John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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him to deny psychology in toto, to pronounce the in-
fluence of mind in the visible world a superstition, and
to account for every effect which is found in the world
by the operation of physical causes. Hitherto intelli-
gence and volition were accounted real powers ; the
muscles act, and their action cannot be represented by
any scientific expression ; a stone flies out of the hand
and the propulsive force of the muscle resides in the
will ; but there has been a revolution, or at least a new
theory in philosophy, and our Professor, I say, after
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BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

speaking with the highest admiration of the human in-
tellect, limits its independent action to the region of
speculation, and denies that it can be a motive prin-
ciple, or can exercise a special interference, in the
material world. He ascribes every work, or ex-
ternal act of man, to the innate force or soul of the
physical universe. He observes that spiritual agents
are so mysterious and unintelligible, so uncertain in
their laws, so vague in their operation, so sheltered
from experience, that a wise man will have nothing
to say to them. They belong to a different order of
causes, which he leaves to those whose profession it
is to investigate them, and he confines himself to the
tangible and sure. Human exploits, human devices,
human deeds, human productions, all that comes under
the scholastic terms of "genius" and "art," and
the metaphysical ideas of "duty/* "right," and
"heroism," it is his office to contemplate all these
merely in their place in the eternal system of physical
cause and effect. At length he undertakes to show
how the whole fabric of material civilisation has arisen
from the constructive powers of physical elements and
physical laws. He descants upon palaces, castles,
temples, exchanges, bridges, causeways, and shows
that they never could have grown into the imposing
dimensions which they present to us, but for the laws
of gravitation and the cohesion of part with part. The
pillar would come down, the loftier the more speedily,
did not the centre of gravity fall within its base ; and
the most admired dome of Palladio or Sir Chris-
topher would give way, were it not for the happy
principle of the arch. He surveys the complicated
machinery of a single day's arrangements in a private
family ; our dress, our furniture, our hospitable board ;



OTHER BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE

\vhat would become of them, he asks, but for the laws
of physical nature? Firm stitches have a natural power,
in proportion to the toughness of the material adopted,
to keep together separate portions of cloth ; sofas and
chairs could not turn upside down, even if they would ;
and it is a property of caloric to relax the fibres of
animal matter, acting through water in one way, through
oil in another, and this is the whole mystery of the
most elaborate cuisine : but I should be tedious if I
continued the illustration.

Now, gentlemen, pray understand how it is to be
here applied. I am not supposing that the principles
of Theology and Psychology are the same, or arguing
from the works of man to the works of God, which
Paley has done, which Hume has protested against.
I am not busying myself to prove the existence and
attributes of God, by means of the Argument from
design. I am not proving anything at all about the
Supreme Being. On the contrary, I am assuming His
existence, and I do but say this : that, man existing,
no University Professor, who had suppressed in physi-
cal lectures the idea of volition, who did not take
volition for granted, could escape a one-sided, a radi-
cally false view of the things which he discussed ; not
indeed that his own definitions, principles, and laws
would be wrong, or his abstract statements, but his
considering his own study to be the key of everything
that takes place on the face of the earth, and his pass-
ing over anthropology, this would be his error. I say,
it would not be his science which was untrue, but his
so-called knowledge which was unreal. He would be
deciding on facts by means of theories. The various
busy world, spread out before our eyes, is physical,

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BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

but it is more than physical ; and, in making its actual
system identical with his scientific analysis, formed on
a particular aspect, such a Professor as I have imagined
was betraying a want of philosophical depth, and an
ignorance of what an University Education ought to be.
He was no longer a teacher of liberal knowledge, but
a narrow-minded bigot. While his doctrines professed
to be conclusions formed upon an hypothesis or partial
truth, they were undeniable ; not, if they professed to
give results in fact which he could grasp and take
possession of. Granting, indeed, that a man's arm is
moved by a simple physical cause, then of course we
may dispute about the various external influences which,
when it changes its position, sway it to and fro, like
a scarecrow in a garden ; but to assert that the motive
cause if physical, this is an assumption in a case, when
our question is about a matter of fact, not about the
logical consequences of an assumed premiss. And,
in like manner, if a people prays, and the wind changes,
the rain ceases, the sun shines, and the harvest is safely
housed, when no one expected it, our Professor may,
if he will, consult the barometer, discourse about the
atmosphere, and throw what has happened into an
equation, ingenious, though it be not true ; but, should
he proceed to rest the phenomenon, in matter of
fact, simply upon a physical cause, to the exclusion
of a divine, and to say that the given case actually
belongs to his science because other like cases do, I
must tell him, Ne sutor ultra crepidam : he is making
his particular craft usurp and occupy the universe.
This then is the drift of my illustration. Our ex-
cluding volition from our range of ideas is a denial
of the soul, and our ignoring Divine Agency is a
virtual denial of God. Moreover, supposing man can

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will and act of himself in spite of physics, to shut up
this great truth, though one, is to put our whole ency-
clopaedia of knowledge out of joint ; and supposing
God can will and act of Himself in this world which
He has made, and we deny or slur it over, then we
are throwing the circle of universal science into a
like, or a far worse confusion.

Worse incomparably, for the idea of God, if there
be a God, is infinitely higher than the idea of man,
if there be man. If to plot out man's agency is to
deface the book of knowledge, on the supposition of
that agency existing, what must it be, supposing it
exists, to blot out the agency of God ? See, gentle-
men, I have now run beyond the first portion of the
argument to which this Discourse is devoted. I have
hitherto been engaged in showing that all the sciences
come to us as one, that they all relate to one and the
same integral subject-matter, that each separately is
more or less an abstraction, wholly true as an hypo-
thesis, but not wholly trustworthy in the concrete,
conversant with relations more than with facts, with
principles more than with agents, needing the support
and guarantee of its sister sciences, and giving in turn
while it takes : from which it follows, that none
can safely be omitted, if we would obtain the exactest
knowledge possible of things as they are, and that the
omission is more or less important, in proportion to
the field which each covers, and the depth to which
it penetrates, and the order to which it belongs ; for
its loss is a positive privation of an influence which
exerts itself in the correction and completion of the
rest. This general statement is the first branch of my
argument, and now comes my second, which is its
application, and will not occupy us so long. I say,
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BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

the second question simply regards the Science of
God, or Theology, viz., what, in matter of fact, are
its pretensions, what its importance, what its influence
upon other branches of knowledge, supposing there be
a God, which it would not become me to set about
proving ? Has it vast dimensions, or does it He in a
nutshell ? Will its omission be imperceptible, or will
it destroy the equilibrium of the whole system of
Knowledge? This is the inquiry to which I proceed.
Now what is Theology ? First, I will tell you
what it is not. And here, in the first place (though
of course I speak on the subject as a Catholic), ob-
serve that, strictly speaking, I am not assuming that
Catholicism is true, while I make myself the champion
of Theology. Catholicism has not formally entered
into my argument hitherto, nor shall I just now assume
any principle peculiar to it, for reasons which will
appear in the sequel, though of course I shall use
Catholic language. Neither, secondly, will I fall into
the fashion of the day, of identifying Natural Theo-
logy with Physical ; which said Physical Theo-
logy is a most jejune study, considered as a science,
and really is no science at all, for it is ordinarily
nothing more than a series of pious or polemical
remarks upon the physical world viewed religiously,
whereas the word "Natural" really comprehends
man and society, and all that is involved therein, as
the great Protestant writer, Dr. Butler, shows us.
Nor, in the third place, do I mean by Theology pole-
mics of any kind ; for instance, what are called " the
Evidences of Religion/' or "the Christian Evidences; "
for, though these constitute a science supplemental to
Theology and are necessary in their place, they are
not Theology itself, unless an army is synonymous
S 2



OTHER BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE

with the body politic. Nor, fourthly, do I mean by
Theology that vague thing called "Christianity," or
"our common Christianity," or "Christianity the law
of the land," if there is any man alive who can tell
what it is. I discard it, for the very reason that it
cannot throw itself into a proposition. Lastly, I do
not understand by Theology, acquaintance with the
Scriptures ; for, though no person of religious feelings
can read Scripture but he will find those feelings
roused, and gain much knowledge of history into the
bargain, yet historical reading and religious feeling are
not science. I mean none of these things by Theo-
logy, I simply mean the Science of God, or the truths

_jve know about God put into system ; just as we have
a science of the stars, and call it astronomy, or of the
crust of the earth, and call it geology.

i For instance^ I mean, for this is the main point,
that* as in the human irame' there Is a living principle,



acting upon it and through Jt by n^aris of volition, so,
the veil of the visibly universe, mere is jan



invisible, intelligent Being, acting on ancL through it,



as and when lie will* Further, I mean that this



invisible Agent is in no sense a soul of the world,
after the analogy of human nature, but, on the con-
trary, is absolutely distinct from the world, as being
its Creator, Upholder, Governor, and Sovereign Lord.
Here we are at once brought into the circle of doc-
trines which the idea of God embodies. I mean
then by the Supreme Being, one who is simply self-
dependent, and the only Being who is such ; more-
over, that He is without beginning or Eternal, and
the only Eternal ; that in consequence He has lived
a whole eternity by Himself; and hence that He is
all-sufficient, sufficient for His own blessedness, and

S3



BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

all-blessed, and ever-blessed. Further, I mean a
Being, who, having these prerogatives, has the Supreme
Good, or rather is the Supreme Good, or has all the
attributes of Good in infinite intenseness ; all wisdom,
all truth, all justice, all love, all holiness, all beautiful-
ness ; who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent ;
ineffably one, absolutely perfect ; and such, that what
we do not know and cannot even imagine of Him,
is far more wonderful than what we do and can.
I mean One who is sovereign over His own will
and actions, though always according to the eternal
Rule of right and wrong, which is Himself. I mean,
moreover, that He created all things out of nothing,
and preserves them every moment, and could destroy
them as easily as He made them ; and that, in con-
sequence, He is separated from them by an abyss,
and is incommunicable in all His attributes. And
further, He has stamped upon all things, in the hour
of their creation, their respective natures, and has
given them their work and mission and their length
of days, greater or less, in their appointed place.
I mean, too, that He is ever present with His works,
one by one, and confronts everything He has made by
His particular and most loving Providence, and mani-
fests Himself to each according to its needs ; and has
on rational beings imprinted the moral law, and given
them power to obey it, imposing on them the duty
of worship and service, searching and scanning them
through and through with His omniscient eye, and put-
ting before them a present trial and a judgment to come.
Such is what Theology teaches about God, a
doctrine, as the very idea of its subject-matter pre-
supposes, so mysterious as in its fulness to lie beyond
any system, and to seem in parts even to be irre-
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OTHER BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE

concilable with itself, the imagination being unable to
embrace what the reason determines. It teaches of a
Being infinite, yet personal ; all-blessed, yet ever opera-
tive ; absolutely separate from the creature, yet in every
part of the creation at every moment ; above all things,
yet under everything. It teaches of a Being who,
though the highest, yet in the work of creation, con-
servation, government, retribution, makes Himself, as
it were, the minister and servant of all ; who, though
inhabiting eternity, allows Himself to take an interest,
and to feel a sympathy, in the matters of space and
time. His are all beings, visible and invisible, the
noblest and the vilest of them. His are the substance,
and the operation, and the results of that system of
physical nature into which we are born. His, too,
are the powers and achievements of the intellectual
essences, on which He has bestowed an independent
action and the gift of origination. The laws of the
universe, the principles of truth, the relation of one
thing to another, their qualities and virtues, the order
and harmony of the whole, all that exists, is from
Him ; and, if evil is not from Him, as assuredly it
is not, this is because evil has no substance of its
own, but is only the defect, excess, perversion, or
corruption of that which has. All we see, hear,
and touch, the remote sidereal firmament, as well as
our own sea and land, and the elements which com-
pose them, and the ordinances they obey, are His.
The primary atoms of matter, their properties, their
mutual action, their disposition and collocation, elec-
tricity, magnetism, gravitation, light, and whatever
other subtle principles or operations the wit of man
is detecting or shall detect, are the work of His
hands. From Him has been every movement which
55



BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

has convulsed and re-fashioned the surface of the
earth. The most insignificant or unsightly insect is
from Him, and good in its kind ; the ever-teeming,
inexhaustible swarms of animal culae, the myriads of
living motes invisible to the naked eye, the restless
ever-spreading vegetation which creeps like a garment
over the whole earth, the lofty cedar, the umbrageous
banana, are His. His are the tribes and families of
birds and beasts, their graceful forms, .their wild
gestures, and their passionate cries.

And so in the intellectual, moral, social, and
political world. Man, with his motives and works,
his languages, his propagation, his diffusion, is from
Him. Agriculture, medicine, and the arts of life,
are His gifts. Society, laws, government, He is
their sanction. The pageant of earthly royalty has
the semblance and the benediction of the Eternal
King. Peace and civilisation, commerce and adven-
ture, wars when just, conquest when humane and
necessary, have His co-operation, and His blessing
upon them. The course of events, the revolution of
empires, the rise and fall of states, the periods and
eras, the progresses and the retrogressions of the
world's history, not indeed the incidental sin, over-
abundant as it is, but the great outlines and the results
of human affairs, are from His disposition. The
elements and types and seminal principles and con-
structive powers of the moral world, in ruins though
it be, are to be referred to Him. He " enlighteneth
every man that cometh into this world." His are
the dictates of the moral sense, and the retributive
reproaches of conscience. To Him must be ascribed
the rich endowments of the intellect, the radiation
of genius, the imagination of the poet, the sagacity of

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OTHER BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE

the politician, the wisdom (as Scripture calls it) which
now rears and decorates the Temple, now manifests
itself in proverb or in parable. The old saws ot
nations, the majestic precepts of philosophy, the
luminous maxims of law, the oracles of individual
wisdom, the traditionary rules of truth, justice, and
religion, even though imbedded in the corruption, or
alloyed with the pride, of the world, betoken His
original agency, and His long-suffering presence.
Even where there is habitual rebellion against Him,
or profound far-spreading social depravity, still the
undercurrent, or the heroic outburst, of natural virtue,
as well as the yearnings of the heart after what it has
not, and its presentiment of its true remedies, are to
be ascribed to the Author of all good. Anticipations
or reminiscences of His glory haunt the mind of the
self-sufficient sage, and of the pagan devotee ; His
writing is upon the wall, whether of the Indian fane,
or of the porticoes of Greece. He introduces Him-
self, He all but concurs, according to His good
pleasure, and in His selected season, in the issues
of unbelief, superstition, and false worship, and
changes the character of acts by His overruling
operation. He condescends, though He gives no
sanction, to the altars and shrines of imposture, and
He makes His own fiat the substitute for its sorceries.
He speaks amid the incantations of Balaam, raises
Samuel's spirit in the witch's cavern, prophesies of
the Messias by the tongue of the Sybil, forces Python
to recognise His ministers, and baptizes by the hand
of the misbeliever. He is with the heathen dramatist
in his denunciations of injustice and tyranny, and his
auguries of divine vengeance upon crime. Even on
the unseemly legends of a popular mythology He
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BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

casts His shadow, and is dimly discerned in the ode
or the epic, as in troubled water or in fantastic dreams
All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful,
all that is beneficent, be it great or small, be it perfect
or fragmentary, natural as well as supernatural, moral
as well as material, comes from Him.
P If this be a sketch, accurate in substance and as far
as it goes, of the doctrines proper to Theology, and
especially of the doctrine of a particular Providence,
which is the portion of it most on a level with human
sciences, I cannot understand at all how, supposing it
to be true, it can fail, considered as knowledge, to
exert a powerful influence on philosophy, literature, and
every intellectual creation or discovery whatever, I
cannot understand how it is possible, as the phrase
goes, to blink the question of its truth or falsehood.
It meets us with a profession and a proffer of the
highest truths of which the human mind is capable ; it
embraces a range of subjects the most diversified and
distant from each other. What science will not find
one part or other of its province traversed by its path ?
What results of philosophic speculation are unquestion-
able, if they have been gained without inquiry as to
what Theology had to say to them ? Does it cast no
light upon history ? has it no influence upon the prin-
ciples of ethics ? is it without any sort of bearing on
physics, metaphysics, and political science ? Can we
drop it out of the circle of knowledge, without allow-
ing, either that that circle is thereby mutilated, or on
the other hand, that Theology is no science ?

And this dilemma is the more inevitable, because
Theology is so precise and consistent in its intellectual
structure. When I speak of Theism or Monotheism,
I am not throwing together discordant doctrines ; I am



OTHER BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE

not merging belief, opinion, persuasion, of whatever
kind, into a shapeless aggregate, by the help of ambigu-
ous words, and dignifying this medley by the name of
Theology. I speak of one idea unfolded in its just
proportions, carried out upon an intelligible method, and
issuing in necessary and immutable results ; understood
indeed at one time and place better than at another, held
here and there with more or less of inconsistency, but
still, after all, in all times and places, where it is found,
the evolution, not of two ideas, but of one.

And here I am led, gentlemen, to another and most
important point in the argument for the doctrine, I mean
its wide reception. Theology, as I have described it, is
no accident of particular minds, as are certain systems,
for instance, of prophetical interpretation. It is not the
sudden birth of a crisis, as the Lutheran or Wesleyan
doctrine. It is not the splendid development of some
uprising philosophy, as the Cartesian or Platonic. It
is not the fashion of a season, as certain medical treat-
ments may be considered. It has had a place, if not
possession, in the intellectual world from time im-
memorial ; it has been received by minds the most
various, and in systems of religion the most hostile to
each other. It has primd facie claims upon us, so
strong, that it can only be rejected on the ground of
those claims being nothing more than imposing, that
is, false. As to our own countries, it occupies our
language, it meets us at every turn in our literature, it
is the secret assumption, too axiomatic to be distinctly
professed, of all our writers ; nor can we help assuming
it ourselves, without the most unnatural vigilance.
Whoever philosophizes, starts with it, and introduces
it, when he will, without any apology. Bacon,
Hooker, Taylor, Cud worth, Locke, Newton, Clarke,
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BEARING OF THEOLOGY ON

Berkeley, Butler, and it would be as easy to find
more, as difficult to find greater names among English
authors, inculcate or comment upon it. Men the most
opposed, in creed or cast of mind, Addison and John-
son, Shakespeare and Milton, Lord Herbert and
Baxter, herald it forth. Nor is it an English or a
Protestant notion only; you track it across the Conti-
nent, you pursue it into former ages. When was the
world without it ? Have the systems of Atheism or
Pantheism, as sciences, prevailed in the literature of
nations, or received a formation or attained a complete-
ness such as Monotheism ? We find it in old Greece,
and even in Rome, as well as in Judea and the East.
We find it in popular literature, in philosophy, in
poetry, as a positive and settled teaching, differing not
at all in the appearance it presents, whether in Pro-
testant England, or in schismatical Russia, or in the
Mahometan populations, or in the Catfeolic Church.
If ever there was a subject of thought, which had
earned by prescription to be received among the studies
of a University, and which could not be rejected ex-
cept on the score of convicted imposture, as astrology
or alchemy ; if there be a science anywhere, which at
least could claim not to be ignored, but to be enter-
tained, and either distinctly accepted or distinctly re-
probated, or rather, which cannot be passed over in a
scheme of universal instruction, without involving a
positive denial of its truth, it is this ancient, this far-
spreading philosophy.

And BOW, gentlemen, I may bring a somewhat
tedious discussion to a close. It will not take many
words to sum up what I have been urging. I say
then, if the various branches of knowledge, which are
the matter of teaching in a University, so hang together,
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that none can be neglected without prejudice to the
perfection of the rest, and if Theology be a branch of
knowledge, of wide reception, of philosophical struc-
ture, of unutterable importance, and of supreme in-
fluence, to what conclusion are we brought from these
two premisses but this ? that to withdraw Theology


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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 7 of 22)