John Henry Newman.

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chief part, fall straightway into so great troubles, and into the hands of the
heathens.' Gregory the Great, lastly, (as St. Augustine above,) remarks,!
that ' the excellence of Lot was, that among the bad he remained good. For
it is no such great praise to be good among the good, but among the bad. For
as it is a more grievous fault not to be good among the good, so it is an im-
mense panegyric to have been good even among the bad. Hence, St. Peter
praises Lot very highly, because he found him good among the reprobate.'

" Any one who, with Mr, Newman's sermons fresh in his memory, should
read these passages of the fathers, would be struck (as I myself was) with the
similarity of the teaching ; how both point out the same parts of Lot's history,
whether for praise or blame. Each insists that he was ' just, hospitable, a
confessor of the truth among the wretched inhabitants of the cities in which he
dwelt ;' each blames his eagerness in appropriating to himself this world's
goods, and the fathers more strongly than Mr. Newman. My object, however,
in writing this, is not the defence of any one, but because the character of Lot
thus viewed, is one which our age ought well to lay to heart. Our age is in
all respects, one of mediocrity ; its theory is moderate goodness, moderate
attainments, moderate enjoyments of this world's pleasures, moderate luxury,
moderate dissipation of mind, moderate departure from sound doctrine, moderate
desire after heaven, moderate devotion to God, moderate accumulation of mam-
mon, moderate serving it — in truth, an ' aurea mediocritas.' The church and
the world have shaken hands together, and the world has gained strength from
the touch ; and, as the stronger, has well-nigh brought the church on the
boundary, which she shrinks from passing ; yet have men on both sides allied
themselves, and combined to tolerate all which is moderate, to proscribe only
what leans on either side, to excess ; the world professes itself ready to aban-
don the protection of its natural oflfspring — notorious, flagrant, offensive vice, —

* Horn. 35. s. 4. t Lib. i. in Job c. i.


if the church will not set forth any higher standard than that of an easy, sleepy,
costless virtue. The world professes itself ready to give up its protection of
its wolf-cubs, if the sheep will but (as in the fable) part with their troublesome,
but faithful guardians. If we will be honest with ourselves, we have been
bent upon persuading the world that it may become or remain Christian upon
easy terms ; that Christianity was once, indeed, a hard service, and that it then
required a severe discipline ; but that these times are long since past, (will
men venture to say that they will not return 1) and that with them is gone the
necessity of exercising ourselves in that laborious weighty armour, — that we
may sit ' each under our vine and our fig-tree,' and take our rest. The world
is what it was, or worse ; and the church, as it must, has suffered by the com-
promise. We, too, are, as well as Lot, in great danger of forgetting, ' our
war-note,' and our pilgrim staff, while we ' lift up our eyes ' on the well-watered
plain of Jordan, as the garden of the Lord,' — well-watered everywhere, before
the Lord overthrew it. We, too, are in danger of forgetting, ' amid the list-
less joys of summer shades,' that here is not our rest, nor our abiding-place —
that we, too, seek a country ; we make our pathway so flowery, that we are
in peril of forgetting whither it leads — that ' the flower fadeth, the grace of the
fashion of it perisheth,' and that the ' word of the Lord [alone] abideth for ever.'
The problem which we seem to have proposed to ourselves, is, how to unite
the greatest possible enjoyment, intellectual, sensible, social, with our Christian
calling — to show that Christianity is perfectly compatible with the fullest earthly
enjoyment ; that proposed by our forefathers was, however, in the midst of this
world's duties, in everything to win the soul from earth, and fix it on heaven.
We heap round ourselves comforts, in our food, our furniture, our sleep, our
families, and perhaps from time to time give God thanks for these things, but
for the most part take them as things of course ; they habitually denied them-
selves therein, fasted from food, dwelt hardly, endured cold, broke their sleep,
night by night, for prayer to God, and thanked God for their abridged ease
more than we for our fulness. They chose the pilgrim-life of the father of the
faithful ; we, the portion of Lot, and the neighbourhood of Sodom. It will be
something gained if we acknowledge this ; if all are not tied down to this Pro-
crustean bed of an even mediocrity of attainment or purpose ; for conscience
■will not then sleep ; when comfort is not made our principal aim or our idol,
then will people abridge their comforts for Christ's sake. This, however, is to-,
all of us an immediate practical question ; every one of us has had, from time to
time. Lot's choice before us, to take present ease and comfort, or to forego it ;
we, too, have been tempted to ' lift up our eyes' on the pleasant land, and we,
too, heard our Father's voice within us, calling us to higher things ; and, in
each single instance, to take up our cross and follow him. We have all of us
had many such impulses, — many, 'whether we would hear, or whether we
would forbear,' — although their permanence and distinctness depended upon
our previous obedience. Obey we these, each of them, little or great, and we
shall be led further ; Abraham was led step by step onwards, till he was brought
to Mount Moriah, and was called to sacrifice ' his own son, his only son, whom
he loved,' and, in that sacrifice, was privileged to see his Redeemer's day,
* and saw it, and was glad ; if we choose to dwell near Sodom, we shall never,.


indeed, be called to Abraham's trial, yet neither shall we have Abraham's re-
ward ; it will be a mercy if we escape with Lot, much more if we escape Lot's
disgrace and loss. For Lot had not a Christian's privileges or a Christian's
covenanted might entrusted to him."


After these Sermons on the Church and on Baptism were written, but before
they were published, Dr. Pusey's Treatise appeared on the latter subject, and,
in part anticipated, in part elucidated and completed, the doctrine contained in
them. On the point under discussion in the passage to which this note is
appended, he observes as follows : —

" It is an awful question, whether by receiving the Sacrament of Regenera-
tion in unbelief, there being no other appointed means whereby the new birth
is bestowed, such a one had not precluded himself for ever from being born
again ? It is a case of such profane contempt of God's institutions, it betrays-
such a servitude to the god of this world, that such a case has not been pro-
vided for in Scripture ; and one should almost dread to speak where God in
His word has been silent. For Simon Magus is no such case ; since of him
Scripture positively affirms that he believed, however soon he fell away ; so
that St. Peter's exhortation to him, to repent, holds out no encouragement to
them who make a mock or a gain of God's institution. Where God gives
repentance, we are safe in concluding that He is ready to pardon the offence,
however in its own nature it may seem to put a person out of the covenant of
grace and repentance, and at the same time to preclude his entering again into
it ; and to any person who, having thus sinned, is concerned about his salva-
tion, that very concern is a proof that God, in his case, has not withdrawn His

Spirit I speak not of particular cases, for God has, in a wonderful

manner, for His own glory, made Baptism effectual, when administered in
mockery by heathens on a heathen stage, lo interest the curiosity of a profane
audience and a Pagan Emperor ; but God has put forth His power to vindicate
His own ordinances, by making the poor buffoon a convert, and enduing the
convert of Baptism with strength for instant martyrdom. God can vindicate
His ordinances, by making them all-powerful, either to save or to destroy.
But when there is no such signal end to be attained, one would fear that they
would be pernicious to the profane recipient. St. Augustine argues thus ....
' The Church bore Simon Magus by Baptism, to whom, however, it was said,
that he had no part in the inheritance of Christ. Was Baptism, was the
Gospel, were the Sacraments, wanting to him "? But since love was wanting,
he was bom in vain, and perhaps it had been better for him not to have been

born.'' One portion, however, of the Ancient Church (the African)

seems to have held decisively, not only that this sin of receiving Baptism un-
worthily would be forgiven upon repentance, but that it did not hinder repent-


ance. St. Augustine uses this case as an argument against the Donatists,
why the Church did not re-baptize those who sought to be restored to her out
of a schismatic communion, although she held the baptism administered by
that communion to be useless while men remained in it. ' If they say that
sins are not forgiven to one who comes hypocritically to baptism, I ask, if he
afterwards confess his hypocrisy with a contrite heart and true grief, is he to
be baptized again ] If it be most insane to affirm this, let them confess that a
man may be baptized with the baptism of Christ, and yet his heart, persever-
ing in malice and sacrilege, would not allow his sins to be done away : and
thus let them understand that in communions separated from the Church men
may be baptized (when the baptism of Christ is given and received, the Sacra-
ment being administered in the same way ;) which yet is then first of avail to
the remission of sins, when the person being reconciled to the unity of the
Church, is freed from the sacrilege of dissent, whereby his sins were retained,
and not allowed to be forgiven. For, as he who had come hypocritically is not
baptized again, but what without baptism could not be cleansed, is cleansed by
that pious correction (of life) and true confession ; so that what was before
given, then begins to avail to salvation, when that hypocrisy is removed by a

true confession ; so also the enemy of the love and peace of Christ,' &c

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, on the other hand, speaks of the loss as absolutely
irreparable. ' If thou feignest,' he addresses the Catechumen, ' now do men
baptize thee, but the Spirit will not baptize thee. Thou art come to a great
examination, and enlisting, in this single hour ; which if thou losest, the evil
is irreparable, but if thou art thought worthy of the grace thy soul is enlight-
ened.' It may be that St. Cyril may have meant, as is said also of

all impairing of baptismal purity, that it cannot be wholly repaired, since there

is no second baptism The question is very awful, as what is not which

concerns our souls ? It may suffice to have said this much upon it, if by any
means persons might see that subjects, of which they speak lightly, are indeed
yery fearful."— Trac^j for the Times No. 69. pp. 171—176.


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