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JOHN KEBLE . . . . 155




A VOLUME in this series, entitled University Sketches, by
Cardinal Newman, is prefaced by a somewhat lengthy
Introduction, designed to arouse the interest of the general
reader in the work of that great writer. A few of his books
are described, and in some cases represented by quotation ;
while incidentally there are a few general remarks about his
prose and verse. In an essay thus avowedly elementary,
I preferred to say little about his life, because I thought
my purpose would be better served by dealing with his
writings only, and space would not permit a consideration
of both. There, too, I stated my belief that a short sketch
of his life is bound to be unsuccessful, since that life is
not so much a tale of achievements, as the gradual de-
velopment of a character, under impulses from within and
influences from without. Such a life requires for its com-
plete exhibition, the free space and well-filled stage of a
novel; a brief account can do no more than select for
notice a few facts and dates, and that is what I shall do
here as a preface to this second volume of selections. The
present introduction is not meant to be an integral part of
the former, which, indeed, was out of my hands before this
volume was even thought of. However, as I wrote there
about Newman chiefly as a man of letters, and intend here
to consider very briefly his life, the two together may serve


some modest purpose of use, in guiding onwards those
readers, who find these selections from a great man's work
attractive enough to encourage further explorations.

The life of John Henry Newman was almost coeval with
the century that is just dead. He was born on the 2ist
of February 1801, in Old Broad Street, E.G. His father
was a banker, his mother descended from a family of
Huguenots. His bringing up was strictly religious, and
sorted well with his disposition; but the future Cardinal
was fed with strange food. The Calvinism of Scott's Bible,
of Aewton on the Prophecies, of Milner's Church History,
can scarcely be said to point towards Rome; but all these
writers had their great share in moulding his plastic youth.
What that share was cannot be better told than in his own
words :

"The writer who made a deeper impression on my mind than any other,
and to whom (humanly speaking) I almost owe my soul [was] Thomas
Scott of Aston Sandford. . . . He followed truth wherever it led him,
beginning with Unitarianism, and ending in a zealous faith in the Holy
Trinity. It was he who first planted deep in my mind that fundamental
truth of religion. . . . And for years I used almost as proverbs
what I considered to be the scope and issue of his doctrine, ' Holiness
rather than peace,' and ' Growth the only evidence of life.' ... I
read Joseph Milner's Church History, and was nothing short of en-
amoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the
other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion
of the primitive Christians; but simultaneously with Milner I read
Newton on the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly
convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St.
Paul, and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this
doctrine up to the year 1843; ^ nac ^ been obliterated from my reason
and judgmental an earlier dale; but the ihought remained upon me
as a sort of false conscience."

Here, too, we must notice another most important state-


" When I was fifteen (in the autumn of 1816), a great change of thought
took place in me. I fell under the influences of a definite Creed, and
received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God's
mercy, have never been effaced or obscured."

I called this statement important, because of what is
implied in the notion of dogma, or definite credenda of
religion. From the fundamental truths of revealed religion
spring forth other doctrines, and it soon becomes necessary
to say which of various interpretations or developments is
the right one. The shocks and storms that have raged
round the almost innumerable heresies are part of the pro-
cess of " natural selection " in dogma ; and it is claimed that
the doctrines which survive do so because they have in
them the principle of true life, which the others, called
heresies, have not. Let us consider such a passage as
" The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us" (John i. 14). l
What is the Word? Why so called? How "became"?
What was the nature of this Incarnate Word? Was it both
God and Man separately? Was it God and Man mingled
in some Singular Nature? Was the Word always Human ?
Was the Humanity retained after the Resurrection ? Ques-
tions of this sort make it plain that if there is to be a
definite Creed, there must be infallible power of defining,
some individual or body that, on the appearance of contro-
versy, shall say finally, "This is right] that is wrong." And
so, when Newman received into his intellect the notion of a
definite Creed, he made unawares his first great step towards
Rome ; for the Anglican Church has not many unmistakable
credenda, nor has it the power or right of defining them more
exactly. It was the gradual discovery of this that shattered

1 I am indebted to some one for this illustration, I fancy to Newman
himself, but I cannot give a reference.



his belief in the Church of his birth, and brought him, after
a long struggle, into the Church of Rome.

In 1808 he was sent to Baling School, famous in its day.
He was very sharp, and quickly ran from bottom to top.
His tastes were literary. He began writing in prose and
verse at the age of eleven, and " took much pains in matter
of style." To this labour he devoted his play-time, and
he was never known to take part in any games. He read
the tales of Miss Porter, Mrs. Radcliffe, and, above all,
Sir Walter Scott, and from these, no doubt, got his first
scent of a Catholic atmosphere. Music, too, was not forgot-
ten. To the end of his days Newman was a good violinist;
and it is pleasant to think of such a man playing for hours
at a stretch in the quartets of Haydn, Mozart, and Beet-
hoven, the last of whom he thoroughly appreciated, a
point of taste not too common in the early years of the
nineteenth century.

From Baling he went to Oxford, and was entered at
Trinity before the end of his sixteenth year. In the follow-
ing June he went into residence, and made the acquaintance
of J. W. Bowden, a friendship that lasted unimpaired till
Bowden's death in one of the darkest years of Newman's
life. In 1820 he attempted to take his B.A. degree with
honours, but to the astonishment of every one, himself
included, he broke down, and barely gained the pass degree.
However, he had his revenge. He resolved to become a
candidate for an Oriel fellowship. Every one thought he
was mad; but he succeeded. Oriel was at this time the
leading college at the University, and here Newman met
most of those who, in different ways, were to influence him
so deeply. First there was Richard Whately the archi-
episcopal Christopher North, as I remember seeing him
called whose vigorous, boisterous personality shook out


all Newman's diffidence and shyness. Here is Newman's
verdict on him :

" I owe him a great deal. . . . He, emphatically, opened my mind,
and taught me to think and to use my reason. . . . He had done his
work towards me, or nearly so, when he taught me to see with my
own eyes and to walk with my own feet."

Writing, in 1860, a note on an early letter of his to
Whately, Newman puts the matter more bluntly by saying :

" I used to propose to myself to dedicate a work to him, if I ever wrote
one, to this effect : 'To Richard Whately, D.D., etc., who, by teaching
me to think, taught me to differ from himself.' Of course more respect-
fully wrapped up."

Another man who helped to shape Newman's life was
Dr. Hawkins, Vicar of St. Mary's, and afterwards Provost
of Oriel. Of him Newman writes :

"He was the first who taught me to weigh my words, and to be cautious
in my statements. He led me to that mode of limiting and clearing my
sense in discussion and in controversy, and of distinguishing between
cognate ideas, and of obviating mistakes by anticipation, which, to my
surprise, has since been considered, even in quarters friendly to me, to
savour of the polemics of Rome. . . .

"There is one other principle which I gained from Dr. Hawkins, more
directly bearing upon Catholicism than any I have mentioned, and that
is the doctrine of Tradition. . . . He lays down a proposition, self-
evident as soon as stated to those who have at all examined the
structure of Scripture viz., that the sacred text was never intended to
teach doctrine, but only to prove it, and that if we would learn doctrine,
we must have recourse to the formularies of the Church, for instance,
to the Catechism and to the Creeds."

The Analogy of Butler, read in the early 'twenties, had a
marked effect on Newman's religious opinions: it gave him
the notion of a visible Church and the duty of external
religion; but, above all, it strengthened his youthful
belief, that the visible world was an "Economy,'' a type,


almost sacramental, of the real unseen world. Then, too,
Butler's doctrine that Probability is the Guide of Life took
a strong hold on his mind, so strong, indeed, that hundreds
of his pages are devoted in one way or another to develop-
ments of this doctrine, one book, An Essay in Aid of a
Grammar of Assent, being concerned practically with nothing
else. All this, first thoroughly learned from Butler, was
driven home by the writings and teachings of a new friend,
John Keble, whose Christian Year was the first visible sign
of that ecclesiastical revival with which the names of New-
man and Keble will always be connected. Another dear
friend of these years, bright, alert, versatile Hurrell Froude,
helped to lessen his dislike for Rome, and to increase his
dislike for violent Protestantism. However, what may be
called Newman's period of passivity came to an end in 1828,
when he became Vicar of St. Mary's. " It was to me," he
said, "like the feeling of spring weather after winter; and,
if I may so speak, I came out of my shell. I remained out
of it till 1841."

In 1830 he began to work at his book on the Arians.
This led him to the Fathers, who in time led him to Rome.
In 1832 he set out on a European tour with the Froudes,
father and son, and during this voyage many of the poems
used as numbers of the Lyra Apostolica were written. After
voyaging to the Archipelago and back to Italy, he separated
from the Froudes and went to Sicily, and there, stricken with
fever, alone in a strange land, he was mysteriously sustained by
a belief that he had "a work to do in England," the work of
teaching the English Church that it was really a Church,
the work of waking the living meaning that lay slumbering
and unsuspected beneath the words of its formularies. At
last he recovered, and crossed to France. While becalmed,
he wrote the immortal " Lead, Kindly Light," a poem that


brings with it a sense of tears and of joy, for it is a true
cry of the heart.

" At length I got to Marseilles, and set off for England. The fatigue
of travelling was too much for me, and I was laid up for several days at
Lyons. At last I got off again, and did not stop, night or day (except
a compulsory delay at Paris), till I reached England, and my mother's
house. My brother had arrived from Persia only a few hours before.
This was on the Tuesday. The following Sunday, July I4th, Mr. Keble
preached the Assize Sermon in the University Pulpit. It was published
under the title of 'National Apostasy.' I have ever considered and
kept the day as the start of the religious movement of 1833."

What was the Oxford Movement of 1833? That is a
question impossible to answer in a short article, nor would
these pages be a fit place for the attempt. I endeavour to
indicate it briefly, by saying that it was an attempt to make
Anglicans think rather of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church " of the Nicene Creed, than of the
"Church of England as by Law Established''; to lead
them to trace their ecclesiastical descent, not from Queen
Elizabeth, but from the Church of the Apostles, and the
great Saints and Doctors of the early Christian centuries.
It was an attempt to awaken a puissant and vigorous
Christian life, by calling into being a sort of ecclesiastical
patriotism, that sense of Church life which the Establish-
ment has certainly never had at any time in its history.
As I do not wish to be misunderstood, I will remark that
Christian life and Church life are not the same thing; that
one does not imply the other, though it is probable that
a sense of Church life will have its effect on the religious
life. Nothing is clearer than the pressing need in those
days for some invigoration of the English Church. Against
the advantages won by separation from Rome, must be
set the miserable lethargy induced by the new order of


things. Earnestness seemed to die with the Non-jurors,
and a complete arrest of life and function set in with the
Hanoverian monarchs. The need for reform brought forth
Wesley at Oxford, whose attempt to Protestantise the
Church still further, ended in the definite separation of the
Methodists from the decayed body of the Establishment.
Then came Simeon at Cambridge; but the evangelicalism
of this school obviously affected, not the Church as a
whole, but that part of it lying nearest to Dissent, so that
it tended to create further division, to drive people out
of the Church rather than waken the whole mass into
new life. In the days of Newman's youth the air was
thick with plans of political reform, and it did not escape
notice that the Church, too, had its Rotten Boroughs and
its Virtual Representation. The union of Church and
State had not been particularly successful for the Church
as such ; and so the hint of further interference brought
into prominence a new High Church party, that looked
with longing eyes back to the Church of the past, and
prepared to meet further advances of Parliament in Church
affairs with vigorous, Primitive opposition. Protestantism,
they said in effect, has been tried and found wanting; it
has seriously impaired the very life of the Church ; let us
go back, then, to Antiquity, to Catholicity. Now it should
be clearly understood that Newman had nothing at all to do
with the rise of this idea. It began to spring up before
1833, and its beginnings were felt at first in schools of
thought with which Newman had little sympathy. He, as
the foregoing pages have surely shown, was caught into the
new movement : he did not begin it ; but such a man as
he could not stay long in the rear. The force of personality
brought him to the front, and the Oxford Movement was
thereafter associated chiefly with his name. It grew with


his growth, and began to die at his secession from the
English Church.

It seems to me quite plain that the Oxford Movement did
not last, and did not directly begin a new order of things.
The extreme High Churchman of to-day has very little
in common with the "Tractarian" of the 'thirties. The
Oxford leaders tried to follow the path of the Primitive
Church; the modern party runs parallel with modern Rome;
and, just as the Oxford Movement led straight to Rome,
and there only, so the extreme party of to-day, if it con-
tinue in its present course, will find nothing before it .but
separation into a new sect. It seems odd that the
Oxford leaders did not see the futility of their retrogres-
sion. The Church of the second, third, fourth, even of
the fifth century, may seem at first sight to differ in many
ways from the Church of Rome as we know it to-day ; but
we cannot shut our eyes to history, and the fact remains
that Leo the Thirteenth stands in the twentieth century,
where in the fifth stood Leo the First. To go back to the
Council of Nicaea is merely to postpone, and not to evade,
a return to the Council of Trent. Still, though the logic
of the Oxford Movement was Rome and nothing else, the
Church of England gained something from it. There was
a stir, there was indeed a "movement"; and out of the
stress of it all, that enfeebled Church drew in new interests,
new vigour, almost new life.

The members of the new party had set themselves a
big task. On one side they were ranged against the
Erastian or " Church and State " principle, while on the
other they were opposed to " Liberalism " in religion the
anti-dogmatic principle, the notion that the actual credenda
of faith were of little importance a foe infinitely more
dangerous, because such was and is the spirit of the last


hundred years. The Movement was quite informal.
There was no organisation, no leader; there was not even
agreement. Newman, it is clear, was the life and soul of
the work. His energy was amazing. His letters written
during these years stand by themselves ; they seem to come
from another, more vigorous, more hard-framed man. He
began the Tracts for the Times, designed to diffuse the
work of the party; he visited the country clergy, wrote
letters to persons and papers. Very thoroughly did he
realise the rather truculent motto of the Lyra Apostolica,
" You shall know the difference now that I am back again."
The milder men in the movement began to be alarmed, but
Newman, encouraged by Keble, Froude. and Pusey (who
came later into the work), went on, and carried numbers
with him. His magical personality brought round him
admiring disciples from young Oxford, so that, although he
was by title a parish priest, his influence was chiefly at work
amongst members of the University. The cry of Popery
was raised against the Movement, but as a matter of fact
Newman's "false conscience" made him so vehement
against Rome, that Froude had to rebuke him for his
" cursing and swearing." Newman, however, felt that they
ought to define clearly their attitude towards Rome, and
for this purpose set about his Prophetical Office of the Church,
the indication of a Via Media between Rome and Pro-
testantism. Indeed, he laboured with mind and pen
almost without ceasing. The Tracts went on ; sermons
were preached and published, and his reading of the Fathers
was widened and deepened. In 1839, he began to study
the Monophysite controversy, the heresy that rose out of
the doctrine implied by Eutyches that Christ had only one
nature, a controversy that threatened to shatter Christ-
endom, until the magnificent intervention of St. Leo


restored order if not peace. It was during a study of this
question that he felt his first doubt about the soundness of

"I have described in a former work how the history affected me. My
stronghold was Antiquity; now here, in the middle of the fifth century,
I found, as it seemed to me, Christendom of the sixteenth and nine-
teenth centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a
Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the
Oriental communion ; Rome was where she now is ; and the Protestants
were the Eutychians."

In the same year he read Dr. Wiseman's article on the
Anglican Claims in the Dublin Review for August, which
compared the Anglicans with the Donatists; but New-
man did not see the cogency of this ; the Donatists
had made a schism in their own African Church, it was
not a case of one Church against another. But the sting
of the article was in its tail. Dr. Wiseman quoted from St.
Augustine, who wrote against these schismatics; and one of
the extracts contained the triumphant judgment that, how-
ever vigorously heretics and schismatics may call themselves
Catholic, the voice of the universal world, given without
bias, is emphatically against them. "Securus judicat orbis
terrarum !" The words were shown to Newman by a friend,
and struck him with new and sudden force.

" What a light was hereby thrown upon every controversy in the
Church ! Not that, for the moment, the multitude may not falter in
their judgment, not that, in the Arian hurricane, sees more than
can be remembered did not bend before its fury, and fall off from
St. Athanasius, not that the crowd of Oriental Bishops did not need
to be sustained during the contest by the voice and the eye of St. Leo;
but that the deliberate judgment, in which the whole Church at length
rests and acquiesces, is an infallible prescription and a final sentence
against such portions of it as protest and secede. Who can account for
the impressions which are made on him ? For a mere sentence, the


words of St. Augustine struck me with a power which I never had felt
from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the
' Turn again, Whittington ' of the chime ; or, to take a more serious
one, they were like the ' Tolle, lege, Tolle, lege,' of the child, which
converted St. Augustine himself. 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum !'
By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing
up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory of the
Via Media was absolutely pulverised."

I must quote again, this time from an article by H. W.
Wilberforce, in the Dublin Review for April 1869:

" It was in the beginning of October 1839 that he made the astounding
confidence, mentioning the two subjects which had inspired the doubt
the position of St. Leo in the Monophysite controversy, and the
principle securus judicat orbis terrarum in that of the Donatists. He
added that he felt confident that when he returned to his rooms, and
was able fully and calmly to consider the whole matter, he should see
his way completely out of the difficulty. But he said, ' I cannot conceal
from myself that, for the first time since I began the study of theology,
a vista has been opened before me, to the end of which I do not see.'
He was walking in the New Forest, and he borrowed the form of his
expression from the surrounding scenery. His companion, upon whom
such a fear came like a thunder-stroke, expressed his hope that Mr.
Newman might die rather than take such a step. He replied, with deep
earnestness, that he had thought, if ever the time should come when he
was in serious danger, of asking his friends to pray that, if it was not
indeed the will of God, he might be taken away before he did it."

The vehemence of such language is a little astonishing at
first, for, thanks in great measure to Newman himself, we
have now learned to know Rome a little better, and we find
that it smells far less of Tophet than Protestantism had
taught us to believe. But the date of this conversation is
1839. Less than sixty years before, London had been in
the hands of the " No Popery " rioters, headed by the
madman Gordon. Only ten years before, the Duke of
Wellington had fought a duel with Lord Winchelsea to


repel the intolerable accusation of harbouring a friendly
feeling for Popery. Only ten years before had Catholics
gained the elementary rights of citizenship, and that in
the face of the fiercest opposition. The spirit of the age
is manifested in such facts as these; and so the strong
feeling shown in the quotation need not astonish any one.
Newman's alarm did not lead him to immediate action.
He became calm again. It was one thing to doubt; it was
another to be convinced. There was too much in Rome
for him to swallow yet; and in so great a matter, he refused
to be ruled by imagination. Reason must be the only

" Meanwhile, so far as this was certain, I had seen the shadow of a
hand upon the wall. It was clear that I had a good deal to learn on
the question of the Churches, and that perhaps some new light was
coming upon me. lie who has seen a ghost, cannot be as if he had

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanSelect essays of John Henry cardinal Newman → online text (page 1 of 30)