It is a notable fact that throughout history, sincere Christians who would attempt to divest themselves of tradition and rediscover the model of New Testament Christianity have adopted various restrictions on dress and adornment. There is an incontrovertible continuum of such regulation in the historical record from the apostolic age to the modern era, fully demonstrating that our Pentecostal standard of righteous living is not legalistic innovation but has undeniable historical precedent amongst various groups of seekers and pilgrims who based their directives for Christian modesty on the same Scriptural passages that inspire us to distinguish ourselves in fashion from the world.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was very clear on the subject of dress and made a plain address on the subject entitled “Advice to the People Called Methodists, with Regard to Dress.” His movement, which was rooted in Anglicanism, was fundamentally dedicated to reform and a return to Biblical practice and piety and included strong teaching on how the Christian should pursue holiness in dress and adornment.
Wesley provides clear criterion for Methodist plainness—thrift and gravity. Firstly, he argues, that the Christian’s apparel should be “ . . . cheap, not expensive; far cheaper than others in your circumstances wear, or than you would wear if you knew not God.” Secondly, he cautions that modesty is not compatible with superfluity, asking Methodists to select clothing that is “grave, not gay, airy, showy; not in the point of the fashion.”
John Wesley also warns the Methodists against a catalog of ornaments and vanities:
Wear no gold . . . no pearls or precious stones; use no curling of hair, or costly apparel, how grave soever. I advise those who are able to receive this saying, Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ornaments, though ever so much in fashion. Wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of a glaring colour, or which is any kind gay, glistening, or showy; nothing made in the very height of fashion, nothing apt to attract the eyes of by-standers.
He further forbids the wearing of necklaces, ear-rings, finger rings, and extravagant lace and advises men against “coloured waist-coats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons” and any other “expensive perukes.”
John Wesley concludes with a passionate plea that should yet ring from our Pentecostal pulpits: “Let our seriousness ‘shine before men,’ not our dress. Let all who see us know that we are not of this world. Let our adorning be that which fadeth not away; even righteousness and true holiness.” Ultimately, his message is an indictment against those modern Pentecostals who have transformed the church aisle into a runway! It is high time for the Dagon of fleshly fashion and carnal clothing to fall, crumbling, before the presence of God. More than ever before, let us adopt a simple modesty rooted in heartfelt observance of God’s word and prayerful, personal piety.