I finally finished reading The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald last night. I’ve been plugging away at it since the beginning of January – and while it is in a similar vein to MacDonald’s There and Back, I found it considerably weightier, and am still mulling over it. As usual, I love how MacDonald handles skepticism (the story follows a young curate who doesn’t believe what he’s been preaching), but there’s something he drives at in this book that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’m trying to understand why it makes me uncomfortable, and at some point in the future, I expect to provide an analysis of exactly what is troubling me. Until then, I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the book.
She had just finished the novel of the day, and was suffering a mild reaction – the milder, perhaps, that she was not altogether satisfied with the consummation. For the heroine had, after much sorrow and patient endurance, at length married a man whom she could not help knowing to be not worth having.
“Helen Lingard was not a girl of the sort to fall readily in love.”
I wonder how many speak with the voices that really belong to them.
“Ought not men be good to one another because they are made up of ones and others? Do you or I need threats and promises to make us kind? … You must consider that you are but a part of the whole, and that whatever you do to hurt the whole, or injure any of its parts, will return upon you who form one of those parts.”
Even the sunshine, the gladdest thing in creation, is sad sometimes.
“But how can a man go through anything till his hour be come?”
‘Then do you intend that a man should make up his sermons from the books he reads?’
‘Yes, if he cannot do better. But then I would have him read – not with his sermon in his eye, but with his people in his heart.’
“What is Christianity, then?”
“God in Christ, and Christ in man.”
‘How am I to know that there is a God?’
‘It were a more pertinent question, sir,” returned Polwarth, -‘If there be a God, how am I to find him?’
“My longing was mainly for refuge, for some corner into which I might creep, where I should be concealed and so at rest.”
‘I repeat,” said Polwarth, ‘that the community whose servant you are was not founded to promulgate or defend the doctrine of the existence of a Deity, but to perpetuate the assertion of a man that he was the son and only revealer of the Father of men, a fact, if it be a fact, which precludes the question of the existence of a God, because it includes the answer to it. Your business, therefore, even as one who finds himself in your unfortunate position as clergyman, is to make yourself acquainted with that man: he will be to you nobody save in revealing, through knowledge of his inmost heart, the Father to you.’
“If a man will use figures [illustrations], he should be careful to give them legs.”
Sometimes a thunderbolt, as men call it, will shoot from a clear sky; and sometimes into the midst of a peaceful family, or a yet quieter individuality, without warning of gathered storm above, or lightest tremble of earthquake beneath, will fall a terrible fact, and from the moment everything is changed. That family or that life is no more what it was – probably never more can be what it was. Better it ought to be, worse it may be – which, depends upon itself. But its spiritual weather is altered. The air is thick with cloud, and cannot weep itself clear. There may come a gorgeous sunset though.
“The Power of Life is not content that they who live in and by him should live poorly and contemptibly. If the presence of low thoughts which he repudiates, yet makes a man miserable, how must it be with him if they who live and move and have their being in him are mean and repulsive, or alienated through self-sufficiency and slowness of heart?”
But when a woman, in her own nature cold, takes delight in rousing passion, she will, selfishly confident in her own safety, go to strange lengths in kindling and fanning the flame which is the death of the other.
“To be content is not to be satisfied. No one ought to be satisfied with the imperfect.”
Thou only thinkest – I am thought.
“It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know, and the Bible we have to use to that end – not for theory or dogma.”
If a dream reveal a principle, that principle is a revelation, and the dream is neither more nor less valuable than a waking thought that does the same.
“For Christianity does not mean what you think or what I think concerning Christ, but what is of Christ. My Christianity, if I ever come to have any, will be what Christ is in me; your Christianity now is what of Christ is in you.”
What man was more dangerous than he who went too far?”
“The only thing I can say is: if you have been in the way of doing anything you are no longer satisfied with, don’t do it anymore.”
How would Jesus Christ have done if he had been a draper instead of a carpenter?
“The curate’s search, it will be remarked, had already widened greatly the sphere of his doubts.”
With him they sought and found shelter. He was their saviour from the storm of human judgment and the biting frost of public opinion, even when that opinion and that judgment were re-echoed by the justice of their own hearts. He received them, and the life within them rose up, and the light shone – the conscious light of light, despite even of shame and self-reproach.
“And do not our souls themselves fall out with their surroundings, and cry for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?”
Yet it is strange to see how even noble women, with the divine gift of imagination, may be argued into unbelief in their best instincts by some small man, as common-place as clever, who beside them is as limestone to marble.
“No crime can be committed against a creature without being committed also against the creator of that creature.”
But the first part of friendship sometimes is to confess poverty.
“Your calling is to do the best for your neighbor that you reasonably can.”
What sort of watchmaker were he who could not set right the watches and clocks himself made?”
“The only way to save your brother is to strengthen him to do his duty, whatever that may be.”
It is true that the best help a woman can get is from a right man – equally true with its converse; but let the man who ventures take heed. Unless he is able to counsel a woman to the hardest thing that bears the name of duty, let him not dare give advice even to her asking.
“He loved her with the passion of a man mingled with the compassion of a prophet.”
I only venture to suggest that, though the labourer is worthy of his hire, not every man is worthy of the labour.
“The waves of infidelity are coming in with a strong wind and a flowing tide. Who is to blame? God it cannot be, and for unbelievers, they are as they were. It is the Christians who are to blame. I do not mean those who are called Christians, but those who call and count themselves Christians. I tell you, and I speak to each one of whom it is true, that you hold and present such a withered, starved, miserable, death’s-hand of Christianity; that you are yourselves such poverty-stricken believers, if believers you are at all; that the notion you present to the world as your ideal, is so commonplace, so false to the grand, gracious, mighty-hearted Jesus – that you are the cause why the truth hangs its head in patience, and rides not forth on the white horse, conquering and to conquer. You dull its lustre in the eyes of men; you deform its fair proportions; you represent not that which it is, but that which it is not, yet call yourselves by its name; you are not the salt of the earth, but a salt that has lost its savour, for ye seek all things else first, and to that seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness shall never be added. Until you repent and believe afresh, believe in a nobler Christ, namely the Christ revealed by himself, and not the muffled form of something vaguely human and certainly all divine, which the false interpretations of men have been substituted for him, you will be, as, I repeat, you are, the main reason why faith is so scanty in the earth, and the enemy comes in like a flood.”
‘I need a God; and if there be none how did I come to need one? Yes, I know you think you can explain it all, but the way you account for it is just as miserable as what you would put in its place. I am not complete in myself like you. I am not able to live without a God. I will seek him until I find him, or drop into the abyss where all question and answer ceases.’