George MacDonald

Since moving to Romania and finding my sources for books diminished (or, more accurately, translated), I’ve discovered the pleasure of eBooks.  The price is far better (often free at some of my favorite places: Scribd, BookOS, eChristian, and David C Cook eBooks), the weight is negligible (about 0.000000000000000001 gram for every four gigabytes of data *), and you can carry your whole library without needing a U-Haul truck.

The world of eBooks opened up to me the works of an old author most have never heard of but know well through those he influenced.  George MacDonald — a Scottish minister, poet, and author — lived and wrote in the latter half of the 19th century and influenced a generation of writers, many of whom are household names:  C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, G.K. Chesterton, and even probably Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkien all share a common ancestor in MacDonald.  (Click for more information about his influence on Tolkien and Twain.)

I don’t plan here to give a biography of MacDonald or a synopsis of the book I’ve recently been reading.  Instead, I want to leave you simply with some quotes I’ve enjoyed from “Sir Gibbie.”  Not all his books are outwardly very Christian, but “Sir Gibbie” for one is drenched with trust in Jesus, and after every read, I walk away more full of hope, love, and zeal.

Without further ado, enjoy a couple quotes I found inspiring…

Let him who understands, understand better; let him not say the good is less than perfect, or excuse his supineness and spiritual sloth by saying to himself that a man can go too far in his search after the divine, can sell too much of what he has to buy the field of the treasure. Either there is no Christ of God, or my all is his.

But there was in her soul a large wilderness ready for the voice that should come crying to prepare the way of the king.

Society scouts the drunkard because he is loathsome, and it matters nothing whether society be right or wrong, while it cherishes in its very bosom vices which are, to the God-born thing we call the soul, yet worse poisons.

God has in his universe furnaces for the refining of gold, as well as for the burning of chaff and tares and fruitless branches; and, however they may have offended, it is the elder brother who is the judge of all the younger ones.

He was as one who gazes into the abyss of God’s will—sees only the abyss, cannot see the will, and weeps.

  “Laddie, tak back the word,” said his mother calmly.  “Gien ye dinna forgie yer enemies, ye’ll no be forgi’en yersel’.”
  “That’s some hard, mither,” answered the offender, with an attempted smile.
  “Hard!” she echoed; “it may weel be hard, for it canna be helpit.  What wad be the use o’ forgiein’ ye, or hoo cud it win at ye, or what wad ye care for’t, or mak o’t, cairryin’ a hell o’ hate i’ yer verra hert?  For gien God be love, hell maun be hate.  My bairn, them ‘at winna forgie their enemies, cairries sic a nest o’ deevilry i’ their ain boasoms, ‘at the verra speerit o’ God himsel’ canna win in till’t for bein’ scomfished wi’ smell an’ reik.

It is the heart that is not yet sure of its God, that is afraid to laugh in his presence.

…His whole soul was full of the man, of his doings, of his words, of his thoughts, of his life.  Jesus Christ was in him—he was possessed by him. Almost before he knew, he was trying to fashion his life after that of his Master.

Should it be any wonder, if Christ be indeed the natural Lord of every man, woman, and child, that a simple, capable nature, laying itself entirely open to him and his influences, should understand him?  How should he be the Lord of that nature if such a thing were not possible, or were at all improbable—nay, if such a thing did not necessarily follow?

But I must not call any true soul a cistern: wherever the water of life is received, it sinks and softens and hollows, until it reaches, far down, the springs of life there also, that come straight from the eternal hills, and thenceforth there is in that soul a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

The shoots of glad consciousness that come to the obedient man, surpass in bliss whole days and years of such ravined rapture as he gains whose weariness is ever  spurring the sides of his intent towards the ever retreating goal of his desires.  I am a traitor even to myself if I would live without my life.

When a man turns to look at himself, that moment the glow of the loftiest bliss begins to fade; the pulsing fire flies throb paler in the passionate night; an unseen vapour steams up from the marsh and dims the star-crowded sky and the azure sea; and the next moment the very bliss itself looks as if it had never been more than a phosphorescent gleam—the summer lightning of the brain.  For then the man sees himself but in his own dim mirror, whereas ere he turned to look in that, he knew himself in the absolute clarity of God’s present thought out-bodying him.

But I withhold my pen; for vain were the fancy, by treatise or sermon or poem or tale, to persuade a man to forget himself.  He cannot if he would.  Sooner will he forget the presence of a raging tooth.  There is no forgetting of ourselves but in the finding of our deeper, our true self—God’s idea of us when he devised us—the Christ in us.  Nothing but that self can displace the false, greedy, whining self, of which, most of us are so fond and proud.  And that self no man can find for himself; seeing of himself he does not even know what to search for.

Of all teachings that which presents a far distant God is the nearest to absurdity.  Either there is none, or he is nearer to every one of us than our nearest consciousness of self.  An unapproachable divinity is the veriest of monsters, the most horrible of human imaginations.

…True music, like true love, like all truth, laughs at the god Fashion, because it knows him to be but an ape.

…love makes obedience a joy; and of him who obeys all heaven is the patrimony–he is fellow-heir with Christ.

…He regarded the things he now saw just as things, without the smallest notion of any power in them to confer superiority by being possessed: can a slave knight his master?

The things that come out of a man are they that defile him, and to get rid of them, a man must go into himself, be a convict, and scrub the floor of his cell. Mrs. Sclater’s cell was very tidy and respectable for a cell, but no human consciousness can be clean, until it lies wide open to the eternal sun, and the all-potent wind; until, from a dim-lighted cellar it becomes a mountain-top.

What can be less like religion than the prayers of a man whose religion is his profession, and who, if he were not “in the church,” would probably never pray at all?

No man can order his life, for it comes flowing over him from behind. But if it lay before us, and we could watch its current approaching from a long distance, what could we do with it before it had reached the now?

The one secret of life and development, is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work—to do every moment’s duty aright—-that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come—-not what will, for there is no such thing—-but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first.

If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made—-let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort: they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.

An’, ‘deed, sir, ye need never won’er gien the likes o’ me disna care aboot gangin’ to hear a preacht gospel: we wad fain see a practeesed ane!

There can be no better auxiliary against our own sins than to help our neighbour in the encounter with his. Merely to contemplate our neighbour will recoil upon us in quite another way: we shall see his faults so black, that we will not consent to believe ours so bad, and will immediately begin to excuse, which is the same as to cherish them, instead of casting them from us with abhorrence.

Weel, I wad jist say, in a general w’y, ‘at I canna think muckle o’ ony sermon ‘at micht gar a body think mair o’ the precher nor o’ him ‘at he comes to prech aboot. I mean, ‘at I dinna see hoo onybody was to lo’e God or his neebour ae jot the mair for hearin’ yon sermon last nicht.

He had not yet begun to think about prudence, and perhaps, if some of us thought more about right, we should have less occasion to cultivate the inferior virtue. Perhaps also we should have more belief that there is One to care that things do not go wrong.

There is many a thief who is less of a thief than many a respectable member of society.

He was a rare one, who did not make the common miserable blunder of taking the shadow cast by love—the desire, namely, to be loved—for love itself; his love was a vertical sun, and his own shadow was under his feet.

The man who throughly loves God and his neighbour is the only man who will love a woman ideally—who can love her with the love God thought of between them when he made man male and female. The man, I repeat, who loves God with his very life, and his neighbour as Christ loves him, is the man who alone is capable of grand, perfect, glorious love to any woman.


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