John Henry Newman.

The idea of a university defined and illustrated: I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. [sic] In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic University online

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are offences of the first order. Drinking and swearing,
squalid poverty, improvidence, laziness, slovenly disorder,
make up the idea of profligacy : poets may say any
thing, however wicked, with impunity ; works of genius
may be read without danger or shame, whatever their

Discourse VllL

principles ; fashion, celebrity, the beautiful, the heroic,
will suffice to force any evil upon the community. The
splendours of a court, and the charms of good society,
wit, imagination, taste, and high breeding, the prestige
of rank, and the resources of wealth, are a screen, an
instrument, and an apology for vice and irreligion. And
thus at length we find, surprising as the change may be,
that that very refinement of Intellectualism, which began
by repelling sensuality, ends by excusing it. Under the
shadow indeed of the Church, and in its due development,
Philosophy does service to the cause of morality ; but,
when it is strong enough to have a will of its own, and is
lifted up with an idea of its own importance, and attempts
to form a theory, and to lay down a principle, and to
carry out a system of ethics, and undertakes the moral
education of the man, then it does but abet evils to
which at first it seemed instinctively opposed. True
Religion is slow in growth, and, when once planted, is
difficult of dislodgement ; but its intellectual counterfeit
has no root in itself : it springs up suddenly, it suddenly
withers. It appeals to what is in nature, and it falls
under the dominion of the old Adam. Then, like
dethroned princes, it keeps up a state and majesty,
when it has lost the real power. Deformity is its abhor-
rence ; accordingly, since it cannot dissuade men from
vice, therefore in order to escape the sight of its deformity,
it embellishes it. It " skins and films the ulcerous
place," which it cannot probe or heal,

" Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen."

And from this shallowness of philosophical Religion
it comes to pass that its disciples seem able to fulfil certain
precepts of Christianity more readily and exactly than

Knowledge and Religious Duty. 203

Christians themselves. St. Paul, as I have said, gives us
a pattern of evangelical perfection ; he draws the Chris-
tian character in its most graceful form, and its most
beautiful hues. He discourses of that chanty which is
patient and meek, humble and single-minded, disinter-
ested, contented, and persevering. He tells us to prefer
each the other before himself, to give way to each other,
to abstain from rude words and evil speech, to avoid self-
conceit, to be calm and grave, to be cheerful and happy, to
observe peace with all men, truth and justice, courtesy and
gentleness, all that is modest, amiable, virtuous, and of
good repute. Such is St. Paul's exemplar of the Chris-
tian in his external relations ; and, I repeat, the school of
the world seems to send out living copies of this typical
excellence with greater success than the Church. At
this day the " gentleman " is the creation, not of Chris-
tianity, but of civilization. But the reason is obvious.
The world is content with setting right the surface of
things ; the Church aims at regenerating the very depths
of the heart. She ever begins with the beginning ; and,
as regards the multitude of her children, is never able
to get beyond the beginning, but is continually employed
in laying the foundation. She is engaged with what is
essential, as previous and as introductory to the orna-
mental and the attractive. She is curing men and keep-
ing them clear of mortal sin ; she is " treating of justice
and chastity, and the judgment to come :" she is insist-
ing on faith and hope, and devotion, and honesty,
and the elements of charity ; and has so much to do with
precept, that she almost leaves it to inspirations from
Heaven to suggest what is of counsel and perfection.
She aims at what is necessary rather than at what is de-
sirable. She is for the many as well as for the few. She
is putting souls in the way of salvation, that they may

204 Discourse VIIL

then be in a condition, if they shall be called upon, to
aspire to the heroic, and to attain the full proportions, as
well as the rudiments, of the beautiful.


Such is the method, or the policy (so to call it), of the
Church ; but Philosophy looks at the matter from a very
different point of view : what have Philosophers to do
with the terror of judgment or the saving of the soul ?
Lord Shaftesbury calls the former a sort of " panic fear."
Of the latter he scoffingly complains that "the saving of
souls is now the heroic passion of exalted spirits." Of
course he is at liberty, on his principles, to pick and
choose out of Christianity what he will ; he discards the
theological, the mysterious, the spiritual ; he makes
selection of the morally or esthetically beautiful. To
him it matters not at all that he begins his teaching
where he should end it ; it matters not that, instead of
planting the tree, he merely crops its flowers for his ban-
quet ; he only aims at the present life, his philosophy
dies with him ; if his flowers do but last to the end of
his revel, he has nothing more to seek. When night
comes, the withered leaves may be mingled with his own
ashes ; he and they will have done their work, he and
they will be no more. Certainly, it costs little to make
men virtuous on conditions such as these ; it is like
teaching them a language or an accomplishment, to
write Latin or to play on an instrument, the profession
of an artist, not the commission of an Apostle.

This embellishment of the exterior is almost the be-
ginning and the end of philosophical morality. This is
why it aims at being modest rather than humble ; this
is how it can be proud at the very time that it is unas-
suming To humility indeed it does not even aspire;

Knowledge and Religious Duty. 205

humility is one of the most difficult of virtues both to
attain and to ascertain. It lies close upon the heart
itself, and its tests are exceedingly delicate and subtle.
Its counterfeits abound ; however, we are little concerned
with them here, for, I repeat, it is hardly professed even
by name in the code of ethics which we are reviewing.
As has been often observed, ancient civilization had
not the idea, and had no word to express it : or rather,
it had the idea, and considered it a defect of mind, not
a virtue, so that the word which denoted it conveyed a
reproach. As to the modern world, you may gather its
ignorance of it by its perversion of the somewhat
parallel term " condescension." Humility or condescen-
sion, viewed as a virtue of conduct, may be said to con-
sist, as in other things, so in our placing ourselves in our
thoughts on a level with our inferiors ; it is not only a
voluntary relinquishment of the privileges of our own
station, but an actual participation or assumption of the
condition of those to whom we stoop. This is true
humility, to feel and to behave as if we were low ; not, to
cherish a notion of our importance, while we affect a low
position. Such was St. Paul's humility, when he called
himself " the least of the saints ;" such the humility of
those many holy men who have considered themselves
the greatest of sinners. It is an abdication, as far as their
own thoughts are concerned, of those prerogatives or
privileges to which others deem them entitled. Now it is
not a little instructive to contrast with this idea, Gentle-
men, with this theological meaning of the word " con-
descension,"- -its proper English sense ; put them in
juxta-position, and you will at once see the difference
beween the world's humility and the humility of the
Gospel. As the world uses the word, "condescension"
is a stooping indeed of the person, but a bending for-

200 Discourse V1IL

ward, unattended with any the slightest effort to leave by
a single inch the seat in which it is so firmly established.
It is the act of a superior, who protests to himself, while
he commits it, that he is superior still, and that he is doing
nothing else but an act of grace towards those on whose
level, in theory, he is placing himself. And this is the
nearest idea which the philosopher can form of the virtue
of self-abasement ; to do more than this is to his mind a
meanness or an hypocrisy, and at once excites his sus-
picion and disgust. What the world is, such it has ever
been ; we know the contempt which the educated pagans
had for the martyrs and confessors of the Church ; and
it is shared by the anti-Catholic bodies of this day.

Such are the ethics of Philosophy, when faithfully re-
presented ; but an age like this, not pagan, but profes-
sedly Christian, cannot venture to reprobate humility in
set terms, or to make a boast of pride. Accordingly, it
looks out for some expedient by which it may blind
itself to the real state of the case. Humility, with
its grave and self-denying attributes, it cannot love ;
but what is more beautiful, what more winning, than
modesty? what virtue, at first sight, simulates humility
so well ? though what in fact is more radically distinct
from it ? In truth, great as is its charm, modesty is not
the deepest or the most religious of virtues. Rather it is
the advanced guard or sentinel of the soul militant, and
watches continually over its nascent intercourse with the
world about it. It goes the round of the senses ; it
mounts up into the countenance ; it protects the eye and
ear; it reigns in the voice and gesture. Its province is
the outward deportment, as other virtues have relation
to matters theological, others to society, and others to
the mind itself. And being more superficial than other
virtues, it is more easily disjoined from their company ; it

Knowledge and Religious Duty. 207

admits of being associated with principles or qualities
naturally foreign to it, and is often made the cloak of
feelings or ends for which it was never given to us. So
little is it the necessary index of humility, that it is even
compatible with pride. The better for the purpose of
Philosophy ; humble it cannot be, so forthwith modesty
becomes its humility.

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

2o8 Discourse VIII.

Refined by the civilization which has brought it into
activity, this self-respect infuses into the mind an intense
horror of exposure, and a keen sensitiveness of notoriety
and ridicule. It becomes the enemy of extravagances of
any kind ; it shrinks from what are called scenes ; it has
no mercy on the mock-heroic, on pretence or egotism, on
verbosity in language, or what is called prosiness in con-
versation. It detests gross adulation ; not that it tends
at all to the eradication of the appetite to which the
flatterer ministers, but it sees the absurdity of indulging
it, it understands the annoyance thereby given to others,
j and if a tribute must be paid to the wealthy or the power-
Iful, it demands greater subtlety and art in the prepara-
tion. Thus vanity is changed into a more dangerous
self-conceit, as being checked in its natural eruption.
It teaches men to suppress their feelings, and to control
their tempers, and to mitigate both the severity and the
tone of their judgments. As Lord Shaftesbury would
desire, it prefers playful wit and satire in putting down
what is objectionable, as a more refined and good-
natured, as well as a more effectual method, than the
expedient which is natural to uneducated minds. It is
from this impatience of the tragic and the bombastic
that it is now quietly but energetically opposing itself to
the unchristian practice of duelling, which it brands as
simply out of taste, and as the remnant of a barbarous
age ; and certainly it seems likely to effect what Religion
has aimed at abolishing in vain.



(Hence it is that it is almost a definition of a gentle-
man to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This
description is both refined and, as far as it goes, ac-
curate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the

Knowledge and Religious Duty. 269

obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed
action of those about him ; and he concurs with their
movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His
benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called
comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal
nature : like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their
part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature pro-
vides both means of rest and animal heat without them.
The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids
whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those
with whom he is cast ; all clashing of opinion, or
collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom,
or resentment ; his great concern being to make every
one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all
his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle
towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd ;
he can recollect to whom he is speaking ; he guards
against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may
irritate ; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and
never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he
does them, and seems to be receiving when he is con-
ferring. He never speaks of himself except when com-
pelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no
ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing
motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets
every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in
his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mis-
takes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or in-
sinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-
sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient
sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our
enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has
too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too
well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to


210 Discourse VI I L

bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on
philosophical principles ; he submits to pain, because it
is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable,
and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in
controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves
him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps,
but less educated minds ; who, like blunt weapons,
tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the
point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, mis-
conceive their adversary, and leave the question more
involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong
in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust ;
he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is
decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candour, con-
sideration, indulgence : he throws himself into the minds
of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He
knows the weakness of human reason as well as its
strength, its province and its limits. If he be an un-
believer, he will be too profound and large-minded to
ridicule religion or to act against it ; he is too wise to be
a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety
and devotion ; he even supports institutions as vene-
rable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent ;
he honours the ministers of religion, and it contents
him to decline its mysteries without assailing or de*
nouncing them. He is a friend of religious toleration,
and that, not only because his philosophy has taught
him to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye,
but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling,
which is the attendant on civilization.

Not that he may not hold a religion too, in his own
way, even when he is not a Christian. In that case his
religion is one of imagination and sentiment ; it is the
embodiment of those ideas of the sublime, majestic.

Knowledge and Religious Duty. 2 1 1

and beautiful, without which there can be no large
philosophy. Sometimes he acknowledges the being of
God, sometimes he invests an unknown principle or
quality with the attributes of perfection. And this de-
duction of his reason, or creation of his fancy, he makes
the occasion of such excellent thoughts, and the start-
ing-point of so varied and systematic a teaching, that he
even seems like a disciple of Christianity itself. From
the very accuracy and steadiness of his logical powers,
he is able to see what sentiments are consistent in those
who hold any religious doctrine at all, and he appears to
others to feel and to hold a whole circle of theological
truths, which exist in his mind no otherwise than as a
number of deductions.

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






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

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

Duties of the Church Towards Knowledge. 2 1 3

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

1 have spoken of the arduousness of my "immediate"
undertaking, because what 1 have been attempting has
been of a preliminary nature, not contemplating the
duties of the Church towards a University, nor the

214 Discourse IX.

characteristics of a University which is Catholic, but
inquiring what a University is, what is its aim, what its
nature, what its bearings. I have accordingly laid down
first, that all branches of knowledge are, at least im-
plicitly, the subject-matter of its teaching ; that these
branches are not isolated and independent one of an-
other, but form together a whole or system ; that they
run into each other, and complete each other, and that,
in proportion to our view of them as a whole, is the
exactness and trustworthiness of the knowledge which
they separately convey ; that the process of imparting
knowledge to the intellect in this philosophical way is
its true culture ; that such culture is a good in itself ; that
the knowledge which is both its instrument and result is
called Liberal Knowledge ; that such culture, together
with the knowledge which effects it, may fitly be sought
for its own sake ; that it is, however, in addition, of great
secular utility, as constituting the best and highest for-
mation of the intellect for social and political life ; and
lastly, that, considered in a religious aspect, it concurs
with Christianity a certain way, and then diverges from
it; and consequently proves in the event, sometimes its
serviceable ally, sometimes, from its very resemblance to
it, an insidious and dangerous foe.

Though, however, these Discourses have only pro-
fessed to be preliminary, being directed to the investiga-
tion of the object and nature of the Education which a
University professes to impart, at the same time I do not
like to conclude without making some remarks upon the
duties of the Church towards it, or rather on the ground
of those duties. If the Catholic Faith is true, a Univer-
sity cannot exist externally to the Catholic pale, for it
cannot teach Universal Knowledge if it does not teach
Catholic theology. This is certain ; but still, though it

Duties of the Church Towards Knowledge. 215

had ever so many theological Chairs, that would not
suffice to make it a Catholic University ; for theology
would be included in its teaching only as a branch of
knowledge, only as one out of many constituent portions,
however important a one, of what I have called Philos-
ophy. Hence a direct and active jurisdiction of the
Church over it and in it is necessary, lest it should be-
come the rival of the Church with the community at
large in those theological matters which to the Church
are exclusively committed, acting as the representative
of the intellect, as the Church is the representative of the
religious principle. The illustration of this proposition

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe idea of a university defined and illustrated: I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. [sic] In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic University → online text (page 17 of 40)