The Golden Key

Home to the George MacDonald Society

Home to the George MacDonald Society



A gentle wind, of western birth
On some far summer sea,
Wakes daisies in the wintry earth,
Wakes hope in wintry me.

The sun is low; the paths are wet,
And dance with frolic hail;
The trees — their springtime is not yet —
Swing sighing in the gale.

Young gleams of sunshine peep and play;
Clouds shoulder in between;
I scarce believe one coming day
The earth will all be green.

The north wind blows, and blasts, and raves,
And flaps his snowy wing:
Back!  toss thy bergs on arctic waves;
Thou cans’t not bar our spring.

from “Songs of the Spring Days”, Poetic Works, Vol. 2



Strange dim memories, which will not abide identification, often, through misty windows of the past, look out upon me in the broad daylight, but I never dream now.  It may be, notwithstanding, that, when most awake, I am only dreaming the more!  But when I wake at last into that life which, as a mother her child, carries this life in its bosom, I shall know that I wake, and shall doubt no more.

I wait; asleep or awake, I wait.




Seek not that your sons and daughters should not see visions, should not dream dreams; seek that they should see true visions, that they should dream noble dreams. Such out-going of the imagination is one with aspiration, and will do more to elevate above what is low and vile than all possible inculcations of morality.

A Dish of Orts



O Father, thou art All-in-all, perfect beyond the longing of thy children, and we are all and altogether thine.  Thou wilt make us pure and loving and free.  We shall stand fearless in thy presence, because perfect in thy love. Then shall thy children be of good cheer, infinite in the love of each other, and eternal in thy love. Lord Jesus, let the heart of a child be given to us, that so we may arise from the grave of our dead selves and die no more, but see face to face the God of the Living.

"Love Thine Enemy", Unspoken Sermons, First Series



My thouchts are like worms in a starless gloamin;
My hert’s like a sponge that’s fillit wi’ gall;
My soul’s like a bodiless ghaist sent a roamin
I’ the haar an’ the mirk till the trumpet call.
Lord turn ilk worm til a butterflee,
Wring oot my hert, an’ fill’t frae thine ain;
My soul syne in patience its weird will dree,
An’ luik for the mornin throu the rain.

Poetical Works , Volume 2 , Scots Songs and Ballads



There are two ways of growing. You may be growing up, or you may be growing down; and if you are doing both at once, then you are growing crooked. There are people who are growing up in understanding, but down in goodness. It is a beautiful fact, however, that you can't grow up in goodness and down in understanding; while the great probability is, that if you are not growing better, you will by and by grow stupid. Those who are growing the right way, the more they understand, the more they wonder; and the more they learn to do, the more they want to do.

Gutta Percha Willie



As the weeks of solitude and love and thought and obedience glided by, the reality of Christ grew upon him, till he saw the very rocks and heather and the faces of sheep like him, and felt his presence everywhere , and coming nearer. ...He fancied that he came down every now and then to see how things were going on in the lower part of his kingdom; and that when he did so he made use of Glashgar and its rocks for his stair ...   Sometimes when a sheep stopped feeding and looked up suddenly, he would fancy that Jesus had laid his hand on its head and was now telling it that it must not mind being killed; for he had been killed, and it was all right.

 Sir Gibbie



“The Sweeper of the Floor”

Methought that in a solemn church I stood.
Its marble acres, worn with knees and feet,
Lay spread from door to door, from street to street.
Midway the form hung high upon the rood
Of Him who gave His life to be our good;
Beyond, priests flitted, bowed, and murmured meet,
Among the candles shining still and sweet.
Men came and went, and worshipped as they could --
And still their dust a woman with her broom,
Bowed to her work, kept sweeping to the door.
Then saw I, slow through the pillared gloom,
Across the church a silent figure come
"Daughter," it said, "thou sweepest well My floor!"
It is the Lord!  I cried, and saw no more.

From Poetical Works, Vol. 1



I saw my friends weep, wept, and let them weep;
   I saw the growth of each grief-nurtured flower;
I saw the gardener watching - in their sleep
   Wiping their tears with the napkin he had laid
Wrapped by itself when he climbed Hades' steep; ...

from Somnium Mystici   -Collected Poems II



She was a good way up the hill, and the Lord was coming down to meet her, but they had not quite met yet, so as to go up the rest of the way together.

Weighed and Wanting



For, every time I spied a glimmering spot
   Of window pane, "There, in that silent room,"
   Thought I, " mayhap sleeps human heart whose lot
Is therefore dear to mine ! " I cared for whom
   I saw not, had not seen, and might not see!
   After the love crept prone its shadow-gloom,
But instant a mightier love arose in me,
   As in an ocean a single wave will swell,
   And heaved the shadow to the centre: we
Had called it prayer, before on sleep I fell.
  It sank, and left my sea in holy calm:
  I gave each man to God, and all was well.
And in my heart stirred soft a sleeping psalm.

 from Somnium Mystici – collected Poems II



[Mary] thought it was the gardener.  He was not shining now. Observe, he does not always shine. He keeps in His glory for our sakes. To help us somehow he keeps in His glory. The Lord will not give us too much at once. She takes Him for the gardener. Oh, and what a gardener He is, and a lovely garden he tends!  Why all the faces of the flowers reveal Him if you understand them. There is nothing in the whole universe that we can call lovely, that moves our heart or soul, but it is just a little shimmer of the heart of Christ.

from "Knowing the Risen Lord", sermon given at Hannover Chapel, Peckham; Proving the Unseen, ed. W J Peterson



He had not yet learned what Kirsty went through the night before, when he asked her to help him carry the body of her brother home through the snow. Kirsty, however, knew no reason why she should not be as able as her father.

He took the stretcher, and they set out, saying nothing to the mother: she was still in her own room, and they hoped she might fall asleep.

'It min's me o' the women gauin til the sepulchre!' said David. 'Eh, but it maun hae been a sair time til them! --‑ a heap sairer nor this hert‑brak here!'

'Ye see they didna ken 'at he wasna deid,' assented Kirsty, 'and we div ken 'at Steenie's no deid! He's maybe walkin aboot wi the bonny man --‑ or maybe jist ristin himsel a wee efter the uprisin! Jist think o' his heid bein a' richt, and his een as clear as the bonny man's ain! Eh, but Steenie maun be in grit glee!'

Thus talking as they went, they reached and entered the earth‑house. They found no angels on guard, for Steenie had not to get up again.

David wept the few tears of an old man over the son who had been of no use in the world but the best use --‑ to love and be loved. Then, one at the head and the other at the feet, they brought the body out, and laid it on the bier.

Heather and Snow



And yet how few, when the air of this world is clearest, ever come into essential contact with those they love best! But the triumph of Love, while most it seems to delay, is yet ceaselessly rushing hitherward on the wings of the morning.

Heather and Snow



Something fresh began to stir in his mind; even as in the spring, away in far depths of beginning, the sap gives it first upward throb in the tree, and the first bud, as yet invisible, begins to jerk itself forward to break from the cerements of ante-natal quiescence, and become a growing leaf, so a something in Hector that was his very life and soul began to yield to unseen creative impulse, and throb with a dim, divine consciousness.  ...

Far Above Rubies



I firmly believe people have hitherto been a great deal too much taken up about doctrine and far too little about practice. The word doctrine, as used in the Bible, means teaching of duty, not theory.  I preached a sermon about this.  We are far too anxious to be definite and to have finished, well-polished, sharp-edged systems — forgetting that the more perfect a theory about the infinite, the surer it is to be wrong, the more impossible it is to be right.

From a letter to his father, quoted in George MacDonald and His Wife – Greville MacDonald



My darling child! God's little daughter, drest
In human clothes, that light may thus be clad
In shining, so to reach my human eyes!
Come as a little Christ from heaven to earth,
To call me FATHER, that my heart may know
What FATHER means, and turn its eyes to God!
Sometimes I feel, when thou art clinging to me,
How all unfit this heart of mine to have
The guardianship of a bright thing like thee,
Come to entice, allure me back to God
By flitting round me, gleaming of thy home,
And radiating of thy purity
Into my stained heart; which unto thee
Shall ever show the father, answering
The divine childhood dwelling in thine eyes.
O how thou teachest me with thy sweet ways,
All ignorant of wherefore thou art come,
And what thou art to me, my heavenly ward,
Whose eyes have drunk that secret place's light
And pour it forth on me! God bless his own!

From “Within and Without”



"What is the priest," thought Mr. Fuller. "Just a man to be among men what the Sunday is among the work days of the week --- a man to remind you that there is a life within this life, or beyond and about it, if you like that mode better --- for extremes meet in the truest figures --- that care is not of God, that faith and confidence are truer, simpler, more of common sense than balances at bankers or preference shares.  He is a protest against the money-heaping tendencies of men, against the desire of rank or estimation or any kind of social distinction.   With him, all men are equal, as in the Church all have equal rights, and rank ceases on the threshold of the same, overpowered by the presence of the Son of Mary, who was married to a carpenter."

Guild Court



The whole secret of progress is the doing of the thing we know.  There is no other way of progress in the spiritual life; no other way of progress in the understanding of that life; only as we do, can we know.

"Truth in Jesus" - Unspoken Sermons Series Two



The care that is filling your mind at this moment, or but waiting till you lay the book aside to leap upon you --- that need which is no need, is a demon sucking at the spring of your life.

'No; mine is a reasonable care --- an unavoidable care, indeed!'

'Is it something you have to do this very moment?'


'Then you are allowing it to usurp the place of something that is required of you this moment!’

'There is nothing required of me at this moment.’

'Nay, but there is --- the greatest thing that can be required of man.'

'Pray, what is it?'

'Trust in the living God. His will is your life.'

“The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity”
 - Unspoken Sermons, Series Two



'If ever I prayed, mother, I certainly have not given it up' --- 'Ever

prayed, Ian!  When a mere child you prayed like an aged Christian!' —

 'Ah, mother, that was a sad pity!  I asked for things of which I felt no need.  I was a hypocrite.  I ought to have prayed like a little child.'

What's Mine's Mine



Perhaps nothing helps so much to believe in the Father, as the active practical help of the brother. If he who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, can ill love God whom he hath not seen, the he who loves his brother must surely find it the easier to love God!

Arctura found that to visit the widow and the fatherless in their afflictions; to look on and know them as her kind; to enter into their sorrows, and share the elevating influence of grief genuine and simple, the same in every human soul, was to draw near to God.  She met him in his children.  For to honour, love, and be just to our neighbour, is religion; and he who does these things will soon find that he cannot live without the higher part of religion, the love of God.  If that do not follow, the other will sooner or later die away, leaving the man the worse for having had it.  She found her way to God easier through the crowd of her fellows; while their troubles took her off her own, set them at a little distance from her, and so put it in her power to understand them better.

 Donal Grant



If you should lose each other as you go through the country, do not be afraid, but go on and on. No harm will come to one who has the golden key.

The Golden Key



How much my horse may, in his own fashion --‑ that is, God's equine way --- know of him, I cannot tell, because he cannot tell. Also, we do not know what the horses know, because they are horses, and we are at best, in relation to them, only horsemen. The ways of God go down into microscopic depths, as well as up into telescopic heights --‑ and with more marvel, for there lie the beginnings of life: the immensities of stars and worlds all exist for the sake of less things than they. So with mind; the ways of God go into the depths yet unrevealed to us; he knows his horses and dogs as we cannot know them, because we are not yet pure sons of God. When through our sonship, as Paul teaches, the redemption of these lower brothers and sisters shall have come, then we shall understand each other better. But now the lord of life has to look on at the wilful torture of multitudes of his creatures. It must be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom they come! The Lord may seem not to heed, but he sees and knows.

“The Inheritance”  - Unspoken Sermons , Third Series

A choice of author, Elizabeth Goudge, in her anthology, A Book of Comfort


We must become as little children, and Christ must be born in us; we must learn of him, and the one lesson he has to give is himself he does first all he wants us to do; he is first all he wants us to be. We must not merely do as he did; we must see things as he saw them, regard them as he regarded them; we must take the will of God as the very life of our being; we must neither try to get our own way, nor trouble ourselves as to what may be thought or said of us. The world must be to us as nothing.

  “Self-Denial” -  Unspoken Sermons , Second Series



I remember no blow.  A faintness came over me, and my consciousness departed.  I was dead, and right content.  I lay in my coffin, with my hands folded in peace.  The knight and the lady I loved wept over me. Her tears fell on my face. 

"Ah!" said the knight "....he had throttled the monster, and I had to cut the handful out of its throat before I could disengage and carry off his body.  They dared not molest me as I brought him back."

"He has died well" said the lady.

My spirit rejoiced.  They left me to my repose.  I felt as if a cool hand had been laid  upon my heart, and had stilled it.  My soul was like a summer evening, after a heavy fall of rain, when the drops are yet glistening on the trees in the last rays of the down-going sun, and the wind of the twilight has begun to blow.   The hot fever of life had gone by, and I breathed the clear mountain-air of the land of Death.




What a man likes best may be God's will, may be the voice of the Spirit striving with his spirit, not against it; and if, as I have said, it be not so --- if the thing he asks is not according to his will --- there is that consuming fire. The danger lies, not in asking from God what is not good, nor even in hoping to receive it from him, but in not asking him, in not having him of our council.

"The Higher Faith", Unspoken Sermons , First Series

Lip Yeow


God is so beautiful, and so patient, and so loving, and so generous that he is the heart and soul and rock of every love and every kindness and every gladness in the world. All the beauty in the world and in the hearts of men, all the painting all the poetry all the music, all the architecture comes out of his heart first. He is so loveable that no heart can know how loveable he is  - can know only in part. When the best loves God best, he does not love him nearly as he deserves, or as he will love him in time.

From a letter to Mary when she was sixteen  - An Expression of Character, Sadler, ed.

Mary MacDonald's death, 1878


Now to the practical what are we to do for the polish of our manners?

Just what I have said we must do for the polish of our style.  Take off; do not put on.  Polish away this rudeness, that awkwardness.  Correct everything self-assertive, which includes nine-tenths of all vulgarity.  Imitate no one's behaviour; that is to paint.  Do not think about yourself, that is to varnish.  Put what is wrong right, and what is in you will show itself in harmonious behaviour."

"On Polish" Dish of Orts



Nor will God force any door to enter in.  He may send a tempest about the house; the wind of His admonishment may burst doors and windows, yea, shake the house to its foundations; but not then, not so, will He enter.  The door must be opened by the willing hand, ere the foot of Love will cross the threshold.  He watches to see the door move from within. Every tempest is but an assault in the siege of Love.  The terror of God is but the other side of His love; it is love outside, that would be inside -- love that knows the house is no house, only a place, until it enter.

"The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity",  Unspoken Sermons , Second Series