Power of Example

By Ellen White: Review and Herald June 25, 1861

In the epistle of Paul to [Titus 2:13, 14], we read, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” This great work is to be performed for those only who are willing to be purified, willing to be peculiar, and who manifest a zeal in good works. How many shrink from the purifying process! They are unwilling to live out the truth, unwilling to appear singular or peculiar in the eyes of the world. It is this mixing up with the world which destroys our spirituality, pureness and zeal. Satan's power is constantly exercised to stupefy the sensibilities of God's people, that their consciences may not be sensitive to wrong, and that the sign of distinction between them and the world may be destroyed.

I have frequently received letters of inquiry in regard to dress, and some have not rightly understood what I have written. The very class which have been presented before me, who were imitating the fashions of the world, have been very slow, and the last to be affected or reformed. There has been another class who lacked taste and order in dress, who have taken advantage of what I have written, and taken the opposite extreme, and considered that they were free from pride, and have looked upon those who dress orderly and neat as being proud. Oddity and careless dress have been considered by some a special virtue. Such take a course which destroys their influence over unbelievers. They disgust those who might be benefitted. While the visions have reproved pride and imitating the fashions of the world, they have reproved those who were careless of their apparel and lacked cleanliness of person and dress. Especially have I been shown that those who profess present truth should have a special care to appear before God to worship him upon the Sabbath in a manner showing that we respect the Creator who has sanctified and placed special honors upon that day. All who have any regard for the Sabbath should be cleanly in person, neat and orderly in dress, for they are to appear before a jealous God who marks every token of disrespect. God is offended at uncleanness and disorder. Individuals have thought it would be wrong to wear anything upon their heads but a sun-bonnet. Such go to great extremes. It cannot be called pride to wear a neat, plain, straw or silk bonnet. Our faith, if carried out, will lead us to be so plain in dress and zealous of good works that we shall be marked as peculiar. But when we lose taste for order and neatness in dress we virtually leave the truth, for the truth never degrades, but elevates. Unbelievers look upon Sabbath-keepers as degraded, and when individuals are neglectful of their dress, and are coarse and rough, in their manners, their influence strengthens unbelievers in their conclusions.

Those who profess to be Christians in these last days which are full of peril, and do not imitate the humble, self-denying Pattern, place themselves in the enemy's ranks. He considers them his subjects, and they serve as important a purpose for Satan as any of his subjects, for they have a name to live and are dead. Others take them for example, and by their following them, lose heaven, when if they had not professed to be Christians, they would have shunned their example. These unconsecrated professors are not aware of the weight of their influence. They make the conflict much more severe for those who would be God's peculiar people. Paul in Titus 2:15, refers to God's people who are looking for the appearing of Christ. He says, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke, with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” As we bear testimony against pride and following the fashions of the world, we are met with excuses and self-justification. Some urge the example of others. Such a sister wears hoops, if it is wrong for me to wear them it is wrong for her. Children urge the example of other children whose parents are Sabbath-keepers. Bro. A. is a deacon of the church. His children wear hoops, and why is it any worse for me to wear them than it is for them? Those who by their example furnish unconsecrated professors with arguments against those who would be peculiar, are laying a cause of stumbling in the way of the weak, and to God they must render an account for such example. I am often asked, “What do you think of hoops?” I reply, I have given you the light which has been given me. I was shown that hoops were a shame, and that we should not give the least countenance to a fashion carried to such ridiculous lengths. I am often surprised to hear that “sister White says it is not wrong to wear small hoops.” No one has ever heard me say this. After being shown what I have in regard to hoops, nothing would induce me to give the least encouragement to any one to wear them.

A sister writes, “I cannot see the difference between small hoops and heavy rope skirts, which show off as much as hoops, or two or three heavy quilted skirts, which are worn to take the place of hoops.” 

I agree with the sister, if we discard hoops, it is wrong to put on heavy quilts to make it appear as near like hoops as possible. We know that it is injurious to wear heavy quilts. I contend that heavy quilts and hoops are alike unnecessary. He that framed us never designed that we should be deformed with hoops, or anything to look like them. It is the inventions and fashions of the world that have led God's people, and they are unwilling to move out independent of the fashions and customs of the world. While I study God's word, I am alarmed for the Israel of God in these last days. They are exhorted to flee from idolatry. I fear that God's people are asleep and so conformed to the world that we can hardly know them, or discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. The distance is widening between Christ and his people, and lessening between them and the world. The marks of distinction between Christ's professed people and the world, have almost disappeared. They follow after the abominations of the nations around them, as did ancient Israel. From what has been shown me, hoops are an abomination. They are indecent, and God's people err, if they follow in the least degree, or give countenance to this fashion. 

Sabbath-keepers who profess to be God's chosen, peculiar people, should discard hoops, and their practice and example should be a living rebuke to those who wear them. Some may plead convenience. I have traveled much, and have seen a great deal of inconvenience attending the wearing of hoops; and those who plead the necessity on account of health, wear them in the winter, which is a greater injury than quilted skirts. While traveling in the cars and stages, I have often been led to exclaim, Oh, modesty, where is thy blush! I have seen large companies crowding into the cars, and in order to make any headway, the hoops had to be raised and placed into a shape which was indecent. And the exposure of the form was ten-fold more with those who wore hoops, than with those who did not; and were it not for fashion, those who immodestly expose themselves would be hissed at; but modesty and decency must be sacrificed to the god of fashion. May the Lord deliver his people from this grievous sin. God will not pity those who will be slaves to fashion. But supposing there is some little convenience in wearing hoops, does this prove that it is right to wear them? Let the fashion change and convenience would no longer be mentioned. It is the duty of every child of God to inquire, Wherein am I separate from the world? Let them suffer a little inconvenience and be on the safe side. What crosses do God's people bear? They mingle with the world, partake of their spirit, dress, talk and act like them. 

Please read 1 Timothy 2:9, 10. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh godliness) with good works.” 

1 Peter 3:3-5: “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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.” 

The power of example is great. Sister A. ventures to wear small hoops; sister B. says it is no worse for me to wear hoops than sister A., and she wears hoops a little larger. Sister C. imitates the example of sister A. and B., and wears her hoops a little larger than A. and B., but all contend that their hoops are small. 

Parents who would teach their children the evil of following the fashions of the world, have a hard battle. They are met with, “Why, mother, sisters A., B. and C. wear hoops; if it is wicked for me, it is for them.” What can the parents say? They should set a right example before their children, and although the example of professed followers of Christ causes the children to think that their parents are too careful and severe in their restrictions, yet God will bless the efforts of these conscientious parents. If the parents do not take a decided, firm course, their children will be borne down with the current, for Satan and his evil angels are working upon their minds, and the example of unconsecrated professors is against their efforts which makes the work of overcoming far more laborious for their children. Yet with faith in God and earnest prayer, believing parents may press on in this rugged path of duty. The way of the cross is an onward, upward way. And as we advance therein, seeking the things that are above, we must leave farther and farther in the distance the things which belong to the earth. While the world and carnal professors are rushing downward to death, those who climb the hill will have to put forth efforts or they will be carried down in the broad road. 

The children of the world are called the children of darkness. They are blinded by the god of this world, and are led by the spirit of the prince of darkness. They cannot enjoy heavenly things. The children of light have their affections set on things above. They leave behind them the things of this world. They fulfill the command, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” Here is the conditional promise, “I will receive you.” Christ from the beginning has chosen his people out of the world, and required them to be separate, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. If they love God and keep his commandments, they will be far from having the friendship, and loving the pleasures, of the world. There is no concord between Christ and Belial. 

The prophet Ezra, and faithful servants of the Jewish church, were astonished when the princes came to them saying, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this, should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? Wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold we are before thee in our trespasses, for we cannot stand before thee because of this.” Ezra 9:1, 13-15

2 Chronicles 36:14-16: “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against this people, till there was no remedy.” 

Leviticus 18:26, 27: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you; (for all these abominations have the men of the land done which were before you, and the land is defiled.)” 

Deuteronomy 32:16-22: “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods, that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities, and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” 

We here read the warnings which God gave to ancient Israel. It was not his good pleasure that they should wander so long in the wilderness, and he would have brought them immediately to the promised land, if they had submitted, and loved to be led by him; and because they so often grieved him in the desert, he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest, save two, who wholly followed him. God required his people to trust in him alone. He did not wish them to receive help of those who did not serve him. Please read Ezra 4:1-5: “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel, then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you; for we seek your God as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon, king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose.” 

Ezra 8:21, 23: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way; because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he was entreated of us.” 

The prophet and these fathers did not consider them the worshipers of the true God, and though they professed friendship and wished to help them, they dare not unite with them in anything relating to his worship. When going up to Jerusalem, to build the temple of God and to restore his worship, they would not ask help of the king to assist them in the way, but by fasting and prayer sought the Lord for help. They believed God would defend and prosper his servants in their efforts to serve him. The Creator of all things needeth not the help of his enemies to establish his worship. He asks not the sacrifice of wickedness, nor accepts the offerings of those who have other gods before the Lord. 

We often hear the remark, You are too exclusive. As a people we would make any sacrifice to save souls, or lead them to the truth. But to unite with them, to love the things that they love, and have friendship with the world, we dare not, for we should then be at enmity with God. 

By reading the following scriptures we shall see how God regarded his ancient Israel: 

Psalm 135:4: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.” 

Deuteronomy 14:2: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

Deuteronomy 7:6, 7: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people.”

Exodus 33:16: “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” 

How frequently ancient Israel rebelled, and how often were they visited with judgments, and thousands slain because they would not heed the commands of God who had chosen them. 

The Israel of God in these last days are in constant danger of mixing with the world and losing all signs of their being the chosen people of God. Read again Titus 2:13-15. We are brought down to the last days, when God is purifying unto himself a peculiar people. Shall we provoke God as did ancient Israel? Shall we bring his wrath upon us by departing from him and mingling with the world, and following the abominations of the nations around us? 

The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself, and this consecration to God and separation from the world is plainly declared and positively enjoined in both the Old and New Testaments. There is a wall of separation which the Lord himself has established between the things of the world and the things he has chosen out of the world and sanctified unto himself. The calling and character of God's people are peculiar. Their prospects are peculiar, and these peculiarities distinguish them from all people. All of God's people upon the earth are one body, from the beginning to the end of time. They have one head that directs and governs the body. The same injunctions rest upon God's people now, to be separate from the world, as rested upon ancient Israel. The great Head of the church has not changed. The experience of Christians in these days are much like the travels of ancient Israel. Please read 1 Corinthians 10, especially from the 6th to the 15th verse. 

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.... Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” 

1 John 3:1: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” 

1 John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” 

2 Peter 2:2: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” 

James 4:4: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” 

James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” 

Titus 2:12-14: “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” 

Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” 

John 17:14, 15, 17: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” 

Luke 6:22, 23: “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” 

John 15:16-19: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” 

1 John 4:4, 5: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” 

1 John 2:5, 6: “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk even as he walked.” 

1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

As we read the word of God, how plain that God's people are peculiar and distinct from the unbelieving world around them. Our position is interesting and fearful; living in the last days, how important that we imitate the example of Christ, and walk even as he walked. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” The opinions and wisdom of men must not guide or govern us. They always lead away from the cross. 

The servants of Christ have not their home or their treasure here. Would that all of them could understand that it is only because the Lord reigns that we are even permitted to dwell in peace and safety among our enemies. It is not our privilege to claim special favors of the world. We must consent to be poor and despised among men until the warfare is finished and the victory won. The members of Christ are called to come out and be separate from the friendship and spirit of the world, and their strength and power consists in their being chosen and accepted of God. 

The Son of God was the heir of all things, and the dominion and glory of the kingdoms of this world were promised to him. Yet when he appeared in this world it was without riches or splendor. The world understood not his union with the Father; and the excellency and glory of his divine character were hid from them. He was therefore “despised and rejected of men,” and “we did esteem him smitten of God and afflicted.” 

Even so the members of Christ are as he was in this world. They are the sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and the kingdom and dominion belong to them. The world understand not their character and holy calling. They perceive not their adoption into the family of God. Their union and fellowship with the Father and the Son are not manifest to the world, and while they behold their humiliation and reproach, it does not appear what they are, or what they shall be. They are strangers. The world knows them not, and appreciate not the motives which actuate them. 

The world is ripening for its destruction. God can bear with sinners but a little longer. They must drink the dregs of the cup of his wrath unmixed with mercy. Those who will be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to the immortal inheritance, will be peculiar. Yes, so peculiar that God places a mark upon them as his, wholly his. Think ye that God will receive, honor and acknowledge a people so mixed up with the world that they differ from them only in name? Read again Titus 2:13-15. It is soon to be known who is on the Lord's side, who will not be ashamed of Jesus. Those who have not moral courage to take their position conscientiously in the face of unbelievers, and leave the fashions of the world and imitate the self-denying life of Christ, are ashamed of him, and do not love his example.