Sunday, March 22, 2009

Excerpt from The Landlady's Master

1888 is the publishing date for The Elect Lady by George MacDonald. Michael R. Phillips has rewritten much of MacDonald's work into a more contemporary English. The Landlady's Master is the new title with Phillips listed as the editor. Here is a brief excerpt between the main character, a young Scottish farmer named Andrew Ingram, and a foil named George.

"You don't mean you can read your Bible as you hold the plough!" said George.

"On no," answered Andrew with a smile. "It would hardly be possible to manage a book between the stilts of the pough. The Bible will keep till you get home; a little of it goes a long way. I was speaking of nature. Paul counted the book of creation enough to make the heathen answerable for not minding it. Never a breath of wind wakes suddenly, or a cloud moves over head, or a drenching rainfall stops my work, but that they talk to me about God. And is not the very sunlight itself the same that came out of the body of Jesus at his transfiguration?"

"You seem to have some rather peculiar notions, Mr. Ingram."

"Perhaps. But for a man to have no ideas he counts as his very own is much the same as to have no ideas at all. For a person to adopt as his beliefs only and nothing more than what he has heard from others seems to me a hollow faith. A man cannot have the ideas of another man any more than he can have another man's soul, or another man's body. Ideas must be one's own or they cease to truly be ideas at all."

"That is dangerous doctrine."

"Perhaps we are not talking about the same thing. I mean by ideas what a man orders his life by."

"Your ideas may be wrong."

"The All-wise will be my judge."

"So much the worse if you are in the wrong."

"Having him as my judge is good whether I be in the right or the wrong. I want him as my judge all the more when I am wrong, for then I most keenly need his wisdom. Would I have my mistakes overlooked: Not at all! Shall he not do right? And will he not set me right? I can think of nothing so wonderful!"

"That is a most dangerous confidence."

"It would be if there were any other judge. But it will be neither the church nor the world that will sit on the great white throne. He who sits there will not ask, 'Did you go to church?' or 'Did you believe this or that?' but, 'Did you do what I told you?' "


careyrowland said...

I thought that He who sits on the throne would ask: "Did you believe that my son rose from the dead?"
For only with such foolish faith could we begin to do what he asks of us.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass Chimera

ded said...

When you read much of MacDonald you see he was focused on obedience. However, he had the odd notion that obedience was not to letter of the law, but offered up to the Law-giver as a person, Whom is known by, through, and because of Jesus.

You are, of course, correct--faith in Jesus is how obedience begins.

El Goyito said...

I read this post 3 times and it hit me harder with each re-reading. So I had to stop the third time. I first read George MacDonald back in 1989 when Philip McGuire lent me "Phantasies" and his work are some of the most beautifully profound, thought provoking words one could read. Thanks for sharing this quote!

craig v. said...

A friend liked the metaphor of dancing. If I merely learn a bunch of movements no matter how well I perform them, I'm not dancing. Dancing must come from me in order to be dancing. Even so, I don't provide the music (the Holy Spirit does). Perhaps this is why so many of our conservative traditions prohibit dancing.

ded said...

What is the translation of "El Goyito?" Little what?

I guess having to stop reading is a good thing? George MacDonald is my favorite Christian writer,even more so than Lewis. You mentioned Merton in a comment a few posts back. I have read him, even have a book by him I never finished. Honestly, I have a hard time understanding him. Not the concepts but his manner of expression. I always feel like I am not getting what he is trying to communicate.

Craig, I think you are very accurate regarding your connection between conservative traditions and rejection of dancing!!

Anonymous said...

In Spanish the name "Gregorio" has a nickname which is "Goyo" (like William's "Bill" or John's "Jack", etc) so "Goyito" is a "little Goyo." Thy called me that in Nicaragua b/c when they told me only old men are called "Gregorio"!

I stopped reading the MacDonald quote after 3 readings b/c it was blowing my mind too much (a good thing!). Like you, I love MacDonald.

I'm surprised that you haven't gotten more into Thomas Merton - I agree that his writing style is very different and demanding (he was quite the intellectual!) but I find it poetic as well. Still, it's dense reading and Merton usually exhausts me after a few paragraphs!

- EL GOYITO (forgot to sign in!)

ded said...


I guess surprising you is better than disappointing you!

Thanks for your interaction here and for filling me in on the meaning of your moniker. I had asked the Spanish teacher at school, and she could not translate. Probably a pitch point for learning a language by living inside it.