It is not more than a hyperbole to say, that, in certain cases, a lie is the nearest approach to truth."
Sermons on the Theory of Religious Belief, page 343
WHAT, THEN, DOES DR. NEWMAN MEAN?
DR. NEWMAN has made a great mistake. He has published a correspondence between himself and me, with certain " Reflexions " and a title-page, which cannot be allowed to pass without a rejoinder.
Before commenting on either, I must give a plain account of the circumstances of the controversy, which seem to have been misunderstood in several quarters. In the January number of Macmillan's Magazine, I deliberately and advisedly made use of these words.-
Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and, on the whole, ought not to be; that cunning is the weapon which Heaven has given to the saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world which marries and is given in marriage." This accusation I based upon a considerable number of passages in Dr. Newman's writings, and especially on a sermon entitled "Wisdom and Innocence," and preached by Dr. Newman as Vicar Of St. Mary's, and published as No. XX of his " Sermons on Subjects of the Day."
Dr. Newman wrote, in strong but courteous terms, to Messrs. Macmillan and Co. complaining of this language as a slander. I at once took the responsibility on myself, and wrote to Dr. Newman.
I had been informed (by a Protestant) that he was in weak health, that he wished for peace and quiet, and was averse to controversy; I therefore felt some regret at having disturbed him: and this regret was increased by the moderate and courteous tone of his letters, though they contained, of course, much from which I differed. I addressed to him the following letter, of which, as I trust every English gentleman will feel, I have no reason to be ashamed: -
I have seen a letter of yours to Mr. Macmillan, in which
you complain of some expressions of mine in an article in the January number of Macmillan's Magazine.
That my words were just, I believed from many passages of your writings; but the document to which I expressly referred was one of your sermons on " Subjects of the Day," No.XX in the volume published in I -, and entitled "Wisdom and Innocence."
It was in consequence of that sermon that I finally shook off the strong influence which your writings exerted on me, and for much of which I still owe you a deep debt of gratitude.
I am most happy to hear from you that I mistook (as I understand from your letter) your meaning; and I shall be most happy, on your showing me that I have wronged you, to retract my accusation as publicly as I have made it.
I am, Rev. Sir,
Your faithful servant,
I received a very moderate answer from Dr. Newman, and a short correspondence ensued, which ended in my inserting in the February number of Macmillan's Magazine the following apology:-
TO the Editor of Macmillan's Magazine.
In your last number I made certain allegations against the teaching of Dr. John Henry Newman, which I thought were justified by a sermon of his, entitled " Wisdom and Innocence (Sermon XX of " Sermons bearing on Subjects of the Day"). Dr. Newman has, by letter, expressed in the strongest terms his denial of the meaning which I have put upon his words. It only remains, therefore, for me to express my hearty regret at having so seriously mistaken him.
My object had been throughout to avoid war, because I thought Dr. Newman wished for peace. I therefore dropped the question of the meaning of " many passages of his writings," and confined myself to the sermon entitled Wisdom nd Innocence," simply to give him an opportunity of settling the dispute on that one ground.
But whether Dr. Newman lost his temper, or whether he thought that he had gained an advantage over me, or whether he wanted a more complete apology than I chose to give, whatever, I say, may have been his reasons, he suddenly changed his tone of courtesy and dignity for one of which I shall only say that it shows sadly how the atmosphere of the Romish priesthood has degraded his notions of what is due to himself; and when he published (as I am much obliged to him for doing) the whole correspondence, he appended to it certain reflections, in which he attempted to convict me of not having believed the accusation which I had made.
There remains for me, then, nothing but to justify my mistake, as far as I can.
I am, of course, precluded from using the sermon entitled Wisdom and Innocence " to prove my words. I have accepted Dr. Newman's denial that it means what I thought it did; and Heaven forbid that I should withdraw my word once given, at whatever disadvantage to myself. But more. I am informed by those from whose judgment on such points there is no appeal, that, " en hault courage " and strict honour, I am also precluded, by the terms of my explanation, from using any other of Dr. Newman's past writing to prove my assertion. I have declared Dr. Newman to have been an honest man up to the lst of February, 1864. It was, as I shall show, only Dr. Newman's fault that I ever thought him to be anything else. It depends entirely on Dr. Newman whether he shall sustain the reputation which he has so recently acquired. if I give him thereby a fresh advantage in this argument, he is most welcome to it. He needs, it seems to me, as many advantages as possible. But I have a right, in self-justification, to put before the public so much of that sermon, and of the rest of Dr. Newman's writings, as will show why I formed so harsh an opinion of them and him, and why I still consider that sermon (whatever may be its meaning) as most dangerous and misleading. And I have a full right to do the same by those " many passages of Dr. Newman's writings " which I left alone at first, simply because I thought Dr. Newman wished for peace.
First, as to the sermon entitled " Wisdom and Innocence." It must be remembered always that it is not a Protestant, but a Romish sermon. It is occupied entirely with the attitude of " the world " to " Christians " and " the Church ." By the world appears to be signified, especially, the Protestant public of these realms. What Dr. Newman means by Christians, and the Church, he has not left in doubt; for in the preceding sermon (XIX, p. 328) he says: "But, if the truth must be spoken, what are the humble monk, and the holy nun, and other regulars, as they are called, but Christians after the very pattern given us in Scripture? What have they done but this-continue in the world the Christianity of the Bible? Did our Saviour come on earth suddenly, as He will one day visit, in whom would He see the features of the Christians He and His apostles left behind them, but in them? Who but these give up home and friends, wealth and case, good name and liberty of will, for the kingdom of heaven? Where shall we find the image of St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. John, or of Mary the mother of Mark, or of Philip's daughters, but in those who, whether they remain in seclusion, or are sent over the earth, have calm faces, and sweet plaintive voices, and spare frames, and gentle manners, and hearts weaned from the world, and wills subdued; and for their meekness meet with insult, and for their purity with slander, and for their gravity with suspicion, and for their courage with cruelty . . ." This is his definition of Christians. And in the sermon itself he sufficiently defines what he means by " the Church " in two " notes " of her character, which he shall give in his own words (Sermon XX, p. 346): " What, for instance, though we grant that sacramental confession and the celibacy of the clergy do tend to consolidate the body politic in the relation of rulers and subjects, or, in other words, to aggrandise the priesthood? for how can the Church be one body without such relation?"
Monks and nuns the only perfect Christians; sacramental confession and the celibacy of the clergy notes of the Church; the laity in relation to the clergy of subjects to rulers. What more? If I, like others, on the strength of Dr. Newman's own definitions, gave to his advice to Christians concerning " wisdom," " prudence," " silence," the meaning which they would have in the mouth of a Romish teacher-St. Alfonso da Liguori, for instance-whom can Dr. Newman blame for the mistake, save himself?
But to the sermon itself; the text of which is from Matthew x, 16. It begins by stating that the Church has been always helpless and persecuted, in proportion to its purity. Dr. Newman then asks, how Christian, are to defend themselves if they might not fight? and answers, "They were allowed the arms, that is, the arts, of the defenceless." He shows how the weaker animals are enabled to defend themselves by various means, among which he enumerates " natural cunning, which enables them to elude or even to destroy their enemies." He goes on to show how the same holds good in our own species, in the case of " a captive, effeminate race "; of A slaves "; of " ill-used and oppressed children "; of the " subjects of a despot." "They exercise the inalienable right of self-defence in such methods as they best may; only, since human nature is unscrupulous, guilt or innocence is all the same to them, if it works their purpose."
He goes on to point out the analogy between these facts and the conduct fit for Christians. "The servants of Christ are forbidden to defend themselves by violence; but they are not forbidden other means: direct means are not allowed, but others are even commanded. For instance, foresight, 'beware of men'; avoidance, 'when they persecute you in one city, flee into another': prudence and skill, as in the text, 'Be ye wise as serpents.'
The mention of the serpent reminds him of the serpent in Paradise; and he says, "Considering that the serpent was chosen by the enemy of mankind as the instrument of his temptations in Paradise, it is very remarkable that Christ should choose it as the pattern of wisdom for His followers. It is as if He appealed to the whole world of sin, and to the bad arts by which the feeble gain advantage over the strong. It is as if He set before us the craft and treachery, the perfidy of the slave, and bade us extract a lesson even from so great an evil. it is as if the more we are forbidden violence, the more we are exhorted to prudence; as if it were our bounden duty to rival the wicked in endowments of mind, and to excel them in their exercise."
Dr. Newman then goes on to assert, that " if there be one reproach more than another which has been cast upon " the Church, " it is that of fraud and cunning." He quotes the imputations of craftiness and deceitfulness thrown upon St. Paul, and even of " deceit upon our Lord himself. He then says that Priestcraft has ever been considered the badge, and Its imputation is a kind of note, of the Church." He asserts that the accusation has been, save in a few exceptions, unfounded; and that " the words 'craft' and 'hypocrisy' are but the version of 'wisdom' and 'harmlessness' in the language of the world." " It is remarkable, however, that not only is harmlessness the corrective of wisdom, securing it against the corruption of craft and deceit, as stated in the text: but innocence, simplicity, implicit obedience to God, tranquillity of mind, contentment, these and the like virtues are in themselves a sort of wisdom; I mean, they produce the same results as wisdom, because God works for those who do not work for themselves; and thus they especially incur the charge of craft at the hands of the world, because they pretend to so little, yet effect so much. This circumstance admits dwelling on."
He then goes on to mention seven heads:-
" First, sobriety, self-restraint, control of word and feeling, which religious men exercise, have about them an appearance of being artificial, because they are not natural; and of being artful, because artificial "; and adds shortly after, that " those who would be holy and blameless, the sons of God, find so much in the world to unsettle and defile them, that they are necessarily forced upon a strict self-restraint, lest - they should receive injury from such intercourse with it as is unavoidable. and this self-restraint is the first thing which makes holy persons seem wanting in openness and manliness." Next he points out that " religious men are a mystery to the world; and being a mystery, they will in mere self-defence be called by the world mysterious, dark, subtle, designing." Next, that " it is very difficult to make the world understand the difference between an outward obedience and an inward assent." He then instances the relations between the early Christians and the heathen magistrates; and adds, that " when religious men outwardly conform, on the score of duty, to the powers that be, the world is easily led into the mistake that they have renounced their opinions, as well as submitted their actions; and it feels or affects surprise, to find that their opinions remain; and it considers, or calls this, an inconsistency, or a duplicity ": with more to the same purpose.
Next, the silent resignation of Christians is set forth as a cause of the world's suspicion; and " so is their confidence, in spite of their apparent weakness, their cause will triumph."
Another cause of the world's suspicion is, the unexpected success of religious men.
Another, that the truth has in Itself the power of spreading, without instruments, " making the world impute " to secret management that uniformity, which is nothing but the echo of the One Living and True Word.
Another, that when Christians prosper, contrary to their own expectations, " it looks like deceit to show surprise, and to disclaim the work themselves."
And lastly, because God works for Christians, and they are successful, when they only mean to be dutiful. " But what duplicity does the world think it, to speak of conscience, or honour, or propriety, or delicacy, or to give other tokens of personal motives, when the event seems to show that a calculation of results has been the actuating principle at bottom. It is God who designs, but His servants seem designing. . . ."
Dr. Newman then goes on to point out how " Jacob is thought worldly wise in his dealings with Lagan, whereas he was a ' plain man,' simply obedient to the angel."
Moses is sometimes called sagacious and shrewd in his measures or his law, as if wise acts might not come from the source of wisdom." . . . " Bishops have been called hypocritical in submitting and yet opposing themselves to the civil power, in a matter of plain duty, if a popular movement was the consequence; and then hypocritical again, if they did their best to repress it. And, in like manner, theological doctrines or ecclesiastical usages are styled politic if they are but salutary; as if the Lord of the Church, who has willed her sovereignty, might not effect it by secondary causes. What, for instance, though we grant that sacramental confession and the celibacy of the clergy do tend to consolidate the body politic in the relation of rulers and subjects, or in other words, to aggrandise the priesthood? For how can the Church be one body without such relation; and why should not He, who has decreed that there should be unity, take measures to secure it?"
The reason of these suspicions on the part of the world is then stated to be, that " men do not like to hear of the interposition of Providence in the affairs of the world; and they invidiously ascribe ability and skill to His agents, to escape the thought of an Infinite Wisdom and an AlmightyPower.
The sermon then closes with a few lines of great beauty, In that style which has won deservedly for Dr. Newman the honour of being the most perfect orator of this generation; but they have no reference to the question in hand, save the words, " We will glory in what they disown."
I have tried conscientiously to give a fair and complete digest of this, to me, very objectionable and dangerous sermon. I have omitted no passage in which Dr. Newman guards himself against the conclusions which I drew from it; and none, I verily believe, which is required for the full understanding of its general drift. I have abstained from all comment as I went on, in order not to prejudice the minds of my readers. But I must now turn round and ask, whether the mistake into which Dr. Newman asserts me to have fallen was not a very reasonable one; and whether the average of educated Englishmen, in reading that sermon, would not be too likely to fall into the same? I put on it, as I thought, the plain and straightforward signification. I find I am wrong; and nothing is left for me but to ask, with some astonishment, What, then, did the sermon mean? Why was it preached? To insinuate that a Church which had sacramental confession and a celibate clergy was the only true Church? Or to insinuate that the admiring young gentlemen who listened to him stood to their fellow-countrymen in the relation of the early Christians to the heathen Romans? Or that Queen Victoria's Government was to the Church of England what Nero's or Diocletian's was to the Church of Rome? It may have been so. I know that men used to suspect Dr. Newman-1 have been inclined to do so myself-of writing a whole sermon, not for the sake of the text or of the matter, but for the sake of one single passing hint-one phrase, one epithet, one little barbed arrow which, as he swept magnificently past on the stream of his calm eloquence, seemingly unconscious of all presences, save those unseen, he delivered unheeded, as with his finger-tip, to the very heart of an initiated hearer, never to be withdrawn again. I do not blame him for that. It is one of the highest triumphs of oratoric power, and may be employed honestly and fairly, be any person who has the skill to do it honestly and fairly. But then-Why did he entitle his sermon " Wisdom and Innocence "?
What, then, could I think that Dr. Newman meant? I found a preacher bidding Christians imitate, to some undefined point, the " arts " of the basest of animals and of men, and even of the Devil himself. I found him, by a strange perversion of Scripture, insinuating that St. Paul's conduct and manner were such as naturally to bring down on him the reputation of being a crafty deceiver. I found him-horrible to have to say it-even hinting the same of One greater than St. Paul. I found him denying or explaining away the existence of that priestcraft which is a notorious fact to every honest student of history; and justifying (as far as I can understand him) that double-dealing by which prelates, in the middle age, too often played off alternately the sovereign against the people and the people against the sovereign, careless which was in the right, as long as their own power gained by the move. I found him actually using of such (and, as I thought, of himself and his party likewise) the words, " They yield outwardly; to assent inwardly were to betray the faith. Yet they are called deceitful and double-dealing, because they do as much as they can, and not more than they may." I found him telling Christians that they will always seem artificial," and " wanting in openness and manliness;" that they will always be " a mystery " to the world, and that the world will always think them rogues; and bidding them glory in what the world (i.e. the rest of their fellow-countrymen) disown, and say with Mawworm, " I like to be despised."
Now how was I to know that the preacher, who had the reputation of being the most acute man of his generation, and of having a specially intimate acquaintance with the weakness of the human heart, was utterly blind to the broad meaning I and the plain practical result of a sermon like this, delivered before fanatic and hot-headed young men, who hung upon his every word? That he did not foresee that they would think that they obeyed him, by becoming affected, artificial, sly, shifty, ready for concealments and equivocations? That he did not foresee that they, hearing his words concerning priestcraft and double-dealing, and being engaged in the study of the Medieval Church, would consider the same chicanery allowed to them which they found practised but too often by the Medieval Church? or even go to the Romish casuists, to discover what amount of cunning did or did not come under Dr. Newman's one passing warning against craft and deceit? In a word, that he did not foresee that the natural result of the sermon on the minds of his disciples would be, to make them suspect that truth was not a virtue for its own sake, but only for the sake of the spread of "catholic opinions," and the " salvation of their own souls " ; and that cunning was the weapon which Heaven had allowed to them to defend themselves against the persecuting Protestant public?
All England stood round in those days, and saw that this would be the outcome of Dr. Newman's teaching. How was I to know that he did not see it himself?
And as a fact, his teaching had this outcome. Whatever else it did, it did this. In proportion as young men absorbed it into themselves, it injured their straightforwardness and truthfulness. The fact is notorious to all England. It spread misery and shame into many an English home. The net practical result of Dr. Newman's teachings on truthfulness cannot be better summed up than by one of his own disciples, Mr. Ward, who, in his " Ideal of a Christian Church," page 382, says thus:-
" Candour is rather an intellectual than a moral virtue, and by no means either universally or distinctively characteristic of the saintly mind."
Dr. Newman ought to have told his disciple, when he wrote those words, that he was on the highroad to the father of lies; and he ought to have told the world, too, that such was his opinion; unless he wished it to fall into the mistake into which I fell-namely; that he had wisdom enough to know the practical result of his words, and therefore meant what they seemed to say.
Dr. Newman has nothing to blame for that mistake, save his own method. If he would (while a member of the Church of England) persist (as in this sermon) in dealing with matters dark, offensive, doubtful, sometimes actually forbidden, at least according to the notions of the great majority of English Churchmen; if he would always do so in a tentative, paltering way, seldom or never letting the world know how much he believed, how far he intended to go; if, in a word, his method of teaching was a suspicious one, what wonder if the minds of men were filled with suspicions of him? What wonder if they said of him (as he so naively, in one of his letters, expresses his fear that they will say again), " Dr. Newman has the skill of a great master of verbal fence, who knows, as well as any man living, how to insinuate a doctrine without committing himself to it?" If he told the world, as he virtually does in this sermon, " I know that my conduct looks like cunning; but it is only the 'arts' of the defenceless:" what wonder if the world answered, " No. It is what it seems. That is just what we call cunning; a habit of mind which, once indulged, is certain to go on from bad to worse, till the man becomes-like too many of the medieval clergy who indulged in it-utterly untrustworthy." Dr. Newman, I say, has no one to blame but himself. The world is not so blind but that it will soon find out an honest man if he will take the trouble of talking and acting like one. No one would have suspected him to be a dishonest man, if he had not perversely chosen to assume a style which (as he himself confesses) the world always associates with dishonesty.
When, therefore, Dr. Newman says (p. 42 of his pamphlet) that " He supposes, in truth, there is nothing at all, however base, up to the high mark of Titus Oates, which a Catholic may not expect to be believed of him by Protestants, however honourable and hard-headed," he is stating a mere phantom of his own brain. It is not so. I do not believe it ever was so. In the days when Jesuits were inciting fanatics to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, and again in the days of the Gunpowder Plot, there was deservedly a very strong feeling against Romish priests, and against a few laymen who were their dupes; and it was the recollection of that which caused the " Titus Oates " tragedy, which Dr. Newman so glibly flings in our teeth, omitting (or forgetting) that Oates' villainy won have been impossible without the preceding villainies of Popish fanatics, and that he was unmasked, condemned, and punished by the strong and great arm of British law. But there was never, I believe, even in the worst times, any general belief that Catholics, simply as such, must be villains.
There is none now. The Catholic laity of these realms are just as much respected and trusted as the Protestants, when their conduct justifies that respect and trust, as it does in the case of all save a few wild Irish; and so are the Romish priests, as long as they show themselves good and honest men, who confine themselves to the care of their flock. If there is (as there is) a strong distrust of certain Catholics, it is restricted to the proselytising priests among them; and especially to those who, like Dr. Newman, have turned round upon their mother-Church (I had almost said their mother-country) with contumely and slander. And I confess, also, that this public dislike is very rapidly increasing, for reasons which I shall leave Dr. Newman and his advisers to find out for themselves.
I go on now to other works of Dr. Newman, from which (as I told him in my first letter) I had conceived an opinion unfavourable to his honesty.
I shall be expected to adduce, first and foremost, the too notorious No. 90 of Tracts for the Times. I shall not do so. On reading that tract over again, I have been confirmed in the opinion which I formed of it at first, that, questionable as it was, it was not meant to be consciously dishonest; that some few sayings in it were just and true; that many of its extravagances were pardonable, as the natural fruit of a revulsion against the popular cry of those days, which called on clergymen to interpret the Articles only in their Calvinistic sense, instead of including under them (as their wise framers intended) not only the Calvinistic, but the Anglican form of thought. There were pages in it which shocked me, and which shock me still. I will instance the commentaries on the Sth, on the 7th, on the 9th, and on the 12th Articles; because in them Dr. Newman seemed to me trying to make the Articles say the very thing which (I believe) the Articles were meant not to say. But I attributed to him no intentional dishonesty. The fullest licence of interpretation should be given to every man who is bound by the letter of a document. The animus imponentium should be heard of as little as possible, because it is almost certain to become merely the animus interpretantium. And more: Every excuse was to be made for a man struggling desperately to keep himself in what was, in fact, his right place, to remain a member of the Church of England, where Providence had placed him, while he felt himself irresistibly attracted towards Rome. But I saw in that tract a fearful danger for the writer. It was but too probable, that if he continued to demand of that subtle brain of his, such tours de force as he had all but succeeded in performing, when he tried to show that the Article against " the sacrifice of masses did not speak against the mass itself," he would surely end in one or other of two misfortunes. He would either destroy his own sense of honesty-i.e. conscious truthfulness-and become a dishonest person; or he would destroy his common sense-i.e. unconscious truthfulness, and become the slave and puppet seemingly of his own logic, really of his own fancy, ready to believe anything, however preposterous, into which argue himself. I thought, for years he could, for the moment, past, that he had become the former; I now see that he has become the latter.
I beg pardon for saying so much about myself. But this is a personal matter between Dr. Newman and me, and I say I what I say simply to show, not. Dr. Newman, but my fellow Protestants, that my opinion of him was not an " impulsive " or " hastily-formed one." I know his writings of old, and now. But I was so far just to him, that No. 90, which made all the rest of England believe him a dishonest man, had not the same effect on me.
But again-1 found Dr. Newman, while yet (as far as could be now discovered) a member of the Church of England, aiding and abetting the publication of certain " Lives of the English Saints," of which I must say, that no such public outrage on historic truth, and on plain common sense, has been perpetrated in this generation. I do not intend to impute to any of the gentlemen who wrote these lives-and more than one of whom, I believe, I knew personally-the least deliberate intention to deceive. They said what they believed; at least, what they had been taught to believe that they ought to believe. And who had taught them? Dr. Newman can best answer that question. He had, at least, that power over them, and in those days over hundreds more, which genius can always command. He might have used it well. He might have made those " Lives of Saints," what they ought to have been, books to turn the hearts of the children to the Fathers, and to make the present generation acknowledge and respect the true sanctity which there was, in spite of all mistakes, in those great men of old-a sanctity founded on true virtue and true piety, which required no tawdry superstructure of lying and ridiculous wonders. He might have said to the author of the " Life of St. Augustine," when he found him, in the heat and haste of youthful fanaticism, outraging historic truth and the law of evidence: " This must not be. Truth for its own sake is a more precious thing than any purpose, however pious and useful, which we may have in hand." But when I found him allowing the world to accept, as notoriously sanctioned by him, such statements as are found in that life, was my mistake a hasty, or far-fetched, or unfounded one, when I concluded that he did not care for truth for its own sake, or teach his disciples to regard it as a virtue? I found that " Life of St. Augustine " saying, that though the pretended visit of St. Peter to England wanted historic evidence, " yet it has undoubtedly been received as a pious opinion by the Church at large, as we learn from some often-quoted words of St. Innocent I. (who wrote A.D. 416), that St. Peter was instrumental in the conversion of the West generally. And this sort of argument, though it ought to be kept quite distinct from documentary and historic proof, and will form no substitute for such proof with those who stipulate for something like legal accuracy in inquiries of this nature, will not be without its effect upon devout minds, accustomed to rest in the thought of God's watchful guardianship over His Church." . . . And much more in the same tone, which is worthily, and consistently summed up by the question: " On what evidence do we put faith in the existence of St. George, the patron of England? Upon such, assuredly, as an acute critic or skilful pleader might easily scatter to the winds; the belief of prejudiced or credulous witnesses; the unwritten record of empty pageants and bauble decorations. On the side of scepticism might be exhibited a powerful array of suspicious legends and exploded acts. Yet, after all, what Catholic is there but would count it a profaneness to question the existence of St. George?"
When I found Dr. Newman allowing his disciples-members, even then, of the Protestant Church of England-in page after page, in Life after Life, to talk nonsense of this kind, which is not only sheer Popery, but saps the very foundation of historic truth, was it so wonderful that I conceived him to have taught and thought like them?
But more. I found, that although the responsibility of these Saints' Lives was carefully divided and guarded by anonymousness, and by Dr. Newman's advertisement in No. I, that the different lives would be " published by their respective authors on their own responsibility," yet that Dr. Newman had, in what I must now consider merely a moment of amiable weakness, connected himself formally with one of the most offensive of these Lives, and with its most ridiculous statements. I speak of the " Life of St. Walburga." There is, in all the Lives, the same tendency to repeat childish miracles, to waive the common laws of evidence, to say to the reader, "You must believe all or nothing." But some of them, the writers, for instance, of Vol. IV, which contains, among others, a charming life of St. Neot-treat the stories openly as legends and myths, and tell them as they stand, without asking the reader, or themselves, to believe them altogether. The method is harmless enough, if the legends had stood alone; but dangerous enough, when they stand side by side with stories told in earnest, like that of St. Walburga. In that, not only has the writer expatiated upon some of the most nauseous superstitions of the middle age, but Dr. Newman has, in a preface signed with his initials, solemnly set his seal to the same.
The writer, an Oxford scholar, and, as far as I know, then a professed member of the Church of England-dares to tell us of such miracles as these:-
How a little girl, playing with a ball near the monastery, was punished for her over-fondness for play, by finding the ball stick to her hand, and, running to St. Walburga's shrine to pray, had the ball immediately taken off.
How a woman who would spin on festival-days in like manner found her distaff cling tn her hand, and had to beg of St. Walburga's bone, before she could get rid of it.
How a man who came into the church to pray, " irreverently kept his rough gauntlets, or gloves, on his hands, as he joined them in the posture of prayer." How they were miraculously torn off, and then, when he repented, " restored by a miracle." " All these," says the writer, " have the character of a gentle mother correcting the idleness and faults of careless and thoughtless children with tenderness."
"But the most remarkable and lasting miracle, attesting the holy Walburga's sanctity, is that which reckons her among the saints who are called 'Elxophori,' or 'unguentiferous,' becoming, almost in a literal sense, olive-trees in the courts of God. These are they from whose bones a holy oil distils. That oil of charity and gentle mercy which graced them while alive, and fed in them the flame of universal love at their death, still permeates their bodily remains." After quoting the names of male saints who have possessed this property, the author goes on to detail how this holy oil fell, in drops, sometimes the size of a hazel-nut, sometimes of a pea, into the silver bowl beneath the stone slab. How, when the state of Aichstadt was laid under an interdict, the holy oil ceased, .I until the Church regained its rights," and so forth, and so forth; and then, returning to his original image, metaphor, illustration, proof, or whatever else it may be called by reasoners such as he and Dr. Newman, he says that the same flow of oil or dew is related of this female saint and that-
A women whose souls, like that of Walburga, were touched with true compassion; whose bosom, like hers, melted by divine love, was filled with the milk of human kindness," &c. I can quote no more. I really must recollect that my readers and I are living in the nineteenth century.
And to all this stuff and nonsense, more materialist than the dreams of any bone-worshipping Buddhist, Dr. Newman puts a preface, in which he says of the question whether the miracles recorded in these narratives " (i.e. in the whole series, this being only No. II), especially those contained in the life of St. Walburga, " are to be received as matt r of fact that " in this day, and under our present circumstances, we can only reply, that there is no reason why they should not be. They are the kind of facts proper to ecclesiastical history, just as instances of sagacity or daring, personal prowess, or crime, are the facts proper to secular history." Verily, his idea of " secular history " is almost as degraded as his idea of " ecclesiastical."
He continues: " There is nothing, then, prima facie, in the miraculous accounts in question to repel a properly-taught or religiously-disposed mind ": only, it has the right of rejecting or accepting them according to the evidence. No doubt; for (as he himself confesses) Mabillon, like many sensible Romanists, has found some of these miracles too strong for his acute nostril," and has, therefore, been reproved by Basnage for " not fearing for himself, and warning the reader."
But what evidence Dr. Newman requires, he makes evident at once. He, at least, will " fear for himself," and swallow the whole as it comes.
"As to the miracles ascribed to St. Walburga, it must be remembered that she is one of the principal saints of her age and country"; and then he goes on to quote the authorities for these miracles. They begin nearly 100 years after her death, with one Wolfhard, a monk. Then follows, more than 400 years after, Philip, Bishop of Aichstadt, the disinterested witness who tells the story of the holy oil ceasing during the interdict, who tells the world how, " From her virgin limbs, maxime pectoralibus, flows this sacred oil ' which, by thegrace of God and the intercession of the blessed Virgin Walburga, illuminates the blind, makes the deaf hear," &c., and of which he says that he himself once drank a whole cup, and was cured forthwith. Then come the nuns of this same place, equally disinterested witnesses, after the invention of printing; then one Rader, in 1615; and one Gretser, in 1620. But what has become of the holy oil for the last 240 years, Dr. Newman does not say.
In his " Lectures on the present position of Catholics in England, addressed to the Brothers of the Oratory," in 1851. he has again used the same line of sophism. Argument I cannot call it, while such a sentence as this is to be found:(p. 295) "Is the tower of London shut against sight-seers, because the coats of mail or pikes there may have half legendary tales connected with them? Why, then, may not the country people come up in joyous companies, singing and piping, to see the holy coat at Treves?" To see, forsooth! To worship, Dr. Newman would have said, had he known (as I take for granted he does not) the facts of that imposture. He himself, meanwhile, seems hardly sure of the authenticity of the holy coat. He (p. 298) " does not see why it may not have been what it professes to be." It may "have been" so, no doubt, but it certainly is not so now; for the very texture and material of the thing prove it to be spurious. However, Dr. Newman " firmly believes that portions of the true Cross are at Rome and elsewhere, that the crib of Bethlehem is at Rome," &c. And more than all; he thinks it " impossible to withstand the evidence which is brought for the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, at Naples, and for the motion of the eyes of the pictures of the Madonna in the Roman States."
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the Morning!
But when I read these outrages upon common sense, what wonder if I said to myself, "This man cannot believe what he is saying?"
I believe I was wrong. I have tried, as far as I can, to imagine to myself Dr. Newman's state of mind; and I see now the possibility of a man's working himself into that pitch of confusion, that he can persuade himself, by what seems to him logic, of anything whatsoever which he wishes to believe; and of his carrying self-deception to such perfection that it becomes a sort of frantic honesty, in which he is utterly unconscious, not only that he is deceiving others, but that he is deceiving himself.
But I must say, If this be " historic truth," what is historic falsehood? If this be honesty, what is dishonesty? If this be wisdom, what is folly?
I may be told, But this is Roman Catholic doctrine. You have no right to be angry with Dr. Newman for believing it. I answer, this is not Roman Catholic doctrine, any more than belief in miraculous appearances of the Blessed Virgin, or the miracle of the stigmata, on which two matters I shall say something hereafter. No Roman Catholic, as far as I am aware, is bound to believe these things. Dr. Newman has believed them of his own free will. He is anxious, it would seem, to show his own credulity. He has worked his mind, it would seem, into that morbid state, in which nonsense is the only food for which it hungers. Like the sophists of old, he has used reason to destroy reason. I had thought that, like them, he had preserved his own reason, in order to be able to destroy that of others. But I was unjust to him, as he says. While he tried to destroy others' reason, he was at least fair enough to destroy his own. That is all that I can say. Too many prefer the charge of insincerity to that of insipience Dr. Newman seems not to be of that number.
But more. In connection with this said life of St. Walburga, Dr. Newman has done a deed, over which I might make merry, if that were my wish. But I am not a wit, like Dr. Newman.
In page 77, we find the following wonderful passage: Illuminated men . . . to them the evil influence of Satanic power is horribly discernible . . . and the only way to express their keen perception of it is to say, that they see upon the countenances of the slaves of sin, the marks, and lineaments, and stamp of the evil one; and they smell with their nostrils the horrible fumes which arise from their vices and uncleansed hearts, driving good angels from them in dismay, and attracting and delighting devils. It is said of the holy Sturme, a disciple and companion of Winfred, that in passing a horde of unconverted Germans, as they were bathing and gambolling in a stream, he was so overpowered by the intolerable scent which arose from them, that he nearly fainted away. And no doubt such preternatural discernments are sometimes given to saints "-and a religious reason is given for it which I shall not quote. I should be ashamed to use the sacred name in the same page with such materialist nonsense.
Now this " no doubt " seemed as convincing to Dr Newman as to the author. The fly which his disciple had heedlessly cast over the turbid waters of his brain was too fine to be resisted; and he rose at it, heavily but surely, and has hooked himself past remedy. For into his lectures, given before the Catholic University of Ireland, published in 1859, he has inserted, at page 96, on the authority of " an Oxford writer," the whole passage which relates to St. Sturme, word for word.
I thought, when I was in my former mind as to Dr. Newman, that he had gone out of his way to tell this fable, in order to intimate to the young gentlemen who had the blessing of, his instructions, that they need care nothing for " truth for its own sake," in the investigation of a miracle, but take it on any anonymous authority, provided only it made for the Catholic faith. And when I saw that I was wrong, I was sorely puzzled as to why my old friend St. Sturme (against whom I do not say a word) had thus been dragged unceremoniously into a passage on National Literature, which had nothing whatsoever to do with him. But I am not bound to find motives for Dr. Newman's eccentricities.
But now comes the worst part of the matter. Dr. Newman has been taken in. There is no miracle. There never was any in the original document. There is none in Mabillon who quotes it. It is a sheer invention of the ardent Oxford writer.
The story appears first in the Life of St. Sturme, by his contemporary and friend St. Eigils. It may be found in Pertz's " Monumenta Critica;" and a most charming sketch of medieval missionary life it is; all the more so because one can comfortably believe every word of it, from its complete freedom (as far as I recollect) from signs and wonders.
The original passage sets forth how St. Sturme rides on his donkey, and wishing for a place where to found Fulda Abbey, came to a ford where the Selavonians (not Germans, as the Oxford writer calls them) were bathing, on the way to the fair at Mentz, " whose naked bodies the animal on which he rode fearing, began to tremble, and the man of God himself shuddered (exhorruit) at their evil smell." They mocked him, and went about to hurt him; but Divine providence kept them back, and he went on in safety.
That is all. There is not a hint of a miracle. A horde of dirty savages, who had not, probably, washed for a twelvemonth, smelt very strong, and St. Sturme had a nose. As for his " nearly fainting away," that is a " devout imagination."
Really, if Dr. Newman or the " Oxford writer " had been monks of more than one Roman Catholic nation, one might have excused their seeing something quite miraculous in any man's being shocked at his fellow-creatures' evil smell; but in Oxford gentlemen, accustomed to the use of soap and water, it is too bad.
Besides, to impute a miracle in this case, is clearly to put the saint, in virtue, below his own donkey; for while the saint was only shocked at the odour, the donkey did what the saint should have done (in imitation of many other saints before and since), and expressed his horror at the impropriety of the deshabille of the " miscreants." Unless we are to understand a miracle-and why not?-in the donkey's case likewise; not in. deed expressed, but understood as a matter of course by .,properly-taught and religiously-disposed minds"; and piously hold that the virtue of the saint (which seems, from monkish writings, to be some kind of gas or oil) diffused itself through the saddle into the inmost recesses of the donkey's frame, and imbued him for the moment, through the merits of St. Sturrne, with a preternatural and angelic modesty?
Which if we shall believe, we shall believe something not a whit more ridiculous than many a story told in these hapless volumes.
What can I say, again, of Dr. Newman's "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties," published in 1850, save what I have said already? That if I, like hundred more, have mistaken his meaning and intent, he must blame not me but himself. If he will indulge in subtle paradoxes, in rhetorical exaggerations; if, whenever he touches on the question of truth and honesty, he will take a perverse pleasure in saying something shocking to plain English notions, he must take the consequences of his own eccentricities.
He tells us, for instance, in Lecture VIII that the Catholic Church "holds it better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse." And this in the face of those permissions to deception, which may be seen formalised and detailed. in the works of the Romish casuists, and especially in those of the great Liguori, whose books have received the public and solemn sanction of the Romish see. In one only way can Dr. Newman reconcile this passage with the teaching of his Church; namely by saying that the licence given to equivocation, even on oath, is so complete, that to tell a downright lie is the most superfluous and therefore most wanton of all sins.
But how will he reconcile it with the statement with which we meet a few pages on, that the Church " considers consent, though quick as thought, to a single unchaste wish as indefinitely more heinous than any lie that can possibly be fancied; that is when viewed, of course, in itself, and apart from its causes, motives, and consequences?" Heaven forbid that any man should say that such consent is anything save a great and mortal sin: but how can we reconcile this statement with the former one, save by the paradox, that it is a greater crime to sin like an animal, than like the Devil the Father of Lies?
Indeed, the whole teaching of this lecture and the one following it concerning such matters is, I confess, so utterly beyond my comprehension, that I must ask, in blank astonishment. What does Dr. Newman mean? He assures us so earnestly and indignantly that he is an honest man, believing what he says, that we in return are bound, in honour and humanity, to believe him; but still-What does he mean?
He says: "Take a mere beggar woman, lazy, ragged, and filthy, and not over-scrupulous of truth-(I do not say she has arrived at perfection)-but if she is chaste, sober, and cheerful, and goes to her religious duties (and I am not supposing at all an impossible case), she will, in the eyes of the Church, have a prospect of heaven, quite closed and refused to the State's pattern-man, the just, the upright, the generous, the honourable, the conscientious, if he be all this, not from a supernatural power (I do not determine whether this is likely to be the fact, but I am contrasting views and principles)-not from a supernatural power, but from mere natural virtue." (Lecture viii, p. 207.)
I must ask again, What does Dr. Newman mean by this astounding passage? What I thought that he meant, when I first read it, some twelve years ago, may be guessed easily enough. I said, This man has no real care for truth. Truth for its own sake is no virtue in his eyes, and he teaches that it need not be. I do not say that now: but this I say, that Dr. Newman, for the sake of exalting the magical powers of his Church, has committed himself unconsciously to a statement which strikes at the root of all morality. If he answer, that such is the doctrine of his Church concerning " natural virtues," as distinguished from " good works performed by God's grace," I can only answer, So much the worse for his Church. The sooner it is civilised off the face of the earth, if this be its teaching, the better for mankind. For as for his theory that it may be a " natural virtue," I value it as little as I trust every honest Englishman will do. I hold it to be utterly antiscriptural; to border very closely (in theological language) on the Pelagian heresy. Every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from God above. Without Him no man does a right deed, or thinks a right thought; and when Dr. Newman says otherwise, he is doing his best (as in this passage) to make the " State's pattern-man " an atheist, as well as to keep the beggar-woman a lying barbarian. What Dr. Newman may have meant to teach by these words, I cannot say; but what he has taught practically is patent. He has taught the whole Celtic Irish population, that as long as they are chaste (which they cannot well help being, being married before they are men and women) and sober (which they cannot well help being, being too poor to get enough whisky to make them drunk), and " go to their religious duties "-an expression on which I make no comment-they may look down upon the Protestant gentry who send over millions to feed them in famine; who found hospitals and charities to which they are admitted freely; who try to introduce among them capital, industry, civilisation, and, above all, that habit of speaking the truth, for want of which they are what they are, and are likely to remain such, as long as they have Dr Newman for their teacher-that they may look down, I say, on the Protestant gentry as cut off from God, and without hope of heaven, because they do their duty by mere natural virtue."
And Dr. Newman has taught them, too, in the very same page,' that they may confess " to the priest thefts which, would sentence the penitent to transportation if brought into a court of justice; but which the priest knows too " (and it is to be remembered that the priest is bound to conceal his knowledge of the crime), " in the judgment of the Church, might be pardoned on the man's private contrition, without any confession at all."
If I said that Dr. Newman has, in this page, justified, formally and deliberately, some of the strongest accusations brought by the Exeter Hall party against the Irish priests, I should be answered (and possibly with temporary success) by some of those ingenious special pleadings with which, in' spite of plain fact and universal public opinion, black is made to appear, if not white, yet still grey enough to do instead. But this I will say, that if the Roman Catholic hierarchy in these realms had had any sense of their own interests (as far as standing well with the British nation is concerned), they would, instead of sending the man who wrote those words to teach in an Irish Catholic university, have sent him to their furthest mission among the savages of the South Seas.
The next lecture, the ninth, contains matter more liable still to be mistaken; and equally certain, mistaken or not, to shock common sense. It is called, " The Religious Character of Catholic Countries no Prejudice to the Sanctity of the Church." By the religious character, we find, is meant what we should call the irreligious character-the tendency to profanity, blasphemy, imposture, stealing, lying. These are not my accusations, but Dr. Newman's. He details them all with charming naivete, and gives (as we shall see) most picturesque and apposite instances. But this, he holds " is no prejudice to the sanctity of the Church," because the Church considers that " faith and works are separable," and that all these poor wretches, though they have not works, have at least faith, " caused directly by a supernatural influence from above," and are, therefore, unless I have lost utterly the clue to the intent of Dr. Newman's sophistries, ipso facto infinitely better off than Protestants. What he means by the separableness of faith and works is clear enough. A man, he says, " may be gifted with a simple, undoubting, cloudless, belief that Christ is in the Blessed Sacrament, and yet commit the sacrilege of breaking open the tabernacle, and carrying off the consecrated particles for the sake of the precious vessel containing them."
At which most of my readers will be inclined to cry: A Let Dr. Newman alone, after that. What use in arguing with a man who has argued himself into believing that? He had a human reason once, no doubt: but he has gambled it away, and left no common ground on which he and you, or we either, can meet him."
True: so true, that I never would have written these pages, save because it was my duty to show the world, if not Dr. Newman, how the mistake of his not caring for truth arose; and especially how this very lecture fostered that mistake. For in it, after using the blasphemy and profanity which he confesses to be so common in Catholic countries, as an argument for, and not against, the " Catholic Faith," he takes a seeming pleasure in detailing instances of dishonesty on the part of Catholics, as if that were the very form of antinomianism which was most strongly and perpetually present to his mind, and which needed most to be palliated and excused. " The feeble old woman, who first genuflects before the Blessed Sacrament, and then steals her neighbour's handkerchief or prayer-book, who is intent on his devotions',-she is very wrong, no doubt: but " she worships, and she sins: she kneels because she believes; she steals because she does not love. She may be out of God's grace; she is not altogether out of His sight."
Heaven forbid that we should deny those words. That, at least, is a doctrine common to Romanist and to Protestant: but while Dr. Newman, with a kind of desperate audacity, will dig forth such scandals as notes of the " Catholic Church," he must not wonder at his motive for so doing being mistaken.
His next instance is even more wanton and offensive, and so curious that I must quote it at length:-
"You come out again and mix In the idle and dissipated throng, and you fall in with a man in a palmer's dress, selling false relics, and a credulous circle of customers buying them as greedily, as though they were the supposed French laces and India silks of a pedlar's basket. One simple soul has bought of him a cure for the rheumatism or ague, which might form a case of conscience. It is said to be a relic of St. Cuthbert, but only has virtue at sunrise, and when applied with the three crosses to the head, arms, and feet. You pass on to encounter a rude son of the Church, more like a showman than a religious, recounting to the gaping multitude some tale of a vision of the invisible world, seen by Brother Augustine of the Friar Minors, or by a holy Jesuit preacher who died in the odour of sanctity, and sending round his bag to collect pence for the souls in purgatory; and of some appearance of Our Lady (the like of which has really been before and since), but on no authority except popular report, and in no shape but that which popular caprice has given it. You go forward, and you find preparations proceeding for a great pageant or mystery; it is a high festival, and the incorporated trades have each undertaken their special religious celebration. The plumbers and glaziers are to play the Creation; the barbers the call of Abraham; and at night is to be the grandest performance of all, the Resurrection and Last Judgment, played by the carpenters, masons, and blacksmiths. Heaven and hell are represented,-saints, devils, and living men; and the chef d=oeuvre of the exhibition is the display of fireworks to be let off as the finale. 'How unutterably profane!= again you cry. Yes, profane to you, my dear brother-profane to a population which only half believes; not profane to those who believe wholly, who one and all have a vision within which corresponds with what they see, which resolves itself into, or rather takes up into itself, the external pageant, whatever be the moral condition of each individual composing the mass. They gaze, and in drinking in the exhibition with their eyes they are making one continuous and intense act of faith " (Lecture IX, 236, 237).
The sum of which is, that for the sake of the " one continuous and intense act of faith " which the crowd is performing, " the rude son of the Church, more like a showman than a religious "-in plain English, the brutal and lying monk, is allowed to continue his impostures without interruptions; and the moral which Dr. Newman draws is, that though his miraculous appearance of our Lady may be a lie, yet " the like thereof has been before and since."
After which follows a passage-of which I shall boldly say, that I trust that it will arouse in every English husband, father, and brother, who may read these words, the same feelings which it roused in me; and express my opinion, that it is a better compliment to Dr. Newman to think that he did not believe what he said, than to think that he did believe it: -
" You turn to go home, and in your way you pass through a retired quarter of the city. Look up at those sacred windows; they belong to the Convent of the Perpetual Adoration, or to the poor Clares, or to the Carmelites of the Reform of St. Theresa, or to the Nuns of the Visitation. Seclusion, silence, watching, adoration, is their life day and night. The Immaculate Lamb of God is ever before the eyes of the worshippers; or, at least, the invisible mysteries of faith ever stand out, as if in bodily shape, before their mental gaze. Where will you find such a realised heaven upon earth? Yet that very sight has acted otherwise on the mind of a weak sister; and the very keenness of her faith and wild desire of approaching the object of it has led her to fancy or to feign that she has received that singular favour vouchsafed only to a few elect souls; and she points to God's wounds, as imprinted on her hand, and feet, and side, though she herself has been instrumental in their formation " (Lecture IX, 23-7, 238).
There are occasions on which courtesy or reticence is a crime, and this one of them. A poor girl, cajoled, flattered, I imprisoned, starved, maddened, by such as Dr. Newman and his peers, into that degrading and demoralising disease, hysteria, imitates on her own body, from that strange vanity and deceit which too often accompany the complaint, the wounds of our Lord; and all that Dr. Newman has to say about the matter is, to inform us that the gross and useless portent is " a singular favour vouchsafed only to a few elect souls." And this is the man who, when accused of countenancing falsehood, puts on first a tone of plaintive and startled innocence, and then one of smug self-satisfaction-as who should ask, "What have I said? What have I done? Why am I upon my trial?" On his trial? If he be on his trial for nothing else, he is on his trial for those words; and he Will remain upon his trial as long as Englishmen know how to guard the women whom God has committed to their charge. If the British public shall ever need informing that Dr. Newman wrote that passage, I trust there will be always one man left in England to inform them of the fact, for the sake of the ladies of this land.
Perhaps the most astounding specimens of Dr. Newman's teaching are to be found, after all, in the two sermons which end his " Discourses addressed to Mixed Congregations," published in 1849; "The Glories of Mary for the sake of her Son;" and " On the fitness of the Glories of Mary." Of the misquotations of Scripture, of the sophisms piled on sophisms, of these two sermons, I have no room wherein to give specimens. All I ask is, that they should be read; read by every man who thinks it any credit to himself to be a rational being. But two culminating wonders of these two sermons I must point out. The first is the assertion that the Blessed Virgin " had been inspired, the first of womankind, to dedicate her virginity to God." As if there had not been Buddhist nuns (if not others) centuries before Christianity. As if (allowing the argument that they dedicated their virginity to a false God) there were the slightest historic proof that the Blessed Virgin dedicated hers before the Incarnation. The second is in a sermon which professes to prove logically the " fitness " of the Immaculate Conception, and is filled (instead of logic) with traditions which are utterly baseless. I allude to the assertion that "the world '@i.e. all who do not belong to the Romish Church-" blasphemes " Mary. I make no comment. All I ask, again, of my readers is, to read these two sermons.
But what, after all, does Dr. Newman teach concerning truth? What he taught in 1843, and what he (as far as I can see) teaches still, may be seen in his last sermon in a volume entitled, "Chiefly on the Theory of Religious Belief," called a sermon " On the Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine." I beg all who are interested in this question to read that sermon (which I had overlooked till lately); and to judge for themselves whether I exaggerate when I say that it tries to undermine the grounds of all rational belief for the purpose of substituting blind superstition. As examples:-speaking of " certain narratives of martyrdoms," and " alleged miracles," he says (p. 345): " If the alleged facts did not occur, they ought to have occurred, if I may so speak." Historic truth is thus sapped; and physical truth fares no better. "Scripture says (p. 350) that the sun moves, and that the earth is stationary; and science that the earth moves, and the sun is comparatively at rest. How can we determine which of these statements is the very truth, till we know what motion is? If our idea of motion be but an accident of our present senses neither proposition is true, and both are true; neither true philosophically, both true for certain purposes in the system in which they are respectively found; and physical science will have no better meaning when it says that the earth moves, than plain astronomy when it says that the earth is still."
Quorsum hoc? What is the intent of this seemingly sceptic method, pursued through page after page? To tell us that we can know nothing certainly, and therefore must take blindly what "The Church" shall choose to teach us. For the Church, it would seem, is not bound to tell us, indeed cannot tell us, the whole truth. We are to be treated like children, to whom (at least to those with whom Dr. Newman has come in contact) it is necessary to (p. 343) " dispense and 'divide' the word of truth, if we would not have it changed, as far as they are concerned, into a word of falsehood." " And so, again, as regards savages, or the ignorant, or weak, or narrow-minded, our representations must take a certain form, if we are to gain admission into their minds at all, and to reach them."
This method of teaching by half-truths Dr. Newman calls economy and justifies it (if I understand his drift), by the instances of mythical representations," legends, and so forth,@which, if they did not occur, ought to have occurred."
Many a theory or view of thing,--he goes on-(p. 345) on which an institution is founded, or a party held together, is of the same kind. Many an argument, used by zealous and earnest men, has this economical character, being not the very ground on which they act (for they continue in the same course, though it be refuted), yet, in a certain sense, a representation of it, a proximate description of their feelings in the shape of argument, on which they can rest, to which they can recur when perplexed, and appeal when they are questioned." After which startling words, Dr. Newman says -and it is really high time-" In this reference to accommodation or economy in human affairs, I do not meddle with the question of casuistry, viz, which of such artifices, as it may be called, are innocent, or where the 'line is to be drawn."' A hasty reader might say, that herein is an open justification of equivocation and dishonest reticence. But he would be mistaken. The whole sermon is written in so tentative a style, that it would be rash and wrong to say that Dr. Newman intends to convey any lesson by it, save that the discovery of truth is an impossibility. Only once, and in a note, he speaks out. P. 342.
Hence it is not more than an hyperbole to say that, in certain cases, a lie is the nearest approach to truth. This seems the meaning, for instance, of St. Clement, when he says 'He (the Christian) both thinks and speaks the truth, unless when, at any time, in the way of treatment, as a physician toward his patients, so for the welfare of the sick he will be false, or will tell a falsehood, as the Sophists speak.'
If St. Clement said that, so much the worse for him. He was a great and good man. But he might have learned from his Bible that no lie was of the truth, and that it is ill stealing the devil's tools to do God's work withal.
Be that as it may. What Dr. Newman teaches is clear at last, and I see now how deeply I have wronged him. So far from thinking truth for its own sake to be no virtue, he considers it a virtue so lofty, as to be unattainable by man, who must therefore, in certain cases, take up with what-it-is-no-more-than-a-hyperbole-to-call lies; and who, if he should be so lucky as to get any truth into his possession, will be wise in " economising " the same, and " dividing it," so giving away a bit here and a bit there, lest he should waste so precious a possession.
That this is Dr. Newman's opinion at present, there can be no manner of doubt. What he has persuaded himself to believe about St. Walburga's oil, St. Sturme's nose, St. Januarius' blood, and the winking Madonna's eyes, proves sufficiently that he still finds, in certain cases, what-it-is-no-more-than-a-hyperbole-to-call lies, the nearest approach which he can make to truth; while, as to the right of economising and dividing truth, I shall shortly bring forward two instances of his having done so to such an extent, that very little of poor truth remains after the dismemberment.
And yet I do not call this conscious dishonesty. The man who wrote that sermon was already past the possibility of such a sin. It is simple credulity, the child of scepticism. Credulity, frightened at itself, trying to hide its absurdity alike from Itself and from the world by quibbles and reticences which it thinks prudent and clever; and, like the hunted ostrich, fancying that because it thrusts its head into the sand, its whole body is invisible.
And now, I have tried to lead my readers along a path to which some of them, I fear, have objected. They have fallen, perhaps, into the prevailing superstition that cleverness is synonymous with wisdom. They cannot believe that (as is too certain) great literary, and even barristerial ability, may co-exist with almost boundless silliness: but I can find no other explanation of the phenomena than that which I have just given. That Dr. Newman thinks that there is no harm in " economy," and " dividing the truth," is evident; for he has employed it again in his comments on the correspondence. He has employed twice, as the most natural and innocent thing possible, those " arts of the defenceless which require so much delicacy in the handling, lest " liberal .shepherds give a grosser name," and call them cunning, or even worse.
I am, of course, free to make my own comments on them, as on all other words of Dr. Newman's printed since the lst of February, 1864, on which day my apology was published. I shall certainly take the sense of the British public on the matter. Though Dr. Newman may be " a mystery " to them, as he says " religious men " always are to the world, yet they possess quite common sense enough to see what his words are, even though his intention be, as it is wont to be, obscure.
They recollect the definitions of the " Church " and " Christians," on the ground of which I called Sermon XX a Romish sermon?
Dr. Newman does not apply to It that epithet. He called it, in his letter to me of the 7th of January (published by him), a " Protestant " one. I remarked that, but considered it a mere slip of the pen. Besides, I have now nothing to say to that letter. It is to his " Reflections " in page 27 which are open ground to me, that I refer. In them he deliberately repeats the epithet " Protestants ": only he, in an utterly imaginary conversation, puts it into my mouth, " which you preached when a Protestant." I call the man who preached that sermon a Protestant? I should have sooner called him a Buddhist. At that very time he was teaching his disciples to scorn and repudiate that name of Protestant, under which, for some reason or other, he now finds it convenient to take shelter. If he forgets, the world does not, the famous article in the British Critic (the then organ of his party), of three years before-July, 1841-which, after denouncing the name of Protestant, declared the object of the party to be none other than the " Unprotestantising " the English Church.
But Dr. Newman convicts himself. In the sermon before, as I have shown, monks and nuns are spoken of as the only true Bible Christians, and in the sermon itself a celibate clergy is made a note of the Church. And yet Dr. Newman goes on to say that he was not then " a priest, speaking of priests." Whether he were a priest himself matters little to the question: but if he were not speaking of priests, and those Romish ones, when he spoke of a celibate clergy, of whom was he speaking? But there is no use in wasting words on this " economical " statement of Dr. Newman's. I shall only say that there are people in the world whom it is very difficult to help. As soon as they are got out of one scrape, they walk straight into another.
But Dr. Newman has made, in my opinion, another and a still greater mistake. He has committed, on the very titlepage of his pamphlet, an " economy " which some men will consider a very serious offence. He has there stated that the question is, " Whether Dr. Newman teaches that truth is no virtue." He has repeated this misrepresentation in a still stronger form at page 27, where he has ventured to represent me as saying " Dr. Newman tells us that lying is never any harm." He has economised the very four words of my accusation, which make it at least a reasonable one; namely-" For its own sake."
I never said what he makes me say, or anything like it. I never was inclined to say it. Had I ever been, I should be still more inclined to say it now.
But Dr. Newman has shown "wisdom" enough of that serpentine type which is his professed ideal in what he has done, and has been so economic of truth, and " divided " the truth so thoroughly, that really there is very little of it left.
For while no one knew better than he the importance of the omission, none knew better that the public would not do so; that they would never observe it; that, if I called their attention to it, they would smile, and accuse me of wordsplitting and raising metaphysical subtleties. Yes, Dr. Newman is a very economical person. So, when I had accused him and the Romish clergy of teaching that truth is no virtue, for its own sake," he simply economised the last four words, and said that I accused him and them of teaching that " truth is no virtue."
This, in Dr. Newman, the subtle dialectician, is, indeed, an enormity," as he chooses to call my accusation of him. No one better knows the value of such limitations. No one has, sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly, made more use of them. No man, therefore, ought to have been more careful of doing what he has done.
Dr. Newman tries, by cunning sleight-of-hand logic, to prove that I did not believe the accusation when I made it. Therein he is mistaken. I did believe it, and I believed, also,, his indignant denial. But when he goes on to ask, with sneers, Why I should believe his denial, if I did not consider him trustworthy in the first instance?-I can only answer, I really do not know. There is a great deal to be said for that view, now that Dr. Newman has become (one must needs suppose) suddenly, and since the 1st of February, 1864, a convert to the economic views of St. Alfonso da Liguori and his compeers. I am henceforth in doubt and fear, as much as an honest man can be, concerning every word Dr. Newman may write. How can I tell that I shall not be the dupe of some cunning equivocation, of one of the three kinds laid down as permissible by the blessed St. Alfonso da Liguori and his pupils even when confirmed with an oath, because " then we do not deceive our neighbour, but allow him to deceive himself "?'-The whole being justified by the example of Christ, "who answered, 'I go not up to this feast,' subintelligendo, .openly.',, "For," say the casuists, "if there were no such restrictions (on the telling of truth), there would be no means of concealing secrets, which one could not open without loss or inconvenience; but this would be no less pernicious to human society than a lie itself." It is admissible, therefore, to use words and sentences which have a double signification, and leave the hapless bearer to take which of them he may choose. What proof have I, then, that by " mean it I I never said it " I Dr. Newman does not signify, " I did not say it: but I did mean it?
I I quote from Scavini, tom. ii. page 232, of the Paris edition, and from Neyraguet, p. 141, two compendiums of Liguori which are (or were lately) used, so I have every reason to believe-one at Oscott, the other at Maynooth.
Or again, how can I tell that I may not in this pamphlet have made an accusation, of the truth of which Dr. Newman is perfectly conscious; but that as I, a heretic Protestant, have no business to make it, he has a full right to deny it? For what says Neyraguet, after the blessed St. Alfonso da Liguori? That " a criminal or witness, being interrogated by a judge contrary to law, may swear that he knows not of the crime; meaning, that he knows not, of a crime of which he may be lawfully questioned."
These are hard words. If Dr. Newman shall complain of them, I can only remind him of the fate which befell the stork caught among the cranes, even though the stork had not done all he could to make himself like a crane, as Dr. Newman has, by " economising " on the very title-page of his pamphlet.
I know perfectly well that truth-" veracity, as they call it " -is a virtue with the Romish moralists; that it is one of the cardinal virtues, the daughters of justice, like benevolence, courtesy, gratitude, and so forth; and is proved to be such because there is a naturalis honestas in it, and also that without it society could not go on. Lying, on the other hand, though not one of the seven " capital " sins, which are pride, avarice, luxury (unchastity), gluttony, anger, envy, and acedia (lukewarmness), is yet held to be always a sin, when direct. It is proved to be such from Scripture, from the fathers, and from natural reason, because " truth is an essential perfection of the Divine nature." So far well. But a lie is a venial sin, if it " neither hurts our neighbour or God gravely, or causes a grave scandal"; as no lie told in behalf of the Catholic faith can well do, though one wise Pope laid it down that it was a sin to tell a lie, even for the sake of saving a soul. But though it were a sin, the fact of its being a venial one seems to have gained for it, as yet, a very slight penance. Meanwhile, as a thousand venial sins can never make one mortal one, a man may be a habitual liar all his life long, without failing into mortal sin. Moreover, though " formal simulation," when .I one signifies by outward act something different to what he has in his mind," is illicit, as a lie, yet " material simulation," or stratagem, is not so. " For when one does something, not intending the deception of another, but some end of his own, then it is allowable on cause; although, from other circumstances, men might conjecture that the act was done for another end. So Joshua fled lawfully, not meaning fear, but that he might draw the enemy further from the City of Hai." From which one can gather, that Romish casuists allow the same stratagems to man against his neighbours, in peaceable society, which Protestant public opinion allows (and that with a growing compunction) only to officers in war, against the enemies of their country. Considering this fact, and the permission of equivocation, even on oath, it is somewhat difficult to expect that the Romish moralists, at least, hold truth to be a virtue for its own sake, or to deny that they teach cunning to be the weapons of the weak against the strong.
Yes- I am afraid that I must say it once more-Truth is not honoured among these men for its own sake. There are, doubtless, pure and noble souls among them, superior, through the grace of God, to the official morality of their class: but in their official writings, and in too much of their official conduct, the great majority seem never, for centuries past, to have perceived that truth Is the capital virtue, the virtue of all virtues, without which all others are hollow and rotten; and with which there is hope for a man's repentance and conversion, in spite of every vice, if only he remains honest. They have not seen that facts are the property not of man, to be " economised " as man thinks fit, but of God, who ordereth all things in heaven and earth; and that therefore not only every lie, but every equivocation, every attempt at deception, is a sin not against man, but against God; they have not seen that no lie is of the truth, and that God requires truth, not merely in outward words, but in the inward parts; and that therefore the first and most absolute duty of every human being is to speak and act the exact truth; or if he wish to be silent, to be silent, courageously and simply, and take the risk, trusting in God to protect him, as long as he remains on God's side in the universe, by scorning to sully his soul by stratagem or equivocation. Had they seen this; had they not regarded truth as a mere arbitrary command of God, which was not binding in doubtful cases, they would never have dared to bargain with God as to how little truth He required of men; and to examine and define (to the injury alike of their own sense of honour, and that of their hearers) how much deception He may be reasonably supposed to allow.
Is this last Dr. Newman's view of truth? I hope not. I hope that he, educated as an English gentleman and Oxford scholar, is at variance with the notions formally allowed by the most popular and influential modern Doctor of his Church. But that there is some slight difference between his notions of truth and ours he has confessed-in a letter to " X. V.' Esq.." which he has printed in his " Correspondence." For there he says (p. 18): " I think that you will allow that there is a broad difference between a virtue, considered as a principle or rule, and the applications and limits of it in human conduct. Catholics and Protestants, in their view of the substance of the moral virtues, agree; but they carry them out variously in detail." He then gives us to understand, that this is the case as to truth; that Catholics differ from Protestants as to " whether this or that act in particular is conformable to the rule of truth."
I beg to say, that in these words Dr. Newman has made another great mistake. He has calumniated, as far as my experience goes, the Catholic gentry of these realms. I am proud to say, as far as I have had the honour and pleasure of their acquaintance, that there is no difference whatsoever, of detail or other, between their truthfulness and honour, and the truthfulness and honour of the Protestant gentry among whom they live, respected and beloved, in spite of all religious differences, simply because they are honest gentlemen and noble ladies. But if Dr. Newman will limit his statement to the majority of the Romish priesthood, and to those hapless Irish Celts over whom they rule, then we will willingly accept it as perfectly correct. There is a very wide difference in practical details between their notions of truth and ours; and what that difference is, I have already pointed out. It is notorious enough in facts and practice. It may be seen at large by any one who chooses to read the Romish Moral Theologians. And if Dr. Newman, as a Catholic priest, includes himself in his own statement, that is his act, not mine.
And so I leave Dr. Newman, only expressing my fear, that if he continues to " economise " and " divide " the words of his adversaries as he has done mine, he will run great danger of forfeiting once more his reputation for honesty.
I X. V. for X. Y.
Charles Kingsley: What then, Does Dr. Newman Mean?, usually printed as a forenote to John Henry Newman: Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 1864
Scanned in by Fiona Marsden,
HTML, Paul Halsall
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
(c)Paul Halsall May1998