Jewelry And Ornaments
( Originally Published 1896 )
Many persons desire to associate beauty with their persons. Notions may differ as to what constitutes "beautiful adornments for the body, from the savage who paints his face and wears gaudy plumes, beads, and a ring in his nose, to the flashing diamonds of the wealthy, or the enameled and bejeweled society belle of the demi-monde. It seems to be an instinct of humanity or of certain portions of the race to put ornaments upon the person. We find this propensity most fully developed in savage tribes, and those lowest in the scale. Persons in civilized communities who are given to superfluity of personal ornamentation do well to remember that to indulge this practice does not require any great amount of brain or brain-culture, and that it " does not rank high among the exercises of the human faculties."
It has been said that women, as a rule, are more fond of personal adornment then men. Be this as it may, we do not believe that woman's natural disposition to paint or bedeck herself arises from any mental inferiority, but chiefly from a desire, more or less innocent, to please or win the opposite sex. The inspired prophet exclaims, " Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?" and the Revelator employs with evident approval the figure of "a bride adorned for her husband" The desire to be admired need not be sinful. "There is a worthy admiration that all may covet and .should study to merit and win. No woman ever hung a man for stealing her picture, but if he carried off the frame and left the picture-alas for him!
There is a pleasure felt by both the wearer and the beholder of ornaments. Is this pleasure derived from wearing ornaments on the person, altogether innocent? Is it wholly a pleasure of sense and unworthy of a rational and moral being? It is believed that originally this pleasure arose "from some association with moral qualities." Purified silver and gold and genuine diamonds and precious stones have long been symbols of virtue and sterling qualities of character, and we will not say that these may not be worn in modest measure-and according to our innate sense of propriety. Cheap and false ornaments that serve no useful purpose are always detestable; and genuine adornments, too, worn for their own sake, either to exhibit them or to set off the person so as to try to pass for more than one's worth, are vain and sinful. But to wear a genuine ornament or insignia, as an outward expression by which you would teach some moral lesson, or convey some truth, or show your attachment and loyalty to, some worthy cause or organization, may not be improper or inconsistent with certain scripture practices. All will admit that moral qualities are the true adornments, of men and women, and who shall say that these may not have their external symbols, in the shape of precious-jewels that God himself has created and scattered throughout nature for man's innocent delight? The sun shining upon a dull brick or stone reflects no-beauty, but behold the sparkling loveliness emitted from a diamond-fit emblem of a bright and beautiful character under the glorious rays of the Sun of Righteousness ! Like the king's daughter, in David's Psalm, you may wear a dress whose needlework is of wrought gold, if it symbolizes that more exquisitely beautiful spiritual dress with which Christ. robes his children and that you are "all glorious-within." God calls his children his jewels," and the beauties and glories of heaven are described in scripture-under the figure of gold, pearls and all manner of precious stones.
Let ornaments be worthy and worthily worn. Some. people are worth their weight in gold, others are not worth the brass that cumbers their bodies and covers their shameless faces. It is to be lamented that the-dishonest, the indolent, the malicious, and the base often bedeck their polluted bodies with genuine ornaments that they may beguile the unsuspecting, who look only at the outward appearance. The ring in a bull's nose is not much of an ornament, but rather a mark of the beast's mischievous nature. "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion." An ungainly soul within is not made more worthy by personal beauty or jewelry. "Clean hands need no rings." It was said of Hannah Moore, who had such surpassing beauty of character, that without a jewel she shone "like a star amid fine ladies:" Cornelia was one of the greatest women in Roman history. Of sweet spirit, high character, and wide attainments, she devoted herself to the careful education of her two sons who afterwards became so worthily distinguished. One day when a Campanian lady, all bedecked with costly jewels, called on Cornelia and asked to see her jewels, the noble matron sent for her two boys to be brought in, and said in reply, "These are the only jewels of which I can boast." A statue was erected over her grave bearing simply this inscription: " Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi." In Proverbs, it is said of good parental instruction and government, "They shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck." Burns sings:
" The gay, gaudy glare of vanity and art,
Ornament worn for the mere sake of ornament, not serving at the same time any useful or symbolical purpose, is at least of doubtful propriety. St. Peter, in speaking of proper adornment as opposed to the extremely vain and extravagant of his day, says, "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 manna 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."
Can there be greater folly than that of makiug the. adornment of the body and the study of French fashion, plates our chief conccrn in this short life! Yet many persons will load the poor perishing body with jewelry and gay, costly apparel to the neglect of the immortal mind and soul. The body eats and drinks-lives only for this world; the soul thinks and feels, and reaches, far away to some higher and longed for life. Ah! there is a possession, an ornament more precious than material rubies and diamonds, "better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold,"-it is that wisdom from God that will "give to thine head an ornament of grace," "a crown of glory." How vainly foolish that so many care more to ornament their poor mortal body with cold metals and things foreign to its nature, hostile to its comfort and health also, than to adorn their deathless soul with its own proper ornaments-knowledge, love, kindness, justice, courage, truth! A Quaker gentleman who chanced to be riding: in a carriage with a fashionable lady decked out with jewelry, heard her complain of being cold. Shivering in her lace bonnet and shawl as light as a cobweb, she exclaimed, " What shall I do to get warm ? " "I really don't know," replied the Quaker, solemnly, "unless thee should put on another breastpin."
Who would prefer a gem on the breast to a conscience at rest? Costly beads may be worn on a haughty, stiff: neck. Gold bracelets may deck the arms that never were stretched out in loving deeds of mercy. Many young women are studying dressing and dancing who ought to be learning stitching and mending. Let us have less rings and more thimbles. The most beautiful hand may not wear the most costly rings or any ring at all. We have read of a dispute among three maidens as to which had the most beautiful hands. One sitting by a stream, dipped her hand into the water and held it up; another made the ends or her fingers pink by plucking strawberries; another gathered violets until her fingers were fragrant. Just then, an old haggard woman passing that way, asked, " Who will give me a gift, for I am poor?" All three denied her, but near by sat a fourth who gave to the poor old woman a little gift. Then she asked them what was the dispute, and they told her, as they lifted up before her their hands. " Beautiful indeed," said she, but when they asked her which was the most beautiful, she replied, "It is the hand that gives to the poor that is the most beautiful." Saying this, she threw away her staff, her wrinkles fled, and she stood before them an angel from heaven with authority to decide the question in dispute.
The most skillful lapidaries now find great difficulty in telling the genuine gems and stones from the false and spurious that flood the market in these days of the triumphs of art. Side by side with the diamond there are spurious gems that shine and sparkle and dazzle the beholder's eyes. The old tests with acids and even fire fail to detect the counterfeit. But they say that the test of time never fails, for the "glory and beauty of the false pretender fades" with the passing years. So the final test of human character in this world is time-each fading year bringing out into clearer relief the true diamond undimmed, the real manhood, the " crystal beauty of the soul." " Time with its trials and burdens, its corroding care and bitter temptation, will surely prove of what stuff" we are made. As it is the weight of gold and not its fashion that determines its preciousness, so a man's real worth is estimated by placing him in God's unerring balances. We are not to judge by outward appearance. God looks most where man looks least - at the heart.
There are inward adornments-graces of the spirit that we all ought to wear, worth more than all the base material ornaments of earth, more attractive and glorious then all the diamonds and gems that evcr decked a queen, ornaments that will never go out of style, ornaments that in God's sight are of great price, ornaments that are priceless jewels from heaven-from the Savior's crown, surpassing all others in thcir ineffable beauty and loveliness, royal ornaments that the Prince Jesus, the Son of the King of the universe, will put upon our immortal souls, ornaments that have their antitypes on high - such as are worn on the streets of the New Jerusalem when the fashion of this world shall have passed away, ornaments that will greet our enraptured vision in their absolute perfection when we shall see the King in his beauty and behold the glory of the High God and reign with Him forever. " They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."