ON JEWELRY AND ATTIRE : “PUT OFF THY ORNAMENTS FROM THEE”

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ON JEWELRY AND ATTIRE : “PUT OFF THY ORNAMENTS FROM THEE”

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…”

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