Category Archives: Christianity

On each return of night

Re-running a few of my favorites this week…

Another quote from Jane’s Evening Prayers today.  I love this one, because I think this was clearly her goal for her characters as well, that they would "consider their thoughts, words, and actions."

"May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it."

Evening Prayer 1


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Oh! God

“Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being?  Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride and vanity.”

Evening Prayer 1

Another pic from Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford today.

Jane’s concise statements of Christian theology in these prayers are wonderful, better than I could do myself.  And while they may seem difficult at times, imbued with the concepts of personal sin and repentance, I think these ideas are clearly carried over to her characters.

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Filed under Christianity, Morality, Pride

Teach us

“Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls.”

Evening Prayer 1

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Look with mercy

More from Jane’s Evening Prayers for the rest of this week.

“Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere, and our resolutions steadfast of endeavoring against the commission of such in future.”

Evening Prayer 1

The image is one of the side windows in Christ Church Cathedral, where both Jane’s father George and brother James were ordained to the deaconate.  I loved having the chance to go to Evensong there.

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In Memoriam

Img_0631_2Jane died on July 18, 1817, at this house on College Street in Winchester.  She was forty-one.  Jane and Cassandra were staying on the first floor (what we Americans would call the second floor) with the bay window.  The house is now a private home. (And I have been told that if you are ever in Winchester, please don’t knock and ask to see the room where Jane died — the couple who owns the house are tired of getting inquiries like that!  I can’t say that I blame them.)

This is from a letter Jane wrote to a dear friend a couple months before she died:

“In short, if I live to be an old Woman I must expect to wish I had died now, blessed in the tenderness of such a Family, & before I had survived either them or their affection.–You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure.–But the Providence of God has restored me–& may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I should have been now!”

letter to Anne Sharp
May 22, 1817 [159]

Ms. Place at Janites on the James has posted more information about Jane’s death, including a picture of her memorial in Winchester Cathedral.

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Light Shining Out of Darkness

A bit of a digression today.  Cowper was Jane’s favorite poet, and this is one of my favorites of his.

Img_0440God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footstep in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

William Cowper, “Light Shining Out of Darkness” from Olney Hymns

I love the idea of the clouds being “big with mercy.”

The picture is from the garden at Alton Abbey, one of the places I stayed on my trip.


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A prayer

Another one of my favorite things is Jane’s Evening Prayers.  She wrote three of them.  They’re gorgeous, echoing the Book of Common Prayer.  It’s wonderful to me to have these very rare statements of her faith.  As her nephew James Edward said, her faith was something she would rather live than talk about.

Here’s the beginning of the first:

“Give us Grace Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips.  Thou art every where present.”

That is the challenge, not simply to pray with words but with our hearts as well.

If you’d like to read all of the prayers, they’re available online here.

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And the other side…

Just to balance out Friday’s quote:

“I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason & Feeling, must be happiest & safest.”

letter to her niece Fanny Knight
November 18, 1814 [109]

Fanny was apparently considering rejecting a suitor who seemed to be a little too religious.

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I do not like them

“I do not like the Evangelicals.”

letter to Cassandra
January 24, 1809 [66]

My friend Kris requested this one.  This quote makes my evangelical friends and I laugh, partly because even though we are in the evangelical camp, at times we understand the sentiment.

Cassandra had been telling Jane about Hannah More’s new book, Coelebs in Search of a Wife, trying to get her to read it, and when Jane realized More was the author, this was her response, though she added “Of course I shall be delighted when I read it, like other people, but till I do, I dislike it.”

Jane was a devout Christian.  Evangelicalism was a fairly new phenomenon, and Jane’s other statements on it are not nearly so clear cut, but in general she was not comfortable talking about her faith so much as the Evangelicals were prone to do, I think.

Hannah More was a playwright and incredibly popular, part of the London social scene, a celebrity of sorts, and she was a friend of William Wilberforce, who was campaigning to abolish slavery (a cause we are sure Jane supported).  A new movie opens today, Amazing Grace starring Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce, whom we fell in love with as Horatio Hornblower in the A&E movies.  It’s gotten great attention already, and I can’t wait to see it.  Wilberforce was truly an amazing man, who, I think like Jane, would be uncomfortable with all the attention.

And I have to say, with all these new Austen adaptations coming up this year, we are only sorry that Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced yowan griffith) was not cast in any of the roles.  I think he would make the perfect Austen hero.

For more information on Wilberforce, see BreakPoint.

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Christian forgiveness, a la Mr. Collins

“‘You ought certainly to forgive them as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.’ That is his notion of Christian forgiveness!”

Mr. Bennet, reading a letter from Mr. Collins on the scandal of Lydia and Wickham, who were finally forced to marry
Pride & Prejudice, Volume 3, Chapter 15

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Filed under Christianity, Lydia Bennet, Morality, Mr. Bennet, Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice, Wickham