DR. NEWMAN'S cATHoLrersm.*
IT is not perhaps very difficult to understand the drift of a remark made by a recent sceptical essayist, that the delicacies, the nuances, the subtleties of Dr. Newman's religious writings have weaned, or rather tended to wean, many a man, almost by virtue of the very fineness and subtlety of their shading, from the religion Dr. Newman taught, and inured them to a scepticism Which he would have abhorred. What the essayist in question apparently meant was that Dr. Newman, by the fineness of his own appreciation for all the infinitely various colours and shadows of human thought and feeling, almost inspired a distaste for the stern simplicity and sublimity of the Christian Revelation, with its single and absolute standard of righteousness and perfection, just as the involved and complicated loveliness of the Italian
lakes will sometimes wean the mind of a traveller from the profound fascination exerted over it by the grandeur of the bare Alpine gorges and white peaks above, and even make him shrink back as though from something bleak and im- perfect. If this were the writer's meaning, we should so far agree in it that we think Dr. Newman's intellectual subtlety has always been engaged less on the Christian faith itself, than on what he has considered its approaches and outworks. That the sub- limity of the Divine Essence is only when gazed at from the dis- tance, stern, bare, or in the essayist's sense, absolute,—that, when seen in Christ, it is full of the variety and delicacy of beauty that we associate more with nature and man than with God, seems to us a matter of course. But Dr. Newman's nicety of discrimina- tion and delicacy of insight have always, we think, been exercised less on the substance of the Christian faith, than on obviating in his own way the possible objections to it. We think it true that the great wealth of his intellect has been devoted less to setting forth the faith he held himself, than to barring up all ways by which he thinks it likely one could escape from it, —ways which in consequence he has often pointed out without effectually barring them up. With a wonderful insight into the sceptical attitudes of human thought, and with yet at his heart a passionate and in the technical sense quite evangelical love of the person of Christ, it seems to us that he has chiefly used his intellect to discover the most effectual way of answering doubt by arguments conceived as it were in the same plane with doubt, so that the central love of his heart for Christ might be permitted to burn on unchecked at the centre of his thought. His Apologia shows how deeply the evangelical en- thusiasm took hold of him in his youth, and also, we think, that it has always determined the type of his own positive faith. His Roman Catholicism seems to us to belong to what we may call his negative faith, his need, that is, for a comprehensive and effectual system by which to shut out all sorts of difficulties that came thronging in upon his wide, searching, and pliant intellect. His newest writings seem to show the essence of his faith to be still the same, namely, an absorbing love for the person of Christ which can bear no shadow of doubt or derogation ; while the bulk of his theology is still expended on constructing a systematic fortification against the intellectual inroad of doubt,—for the main plan of which he has turned to the greatest of the histo- rical Churches, though contributing not a little himself to make the details of that plan stronger and more impregnable.
But it is only in subordination to his central evangelical faith that he has thus appealed to the Roman system. His keen eye saw how little was to be done in the way of defending the evan- gelical theory on its own favourite basis, the verbal inspiration of the Bible. His intellectual philosophy was either too timid or too much imbued with a certain awe of the old rationalistic prin- ciples, to give him any hope of a spiritual alliance with the great truths of the Gospel that could stand against historical and psy- chological criticism, at least without some permanent external bul- wark, like that of an infallible Church, on which to lean. And so, as it seems to us, he fell back on Romanism, as the only system of fortification against external doubt which has anything like the grandeur and the completeness to resist the swarm of difficulties suggested by a calm survey of the world in the light of a wide and comprehensive reason. But Romanism strikes us as after all only occupying a secondary position in his mind, a position shutting out the enemy more effectually than his former faith, without subdu- ing his own heart by any new and overwhelming attraction which he had not felt before. Hence we think his extraordinarily slow progress to Rome,—into whose arms he was forced by seeing no other logical safety for his heart's creed, rather than by finding in her a new principle of fascination, like Dr. Manning and Mr. Ward, and many of the other converts.
This state of mind seems to us powerfully imaged in both the works mentioned below. The curious and in many respects very striking poem called The Dream of Gerontius is an imagina- tive picture of the state of a redeemed soul immediately after quitting the body. Though all the mode of thought and scenery is of coarse Roman Catholic, the central idea of this strange and in passages very striking poem, is the infinity of personal obli- gation to the Redeemer. Guardian Angel, and interceding saints, and Virgin Mother, and tempting demons, and the great Accuser, all appear as merely secondary agencies of quite inferior and insigni- ficant importance, and most of the finer passages of the poem might have been written by a Protestant. Not only so, but there is a prominence of what is usually thought to belong to the
• ‘ 1. The Dream of Gerontius. London Barns, Lambert, and Oates. genius of Protestantism,—the internal—or to use the horrid tech- 2. A Letter to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D., on hts Recent" Eirenicon." By Solatt Hem7 tire' conception of spiritual law, in some quite minor matters :- for example, the soul when separated from the body loses all knowledge of any common measure of time, and measures time only by the number and energy of its own thoughts :— " For spirits and men by different standards mete The less and greater in the flow of time. By sun and moon, primeval ordinances— By stars which rise and set harmoniously— By the recurring seasons, and the swing, This way and that, of the suspended rod Precise and punctual, men divide the hours, Equal, continuous, for their common use.
• Not so with us in th' immaterial world; But intervals in their succession Are measured by the living thought alone, And grow or wane with its intensity.
And time is not a common property; But what is long is short, and swift is slow, And near is distant, as received and grasped By this mind and by that, and every one Is standard of his own chronology.
And memory lacks its natural resting-points, Of years, and centuries, and periods.
It is thy very energy of thought Which keeps thee from thy God."
That seems to us, on a minute and quite minor point, conceived in the freer spirit of the Protestant rather than in the legal spirit of the Roman Catholic intellectual philosophy. And to pass to greater matters, the substance of the following passages seems conceived in a spirit which might as well have been Evangelical as Catholic, though of course the last sentence is in form Catholic because involving the idea of purgatory
"When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge, The' sight of Him will kindle in thy heart All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts. Thouwilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him, And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him, That one so sweet should e'er have placed Himself At disadvantage such, as to be used So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee. And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself ; for, though Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinned, As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire To slink away, and hide thee from His sight ; And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,— The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not ; The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,— Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory."
" Sour- "I go before my Judge. Ah
" . . . . Praise to His Name !
The eager spirit has darted from my hold, And, with the intemperate energy of love, Flies to the dear feet of Emmanuel; Bat, ere it reach them, the keen sanctity, Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothes And circles round the Crucified, has seized, And scorched, and shrivelled it; and now it lies Passive and still before the awful Throne.
0 happy, suffering soul ! for it is safe, Consumed, yet ciuickened, by the glance of God."
"Take me away, and in the lowest deep There let me be, And there in hope the lone night-watches keep, Told out for me.
There, motionless and happy in my pain, Lone, not forlorn, — There will I sing my sad perpetual strain, Until the morn.
There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast, Which ne'er can cease To throb, and pine, and languish, till pewee Of its Sole Peace.
There will I sing my absent Lord and Love :— Take me away, That sooner I may rise, and go above, And see Him in the truth of everlasting day."
And any one who reads carefully the letter to Dr. Furey on the nature of the Catholic doctrine concerning the cultns of the Virgin Mary, will be struck by the same characteristic,—that all the peculiarly Roman Catholic doctrine which Dr. Newman defends concerning the Virgin is, in his conception, rather a buttress of the doctrine (Catholic and Protestant alike) of the Incarnation, than a new source of illumination and faith. In his sermons published in 1849 on The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son, he is care- ful to present the doctrine of the honours of the Mother as purely " preservative additions " to the doctrine of the Son himself. "It would not have sufficed," he wrote, " in order to bring out and im- press upon us the idea that God is man, had His Mother been an ordi- nary person. A mother without a home in the Church, without dignity, without gifts, would have been, as far as the defence of the Incarnation goes, no mother at all. She would not have remained in the memory or the .imagination of men. If she is to wit- ness and remind the world that God became man, she must be on a high and eminent station for the purpose. She must be made to fill the mind, in order to suggest the lesson. When she once attracts our attention, then, and not till then, she begins to preach Jesus. Why should she have such prerogatives,' we ask 'unless He be God? And what must He be by nature, when she is so high by grace ? " This was Dr. Newman's conception even then, in the first fervour of his Roman Catholicism. The cultus of the Virgin Mary was but " arpreservative addition" to the worship of Christ, and his reply to Dr. Pusey puts this position with a still stronger theological force. Nothing can well be stronger in its way than the following passage :— "After such explanations, and with such authorities, to clear my path, I put away from me, as you would wish, without any hesitation, as matters in which my heart and reason have no part (when taken in their literal and absolute sense, as any Protestant would naturally take them, and as the writers doubtless did not use them), such sentences, and phrases, as these :—that the mercy of Mary is infinite ; that God has resigned into her hands His omnipotence ; that (unconditionally) it is safer to seek her than her Son ; that the Blessed Virgin is superior to God; that He is (simply) subject to her command ; that our Lord is now of the same disposition as His Father towards sinners, viz., a disposition to reject them, while Mary takes His place as an Advocate with Father and Son ; that the Saints are more ready to intercede with Jesus than Jesus with the Father - that Mary is the only refuge of those with whom God is angry; that Mary alone can obtain a Protestant's conver- sion; • that it would have sufficed for the salvation of men if our Lord had died, not to obey His Father, but to defer to the decree of His mother ; that she rivals our Lord in being God's daughter, not by adop- tion, but by a kind of nature ; that Christ fulfilled the office of Saviour by imitating her virtues ; that, as the Incarnate God bore the image of His Father, so He bore the image of His Mother; that redemption derived from Christ indeed its sufficiency, but from Mary its beauty and loveli- ness; that as we are clothed with the merits of Christ so we are clothed with the merits of Mary; that, as He is Priest in like manner is she Priestess ; that His Body and Blood in the Eucharist are truly hers and appertain to her; that as He is present and received therein, so is she present and received therein ; that Priests are ministers as of Christ, so of Mary ; that elect souls are born of God and Mary; that the Holy Ghost brings into fruitfulness his action by her, producing in her and by her Jesus Christ in His members ; that the kingdom of God in our souls, as our Lord speaks, is really the kingdom of Mary in the soul— and she and the Holy Ghost produce in the soul extraordinary things— and when the Holy Ghost finds Mary in a soul He flies there. Senti- ments such as these I never knew of till I read your book, nor, as I think, do the vast majority of English Catholics know them. They seem to me like a bad dream. I could not have conceived them to be said. I know not to what authority to go for them, to Scripture, or to the Fathers, or to the decrees of Councils, or to the consent of schools, or to the tradition of the faithful, or to the Holy See, or to Reason. They defy all the loci theologici. There is nothing of them in the Missal, in the Roman Catechism, or in the Roman Racco/ta, in the Imitation of Christ, in (bother, Challoner, Milner, or Wiseman, as far as I am aware. They do but scare and confuse me. I should not be imlier, xqpre spiritual, more sure of perseverance' if I twisted my moral being, into the reception of them ; I should but be guilty of fulsome frigid flattery towards the most upright and noble of God's creatutes, if I pro- fessed them,—and of stupid flattery, too ; for it would be like thecompli- ment of painting up a youngaud beautiful princess with the brow of a Plate and the muscle of an Achilles. And I should expect her to tell one of her people in waiting to turn me off her service without warning. Whether thus to feel be the scandalum parvulorunt in my ease, or the scandalum Pharisteorum I leave others to decide • but I will say plainly that I had rather believe (which is impossible) tit there is no God at all than that Mary is greater than God. I will have nothing to do with statements, which can only be explained, by being explained away. I do not, how- ever, speak of these statements, as they are found in their authors, for I know nothing of the originals, and cannot believe that they have meant what you say; but I take them as they ho in your pages. Were any of them the sayings of Saints in ecstacy, I should know they had a good meaning ; still I should not repeat them myself ; but I am looking at them, not as spoken by the tongues, of Angels, but according to that literal sense which they bear in the mouths of English men and English women. And, as spoken by man to man, in England, in the nineteenth century, I consider them calculated to prejudice inquirers, to frighten the unlearned, to unsettle consciences, to provoke blasphemy, and to work the loss of souls."
This is clearly in a very different tone from that adopted by Dr. Manning, or Mr. Ward, or Mr. Oakeley, or the Ultramontane party generally. They seem to us to find a new fascination in the Roman Church, Dr. Newman only new and more massive bulwarks and outworks against the scepticism of the world, for the germ of living evangelical faith in his own heart. The doctrine of tradition, the doctrine of development, in other words, the notion that the Fathers of the Church have through all ages been guided into a fuller and fuller development of the original substance of revelation, —all these are but preservative additions' to -supply
Revelation with a fitting historical growth and organization, without which Dr. • Newman would have felt the difficulty of showing how, without absorbing error, Christianity has adapted itself to the extraordinary changes of intellectual temper and climate through which mankind has passed. When critics ridicule the elaborate doctrine deduced by Dr. Newman from the scattered sayings of a few Fathers concerning the Virgin Mary from century to century, they should remember, that absurd as such a systematizing theology seems to us, the weakness of it lies not in such applications as these, but in the general doctrine of a Church intellect infallibly guided in its growth,—a doctrine on which Dr. Newman relies with far greater certainty than he would on any isolated case of its application. There is a breadth in the general theory of a special intellectual " inspiration for the Church,—false as it im,—which makes it very attractive to a wide comprehensive mind, keen to perceive and feel the attack of worldly doubts, and anxious to meet them on their own grounds. But if Dr. Newman had not embraced the general doctrine strongly as a fortification against many sceptical objections,—he certainly would not have treated us to the weak individual example of it which has been rather un- meaningly criticized by some of our contemporaries. It is easy to show how poor is the special reasoning, if we do not grant, as Protestants of course do not, the general premiss. But though easy, it is also worthless. The interest of this reply to Dr. Pusey, does not at all lie in the special argument by which the claim of the Virgin Mary to great honours as the first of the Saints and as immaculate in her conception are proved,—for to us the argument has no meaning, because starting from assumptions admitted in- deed by Dr. Pusey, but not by any Protestant. But the true and deep interest of the reply lies in the proof that, after all, the essence and core of Dr. Newman's faith is still the same, —an intense and personal love for Christ, which is positively jealous of those theological encroachments of the Virgin Mary on His undivided claim over us which seem indeed to be the signs of the times in his own Church, and to indicate a current of tendency which he cannot resist, but with which he is determined to struggle to the last. Whether this may aid in exposing him to suspicion in his own Church, or in his saving his Church from another downward step, it is impossible to say ; but there is little sign that he will yield to the encroaching tide of the new idolatry.