Chapter 8. The King William Street Lectures (1850)

{231} THE Anglican controversy, as such, was always somewhat distasteful to Newman. While preparing his Lectures of 1850 on 'The Difficulties of Anglicans' he remarked in a letter Father Faber, 'I am writing them intellectually against the grain more than I ever recollect doing anything.' The controversy with the Church of England did not go to the root of the deepest difficulties of the day. 'He is quite annoyed, writes Mr. de Vere in this very year, 'at having to spend any time on Anglicanism.' [Note 1] He felt, too, that different minds needed different treatment. At the outset he had been inclined (as I have already said) to leave the matter alone and let the facts that were occurring in connection with the Gorham case speak for themselves—the anomalies in the Church of England being their own witness. 'As the English Church has brewed, so must it drink, the cup of indignation and wrath,' he wrote to Faber in March. 'And we have nothing to do with it.'

But by the end of April the lectures were decided on.

'Tell me what length my lectures should be?' he writes to Father Faber on April 28; 'if they last an hour, they must be as much as 30 pages octavo letter press, or something like 40 duodecimo, which seems enormous. Let me know; I will conform, whatever it is.'

'Also I am perplexed—either some of them will be most impressively dull—or they will be too much on the other tack; and I am frightened at the chance of being satirical, &c., before the Blessed Sacrament. Would a curtain be possible?'

The lectures were delivered once a week in the Oratory Church in King William Street, Strand, beginning on May 9. {232} It was Newman's first appearance as a lecturer since 1845, and many non-Catholics attended the lectures. They are landmarks in Newman's history for two reasons. Along with the 'Sermons to Mixed Congregations' they represent among his published works the 'honeymoon' period of Newman's Catholic life. They have a tone of exultant optimism which we find at no other moment of his life either as an Anglican or as a Catholic. Moreover, the first seven lectures are, I think, the only instances among his writings of what might be called aggressive controversy. Here perhaps we trace the influence of his younger disciples. All Newman's later controversial efforts were defensive. In the 'Present Position of Catholics' he is refuting the monstrous and absurd calumnies against Catholics which the Papal Aggression brought to the front. The Dublin lectures defended the time-honoured place of theology in education, which modern freethinkers were questioning. The 'Apologia' defended its writer and his Church from Kingsley's unmannerly charges. The 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' was an answer to the 'Eirenicon.' The 'Letter to the Duke of Norfolk' was an answer to Gladstone's attack on the Vatican decrees. The lectures on Anglican difficulties, on the contrary, are themselves an attack. Their practical object was to bring to the Catholic and Roman Church those who, after following him to the very brink, hesitated to take the final step. They were addressed to the Tractarians who remained in the Anglican Church—the friends he had left behind him.

The lectures are well known, for they were carefully revised and published as a volume. In point of mere literary power they rank high among his works. The first seven aim at showing that the true outcome of the movement of '33 is the Church of Rome—that the movement is essentially alien to the Anglican Church. The last five aim at removing objections to the Catholic and Roman Church. In the 'Apologia' he insists on the value of the Anglican Church as a breakwater against infidelity; in these lectures one of the most brilliant passages goes to show that what is really religious in the life of Anglicanism—and he recognises this to the full—is alien to the Church Established.

'Is the Establishment's life merely national life,' he asks, 'or {233} is it something more? Is it Catholic life as well? Is it a supernatural life? Is it congenial with, does it proceed from, does it belong to, the principles of Apostles, Martyrs, Evangelists, and Doctors, the principles which the movement of 1833 thought to impose or to graft upon it, or does it revolt from them?'

His wish, as he expressly said, was not to weaken the hold of the Anglican Church on the many, but only on those who he believed ought to join the Church of Rome. In addressing them he was, as in the letters to Henry Wilberforce, earnest, insistent, one-sided.

The lectures made a great impression on their hearers. Their effect on one singularly competent critic who heard them and largely disagreed with their argument and conclusion has been left on record. The late Mr. R. H. Hutton in his study of Newman [Note 2] writes of them as follows:

'I think the "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties" was the first book of Newman's generally read among Protestants, in which the measure of his literary power could be adequately taken ... It is a book, however, which adds but little to our insight into his mind, though it adds much to our estimate of his powers. I shall never forget the impression which his voice and manner, which opened upon me for the first time in these lectures, made on me. Never did a voice seem better adapted to persuade without irritating. Singularly sweet, perfectly free from any dictatorial note, and yet rich in all the cadences proper to the expression of pathos, of wonder, and of ridicule, there was still nothing in it that any one could properly describe as insinuating, for its simplicity, and frankness, and freedom from the half-smothered notes which express indirect purpose, was as remarkable as its sweetness, its freshness, and its gentle distinctness. As he described the growth of his disillusionment with the Church of England, and compared it to the transformation which takes place in fairy tales when the magic castle vanishes, the spell is broken, "and nothing is seen but the wild heath, the barren rock, and the forlorn sheep-walk," no one could have doubted that he was describing with perfect truth the change that had taken place in his own mind. "So it is with us," he said, "as regards the Church of England, when we look in amazement on that we thought so unearthly, and find so common-place or worthless. Then we perceive that aforetime we have not {234} been guided by reason, but biased by education, and swayed by affection. We see in the English Church, I will not merely say, no descent from the first ages, and no relationship to the Church in other lands, but we see no body politic of any kind; we see nothing more or less than an establishment, a department of government, or a function or operation of the State—without a substance,—a mere collection of officials, depending on and living on the supreme civil power. Its unity and personality are gone, and with them its power of exciting feelings of any kind. It is easier to love or hate an abstraction than so tangible a frame-work or machinery."

'This is of course an exaggerated view. It is not true that the State can do what it pleases with the English Church, can modify its theology or change its liturgy at will; but it is still less true that the Church can do as she will without the consent of the State. The English Church is an amalgam of two alien organizations, not the organized form of a religious society.

'This whole lecture delivers one of the most powerful attacks ever opened on the Anglican theory of the Church as independent of the State. Not less powerful was Newman's delineation, in the fifth lecture, of the collapse of the Anglican theory of the Church when applied to practice. The Anglicans, he said, "had reared a goodly house, but their foundations were falling in. The soil and masonry both were bad. The Fathers would protect 'Romanists' as well as extinguish Dissenters. The Anglican divines would misquote the Fathers and shrink from the very doctors to whom they appealed. The Bishops of the seventeenth century were shy of the Bishops of the fourth, and the Bishops of the nineteenth were shy of the Bishops of the seventeenth. The Ecclesiastical Courts upheld the sixteenth century against the seventeenth, and, unconscious of the flagrant irregularities of Protestant clergymen, chastised the mild misdemeanours of Anglo-Catholic. Soon the living rulers of the Establishment began to move. There are those who, reversing the Roman maxim, are wont to shrink from the contumacious, and to be valiant towards the submissive; and the authorities in question gladly availed themselves of the power conferred on them by the movement itself. They fearlessly hanselled their Apostolical weapons against the Apostolical party. One after another, in long succession, they took up their song and their parable against it [Note 3]. It was a solemn war-dance which they executed round victims, {235} who, by their very principles, were bound hand and foot, and could only eye, with disgust and perplexity, this most unaccountable movement on the part of these 'holy Fathers, the representatives of the Apostles and the Angels of the Churches.' It was the beginning of the end."'

One reason which made the composition of his lectures on the Anglican controversy, with all their brilliancy, distasteful to him, gave specially congenial interest to his private correspondence on the same subject in those years. He felt that words used publicly and afterwards printed would be read by persons representing the most various standpoints. What was most cogent to those who were already far advanced towards Rome would seem trivial and inconclusive to others. Even among those who had been influenced by the Oxford Movement, there were many shades of opinion. All this made the lectures unsatisfactory to him. In his correspondence, on the other hand, he could take account of such differences, and play on each mind as the special instrument demanded. Much of his time from 1848 to 1850 was devoted to writing to intimate friends who had stopped short of taking the final step. By far the largest number of letters of this nature were written to Henry Wilberforce and Mrs. William Froude. And in his letters to Mrs. Froude he has tender and anxious thoughts for her husband, who, like his brother, James Antony Froude, was drifting away from all definite religious belief. Henry Wilberforce he urged onwards incessantly. But with Mrs. Froude he was less pressing, and to her he spoke more of the difficulties she was likely to find in Roman Catholicism if she made the great change. Each group of letters has a unity of its own. I here select only a few typical specimens.

'St. Wilfrid's, Cheadle: December 9, 1848.
'My dear Henry,—I do not know what I have to say in answer to your letter except to assure you that I remember you.

'Christmas Day. I leave the above to show my good intentions. You are ever in my thoughts, and yours. This blessed day, my first Mass at twelve (midnight), I gave to the Pope—my second at half past two to our Congregation—my third at seven to all my friends and acquaintances, who {236} still are Protestants. You, dearest Henry, were not forgotten, but I will not believe, you shall not make me, that you are for ever so to be classed, so to be remembered. The midnight mass was a high one—and I communicated 120 persons at it. We have had masses going on literally through the night, 36 in all—as if in emulation of the angels who sang through the night 1800 years ago "Glory to God, peace on earth." Some of us have not been to bed at all. Dear Father Ambrose especially, as Sacristan, has been hard worked. He got to bed between five and six, and we were amused to find on his door, "Please don't call me, and don't knock"—but he is up again now (10) and has just left me in order to sing his third Mass, which is also High Mass—but we don't expect many people this morning. (P.S.—On the contrary, there is a very fairly full Church, and Benediction will be crowded.) The midnight Mass was not over till three. A large portion of the congregation live two miles away.

'If this were in the centre of the town I declare I think it would convert a good half of it by its very look. We have had a number of most splendid functions—but we shall soon (many of us) leave it for Birmingham—for a gloomy gin distillery, of which we have taken a lease, fitting up a large room for a Chapel. When we shall get to London we don't know—prospered as we have been, still we want hands for such an undertaking. Lately several of our Fathers held a mission in this neighbourhood. They heard between 700 and 800 confessions and received 22 persons into the Church. Never surely were the words more strikingly exemplified, "The Harvest is great, the labourers are few," than in England. We could convert England, humanly speaking, at least the lower classes, had we priests enough.

'With all best wishes of this happy season, my dear Henry,
Ever yours affectionately,

In January he writes to the same correspondent:

'I have heard something about you which makes me sad—that you countenanced on November 1st the changes in Margaret Street which (if what I hear they are) I will not designate. What have you to do with Subdeacons and the like? I should have thought you far too sensible a fellow to go into such ways. While you stick to the old Church of England ways you are respectable—it is going by a sort of tradition—when you profess to return to lost Church {237} of England ways, you are rational—but when you invent a new ceremonial, which never was, when you copy the Roman or other foreign rituals, you are neither respectable nor rational. It is sectarian. That is what I say of Pusey now—he does not affect to appeal to any authority but his own interpretation of the Fathers, and [to] the sanction of old Anglicans for this or that—but as a whole, he is not reviving anything that ever was anywhere for 1800 years. There is a tradition of High Church, and of Low Church—but none of what now is justly called Puseyism.

'Thank you for dear Robert's [Note 4] letter. I am glad he speaks better of me than he did two years since—when he dissuaded a man from following me on the ground of his personal knowledge, that 20 years since I was on the verge of madness. This was a rhetorical argument—when he came to Oxford, rhetoric went to flight and the heart spoke. Ought not conscience to be the child of such a pair as heart and rhetoric.

'Now you are saying, Carissime, "What's the matter with him? He is in a terribly bad humour, he does nothing but bite." I wish I could bite you with my madness, though I know you dread large dogs and little.'

On March 7 Newman urges on his friend the central argument from the Essay on Development:

'As to my Essay [on Development] you mistake in one minor matter,—it is not the argument from unity or Catholicity which immediately weighs with me, but from Apostolicity. In that book is asked why does its author join the Catholic Church? The answer is, because it is the Church of St. Athanasius and St. Ambrose. Vid. the passage about St. Athanasius and St. Ambrose coming from Treves to Oxford. And it is an argument natural to weigh with me who have so many years been engaged in the meditation of early Church History—and it is as natural that the difficulties I had felt, and the difficulties I there answer, should be difficulties of doctrine, since I have studied in Church History the history of doctrine more than anything else. You may recollect too that the one idea which for years was before me, was, "the Anglican Church corresponds to the Semi-arians, corresponds to the Monophysites"—It is contained in the letter I wrote to Robert in Autumn of 1841; it had been in my mind as early as summer 1839. I never shook it off—how could I? when {238} to every reader of Church History it is so plain. Nothing is more day-clear than this, that unless there never was a Church and heretics round it, the Anglican Church is a loco, in the position of one of those early sects. This again I kept saying—I think I wrote to Keble, "I am far more certain that the Anglican Church is in loco haereseos, than that the Roman corruptions are not developments." No one can maintain the Anglican Church from history, (whatever they may try to do on the ground of doctrine)—and those who speak against my Essay as inconclusive, most of them, do not see its drift.'

Rumour at this moment spoke of Henry Wilberforce as on the verge of taking the great step. Two letters of Newman's—one a mere note—earnestly pressed him onwards:

'St. Wilfrid's. Sept. 19th, 1849.
'My dearest Henry,—I heard of you this morning here,—where I had just come for a day or two, having been overworked. I had gone to Bilston to attend the poor cholera patients, but found the scourge nearly over, and I was not wanted,—so I came here. Father Ambrose and Father Minister are there still. They say that two thirds of the population would become Catholics if they had priests to take care of them.

'But now I write about you, Carissime—I have heard something about you this morning, which makes me say "Send for me, and I will come to you at once—by return of post." Do not let anything stand between conviction and its legitimate consequence. Carissime, you must die some day or other ...
'Ever yours affectionately,

'September 21, 1849.
'Carissime,—This may cross one of yours, but I can't help writing.

'How can you delay? O my dearest H. W., may not this be a crisis in your eternal destiny?
'Ever yours most affectionately,

But the change did not come for some months. Newman's letters continued to be insistent. "There is no alternative between Catholicism and Infidelity to the clear thinker—flee Babylon while you can," he writes in one, with reference to William Froude's movement towards religious negation. {239} And in another—when the change appears to be simply a matter of time—"O, the joy it will be to me to see you and embrace you as the Patriarch turned himself with yearning heart to his lost Son!"

Early in 1850 Henry Wilberforce and his wife were both received.

Henry Wilberforce had been so closely acquainted with Newman's own state of feeling throughout, that his hesitation had appeared to Newman to call for constant pressure to take the final step. With Mrs. Froude, on the contrary, he felt that if she did join the Catholic Church she would find trials and difficulties arising from the change. He therefore wished her first to count the cost. He does not in his letters seem eager to urge her onwards so long as she feels satisfied with her present position. Yet he evidently fears, on the other hand, lest his own great step in 1845 may have unsettled her, and she may find no peace until she realises that Catholicism is normally the only stable form of Christian faith. For an actual change of communion nevertheless he apparently did not feel sure that she was prepared. The wife of William Froude and the sister-in-law of J. A. Froude was naturally familiar with the idea of mental doubt, and Newman's letters to her touch this aspect of possible views on religion, which is quite absent from the letters to Henry Wilberforce.

The following letters must suffice to illustrate the difference of tone of which I speak and the careful touch with which Newman handled the minds of his friends:

'Mary Vale, Perry Bar: June 16, 1848.
'My dear Mrs. Froude,—I answer your kind and touching letter just received immediately. How could you suppose I do not feel the warmest attachment and the most affectionate thoughts towards you and yours?

'And now first about myself, since you are kindly anxious about me. It is my handwriting that distresses you; but it has been so for years. I seem to have sprained some muscles. I can't put my finger on the place—but I never write without some pain. And it does not seem that there is any help.

'As to health, I never was better or so well. The only indisposition is that I am always tired, but that I think is merely {240} owing to the growth of years. As time goes on too, one's features grow more heavy. At least I feel it an effort to brighten up. Or rather, I believe those long years of anxiety have stamped themselves on my face—and now that they are at an end, yet I cannot change what has become a physical effect.

'And now you know all about me, as far as I am able, or can get myself, to talk of myself. I will but add that the Hand of God is most wonderfully on me, that I am full of blessing and privilege, that I never have had even the temptation for an instant to feel a misgiving about the great step I took in 1845, that the hollowness of High Churchism (or whatever it is called) is to me so very clear that it surprises me, (not that persons should not see it at once) but that any should not see it at last, and, also, I must add that I do not think it safe for any one who does see it, not to action his conviction of it at once.

'Oh—that I were near you, and could have a talk with you—but then I should need great grace to know what to say to you. This is one thing that keeps me silent, it is, dear friend, because I don't know what to say to you. If I had more faith, I should doubtless know well enough; I should then say, "Come to the Church, and you will find all you seek." I have myself found all I seek. "I have all and abound"—my every want has been supplied, and as it has in all persons, whom I know at all well, who have become Catholics,—but still the fidget comes on me, "what if they fall? What if they go back? What if they find their faith tried? what if they relax into a lukewarm state? what if they do not fall into prudent and good hands?" It is strange I should say so, when I have instances of the comfort and peace of those very persons for whom I feared on their conversions.

'But I will tell you what I think on the whole, though you do not ask me, in two sentences; 1. that it is the duty of those who feel themselves called towards the Church to obey it; 2. that they must expect trial, when in it, and think it only so much gain when they have it not. This last indeed is nothing more than the spirit moving, "when thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation."

'I would not bring anyone into the Church on the ground which you put as against the Church of England, viz: that all hopes are failing. Not that I do not value, not that I do not now feel, the stimulus which comes from bright prospects, but that one ought not to come, if it can be helped, on such inferior grounds. Now this world is a world of trouble. {241} You must come to the Church, not to avoid it, but to save your soul. If this is the motive, all is right. You cannot be disappointed, but the other motive is dangerous.

'I was thinking of you this morning, when I said Mass. Oh that you were safe in the True Fold. I think you will be one day. You will then have the blessedness of seeing God face to face. You will have the blessedness of finding when you enter a Church, a Treasure Unutterable, the Presence of the Eternal Word Incarnate, the Wisdom of the Father who, even when He had done His work, would not leave us, but rejoices still to humble Himself by abiding in places on earth, for our sakes, while He reigns not the less on the right hand of God. To know too that you are in the Communion of Saints, to know that you have cast your lot among all those Blessed Servants of God who are the choice fruit of His Passion, that you have their intercessions on high, that you may address them, and above all the Glorious Mother of God, what thoughts can be greater than these? And to feel yourself surrounded by all holy arms and defences, with the Sacraments week by week, with the Priests' Benedictions, with crucifixes and rosaries which have been blessed, with holy water, with places or with acts to which Indulgences have been attached, and the "whole Armour of God"—and to know that, when you die, you will not be forgotten, that you will be sent out of the world with the holy unctions upon you, and will be followed with masses and prayers; to know in short that the Atonement of Christ is not a thing at a distance, or like the sun standing ever against us and separated off from us, but that we are surrounded by an atmosphere and are in a medium, through which His warmth and light flow in upon us on every side, what can one ask, what can one desire, more than this?

'Yet I do not disguise that Catholicism is a different religion from Anglicanism. You must come to learn that religion which the Apostles introduced and which was in the world long before the Reformation was dreamed of, but a religion not so easy and natural to you, or congenial, because you have been bred up in another from your youth.

'Excuse all this, as you will, my dear Mrs. Froude, and excuse the rambling character of this whole letter, and believe me,
'Ever yours most affectionately,

'P.S.—I should rejoice to see William at any time; but I am going to London soon.' {242}

'Mary Vale, Perry Bar: June 27, 1848.
'My dear Mrs. Froude,—One of the thoughts which most painfully weighed on my mind, when I began to see that I must be a Catholic, if not the most painful of all, was that I was unsettling many, who, having been without definite faith till I and others made them what is called Anglo-Catholics, were likely, on my confessing that to be a delusion which I had taught them was a reality, instead of passing on with me to a second creed, to relapse into scepticism ...

'But oh, my dear Mrs. Froude, what an awful state is that of doubt, if permitted, if acquiesced in, if habitual; considering that faith, implicit faith, is the fundamental grace of the Gospel, and condition of its benefits? The very notion of doubt is then only endurable, when a person is firmly resolved to embrace the Truth, whatever it be, at whatever cost, when once it is brought home to him, and immediately;—praying the while that he may, as soon as possible, be brought to the knowledge of it. If you, my most dear Sister or Daughter, as you chose to let me call you, really can say in your heart, that you will submit to the Truth, though you cannot prove it, directly your reason tells you where it lies, I am comforted about you; but do search your conscience on this point. Are you quite sure you respond, as you should, to God's grace leading you on? Are you sure that you do not take "obedience," (to allude to the Sermon you speak of) instead of faith, when you should only take it as the way to faith? resting in it, instead of using it ...

'I wish you would consider whether you have a right notion how to gain faith. It is, we know, the Gift of God, but I am speaking of it as a human process and attained by human means. Faith then is not a conclusion from premisses, but the result of an act of the will, following upon a conviction that to believe is a duty. The simple question you have to ask yourself is, "Have I a conviction that I ought to accept the (Roman) Catholic Faith as God's word?" if not, at least, "do I tend to such a conviction?" or "am I near upon it"? For directly you have a conviction that you ought to believe, reason has done its part, and what is wanted for faith is, not proof, but will ... We are answerable for what we choose to believe; if we believe lightly, or if we are hard of belief, in either case we do wrong. With love to William,
'Ever yours affectionately,
J. H. NEWMAN.' [Note 5] {243}

Another group of letters belonging to this time has considerable importance—those to Newman's Oxford friend Mr. Frederick Capes. And these, too, I think represent mental effort far more congenial than the King William Street lectures. Not long after he had joined the Catholic Church Mr. Capes had founded the Catholic Review called the Rambler, of which incidental mention has been already made. The letters were occasioned by subject discussed in the Review, on which Mr. Capes constantly consulted Newman. They include Newman's first suggestion on the subject which he regarded as so important in his later life, the necessity of accurate thought and expression among Catholics themselves in dealing with the great religious questions of the day. Although his work for the Oratory led him, as we have seen, to decline writing for the Rambler, he took a lively interest in the work it carried on. The Rambler was started in January 1848. W. G. Ward, Oakeley, and Richard Simpson were among the earliest contributors to its pages, and from the first it set to work on that very task of the development of Catholic thought in which Newman had such special sympathy.

It likewise showed from the first a tendency towards inconsiderateness and even offensiveness in its criticisms which Newman deprecated as injurious to success in its object. The existing Catholic Colleges were strongly criticised. The amour propre of English Catholics educated under the existing system was offended by strictures which might have been accepted had they been accompanied by a due recognition of all that was best in that system; and there was, moreover, already an inclination in some of the Rambler writers to rash and startling speculation in matters in which scientific conjectures of the day touched the opinions of theologians. This again tended to prejudice the views they advocated rather than to recommend them. It confirmed the feeling of the old Catholics that the Oxford converts were a party and were indisposed to amalgamate in thought and feeling with themselves.

Newman's letters show at once his value for the activity of mind and reality of treatment evinced by the articles, some anxiety at their tone, and some suspiciousness of {244} Mr. Capes' speculations. Though declining Mr. Capes' request that he should be formal theological censor of the Review, he was informally consulted on much of its contents, and the correspondence drew from him some characteristic expressions of opinion. In one of the letters we find the first suggestion of what he afterwards carried out in 'Callista'—of a tale presenting an outline of history as to the action of Christianity on the educated world in the early centuries. The true nature of the evidence for Christianity—a subject which occupied his mind through life—is also touched in the correspondence. The feeling he had at Rome in 1846 reappears, that Italian theologians insufficiently appreciated the necessity for a searching inquiry into the adequacy of methodical proofs of religion natural and revealed, in the precise form found in the ordinary text-books. The equipment of an army may become very inadequate if it is not frequently subjected to the actual tests it will have to undergo in time of war; and theologians unfamiliar with the minds of unbelievers might be ineffective in polemic. While the ability of the theologians he had known in Rome was beyond doubt, and the general outlines of their treatment were inherited from deep thinkers, they did in his opinion set forth arguments as conclusive which in reality were not so. The typical Italian professor of theology often failed to realise the actual state of mind of the man who was to be convinced—the infidel in the case of the proofs of Christianity, the heretic in the case of distinctively Catholic polemic. These matters are referred to in the letters to Mr. Capes of 1847 and 1850, which show also the movement of his thought on other subjects. The following are some extracts:

'Your remarks on image-worship are very good and correct. The contrast of doctrine and practice there is but part of one great rule. The Church gives the rhythm and meaning to every feeling and thought of her children, though they do not recognise it as their own, e.g. the certainty of faith is indefinitely greater than mathematical—but who realises this in his experience?

'Your new number is a very good one, and the sale ought to increase, as it does. The defence of the scandalous paper on Catholic Education is very much to the purpose, {245} and I should trust would soothe people—but I don't think you can quite get over it. You will be sure to have done good by mooting the subject; and all Catholics ought, as many will, to be obliged to you—but still you cannot get over the whole difficulty, because your original article had the tone of a hostile attack, instead of having a double dose of butter to introduce an unpleasant subject ... However never mind all this; the Rambler is doing a great deal of good, and we cannot do good without giving offence and incurring criticism.'

'The Oratory, 40 Alcester St.: Feb. 14, 1849.
'As for putting anything about us into the Rambler, "story, heav'n bless you, I have none to tell, sir." In time we shall, please heaven, do something—but at present it is all leaves and flowers, not fruit. Last Sunday the Policeman said he thought there were between 600 and 700 people at the evening sermon—and boys and girls flow in for instructions as herrings in the season. But it is not enough to catch your fish; you must throw the bad away. I mean until we sift them, and get one set of people at confession and another regular candidates for instruction and reception, we have done nothing. We have every promise of this, but even on our part nothing is in order. The Confessionals hardly in position, and our catechists not at their posts.'

'February 28th, 1849.
'I heartily wish. I could promise you a series like the Church of the Fathers. But when is it to be? If you can use my name honestly and without pledging me, I should be glad. As to the middle ages, I could not go on to them—what I should like would be to bring out the [ethos] of the Heathen from St. Paul's day down to St. Gregory, where under the process, or in sight of the phenomenon, of conversion; what conversion was in those times, and what the position of a Christian in that world of sin, what the sophistries of philosophy viewed as realities influencing men. But besides the great difficulty of finding time, I don't think I could do it from History. I despair of finding facts enough—if an imaginary tale could alone embody the conclusions to which existing facts lead. If you can suggest anything, let me know. Dalgairns is so busy, he declares he will only write for tin. I have spoken to the other two men, and shall see Hutchison tomorrow, and will have a talk with him.' {246}

'December 2nd, '49.
'As to what you say about eternal punishment, it is to me, as to most men, the great crux in the Christian system as contemplated by the human mind. It is to me what the doctrine of predestination is to Ward. But then is there to be no trial of faith? The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, transubstantiation, grace, nay the Incarnation (for it is against no attribute) are to me no trial. Am I to have none? Reason is able to approve of much—is it to approve of all? Another consideration is our utter ignorance of what is meant by eternity—it is not infinite time. Time implies a process—it involves the connection and action of one portion upon another—if eternity be an eternal now, eternal punishment is the fact that a person is in suffering; he suffers today and tomorrow and so on for ever—but not in a continuation—all is complete in every time—there is no memory, no anticipation, no growth of intensity from succession. I will not say I am right in so considering it, for I have not consulted divines (and certainly popular views, sermons, etc., are against me, for in them the growth of pain from succession is expressly insisted on), but if I be right, then the question is merely, should a soul suffer, should sin be punished, which few will deny.

'As to yourself, you are very painfully situated—you have to read a vast number of infidel books, and to throw yourself into the state of mind of infidels, and this necessarily exposes you to the temptation.

'I would add, it is the turning point between Christianity and pantheism, it is the critical doctrine—you can't get rid of it—it is the very characteristic of Christianity. We must therefore look matters in the face. Is it more improbable that eternal punishment should be true, or that there should be no God; for if there be a God, there is eternal punishment, (a posteriori).

'As to the subject on which you would have me write, it is a noble one—but one can no more command a set of lectures on it than raise spirits from the vasty deep. I feel more and more, and have for years, how little one's mind is in one's own power. Difficulties of years are sometimes overcome in a moment—yet one cannot foresee the time. It is very mysterious, and brings before one the great Christian truth that man in puris naturalibus is a most imperfect being, and depends on principles and powers external to him for the power of thinking and acting.

'What I want to do, and can't, and it falls into your subject, is to construct a positive argument for Catholicism. {247} The negative is the most powerful—"Since there must be one true religion, it can be none other than this"—but the fault of this is that it involves what many people call scepticism—cutting away everything else but Catholicism—showing the difficulties of such portions of truth as Protestantism contains, etc. Hence what I have written (e.g. difficulties of the Canon) has been much objected to. Now as to positive proof, I can only rest the argument on antecedent probabilities or verisimilia—which are to my mind most powerful, (and practically sufficient, for they are in fact the Notes of the Church,) but they seem argumentatively imperfect; and I would give much to be able to strike out something—but I feel myself quite helpless.'

'December 2nd, '49
'I have not quite got hold of your proposed subject. The great argument of the Atheist is this—"The Creator the World is either wanting in love or power—therefore He is not God, or there is no God." Now Christianity does not touch this argument. It leaves it where it was, or adds weight to it. You do not mean me then to show how Christianity explains the riddle. The question simply is how it meets it. But when it is a question of meeting, it a question of degrees. The point then is what degree of skilful meeting, in a religion, is sufficient to prove it divine.'

'The Oratory, Birmingham: Dec. 8th, 1849.
'Thank you for your valuable letter. The subject, which you have named, jumps with much I have been thinking of, especially the introductory lectures on the Nature of the Proof—but I fear these would swell into a whole (uninteresting) set. Again, such a subject requires very delicate treatment. Your Italian divines, whom I sincerely wish to follow in dogmatics, are not in my mind the best of polemics—now "The proof of Christianity" is just the point on which polemics and dogmatics meet as on common ground. It is in the province of both, and I cannot altogether stand the Italian treatment of it, unless I mistake their words and they mine. They know nothing at all of heretics as realities—they live, at least in Rome, in a place whose boast is that it has never given birth to heresy, and they think proofs ought to be convincing which in fact are not. Hence they are accustomed to speak of the argument for Catholicism as a demonstration, and to see no force in objections to it and to admit no perplexity of intellect which is not directly and immediately wilful. This at {248} least is their tendency in fact, even if I overstate their theory. They have not a dream what England is, and what is the power of fascination which the Anglican Church (e.g.) exerts in the case of many minds. F. Passaglia understood it a little better when he got to Westminster Abbey, and declared the chanting to be a great "scandalo"; and I suspect he was cowed by the vision of Oxford. At present they will not abide in Italy the use of terms which, if not the ideas also contained in them, are received with us. E.g. when you in your Papers on "Four Years' Experience" speak of the argument for Catholicism being "the greater probability," (do you not?) you say what would scandalise an Italian, and would be put down to my school. At least one Jesuit attacked me as a probabilist in doctrine, though I am not conscious of dreaming of being one; and certainly I should be afraid that I might say things which, though distinctly contained in de Lugo, are contrary to the tone of this day. I really do not think I differ in idea, and I have altered my language in consequence, but I don't feel clear that I should not offend those whom I wish to be on good terms with. As to you, I distinctly think you have expressed yourself incautiously, unless I have misunderstood you—but what I think of you, others may think of me. At all events, it would take time, and thought, to write carefully on such a subject, and I don't think I could do it by Lent.

'I should like to know some time argumentatively why my suggestion about eternity having no succession produces no alleviation of your difficulty—I wish to know it as a fact, to guide me in the use of it. It tends to destroy the difficulty in my own case.

'I could not make out whether you said my Sermons were "selling" or "telling"—I wish them to "tell," but I am very much more interested, I must own, in the sale.'

'Oratory, Birmingham: Jan. 27th, 1850.
'As to what you said some time back about eternal punishment I said nothing in answer, because I simply wished to hear what your view was of my argument. I did not agree with your answer (if you wish to know, as you seem to do). In denying that "eternity was without duration," you seem to me denying, not an assumption of mine, as you view it, but the common voice of all nations. Even the poet speaks of an "eternal now." And by saying that what did relieve you was the mystery of God's ante-eternity, you seem taking up yourself my very argument {249} —for the mysteriousness of it shows that we don't know what eternity is—and if our notion is so defective as to make us think the divine a parte ante beyond Divine Omnipotence, that same defect may be the cause of eternal pain seeming to contradict the Divine All-mercifulness. A common person's notion of flannel is that it is something that "keeps us warm." With this notion it is a sheer absurdity or mystery to suppose that it is wrapt round ice to keep it from melting. Again I could not convince my clerk at St. Mary's that the thick moisture on the pavement on a thaw was not a proof that the Church was really damp. We have far less correct ideas of eternity than of such material matters.

'The passage in "Four Years' Experience" is "To tell me I was enslaving my reason, etc., by embracing the more probable of two momentous alternatives," etc., p. 10. Now, since the proof on which we believe must be a certain proof, the above is sound to me only on the hypothesis that in the case supposed it be true that "It is certain that the more probable alternative is the true one"; which has to be proved, for it is not a general truth or an axiom. But the words on the surface mean no more than this, that "it is not certain that Catholicism is true, only more probable than that it is not"—and this I conceive is an unsound position.'

'St. Wilfrid's: September 16th, 1850.
'Thank you for F. Perrone, which I will return. It relieves me to find that to deny the universality of the deluge is not even temerarious. At the same time, the time is not come for confidence about any theory. The "Spiritus Dei" may mean electro-magnetism ten years hence, then the vital principle, and at the end of 50 years "The Spirit of God" as of old.'

'Oratory, Birmingham: November 14th, 1850.
'My criticism on these scientific articles was not on the allowableness of their statements, but the advisableness. We ought not to theorise the teaching of Moses till philosophers have demonstrated their theories of physics. If "the Spirit of God" is gas in 1850, it may be electromagnetism in 1860.'

One other letter may be added belonging to the following year, although it somewhat forestalls the order of our narrative. It contains the first incidental reference to a matter on which Newman wrote much later on—namely, the importance of the schools of theological thought in the past, of their flourishing existence, of their freedom and variety, and {250} the correlative importance of the writings of the 'doctors of the Church,' for the intellectual health of the Christian community in the ages in which they lived and wrote. The doctors of the Church and not the Popes had in the past given the lead to the Catholic theological intellect in its inquiries. 'It is individuals and not the Holy See that have taken the initiative and given the lead to the Catholic mind in theological inquiry,' he wrote in a famous passage in the 'Apologia.' And it was the greatest of those individuals who were afterwards known as Doctors of the Church. The process of active discussion and thought in the Catholic schools reached its height in the middle ages—the days of the schoolmen of the thirteenth century. The events accompanying the Reformation somewhat diminished the freedom of scholastic debate, and concentrated attention on the polemic against Protestantism. Yet such names as Petavius, Suarez and de Lugo remind us that theological schools still long remained a great power to reckon with. The French Revolution had inflicted a crushing blow on the theological schools. And with their comparative disappearance the rôle of 'Doctor of the Church' seemed almost to be in abeyance. 'Religion is never in greater danger,' Newman wrote, 'than when in consequence of national or international troubles the schools of theology have broken up or ceased to be.' The sense of the loss sustained by the Church in the destruction of the theological schools grew on Newman, as we shall see, in the course of time. It is first referred to, though only briefly, in the following letter written to Mr. Capes on the advantages and disadvantages for the Church of a state of persecution:

'April 20th, 1851.
'What does the Church gain by a state of persecution? an elevation in the tone of those who remain firm? I doubt it as a whole. Recollect the scandals among the Confessors in St. Cyprian's time and the low tone among us now. And great as the sanctity of the Martyrs is, I suppose the sanctity of St. Ignatius and St. Theresa, subjects of the most Catholic King of Spain, may be compared to it. Then again, in times when religion is established, you have schools of all sorts, of doctrine, of ritual, of antiquities, and histories—it is the age of doctors—who are formed by the very heresies which then germinate. Think on the contrary of {251} the miserable state of the Church 1780 to 1830, during the temporal misfortunes of the Holy See, through which we have not yet emerged at this moment. Where are our schools of theology? a scattered and persecuted Jesuit school—one at Louvain—some ghosts of a short-lived birth at Munich—hardly a theologian at Rome. And recollect independence and persecution go together—the State must either be our friend or our enemy. Now, consider the confusion everything is thrown into, by the Pope's absence from Rome—the destruction of records—the dispersion of libraries—the suspension of the Sacred Congregations—think of Pope Pius VII. shut up from the Church for five years. What is to put against all this? You cannot pick and choose—you cannot have all the advantages of freedom and none of the disadvantages of being outlawed. You may say that we are in the worst state possible now, being neither one thing nor the other—the Pope bound to the world without corresponding benefits—but I am not defending any view, I am only anxious that things should be calmly looked at.'

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1. Life of Aubrey de Vere, p. 182.
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2. Cardinal Newman. By R. H. Hutton. Methuen: 1890.
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3. This refers to the charges of the Bishops against Tract 90.
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4. Robert Wilberforce.
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5. Two letters illustrative of Newman's relations with William Froude will be found in the Appendix, p. 622.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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