I came across the publishing announcement for A Jane Austen Devotional yesterday as I was paging through the new Christian titles for January and February sent out by a book catalog for stores and libraries. Two thoughts occurred simultaneously: “Oh, how interesting!” and “O-o-h, why didn’t I think of that?” Austen’s wonderful novels are nothing if not studies of character. For those with eyes to see, the unspoken standard by which her characters morally stand or fall is that which she imbibed from birth, the beautiful as well as sharply discerning words of Scripture. If you have caught up with Miniature & Morals by Peter Leithart, the wonderful analysis of the depth of Christian influence in Austen’s novels that I mentioned several months ago, a devotional that takes its subjects from Austen sounds like the best of all possible worlds!
The “Look Inside” option takes you inside the Devotional to a small selection that gives the reader a taste of what insight Austen’s characters might give on select principles in the Bible. For instance, Mr Knightly’s caution expressed to Miss Weston on the inappropriateness of Emma’s friendship with Harriet Smith, that it is of benefit to neither woman and, potentially, actively detrimental to them both is paired with the Biblical injunction that “The fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” Proverbs 18:2 and “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” Probers 13:20.
If what is wanted is a moment of reflection during the day, this pairing of Austen and Scripture is just the ticket. Jane cannot help but give flesh and bones (and amusing dialogue) that illustrate Biblical principles, for her world lived and breathed them still. My personal feeling is that A Jane Austen Devotional is a respectable start, but that there is so much more richness and depth to be explored that it does not discourage me from hoping, someday, to engage in a pairing of Scripture and Austen myself.