by Glenn Conjurske
George Müller writes under the date of Dec. 1, 1869, “[Received] 2l. with the following letter: `Dear Sir, We walked to church on our wedding-day, therefore we are enabled to send you a cheque for 2l., which would otherwise have been spent in carriages. From yours very truly, John and Hannah.’ This donation is worthy of being noticed. 1, Is it not becoming the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who are continually in one way or other surrounded with poverty in the world and in the Church; and who have continually opportunities to use their means for the Lord’s work: to ask themselves, Is there any way, in which I may save something out of my expenditure for the poor and for the work of God? Verily thus it should be, and thus it will be, whenever the heart goes out in personal attachment to the Lord Jesus. 2, Are we not, as the disciples of the Lord Jesus, in great danger, of being conformed to the ways of the world, in our mode of living, in our furniture, in our dress, in our spending otherwise much on ourselves? This danger not only is obvious; but alas! many of the children of God, though scarcely aware of it, it may be, are carried away by the tide of worldliness, so that, in the things referred to, there is scarcely the least difference between themselves and the world. Now this should not be so, and will not be so, if our Lord Jesus Himself is set before us as our pattern. By these remarks I do not mean to say, that the believers in the Lord Jesus should aim after singularity in their mode of living, etc., as if their religion consisted in this; yet, on the other hand, as `we are besought by the mercies of God, not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind,’ the latter will not be the case, if we are like the world in the particulars which have been referred to. 3, Are the dear young couple, who sent the 2l., the worse for having walked to church, instead of spending this money in hiring carriages? Verily not! 4, Is it not always well to make a good beginning, and may we not say, that this is particularly important in beginning the marriage life? Surely it is. I therefore commend `John and Hannah,’ and pray, that, as they have begun, so they will continue: and I trust that their example may not be quite lost on the reader.”
Of his own marriage, which took place in 1830, Müller writes, “Our marriage was of the most simple character. We walked to church, had no wedding breakfast, but in the afternoon had a meeting of Christian friends in Mr. Hake’s house and commemorated the Lord’s death; and then I drove off in the stage-coach with my beloved bride to Teignmouth, and the next day went to work for the Lord.”
We may hope that John and Hannah’s example was not entirely lost upon the orignial readers of George Müller’s Narrative, but it is a certainty all too evident that the example of George Müller himself has been entirely lost upon the modern fundamental church. Christian couples in our day, of course, do not spend two pounds to hire a carriage, for most of them own horseless carriages of their own, but they scruple nothing to spend hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars, for no other purpose than to make a grand show which lasts for an hour or two, and then is gone. And conformity to the world is the one and only reason for most of the expenditure. That conformity to the world would be sinful enough in itself, even if it did not involve the waste of so much of the Lord’s money, but the great expenditures of money involved render the whole business simply inexcusable, and to my mind the extravagant and worldly weddings which prevail among fundamental Christians today are one of the surest indications of how very little there is left on the earth of the spirit of the Christianity of the New Testament.
That conformity to the world takes many forms, a few of which I feel compelled to mention. The men of our day, as said, usually have no occasion to hire a carriage, but they will spend a great plenty of their Lord’s money to hire a tuxedo. For what? To show their style! To make a grand show of themselves. This is nothing other than the pride of life, and in the eyes of God it is nothing other than sin. And if men are going to give account to God for every idle word which they speak, how much more for this vain show. Many may never think far enough to determine why they do such a thing. They do it merely because others do it, because it is therefore “the thing to do.” In that case it is conformity to the world, pure and simple.
The ladies, of course, go much deeper. They do not merely rent a dress, but buy or make one, usually a very extravagant one, and usually at the expense of some hundreds of dollars. Pardon me, but common sense ought to forbid such a thing, even if you had never heard of the Bible. Common sense ought to teach you the foolishness of spending a great sum of money for a dress which is to be worn only once, and for a few hours of time at the most. Nay, common sense ought to teach you the folly of spending any money at all for a dress that is to be worn but once. Why cannot a woman wear the same clothes to her wedding that she wears on other days? My own bride did so. But common sense is thrown to the winds when worldly custom speaks, and it seems that the most of those who call themselves Christians have much less fear of being disapproved by God than they do of being disapproved by the world. Such a calamity must be avoided at all cost, and therefore not common sense only, but also conformity to Christ and obedience to the Scriptures, are thrown wholly overboard in order to conform to the customs of the world.
It is no secret that the Lord has spoken to forbid “that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel” (I Pet. 3:3), and who gave to Christian women a special dispensation for their wedding day? And if the Lord had never spoken one word about women’s apparel, still there would be no excuse for such dresses, for he has spoken of the pride of life and of conformity to the world. I have indeed heard a Christian woman defend an extravagant wedding dress by saying, “A woman only gets to do this once, and this is her day: she may as well make the most of it.” This is nothing other than the pride of life
But it is not enough for the bride herself to appear in such attire. She must have also a whole collection of such dresses, for a whole retinue of maids and matrons. And these dresses are often of such a nature as that they are not likely to be worn again, as indeed, if modesty is to be considered, they are often not fit to be worn once. This is nothing other than conformity to the world in all things, and throwing away the Lord’s money in order to effect it.
But I must go one step further, and touch the apple of the bride’s eye. Whence come wedding rings? From the same source as tuxedoes and wedding dresses. They come from conformity to the world. But wedding rings come ultimately from a more sinister source, even from the paganized worship of the Church of Rome. Wedding rings were among the things objected to by the Nonconformists, or Puritans, in the Church of England. In listing those objections Neal says, “To the ring in marriage. It is derived from the Papists, who make marriage a sacrament, and the ring a sort of sacred symbol.” But wedding rings are no longer enough, and we must have engagement rings also. Conformity to the world is the only rule in all things. Worldliness has prevailed, and the example of the godly Puritans has been as entirely lost upon the modern church, as has the example of the faithful George Müller. It is time again for some hardy Nonconformists to make their voices heard in the church of God.