George MacDonald (1824 – 1905) was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L'Engle, and C. S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his "master". Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day in a train station (presumably from a railway station bookstall), he began to read; "a few hours later," said Lewis, "I knew I had crossed a great frontier." G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had "made a difference to my whole existence”
Between 1851 and 1897, he wrote over 50 books in all manner of genre: novels, plays, essays, sermons, poems, and fairy tales. And then there were his two fantasies for adults, Phantastes (1858) and Lilith (1895), which defy categorization. His success did not exempt him from more-than-ordinary suffering. Poverty plagued him so much that his family occasionally faced literal starvation. His own lungs were diseased, and tuberculosis killed two brothers and two half-sisters. It also ravaged his children, four of whom died before him. He himself had a stroke at age 74 and lapsed into virtual silence for the last seven years of his life.
Still, MacDonald believed suffering was finally redemptive: "All pains, indeed, and all sorrows, all demons, yea, and all sins themselves, under the suffering care of the highest minister, are but the ministers of truth and righteousness.” He was fascinated with God's triumphant love: "I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one—that he will not leave his sins and come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father."
MacDonald eventually became an Anglican, but he never had much patience with high theology or liturgy—he said it often stood in the way of people encountering Christ personally. Furthermore, it wasn't just the church but all of creation that revealed God.
“Gather my broken fragments to a whole…Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart, but make it a whole, with light in every part.”
“When our hearts turn to him, that is opening the door to him…then he comes in, not by our thoughts only, not in our idea only, but he comes himself, and of his own will. Thus the Lord, the Spirit, becomes the soul of our souls…Then indeed we are; then indeed we have life; the life of Jesus has…become life in us…we are one with God forever and ever.”
“I am sometimes almost terrified at the scope of the demands made upon me, at the perfection of the self-abandonment required of me; yet outside of such absoluteness can be no salvation”
"What does repent mean? To weep that you have done something wrong? No; that is all very well, but that is not repentance. Is repentance to be vexed with yourself that you have fallen away from your own idea…? No; that is not repentance. What is repentance? Turning your back upon the evil thing; pressing on to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold upon you. To repent is to think better of it, to turn away from the evil. No man is ever condemned for the wicked things that he has done; he is condemned because he won’t leave them.”
"I believe that no man is ever condemned for any sin except one—that he will not leave his sins and come out of them, and be the child of him who is his Father.”
When I can no more stir my soul to move,
And life is but the ashes of a fire;
When I can but remember that my heart
Once used to live and love, long and aspire--
Oh, be thou then the first, the one thou art;
Be thou the calling, before all answering love,
And in me wake hope, fear, boundless desire
-George MacDonald Source: Diary of an Old Soul
“For the righteousness of God goes far beyond mere deeds, and requires of us love and helping mercy as our highest obligation, and justice to our fellow humans, those of them too who have done nothing for us – those even who have done us wrong. Our relations with others, God first and then our neighbors, must one day become as in true nature they are, the gladness of our being; and nothing then will ever appear good for us that is not in harmony with those blessed relations.”
-George MacDonald Source: Unspoken Sermons
"With his divine alchemy, he [God] turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries, yea, every meal into a Eucharist, and the jaws of death into an outgoing gate."
“What God may hereafter require of you, you must not give yourself the least trouble about. Everything he gives you to do, you must do as well as ever you can, and that is the best possible preparation for what he may want you to do next. If people would but do what they have to do, they would always find themselves ready for what comes next.”
“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…. Or, having committed a petty fault, I mean a fault such as only a petty creature could commit, we mourn over the defilement to ourselves, and the shame of it before our friends, children, or servants, instead of hastening to make the due confession and amends to our fellow, and then, forgetting our own paltry self with its well-earned disgrace, lift up our eyes to the glory which alone will quicken the true man in us, and kill the peddling creature we so wrongly call our self. The true self is that which can look Jesus in the face, and say My Lord.”
-George MacDonald Source: The Gospel in George MacDonald
To be right with God is to be right with the universe; one with the power, the love, the will of the mighty Father, the cherisher of joy, the Lord of laughter, whose are all glories, all hopes, who loves everything, and hates nothing but selfishness, which he will not have in his kingdom.
[God] offers life, but we must choose to live. This is a far different thing than choosing to be “saved” or accepting “salvation.” This is no matter of mere belief but a description of how one lives.