John Henry Newman.

The pope and the revolution : a sermon, preached in the Oratory Church, Birmingham, on Sunday, October 7, 1866 online

. (page 2 of 3)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe pope and the revolution : a sermon, preached in the Oratory Church, Birmingham, on Sunday, October 7, 1866 → online text (page 2 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be a hundred times better to be Lazarus in this
world, than to be Dives in the next.

However, the best answer to then 1 arguments
is contained in- sacred history, which supplies trs
with a very apposite and instructive lesson on the
subject, and to it I am now going to refer.

Now observe in the first place, no Catholic


maintains that that rule of the Pope as a king, in
Rome and its provinces, which men are now hoping
to take from him, is, strictly speaking, what is
called a Theocracy, that is, a Divine Government.
His government, indeed, in spiritual matters, in
the Catholic Church throughout the world, might
be called a Theocracy, because he is the Vicar of
Christ, and has the assistance of the Holy Ghost ;
but not such is his kingly rule in his own domi-
nions. On the other hand, the rule exercised over
the chosen people, the Israelites, by Moses, .Josue,
Gideon, Eli, and Samuel, was a Theocracy : God
was the king of the Israelites, not Moses and the
rest, they were but Vicars or Vicegerents of the
Eternal Lord who brought the nation out of
Egypt. Now, when men object that the Pope's
government of his own States is not what it should
be, and that therefore he ought to lose them, be-
cause, forsooth, a religious rule should be perfect
or not at all, I take them at their word, if they
are Christians, and refer them to the state of
things among the Israelites after the time of
Moses, during the very centuries when they had
God for their king. Was that a period of peace,
prosperity, and contentment ? Is it an argument
against the Divine Perfections, -that it was not such
a period ? Why is it then to be the condemnation
of the Popes, who are but men, that their rule is
but parallel in its characteristics to that of the


King of Israel, who was God ? He indeed has His
own all-wise purposes for what He does; He
knows the end from the beginning; He could
have made His government as perfect and as
prosperous as might have been expected from the
words of Moses concerning it, as perfect and
prosperous as, from the words of the Prophets,
our anticipations might have been about the earthly
reign of the Messias. But this He did not do,
because from the first He made that perfection
and that prosperity dependent upon the free will,
upon the co-operation of His people. Their loyal
obedience to Him was the condition, expressly
declared by Him, of His fulfilling His promises.
He proposed to work out His purposes through
them, and, when they refused their share in the
work, every thing went wrong. Now they did
refuse from the first ; so that from the very first,
He says of them emphatically, they were a " stiff-
necked people." This was at the beginning of
their history; and close upon the end of it, St.
Stephen, inspired by the Holy Ghost, repeats the
divine account of them: "You stiffnecked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist
the Holy Ghost ; as your fathers did, so do you
also." In consequence of this obstinate disobe-
dience, I say, God's promises were not fulfilled to
them. That long lapse of five or six hundred
years, during which God was their King, was in


good part a time, not of well-being, but of

Now, turning to the history of the Papal monarchy
for the last thousand years, the Roman people
have not certainly the guilt of the Israelites,
because they were not opposing the direct rule of
God ; and I would not attribute to them now a
liability to the same dreadful crimes which stain
the annals of their ancestors ; but still, after all,
they have been a singularly stiffnecked people in
time past, and in consequence, there has been
extreme confusion, I may say anarchy, under
the reign of the Popes; and the restless im-
patience of his rule which exists in the Roman
territory now, is only what has shown itself age
after age in times past. The Roman people not
seldom offered bodily violence to their Popes,
killed some Popes, wounded others, drove others
from the city. On one occasion they assaulted
the Pope at the very altar in St. Peter's, and he
was obliged to take to flight in his pontifical vest-
ments. Another time they insulted the clergy of
Rome ; at another, they attacked and robbed the
pilgrims who brought offerings from a distance
to the shrine of St. Peter. Sometimes they sided
with the German Emperors against the Pope;
sometimes with other enemies of his in Italy itself.
As many as thirty-six Popes endured this dreadful
contest with their own subjects, till at last, in
anger and disgust with Rome and Italy, they took


refuge, in France, where they remained for seventy
years, during the reigns of eight of their number .

That I may not be supposed to rest what I have
said on insufficient authorities, I will quote the
words of that great Saint, St. Bernard, about the
Roman people, seven hundred years ago.

Writing to Pope Eugenius during the troubles
of the day, he says, "What shall I say of the
people? why, that it is the Roman people. I
could not more concisely or fully express what I
think of your subjects. What has been so noto-
rious for ages as the wantonness and haughtiness
of the Romans? a race unaccustomed to peace,
accustomed to tumult ; a race cruel and unmanage-
able up to this day, which knows not to submit,
unless when it is unable to make fight. ... I know
the hardened heart of this people, but God is
powerful even of these stones to raise up children
to Abraham. . . . Whom will you find for me out of
the whole of that populous city, who received you
as Pope without bribe or hope of bribe? And
then especially are they wishing to be masters,
when they have professed to be servants. They
promise to be trustworthy, that they may have
the opportunity of injuring those who trust them.
. . . They are wise for evil, but they are ignorant

O l>n> A >''* .i! {! ;lM|<!;fr ill M'fJV? ^BilJ ffltV) .

1 I take these facts as I find them in Gibbon's History, the

work which I have immediately at hand ; but it would not be

difficult to collect a multitude of such instances from the

original historians of those times.


for good, Odious to earth and heaven, they have
assailed both the one and the other; impious
towards God, reckless towards things sacred,
factious among themselves, envious of their neigh-
bours, inhuman towards foreigners, . . . they love
none, and by none are loved. Too impatient for
submission, too helpless for rule ; . . . importunate
to gain an end, restless till they gain it, ungrateful
when they have gained it. They have taught their
tongue to speak big words, while their perform-
ances are scanty indeed V

Thus I begin, and now let us continue the
parallel between the Israelites and the Romans.

I have said that, while the Israelites had God
for their King, they had a succession of great
national disasters, arising indeed really from their
falling off from Him ; but this they would have been
slow to acknowledge. They fell into idolatry;
then, in consequence, they fell into the power of
their enemies; then God in His mercy visited
them, and raised up for them a deliverer and ruler,
a Judge, as he was called, who brought them
to repentance, and then brought them out of their
troubles ; however, when the Judge died, they fell
back into idolatry, and then they fell under the
power of their enemies again. Thus for eight
years they were in subjection to the King of Meso-
potamia ; for eighteen years to the King of Moab ;
for twenty years to the King of Canaan ; for seven

2 De Consid. iv. 2. Vide note at the end.


years to the Madianites ; for eighteen years to the
Ammonites ; and for forty years to the Philistines.
Afterwards Eli, the high priest, became their
judge, and then disorders of another kind com-
menced. His sons, who were priests also, com-
mitted grievous acts of impurity in the holy place,
and in other ways caused great scandal. In con-
sequence a heavy judgment came upon the people ;
they were beaten in battle by the Philistines, and
the Ark of God was taken. Then Samuel was
raised up, a holy prophet and a judge, and in the
time of his vigour all went well ; but he became
old, and then he appointed his sons to take his
place. They, however, were not like him, and
every thing went wrong again. " His sons walked
not in his ways," says the sacred record, "but
they turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and
perverted judgment." This reduced the Israel-
ites to despair; they thought they never should
have a good government, while things were as they
were ; and they came to the conclusion that they
had better not be governed by such men as
Samuel, however holy he might be, that public
affairs ought to be put on an intelligible footing,
and be carried on upon system, which had never
yet been done. So they came to the conclusion
that they had better have a king, like the nations
around them. They deliberately preferred the
rule of man to the rule of Grod. They did not
like to repent and give up their sins, as the true


means of being prosperous; they thought it an
easier way to temporal prosperity to have a king
like the nations, than to " pray and live virtuously.
And not only the common people, but even the
grave and venerable seniors of the nation took up
this view of what was expedient for them. " All
the ancients of Israel, being assembled, came to
Samuel, . . . and they said to him . . . Make us a
king to judge us, as all nations have." Observe,
my Brethren, this is just what the Roman people
are saying now. They .wish to throw off the
authority of the Pope, on the plea of the disorders
which they attribute to his government, and to
join themselves to the rest of Italy, and to have
the King of Italy for their king. Some of them,
indeed, wish to be without any king at all ; but,
whether they wish to have a king or no, at least
they wish to get free from the Pope.

Now let us continue the parallel. When the
prophet Samuel heard this request urged from
such a quarter, and supported by the people gene-
rally, he was much moved. " The word was dis-
pleasing in the eyes of Samuel," says the inspired
writer, "that they should say, Give us a king.
And Samuel prayed to the Lord." Almighty God
answered him by saying, " They have not rejected
thee, but Me;" and He bade the prophet warn
the people, what the king they sought after would
be to them, when at . length they had him.
Samuel accordingly put before them explicitly


what treatment they would receive from him.
" He will take your sons," he said, " and will put
them in his chariots ; and he will make them his
horsemen, and his running footmen to go before
his chariots. He will take the tenth of your corn
and the revenues of your vineyards. Your flocks
also he will take, and you shall be his servants."
Then the narrative proceeds, "But the people would
not hear the voice of Samuel, and they said, Nay,
but there shall be a king over us. And we also will
be like all nations, and our king shall judge us, and
go out before us, and fight our battles for us."

Now here the parallel I am drawing is very
exact. It is happier, I think, for the bulk of a
people, to belong to a small State which makes
little noise in the world, than to a large one. At
least in this day we find small states, such as
Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland, have special
and singular temporal advantages. And the Ro-
man people, too, under the sway of the Popes, at
least have had a very easy time of it ; but, alas,
that people is not sensible of this, or does not
allow itself to keep it in mind. The Romans have
not had those civil inconveniences, which fall so
heavy on the members of a first-class Power. The
Pontifical Government has been very gentle with
them ; but, if once they were joined to the king-
dom of Italy, they would at length find what it is
to attain temporal greatness. The words of Samuel
to the Israelites would be fulfilled in them to the


letter. Heavy taxes would be laid on them ; their
children would be torn from them for the army;
and they would incur the other penalties of an
ambition which prefers to have a share in a poli-
tical adventure to being at the head of Catholic
citizenship. We cannot have all things to our
wish in this world; we must take our choice
between this advantage and that; perhaps the
Roman people would like both to secure this world
and the next, if they could ; perhaps, in seeking
both, they may lose both ; and perhaps, when they
have lost more than they have gained, they may
wish their old Sovereign back again, as they have
done in other centuries before this, and may regret
that they have caused such grievous disturbance
for what at length they find out is little worth it.
''In truth, after all, the question which they have
to determine is, as I have intimated, not one of
worldly prosperity and adversity, of greatness ' orr
insignificance, of despotism or liberty, of position in
the world or in the Church; but a question of
spiritual life or death. The sin of the Israelites
was not that they desired good government, but
that they rejected God as their King. Their
choosing to have " a king like the nations " around
them was, in matter of fact, the first step in a
series of acts, which at length led them to their
rejection of the Almighty as their God. When
in spite of Samuel's remonstrances they were
obstinate, God let them have their way, and then


in time they became dissatisfied with their king
for the very reasons which the old Prophet had set
before them in vain. On Solomon's death, about
a hundred and twenty years after, the greater part
of the nation broke off from his son on the very
plea of Solomon's tyranny, and chose a new king,
who at once established idolatry all through their

Now, I grant, to reject the Holy Father of
course is not the sin of the Israelites, for they re-
jected Almighty God Himself: yet I wish I was
not forced to believe that a hatred of the Catholic
Religion is in fact at the bottom of that revolu-
tionary spirit which at present seems so powerful
in Rome. Progress, in the mouth of some people,
of a great many people, means apostasy. Not
that I would deny that there are sincere Catholics
so dissatisfied with things as they were in Italy,
as they are in Rome, that they are brought to think
that no social change can be for the worse. Nor
as if I pretended to be able to answer all the ob-
jections of those- who take a political and secular
view of the subject. But here I have nothing to
do with secular politics. In a sacred place I have
only to view the matter religiously. It would ill
become me, in my station in the Church and my
imperfect knowledge of the facts of the case, to
speak for or against statesmen and governments,
lines of policy or public acts, as if I were invested
with any particular mission to give my judgment, or


had any access to sources of special information.
I have not here to determine what may be politically
more wise, or what may be socially more advan-
tageous, or what in a civil point of view would work
more happily, or what in an intellectual would tell
better ; my duty is to lead you, my Brethren, to
look at what is happening, as the sacred writers
would now view it and describe it, were they on
earth now to do so, and to attempt this by means
of the light thrown upon present occurrences by
what they actually have written whether in the
Old Testament or the New.

We must remove, I say, the veil off the face of
events, as Scripture enables us to do, and try to
speak of them as Scripture interprets them for us.
Speaking then in the sanctuary, I say that theories
and schemes about government and administration,
be they better or worse, and the aims of mere
statesmen and politicians, be they honest or be they
deceitful, these are not the determining causes of
that series of misfortunes under which the Holy See
has so long been suffering. There is something
deeper at work than any thing human. It is not
any refusal of the Pope to put his administration
on a new footing, it is not any craft or force of
men high in public affairs, it is not any cowardice
or frenzy of the people, which is the sufficient ex-
planation of the present confusion. What it is our
duty here to bear in mind, is the constant restless
agency over the earth of that bad angel who was


a liar from the beginning, of whom Scripture
speaks so much. The real motive cause of the
world's troubles is the abiding presence in it of the
apostate spirit, " The prince of the power of this
air," as St. Paul calls him, " The spirit that now
worketh on the children of unbelief."

Things would go on well enough but for him. He
it is who perverts to evil what is in itself good and
right, sowing cockle amid the wheat. Advance
in knowledge, in science, in education, in the arts
of life, in domestic economy, in municipal ad-
ministration, in the conduct of public affairs, is all
good and from God, and might be conducted in
a religious way; but the e^dl spirit, jealous of
good, makes use of it for - a bad end. And
much more able is he to turn to his account the
designs and measures of worldly politicians. He
it is who spreads suspicions and dislikes between
class and class, between sovereigns and subjects,
who makes men confuse together things good and
bad, who inspires bigotry, party spirit, obstinacy,
resentment, arrogance and self-will, and hinders
things from righting themselves, finding their
level, and running smooth. His one purpose is
so to match, and arrange, and combine, and direct
the opinions and the measures of Catholics and
unbelievers, of Eomans and foreigners, of sove-
reigns and popular leaders all that is good, all
that is bad, all that is violent or lukewarm in the
good, all that is morally great and intellectually


persuasive in the bad as to inflict the widest
possible damage, and utter ruin, if that were
possible, on the Church of God.

Doubtless in St. Paul's time, in the age of
heathen persecution, the persecutors had various
good political arguments in behalf of their cruelty.
Mobs indeed, or local magistrates, might be pur-
posely cruel towards the Christians ; but the great
Roman Government at a distance, the great rulers
and wise lawyers of the day, acted from views of
large policy ; they had reasons of State, as the kings
of the earth have now ; still our Lord and His Apos-
tles do not hesitate to pass these by, and declare
plainly that the persecution which they sanctioned
or commanded was the work, not of man, but of
Satan. And now in like manner we are not en-
gaged in a mere conflict between progress and
reaction, modern ideas and new, philosophy and
theology, but in one scene of the never-ending
conflict between the anointed Mediator and the
devil, the Church and the world ; and, in St. Paul's
words, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities and powers, against the
world-rulers of this darkness, against the spirits
of wickedness in the high places."

Such is the Apostle's judgment, and how, after
giving it, does he proceed ? " Therefore," he
says, " take unto you the armour of God, that you
may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand
in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having


your loins girt about with truth, and having on
the breast-plate of justice, and your feet shod with
the preparation of the gospel of peace; in all
things taking the shield of faith, whereby you may
be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take unto you the helmet of salvation and
the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of
God." And then he concludes his exhortation
with words which most appositely bear upon the
point towards which all that I have been saying
is directed, " praying at all times with all prayer
and supplication in the spirit, and watching there-
in with all instance and supplication for all the
Saints, and for me," that is, for the Apostle him-
self, " that speech may be given me, that I may
open my mouth with confidence to make known
the mystery of the Gospel."

Here, then, we are brought at length to the
consideration of the duty of prayer for our living
Apostle and Bishop of Bishops, the Pope. I shall
attempt to state distinctly what is to be the object
of our prayers for him, and, secondly, what the
spirit in which we should pray, and so I shall bring
my remarks on this great subject to an end.

1. In order to ascertain the exact object of our
prayers at this time, we must ascertain what is
the occasion of them. You know, my Brethren,
and I have already observed, that the Holy Father
has been attacked in his temporal possessions
again and again in these last years, and we have


all along been saying prayers daily in the Mass in
his behalf. About six years ago the northern por-
tion of his States threw off his authority. Shortly
after, a large foreign force, uninvited, as it would
seem, by his people at large, robbers I will call
them, (this is not a political sentiment, but an
historical statement, for I never heard any one,
whatever his politics, who defended their act in
itself, but only on the plea of its supreme expe-
dience, of some State necessity, or some theory of
patriotism,) a force of sacrilegious robbers,
broke into provinces nearer to Rome by a sudden
movement, and, without any right except that of
the stronger, got possession of them, and keeps
them to this day. 3 Past outrages, such as these, are
never to be forgotten ; but still they are not the
occasion, nor do they give the matter, of our
present prayers. What that occasion, what that
object is, we seem to learn from his Lordship's letter
to his clergy, in which our prayers are required.
After speaking of the Pope's being " stripped of
part of his dominions," and " deprived of all the
rest, with the exception of the marshes and deserts
that surround the Roman capital," he fastens our
attention on the fact, that "now at last is the
Pope to be left standing alone, and standing face
to face with those unscrupulous adversaries, whose
boast and whose vow to all the world it is, not to
leave to him one single foot of Italian ground except
3 Vide Note at the end.
C 2


beneath their sovereign sway." I understand, then,
that the exact object of our prayers is, that the
territory still his should not be violently taken
from him, as have been those larger portions of his
dominions of which I have already spoken.

This too, I conceive, is what is meant by praying
for the Holy See. " The duty of every true child
of Holy Church," says the Bishop, "is to offer
continuous and humble prayer for the Father of
Christendom, and for the protection of the Holy
See." By the Holy See we may understand Rome,
considered as the seat of Pontifical government.
We are to pray for Rome, the see, or seat, or
metropolis of St. Peter and his successors. Fur-
ther, we are to pray for Rome as the seat, not
only of his spiritual government, but of his tem-
poral. We are to pray that he may continue king
of Rome ; that his subjects may come to a better
mind; that, instead of threatening and assailing
him, or being too cowardly to withstand those
who do, they may defend and obey him; that,
instead of being the heartless tormentors of an
old and venerable man, they may pay a willing
homage to the Apostle of God; that, instead of
needing to be kept down year after year by troops
from afar, as has been the case for so long a time,
they may, "with a great heart and a willing
mind," form themselves into the glorious body-guard
of a glorious Master; that they may obliterate
and expiate what is so great a scandal to the


world, so great an indignity to themselves, so
great a grief to their Father and king, that
foreigners are kinder to him than his own flesh
and blood ; that now at least, though in the end
of days, they may reverse the past, and, after the
ingratitude of centuries, may unlearn the pattern
of that rebellious people, who began by rejecting
their God and ended by crucifying their Redeemer.


Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe pope and the revolution : a sermon, preached in the Oratory Church, Birmingham, on Sunday, October 7, 1866 → online text (page 2 of 3)