The Brontës and Religion

By Marianne Thormählen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Faith and redemption

FAITH AND PRAYER

The heartthat must not falter in its love for God has two mighty obstacles to contend with, and both are addressed in the novels of the Brontës: the obvious injustice of this life, including the sufferings of the innocent; and thefear of death and damnation. Christianity has a joint solution for both problems: those who mourn in this world will be comforted in the next, and a merciful God will gather his faithful to himself beyond the gates of death. God devised this plan for mankind, tainted by sin; and his chosen agent is his Son Jesus Christ. Contemplation of this scheme should assuage grief, dampen mutiny and take away terror. It was set up by the perfect love which we cannot fully comprehend, but which is evident in the glories of the creation and the warmth and joy of human affections. We only have to believe in this vast design of grace, and our earthly sorrows will become bearable and death will lose its sting.

Even the Victorians, however, found this condition hard to fulfil. Doubt and anxiety would constantly undercut trust in the Divine order. 1 The preceding pages dwelt on the staunch faith of Brontë heroines in times of acute distress and on the solace bestowed on them through that faith. In the Brontë novels, intimations of wavering belief are not so prevalent as manifestations of faith, though they do occur; it is in the letters and poems of the eldest and youngest sister that the anguish of doubt breaks out in full force. Charlotte Brontë's Calvinist horrors have already been mentioned. 2 The poetry of Anne Brontë contains records of acute despondency accompanied by a spiritual lethargy that struck at the root of thought and feeling, blocking every effort to rally and leaving no alternative to pleading for faith and hope. 3 Even those lyrics that express trust in God's mercy are usually rather sombre in tone.

It is characteristic not only of Anne Brontë and her family, but also of the religious climate in which they lived, that her poems do not present

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The Brontës and Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Abbreviations and Editions ix
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Denominations *
  • Chapter 1 - A Christian Home in Early Nineteenth-Century England: Evangelicalism, Dissent and the Brontë Family 13
  • Chapter 2 - Charlotte Brontë and the Church of Rome 24
  • Chapter 3 - An Undenominational Temper 39
  • II - Doctrines *
  • Chapter 4 - The Brontës in the Theological Landscape of Their Time 47
  • Chapter 5 - God and His Creation 53
  • Chapter 6 - Faith and Redemption 71
  • Chapter 7 - This Life and the Next 90
  • III - Ethics *
  • Chapter 8 - Forgiveness and Revenge 119
  • Chapter 9 - The Christian Life 144
  • IV - Clerics *
  • Chapter 10 - Clergymen in the Brontë Novels 173
  • Chapter 11 - The Enigma of St John Rivers 204
  • Notes 221
  • Select Bibliography 271
  • Index 278
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