Democracy of the Dead – George MacDonald

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From George MacDonald‘s KNOWING THE HEART OF GOD

Cross by George Wharton JamesThen my second neighbor appears, and who is this?

Everyone with whom I come in contact.  He or she with whom I have any transactions, any human dealings whatever.

Not only the man or woman I eat with.  Not only the friend with whom I share my thoughts.  Not only the man or woman I love, whom my compassion would lift from some slough of despair.

My neighbor is also the person who makes my clothes, the one who prints my books, the one who drives me in his cab, the one who begs from me in the street – to whom, it may be, for brotherhood’s sake, I must not give as often as I might – the woman I meet in the market, and even the man who condescends to me.

With all such, and hundreds more I pass through the course of a day, there is a chance of doing the part of a neighbor, if in no other way, at least by speaking truly, acting justly, and thinking kindly.  Even these deeds will help move my heart toward that love which is born of righteousness.

All true action clears the springs of right feeling and lets their waters rise and flow.

A man must not choose his neighbor.

He must take the neighbor that God sends him. 

In him, whoever he or she be, lies either hidden or revealed a beautiful brother or sister.  The neighbor is just the man or woman or child who is next to you at this very moment, he or she with whom any business, even any seeming accident of life has brought you in contact.


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