John Henry Newman.

Apologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions online

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be compelled to make his choice between the two." An-
other: "The time has gone by, when those unfortunate

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and deeply regretted publications can be passed over with-
out notice, and the hope that their influence would fail is
now dead." Another: "These doctrines had already
made fearful progress. One of the largest churches in
Brighton is crowded to hear them; so is the church at
Leeds. There are few towns of note, to which they have
not extended. They are preached in small towns in Scot-
land. They obtain in Elginshire, 600 miles north of
London. I found them myself in the heart of the high-
lands of Scotland. They are advocated in the newspaper
and periodical press. They have even insinuated them-
selves into the House of Commons." And, lastly, a bishop
in a charge : — ^It " is daily assuming a more serious and
alarming aspect. Under the specious pretence of deference
to Antiquity and respect for primitive models, the founda-
tions of the Protestant Church are undermined by men,
who^ dwell within her walls, and those who sit in the
Reformers* seat are traducing the Reformation."

After thus stating the phenomenon of the time, as it
presented itself to those who did not sympathize in it, the
Article proceeds to account for it ; and this it does by con-
sidering it as a re-action from the dry and superficial
character of the religious teaching and the literature of
the last generation, or century, and as a result of the need
which was felt both by the hearts and the intellects of the
nation for a deeper philosophy, and as the evidence and as
the partial fulfilment of that need, to which even the chief
authors of the then generation had borne witness. First,
I mentioned the literary influence of Walter Scott, who
turned men's minds in the direction of the middle ages.
"The general need," I said, "of something deeper and
more attractive, than what had offered itself elsewhere,
may be considered to have led to his popularity ; and by
means of his popularity he re-acted on his readers, stimu-
lating their mental thirst, feeding their hopes, setting

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PROM 1839 TO 1841. 97

before them visions, which, when once seen, are not easily
forgotton, and silently indoctrinating them with nobler
ideas, which might afterwards be appealed to as first

Then I spoke of Coleridge, thus: "While history in
prose and verse was thus made the instrument of Church
feelings and opinions, a philosophical basis for the same
was laid in England by a very original thinker, who,
while he indulged a liberty of speculation, which no
Christian can tolerate, and advocated conclusions which
were often heathen rather than Christian, yet after all
installed a higher philosophy into inquiring minds, than
they had hitherto been accustomed to accept. In this way
he made trial of his age, and succeeded in interesting its
genius in the cause of Catholic truth."

Then come Southey and Wordsworth, "two living poets,
one of whom in the department of fantastic fiction, the
other in that of philosophical meditation, have addressed
themselves to the same high principles and feelings, and
carried forward their readers in the same direction."

Then comes the prediction of this re-action hazarded by
" a sagacious observer withdrawn from the world, and sur-
veying its movements from a distance," Mr. Alexander
Knox. He had said twenty years before the date of my
Article: "No Church on earth has more intrinsic ex-
cellence than the English Church, yet no Church probably
has less practical influence. . . . The rich provision, made
by the grace and providence of God, for habits of a noble
kind, is evidence that men shall arise, fitted both by
nature and ability, to discover for themselves, and to
display to others, whatever yet remains undiscovered,
whether in the words or works of God." Also I referred
to " a much venerated clergyman of the last generation,"
who said shortly before his death, " Depend on it, the day
will come, when those great doctrines, now buried, will be


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brought out to the light of day, and then the eflFect will be
fearful." I remarked upon' this, that they who "now
blame the impetuosity of the current, should rather turn
their animadversions upon those who have dammed up a
majestic river, till it has become a flood."

These being the circumstances under which the Move-
ment began and progressed, it was absurd to refer it to the
act of two or three individuals. It was not so much a
movement as a " spirit afloat ;" it was within us, " rising
up in hearts where it was least suspected, and working
itself, though not in secret, yet so subtly and impalpably,
as hardly to admit of precaution or encounter on any
ordinary human rules of opposition. It is," I continued,
" an adversary in the air, a something one and entire, a
whole wherever it is, imapproachable and incapable of
being grasped, as being the result of causes far deeper
than political or other visible agencies, the spiritual
awakening of spiritual wants."

To make this clear, I proceed to refer to the chief
preachers of the revived doctrines at that moment, and to
draw attention to the variety of their respective ante-
cedents. Dr. Hook and Mr. Churton represented the
high Church dignitaries of the last century ; Mr. Perceval,
the Tory aristocracy; Mr. Keble came from a coimtry par-
sonage; Mr. Palmer from Ireland; Dr. Pusey from the
Universities of Germany, and the study of Arabic MSS. ;
Mr. Dodsworth from the study of Prophecy ; Mr. Oakeley
had gained his views, as he himself expressed it, " partly
by study, partly by reflection, partly by conversation with
one or two friends, inquirers like himself:" while I speak
of myself as being " much indebted to the friendship of
Archbishop Whately." And thus I am led on to ask,
" What head of a sect is there P What march of opinions
can be traced from mind to mind among preachers such as
these ? They are one and all in their degree the organs


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FROM 1839 TO 1841. 99

of one Sentiment, which has risen up simultaneously in
many places very mysteriously.'*

My train of thought next led me to speak of the disci-
ples of the Movement, and I freely acknowledged and
lamented that they needed to be kept in order. It is very
much to the purpose to draw attention to this point now,
when such extravagances as then occurred, whatever they
were, are simply laid to my door, or to the charge of the
doctrines which I advocated. A man cannot do more
than freely confess what is wrong, say that it need not
be, that it ought not to be, and that he is very sorry that
it should be. Now I said in the Article, which I am re-
viewing, that the great truths themselves, which we were
preaching, must not be condemned on account of such
abuse of them. "Aberrations there must ever be, what-
ever the doctrine is, while the hxmian heart is sensitive,
capricious, and wayward. A mixed multitude went out of
Egypt with the Israelites.'* " There will ever be a num-
ber of persons," I continued, " professing the opinions of
a movement party, who talk loudly and strangely, do odd
or fierce things, display themselves unnecessarily, and dis-
gust other people; persons, too young to be wise, too
generous to be cautious, too warm to be sober, or too intel-
lectual to be humble. Such persons wiU be very apt to
attach themselves to particular persons, to use particular
names, to say things merely because others do, and to act
in a party-spirited way."

While I thus republish what I then said about such
extravagances as occurred iti these years, at the same time
I have a very strong conviction that those extravagances
furnished quite as much the welcome excuse for those who
were jealous or shy of us, as the stumbling-blocks of those
who were well inclined to our doctrines. This too we felt
at the time; but it was our duty to see that our good
should not be evil-spoken of; and accordingly, two or

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three of the writers of the Tracts for the Times had com-
menced a Series of what they called "Plain Sermons''
with the avowed purpose of discouraging and correcting
whatever was uppish or extreme in our followers : to this
Series I contributed a volume myself.

Its conductors say in their Preface : " If therefore as
time goes on, there shall be foimd persons, who admiring
the innate beauty and majesty of the fuller system of Pri-
mitive Christianity, and seeing the transcendent strength
of its principles, sMU become loud and voluble advocates in
their behalf, speaking the more freely, because they do not
feel them deeply as founded in divine and eternal truth, of
such persons it is our duty to declare plainly, that, as we
should contemplate their condition with serious misgiving,
so would they be the last persons from whom we should seek

" But if, on the other hand, there shall be any, who, in
the silent humility of their lives, and in their unaffected
reverence for holy things, show that they in truth accept
these principles as real and substantial, and by habitual
purity of heart and serenity of temper, give proof of their
deep veneration for sacraments and sacramental ordinances,
those persons, whether our professed adherents or not, best
exemplify the kind of character which the writers of the
Tracts for the Times have wished to form."

These clergymen had the best of claims to use these
beautiful words, for they were themselves, all of them,
important writers in the Tracts, the two Mr. Kebles, and
Mr. Isaac Williams. And this passage, with which they
ushered their Series into the world, I quoted in the Article,
of which I am giving an account, and I added, " What
more can be required of the preachers of neglected truth,
than that they should admit that some, who do not assent
to their preaching, are holier and better men than some
who do ?*' They were not answerable for the intemper-

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FROM 1839 TO 1841. 101

ance of those who dishonoured a true doctrine, provided
they protested, as they did, against such intemperance.
"They were not answerable for the dust and din which
attends any great moral movement. The truer doctrines
are, the more liable they are to be perverted."

The notice of these incidental faults of opinion or temper
in adherents of the Movement, led on to a discussion of
the secondary causes, by means of which a system of doc-
trine may be embraced, modified, or developed, of the
variety of schools which may all be in the One Church,
and of the succession of one phase of doctrine to another,
while that doctrine is ever one and the same. Thus I was
brought on to the subject of Antiquity, which was the
basis of the doctrine of the Via Media, and by which was
not to be understood a servile imitation of the past, but
such a reproduction of it as is really new, while it is
old. " We have good hope," I say, " that a system will
be rising up, superior to the age, yet harmonizing with,
and carrying out its higher points, which will attract to
itself those who are willing to make a venture and to face
difficulties, for the sake of something higher in prospect.
On this, as on other subjects, the proverb will apply,
* Fortes fortuna adjuvat.' "

Lastly, I proceeded to the question of that future of the
Anglican Church, which was to be a new birth of the
Ancient Religion. And I did not venture to pronounce
upon it. "About the future, we have no prospect before
our minds whatever, good or bad. Ever since that great
luminary, Augustine, proved to be the last bishop of
Hippo, Christians have had a lesson against attempting to
foretell, how Providence will prosper and " [or ?] " bring
to an end, what it begins." Perhaps the lately-revived
principles would prevail in the Anglican Church 5 perhaps
they would be lost in " some miserable schism, or some
more miserable compromise ; but there was nothing

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rash in venturing to predict that "neither Puritanism
nor Liberalism had any permanent inheritance within

Then I went on : " As to Liberalism, we think tibe
formularies of the Church will ever, with the aid of a good
Providence, keep it from making any serious inroads upon
the clergy. Besides, it is too cold a principle to prevail
with the multitude." But as regarded what was called
Evangelical Religion or Puritanism, there was more to
cause alarm. I observed upon its organization; but on
the other hand it had no intellectual basis ; no internal
idea, no principle of unity, no theology. " Its adherents,"
I said, " are already separating from each other ; they will
melt away like a snow-drift. It has no straightforward
view on any one point, on which it professes to teach, and
to hide its poverty, it has dressed itself out in a maze of
words. We have no dread of it at all ; we only fear what
it may lead to. It does not stand on intrenched ground,
or make any pretence to a position; it does but occupy
the space between contending powers. Catholic Truth and
^Rationalism. Then indeed will be the stem encounter,
when two real and living principles, simple, entire, and
consistent, one in the Church, the other out of it, at
length rush upon each other, contending not for names
and words, or half- views, but for elementary notions and
distinctive moral characters."

Whether the ideas of the coming age upon religion
were true or false, at least they would be real. " In the
present day," I said, *5 mistiness is the mother of wisdom.
A man who can set down a half-a-dozen general proposi-
tions, which escape from destroying one another only by
being diluted into truisms, who can hold the balance be-
tween opposites so skilfully as to do without fulcrum or
beam, who never enunciates a truth without guarding
himself against being supposed to exclude the contradic«

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FROM 1839 TO 1841. 103

tory, — who holds that Scripture is the only authority, yet
that the Church is to be deferred to, that faith only
justifies, yet that it does not justify without works, that
grace does not depend on the sacraments, yet is not given
x^ithout them, that bishops are a divine ordinance, yet /
those who have them not are in the same religious con- \
dition as those who have, — this is your safe man and the !
hope of the Church ; this is what the Church is said to
want, not party men, but sensible, temperate, sober, well- '
judging persons, to guide it through the channel of no- ]
meaning, between the Scylla and Charybdis of Aye and
No." V

This state of things, however, I said, could not last, if
men were to read and think. They " will not keep in that
very attitude which you call sound Church-of-Englandism
or orthodox Protestantism. They cannot go on for ever
standing on one leg, or sitting without a chair, or walking
with their feet tied, or like Tityrus's stags grazing in the
air. They will take one view or another, but it will be a
consistent view. It may be Liberalism, or Erastianism,
or Popery, or Catholicity ; but it will be real."

I concluded the Article by saying, that all who did not
wish to be "democratic, or pantheistic, or popish," must
" look out for some Via Media which will preserve us from
what threatens, though it cannot restore the dead. The
spirit of Luther is dead ; but Hildebrand and Loyola are
alive. Is it sensible, sober, judicious, to be so very angry
with those writers of the day, who point to the fact, that
our divines of the seventeenth century have occupied a -
ground which is the true and intelligible mean between
extremes P Is it wise to quarrel with this ground, because
it is not exactly what we diould choose, had we the power
of choice? Is it true moderation, instead of trying to
fortify a middle doctrine, to fling stones at those who do P
• . . Would you rather have your sons and daughters

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members of the Church of England or of the Church of

And thus I left the matter. But, while I was thus
speaking of the future of the Movement, I was in truth
winding up my accounts with it, little dreaming that it
was 60 to be ; — while I was still, in some way or other,
feeling about for an available Via Media, I was soon to
receive a shock which was to cast out of my imagination
all middle courses and compromises for ever. As I have
said, this Article appeared in the April number of the
British Critic; in the July number, I cannot tell why,
there is no Article of mine ; before the number for
October, the event had happened to which I have

But before I proceed to describe what happened to me
in the summer of 1839, I must detain the reader for a
while, in order to describe the issue of the controversy
between Rome and the Anglican Church, as I viewed it.
This will involve some dry discussion ; but it is as neces-
sary for my narrative, as plans of buildings and home-
steads are often found to be in the proceedings of our law

I have said already that, though the object of the Move-
ment was to withstand the Liberalism of the day, I found
and felt this coilld not be done by mere negatives. It was
necessary for us to have a positive Church theory erected
on a definite basis. This took me to the great Anglican
divines ; and then of course I found at once that it was
impossible to form any such theory, without cutting across
the teaching of the Church of Rome. Thus came in the
Roman controversy.

When I first turned myself to it, I had neither doubt
on the subject, nor suspicion that doubt would ever come
upon me. It was in this state of mind that I began to

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noM 1839 TO 1841. 105


read up Bellarmiiie on the one hand, and nmnberlefis
Anglican writers on the other. But I soon found, as
others had found before me, that it was a tangled and
manifold controversy, difficult to master, more difficult to
put out of hand with neatness and precision. It was easy
to make points, not easy to sum up and settle. It was not
easy to find a clear issue for the dispute, and still less by a
logical process to decide it in favour of Anglicanism. T\na
difficulty, however, had no tendency whatever to harass or
perplex me : it was a matter which bore not on convictions,
but on proofis.

First I saw, as all see who study the subject, that a
broad distinction had to be drawn between the actual state
of belief and of usage in the countries which were in com-
munion with the Roman Church, and her formal dogmas ;
the latter did not cover the former. Sensible pain, for
instance, is not implied in the Tridentine decree upon
Purgatory ; but it was the tradition of the Latin Church,
and I had seen the pictures of souls in flames in the streets
of Naples. Bishop Lloyd had brought this distinction out
strongly in an Article in the British Critic in 1825; indeed,
it was one of the most common objections made to the
Church of Bome, that she dared not commit herself by
formal decree, to what nevertheless she sanctioned and
allowed. Accordingly, in my Prophetical Office, I view
as simply separate ideas, Rome quiescent, and Rome in
action. I contrasted her creed on the one hand, with her
ordinary teaching, her controversial tone, her political and
social bearing, and her popular beliefs and practices, on the

While I made this distinction between the decrees and
the traditions of Rome, I drew a parallel distinction
between Anglicanism quiescent, and Anglicanism in action
In its formal creed Anglicanism was not at a great distance
from Rome : far otherwise, when viewed in its insular spirit,

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( the traditions of its establisliment, its historical charac-
teristics, its controversial rancour, and its private judgment.
I disavowed and condemned those excesses, and called them

^ " Protestantism '* or "Ulra-Protestantism:" I wished to
find a parallel disclaimer, on the part of Roman controver-
sialists, of that popular system of beliefs and usages in
their own Church, which I called " Popery/' When that
hope was a dream, I saw that the controversy lay between
the book-theology of Anglicanism on the one side, and the
living system of what I called Roman corruption on the
other. I could not get further than this ; with this result
I was forced to content myself.

These then were the parties in the controversy: — the
Anglican Via Media and the popular religion of Rome.
And next, as to the i^sm, to which the controversy between
them was to be brought, it was this : — the Anglican dis-
putant took his stand upon Antiquity or Apostolicity, the
Roman upon Catholicity. The -Ajiglican said to the
Roman : " There is but One Faith, the Ancient, and you
have not kept to it ; " the Roman retorted : "There is but
One Church, the Catholic, and you are out of it." The
Anglican urged " Your special beliefs, practices, modes of
action, are nowhere in Antiquity ;" the Roman objected :
" You do not communicate with any one Church besides
your own and its offshoots, and you. have discarded prin-
ciples, doctrines, sacraments, and usages, which are and
ever have been received in the East and the West." The
true Church, as defined in the Creeds, was both Catholic
and Apostolic ; now, as I viewed the controversy in which
I was engaged, England and Rome had divided these
notes or prerogatives between them : the cause lay thus,
-r Apostolicity versus Catholicity.

However, in thus stating the matter, of course I do not
wish it supposed that I allowed the note of Catholicity
really to belong %o Rome, to the disparagement of the

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raoM 1839 TO 1841. 107

Anglican Church ; bat I considered that the special point
or plea of Rome in the controversy was Catholicity, as the
Anglican plea was Antiquity. Of course I contended that
the Roman idea of Catholicity was not ancient and apos-
tolic. It was in my judgment at the utmost only natural,
becoming, expedient, that the whole of Christendom should
be united in one visible body ; while such a unity might,
on the other hand, be nothing more than a mere heartless
and political combination. For myself, I held with the
Anglican divines, that, in the Primitive Church, there was
a very real mutual independence between its separate
parts, though, from a dictate of charity, there was in fact
a close imion between them. I considered that each See
and Diocese might be compared to a crystal, and that each
was similar to the rest, and that the sum total of them all
was only a collection of crystals. The unity of the Church
lay, not in its being a i)olity, but in its being a family, a
race, coming down by apostolical descent from its first
founders and bishops. And I considered this truth brought
out, beyond the possibility of dispute, in the Epistles of St.
Ignatius, in which the Bishop is represented as the one
supreme authority in the Church, that is, in his own
place, with no one above him, except as, for the sake of
ecclesiastical order and expedience, arrangements had been
made by which one was put over or under another. So
much for our own claim to Catholicity, which was so per-
versely appropriated by our opponents to themselves :— on
the otiier hand, as to our special strong point, Antiquity,
while, of course, by means of it, we were able to condemn
most emphatically the novel claim of Rome to domineer
over other Churches, which were in truth her equals, fur-
ther than that, we thereby especially convicted h6r of the
intolerable ofience of having added to the Faith. This
was the critical head of accusation urged against her by
the Anglican disputant ; and as he referred to St. Ignatius

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in proof that lie himself was a true Catholic, in spite of
being separated from Some, so he triumphantly referred
to the Treatise of Vincentius of Lerins upon the " Quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus," in proof that the
controyersialists of Some, in spite of their possession of
the Catholic name, were separated in their creed from the
Apostolical and primitive faith.

Of course those controversialists had their own mode of
answering him, with which I am not concerned in this place ;
here I am only concerned with the issue itself, between the
one party and the other — Antiquity versm Catholicity.

Now I will proceed to illustrate what I have been sajdng

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 10 of 33)