George MacDonald.

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with their precious lord Mammon. He gives no safety
against such a fear. One of the richest men in England
is haunted with the dread of the workhouse. This man
whom I should like to know, would be sure that God
would have him liberal, and he would be what God
would have him. Riches are not in the least necessary
to that. Witness our Lord's admiration of the poor
widow with her great farthing.

" But I think I hear my troubled friend who does not
love money, and yet cannot trust in God out and out,
though she fain would, I think I hear her say, ' I be-
lieve I could trust Him for myself, or at least I should
be ready to dare the worst for His sake ; but my children
it is the thought of my children that is too much for
me.' Ah, woman ! she whom the Saviour praised so
pleasedly, was one who trusted Him for her daughter.
What an honour she had ! ' Be it unto thee even as
thou wilt.' 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 not you
often been cross with them 1 ? 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 ;
be sorry when you have been cross with them ; ashamed
when you have been unjust to them ; and yet you won : t
trust Him to give them food and clothes ! Depend
upon it, if He ever refuses to give them food and clothes,
and you knew all about it, the why and the wherefore,
you would not dare to give them food or clothes either.
He loves them a thousand times better than you do be
sure of that and feels for their sufferings too, when He
cannot give them just what He would like to give them
cannot for their good, I mean.

" But as your mistrust will go further, I can go further
to meet it You will say, ' Ah ! yes' in your feeling, I
mean, not in words, you will say, ' Ah ! yes food and
clothing of a sort ! Enough to keep life in and too
much cold out ! But I want my children to have plenty
of good food, and nice clothes.'

" Faithless mother ! Consider the birds of the air.
They have so much that at least they can sing ! Con-
sider the lilies they were red lilies, those. Would you
not trust Him who delights in glorious colours more at
least than you, or He would never have created them
and made us to delight in them? I do not say that
your children shall be clothed in scarlet and fine linen ;
but if not, it is not because God despises scarlet and
fine linen or does not love your children. He loves
them, I say, too much to give them everything all at
once. But He would make them such that they may
have everything without being the worse, and with being


the better for it And if you cannot trust Him yet, it
begins to be a shame, I think.

" It has been well said that no man ever sank under
the burden of the day. It is when to-morrow's burden
is added to the burden of to-day, that the weight is more
than a man can bear. Never load yourselves so, my
friends. If you find yourselves so loaded, at least re-
member this : it is your own doing, not God's. He
begs you to leave the future to Him, and mind the pre-
sent. What more or what else could He do to take the
burden oft" you? Nothing else would do it. Money in
the bank wouldn't do it. He cannot do to-morrow's
business for you beforehand to save you from fear about
it. That would derange everything. What else is there
but to tell you to trust in Him, irrespective of the fact
that nothing else but such trust can put our heart at
peace, from the very nature of our relation to Him as
well as the fact that we need these things. We think
that we come nearer to God than the lower animals do
by our foresight. But there is another side to it. We
are like to Him with whom there is no past or future,
with whom a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day, when we live with large bright spiritual
eyes, doing our work in the great present, leaving both
past and future to Him to whom they are ever present,
and fearing nothing, because He is in our future, as
much as He is in our past, as much as, and far more
than, \ve can feel Him to be in our present. Partakers
thus of the divine nature, resting in that perfect All-in-all


in whom our nature is eternal too, we walk without fear,
full of hope and courage and strength to do His will,
waiting for the endless good which He is always giving
as fast as He can get us able to take it in. Would not
this be to be more of gods than Satan promised to Eve ?
To live carelessly-divine, duty-doing, fearless, loving,
self-forgetting lives is not that more than to know both
good and evil lives in which the good, like Aaron's
rod, has swallowed up the evil, and turned it into good ?
For pain and hunger are evils; but if faith in God
swallows them up, do they not so turn into good 1 ? I
say they do. And I am glad to believe that I am not
alone in my parish in this conviction. I have never
been too hungry, but I have had trouble which I would
gladly have exchanged for hunger and cold and weari-
ness. Some of you have known hunger and cold and
weariness. Do you not join with me to say : It is well,
and better than well whatever helps us to know the
love of Him who is our God ?

" But there has been just one man who has acted thus.
And it is His Spirit in our hearts that makes us desire
to know or to be another such who would do the will
of God for God, and lex God do God's will for Him.
For His will is all. And this man is the baby whose
birth we celebrate this day. Was this a condition to
choose that of a baby by one who thought it part of
a man's high calling to take care of the morrow? Did
He not thus cast the whole matter at once upon the
hands and heart of His Father? Sufficient unto the
baby's day is the need thereof; he toils not, neither


does he spin, and yet he is fed and clothed, and loved,
and rejoiced in. Do you remind me that sometimes
even his mother forgets him a mother, most likely, to
whose self-indulgence or weakness the child owes his
birth as hers ? Ah ! but he is not therefore forgotten,
however like things it may look to our half-seeing eyes,
by his Father in heaven. One of the highest benefits
we can reap from understanding the way of God with
ourselves is, that we become able thus to trust Him for
others with whom we do not understand His ways.

" But let us look at what will be more easily shown
how, namely, He did the will of His Father, and took
no thought for the morrow after He became a man.
Remember how He forsook His trade when the time
came for Him to preach. Preaching was not a profes-
sion then. There were no monasteries, or vicarages, or
stipends, then. Yet witness for the Father the garment
woven throughout ; the ministering of women ; the
purse in common ! Hard-working men and rich ladies
were ready to help Him, and did help Him with all thai
He needed. Did He then never want ? Yes; once at
least for a little while only.

" He was a- hungered in the wilderness. ' Make
bread,' said Satan. ' No,' said our Lord. He could
starve; but He could not eat bread that His Father did
not give Him, even though He could make it Himself.
He had come hither to be tried. But when the victory
was secure, lo ! the angels brought Him food from His
Father. Which was better 1 To feed Himself, or be
fed by His Father? Judge yourselves, anxious people.


He sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and the bread was added unto Him.

" And this gives me occasion to remark that the same
truth holds with regard to any portion of the future as
well as the morrow. It is a principle, not a command,
or an encouragement, or a promise merely. In respect
of it there is no difference between next day and next
year, next hour and next century. You will see at once
the absurdity of taking no thought for the morrow, and
taking thought for next year. But do you see likewise
that it is equally reasonable to trust God for the next
moment, and equally unreasonable not to trust Himl
The Lord was hungry and needed food now, though He
could still go without for a while. He left it to His
Father. And so He told His disciples to do when they
were called to answer before judges and rulers. ' Take
no thought. It shall be given you what ye shall say.'
You have a disagreeable duty to do at twelve o'clock.
Do not blacken nine and ten and eleven, and all be-
tween, with the colour of twelve. Do the work of each,
and reap your reward in peace. So when the dreaded
moment in the future becomes the present, you shall
meet it walking in the light, and that light will overcome
its darkness. How often do men who have made up
their minds what to say and do under certain expected
circumstances, forget the words and reverse the actions !
The best preparation is the present well seen to, the last
duty done. For this will keep the eye so clear and the
body so full of light that the right action will be per-
ceived at once, the right words will nish from the heart


to the lips, and the man, full of the Spirit of God be-
cause he cares for nothing but the will of God, will
trample on the evil thing in love, and be sent, it may
be, in a chariot of fire to the presence of his Father, or
stand unmoved amid the cruel mockings of the men he

" Do you feel inclined to say in your hearts : ' It was
easy for Him to take no thought, for He had the matter
in His own hands 1' But observe, there is nothing very
noble in a man's taking no thought except it be from
faith. If there were no God to take thought for us,
wo should have no right to blame any one for taking
thought. You may fancy the Lord had His own power
to fall back upon. But that would have been to Him
just the one dreadful thing. That His Father should
forget Him ! no power in Himself could make up for
that He feared nothing for Himself; and never once
employed His divine power to save Him from His
human fate. Let God do that for Him if He saw fit.
He did not come into the world to take care of Him-
self. That would not be in any way divine. To fall
back on Himself, God failing Him how could that
make it easy for Him to avoid care? The very idea
would be torture. That would be to declare heaven
void, and the world without a God. He would not
even pray to His Father for what He knew He should
have if He did ask it. He would just wait His will.

" But see how the fact of His own power adds tenfold
significance to the fact that He trusted in God. \Ve see
that this power would not serve His need His need


not being to be fed and clothed, but to be one with the
Father, to be fed by His hand, clothed by His care.
This was what the Lord wanted and we need, alas !
too often without wanting it. He never once, I repeat,
used His power for Himself. That was not his business.
He did not care about it. His life was of no value to
Him but as His Father cared for it. God would mind
all that was necessary for Him, and He would mind
the work His Father had given Him to do. And, my
friends, this is just the one secret of a blessed life, the
one thing every man comes into this world to learn.
With what authority it comes to us from the lips of Him
who knew all about it, and ever did as He said !

" Now you see that He took no thought for the
morrow. And, in the name of the holy child Jesus, I
call upon you, this Christmas day, to cast care to the
winds, and trust in God ; to receive the message of peace
and good -will to men ; to yield yourselves to the Spirit
of God, that you may be taught what He wants you to
know ; to remember that the one gift promised without
reserve to those who ask it the one gift worth having
the gift which makes all other gifts a thousand-fold in
value, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the child
Jesus, who will take of the things of Jesus, and show
them to you make you understand them, that is so
that you shall see them to be true, and love Him with
all your heart and soul, and your neighbour as your-

And here, having finished my sermon, I will give my


reader some lines with which he may not be acquainted,
from a writer of the Elizabethan time. I had meant to
introduce them into my sermon, but I was so carried
away with my subject that I forgot them. For I always
preached extempore, which phrase 1 beg my reader will
not misinterpret as meaning on the spur of the moment, or
without the due preparation of much thought.

"O man ! thou image of thy Maker's good,
What canst thou fear, when breathed into thy blood
His Spirit is that built thee? What dull sense
Makes thee suspect, in need, that Providence
Who made the morning, and who placed the light
Guide to thy labours ; who called up the night,
And bid her fall upon thee like sweet showers,
In hollow murmurs, to lock up thy powers ;
Who gave thee knowledge; who so trusted thcc
To let thee grow so near Himself, the Tree?
Must He then be distrusted? Shall His frame
Discourse with Him why thus and thus I am?
lie made the Angels thine, thy fellows all ;
Nay even thy servants, when devotions calL
Oh ! canst thou be so stupid then, so dim,
To seek a saving* influence, and lose Him?
Can stars protect thee? Or can poverty,
Which is the light to heaven, put out His eye?
He is my star ; in Him all truth I find,
All influence, all fate. And when my mind
Is furnished with His fulness, my poor story
Shall outlive all their age, and all their glory.
The hand of danger cannot fall amiss,
When I know what, and in whose power, it is,
Nor want, the curse of man, shall make me groan :
A holy hermit is a mind alone.

* Many, in those days, believed in astrology.


Affliction, when I know it, is but this,

A deep alloy whereby man tougher is

To bear the hammer ; and the deeper still,

We still arise more image of His will ;

Sickness, an humorous cloud 'twixt us and light ;

And death, at longest, but another night."

I had more than ordinary attention during rny dis-
course, at one point in which I saw the down-bent head
of Catherine Weir sink yet lower upon her hands. After
a moment, however, she sat more erect than before,
though she never lifted her eyes to meet mine. I need
not assure my reader that she was not present to my
mind when I spoke the words that so far had moved
her. Indeed, had I thought of her, I could not have
spoken them.

As I came out of the church, my people crowded
about me with outstretched hands and good wishes.
One woman, the aged wife of a more aged labourer,
who could not get near me, called from the outskirts of
the little crowd

" May the Lord come and see ye every day, sir. And
may ye never know the hunger and cold as me and
Tomkins has come through."

"Amen to the first of your blessing, Mrs Tomkins,
and hearty thanks to you. But I daren't say Amen to
the other part of it, after what I 've been preaching, you

" But there'll be no harm if I say it for ye, sirt"

" No, for God will give me what is good, even if your
kind heart should pray against it."


" Ah, sir, ye don't know what it is to be hungry and

" Neither shall you any more, if I can help it."

" God bless ye, sir. But we 're pretty tidy just in the

I walked home, as usual on Sunday mornings, by the
road. It was a lovely day. The sun shone so warm
that you could not help thinking of what he would be
able to do before long draw primroses and buttercups
out of the earth by force of sweet persuasive influences.
P-nt in the shadows lay fine webs and laces of ice, so
delicately lovely that one could not but be glad of the
cold that made the water able to please itself by taking
such graceful forms. And I wondered over again for
the hundredth time what could be the principle which,
in the wildest, most lawless, fantastically chaotic, appar-
ently capricious work of nature, always kept it beautiful.
The beauty of holiness must be at the heart of it some-
how, I thought. Because our God is so free from stain,
so loving, so unselfish, so good, so altogether what He
wants us to be, so holy, therefore all His works declare
Him in beauty; His fingers can touch nothing but to
mould it into loveliness ; and even the play of His ele-
ments is in grace and tenderness of form.

And then I thought how the sun, at the farthest point
from us, had begun to come back towards us ; looked
upon us with a hopeful smile ; was like the Lord when
He visited His people as a little one of themselves, to
grow upon the earth till it should blossom as the rose in
the light of His presence. "Ah! Lord," I said, in my


heart, " draw near unto Thy people. It is spring-time
with Thy world, but yet we have cold winds and bitter
hail, and pinched voices forbidding them that follow
Thee and follow not with us. Draw nearer, Sun of
Righteousness, and make the trees bourgeon, and the
flowers blossom, and the voices grow mellow and glad,
so that all shall join in praising Thee, and find thereby
that harmony is better than unison. Let it be summer,
O Lord, if it ever may be summer in this court of the
Gentiles. But Thou hast told us that Thy kingdom
cometh within us, and so Thy joy must come within us
too. Draw nigh then, Lord, to those to whom Thou
wilt draw nigh ; and others beholding their welfare will
seek to share therein too, and seeing their good works
will glorify their Father in heaven."

So I walked home, hoping in my Saviour, and won-
dering to think how pleasant I had found it to be His
poor servant to this people. Already the doubts which
had filled my mind on that first evening of gloom,
doubts as to whether I had any right to the priest's
office, had utterly vanished, slain by the effort to per-
form the priest's duty. I never thought about the mat-
ter now. And how can doubt ever be fully met but by
action ? Try your theory ; try your hypothesis ; or if it
is not worth trying, give it up, pull it down. And I
hoped that if ever a cloud should come over me again,
however dark and dismal it might be, I might be able
notwithstanding to rejoice that the sun was shining on
others though not on me, and to say with all my heart
to my Father in heaven, " Thy will be done."


When I reached my own study, I sat down by a blaz-
ing fire, and poured myself out a glass of wine ; for I
had to go out again to see some of my poor friends, and
wanted some luncheon first. It is a great thing to have
the greetings of the universe presented in fire and food.
Let me, if I may, be ever welcomed to my room in win-
ter by a glowing hearth, in summer by a vase of flowers ;
if I may not, let me then think how nice they would be,
and bury myself in my work. I do not think that the
road to contentment lies in despising what we have not
got. Let us acknowledge all good, all delight that the
world holds, and be content without it. But this we
can never be except by possessing the one thing, without
which I do not merely say no man ought to be content,
but no man can be content the Spirit of the Father.

If any young people read my little chronicle, will they
not be inclined to say, " The vicar has already given us
in this chapter hardly anything but a long sermon ; and
it is too bad of him to go on preaching in his study after
we saw him safe out of the pulpit"? Ah, well ! just one
word, and I drop the preaching for a while. My word
is this : I may speak long-windedly, and even incon-
siderately as regards my young readers ; what I say
may fail utterly to convey what I mean ; I may be
actually stupid sometimes, and not have a suspicion of
it ; but what I mean is true ; and if you do not know
it to be true yet, some of you at least suspect it to be
true, and some of you hope it is true ; and when you
all see it as I mean it and as you can take it, you will
rejoice with a gladness you know nothing about now.


There, I have done for a little while. I won't pledge
myself for more, I assure you. For to speak about such
things is the greatest delight of my age, as it was of my
early manhood, next to that of loving God and my
neighbour. For as these are the two commandments
of life, so they are in themselves the pleasures of life.
But there I am at it again. I beg your pardon now, for
I have already inadvertently broken my promise.

I had allowed myself a half-hour before the fire with
my glass of wine and piece of bread, and I soon fell
into a dreamy state called reverie, which I fear not a
few mistake for thinking, because it is the nearest ap-
proach they ever make to it. And in this reverie I kept
staring about my book-shelves. I am an old man now,
and you do not know my name ; and if you should ever
find it out, I shall very soon hide it under some daisies,
I hope, and so escape ; and therefore I am going to be
egotistic in the most unpardonable manner. I am going
to tell you one of my faults, for it continues, I fear, to
be one of my faults still, as it certainly was at the period
of which I am now writing. I am very fond of books.
Do not mistake me. I do not mean that I love reading.
I hope I do. That is no fault a virtue rather than a
fault. Rut, as the old meaning of the word fond was
foolish, I use that word : I am foolishly fond of the
bodies of books as distinguished from their souls, or
thought-element I do not say I love their bodies as
divided from their souls ; I do not say I should let a
book stand upon my shelves for which I felt no respect,
except indeed it happened to be useful to me in some


inferior way. But I delight in seeing books about me,
books even of which there seems to be no prospect that
I shall have time to read a single chapter before I lay
this old head down for the last time. Nay, more : I
confess that if they are nicely bound, so as to glow and
shine in such a fire-light as that by which I was then
sitting, I like them ever so much the better. Nay, more
yet and this comes very near to showing myself worse
than I thought I was when I began to tell you my fault :
there are books upon my shelves which certainly at least
would not occupy the place of honour they do occupy,
had not some previous owner dressed them far beyond
their worth, making modern apples of Sodom of them.
Yet there I let them stay, because they are pleasant to
the eye, although certainly not things to be desired to
make one wise. I could say a great deal more about
the matter, /;<> and con, but it would be worse than a
sermon, I fear. For I suspect that by the time books,
which ought to be loved for the truth that is in them,
of one sort or another, come to be loved as articles of
furniture, the mind has gone through a process mote
than analogous to that which the miser's mind goes
through namely, that of passing from the respect of
money because of what it can do, to the love of money
because it is money. I have not yet reached the furni-
ture stage, and I do not think I ever shall. I would
rather burn them all. Meantime, I think one safe-
guard is to encourage one's friends to borrow one's
books not to offer individual books, which is much
the same as ojfiring advice. That will probably take


some of the shine off them, and put a few thumb-marks
in them, which both are very wholesome towards the
arresting of the furniture declension. For my part,
thumb-marks I find very obnoxious far more so than
the spoiling of the binding. I know that some of my
readers, who have had sad experience of the sort, will
be saying in themselves, " He might have mentioned a
surer antidote resulting from this measure, than either
nibbed Russia or dirty g/0ve-ma.rks even that of utter
disappearance and irreparable loss." But no; that has
seldom happened to me because I trust my pocket-
book, and never my memory, with the names of those
to whom the individual books are committed.- -There,
then, is a little bit of practical advice in both directions
for young book-lovers.

Again I am reminded that I am getting old. What
digressions !

Gazing about on my treasures, the thought suddenly

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