John Henry Newman.

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

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that, when my reasoning is convincing it is only inge-
nious, and that when my statements are unanswerable,
there is always something put out of sight or hidden in
my sleeve ; it is that plausible, but cruel conclusion to
which men are apt to jump, that when much is imputed,
much must be true, and that it is more likely that one
should be to blame, than that many should be mistaken in
blaming him; — these are the real foes which I have to
fight, and^the auxiliaries to whom my Accuser makes his

Well, T must break through this barrier of prejudice
against me if I can ; and I think I shall be able to do so.
When first I read the Pamphlet of Accusation, I almost
despaired of meeting efiectively such a heap of misrepre-
sentations and such a vehemence of animosity. What was
the good of answering first one point, and then another,
and going through the whole circle of its abuse ; when my
answer to the first point would be forgotten, as soon as I
got to the second P What was the use of bringing out half
a hundred separate principles or views for the refutation of
the separate counts in the Indictment, when rejoinders of
this sort would but confuse and torment the reader by
their number and their diversity P What hope was there
of condensing into a pamphlet of a readable length, matter
which ought freely to expand itself into half a dozen
volumes P • What means was there, except the expenditure
of interminable pages, to set right even one of that series
of "single passing hints," to use my Assailant's own lan-
fj guagGj which, "as with his finger tip he had delivered''
^ against me P

All those separate charges had their force in being illus-
trations of one and the same great imputation. He had
already a positive idea to illuminate his whole matter, and
to stamp it with a force, and to qxdcken it with an inter-
pretation. He called me a fer, — a simple, a broad, an in-


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telHglble, to the English public a plausible arraignment ;
but for me, to answer in detail charge one by reason one,
and charge two by reason two, and charge three by reason
three, and so on through the whole string both of accusa-
tions and replies, each of which was to be independent of
the rest, this would be certainly labour lost as regards any
effective result. What I needed was a corresponding anta-
gonist unity in my defence, and where was that to be
found ? We see, in the case of commentators oh the pro-
phecies of Scripture, an exemplification of the principle on
which I am insisting ; viz. how much more powerful even
a false interpretation of the sacred text is than none at
all;— how a certain key to the visions of the Apocalypse,
for instance, may cling to the mind (I have found it so in
the case of my own), because the view, which it opens on
us, is positive and objective, in spite of the fullest demon-
stration that it really has no claim upon our reception.
The reader says, "What else can the prophecy mean?"
just as my Accuser asks, " What, then, does Dr. Newman

mean P" I reflected, and I saw a way out of my


Yes, I said to myself, his very question is about my
meaning; "What does Dr. Newman mean?" It pointed
in the very same direction as that into which my musings
had turned me already. He asks what I mean; not about
my words, not about my arguments, not about my actions,
a^ l^is ultimate point, but about that living intelligence, by
vttich I write, and argue, and act. He asks about my
Mind and its Beliefs and its sentiments ; and he shall be
•answered ; — not for his own sake, but for mine, for the
sake of the Religion which I profess, and of the Priest-
hood in which I am unworthily included, and of my
friends and of my foes, and of that general public which
consists of neither one nor the other, but of well-wishers,
lovers of fair play, sceptical cross-questicuiers, interested

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inquirers, curious lookers-on, and simple strangers, uncon-.
cerned yet not careless about the issue,— for the sake of all
these he shall be answered.

My perplexity had not lasted half an hour. I recognized
what I had to do, though I shrank from both the task and
the exposure which it would entail. I must, I said, give
the true key to my whole life ; I must show what I am,
that it may be seen what I am not, and that the phantom
may be extinguished which gibbers instead of me. I wish
to be known as a living man, and not as a scarecrow which
is dressed up in my clothes. False ideas may be refuted
indeed by argument, but by true ideas alone are they ex-
pelled. I will vanquish, not my Accuser, but my judges.
I will indeed answer his charges and criticisms on me one
by one *, lest any one should say that they are unanswer-
able, but such a work shall not be the scope nor the sub-
stance of my reply. I will draw out, as far as may be,
the history of my mind ; I will state the point at which
I began, in what external suggestion or accident each
opinion had its rise, how far and how they developed from
within, how they grew, were modified, were combined,
were in collision with each other, and were changed;
again how I conducted myself towards them, and how,
and how far, and for how long a tin^e, I thought I could
hold them consistently with the ecclesiastical engagements
which I had made and with the position which I held. I
must show, — what is the very truth, — that the doctrines
which I held, and have held for so many years, have
been taught me (speaking humanly) partly by the sug-
gestions of Protestant friends, partly by the teaching of
books, and partly by the action of my own mind : and
thus I shall account for that phenomenon which to so

1 This was done in the Appendix, of which the more important parts are
presenred in the Notes.


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many seems so wonderful, that I should have left " my
kindred and my father's house " for a Church from which
once I turned away with dread ; — so wonderful to them !
ad if tbrsooth a Religion which has flourished through so
many ages, among so many nations, amid such varieties of
social life, in such contrary classes and conditions of men,
and after so many revolutions, political and civil, could
not subdue the reason and overcome the heart, without
the aid of fraud in the process and the sophistries of the .

What I had proposed to myself in the course of half-an-
hour, I determined on at the end of ten days. However,
I have many difficulties in fulfilling my design. How am
I to say all that has to be said in a reasonable compass P
And then as to the materials of my narrative ; I have no
autobiographical notes to consult, no written explanations
of particular treatises or of tracts which at the time gave
offence, hardly any minutes of definite transactions or con-
versations, and few contemporary memoranda, I fear, of
the feelings or motives under which from time to time I
acted. I have an abundance of letters from friends with
some copies or drafts of my answers, to them, but they are
for the most part unsorted; and, till this process has taken
place, they are even too numerous and various to be avail-
able at a moment for my purpose. Then, as to the volunies
which I have published, they would in many ways serve
me, were I well up in them: but though I took great pains
in their composition, I have thought little about them,
when they were once out of my hands, and for the most
part the last time I read them has been when I revised
their last proof sheets.

Under these circumstances my sketch will of course be
incomplete. I now for the first time contemplate my
course as a whole ; it is a first -essay, but it will contaiui I

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trusty no serious or substantial mistake, and so far will
answer the purpose for which I write it. I purpose to
set nothing down in it as certain, for which I have not a
clear memory, or some written memorial, or the corrobo-
ration of some Mend. There are witnesses enough up and
down the country to verify, or correct, or complete it ; and
letters moreover of my own in abundance, imless they have
been destroyed.

Moreover, I meaji to be simply personal and historical :
I am not expounding Catholic doctrine, I am doing no
more than explaining myself, and my opinions and actions.
I wish, as far as I am able, simply to state facts, whether
they are ultimately determined to be for me or against me.
Of course there will be room enough for contrariety of
judgment among my readers, as to the necessity, or
appositeness, or value, or good taste, or religious prudence,
of the details which I shall introduce. I may be accused
of lajdng stress on little things, of being beside the mai^,
of going into impertinent or ridiculous details, of sounding
my own pndse, of giving scandal ; but this is a case above
all others, in which I am bound to follow my own lights
and to speak out my own heart. It is not at all pleasant
for me to be egotistical ; nor to be criticized for being so.
It is not pleasant to reveal to high and low, young and
old, what has gone on within me from my early years.
It i^ not pleasant to be giving to every shallow or flippant
disputant the advantage over me of knowing my most
private thoughts, I might even say the intercourse between
myself and my Maker. But I do not like to be called to
my face a Uar and a knave ; nor should I be doing my
duty to my faith or to my name, if I were to suffer it. I
know I have done nothing to deserve such an insult, and
if I prove this, as I hope to do, I must not care for such
incidental annoyances as are involved in the process.

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History of jnj Beligions Opinions np to 1833 . • • • 1


History of mj Beligioos Opinions from 1833 to 1839 ... 86


History of my Beligioos Opinions from 1839 to 1841. • . 92


History of my Religions Opinions from 1841 to 1845 . • • 147

Position of my Mind since 1845 238

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Note A. On page 14. Liberalism 285

B. On page 23. Ecclesiastical Miracles .... 298

0. On page 153. Sermon on Wisdom and Innocence . 310

D. On page 213. Series of Saints' Lives of 1843-4 . . 323

E. On page 227. Anglican Chnroli 339

F. On page 269. Hie Economy 343

G. On page 279. Lying and Equivocation • • . 348


1. Chronological List of Letters and Papers quoted in this

Narrative 364

2. List of the Author's Works. 366

3. Letter to him from his Diocesan 368

4 Addresses from bodies of Clergy and Laity . • • • 371


Note 1, on page 12. Correspondence with Archbishop Whately

in 1834 . . . «80

2, on page 323. Boniface of Canterbury . . • .388

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It may easily be conceived how great a trial it is to me to
write the following history of myself; but I must not
shrink from the task. The words, "Secretum meum
mihi," keep ringing in my ears ; but as men draw towards
their end, they care less for disclosures. Nor is it the
least part of my trial, to anticipate that, upon first reading
what I have written, my friends may consider much in
it irrelevant to my purpose ; yet I cannot help thinking
that, viewed as a whole, it will effect what I propose to
myself in giving it to the public.

I was brought up from a child to take great delight in
reading the Bible ; but I had no formed religious convic-
tions till I was fifteen. Of course I had a perfect know-
ledge of my Catechism.

After I was grown up, I put on paper my recollections
of the thoughts and feelings on religious subjects, which I
had at the time that I was a child and a boy, — such as had
remained on my mind with sufficient prominence to make
me then consider them worth recording. Out of these,
written in the Long Vacation of 1820, and transcribed with

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additions in. 1823, 1 select two, which are at once the most
definite among them, and* also have a bearing on my later

1. " I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true : my
imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers,

and talismans I thought life might be a

dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, ray
feUow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves
from me, and deceiving me with the semblance of a
material world."

Again: "Reading in the Spring of 1816 a sentence
from [Dr. Watts's] * Remnants of Time,' entitled *the
Saints imknown to the world,' to the effect, that * there is
nothing in their figure or countenance to distinguish them,'
&c., &c., I supposed he spoke of Angels who lived in the
world, as it were disguised."

2. The other remark is this : " I was very superstitious,
and for some time previous to my conversion " [when I
was fifteen] " used constantly to cross myself on going into
the dark."

Of course I must have got this practice from some
external source or other ; but I can make no sort of con-
jecture whence ; and certainly no one had ever spoken to
me on the subject of the Catholic religion, which I only
knew by name. The French master was an emigre Priest,
but he was simply made a butt, as French masters too
commonly were in that day, and spoke English very im-
perfectly. There was a Catholic family in the village, old
maiden ladies we used to think ; but I knew nothing about
them. I have of late years heard that there were one or
two Catholic boys in the school ; but either we were care-
fully kept from knowing this, or the knowledge of it made
simply no impression on our minds. My brother wiU bear
witness how free the school was from Catholic ideas.

I had once been into Warwick Street Chapel, with my

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TO THE YEAR 1833. 3

father, who, • I believe, wanted to hear some piece of
music ; all that I bore away from it was the recollection of
a pulpit and a preacher, and a boy swinging a censer.

When I was at Littlemore, I was looking over old copy-
books of my school days, and I found among them my first
Latin verse- book ; and in the first page of it there was a
device which almost took my breath away with surprise.
I have the book before me now, and have just been show-
ing it to others. I have written in the first page, in my
Bchool-boy hand, "John H. Newman, February 11th,
1811, Verse Book ; ** then follow my first Verses. Between
" Verse " and " Book '* I have drawn the figure of a solid
cross upright, and next to it is, what may indeed be meant *
for a necklace, but what I cannot make out to be anything
else than a set of beads suspended, with a little cross
attached. At this time I was not quite ten years old. I
suppose I got these ideas from some romance, Mrs. Rad-
cliffe's or Miss Porter's ; or from some religious picture ;
but the strange thing is, how, among the thousand objects
which meet a boy's eyes, these in particular should so have
fixed themselves in my mind, that I made them thus prac-
tically my own. I am certain there was nothing in the
churches I attended, or the prayer books I read, to suggest
them. It must be recollected that Anglican churches
and prayer books were not decorated in those days as I
believe they are now.

When I was fourteen, I read Paine's Tracts against the
Old Testament, and found pleasure in thinking of the
objections which were contained in them. Also, I read
some of Hume's Essays ; and perhaps that on Miracles,
So at least I gave my Father to imderstand ; but perhaps
it was a brag. Also, I recollect copying out some French
verses, perhaps Voltaire's, in denial of the immortality of
the soul, and saying to myself something like "How
dreadful, but how plausible I "

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When I was fifteen, (In the autumn of 1816,) a great
change of thought took place in me. I fell under the
influences of a definite Creed, and received into my intel-
lect impressions of dogma, which, through God's mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured. Above and beyond
the conversations and sermons of the excellent man, long
dead, the Rev. Walter Mayers, of Pembroke College, Ox-
ford, who was the human means of this beginning of
divine faith in me, was the effect of the books which he
put into my hands, all of the school of Calvin. One of the
first books I read was a work of Romaine's ; I neither re-
collect the title nor the contents, except one doctrine,
which of course I do not include among those which I
believe to have come from a divine source, viz. the doc-
trine of final perseverance. I received it at once, and
believed that the inward conversion of which I was con-
scious, (and of which I still am more certain than that I
have hands and feet,) would last into the next life, and
that I was elected to eternal glory. I have no conscious-
ness that this belief had any tendency whatever to lead
me to be careless about pleasing God. I retained it till
the age of twenty-one, when it gradually faded away ; but
I believe that it had some influence on my opinions, in the
direction of those childish imaginations which I have
already mentioned, viz. in isolating me from the objects
which surrounded me, in confirming me in my mistrust of
the reality of material phenomena, and making me rest in
the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously
self-evident beings, myself and my Creator ; — ^for while I
considered myself predestined to salvation, my mind did
not dwell upon others, as fancying them simply passed
over, not predestined to eternal death. I only thought of
the mercy to myself.

The detestable doctrine last mentioned is simply denied
and abjured, unless my memory strangely deceives me, by

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TO THE YEAR 1833. 6

the writer who made a deeper impression on my mind than
any other, and to whom (humanly sjJeaking) I almost owe
my soul, — Thomas Scott of Aston Sandford. I so admired ^
and delighted in his writings, that, when I was an under-
graduate, I thought of making a visit to his Parsonage, in
order to see a man whom I so deeply revered. I hardly
think I could have given up the idea of this expedition,
even after I had taken my degree ; for the news of his
death iii 1821 came upon me as a disappointment as well
as a sorrow. I hung upon the lips of Daniel Wilson,
afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, as in two sermons at St.
John's Chapel he gave the history of Scott's life and death.
I had been possessed of his " Force of Truth '' and Essays
from a boy ; his Commentary I bought when I was an

What, I suppose, will strike any reader of Scott's his-
tory and writings, is his bold imworldliness and vigorous
independence of mind. He followed truth wherever it led
him, beginning with Unitarianism, and ending in a zealous
faith in the Holy Trinity. It was he who first planted
deep in my mind that fundamental truth of religion. With
the assistance of Scott's Essays, and the admirable work of
Jones of Nayland, I made a collection of Scripture texts
in proof of the doctrine, with remarks (I think) of my own
upon them, before I was sixteen; and a few months later ^
I drew up a series of texts in support of each verse of the |
Athanasian Creed. These papers I have still.

Besides his unworldliness, what I also admired in Scott
was his resolute opposition to Antinomianism, and the
minutely practical character of his writings. They show
him to be a true Englishman, and I deeply felt his influ-
ence ; and for years I used almost as proverbs what I con-
sidered to be the scope and issue of his doctrine, " Holiness
rather than peace," and "Growth the only evidence of

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Calvinists make a sharp separation between the elect
and the world; there is much in this that is cognate or
parallel to the Catholic doctrine ; but they go on to say,
as I understand them, very differently from Catholicism, —
that the converted and the unconverted can be discrimi-
nated by man, that the justified are conscious of their state
of justification, and that the regenerate cannot fall away.
Catholics on the other hand shade and soften the awful
antagonism between good and evil, which is one of their
dogmas, by holding that there are different degrees of
justi^cation, that there is a great difference in point of
gravity between sin and sin, that there is the possibility
and the danger of falling away, and that there is no cer-
tain knowledge given to any one that he is simply in a
state of grace, and much less that he is to persevere to the
end : — of the Calvinistic tenets the only one which took
root in my mind was the fact of heaven and hell, divine
favour and divine wrath, of the justified and the unjusti-
fied. The notion that the regenerate and the justified
were one and the same, and that the regenerate, as such,
had the gift of perseverance, remained with me not many
, years, as I have said already.

This main Catholic doctrine of the warfare between the
city of God and the powers of darkness was also deeply
impressed upon my mind by a work of a character very
y- opposite to Calvinism, Law's " Serious Call."

From this time I have held with a full inward assent
and belief the doctrine of eternal punishment, as delivered
by our Lord Himself, in as true a sense as I hold that of
eternal happiness ; though I have tried in various ways to
make that truth less terrible to the intellect.

Now I come to two other works, which produced a deep
impression on me in the same Autumn of 1816, when I
was fifteen years old, each contrary to each, and planting
in me the seeds of an intellectual inconsistency which

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TO THE YEAR 1833. 7

disabled me for a long course of years. I read Joseph
Milner's Clmrcli History, and was nothing short of
enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St.
x^mbrose, and the other Fathers which I found there. I
read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians:
but simultaneously with Milner I read Newton on the
Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly con-
vinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by
Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John. My imagination was
sfe-ined by the efiects of this doctrine up to the year 1843 ;
it had been obliterated from my reason and judgment at ^
an earlier date ; but the thought remained upon me as a
sort of false conscience. Hence came that conflict of mind,
which so many have felt besides myself; — leading some
men to make a compromise between two ideas, so incon-
sistent with each other, — driving others to beat out the
one idea or the other from their minds, — and ending in
my own case, after many years of intellectual unrest, in
the gradual decay and extinction of one of them, — I do
not say in its violent death, for why should I not have
murdered it sooner, if I murdered it at all ?

I am obliged to mention, though I do it with great
reluctance, another deep imagination, which at this time,
the autumn of 1816, took possession of me, — ^there can be
no mistake about the fact; viz. that it would be the will/^
of God that I should lead a single life. This anticipation,
which has held its ground almost continuously ever since,
— with the break of a month now and a month then, up to
1829, and, after that date, without any break at all, — was
more or less connected in my mind with the notion, that
my calling in life would require such a sacrifice as celibacy
involved; as, for instance, missionary work among the
heathen, to which I had a great drawing for some years.
It also strengthened my feeling of separation from the
visible world, of which I have spoken above.

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In 1822 I came under very diflTerent influencea from
those to which I had hitherto been subjected. At that
time, Mr. Whately, as he was then, afterwards Arch-
bishop of Dublin, for the few months he remained in
Oxford, which he was leaving for good, showed great
kindness to me. He renewed it in 1825, when he became
Principal of Alban Hall, making me his Vice-Principal
and Tutor. Of Dr. Whately I will speak presently : for
from 1822 to 1825 I saw most of the present Provost of
Oriel, Dr. Hawkins, at that time Vicar of St. Mary's ; and,

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 2 of 33)