DR. NEWMAN'S APOLOGY.*
ONE of the principal reasons why Dr. Newman has been so much misinterpreted and misunderstood is probably the unique form which the deep vein of enthusiasm that runs through his character has taken in his later works and later life. What many had forgotten and some had never known, was the com- paratively ordinary but genuine form in which that vein of enthusiasm first betrayed itself when Dr. Newman, after his tour in the Mediterranean with the elder Fronde, returned to England to take part in the ecclesiastical movement of 1838. At this time his enthusiasm appears more in the form in which it appeared in Wesley and other religious reformers,—as a fire of aggressive zeal, carrying him into the thick of the onset against Liberalism and Latitudinarianism. Afterwards, when it assumed its most characteristic shape in him, when he had learned, what he seems to have learned soon, that directly personal per- suasion was "uncongenial to my natural temper, to the genius of the movement, and to the historical mode of its success," the deep enthusiasm within him took another form, and one which is much more familiar to those who know him chiefly by his writings,--a thin line of pale ascetic fire just edging the circle of his human sympathies so as to keep them in what he him- self has termed a state of " detachment" from the world, and the life of the world, though without either searing their sensitiveness or limiting their range. It is essential, however, to the true under- standing of his career that we should enter into the nature of
* Apologia pro Vied 8.4, being a reply to a pamphlet entitled "What then Does Dr. Newman Mean r By John Henry Newman, 0.11 London : Longman'.
came rarely and imperfectly. The Bill for the suppression of the Irish Sees was in progress, and filled my mind. I had fierce thoughts against the Liberals. It was the success of the Liberal cause which fret- ted me inwardly. I became fierce against its instruments and its mani- festations. A French vessel was at Algiers ; I would not even look at the tricolour. On my return, though forced to stop a day at Paris, I kept indoors the whole time, and all that I saw of that beautiful city
was what I saw from the diligence Espe'cially when I was left by myself, the thought came upon me that deliverance is wrought, not by the many but by the few, not by bodies but by persons. Now it was, I think, that I repeated to myself the words, which had ever been dear to me from my school-days, 'Exoriare aliques ! '—now, too, that Southey's beautiful poem of Thalaba, for which I had an im- mense liking, came forcibly to my mind. I began to think that I had a mission. There are sentences of my letters to my friends to this effect if they are not destroyed. When we took leave of Monsignore Wiseman, he had courteously expressed a wish that we might make a second visit to Rome ; I said with great gravity, We have a work to do in England.' I went down at once to Sicily, and the presentiment grew stronger. I struck into the middle of the island, and fell ill of a fever at Leonforte. My servant thought that I was dying, and begged for my last directions. I. gave them as ho wished ; but I said, I shall not die.' I repeated, 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. I got to Castro-Giovanni, and was laid up there for nearly three weeks. Towards the end of May I set off for Palermo, taking three days for the journey. Before starting from my inn in the morning of May 26th or 27th, I sat down on my bed, and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, I have a work to do in England."
And when he returned, he threw himself heart and soul into the cause of the Church as an exclusive body, struck hard at the Erastian principles of the Whig Government, broke with his brother who was then a member of the Evangelical party, "dis- suaded a lady from attending the marriage of a sister who had seceded from the Anglican Church," and generally preached what we may fairly call a fanatical Anglicanism. He published his belief that, though bigotry, gloom, and ferocity in religion are bad, the indifference, secularism, and apparent incapacity in the masses of the ignorant for deep faith are much worse. In one of his sermons he said, "I do not shrink from uttering my -firm conviction that it would be a gain to the country were it vastly more bigoted, more gloomy, more fierce in its religion than at present it shows itself to be." He spoke of heresiarchs as "embodied evils" who ought to be punished,—apparently by the civil power—for endangering the souls of thousands." He could wish the Bishops "no more blessed termination of their (nurse than the spoiling of their goods and martyrdom," for he thought their blood would be the seed of a severer and nobler church. In verse and in prose he preached the gospel of severity, of caustic love ; thus, for example, in the "Lyra Apostolica," he says in verses seemingly addressed to some student friend who, plunged in the Fathers, sought to merge all practical virtues in charity :— "ZEAL BEFORE Low.
"And woulds't thou reach, rash scholar mine, Love's high unruffled state ? Awake, thy easy dreams resign, First learn thee how to hate.
"Hatred of Sin, and Zeal, and Fear, Lead up the holy hill : Track them till charity appear A self-denial still.
"Feeble and false the brightest flame By thoughts severe nailed; Book-lore ne'er served when trial came, Nor gifts where faith was dead."
It is obvious that at this time" the vision," as Dr. Newman else- where calls it, which haunted his heart was one of a triumph of the
supernatural principle over Liberalism, by which latter phrase be understood the system of thought and government which looks to the development of all natural gifts and the spread of natural en- joyments by natural means, and takes no account of sin except so far as it results in pain and temporal misery. He cordially dis- trusted the Evangelical party because, though taking a deeperview of the supernatural nature of sin than those whom he calls the Liberals, it never followed that view out of the region of private and personal feeling into the general system of social and poli- tical government ; it kept a corner of the soul sacred to a certain prescribed series of lessons and emotions, but it did not gene- ralize its religious principles into principles of human society and polity ; it behaved in practical life, it reasoned in politics, just as if the world of "religious experience" were utterly isolated from and independent of' the ordinary life of man. It was not such a party as this that could ever gain over so wide an intellect as Dr. Newman's. For his enthusiasm, though at the more ordinary zeal which came upon him at the outset of this period so vehement, fierce, and fanatical, was never so fixed
the Tractarian movement during his Mediterranean tour:— upon its own visionary hope as to blind him to the realities of "England was in my thoughts solely, and the news from England human motive, and life, and history. Great as was the ardour of his propagandism, it never blinded him to the solid facts and long- established traditions of the society in which he lived, or seemelw..° to him for one moment capable of triumph, unless also capable of
overturning the recognized ideas and principles o f that society. He worked indeed in con junction with mere ecclesiastical antiquarians, whose only idea was to restore what they thought primitive
doctrine and discipline, because it was the most ancient ; but Dr. Newman never cared much about its antiquity in his heart. His
object was to restore a Church which should give the law to civilization, which should keep material science in subjection to theological science, which should stem the torrent of utilitarian ideas, and guide the sword in the hands of kings. It was, we believe, genuine love of God, at all events genuine zeal for God, which inspired this yearning. But it assumed what Dr.
Newman has assumed all his life, that God cannot reach the conscience of human society by means of His own Gospel and Spirit unless the Church which repeats that Gospel is also armed with the authority to apply its spiritual principles at its own dis- cretion to the actual wants of man, and, for that purpose, there is set apart a special order, relieved from the natural ties which would tend to merge it in the ordinary interests of life.
This has always beenDr. Newman's real belief. But inhis later and better known writings the enthusiasm of his earlier life has
been compressed by thepractical failure of the movement of 1833 into a more strictly intellectual form. The sermons in which he tried to persuade himself and others that the Anglican via mediawas an adequate bulwark against Liberalism, become soon the expressions of a hope rather than of a conviction. But long before he had
fully abandoned that hope he had for the most part changed his method, and instead of heralding the renovated Church he tried to make clearer and clearer the conditions of successful resistance to the modern Liberalism. His greatest efforts consist of a subtle and delicate running criticism of the Liberal tendencies of the
day, with a view to force upon the reader the question where a safe and permanent stand against what he thinks its insidious principles can best be made. Strictly reactionary, be rea- sons back from the dangers, of which he is sure, to the remedies to which he is only tentatively feeling his way. Not absorbed, like most religious enthusiasts, in the truths which be touches,—for his only moral certainty from the first is the truth of the supernatural order, the falsehood of the natural order of things, and his urgent problem is always how best he may re-establish this, and engrave its divine right on the dull, secular minds of Englishmen,—his intellect seems always at work coiling itself closely round the inmost secrets of men's intellects and hearts, and noting their characteristic bearing, so as to present on the largest scale the great question to be solved. Yet there is always just enough of that minute capillary repulsion, as it were, between his sympathies and those of the world he scans Bo closely, to render it the more marvellous that he can image and model them so well. "Detachment," as he calls it, instead of breaking the thread of his insight, has rather dis- entangled it and brought it into clearer view. To explain better what we mean we will quote a passage from "Loss and Gain," the remarkable tale in which Dr. Newman, after his conversion, described the intellectual progress of an imaginary Oxford student to the same goal. The hero is in the last stage of the enthusiasm immediately preceding his conversion when he encounters in a bookseller's shop one of the former Romanizers among his fellow-students, who, instead of drifting onwards like himself, had been drawn aside by the fascinations of a flirtation and marriage :—Reding "heard the shop door open, and on looking round saw a familiar face. It was that of a young clergyman with a very pretty girl on his arm, whom her dress pronounced to be a bride. Love was in their eyes, joy in their voice, and affluence in their gait and bearing. Charles had a faintish feeling come over him, some- what such as might beset a man on hearing a call for pork-chops when be was sea-sick. He retreated behind a pile of ledgers and other stationery, but they could not save him from the low thrilling tones which from time to time passed from one to the other." A conversation as of turtle-doves on a shopping expedi- tion to buy religious prints and knick-knacks, very skilfully drawn and showing the closest insight into the manner and feeling of such a situation, follows, and the scene ends with Charles breathed freely as they went out, and a severe text of Scripture rose to his mind, but he repressed the censorious or uncharitable feeling, and turned himself to the 1 anxious duties which lay before him." The passage, especially if read in fall, illustrates exactly what we mean by saying that Dr. Newman's intellect in its most characteristic efforts coils itself very closely round the various phenomena-of this world and our actual human life,but with a certain intervening current of detaching feeling which acts like a capillary repulsion to separate it from actual contact. The 'mere ascetic would not enter so delicately and subtly into the things he despised. The mere enthusiast would not see them at all. Bat Dr. Newman's enthusiasm, which only now and then bursts forth into positive gleams of religious fervour, generally acts negatively, only with- holding, as it were, his sympathies from identifying themselves with the life which his elastic intellect follows so clearly and his distinct imagination pourtrays so truthfully. He is in it, but not of it.
Dr. Newman's diagnostic of the symptoms of that superficial Liberalism which alone he recognizes, is, then, most instructive and subtle. But his faith in Rome never seems to us to have reached further than a very deep conviction that the Roman was the only Church in existence which had at once a history, a prestige, and an organization adequate to fight with Liberalism on more than even terms. For a time he believed, and for a longer time he triei to believe, that an Apostolic Anglican Church offered as great or even greater advantages for the struggle. But it seems to us that he is always rather reasoning back to an indeterminate Church from the exigencies of the case, than embracing Romanism because it is true. His method is,—to point out that "here is a Church which fulfils more of the required conditions than any other Church," and then, assuming this Church hypothetically as the solution of his problem, to verify the induction,—that is, to remove the difficulties which appear to arise in identifying it with the Church of Christ and His Apostles. For example, he argues thus, even now, in this his latest work, of its claim to infallibility : —
"Supposing, then, it to be the will of the Creator to interfere in human affairs, and to make provisions for retaining in the world a .knowledge of Himself, so definite and distinct as to be proof against the energy of human scepticism, in such a case,—I am far from saying that there was no other way,—but there is nothing to surprise the mind, if Ho should think fit to introduce a power into the world invested with the prerogative of infallibility in religious matters. Such a provision would be a direct, immediate, active, and prompt means of withstanding the difficulty ; it would be an instrument salted to the need ; and, when I find that this is the very claim of the Catholic Church, not only do I feel no difficulty in admitting the idea, but there is a fitness in it which recommends it to my mind. And thus I inn brought to speak of the Church's infallibility, as a provision, adapted by the mercy of the Creator, to preserve religion in the world, and to restrain that freedom of thought, which of course in itself is one of the greatest of our natural gifts, and to rescue it from its own suicidal excesses. And let it be observed that, neither here nor in what follows, shall I have occasion to speak directly of the revealed body of truths, but only as they bear upon the defence of natural religion. I say that a power, possessed of infallibility in religions teaching, is happily adapted to be a working instrument, in the course of human affairs, for smiting hard and throwing back the immense energy of the aggressive intellect."
In the same way the sacramental principle took hold of him, because it brings physical and material agencies into their due subordination to spiritual agencies, presenting them as the appointed conductors of divine life and grace, and therefore exactly inverts the materialist view that the spiritual is de- pendent on and subordinate to the physical in the great organization of nature. The one truth of the personal relation of God to the soul Dr. N3wman accepts as primary, like the Protestant ; but all the other great theses of his theology seem to us to recommend themselves to him less as self-demonstrating, than as parts of a greatsystem which is given on a high authority, and which he finds perfectly adapted to cope with the naturalism. and anarchy of what he calls Liberal thought.
In short, his is a great and noble mind, incapable, as we feel sure even Mr. Kingsley will now admit, of insincerity, but it is the mind of a great reactionary, recoiling upon the strongest defences it can find against the decomposing power of modern thought, instead of throwing itself on that power of faith which Is really greatest only in alliance with perfect freedom. He con- cludes one of his poems with the words :—
" Self-flattering age! To whom shall I not seem'
Pained with hot thoughts, the preacher of a dream ? "
To us, we confess, lie does seemthe preacher of a dream ;—tliough we admire his genius, thoroughly believe in his sincerity, and go even so far with him that we could far more easily give up the belief in "Liberalism" than the belief in God. Fortunately we believe that the deepest Liberalism re-discovers that need for God's revelation which shallow Liberalism too often ignores.