The Christian Black Beauty
2022 February 7
Christian Black Beauty? The book by Anna Sewell? Which edition of Black Beauty is the Christian one?
There is no special Christian edition of the classic Black Beauty, written in 1877 by Anna Sewell. If you have an unabridged version of the book, you'll find it replete with Christian themes.
Anna Sewell was raised as a devout Quaker. Although she left the Quakers at 18, she did not leave the Christian faith. In fact, her strong faith and her love of horses were her motivations for writing Black Beauty.
Although Sewell never states this verse specifically, the entire novel is based on the premise of Proverbs 12:10.
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
Anna and her mother, Mary Sewell, were active in the temperance movement fighting the evils caused by alcohol abuse that affected both people and animals, particularly horses. Several horses in the book are injured by drunken riders or drivers. While drunk driving with a horse may sound humorous to some, it was no more humorous then than it is now with motorized vehicles.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. - Proverbs 20:1
A few more Christian references include:
- God as creator - "there was not a well-bred young horse in my time that had not his tail docked in that shameful way, just as if the good God that made us did not know what we wanted and what looked best ... they always think they can improve upon nature and mend what God has made."
- Satan (the devil) as a liar and murderer - "if we saw any one who took pleasure in cruelty we might know who he belonged to, for the devil was a murderer from the beginning"
- Observance of the Sabbath - "I can't give up my Sundays, sir, indeed I can't. I read that God made man, and he made horses and all the other beasts, and as soon as He had made them He made a day of rest, and bade that all should rest one day in seven."
- Exceptions permissible on the Sabbath - "if pulling a poor beast or donkey out of a pit would not spoil it, I am quite sure taking poor Dinah would not do it."
- The Golden Rule - "you know we should do to other people as we should like they should do to us; and I know very well what I should like if my mother was dying."
- Doing good to others with no expectation of payment - "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these."
That is just a sampling of the most prominent themes, but a Christian worldview and foundation underlies everything Anna Sewell wrote and was her motivation for writing. Black Beauty was not a children's storybook. As a Christian, Sewell was concerned about the neglect and abuse of horses who were a vital part of everyday life in Victorian England.
"to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses"
I encourage children and adults to take a second look at this book - and look for the Christian and moral principles that are found in it. It's endured as a classic novel for 145 years for a reason.
If you're interested in diving deeper into the novel, consider my Black Beauty video course as well.