John Henry Newman.

Parochial sermons (Volume 1) online

. (page 75 of 76)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 75 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


memories? The early times of purity and truth have not passed away !
they are present still ! We are not solitary, though we seem sc. Few



872 THE INTERMEDIATE STATE. [Sbrm. XXV.

now alive may understand or sanction us ; but those multitudes in the
primitive time, who believed, and taught, and worshipped, as we do, still
live unto God, and, in their past deeds and their present voices, cry
from the Altar. They animate us by their example ; they cheer us by
their company ; they are on our right hand and our left, Martyrs, Con-
fessors, and the like, high and low, who used the same Creeds, and cele-
brated the same Mysteries, and preached the same Gospel as we do.
And to them were joined, as ages went on, even in fallen times, nay,
even now in times of division, fresh and fresh witnesses from the Church
below. In the world of spirits there is no difference of parties. It is
our plain duty indeed here, to contend even for the details of the Truth
according to our light ; and surely there is a Truth in spite of the dis-
cordance of opinions. But that Truth is at length simply discerned by
the spirits of the just ; human additions, human institutions, human
enactments, enter not with them into the unseen state. They are put
off with the flesh. Greece and Rome, England and France, give no
colour to those souls which have been cleansed in the One Baptism,
nourished by the One Body, and moulded upon the One Faith. Ad-
versaries agree together directly they are dead, if they have lived and
walked in the Holy Ghost. The harmonies combine and fill the tern-
pie, while discords and imperfections die away. Therefore is it good
to throw ourselves into the unseen world, it is " good to be there," and
to build tabernacles for those who speak " a pure language" and " serve
the Lord with one consent ;" not indeed to draw them forth from their
secure dwelling-places, not irreverently to address them, or wilfully to
rely on them, lest they be a snare to us, but silently to contemplate
them for our edification ; thereby encouraging our faith, enlivening our
patience, sheltering us from thoughts about ourselves, keeping us from
resting on ourselves and making us seem to ourselves (what really we
ought ever to be) but followers of the doctrine of those who have gone
before us, not teachers of novelties, not founders of schools.

God grant to us all, out of the superabundant treasures of His grace,
such a spirit, the spirit of mingled teachableness and zeal, of calmness
in inquiry and vigour in resolve, of power, and of love, and of a sound
mind !



NOTES.

ON SERMON I.— P. 581.



The view of Lot's character taken in this Sermon having been questioned in
the British Magazine, a kind friend, under the signature of E. B. P., made
the following remarks upon it, which are here, with the writer's leave reprinted.
" Mr. Newman selected the example of Lot ; not with any thought of dis-
paraging one whom God had pronounced a 'just' man, but to show wherein he
fell short of a yet higher pattern, which is set forth to us of him whose chil-
dren we are as long as we walk in the steps of his faith — the father of the
faithful — faithful Abraham. The very value of the warning held out to us, in
this respect, by the history of Lot, consists in this, that he was, indeed, a good
and righteous man ; but, being such, he continually lost opportunities of rising
to a higher state, and so, finally, fell so very far short of the faith of Abraham,
the ' friend of God.' The summary of Mr. N.'s view of the character of
Lot is this, — that he, as well as Abraham, believed God, and obeyed him, when
his commands were direct and express; that, even under the miserable circum-
stances under which he placed himself, he did not forfeit his integrity ; he
remained in Sodom, a worshipper of the one true God among infidels, — kind
among the hard-hearted, pure among the brutish. And this, doubtless, was
much ; at least, if one contrasts the indifference with which even many respec-
table persons allow themselves to become inured to sin, which they witness
frequently, with his feelings, who, ' in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous
soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.' Or again, if we compare his
diligence in receiving strangers (so that he sat till eventide at the gate of
Sodom, awaiting if any should pass by that way) with the indolence and
sparing of personal pains which characterizes most of this day's charity, we
shall see some of the value of his example. And these are the points for
which he is praised in holy Scripture — his lothing sin, although in the midst of
it ; his being ' vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked,' although
accustomed to it ; and, again, his habitual self-denying care of strangers,
whence ' he entertained angels unawares.' Lot's particular virtues stand out
as a beacon to us, like the purity of Joseph, the energy of Samson, the wisdom
of Solomon, the tranquil reflectiveness of Isaac, the self-denying unambitious-
ness of Gideon, the early piety and consequent evenness of character of
Samuel, as so many several portions of the complete Christian character.
The several graces were in a remarkable degree, far beyond what we should
have expected, developed in God's servants under the old dispensation, many
o{ whom thereby became in their several ways types of Him who was all
Vol. II.— 43



674 NOTE ON SERMON I.

holiness, and are unitedly the patterns for us. We need not fear, then, dispa-
raging this their excellence and appointed end, by adverting to other points
wherein any of them seem to be pointed out as having come short. Lot's
faithfulness among the faithless is a protest against sinful compliance with the
world's maxims ; his deliverance, a pledge that ' God knoweth how to deliver
the godly out of temptation ;' the reward of his hospitality, an encouragement
to toilsome care of strangers ; for so we, loo, may entertain not angels only
unawares, but may ' take' our Lord also ' in ;' and yet, with all this, his exam-
ple, like David's, may be in other respects a warning not to follow, but to avoid.
We have but one perfect exemplar. Placed then under the same outward
circumstances as Abraham, carried through his first trial by a ready acquies-
cence* in Abraham's parental guidance and commanding faith, he yet fell far
short of him. No one would think of comparing Lot with the father of the
faithful and the friend of God. Rather he seems in part to stand by him the
more to illustrate Abraham's superior faith. Wherein, then, consisted the
difference ] In that, when the occasion was offered him, he preferred present
ease, comfort, wealth,! and, although without direct sin, yet made them irre-
spectively of holiness, the objects of his choice. Though a stranger and a
pilgrim, he sought a home ; he entangled himself in the affairs of this life ;
and so, though 'saved as by fire' from the consequences of his choice, yet.he
'suffered loss,' fell short of the ' exceeding great reward' of Abraham's single-
hearted perseverance, remained altogether upon a lower level of attainment,
and receives a far lower measure of the praise of God. From the time that
he separates from Abraham, and chooses to dwell among the evil inhabitants
of the plain, we hear of nothing but loss and disgrace — first, captivity ; thea
loss of all for the sake whereof he had made this unhappy choice; every one
immediately connected with him a dishonour; his sons-in-law perish as pro-
fane unbelievers ; his wife a proverb and a monument of God's displeasure on
unsteadfastness ; his daughters named only as connected with shame, compass-
ing the continuance of their race by dreadful, unholy means, and so receiving
the reward of such self-wise ways in the parentage of a savage race, excluded'
from and persecutors of ' the congregation of the Lord ;' himself though
spared for the sake of another, yet a fugitive and a vagabond upon the
earth, fleeing in alarm from the city which, in weakness of faith, he had

* Gen. xii. 4. " AndLotwentw!^^ Aim." Verse5. " And Abram/oofeLot." St.Chrys.ad!
loc. Horn. xxxi. § 5, ed. Ben. Perhaps because he was young, and he { Abram) was in the
place of a father to him ; and Lot also, through natural affection and gentleness of manners,
could not readily tear himself from the just man ; therefore he could not leave him.

This is clearly implied by Scripture as Lot's motive. " And Lot lift up his eyes and
beheld all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered everywhere, (before the Lord de-
stroyed Sodom and Gomorrah,) even as the garden of the Lord. Then Lot chose him all
the plain of Jordan ; nor is blame less implied in the strong notice of the exceeding sinful-
ness of Sodom, in this place, when it stands altogether detached from the account of their
punishment. " And Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent towards
Sodom ; but the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly."
We may not look upon such juxta-position as without its meaning ; the statement, as it
stands here, obviously contains a reflection on Lot's conduct, and is disconnected from-
everything besides.



NOTE ON SERMON I. 675

implored leave to stop short in, and not even thus returning in his poverty to
Abraham's holy household, which for wealth he had left. Surely, it is not
without evident warning, that all this accumulated misery is related to have
over-spread his latter years ; that disgrace, such as is not known even among
the heathen, was allowed to attach to this servant of God, was stamped by his
daughters upon the very name and front, upon their children and people ; and yet
we are not told of the repentance of their father ; of him and Esau alone we hear
not, while of 1 shmael we hear, that ' he was gathered to his fathers. ' They died,
as their descendants lived, shut out from ' the congregation of the Lord.' It is
again remarkable, that Scripture, which speaks of the office assigned to other
holy men in an evil generation, (as to Noah, the preacher of righteousness,')
assigns no office, no duties, to Lot in Sodom. His dwelling there was self-
chosen, and so God (as far as it appears) employed him not ; he came forth
as he went in, not having gained one single soul by his renewed stay, but
having in weakness of faith* offi3red to destruction two of his family ; and his
very wife, the only other member of it, being slain for the longing after the
corrupted and guilty city — the city which her husband had chosen to dwell in.
This is not what we should have expected, not perhaps what even Abraham
expected, when he hoped that ' ten righteous' might be found in the city ; and
accordingly different inferences have been made from the sacred text, which
might assign him some duties in Sodom ; as, from the wordsf ' sat in the gate,'
the Jews have inferred that he was a judge ; and from his expostulation with
the men of Sodom, he appears in the CoranJ (again a Jewish notion) as a
prophet. These expedients the more illustrate the mournful silence of holy
Scripture.

" This view of Lot's character — as one, namely, who with particular excel-
lences, yet for want of more unremitting, irrespective, noble perseverance,
fell short of the high attainments to which he was called, and remained a
sort of middle character, neither sinking altogether, nor yet rising to chief
eminence among the saints of God — is that which we generally find among the
fathers of the Christian church. The very etymology which is so constantly
given by them to the name of Lot, 'declinans,'^ expresses this, — one who, having
begun well, fell off. Again, we find it among them|| as a sort of proverb, (in

* St. Augustine remarks on Lot's saying, " I cannot escape to the mountain," — "He
did not believe the Lord himself, whom he recognised in the angels, through the distraction
of his fear, whereby also he said what he did about the defilement of his daughters;
whence also we may know that what he then said is not to be regarded as of authority, (as
if we might do a less evil, lest another should do a greater,) inasmush as this principle is
not to be regarded as of authority, that we may mistrust God." — Quasst. ad Gen. 1. i. q. 44.
And again, c. Mendacium ad Consentium, § 21, he speaks of Lot's being " ready to do that
which — not the cloudy atmosphere of human panic, but — the tranquil serenity of Divine
law would, if it were consulted, cry aloud was not to be done."

I C. xix. 1. I Jura 29 ; and others.

§ St. Aug. in Ps. lxx.xii. 8. St. Ambrose de Abraham, 1. i. c. 3, 1, ii. c. 6. St. Jerome
inf. add. Philo. de migrat. Abrah. p. 410, ed. HoescheL In the De Migr. Abraham, p. 379,
Philo scruples not to call him " unsteady, vacillating, hahing hither and thither," —

H See below ; some instances are also connected in Aloysius Lipomannus' Catena in
Genesin.



676 NOTE ON SERMON I.

allusion to his words, Gen. xix. 19, ' I cannot escape to the mountain,') ' He
who dwelt in the valley of Sodom, could not ascend up into the mountain ;' —
i. e., ' he who had placed himself voluntarily in circumstances spiritually disad-
Tantageous, cannot at once reach a high eminence in faith, or practice, or
understanding.'

' " This idea of mediocrity and want of faith is expressed by St. Augustine :*
— ' Scripture sets forth that Lot was freed rather for the deserts of Abraham^
that it may be understood that Lot is called 'just' relatively (secundum quen-
dam morem;) principally because he worshipped the one true God, and ia
comparison to the guilt of the men of Sodom, among whom though he lived,
yet he could not be led to a life like theirs ;' and on the words, ' Lot went
up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountain,' — ' Probably the very mountain to
which he now goes of his own accord was that whither at the Lord's com-
mand he would not go up- The Lord had granted to his weakness and fear a
city, which Lot himself had chosen, and had promised him safety therein, be-
cause for his sake he would spare the city ; yet he was afraid to remain there
also, so little strong was his faith.' Origen,t again, (in an application partly
allegorical, wherein however he keeps close to the meaning of the Scripture
facts,) marks both the benefits of his example and wherein he fell short. —
* Hear this, ye who shut your doors against strangers, who shun a foreigner
as a foeman, (hospitem velut hostem.) Lot was dwelling in Sodom. We
read not of any other good deeds of his. Hospitality alone is mentioned.
Lot was indeed hospitable, and escaped destruction, (as Scripture bears him
witness,) having ' entertained angels.' Yet he was not so perfect as, im-
mediately upon leaving Sodom, to ascend the mountain. For it belongs to the
perfect to say, ' I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, whence my help
shall come.' He, then, was neither such as to deserve to perish with the men
of Sodom, nor yet so great as to be able to dwell with Abraham in the high
places. For had he been such, Abraham would now have said to him, ' If thou
goest to the right, I to the left ; or if thou to the left, I to the right ; nor ivould
the dwellings of Sodom have pleased him. For he was a sort of middle cha-
racter between those ivho are lost and the perfect.'' And again, speaking of the
consequences of his drunkenness, — ' Drunkenness deceived him whom Sodom
deceived not. Lot was deceived by artifice, not willingly. He stands, then,
as it were in the midst between the sinners and the just ; inasmuch as he was
descended from the kindred of Abraham, yet had dwelt in Sodom. For his
very escape from Sodom (as Scripture implies) rather belongs to the honour
of Abraham, than to the merits of Lot. For this it speaks, ' And it came to
pass when God overthrew the cities of Sodom, the Lord remembered Abra-
ham, and brought forth Lot.' And on Lot's first first choice, he observes, J

• Quaestt. ad Gen. 1. i. q. 45 — 47, t, 3, ed. Bened. In another place, St. Augustine's
character of Lot singularly coincides with that of Mr. N. ; " Lot, just and hospitable in
Sodom, and pure and free from all contaminations of its inhabitants," &c. — C. Faust. L
ixii. c. 41.

t Homil. 5. in Genes. § 1, 2, t. ii. pp. 73, 74, ed. De la Rue.

j Selecta in Gen. ib. p. 35.



NOTE ON SERMON I. 677

— ' Although the choice had been given to Lot by the modesty of Abraham,
we must observe, that he who chooses for himself benefits not by his choice,
and he who gave up had what was left blest to him.'

" St. Ambrose,* in like manner, speaks of this choice as the critical point of
the life of Lot : — As Abraham acted humbly, who offered the choice ; so Lot too
arrogantly, in that he took it. Virtue humbles itself, iniquity exalts itself, and he
ought to have committed himself to his elder, that so he might be safer. Last-
ly, he knew not how to choose. For first he lifted up his eyes, and beheld the
country — i. e , what should not be first in order, but last. For the goods of
the soul stand first, then those of the body, then those things which come from
without, such as the dwelling, &c. St. Ambrose f then strikingly conveys his
meaning under an allusion to the signification of the word Jordan, (lit. ' the
descending.') ' Since Jordan is called the descent,' he descends who deserted
the intercourse of virtue, and chose what was fair, not what was real. Well,
then, saith Scripture, ' Lot {i. e., declension,) chose for himself,' for God hath
set before us good and evil, that each may choose what he will. Let us not
choose, then, what appears to us the pleasanter, but what is, in truth, the
more excellent ; lest, when a choice be given us, that we may follow what is
best, we lift up our eyes, led aside by the false show of pleasantness, and ob-
scure the truth of nature by the obliquity of our vision.' And again, ' Lot
chose what was pleasant, which soon attracted the eyes of robbers. Hence,
war among kings, victory of the enemies, captivity of the inhabitants. So
then Lot paid the penalty for his weaker choice, his expectations being de-
ceived, not through the unfruitfulness of the country, but through men's envy
of what is pleasant ; since, through the fault of a slavish listlessness, he had
turned aside from that which was preferable, and had chosen the lot of the
most abandoned. For Sodom is luxury and wantonness. Wherefore ' Lot,'
is explained to mean ' declension,' for he who declines from virtue, and turns
aside from equity, chooses what is vicious.' St. Jerome takes the same view
of this first error of Lot, and the comparative weakness of his faith. The
first is a letter to Pammachius,J who had recently built ' a place to receive
strangers' (Xenodochium) in the port of Rome, which he calls 'planting a
twig from the tree of Abraham on the shore of Italy.' St. Jerome is exhorting
him to hold on ; ' the chief of those who led a monastic life in the chief city
following the chief patriarch [Abraham.] Let Lot, which is explained ' de-
clining,' choose the plain, and, at the parting of life's ways,i^ choose the easier,
and that on the left hand. Do thou, with Sara, prepare thyself a monument
in the rocky and difficult eminences.' And again, || when he is extolling the
character of Lot, ' Lot also had hoped, with his daughters, to save his wife,
and hurrying out of the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah, well nigh half

* De Abraham. 1. ii. c. C, § 33—35. t H^- 1- i- c. 3, § 14.

X Ep. 66, (al. 26,) ed. Vallars.

§ Lit. "accordine to the letter of Pythagoras." — i. e. Y. — which was regarded as the
symbol of human life, one arm denoting the path of virtue, the other that of vice. —
Vallars.

II Ep. 122, ad Rusticum de Pcenitentia, (alf 46.)



678 NOTE ON SERMON I.

consumed, to bring forth her who was held captive by her former views ; but
she, hesitating through despair, and looking back, is condemned by an eternal
inscription of infidelity. And an earnest faith, in lieu of one woman who was
lost, delivers a whole town, Zoar. Lastly, after that he, leaving the valleya
and darkness of Sodom, ascended towards the mountains, the sun rose upon
him in Zoar, which is, by interpretation, little ; so that, the Utile faith of Lot,
because it could not save what ivas greater, might, at least, save the less. For
he who had been the inhabitant of Gomorrah and of error, could not at once
reach that mid-day wherein Abraham, the friend of the Lord, together with the
ano-els received the Lord.' St. Chrysostom again praises the hospitality* of
Lot in glowing terms, yet blames t his choice in the same manner as the other
fathers—' The nephew, having experienced such courtesy, [from Abraham, in
giving him his choice,] ought to have requitted the patriarch with like honour,
and rather himself to have left the choice with him. For, somehow, we all,
when we see others disputing and resisting us, and claiming the first place, are
inclined not to allow ourselves to be worsted, or to give in to them ; but when
■we see them giving way, and with humble words leaving the whole matter to
us, we reverence their great moderation and give up our contention, and in
turn yield the whole right, even though he who questioned it seem to be our
inferior. Lot, then, whereas he ought so to have acted towards the patriarch,
with the impetuosity! of youth, and carried away by the desire of the best
portion, sprung upon the first and best, as he deemed, and makes his choice.
' And Lot,' Scripture says, ' lifting up his eyes,' &c. God had, moreover, [in
this separation,] a mysterious end, that Lot should be warned by events that
he had not rightly chosen, and that the men of Sodom should become ac-
quainted with the goodness of Lot, and that when the separation had been
made, the promise which had been given to the patriarch should take effect.
And on the scriptural mention of the wickedness of the men of Sodom in this
place, verses 12, 13,) he remarks, — ' Scest thou that Lot looked only to the
nature of the soil, and regarded not the ivickedness of the inhabitants ? For
tell me, what avails fruitlessness of soil, when the inhabitants are depraved %
or what harm is there in a desert, if the dwellers therein be good ? For the
righteousness of the inhabitants is the chief good. But Lot regarded one point
only, the fruitfulness of the land. Wherefore Scripture, wishing to point out
to us the wickedness of those who dwelt there, says, ' But the men in Sodom
•were wicked, and sinners before God exceedingly.' It says, 'not wicked'
only, but ' sinners ' also ; and not ' sinners ' simply, but ' before God ' also ;
i. e., the intensity of their sins was very great, and their wickedness exceed-
ing ; wherefore it adds, 'before God exceedingly.' Seest thou the greatness
of the wickedness 1 Seest thou how great an evil it is to rush upon the chief
portion, and not consider what is really advantageous ? Seest thou how valua-

* Horn. 43, in Gen. — "That we may accurately know how the society of the patriarch
led up this righteous man to the highest pitch of virtue ; and, following in his footsteps,
he also showed his especial hospitality by his deeds." This praise evidently all belongs
to the same subject — his hospitality.

t Horn. 33, in Gen. xiii. 4. t fwa-To?.



NOTE ON SERMON I. 679

We a thing is modesty, and to retire from the chief things, and to take the
worser ? For, in the course of this teaching we shall see, that he who chose
the chief things reaped no benefit ; but he who took the lesser became daily
more illustrious, and his abundance was every way increased, and he was set
up as an object of admiration to all.' And subsequently,* on c xiv. ver. 11,
1'2, ' See, what I said yesterday is now come to pass ; for Lot reaped no
benefit, from choosing the chief things, but was warned by the very events not
to love them. For not only did no benefit accrue to him, but, see, he was car-
ried away captive, and learnt, indeed, that it had been much better for him to
enjoy the society of the just one, than being separated, and his fi-eedom to be
tried by such calamities. For, look, he was separated from the patriarch, and
deemed himself more independent, and that he had obtained the chieftest lot,
and was in much abundance ; and, on a sudden, he turns a captive, homeless
and heartless ; that thou mayest learn how great an evil division is, how great
a good is harmony ; and that it is better not to seize on the greater portion,
but rather to be content to suffer loss. ' They took,' Scripture saith, ' Lot and
his goods.' How much better were it to dwell with the patriarch, and to endure
anything rather than break that harmony, or, removing, and having chosen the



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 75 of 76)