John Henry Newman.

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thus intimating that David's royal line would outlive the revolting
kingdom of Israel. " O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord, Behold, a child
shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name ; and upon thee
shall he offer the priests of thqA^gh places that burn incense upon thee,
and men's bones shall be burnt u^on thee." To show his Divine com-
mission, the prophet gave the word, and the altar was miraculously rent
in twain, and the ashes of the sacrifice scattered on the ground. No-
thing could be more public than a judgment like this, denounced from
God Himself, after Rehoboam, Solomon's son, had not been allowed to
take the matter into his own hands. And to make the occurrence still
more impressive, two further signs were added. Jeroboam stretched
forth his hand to seize the prophet ; it was instantly shrivelled up so
that he could not pull it to him again. At the prophet's prayer, it was
restored. The second miracle was still more awful. The prophet,
wearied with his journey, was, on his return, persuaded by a bad man
to eat and drink, against the express word of God declared to him.
An immediate judgment followed. As he sat at table, his seducer was
constrained to declare to him his punishment, — that his body should
not come into the sepulchre of his fathers ; and as he went home, a
lion, God's second instrument for its infliction, met and slew him, yet
did not devour him, nor touch the ass he rode on, nor molest other
passengers he met, but, fixed to the spot by miracle, he stood over the
prophet's body, a sign, more truly than the idols at Dan and Bethel, of
God's power, holiness, and fearful justice, and suggesting, throughout
all Israel, the fearful argument, — " If God so punish His own children,
what will be the final, though delayed, punishment of the wicked ? If
the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner
appear ?"*

As for Jeroboam, in spite of all this, " after this thing he returned
not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people
priests of the high places ; whosoever would, he consecrated him, and
he became one of the priests of the high places. "f Such was his life.

At the close of his reign, he lost even his earthly prosperity. " The
Lord struck him, and he died." Such was his end.

His family was soon cut off from the throne ; and after all his wise
counsels and bold plans he has left but his name and title to posterity,

» 1 Pet. iv. 18. t 1 Kings xiii. 33.

492 JEROBOAM. [Sirm. V.

*' Jeroboam the son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin." Such is his

" Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm^
and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the
heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall
inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not
inhabited."* ^

It requires but a few words to sh(fsv the application of this history
to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. So strongly does it
portray to us the existing disorders and schisms of the Christian
Church, — the profane and tyrannical usage which it meets with from
the world, — that the only question which can possibly arise in the mind
is, whether it is allowable to apply it, and whether, as the events are
alike, their respective character and their issue are like each other also.
This, I say, is the only question, whether we may, without blame^
judge of what we see, by the light of what we read in the history of
Israel ; and I wish all readers would clearly understand that this is the
only question. If the deeds of Israel and Jeroboam may be taken as
types of what has been acted under the Gospel for centuries past, can
we doubt that schism, innovation in doctrine, a counterfeit priesthood,
sacrilege, and violence, are sins so heinous and crying, that there is no
judgment too great for them, no wo which we may not expect will
ultimately fall on the systems which have been born in them, and the
lineage of their perpetrators ? What other lesson can we draw from
the history but this ? but that we ought to draw a lesson, is plain from the
repeated declaration of St. Paul. " Whatsoever things were written
aforetime, were written for our teaching." " All these things happened
unto them as types, and they are written for our admonition, upon
whom the ends of the world are come.'' " All Scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for cor-
rection, for instruction in righteousness," St. Peter also and St. Jude
expressly apply occurrences in the Old Testament to parallels under
the Gospel.f

May God give us the will and the power to reahze to our minds this
most serious truth, and fairly to follow it out in its necessary conse-
quences ! And may He of His mercy have pity upon our poor dis-
tracted Church, rescue it from the dominion of the heathen, and grant
that " the world's course may be so peaceably ordered by His govern-
ance, that " it and all the branches of the One Church Catholic "may
joyfully serve Him in all godly quietness !"

• Jer. xvii. 5, 6.

tRom. XV. 4. ICor. I. 11. 2 Tim. iii. 16. 2 Pet. ii. 1—15. Jude 5— 11.



Matt. xix. 17.

If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Let a plain man read the Gospels with a serious and humble mind,
and as in God's presence, and I suppose he would be in no perplexity
at all about the meaning of these words. They are clear as the day at
first reading, and the rest of our Saviour's teaching does but corro-
borate their obvious meaning. I conceive that if such a man, after
reading them and the other similar passages which occur in the Gos-
pels, were told that he had not mastered the sense of them, and that in
matter of fact to attempt to enter into life by keeping the com-
mandments, to attempt to keep the commandments in order to enter
into life, were suspicious and dangerous modes of expression, and that
the use of them showed an ignorance of the real spirit of Christ's doc-
trine, he would in despair say, " then truly Scripture is not a book for
the multitude, but for those only who have educated and refined under-
standings, so as to see things in a sense different from their obvious

Or again, supposing one, who disbelieved our Lord's divinity, fell in
with persons who did thus consider that to keep the commandments
by way of entering into life, was a sign of spiritual blindness in a man,
not to say of pride and reprobation ; do you suppose there would be
any possibility of their silencing him as regards his own particular
heresy, with Scripture proofs of the sacred truth which he denied?
For can the doctrine that Christ is God, be more clearly enunciated
than the precept that, to enter into life, we must keep the com-
mandments ■? and is it not the way to make men think that Scripture
has no definite meaning at all, and that each man may fairly put his
own sense upon it, when they see our Lord's plain directions thus
explained away ?


The occasion of this unreal interpretation of Scripture, which, in
fact, does exist among us to a great extent, is, that St. Paul, in some
passages of his Epistles, teaches us that we arc accepted and saved by
faith ; and it is argued that, since he wrote under the guidance of the
promised Spirit, his is the true gospel mode of Speech, and that the
language of Christ, the Eternal Word of God, must be drawn aside,
however violently, into that certain meaning which is assumed as the
only true sense of St. Paul. How our Divine Master's words are
explained away, what ingenious refinements are used to deprive us of
the plain and solemn sense which they bear on their very front, it
profits not here to inquire ; still no one, it may be presumed, can deny,
that, whether rightly or wrongly, they are turned aside in a very unex-
pected way, unless rather they are put out of sight altogether, and
forgotten, as if superseded by the Apostolic Epistles. Doubtless those
Epistles are inspired by the Holy Spirit ; but He was sent from Christ
to glorify and illuminate the words of Christ. The two Heavenly
witnesses cannot speak diversely ; faith will listen to Them both.
Surely our duty is, neither to resist the One nor the other ; but humbly
to consider whether there is not some one substantial doctrine which
they teach in common ; and that with God's blessing I will now
attempt to do.

How are we sinners to be accepted by Almighty God ? Doubtless
the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the meritorious cause of our justi-
fication, and His Church is the ordained instrument of conveying it to
us. But our present question relates to another subject, to our own
part in appropriating it ; and here I say Scripture makes two answers,
saying sometimes " Believe, and you shall be saved," and sometimes
" Keep the commandments, and you shall be saved." Let us consider
whether these two modes of speech are not reconcileable with each

What is meant by faith ? it is to feel in good earnest that we are
creatures of God ; it is a practical perception of the unseen world ; it
is to understand that this world is not enough for our happiness, to
look beyond it on towards God, to realize His presence, to wait upon
Him, to endeavour to learn and to do His will, and to seek our good
from Him. It is not a mere temporary strong act or impetuous feeling
of the mind, an impression on a view coming upon it, but it is a habity
a state of mind, lasting and consistent. To have faith in God is to
surrender oneself to God, humbly to put one's interests, or to wish to be
allowed to put them, into His hands who is the Sovereign Giver of all

Now, again, let me ask, what is obedience ? It is the obvious mode.


suggested by nature, of a creature's conducting himself in God's sight,
who fears Him as his Maker, and knows that, as a sinner, he has espe-
cial cause for fearing Him. Under such circumstances he " will do
what he can" to please Him, as the woman whom our Lord commended.
He will look every way to see how it is possible to approve himself to
Him, and will rejoice to find any service which may stand as a sort of
proof that he is in earnest. And he will find nothing better as an offer-
ing, or as an evidence, than obedience to tliat Holy Law, which con-
science tells him has been given us by God Himself ; that is, he will be
diligent in doing all his duty as far as he knows it and can do it. Thus,
as is evident the two states of mind are altogether one and the same ;
it is quite indifferent whether we say a man seeks God in faith, or say he
seeks Him by obedience ; and, whereas Almighty God has graciously
declared He will receive and bless all that seek Him, it is quite indiffer-
ent whether we say, He accepts those who believe, or those who obey.
To believe is to look beyond this world to God, and to obey is to look
beyond this world to God ; to believe is of the heart, and to obey is of
the heart ; to believe is not a solitary act, but a consistent habit of
trust ; and to obey is not a sohtary act, but a consistent habit of doing
our duty in all things. I do not say that faith and obedience do not
stand for separate ideas in our minds, but they stand for nothing more ;
they are not divided one from the other in fact. They are but one
thing viewed differently.

If it be said that a man may keep from sin and do good without
thinking of God, and therefore without being religious or having faith ;
this is true, but nothing to the purpose. It is, alas ! too true, that men
often do what is in itself right, not from the thought of God, but for
some purpose of this world ; and all of us have our best doings sullied
by the intrusion of bad thoughts and motives. But all this, I say, is
nothing to our present purpose ; for if a man does right, not for reli-
gion's sake, but the world's sake, though he happens to be doing right,
that is, to perform outwardly good actions, this is in no sense obediencCj
which is of the heart. And it was obedience, not mere outward good
conduct, which I said belonged to the same temper of mind as faith.
And I repeat it, for by obedience is meant obedience not to the world,
but to God, — and habitually to obey God is to be constant in looking on
to God, — and to look on to Almighty God, is to have faith ; so that to
"live by faith," or " walk by faith," (according to the Scripture phra-
ses,) that is, to have a habit of faith, and to be obedient, are one and the
same general character of mind ; — viewed as sitting at Jesus' feet, it is
ca.\\ed faith ; viewed as running to do His will, it is called obedience.

If again it be said that a man may be obedient and yet proud of be-


ing so, that is, obedient without having faith, I would maintain, on the
other hand, that in matter of fact a man is proud, or (what is some-
times called) self-righteous, not when obedient, but in proportion to his
iiisobedience. To be proud, is to rest on oneself, which they are most
chargeable with who do least ; but a really obedient mind is necessarily
-dissatisfied with itself, and looks out of itself for help, from understand-
ing the greatness of its task ; in other words, in proportion as a man
•obeys, is he driven to faith, in order to learn the remedy of the imper-
fections of his obedience

All this is clear and obvious to every thinking man ; and this view of
the subject was surely present to the minds of the inspired writers of
Scripture, — for this reason, because they use the two words faith and
obedience indiscriminately, sometimes declaring we shall be accepted,
saved by believing, sometimes by doing our duty. And they so inter-
change these two conditions of God's favour, so quickly pass to and fro
from the one view to the other, as to show that in truth the two do not
differ, except in idea. If these apparently two conditions were merely
connected, not substantially one, surely the inspired writers would com-
pare them one with the other, — surely they would be consistent in ap-
propriating distinct offices to each. But, in very truth, from the begin-
ning to the end of Scripture, the one voice of inspiration consistently
maintains, not a uniform contrast between faith and obedience, but
this one doctrine, that the only way of salvation open to us is the sur.
render of ourselves to our Maker in all things, supreme devotion, dedi-
cation, the turning with all our heart to God ; and this state of mind is
ascribed in Scripture sometimes to the believing, sometimes to the obe-
dient, according to the particular passage ; and it is no matter to which
it is ascribed.

Now I will cite some passages of Scripture in proof of what I have
said. The Psalmist says, " Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle 1
who shall dwell in Thy holy hill ? He that walketh uprightly, and
worketh righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart." " He that
hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto
vanity nor sworn deceitfully."* Here, obedience is described as secur-
ing a man's salvation. But in another Psalm we read, " How great
is thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee ;
which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in TAee."")- Here, trust or
faith is the condition of God's favour. Again, in other Psalms, first,
•' What man is he that desireth life 1 Keep thy tongue from evil and
thy Hps from speaking guile. Depart from ecil and do good, seek peace

* Ps. XV. 1, 2 ; xxiv. 1. t Pp. xxxi. If) ; xxxiv. 12—14. 18. 22.


and pursue it." . . . Next it is said, " The Lord is nigh unto them
that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."
Lastly, " None of them that trust in Him shall be desolate." Here,
obedience, repentance, and faith are successively mentioned as the
means of obtaining God's favour ; and why all of them, but because
they are all names for one and the same substantial character, only
viewed on different sides of it, that one character of mind which is
pleasing and acceptable to Almighty God ? Again, the prophet Isaiah
says, " Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on
Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."* Yet in the preceding verse he
had proclaimed, " Open ye the gates (of the heavenly city) that the
righteous nation, which keepeth the Truth, may enter in." In like
manner Solomon says, " By mercy and truth iniquity is purged :" Dan-
iel, that " mercy to the poor" is a " breaking oif of sin," and " an heal-
ing of error:" Nehemiah prays God to "remember him," and *'not
wipe out his ^oocZ deeds for the House of his God ;" yet Habakkuk says,
" the just shall live by his faith." j

What honour our Saviour put on faith I need hardly remind you.
He blessed Peter's confession, and in prospect those who though they
saw Him not on earth, as Thomas, yet believe ; and in His miracles
of mercy, faith was the condition He exacted for the exertion of His
powers of heahng and restoration. On one occasion he says, " All
things are possible to him that helieveth."\ Yet afterwards in His
solemn account of the last judgment, He tells us that it is obedience
to His will which will then receive His blessing, " Inasmuch as ye
have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done
it unto Me."§ Again, the Angel said to Cornelius, " Thy prayers and
thine alms are come up for a memorial before God ;" and Cornelius is
described as a "devout man, and one that feared God with all his house,
which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway."l[
Yet it is in the very same Book of Acts that we read St. Paul's words,
" Believe, and thou shalt be saved."!" The Epistles afford us still more
striking instances of the intimate association existing in the Apostle's
thoughts between believing and obeying, as though exhibitions of one
and the same spiritual character of mind. For instance, St. Paul
says Abraham was accepted (not by ceremonial observances, but) by
faith, yet St. James says he was accepted by works of obedience. The
meaning is clear, that Abraham found favour in God's sight, because he

' Isaiah xxvi. 2, 3. t Prov. ivi. 6. Dan. iv. 27,^ Neh. liii. 14. Hab. ii. 4.

4 Mark ix. 23. $ Matt. xxv. 40. || Acts k. 2. '{i Acts xvi. 31,
Vol. I.— 32


gave hmself up to Him ; this is faith or obedience, whichever we please
to call it. No matter whether we say, Abraham was favoured because
his faith embraced God's promises, or because his obedience cherished
God's commands, for God's commands are promises, and His promises
commands to a heart devoted to Him ; so that, as there is no substan-
tial difference between command and promise, so there is likewise none-
between obedience and faith. Perhaps it is scarcely correct even to
say, that faith comes first and obedience follows as an inseparable
second step, and that faith, ns being the first step, is accepted. For
not a single act of faith can be named but what has in it the nature of
obedience, that is, implies the making an effort and a consequent vic-
tory. What is the faith which earns Baptism, the very faith which
appropriates the free gift of grace, but an acquiescence of the reason
in the Gospel Mysteries? Even the thief upon the Cross had (it
would seem) to rule his reason, to struggle against sight, and to bring
under pride and obstinacy, when he turned to IJim as his Saviour, who
seemed to mortal eyes only his fellow-sufferer. A mere confession or
prayer, which might not be really an act of obedience in us, might be
such in him. On the other hand, faith does not cease with the first
act, but continues. It works with obedience. In proportion as a man
believes, so he obeys ; they come together, and grow together, and last
through life. Neither are perfect ; both are on the same level of im-
perfection ; they keep pace with each other ; in proportion to the im-
perfection of one so is the imperfection of the other ; and as the one
advances, so does the other also.

And now I have described the temper of mind which has, in every
age, been acceptable to Almighty God, in its two aspects of faith and
obedience. In every age " the righteous shall live by faith." And it
is remarkable that these words of the prophet Habakkuk, which St.
Paul quotes three several times to show the identity of true religion
under all dispensations, do also represent it under these very two char-
acteristics. Righteousness and Faith.

Before closing the subject, however, it may be necessary, in a few
words, to explain why it is that, in some parts of St. Paul's Epistles, a cer-
ain stress is laid upon faith, ove rand above the other parts of a religious
character, in our justification. The reason seems to be as follows ; the
Gospel being pre-eminently a covenant of grace, faith is so far of
more excellence than other virtues, because it confesses this beyond all
others. Works of obedience witness to God's just claims upon us, not
to His mercy : but faith comes empty-handed, hides even its own worth,
and does but point at that precious scheme of redemption which God's
love has devised for sinners. Hence, it is the frame of mind especially


suitable to us, and is said, in a special way, to justify us, because it glo-
rifies God, witnessing that He accepts those, and those only, who con-
fess they are not worthy to be accepted.

On this account, faith has a certain prerogative of dignity under the
Gospel. At the same time we must never forget that the more usual
mode of doctrine both with Christ and His Apostles is to refer our
acceptance to obedience to the commandments, not to faith : and this,
as it would appear, from a merciful anxiety in their teaching, lest, in
contemplating God's grace, we should forget our own duties.

To conclude. If, after all, to believe and to obey be but different
characteristics of one and the same state of mind, in what a most
serious error are whole masses of men involved at this day, who are
commonly considered religious 1 It is undeniable that there are multi-
tudes who would avow with confidence and exultation, that they put
obedience only in the second place in their religious scheme, as if it
were rather a necessary consequence of faith than requiring a direct
attention for its own sake ; a something subordinate to it, rather than
connatural and contemporaneous with it. It is certain, however start-
ling it is to reflect upon it, that numbers do not in any true sense be-
lieve that they shall be judged ; they believe in a coming judgment as
regards the wicked, but they do not belive that all men, that they them-
selves personally, will undergo it. I wish from my heart that the per-
sons in question could be persuaded to read Scripture with their own
eyes, and take it in a plain and natural way, instead of perplexing
themselves with their human systems, and measuring and arranging its
its inspired declarations by an artificial rule. Are they quite sure that
in the next world they will be able to remember these strained inter-
pretations in their greatest need ? Then surely, while we wait for the
judgment, the luminous sentences of Divine Truth, will come over us,
first one and then another, and we shall wonder how we ever misunder-
stood them ! Then will they confront us in their simplicity and entire-
ness, and we shall understand that nothing can be added to them,
nothing taken away. Then at length, if not before, we shall compre-
hend our Lord's assurance, that, " He will reward every man according
to his works ;" St. Paul's, that " we must all appear before the judg-
ment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his
body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad ;" St.
Peter's, that " He is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and
dead ;" St. James's, that "a man is justified by works and not by faith
only ;" and St. John's that " they are blessed that do His command-
ments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter through


the gates into the city."* Whatever else may be true, these declara-
tions, so solemnly, so repeatedly made, must hold good in their plain and
obvious sense, and may not be infringed or superseded. So many testi-
monies combined are " an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast," and if
they mean something else than what they all say, what part of Scrip-
ture can we dare trust in future as a guide and consolation ?

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 55 of 76)