John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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highly, so justly extolled, and it is impossible but, first
indifference, then laxity of belief, then even heresy will
be the successive results.

Here then are two injuries which Revelation is
likely to sustain at the hands of the Masters of human
reason unless the Church, as in duty bound, protects
the sacred treasure which is in jeopardy. The first
is a simple ignoring of Theological Truth altogether,
under the pretence of not recognising differences of
religious opinion ; which will only take place in
countries or under governments which have abjured
Catholicism. The second, which is of a more subtle
character, is a recognition indeed of Catholicism, but
(as if in pretended mercy to it) an adulteration of its
spirit. I will now proceed to describe the dangers I
speak of more distinctly, by a reference to the general
subject-matter of instruction which a University under-

There are three great subjects on which Human
Reason employs itself: God, Nature, and Man :
and theology being put aside in the present argument,
the physical and social worlds remain. These, when
respectively subjected to Human Reason, form two
books : the book of Nature is called Science, the
book of man is called Literature. Literature and
Science, thus considered, nearly constitute the subject-
matter of Liberal Education; and while Science is
made to subserve the former of the two injuries,
which Revealed Truth sustains its exclusion, Litera-
ture subserves the latter its corruption. Let us
consider the influence of each upon Religion separately.

i. As to Physical Science, of course there can be
no real collision between it and Catholicism. Nature


and Grace, Reason and Revelation, come from the
same Divine Author, whose works cannot contradict
each other. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that,
in matter of fact, there always has been a sort of
jealousy and hostility between Religion and physical
philosophers. The name of Galileo reminds us of it
at once. Not content with investigating and reason-
ing in his own province, he went out of his way
directly to insult the received interpretation of Scrip-
ture ; theologians repelled an attack which was wanton
and arrogant ; and Science, affronted in her minister,
has taken its full revenge upon Theology since. A
vast multitude of its teachers, I fear it must be said,
have been either unbelievers or sceptics, or at least
have denied to Christianity any teaching, distinctive or
special, over the Religion of Nature. There have
indeed been most illustrious exceptions ; some men
protected by their greatness of mind, some by their
religious profession, some by the fear of public opinion;
but I suppose the run of experimentalists, external to
the Catholic Church, have more or less inherited the
positive or negative unbelief of Laplace, Buffo n,
Franklin, Priestley, Cuvier, and Humboldt. I do not
of course mean to say that there need be in every case
a resentful and virulent opposition made to Religion
on the part of scientific men ; but their emphatic
silence or phlegmatic inadvertence as to its claims
have implied, more eloquently than any words, that
in their opinion it had no voice at all in the subject-
matter, which they had appropriated to themselves.
The same antagonism shows itself in the middle ages.
Friar Bacon was popularly regarded with suspicion as
a dealer in unlawful arts ; Pope Sylvester the Second
has been accused of magic for his knowledge of natural


secrets ; and the geographical ideas of St. Virgil,
Bishop of Saltzburgh, were regarded with anxiety by
the great St. Boniface, the glory of England, the
Martyr- Apostle of Germaay. I suppose, in matter
of fact, magical superstition and physical knowledge
did commonly go together in those ages : however,
the hostility between experimental science and theology
is far older than Christianity. Lord Bacon traces it
to an era prior to Socrates ; he tells us that, among
the Greeks, the atheistic was the philosophy most
favourable to physical discoveries, and he does not
hesitate to imply that the rise of the religious schools
was the ruin of science. 1

Nowj if we would investigate the reason of this
opposition between Theology and Physics, I suppose
we must first take into account Lord Bacon's own
explanation of it. It is common in judicial inquiries
to caution the parties on whom the verdict depends to
put out of their minds whatever they have heard out
of court on the subject to which their attention is to
be directed. They are to judge by the evidence ; and
this is a rule which holds in other investigations as far
as this, that nothing of an adventitious nature ought
to be introduced into the process. In like manner,
from religious investigations, as such, physics must be
excluded, and from physical, as such, religion; and
if we mix them, we shall spoil both. The theologian,
speaking of Divine Omnipotence, for the time simply
ignores the laws of nature as existing restraints upon
its exercise; and the physical philosopher, on the
other hand, in his experiments upon natural phenomena,
is simply ascertaining those laws, putting aside the ques-

* Vid. Hallam's Literature of Europe, Macaulay's Essay,
and the Author's Oxford University Sermons, IX.


tion of that Omnipotence. If the theologian, in tracing
the ways of Providence, were stopped with objections
grounded on the impossibility of physical miracles, he
would justly protest against the interruption ; and were
the philosopher, who was determining the motion of
the heavenly bodies, to be questioned about their Final
or their First Cause, he too would suffer an illogical
interruption. The latter asks the cause of volcanoes,
and is impatient at being told it is " the divine ven-
geance ; " the former asks the cause of the overthrow
of the guilty cities, and is preposterously referred to
the volcanic action still visible in their neighbourhood.
The inquiry into final causes for the moment passes
over the existence of established laws; the inquiry
into physical, passes over for the moment the existence
of God. In other words, physical science is in a
certain sense atheistic, for the very reason it is not

This is Lord Bacon's justification, and an intelligible
one, for considering that the fall of atheistic philosophy
in ancient times was a blight upon the hopes of physical
science. " Aristotle," he says, " Galen, and others,
frequently introduce such causes as these : the hairs
of the eyelids are for a fence to the sight ; the bones
for pillars whence to build the bodies of animals ; the
leaves of trees are to defend the fruit from the sun and
wind ; the clouds are designed for watering the earth.
All which are properly alleged in metaphysics ; but in
physics, are impertinent, and as remoras to the ship,
that hinder the sciences from holding on their course
of improvement, and introducing a neglect of search-
ing after physical causes." 1 Here then is one reason

1 In Augment., 5.


for the prejudice of physical philosophers against
Theology : on the one hand, their deep satisfaction
in the laws of nature indisposes them towards the
thought of a Moral Governor, and makes them
sceptical of His interposition ; on the other hand, the
occasional interference of religious writers in a pro-
vince not religious, has made them sore, suspicious,
and resentful.

Another reason of a kindred nature is to be found in
the difference of method by which truths are gained
in theology and in physical science. Induction is the
instrument of Physics, and deduction only is the instru-
ment of Theology. There the simple question is,
What is revealed ? all doctrinal knowledge flows from
one fountain head. If we are able to enlarge our
view and multiply our propositions, it must be merely
by the comparison and adjustment of existing truths ;
if we would solve new questions, it must be .by
consulting old answers. The notion of doctrinal
knowledge absolutely novel, and of simple addition
from without, is intolerable to our ears, and never was
entertained by any one who was even approaching to
an understanding of our creed. Revelation is all in
all in doctrine ; the Apostles its sole depository, the
inferential method its sole instrument, and ecclesiastical
authority its sole sanction. The Divine Voice has
spoken once for all, and the only question is about its
meaning. Now this process, as far as it was reason-
ing, was the very mode of reasoning which, as regards
physical knowledge, the school of Bacon has super-
seded by the inductive method: no wonder, then,
that that school should be irritated and indignant to
find that a subject-matter remains still, in which their
favourite instrument has no office ; no wonder that


they rise up against this memorial of an antiquated
system, as an eyesore and an insult ; and no wonder
that the very force and dazzling success} of their own
method in its own departments should sway or bias
unduly the religious sentiments of any persons who
come under its influence. They assert that no new
truth can be gained by deduction; Catholics assent,
but add that, as regards religious truth, they have not
to seek at all, for they have it already. Christian
Truth is purely of revelation ; that revelation we can
but explain, we cannot increase, except relatively to
our own apprehensions ; without it we should have
known nothing of its contents, with it we know just
as much as its contents, and nothing more. And, as
it was a divine act independent of man, so will
it remain in spite of man. Niebuhr may revolu-
tionise history, Lavoisier chemistry, Newton astro-
nomy ; but God Himself is the author as well as the
subject of theology. When Truth can change, its
Revelation can change ; when human reason can
outreason the Omniscient, then may it supersede His

Avowals such as these fall strange upon the ear of
men whose first principle is the search after truth, and
whose starting-points of search are things material
and sensible. They scorn any process of inquiry not
founded on experiment ; the Mathematics indeed they
endure, because that science deals with ideas, not with
facts, and leads to conclusions hypothetical rather than
real ; " Metaphysics " they even use as a by-word of
reproach ; and Ethics they admit only on condition
that it gives up conscience as its scientific ground, and
bases itself on tangible utility ; but as to Theology,
they cannot deal with it, they cannot master it, and so


they simply outlaw it and ignore it. Catholicism, for-
sooth, " confines the intellect," because it holds that
God's intellect is greater than theirs, and that what
He has done, man cannot improve. And what in
some sort justifies them to themselves in this extrava-
gance is the circumstance that there is a religion close
at their doors which, discarding so severe a tone, has
actually adopted their own principle of inquiry. Pro-
testantism treats Scripture just as they deal with
Nature ; it takes the sacred text as a large collection
of phenomena, from which, by an inductive process,
each individual Christian may arrive at just those
religious conclusions which approve themselves to his
own judgment. It considers faith a mere modifica-
tion of reason, as being an acquiescence in certain
probable conclusions till better are found. Sym-
pathy, then, if no other reason, throws experimental
philosophers into alliance with the enemies -of

I have another consideration to add, not less
important than any I have hitherto adduced. The
physical sciences, Astronomy, Chemistry, and the
rest, are doubtless engaged upon divine works, and
cannot issue in untrue religious conclusions. But at
the same time it must be recollected that Revelation
has reference to circumstances which did not arise till
after the heavens and the earth were made. They
were made before the introduction of moral evil into
the world : whereas the Catholic Church is the in-
strument of a remedial dispensation to meet that intro-
duction. No wonder then that her teaching is simply
distinct, though not divergent, from the theology which
Physical Science suggests to its followers. She sets
before us a number of attributes and acts on the part


of the Divine Being, for which the material and
animal creation gives no scope ; power, wisdom,
goodness are the burden of the physical world, but it
does not and could not speak of mercy, long-suffering,
and the economy of human redemption, and but par-
tially of the moral law and moral goodness. " Sacred
Theology," says Lord Bacon, * must be drawn from
the words and the oracles of God : not from the light
of nature or the dictates of reason. It is written, that
4 the Heavens declare the glory of God ; ' but we
nowhere find it that the Heavens declare the will of
God ; which is pronounced a law and a testimony,
that men should do according to it. Nor does this
hold only in the great mysteries of the Godhead, of
the creation, of the redemption. . . . We cannot
doubt that a large part of the moral law is too sublime
to be attained by the light of nature ; though it is still
certain that men, even with the light and law of nature,
have some notions of virtue, vice, justice, wrong, good,
and evil." l That the new and further manifestations
of the Almighty, made by Revelation, are in perfect
harmony with the teaching of the natural world,
forms indeed one subject of the profound work of the
Protestant Bishop Butler ; but they cannot in any sense
be gathered from nature, and the silence of nature
concerning them may easily seduce the imagination,
though it has no force to persuade the reason, to
revolt from doctrines which have not been authenticated
by facts, but are enforced by authority. In a scientific
age, then, there will naturally be a parade of what is
called Natural Theology, a widespread profession of
the Unitarian creed, an impatience of mystery, and a
scepticism about miracles.

1 De Augm., 28.


And to all this must be added the ample opportunity
which physical science gives to the indulgence of those
sentiments of beauty, order, and congruity, of which I
have said so much as the ensigns and colours (as they
may be called) of a civilised age in its warfare against

It being considered, then, that Catholicism differs
from physical science, in drift, in method of proof,
and in subject-matter, how can it fail to meet with
unfair usage from the philosophers of any Institution
in which there is no one to take its part? That
Physical Science itself will be ultimately the loser by
such ill-treatment of Theology, I have insisted on at
great length in the first three of these Discourses ; for
to depress unduly, to encroach upon any science, and
much more on an important one, is to do an injury to
all. However, this is not the concern of the Church ;
the Church has no call to watch over and protect
Science ; but towards Theology she has a distinct
duty : it is one of the special trusts committed to her
keeping. Where Theology is, there she must be ;
and if a University cannot fulfil its name and office
without the recognition of Revealed Truth, she must
be there to see that it is a bonajide recognition, sincerely
made and consistently acted on.

2. And if the interposition of the Church is neces-
sary in the Schools of Science, still more imperatively
is it demanded in the other main constituent portion of
the subject-matter of Liberal Education Literature.
Literature stands related to Man as Science stands to
Nature ; it is his history. Man is composed of body
and soul ; he thinks and he acts ; he has appetites,
passions, affections, motives, designs ; he has within
him the lifelong struggle of duty with inclination ; he


has an intellect fertile and capacious ; he is formed for
society, and society multiplies and diversifies in endless
combinations his personal characteristics, moral and
intellectual. All this constitutes his life ; of all this
Literature is the expression ; so that Literature is to
man in some sort what autobiography is to the indi-
vidual ; it is his Life and Remains. Moreover, he is
this sentient, intelligent, creative, and operative being,
quite independent of any extraordinary aid from
Heaven, or any definite religious Belief; and as such,
as he is in himself, does Literature represent him ; it
is the Life and Remains of the natural man, or man m
purd naturd. I do not mean to say that it is impossible
in its very notion that Literature should be tinctured
by a religious spirit ; Hebrew Literature, as far as it
can be called Literature, certainly is simply theological,
and has a character imprinted on it which is above
nature ; but I am speaking of what is to be expected
without any extraordinary dispensation; and I say
that, in matter of fact, as Science is the reflection of
Nature, so is Literature also the one, of Nature
physical, the other, of Nature moral and social. Cir-
cumstances, such as locality, period, language, seem to
make little or no difference in the character of Litera-
ture, as such ; on the whole, all Literatures are one ;
they are the voices of the natural man.

I wish this were all that had to be said to the dis-
advantage of Literature; but while Nature physical
remains fixed in its own laws, Nature moral and social
has a will of its own, is self- governed, and never re-
mains any long while in that state from which it started
into action. Man will never continue in a mere state of
innocence ; he is sure to sin, and his literature will be
the expression of his sin, and this whether he be


heathen or Christian. Christianity has thrown gleams
of light on him and his literature; but as it has not
converted him, but only certain choice specimens of
him, so it has not changed the characters of his mind
or of his history ; his literature is either what it was,
or worse than what it was, in proportion as there has
been an abuse of knowledge granted and a rejection of
truth. On the whole, then, I think it will be found,
and ever found, as a matter of course, that Literature,
as such, no matter of what nation, is the science or
history, partly and at best of the natural man, partly of
man fallen.

Here then, I say, you are involved in a difficulty,
greater than that which besets the cultivation of
Science; for, if Physical Science be dangerous, I
have said it is dangerous, because it necessarily ignores
the idea of moral evil ; but Literature is open to the
more grievous imputation of recognising and under-
standing it too well. Some one will say to me
perhaps : " Our youth shall not be corrupted. We
will dispense with all general or national Literature
whatever, if it be so exceptionable; we will have
a Christian Literature of our own, as pure, as true, as
the Jewish." You cannot have it : I do not say you
cannot form a select literature for the young, or for
the middle or lower classes; this is another matter
altogether: I am speaking of University Education,
which implies an extended range of reading, which has
to deal with standard works of genius, or what are
called the classics of a language : and I say, from the
nature of the case, if Literature is to be made a study
of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Litera-
ture. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless
Literature of sinful man. You may gather together


something very great and high, something higher than
any Literature ever was ; and when you have done so,
you will find that it is not Literature at all. You will
have simply left the delineation of man, as such, and
have substituted for it, as far as you have had any-
thing to substitute, that of man, as he is or might be,
under certain special advantages. Give up the study
of man, as such, if so it must be ; but say you do so.
Do not say you are studying him, his history, his mind
and his heart, when you are studying something else.
/Man is a being of genius, passion, intellect, conscience,
power. He exercises these various gifts in various
ways, in great deeds, in great thoughts, in heroic acts,
in hateful crimes. He founds states, he fights battles,
he builds cities, he ploughs the forest, he subdues the
elements, he rules his kind. He creates vast ideas,
and influences many generations. He takes a thousand
shapes, and undergoes a thousand fortunes. Literature
records them all to the life,

Quicquid agunt homines, votum. timor, ira, voluptas,
Gaudia, discursus.

He pours out his fervid soul in poetry ; he sways to
and fro, he soars, he dives, in his restless speculations ;
his lips drop eloquence ; he touches the canvas, and it
glows with beauty ; he sweeps the strings, and they
thrill with an ecstatic meaning. He looks back into
himself, and he reads his own thoughts, and notes
them down ; he looks out into the universe, and tells
over and celebrates the elements and principles of
which it is the product.

Such is man : put him aside, keep him before you ;
but, whatever you do, do not take him for what he is
not, for something more divine and sacred, for man re-
225 p


generate. Nay, beware of showing God's grace and
its work at such disadvantage as to make the few whom
it has thoroughly influenced compete in intellect with
the vast multitude who either have it not, or use it ill.
The elect are few to choore out of, and the world is
inexhaustible. From the first, label and Tubalcain,
Nimrod "the stout hunter," the learning of the
Pharaohs, and the wisdom of the East country, are of
the world. Every now and then they are rivalled by
a Solomon or a Beseleel, but the habitat of natural
gifts is the natural man. The Church may use them,
she cannot at her will originate them. Not till the
whole human race is regenerate will its literature be
pure and true. Possible of course it is in idea, for
nature, inspired by heavenly grace, to exhibit itself on
a large scale, in an originality of thought or action, even
far beyond what the world's literature has recorded or
exemplified ; but, if you would in fact have a literature
of saints, first of all have a nation of them.

What is a clearer proof of the truth of all this than
the structure of the Inspired Word itself? It is un-
deniably not the reflection or picture of the many, but
of the few ; it is no picture of life, but an anticipation
of death and judgment. Human literature is about
all things, grave or gay, painful or pleasant ; but the
Inspired Word views them only in one aspect, and as
they tend to one scope. It gives us little insight
into the fertile developments of mind ; it has no
terms in its vocabulary to express with exactness the
intellect and its separate faculties : it knows nothing
of genius, fancy, wit, invention, presence of mind,
resource. It does not discourse of empire, com-
merce, enterprise, learning, philosophy, or the fine
arts. Slightly too does it touch on the more simple


and innocent courses of nature and their reward.
Little does it say l of those temporal blessings which
rest upon our worldly occupations, and make them
easy ; of the blessings which we derive from the sun-
shine day and the serene night, from the succession of
the seasons, and the produce of the earth. Little
about our recreations and our daily domestic comforts ;
little about the ordinary occasions of festivity and
mirth, which sweeten human life ; and nothing at all
about various pursuits or amusements, which it would
be going too much into detail to mention. We read
indeed of the feast when Isaac was weaned, and of
Jacob's courtship, and of the religious merry-makings
of holy Job; but exceptions, such as these, do but
remind us what might be in Scripture, and is not.
If then by Literature is meant the manifestation of
human nature in human language, you will seek for it
in vain except in the world. Put up with it, as it is,
or do not pretend to cultivate it ; take things as they
are, not as you could wish them.

Nay, I am obliged to go further still ; even if we
could, still we should be shrinking from our plain
duty, gentlemen, did we leave out Literature from
Education. For why do we educate, except to
prepare for the world? Why do we cultivate the
intellect of the many beyond the first elements of

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 19 of 22)