John Henry Newman.

Selections from the prose writings of John Henry, cardinal Newman online

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[Illustration: CARDINAL NEWMAN.]














Saul 13

Early Years of David 28

Basil and Gregory 45

Augustine and the Vandals 56

Chrysostom 84


The Tartar and the Turk 111

The Turk and the Saracen 122

The Past and Present of the Ottomans 143


What is a University? 155

University Life: Athens 163

Supply and Demand: The Schoolmen 180

The Strength and Weakness of Universities:
Abelard 186


Poetry, with Reference to Aristotle's Poetics 200

The Infinitude of the Divine Attributes 218

Christ upon the Waters 222

The Second Spring 229

St. Paul's Characteristic Gift 251



It has come to be universally admitted that Cardinal Newman fulfills his
own definition of a great author: "One whose aim is to give forth what
he has within him; and from his very earnestness it happens that
whatever be the splendor of his diction, or the harmony of his periods,
he has with him the charm of an incommunicable simplicity.

"Whatever be his subject, high or low, he treats it suitably and for its
own sake.... He writes passionately because he feels keenly; forcibly,
because he conceives vividly; he sees too clearly to be vague; he is too
serious to be otiose; he can analyze his subject, and therefore he is
rich; he embraces it as a whole and in its parts, and therefore he is
consistent; he has a firm hold of it, and therefore he is luminous.

"When his imagination wells up, it overflows in ornament; when his heart
is touched, it thrills along his verse. He always has the right word for
the right idea, and never a word too much....

"He expresses what all feel but cannot say; and his sayings pass into
proverbs among his people, and his phrases become household words,
idioms of their daily speech, which is tessellated with the rich
fragments of his language, as we see in foreign lands the marbles of
Roman grandeur worked into the walls and pavements of modern palaces."

Newman may be said to have handled England's prose as Shakespeare
handled her verse. His language was wrought up little by little to a
finish and refinement, a strength and a subtlety, thrown into the form
of eloquence, beyond which no English writer of prose has gone. Nor is
his excellence that of mere art in form; he possesses not only skill,
which he calls an exercise of talent, but power - a second name for
genius - which itself implies personality and points to inspiration.

His mind was large, logical, profoundly thoughtful, imaginative,
intense, sincere, and above all, spiritual; his soul was keen, delicate,
sympathetic, heroic; and his life, at once severe and tender, passionate
and self-controlled, alone and unlonely, stands out in its loftiness and
saintliness, a strange, majestic contrast to the agitation and turmoil
of "confused passions, hesitating ideals, tentative virtues, and groping
philanthropies" amidst which it was lived.

Both by word and work did Newman lead forth his generation on the long
pilgrimage to the shrine of Truth, and England of the nineteenth century
has no surer claim to holiness and genius for her great sons than that
set upon John Henry Newman.

He was born in London, 1801; studied, taught, and preached at Oxford;
became the chief promoter of the Tractarian Movement of 1833; entered
the Catholic Church in 1845; founded the Oratory at Birmingham, 1848;
was created Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII 1879; died at Edgbaston, 1890.

Any attempt to choose from the writings of Newman what seems most
desirable for brief class studies is certain to be woefully embarrassed
by the very wealth of matter; and apology for risking the choice would
be due, were it not lost sight of in the desire to see a literary model
so pure, varied, animated, forceful, luminous - "a thing of light and
beauty" - given to our students.

What is more significant of the Life Book of the saintly Oxford Scholar
than his self-written epitaph: "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem?"


Newman's best essays display a delicate and flexible treatment of
language, without emphasis, without oddity, which hardly arrests the
attention at first, - the reader being absorbed in the argument or
statement, - but which, in course of time, fascinates, as a thing
miraculous in its limpid grace and suavity.

- _Edmund Gosse's History of Modern English Literature._

The work of Newman reveals him as one of the great masters of graceful,
scholarly, finished prose. It is individual, it has charm, and this is
the secret of its power to interest. No writer of our time has reflected
his mind and heart in his pages as has Newman. He has light for the
intellect and warmth for the heart.

- _A. J. George's Types of Literary Art._

Newman towers, with only three or four compeers, above his generation;
and now that the benignity of his great nature has passed from our
sight, its majesty is more evident year by year.

- _Scudder's Modern English Poets._

The finish and urbanity of Newman's prose have been universally
commended even by those who are most strenuously opposed to his

- _H. J. Nicoll._

All the resources of a master of English style are at Newman's command:
pure diction, clear arrangement, delicate irony, gracious dignity, a
copious command of words combined with a chaste reserve in using them.
All these qualities go to make up the charm of Newman's style - the
finest flower that the earliest system of a purely classical education
has produced.

- _J. Jacobs's Literary Studies._

Newman combines a thoroughly classical training, a scholarly form, with
the incommunicable and almost inexplicable power to move audiences and

- _George Saintsbury._

The pure style of Newman may be compared in its distinguishing quality
to the atmosphere. It is at once simple and subtle, vigorous and
elastic; it penetrates into every recess of its subject; it is
transparent, allowing each object it touches to display its own proper

- _H. E. Beeching's English Prose._

There are touching passages characteristic of Newman's writings which
give them a peculiar charm. They are those which yield momentary
glimpses of a very tender heart that has a burden of its own, unrevealed
to man.... It is, as I have heard it described, as though he suddenly
opened a book and gave you a glimpse for a moment of wonderful secrets,
and then as quickly closed it.... In Newman's Sermons, how the old truth
became new; how it came home, as he spoke, with a meaning never felt
before! He laid his finger how gently, yet how powerfully, on some inner
place in the hearer's heart, and told him things about himself he had
never known till then. Subtlest truths, which it would have taken
philosophers pages of circumlocution and big words to state, were
dropped out by the way in a sentence or two of the most transparent
Saxon. What delicacy of style, yet what strength! how simple, yet how
suggestive! how penetrating, yet how refined! how homely, yet how
tender-hearted! You might come away still not believing the tenets
peculiar to the High Church System, but you would be harder than most
men if you did not feel more than ever ashamed of coarseness,
selfishness, worldliness, if you did not feel the things of faith
brought closer to the soul.... Newman's innate and intense idealism is,
perhaps, his most striking characteristic.... It is a thought of his,
always deeply felt and many times repeated, that this visible world is
but the outward shell of an invisible kingdom, a screen which hides from
our view things far greater and more wonderful than any which we see,
and that the unseen world is close to us and ever ready to break through
the shell and manifest itself.

- _Shairp._

Newman's great reputation for prose and the supreme interest attaching
to his life seem to have obscured the fame he might have won as a poet.
He was in poetry, as in theology, a more masculine Keble, but with all
the real purity of Keble, with also the indispensable flavor of

- _H. Walker._

The _Dream of Gerontius_ resembles Dante more than any other poetry
written since the great Tuscan's time.

- _Sir Henry Taylor._

The _Dream_ is a rare poetic rendering into English verse of that high
ritual which from the death-bed to the Mass of Supplication encompasses
the faithful soul.... Newman has no marked affinities with English
writers of his day. He is strikingly different from Macaulay, whose
eloquence betrays the fury, as it is annealed in the fire, of the
Western Celt. To Ruskin, who deliberately built up a monument, stately
as the palace of Kubla Khan, he is a contrast, for the very reason that
he does not handle words as if they were settings in architecture or
colors in a palette; rather, he would look upon them as transparencies
which let his meaning through. He is more like De Quincey, but again no
player upon the organ for the sake of its music; and that which is
common to both is the literary tradition of the eighteenth century
enhanced by a power to which abstract and concrete yielded in almost
equal degree.... With so prompt and intense an intellect at his call,
there was no subject, outside purely technical criticism, which Newman
could not have mastered.

- _Barry's Literary Lives._

It is when Newman exerts his flexible and vivid imagination in depicting
the deepest religious passion that we are most carried away by him and
feel his great genius most truly.... Whether tried by the test of
nobility, intensity, and steadfastness of his work, or by the test of
the greatness of the powers which have been consecrated to that work,
Cardinal Newman has been one of the greatest of our modern great men.

- _R. H. Hutton's Life of Newman._

Newman's mind was world-wide. He was interested in everything that was
going on in science, in the highest form of politics, in literature....
Nothing was too large for him, nothing too trivial, if it threw light
upon the central question, - what man really is and what is his destiny.

- _J. A. Froude._

In Newman's sketch of the influence of Abelard on his disciples is seen
his belief in the immense power for good or ill of a dominating
personality. And he himself supplied an object-lesson in his theory.
Shairp, Froude, Church, Wilberforce, Gladstone, are only a few of those
who have borne testimony to the personal magnetism which left its mark
on the whole of thinking Oxford. "Cor ad cor loquitur," the motto chosen
by Newman on his receiving the Cardinal's hat, expressed to him the
whole reality of intercourse between man and man, and man and God.

- _Wilfrid Ward's Problems and Persons._

Newman's mind swung through a wide arc, and thoughts apparently
antagonistic often were to him supplemental each to each.... A man of
dauntless courage and profound thoughtfulness, while his intellect was
pre√Ђminently a logical one, both the heart and the moral sense possessed
with him their sacred tribunals in matters of reasoning as well as of
sentiment.... The extreme subtlety of his intelligence opposed no
hindrance to his power of exciting vehement emotion.

- _A. De Vere's Literary Reminiscences._



"I gave them a king in mine anger, and took him away in my
wrath." - _Hosea_ xiii. 11.

The Israelites seem to have asked for a king
from an unthankful caprice and waywardness.
The ill conduct, indeed, of Samuel's sons was the
occasion of the sin, but "an evil heart of
unbelief," to use Scripture language, was the real cause 5
of it. They had ever been restless and
dissatisfied, asking for flesh when they had manna,
fretful for water, impatient of the wilderness, bent
on returning to Egypt, fearing their enemies,
murmuring against Moses. They had miracles 10
even to satiety; and then, for a change, they
wished a king like the nations. This was the
chief reason of their sinful demand. And further,
they were dazzled with the pomp and splendor
of the heathen monarchs around them, and they 15
desired some one to fight their battles, some
visible succor to depend on, instead of having
to wait for an invisible Providence, which came in
its own way and time, by little and little, being
dispensed silently, or tardily, or (as they might 20
consider) unsuitably. Their carnal hearts did
not love the neighborhood of heaven; and, like
the inhabitants of Gadara afterwards, they prayed
that Almighty God would depart from their
coasts. 5

Such were some of the feelings under which they
desired a king like the nations; and God at length
granted their request. To punish them, He gave
them a king _after their own heart_, Saul, the son of
Kish, a Benjamite; of whom the text speaks in 10
these terms, "I gave them a king in Mine anger,
and took him away in My wrath."

There is, in true religion, a sameness, an absence
of hue and brilliancy, in the eyes of the natural
man; a plainness, austereness, and (what he 15
considers) sadness. It is like the heavenly manna of
which the Israelites complained, insipid, and at
length wearisome, "like wafers made with honey."
They complained that "their soul was dried
away." "There is nothing at all," they said, 20
"beside this manna, before our eyes.... We
remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt
freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the
leeks, and the onions, and the garlick."[1] Such
were the dainty meats in which their soul 25
delighted; and for the same reason they desired a
king. Samuel had too much of primitive
simplicity about him to please them, they felt they
were behind the world, and clamored to be put
on a level with the heathen. 30

[1] Exod. xvi.; Numb. xi. 5.

Saul, the king whom God gave them, had much
to recommend him to minds thus greedy of the
dust of the earth. He was brave, daring,
resolute; gifted, too, with strength of body as well
as of mind - a circumstance which seems to 5
have attracted their admiration. He is described
in person as if one of those sons of Anak, before
whose giant-forms the spies of the Israelites in the
wilderness were as grasshoppers - "a choice
young man, and a goodly; there was not among 10
the children of Israel a goodlier person than he:
from his shoulders and upward he was higher
than any of the people."[2] Both his virtues and
his faults were such as became an eastern monarch,
and were adapted to secure the fear and 15
submission of his subjects. Pride, haughtiness,
obstinacy, reserve, jealousy, caprice - these, in
their way, were not unbecoming qualities in the
king after whom their imaginations roved. On
the other hand, the better parts of his character 20
were of an excellence sufficient to engage the
affection of Samuel himself.

[2] 1 Sam. ix. 2 - _vide ibid._ x. 23.

As to Samuel, his conduct is far above human
praise. Though injuriously treated by his countrymen,
who cast him off after he had served them 25
faithfully till he was "old and gray-headed,"[3] and
who resolved on setting over themselves a king
against his earnest entreaties, still we find no trace
of coldness or jealousy in his behavior towards
Saul. On his first meeting with him, he addressed 30
him in the words of loyalty - "On whom
is all the desire of Israel? is it not on thee, and
on all thy father's house?" Afterwards, when he
anointed him king, he "kissed him, and said, Is it
not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be 5
captain over His inheritance?" When he announced
him to the people as their king, he said,
"See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that
there is none like him among all the people?"
And, some time after, when Saul had irrecoverably 10
lost God's favor, we are told, "Samuel came no
more to see Saul until the day of his death:
_nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul_." In the
next chapter he is even rebuked for immoderate
grief - "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, 15
seeing I have rejected him from reigning over
Israel?"[4] Such sorrow speaks favorably for
Saul as well as for Samuel; it is not only the grief
of a loyal subject and a zealous prophet, but,
moreover, of an attached friend; and, indeed, 20
instances are recorded, in the first years of his
reign, of forbearance, generosity, and neglect of
self, which sufficiently account for the feelings
with which Samuel regarded him. David, under
very different circumstances, seems to have felt 25
for him a similar affection.

[3] _Ibid._ xii. 2.

[4] 1 Sam. ix. 20; x. 1, 24; xv. 35; xvi. 1.

The higher points of his character are brought
out in instances such as the following: The
first announcement of his elevation came upon
him suddenly, but apparently without unsettling 30
him. He kept it secret, leaving it to Samuel, who
had made it to him, to publish it. "Saul said
unto his uncle, He" (that is, Samuel) "told us
plainly that the asses were found. But of the
matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, 5
_he told him not_." Nay, it would even seem he
was averse to the dignity intended for him; for
when the Divine lot fell upon him, he hid himself,
and was not discovered by the people, without
recourse to Divine assistance. The appointment 10
was at first unpopular. "The children of Belial
said, How shall this man save us? They despised
him, and brought him no presents, _but he held his
peace_." Soon the Ammonites invaded the
country beyond Jordan, with the avowed intention of 15
subjugating it. The people sent to Saul for relief
almost in despair; and the panic spread in the
interior as well as among those whose country
was immediately threatened. The history
proceeds: "_Behold, Saul came after the herd out of 20
the field_; and Saul said, What aileth the people
that they weep? and they told him the tidings
of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God
came upon Saul, and his anger was kindled
greatly." His order for an immediate gathering 25
throughout Israel was obeyed with the alacrity
with which the multitude serve the strong-minded
in times of danger. A decisive victory over the
enemy followed; then the popular cry became,
"Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? 30
bring the men, that we may put them to death.
And Saul said, _There shall not a man be put to
death this day_, for to-day the Lord hath wrought
salvation in Israel."[5]

[5] 1 Sam. xi. 12, 13.

Thus personally qualified, Saul was, moreover,
a prosperous king. He had been appointed to 5
subdue the enemies of Israel, and success attended
his arms. At the end of the fourteenth chapter,
we read: "So Saul took the kingdom over Israel
and fought against all his enemies on every side,
against Moab, and against the children of 10
Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of
Zobah, and against the Philistines; and
whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them. And
he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites,
and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that 15
spoiled them."

Such was Saul's character and success; his
character faulty, yet not without promise; his
success in arms as great as his carnal subjects
could have desired. Yet, in spite of Samuel's 20
private liking for him, and in spite of the good
fortune which actually attended him, we find that
from the beginning the prophet's voice is raised
both against people and king in warnings and
rebukes, which are omens of his destined 25
destruction, according to the text, "I gave them a king in
Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath."
At the very time that Saul is publicly received as
king, Samuel protests, "Ye have this day rejected
your God, who Himself saved you out of all your 30
adversities and your tribulations."[6] In a
subsequent assembly of the people, in which he
testified his uprightness, he says, "Is it not wheat
harvest to-day? I will call unto the Lord, and
He shall send thunder and rain; _that ye may 5
perceive and see that your wickedness is great_, in asking
you a king." Again, "If ye shall still do wickedly,
ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king."[7]
And after this, on the first instance of disobedience
and at first sight no very heinous sin, the sentence 10
of rejection is passed upon him: "Thy kingdom
shall not continue; the Lord hath sought Him a
man after His own heart."[8]

[6] 1 Sam. x. 19.

[7] _Ibid._ xii. 17, 25.

[8] _Ibid._ xiii. 14.

Here, then, a question may be raised - Why
was Saul thus marked for vengeance from the 15
beginning? Why these presages of misfortune,
which from the first hung over him, gathered, fell
in storm and tempest, and at length overwhelmed
him? Is his character so essentially faulty that
it must be thus distinguished for reprobation 20
above all the anointed kings after him? Why,
while David is called a man after God's own heart,
should Saul be put aside as worthless?

This question leads us to a deeper inspection of,
his character. Now, we know, the first duty of 25
every man is the fear of God - a reverence for His
word, a love of Him, and a desire to obey Him; and,
besides, it was peculiarly incumbent on the king of
Israel, as God's vicegerent, by virtue of his office, to
promote His glory whom his subjects had rejected. 30

Now Saul "lacked this one thing." His
character, indeed, is obscure, and we must be cautious
while considering it; still, as Scripture is given us
for our instruction, it is surely right to make the
most of what we find there, and to form our 5
judgment by such lights as we possess. It would
appear, then, that Saul was never under the
abiding influence of religion, or, in Scripture language,
"the fear of God," however he might be at times
moved and softened. Some men are inconsistent 10
in their conduct, as Samson; or as Eli, in a
different way; and yet may have lived by faith,
though a weak faith. Others have sudden falls,
as David had. Others are corrupted by
prosperity, as Solomon. But as to Saul, there is no 15
proof that he had any deep-seated religious
principle at all; rather, it is to be feared, that his
history is a lesson to us, that the "heart of unbelief"
may exist in the very sight of God, may rule a man

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanSelections from the prose writings of John Henry, cardinal Newman → online text (page 1 of 19)