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which failure and disappointment have a charm.
The art which tends to make a man all this, is in the
object which it pursues as useful as the art of wealth
or the art of health, though it is less susceptible of
method, and less tangible, less certain, less complete
in its result.



172




DISCOURSE VII

LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED IN RELATION
TO RELIGION

shall be brought, gentlemen, to-day,
to the termination of the investigation
which I commenced three Discourses
back, and which, I was well aware, from its length,
if for no other reason, would make demands upon the
patience even of indulgent hearers.

First I employed myself in establishing the principle
that Knowledge is its own reward ; and I showed that,
when considered in this light, it is called Liberal
Knowledge, and is the scope of Academical Insti-
tutions.

Next, I examined what is meant by Knowledge,
when it is said to be pursued for its own sake ; and I
showed that, in order satisfactorily to fulfil this idea,
Philosophy must be its form ; or, in other words, that
its matter must not be admitted into the mind passively,
as so much acquirement, but must be mastered and
appropriated as a system consisting of parts, related
one to the other, and interpretative of one another in
the unity of a whole.

Further, I showed that such a philosophical con-
templation of the field of Knowledge as a whole,
leading, as it did, to an understanding of its separate
departments, and an appreciation of them respectively,



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

might in consequence be rightly called an illumination ;
also, it was rightly called an enlargement of mind,
because it was a distinct location of things one with
another, as if in space ; while it was moreover its
proper cultivation and its best condition, both because
it secured to the intellect the sight of things as they
are, or of truth, in opposition to fancy, opinion, and
theory ; and again, because it pre-supposed and involved
the perfection of its various powers.

Such, I said, was that Knowledge, which deserves
to be sought for its own sake, even though it promised
no ulterior advantage. But, when I had got as far as
this, I went farther, and observed that, from the nature
of the case, what was so good in itself could not but
have a number of external uses, though it did not
promise them, simply because it 'was good ; and that
it was necessarily the source of benefits to society,
great and diversified in proportion to its own intrinsic
excellence. Just as in morals, honesty Is the best
policy, as being profitable in a secular aspect, though
such profit is not the measure of its worth, so too as
regards what may be called the virtues of the Intellect,
their very possession indeed is a substantial good, and
is enough, yet still that substance has a shadow, in-
separable from it, viz., its social and political useful-
ness. And this was the subject to which I devoted
the preceding Discourse.

One portion of the subject remains : this intel-
lectual culture, which is so exalted in itself, not only
has a bearing upon social and active duties, but upon
Religion also. The educated mind may be said to be
in a certain sense religious ; that is, it has what may
be considered a religion of its own, independent of
Catholicism, partly co-operating with it, partly thwart-



IN RELATION TO RELIGION

ing it; at once a defence yet a disturbance to the
Church in Catholic countries, and in countries beyond
her pale, at one time in open warfare with her, at
another in defensive alliance. The history of Schools
and Academies, and of Literature and Science gene-
rally, will, I think, justify me in thus speaking. Since,
then, my aim in these Discourses is to ascertain the
function and the action of a University, viewed in
itself, and its relations to the various instruments of
teaching and training which are round about it, my
survey of it would not be complete unless I attempted,
as I now propose to do, to exhibit its general bearings
upon Religion.

Right Reason, that is, Reason rightly exercised,
leads the mind to the Catholic Faith, and plants it
there, and teaches it in all its religious speculations to
act under its guidance. But Reason, considered as
a real agent in the world, and as an operative principle
in man's nature, with an historical course and with
definite results, is far from taking so straight and satis-
factory a direction. It considers itself from first to
last independent and supreme ; it requires no external
authority ; it makes a religion for itself. Even though
it accepts Catholicism, it does not go to sleep ; it has
an action and development of its own, as the passions
have, or the moral sentiments, or the principle of
self-interest. Divine grace, to use the language of
Theology, does not by its presence supersede nature ;
nor is nature at once brought into simple concurrence
and coalition with grace. Nature pursues its course,
now coincident with that of grace, now parallel to it,
now across, now divergent, now counter, in proportion
to its own imperfection and to the attraction and in-
fluence which grace exerts over it. And what takes
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

place as regards other principles of our nature and their
developments is found also as regards the Reason.
There is, we know, a Religion of enthusiasm, of
superstitious ignorance of statecraft ; and each has that
in it which resembles Catholicism, and that again
which contradicts Catholicism. There is the Religion
of a warlike people, and of a pastoral people ; there
is a Religion of rude times, and in like manner there is
a Religion of civilised times, of the cultivated intellect,
of the philosopher, scholar, and gentleman. This is
that Religion of Reason of which I speak. Viewed
in itself, however near it comes to Catholicism, it is
of course simply distinct from it ; for Catholicism is
one whole, and admits of no compromise or modifica-
tion. Yet this is to view it in the abstract ; in matter of
fact, and in reference to individuals, we can have no
difficulty in conceiving this philosophical Religion
present in a Catholic country, as a spirit influencing men
to a certain extent, for good or for bad or for both, a
spirit of the age, which again may be found, as among
Catholics, so with still greater sway and success in a
country not Catholic, yet specifically the same in such
,a country as it exists in a Catholic community. The
problem then before us to-day is to set down some
portions of the outline, if we can ascertain them, of
the Religion of Civilisation, and to determine how
they lie relatively to those principles, doctrines, and
rules, which Heaven has given us in the Catholic
Church.

And here again, when I speak of Revealed Truth,
it is scarcely necessary to say that I am not referring
to the main articles and prominent points of faith, as
contained in the Creed. Had I undertaken to de-
lineate a philosophy, which directly interfered with the
176



IN RELATION TO RELIGION

Creed, I could not have spoken of it as compatible
with the profession of Catholicism. The philosophy
I speak of, whether it be viewed within or outside the
Church, does not necessarily take cognizance of the
Creed. Where the country is Catholic, the educated
mind takes its articles for granted, by a sort of implicit
faith ; where it is not, it simply ignores them and the
whole subject-matter to which they relate, as not
affecting social and political interests. Truths about
God's Nature, about His dealings towards the human
race, about the Economy of Redemption in the one
case it humbly accepts them, and passes on ; in the
other it passes them over, as matters of simple opinion,
which never can be decided, and which can have no
power over us to make us morally better or worse.
I am not speaking then of belief in the great objects of
faith, when I speak of Catholicism, but I am con-
templating Catholicism chiefly as a system of pastoral
instruction and moral duty ; and I have to do with its
doctrines mainly as they are subservient to its direction
of the conscience and the conduct. I speak of it, for
instance, as teaching the ruined state of man ; his utter
inability to gain Heaven by anything he can do him-
self; the moral certainty of his losing his soul if left
to himself ; the simple absence of all rights and claims
on the part of the creature in the presence of the
Creator ; the illimitable claims of the Creator on the
service of the creature ; the imperative and obligatory
force of the voice of conscience ; and the inconceivable
evil of sensuality. I speak of it as teaching, that no
one gains Heaven except by the free grace of God, or
without a regeneration of nature ; that no one can
please Him without faith ; that the heart is the seat
both of sin and of obedience ; that charity is the ful-
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

filling of the Law ; and that incorporation into the
Catholic Church is the ordinary instrument of salvation.
These are the lessons which distinguish Catholicism as
a popular religion, and these are the subjects to which
the cultivated intellect will practically be turned : I
have to compare and contrast, not the doctrinal, but
the moral and social teaching of Philosophy on the one
hand, and Catholicism on the other.

Now, on opening the subject, we see at once a
momentous benefit which the philosopher is likely
to confer on the pastors of the Church. It is obvious
that the first step which they have to effect in the con-
version of man and the renovation of his nature, is his
rescue from that fearful subjection to sense which is
his ordinary state. To be able to break through the
meshes of that thraldom, and to disentangle and to
disengage its ten thousand holds upon the heart, is to
bring it, I might almost say, half-way to Heaven.
Here, even divine grace, to speak of things according
to their appearances, is ordinarily baffled, and retires,
without expedient or resource, before this giant fas-
cination. Religion seems too high and unearthly
to be able to exert a continued influence upon us : its
effort to rouse the soul, and the soul's effort to co-
operate, are too violent to last. It is like holding out
the arm at full length, or supporting some great weight,
which we manage to do for a time, but soon are
exhausted and succumb. Nothing can act beyond its
own nature ; when then we are called to what is
supernatural, though those extraordinary aids from
Heaven are given us, with which obedience becomes
possible, yet even with them it is of transcendent
difficulty. We are drawn down to earth every moment
with the ease and certainty of a natural gravitation, and

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IN RELATION TO RELIGION

it is only by sudden impulses and, as it were, forcible
plunges that we attempt to mount upwards. Religion
indeed enlightens, terrifies, subdues ; it gives faith, it
inflicts remorse, it inspires resolutions, it draws tears,
it inflames devotion, but only for the occasion. I
repeat, it imparts an inward power which ought to
effect more than this ; I am not forgetting either
the real sufficiency of its aids, nor the responsibility of
those in whom they fail. I am not discussing theolo-
gical questions at all, I am looking at phenomena as
they lie before me, and I say that, in matter of fact,
the sinful spirit repents, and protests it will never sin
again, and for a while is protected by disgust and
abhorrence from the malice of its foe. But that foe
knows too well that such seasons of repentance are
wont to have their end : he patiently waits, till nature
faints with the effort of resistance, and lies passive and
hopeless under the next access of temptation. What
we need then is some expedient or instrument, which
at least will obstruct and stave off the approach of our
spiritual enemy, and which is sufficiently congenial and
level with our nature to maintain as firm a hold upon
us as the inducements of sensual gratification. It will
be our wisdom to employ nature against itself. Thus
sorrow, sickness, and care are providential antagonists
to our inward disorders ; they come upon us as years
pass on, and generally produce their natural effects on
us, in proportion as we are subjected to their influence.
These, however, are God's instruments, not ours ; we
need a similar remedy, which we can make our own,
the object of some legitimate faculty, or the aim of
some natural affection, which is capable of resting on
the mind, and taking up its familiar lodging with it,
and engrossing it, and which thus becomes a match for
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

the besetting power of sensuality, and a sort of homoeo-
pathic medicine for the disease. Here then I think is
the important aid which intellectual cultivation fur-
nishes to us in rescuing the victims of passion and
self-will. It does not supply religious motives ; it is
not the cause or proper antecedent of anything super-
natural ; it is not meritorious of heavenly aid or reward ;
but it does a work, at least materially good (as theolo-
gians speak), whatever be its real and formal character.
It expels the excitements of sense by the introduction
of those of the intellect.

This then is the prlmd facie advantage of the pursuit
of Knowledge ; it is the drawing the mind off from
things which will harm it to subjects which are worthy
a rational being ; and, though it does not raise it above
nature, nor has any tendency to make us pleasing to
our Maker, yet is it nothing to substitute what is in
itself harmless for what is, to say the least, inexpressi-
bly dangerous ? is it a little thing to exchange a circle
of ideas which are certainly sinful, for others which
are certainly not so ? You will say, perhaps, in the
words of the Apostle, " Knowledge puffeth up : " and
doubtless this mental cultivation, even when it is suc-
cessful for the purpose for which I am applying it,
may be from the first nothing more than the substitution
of pride for sensuality. I grant it, I think I shall
have something to say on this point presently ; but
this is not a necessary result, it is but an incidental
evil, a danger which may be realised or may be
averted, whereas we may in most cases predicate guilt,
and guilt of a heinous kind, where the mind is suffered
to run wild and indulge its thoughts without training
or law of any kind; and surely to turn away a soul
from mortal sin is a good and a gain so far, whatever
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IN RELATION TO RELIGION

comes of it. And therefore, if a friend in need is
twice a friend, I conceive that intellectual employ-
ments, though they do no more than occupy the mind
with objects naturally noble or innocent, have a special
claim upon our consideration and gratitude.

Nor is this all : Knowledge, the discipline by which
it is gained, and the tastes which it forms, have a
natural tendency to refine the mind, and to give it an
indisposition, simply natural, yet real, nay, more than
this, a disgust and abhorrence, towards excesses and
enormities of evil, which are often or ordinarily
reached at length by those who are not careful from
the first to set themselves against what is vicious and
criminal. It generates within the mind a fastidious-
ness analogous to the delicacy or daintiness which
good nurture or a sickly habit induces in respect of
food ; and this fastidiousness, though arguing no high
principle, though no protection in the case of violent
temptation, nor sure in its operation, yet will often or
generally be lively enough to create an absolute loath-
ing of certain offences, or a detestation and scorn of
them as ungentlemanlike, to which ruder natures, nay,
such as have far more of real religion in them, are
tempted, or even committed. Scarcely can we exag-
gerate the value, in its place, of a safeguard such as
this, as regards those multitudes who are thrown upon
the open field of the world, or are withdrawn from its
eye and from the restraint of public opinion. In
many cases, where it exists, sins, familiar to those
who are otherwise circumstanced, will not even occur
to the mind: in others, the sense of shame and the
quickened apprehension of detection will act as a
sufficient obstacle to them, when they do present
themselves before it. Then, again, the fastidiousness
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

I am speaking of will create a simple hatred of that
miserable tone of conversation which, obtaining as it
does in the world, is a constant fuel of evil, heaped up
round about the soul: moreover, it will create an
irresolution and indecision in doing wrong, which will
act as a remora till the danger is past away. And
though it has no tendency, I repeat, to mend the heart,
or to secure it from the dominion in other shapes of
those very evils which it repels in the particular modes
of approach by which they prevail over others, yet
cases may occur when it gives birth, after sins have
been committed, to so keen a remorse and so intense a
self-hatred, as are even sufficient to cure the particular
moral disorder, and to prevent its accesses ever after-
wards ; as the spendthrift in the story, who, after
gazing on his lost acres from the summit of an emi-
nence, came down a miser, and remained a miser to
the end of his days.

And all this holds good in a special way, in an age
such as ours, when, although pain of body and mind
may be rife as heretofore, yet other counteractions of
evii, of a penal character, which at other times are
present, are away. In rude and semi-barbarous periods,
at least in a climate such as our own, it is the daily,
nay, the principal business of the senses, to convey
feelings of discomfort to the mind, as far as they con-
vey feelings at all. Exposure to the elements, social
disorder and lawlessness, the tyranny of the powerful,
and the inroads of enemies, are a stern discipline,
allowing brief intervals, or awarding a sharp penance,
to sloth and sensuality. The rude food, the scanty
clothing, the violent exercise, the vagrant life, the
military constraint, the imperfect pharmacy, which
DOW are the trials of only particular classes of the
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IN RELATION TO RELIGION

community, were once the lot more or less of all. In
the deep woods or the wild solitudes of the mediaeval
era, feelings of religion or superstition were naturally
present to the population, which in various ways co-
operated with the missionary or pastor, in retaining it
in a noble simplicity of manners. But, when in the
advancement of society men congregate in towns, and
multiply in contracted spaces, and law gives them
security, and art gives them comforts, and good
government robs them of courage and manliness, and
monotony of life throws them back upon themselves,
who does not see that diversion or protection from evil
they have none, that vice is the mere reaction of un-
healthy toil, and sensual excess the holyday of resource-
less ignorance ? This is so well understood by the
practical benevolence of the day, that it has especially
busied itself in plans for supplying the masses of our
town population with intellectual and honourable re-
creations. Cheap literature, libraries of useful and en-
tertaining knowledge, scientific lectureships, museums,
zoological collections, buildings and gardens to please
the eye and to give repose to the feelings, external
objects of whatever kind, which may take the mind
off itself, and expand and elevate it in liberal contem-
plations, these are the human means, wisely suggested,
and good as far as they go, for at least parrying the
assaults of moral evil, and keeping at bay the enemies,
not only of the individual soul, but of society at
large.

Such are the instruments by which an age of ad-
vanced civilisation combats those moral disorders,
which Reason as well as Revelation denounces ; and
I have not been backward to express my sense of
their serviceableness to Religion. Moreover, they

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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

are but the foremost of a series of influences, which
intellectual culture exerts upon our moral nature, and
all upon the type of Christianity, manifesting them-
selves in veracity, probity, equity, fairness, gentleness,
benevolence, and amiableness ; so much so, that a
character more noble to look at, more beautiful, more
winning, in the various relations of life and in personal
duties, is hardly conceivable, than may, or might be,
its result, when that culture is bestowed upon a soil
naturally adapted to virtue. If you would obtain a
picture for contemplation which may seem to fulfil the
ideal, which the Apostle has delineated under the name
of charity, in its sweetness and harmony, its generosity,
its courtesy to others, and its depreciation of self, you
could not have recourse to a better furnished studio
than that of Philosophy, or to the specimens of it,
which with greater or less exactness are scattered
through society in a civilised age. It is enough to
refer you, gentlemen, to the various Biographies and
Remains of contemporaries and others, which from
time to time issue from the press, to see how striking
is the action of our intellectual upon our moral nature,
where the moral material is rich, and the intellectual
cast is perfect. Individuals will occur to all of us,
who deservedly attract our love and admiration, and
whom the world almost worships as the work of its
own hands. Religious principle, indeed that is,
faith is, to all appearance, simply away ; the work
is as certainly not supernatural as it is certainly noble
and beautiful. This must be insisted on, that the
Intellect may have its due ; but it also must be
insisted on for the sake of conclusions to which I
wish to conduct our investigation. The radical
difference indeed of this mental refinement from
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IN RELATION TO RELIGION

genuine religion, in spite of its seeming relationship, is
the very cardinal point on whjch my present discussion
turns ; yet, on the other hand, such refinement may
readily be assigned to a Christian origin by hasty
or .distant observers, or those who view it in a
particular light. And as this is the case, I think it
advisable, before proceeding with the delineation of
its characteristic features, to point out to you dis-
tinctly the elementary principles on which its morality
is based.

You will bear in mind then, gentlemen, that I spoke
just now of the scorn and hatred which a cultivated
mind feels for some kinds of vice, and the utter disgust
and profound humiliation which may come over it, if
it should happen in any degree to be betrayed into
them. Now this feeling may have its root in faith
and love, but it may not ; there is nothing really reli-
gious in it, considered by itself. Conscience indeed is
implanted in the breast by nature, but it inflicts upon us
fear as well as shame ; when the mind is simply angry
with itself and nothing more, surely the true import of
the voice of nature and the depth of its intimations
have been forgotten, and a false philosophy has misin-
terpreted emotions which ought to lead to God. Fear
implies the transgression of a law, and a law implies
a lawgiver and judge; but the tendency of intellectual
culture is to swallow up the fear in the self-reproach,
and self-reproach is directed and limited to our mere
sense of what is fitting and becoming. Fear carries
us out of ourselves, shame confines us within the
round of our own thoughts. Such, I say, is the
danger which awaits a civilised age ; such is its
besetting sin (not inevitable, God forbid ! or we must
abanchn the use of God's own gifts), but still the



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

ordinary sin of the Intellect ; conscience becomes
what is called a moral sense ; the command of duty is
a sort of taste ; sin is not an offence against God, but
against human nature.

The less amiable specimens of this spurious religion
are those which we meet not unfrequently in my own
country. I can use with all my heart the poet's words,

" England, with all thy faults, I love thee still ; "

but to those faults no Catholic can be blind. We
find there men possessed of many virtues, but proud,
bashful, fastidious, and reserved. Why is this ? it is
because they think and act as if there were really
nothing objective in their religion ; it is because con-
science to them is not the word of a lawgiver, as it
ought to be, but the dictate of their own minds and
nothing more ; it is because they do not look out of
themselves, because they do not look through and be-
yond their own minds to their Maker, but are engrossed
in notions of what is due to themselves, to their own
dignity and their own consistency. Their conscience


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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 16 of 22)