John Henry Newman.

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

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knew, the only point which to this hour I know, as press-
ing upon him, was that of the Pope's supremacy. . He pro-
fessed to be searching Antiquity whether the see of Rome
had formerly that relation to the whole Church which
Boman Catholics now assign to it. My letter was directed
to the point, that it was his duty not to perplex himself
with arguments on [such] a question, . . . and to put it
altogether aside. ... It is hard that I am put upon my
memory, without knowing the details of the statement
made against me, considering the various correspondence
in which I am from time to time unavoidably engaged.. . .
Be assured, my Lord, that there are very definite limits,
beyond which persons like me would never urge another
to retain preferment in the English Church, nor would
retain it themselves ; and that the censure which has been
directed against them by so many of its Rulers has a very
grave bearing upon those limits." The Bishop replied in

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a civil letter, and sent my own letter to his original in-
formant, who wrote to me the letter of a gentleman. It
seems that an anxious lady had said something or other
which had been misinterpreted, against her real meaning,
into the calumny which was circulated, and so the report
vanished into thin air. I closed the correspondence with
the following Letter to the Bishop : —

" I hope your Lordship will believe me when I say, that
statements about me, equally incorrect with that which
has come to your Lordship's ears, are from time to time
reported to me as credited and repeated by the highest
authorities in our Church, though it is very seldom that I
have the opportunity of denying them. I am obliged by
your Lordship's letter to Dr. Pusey as giving me such an
opportunity." Then I added, with a purpose, "Your
Lordship will observe that in my Letter I had no occasion
to proceed to the question, whether a person holding
Roman Catholic opinions can in honesty remain in our
Church. Lest then any misconception should arise from
my silence, I here take the liberty of adding, that I see
nothing wrong in such a person's continuing in commu-
nion with us, provided he holds no preferment or office,
abstains from the management of ecclesiastical matters,
and is bound by no subscription or oath to our doctrines."

This was written on March 8, 1813, and was in antici-
pation of my own retirement into lay copamunion. This
again leads me to a remark : - for two years I was in lay
^ communion, not indeed being a Catholic in my convictions,
but in a state of serious doubt, and with the probable pro-
spect of becoming some day, what as yet I was not. Under
these circumstances I thought the best thing I could do
was to give up duty and to throw myself into lay commu-
nion, remaining an Anglican. I could not go to Rome,
while I thought what I did of the devotions she sanctioned
to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints. I did not give up

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FROM 1841 TO 1845. 185

my fellowsLip, for I could not be sure that my doubts
would not be reduced or overcome, however unlikely I
might consider such an event. But I gave up my living ;
and, for two years before my conversion, I took no clerical
duty. My last Sermon was in September, 1843 ; then I
remained at Littlemore in quiet for two years. But it was
made a subject of reproach to me at the time, and is at
this day, that I did not leave the Anglican Church sooner.
To me this seems a wonderful charge ; why, even had I
been quite sure that Rome was the true Church, the
Anglican Bishops would have had no just subject of com-
plaint against me, provided I took no Anglican oath, no
clei*ical duty, no ecclesiastical administration. Do they
force all men who go to their Churches to believe in the
39 Articles, or to join in the Athanasian Creed P How-
ever, I was to have other measure dealt to me ; great
authorities ruled it so ; and a learned controversialist in
the North thought it a shame that I did not leave the
Church of England as much as ten years sooner than I
did. H©^ Baid this in print between the years 1847 and
1849. His nephew, an Anglican clergyman, kindly
wished to undeceive him on this point. So, in the latter
year, after some correspondence, I wrote the following
letter, which will be of service to this narrative, from its
chronological notes : —

"Dec. 6, 1849. Your uncle says, 'If he (Mr. N.) will
declare, sans phrase, as the French say, that I have
laboured under an entire mistake, and that he was not a
concealed Romanist during the ten years in question,' (I
suppose, the last ten years of my membership with the
Anglican Church,) * or during any part of the time, my
controversial antipathy will be at an end, and I will
readily express to him that I am truly sorry that I have
made such a mistake.'

" So candid an avowal is what I should have expected

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from a mind like your uncle's. I am extremely glad he
has brought it to this issue.

" By a * concealed Romanist' I understand him to mean
one, who, professing to belong to the Church of England,
in his heart and will intends to benefit the Church of
Bome, at the expense of the Church of England. He
cannot mean by the expression merely a person who
in fact is benefiting the Church of Rome, while he is in-
tending to benefit the Church of England, for that is no
discredit to him morally, and he (your uncle) evidently
means to impute blame.

" In the sense in which I have explained the words, I

can simply and honestly* say that I was not a concealed

Romanist during the whoLi, or any part of, the years in


> SvT h " For the first four years of the ten, (up to Michaelmas,

' i, *?.^ I 1839,) I honestly wished to benefit the Church of England,

: at the expense of the Church of Rome :
I (* -3 r^ i^ " ^^r ^^^ second four years I wished to benefit the
; , \ Church of England without prejudice to the Church of
' Rome :

"At the beginning of the ninth year (Michaelmas,
1843) I began to despair of the Church of England, and
gave up all clerical duty ; and then, what I wrote and did
was influenced by a mere wish not to injure it, and not by
the wish to benefit it :
\ ^ ': r- "At the beginning of the tenth year I distinctly con-
^ templated leaving it, but I also distinctly told my friends
that it was in my contemplation.

" Lastly, during the last half of that tenth year I was
engaged in writing a book (Essay on Development) in
favour of the Roman Church, and indirectly against the
English; but even then, till it was finished, I had not
absolutely intended to publish it, wishing to reserve to
myself the chance of changing my mind when the argu-

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FROM 1841 TO 1815. 187

mentative views which were actuating mo had been dis-
tinctly brought out before me in writing.

"I wish this statement, which I make from memory,
and without consulting any document, severely tested by
my writings and doings, as I am confident it will, on the
whole, be borne out, whatever real or apparent exceptions
(I suspect none) have to be allowed by me in detail.

" Your uncle is at liberty to make what use he pleases
of this explanation.*'

I have now reached an important date in my narrative,
the year 1843 ; but before proceeding to the matters which
it contains, I will insert portioifss of my letters from 1841
to 1843, addressed to Catholic acquaintances.

1. "April 8, 1841. ... The unity of the Church
Catholic is very near my heart, only I do not see any
prospect of it in our time; and I despair of its being
efiected without great sacrifices on all hands. As to
resisting the Bishop's will, I observe that no point of
doctrine or principle was in dispute, but a course of action,
the publication of certain works. I do not think you
sufficiently understood our position. I suppose you would
obey the Holy See in such a case ; now, when we were
separated from the Pope, his authority reverted to our
Diocesans. Our Bishop is our Pope. It is our theory,
that each diocese is an integral Church, intercommunion
being a duty, (and the breach of it a sin,) but not essential
to Catholicity. To have resisted my Bishop, would have
been to place myself in an utterly false position, which I
never could have recovered. Depend upon it, the strength
of any party lies in its being true to its theory. Con-
sistency is the life of a movement.

" I have no misgivings whatever that the line I have
taken can be other than a prosperous one : that is, in itself,

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for of course Providence may refuse to us its legitimate
issues for our sins.

" I am afraid, that in one respect you may be disap-
pointed. It is my trust, though I must not be too san-
guine, that we shall not have individual members of our
communion going over to yours. What one's duty would
be under other circumstances, what our duty ten or twenty
years ago, I cannot say ; but I do think that there is less
of private judgment in going with one's Church, than in
leaving it. I can earnestly desire a union between my
Church and yours. I cannot listen to the thought of your
being joined by individuals among us."

2. "April 26, 1841. My only anxiety is lest your
branch of the Church should not meet us by those reforms
which surely are necessary. It never could be, that so
large a portion of Christendom should have split off from
the communion of Eome, and kept up a protest for 300
years for nothing. I think I never shall believe that so
much piety and earnestness would be found among Pro-
testants, if there were not some very grave errors on the
side of Eome. To suppose the contrary is most unreal,
and violates all one's notions of moral probabilities. All
aberrations are founded on, and have their life in, some
truth or other— and Protestantism, so widely spread and
so long enduring, must have in it, and must be witness
for, a great truth or much truth. That I am an advocate
for Protestantism, you cannot suppose ; — but I am forced
into a Via Media, short of Rome, as it is at present."

3. "May 5, 1841. While I most sincerely hold that
there is in the Roman Church a traditionary system which
is not necessarily connected with her essential formularies,
yet, were I ever so much to change my mind on this point,
this would not tend to bring me from my present position,
providentially appointed in the English Church. That

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FROM 1841 TO 1845. 189

yonr communion was unassailable, would not prove tliat
mine was indefensible. Nor would it at all affect the
sense in which I receive our Articles; they would still
speak against certain definite errors, though you hid
reformed them.

" I say this lest any lurking suspicion should be left in
the mind of your friends that persons who think with me
are likely, by the growth of their present views, to find it
imperative on them to pass over to your communion.
Allow me to state strongly, that if you have any such
thoughts, and proceed to act upon them, your friends will
be conmiitting a fatal mistake. We have (I trust) the
principle and temper of obedience too intimately wrought
into us to allow of our separating ourselves from our eccle-
siastical superiors because in many points we may sympa-
thize with others. We have too great a horror of the
principle of private judgment to trust it in so immense
a matter as that of changing from one commimion to
another. We may be cast out of our communion, or it
may decree heresy to be truth, — you shall say whether
such contingencies are likely ; but I do not see other con-
ceivable causes of our leaving the Church in which we
were baptized.

"For myself, persons must be well acquainted with
what I have written before they venture to say whether
I have much changed my main opinions and cardinal
views in the course of the last eight years. That my
sympathies have grown towards the religion of Rome I do
not deny; that my reasons for shunning her communion
have lessened or altered it would be difficult perhaps to
prove. And I wish to go by reason, not by feeling."

4. "June 18, 1841. You urge persons whose views
agree with mine to commence a movement in behalf of a
union between the Churches. Now in the letters I have
written, I have uniformly said that I did not expect that
union in our time, and have discouraged the notion of all

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sudden proceedings with a view to it. I must ask your
leave to repeat on this occasion most distinctly, that I
oannot be party to any agitation, but mean to remain
quiet in my own place, and to do all I can to make others
take the same course. This I conceive to be my simple
duty ; but, over and above this, I will not set my teeth on
edge with sour grapes. I know it is quite within the
range of possibilities that one or another of our people
should go over to your communion ; however, it would be
a greater misfortune to you than grief to us. If your
friends wish to put a gulf between themselves and us, let
them make converts, but not else. Some months ago, I
ventured to say that I felt it a painful duty to keep aloof
from all Eoman Catholics who came with the intention of
opening negotiations for the union of the Churches : when
you now urge us to petition our Bishops for a union, this,
I conceive, is very like an act of negotiation."

5. I have the first sketch or draft of a letter, which
I wrote to a zealous Catholic layman : it runs as follows,
as far as I have preserved it, but I think there were
various changes and additions: — "September 12, 1841.
It would rejoice all Catholic minds among us, more
than words can say, if you could persuade members of the
Church of Rome to take the line in politics which you so
earnestly advocate. Suspicion and distrust are the main
causes at present of the separation between us, and the
nearest approaches in doctrine will but increase the hos-
tility, which, alas, our people feel towards yours, while
these causes continue. Depend upon it, you must not
rely upon our Catholic tendencies till they are removed.
I am not speaking of myself, or of any friends of mine ;
but of our Church generally. Whatever our personal
feelings may be, we shall but tend to raise and spread a
rival Church to yours in the four quarters of the world,
imless you do what none but you can do. Sympathies,
which would flow over to the Church of Rome, as a matter

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FROM 1841 TO 1845. 191

of course, did she admit them, will but be developed in the
consolidation of our own system, if she continues to be the
object of our suspicions and fears. I wish, of course I do,
that our own Church may be built up and extended, but
still, not at the cost of the Church of Rome, not in oppo-
sition to it. I am sure, that, while you suffer, we. suffer
too from the separation ; but we cannot remove the obstacles;
it is with you to do so. You do not fear us ; we fear you.
Till we cease to fear you, we cannot love you.

" While you are in your present position, the friends of
Catholic unity in our Church are but fulfilling the pre-
diction of those of your body who are averse to them, viz.
that they will be merely strengthening a rival commimion
to yours. Many of you say that tee are your greatest
enemies ; we have said so ourselves : so we are, so we shall
be, as things stand at present. We are keeping people
from you, by supplying their wants in our own Church.
We are keeping persons from you : do you wish us to keep
them from you for a time or for ever ? It rests with you
to determine. I do not fear that you will succeed among
us ; you will not supplant our Church in the affections of
the English nation ; only through the English Church can
you act upon the English nation. I wish of course our
Church should be consolidated, with and through and in
your communion, for its sake, and your sake, and for the
sake of unity.

" Are you aware that the more serious thinkers among
us are used, as far as they dare form an opinion, to regard
the spirit of Liberalism as the characteristic of the destined **
Antichrist P In vain does any one clear the Church of
Home from the badges of Antichrist, in which Protestants
would invest her, if she deliberately takes up her position
in the very quarter, whither we have cast them, when we
took them off from her. Antichrist is described as the
avoiio^y as exalting himself above the yoke of religion and

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law. The spirit of lawlessness came in with the Eeforma-
tion, and Liberalism is its offspring.

" And now I fear I am going to pain you by telling
you, that you consider the approaches in doctrine on our
part towards you, closer than they really are. I cannot
help repeating what I have many times said in print, that
%^your services and devotions to St. Mary in matter of fact
do most deeply pain me. I am only stating it as a fact.

" Again, I have nowhere said that I can accept the de-
crees of Trent throughout, nor implied it. The doctrine of
Transubstantiation is a great difficulty with me, as being,
as I think, not primitive. Nor have I said that our Arti-
cles in all respects admit of a Roman interpretation ; the
very word ' Transubstantiation ' is disowned in them.

" Thus, yoi; see, it is not merely on grounds of expedi-
ence that we do not join you. There are positive difficul-
ties in the way of it. And, even if there were not, we
shall have no divine warrant for doing so, while we think
that the Church of England is a branch of the true
Church, and that intercommunion with the rest of Chris-
tendom is necessary, not for the life of a particular
Church, but for its health only. I have never disguised
that there are actual circumstances in the Church of
Rome, which pain me much ; of the removal of these I
see no chance, while we join you one by one ; but if our
Church were prepared for a union, she might make her
terms ; she might gain the cup ; she might protest against
the extreme honours paid to St. Mary ; she might make
some explanation of the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
I am not prepared to say that a reform in other branches
of the Roman Church would be necessary for our uniting
with them, however desirable in itself, so that we were
allowed to make a reform in our own country. We do
not look towards Roihe as believing that its communion is
infallible, but that union is a duty.''

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FROM 1841 TO 1845. 193

6. The following letter was occasioned by the present
made to me of a book by the friend to whom it is written ;
more will be said on the subject of it presently : —

"Nov. 22, J.842. I only wish that your Church were
more known among us by such writings. You will not
interest us in her, till we see her, not in politics, but in
her true functions of exhorting, teaching, and guiding.
I wish thete were a chance of making the leading men
among you understand, what I believe is no novel thought
to yourself. It is not by learned discussions, or acute
argimients, or reports of miracles, that the heart of Eng-
land can be gained. It is by men * approving themselves,*
like the Apostle, * ministers of Christ.'

"As to your question, whether the Yolume you have
sent is not calculated to remove my apprehensions that
another gospel is substituted for the true one in your
practical instructions, before I can answer it in any way,
I ought to know how far the Sermons which it comprises
are selected from a number, or whether they are the whole,
or such as the whole, which have been published of the
author's. I assure you, or at least I trust, that, if it is
ever clearly brought home to me that I have been wrong
in what I have said on this subject, my public avowal of
that conviction will only be a question of time with me.

"If, however, you saw our Church as we see it, you
would easily understand that such a change of feeling, did
it take place, would have no necessary tendency, which
you seem to expect, to draw a person from the Church of
England to that- of Rome. There is a divine life among
us, clearly manifested, in spite of all our disorders, which
is as great a note of the Church, as any can be. Why
should we seek our Lord's presence elsewhere, when He
vouchsafes it to us where we are P What call have we to
change our communion ?

" Roman Catholics will find this to be the state of things

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in time to come, whatever promise they may fancy there
is of a large secession to their Church. This man or that
may leave us, but there will be no general movement.
There is, indeed, an incipient movement^ of our Church
^towards yours, and this your leading men are doing all
they can to frustrate by their unwearied eflforts at all risks
to carry oflf individuals. When will they know their posi-
tion, and embrace a larger and wiser policy P'


The letter which I have last inserted, is addressed to my
dear friend, Dr. Russell, the present President of May-
nooth. He had, perhaps, more to do with my conversion
than any one else. He called upon me, in passing through
Oxford in the summer of 1841, and I think I took him
over some of the buildings of the University. He called
again another summer, on his way from Dublin to London.
I do not recoUect that he said a word on the subject of
religion on either occasion. He sent me at diflFerent times
several letters ; he was always gentle, mild, unobtrusive,
uncontroversial. He let me alone. He also gave me
one or two books. Yeron's Rule of Faith and some
Treatises of the Wallenburghs was one; a volume of
St. Alfonso Liguori's Sermons was another; and it is
to those Sermons that my letter to Dr. Russell relates.

Now it must be observed that the writings of St. Alfonso,
as I knew them by the extracts commonly made from
them, prejudiced me as much against the Roman Church
as any thing else, on accoimt of what was called their
"Mariolatry ;" but there was nothing of the kind in this
book. I wrote to ask Dr. Russell whether any thing had

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FROM. 1841 TO 1845. 195

been left out in the translation ; he answered that there
certainly were omissions in one Sermon about the Blessed
Virgin. This omission, in the case of a book intended for
Catholics, at least showed that such passages as are found
in the works of Italian Authors were not acceptable to
every part of the Catholic world. Such devotional mani-
festations in honour of our Lady had been my great crux
as regards Catholicism ; I say frankly, I do not fully enter
into them now ; I trust I do not love her the less, because
I cannot enter into them. They may be full^^ explained
and defended ; but sentiment and taste do not run with
logic : they are suitable for Italy, but they are not suitable
for England. But, over and above England, my own case
was special ; from a boy I had been led to consider that
my Maker aijd I, His creature, were the two beings,
luminously such, in rerum naturd. I will not here specu-
late, however, about my own feelings. Only this I know
full well now, and did not know then, that the Catholic
Church allows no image of any sort, material or imma-
terial, no dogmatic symbol, no rite, no sacrament, no
Saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself, to come be-
tween the soul and its Creator. It is face to face, " solus
cum solo,*' in all matters between man and his God. He
alone creates ; He alone has redeemed ; before His awful
eyes we go in death ; in the vision of Him is our eternal

1. Solus cum solo: — I recollect but indistinctly what I
gained from the Volume of which I have been speaking ;
but it must have been something considerable. At least I
had got a key to a difficulty ; in these Sermons, (or rather
heads of sermons, as they seem to be, taken down by a '
hearer,) there is much of what would be called legendary
illustration ; but the substance of them is plain, practical,
awfiil preaching upon the great truths of salvation. What
T -0-, oneak of with greater confidence is the effect produced

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on me a little later by studying the Exercises of St. Igna-
tius. For here again, in a matter consisting in the purest
and most direct acts of religion, —in the intercourse be-
tween God and the soul, during a season of recollection, of
repentance, of good resolution, of inquiry into vocation, —

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 17 of 33)