John Henry Newman.

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and that followed by every form of heresy ; and the
cause he assigns for it in the fickleness of the national
character, would lead us to expect what he intimates,
the inconsiderate reception of errors, and the want
of any sound or stable teaching of the truth ; " novi
semper aliquid audire gaudenti, et nihil certi firmiter

Nor is it at all inconsistent with this, to believe that
the Bishops adhered to the Nicene formulary, and that
such was the profession of the British Church gene-


rally. In 353, they had unwillingly yielded at Arimi-
num, but in 3G3, St. Athanasius, in his letter to Jovian,
enumerates them among a long list of nations who
acknowledged the Creed of Nice. Persons might
agree to the form in which the Catholic doctrine was
expressed, and feel shocked at the idea of separating
themselves from the faith and communion of the whole
Church, and yet not have any deep hold on the truth
itself, or, when they came to explain what they meant,
any accurate knowledge of it. We may well imagine
more active minds openly Arianizing ; more religious
and less intellectual ones obscure and inconsistent in
their statements, and quite unfit to teach dogmatically ;
and this would coincide with the fact of the Bishops
submitting under their trials to an Arianizing formula.
St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom have repeatedly, in-
deed, been referred to, as witnessing to the orthodoxy
of the British Church, but the passages really bear very
slightly on the subject, and rather suggest a different
view ; for in each case the mention of Britain is intro-
duced to establish the universal prevalence of the
practice they are speaking of ; it existed even in Bri-
tain ; and Britons were regarded as very exiles from
the rest of the world. " The Gospel has prevailed
over heathenism," argues St. Chrysostom ;^ " besides
the Scythians, Moors, and Indians, even the British
Isles have felt its power, and churches and altars
are established there." " That it is not lawful to have
a brother's wife, resounded even in Britain," besides
other remote and barbarous countries. Again, in a
passage more to the point, of which the beauty itself

' St. Chrys. torn. 10. 638, torn. 1. 515, torn. 3. 71, Ed. Ben.
are the references made by Stillingfleet.

ST. ninian's kiper years. 29

will be an excuse for quoting it at length, speaking of
the study of the Holy Scriptures, he compares them
to a " Paradise of Delight, not like that of Eden con-
fined to one place, but filling the whole earth, and
extending to the utmost bounds of the habitable
world. ' Their sound is gone out into all lands, and
their words into the ends of the world.' Go to the
Indians," he says, "on whom the rising sun first looks ;
to the Ocean, to those British Isles (so does he speak
of us) ; sail to the Euxine ; go to far southern climes ;
everywhere will you hear all professing the philos-
ophy of the Scriptures ; with different voice, but no
different faith ; the tongues discordant, but the minds
in unison."

But beautiful as the passage is, and comforting as
the sentiment it contains, yet it is much too general
and rhetorical in its style, to found any accurate view
upon. The passage quoted from St. Jerome^ is from
a letter from SS. Paula and Eustochia to St. Marcella,
Avishing her to come to visit the holy places in Pales-
tine. Their spiritual guide, St. Jerome, was sup-
posed to have composed it, and so it passed under
his name, but the Benedictine editors are of opinion
that it was not written by liim. " Christians," they
say, " from all the world visit those sacred places.
The Briton separated from our world, if he has made
any progress in religion, leaving the setting sun, seeks
a place known to him only by report and the mention
of it in Scripture."

There does not seem in these passages anything to
oppose the distinct statement of Bede, as to the preva-
lence of error. Their tone would rather lead us to

' Ep. ad. Marc. torn. 4. p. 2. 441, Ed. Ben. There are
several other passages in Jerome to the same effect.

30 ST. nlnlvn's rii'er years.

think that the British Church Avas not very higlily
esteemed by the rest of Christendom. And quite con-
sistent with this was their condition, when the Bishops in
vain endeavoured to resist the progress of Pelagianism.
The life of St. Ninian certainly represents the state of
the Church to have been such that he could find no
complete teaching of the truth, and that it was on
account of the errors which prevailed, that he returned
as a missionary among them.

As respects schools for theological teaching, there
does not seem to be evidence of any previous to the
visit of St. Germanus, except perhaps the monastery of
Benchor ; and it is doubtful whether this existed at
the time of which we are speaking. That there were
such schools, however, is not questioned. Indeed,
there were among the contemporaries of Ninian, some
whose character for learning was acknowledged through-
out the Church. Pelagius and Ca^lestius, sad as is the
remembrance attached to their names, were men of
distinguished talents and learning. The former, born
354, it has been said, was educated at Benchor, and
became superior of it in 404. ^ His abilities and ac-
complishments were recognized by the best and great-
est Doctors ; he was on terms of familiar intercourse
and correspondence with SS. Jerome, Augustine, and
Paulinus, and highly esteemed and loved by them.
The writings of Ciiilestius, a native of Scotland or Ire-
land, before he became heretical, were universally
admired for their orthodoxy, learning, and virtuous
tendency. Somewhat later, St. Patrick flourished, and
Fastidius and Faustus later still.

But even if there were schools of theological learn -

» Usher de Prim. B. E. p. 207.

ST. ninian's riper years, 31

ing where such men were trained, of what use could
they be, if they did not hold that faith which it Avas
their duty to teach ? There may be existing in a
country an ample establishment of places of education
for every age and every rank, yet what are they worth
if the truth has departed ? It is the ^ody when the
spii-it has fled ; the salt without its savour ; the lamp
unsupplied with oil. It is worse. Not teaching the
truth must be training the mind in error. And it is
not wonderful, though Britain about this time did send
out men of distinguished talents, that those who did
not humbly seek instruction elsewhere were more or
less heretical. Pelagius and Ca3lestius were almost
contemporary with Ninian and Patrick. How remark-
able is the diiferent issue of the histories of these fellow-
countrymen. Ninian, (and as some say, Patrick too,)
with little name for learning, and in their lifetime
probably little known in this world, pursue the course
of humility and obedience, seek the City for no earthly
object, but for the inestimable pearl, the knowledge of
Christ — cultivating a saintly character, and prepared at
the bidding of their superiors to leave the privileges, and
happiness there enjoyed, for the arduous office of con-
verting their heathen and barbarous countrymen. Pe-
lagius and Caelestius, passing from, it may be, the more
civilized parts of the island, looked up to, even in Rome,
as distinguished men, enjoy the society and esteem of
the learned and the saintly — attain name and distinc-
tion in the Church — foUow their own ways, and leave
their memories branded with the awful note of heresy.
Of Pelagius's numerous works scarcely a fragment re-
mains. " I went by and lo ! he was gone ; I sought
him but his place could no where be found." " They
are like the chaflF which the wind scattereth away from

32 ST. ninian's uiper veaks.

the face of the earth." But " the righteous live for
evermore, and his memory is blessed."

But to pursue the course of St. Ninian's history.
The time we ai^e speaking of is probably prior to the year

380, and so before the Council of Constantinople a.d.

381, had finally destroyed the Arian party. Then it was
that the earnest desire of learning the true faith took en-
tire possession of St. Ninian's mind. He sought instruc-
tion from the best teachers his own Church afforded, but
could not obtain it. He felt their teaching was im-
perfect. It did not harmonize with what he knew was
true, nor accord with those Scriptures which he had
ever studied. He had a teacher within — that inward
and divinely kindled Light which illumines the mind
of many an unlettered peasant, and gives him a real
perception and understanding of the truths of the
Creed, and of the sense of Holy Scripture. He had
learned the elementary truths of the Gospel, and a
religious life had impressed them on his mind as living
realities. Thus much light was thrown on the mean-
ing of those Holy Scriptures on the thought of which
he had lived from a child. For the knowledge of the
Rule of Faith, as St. Aelred, with the primitive fathers,
calls the system of Christian Doctrine, was an entering
into the very mind of the Spirit, which is the true key
to the understanding of His most holy Words. That
mind is expressed in various forms, pervading every
part of Psalm and Prophecy, History and Papistic ; and
we shall best understand them, not by critical investi-
gations into the meaning of words, but by learning
more of the mind of the Author ; just as one who knows
but in a very slight degree the views of a writer, will
apprehend his meaning with readiness and certainty,
while one who weighs the words and criticises their

ST. ninian's riper years. 33

force with the utmost jealousy, will find them full of
ambiguity and uncertainty, and at last arrive at a
doubtful and probably erroneous conclusion. The
Scriptures had been the subject of his constant study
and meditation from early youth — of a practical, devout
study, that they might be the guide of his life and the
model he aimed to imitate, and now the hidden things
they contain were being revealed to him, and contin-
ually more light tlirown upon them, as they were made
more practical, and connected with the truths of the

With this inwai'd perception of Divine Truth, St,
Ninian could perceive the inconsistencies of the teach-
ing of the British Ecclesiastics, and its discrepancy
from the Scriptures. In him were the words made
o-ood, " I have more understanding than my teachers,
for Thy testimonies are my study. I am wiser than
the aged, because I keep Thy commandments."

Disappointed of help where he most naturally and
dutifully looked for it, what was he to do ? It was not
perhaps to be expected that he should be led into a
perfect knowledge of the truth by the light within,
independently of external teaching. In the case indeed
of an accomplished and highly illuminated teacher, or
one precluded from the means of instruction, or as a gift
of special grace, one would not presume to limit its pos-
sible range. In such cases the development of truth
by holy and loving meditation, and devout study of
Holy Scripture, may surpass conception. But to vSt.
Ninian the means of further instruction were open,
though at a great and trying sacrifice, that of forsaking
his home and all that was dear to him on earth.

Before, however, this step was taken, whilst he
sought for further teaching, we may conceive his


trials to have been veiy great. There was the tempta-
tion to indifference, to seek no more of that which he
already had in a larger measure than most around him,
and to turn the thirstings of his ardent mind to those ob-
jects, (such as they were,) which occupied the thoughts
and aims of most of the young nobles of liis time ; and
the checks and difficulties he met with would suggest
themselves as reasons for such a course. But he was
not disposed to feed on the husks of swine after having
tasted of that which was sweeter than honey and the
honeycomb, more to be desired than gold and all man-
ner of riches — the knowledge of Him who passetli
knowledge. '^^ > t ■'■^^

On the other hand, there was the temptation to rest
in what he knew, in intellectual self-satisfaction, to feel
pride in superior attainments, to point out the errors of
others, and argue on the illogicalness of their conclu-
sions — to shew that they could not prove what they
maintained, and to make a display. But surely no
earnest mind could do this. It was the truth which he
desired to know ; to be thought to know it was matter
of indifference to him. To prove others wrong could
but be an occasion of sorrow, unless it aided himself and
them in attaining truth; 'WnirA oiil oilJ ■^aihuai budi c

A more subtle temptation remjiined ; to thi^w hito-
self on the resources of his own mind, to trust to
the deductions of his own intellect, either from the text
of Holy Scriptures or the doctrines lie had already
been taught. For this he Wab too humble, llie
immensity and awfulness of the subject, and the con-
sciousness of his own imperfections, both of ^vill and
understanding, might well make him draw baclt from
so perilous and uncertain a work. Reverence would
shrink from touching with a young aud uninformed

ST. ninian's riper years. 35

mind subjects which it only regarded as objects of
veneration. Moses was bidden to put his shoes from
off his feet before he approached the Holy One. The
cherubim cover their heads against the dazzling bright-
ness of the earthly manifestations of Divine glory. It
is only where the mind has been trained into the know-
ledge of the faith, and is influenced by great sanc-
tity and humility, that it can safely use the reason in
matters of faith. Others must be content, and if they
have the elements of holiness, will be desirous, only to
be taught by those of higher attainments than them- ■

Wliat then was he to do ? St. Aeh-ed thus describes
his state. " He intently applied his mind to the study
of Holy Scripture ; and Avhen he had, in their way,
learnt the Rule of Faith from all the most learned of
his own nation, being possessed of a discerning mind,
he perceived, according to the understanding he had
himself by Divine inspirations gained from Scripture,
that they fell far short of perfection. Hence his mind
was thrown into uncertainty ; and unable to rest in in-
complete knowledge, his heart swelled within him ; he
sighed ; his heart grew hot within him, and while he
was thus musing the fire kindled. What, he said, shall
I do ? I have sought in my own country for Him
whom my soul loveth, and have not found Him. I
will arise ! I will compass sea and land ! I will seek
that truth which my soul loveth !"

In this state of mind Rome naturally presented itself
as the place to which he should have recourse. She
who for centuries had been the queen of nations, was
now attaining a greater glory, as the chief Church of

Christendom, the centre of the Christian world the

home of faith and devotion— the point to which all that


was great and good drew as to a safe refuge. High as
was her bearing in the eye of the world, yet greater
still was the interest which attached to her in the eyes
of a Christian. Man saw her noble edifices, her wealth,
her power ; yet that outward kingdom and glory was
but a shell to guard an inner principle of life, and
Avas now breaking in pieces to allow of its develop-
ment. Here was a Church which the chief of the
Apostles had founded and taught, and for which they
had shed their blood; a Church which had careluUy
preserved the faith as it had received it, by the Holy
Ghost dvv^elling in it. To her, as a guide, the chief
writers of the western Church had directed tliose who
sought to know the truth ; and during the long Arian
struggle, she had been the main support of the fiaith ;
and tlie purity of her belief, and the completeness of
her teaching were known and acknowledged by all.

" To this Church," St. Irenreus had said long ago,
" on account of its higher original, all Churches must
have recourse." And TertuUian, " Go to the Apostolic
Churches to learn the faith. If thou art near to Italy,
thou hast Rome, where we also have an authority close
at hand. Blessed Church ! on which the Apostles
poured their doctrine with their blood. Let us see
what she hath learned, what she hath taught." This
was the Church, which the Council of Antioch shortly
before had called " the School of the Apostles and the
Metropolis of Religion ;" and Theodosius in an edict,
published just at this time, A. D. 380, respecting faith
in the ever blessed Trinity, commanded that all the
nations under his rule " should steadfastly adhere to
the religion which was taught by St. Peter to thf
Romans, which faithful tradition had preserved, which

ST. ninian's riper years. 37

was now professed by Pope Damasus, and by Peter,
Bishop of Alexandria."

These are the sentiments St. Aeked attributes to
St. Ninian, in a soliloquy which embodies the views
that might naturally be supposed to influence him.
" I have in my own country sought Him whom my
soul loveth, and have not found Him. I will arise,
I will compass sea and land to seek the truth which
my soul longs for. But is there need of so much toil ?
Was it not said to Peter, Thou art Peter, and upon
this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of
Hell shall not prevail against it ? Li the faith of Peter
then there is nothing defective, obscure, imperfect ;
nothing against which evil doctrine or peiwerted sen-
timents, the gates as it were of Hell, could prevail.
And where is the Faith of Peter but in the See of
Peter ? Thither certainly I must go, that leaving my
country and my relations, and my father's house, I
may be thought worthy to behold with inward eye
the fair beauty of the Lord, and to be guarded by His
Temple." And of the temptation which would draw
him back. "The deceitful prosperity of life smiles
on me — the vanity of the world is attractive — the love
of my relations wiles me to ■ stay — difficulties and per-
sonal sutferings deter. But he who loveth father and
mother, saith the Lord, more than Me, is not worthy
of Me, and he that taketli not up his cross and fol-
loweth after Me, is not worthy of Me. I have learnt
too that they Avho despise Kings' palaces, attain to hea-
venly kingdoms."

Such were his feelings. And should it seem strange
to speak of a young Briton as making any great sacri-
fice in leaving a distinction almost nominal in a re-
mote country, regarded as scarcely belonging to tlie

38 ST. ninian's riper tears.

Roman world, for the metropolis of the empire, the
seat of refinement and luxury, of taste, literature, and
intellect, of all which was calculated to engage the in-
terest and sympathy of a Christian — should it be
thought that the change was one to be gladly caught
at — let it be considered that it was not the leaving
Britain for Rome merely, which indicated the devotion
of St. Ninian. This might have been done from the
lowest motives, ambition, curiosity, pleasure, and might
not have implied the tearing asunder of any ties ; as
many have made pilgrimages from the mere love of
wandering. The circumstances and the end determine
the character of the action. The sacrifice of worldly
interest might have been small ; but it was a sacrifice
of all he had, and that without any earthly recompense,
and He who rewarded those who left their father, and
all that they had, though but an interest in a fisher-
man's poor stock, would have accepted him.

Relatively speaking however the sacrifice was con-
siderable. If the eldest son, he would hold the rank of
Tanist, as the destined successor to the reigning king ;
and his country was no longer, as we have seen, that
in which the captive Prince had wondered the Romans
could envy his poor cottage. Many of its Princes pos-
sessed considerable wealth ; in their days of indepen-
dence they had coined gold and silver, and in all proba-
bility still continued to possess hereditary revenues.
And Roman manners had introduced even into Britain
objects which that wealth might purchase. Their
elegant and costly works, their notoriously extravagant
luxuries, show that Ninian could have found ways of
expending his inheritance which the children of this
world would have envied ; baths, and costly marbles,
inlaid pavements, and all the elegancies of art. For

ST. ninian's riper years. 39

objects of ambition he might have aimed, at least, to be
the chief among his countrymen ; or by engaging in
the service of Rome have I'isen, as other provincials
had done, to high distinction. Even the imperial
purple was not beyond the grasp of an ambitious
spirit. The British legions about this very time made
Maximus Emperor, and the great Constantine has been
said to be a native Briton.

Bnt these things were seen in their true colours by
Ninian. He had renounced them in his Baptism, and
his heart had never returned to them. The world, with
its charms of pleasure, its prospects of wealth or
ambition, had no hold on him. His real trial was from
a deeper attachment — aiFection to his friends, a sacri-
fice made more painful in proportion as Christian piety
increased his love to them. Almighty God seems
ever, as it were, to retain a hold upon us, so as to be able
to inflict sharp pain for our correction, or give us the
opportunity of overcoming it from love to Him ; and this
especially through our affections. Men hardened by am-
bition, covetousness, and indifference to religion, yet re-
tain deep and tender love for wife or child ; and the loss
of them, or the sorrows which befall them, are contin-
ually means of awakening them to a sense of religion.
So in those who for Christ's sake have weaned their affec-
tions from all other eartlily objects, their very progress
in goodness, wlule it gives them strength to forsake even
what they best love tor Him, and keeps them from set-
ting their affections on them, yet makes their love
more tender and deep, and the pain of separation in it-
self greater, entirely though it be compensated for by
the overflowings of Divine consolations.

Such seems to have been St. Ninian's chief struggle ;
but the remembrance of his Lord's calls, and the great-


ness of his promises, prevailed, and he went out where
Christ seemed to call him.

It has been reported tliat his father had at first
wished him to keep in the way of life which his birth
and circumstances naturally pointed out, and that it
was with great unwillingness that he yielded to his
son's desire to give up the world for a life devoted to
religion. Tliis however must have been earlier, when
St. Xinian gave himself up in his own country to the
pursuit of religious truth. Still there is a peculiar
pang when a final step is taken, which breaks off en-
tirely hope which may against hope have been secret-
ly cherished ; still more when that step took from
their home him whose distinguishing sweetness and
affectionateness must have made him beloved, whilst he
was reverenced. But all these considerations sank be-
fore the great object he had in view, and he left his
home, and as his biographers say, "like Abraham, he
went out from his country and his father's house."

Two other reasons have been assigned for his visiting
Rome. The first is a conjecture of Alford's, that he went
to take advantage of the schools, the original of our
universities, which had been established on so large a
scale, and with so systematic a discipline by Yalentin-
ian. They had been instituted in 370, and with a
special view to the education of provincials. It is plain,
however, that this view is quite inconsistent with the
picture given us by St. Aelred. It was for no advan-
tages of secular learning that the humble and affec-
tionate Ninian left his parents and his home. It was
the need of religious teaching, of that knowledge which
is life eternal, which caused and justified his sacrifice.
Besides, the students were not allowed to continue after
tliey were twenty years of age, which would make

ST. XINIAN'S journey to ROME. 41

Ninian so young on his going there, as to give an
entirely different character to his visit. He would in
that case appear to have been sent, as it were, to the
university by his parents. It is enough to say that this
is purely a conjecture, and not only without Ibundation,
but inconsistent with the earlier histories of the Saint.
Camerarius again represents his visit as occasioned by
the rules of the Culdees, to whom he supposed him to
belong, who required those who were to be consecrated

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