Clothing For The Body And Soul
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MAN is the only creature in the world who is permitted to select his own dress. God has furnished clothing for the lower animals, with color and fabric suited to their necessities. It is one of the beautiful facts of Nature, that these tribes are so careful of the clothing which Providence has given them. With paw or tongue or beak, they comb and brush hair, fur and feather. The birds especially, are particular about their personal appearance. The beautiful plumage with which God has adorned them is rendered even more beautiful by the care they take in dressing it. This attention to dress, not only enhances their beauty, but is of real utility to them ; for by it they are better able to withstand the weather and to find their food and make their pilgrimages. Each one is supplied with a vase of ointment, with which he oils his feathers when he sees the clouds gather, or hears the thunders roll, that his suit may be waterproof in the storm, or when he wishes to fly swifter through the air, or dive faster in the water.
There is no reason why people should not be as careful of their personal appearance as the birds are. Scrupulous care for the body, for its cleanliness and its adornment, are matters of real importance. The old-fashioned idea that severe plainness in dress was a symbol of inner purity, and that a flower in the bonnet or hair or on the bosom of a Christian, was displeasing to God, was a mistake, and though it was held by some of the best people that ever lived, in doing so they had to shut their eyes to the beauty of almost every creature that God has adorned. Because Infinite Beauty thought it would be best for us, our Heavenly Father made the flowers and birds and all other charming things in nature. A spirit which is the emanation of Absolute Beauty, and is bound for a world of infinite beauty, ought to weave about its body such clothing as would be becoming to its dignity and mission. I once heard one of the great orators of this country tell this story : " A wealthy man, who was dressed in costly fabric, made in most comely form, was met by another man, who was a stickler for plain and economical clothing. The better-dressed man was severely criticized by the other brother in the church, and told that he should wear cheaper clothing, and give the difference between the suits to the Missionary Society. The man replied that is was his custom to give one-tenth of his income to the cause of God, and he had no compunctions of conscience about wearing clothes in keeping with his means or station. His friend pressed upon him the sin of extravagance in dress. The wealthy man said, " Suppose you learn the lesson you are trying to teach me. I can buy a suit which you could wear on Sunday, for half the price of the one you have on. You are committing a great sin, according to your theory, in not buying the cheaper suit and giving the difference to the Missionary cause. And then you could get a suit cheaper still, and have more money for the Missionary box. A few yards at a few dollars only, are necessary to cover your body; according to your reasoning, that is all you have any right to spend on your clothing. But even the most economical suit made by the tailor is not necessary. Why don't you get a blanket, and cover yourself with it, and give the difference in the price to the Missionary Society, and become a savage, as your theory would make you, and make it necessary to have a missionary sent to you?" The orator was illustrating the thought that the clothing of a people is one of the expressions of its civilization.
The soul which, in the highest state of culture, asks for a beautiful covering for the body, through grace Divine, desires a suitable garment for itself. This is furnished in the robe of righteousness, which the purified wear—a robe which is washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb. In fact, the struggle of the soul to find suitable raiment for the body, is but the hint of that higher effort to secure a suitable covering for itself.
One of the most beautiful thoughts in the Divine life, is that we can put on Christ, and wear him as a garment. We need not remain in our shame, nor undertake to clothe ourselves in the filthy rags of our own righteousness, we need not shiver in the storms of Time, or be pierced with those of the Hereafter, we can go to Christ, confessing our shame and ask him to hide our sins from the face of the Father, and the issues of the last day. He will allow us to wear him as a garment, to carry him about as a complete vestment, letting his light in on our faculties, and reflecting eternal beauty and glory; and we can live our earthly lives through him; and, enfolded by him, we may enjoy his immediate presence forever.