THE BIBLE and the NOVELIST
159, 2014 November)
GOOD TO ALL
In Investigator #13 I listed 16 scientists who were influenced
by the Bible to develop scientific disciplines that helped bring
prosperity to Europe and the world.
Such scientists helped fulfill the promise that Abraham’s "seed" or
descendants would bring "blessing to all the nations of the earth".
The prime fulfillment of this promise began with Jesus (Acts 3:25-26)
but continued through his followers who are instructed to "remember the
poor" (Galatians 2:10) and "…always seek to do good to one another and
to all." (I Thessalonians 5:15)
Another group, besides scientists, who contributed to making the world
better, is the novelist or storyteller — one of the greatest being
The goal of British novelist Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870)
was to produce social reform.
His novels highlighted social issues such as the poverty of workers,
the exploitation of children for child labour, the cruel treatment of
orphans and their recruitment as criminals, and the great divide
between rich and poor.
Dickens was born near Portsmouth where his father worked as a clerk in
the navy pay office. When in 1814 the father became redundant the
family moved to London.
Chambers Biographical Dictionary says:
father was soon arrested for debt in 1824 and sent to the Marshalsea
prison with his whole family, apart from Charles, who was sent to work
in a blacking factory at Hungerford Market, where, with half a dozen
rough boys, he labelled the blacking bottles. Not only were his days
passed in this wretched work, but the child was left entirely to
himself at night, when he had four miles to walk to his lonely bedroom
in lodgings in Camden Town.
Charles worked ten-hour days in a rotting warehouse full of rats for
one shilling per day, and on Sundays visited his parents in prison. His
identification with the underdog, so evident in his novels, began
during this period. In later life he opposed a church-supported attempt
to make recreation on Sundays unlawful, which he viewed as rich people
who enjoyed leisure every day depriving people whose leisure was
limited to one day each week.
After his parents were released from prison Charles returned to school
for three years and in 1827 became an office boy for a solicitor. His
father meanwhile became a reporter which motivated Charles to train for
journalism. In 1835 he got a job for a London newspaper and soon became
an incessant writer.
Dickens’ novels were initially published in serial form in newspapers.
He was famous for his brilliant "pen portraits" besides perfecting the
"cliffhanger" chapter ending that left readers anticipating the next
installment. His better-known novels include Oliver Twist
(1839), David Copperfield (1849), The Tale of Two Cities
(1859), and Great Expectations (1861).
his career he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels,
five novellas and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles,
lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer,
and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other
Dickens also wrote The Life of Our Lord (1849) with
instructions it be published after the lifetimes of his children which
it was in 1934.
This book presents a history of the early Christian Church and a
harmonizing of the gospels. It tells about Jesus for children and is
therefore scant on doctrine.
Dickens accepted Christianity and begins The Life of Our Lord
by saying of Jesus: "No one ever lived, who was so good, so kind, so
gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in anyway
ill or miserable…"
Like Isaac Newton, Dickens rejected the mainstream belief which
understands God as "Triune" and adopted Unitarianism, but he also
remained in the Anglican Church. Unlike many Unitarians he believed the
Bible’s miracles including the resurrection of Christ. Some of his
characters in his novels reflect Christ’s gentleness as revealed in the
Besides his writings Dickens also "remembered the poor" by supervising
for ten years Urania Cottage which he helped to establish to house,
redeem and educate "fallen women of the working class". About 100 women
graduated from 1847 to 1859.
In his novels Dickens promoted social issues that influenced many
readers. His public ranged from illiterate paupers who combined their
half-pennies to have newspaper installments read to them, to Queen
Victoria who avidly read Oliver Twist, and 19th century politicians who
legislated to improve workers' conditions, introduce compulsory
education, and outlaw child labor.
Dickens concludes The Life of Our Lord:
Christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those
qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them, or
of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to shew that we love
Him by humbly trying to do right in everything.
Clarke, G. Charles Dickens’ private storytelling, Eternity, March 2012,
Lacayo, R. The seriously Funny Man, Time, July 14, 2008, pp 37-47
Magnussen, M. (Editor) 1990 Chambers Biographical Dictionary, W & R
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