In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Marley, Scrooge’s business partner now dead for seven years, visits Scrooge. Marley comes chained with the chains he forged in life and now wears after death. He warns Scrooge of his impending fate if he does not change.
Quoting from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (in the public domain)
Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain
and wrung its shadowy hands.
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost.
“I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded
it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I
wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”
Scrooge trembled more and more.
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the
weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?
It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven
Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since.
It is a ponderous chain!”
Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the
expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty
or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see
“Jacob,” he said, imploringly. “Old Jacob Marley,
tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”
“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied. “It comes
from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed
by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor
can I tell you what I would. A very little more is
all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I
cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked
beyond our counting-house–mark me!–in life my
spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our
money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before
It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became
thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets.
Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now,
but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his
“You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,”
Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though
with humility and deference.
“Slow!” the Ghost repeated.
“Seven years dead,” mused Scrooge. “And travelling
all the time!”
“The whole time,” said the Ghost. “No rest, no
peace. Incessant torture of remorse.”
“You travel fast?” said Scrooge.
“On the wings of the wind,” replied the Ghost.
“You might have got over a great quantity of
ground in seven years,” said Scrooge.
The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and
clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of
the night, that the Ward would have been justified in
indicting it for a nuisance.
“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the
phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour
by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into
eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is
all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit
working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may
be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast
means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of
regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity
misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”
“But you were always a good man of business,
Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands
again. “Mankind was my business. The common
welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance,
and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings
of my trade were but a drop of water in the
comprehensive ocean of my business!”
It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were
the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it
heavily upon the ground again.
“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said,
“I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of
fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never
raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise
Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to
which its light would have conducted me!”
Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the
spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake
“Hear me!” cried the Ghost. “My time is nearly
“I will,” said Scrooge. “But don’t be hard upon
me! Don’t be flowery, Jacob! Pray!”
“How it is that I appear before you in a shape that
you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible
beside you many and many a day.”
Classics are classics because they go beyond the glitz and glimmer and drama of less important themes. It is why certain works of literature are studied year after year.
The Scrooge/Marley theme above is also mentioned in the Apocrypha.
Luther (Martin Luther, that is) said this of the Apocrypha: “’These are books that, though not esteemed like the Holy Scriptures, are still both useful and good to read.’” Source
Wisdom of Solomon
17:1 For your judgments, O Lord, are great, and your words are indescribable. Therefore, undisciplined souls have wandered astray.
17:2 For, while they managed to convince the unjust, so as to obtain dominion over the holy nation, they themselves were fettered with chains of darkness and of endless night, enclosed in their houses, fugitives of everlasting providence, lying in ruins.
17:3 And, while they thought to escape notice in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of oblivion, being horribly afraid, and having been disturbed with great astonishment.
17:4 For neither did the cave which enclosed them preserve them from fear, because descending noises disturbed them, and the sorrowful persons appearing to them intensified their fear.
Scrooge was totally unaware of his chains. He did not see himself as God saw him until he went through the process of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future.
In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge realizes that that final Christmas Eve was his night of decision. He had been told by Christmas present that it was too late. Christmas future pointed to his gravestone. In Scrooge’s case, he repented. If you have never watched A Christmas Carol, you should, as the message is timeless.
Jesus told a story of someone similar to Scrooge. It may not have been a parable, for it was “a certain rich man”. In any case, these stories and messages are timeless and apply every generation.
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
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