Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George MacDonald

Scottish Author, Poet and Minister known for his fairy tales and fantasy works

"A man often preaches his beliefs precisely when he has lost them and is looking everywhere for them, and, on such occasions, his preaching is by no means at its worst."

"No indulgence of passion destroys the spiritual nature so much as respectable selfishness."

"Timely service, like timely gifts, is doubled in value."

"Truth is a very different thing from fact; it is the loving contact of the soul with spiritual fact, vital and potent. It does not work I the soul independently of all faculty or qualification there for setting it forth or defending it. Truth in the inward parts is a power, not an opinion."

"You can’t live on amusement. It is the froth on water - an inch deep, and then the mud!"

"Will is not unfrequently weakness."

"A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear."

"A parent must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence."

"Faith is obedience, not compliance."

"But for money and the need of it, there would not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good if divinely used. Give it plenty of air, and it is sweet as the hawthorn; shut it up, and it cankers and breeds worms."

"Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk."

"Free will is not the liberty to do whatever one likes, but the power of doing whatever one sees ought to be done, even in the very face of otherwise overwhelming impulse. There lies freedom, indeed."

"All growth that is not towards God is growing to decay."

"In giving, a man receives more than he gives, and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given."

"I find the doing of the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans."

"I wondered over again from the hundredth time what could be the principle which, in the wildest, most lawless, fantastically chaotic, apparently capricious work of nature, always kept it beautiful."

"It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when to-morrow's burden is added to the burden of to-day that the weight is no more than a man can bear."

"It is only by loving a thing that you can make it yours."

"Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths. Cometh white-robed Sorrow stooping and wan, and flingeth wide the door she must not enter."

"It is when to-morrow’s burden is added to the burden of to-day that the weight is more than a man can bear."

"Mind, it is our best work that He wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think He must prefer quality to quantity."

"The best preparation for the future is the present well seen to, the last duty well done."

"The principal part of faith is patience."

"Man's rank is his power to uplift."

"To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved."

"When a man argues for victory and not for truth, he is sure of just one ally, that is the devil. Not the defeat of intellect, but the acceptance of the heart is the only true object in fighting with the sword of spirit."

"To have what we want is riches, but to be able to do without is power."

"Where there is no choice, we do well to make no difficulty."

"It is not by driving away our brother that we can be alone with God."

"In its deepest sense, the truth is a condition of heart, soul, mind and strength towards God and towards our fellow – not an utterance, not even a right form of words; and therefore such truth coming forth in words is, in a sense, the person that speaks."

"No man is condemned for anything he has done; he is condemned for continuing to do wrong."

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

"Existence was given us for action. Our worth is determined by the good deed we do, rather than by the fine emotions we feel."

"Many a life has been injured by the constant expectation of death. It is life we have to do with, not death. The best preparation for the night is to work diligently while the day lasts. The best preparation for death is life."

"The love of one’s neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self. The man thinks his consciousness is himself; whereas his life consists of the inbreathing of God, and the consciousness of the universe of truth."

"The whole history of the Christian life is a series of resurrections… Every time a man finds his heart is troubled, that he is not rejoicing in God, a resurrection must follow; a resurrection out of the night of troubled thought into the gladness of the truth."

"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."

"A condition which of declension would indicate a devil, may of growth indicate a saint."

"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?"

"A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it."

"A gentle wind of western birth, from some far summer sea, wakes daisies in the wintry earth."

"A man is in bondage to whatever he cannot part with that is less than himself."

"A man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood... Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed."

"'A good question,' he rejoined: 'nobody knows what anything is; a man can learn only what a thing means. Whether he do, depends on the use he is making of it."

"A man may sink by such slow degrees that, long after he is a devil, he may go on being a good churchman or a good dissenter and thinking himself a good Christian."

"A God must have a God for company. And lo! thou hast the Son-God to thy friend. Thou honour'st his obedience, he thy law. Into thy secret life-will he doth see; Thou fold'st him round in live love perfectly-- One two, without beginning, without end; In love, life, strength, and truth, perfect without a flaw."

"A man is as free as he chooses to make himself, never an atom freer."

"A true friend is forever a friend."

"A mere truism, is it? Yes, it is, and more is the pity; for what is a truism, as most men count truisms? What is it but a truth that ought to have been buried long ago in the lives of men-to send up forever the corn of true deeds and the wine of loving kindness-but, instead of being buried in friendly soil, is allowed to lie about, kicked hither and thither in the dry and empty garret of their brains, till they are sick of the sight and sound of it and, to be rid of the thought of it, declare it to be no living truth but only a lifeless truism? Yet in their brain that truism must rattle until they shift to its rightful quarters in their heart, where it will rattle no longer but take root and be a strength and loveliness."

"A mountain is a strange and awful thing. In old times, without knowing so much of their strangeness and awfulness as we do, people were yet more afraid of mountains. But then somehow they had not come to see how beautiful they are as well as awful, and they hated them--and what people hate they must fear. Now that we have learned to look at them with admiration, perhaps we do not feel quite awe enough of them. To me they are beautiful terrors."