George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. I was aware of him primarily because he had a major influence on C.S. Lewis, and in fact, Lewis has said that MacDonald’s writings were instrumental in his acceptance of the Christian faith.
At one point, Lewis compiled an anthology of his favorite excerpts from MacDonald’s works, and that is what this volume is: 365 short readings taken from various books, sermons, and plays, and arranged and edited by Lewis himself.
Below are some of my favorite quotations [with my comments inserted in brackets]. I have included a lot of them because most are very short (and yes, I do realize that some irony is involved in me sharing my favorite quotations from a book which is essentially C.S. Lewis’s favorite quotations):
“For He regards men not as they are merely, but as they shall be; not as they shall be merely, but as they are now growing, or capable of growing, toward that image after which He made them that they might grow to it.” (p.3)
“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 is spiritual murder, the worst, to hate, to brood over the feeling that excludes, that, in our microcosm, kills the image, the idea of the hated.” (p.7) [This is a helpful perspective: refusing to forgive is truly a premeditated, cold-blooded act. It is soul-destroying.]
“Truth is truth, whether from the lips of Jesus or Balaam.” (p.8) [I think this speaks strongly against the idea that, if we disagree with someone about something, we can’t cooperate with them in any sense, affirm anything they say, or applaud anything they do. I think truth belongs to God, and should be affirmed whenever we hear it, regardless of the source.]
“But it is not the rich man only who is under the dominion of things; they too are slaves who, having no money, are unhappy from the lack of it.” (p.38) [Materialism can crush the rich and poor alike.]
“However bad I may be, I am the child of God, and therein lies my blame. Ah, I would not lose my blame! In my blame lies my hope.” (p.64)
“Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. It is the life in us that is discontented: we need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent.” (p.70) [I think N.T. Wright would be in full agreement with this!]
“If the Lord were to appear this day in England as once in Palestine, He would not come in the halo of the painters of with that wintry shine of effeminate beauty, of sweet weakness, in which it is their helpless custom to represent Him.” (p.91)
“…Dare I give quarter to what I see to be a lie because my brother believes it?” (p.105)
“While a satisfied justice is an unavoidable eternal event, a satisfied revenge is an eternal impossibility.” (p.121)
“It is not by driving away our brother that we can be alone with God.” (p.127)
“Our human life is often, at best, but an oscillation between the extremes which together make the truth.” (p.134) [So many problems and so many false teachings come about as a form of extremism. Balance is important.]
“Dissociate immortality from the living Immortality, and it is not a thing to be desired.” (p.141) [I think too many people see the primary benefit of eternal salvation as getting to live forever. But I think the Bible is clear that the primary benefit is getting to be with God forever. Without the latter, the former would be a punishment, not a reward.]
“There are those who in their very first seeking of it are nearer to the Kingdom of Heaven than many who have for years believed themselves of it. In the former there is more of the mind of Jesus, and when He calls them they recognize Him at once and go after Him; while the others examine Him from head to foot, and finding Him not sufficiently like the Jesus of their conception, turn their backs and go to church or chapel or chamber to kneel before a vague form mingled of tradition and fancy.” (p.144-45) [Ouch.]
“By obeying one learns how to obey.” (p.154)
“With every morn my life afresh must break the crust of self, gathered about me fresh.” (p.158) [Christianity is about dying to self. Every. Single. Day.]
“A beast does not know that he is a beast, an the nearer a man gets to being a beast the less he knows it.” (p.160)
“We are often unable to tell people what they need to know, because they want to know something else.” (p.168)
On the whole, I enjoyed reading George MacDonald, though the nature of the book meant that the quotations were, necessarily, removed from their fuller context and made for choppy reading if you read it as a regular book (which I did) rather than reading one excerpt per day. I do think it would be a helpful devotional book to read on a daily basis. The readings are short (5-6 words to a page) but powerful, and could do much to properly orient your perspective before you plunge into the world (say, right before you get out of the car when you are at work).