John Henry Newman.

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

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familiar affectionate companions and counsellors, who in
Oxford were given to me, one after another, to be my
daily solace and relief; and all those others, of great name
and high example, who were my thorough friends, and
showed me true attachment in times long past ; and also
those many younger men, whether I knew them or not,
who have never been disloyal to me by word or deed ; and

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of all these, thus various in their relations to me, those
more especially who have since joined the Catholic

And I earnestly pray for this whole company, with a
hope against hope, that all of us, who once were so imited,
and so happy in our union, may even now be brought at
length, by the Power of the Divine Will, into One Fold
and under One Shepherd.

May 26, 1864.
In Fetto Corp. Chriit

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I HA VE been asked to explain more ftilly what it is I mean
by " Liberalism/' because merely to call it the Anti-dogmatic
Principle is to tell very little about it. An explanation is
the more necessary, because such good Catholics and dis-
tinguished writers as Count Montalembert and Father
Lacordaire use the word in a favorable sense, and claim
to be Liberals themselves. " The only singularity,*' says
the former of the two in describing his friend, " was his
Liberalism. By a phenomenon, at that time unheard of,
this convert, this seminarist, this confessor of nuns, was
just as stubborn a liberal, as in the days when he was a
student and a barrister." — Life (transl.), p. 19.

I do not believe that it is possible for me to differ in
any important matter from two men whom I so highly
admire. In their general line of thought and conduct I
enthusiastically concur, and consider them to be before
their age. And it would be strange indeed if I did not
read with a special interest, in M. de Montalembert's
beautiful volume, of the unselfish aims, the thwarted pro-
jects, the unrequited toils, the grand and tender resigna-
tion of Lacordaire. If I hesitate to adopt their language

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286 NOTE A.

about Liberalism, I impute the necessity of such hesitation
to some differences between us in the use of words or
in the circumstances of country; and thus I reconcile
myself to remaining faithful to my own conception of it,
though I cannot have their voices to give force to mine.
Speaking then in my own way, I proceed to explain what
I meant as a Protestant by Liberalism, and to do so in
connexion with the circumstances under which that sys-
tem of opinion came before me at Oxford.

If I might presume to contrast Lacordaire and myself,
I should say, that we had been both of us inconsistent ; —
he, a Catholic, in calling himself a Liberal; I, a Protestant,
in being an Anti-liberal ; and moreover, that the cause of
this inconsistency had been in both cases one and the
same. That is, we were both of us such good conserva-
tives, as to take up with what we happened to find estab-
lished in our respective countries, at the time when we
came into active life. Toryism was the creed of Oxford ;
he inherited, and made the best of, the French Revolution.

When, in the beginning of the present century, not
very long before my own time, after many years of moral
and intellectual declension, the University of Oxford woke
up to a sense of its duties, and began to reform itself, the
first instruments of this change, to whose zeal and courage
we all owe so much, were naturally thrown together for
mutual support, against the numerous obstacles which lay
in their path, and soon stood out in relief from the body
of residents, who, though many of them men of talent
themselves, cared little for the object which the others
had at heart. These Reformers, as they may be called,
were for some years members of scarcely more than three
or four Colleges ; and their own Colleges, as being under
their direct influence, of course had the benefit of those
stricter views of discipline and teaching, which they them-
selves were urging on the TJniversity. They had, in no

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long time, enough of real progress in their several spheres
of exertion, and enough of reputation out of doors, to war-
rant them in considering themselves the ^ite of the place ;
and it is not wonderful if they were in consequence led to
look down upon the majority of Colleges, which had not
kept pace with the reform, or which had been hostile to it.
And, when those rivalries of one man with another arose,
whether personal or collegiate, which befall literary and
scientific societies, such disturbances did but tend to
raise in their eyes the value which they had already set
upon academical distinction, and increase their zeal in
pursuing it Thus was formed an intellectual circle or
class in the TJniversity, — men, who felt they had a career
before them, as soon as the pupils, whom they were form-
ing, came into public life; men, whom non-residents,
whether country parsons or preachers of the Low Church,
on coming up from time to time to the old place, would
look at, partly with admiration, partly with suspicion, as
being an honour indeed to Oxford, but withal exposed to
the temptation of ambitious views, and to the spiritual evils
signified in what is called the " pride of reason."

Nor was this imputation altogether unjust ; for, as they
were following out the proper idea of a TJniversity, of
course they sufiFered more or less from the moral malady
incident to such a pursuit. The very object of such great
institutions lies in the cultivation of the mind and the
spread of knowledge : if this object, as all human objects,
has its dangers at all times, much more would these exist
in the case of men, who were engaged in a work of re-
formation, and had the opportunity of measuring them-
selves, not only with those who were their equals in
intellect, but with the many, who were below them. In
this select circle or class of men, in various Colleges, the
direct instruments and the choice fruit of real University
Reform, we see the rudiments of the Liberal party.

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288 NOTE A.

Whenever men are able to act at all, there is the chance
of extreme and intemperate action ; and therefore, when
there is exercise of mind, there is the chance of wayward
or mistaken exercise. Liberty of thought is in itself a
good ; but it gives an opening to false liberty. Now by
Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise
of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution
of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any
successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among
such matters are first principles of whatever kind ; and of
these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be
reckoned the truths of Eevelation. Liberalism then is the
mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed
doctrines which are in their nature beyond and inde-
pendent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic
grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for
their reception simply on the external authority of the
Divine Word.

. Now certainly the party of whom I have been speaking,
taken as a whole, were of a character of mind out of which
Liberalism might easily grow up, as in fact it did ; cer-
tainly they breathed around an influence which made men
of religious seriousness shrink into themselves. But, while
I say as much as this, I have no intention whatever of
implying that the talent of the University, in the years
before and after 1820, was liberal in its theolo^, in the
sense in which the bulk of the educated classes through
the country are liberal now. I would not for the world
be supposed to detract from the Christian earnestness, and
the activity in religious works, above the average of men,
of many of the persons in question. They would have
protested against their being supposed to place reason
before faith, or knowledge before devotion ; yet I do con-
sider that they imconsciously encouraged and successftdly
introduced into Oxford a licence of opinion which went far

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beyond them. In their day they did little more than take
credit to themselves for enlightened views, largeness of
mindy liberality of sentiment, without drawing the line
between what was just and what was inadmissible in
speculation, and without seeing the tendency of their own
principles ; and engrossing, as they did, the mental energy
of the University, they met for a time with no effectual
hindrance to the spread of their influence, except (what
indeed at the moment was most effectual, but not of an
intellectual character) the thorough-going Toryism and
traditionary Church-of-En gland-ism of the great body of
the Colleges and Convocation.

Now and then a man of note appeared in the Pulpit
or Lecture Rooms of the ITniversity, who was a worthy
representative of the more religious and devout Anglicans.
These belonged chiefly to the High- Church party; for the
party called Evangelical never has been able to breathe
freely in the atmosphere of Oxford, and at no time has
been conspicuous, as a party, for talent or learning. But
of the old High Churchmen several exerted some sort of
Anti-liberal influence in the place, at least from time to
time, and that influence of an intellectual nature. Among
these especially may be mentioned Mr. John Miller, of
Worcester CoUege, who preached the Bampton Lecture
in the year 1817. But, as far as I know, he who turned
the tide, and brought the talent of the University round
to the side of the old theology, and against what was
familiarly called " march-of-mind,'* was Mr. Keble. Li
and from Keble the mental activity of Oxford took that
contrary direction which issued in what was called Trac-

Keble was young in years, when he became a University
celebrity, and younger in mind. He had the purity and
simplicity of a child. He had few sympathies with the in-
tellectual party, who sincerely welcomed him as a brilliant


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290 NOTE A.

Bpecimen of young Oxford. He instinctively shut up be-
fore literary display, and pomp and donnishness of man-
ner, faults which always will beset academical notabilities.
. He did not respond to their advances. His collision with
them (if it may be so called) was thus described by Hurrell
Froude in his own way. " Poor Keble ! " he used gravely
to say, " he was asked to join the aristocracy of talent, but
he soon foimd his level." He went into the country, but
his instance serves to prove that men need not, in the
event, lose that influence which is rightly theirs, because
they happen to be thwarted in the use of the channels
natural and proper to its exercise. He did not lose his
place in the minds of men because he was out of their

Keble was a man who guided himself and formed his
judgments, not by processes of reason, by inquiry or by
argument, but, to use the word in a broad sense, by
I authority. Conscience is an authority; the Bible is an
/ authority; such is the Church; such is Antiquity; such
/ are the words of the wise; such are hereditary lessons;
' such are ethical truths ; such are historical memories, such
are legal saws and state maxims ; such are proverbs ; such
are sentiments, presages, and prepossessions. It seemed to
me as if he ever felt happier, when he could speak or act
under some such primary or external sanction ; and could
use argument mainly as a means of recommending or ex-
plaining what had claims on his reception prior to proof.
He even felt a tenderness, I think, in spite of Bacon, for
^the Idols of the Tribe and the Den, of the Market and
the Theatre. What he hat^d instinctively was heresy,
insubordination, resistance to things established, claims of
independence, disloyalty, innovation, a critical, censorious
spirit. And such was the main principle of the school
which in the course of years was formed aroimd him ; nor
is it easy to set limits to its influence in its day ; for multi-

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tudes of men, who did not profess its teaching, or accept
its pecuKar doctrines, were willing nevertheless, or found
it to their purpose, to act in company with it.

Indeed for a time it was practically the champion and
advocate of the political doctrines of the great clerical in-
terest through the country, who found in Mr. Keble and his
friends an intellectual, as well as moral support to their
cause, which they looked for in vain elsewhere. His weak
point, in their eyes, was his consistency; for he carried
his love of authority and old times so far, as to be more
than gentle towards the Catholic Religion, with which
the Toryism of Oxford and of the Church of England had
no sympathy. Accordingly, if my memory be correct, he
never could get himself to throw his heart into the oppo-
sition made to Catholic Emancipation, strongly as he re-
volted from the politics and the instruments by means of
which that Emancipation was won. I fancy he would
have had no difficulty in accepting Dr. Johnson's saying
about "the first Whig;" and it grieved and offended him
that the "Via prima salutis" should be opened to the
Catholic body from the Whig quarter. In spite of his
reverence for the Old Religion, I conceive that on the
whole he would rather have kept its professors beyond the
pale of the Constitution with the Tories, than admit them
on the principles of the Whigs. Moreover, if the Revolu-
tion of 1688 was too lax in principle for him and his
friends, much less, as is very plain, could they endure to
subscribe to the revolutionary doctrines of 1776 and 1789,
which they felt to be absolutely and entirely out of keep-
ing with theological truth.

The Old Tory or Conservative party in Oxford had in it
no principle or power of development, and that from its
very nature and constitution : it was otherwise with the
Liberals.^ They represented a new idea, which was but
gradually learning to recognize itself, to ascertain its

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292 MOTE A.

characteristics and external relations, and to exert an
influence upon the University. The party grew, all the
time that I was in Oxford, even in numbers, certainly in
breadth and definiteness of doctrine, and in power. And,
what was a far higher consideration, by the accession of
y Dr. Arnold's pupils, it was invested with an elevation of
character which claimed the respect even of its opponents.
On the other hand, in proportion as it became more earn-
est and less self-applauding, it became more free-spoken ;
and members of it might be found who, from the mere
circumstance of remaining firm to their original profes-
sions, would in the judgment of the world, as to their
public acts, seem to have left it for the Conservative camp.
Thus, neither in its component parts nor in its policy, was
it the same in 1832, 1836, and 1841, as it was in 1845.

These last remarks will serve to throw light upon a
matter personal to myself, which I have introduced into
my Narrative, and to which my attention has been point-
edly called, now that my Volume is coming to a second

It has been strongly urged upon me to re-consider the
following passages which occur in it : " The men who had
> driven me from Oxford were distinctly the Liberals, it was
they who had opened the attack upon Tract 90," p. 203,
and " I found no fault with the Liberals ; they had beaten
me in a fair field," p. 214.

I am very unwilling to seem ungracious, or to cause pain
in any quarter; still I am sorry to say I cannot modify these
statements. It is surely a matter of historical fact that I
left Oxford upon the University proceedings of 1841 ; and
in those proceedings, whether we look to the Heads of
Houses or the resident Masters, the leaders, if intellect
and influence make men such, were members of the Liberal
party. Those who did not lead, concurred or acquiesced
in them, — I may say, felt a satisfaction. I do not recollect

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any Liberal who was on my side on that occasion. Ex-
cepting the Liberal, no other party, as a party, acted
against me. I am not complaining of them ; I deserved
nothing else at their hands. They could not undo in 1845,
even had they wished it, (and there is no proof they did,)
what they had done in 1841. Li 1845, when I had already
given up the contest for four years, and my part in it had
passed into the hands of others, then some of those who
were prominent against me in 1841, feeling (what they
had not felt in 1841) the danger of driving a number of
my followers to Rome, and joined by younger friends who
had come into University importance since 1841 and felt
kindly towards me, adopted a course more consistent with
their principles, and proceeded to shield from the zeal of
the Hebdomadal Board, not me, but, professedly, all parties
through the country, — Tractarians, Evangelicals, Liberals
in general,— -who had to subscribe to the Anglican formu-
laries, on the ground that those formularies, rigidly taken,
were, on some point or other, a difficulty to all parties

However, besides the historical fact, I can bear witness
to my own feeling at the time, and my feeling was this: —
that those who in 1841 had considered it to be a duty to
act against me, had then done their worst. What was it
to me what they were now doing in opposition to the New
Test proposed by the Hebdomadal Board ? I owed them
no thanks for their trouble. I took no interest at all, in
February, 1845, in the proceedings of the Heads of Houses
and of the Convocation. I felt myself dead as regarded
my relations to the Anglican Church. My .leaving it was
aU but a matter of time. I believe I did not even thank
my real friends, the two Proctors, who in Convocation
stopped by their Veto the condemnation of Tract 90 ; nor
did I make any acknowledgment to Mr. Rogers, nor to Mr.
James Mozley, nor, as I think, to Mr. Hussey, for their

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294 NOTE A.

pamphlets in my belialf. My frame of mind is best de«
scribed by the sentiment of the passage in Horace, which
at the time I was fond of quoting, as expressing my view
of the relation that existed between the Yice-GhancoUor
and myself.

** Pentheu,
Rector Thebaram, quid me perferre patique
Indignom cogas ?" ** Adimam bona." " Nempe pecos, rp.m,
Lectos, argentam; toUas licet." ** In manicis et
Compedibos, saevo te sub costode tenebo." {viz. the 39 Articles.)
** Ipse Deutf iimul atque volam, me solvet" Opinor,
Hoc sentit : Mortar, More ultima linea rerum est.

I conclude this notice of Liberalism in Oxford, and the
party which was antagonistic to it, with some propositions
in detail, which, as a member of the latter, and together
with the High Church, I earnestly denounced and abjured.

1. No religious tenet is important, unless reason shows it
to be so.

Therefore, e. g. the doctrine of the Atbanasian Creed is not to be
insisted on, unless it tends to convert the soul ; and the doctrine of
the Atonement is to be insisted on, if it does convert the souL

2. No one can believe what he does not understand.

Therefore, e. g. there are no mysteries in true religion.

3. No theological doctrine is any thing more than an
opinion which happens to be held by bodies of men.

Therefore, e. g. no creed, as such, is necessary for salvation.

4. It is dishonest in a man to make an act of faith in

what he has not had brought home to him by actual proof

Therefore, e. g. the mass of men ought not absolutely to believe in
the divine authority of the Bible.

6. It is immoral in a man to believe more than he can
spontaneously receive as being congenial to his moral and
mental nature.

Therefore, e. g. a given individual is not bound to believe in eternal

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6. No revealed doctrines or precepts may reasonably
stand in the way of scientific conclusions.

Therefore, e. g. Political Economy may reverse our Lord's declara-
tions about poverty and riches, or a system of Ethics may teach that
the highest condition of body is ordinarily essential to the highest
state of mind.

7. Christianity is necessarily modified by the growth of
civilization, and the exigencies of times.

Therefore, e. g. the Catholic priesthood, though necessary in the
Middle Ages, may be superseded now.

8. There is a system of religion more simply true than
Christianity as it has ever been received.

Therefore, e. g. we may advance that Christianity is the " com of
wheat" which has been dead for 1800 years, but at length will bear
fruit; and that Mahometanism is the manly religion, and existing
Christianity the womanish.

9. There is a right of Private Judgment : that is, there
is no existing authority on earth competent to interfere
with the liberty of individuals in reasoning and judging
for themselves about the Bible and its contents, as they
severally please.

Therefore, e.g. religious establishments requiring subscription are

10. There are rights of conscience such, that every one
may lawfully advance a claim to profess and teach what is
false and wrong in matters, religious, social, and moral,
provided that to his private conscience it seems absolutely
true and right.

Therefore, e. g. individuals have a right to preach and practise forni-
cation and polygamy.

11. There is no such thing as a national or state con-

Therefore, e. g. no judgments can fall upon a sinful or infidel nation.

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296 KOTB A.

12. The civil power has no positive duty, in a normal
state of things, to maintain religious truth.

Therefore, e.g. blasphemy and aabbath-breaking are not righUj
poniahable by law.

13. Utility and expedience are the measure of political

Therefore, e. g. no panishment may be enacted, on the ground that
God commands it : e. g. on the text, " Whoso sheddeth man's blood,
by man shall his blood be shed."

14. The Civil Power may dispose of Church property
without sacrilege.

Therefore, e. g. Henry VIII. committed no sin in his spoliations.

15. The Civil Power has the right of ecclesiastical juris-
diction and administration.

Therefore, e.g. Parliament may impose articles of £uth on the
Chorch or suppress Dioceses.

16. It is lawful to rise in arms against legitimate

Therefore, e. g. the Puritans in the 17th century, and the French in
the 18th, were justifiable in their Rebellion and Revolution respectiTely.

17. The people are the legitimate source of power.

Therefore, e. g. Universal Sufirage is among the natural rights of

18. Virtue is the child of knowledge, and vice of ignor-

Therefore, e. g. education, periodical literature, railroad travelling,
ventilation, drainage, and the arts of life, when fully carried out, serve
to make a population moral and happy.

All of these propositions, and many others too, were
familiar to me thirty years ago, as in the number of the
tenets of Liberalism, and, while I gave into none of them
except No. 12, and perhaps No. 11, and partly No. 1,
before I began to publish, so afterwards I wrote against
most of them in some part or other of my Anglican works.

If it is necessary to refer to a work, not simply my own.


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but of the Tractarian school, wUcIl contains a similar pro-
test, I should name the Lyra Apostolka. This volume,
which by accident has been left unnoticed, except inciden-
tally, in my Narrative, was collected together from the
pages of the "British Magazine,*' in which its contents
originally appeared, and published in a separate form, im-
mediately after Hurrell Froude's death in 1836. Its
signatures, a, 13, 7, 8, e, f, denote respectively as authors,
Mr. Bowden, Mr. Hurrell Froude, Mr. Keble, myself
Mr. Robert Wilberforce, and Mr. Isaac Williams.

There is one poem on " Liberalism," beginning " Ye can-
not halve the Gospel of God's grace ;" which bears out the
account of Liberalism as above given ; and another upon
" the Age to come," defining from its own point of view
the position and prospects of Liberalism.

I need hardly say that the above Note is mainly his-
torical. How far the Liberal party of 1830-40 really
held the above eighteen Theses, which I attributed to them,
and how far and in what sense I should oppose those
Theses now, could scarcely be explained without a separate

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298 NOTB B.


Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 25 of 33)