A few weeks back I did a post on some new books from Crossway publishers, one of which was Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin (2016). One of the woman written about in this book is Jane Austen, 1775-1817 (author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and many more).
(As a partial aside, I might mention that I really want a woman (young or old!) to take this book that I offered for review, and to this date no one has. Would you reconsider, ladies?)
Recently Crossway did a feature on this title and included an excerpt, from which I also quote today. I include a couple of paragraphs, encouraging you to read the rest of Crossway’s post by following the link that follows.
Jane “displays an Anglican reticence about religious affections” and is very interested in Christianity as a teacher of morals. Given this, it is not surprising that Jane was not an evangelical. In fact, in 1809, Jane was forthright: referring to a novel by Hannah More, she told her sister Cassandra, “I do not like the Evangelicals.” By 1814, however, her attitude had changed. As she told her niece Fanny Knight (1793–1882): “I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am persuaded that they who are so from reason & feeling, must be happiest & safest.”
Haykin then points to Austen’s prayers as evidence of her Christian faith, prayers that show her familiarity with and use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
An excellent vantage point to see Jane’s faith is one of three written prayers that have been attributed to her and that probably date from Jane’s life after the death of her father in 1805, though there are doubts about the authenticity of two of them. The third runs as follows and does seem to have been written by Jane:
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, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.
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, & our resolutions steadfast of endeavouring against the commission of such in future. 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. 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, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. 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 or vanity.
Source: The Christian Faith of Jane Austen
And, by the way, the eight women featured in this book are as follows:
Jane Grey: The courageous Protestant martyr who held fast to her conviction that salvation is by faith alone even to the point of death.
Anne Steele: The great hymn writer whose work continues to help the church worship in song today.
Margaret Baxter: The faithful wife to pastor Richard Baxter who met persecution with grace and joy.
Esther Edwards Burr: The daughter of Jonathan Edwards whose life modeled biblical friendship.
Anne Dutton: The innovative author whose theological works left a significant literary legacy.
Ann Judson: The wife of Adoniram Judson and pioneer missionary in the American evangelical missions movement.
Sarah Edwards: The wife of Jonathan Edwards and model of sincere delight in Christ.
Jane Austen: The prolific novelist with a deep and sincere Christian faith that she expressed in her stories.