John Henry Newman.

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

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I whether as to the truths of natural theology, or as to the
fact of a revelation, was the result of an assemblage of con-
curring and converging probabiKties, and that, both ac-
cording to the constitution of the human mind and the
will of its Maker ; that certitude was a habit of mind, that
certainty was a quality of propositions ; that probabilities
X which did not reach to logical certainty, might suffice for a
V mental certitude; that the certitude thus brought about
might equal in measure and strength the certitude which
was created by the strictest scientific demonstration ; and
that to possess such certitude might in given cases and to



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TO THE YEAB 1833. 21

given individuals be a plain duty, thougli not to others in
other circumstances: —

Moreover, that as there were probabilities which su£Sced
for certitude, so there were other probabilities which were
legitimately adapted to create opinion ; that it might be
quite as much a matter of duty in given cases and to given
persons to have about a fact an opinion of a definite
strength and consistency, as in the case of greater or of
more numerous probabilities it was a duty to have a certi-
tude ; that accordingly we were bound to be more or less
sure, on a sort of (as it were) graduated scale of assent, viz.
according as the probabilities attaching to a professed fact
were brought home to us, and as the case might be, to en-
tertain about it a pious belief, or a pious opinion, or a re-
ligious conjecture, or at least, a tolerance of such belief, or
opinion or conjecture in others; that on the other hand, as it
was a duty to have a belief, of more or less strong texture,
in given cases, so in other cases it was a duty not to be-
Keve, not to opine, not to conjecture, not even to tolerate
the notion that a professed fapt was true, inasmuch as it
would be credulity or superstition, or some other moral
fault, to do so. This was the region of Private Judgment
in religion; that is, of a Private Judgment, not formed
arbitrarily and according to one's fancy or liking, but con-
scientiously, and under a sense of duty. —

Considerations such as these throw a new light on the
subject of Miracles, and they seem to have led me to re-
consider the view which I had taken of them in my Essay in
1825-6. I do not know what was the date of this change
in me, nor of the train of ideas on which it was founded.
That there had been already great miracles, as those of
Scripture, as the Resurrection, was a fact estabKshing the
principle that the laws of nature had sometimes been sus-
pended by their Divine Author, and since what had hap-
pened once might happen again, a certain probability, at



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22 HISTOKY OF MY KELIGIOUS OPINIONS

least no kind of improbability, was attached to the idea
taken in itself, of miraculous intervention in later times,
and miraculous accounts were to be regarded in connexion
with the verisimilitude, scope, instrument, character, testi-
mony, and circumstances, with which they presented them-
selves to us ; and, according to the final result of those
various considerations, it was our duty to be sure, or to be-
lieve, or to opine, or to surmise, or to tolerate, or to reject,
or to denounce. The main diflference between my Essay
on Miracles in 1826 and my Essay in 1842 is this : that in
1826 I considered that miracles were sharply divided into
two classes, those which were to be received, and those
which were to be rejected ; whereas in 1842 I saw that they
were to be regarded according to their greater or less pro-
bability, which was in some cases suflBcient to create certi- •
tude about them, in other cases only belief or opinion.

Moreover, the argument from Analogy, on which this
view of the question was founded, suggested to me some-
thing besides, in recommendation of the Ecclesiastical
Miracles. It fastened itself upon the theory of Church
History which I had learned as a boy from Joseph Milner.
It is Milner's doctrine, that upon the visible Church come
down from above, at certain intervals, large and temporary
Effusions of divine grace. This is the leading idea of his
work. He begins by speaking of the Day of Pentecost, as
marking " the first of those Effusions of the Spirit of God,
which from age to age have visited the earth since the
coming of Christ." Vol. i. p. 3. In a note he adds that
" in the term ' Effusion ' there is not here included the idea
of the miraculous or extraordinary operations of the Spirit
of God ;" but still it was natural for me, admitting Milner's
general theory, and applying to it the principle of analogy,
not to stop short at his abrupt ipse dixity but boldly to pass
forward to the conclusion, on other grounds plausible, that
as miracles accompanied the first effiision of grace, so they



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TO THE YEAR 1833. 23

might accompany the later. It is surely a natural and on
the whole, a true anticipation (though of course there are
exceptions in particular cases), that gifts and graces go
together ; now, according to the ancient Catholic doctrine,
the gift of miracles was viewed as the attendant and shadow
of transcendent sanctity : and moreover, since such sanctity
was not of every day's occurrence, nay further, since one
period of Church history differed widely from another, and,
as Joseph Milner would say, there have been generations
or centuries of degeneracy or disorder, and times of revival,
and since one region might be in the mid-day of religious
fervour, and another in twilight or gloom, there was no
force in the popular argument, that, because we did not
see miracles with our own eyes, miracles had not happened
in former times, or were not now at this very time taking
place in distant places : — but I must not dwell longer on a
subject, to which in a few words it is impossible to do
justice \

Hurrell Froude was a pupil of Keble's, formed by him,
and in turn reacting upon him. I knew him first in 1826,
and was in the closest and most affectionate friendship with
him from about 1829 till his death in 1836. He was a
man of the highest gifts,— so truly many-sided, that it
would be presumptuous in me to attempt to describe him,
except under those aspects in which he came before me.
Nor have I here to speak of the gentleness and tenderness
of nature, the playfulness, the free elastic force and graceful
versatility of mind, and the patient winning considerate-
ness in discussion, which endeared him to those to whom
he opened his heart; for I am all along engaged upon
matters of belief and opinion, and am introducing others
into my narrative, not for their own sake, or because Hove

* Vide note B, Ecclesiastical Miracles, at the end of the volame.



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24 HISTORY OF MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS

and have loved them, so much as because, and so far as,
they have influenced my theological views. In this respect
then, I speak of Hurrell Froude, — in his intellectual
aspect, — as a man of high genius, brimful and overflowing
with ideas and views, in him original, which were too
many and strong even for his bodily strength, and which
crowded and jostled against each other in their eflbrt after
distinct shape and expression. And he had an intellect as
critical and logical as it was speculative and bold. Dying
prematurely, as he did, and in the conflict and transition-
state of opinion, his religious views never reached their
ultimate conclusion, by the very reason of their multi-
tude and their depth. His opinions arrested and in-
fluenced me, even when they did not gain my assent.
He professed openly his admiration of the Church of
Rome, and his hatred of the -Reformers. He delighted
in the notion of an hierarchical system, of sacerdotal
power, and of full ecclesiastical liberty. He felt scorn of
the maxim, " The Bible and the Bible only is the religion
of Protestants ;'' and he gloried in accepting Tradition as
a main instrument of reKgious teaching. He had a high
severe idea of the intrinsic excellence of Virginity ; and he
considered the Blessed Virgin its great Pattern. He de-
lighted in thinking of the Saints ; he had a vivid apprecia-
tion of the idea of sanctity, its possibility and its heights ;
and he was more than incKned to believe a large amount
of miraculous interference as occurring in the early and
middle ages. He embraced the principle of penance and
mortification. He had a deep devotion to the Real Pre-
sence, in which he had a firm faith. He was powerfully
drawn to the Medieval Church, but not to the Primitive.

He had a keen insight into abstract truth ; but he was
an Englishman to the backbone in his severe adherence to
the real aud the concrete. He had a most classical taste,
and a genius for philosophy and art ; and he was fond of



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TO THE YEAK 1833. 25

liistorical inquiry, and the politics of religion. He had no
turn for theology as such. He set no sufficient value
on the writings of the Fathers, on the detail or develop-
ment of doctrine, on the definite traditions of the Church
viewed in their matter, on the teaching of the Ecumenical
Councils, or on the controversies out of which they arose.
He took an eager courageous view of things on the whole.
I should say that his power of entering into the minds of
others did not equal his other gifts ; he could not believe,
for instance, that I really held the Boman Church to be
Antichristian. On many points he would not beUeve
but that I agreed with him, when I did not. He seemed
not to imderstand my difficulties. His were of a difierent
kind, the contrariety between theory and fact. He was a
high Tory of the Cavalier stamp, and was disgusted with
the Toryism of the opponents of the Reform Bill. He was
smitten with the love of the Theocratic Church ; he went
abroad and was shocked by the degeneracy which he
thought he saw in the Catholics of Italy.

It is difficult to enumerate the precise additions to my
theological creed which I derived from a friend to whom
I owe so much. He taught me to look with admiration
towards the Church of Rome, and in the same degree to
disKke the Reformation. He fixed deep in me the idea
of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and he led me graduaUy
to believe in the Real Presence.

There is one remaining source of my opinions to be
mentioned, and that far from the least important. In
proportion as I moved out of the shadow of that liberalism
which had hung over my course, my early devotion towards
the Fathers returned ; and in the Long Vacation of 1828
I set about to read them chronologically, beginning with
St. Ignatius and St. Justin. About 1830 a proposal was
made to me by Mr. Hugh Rose, who with Mr. Lyall



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26 HISTORY OF MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS

(afterwards Dean of Canterbury) was providing writers for
a Theological Library, to furnish them with a History of
the Principal Councils. I accepted it, and at once set to
work on the Council of Nicaea. It was to launch myself
on an ocean with currents innumerable ; and I was drifted
back first to the ante-Nicene history, and then to the
Church of Alexandria. The work at last appeared under
the title of " The Arians of the Fourth Century ;" and
of its 422 pages, the first 117 consisted of introductory
matter, and the Coimcil of Nicaea did not appear till the
254th, and then occupied at most twenty pages.

I do not know when I first learnt to consider that An-
tiquity was the true exponent of the doctrines of Chris-
tianity and the basis of the Church of England; but I
take it for granted that the works of Bishop Bull, which
at this time I read, were my chief introduction to this
principle. The course of reading, which I pursued in the
composition of my volume, was directly adapted to develope
it in my mind. What principally attracted me in the
ante-Nicene period was the great Church of Alexandria,
the historical centre of teaching in those times. Of Rome
for some centuries comparatively little is known. The
> battle of Arianism was first fought in Alexandria ; Atha-
nasius, the champion of the truth, was Bishop of Alex-
andria ; and in his writings he refers to the great religious
names of an earlier date, to Origen, Dionysius, and others,
who were the glory of its see, or of its school. The broad
philosophy of Clement and Origen carried me away ; the
philosophy, not the theological doctrine ; and I have drawn
out some features of it in my volume, with the zeal and
freshness, but with the partiality, of a neophyte. Some
portions of their teaching, magnificent in themselves, came
like music to my inward ear, as if the response to ideas,
which, with little external to encourage them, I had
cherished so long. These were based on the mystical or



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TO THE YEAB 1833. 27

sacramental principle, and spoke of the various Economies
or Dispensations of the Eternal. I imderstood these
passages to mean that the exterior world, physical and his-
torical, was but the manifestation to our senses of realities
greater than itself. Nature was a parable : Scripture was
an allegory : pagan literature, philosophy, and mythology,
properly understood, were but a preparation for the Gos-
pel. The Greek poets and sages were in a certain sense
prophets; for "thoughts beyond their thought to those
high bards were given." There had been a directly
divine dispensation granted to the Jews; but there had
been in some sense a dispensation carried on in favour of
the Gentiles. He who had taken the seed of Jacob for
His elect people had not therefore cast the rest of man-
kind out of His sight. In the fulness of time both Judaism
and Paganism had come to nought ; the outward frame-
work, which concealed yet suggested the Living Truth,
had never been intended to last, and it was dissolving
under the beams of the Sun of Justice which shone behind
it and through it. The process of change had been slow ;
it had been done not rashly, but by rule and measure,
" at simdry times and in divers manners," first one dis-
closure and then another, till the whole evangelical doc-
trine was brought into full manifestation. And thus room
was made for the anticipation of further and deeper dis-
closures, of truths still imder the veil of the letter, and in
their season to be revealed. The visible world still remains
without its divine interpretation; Holy Church in her
sacraments and her hierarchical appointments, will re-
main, even to the end of the world, after all but a symbol
of those heavenly facts which fill eternity. Her mysteries
are but the expressions in human language of truths to
which the human mind is unequal. It is evident how
much there was in all this in correspondence with the
thoughts which had attracted me when I was young, and



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28 HISTORY OP MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS

with the doctrine which I have already associated with
the Analogy and the Christian Tear.

It was, I suppose, to the Alexandrian school and to the
eariy Church, that I owe in particular what I definitely
held about the Angels. I viewed them, not only as the
ministers employed by the Creator in the Jewish and
Christian dispensations, as we find on the face of Scripture,
but as carrying on, as Scripture also implies, the Economy
of the Visible World. I considered them as the real
causes of motion, light, and life, and of those elementary
principles of the physical universe, which, when ofiered in
their developments to our senses, suggest to us the notion
of cause and efiect, and of what are called the laws of
nature. This doctrine I have drawn out in my Sermon
for Michaelmas day, written in 1831. I say of the Angels,
"Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every
I beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their gar-
\ ments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see
God." Again, I ask what would be the thoughts of a
man who, "when examining a flower, or a herb, or a
pebble, or a ray of light, which he treats as something so
beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered
that he was in the presence of some powerful being who
was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting, —
who, though concealing his wise hand, was giving them
their beauty, grace, and perfection, as being God's instru-
ment for the purpose, — ^nay, whose robe and ornaments
those objects were, which he was so eager to analyze ?"
and I therefore remark that " we may say with grateful
and simple hearts with the Three Holy Children, * all ye
works of the Lord, &c., &c., bless ye the Lord, praise Him,
and magnify Him for ever.' "

Also, besides the hosts of evil spirits, I considered
there was a middle race, SaifioviOy neither in heaven, nor
in hell; partially fallen, capricious, wayward; noble or



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TO THE YEAR 1833. 29

crafty, benevolent or malicious, as the case might be.
These beings gave a sort of inspiration or intelligence to
races, nations, and classes of men. Hence the action of
bodies politic and associations, which is often so different
from that of the individuals who compose them. Hence
the character and the instinct of states and governments,
of religious commimities and communions. I thought
these assemblages had their life in certain unseen Powers.
My preference of the Personal to the Abstract would
naturally lead me to this view. I thought it countenanced
by the mention of " the Prince of Persia " in the Prophet
Daniel ; and I think I considered that it was of such inter-
mediate beings that the Apocalypse spoke, in its notice of
" the Angels of the Seven Churches."

In 1837 I made a further development of this doctrine.
I said to an intimate and dear friend, Samuel Francis
Wood, in a letter which came into my hands on his death,
"I have an idea. The mass of the Fathers (Justin,
Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Lac-
tantius, Sulpicius, Ambrose, Nazianzen,) hold that, though
Satan fell from the beginning, the Angels fell before the
deluge, falling in love with the daughters of men. This
has lately come across me as a remarkable solution of a
notion which I cannot help holding. Daniel speaks as if
each nation had its guardian Angel. I cannot but think
that there are beings with a great deal of good in them,
yet with great defects, who are the animating principles

of certain institutions, &c., &c Take England with

maliy high virtues, and yet a low Catholicism. It seems
to me that John Bull is a spirit neither of heaven nor hell
. . . . Has not the Christian Church, in its parts, sur-
rendered itself to one or other of these simulations of the
truth P . . . , How are we to avoid Scylla and Charybdis
and go straight on to the very image of Christ?**
&o., &c.



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30 HISTORY OF MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS

I am aware that what I have been saying will, with
many men, be doing credit to my imagination at the
expense of my judgment — " Hippoclides doesn't care ;" I
am not setting myself up as a pattern of good sense or of
any thing else : I am but giving a history of my opinions,
and that, with the view of showing that I have come by
them through intelligible processes of thought and honest
external means. The doctrine indeed of the Economy has
in some quarters been itself condemned as intrinsically
pernicious, — as if leading to lying and equivocation, when
applied, as I have applied it in my remarks upon it in my
History of the Arians, to matters of conduct. My answer
to this imputation I postpone to the concluding pages of
my Volume.

While I was engaged in writing my work upon the
Arians, great events were happening at home and abroad,
which brought out into form and passionate expression
the various beliefs which had so gradually been winning
their way into my mind. Shortly before, there had been
a Revolution in France; the Bourbons had been dis-
missed : and I held that it was unchristian for nations to
cast off their governors, and, much more, sovereigns who
had the divine right of inheritance. Again, the great
Eeform Agitation was going on around me as I wrote.
The Whigs had come into power ; Lord Grey had told
the Bishops to set their house in order, and some of the
Prelates had been insulted and threatened in the streets of
London. The vital question was, how were we to keep the
Church from being liberalized? there was such apathy
on the subject in some quarters, such imbecile alarm in
others ; the true principles of Churchmanship seemed so
radically decayed, and there was such distraction in the
councils of the Clergy. Blomfield, the Bishop of London
of the day, an active and open-hearted man, had been
for years engaged in diluting the high orthodoxy of the



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TO THE YEAR 1833. 31

Church by the introductaon of members of the Evangelical
body into places of influence and trust. He had deeply
offended men who agreed in opinion with myself, by an
off-hand saying (as it was reported) to the effect that
belief in the Apostolical succession had gone out with the
Non-jurors. " We can count you/* he said to some of the
gravest and most venerated persons of the old school.
And the Evangelical party itself, with their late successes,
seemed to have lost that simplicity and imworldliness
which I admired so much in Milner and Scott. It was
not that I did not venerate such men as Byder, the then
Bishop of Lichfield, and others of similar sentiments, who
were not yet promoted out of the ranks of the Clergy, but
I thought little of the Evangelicals as a class. I thought
they played into the hands of the Liberak. With the
Establishment thus divided and threatened, thus ignorant
of its true strength, I compared that fresh vigorous Power
of which I was reading in the first centuries. In her
triumphant zeal on behalf of that Primeval Mystery, to
which I had had so great a devotion from my youth, I
recognized the movement of my Spiritual Mother. " In-
cessu patuit Dea." The self-conquest of her Ascetics, the
patience of her Martyrs, the irresistible determination of
her Bishops, the joyous swing of her advance, both exalted
and abashed me. I said to myself, *^ Look on this picture
and on that ;" I felt affection for my own Church, but not
tenderness; I felt dismay at her prospects, anger and
scorn at her do-nothing perplexity. I thought that if
Liberalism once got a footing within her, it was sure of
the victory in the event. I saw that Beformation princi-
ples were powerless to rescue her. As to leaving her, the ^
thought never crossed my imagination; still I ever kept
before me that there was something greater than the
Established Church, and that that was the Church Catho-
lic and Apostolic, set up from the beginning, of which



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32 HISTORY OP MY RELIGIOUS OPINIONS

> she was but the local presence and the organ. She was
nothing, unless she was this. She must be dealt with
strongly, or she would be lost. There was need of a
second reformation.

At this time I was disengaged from College duties, and
my health had suffered from the labour involved in the
composition of my Volume. It was ready for the Press
in July, 1832, though not published till the end of 1833.

^I was easily persuaded to join Hurrell Froude and his
Father, who were going to the south of Europe for the
health of the former.

We set out in December, 1832. It was during this
expedition that my Verses which are in the Lyra Apo*
stolica were written ; — a few indeed before it, but not more
than one or two of them after it. Exchanging, as I was,
definite Tutorial work, and the literary quiet and pleasant
friendships of the last six years, for foreign countries and
an unknown future, I naturally was led to think that some
inward changes, as well as some larger course of action,
were coming upon me. At Whitchurch, while waiting
for the down mail to Falmouth, I wrote the verses about
my Guardian Angel, which begin with these words : ''Are
these the tracks of some unearthly Friend ?" and which
go on to speak of " the vision " which haunted me : — that
vision is more or less brought out in the whole series of
these compositions,

I went to various coasts of the Mediterranean ; parted
with my friends at Rome ; went down for the second time
to Sicily without companion, at the end of April ; and got
back to England by Palermo in the early part of July.
The strangeness of foreign life threw me back into myself;
I found pleasure in historical sites and beautiful scenes,
not in men and maimers. We kept clear of Catholics



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanApologia pro vita sua: being a history of his religious opinions → online text (page 4 of 33)