wealth.

Yet another case is Proverbs 25:12 : “[As] an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, [so is] a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”  It would be wrong to deduce from this passage that we should wear earrings of gold.  This proverb is simply borrowing on the idea that ornaments and earrings of gold are precious, for so they symbolize that which is precious.  We do not deny their symbolic value, simply because we insist that their usefulness in attire for that purpose has passed.

We encounter a similar case in Luke 15:22 (“But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet:”), which is part of a parable.  Calvin pointed out about this verse:

“22. Bring out the best robe. Although in parables (as we have frequently observed) it would be idle to follow out every minute circumstance, yet it will be no violence to the literal meaning, if we say, that our heavenly Father not only pardons our sins in such a manner as to bury the remembrance of them, but even restores those gifts of which we had been deprived; as, on the other hand, by taking them from us, he chastises our ingratitude in order to make us feel ashamed at the reproach and disgrace of our nakedness.”

The parables are typically earthly stories with heavenly signification. The father in the parable represents God our Father, while the prodigal son represents saved sinners.  The luxurious robe and ring accordingly signify the precious blessings and graces that will be showered upon the elect in the new heaven and new earth.  We should not think such carnal trifles as a robe and ring will be the primary blessings of the hereafter, nor should we imagine that we should now labor to wear such carnal trifles here on earth.

So it should be obvious enough that Christ is not necessarily commending to Christians the wearing of rings or festive dancing, simply because they are elements present in this parable.  They are not there because they are necessarily commended, but because they are commonly present in human society.  Christ makes spiritual points from stories of human experience in this world.  He does this in other parables as well, such as the parable in the very next chapter of Luke concerning the unjust steward.   As John Calvin points out, “The leading object of this parable [of the unjust steward] is, to show that we ought to deal kindly and generously with our neighbors; that, when we come to the judgment seat of God, we may reap the fruit of our liberality. Though the parable appears to be harsh and far-fetched, yet the conclusion makes it evident, that the design of Christ was nothing else than what I have stated. And hence we see, that to inquire with great exactness into every minute part of a parable is an absurd mode of philosophizing. Christ does not advise us to purchase by large donations the forgiveness of fraud, and of extortion, and of wasteful expenditure, and of the other crimes associated with unfaithful administration.”  We best take care not to allow such elements in a parable to serve as justification for behavior prohibited elsewhere in scripture.

And another passage is Ezekiel 16:12 : “And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.”

The Geneva Bible comments on this verse:  “(h) By this he shows how he saved his Church, enriched it, and gave it power and dominion to reign.”  Again, we have a case of the use of symbolic language.  This is not condoning the present use of such ornamental attire, but rather is using its common signification to make a spiritual point.

It is instructive as well to consider even Old Testament passages like Isaiah 3:17-23 and Hosea 2:12.

Isaiah 3:17-23 reads: “Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. 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 bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and 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 vails.”

The Geneva Bible says on this verse:  “(s) In rehearsing all these things particularly he shows the lightness and vanity of such as cannot be content with comely apparel according to their degree.”

Hosea 2:12 reads: “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These [are] my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.  And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”

The Geneva Bible says on this verse:  “(o) By showing how harlots trim themselves to please others, he declares how superstitious idolaters set a great part of their religion in adorning themselves on their holy days.”

Judges 8:24 reads: “And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they [were] Ishmaelites.)”  This passage seems to imply that the wearing of such golden jewelry as earrings was especially associated with the pagan Ishmaelites, in distinction from the people of God.

One common argument against what we have said in this article is that jewelry is fine if it serves a function as a custom (e.g., by distinguishing male versus female, by distinguishing married versus single, etc.).  First, we should note that its use to distinguish male versus female is more justifiable than its use to distinguish married versus single.  There actually is a Biblical principle that male versus female attire should be different, whereas there is no such principle calling for married versus single people to have different attire.  But, in truth, use of jewelry in attire even to distinguish male versus female is Biblically unwarranted.  Scriptural principles supersede customs, when customs contradict scriptural principles.  Jewelry, tattoos, etc. are inappropriate means to distinguish marital status, gender, etc.  If we go down the path of justifying such ornamentation in attire by saying it serves such a function, we could imagine some island where females or married people are distinguished by having the following: a finger ring on every finger, an earring, 10 gold necklaces, a tattoo on the arm, painted faces, etc.  So should these customs stand because the jewelry, etc. has a function? Does function really justify such ornamentation?  We think not.  To take another analogy, it would be improper for a society to distinguish married from unmarried persons by having unmarried persons walk around in public without any clothes, while singles have clothes.  This custom would contradict the general scriptural principle that people should not walk around naked in public.  So when a Biblical principle prohibits something (in this case, the wearing of ornamental jewelry, as indicated in such passages as I Timothy 2:9, etc.), an end (in this case, societal distinction of married versus unmarried) cannot justify the means (such as wearing finger rings).

Another common objection is that God is indifferent about the nature of our appareling, so that those who advocate positions like the one in this article are guilty of unwarranted legalism.  This objection fails to account for the many Biblical directives concerning attiring, as well as verses such as Zephaniah 1:8 (“And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.”) where God expresses concern about the nature of attire.

Yet another objection is that God would not use jewelry as symbols of what is good if He prohibited their wearing.  This objection is contradicted by God’s use of worship elements like incense as symbols of that which is good (e.g., see Revelation 8:3-4: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer [it] with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, [which came] with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.”), even though incense is prohibited as an element in New Testament worship.

Another objection is that a man with a gold ring is described in James 2:2, but his wearing the gold ring is not explicitly condemned.  That is true, but appareling was not the focus of James’ instruction in this context, but rather “if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin” was the focus.  So it is wrong to read too much into this passage on the topic of appareling.

Another common retort is to point out real or perceived inconsistencies in the advocates of the no jewelry position, such as other perceived extravagances in attire.   This retort typically fails for one of two reasons.  First, even if perceived inconsistencies are indeed real, it is no disproof of the no jewelry position.  At most, the argument simply proves other areas where more restraint is required.  Second, to quote Calvin again, “”He [God] expressly censures certain kinds of superfluity, such as curled hair, jewels, and golden rings”, in such passages as I Timothy 2:9.  Where we do not have such express censure in scripture, we need to be especially guarded in our judgments of others, lest we wrongly condemn that which is innocent.

Finally, some object that passages like I Timothy 2:9 are really just prohibiting wearing of too much jewelry, but not any jewelry.  One problem with this interpretation is that the passage does not say “too much”, nor does it or other passages give any guidelines of what constitutes “too much”.  Not surprisingly, those churches which interpret the passage as forbidding “too much” jewelry generally do not regulate wearing of jewelry among their communicant membership at all.

Let us now outline how the Christian church has addressed this issue over the course of history.  Much of the material for this outline of church history comes from the following websites:http://www2.andrews.edu/~samuele/books/christian_dress/4.html , http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,641-613916,00.html , http://history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-17.htm andhttp://www.bible.ca/history/eubanks/history-eubanks-35.htm .

As already pointed out, in the Apostolic era plainness and simplicity of attire was commanded as a general rule, and the wearing of ornamental jewelry was expressly forbidden.  This put Christian culture in conflict with Greco-Roman culture, even as Christian culture was in conflict with the surrounding pagan culture on matters like the theater and stage-plays.

The early church maintained the Apostolic rule.  Let’s consider the writings of four church fathers from the time-  Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Augustine – as well as the  Apostolic Constitutions.

One of the great men of the early church was Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who was martyred for his faith in Jesus in the year 258. The following quotation (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Roberts and Donaldson, Scribner’s, 1925, Vol. V, pp. 275f.) is a touching account of his conversion and his new life in Christ, which provides a telling statement on his view, and that of the Christian church at the time, on attire:

While I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, wavering hither and thither, tossed about on the foam of this boastful age, and uncertain of my wandering steps, knowing nothing of my real life, and remote from truth and light, I used to regard it as a difficult matter, and especially as difficult in respect of my character at that time, that a man should be capable of being born again-a truth which the divine mercy had announced for my salvation-and that a man quickened to a new life in tile laver of saving water should be able to put off what he had previously been; and, although retaining all his bodily structure, should he himself changed in heart and soul. . . . When does he learn thrift who has been used to liberal banquets and sumptuous feasts? And he who has been glittering in gold and purple, and has been celebrated for his costly attire, when does he reduce himself to ordinary and simple clothing?. . .

But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of former years had been washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, had been infused into my reconciled heart-after that, by the agency of the Spirit breathed from heaven, a second birth had restored me to a new man-then, in a wondrous manner, doubtful things at once began to assure themselves to me, . . . what before had seemed difficult began to suggest a means of accomplishment, what had been thought impossible, to be capable of being achieved. Epistle I, 3, 4.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 AD), who headed the catechetical (baptismal) school of Alexandria from 190 to 202, in his book The Instructor went to considerable length to explain why Christian women should not wear luxurious clothes, rings, earrings, or elaborate hair styles, and “smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning.”

Tertullian’s treatise On the Apparel of Women is a lively pointed attack on contemporary Roman fashions. Tertullian encouraged Christian women to eschew elaborate forms of clothing, jewelry, hairstyle, and cosmetics. Here is a sample quote:

”There must be no overstepping of that line to which simple and sufficient refinements limit their desires-that line which is pleasing to God. For they who rub43 their skin with medicaments, stain their cheeks with rouge, make their eyes prominent with antimony,44 sin against Him… I see some (women) turn (the colour of) their hair with saffron. They are ashamed even of their own nation, (ashamed) that their procreation did not assign them to Germany and to Gaul: thus, as it is, they transfer their hair52 (thither)! Ill, ay, most ill, do they augur for themselves with their flame-coloured head,53 and think that graceful which (in fact) they are polluting! Nay, moreover, the force of the cosmetics burns ruin into the hair; and the constant application of even any undrugged moisture, lays up a store of harm for the head; while the sun’s warmth, too, so desirable for imparting to the hair at once growth and dryness, is hurtful. What “grace” is compatible with “injury? “What “beauty” with “impurities? “Shall a Christian woman heap saffron on her head, as upon an altar?54 For, whatever is wont to be burned to thehonour of the unclean spirit, that-unless it is applied for honest, and necessary, and salutary uses, for which God’s creature was provided-may seem to be a sacrifice. But, however, God saith, “Which of you can make a white hair black, or out of a black a white? “55 And so they refute the Lord! “Behold!” say they, “instead of white or black, we make it yellow,-more winning in grace.”56 And yet such as repent of having lived to old age doattempt to change it even from white to black! O temerity! The age which is the object of our wishes and prayers blushes (for itself)! a theft is effected! youth, wherein we have sinned,57 is sighed after! the opportunity of sobriety is spoiled! Far from Wisdom’s daughters be folly so great! The more old age tries to conceal itself, the more will it be detected. Here is a veritable eternity, in the (perennial) youth of your head! Here we have an “incorruptibility” to “put on,”58 with a view to the new house of the Lord59 which the divine monarchy promises! Well do you speed toward the Lord; well do you hasten to be quit of this most iniquitous world,60 to whom it is unsightly to approach (your own) end!

…First, then, blessed (sisters), (take heed) that you admit not to your use meretricious and prostitutionary garbs and garments: and, in the next place, if there are any of you whom the exigencies of riches, or birth, or past dignities, compel to appear in public so gorgeously arrayed as not to appear to have attained wisdom, take heed to temper an evil of this kind; lest, under the pretext of necessity, you give the rein without stint to the indulgence of licence. For how will you be able to fulfil (the requirements of) humility, which our (school) profess,83 if you do not keep within bounds84 the enjoyment of your riches and elegancies, which tend so much to “glory? “Now it has ever been the wont of glory to exalt, not to humble. “Why, shall we not use what is our own? “Who prohibits your using it? Yet (it must be) in accordance with the apostle, who warns us “to use this world85 as if we abuse it not; for the fashion86 of this world87 is passing away.” And “they who buy are so to act as if they possessed not.”88 Why so? Because he had laid down the premiss, saying, “The time is wound up.”89 If, then he shows plainly that even wives themselves are so to be had as if they be not had,90 on account of the straits of the times, what would be his sentiments about these vain appliances of theirs?”

And Augustine wrote as follows:

“As to the use of pigments by women in colouring the face, in order to have a ruddier or a fairer complexion, this is a dishonest artifice, by which I am sure that even their own husbands do not wish to be deceived; and it is only for their own husbands that women ought to be permitted to adorn themselves, according to the toleration, not the injunction, of Scripture. For the true adorning, especially of Christian men and women, consists not only in the absence of all deceitful painting of the complexion, but in the possession not of magnificent golden ornaments or rich apparel, but of a blameless life.” (Augustine’s Letter CCXLV To Possidius, My Most Beloved Lord and Venerable Brother and Partner in the Sacerdotal Office, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, Augustin and the Brethren Who are with Him Send Greeting in the Lord.)


The  Apostolic Constitutions outlawed the use of all finger rings: “Neither do thou put a gold ring upon thy fingers; for all these ornaments are signs of lasciviousness, which if thou be solicitous about in an indecent manner, thou will not act as becomes a good man.”

Nevertheless, there was a progressive trend towards compromise on this issue.  Interestingly, it was in the area of wedding rings that the compromise began, even as it did in a later era of history.  There is a plausible, albeit incorrect, case that can be made for Christians to wear such wedding rings in societies where such is the custom.  But the end of such a stance is worse than the beginning.  Once rings of any kind are allowed, it is logically difficult (yea, impossible) to prohibit other rings, and then other jewelry, and finally other ornamentation and make-up.  The logic only takes time to run its full course.

Probably by the end of the second century some or even many Christians had adopted the Roman custom of wedding rings.  The earliest Christian betrothal rings have been found in the Roman catacombs, underground burial-places dug outside the city of Rome, from about A. D. 200.   From about the same time we have the testimonies of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria about the Christian use of the betrothal ring. In the light of these archeological and literary evidences we can assume that Christians adopted the use of betrothal ring in the latter part of the second century.  The most common material of the betrothal ring found in the catacomb is bronze, though a few iron rings have survived. “As a rule, early Christian rings of gold are rare. This might be expected, as the use of rich and numerous ornaments was not in accordance with the teaching of the early church.” Contrary to the pagan fashion of wearing a “ring on nearly every joint,” the early Christians wore only one ring, the marital ring. Roman iron wedding bands – worn by the women – were not so much a symbol of love, as a binding legal agreement of ownership by their husbands, who regarded rings as tokens of purchase. As with the Egyptians, the Romans believed in vena amoris and wore the bands on the fourth finger of their left hand, just as Americans do today.  They apparently believed a vein ran straight from this finger to the heart.

One website notes: ““Ancient Roman wedding rings were made of iron.   In early Rome a gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped hands. Very early rings had a carved key through which a woman was thought to be able to open her husband’s heart.”

Here are some additional interesting historical insights on the Roman customs from one website:

“Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans refined the art of making ornamental rings. Throughout the period of the Roman Republic (449-31 B.C.), however, only iron finger rings were worn by most of the citizens. Slaves were forbidden to wear rings on their fingers. This policy of austerity came to an end at the beginning of the Imperial period (about 31 B.C.). Gold finger rings appeared but the right to wear them was restricted to ambassadors,then extended to senators, consuls, and chief officers of state.

Different laws were passed during Imperial Rome to govern the wearing of finger rings. Pliny informs us that Emperor Tiberius required that those who were not of free descent be owners of large property before having the right to wear gold finger rings. Emperor Severus extended the right to wear gold finger rings–jus annuli aurei–first to Roman soldiers and then to all free citizens. Silver finger rings were worn by freedmen, that is, slaves who had become free. Iron finger rings were worn by slaves. Under Emperor Justinian these restrictions were abolished. It is interesting to note that during Imperial Rome gold, silver, and iron finger rings were worn in accordance with the social class to which one belonged. The finger ring, so to speak, tied a person down to his or her social class.


“Binding” Finger Rings. The use of a ring to “tie” a person to a social class may have derived from the legendary origin of the finger ring. In his Natural History Pliny tells us that the ring first entered Greek mythology when Prometheus dared to steal fire from heaven for earthly use. For this wanton crime Zeus chained him to a rock up in the Caucasus Mountains for thirty thousand years, during which time a vulture fed daily on his liver.After straining at the chain for many years, Prometheus finally succeeded in breaking away, taking a chunk of the mountain with the chain. Eventually Zeus relented and liberated Prometheus from the chain. However, to avoid a violation of the original judgment, Prometheus was ordered to wear a link of his chain on one of his fingers as a ring. On the ring was set a piece of the rock to which he had been chained as a constant reminder that he was bound to the rock.

Apparently Pliny’s legend became a superstition which eventually evolved into a custom. “When a Roman slave was allowed his liberty,” wrote James McCarthy, “he received, along with cap and white vest, an iron finger ring. The slave had been fastened, so to speak, by a Caucasian chain of bondage. When granted his freedom he still had to wear, as Prometheus wore, an iron ring by way of remembrance. He was not permitted to have one of gold, for at that time that was a badge of citizenship.”

Betrothal Ring. The Romans were also the first to use finger rings to “tie” people not only to their social classes, but also to their marital partners. During the betrothal ceremony the bridegroom gave a plain iron finger ring to the family of the bride as a symbol of his commitment and financial ability to support the bride. Marriages were not made in heaven but over a negotiating table. Originally the betrothal ceremony was more elaborate and important than the marriage rite, which was a simple fulfillment of the betrothal commitment. It was only much later in Christian history that the ring was made part of the wedding ceremony.

In his book How It Began Paul Berdanier claims that the binding use of the ring for betrothal ceremonies developed from an older superstitious practice in which a man tied cords around the waist, wrists and ankles of the woman he had fallen in love with, to make sure that her spirit would be held under his control.  The pagan superstitions surrounding the origin of the Roman betrothal ring did not deter early Christians from adopting its use.”

What started simple, grew large in practice.  James McCarthy has noted his view of the reason for this development: “The trouble with the Romans, as with others enamored of anything, was that they began to overdo the wearing of rings. They covered their fingers with them. Some even wore different rings for summer and winter. They were immoderate not only in the number of rings worn but also in their size. Even on the little finger extremely heavy rings of gold were worn during the twilight days of the Empire. Thumb rings of even more gigantic size were sported. It would seem as though the flash of rings paralleled the inevitable fall of the Roman Empire.”  McCarthy continues noting that in spite of the moralists’ denunciations of their own countrymen for wearing too many rings, “rings continued to be worn and Rome continued to decline. “  Like so many other pagan Roman customs, the use of jewelry became incorporated into Roman Catholicism, even as Biblical Christian culture declined.
”The use of rings in wedding ceremonies is traced back to the early part of the fourth century.30 However, the first explicit description of the ring’s usage seems to come from Isidore of Seville, who became archbishop of that city in 595. He wrote: “The ring is given by the espouser to the espoused either for a sign of mutual fidelity or still more to join their hearts by this pledge; and therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein, it is said, flows thence to the heart.”  The belief that the fourth finger (counting from the thumb), has a vena amoris–a love vein running directly to the heart–is obviously pure superstition. The annular (ring) finger shares the same “route” to the heart as the other fingers. In spite of its superstitious origin, the custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand has prevailed in most Christian countries to this day.

“Knowing the attraction that rings have exerted upon the laity, it is not surprising that the clergy also adopted the use of rings. The most famous ecclesiastical rings are the “episcopal ring” that was conferred upon the newly elected bishop and the “fisherman’s ring” worn by the Pope. The latter derives its name from the gemstone which carries an engraving of Peter in a boat pulling up a fishing net.  The episcopal ring, as The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “was strictly speaking an episcopal ornament conferred in the rite of consecration, and it was commonly regarded as emblematic of the betrothal of the bishop to His Church.” The Gregorian formula, still used today in delivering the ring, says: “Receive the ring, that is to say the seal of faith, whereby thou, being thyself adorned with spotless faith, may keep unsullied the troth which thou pledged to the spouse of God, His holy Church.” The idea of conjugal fidelity is symbolically present also in the episcopal rings.

“It is noteworthy that the same encyclopedia traces the origin of the episcopal ring back to the golden ring worn by ancient pagan priests consecrated to the worship of Jupiter: “Knowing as we do, that in the pagan days of Rome every flamen Dialis (i.e., a priest specially consecrated to the worship of Jupiter) had, like the senators, the privilege of wearing a gold ring, it would not be surprising to find evidence in the fourth century that rings were worn by Christian bishops.”  The same source, however, questions the validity of the fourth century’s evidence, arguing instead that the first unmistakable evidence comes to us from a Decree issued by Pope Boniface IV in 610, requiring monks elevated to the episcopal dignity to wear the ring.”

Referring to episcopal rings, The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “In many cases an antique gem was mounted in the bishop’s ring, and often an inscription was added in the gold setting of the gem to give a Christian name to the pagan figure.” In other cases, according to the same source, no change was made to the pagan engraving and “the gem appears to have been merely regarded as an ornament without meaning.”


So we witness in all of this the corrupting trend as the church endured its 1,260 “wilderness years”.  The corruption reached its height during the High Middle Ages.


God graciously gave the world a reprieve from these “wilderness years” during the Protestant Reformation, starting with John Wyckliffe and culminating by the mid-17’th century.  Previously in this article we have shown how the Reformed churches took a strong stance for plain and simple attire and against jewelry.  As previously noted, jewelry was prohibited in Calvin’s Geneva.  We have already in this article quoted John Calvin at length on the topic of modesty, but some additional quotes would be helpful at this point:

Calvin notes in his sermons on 1 Corinthians, “St. Paul is not addressing what may take place at home; for, if a woman combs her hair, she will surely have it uncovered then, but she also retires to her place of privacy. So, St. Paul is not discussing what may happen with individuals at home.”

Again, Calvin notes that, “should a woman require to make such haste in assisting a neighbor that she has not time to cover her head, she sins not in running out with her head uncovered” [Institutes Book IV, Chapter 10, Sec. 31]. Calvin interprets Paul as saying “that women should not go out in public with uncovered heads” (Institutes Book IV, Chapter 10, sec. 29).  Factors suggested by Calvin that should go into why women should wearheadcoverings in public include:
“They forget their nature: for women ought to be modest. If there be no shame, but that they will needs be out of order: it is a very beastliness. That is the effect of God’s intent in saying that men
ought not to put on women’s apparel, nor women ought not to be clothed in men’s apparel: For it is good reason that there should be a difference between men and women. And although there were no law
written, doth not even nature teach it us? And when Paul (1 Cor. 11.5,) telleth us that women must come to the Church with their heads covered & not with their hair about their ears: he sheweth the same
thing. What saith he? have we need to speak to you of such things? For if a woman were polled , durst she shew her head abroad? A man may well be bold to shew his head bare, though he be polled: and shall a woman do so too? That were a shame, everybody would mock at her, and she should be fain to hide her head. Now since ye know this without any scripture or word written: do ye not see how God hath shown as it were a seed of modesty in you, to the intent that every man should have a regard to that which is comely for him? So then, let us mark that here God intended to shew us that everybody’s attiring of themselves ought to be such, as there may be a difference between men and women.” -Calvin’s sermon on Deut. 22:5-8.

“Men use not to hang out a sign at a tavern, unless they meant men should come in who list. And while women deck and trim themselves after this sort, to draw men’s eyes to them, and to have men stand
gazing at them, what is this else but a spreading out of their nets? & therefore it is as much as if they kept open tavern of their own bodies. True it is, that all of them will not do so: but this is the end of their prancking, and it is not almost to be found, but that such gorgeous deckings, and such braveries do always bear one smack of bawdery with them although whoredom do not always follow. So then let
us mark well, when Paul speaketh of this, shamefastness and modesty, that in correcting one fault he taketh away all those superfluities wherewith women are so set on fire, that they can keep no measure in them, & therefore it booteth not now, to reckon them up by piecemeal. And if this affection and perverse desire were well purged, no doubt women would deck themselves modestly, and we should see no more of these disguisings. See there cometh out a woman like a painted idol; all our age is full of colours, there is nothing but laying on of gold, perukes and false hairs, and such like: again, we see such
pomp, and bravery, that when such a Diana cometh forth, we may well judge and think that she is at defiance with all shame, with all modesty, with all honesty, as a stews, & strumpet, ready to say on
this wise: ‘I will show myself here as a salt bitch, I will be impudent and shameless, and show my filthiness to all the world.’  We should I say, see no more of these things. If women observe this rule
of modesty, they would not be so bespangled with gold as they are, they would not have their heads uncovered as now they have: to be short, they would not so exceed measure in gorgeousness as they do,
wherein they do but fight against modesty & honesty, which Paul speaketh of in this place, if all this (as I said) were cut off.” — Calvin’s Sermon on 1 Timothy 2:9-11.

“So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature… So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead something else: ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also this and that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard.” — Calvin’s Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:2-3.

Immodesty was similarly opposed by the Church of Scotland, the Puritans of England and North America, as well as others.

The Puritans even opposed the use of the wedding ring, which High Church Anglicans were so reluctant to abandon.  The Puritans fought against much opposition in England.  One website records: “Queen Elizabeth I, though Protestant, tried to steer a very moderate course. As much of the old Roman order of organization and worship as Protestant sentiment would permit was retained. Naturally, then, there were those who felt that Elizabeth was not sufficiently aggressive in pressing the Protestant cause. These wanted to purify the Church of England of all vestiges of Roman Catholicism. Therefore, they were known as “Puritans.” Among the changes that they desired to make was the procurement of genuine Protestant preachers in every parish, rejection of clerical vestments (Matt. 23:5 , 8), kneeling at the reception of the Lord’s Supper, the wedding ring (because it was thought to be indicative of matrimony as a sacrament), crossing, and sabbath-like observance of Sunday with a commensurate suspension of amusements such as games and dances (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16,17; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1,2). English officialdom was not prepared for such far-reaching changes and thus proscribed religious practices contrary to them and punished those who did not submit by imprisonment or deprivation of ecclesiastical positions.”  But the Puritans were undeterred, for they knew God’s word regulates custom, not custom God’s word.

The Scottish Presbyterians were no less strict about the wedding ring than the English Puritans.   In fact, in “The Charge of the Scottish Commissioners Against Canterbury and the Lieutenant of Ireland, &c.” (1641) on pages 16,17, while discussing the problems with the “Book of Common Prayer” that Canterbury attempted to impose upon the Scots, certain items are noted which even the Scottish Prelates found unacceptable. The text reads:

“The large declaration professeth, that all the variation of our booke, from the booke of England, that ever the King understood, was in such things as the Scottish humour would better comply with, than
with that which stood in the English service. These popish innovations therefore have beene surreptitiously inserted by him [Canterbury], without the Kings knowledge, and against his purpose. Our Scottish Prelates do petition that something may bee abated of the English ceremonies, as the Crosse in Baptisme, the Ring in marriage, and some other things. But Canterbury will not onely have these kept, but a great many more, and worse superadded, which wes nothing else, but the adding of fewell to the fire. To expresse and discover all, would require a whole booke, wee sall onely touch some few in the matter of the Communion.”

So widespread was objection to the use of the wedding ring in Scotland at the time, that not only Scottish Presbyterians disapprove its use, but even the Scottish Prelatical party did.

As a consequence of the Protestant Reformation, a great change was effected in the area of attire, as well as in so many other areas of life and culture. As one website describes it: “There was a strong prejudice against wedding rings for centuries. In its early days, the Church of Scotland did not make provision for wedding rings in its liturgy. And the Puritans in Cromwell’s time thought of rings as Popish relics and attempted to abolish their use. The custom of wearing a wedding ring continuously is of modern origin, and some brides in the past were bequeathed their rings by their mothers or mothers-in-law.”  Representative of the Puritan view is this by Thomas Taylor from “a Glass for Gentlewomen to Dress themselves by,” London 1633:

“No ornament or attire may be vsed, which may become either a snare to our selues or others.  There are some habits framed to draw, yes, to get louers, and to occasion vnlawfull desires.  The daughters of Sarah detest such whorish habits, and are carefull that by nothing about them any eye or heart may bee entangled.  Their endeuour is not to auoyd onely apparent euils, but appearances of euill.  To discouer by our habits some naked parts, as many doe, is a danger of temptation to many beholders.  And as in the Law, hee that digged a pit and left it vncouered, must answer for the oxe, or asse, or beast that fell into it: so here; although they are beasts that fall into the pit of lust vpon such spectacles, yet are they not free, that couered not the pit.  Neither will it excuse, to say, But I intend no such thing by my habit; for if thou knowest it may bee an occasion of mouing euilllusts, and doest not preuent the occasion, thou art blame-worthy as the first in that sinne.  Thou hast filled a cup of poyson to the beholder, although there be none to drinke it, saith Chrysostome.”

And the Westminster Directory of Public Worship read as follows:

“A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.”

God’s word became more the norm during and because of the Protestant Reformation.

Even groups that were otherwise heretical- like the Methodists, Quakers, Amish and Mennonites – on the matter of plainness of attire and opposition to jewelry were in agreement with the Reformed position. John Wesley (1703-1791), for instance, advocated plainness of dress and avoidance of jewelry in general and rings in particular.  Here is how one website describes it:  “In his Advice to the People Called Methodists, with Regard to Dress, he wrote: “Wear no gold, no pearls, or precious stones . . . . I do not advise women to wear rings, earrings, necklaces.”  Wesley went to great length to give Scriptural support for his position, quoting among other scriptures the words of Peter, “Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and the wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:3).  Wesley’s preaching brought results. Both in England and America the Methodists dressed as “plain people,” without jewelry or rings. At the organizing conference of the Methodist Episcopal church in 1784 the question was asked “should we insist on the Rules concerning Dress?” The answer was, “By all means. This is no time to give encouragement to superfluity of apparel. Therefore give no ticket to any, till they have left off superfluous ornaments . . . . Allow no exempt case, not even of a married woman. . . . Give no admission to those who wear rings.”41 Tickets were given for the admission to the communion service. Those who did not comply with the very high standard of the church were not admitted to this service. Such a strict policy sounds unreasonable to many today. We must understand this policy in the social context of eighteenth-century America where the church regulated the lifestyle of its members.  The original rule regarding dress and ornaments became part of the Methodist church manual, known as Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Church and continued in this form until 1852. The early Methodists took the admonitions of their founder seriously. They lived a plain lifestyle, avoiding gambling, dancing, cosmetics, and jewelry, including rings. “

As I have pointed out in such books as Thy Kingdom Come and Let My People Go, the church fell from its spiritual height of the Protestant Reformation, even as the Jews became corrupted not many generations after their entrance into the Promised Land.  The Christian church has again become corrupted, in this modern era of secular humanism.  And, not surprisingly, history has repeated itself in the matter of attire and jewelry.

Here is how one person has described it:

“We have found that in the early church the use of the marital ring evolved through three main stages. In the first stage of the apostolic period, there was no apparent use of the marital ring. In the second stage of the second and third centuries, there was a restricted use of only one plain inexpensive conjugal ring which served also as signet ring for sealing purposes. In the final stage from the fourth century onward there was a proliferation of all kinds of ornamental rings and jewelry.   This pattern of no marital ring in the first stage, plain marital ring in the second stage, and all kinds of ornamental rings and jewelry in the final stage, has recurred in the internal history of various denominations that grew out of the Reformation.”

One compromise led to the next.  In the United States the Puritans had renounced wedding bands altogether, because they considered all jewelry frivolous.  But over the course of the colonial era Colonial Americans came to trade wedding thimbles instead of rings, arguing that thimbles were acceptable because they were practical.  Some daring but ignorant women, after marriage, would slice off the bottom of the thimble, thereby creating a wedding band.

Today hardly any of the Protestant denominations forbid use of the wedding ring.  In the US Methodist Church, the change seemed to take place in 1872.  As described by one: “The first mention of the wedding ring as an option in a marriage ceremony, occurs in the 1872 manual of the Methodist Church, known as Discipline: “If the parties desire it, the man shall here hand a ring to the minister, who shall return it to him and direct him to place it on the third finger of the woman’s left hand. And the man shall say to the woman, repeating after the minister, ‘With this ring I thee wed, and with my worldly goods I thee endow, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’” One year later, in 1873, the Presbyterian Church followed the example of the Methodists by changing their manual to allow for the use of the ring in the marriage ceremony: “If they desire to pass a ring, the minister, here taking the ring, may deliver it to the man, to put it upon the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand.”  Gradually other denominations relaxed their standards of dress and ornaments, allowing the wearing of rings and jewelry in general.

“In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the use of the ring in wedding ceremonies became very popular in America. A book on etiquette published in 1881 says: “All the churches at present use the ring, and vary the sentiment of its adoption to suit the custom and ideas of their own rites.” This statement is not quite accurate, because there were churches which did not use the ring in the wedding ceremony…”

So it seems the Methodist Church upheld Wesley’s standard on dress and ornaments until 1852, and after that date the Methodist manual no longer regulated the dress and jewelry of the clergy or the people.  The nineteenth century witnessed a similar change in many other American denominations, including Reformed and Presbyterian denominations.  C. G. M’Crie mentions that the English Presbyterian Church was the first to “amend” the Directory in the late 19th century.  He records, “The Order for the Solemnisation of Marriage provides for a ring being placed by the bridegroom on the left hand of the bride, ‘in token and pledge of the covenant now made.'” (Public Worship of Presbyterian Scotland, p. 437.)  This was in contrast to the original Directory, where such mention of wedding rings is conspicuously absent.  Indeed, in “The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland,” 1641, a document which some scholars regard as bearing influence on the Westminster Directory, it is stated, “nor do they use any idle rites or superstitious ceremonies, in the time of the solemnization,” p. 27.  So there was apparently a great shift in practice on this matter between the 17th century and the 19th century among Presbyterians.

Men followed women in this foolishness, even as Adam followed Eve at the first.  As one website notes: “The practice of men wearing wedding rings is relatively new. Up until the middle of the twentieth century, it was mostly only women who wore wedding rings, perhaps a reminder of the days when women were regarded as property, or perhaps a harmless custom akin to women wearing engagement rings that their husbands do not. When World War Two broke out and many young men faced lengthy separations from their wives, men began wearing wedding bands as a symbol of their marriages and a reminder of their wives.”

Since the mid-twentieth century we witness the rise and proliferation of all sorts of jewelry and ornamental attire.  People are placing rings on all sorts of unhealthy places, from the nose, to the face, to the belly button, to the tongue, and even implanted in the eyeball.  Tattooing is becoming more popular.  Not stopping at merely ornamental attire, people are resorting to cosmetic plastic surgery in ever increasing numbers (face lifts, tummy tucks, etc.), all in order to obtain a beauty that is only skin deep, but generally lacking in the moral beauty which really counts.  Romish custom has again invaded the church, and historic Protestantism has waned.  Secularism is at its height, and attire is one barometer of the sad spiritual state of affairs.  Some of the more conservative Presbyterian denominations have sought to limit some of these excesses, but few if any even of these have the same position that was maintained during the Reformation.

In summary, in I Timothy 2:8-10 we read: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 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  Apostolic Constitutions , representing the position of the early church on this topic, outlawed the use of all finger rings: “Neither do thou put a gold ring upon thy fingers; for all these ornaments are signs of lasciviousness, which if thou be solicitous about in an indecent manner, thou will not act as becomes a good man.”  John Calvin in his Commentaries on Genesis 24 wrote: ” His adorning the damsel with precious ornaments is a token of his confidence. For since it is evident by many proofs that he was an honest and careful servant, he would not throw away without discretion the treasures of his master. He knows, therefore, that these gifts will not be ill-bestowed; or, at least, relying on the goodness of God, he gives them, in faith, as an earnest of future marriage. But it may be asked, Whether God approves ornaments of this kind, which pertain not so much to neatness as to pomp? I answer, that the things related in Scripture are not always proper to be imitated. Whatever the Lord commands in general terms is to be accounted as an inflexible rule of conduct; but to rely on particular examples is not only dangerous, but even foolish and absurd. Now we know how highly displeasing to God is not only pomp and ambition in adorning the body, but all kind of luxury. In order to free the heart from inward cupidity, he condemns that immoderate and superfluous splendor, which contains within itself many allurements to vice. Where, indeed, is pure sincerity of heart found under splendid ornaments? Certainly all acknowledge this virtue to be rare. It is not, however, for us expressly to forbid every kind of ornament; yet because whatever exceeds the frugal use of such things is tarnished with some degree of vanity; and more especially, because the cupidity of women is, on this point, insatiable; not only must moderation, but even abstinence, be cultivated as far as possible. Further, ambition silently creeps in, so that the somewhat excessive adorning of the person soon breaks out into disorder. With respect to the earrings and bracelets of Rebekah, as I do not doubt that they were those in use among the rich, so the uprightness of the age allowed them to be sparingly and frugally used; and yet I do not excuse the fault. This example, however, neither helps us, nor alleviates our guilt, if, by such means, we excite and continually inflame those depraved lusts which, even when all incentives are removed, it is excessively difficult to restrain. The women who desire to shine in gold, seek in Rebekah a pretext for their corruption. Why, therefore, do they not, in like manner, conform to the same austere kind of life and rustic labor to which she applied herself? But, as I have just said, they are deceived who imagine that the examples of the saints can sanction them in opposition to the common law of God…”  Jewelry was outlawed in Calvin’s Geneva, and the Puritans of Britain rejected jewelry as well.  We ought therefore not quickly disdain this testimony.

This issue carries with it various ecclesiological implications.  The relationship between a husband and his wife is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:25-32, Psalm 45, Song of Solomon).  Now in the Original Creation when man was righteous and innocent, neither the man nor the woman wore jewelry or other ornamental attire, for such artificial ornamentation would have been contrary to their righteousness (“…not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.“- I Timothy 2:9-10), the latter being too precious to have been cheapened by the former (“faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth“- I Peter 1:7).  It would have been analogous to cheapening an expensive wine by pouring a poor quality wine into it.  But in the Old Testament church God tolerated the wearing of jewelry and artificial ornamentation, for the church was in its infancy and immaturity.  Accordingly, even godly wives wore jewelry, even as the Old Testament church which they pictured was similarly adorned with gold and jewels.  This Old Testament ecclesiastical adornment was reflected in the architecture of her structures (e.g., the tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, etc.), the ornamentation in her worship (incense, candles, musical instruments, etc.) and the attire of her ministers (e.g., their vestments).  But with the inauguration of the New Testament, jewelry and other ornamental attire are no longer tolerated on the women (or the men) of Christ’s church (I Timothy 2:9-10, I Peter 3:3).  The New Creation, in this specific respect, is a return to the condition of the Original Creation.  The attire of the Christian woman too reflects the attire of the New Testament church which she pictures.  The New Testament church is to be characterized by simplicity, and not adorned with jewelry and other artificial ornamentation.  This is reflected in the architecture of her buildings, the nature of her worship, the attire of her ministers, etc.  The church’s beauty is to be her righteousness and good works, not artificial ornamentation, which is a cheap shadow of what is truly precious.  So those who would argue for the use of jewelry on a Christian woman, must acknowledge the implication for the church which she pictures.  It is to throw the church in the direction of the Church of Rome, decked in gold and artificial ornamentation.  But those who recognize the command for simplicity in the attire of the Christian woman should not fail to recognize its implications for the New Testament church.

In addition, this topic may have confessional implications.  The Westminster Larger Catechism reads:


Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?

A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections,[767] words,[768] and behavior;[769] and the preservation of it in ourselves and others;[770] watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[771] temperance,[772] keeping of chaste company,[773] modesty in apparel;[774] …


774- 1 Timothy 2:9. 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.

From what I can tell, the Puritans that wrote the Westminster Standards perhaps meant them to forbid jewelry, as an application of question 138.  Prohibition of jewelry was the policy of their churches, based upon their interpretation of I Timothy 2:9.  This should at least be a matter for further study and of interest to those who subscribe to the Westminster Standards.

As with all of God’s commands, there is really mercy in God’s command for our attire to be modest, sober, plain and simple.  It liberates man from this race towards increasing artificial ornamentation.  Body piercing, tattoos, etc. become consuming and unhealthy.  All of these things become slavery.  How kind of God to say, “consider the lilies of the field…”

SOURCE:  http://www.puritans.net/news/attire040604.htm


jezebel photo




Posted on




By J.  Parnell McCarter ( author of: http://www.puritans.net/news/sabbath042110.htm  )

One webpage that has helpful information on this topic is http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/sabbath/sabbath.htm .  Here are sample quotes from the webpage:
Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was one of the Scottish commissioners
to the Westminster Assembly. The following is an excerpt from his
Ane Catachisme Conteining the Soume of Christian Religion (cited in
Catechisms of the Second Reformation , by Alexander Mitchell, James
Nisbet & Co., 1886, p.232). The original English of Rutherford has
been preserved.

Q. Quhat [What] is it to sanctifie the Sabbath?
A. It is to sett all apairt from the dawning of the day untill
(Jn. 20:1; Acts 20:7) for Godis service.

William S. Plumer, a nineteenth century Southern Presbyterian
minister wrote the following in an exposition of the ten
commandments entitled, The Law of God, as Contained in the Ten
Commandments, Explained and Enforced (Presbyterian Board of
Publication, 1864, pp.309-310):

When does the Sabbath begin?

There is some diversity in the Christian world respecting the time,
at which the Sabbath begins. Some date it from sunset on Saturday
till sunset on Sabbath. When asked for their authority, they refer
to a phrase which occurs several times in the first chapter of
Genesis: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” This
has not been considered sufficient proof by the great mass of the
Christian world. Nor ought it to be, as all the world knows that no
day of creation began in the evening; but all of them began in the
morning. That saying of Moses therefore only declares that the day
was made up of two parts, the after part, and the fore part. Indeed
the evidence in the New Testament seems to be clearly against this
view. “Our Sabbath begins where the Jewish Sabbath ended; but the
Jewish Sabbath did not end towards the evening, but towards the
morning. Matt. 28:1. `In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn
towards the first day of the week,’ etc. In the New Testament, the
evening following, and not going before this first day of the week,
is called the evening of the first day, John 20:19. `The same day,
at evening, being the first day of the week,’ etc. Our Sabbath is
held in memory of Christ’s resurrection, and it is certain that
Christ rose early in the morning of the first day of the week.”


Posted on Updated on

Confessions of a Painted Wife

So here goes it all.

When I first married my husband I knew he didnt like makeup on
women, he just thought it was ugly, but I just thought it wasnt
a big deal.  But for his sake I wanted to be whatever it was
that he thought was pretty,so the makeup was denied.  Well not
all of the time…..a few times we would be going places I would
stick some light makeup on and then try to avoid eye contact with
him in hopes he wouldn’t notice.  Its funny, I think he has eyes
like a magnifying glass. He noticed!  Then said “ugh, that’s so
ugly honey, can you please take it off.  You look beautiful without it”.
My plans didn’t work 
and the chemical clay was washed down the drain.

He wasn’t being mean, he truly just did not find that an
attractive part on a woman.   I could sympathize with his view.  
I didn’t like putting the make-up on but most people expect
that you look good for everyone around you.

Well then there has been 2 weddings in our 3 years of marriage
that we attended.   Each time they came around,my husband was
able to sympathize with my strong desire to fit in and be
accepted by people we hadn’t seen for 2 years.  (Also, having in-
laws who constantly remind you that you should wear or do this
or that doesn’t help).

Now these were the only instances in my marriage where I willfully
chose to wear makeup.  I had agreed to not wear it and really
started to learn a lot about myself.


Here is what I found in my ‘make-up-less’ journey:

1) “Looking good for everyone else mentality”

A common theme in many of these books is to look your prettiest at all times, especially in public or for company.

In fact in one book on femininity (from a popular christian writer) it was stated that “if you didn’t start looking your best all the time (even for everybody, not just your husband) you can bet there will be somebody in line waiting to steal the attention of your husband”. SHOCKING!!!!  The one person I need to look the most attractive for is my husband alone, no one else.  In Scripture, there is a case where Vashti was commanded to be brought forth before the king so that all the men could stare at her beauty.  When she refused she was put away (de-throned).  My question is why are these authors requesting women to do something that is more akin to the wicked, pagan, king Ahasuerus? Is this who we want to follow after?

IF it were true that if I didn’t wear makeup that I would have to fear my husband being stolen away from me by the closest woman around with makeup on, that would be disturbing.  It would imply that my husband doesn’t love me for my being and heart, but only if I look pretty. That’s a foundation that won’t last and to be honest that is a high expectation of you. (why do women have to do all this to themselves and not guys! – Just kidding, nobody should have to do so) In Proverbs it talks about such a man who has no discretion and who is an utter fool, he is led away by a whore.  I know for a fact, that IF you married a Godly man, you need not fear such silliness.  Furthermore IF this were true that you had to wear make-up in order to keep women away from your husband, then, why is there so much divorce and adultery in Hollywood when these women do everything they can to appear beautiful yet their husbands still leave them?

2) “Deceptive Mentality”  When I gave you my testimony above,its been humbling to lay that before others.  Now I’m embarrassed that I would allow a tube of chemicals to come between me and my husband.  Shows how stuck in vanity I was.  I feel like I was acting more like Jezebel (someone who deceived).  I had the spirit more of the serpent in the garden.  If you have to deceive someone, you already know its wrong.  Besides I would rather be known by good fruit than be known to be deceptive.  Its amazing how much control vanity can have a hold on you,and you not even realize it.

3) “Not Accepting Yourself Mentality”  This is the pivot-point for me in all of this.  I equated beauty and the way I looked with my self worth.  I grew up watching movies and reading magazines, so I had very limited knowledge of what a woman should be outside of being beautiful and sensual.  I thought I was ugly and fat all of the time.  I would starve myself and live off of coffee all day just to stave off hunger.  I needed to turn the TV off and take a stand. That if you are a woman, you are already  beautiful for you, but more importantly you are beautiful because you follow God, you seek to be kind and generous, you are forgiving, selfless—they sure don’t teach you that in Hollywood or school do they?  Who you are on the inside NEVER gets old, but the outer body gets old and wrinkly.  Don’t run your life thinking that as long as I keep putting these creams, moisturizers, etc.. on, then I will be loved.  If you don’t believe me, that our makeup is tied to our identity (self-worth), then try not wearing makeup for a week and go out in public as usual.  Look at this as a challenge.  Also, if you are a Christian, recognize that the proverbs 31 woman is never praised for her outer beauty (in fact it was never even mentioned) but rather who she is on the inside as well as how diligent and kind she is.

***I encourage you to look up the origins of lipstick, mascara, and make-up on Wikipedia for starters.

Now on to Scripture:

Proverbs 31:30,”Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Proverbs 6:24-29,”To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take
thee with her eyelids.For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.Can a man take fire in
his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her
shall not be innocent.”

Isaiah 3:16,” 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”

Jeremiah 4:30,”And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold,
though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life.”

Ezekial 23:40,”And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent;
and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments”


Suppose you are one of those Christians who have been affected (infected?) with a tendency of dispenstationalism (that those old testament verses I just gave you are of no effect because you may believe we only live by the New Testament today). Well I would ask you to consider what I am about to say then.

When the Bible refers to  Christian women in the New Testament, it says women should be adorned with something, but its not talking about makeup, jewelry or anything else vain.

1 Timothy 2:9-10,”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 Peter 4:1-5,
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.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, being in subjection unto their own husbands.”


As my conclusion I have a question for you Oh Daughters of God.  The Bible is clear on what Godly (Christian) women SHOULD be doing,  why then are we doing things that God has said not to do?  Why are we doing things that are more akin to what the Bible would describe as what non-Christian women do?  Do we spend as much time trying to create the above characters/fruits in our lives more than our makeup, I don’t think so.  Again,I reiterate, why are we doing things that aren’t commanded and yet paying no heed to the things God HAS commanded for you as a Christian woman?  May God continue to grow you in
His grace and bless you as you search the Scriptures.

Also I know this is a journey, its very out of our culture to do this.  I struggled with it and even failed at times.  I don’t want this to come across as me pushing this on you either.  I only ask  that you would have a open heart and consider what has
been written here.  This is my story, but we ALL have a journey to go on.



Want more info on puritan teachings?

Posted on

This website is one of our favorite places to visit and has taught us more about what Christians before us believed and why the did so.Of course its never a good idea to follow any crowd of people, we must look to the Scripture for our salvation and how we ought to live ALONE.I hope these are helpful and stir you to search what Scripture teaches. On this link my favorite tab is the “Questions and Answers”.

Blessings as you search the site!



Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Posted on

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

For many people Christmas is the most important social event of the year. They spend lots of time, energy and money on their preparations for the festive season. At no other time of the year are there so many parties, dinners and social events. Family visits are arranged and the children look forward to it with great anticipation. Christmas images abound: snowy, Victorian scenes, camels crossing deserts and the inevitable Father Christmas. With its colour, warmth and cheer Christmas is, for many, the high point of the festive calendar.
Christmas, of course, has a religious dimension. Amidst all the tinsel, shopping trips and coloured lights, is the idea that the birth of Jesus is being celebrated. Christmas carols sound out on street corners and in department stores. Images of mother and child, angels, shepherds and stable scenes add to the displays in shops and churches. Many go to church or sing carols. All this contributes to the unmistakable and unique atmosphere at Christmas time. Because of its cultural importance and the assumption that our country is largely a Christian country, the thought of a Christian not celebrating Christmas may seem strange. But there are firm reasons why Christians who take a serious interest in the Bible withdraw from the festive season entirely. The risk of being thought of as unsociable or overly strict is outweighed in their consciences by a number of facts about Christmas and their understanding of the teaching of the Bible.

The Origins of Christmas
Many people are aware that the origins of Christmas lie in the pre-Christian pagan observance of the winter solstice. Neither: Christ, nor the apostles, nor any of the early Christians celebrated anything that could be described as Christmas. It was: only in the 4th century AD that the Church of Rome introduced the idea of a mid-winter ceremony, the Christ-Mass, as a way of making Christianity more attractive, to pagans. The retention of Christmas in the Protestant Church depended upon the extent to which the principles and practises of Rome were deemed acceptable. Where, these were repudiated as unbiblical, Christmas was also repudiated. So that until recently, the recognition of Christmas was unheard of in many churches

The Lies of Christmas
The actual date of Christ’s birth is disputed. It is wrong, therefore, to invent a date. Christ never intended the wondrous event of his birth to be associated with pagan rituals or transformed into an annual festivity. As with the date of the Saviour’s birth, much of what people associate with Christmas is simply untrue. Christianity, however, is concerned with the truth above everything else. The Bible is the true Word of God. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (1) There is simply no place in the faith and life of a Christian for deliberate falsehood. He is forbidden by the Ten Commandments from lying (2) and therefore cannot go along with lies in any shape or form. He must not pretend that 25th December is Jesus’ birthday. He may not sing the carol which says that Christ was born on Christmas Day. He does not accept the myth of Santa Claus. The Bible identifies the devil as a liar (3) and therefore the Christian can have nothing to do with whatever he knows to be a lie, however “harmless” others might consider it to be.

True Christian Worship
The Christian is concerned with how he worships God. His guide in this matter is the Bible. The Scriptures state that God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. (4) No place is to be given to images or idols or anything that could be mistaken for them (pictures of Mary, Jesus, angels, etc.). The second commandment begins: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above” (5) . The nativity scenes that abound in homes, schools and even churches, are a flagrant breach of this commandment. The all too common depiction of the Son of God in the form of a plastic doll is therefore nothing short of blasphemous.

God’s Holy Day
While many see Christmas as a holy day it is not seen as such by God. The day appointed by God to be kept holy is the first day of the week, the Christian Sabbath. This is the day He has commanded all people to keep holy and to rest from worldly work and recreations. (6) The Lord Jesus Christ said that the Sabbath was made for man,(7)which means that in appointing one day in seven to be a day of rest and worship, God had the well-being of people at heart. The Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day is also given to us to focus on the great theme of redemption, central to which is Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week. (8)

The True Christ
Jesus Christ is described in the Scriptures as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”. (9) He was the Son of Man who had nowhere to lay his head. (10) He was nailed to a cross to die for the sins and iniquities of others. The quasi-religious aspects of Christmas are things which only take people further away from the truth of the gospel which Jesus came to declare. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.(11) Rather than join with the world in Christmas pleasures, true followers of Christ should listen to His voice, as found in the Bible, and seek to serve Him in the Ways that He prescribes there.

Bible References:
1. John 14:6 
2. Exodus 20:16 
3. John 8:44 
4. John 4:24 
5. Exodus 20:4
6. Exodus 20:8 
7. Mark 2:27 
8. Luke 24:1/Acts 20:7 
9. Isaiah 53:3 
10. Luke 9:58 
11. 1 Timothy 1:15

SOURCE: http://www.fpchurch.org.uk/Beliefs/Should_Christians_Celebrate_Christmas.php
As always comment,like,or put thoughts below!