It has been quite some time since I blogged on a Lamplighter Book. But it’s been quite awhile since I read a Lamplighter Book. Every once in a while I just need a break from prophecy. Last year I read Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe for the first time. I blogged about Robinson Crusoe because of the Christian content within the book. After attending the church ministries’ conference this spring, I have three more Lamplighter Books in my collection. There is the nicest lady named Mary who runs the Lamplighter exhibit at the conference. I always ask her for a recommendation and I usually get 2-3 books that she says are exemplary.
A couple of years back she recommended the book The Shepherd of Bethlehem by A.L.O.E. The premise of the book was one of a new pastor in town who breaks his leg upon arrival. Instead of being able to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities, he is completely confined to an upstairs apartment. He invites people to attend a series of lessons on the life of David. The writing style is such that a lesson comprises a chapter in the book. Then the effects of the lesson are seen in the lives of those who heard it. The plot of the characters revolves around the lessons that Mr. Eardley, the aforementioned clergyman, prepares and delivers to the meagerly attended lectures.
This time Mary recommended what can be considered the second book in this series. Exiles in Babylon continues the same theme with Mr. Eardley giving a series of lectures, but the location has changed along with the introduction of a completely new cast of characters. Mr. Eardley has taken another position and has tried to minister to the needs of this community. Yet there is one portion of the community that spurns the presence of anything godly, the estate of Sir Digby Lestrange. Upon the employment of a new steward of Sir Digby’s estate, Mr. Eardley attempts once again to strike up a relationship with someone on the grounds. While not being overly communicative about his Christian faith, Robert Holdich, the newly employed steward, is a solid Christian who simply will not be swayed by the lascivious ways of those who live on the estate of the baronet. Holdich allows Mr. Eardley to hold a series of lectures in his home, the subject being the prophet Daniel and his friends, hence the title of the book, Exiles in Babylon.
Like the last book, the plot is so intertwined with the lessons that Mr. Eardley delivers, that it is hardly a chore to read a chapter fully devoted to a story that I know so well from the life of Daniel. Robert Holdich is the character with whom I identified quite strongly. [I am strong in my faith but not overly conversational about it.] His wife, Rebekah, struggles with daily faithfulness in her duties and for the first part of the book, is quite a trial to Robert. He also struggles with how to reprimand his wife for unfaithfulness in chores and with how to point her to God. The bigger struggle that Robert endures, though, is with the trouble that his teenage son, Ned, brings upon himself. But we need to back up slightly in order to understand.
The estate of Sir Digby is not so vile because he is a vile man. He is proud and rich, yet quite ignorant of how his money has been spent by his servants thus far. In short, he has an entire estate that has been living licentiously on his dime without his knowledge. When Robert Holdich assumes charge of the finances of the estate, he sees all too well what has been transpiring. But how can one man initiate any change amid a den of thieves who would do anything rather than be exposed for who they really are? Sir Digby is confronted with a frank look at his expenditures versus his income, yet he is too proud to listen to Holdich in his sound advice. So Holdich has the added burden of overseeing the failing estate of a rich man who refuses to heed the clear warning signs. Sir Digby also has a sickly daughter who loves to attend the lectures given by Mr. Eardley. She invites her father who wants to come to see why her daughter loves to hear this man talk about God. Yet the story chosen for that particular day was Daniel 4. Daniel is forced to confront King Nebuchadnezzar with a message of impending doom unless he repents of his evil ways. When the king refuses, he is transformed into a ravening madman until he acknowledges the sovereignty of the Most High. As the baronet enters the humble cottage of his steward, Mr. Eardley realizes exactly how the lesson he had prepared could be taken, yet delivers it anyway. The result is that Sir Digby is so offended that he refuses to attend another lecture, especially with his conscience bearing witness on how he refused the counsel of Holdich on the matter of his finances.
Meanwhile, the enemies of Holdich, the other servants who do not wish to be exposed, have plotted against him and found a weakness in his son. Ned has become friends with Parker who has been influencing him to neglect basic things like attending the lectures given by Mr. Eardley, and swaying him to attend events from which Christians should simply stay away. The result is a carefully crafted scheme to frame Ned making it look as if he has committed a crime against the Lestrange estate. The result is such a shock to Robert and Rebekah that they wonder how God will bring them through this. While the portents given by the author made the plot slightly predictable, the characters and story held my interest from beginning to end. I liked, again, how the author wove together the lessons from the scriptures and used them to influence certain characters into repentance and godliness. The shining beacon in this story is the character of Robert Holdich. Here was a man who was put to the flame, yet did not flinch. He knew that God could deliver him out of the flame, yet was prepared to endure, just like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah facing the fiery furnace of Daniel 3. Another interesting character was Edith, Sir Digby’s frail daughter, who begins growing in her faith quite early in the book. The author had me wondering what the outcome of her fate would be at the conclusion of the story. In a strange sort of way, I liked grouchy Mrs. Bateman as well. You never knew what she was going to spout off with next.
A.L.O.E. is a pen name for Charlotte Maria Tucker which stands for A Lady Of England. Both stories were set in England and have a wide range of vocabulary. I took a look online to try to find a catalogue of her works and found other novels which she had written, but no mention of either of the two that I have from Lamplighter. One list did mention The Giant Killer which I have read as well having borrowed it from a friend. Only a handful of titles were mentioned compared with the plethora of books which she penned. One article stated she had written some 140 books. The very last chapter in Exiles in Babylon has resolved the plot and turns the attention of the reader to the end portions of the book of Daniel which are prophetic sayings hard to comprehend. Yet there is some recognition that it is a word of hope that the righteous will awake to everlasting life. There is a poem placed last which I can only assume was written by A.L.O.E. herself since it is also included in a book titled Hymns and Poems by A.L.O.E. The beautiful poem is titled A Dream of the Second Advent. Because of my love for prophecy, I include it in my review of the book, but it will be below in the comments section. Overall, this is a very interesting book and would make, like days gone by, a very good Sunday school prize for some child or adult whose heart may be open to the seed of the word of God.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman
P.S. Mary told me that there is even another book in this particular series featuring Mr. Eardley. From the way she talked, I already know what one of my recommendations next year will be if I make it to the conference.