John Henry Newman.

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Now, let us pass on to the very words in which that Baptism itself
was administered ; words, which the Eunuch might not understand
indeed at the time, but which were then committed to him to feed upon
in his heart by faith, and by the influence of the grace at the same
time given, gradually to enter into. Those words were first ordained
by Christ Himself, as some mysterious key by which the fountains of
grace might be opened upon the baptismal water, — " In the Name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ;" and they show
that not only the doctrine of Christ, but that of the Trinity also, formed
an essential portion of the Sacred Treasure, of which the Church was
ordained to be the Preacher. Lastly, in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
we are presented with an enumeration of some other of the fundamen-
tal Articles of Faith, which the Apostles delivered. St. Paul therein
speaks of " the foundation of Repentance from dead works, and of
Faith towards God, of the doctrine of Baptisms, and of Laying on of
hands, and of Resurrection of the dead, and of Eternal Judgment."*

Observe then, how many Articles of that Faith, which the Church
has ever confessed, are incidentally brought before us as such, and
delivered as such in very form, in the course of Scripture narrative and
precept ; — the doctrine of the Trinity ; of the Incarnation of the Son
of God, His Mediatorship, His Atonement for our sins on the Cross,
His Death, Burial, Resurrection on the third day, and Ascension ; of
Pardon on Repentance, Baptism as the Instrument of it, Imposition of
hands, the General Resurrection, and the Judgment once for all. I
might also appeal to such passages as that in the First Epistle to the
Corinthians, where St. Paul says, "To us there is One God the Father,

• 1 Tim. iii. 15, 16. Acts viii. 35—37.

+ Matt, xxviii. 19. Heb. vi. 1, 2. Vide also 2 Tim. ii. 16 — 18, above referred to.


. . . and One Lord Jesus Christ."* but I wished to confine myself to
texts in which the doctrines specified are expressly introduced as por-
tions of a Formulary or Confession, committed or accepted, whether
on the part of jMinisters of the Church at Ordination, or of each
member of it when he was baptized.

It may be proper to add, that the history of the Primitive Church
altogether concurs in this view of the nature of Gospel Faith, which
Scripture sets before us. I mean we have sufficient evidence that
in matter of fact, such Creeds as St. Paul's did exist in its various
branches, not differing from each other, except, (for instance,) as the
Lord's Prayer in St. Matthew's Gospel differs from St. Luke's version
of it ; that this one and the same Faith, was committeed to every
Christian every where on his baptism : and that it was considered as
the especial trust of the Church of each place and of its Bishop, as
having been received by continual transmission from its original
Founder, whether Apostle or Evangelist.

Enough has been already said by way of proving from Scripture, how
precise, positive, manifold, are the Articles of our Faith, aftd how St.
Paul insists on this their definiteness and minuteness ; enough to show
that we may not slur them over, nor heap them together confusedly,
nor tamper with them, with the profaneness either of carelessness or of
curious disputing, — in a word that they are sacred. But this sacred
character of our trust may be shown by several distinct considerations,
which shall now be set before you.

1. First from the very circumstance that it is a trust. The plain
and simple reason for our preaching and preserving the Faith, is because
we have been told to do so. It is an act of mere obedience to Him who
has " put us in trust with the Gospel." Our one great concern as regards
it, is to deliver it over safe. This is the end in view, which all men
have before them, who are any how trusted in worldly matters. " It is
required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."! Our Lord had
said, that " this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the
world as a witness unto all nations.'' Accordingly, His Apostle declares,
speaking of his persecutions, " None of these things move me, ....
so that I might finish ... the Ministry which I have received of the
Lord Jesus, fully to witness the Gospel of the grace of God." And
again, when his departure is at hand, he comforts himself with the re-
flection, that he has " kept the Faith. "J To keep the Faith in the
world till the end, may, for what we know, be a suflUcient object of our

* 1 Cor. viii. 6. t 1 Cor. iv. 2.

t Matt. xxiv. 14. Acts xx. 24. 2 Tim. iv. 7.


preaching and confessing, though nothing more come of it. Hence
then the force of the words addressed to Timothy ; " Hold fast," " keep ;"
"This charge I commit unto thee;" "continue thou in the things en-
trusted thee ;" " put the brethren in remembrance ;" " commit thou the
same to faithful men ;" " refuse profane and old wives' fables ;" " shun
profane vain-talking ;" " avoid foolish and unlearned questions." Were
there no other reason for the Articles of the Creed being held sacred,
their being a trust would be sufficient. Till we feel that we have a trust,
a treasure to tran.smit, for the safety of which we are answerable, we
have missed one chief peculiarity in our actual position. Yet did men
feel this adequately, they would have little heart to indulge in the ran-
dom speculations which at present are so fam.iliar to their minds.

2. This sense of the seriousness of our charge is increased by con-
sidering, that after all we do not know, and cannot form a notion, what
is the real final object of the Gospel Revelation. Men are accustomed
to say, that it is the salvation of the world, which it certainly is
not. If, instead of this, we say that Christ came " to purify unto
Himself a peculiar people," then indeed, we speak a great Truth ; but
this, though a main end of our preaching, is not its simple and ulti-
mate object. Rather, as far as we are told at all, that object is the
glory of God ; but we cannot understand what is meant by this, or
how the Dispensation of the Gospel promotes it. It is enough for us
that we must act with the simple thought of God before us, make all
ends subordinate to this, and leave the event to Him. We know,
indeed, to our great comfort, that we cannot preach in vain. His
heavenly word " shall not return unto Him void, but shall prosper in
the thing whereto He sent it." Still it is surely our duty to preach*
" whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear." We must
preach, as our Lord enjoins in a text already quoted, " as a witness."
Accordingly He Himself, before the heathen Pilate, " bore witness unto
the Truth ;" and St. Paul conjures us to keep our sacred charge as in
the presence of Him, who " before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good
confession." Doubtless, His glory is set forth in some mysterious way
in the rejection, as well as in the reception of the Gospel ; and we
must co-operate with Him. We must co-operate so far, as to be con-
tent to wound as well as to heal, to condemn as well as to absolve. We
must not shrink from being " a savour of death unto death," as well as
" of life unto life." We must steadfastly believe, however painful may
be the duty, that we are in either case oflfering up a " sweet savour of
Christ unto God, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish.'
We must learn to acquiesce and concur in the order of God's Provi-


dence, and bear to rejoice over great Babylon and her inhabitants,
when the wrath of God has fallen upon her.

This consideration is an answer to those who would limit our mes-
sage to what is influential and convincing in it, and measure its divinity
by its success. But I have introduced it rather to show generally, how
utterly we are in the dark about the whole subject ; and therefore, as
being in the dark, how necessary it is to gird our garments about us,
and hold fast our treasure, and hasten forward, lest we betray our trust-
We have no means of knowing how far a small mistake in the Faith
may carry us astray. If we do not know, why it is to be proclaimed
to all, though all will not hear, much less do we know why this or that
doctrine is revealed, or what is the importance of it. The grant of
grace in Baptism follows upon the accurate enunciation of one or two
words; and if so much depends on one sacred observance, even down
to the letter in which it is committed to us, why should not at least the
substantial sense of other truths, nay, even the primitive wording of
them, have some especial claim upon the Church's safe guardianship of
them ? St. Paul's articles of belief are precise and individual ; why
should we not take them as we find them 1 Why should we be wise
above that is written ? Why should we not be thankful that a work is
put upon us which is so plainly within our power, to hold the Gospel
Truths, to count and note them, to feed upon them, to hand them on ?
However wilful and feverish minds have not the wisdom to trust divine
teaching. They persist in saying that Articles of belief are mere for-
mahties ; and that to preach and transmit them is to miss the conver-
sion of the heart in faith and holiness. They would rather rouse
emotions, with the view (as they hope) of changing the character.
Forgetful that tempers and states of mind are things seen by God
alone, and when really spiritual, the work of His Unseen Spirit, and
beyond the power of man to ensure or ascertain, they put upon them-
selves what man cannot do. They think it a light thing to be sowers
of that heavenly seed, which He snail make spring up in the hearer's
heart to life eternal. They are willing to throw it aside as something
barren and worthless, as the sand of the sea shore ; and they desire to
plant the flowers of grace, (or what appear such,) in one another's
hearts, as though under their assiduous culture they could take root
therein. Far different is the example set us in the services of the
Church ! In the Ofiice for Baptism the Articles of the Creed are
recited one by one, that the infant Christian may be put in charge of
every jot and tittle to the sacred Covenant, which he inherits. In the
Communion Service, in the midst of its solemn praises to the God of all
grace, when Angels and Archangels are to be summoned to join in the



Thanksgiving, Articles from the Creed are recited, as if by way of
preparation, with an exact doctrinal precision, according to the Festival
celebrated, — as for instance on this day. And in the Visitation of the
Sick, he whom God seems about to call away, is asked, not whether he
has certain spiritual feelings within him, (of which he cannot judge,)
but definitely and to his great comfort, whether he believes those Ar-
ticles of the Christian Faith one by one, which he received at Baptism,
was catechized in during his childhood, and confessed whenever he
came to worship God in Church. It is in the same spirit that the most
precise and systematic of all the Creeds, the Athanasian, is rather, as
the form of it shows, a hymn of praise to the Eternal Trinity ; it being
meet and right at festive seasons to bring forth before our God every
jewel of the Mysteries entrusted us, to show that of those which He
gave us we have lost none.

3. Lastly, the sacred character of our charge is shown most forcibly
by the sanction which attends it. What God has guarded by an Ana-
thema, surely claims some jealous custody on our part. Christ says
expressly, " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; and he
that believeth not shall be damned."* It is quite clear, that in our
Lord's meaning, this belief included the reception of a positive Creed,
because He gave one at the time, — that sovereign Truth, from which
all others flow, which we this day celebrate, the Faith of Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, Three Persons, One God. This doctrine then, at
least is necessary to be believed by every one in order to salvation :
and that certain other doctrines are also necessary, is plain from
other parts of Scripture : as, for instance, our Lord's Resurrection,
from St. Paul's words to the Romans, f Now, this doctrine of the
Resurrection, which closed our Lord's earthly mission, is evidently at a
wide interval in the seri^ of doctrines from that of the Trinity in
Unity, which is the foundation of the whole Dispensation ; so that a
thoughtful mind, which fears to go wrong, will see reason to conclude
even from hence, that perchance the doctrines which go between the
two, the Incarnation, for instance, or the Crucifixion, are also essential
parts of saving Faith. And, in fact, various passages of Scripture, as
we have already seen, occur, in which these intermediate Articles are
separately made the basis of the Gospel. Again, let St. Paul's lan-
guage to the Galatians be well considered, who had departed from the
Faith in what might have seemed but a subordinate detail, the abolition
of the Jewish Law. " Though we, or an Angel from heaven," he
says, " preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have

* Matt. xvi. 16. t Rom. x. 9.


preached unto you, let him be Anathema. As we said before, so say I
now again. If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that
ye have received, let him be Anathema."* The state of the case then
is this : — we know that some doctrines are necessary to be believed ;
we are not told how many ; and we have no powers of mind adequate
to the task of solving the problem. We cannot give any sufficient
reason, beside the revealed word, why the doctrine of the Trinity itself
should be essential ; and if it is essential nevertheless, why should not
any other ? How dangerous then is it to trifle with any portion of the
message committed to us ! Surely we are bound to guard what may
be material in it, as carefully as if we knew it to be so ; our not know-
ing it, so far from being a reason for indifference, becoming an addi-
tional motive for anxiety and watchfulness. And, while we do not
dare anticipate God's final judgment by attaching the Anathema to
individual unbelievers, yet neither do we dare conceal any part of the
doctrines guarded by it, lest haply it should be found to lie against
ourselves, who have " shunned to declare the whole counsel of God."

To conclude. — The error against which these remarks are directed,
viz. that of systematizing and simplifying the Gospel Faith, making
much of one or two articles of it, and disparaging or dismissing the
rest, is not confined to this province of religion only. In the same
spirit, sometimes the Ordinances, sometimes the Polity of the Church,
are dishonoured and neglected ; the doctrine of Baptism contrasted
with that of inward Sanctification, precepts of "decency and order"
made light of before the command to evangelize the heathen, the in-
junction to " stand in the old ways " broken with a view to increase
the so-called efficiency of our ecclesiastical institutions. In like man-
ner, by one class of reasoners the Gospels are made every thing, by
another the Epistles. In all ages, indeed, consistent obedience is a very
rare endowment ; but in this cultivated age, we have undertaken to de-
fend inconsistency on grounds of reason. On the other hand hear
the words of Eternal Truth. " Whosoever shall break one of these
least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least
in the Kingdom of Heaven ; but whosoever shall do and teach them,
the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. "f

» Gal. i. 8, 9. tMatt. v. 19.



Acts xi. 24.

He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith.

When Christ came to form a people unto Himself to show forth His
praise, He took of every kind. Highways and hedges, the streets and
lanes of the city furnished guests for His supper, as well as the wilder-
ness of Judfea, or the courts of the Temple. His first followers are a
sort of type of the general Church, in which many and various minds
are as one. And this is one use, if we duly improve it, of our Festivals ;
which set before us specimens of the Divine Life under the same diver-
sity of outward circumstances, advantages, and dispositions, which we
discern around us. The especial grace poured upon the Apostles and
their associates, whether miraculous or moral, had no tendency to de-
stroy their respective peculiarities of temper and character, to invest
them with a sanctity beyond our imitation, or to preclude failings and
errors which may be our warning. It left them, as it found them, men.
Peter and John, for instance, the simple fishers on the lake of Genne-
sareth, Simon the Zealot, Matthew the busy tax-gatherer, and the
ascetic Baptist, how different are these, — first, from each other, — then,
from ApoUos the eloquent Alexandrian, Paul the learned Pharisee, Luke
the physician, or the eastern sages, whom we celebrate at the Feast of
the Epiphany ; and these again how different from the Blessed Virgin
Mary, or the Innocents, or Simeon and Anna, who are brought be-
fore us at the Feast of the Purification, or the women who ministered
to our Lord, Mary the wife of Cleophas, the Mother of James and John,
Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus ; or again, from
the widow with her two mites, the woman whose issue of blood was
staunched, and she who poured forth tears of penitence upon His feet,
and the ignorant Samaritan at the well ! Moreover, the definiteness and

368 ST. BARNABAS. [Skrm.

evident truth of many of the characters presented to us in the Gospels
serve to realize to us the history, and to help our faith, while at the
same time they afford us abundant instruction. Such, for instance, is
the immature ardour of James and John, the sudden fall of Peter, the
obstinacy of Thomas, and the cowardice of Mark. St. Barnabas fur-
nishes us with a lesson in his own way ; nor shall I be wanting in piety
towards that Holy Apostle, if on this his day I hold him forth, not only
in the peculiar graces of his character, but in those parts of it in which
he becomes our warning, not our example.

The text says, that " he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and
of faith." This praise of goodness is explained by his very name, Bar-
nabas, " the Son of Consolation," which was given him, as it appears,
to mark his character of kindness, gentleness, considerateness, warmth
of heart, compassion, and munificence.

His acts answer to this account of him. The first we hear of him
IS his selling some land which was his, and giving the proceeds to
the Apostles, to distribute to his poorer brethren. The next notice of
him sets before us a second deed of kindness, of as amiable, though of
a mere private character. " When Saul was come to Jerusalem, he
assayed to join himself to the disciples ; but they were all afraid of him,
and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and
brought him to the Apostles, and declared how he had seen the Lord in
the way, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached
boldly at Damascus, in the name of Jesus."* Next, he is mentioned
in the text, and still with commendation of the same kind. How had he
shown that "he was a good man?" by going on a mission of love to
the first converts at Antioch. Barnabas, above the rest, was honoured
by the Church with this work, which had in view the encouraging and
binding together in unity and strength this incipient fruit of God's
grace, " When he came, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad ;"
(surely this circumstance itself is mentioned by way of showing his
character ;) and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would
cleave unto the Lord." Thus he may even be accounted the founder of
the Church of Antioch, being aided by St. Paul, whom he succeeded in
bringing thither. Next, on occasion of an approaching famine he
joined with St. Paul in being the minister of the Gentiles' bounty
towards the poor saints of Judsea. Afterwards, when the Judaizing
Christians troubled the Gentile converts with the Mosaic ordinances,
Barnabas was sent with the same Apostle and others from the Church
of Jerusalem to relieve their perplexity. Thus the Scripture history of

» Acts ix. 26, 27.


him does but answer to his name, and is scarcaly more than a continued
exemphfication of his characteristic grace. Moreover, let the particu-
lar force of his name be observed. The Holy Ghost is called our Pa-
raclete, as assisting, advocating, encouraging, comforting us ; now, as
if to put the highest honour upon the Apostle, the same term is applied
to him. He is called " the Son of Consolation," or the Paraclete ; and
in accordance with this honourable title, we are told that when the
Gentile converts of Antioch had received from his and St. Paul's hands
the Apostles' decision against the Judaizers, " they rejoiced for the con-

On the other hand, on two occasions his conduct is scarcely becom-
ing an Apostle, as instancing somewhat of that infirmity which unin-
spired persons of his peculiar character frequently exhibit. Both are
cases of indulgence towards the faults of others, yet in a ditierent way ;
the one, an over-easiness in a matter of doctrine, the other, in a matter
of conduct. With all his tenderness for the Gentiles, yet on one occa-
sion he could not resist indulging the prejudices of some Judaizing bre-
thren, who came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Peter first was carried
away ; before they came, "he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they
were come, he withdrew, and separated himself, fearing them which
were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with
him; insomuch, that Barnabas also was carried away with their dis-
simulation." The other instance was his indulgent treatment of Mark,
his sister's son, which occasioned the quarrel between him and St. Paul.
'• Barnabas determined to take with them," on their Apostolic journey,
" John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take
him Avith them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not
with them to the work."*

Now it is very plain what description of character, and what kind of
lesson, is brought before us in the history of this Holy Apostle. Holy
he was, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith ; still the characteristics
and the infirmities of man remained in him, and thus he is " unto us for
an ensample," consistently with the reverence we feel towards him as
one of the foundations of the Christian Church. He is an ensample
and warning to us, not only as showing us what we ought to be, but as
evidencing how the highest gifts and graces are corrupted in our sinful
nature, if we are not diligent to walk step by step, according to the,
light of God's commandments. Be our mind as heavily as it may be,,
most loving, most holy, most zealous, most energetic, most peaceful, yet
if we look off from Him for a moment, and look towards ourselves, ai;

* Gal. ii. 12, 13. Acts xv. 37, 38.
Vol. I.— 24

370 ST. BARNABAS. [Serm.

once these excellent tempers fall into some extreme or mistake. Cha-
rity becomes over-easiness, holiness is tainted with spiritual pride, zeal
degenerates into fierceness, activity eats up the spirit of prayer, hope
is heightened into presumption. We cannot guide ourselves. God's
revealed word is our sovereign rule of conduct ; and therefore, among
other reasons, is faith so principal a grace, for it is the directing power
which receives the commands of Christ, and applies them to the heart.

And there is particular reason for dwelling upon the character of St.
Barnabas in this age, because he may be considered as the type of the
better sort of men among us, and those who are most in esteem. The
world itself indeed is what it ever has been, ungodly ; but in every age
it chooses some one or other peculiarity of the Gospel as the badge of
its particular fashion for the time being, and sets up as objects of ad-
miration those who eminently possess it. Without asking, therefore,
how far men act from Christian principle, or only from the imitation of
it, or from some mere secular or selfish motive, yet, certainly, this age,
as far as appearance goes, may be accounted in its character not unlike
Barnabas, as being considerate, delicate, courteous, and generous-mind-
ed in all that concerns the intercourse of man with man. There is a

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 41 of 76)