By Vernon Sparks, M.D.
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SATAN has led mankind into disobedience of God's natural, as well as spiritual, laws. Thus, the teaching of obedience to natural law is an integral part of the three angels' messages.
“To make plain natural law, and urge the obedience of it, is the work that accompanies the third angel's message, to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord.” Counsels on Diet and Foods , 69.
An integral part of the health reform message given to His remnant people is that of healthful dress. Many of God's objections to the fashionable dress styles of the early days of our church's history was that they were contrary to the laws of nature and thus were physically unhealthful.
The counsels of God through Ellen White condemn as unhealthy the practice of leaving the limbs and shoulders of babies uncovered.
“In some countries the custom of leaving bare the shoulders and limbs of little children still prevails. This custom cannot be too severely condemned.” The Ministry of Healing , 382.
Another divinely condemned, yet fashionable, dress for girls was that of covering the trunk and arms well but leaving the lower limbs with only one to two layers of clothing.
“Mothers who dress their children in accordance with fashion, endanger their health and life. Fashion leaves the limbs of children unclad, save with one covering, or, at most, two. . . . Over the heart, where is the greatest amount of vitality, there are from four to eight coverings. . . . While traveling, it is customary to see little girls dressed fashionably, but not healthfully. The upper portions of the body are abundantly clothed with warm cloaks, and over these are furs, while the limbs are scarcely covered.” Healthful Living , 148–149.
The wearing of hoops was also identified as unhealthful.
“Parents are accountable in a great degree, for the physical health of their children. Those children who survive the abuses of their infancy, are not out of danger in their childhood. Their parents still pursue a wrong course toward them. Their limbs, as well as their arms, are left almost naked. Those who value fashion above health, place hoops upon their children. Hoops are not convenient, modest or healthful.” Selected Messages , book 2, 469–470.
To the unhealthful hoops, the adult women added the unhealthful, constricting corsets and waist-supported heavy skirts. “The lungs may be compressed by tight-fitting bands, waists or corsets, which hinder the free flow of blood through the system.” The Health Reformer , February 1, 1877.
“Many females drag down the bowels and hips by hanging heavy skirts upon them.” Selected Messages , book 2, 473.
Inspiration condemned the squeezing of the feet as well as the compression of the waist.
“We would protest against people's squeezing their feet to make them look small, and compressing the waist, making it impossible for them to fill the lungs with pure air. If we give the lungs and feet ample room to do the work God designed they should, we shall be rewarded with better health and a clearer conscience.” The Health Reformer , April 1, 1871.
Compression of any part of the body interferes with the blood circulation to and through that area, and tends to displace the local organs and prevents their normal functions.
“Tight corsets . . . compress the lungs, the stomach, and other internal organs, and induce curvature of the spine and an almost countless train of diseases.” Testimonies , vol. 4, 635.
“To say nothing of the suicidal practice of compressing the waist, so as to suppress natural respiration, inducing the habit of breathing only from the top of the lungs.” The Health Reformer , August 1, 1868.
“The mother of the pale-faced child seemed anxious in regard to her, fearing she would take cold and ‘have one of those dreadful coughing spells.' I said to the infidel, pointing to the children, These are indeed creatures of circumstance. No doubt the mother is lamenting the providence of God in thus afflicting her precious child, but does not dream that herself is at fault for the poor health of her children. She is controlled by fashion; and as the result, her children are sufferers. Look at the tight-fitting waists of the dresses of these children. It is impossible for their lungs to have full action. The heart and liver cannot do their work, thus compressed. These children cannot take a full inspiration of air.” Ibid., November 1, 1870.
“The corsets which are again being generally worn to compress the waist is one of the most serious features in woman's dress. Health and life are being sacrificed to carry out a fashion that is devoid of real beauty and comfort. The compression of the waist weakens the muscles of the respiratory organs. It hinders the process of digestion. The heart, liver, lungs, spleen, and stomach, are crowded into a small compass, not allowing room for the healthful action of these organs.” Review and Herald , October 31, 1871.
“The lungs may be compressed by tight-fitting bands, waists or corsets, which hinder the free flow of blood through the system. It is essential to health that the chest should have room to fully expand, so that the lungs may be enabled to take full inspirations of air. Many who have died of consumption [pulmonary tuberculosis] might have lived their allotted term of life had they dressed in accordance with the laws of their being. The strength of the system is, in a great degree, dependent upon the amount of pure fresh air breathed. If the lungs are restricted, the quantity of oxygen received into them is also limited, the blood becomes vitiated, and disease follows.” The Health Reformer , February 1, 1877.
An even possibly greater cause of disease in women is that of having the limbs less covered than the trunk. The chilled blood from the relatively unclad extremities tends to affect the general health. A perhaps even greater problem is that less blood is in the cold extremities which results in excess blood with sluggish circulation in the internal organs.
“The air, bathing the arms and limbs, and circulating about the armpits, chills these sensitive portions of the body, so near the vitals, and hinders the healthy circulation of the blood, and induces disease, especially of the lungs and brain.” Selected Messages , book 2, 467.
“Mothers who dress their children in accordance with fashion, endanger their health and life. Fashion leaves the limbs of children unclad, save with one covering, or, at most, two. If they are exposed to the chill autumn, spring, or winter weather, their limbs are bathed in a current of cold air. Over the heart, where is the greatest amount of vitality, there are from four to eight coverings. These unclad limbs and feet become habitually cold.” Healthful Living , 148–149. “Look at the tight-fitting waists of the dresses of these children. It is impossible for their lungs to have full action. The heart and liver cannot do their work, thus compressed. . . .
Look at their limbs, unclad except by the slight covering of cotton stockings . . . . The air chills the limbs, the life current is driven back from its natural course, and the limbs are robbed of their proportion of blood. The blood, which should be induced to the extremities by their being properly clad, is thrown back upon the internal organs. There is too much blood in the head. The lungs are congested or the liver is burdened; by interrupting the circulation of the blood, the entire system is deranged.” Ibid., 184– 185.
“When the extremities, which are remote from the vital organs, are not properly clad, the blood is driven to the head, causing headache or nosebleed; or there is a sense of fullness about the chest, producing cough or palpitation of the heart, on account of too much blood in that locality; or the stomach has too much blood, causing indigestion.” Testimonies , vol. 2, 531.
Hoops were unhealthy because they held the clothing away from the relatively unclad limbs, allowing them to be chilled, resulting in derangement of healthful circulation in the entire body.
“Their garments being kept from the body by hoops, it is impossible for them to receive sufficient warmth from their clothing, and their limbs are continually bathed in cold air. The extremities are chilled, and the heart has thrown upon it double labor, to force the blood into these chilled extremities, and when the blood has performed its circuit through the body, and returned to the heart, it is not the same vigorous warm current which left it. It has been chilled in its passage through the limbs. The heart, weakened by too great labor, and poor circulation of poor blood, is then compelled to still greater exertion, to throw the blood to the extremities which are never as healthfully warm as other parts of the body. The heart fails in its efforts, and the limbs become habitually cold; and the blood, which is chilled away from the extremities, is thrown back upon the lungs and brain, and inflammation and congestion of the lungs or the brain is the result.” Selected Messages , book 2, 470.
When the limbs are habitually underclad, the vessels in the limbs become too small to allow normal amounts of blood even in warm weather. Such a person may not notice the coldness of the limbs. If contraction of the blood vessels occurs during childhood it can actually prevent normal development of the limbs.
“In some countries the custom of leaving bare the shoulders and limbs of little children still prevails. This custom cannot be too severely condemned. The limbs being remote from the center of circulation, demand greater protection than the other parts of the body. The arteries that convey the blood to the extremities are large, providing for a sufficient quantity of blood to afford warmth and nutrition. But when the limbs are left unprotected or are insufficiently clad, the arteries and veins become contracted, the sensitive portions of the body are chilled, and the circulation of the blood hindered.” Ministry of Healing , 382.
“Women do not properly clothe their limbs, because it is not fashionable. For want of coverings, the blood is chilled back from the extremities, . . .The limbs, which should have even more coverings than any other portions of the body, because farthest from the center of circulation, are chilled, because not suitably protected. These organs are robbed of their due proportion of blood, therefore cannot be properly nourished, and the result is, the almost universally slender, undeveloped limbs.” The Health Reformer , March 1, 1874.
“Our Creator has formed the limbs with large veins and vessels to contain a large proportion of blood, that the limbs may be sufficiently nourished and proportionately warm with other portions of the body. But fashion robs the limbs of coverings, and the life current is chilled from its natural channel and thrown back upon its internal organs. The many coverings over the chest and lungs induce the blood to these parts, and the animal heat thus retained weakens and debilitates these delicate organs, causing congestion and inflammation. The head, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys have too much blood, while the limbs have not enough for warmth and proper development. The result is, the blood vessels in the limbs contract because they are not filled and cannot contain the due proportion of blood which nature designed they should, and they are always chilly. Because this chilliness is habitual, it is not noticed by children who are thus unhealthfully dressed. These children, who are disciplined to conform to fashion, are not well proportioned. Their slender, fleshless limbs testify to the abuse they have suffered. Fashion has robbed their limbs of their natural plumpness.” Ibid., January 1, 1877.
Chronically cold arms and or legs in infancy and childhood can lead to sickliness, dwarfing, and premature death.
“The arms' being naked exposes the infant to constant cold, and congestion of lungs or brain. These exposures prepare the way for the infant to become sickly and dwarfed.” Healthful Living , 176.
“I appeal to you mothers, do you not feel alarmed, and heartsick, in seeing your children pale and dwarfed, suffering with catarrh, influenza, croup, scrofula [tuberculosis] swellings appearing upon the face and neck, inflammation and congestion of lungs and brain? Have you studied from cause to effect? . . . Have you not been dictated by fashion in clothing your children? Leaving their arms and limbs insufficiently protected has been the cause of a vast amount of disease and premature deaths.” Selected Messages , book 2, 471.
Inability of mothers to nurse their infants may be caused by having kept the chest area too warm due to improper dress during breast development.
“Because it is the fashion, many females place over their breasts paddings, to give the form the appearance of well-developed breasts. These appendages attract the blood to the chest, and produce a dry, irritating heat. The veins, because of unnatural heat, become contracted, and the natural circulation is obstructed. These appendages, in connection with other bad habits of dressing and eating, result in obstructing the process of nature, making a healthy development of the breasts impossible. And if these become mothers, there cannot be a natural secretion of the fluids, to have a sufficient supply of nourishment for their offspring.” The Health Reformer , September 1, 1871.
Cancers are one of the terrible diseases that can be caused by improper dress.
“Many have become lifelong invalids through their compliance with the demands of fashion. Displacements and deformities, cancers and other terrible diseases, are among the evils resulting from fashionable dress.” Testimonies , vol. 4, 635.
As much as one-half of the sufferings of women have been the result of unhealthful dress:
“Women especially are the victims of various maladies which might be lessened, if not entirely prevented, by right habits of life. Half their sufferings may be attributed to their manner of dress, and the insane desire to conform to the fashions of the world, introduced as a system of speculation and profit, or for other and baser reasons.” The Health Reformer , February 1, 1877.
Satan knows that “most diseases have their origin in an unequal distribution of the blood.” Ibid., January 1, 1874. Thus we should not be surprised when Inspiration tells us that Satan is the inventor of the dress styles that allow the blood to be chilled in the underclad limbs. Too often, even life itself is sacrificed in the service of Satan.
“Satan invented the fashions which leave the limbs exposed, chilling back the life current from its original course. And parents bow at the shrine of fashion and so clothe their children that the nerves and veins become contracted and do not answer the purpose that God designed they should. The result is, habitually cold feet and hands. Those parents who follow fashion instead of reason will have an account to render to God for thus robbing their children of health. Even life itself is frequently sacrificed to the god of fashion.” Testimonies , vol. 2, 532.
The Creator designed the face to endure exposure, but the limbs were designed to be uniformly as warm as the body.
“The limbs were not formed by our Creator to endure exposure, as was the face. The Lord provided the face with an immense circulation, because it must be exposed. He provided, also, large veins and nerves for the limbs and feet, to contain a large amount of the current of human life, that the limbs might be uniformly as warm as the body. They should be so thoroughly clothed as to induce the blood to the extremities.” Ibid., vol. 2, 531–532.
Because perfect health depends upon perfect circulation, Christian dress should clothe the extremities as thoroughly as the chest.
“Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. Special attention should be given to the extremities, that they may be as thoroughly clothed as the chest and the region over the heart, where is the greatest amount of heat. Parents who dress their children with the extremities naked, or nearly so, are sacrificing the health and lives of their children to fashion. If these parts are not so warm as the body, the circulation is not equalized.” Ibid., 531.
It would be well to concern ourselves more with prevention of cruelty to young girls through unhealthful dress than with the prevention of cruelty to dumb animals.
“Societies are formed in our cities for the prevention of cruelty to dumb animals. It would be well to go still further, and, inasmuch as accountable intelligences, capable of obtaining life eternal, are of more value than the dumb beasts, there is greater need of societies to prevent the cruelty of mothers in dressing their darling little girls in a manner to sacrifice them at the shrine of cruel fashion.” Healthful Living , 149.
Mothers need to decide whether they will dress their little girls the healthful way or the fashionable way leaving the limbs relatively unclad.
“There is a fashionable way and a healthful way to dress a child. Mothers generally pay more attention to the former than to the latter. It is doubtless very pretty and becoming to dress a little girl in short skirts, covering her daintily-shaped ankle and handsome limb with a thin, silken or cotton stocking, encasing her foot in a thin-soled and exquisitely shaped shoe, while her shoulders are loaded with cloak, furs, and scarf.” The Health Reformer , January 1, 1874.
Healthful dress, that will protect the girls as well as the boys from the cold, is described.
“Your girls should wear the waists of their dresses perfectly loose, and they should have a style of dress convenient, comfortable, and modest. In cold weather they should wear warm flannel or cotton drawers, which can be placed inside the stockings. Over these should be warm lined pants, which may be full, gathered into a band, and neatly button around the ankle, or taper at the bottom and meet the shoe. Their dress should reach below the knee. With this style of dress, one light skirt, or at most two, is all that is necessary, and these should be buttoned to a waist. The shoes should be thick-soled, and perfectly comfortable. With this style of dress your girls will be no more in danger in the open air than your boys. And their health would be much better, were they to live more out of doors, even in winter, than to be confined to the close air of a room heated by a stove.” Selected Messages , book 2, 471.
“See that your children wear snugly-fitting, woolen, or cantonflannel drawers next their skin; over this the stocking may be drawn, and, in the colder days, woolen leggings should be worn over all. Let their shoes be thick and covered by warm overshoes; their limbs may not look so neatly, but they will certainly be comfortable, and the corresponding improvement in the health of your children will more than repay you for your temporary mortification at their unfashionable appearance.” The Health Reformer , January 1, 1874.
The pants for the girls are to be formed so they cannot be pulled up leaving the limbs with only one layer of clothing.
“You should clothe the limbs of your girls as warmly as you do your boys', thus inducing the blood to the extremities. They should be clothed with warm, lined pants, meeting the instep. In no case should the pants be formed so as to be pulled up out of sight by the children, leaving any part of their limbs exposed. I inquire, Is it reasonable, or even modest, to see the limbs of your daughters exposed, to the bend of the knee, without any covering, except a cotton stocking in summer, and flannel, in winter? Why should not mothers clothe their daughters sensibly, modestly, and healthfully, irrespective of prevailing fashions?” Ibid., November 1, 1870.
Women are to clothe their limbs as thoroughly as do the men. Warm, lined pants in winter are encouraged.
“There is but one woman in a thousand who clothes her limbs as she should. Whatever may be the length of the dress, females should clothe their limbs as thoroughly as the males. This may be done by wearing lined pants gathered into a band and fastened about the ankle, or made full and tapering at the bottom, and these should come down long enough to meet the shoe. The limbs and ankles thus clothed are protected against a current of air. If the limbs and feet are kept comfortable with warm clothing, the circulation will be equalized, and the blood will remain healthy and pure, because it is not chilled or hindered in its natural passage through the system.” Selected Messages , book 2, 479.
“We plead for the warm, lined pants in winter, that the blood may be induced to the extremities, that they may not by scanty clothing be robbed of their due proportion of blood. The current of human life is struggling to go its accustomed rounds and should not be hindered in its circuit through the body by the imperfect manner in which women clothe their limbs.” The Health Reformer , May 1, 1872.
In regard to healthful circulation, the extremities need to be covered as well or better than the trunk.
“The portions of the body, close by the life springs, need less covering than the limbs which are remote from the vital organs. If the limbs and feet could have the extra coverings usually put upon the shoulders, lungs, and heart, and healthy circulation be induced to the extremities, the vital organs would act their part healthfully, with only their share of clothing.” Selected Messages , book 2, 470–471.
“In order to maintain equal circulation, there should be an equal distribution of clothing, which will bring equal warmth to all parts of the body. The limbs that are the farthest from the vital organs, should be more thoroughly protected with warm coverings. The extremities should be carefully guarded from cold and chilliness by an additional amount of clothing. It is impossible for women to have, habitually, chilled limbs and cold feet, without some of the internal organs being congested. There is usually worn over the chest, where is the greatest amount of heat, from six to eight thicknesses. . . . The lower limbs are only furnished with one or two thicknesses of light material. The feet are frequently covered with cotton stockings and cloth shoes.” The Health Reformer May 1, 1872.
Those with a tendency to respiratory problems especially need to avoid chilling of the hands and arms.
“Fashionable dressing is one of the chief causes of coughs and diseased lungs. Those who are threatened with pulmonary diseases should take especial care not to allow the extremities of the body to be chilled. The wrist should be covered with warm wristlets, for if the hands and arms are chilled, the lungs are injuriously affected.” Manuscript Releases , vol. 3, 319.
Healthful dress will avoid any constriction that tends to interfere with free blood circulation and organ function. This is best accomplished by suspending the clothing from the shoulders.
“The dress of the infant should be so arranged that its body will not be in the least compressed after taking a full meal.” Healthful Living , 148.
“Your girls should wear the waists of their dresses perfectly loose.” Selected Messages book 2, 471.
“Mothers, why not clothe your boys and girls comfortably and properly? Let their dress be simple, loose, and comfortable; clothe their limbs, and especially the ankles, warmly and evenly; then let them go out and exercise in the open air, and live to enjoy health and happiness.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene , 91.
“We object to the popular style of woman's dress because it is neither healthful nor convenient. The skirts generally rest upon the hips, which were not designed to sustain weights. Every article of clothing should be suspended from the shoulders. The habit of fastening the skirts about the body with bands, allowing the weight to rest upon the hips to keep them from slipping off is decidedly injurious to health. For exactly where these bands girt are nerves, and large blood vessels, which carry the blood into the limbs. These veins and nerves should not be pressed, but allowed the most perfect freedom to fulfill the purpose for which nature designed them.
“I have heard young ladies complain of pain in the side when in a sitting position. I have found upon examination that the only cause was the tight bands pressing upon the tender nerves and veins, impeding the free circulation of blood. When the underclothing, as well as the dress waist, was made loose, and all the garments were suspended from the shoulders by straps, the pain disappeared. . . . The clothing should be worn so loose as to give the most perfect freedom of circulation, respiration, and the exercise of every portion of the body.” The Health Reformer , April 1, 1872.
“The female dress should be suspended from the shoulders.” Selected Messages , book 2, 473.
“Every article of clothing upon the person should be worn so loose that, in raising the arms, the clothing will be correspondingly lifted by the action. . . .
“The shoulders should be made to sustain the weight of every article of clothing worn upon the person.” The Health Reformer , February 1, 1877.
God does not change His natural laws anymore than His moral laws to accommodate sinful man. Our manner of dress is to be controlled by principle.
“God has not changed, neither does He propose to change our physical organism, in order that we may violate a single law without feeling the effects of its violation. But many willingly close their eyes to the light. . . . By indulging their inclinations and appetites, they violate the laws of life and health; and if they obey conscience, they must be controlled by principle in their eating and dressing, rather than be led by inclination, fashion, and appetite” Health Reformer , September 1, 1871.
By word and by example we are to teach the principles of healthful dress to our children.
“Your children are what you make them by your own instruction and example. You are teaching them to be creatures of circumstance by dressing them according to the customs and fashions of the day. As the result, you see them with minds querulous, peevish, ill-balanced, and they lacking physical, mental, and moral strength. Many die prematurely. Mothers, do not charge the result of your cruel work to Providence. You can, by properly instructing your children in regard to the relation their own habits of eating, dressing, and exercise, sustain to health, make them, not children of circumstance, but of God's gracious providence. The course professed Christians generally pursue, in following fashion irrespective of health and of life, brings upon them a train of evils which they charge back upon Providence, and place arguments in the mouths of infidels, wherewith to assail Christianity.” The Health Reformer , November 1, 1870.
Our first duty is obedience to God's laws, including the principles of healthful dress.
“Knowledge must be gained in regard to how to eat and drink and dress so as to preserve health. Sickness is the result of violating nature's law. Our first duty, one which we owe to God, to ourselves, and to our fellow men, is to obey the laws of God. These include the laws of health.” Counsels on Health , 24–25.
The principles of healthful dress regulate every article of clothing and involve the protection and development of every part of the body.
“In order to secure the most healthful clothing, the needs of every part of the body must be carefully studied. The character of the climate, the surroundings, the condition of health, the age and the occupation must all be considered. Every article of dress should fit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of the blood, nor a free, full, natural respiration.” Ibid., 93.
“Dress reform proper provided for the protection and development of every part of the body.” Testimonies , vol. 4, 635.
“True dress reform regulates every article of dress worn upon the person. In order to equalize the circulation of the blood, the clothing should be equally distributed upon the person, that equal warmth may be preserved in all parts of the body. The limbs, being remote from the vital organs, should have special attention.” The Health Reformer , January 1, 1877.
When we disobey God's laws of how to prevent chilling of the body or of how to promote proper circulation, we are to repent and reform.
“Now in regard to that which we can do for ourselves. There is a point that requires careful, thoughtful consideration. I must become acquainted with myself, I must be a learner always as to how to take care of this building, the body God has given me, that I may preserve it in the very best condition of health. I must eat those things which will be for my very best good physically, and I must take special care to have my clothing such as will conduce to a healthful circulation of the blood. . . . I must have wisdom to be a faithful guardian of my body. I should do a very unwise thing to enter a cool room when in a perspiration; I should show myself an unwise steward to allow myself to sit in a draught, and thus expose myself so as to take cold. I should be unwise to sit with cold feet and limbs and thus drive back the blood from the extremities to the brain or internal organs. I should always protect my feet in damp weather. . . . And when I violate the laws God has established in my being, I am to repent and reform.” The Paulson Collection of Ellen G. White Letters , 28–29.
Our manner of dress is to work with God for the health of both the soul and the body.
“In all respects the dress should be healthful. ‘Above all things,' God desires us to ‘be in health'—health of body and of soul. And we are to be workers together with Him for the health of both soul and body. Both are promoted by healthful dress.” Child Guidance , 398.