Tag Archives: Scottish authors

Review: The Shadow of an Agony

Rating: ★★★★★


Author: Oswald Chambers was a teacher of the Bible in the United Kingdom, a chaplain to World War I soldiers in Egypt, and author of numerous devotional books, mostly compiled posthumously by his indefatigable wife, Biddy. Chambers’ dense and thought-provoking style has made his book My Utmost for His Highest (again, Biddy’s compilation) the best-selling devotional book of the 20th century.


Overview:

The chief themes of this book are the meaning of regeneration, the origin and meaning of sin, and the Spirit’s discipline. Somewhat similar to Watchman Nee (The Spiritual Man, Spiritual Knowledge), Chambers saw these biblical terms as keys to understanding the whole of human experience. He takes a verse as a heading, but he never attempts any linguistic or theological analysis of the verse; his goal is always to take the broad meaning of the text as it plainly stands and use it to explain what he sees in life.

The movement that Chambers was a part of—dubbed The League of Pentecostal Prayer, though it is not Pentecostal in its modern doctrinal meaning—must have encouraged some novelty of expression and thought. Whether he is teaching his Bible students or addressing soldiers, he takes no care to sound like a preacher. As a single example, rather than speak of “original sin” he speaks of “the curious twist” in life or the “disposition of sin”; he often explains the Bible’s meaning in novel ways without resorting to “Christianese.”


Meat:

Apart from his pithy compilations, Chambers can be surprisingly difficult to read, but Shadow of an Agony is an exception. When I have tried to read Chambers’ older books, I found them to be full of good material, but thematically incoherent. (Thus, the creation of My Utmost for His Highest and other re-arrangements of his thoughts.) This book, though, is much more cohesive than (for instance) Shade of His Hand. He stays closely to his main themes of sin, regeneration, and discipline.


Quotes:

On sin:

“The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the disposition of sin, i.e., my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race by one man.” (p. 104)

“There is no such thing as sin outside the Bible; sin is a revelation fact, and it is the one fact that accounts for the curious twist we find in things.” (p. 105)

“Sin is a relationship between two of God’s creations. God did not create sin; but He took the responsibility for it; and that He did so is proved in the Cross of Jesus Christ.” (p. 46)

“A man cannot be forgiven for what he is not to blame, but God holds a man responsible for refusing to receive a new heredity when he sees that Jesus Christ can give it to him.”


On regeneration:

“A Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ’s by the possession of a new heredity (John 3:3), one who has been brought into personal relationship with Jesus Christ by the indwelling Spirit of God—not one with certain forms of creed or doctrine; these are the effects of his relationship, not the ground of it.” (p. 68)

“If I receive the Spirit of God and become a son of God by right of regeneration, God does not give me my Christian character. I have to make that. He gives me the disposition of His Son. As I obey the Spirit of God and the Word of God, I slowly form the Christian character.”

“In Redemption He has dealt with the disposition of sin.” (p. 105)


On sanctification:

“Our destiny is something fixed by God, but determined by our disposition.” (p. 103)

Character is what we make; disposition is what we are born with.” (p. 102-103)

Character must be attained; it is never given to us.” (p. 94)

“The Spirit of Christ is given to us, but not the mind of Christ. . . .The Spirit of Christ comes into me by regeneration, then I have to begin to form the mind of Christ.” (p. 110)

“Any fool will give up wrongdoing and the devil . . . but it takes a man in love with Jesus Christ to give up the best he has for Him. Jesus Christ does not demand that I give up the wrong, but the right—the best I have for Him, viz., my right to myself. Will I agree to go through my ‘white funeral’ and say I deliberately cut out my claim to my right to myself, deliberately go to the death of my self-will?” (p. 112)


On childlikeness:

“I do not live the Christian life by adherence to principles; I live the Christian life as a child lives its life. You never can calculate what a child will do, neither can you calculate what the Spirit of God will do in you. When you are born from above the Spirit of God in you works in spontaneous moral originality.” (p. 52-53)

Free George MacDonald Books

George MacDonald was a Scottish preacher and author who holds today a profound unseen influence in the genres of theology and fantasy. His realistic fiction was a blend of romance and theology; he also had his own way of telling “fairy stories,” which helped popularize fantasy as a genre.

MacDonald passed away in 1905, so everything published by him in his lifetime is out of copyright. Here is where you can read his works for free:

Free George MacDonald books (PDF) on the Internet Archive (50+)
Free George MacDonald books in the Kindle Store (40+)
Free George MacDonald audiobooks on LibriVox (40+)
Free George MacDonald books on ManyBooks
Free George MacDonald books on the Online Books Page (60+)
Free George MacDonald books on Project Gutenberg (50+)

Free George MacDonald PDFs

The following is a complete list of George MacDonald’s books that are available for free in PDF format from the Internet Archive. Abridged titles are given in parentheses.

  1. Adela Cathcart, containing “The Light Princess”, “The Shadows”, and other short stories
  2. Alec Forbes of Howglen (= The Maiden’s Bequest)
  3. Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (★★★★★)
  4. At the Back of the North Wind
  5. Beautiful Thoughts from George MacDonald (compilation)
  6. Cheerful Words from the Writing of George MacDonald (compilation)
  7. David Elginbrod (= The Tutor’s First Love)
  8. Dealings with the Fairies, containing “The Golden Key”, “The Light Princess”, “The Shadows”, and other short stories
  9. Diary of an Old Soul (★★★★)
  10. “The Disciple” and Other Poems
  11. A Dish of Orts (essays)
  12. Donal Grant (= The Shepherd’s Castle), a sequel to Sir Gibbie
  13. Dramatic and Miscellaneous Poems
  14. The Elect Lady (= The Landlady’s Master)
  15. England’s Antiphon (a history of religious poetry)
  16. Far Above Rubies
  17. The Flight of the Shadow
  18. The Gifts of the Child Christ and Other Tales (= Stephen Archer and Other Tales)
  19. Guild Court: A London Story (= The Prodigal Apprentice)
  20. Gutta Percha Willie, the Working Genius (= The Genius of Willie MacMichael)
  21. Heather and Snow (= The Peasant Girl’s Dream) (★★★)
  22. “A Hidden Life” and Other Poems
  23. Home Again: A Tale (= The Poet’s Homecoming)
  24. The Hope of the Gospel (★★)
  25. Lilith: A Romance
  26. Malcolm (updated under the same title)
  27. The Marquis of Lossie (= The Marquis’ Secret), the sequel of Malcolm (★★★★)
  28. Mary Marston (= A Daughter’s Devotion or The Shopkeeper’s Daughter)
  29. The Miracles of Our Lord (sermons) (★★★★★)
  30. Paul Faber, Surgeon (= The Lady’s Confession), a sequel to Thomas Wingfold, Curate
  31. Phantastes: A Fairie Romance for Men and Women (★★)
  32. The Portent
  33. The Princess and the Goblin (★★★★★)
  34. The Princess and Curdie, a sequel to The Princess and the Goblin (★★★★★)
  35. Rampolli: Growths from a Long-planted Root
  36. Ranald Bannerman’s Boyhood (= The Boyhood of Ranald Bannerman)
  37. Robert Falconer (= The Musician’s Quest) (★★★★★)
  38. A Rough Shaking (= The Wanderings of Clare Skymer)
  39. St. George and St. Michael
  40. Salted with Fire (= The Minister’s Restoration)
  41. Scotch Songs and Ballads
  42. The Seaboard Parish, a sequel to Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood (★★★★★)
  43. Sir Gibbie (= The Baronet’s Song) (★★★★★)
  44. Thomas Wingfold, Curate (= The Curate’s Awakening) (★★★★★)
  45. There and Back (= The Baron’s Apprenticeship), a sequel to Paul Faber, Surgeon (★★★★★)
  46. The Threefold Cord: Poems by Three Friends
  47. The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: A Study With the Test of the Folio of 1623
  48. Unspoken Sermons (1st series2nd series3rd series) (★★★★★)
  49. The Vicar’s Daughter, a sequel to Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood and The Seaboard Parish
  50. Warlock o’ Glenwarlock (= Castle Warlock and The Laird’s Inheritance)
  51. Weighed and Wanting (= The Gentlewoman’s Choice) (★★)
  52. What’s Mine’s Mine (= The Highlander’s Last Song)
  53. Wilfrid Cumbermede
  54. The Wise Woman: A Parable (= “The Lost Princess: A Double Story” or “A Double Story”)
  55. Within and Without: A Dramatic Poem

Although all of George MacDonald’s works are out of copyright, this list does not include everything he has written. If you want a more complete list, you can check out our Complete Bibliography of George MacDonald.