Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George MacDonald

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

"But herein is the Bible itself greatly wronged. It nowhere lays claim to be regarded as the Word, the Way, the Truth. The Bible leads us to Jesus, the inexhaustible, the ever unfolding Revelation of God. It is Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” not the Bible, save as leading to Him."

"But I don't quite understand, Father: is nobody your friend but the one that does something for you?"

"But I never just quite liked that rhyme.'"

"But how can we love a man or a woman who … is mean, unlovely, carping, uncertain, self-righteous, self-seeking, and self-admiring?-who can even sneer, the most inhuman of human faults, far worse in its essence than mere murder? These things cannot be loved. The best man hates them most; the worst man cannot love them. But are these the man? . . . Lies there not"

"But if a body was never to do anything but what he knew to be good, he would have to live half his time doing nothing-How little you must have thought! Why, you don’t seem even to know the good of the things you are constantly doing. Now don’t mistake me. I don’t mean you are good for doing them. It is a good thing to eat your breakfast, but you don’t fancy it’s very good of you to do it. The thing is good-not you... There are a great many more good things than bad things to do."

"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."

"But in truth there was more expression in the flower than was yet in the face. The flower expressed what God was thinking of when He made it; the face, what the girl was thinking of herself. When she ceased thinking of herself, then, like the flower, she would show what God was thinking of when he made her."

"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."

"But the door into life generally opens behind us, and a hand is put forth which draws us in backwards. The sole wisdom for man or boy who is haunted with the hovering of unseen wings, with the scent of unseen roses, and the subtle enticements of “melodies unheard,” is work. If he follow any of those, they will vanish. But if he work, they will come unsought."

"But it was little to Curdie that men who did not know what he was about should not approve of his proceedings."

"But there is a light that goes deeper than the will, a light that lights up the darkness behind it: that light can change your will can make it truly yours and not another's - not the Shadow's. Into the created can pour itself the creating will, and so redeem it!"

"But there is no veil like light--no adamantine armor against hurt like the truth."

"But there are victories far worse than defeats; and to overcome an angel too gentle to put out all his strength, and ride away in triumph on the back of a devil, is one of the poorest."

"But we believe – nay, Lord we only hope, that one day we shall thank thee perfectly for pain and hope and all that led or drove us back into the bosom of thy love."

"By an infinite decomposition we should know nothing more of what a thing really is, for, the moment we decompose it, it ceases to be, and all its meaning is vanished. Infinitely more than astronomy even, which destroys nothing, can do for us, is done by the mere aspect and changes of the vault over our heads. Think for a moment what would be our idea of greatness, of God, of infinitude, of aspiration, if, instead of a blue, far withdrawn, light-spangled firmament, we were born and reared under a flat white ceiling! I would not be supposed to depreciate the labors of science, but I say its discoveries are unspeakably less precious than the merest gifts of Nature, those which, from morning to night, we take unthinking from her hands. One day, I trust, we shall be able to enter into their secrets from within them-by natural contact. . . ."

"But when we are following the light, even its extinction is a guide."

"Can it be any comfort to them to be told that God loves them so that He will burn them clean? . . . They do not want to be clean, and they cannot bear to be tortured."

"But words are vain; reject them all—they utter but a feeble part: hear thou the depths from which they call, the voiceless longing of my heart."

"Come, then, affliction, if my Father wills, and be my frowning friend. A friend that frowns is better than a smiling enemy."

"By obeying one learns how to obey."

"Complaint against God is far nearer to God than indifference about Him."

"Certainly work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness - the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected."

"Common people, whether lords or shop-keepers, are slow to understand that possession, whether in the shape of birth or lands or money or intellect, is a small affair in the difference between men."

"Clara’s words appeared to me quite irreverent . . . but what to answer here I did not know. I almost began to dislike her; for it is often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors."

"Continuing a short series on prayer: Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at home; but he needs his mother more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need: prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer... So begins a communion, a talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer, yea, of existence itself in its infinite phases. We must ask that we may receive; but that we should receive what we ask in respect of our lower needs, is not God's end in making us pray, for He could give us everything without that: to bring His child to His knee, God withholds that man may ask."

"Continuing a short series on authenticity: There is one growing persuasion of the present age which I hope this book may somewhat serve to stem -- not by any argument, but by... a healthy up stirring ... of the imagination and the conscience. In these days, when men are so gladly hearing afresh that "in Him there is no darkness at all"; that God, therefore could not have created any man if He knew that he must live in torture to all eternity; and that His hatred to evil cannot be expressed by injustice, itself the one essence of evil, -- for certainly it would be nothing less than injustice to punish infinitely what was finitely committed, no sinner being capable of understanding the abstract enormity of what he does, -- in these days has a arisen another falsehood, less, yet very perilous: thousands of half-thinkers imagine that, since it is declared with such authority that hell is not everlasting, there is then no hell at all. To such folly, I, for one, have never given enticement or shelter. I see no hope for many, no way for the divine love to reach them, save through a very ghastly hell. Men have got to repent; there is no other escape for them, and no escape from that."

"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."

"Could you not give me some sign, or tell me something about you that never changes, or some other way to know you, or thing to know you by? — No, Curdie: that would be to keep you from knowing me. You must know me in quite another way from that. It would not be the least use to you or me either if I were to make you know me in that way. It would be but to know the sign of me — not to know me myself."

"Continuing a short series on prayer: We know that the wind blows; why should we not know that God answers prayer? I reply, What if God does not care to have you know it at second-hand? What if there would be no good in that? There is some testimony on record, and perhaps there might be much more were it not that, having to do with things so immediately personal, and generally so delicate, answers to prayer would naturally not often be talked about; but no testimony concerning the thing can well be conclusive; for, like a reported miracle, there is always some way to daff it; and besides, the conviction to be got that way is of little value: it avails nothing to know the thing by the best of evidence... `But if God is so good as you represent Him, and if He knows all that we need, and better far than we do ourselves, why should it be necessary to ask Him for anything?" In answer, What if He knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need -- the need of Himself?"

"Do the things you know, and you shall learn the truth you need to know."

"Difficulty adds to result, as the ramming of powder sends the bullet the further."

"Do the truth ye know, and you shall learn the truth you need to know."

"Do those who say, "Lo here, or lo there, are the signs of His coming", think to be too keen for Him, and spy His approach? When He tells them to watch lest He find them neglecting their work, they stare this way and that, and watch lest He should succeed in coming like a thief!"

"Do you so love the truth and the right that you welcome, or at least submit willingly to, the idea of an exposure of what in you is yet unknown to yourself -- an exposure that may redound to the glory of the truth by making you ashamed and humbled?... Are you willing to be made glad that you were wrong when you thought others were wrong? ... We may trust God with our past as heartily as with our future. It will not hurt us so long as we do not try to hide things, so long as we are ready to bow our heads in hearty shame where it is fit that we should be ashamed. For to be ashamed is a holy and blessed thing. Shame is a thing to shame only those who want to appear, not those who want to be. Shame is to shame those who want to pass their examination, not those who would get into the heart of things... To be humbly ashamed is to be plunged in the cleansing bath of truth."

"Do you think you love your children better than He who made them? Is not your love what it is because He put it into your heart first? Have you not often been cross with them? Sometimes unjust to them? Whence came the returning love that rose from unknown depths in your being, and swept away the anger and the injustice? You did not create that love. Probably you were not good enough to send for it by prayer. But it came. God sent it. He makes you love your children."

"Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plans."

"Doubt may be a poor encouragement to do anything, but it is a bad reason for doing nothing."

"Do you think that the work God gives us to do is never easy? People sometimes refuse to do God's work just because it is easy. This is sometimes because they cannot believe that easy work is His work; but there may be a very bad pride in it... Some, again, accept it with half a heart and do it with half a hand. But however easy any work may be, it cannot be well done without taking thought about it. And such people, instead of taking thought about their work, generally take thought about the morrow -- in which no work can be done, any more than in yesterday."

"Does it bring them any nearer to God than they were before? Is He filling one cranny more of their hearts in consequence?"

"'Does loving a thing make it yours?'"

"Emulation is the devil-shadow of aspiration. - To excite it is worthy only of the commonplace vulgar schoolmaster, whose ambition is to show what fine scholars he can turn out, that he may get the more pupils."

"Doubt swells and surges, with swelling doubt behind! My soul in storm is but a tattered sail, streaming its ribbons on the torrent gale; in calm, 'tis but a limp and flapping thing: Oh! swell it with thy breath; make it a wing, to sweep through thee the ocean, with thee the wind nor rest until in thee its haven it shall find. Roses are scentless, hopeless are the morns, rest is but weakness, laughter crackling thorns, but love is life. To die of love is then the only pass to higher life than this. All love is death to loving, living men; all deaths are leaps across clefts to the abyss. Weakness needs pity, sometimes love's rebuke; strength only sympathy deserves and draws - and grows by every faithful loving look. Ripeness must always come with loss of might."

"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."

"Endurance must conquer, where force could not reach."

"Even such as ask amiss may sometimes have their prayers answered. The Father will never give the child a stone that asks for bread; but I am not sure that He will never give the child a stone that asks for a stone. If the Father says, “My child, that is a stone; it is no bread,” and the child answer, “I am sure it is bread; I want it,” may it not be well that he should try his “bread”?"

"Entering by a wide gateway, but without gates, into an inner court, surrounded on all sides by great marble pillars supporting galleries above, I saw a large fountain of porphyry in the middle, throwing up a lofty column of water, which fell, with a noise as of the fusion of all sweet sounds, into a basin beneath; overflowing which, it ran into a single channel towards the interior of the building. Although the moon was by this time so low in the west, that not a ray of her light fell into the court, over the height of the surrounding buildings; yet was the court lighted by a second reflex from the sun of other lands. For the top of the column of water, just as it spread to fall, caught the moonbeams, and like a great pale lamp, hung high in the night air, threw a dim memory of light (as it were) over the court below."

"Even the damned must at times become aware of what they are, and then surely a terrible though momentary hush must fall upon the forsaken regions."

"Every man who tries to obey the Master is my brother, whether he counts me such or not, and I revere him; but dare I give quarter to what I see to be a lie because my brother believes it? The lie is not of God, whoever may hold it."

"Even the unchained animal self-the demoniac self. True victory over self is the victory of God in the man, not of the man alone. It is not subjugation that is enough, but subjugation by God. In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably-or succeed more miserably. No portion of a man can rule another, for God, not the man, created it, and the part is greater than the whole. . . . The diseased satisfaction which some minds feel in laying burdens on themselves, is a pampering, little as they may suspect it, of the most dangerous appetite of that self which they think they are mortifying."

"Every one of us is something that the other is not, and therefore knows something-it may be without knowing that he knows it-which no one else knows: and … it is everyone’s business, as one of the kingdom of light and inheritor in it all, to give his portion to the rest."