Favorite Newman Sermons
Selected by Daniel M. O'Connell, S.J.

Editor's Forward
Newman the Preacher
Newman's Rules for Writing Sermons
Title Page

This book was published in the United States in 1932; the copyright was not renewed—NR.

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Selected Sermons from Newman's Sermons Preached on
Various Occasions

SPVO-10  The Second Spring
SPVO-6 Omnipotence in Bonds
SPVO-8 St. Paul's Gift of Sympathy
SPVO-3 Waiting for Christ
SPVO-9   Christ upon the Waters (1)
Christ upon the Waters (2)


Selected Sermons from Newman's Discourses Addressed to
Mixed Congregations


The Salvation of the Hearer the Motive of the Preacher

DMC-2 Neglect of Divine Calls and Warnings
DMC-3 Men, not Angels, the Priests of the Gospel
DMC-4 Purity and Love
DMC-6 God's Will the End of Life
DMC-10  Faith and Private Judgment 
DMC-12  {xiv} Prospects of the Catholic Missioner
DMC-14  The Mystery of Divine Condescension
DMC-16  Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion
DMC-17  The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son
DMC-18  On the Fitness of the Glories of Mary

Selected Anglican Sermons from Newman's Parochial and
Plain Sermons

PPS7-1 The Lapse of Time
PPS5-6 Remembrance of Past Mercies
PPS4-6 The Individuality of the Soul
PPS3-10  Tears of Christ at the Grave of Lazarus
PPS6-7 The Cross of Christ the Measure of the World
PPS4-13  The Invisible World
PPS4-19  The Mysteriousness of Our Present Being
PPS1-25  Scripture a Record of Human Sorrow
PPS2-28  The Danger of Riches
PPS5-22  The Thought of God, the Stay of the Soul
PPS8-16  The Shepherd of Our Souls

Newman's Last Anglican Sermon from Sermons on
Subjects of the Day

SSD-26 The Parting of Friends

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Editor's Forward

{v} "The Oxford Movement represents a casting of the bread upon the waters," writes Algernon Cecil in his delectable book of essays, A Dreamer in Christendom. The continuous conversions of prominent Episcopalians call to mind the influence, perennial, one hopes, of that heroic Oxford Movement. Perennial is a challenging word. In the case of Cardinal Newman it seems to be fully applicable. Surely one hundred years of vigorous life is an acid test for any author, and the literary gold of Newman's earlier efforts, his Anglican sermons, is as genuine today as in 1830, when these were being first read in print. They are still an inspiration to their readers, whether preachers or writers or just ordinary folks interested in English literature. Here are to be found spiritual thought, soothing unction for the spirit, as well as literary excellence. Of course, no preacher of today would slavishly imitate the most popular of Newman's Anglican discourses, the "Parochial and Plain Sermons," or quote from them at length, but mutatis mutandis they rank as exceptionally nourishing religious food for the hungering multitudes of 1932.

I am aware that personality is the soul of the spoken word and that in print a sermon or speech too often appears cold if not lifeless. Now of all well-known public speakers, Newman possessed a distinct pulpit individuality and personality. It was the very opposite of the magna vox, thunder and lightning, giantlike missionary type of forty or fifty years ago or the stagy Billy Sunday species of recent times. And yet Canon Kingsley spoke of Newman as "the most perfect orator." Matthew Arnold has given us a detailed pen-picture of Newman's preaching personality: {vi}

Who could resist the charm of that spiritual apparition, gliding in the dim afternoon light through the aisles of St. Mary's, rising into the pulpit, and then, in the most entrancing of voices, breaking the silence with words and thought which were religious music—subtle, sweet and mournful?

Such religious music to live does not depend solely on its author's personality.

The simplicity of oratory, found particularly in the "Parochial Sermons," has become the standard adopted by all prominent speakers of our day. Pope Pius X recalled the Church to the preaching simplicity of apostolic times; he urged priests to preach the catechism. Nowadays an audience, whether in church or in an auditorium or over the radio, desires facts, reasons; logic first, with the manner but second ... 

Newman happily summed up this spirit of his Anglican sermons in the title, "Parochial and Plain Sermons." His personality of a spiritual reformer and rising littérateur was undoubtedly a powerful motive in drawing his comparatively large Sunday afternoon congregation at St. Mary's. But had his printed words no other exceptionally appealing quality, they would long since have gone down into the oblivion labeled "out of print." At most, a few parts would be crystallized in some anthology of "Extracts from Great Preachers." But as the subterfuge of certain Oxford dons in advancing the Sunday evening repast to the time of Newman's preaching did not diminish the size of his audience, so today his sermons, despite their hundredth year, live on; they are read and studied; they can be bought in new printings—a rare centennial tribute to any author or to any book, certainly to any collection of sermons!

Their living appeal, I think, is due to: (1) their religious {vii} sympathy with the human heart; (2) their literary excellence; (3) Newman's personality. And this is the order of their appeal, though I say this as a personal privilege outside the arena of controversy. Newman knew the depths of the human heart. He spoke of its trials, its miseries, its Christian consolations. He spoke a language intelligible to man's spirit. Standing above his audience in the pulpit, he came down to them in simple yet elegant words, in everyday yet exquisite figures; he became one of his audience, as sorely tried as the weakest of them, needing consolation as the frailest of them. If he spoke in the idioms of the human heart, the thoughts he used were not his own, but Holy Scripture's, the thoughts of Jehovah from the Old Testament, the thoughts of the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity from the New Testament. The man called Newman disappeared. He would be but the mouthpiece of Almighty God. Spiritually his lips would be cleansed of human pride through the burning coals of Christian humility. The pronoun "I" finds no strictly personal use in Newman's sermons. Few could have spoken or penned so personal an appeal in such an impersonal way as is found in the famous peroration of his last Anglican sermon.

May it not be then that the longevity of his St. Mary's sermons is to be found principally in that same virtue that vivified the work of the obscure religious, Thomas à Kempis, and that gave to the world its classic of asceticism, The Imitation of Christ? This is high praise, I know, for the sermons of a young Anglican preacher. To sustain the argument would require interminable reams of printed pages. An academic prowess but a scarcely appropriate centennial salute in these days of disarmament! So again I invoke my personal privilege.

An example or two of Newnan's religious sympathy with the human heart will suffice either to jog the reader's memory or to urge him to the profitable perusal of the sermons. Of necessity there will also appear instances of what I mentioned above {viii} as the second force of Newman's appeal, viz., his literary power. The third force, Newman's personality in St. Mary's pulpit, will be granted by all students of the period.

"Home" strikes the truest note in the human heart. And yet we have difficulty in picturing the prototype of our heavenly "home." Newman attempts its part delineation in:

 … Here we are tossing upon the sea, and the wind is contrary … But in the unseen world, where Christ has entered, all is peace … "There is no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Nor any more sin; nor any more guilt; no more remorse; no more punishment; no more penitence; no more trial; no infirmity to depress us; no affection to mislead us; no passion to transport us; no prejudice to blind us; no sloth; no pride; no envy; no strife; but the light of God's countenance, and a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne. That is our home; here we are but on pilgrimage, and Christ is calling us home.

The foregoing offers an interesting comparison with the simple but striking sentence in the Apologia, where Newman records his peace of mind on entering the Catholic Church, his first spiritual "coming home": " ... It was like coming into port after a rough sea."

Whether Matthew Arnold was spiritually benefited by the following somewhat similar passage is a mystery beyond human understanding. But there is no difficulty in understanding how it remained enshrined in his memory forty years after he had heard Newman read it.

After the fever of life, after weariness and sickness, fightings and despondings, languor and fretfulness, struggling and succeeding; after all the changes and chances of this troubled, unhealthy state—at length comes death, at length the white Throne of God, at length the Beatific Vision.

Sympathy in men is often alloyed with its correlative defect, laxity toward evil. Newman ever strove to be sympathetic. His motto as cardinal, "Cor ad cor loquitur," had been his life's {ix} desire. But he could use the scourge of sternness in rebuking the pride of intellectual malice or religious indifference in the temple of the soul. True, the certainty of faith, which came to him on entering the Catholic Church, was expressed in a corresponding vigor of terms. There is no lack of forcibleness, however, in his previous St. Mary's sermons, as can be judged from the titles which really summed up these sermons: "The Strictness of the Law of Christ," "Religious Cowardice," "Profession without Practice," "Moral Consequences of Single Sins," "Secret Faults," "Unreal Words," "The Danger of Accomplishments." The list could be prolonged and numerous excerpts offered in proof.

As a whole, though, Newman the preacher drew his Anglican audience and still appeals to men because of his sympathetic treatment of the spiritual "fierce fevers" which always burn in our weak human souls.

He was an eminent, one might say uncanny, diagnostician of spiritual maladies. His explanation was not in technical, unintelligible medical terms but in plain words and phrases, in simple yet poetic figures, in plays of everyday imagination, in a remarkable use of evident analogy. All these were soothing and healing to the patient's fevered spirit. As a matter of fact, every sincere man is such a patient. But whatever instrument of word, of voice, of moral and physical personality, of professional skill, a preacher may use, his healing ability is ultimately in his union with God.

Newman the Anglican sincerely sought that abiding Spirit promised to those who keep His commandments. May we not believe that the following words written as an Anglican indicate Newman's true inner life?

At times we seem to catch a glimpse of a Form Which we shall hereafter see face to face. We approach, and in spite of the darkness, our hands, or our head, or our brow, or our lips become, as it were, sensible of the contact of something more than earthly. We know not where {x} we are, but we have been bathing in water, and a voice tells us that it is blood. Or we have a mark signed upon our foreheads, and it spoke of Calvary. Or we recollect a hand laid upon our heads, and surely it had the print of nails in it, and resembled His Who with a touch gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. Or we have been eating and drinking; and it was not a dream surely, that One fed us from His wounded side, and renewed our nature by the heavenly meat He gave.

It is not surprising, then, that Newman's St. Mary's sermons still appeal in their one-hundredth year. Born in an Anglican environment, they have been incorporated, with the exception of a few dogmatic sermons and passages, into the literature of Catholic asceticism at the same time that they have entered into the literature of the English language. Now for the bold question: Will they continue to live? The indications favor an affirmative reply. There is literal truth in the slang phrase, the first hundred years are the hardest. The reasons given above for the present vitality of these sermons will operate as long as man remains weak, sinful, spiritually sick. So long will he need (1) the spoken and printed word of religious sympathy with the human heart, (2) expressed in simple yet choice language, (3) by one who suffered in his own soul the trials that have made a trite phrase out of the too true one, "afflicted humanity." Possibly another reason, though adventitious, for the permanence of Newman's Anglican sermons is that they are a Catholic flower of attractive asceticism in the field of Anglicanism.

As a pedagogue who would be practical, I place another question: Which is the better way to popularize the centenary of these sermons—by an anthology of excerpts or by a seminarian's edition of thirty or forty complete sermons, with editor's notes? The publishers' prosaic question would be: Would either pay?

*            *            *

The preceding article appeared in the Commonweal, May 6, {xi} 1931. Since then several persons, whose judgments I esteem, have urged me to edit a selection of Newman's sermons, Catholic and Anglican. In particular I feel the obligation of mentioning my Provincial, Very Rev. Charles H. Cloud, S.J., and the Provincial of the Missouri Province, Very Rev. Matthew Germing, S.J. The latter, I am happy to say, many years ago aroused in me a lasting admiration for Newman.

The Bruce Publishing Company, of Milwaukee, from a motive of religious zeal, I feel sure, generously offered to publish the edition. With a sincere ad majorem Dei gloriam, it is offered to the public. I have named it FAVORITE NEWMAN SERMONS. The title is broad but not broad enough to avert all controversy. Let me add, then, that the selection has not been purely personal. I consulted with several students of Newman before making the final choice. However, as the reader knows, all of Newman's sermons, as well as his Sermon Notes, and Meditations and Devotions, can be obtained from Longmans, Green & Co., New York.

Seminarians and collegians will find this Bruce edition useful, I trust, as an introduction to Newman's Sermons and other volumes. To his older lovers it may serve as a convenient vade mecum. To them in particular I offer a motive, perhaps new, for hope and prayer. It is suggested by the following words of Rev. James J. Daly, S.J., in the June, 1931, issue of Thought. "The farther we leave the nineteenth century behind us, the larger becomes the stature of Newman. It is not merely so extravagant now as it may have been formerly to dream that, if any Catholic writer of the last century is ever to be honored by the Church with the title of Doctor of the Church, Newman's chances are especially good. The fact that he himself would have derided any such dream as preposterous does not diminish his chances. He always had the saint's deep conviction of his own unworthiness."

My intention has been to present in one volume as many of {xii} Newman's favorite sermons as would accord with the publishers' plea for an attractive printing. Accordingly, I have abandoned my first intention of adding "studies" or "notes" of my own. Seminarians and other students, who desire such helps, will find similar aids in The Present Position of Catholics in England, The Idea of a University, The Apologia Pro Vita Sua, edited by me through the Loyola University Press, 3441 N. Ashland Blvd., Chicago, Illinois. As a useful reminder to us all, this selection of Newman's sermons concludes with the Master's rules for writing sermons.

Provincial's Residence,
Loyola University,
Chicago, Illinois.
July 31, 1931.

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Newman the Preacher (Bibliographical Extracts)

{1} For ourselves, we must say, one of Mr. Newman's sermons is to us a marvelous production. Here is the point. Persons look into Mr. Newman's sermons and see their own thoughts in them. This is after all, what as much as anything gives a book hold upon minds … Wonderful pathetic power, that can so intimately, so subtlely and kindly, deal with the soul! —and wonderful soul that can be so dealt with [Note 1].

His power showed itself chiefly in the new and unlooked-for way in which he touched into life old truths, moral or spiritual, which all Christians acknowledge … As he spoke, how the old truth became new; how it came home with a meaning never felt before! He laid his finger how gently, yet how powerfully, on some inner place in the hearer's heart, and told him things about himself he had never known till then. Subtlest truths, which it would have taken philosophers pages of circumlocution and big words to state, were dropped out by the way in a sentence or two of the most transparent Saxon. What delicacy of style, yet what strength! how simple, yet how suggestive! How homely, yet how refined! how penetrating, yet how tender-hearted! … After hearing these sermons you might come away still not believing the tenets peculiar to the High Church System; but you would be harder than most men, if you did not feel more than ever ashamed of coarseness, selfishness, worldliness, if you did not feel the things of faith brought closer to the soul [Note 2]. {2}

People who read the sermons now for the first time, can scarcely appreciate the effect produced by their simplicity and naturalness of diction when they were first delivered or read. Like Arnold in this, if in few other points, Newman spoke on sacred things, usually in the language of common life—plain, even familiar often, but always transparent, always such as to convey the speaker's meaning to the hearer's mind, often such as to enlist imagination and feeling in the service of the speaker [Note 3].

When we read the sermons of Dr. Newman, we admire the subtlety of their insight, the loftiness of their spirituality, the curiosa felicitas of a style which, while it often seems to aim at an almost bald simplicity, keeps us spellbound with an unaccountable fascination [Note 4].

There was not very much change in the inflection of the voice; action there was none. His sermons were read, and his eyes were always bent on his book, and all that, you will say, is against efficiency in preaching. Yes, but you must take the man as a whole, and there was a stamp and a seal upon him; there was a solemn sweetness and music in the tone, there was a completeness in the figure, taken together with the tone and the manner, which made even his delivery, such as I have described it, and though exclusively from written sermons, singularly attractive [Note 5].

A passionate and sustained earnestness after a high moral rule, seriously realized in conduct, is the dominant character of these sermons. They showed the strong reaction against slackness of fiber in the religious life; against the poverty, softness, restlessness, worldliness, the blunted and impaired sense of truth, which reigned with little check in the recognized fashions of professing Christianity; the want of depth {3} both of thought and feeling; the strange blindness to the real sternness, nay the austerity, of the New Testament [Note 6].

 … And in a certain sense it was not eloquence; nevertheless in a very real and deep sense it was so; it was like a message from another world, or like an utterance of a primitive saint or martyr permitted to revisit the world of living men [Note 7].

If we ask by what means this power was gained at Oxford, the answer must certainly be that it was entirely by his sermons and lectures, expressing as they did his whole character; … There was first the style, always simple, refined and unpretending and without a touch of anything which could be called rhetoric, but always marked by a depth of feeling which evidently sprang from the heart and experience of the speaker and penetrated by a suppressed vein of the poetry which was so strong a feature in Newman's mind, and which appealed at once to the hearts and the highest feelings of his hearers. There was rarely or never anything which could be called a burst of feeling; but both of thought and of suppressed feeling there was every variety, and you were always conscious that you were in the hands of a man who was a perfect master of your heart, and was equally powerful to comfort and to warn you [Note 8].

When published, it was said of them (Parochial Sermons) that they "beat all other sermons out of the market as Scott's tales beat all other stories." … Their chastened style, fertility of illustration, and short sharp energy, have lost nothing by age …  The sermon at the Synod of Oscott entitled "The Second Spring" has a rare and delicate beauty. It is said Macauley knew it by heart [Note 9]. {4}

Newman preached to crowded congregations in Birmingham, of Protestants as well as Catholics, the discourses afterwards published under the name of Sermons for Mixed Congregations. Their effect in Birmingham itself was very marked at the time; and when they were published they came upon a large circle of readers as wonderful efforts in a species of oratory far more ornate, more akin to the great French preachers—Bossuet, Bourdaloue, Massillon—than the chastened simplicity of the Oxford Parochial Sermons [Note 10].

These two collections (Discourses to Mixed Congregations and Sermons on Various Occasions) show a distinctive difference between that Newman who spoke from the pulpit of St. Mary's and that other Newman, who had become the disciple of St. Philip. Forced no longer to reconcile things seemingly irreconcilable, no longer the prey of contending emotions, Newman showed in his two final volumes of sermons a maturity, a vigor, and a self-confidence which brought out all the more distinctly the fourfold phases of his powers. His personality, though losing none of its persuasiveness, gained something in dominance if not in subtlety; his psychological insight appeared its keenest in "Divine Calls and Warnings"; the most sustained flight of his imagination is found in the "Mental Sufferings of our Lord"; the triumph of his rhythmic prose in "The Second Spring." [Note 11]

As for the preacher no one could have been farther removed from the popular conception of the pulpit orator than Newman, nothing less consciously ornate than the language he employed. No histrionic artifice here, no straining after effect, no deliberate attempt to excite the emotions of his audience. Only grave and beautiful thoughts, expressed in language of natural and inherent grace, ideas, and emotions, taking shape and {5} clothing themselves in language of perfect and inevitable simplicity [Note 12].

It ("The Second Spring") is a literary masterpiece, hailed as such on its first appearance and continuing to be so regarded. It is one of those supreme works of art which baffle the critic by leaving him little to do but exclaim in admiration. If you earnestly desire to appreciate it you had better set to work and do what George Eliot did—memorize it from beginning to end [Note 13].

Let anyone read Newman's unutterably beautiful narrative of the Magdalen coming to Christ [Note 14].


1. Mozley, James, Christian Remembrancer, January, 1846.
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2. Shairp, John Campbell (1866), John Keble.
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3. Vaughan, E. T., "J. H. Newman as a Preacher," Contemporary Review (1869), Vol. 10, pp. 42-43.
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4. Farrar, Frederic William, Thomas Arnold, Macmillan's Magazine (1878), Vol. 37, p. 456.
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5. Gladstone, William Ewart (1887), Speech at City Temple.
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6. Church, Richard William, The Oxford Movement (1891), p. 18.
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7. Carlisle, H., "Probability and Faith," Contemporary Review (1892), Vol. 61, p. 49.
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8. Lake, William Charles, Memorials (1897-1901), edited by his widow, p. 41.
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9. "Newman," William Barry, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), Vol. X, pp. 795-7.
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10. Wilfred Ward, The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman (1912), Vol. 1, p. 228.
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11. Joseph J. Reilly, Ph.D., Newman as a Man of Letters (1925), p. 74.
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12. J. Lewis May, Cardinal Newman (1930), p. 50.
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13. Edwin Ryan, D.D., A College Handbook to Newman (1930), p. 94.
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14. P. W. Wilson, in The New York Times Book Review, July 26, 1931, p. 11.
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Newman's Rules for Writing Sermons

"1. A man should be earnest, by which I mean he should write not for the sake of writing, but to bring out his thoughts.

"2. He should never aim at being eloquent.

"3. He should keep his idea in view, and should write sentences over and over again until he has expressed his meaning accurately, forcibly, and in a few words.

"4. He should aim at being understood by his hearers or readers.

"5. He should use words which are likely to be understood. Ornament and amplification will come spontaneously in due time, but he should never seek them.

"6. He must creep before he can fly, by which I mean that humility which is a great Christian virtue has a place in literary composition.

"7. He who is ambitious will never write well, but he who tries to say simply what he feels, what religion demands, what faith teaches, what the Gospel promises, will be eloquent without intending it, and will write better English than if he made a study of English Literature."

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Title Page






Editor of Newman's Present Position of
Catholics in England, idea of a University
Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Loyola University
Press): A Comparative Study of the 1864
and 1865 Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Fordham





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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.