John Henry Newman.

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

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of the statm of the controversy, as it presented itself to my
mind, by extracts from my writings of the dates of 1836,
1840, and 1841. And I introduce them with a remark,
which especially applies to the paper, from which I shall
quote first, of the date of 1836. That paper appeared in
the March and April numbers of the British Magazine of
that year, and was entitled "Home Thoughts Abroad.**
Now it will be found, that, in the discussion which it con-
tains, as in various other writings of mine, when I was in
the Anglican Church, the argument in behalf of Some is
stated with considerable perspicuity and force. And at
the time my friends and supporters cried out, " How im-
prudent ! " and, both at the time, and especially at a later
date, my enemies have cried out, "How insidious!**
Friends and foes virtually agreed in their criticism ; I had
set out. the cause which I was combating to the best
advantage : this was an offence ; it might be from impru-
dence, it might be with a traitorous design. It was from
neither the one nor the other; but for the following
reasons. First, I had a great impatience, whatever was
the subject, of not bringing out the whole of it, as clearly
as I could ; next I wished to be as fair to my adversaries
as possible ; and thirdly I thought that there was a great

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FROM 1839 TO 1841. 109

deal of abftUowness among our own friendB^ and that they
undervalued the strength of the argument in behalf of
Bome^ and that they ought to be roused to a more
exact apprehension of the position of the controversy. At
a later date, (1841,) when I really felt the force of the
Eoman side of the question myself, as a difficulty which
had to be met, I had a fourth reason for such frankness in
argument, and that was, because a number of persons were
unsettled far more than I was^ as to the Catholicity of the
Anglican Church. It was quite plain that, unless I was
perfectly candid in stating what could be said against it,
there was no chance that any representations, which I felt
to be in its favour, or at least to be adverse to Bome,
would have had any success with the persons in question.
At all times I had a deep conviction, to put the matter on
the lowest ground, that "honesty was the*best policy."
Accordingly, in July 1841, 1 expressed myself thus on the
Anglican difficulty : " This is an objection which we must
honestly say is deeply felt by many people, and not incon-
siderable ones ; and the more it is openly avowed to be a
difficulty, the better ; for there is then the chance of its
being acknowledged, and in the course of time obviated, as
far as may be, by those who have the power. Flagrant evils
cure themselves by being flagrant ; and we are sanguine
that the time is come when so great an evil as this is,
cannot stand its ground against the good feeling and
common sense of religious persons. It is the very strength
of Bomanism against us ; and, imless the proper persons
take it into their serious consideration, they may look for
certain to undergo the loss, as time goes on, of some whom
they would least like to be lost to our Church." The
measure which I had especially in view in this passage,
was the project of a Jerusalem Bishopric, which the then *
Archbishop of Canterbury was at that time concocting
with M. Bunsen, and of which I shall speak more in the

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sequel. And now to return to the Home Thoughts Abroad
of the spring of 1836 :—

The discussion contained in this composition runs in
the form of a dialogue. One of the disputants says :
" You say to me that the Church of Rome is corrupt.
What then P to cut off a limb is a strange way of saving
it from the influence of some constitution^ ailment. Indi-
gestion may cause cramp in the extremities ; yet we spare
our poor feet notwithstanding. Surely there is such a
religious fact as the existence of a great Catholic body,
union with which is a Christian privilege and duty. Now,
we English are separate from it."

The other answers : " The present is an unsatisfactory,
miserable state of things, yet I can grant no more. The
Church is founded on a doctrine, — on the gospel of Truth ;
it is a means to an end. Perish the Church, (though,
blessed be the promise ! this cannot be,) yet let it perish
rather than the Truth should fail. Purity of faith is more
precious to the Christian than unity itself. If Rome has
erred grievously in doctrine, then it is a duty to separate
even from Rome.""

His friend, who takes the Roman side of the argument,
refers to the image of the Vine and its branches, which is
found, I think, in St. Cyprian, as if a branch cut from the
Catholic Yine must necessarily, die. Also he quotes a
passage from St. Augustine in controversy with the Dona-
tists to the same effect ; viz. that, as being separated from
the body of the Church, they were i;pm facto cut oft* from
the heritage of Christ. And he quotes St. Cyril's argu-
ment drawn from the very title Catholic, which no body
or communion of men has ever dared or been able to
appropriate, besides one. He adds, " Now I am only con-
tending for the fact, that the communion of Rome consti-
tutes the main body of the Church Catholic, and that we
are split off from it, and in the condition of the Donatists."

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FROM 1839 TO 1841. Ill

The other replies by denying the fact that the present
Roman communion is like St. Augustine's Catholic Church,
inasmuch as there must be taken into account the large
Anglican and Greek communions. Presently he takes the
offensive, naming distinctly the points, in which Bome has
departed from Primitive Christianity, viz. " the practical
idolatry, the virtual worship of the Virgin and Saints,
which are the offence of the Latin Church, and the degra-
dation of moral truth and duty, which follows from these."
And again : " We cannot join a Church, did we wish it
ever so much, which does not acknowledge our orders,
refuses us the Cup, demands our acquiescence in image-
worship, and excommimicates us, if we do not receive it
and all other decisions of the Tridentine Council.'*

His opponent answers these objections by referring to
the doctrine of " developments of gospel truth." Besides,
'^ The Anglican system itself is not found complete in
those early centuries; so that the [Anglican] principle
[of Antiquity] is self-destructive." " When a man takes
up this Via Media, he is a mere doctrinaire ;" he is like
those, *' who, in some matter of business, start up to suggest
their own little crotchet, and are ever measuring mountains
with a pocket ruler, or improving the planetary courses."
'* The Via Media has slept in libraries ; it is a substitute of
infi^ncy for manhood."

It is plain, then, that at the end of 1835 or beginning
of 1836, 1 had the whole state of the question before me,
on which, to my mind, the decision between the Churches
depended. It is observable that the question of the posi-
tion of the Pope, whether as the centre of unity, or as the
source of jurisdiction, did not come into my thoughts at
all ; nor did it, I think I may say, to the end. I doubt
whether I ever distinctly held any of his powers to he de
jure dimnOy while I was in the Anglican Church ;— not that
I saw any difficulty in the doctrine; not that in connexion

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with the history of St. Leo, of which I shall speak by and
by, the idea of his infallibility did not cross my mind, for
it did, — but after aU, in my view the controversy did not
turn upon it ; it turned upon the Faith and the Church.
This was my issue of the controversy from the beginning
to the end. There was a contrariety of claims between
the Eoman and Anglican religions, and the history of my
conversion is simply the process of working it out to a
solution. In 1838 I illustrated it by the contrast presented
to us between the Madonna and Child, and a Calvary.
The peculiarity of the Anglican theology was this,— that
it "supposed the Truth to be entirely objective and de-
tached, not" (as in the theology of Rome) "lying hid
in the bosom of the Church as if one with her, clinging
to and (as it were) lost in her embrace, but as being
sole and unapproachable, as on the Cross or at the
Resurrection, with the Church close by, but in the back-

As I viewed the controversy in 1836 and 1838, so I
viewed it in 1840 and 1841. In the British Critic of
January 1840, after gradually investigating how the
matter lies between the Churches by means of a dialogue,
I end thus : " It would seem, that, in the above discussion,
each disputant has a strong point : our strong point is the
argument from Primitiveness, that of Romanists fpom
Universality. It is a fact, however it is to be accounted
for, that Rome has added to the Creed ; and it is a fact,
however we justify ourselves, that we are estranged from
the great body of Christians over the world. And each of
these two facts is at first sight a grave difficulty in the
respective systems to which they belong." Again, "While
Rome, though not deferring to the Fathers, recognizes
them, and England, not deferring to the large body of the
Church, recognizes it, both Rome and England have a
point to clear up."

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FROM 183& TO 1841. 113

And still more strongly, in July, 1841 :

" If the Note of schism, on the one hand, lies against
England, an antagonist disgrace lies upon Eome, the Note
of idolatry. Let us not be mistaken here ; we are neither
accusing Eome of idolatry nor ourselves of schism; we
think neither charge tenable ; but still the Eoman Church
practises what is so like idolatry, and the English Church
makes much of what is so very like schism, that without
deciding what is the duty of a Roman Catholic towards
the Church of England in her present state, we do seriously
think that members of the English Church have a provi-
dential direction given them, how to comport themselves
towards the Church of Rome, while she is what she is.'*

One remark more about Antiquity and the Via Media.
As time went on, without doubting the strength of the
Anglican argument from Antiquity, I felt also that it was
not merely our special plea, but our only one. Also I felt
that the Via Media, which was to represent it, was to be a
sort of remodelled and adapted Antiquity. This I advanced
both in Home Thoughts Abroad and in the Article of the
British Critic which I have analyzed above. But this cir-
cumstance, that after all we must use private judgment
upon Antiquity, created a sort of distrust of my theory
altogether, which in the conclusion of my Volume on the
Prophetical Office (1836-7) I express thus : " Now that
our discussions draw to a close, the thought, with which
we entered on the subject, is apt to recur, when the
excitement of the inquiry has subsided, and weariness has
succeeded, that what has been said is but a dream, the
wanton exercise, rather than the practical conclusions of
the intellect." And I conclude the paragraph by antici-
pating a line of thought into which I was, in the event,
almost obliged to take refuge : " After all,'* I say, " the
Church is ever invisible in its day, and faith only appre-
hends it.'* What was this, but to give up the Notes of

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a visible Church altogether^ whether the Catholic Note or
the Apostolic ?

The Long Vacation of 1839 began early. There had
been a great many visitors to Oxford from Easter to
Commemoration ; and Dr. Pusey's party had attracted
attention, more, I think, than in any former year. I had
put away from me the controversy with Rome for more
than two years. In my Parochial Sermons the subject
had at no time been introduced : there had been nothing
for two years, either in my Tracts or in the British Critic,
of a polemical character. I was returning, for the Yaca-
tion, to the course of reading which I had many years
before chosen as especially my own. I have no reason to
suppose that the thoughts of Rome came across my mind
at all. About the middle of June I began to study and
master the history of the Monophysites. I was absorbed
in the doctrinal question. This was from about June 13th
to August 30th. It was during this course of reading that
for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness

^ of Anglicanism. I recollect on the 30th of July men-
tioning to a friend, whom I had accidentally metj how
remarkable the history was ; but by the end of August I
was seriously alarmed.

I have described in a former work, how the history
affected me. My stronghold was Antiquity; now here,
in the middle of the fifth century, I foxmd, as it seemed to
me, Christendom of the sixteenth and the nineteenth cen-
turies reflected. I saw my. face in that mirror, and I was

V, a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the
position of the Oriental commxmion, Rome was, where she
now is ; and the Protestants were the Eutychians. Of aU
passages of history, since history has been, who would
have thought of going to the sayings and doings of old
Eutyches, that deKrua senex, as (I think) Petavius calls

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TROM 1839 TO 1841. 115

him, and to the enormities of the unprincipled Dioscorus, z^
in order to be converted to Rome !

Now let it be simply understood that I am not writing
controversially, but with the one object of relating things
as they happened to me in the course of my conversion.
With this view I will quote a passage from the account,
which I gave in 1850, of my reasonings and feelings in

-" It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or \
Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and An-
glicans were heretics also ; difficult to find arguments
against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against
the Fathers of Chalcedon ; difficult to condemn the Popes of
the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of
the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth
and error, were ever one and the same. The principles
and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the
Church then ; the principles and proceedings of heretics
then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so, —
almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more
awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the
dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the
present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the six-
teenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters
of the old world, with the shape and lineaments of the new.
The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and
stem, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics
were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever
courting civil power, and never agreeing together, except
by its aid ; and the civil power was ever aiming at com-
prehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and
substituting expediency for faith. What was the use of
continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if,
after all, I was forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches,
and turning devil's advocate against the much-enduring

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Athanasius and the majestic Leo P Be my soul with the
Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against themP
Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither
outright, as his who once stretched it but against a prophet
of God ! anathema to a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys,
/^Latimers, and Jewels! perish the names of Bramhall,
TTssher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow from the face of
the earth, ere I should do ought but fall at their feet in love
and in worship, whose image was continually before my
eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on
my tongue!**

Hardly had I brought my course of reading to a close,
when the Dublin Review of that same August was put into
my hands, by friends who were more favourable to the cause
of Rome than I was myself. There was an article in it on
the "Anglican Claim '* by Dr. Wiseman. This was about
the middle of September. It was on the Donatists, with an
application to Anglicanism. I read it, and did not see
much in it. The Donatist controversy was known to me
for some years, as has appeared already. The case was not
parallel to that of the Anglican Church. St. Augustine in
Africa wrote against the Donatists in Africa. They were
a furious party who made a schism within the African
Church, and not beyond its limits. It was a case of Altar
against Altar, of two occupants of the same See, as that
between the Non-jurors in England and the Established
Church ; not the case of one Church against another, as of
Rome against the Oriental Monophysites. But my friend,
an anxiously religious man, now, as then, very dear to me,
a Protestant still, pointed out the palmary words of St.
Augustine, which were contained in one of the extracts
made in the Review, and which had escaped my obser-
-^ vation. " Securus judicat orbis terrarum.'* He repeated
these words again and again, and, when he was gone,
they kept ringing in jny ears. "Securus judicat orbis

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FROM 1839 TO 1841.


terrarum;" they were words which went beyond the
occasion of the Donatists: they applied to that of the
Monophysites. They gave a cogency to the Article, which*
had escaped me at first. They decided ecclesiastical questions
on a simpler rule than that of Antiquity ; nay, St. Augus-
tine was one of the prime oracles of Antiquity ; here then
Antiquity was deciding against itself. What a light was
hereby thrown upon every controversy in the Church ! not
that, for the moment, the multitude may not falter in their
judgment, — not that, in the Arian hurricane, Sees more
than c^n be numbered did not bend before its fury, and fall
off from St. Athanasius,— not that the crowd of Oriental
Bishops did not need to be sustained during the contest by
the voice and the eye of St. Leo ; but that the deKberate
judgment, in which the whole Church at length rests and
acquiesces, is an infallible prescription and a final sentence
against such portions of it as protest and secede. Who can
account for the impressions which are made on him P For
a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me
with a power which I never had felt from any words
before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the
*' Turn again Whittington ** of the chime ; or, to take a
more serious one, they were like the " ToUe, lege, — Telle,
lege," of the child, which converted St. Augustine himself.
" Securus judicat orbis terrarum !" By those great words
of the ancient^ Father, interpreting and summing up the
long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory
of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized.

I became excited at the view thus opened upon me. I
was just starting on a round of visits ; and I mentioned my
state of mind to two most intimate friends : I think to no
others. After a while, I got calm, and at length the vivid
impression upon my imagination faded away. What I
thought about it on reflection, I will attempt to describe
presently. I had to determine its logical value, and its

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bearing upon my duty. Meanwliile, so far as this was
certain, — I had seen the shadow of a hand upon the wall.
It was clear that I had a good deal to learn on the question
of the Churches, and that perhaps some new light was
coming upon me. He who has seen a ghost, cannot be as
if he had never seen it. The heavens had opened and closed
again. The thought for the moment had been, "The
7^ Church of Rome will be found right after all ;" and then
it had vanished. My old convictions remained as before.

At this time, I wrote my Sermon on Divine Calls,
which X published in my volume of Plain Sermons. It
ends thus: —

" that we could take that simple view of things, as to
feel that the one thing which lies before ns is to please
God ! What gain is it to please the world, to please the
great, nay even to please those whom we love, compared with
this ? What gain is it to be applauded, admired, courted,
followed, — compared with this one aim, of not being dis-
obedient to a heavenly vision P' What can this world offer
comparable with that insight into spiritual things, that
keen faith, that heavenly peace, that high sanctity, that
everlasting righteousness, that hope of glory, which they
have, who in sincerity love and follow our Lord Jesus
Christ ? Let us beg and pray jffim day by day to reveal
Himself to our souls more fully, to quicken our senses,
to give us sight and hearing, taste and touch of the
world to come ; so to work within us, that we may sin-
cerely say, ' Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and
after that receive me with glory. Whom have I in
heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I
desire in comparison of Thee. My flesh and my heart
faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my
portion for ever.' "

Now to trace the succession of thoughts, and the con-

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FEOM 1839 TO 1841. 119

elusions, and the consequent innovations on my previous
belief, and the general conduct, to which I was led, upon
this sudden visitation. And first, I will say, whatever
comes of saying it, for I leave inferences to others, that for
years I must have had something of an habitual notion,
though it was latent, and had never led me to distrust my
own convictions, that my mind had not found its ultimate
rest, and that in some sense or other I was on journey.
During the same passage across the Mediterranean in which
I wrote " Lead kindly light," I also wrote the verses, which
are found in the Lyra. under the head of "Providences,"
beginning, "When I look back." This was in 1833; and,
since I have begun this narrative, I have found a memo-
randum imder the date of September 7, 1829, in which I
speak of myself, as " now in my rooms in Oriel College,
slowly advancing &c. and led on by God's hand blindly,
not knowing whither He is taking me." But, whatever
this presentiment be worth, it was no protection against the
dismay and disgust, which I felt, in consequence of the
dreadful misgiving, of which I have been relating the
history. The one question was, what was I to do? I had
to make up my mind for myself, and others could not help
me. I determined to be guided, not by my imagination, *
but by my reason. And this I said over and over again in
the years which followed, both in conversation and in
private letters. Had it not been for this severe resolve, I
should have been a Catholic sooner than I was. Moreover,
I felt on consideration a positive doubt, on the other hand,
whether the suggestion did not come from below. Then I
said to myself. Time alone can solve that question. It was
my business to go on as usual, to obey those convictions to
wliich I had so long surrendered myself, which still had
possession of me, and on which my new thoughts had no
direct bearing. That new conception of things should only
00 far influence me, as it had a logical claim to do so. If

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it came from above, it would come again ;— so I trusted,
— and with more definite outlines and greater cogency and
consistency of proof. I thought of Samuel, before " he
knew the word of the Lord ;" and therefore I went, and lay
down to sleep again. This was my broad view of the
matter, and xaj primd facie conclusion.

However, my new historical fact had already to a certain
point a logical force. Down had come the Via Media as a
definite theory or scheme, under the blows of St. Leo. My
" Prophetical Office '* had come to pieces ; not indeed as
an argument against "Roman errors," nor as against
Protestantism, but as in behalf of England. I had no
longer a distinctive plea for Anglicanism, unless I would
be a Monophysite. I had, most painfully, to fall back upon
my three original points of belief, which I have spoken so
much of in a former passage,— the principle of dogma, the
sacramental system, and anti-Romanism. Of these three,
the first two were better secured in Rome than in the
Anglican Church. The Apostolical Succession, the two
prominent sacraments, and the primitive Creeds, belonged,
indeed, to the latter ; but there had been and was far less
strictness on matters of dogma and ritual in the Anglican
system than in the Roman: in consequence, my main
argument for the Anglican claims lay in the positive and

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 11 of 33)