John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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descension." Humility or condescension, viewed as a


virtue of conduct, may be said to consist, as in other
things, so in our placing ourselves in our thoughts on a
level with our inferiors ; it is not only a voluntary
relinquishment of the privileges of our own station,
but an actual participation or assumption of the con-
dition of those to whom we stoop. This is true
humility, to feel and to behave as if we were low ; not,
to cherish a notion of our importance, while we affect
a low position. Such was St. Paul's humility, when
he called himself " the least of the saints ; " such the
humility of those many holy men who have considered
themselves the greatest of sinners. It is an abdication,
as far as their own thoughts are concerned, of those
prerogatives or privileges to which others deem them
entitled. Now it is not a little instructive to contrast
with this idea, gentlemen with this theological
meaning of the word "condescension" its proper
English sense ; put them in juxtaposition, and you
will at once see the difference between the world's
humility and the humility of the Gospel. As the
world uses the word, " condescension " is a stooping
indeed of the person, but a bending forward, un-
attended with any the slightest effort to leave by a
single inch the seat in which it is so firmly established.
It is the act of a superior, who protests to himself,
while he commits it, that he is superior still, and that
he is doing nothing else but an act of grace towards
those on whose level, in theory, he is placing himself.
And this is the nearest idea which the philosopher can
form of the virtue of self-abasement ; to do more than
this is to his mind a meanness or an hypocrisy, and at
once excites his suspicion and disgust. What the
world is, such it has ever been ; we know the contempt
which the educated pagans had for the martyrs and


confessors of the Church ; and it is shared by the anti-
Catholic bodies of this day.

Such are the ethics of Philosophy, when faithfully
represented ; but an age like this, not pagan, but
professedly Christian, cannot venture to reprobate
humility in set terms, or to make a boast of pride.
Accordingly, it looks out for some expedient by which
it may blind itself to the real state of the case.
Humility, with its grave and self-denying attributes, it
cannot love; but what is more beautiful, what more
winning, than modesty ? what virtue, at first sight,
simulates humility so well ? though what in fact is
more radically distinct from it ? In truth, great as is
its charm, modesty is not the deepest or the most
religious of virtues. Rather it is the advanced guard
or sentinel of the soul militant, and watches con-
tinually over its nascent intercourse with the world
about it. It goes the round of the senses ; it mounts
up into the countenance ; it protects the eye and ear ;
it reigns in the voice and gesture. Its province is the
outward deportment, as other virtues have relation
to matters theological, others to society, and others
to the mind itself. And being more superficial than
other virtues, it is more easily disjoined from their
company ; it admits of being associated with principles
or qualities naturally foreign to it, and is often made
the cloak of feelings or ends for which it was never
given to us. So little is it the necessary index of
humility, that it is even compatible with pride. The
better for the purpose of Philosophy ; humble it can-
not be, so forthwith modesty becomes its humility.

Pride, under such training, instead of running to
waste in the education of the mind, is turned to
account ; it gets a new name ; it is called self-respect ;
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and ceases to be the disagreeable, uncompanionable
quality which it is in itself. Though it be the motive
principle of the soul, it seldom comes to view ; and
when it shows itself, then delicacy and gentleness are
its attire, and good sense and sense of honour direct its
motions. It is no longer a restless agent, without
definite aim ; it has a large field of exertion assigned to
it, and it subserves those social interests which it would
naturally trouble. It is directed into the channel of
industry, frugality, honesty, and obedience; and it
becomes the very staple of the religion and morality
held in honour in a day like our own. It becomes the
safeguard of chastity, the guarantee of veracity, in high
and low ; it is the very household god of society, as at
present constituted, inspiring neatness and decency in the
servant girl, propriety of carriage and refined manners
in her mistress, uprightness, manliness, and generosity
in the head of the family. It diffuses a light over
town and country ; it covers the soil with handsome
edifices and smiling gardens ; it tills the field, it stocks
and embellishes the shop. It is the stimulating principle
of providence on the one hand, and of free expenditure
on the other ; of an honourable ambition, and of elegant
enjoyment. It breathes upon the face of the com-
munity, and the hollow sepulchre is forthwith beautiful
to look upon.

Refined by the civilisation which has brought it
into activity, this self-respect infuses into the mind an
intense horror of exposure, and a keen sensitiveness of
notoriety and ridicule. It becomes the enemy of ex-
travagances of any kind; it shrinks from what are
called scenes ; it has no mercy on the mock-heroic,
on pretence or egotism, on verbosity in language, or
what is called prosiness in manner. It detests gross



adulation ; not that it tends at all to the eradication of
the appetite to which the flatterer ministers, but it sees
the absurdity of indulging it, it understands the annoy-
ance thereby given to others, and if a tribute must be
paid to the wealthy or the powerful, it demands greater
subtlety and art in the preparation. Thus vanity is
changed into a more dangerous self-conceit, as being
checked in its natural eruption. It teaches men to
suppress their feelings, and to control their tempers,
and to mitigate both the severity and the tone of their
judgments. As Lord Shaftesbury would desire, it
prefers playful wit and satire in putting down what is
objectionable, as a more refined and good-natured, as
well as a more effectual method, than the expedient
which is natural to uneducated minds. It is from this
impatience of the tragic and the bombastic that it is now
quietly but energetically opposing itself to the unchristian
practice of duelling, which it brands as simply out of
taste, and as the remnant of a barbarous age ; and cer-
tainly it seems likely to effect what Religion has aimed
at abolishing in vain^^

Hence it is that/it is almost a definition of a gentle-
man to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This
description is both refined and, as far as it goes, ac-
curate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the
obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed
action of those about him ; and he concurs with their
movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His
benefits may be considered as parallel to what are
called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a
personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire,
which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue,
though nature provides both means of rest and animal
heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner


carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in
the minds of those with whom he is cast ; all clash-
ing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or
suspicion, or gloom, or resentment ; his great concern
being to make every one at their ease and at home.
He has his eyes on all his company ; he is tender to-
wards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and
merciful towards the absurd ; he can recollect to
whom he is speaking ; he guards against unseasonable
allusions, or topics which may irritate ; he is seldom
prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He
makes light of favours while he does them, and seems
to be receiving when he is conferring. He never
speaks of himself except when compelled, never de-
fends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for
lander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to
those who interfere with him, and interprets every-
thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his
disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes
personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or in-
sinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a
long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the
ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves
towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our
friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted
at insults, he is too well employed to remember
injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is
patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical
principles ; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable,
to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death,
because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy
of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him
from the blundering discourtesy of better, though
Jess educated minds ; who, like blunt weapons, tear


and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the
point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, mis-
conceive their adversary, and leave the question more
involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong
in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust ;
he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is
decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candour,
consideration, indulgence : he throws himself into the
minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes.
He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its
strength, its province and its limits. If he be an un-
believer, he will be too profound and large-minded to
ridicule religion or to act against it ; he is too wise to
be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects
piety and devotion ; he even supports institutions as
venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not
assent ; he honours the ministers of religion, and he
is contented to decline its mysteries without assail-
ing or denouncing them. He is a friend of religious
toleration, and that, not only because his philosophy
has taught him to look on all forms of faith with
an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and
effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant on

Not that he may not hold a religion too, in his own
way, even when he is not a Christian. In that case
his religion is one of imagination and sentiment ; it is
the embodiment of those ideas of the sublime, majestic,
and beautiful, without which there can be no large
philosophy. Sometimes he acknowledges the being
of God, sometimes he invests an unknown principle or
quality with the attributes of perfection. And this
deduction of his reason, or creation of his fancy, he
makes the occasion of such excellent thoughts, and


the starting-point of so varied and systematic a teach-
ing, that he even seems like a disciple of Christianity
itself. From the very accuracy and steadiness of his
logical powers, he is able to see what sentiments
are consistent in those who hold any religious doc-
trine at all, and he appears to others to feel and to
hold a whole circle of theological truths which exist
in his mind no otherwise than as a number of de-

Such are some of the lineaments of the ethical
character, which the cultivated intellect will form,
apart from religious principle. They are seen within
the pale of the Church and without it, in holy men
and in profligate ; they form the beau ideal of the
world ; they partly assist and partly distort the de-
velopment of the Catholic. They may subserve the
education of a St. Francis de Sales or a Cardinal
Pole ; they may be the limits of the virtue of a
Shafteibury or a Gibbon. Basil and Julian were
fellow-students at the schools of Athens ; and one
became the Saint and Doctor of the Church, the other
her scoffing and relentless foe.




HAVE to congratulate myself, gentlemen, that
at length I have accomplished, with whatever
success, the difficult and anxious undertaking
to which I have been immediately addressing myself.
Difficult and anxious it has been in truth, though the
main subject of University Education has been so often
and so ably discussed already ; for I have attempted to
follow out a line of thought more familiar to Protes-
tants just now than to Catholics, upon Catholic
grounds. I declared my intention, when I opened
the subject, of treating it as a philosophical and
practical, rather than as a theological question, with an
appeal to common sense, not to ecclesiastical rules;
and for this very reason, while my argument has been
less ambitious, it has been deprived of the lights and
supports which another mode of handling it would
have secured.

No anxiety, no effort of mind is more severe than
his, who in a difficult matter has it seriously at heart
to investigate without error and to instruct without
obscurity ; as to myself, if the past discussion has at
any time tried the patience of the kind persons who
have given it their attention, I can assure them that on
no one can it have inflicted so great labour and fatigue


as on myself. Happy they who are engaged in pro-
vinces of thought, so familiarly traversed and so
thoroughly explored, that they see everywhere the
footprints, the paths, the landmarks, and the remains of
former travellers, and can never step wrong ; but. for
myself, gentlemen, I have felt like a navigator on a
strange sea, who is out of sight of land, is surprised by
night, and has to trust mainly to the rules and instru-
ments of his science for reaching the port. The
everlasting mountains, the high majestic cliffs, of the
opposite coast, radiant in the sunlight, which are our
ordinary guides, fail us in an excursion such as this ;
the lessons of antiquity, the determinations of authority,
are here rather the needle, chart, and plummet, than
great objects, with distinct and continuous outline and
completed details, which stand up and confront and
occupy our gaze, and relieve us from the tension and
suspense of our personal observation. And thus, in
spite of the pains we may take to consult others and
avoid mistakes, it is not till the morning comes and
the shore greets us, and we see our vessel making
straight for harbour, that we relax our jealous watch,
and consider anxiety irrational. Such in a measure
has been my feeling in the foregoing inquiry ; in which
indeed I have been in want neither of authoritative
principles nor distinct precedents, but of treatises in
extenso on the subject on which I have written the
finished work of writers, who, by their acknowledged
judgment and erudition, might furnish me for my
private guidance with a running instruction on each
point which successively came under review.

I have spoken of the arduousness of my "im-
mediate" undertaking, because what I have been
attempting has been of a preliminary nature, not con-


templating the duties of the Church towards a Uni-
versity, nor the characteristics of a University which
is Catholic, but inquiring what a University is, what
is its aim, what its nature, what its bearings. I have
accordingly laid down first, that all branches of
knowledge are, at least implicitly, the subject-matter
of its teaching; that these branches are not isolated
and independent one of another, but form together
a whole or system ; that they run into each other,
and complete each other, and that, in proportion to
our view of them as a whole, is the exactness and
trustworthiness of the knowledge which they separately
convey; that the process of imparting knowledge
to the intellect in this philosophical way is its true
culture ; that such culture is a good in itself; that the
knowledge which is both its instrument and result is
called Liberal Knowledge ; that such culture, together
with the knowledge which effects it, may fitly be
sought for its own sake; that it is, however, in ad-
dition, of great secular utility, as constituting the best
and highest formation of the intellect for social and
political life ; and lastly, that, considered in a religious
aspect, it concurs with Christianity a certain way, and
then diverges from it ; and consequently proves in the
event, sometimes its serviceable ally, sometimes, from
ks very resemblance to it, an insidious and dangerous

Though, however, these Discourses have only pro-
fessed to be preliminary, being directed to the investi-
gation of the object and nature of the Education which
a University professes to impart, at the same time I do
not like to conclude without making some remarks
upon the duties of the Church towards it, or rather on
the ground of those duties. If the Catholic Faith
209 o


is true, a University cannot exist externally to the
Catholic pale, for it cannot teach Universal Know-
ledge if it does not teach Catholic theology. This is
certain ; but still, though it had ever so many theolo-
gical Chairs, that would not suffice to make it a
Catholic University ; for theology would be included
in its teaching only as a branch of knowledge, only as
one out of many constituent portions, however im-
portant a one, of what I have called Philosophy.
Hence a direct and active jurisdiction of the Church
over it and in it is necessary, lest it should become the
rival of the Church with the community at large in
those theological matters which to the Church are
exclusively committed, acting as the representative of
the intellect, as the Church is the representative of the
religious principle. The illustration of this proposition
shall be the subject of my concluding Discourse.

I say then, that, even though the case could be so
that the whole system of Catholicism was recognised
and professed, without the direct presence of the
Church, still this would not at once make such a Uni-
versity a Catholic Institution, nor be sufficient to
secure the due weight of religious considerations in its
philosophical studies. For it may easily happen that
a particular bias or drift may characterise an Institu-
tion, which no rules can reach, nor officers remedy,
nor professions or promises counteract. We have an
instance of such a case in the Spanish Inquisition ;
here was a purely Catholic establishment, devoted to the
maintenance, or rather the ascendancy of Catholicism,
keenly zealous for theological truth, the stern foe of
every and- Catholic idea, and administered by Catholic
theologians ; yet it in no proper sense belonged to the
Church. It was simply and entirely a state institu-


tion, it was an expression of that rcry Church-and-
King spirit which has prevailed in these islands ; nay,
it was an instrument of the state, according to the
confession of the acutest Protestant historians, in its
warfare against the Holy See. Considered "materi-
ally," it was nothing but Catholic ; but its spirit and
form were earthly and secular, in spite of whatever
faith and zeal and sanctity and charity were to be
found in the individuals who from time to time had a
share in its administration. And in like manner, it is
no sufficient security for the Catholicity of a Univer-
sity, even that the whole of Catholic theology should
be professed in it, unless the Church breathes her own
pure and unearthly spirit into it, and fashions and
moulds its organisation, and watches over its teach-
ing, and knits together its pupils, and superintends its
action. The Spanish Inquisition came into collision
with the supreme Catholic authority, from the circum-
stance that its immediate end was of a secular char-
acter ; and for the same reason, whereas Academical
Institutions (as I have been so long engaged in show-
ing) are in their very nature directed to social, national,
temporal objects in the first instance, and since they are
living and energising bodies, if they deserve the name
of University at all, and of necessity have some one
formal and definite ethical character, good or bad, and
do of a certainty imprint that character on the indi-
viduals who direct and who frequent them, it cannot
but be that, if left to themselves, they will, in spite of
their profession of Catholic Truth, work out results
more or less prejudicial to its interests.

Nor is this all : such Institutions may become hostile
to Revealed Truth, in consequence of the circum-
stances of their teaching as well as of their end. They


are employed in the pursuit of Liberal Knowledge,
and Liberal Knowledge has a special tendency, not
necessary or rightful, but a tendency in fact, when
cultivated by beings such as we are, to impress us with
a mere philosophical theory of life and conduct, in the
place of Revelation. I have said much on this subject
already. Truth has two attributes beauty and power ;
and while Useful Knowledge is the possession of truth
as powerful, Liberal Knowledge is the apprehension of
it as beautiful. Pursue it, either as beauty or as power,
to its furthest extent and its true limit, and you are led
by either road to the Eternal and Infinite, to the inti-
mations of conscience and the announcements of the
Church. Satisfy yourself with what is only visibly
or intelligibly excellent, as you are likely to do, and
you will make present utility and natural beauty the
practical test of truth, and the sufficient object of the in-
tellect. It is not that you will at once reject Catholicism,
but you will measure and proportion it by an earthly
standard. You will throw its highest and most mo-
mentous disclosures into the background, you will deny
its principles, explain away its doctrines, rearrange its
precepts, and make light of its practices, even while
you profess it. Knowledge, viewed as Knowledge,
exerts a subtle influence in throwing us back on our-
selves, and making us our own centre, and our minds
the measure of all things. This then is the tendency
of that Liberal Education, of which a University is
the school, viz., to view Revealed Religion from an
aspect of its own to fuse and recast it to tune it, as
it were, to a different key, and to reset its harmonies
to circumscribe it by a circle which unwarrantably
amputates here, and unduly develops there ; and all
under the notion, conscious or unconscious, that the


human intellect, self-educated and self- supported, is
more true and perfect in its ideas and judgments than
that of Prophets and Apostles, to whom the sights and
sounds of Heaven were immediately conveyed. A
sense of propriety, order, consistency, and com-
pleteness gives birth to a rebellious stirring against
miracle and mystery, against the severe and the

First and chiefly this Intellectualism comes into
collision with precept, then with doctrine, then with
the very principle of dogmatism. A perception of the
Beautiful becomes the substitute for faith. In a country
which does not profess the faith, it at once runs, if
allowed, into scepticism or infidelity ; but even within
the pale of the Church, and with the most unqualified
profession of her Creed, it acts, if left to itself, as an
element of corruption and debility. Catholicism, as it
has come down to us from the first, seems to be mean
and illiberal ; it is a mere popular religion ; it is the
religion of illiterate ages or servile populations or bar-
barian warriors ; it must be treated with discrimination
and delicacy, corrected, softened, improved, if it is to
satisfy an enlightened generation. It must be stereo-
typed as the patron of arts, or the pupil of speculation,
or the protege of science; it must play the literary
academician, or the empirical philanthropist, or the
political partisan ; it must keep up with the age ; some
or other expedient it must devise, in order to explain
away, or to hide, tenets under which the intellect
labours and of which it is ashamed its doctrine, for
instance, of grace, its mystery of the Godhead, its
preaching of the Cross, its devotion to the Queen of
Saints, or its loyalty to the Apostolic See. Let this
spirit be freely evolved out of that philosophical condi-


tion of mind, which in former Discourses I have so

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 18 of 22)