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- I firmly believe people have hitherto been a great deal too much taken up about doctrine and far too little about practice. The word doctrine, as used in the Bible, means teaching of duty, not theory. I preached a sermon about this. We are far too anxious to be definite and to have finished, well-polished, sharp-edged systems — forgetting that the more perfect a theory about the infinite, the surer it is to be wrong, the more impossible it is to be right.
- From a letter to his father, quoted in George MacDonald and His Wife by Greville MacDonald (son).
- After a few days, Willie got tired of [the water-wheel] — and no blame to him, for it was no earthly use beyond amusement, and that which can only amuse can never amuse long. I think the reason children get tired of their toys so soon is just that it is against human nature to be really interested in what is of no use. If you say that a beautiful thing is always interesting, I answer, that a beautiful thing is of the highest use. Is not the diamond that flashes all its colours into the heart of a poet as useful as the diamond with which the glazier divides the sheets of glass into panes for our windows?
- The History of Gutta Percha Willie, the Working Genius (1873).
- To receive honestly is the best thanks for a good thing.
- Mary Marston (1881), Chapter V.
- Two people may be at the same spot in manners and behaviour, and yet one may be getting better, and the other worse, which is the greatest of differences that could possibly exist between them.
- The Princess and Curdie (1883).
- But God lets men have their playthings, like the children they are, that they may learn to distinguish them from true possessions. If they are not learning that he takes them from them, and tries the other way: for lack of them and its misery, they will perhaps seek the true!
- Donal Grant (1883).
- Afflictions are but the shadow of His wings.
- Paul Faber, Surgeon (1886), chapter XXV.
- If sin must be kept alive, then hell must be kept alive; but while I regard the smallest sin as infinitely loathsome, I do not believe that any being, never good enough to see the essential ugliness of sin, could sin so as to deserve such punishment. I am not now, however, dealing with the question of the duration of punishment, but with the idea of punishment itself; and would only say in passing, that the notion that a creature born imperfect, nay, born with impulses to evil not of his own generating, and which he could not help having, a creature to whom the true face of God was never presented, and by whom it never could have been seen, should be thus condemned, is as loathsome a lie against God as could find place in heart too undeveloped to understand what justice is, and too low to look up into the face of Jesus.
- From ‘’Justice’’ in Unspoken Sermons Series III (1889).
- "In the midst of life we are in death," said one; it is more true that in the midst of death we are in life. Life is the only reality; what men call death is but a shadow — a word for that which cannot be — a negation, owing the very idea of itself to that which it would deny. But for life there could be no death. If God were not, there would not even be nothing. Not even nothingness preceded life. Nothingness owes its very idea to existence.
- From "Life" by George MacDonald (Essay).
- Alas! how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too deep or a kiss too long,
And then comes a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
- What we call evil, is the only and best shape, which, for the person and his condition at the time, could be assumed by the best good.
- That is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable.
- What distressed me most—more even than my own folly—was the perplexing question, How can beauty and ugliness dwell so near?
- "But tell me how it is that she could be so beautiful without any heart at all—without any place even for a heart to live in." "I cannot quite tell," she said; "but I am sure she would not look so beautiful if she did not take means to make herself look more beautiful than she is. And then, you know, you began by being in love with her before you saw her beauty...But the chief thing that makes her beautiful is this: that, although she loves no man, she loves the love of any man; and when she finds one in her power, her desire to bewitch him and gain his love (not for the sake of his love either, but that she may be conscious anew of her own beauty, through the admiration he manifests), makes her very lovely—with a self-destructive beauty..." (on the Alder Tree)
- Afterwards I learned, that the best way to manage some kinds of pain fill thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst; to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill.
- So, then, as darkness had no beginning, neither will it ever have an end. So, then, is it eternal. The negation of aught else, is its affirmation. Where the light cannot come, there abideth the darkness. The light doth but hollow a mine out of the infinite extension of the darkness. And ever upon the steps of the light treadeth the darkness; yea, springeth in fountains and wells amidst it, from the secret channels of its mighty sea. Truly, man is but a passing flame, moving unquietly amid the surrounding rest of night; without which he yet could not be, and whereof he is in part compounded.
- Why are all reflections lovelier than what we call the reality?—not so grand or so strong, it may be, but always lovelier?
- There is no cheating in nature and the simple unsought feelings of the soul. There must be a truth involved in it, though we may but in part lay hold of the meaning.
- All that man sees has to do with man. Worlds cannot be without an intermundane relationship. The community of the centre of all creation suggests an interradiating connection and dependence of the parts. Else a grander idea is conceivable than that which is already embodied.
- Benefits conferred awaken love in some minds, as surely as benefits received in others.
- Endurance must conquer, where force could not reach.
- Thou goest thine, and I go mine— Many ways we wend; Many days, and many ways, Ending in one end. Many a wrong, and its curing song; Many a road, and many an inn; Room to roam, but only one home For all the world to win.
- It is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.
- I knew now, that it is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, and not the being loved by each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul beloved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return. All true love will, one day, behold its own image in the eyes of the beloved, and be humbly glad. This is possible in the realms of lofty Death.
The Disciple and Other Poems (1867)
- We must do the thing we must
Before the thing we may;
We are unfit for any trust
Till we can and do obey.
- Willie's Question.
- You would not think any duty small,
If you yourself were great.
- Willie's Question.
- The man that feareth, Lord, to doubt,
In that fear doubteth thee.
- The Disciple.
Unspoken Sermons, First Series (1867)
- ...the regions where there is only life, and therefore all that is not music is silence.
- ‘’The Hands of the Father’’
- A condition which of declension would indicate a devil, may of growth indicate a saint.
- ‘’The Consuming Fire’’
- It may be an infinitely less evil to murder a man than to refuse to forgive him. The former may be the act of a moment of passion: the latter is the heart’s choice.
- ‘’It Shall Not Be Forgiven’’
- We are and remain such creeping Christians, because we look at ourselves and not at Christ; because we gaze at the marks of our own soiled feet, and the trail of our own defiled garments....Each, putting his foot in the footprint of the Master, and so defacing it, turns to examine how far his neighbor’s footprint corresponds with that which he still calls the Master’s, although it is but his own.
- ‘’The Eloi’’
At the Back of the North Wind (1871)
- Where did you come from baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into the here....
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the skies as I came through.
- Diamond, however, had not been out so late before in all his life, and things looked so strange about him! — just as if he had got into Fairyland, of which he knew quite as much as anybody; for his mother had no money to buy books to set him wrong on the subject.
- For that great Love speaks in the most wretched and dirty hearts; only the tone of its voice depends on the echoes of the place in which it sounds.
- Chapter 18.
The Marquis of Lossie (1877)
- Age is not all decay; it is the ripening,
the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husks.
- A true friend is forever a friend.
- To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.
The Fantastic Imagination (1893)
- The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is — not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.
- Were I asked, what is a fairytale? I should reply, Read Undine: that is a fairytale ... of all fairytales I know, I think Undine the most beautiful.
- A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean. If my drawing, on the other hand, is so far from being a work of art that it needs THIS IS A HORSE written under it, what can it matter that neither you nor your child should know what it means? It is there not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning. — But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never meant! — Not what he pleases, but what he can. If he be not a true man, he will draw evil out of the best; we need not mind how he treats any work of art! If he be a true man, he will imagine true things; what matter whether I meant them or not?
- We are often unable to tell people what they need to know because they want to know something else.
- Chapter 9.
- That which is in a man, not that which lies beyond his vision is the main factor in what is about to befall him: the operation upon him is the event.
- Chapter 16.
Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
- Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
- Come, come to Him who made thy heart; Come weary and oppressed; To come to Jesus is thy part; His part, to give thee rest.
- P. 152.
- All is loss that comes between us and Christ.
- P. 95.
- Division has done more to hide Christ from the view of men than all the infidelity that has ever been spoken.
- P. 148.
- Learn these two things:
never be discouraged because good things get on so slowly here, and never fail daily to do that good which lies next to your hand. Do not be in a hurry, but be diligent. Enter into the sublime patience of the Lord. Be charitable in view of it. God can afford to wait; why cannot we, since we have Him to fall back upon? Let patience have her perfect work, and bring forth her celestial fruits. Trust to God to weave your little thread in to a web, though the patterns show it not yet.
- P. 122.
- God Himself — His thoughts, His will, His love, His judgments are men's home. To think His thoughts, to choose His will, to judge His judgments, and thus to know that He is in us, with us, is to be at home. And to pass through the valley of the shadow of death is the way home, but only thus, that as all changes have hitherto lead us nearer to this home, the knowledge of God, so this greatest of all outward changes — for it is but an outward change — will surely usher us into a region where there will be fresh possibilities of drawing nigh in heart, soul, and mind to the Father of us all.
- P. 257.
- God hides nothing. His very work from the beginning is revelation,— a casting aside of veil after veil, a showing unto men of truth after truth. On and on from Tact Divine He advances, until at length in His Son Jesus He unveils His very face.
- P. 285.