Our outward appearance

I was reading a sermon by Spurgeon in regards to a piece I am writing on good works and came across something interesting. This sermon was delivered on Sunday morning, 16th March 1856, a time when we imagine ladies being well-dressed, respectable, modest, especially when attending church. However Spurgeon departed from his sermon on good works to remind those in the congregation, men and women alike, to consider what they wore and how they presented themselves as Christians in this world:

. . . . I am obliged to depart a little sometimes, from what we call the high things of the gospel; for really the children of God cannot now be told by outward appearance from the children of the devil, and they really ought to be; there should be some distinction between the one and the other; and although religion allows distinction of rank and dress, yet everything in the Bible cries out against our arraying ourselves, and making ourselves proud, by reason of the goodliness of our apparel. . . . We should always take care that in everything we keep as near as possible to the written Word.

If you want ornaments here they are. Here are jewels, rings, dresses, and all kinds of ornament; men and women, ye may dress yourselves up till ye shine like angels. How can you do it? By dressing yourselves out in benevolence, in love to the saints, in honesty and integrity, in uprightness, in godliness, in brotherly-kindness, in charity. These are the ornaments which angels themselves admire, and which even the word will admire; for men must give admiration to the man or the woman who is arrayed in the jewels of a holy life and godly conversation. I beseech you, brethren, "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

There is nothing new under the sun. Paul was witnessing the same problem and saw the need to preach about the importances of dress to his female congregation, to wear modest attire, focus less on outward appearance - the gold and glitter and all things costly, and focus more about godly behaviour through good works. Spurgeon, 157 years ago was still preaching the same message and if any church was game enough today, they too, would preach the importances of modesty, (with less time focused clothing and accessories ) and more focus godly pursues.

I wonder if the ladies in the congregation back in 1856 sat up and listened or went home and grumbled to their husbands and did nothing. I imagine the latter.



  1. When it comes to today's society, I have caught myself saying "things are getting so bad, look at what people are wearing (or doing or saying or whatever)... Why are things getting so bad??" And yet - we find exhortation about ALL those things in the Scriptures. Which means things are not GETTING so bad - they have always been that way! As Solomon says, there's nothing new under the sun. People have always been the same - it might *present* in different ways, and the level of exposure of skin, immodesty or bejewelment might be different from other eras of time... but people have always had these same problems.
    And it is too bad that the church (body of Christ) DOESN'T take more care to stand up for the truth, no matter how much it hurts/makes people feel guilty/offends the do-gooders. The Gospel and the Truth of God's standards are ALWAYS going to be offensive/make people feel guilty if they are not obeying Scripture. That's no reason to not stand for God's standards or teach His truth!
    I know for myself that the truth of God's standards sometimes makes me feel guilty or sometimes challenges me in some way - but if we are offended by it, then we've obviously become very worldly in that thing and NEED to be challenged to change and align ourselves with GOD'S way and standards!
    Yep - another soap box of mine. ;)

    1. But it's so true - when I stumbled across Spurgeon's sermon and read these paragraphs I had to laugh out loud and read them again (to make sure of what I was reading) as he was struggling with the very same problem today - he couldn't tell Christians and non-Christians apart. There is nothing new under the sun at all. I think the Church is afraid it will turn people away if they are “too honest” and then their numbers would drop. They want to be seen as trendy and popular (just look at Hillsong) to the young and feel they will loose the young if they don’t keep the message modern. But in the process they are watering down the message to only the "nice bits"

    2. Yes... numbers are more important than truth in the churches - that's so sad. :( Pandering doesn't bring people to Christ - He certainly never pandered to the people when He walked the dusty streets of Israel!

      The interesting thing about not telling the difference between Christians and unbelievers is that even in the pagan religions (such as Islam), you can tell who believes and who doesn't by their clothing! By taking away that differentiation, Christians have made themselves weaker than the heathens, and that is such a shame.
      Adornment (clothing) isn't everything, of course, but it's the same in other areas of life as well - character, for example. Can we tell who is a Christian and who isn't by their speech and the way people behave? Sadly, no.
      I was thinking more about this... the church is the Bride of Christ. And marriage is of course an illustration of that relationship. Do we as wives want to HIDE who our husband is, act totally different from him, act ashamed to be married to him, do everything contrary to his wishes?? Or do we, as a bride and wife, want to please our husband, be known to be his wife (proud of it!), share his beliefs and be like-minded with him?
      I would say that most would say they want to be the latter - and yet, as believers, we don't behave like the Bride of Christ. The "church" hardly even wants to align itself with Christ these days! She is too busy flirting with the world, or having an affair with the world! How shameful, sad, and tragic. How must Christ feel about that?!? :(

    3. I should add that the church still hasn't arrived at the marriage supper, so it's like she's betrothed to Christ as this point - and which woman in the days of their engagement and those days when they were newly "in love" would behave toward their fiance in the disgraceful way the church behaves towards Christ??????

  2. Dear Jo, I want to copy this sermon and use it as a post myself one day. I think what Clara said is also very good.
    I have always wished we could find the line and live it, as what to wear or not to wear. I get grieved over the(lack) of cloths I see on women when the weather gets hot.
    How are you??
    Blessings, Roxy

    1. Dear Roxy,

      I am so often amazed, even on a cold winters day, the length of skirts that young women wear. They couldn't be called skirts as they cover nothing and to my amazement they think the tights they are wearing underneath make it more suitable. In fact they make it even worse as they reveal everything.

      The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been visiting Australia and one of the things I have really noticed are her beautiful knee length dresses - she looks so elegant and feminine but never over the top with that “look at me” sort of outfit. If only more younger people dressed like Kate.

  3. Interesting that the more things change, the more they stay the same hey! I attend a church where it doesn't matter what you wear - so long as you are there :-)

    1. And i think that is the view in many modern churches - they want bottoms on seats, however if they aren't careful they will wander too far from the true and then what is the point.

      Thanks for stopping by:)

  4. ha! I'm surprised to read this - definitely not something I would of thought of being an issue in that time!
    I bet they would be horrified to see some of today's clothing!!

    1. I think Spurgeon would be speechless at todays church alone and as for how women dress - I doubt he would have words to describe his sorrow. It was a fascinating find.

  5. Hi Jo,
    Paul preached about all sorts of problems that was going on in the church. Paul didn't bite his tongue. We seem to have a lot tongue biting going on today. So, I think that's the difference. Apostasy is alive and well.
    Thanks for posting this.

    1. Thanks Trish - Paul wasn't concern about upsetting anyone, today's church wants to appear friendly and therefore doesn't upset the congregation with some home truths.

      Thanks for stopping by:))

  6. Sometimes I wish the opposite. That women would spend more time on clothing and accessories. It seems even at fancy restaurants and weddings you are bound to find women with their hair tossed into a messy bun, wearing a sloppy sweatshirt, or jeans. I think a big issue in dress nowadays is we don't value femininity (created by God) to dress beautifully. Beautiful dressing brings honor to God and his creation...it is also a way of loving our neighbor.

    1. Its all about finding the balance - putting the effort in to look feminine but not going over the top and spending hours in front of the mirror.We no long take pride in our presentation - not just the way we dress but how we present our children or the way we do our jobs. Everything is slap-dash.

      Have a lovely weekend :)

  7. ((Sigh)) This reminds me of reading through Scripture and finding, again and again, evidence that satan really doesn't have to work very hard to waylay the follower of God ... we fall for the same old contrivances again and again.


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