« AnteriorContinuar »
appears, I think, that the freedom with which the primitive Church, and subsequently the Roman Catholic Church, encouraged the belief in the personal character of these subordinate agencies of God, appealed to some element peculiarly strong in Newman's nature. In this sonnet he dwells on the belief that "to the thoughtful mind, that walks with Him, He half unveils His face," evidently feeling to the bottom of his heart, what he often subsequently expressed, that a half-unveiling of Christ's face is as much as even good men may properly look for, and that the Church is to supply the rest. It is here, as it seems to me, that the room is opened in the Catholic theology for a great number of sometimes very wise, and sometimes very dubious economies," for the character of which we have to trust rather to the Providence guiding the Church-a Providence which Catholics assume to have kept it free from all distinct error, but which Protestants suppose to have admitted of error in this as in every other sphere of human life-than to the original substance of revelation. It is clear that that deep belief in the economy of the Sacramental system-in other words, in the subserviency of material life to the spiritual which makes of the physical world little beyond an instrument for spiritual beings, good or evil, to play upon, which fills his later writings, had already taken complete hold of Newman's mind. At Falmouth he wrote this fine sonnet :
"They do but grope in learning's pedant round
Who on the fantasies of, Sense bestow
Stirring, or still, on man's brief trial-ground:
and go Had aught of Truth or Life in their poor show
To sway or judge, and skill to save or wound. Son of immortal seed, high-destined man, Know thy dread gift, a creature, yet a cause. Each mind is its own centre, and it draws Home to itself, and moulds in its thought's span,
All outward things, the vassals of its will, Aided by Heaven, by earth unthwarted still." Their voyage took them through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean to the Greek Islands.
ing Lisbon, the Greek story of the Siren strains which tempted Ulysses, seems to have been brought back to the memory of Dr. Newman, who is himself, I believe, a fine performer on the violin, and there he wrote his very characteristic lines, on seductive as distinguished from inspiring music-lines of which the echo is to be found in many of his subsequent sermons and writings. I quote them to show how early Newman's mind had begun to dwell on the natural history of human infirmities in their relation to divine truth. They are called 'The Isles of the Sirens":
"Cease, Stranger, cease, those piercing notes, The craft of Siren choirs,
Hush the seductive voice that floats
"Music's ethereal fire was given
Not to dissolve our clay,
But draw Promethean beams from Heaven,
"Weak self! with thee the mischief lies:
The man of many woes."
At Malta, a place at which Newman appears to have touched twice during his voyage, once on his way to the Greek Islands, and once on his return when he was kept long in quarantinefor 1832 was the great cholera year-he wrote a great many of his most characteristic verses. The place undoubtedly kindled his imagination, partly no doubt because there first he came across the path of St. Paul, partly because his quarantine in the lazaretto, on the second occasion of his touching there, illustrated for him so vividly that weakness and humiliation of human nature the sense of which always lifts him to his most powerful imaginative mood. At Malta it was-on the day after Christmas Day, 1832-that he composed these fine verses on Sleeplessness, which show us to what purpose he mused on the impassable gulf between the nature of man and the nature of God-impassable, I mean, as viewed from the human side:
"Unwearied God, before whose face The night is clear as day,
Whilst we, poor worms, o'er life's scant race,
We with death's foretaste alternate
"Dread Lord! Thy glory, watchfulness,
Is but disease, in man,
We to our cost our bounds transgress
Pride grasps the powers by Thee displayed,
Yet ne'er the rebel effort made .But fell beneath the sudden shade Of Nature's withering ban."
And it was off Malta again, on his return from Zante, Ithaca and Corfu, that Newman wrote the lines in which he determined to cast aside his old sensitiveness and gird himself for the coming fight with something of prophetic zeal :
'Time was, I shrank from what was right
I would not brave the sacred fight,
"But now I cast that finer sense,
That sorer shame aside,
Such dread of sin was indolence,
"I step, I mount where He has led ;
I know them; yet though self I dread
And no doubt this poem strikes the keynote of Newman's life for the ten years which followed this voyage—the ten years of the Oxford movement. It was in Italy and Sicily that that fire, smouldering for many months back, burst into flame, which burned so steadily during that movement. And it is not only in his verses that you see it kindling; he has brought out the same story in his religious autobiography. At Rome, as he tells us, he began the little book of Anglican verse called "Lyra Apostolica," to which the poems I have quoted were contrib uted, and it was there that he showed his own profound conviction that he and Hurrell Froude had a real work to do in England, by choosing for its motto the words in which Achilles expresses his sense of the difference which his aid would make to the Greeks in their war against Troy, words which he himself paraphrases thus: "You shall know the difference, now that I am back again." They paid a visit to Monsignore, afterward Cardinal, Wiseman, at Rome; and when Dr. Wiseman asked them to return there, Newman
said gravely, "We have a work to do in England, He was taken ill, after parting from his friends, of malaria. "My fever at Leonforte, in Sicily. servant thought that I was dying," he says, "and begged for my last directions. I gave them as he wished; but I said, I shall not die, for I have not sinned against light, I have not sinned against light.' I never have been able to make out at all what I meant.' Later, when, in great depression, he began to sob bitterly, and his servant. asked what ailed him, he could only reply, "I have a work to do in England. At last he got off in an orangeboat, and was becalmed for a week in the straits of Bonifacio, between Corsica and Sardinia; and there it was that he wrote the famous lines, best known of all his poems: Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on."
Directly after his return the result was seen. He at once began the series of tracts intended to revive in the Anglican Church the Christianity of primitive times, while continuing to protest warmly against the corruptions of Rome. And his manner became the manner of zeal, as well as his teaching the teaching. He cast aside, as he had. resolved to do at Malta, much of his old sensitiveness, and gave himself up to the passion which burned in him. In his history of his religious opinions, Dr. Newman has told us that he never had the staidness or dignity necessary for a leader. He has described his own behavior during the high tide of the Tractarian Movement: and it is amusing to contrast the description he gives us with the manner that we expect not merely from a Church dignitary, but even from an ordinary Oxford Donthat lenient, sugary, almost glazed amiability of manner which is benignity itself, but the benignity of an immortal. "My behavior,' says Dr. Newman, in his autobiography, had a mixture in it both of fierceness and of sport; and on this account, I dare say, it gave offence to many; nor am I here defending it.
I was not unwilling to draw an opponent on step by step to the brink of some intellectual absurdity, and to leave him to get back as he could. I was not unwilling to play with a man who asked
me impertinent questions. I think I had in my mouth the words of the Wise Man, Answer a fool according to his folly, especially if he was prying or spiteful. I was reckless of the gossip which was circulated about me; and when I might easily have set it right, did not deign to do so. Also, I used irony in conversation, when matter-of-fact men would not see what I meant. . This absolute confidence in my cause, which led me to the imprudence or wantonness which I have been instancing, also laid me open, not unfairly, to the apparent charge of fierceness, in certain steps which I took or words which I published. In the Lyra Apostolica,' I have said that before learning to love, we must learn to hate, though I explained my words by adding, hatred of sin." The reference here is to the lines headed" Zeal and Love," which are very characteristic of Newman, though far from as poetical at it was in his power to be:
"And wouldst thou reach, rash scholar mine,
"Hatred of sin, and Zeal, and Fear Lead up the Holy Hill;
Track them till Charity appear
A self-denial still.
"Dim is the philosophic flame
Book-lore ne'er served when trial came,
These passages sufficiently show in what mood Newman entered on the chief work of his life. And now let me attempt to answer the question, what was the main drift of the faith which had thus filled him with a new inspiration? Its leading feature was, I venture to think, a profound belief that Christianity is a religion of humility, and even of humiliation, in a sense in which the conventional Christianity of that time certainly was not such a religion. In one of the earliest of his Oxford Sermons he had insisted on the teaching of the Bible concerning humility as one of the most striking evidences of the truth of revelation. In 1825, for instance, when he cannot have been long in orders, he wrote that the teaching of the Bible as to meekness, humility, and teachableness, is of the very essence of the "in
ward witness to the truth of the Gospel. "When I see a person hasty and violent, harsh and highminded, careless of what others feel, and disdainful of what they think; when I see such a one proceeding to inquire into religious subjects, I am sure beforehand he cannot go right he will not be led into all the truth-it is contrary to the nature of things, and the experience of the world, that he should find what he is seeking. I should say the same were he seeking to find out what to believe or do in any other matter not religious, but especially in any such important and solemn inquiry; for the fear of the Lord (humbleness, teachableness, reverence toward Him) is the very beginning of wisdom, as Solomon tells us; it leads us to think over things modestly and honestly, to examine patiently, to bear doubt and uncertainty, to wait perseveringly for an increase of light, to be slow to speak, and to be deliberate in deciding. That is not only one of the earliest of Dr. Newman's expressions of religious faith, but one that seems to denote his attitude of mind throughout the long hesitation and uncertainty of his own career. As he goes sounding on his. dim and perilous way," he constantly reminds himself and all who follow him that "to bear doubt and uncertainty patiently, so long as the uncertainty is real and is not welcome to us, but is the mere consequence of the inadequacy of human power to master the great themes of revelation, is the first of duties. Christianity as a religion of humility, and even humiliation, naturally involves, he taught, an experience of intellectual humiliation, and imposes a spirit of moral submissiveness in bearing that humiliation.
In the next place, the drift of Christian teaching seemed to him to involve not only great humility and teachableness, not only willingness to bear humiliation in seeking for the guidance of revelation, but a revulsion against that glorification of good-nature and of modern enlightenment, which was in those days so prevalent-as, for instance, among the Whig magnates of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.' Newman's whole nature protested against the doctrine that an amiable disposition and the de
sire for information, are the secrets of human regeneration. In the August of 1832, three months before he went abroad, he had preached a sermon on The Religion of the Day," in which he attacked in the following vigorous words this leading notion of the utilitarians and devotees of useful knowledge who were then in the ascendant: "I will not shrink,” he had said, “from uttering my firm conviction that it would be a gain to this country were it vastly more superstitious, more bigoted, more gloomy, more fierce in its religion, that at present it shows itself to be. Not, of course, that I think the tempers of mind herein implied desirable, which would be an evident absurdity; but I think them infinitely more desirable than a heathen obduracy, and a cold, selfsufficient, self-wise tranquillity. Full as (the present religion of the educated world) is of security and cheerfulness, and decorum and benevolence, I observe that these appearances may arise either from a great deal of religion, or from the absence of it; they may be the fruits either of shallowness of nind and a blinded conscience, or of that faith which has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And in the same year, in preaching before the University, he had said: They who are not superstitious without the Gospel, will not be religious with it; and I would that even in us, who have the Gospel, there were more of superstition than there is; for much is it to be feared that our security about ourselves arises from defect in self-knowledge rather than in fulness of faith, and that we appropriate to ourselves promises which we cannot read." Newman's belief that even the unenlightened and unregulated starts and terrors of conscience have in them far more of the kind of error which is akin to truth, than have the conceits and supercilious exaltations of the age of reason. has always been one of the leading features of his teaching.
In the third place, Newman had from the first the greatest horror of anything like worldly Christianity, a Christianity such as fails to battle with and overcome the worldly ambitions of men. In a sermon preached in 1835, he insisted on the positive spiritual
danger produced by the possession of riches: "Religious men,' he said, are able to repress, nay, extirpate, sinful desires, the lust of the flesh and of the eyes, gluttony, drunkenness, and the like, love of amusements, frivolous pleasures and display, indulgence in luxuries of whatever kind; but as to wealth they cannot easily rid themselves of a secret feeling that it gives them a footing to stand upon-an importance, a superiority; and, in consequence, they get attached to this world, lose sight of the duty of bearing the Cross, become dull and dim-sighted, and lose their delicacy and precision of touch, are numbed (so to say) in their fingers' ends as regards religious interests and prospects. I do not know anything more dreadful," he tells us again, in a sermon preached in the year following, 1836, "than a state of mind which is, perhaps, the characteristic of this country, and which the prosperity of this country so miserably fosters-I mean that ambitious spirit, to use a great word, but I know no other word to express my meaning, that low ambition which sets every one on the lookout to succeed and to rise in life, to amass money, to gain power, to depress his rivals, to triumph over his hitherto superiors, to affect a consequence and gentility which he had not before... This most fearfully earthly and grovelling spirit is likely, alas! to extend itself more and more among our countrymen; an intense, sleepless, restless, never-wearied, never-satisfied pursuit of Mammon, in one shape or other, to the exclusion of all deep, all holy, all calm, all reverent thoughts." And here again in a sermon preached in May, 1840, is his denunciation of those who love religion only because it secures the existing order of things, and keeps down anarchy and revolution. ever corruptions of doctrine there have been at particular times and places,'' he declared, no corruption has been so great as this practical corruption which has existed in its measure in all times and places-the serving God for the sake of Mammon; the loving religion from the love of the world. And as to ourselves, I fear it is no declamatory statement to say that there never was an age in which it existed more largely, never an age in
which the Church contained so many untrue members. . Look round upon our political parties, our literature, our science, our periodical publications; is it not too plain to need a word of proof, that religion is in the main honored because it tends to make this life happier, and is expedient for the preservation of our person, property, advantages and position in the world? Can a greater stigma be placed upon any doctrine in the judgment of the community than that it is antisocial, or that it is irksome, gloomy, or inconvenient ?"
Take again the passage in which Charles Reding, the hero of his little tale called "Loss and Gain," describes to his sister his rising dislike to the worldliness of the English Establishment in Oxford, forty or fifty years ago: "I cannot bear the pomp and pretence which I see everywhere. I am not speaking against individuals; they are very good persons, I know; but really, if you saw Oxford as it is, the heads with such large incomes! They are, indeed, very liberal of their money, and their wives are often simple, selfdenying persons, as every one says, and do a great deal of good in the place; but I speak of the system. There are ministers of Christ with large incomes, living in finely-furnished houses, with wives and families, and stately butlers, and servants in livery, giving dinners all in the best style, condescending and gracious, waving their hands, and minc ing their words as if they were the cream of the earth, but without anything to make them clergymen but a black coat and a white tie. And the Bishops or Deans come with women tucked under their arm, and they can't enter church but a fine, powdered man runs first with a cushion for them to sit on, and a warm sheepskin to keep their feet from the stones. This contempt for secular prosperity, comfort, and grandeur was, I am sure, one very deep root of Dr. Newman's disaffection to the Established Church of his younger days, and of his attraction toward the more ascetic monastic bodies; and this is well worthy of notice in one who has since reached the dignity of a Cardinal.
Nowhere is his belief that Christian teaching requires a more constant effort
after a life detached from worldly interests, or at least holding very loosely to worldly interests and fixed upon things above, so powerfully expressed as in the celebrated sermon on "The Apostolical Christian," preached about two years before he actually joined the Church of Rome, but when he was already, to use the expressive language of his autobiography, "on his death-bed' as an Anglican. In that sermon he shows, as indeed he shows in almost every one of his writings, that his mind ran much more on the ideal of human nature required by the Gospel, than on the vision of God as God. He entreated his hearers to master the picture of a Christian given us in the New Testament. "Let us," he said, "leave for awhile our own private judgment of what is pleasing to God and not pleasing, and turn to consider the picture which Scripture gives us of the true Christian life.' The first note of the Christian, as presented by the New Testament, he remarked, was a wish to free himself, as far as consistent with his direct duties, from worldly ties, to be able to give up his heart to the utmost and without being distracted by the passions of secular life, to God. Set your affections on things above and not on things of the earth, for you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God," is the great canon of Christian life. Lay not up for yourselves treasure on the earth.
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . for where your treasure is there shall your heart be also.' This was the great rule given by Christ Himself to His immediate followers. In the next place, the attitude of a watcher, of one who waited for a great change of state, was directly inculcated on the disciples by Christ. "Watch, therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord doth come. And he quotes the evidence that not only Christians but those who were waiting for a revelation, like Cornelius the centurion, spent a large portion of their time in prayer and watching. And so too of the first Christian community, it is said that
they all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women. Next, even the most intimate affections were to be chastened lest they diverted the heart from God. "He