By Arthur Vess
Most Holiness Churches have no definite statement as to the teachings of the Bible against jewelry, particularly the wedding ring. This leaves an open door for those who wish to misinterpret the doctrines, and to let in jewelry, and eventually, all kinds of worldliness. Those who wish to compromise, and then to eliminate our rules on jewelry, make a great fuss over the fact that "our rules always have been sufficient and should not be tampered with," -- until they gain the majority so as to rule out our rules against their vanity.
In a denominational gathering, the denominational board refused to endorse a specific amendment against the wedding ring, while they claimed that the Bible prohibition to the wearing of jewelry included the wedding ring. They admitted that God had ruled it out, but they were not willing to take sides with God and rule it out, lest they hinder or destroy God's church. The chairman of the gathering had put his name to a denominationally printed interpretation against the wedding ring, while he was writing confidential letters to officials and pastors, telling them that his Church did not rule out the wedding ring, and that it was "okay" to take them in with the wedding ring on. This is why they do not want a definite ruling. If narrowness prohibits such double crossing and two-faced duplicity and hypocrisy, let us remain narrow. If an old crook or drunkard should pull off such a trick, it would be no crime to expose him privately and publicly. But when a high churchman does it, it is a terrible crime and disloyalty to say anything about it (?). The higher up a man is, the lower down he is when he sells his principles and his church for his own ideas and ambitions. If a man cannot come out into the open, he ought to get out of the Church and join those who make their living by underhanded dealings. Let all of like principles and ambitions flock to the defense of such, but the Holy Ghost and holy men cannot do it. Our holy leaders will not tolerate such.
This all goes to prove that our holiness denominations need water tight rulings against such ecclesiastical traitors, just like the bank needs thief proof vaults against robbers. (John 10:1) It is better to be narrow and straight than broad and crooked. Only crooks do not like straight teaching and preaching. Any holiness church that tolerated such double doings in the name of denominational peace and unity is bound for the broad way that leads to destruction.
Let us note a few reasons why every holiness church should have a specific ruling against the wedding ring, and all other such vanities.
1. When any doctrinal statement is so indefinite as to admit two or more contradictory interpretations, it should be so amended as to express specifically what is intended.
If the prohibition of the wearing of jewelry is stated and any questions as to what is included in the wearing of jewelry comes up, then state plainly that it does or does not include the wedding band. We all know that one of the chief ways of destroying testimony or laws is by misinterpretation by shrewd and skilled lawyers, or ecclesiastical compromisers. Thus they destroy the law and avoid the reproach from direct opposition. Those who are honest and believe in a thing, want it stated in the most plain and definite manner possible. If we are honest, why not? If we want to keep rings out, let us shut the door and put up the sign -- "No Admittance."
2. If more than one contradictory interpretation is permitted on the wedding ring or any other teaching, double standards and confusion among the leaders, pastors, and churches will be the result. Those who want to destroy the law and save their own reputation, seek to do it in an indefinite and confused manner. If the vast majority oppose the wedding ring, why not rule it out and save further conflicts and confusion? Stop the leak or "loophole" before the dam bursts and sweeps us all away.
3. If the wearing of the wedding ring is left optional, the more "modernistic" preachers and laity will be subjected to criticism by the majority of our holiness people, who neither wear nor endorse the wedding ring. 4. If it is left optional, it will put our spiritual preachers and laity under fire from the carnal, worldly-minded element. The unprincipled and earth-minded group will use all kinds of unfair methods, that holy people cannot use, to suppress holy persons and principles.
5. If left optional, it will cause confusion when those wearing rings attempt to transfer from one church to another where the ring is not tolerated. Those who do not wear rings can transfer to any church without confusion. Then, why not let all leave them off in the interests of Christian unity, as well as for Scriptural reasons?
6. Some may argue that it is too small a matter for a disciplinary ruling. If it is such a small matter, why is it condemned in the Bible? And why do most devout and spiritual people have definite convictions against it? If it is such a small matter, those with "broad" minds should not mind to leave them off in the interest of Christian utility and avoid the "confusion" they so oppose. They want the rest of us to smother our consciences in silence for the sake of ecclesiastical unity; why not put a little crimp in their 'broad minds" for the same reason? In these days of compromise and backslidings, a definite ruling will plug a dangerous "loophole" in our doctrinal defenses, crucify pride, and exalt humility. If the present rulings keep them out, how do they get in? Let us be consistent in all our publications, rulings, standards, and practices. Why not settle the question once for all and keep down this ever increasing conflict and confusion? There was a time when the wedding ring had no priority, why the change?
7. Our present indefinite and general rulings in our church manuals and disciplines are not keeping rings from slipping into our churches all over in an ever increasing number. It is time to stop the leak which is widening into rivers of pride, vanity, and waste. If we tolerate them, they will destroy us. Those pleading for tolerance would and will drive every one of us out if we let this matter rest. (The reactions to the first issue of this booklet ought to open the eyes of many.)
They are only playing for time, by trying to side track the issue until they have strength and votes enough to put their proposition over, and to put out those who have given their lives for our Bible standards. Let us act before they attack and defeat us.
8. But some may argue, "But the present rulings are sufficient in my church, conference, or section, and should be for all others." Yes, but what should be is not so, and those who are strong ought to come to the rescue of those who are fighting a losing battle. A great Christian leader stood up in a general conference not long since and plead for some kind of a definite ruling to help him in the fight against this vanity in his section of the country, but he was ignored. Your church or conference may need help soon. Not long since a leader who was supposed to be definitely opposed to the wedding ring, wrote me that general rulings had kept his conference clean for more than a "hundred years" and should be sufficient for the future. The holy man who followed him in office wrote me later that he was having a battle to keep his young people all over the same conference from using the wedding ring in marriages. Well, it takes more than "past history" to keep a drifting man or church from selling out to this "present evil world." In fact, the man who argued for the "past hundred years" had already sold out for office to those he once denounced. Why cannot the masses open their eyes?
9. A definite ruling will not hinder or offend those who believe the truth; "for rulers (and rules) are not a terror to good works (standards), but to the evil." "If God be God, serve him; if Baal, then serve him." When the Bible plainly condemns the wearing of "gold, pearls, and costly array" by married women, and specifies the wearing of the ring, why can our churches not be just as specific as the Bible in their rulings? A great church which once had rulings against rings and ruled them out, not long since ruled out their restrictions against dancing by leaving it up to the individual conscience, -- another way of saying, "Dance all you please." When this church swept the world in revival power and glory, she permitted neither rings nor dancing. Now she is filled with infidelity and atheism. In fact, she was once a great holiness church. Let us take notice and take warning and precautions in definite rules before it is too late. When this great church was slipping, she used the same arguments for tolerance of vanity that our leaders are using today. Let us not remove, but mark well our "ancient and holy land marks" which separate the Church from the world.
10. Some may argue that it will take more than rules and legislation to keep our churches clean. Granted, but though it takes more than legislation to keep men from stealing, lying, and murder, who would agree to take the laws off the statute books against these crimes? Who can enforce laws not on the books? Just as it takes specific laws to keep criminals and their lawyers from destroying our laws and liberties; just so, it takes the same specific and plainly stated laws in our churches to keep compromisers and common sinners from taking over and driving out those whose lives and standards are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures. All know that the demand for jewelry and all other forms of worldliness are creeping in on us more and more. It will soon be too late to make definite laws and too late to keep those we do have on our records. It is in or out, now or never. Those who delay the action are playing for time to destroy us and our standards. They are doing it now.
11. A definite ruling will put the entire Church back of those who want to enforce the Scriptural injunction against ornamental jewelry of every sort. It will not leave our doctrines to the judgment and misinterpretation of one or more individuals in key positions. Thus a loyal and true majority cannot be over-run by a favored minority. There will be no neutral grounds for the sowing of tares. It is a sin to be neutral (neither) when holy principles or persons are involved. There can be no holy principles without holy persons to possess and propagate them. We are not pleading for the exceptions or those who are trying to tear down our standards instead of climbing up to them; but we are pleading for the great majority of our holiness churches and people who do not wear or endorse wedding rings or any such things. Let us all remember that the older denominations have always finally drifted back to the world, and not in the opposite extreme. If you want to leave the Church at the mercy of compromisers, leave the matter optional or general; if you want to preserve the purity and simplicity of the Church, be definite and make rules which cannot be misunderstood or be misinterpreted. But how shall we do it? Just say: "The wedding ring and all other ornamental jewelry will not be permitted." This short sentence will stop the leaking "Loophole," end all arguments and keep out future conflicts, confusion, and compromise. When our leaders, from the bottom to the top, line up together because of common, holy principles, we are safe; but when they line up together to put and keep themselves and their friends in office, our cause is lost; and our men and women of principle will be held down and driven out. We trust that no leader will need to feel that he is condemned in these pages.