Do you want to hear an amazing story? It's a story of how just 21 words have made a huge impact on an entire denomination, our Seventh-day Adventist Church. For over 50 years, our prophetess, Ellen G. White warned us, over and over, probably well over 50 times, about the dangers of following the fashions of the world. She makes some very serious statements showing that this is a not a matter to be taken lightly. Even though the fashions have changed significantly over the years, the principles given in the Spirit of Prophecy clearly reveal God's standards regarding dress, so that we may have a clear picture of what God desires of us.
Since Ellen White's death, Satan has been furiously endeavoring to pull Seventh-day Adventist women in particular into following the fashions of the world. He knows how spiritually detrimental this is, both to women and to the men who observe them. And Satan has used these 21 words to powerfully assist him in his endeavor.
Around 1956, a Seventh-day Adventist author wrote a book called “Believe His Prophets” which was about the ministry of Ellen White. In many ways, this book provided great confirmation of the prophetic gift, and proved to be a tremendous blessing to many. However, there were 21 words that were couched between 2 quotations by Ellen White that have had a struck a devastating blow to the many powerful counsels Ellen White gave regarding the dangers of following the fashions of the world.
This 21-word sentence sounds very similar to the lines in a poem written by Alexander Pope in 1711, which says: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. Denton Rebok placed his version of this idea between 2 quotes in which Ellen White was referring to “the people of God,” and their standards on dress. Here is what Denton Rebok wrote: “ They will not be the first to adopt the new styles of dress or the last to lay the old aside .”
This phrase has been repeated over and over through the last 50 years, many times with Ellen White's name connected with it. It has been quoted in the Sabbath School quarterly, and is also in the official church manual. And perhaps millions of church members have echoed these words, using them as their guide regarding how to relate to the fashions of the world.
Often this quote is paraphrased something like this: “Ellen White says we shouldn't be the first to adopt a particular fashion, but we shouldn't be the last, either.” While a reference cannot be produced for this statement, yet it continues to spread and flourish.
The meaning thus translates into this sentiment: “If you are a good Seventh-day Adventist, you will wait just a little while before you follow the fashions of the world. Just stay a few paces behind the world, and you're OK. In fact, we're supposed to follow the fashions or the world! We're not supposed to be the last to adopt them. So if you're not keeping up with the current styles, you're not following Ellen White!” Well, perhaps its not stated quite that way, but the message comes through.
How Satan has taken these 21 words to derail us from off the track of godliness! God's inspired messages regarding the dangers of following the fashions of this world are true, and we need this message more today than ever before! If the fashions were demoralizing and degenerate in her day, how much more are they in our day! We see how Satan has capitalized on this unfortunate choice of words to persuade Seventh-day Adventists that there is nothing wrong with following the fashions of this world.
This sentence, “ They will not be the first to adopt the new styles of dress or the last to lay the old aside ,” does not reflect Ellen White's counsel on dress! No where does she say that the fashions of this world are safe for Christians to follow. She does say that if the current styles are in harmony with God's principles , then it is safe to follow them. How carefully, then, should we be studying God's principles in regards to dress! How careful should we be in every detail regarding our attire, that we may glorify God in all things. How boldly should we stand in opposition to any fashion that does not reflect God's standards.
Let us cease to let this erroneous man-made principle that was written over 50 years ago have any more influence among us. Let us expose it, and refute it, and let us uphold the truth. Certainly in these last days, we need to carefully and prayerfully study God's counsel on dress, that we may not be a follower of the fashions of this world!