Since pleasure and luxury are the greatest pitfall for healthy industry, Your Majesty should also arrange for his people a sumptuary law against these pests of human life in order to prohibit, as unworthy of those who profess piety, all luxury, pomp, and excess in housing, clothing, ornamentation of the body, food and drink, and all things contributing more to the delight of the flesh than to the virtue of spirit and the true utility of the commonwealth.
Your Majesty will readily establish a standard for all these things in conformity with our religion once he has considered that to Christian men, whatever they do, ‘ ‘whether they eat, or drink, or whatever else they do in word or in work, everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus for the glory of God,” so that in these things too and in all our actions ”we may give thanks to God and the Father through him” and be on our guard “not to put any stumbling block in anyone’s path, neither for Jews nor Greeks nor the Church of God”; but we should work “to please everyone in all things and not seek our own interests” either in property or in pleasure, “but that which is of interest to the many, that they may be saved” (I Cor. 10:31-33; Col. 3:17; Rom. 15:2). These words of the Holy Spirit expressed to us in I Cor., ch. 10, and Col., ch. 3, should be religiously pondered, for he has here prescribed for us a certain rule for the use and regulation of all things by which the life of the body is maintained, fostered, and adorned.
Let the words which the same Holy Spirit specifically commanded through his apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, concerning the dress and adornment of women be added: “Similarly,” he says, “I wish women to adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess the worship of God” (I Tim. 2:9-10).
And through Saint Peter: “Of these women let not the adorning be in the curling of hair and ornamentation of gold and the wearing of garments, but let their adornment be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which spirit is a precious thing before God. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves” (I Peter 3:3-5)
Let us ponder these precepts of the Holy Spirit as they have been directed to women, to whom, however, as to the weaker sex, God has always indulged a little adornment and concern for the body, so much so that among his singular blessings on his people he has numbered the adornment of daughters as compared with the sculptured and ornamented corners of the Temple or of any exceptionally well-built palace (Ps. 144:12); how much more, therefore, do these precepts refer to men whom it befits to express the image of God more perfectly and to excel the women in the full development of sanctity as their heads (cf. I Cor. 11:7)!
Let us observe, therefore, that all the decoration and adornment of Christians (of women and much more of men) are found in the interior man, in reverence, moderation, gentleness, a tranquil spirit disturbed and corrupted by no depraved affections, in good works, i.e., the benefits that we render to others by feeding them, giving them drink, by receiving them under our roof, by clothing, caring for and consoling whoever need these ministrations (Matt. 25:35-40). Whoever have been really intent on such things will surely have small concern for worldly dress and adornment: indeed, whatever time or money they spend in the adornment of their own body, they will deem lost for that true and salutary adornment of everyone by which they strive to gain the approval of God and his angels and the Church of God.
And the Holy Spirit, judging that these precepts about the internal and proper garb and adornment of Christian men would not be sufficient to repress the foolish and childish affectation of external dress, added: Christians ought not to be adorned with the curling of hair, gold, silver, gems, and costly clothing, not because these are not gifts of God given for the use of men, especially the saints, but in order to show that although his sons can and should also use these gifts which he has supplied for the observance of public decorum according to the vocation and function of each person, yet he does not wish his sons to put their concern in these matters, lest they surrender to these adornments and be captivated by them and attach more importance to them than their callings and their civic offices demand for the preservation of orderly discipline and the protocol of the state.
In the consideration and regulation of these things, lest anyone deceive himself, the Holy Spirit has set a certain norm which must always be respected when he concluded his precepts concerning the dress and adornment of the body with these words: “This is becoming to women who profess piety and a worship of God through good works” (I Tim. 2:10). Likewise: “So the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves” (I Peter 3:5). For those who wish to live up to the profession of piety and the worship of God and who put all their hope in the living God clearly ought to manifest a pleasing worship of God, glorify the holy name of God, propagate and adorn his Kingdom, even in dress, even in housing, even in food, drink, care of the body, in all corporal matters and activities, and in such a way as to declare themselves in these matters also “crucified to the world, and the world to them,” and to be abhorrent of all glory which does not consist “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14); inasmuch as they are in Christ, all Christians should show themselves to be, in all dress and adornment of the body, a new creature, whose whole concern it is day by day more fully “to put off the old man with his erratic and damnable desires and put on our Lord Jesus Christ, taking no care for the flesh and for its desires” (Rom. 13:14; Eph. 4:22), and on this account to escape in every way from conformity to this age, i.e., to the lost men of this world (Rom. 12:2).
Cicero, a heathen writer, recommended that the norm to be observed in clothing and other care of the body should be found in this, “that we be approved by those with whom and among whom we live,” but we are not of this world, “our city is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20); we must live everywhere and always in the sight of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of all the angels and holy men of God in heaven and on earth. In these things, therefore, it is necessary for us to take the trouble and work to be approved and to approve ourselves in all dress and adornment of the body before God, our heavenly Creator and Father; his Son, crucified for our sake, our only Redeemer; the Holy Spirit, our teacher and perfector; and all his angels and saints (Matt. 16:27).
A person mindful and always considerate of these things will never fail to observe a practical and decent modesty in all external appearance, which is pleasing to God and useful to the Church of God, and he will not detract, diminish, or impede the duty of love for anyone by excessive expenditure, but so as not to confound, neglect, or dishonor the distinctive adornments of persons which should properly be observed in these matters, such as those of princes, nobles, aristocrats, and magistrates. And so according to this regulation, Your Majesty will give to his people vestiary and sumptuary laws; he will control all luxury in housing, dining, dress, and adornment in such a way that, as he will happily arouse, promote, and strengthen a necessary modesty in Christians and frugality among his people, so he will also remove great public and private damage from his realm which results in these days from those extravagant luxuries in trifles that are devised both in foreign lands and at home.