15 MAY 1880, Page 9


THOSE who heard Cardinal Newman's address on Wednes- day, nay, even those who read it as it was reported in the Standard,—the very poor summary in the Times was in every

way inadequate,—must have felt very strongly how singularly unique has been the Cardinal's career which has now lasted its full four-score years. It is not superficially a very intelligible phenomenon, when we find a Cardinal in his full robes reading an address on the spirit in which Catholics ought to pray for the conversion of England, while not only Catholics of all schools, from the most to the least Ultramontane, but non-Catholic literary men, including, at all events, one very wise, eminent, and popular Independent minister, listen with eager interest, and not unfrequently join in the Catholic applause with which he is greeted. What is the explanation of such a phenomenon ? It is not surprising, of course, that Englishmen should be proud of Cardinal Newman, were it only for the exquisite beauty of his English, and the deep insight into human nature betrayed in his many works. But it is sur- prising to find men who are not Catholics anxious to hear what Dr. Newman thinks concerning the spirit in which it is right to pray for the conversion of Protestants to Catholicism ; and not only anxious to hear this, but inclined to sympathise very deeply with the spirit of some of his remarks. So singular a circumstance should excite something more than wonder, some- thing like amazement, until it can be rationally explained. Of course, it could not be explained at all, were not the reverence felt for Cardinal Newman's personal character by those outside his communion singularly deep and vivid. But that alone is not enough. There are many other high- minded Catholics whom Protestants might flock to hear, partly from innocent curiosity, partly from the instinct of personal reverence, even though it were on such a subject as Dr. Newman treated last Wednesday, but it is hardly possible that such Pro- testants would find themselves much in sympathy with any other genuine Catholic speaking on such a subject. Those who are not tending Romewards can scarcely be expected to sympa- thise with a Roman Catholic who is doing all in his power to show how Catholics are most likely to make converts, and through what kind of errors they are most likely to fail in making converts.

Now, we suppose that the reason why Cardinal Newman could treat such a subject, and treat it so as to touch the sympathy of Protestants, is nearly as follows. There is probably no other Roman Catholic living who has been so anxious to seek in the methods of nature for guidance

in relation to the supernatural, as well as to seek in reve- lation for guidance in relation to nature, as Cardinal New- man. And it was this leading principle of his address on Wednesday which went straight to the hearts and minds of those Protestants present, and elicited their sympathy. The fundamental idea of the address was this,—that true piety, though it will never limit the power of God, and will always be inclined to recognise gratefully the province of the supernatural in human life and history, will yet always strive to remember that God's ordinary ways are on the whole his most approved ways, and that even when in the fullness of his love to man he oversteps his ordinary ways, he does so in order to extend and justify the teaching of his ordinary ways, not to supersede that teaching. "What," said Cardinal Newman, "I would urge, is that the Creator acts by a fixed rule, which we call a system of laws, and ordinarily, and on the whole, he honours and blesses his own ordinance and acts through it, and we best honour him when we follow his guidance in looking for his presence where he has lodged it. Moreover, what is very remarkable, even when it is his will to act miraculously—even when he ontsteps his ordinary system—he is wont to do honour to it while overstepping it. Sometimes, indeed, he directly con- tradicts his own laws, as in raising the dead; but such rare acts have their own definite purpose, which makes them necessary for their own sake; but for the most part his miracles are rather what may be called exaggerations, or carrying out to an extreme point, of the laws of Nature, than naked contrarieties to them; and if we would see more of his wonder-working hand, we must look for it as thus mixed up with his natural appointments. As Divine aid given to the soul acts through and with natural reason, natural affection, and conscience, so miraculous agency, when exerted, is in many, nay, in most cases, a co-operation with the ordinary ways of physical nature." Even where the supernatural must be recognised as definitely influencing the course of human affairs, said the Cardinal, it is more often than not that it is rather by enhancing, beyond what would have been naturally possible, the function of some natural organ, than by introducing any entirely strange and novel element into human life. Even what is most above nature is, as a rule, rather an extreme intensification of what is in the natural order of Providence, than a deliberate departure from that natural order. And the spirit of this remark was illustrated by the Cardinal's condemnation of those who pray so wilfully and, as it were, dictatorially for the conversion of certain Protestants, that, without any reference to their present mental and moral con- dition, the interceders will venture to say of some one of them, "We Iva/ have him !" "with a sort of impetuosity, and as if, so to say, they defied Providence," and as if "no im- plied act of resignation were necessary in order to make our intercession acceptable." What Cardinal Newman, on the con- trary, insisted on was the duty of directing prayer to those objects which the natural Providence of God had pointed out as most within reach, as most within the compass of his creative purposes. It is wrong, he held, to fix our hearts most on obtaining by supernatural means that which in the light of all natural considerations seems absolutely remote and unlikely. To do so is to interpret the divine teaching wrongly,—to make surprises into the law, and therefore to lose all the meaning of the law itself,—to ignore the general teaching of God, in the impatience felt for such special help as appears to transcend his general promises. Only those who allow their minds to be guided by God's ordinary rules will interpret his extraordinary interventions aright, for his extra- ordinary actions are not reversals, but expansions and extensions of his ordinary government, and unless viewed in connection with his ordinary government, are likely to be superficialli and superstitiously interpreted.

Such, as we understand it, was the chief drift of Cardinal Nevrman'a address; and though it is, of course, impossible for Protestants so to use it as to indicate by its help for whose con- version to Roman Catholicism Roman Catholics ought to pray, yet to the principle itself the most genuine Protestant ought heartily to adhere, and he should keep it steadily in mind, in his own survey of the religious phenomena of the day, and espe- cially in considering the scepticism and agnosticism of the day, and the points at which this scepticism and agnosticism are most likely to be open to the access of spiritual light. It is not those who are profoundly persuaded that the key of the spiritual phenomena of life is to be found in the material phenomena, not those who appear to be quite happy in attributing moral laws to physical causes, not those who deliberately take the appetites, passions, and senses as the chief moving powers of human affairs, whom we can safely hope to reach by appeals to the spiritual nature in them. We may expect to see the great wave of materialism and scepticism pass away, and the reassertion in a clearer form than ever of the true predominance of what is spiritual in man ; but we mast not look for this as a result of sudden and abrupt divine intervention, but rather as the natural development of those tendencies amongst the Agnostics which show how perplexed and bewildered the best Agnostics are by their own Agnosticism, and how little it answers to the most imperative of the instincts within them.

And another thing we may learn from Cardinal Newman. He said most candidly and significantly, on Wednesday, that though it was perfectly natural and right for the Catholics of the sixteenth century to pray for the conversion of England through the conversion of the Government, —through the return of the State to Catholicism,—yet that as it had turned out, this, even when it happened, had not been really useful to Catholicism, and now all, even Catholics, would chiefly desire that the State should let Catholicism as much as possible alone. Well, we might apply the same kind of historical lesson, we think, to the bearing of science on religion. Formerly, it was very natural, and quite pardonable, for religious people, shocked by the un- settling tendency of scientific discovery on religions convictions, to wish to restore their convictions by discrediting science. To them, the science appeared incredible which disturbed faith. We have learned better. We have learned that the best thing we can do with the new science is to push it on to its ultimate results,—not merely to let it alone but to pursue the clue it suggests, till it leads us beyond its own sphere back into the deeper sphere of ideal laws. Here, again, Cardinal Newman may give a right direction not only to Catholic, but to Protestant prayers. These prayers should aim at the truest and most candid acceptance of all that Science really establishes, and not at that repudiation of Science which has led religious thinkers into as many blunders as those into which their political Catholicism led the Catholics of the six- teenth and seventeenth centuries. If Dr. Newman has taught us anything, he has taught us, from the beginning to the close of his career, to take Nature as our guide in interpreting Revela- tion, no less than to take Revelation as our guide in interpreting Nature. The latter lesson is an old and well-worn one. But it can only be properly learned by those who have taken to heart the former lesson as well.