Volume. XXXV, No. 48
Sunday, 30 May 2021

From the Pastor’s Heart: Dress? Code? (4)

Today we look at the last part of William Perkins’ message about the right, lawful, and holy use of apparel/clothing/dresses.

Some of his views may not be agreeable with those living in the 21st century world.  The international communities have become a lot closer than before.  News travels quickly and consumer choices even on clothes, are assimilated in larger scales than before.  Most likely, when he talked about “paints/painting” on face, he referred to “wearing cosmetics.”  We need to consider that the author lived a life more than 400 years before us.  Let me continue to quote from him:


Fourthly, ornaments must be used not always alike, but according to times and seasons. It is noted as a fault in the rich glutton, that he went every day in costly apparel, Luke 16:19.  In the days of rejoicing, we may put on more outward ornaments: and they used in ancient times, at marriages, to put on wedding garments (Matt 22).  But in the days of mourning, baser and coarser attire is to be used, as fittest for the time.


Fifthly, we must adorn our bodies to a right end; to wit, that thereby we may honor them, and in them honor God.  Against this Rule do those offend, that adorn their bodies to be praised, to be counted rich and great persons, and to purchase and procure unto themselves the love of strangers.  This is the Harlot’s practice, described by Solomon at large, (Prov 6:25 and 7:10, 16).  These are the Ends for which we must attire ourselves.


And so much of the first main Rule to be observed, in the wearing and putting on of Apparel.


The second main Rule followeth.


We must make a spiritual use of the Apparel which we wear. How can that be done?


Answer. First, we must take occasion thereby to humble ourselves, and that in this manner. When we see the plaster upon the sore, we know there is a wound: and so, the cover of our bodies must put us in mind of our shame and nakedness, in regard of grace, and God’s favour, by reason of original sin.  And we are to know, that it is dangerous for any man to puff up himself in pride, upon the sight and use of his apparel.  For this is to be proud of his own shame.  Nay, it is as much, as if a thief should be proud of his bolts, and of the halter about his neck, garments being nothing else but the cover of our shame, and the sign of our sins.


Secondly, by the putting on of our garments, we must be admonished to put on Christ, (Rom 13:14). 


Question. How shall we do that? Answer. Thus: We must conceive Christ’s obedience active and passive, as a covering; and therefore by prayer we are to come unto God in his name, and intreat him to accept this his obedience for us: yea, that Christ may be made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: and we on the other side, made conformable to him in life and death in all moral duties. Lastly, that we may have the same mind, affection, and conversation that he had.


Thirdly, when we put off our clothes, we then are admonished of putting off the old man; that is, the mass and body of sinful corruption. And we then put him off, when we can by grace hate sin, and carry a resolute purpose in our hearts of not sinning.


Fourthly, when we clothe ourselves, and truss our attire to our bodies; this should teach us to gird up our loins, to have our lights burning, to prepare ourselves to meet Christ, whether by death, or by the last judgement. If we make not these uses, we do not rightly use, but rather abuse the same.


In a word, to shut up this point; we are all to be exhorted to make conscience of the practice of these Rules, and to take heed of pride in these outward things.  And in way of motive hereunto; consider first, how great and heinous a sin pride is.  The greatness of it may be discerned by four things.


First, in it, and the fruit thereof, superfluity of apparel, there is an abuse of our wealth, to needless and superfluous uses, which ought to be employed to uses more necessary, as to the good of the Church, commonwealth and family, and especially for the relief of the poor.


Secondly, in this sin there is an abuse of time.  For they that give themselves to pride, spend so much time in the adorning of their bodies, that they have no leisure for the adorning and beautifying of the soul.  Hence it comes to pass, that proud persons abound with ignorance, idleness, wantonness, and many other enormities.


Thirdly, in this sin, there is an abuse of the attire itself in that it is made a sign of the vanity of the mind, and wantonness of the heart, which should be the sign of a heart religiously disposed.


Fourthly, in it there is a confusion of order in the estates and societies of men. For whereas one order of men should go thus attired, and another after another manner; by this it comes to pass that equal and superior are clothed both alike, and that which should be an occasion to humble us, is made an occasion to puff us up.


Fifthly, there is a great judgement threatened against this sin, Isaiah 2:11,12; Zeph 3:11.


The greatness of this vice, we are to endeavour, by all means possible, to redress in ourselves. For which purpose, we must be careful to see and feel, and withal to bewail the spiritual nakedness of our souls; which is a deprivation of the image of God, wherein we are created, according to him, in holiness and righteousness: the want of whereof makes us ugly and deformed in the eyes of God.  And the true sense and experience of this, will turn our minds and thoughts from the trimming of the body, and make us especially to labour for the righteousness of Christ imputed, as the only covering which will keep us warm and safe from the storms and tempests of the wrath and fury of God.


The end.


* * * * * * * * * * *


If we think of the culture in ‘medieval times’, there were different classes of people in the social structure. There were different kinds of attires that were worn based on social status. Therefore, we can better understand the puritanic responses to secularized churches and church goers, and why William Perkins was compelled to deliver such a message.  Though we may have different responses to his message, there are some undeniable truths we must uphold.  God is interested in how we present ourselves with our attires, or the ways we dress.  “Modesty” is everything we need to know about.  What we wear often represents us in the same way as uniforms do.  Not so revealing is a good practice in our dress code.  Tidiness and prudence may be other points we need to consider.  In particular, when we come to worship the Lord, how we wear should reflect how we value Him.  What we need to adorn is not only our external appearances but also internal virtues and characters.  Most of all, putting on with Christ is the greatest goal we may set.


With love,

Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



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