Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching, Volume 1
John Henry Newman

Title Page

Revised August, 2001—NR.

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Topic - Church
Part 1. Communion with the Roman See the Legitimate
    Issue of the Religious Movement of 1833
  1.   On the Relation of the National Church to the Nation      1.
  2.   The Movement of 1833 Foreign to the National Church    33.
  3.  The Life of the Movement of 1833 Not Derived from the
National Church
  4.  The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 Not in
the Direction of the National Church
  5.  The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 Not in
the Direction of a Party in the National Church
  6.  The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 Not in
the Direction of a Branch Church
  7.  The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 Not in
the Direction of a Sect
Topic - Church
Part 2. Difficulties in Accepting the Communion of Rome
    as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic


The Social State of Catholic Countries No Prejudice to 
the Sanctity of the Church

  9.   The Religious State of Catholic Countries No Prejudice 
to the Sanctity of the Church
10.   Differences Among Catholics No Prejudice to the Unity 
of the Church
11.   Heretical and Schismatical Bodies No Prejudice to the 
Catholicity of the Church
12.   Ecclesiastical History No Prejudice to the Apostolicity 
of the Church

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Life of Cardinal Newman, Chapter 8 [covers the period in which this book was written—NR]

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D.D., O.S.B.,

{v} In gaining your Lordship's leave to place the following Volume under your patronage, I fear I may seem to the world to have asked what is more gracious in you to grant, than becoming or reasonable in me to have contemplated. For what assignable connection is there between your Lordship's name, and a work, not didactic, not pastoral, not ascetical, not devotional, but for the most part simply controversial, directed, moreover, against a mere transitory phase in an accidental school of opinion, and for that reason, both in its matter and its argument, only of local interest and ephemeral importance?

Such a question may obviously be put to me; nor can I answer it, except by referring to the well-known interest which your Lordship has so long taken in the religious party to which I have alluded, and the {vi} joy and thankfulness with which you have welcomed the manifestations of God's grace, as often as first one and then another of their number has in his turn emerged from the mists of error into the light and peace of Catholic truth.

Whatever, then, your Lordship's sentiments may be of the character of the Work itself, I persuade myself that I may be able suitably to present it to you, in consideration of the object it has in view; and that you, on your part, will not repent of countenancing an Author, who, in the selection of his materials, would fain put the claims of charity above the praise of critics, and feels it is a better deed to write for the present moment than for posterity.

Begging your Lordship's blessing,
I am, my dear Lord,
Your Lordship's faithful and grateful Servant,


July 14, 1850.

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{vii} IT may happen to some persons to feel surprise, that the Author of the following Lectures, instead of occupying himself on the direct proof of Catholicism, should have professed no more than to remove difficulties from the path of those who have already admitted the arguments in its favour. But, in the first place, he really does not think that there is any call just now for an Apology in behalf of the divine origin of the Catholic Church. She bears her unearthly character on her brow, as her enemies confess, by imputing her miracles to Beelzebub. There is an instinctive feeling of curiosity, interest, anxiety, and awe, mingled together in various proportions, according to the tempers and opinions of individuals, when she makes her appearance in any neighbourhood, rich or poor, in the person of her missioners or her religious communities. Do what they will, denounce her as they may, her enemies cannot quench this emotion in the breasts of others, or in their own. It is their involuntary homage to the Notes of the Church; it is their spontaneous recognition of her royal descent and her imperial claim; it is a specific feeling, which no other religion tends to excite. Judaism, Mahometanism, Anglicanism, Methodism, {viii} old religions and young, romantic and commonplace, have not this spell. The presence of the Church creates a discomposure and restlessness, or a thrill of exultation, wherever she comes. Meetings are held, denunciations launched, calumnies spread abroad, and hearts beat secretly the while. The babe leaps in Elizabeth's womb, at the voice of her in whom is enshrined and lives the Incarnate Word. Her priests appeal freely to the consciences of all who encounter them, to say whether they have not a superhuman gift, and that multitude by silence gives consent. They look like other men; they may have the failings of other men; they may have as little worldly advantages as the preachers of dissent; they may lack the popular talents, the oratorical power, the imposing presence, which are found elsewhere; but they inspire confidence, or at least reverence, by their very word. Those who come to jeer and scoff, remain to pray.

There needs no treatise, then, on the Notes of the Church, till this her mysterious influence is accounted for and destroyed; still less is it necessary just at this time, when the writings and the proceedings of a school of divines in the Establishment have, against their will and intention, done this very work for her as regards a multitude of our countrymen. What treatise indeed can be so conclusive in this day as the history, carried out before their eyes, of the religious teaching of the school in question, a teaching simple and intelligible in its principles, persuasive in its views, gradually developed, adjusted, and enlarged, gradually imbibed and mastered, in a course of years; and now converging in many minds at once to one issue, and in some of them already reaching it, and that issue the divinity of {ix} the Catholic Religion? Feeling, then, that an exhibition of the direct Evidences in favour of Catholicism is not the want of the moment, the Author has had no thoughts of addressing himself to a work, which could not be executed by any one who undertook it, except at leisure and with great deliberation. At present the thinking portion of society is either very near the Catholic Church, or very far from her. The first duty of Catholics is to house those in, who are near their doors; it will be time afterwards, when this has been done, to ascertain how things lie on the extended field of philosophy and religion, and into what new position the controversy has fallen: as yet the old arguments suffice. To attempt a formal dissertation on the Notes of the Church at this moment, would be running the risk of constructing what none would need today, and none could use tomorrow.

Those surely who are advancing towards the Church would not have advanced so far as they have, had they not had sufficient arguments to bring them still further. What retards their progress is not any weakness in those arguments, but the force of opposite considerations, speculative or practical, which are urged, sometimes against the Church, sometimes against their own submitting to her authority. They would have no doubt about their duty, but for the charges brought against her, or the remonstrances addressed to themselves; charges and remonstrances which, whatever their logical cogency, are abundantly sufficient for their purpose, in a case where there are so many inducements, whether from wrong feeling, or infirmity, or even error of conscience, to listen to them. Such persons, then, have a claim on us to be fortified in their right perceptions {x} and their good resolutions, against the calumnies, prejudices, mistakes, and ignorance of their friends and of the world, against the undue influence exerted on their minds by the real difficulties which unavoidably surround a religion so deep and manifold in philosophy, and occupying so vast a place in the history of nations. It would be wonderful, indeed, if a teaching which embraces all spiritual and moral truth, from the highest to the least important, should present no mysteries or apparent inconsistencies; wonderful if, in the lapse of eighteen hundred years, and in the range of three-fourths of the globe, and in the profession of thousands of millions of souls, it had not afforded innumerable points of plausible attack; wonderful, if it could assail the pride and sensuality which are common to our whole race, without rousing the hatred, malice, jealousy, and obstinate opposition, of the natural man; wonderful, if it could be the object of the jealous and unwearied scrutiny of ten thousand adversaries, of the coalition of wit and wisdom, of minds acute, far-seeing, comprehensive, original, and possessed of the deepest and most varied knowledge, yet without some sort of case being made out against it; and wonderful, moreover, if the vast multitude of objections, great and small, resulting from its exposure to circumstances such as these, acting on the timidity, scrupulousness, inexperience, intellectual fastidiousness, love of the world, or self-dependence of individuals, had not been sufficient to keep many a one from the Church, who had, in spite of them, good and satisfactory reasons for joining her communion. Here is the plain reason why so many are brought near to the Church, and then go back, or are so slow in submitting to her. {xi}

Now, as has been implied above, where there is detachment from the world, a keen apprehension of the Unseen, and a simple determination to do the Divine Will, such difficulties will not commonly avail, if men have had sufficient opportunity of acquainting themselves with the Notes or Evidences of the Church. In matter of fact, as we see daily, they do not avail to deter those whose hearts are right, or whose minds are incapable of extended investigations, from recognizing the Church's Notes and acting upon them. They do not avail with the poor, the uneducated, the simple-minded, the resolute, and the fervent; but they are formidable, when there are motives in the background, amiable or unworthy, to bias the will. Every one is obliged, by the law of his nature, to act by reason; yet no one likes to make a great sacrifice unnecessarily; such difficulties, then, just avail to turn the scale, and to detain men in Protestantism, who are open to the influence of tenderness towards friends, reliance on superiors, regard for their position, dread of present inconvenience, indolence, love of independence, fear of the future, regard to reputation, desire of consistency, attachment to cherished notions, pride of reason, or reluctance to go to school again. No one likes to take an awful step, all by himself, without feeling sure he is right; no one likes to remain long in doubt whether he should take it or not; he wishes to be settled, and he readily catches at objections, or listens to dissuasives, which allow of his giving over the inquiry, or postponing it sine die. Yet those very same persons who would willingly hide the truth from their eyes by objections and difficulties, nevertheless, if actually forced to look it in the face, and brought {xii} under the direct power of the Catholic arguments, would often have strength and courage enough to take the dreaded step, and would find themselves, almost before they knew what they had done, in the haven of peace.

These were some of the reasons for the particular line of argument which the Author has selected; and in what he has been saying in explanation, he must not be supposed to forget that faith depends upon the will, not really on any process of reasoning, and that conversion is a simple work of divine grace. He aims at nothing more than to give free play to the conscience, by removing those perplexities in the proof of Catholicity, which keep the intellect from being touched by its cogency, and give the heart an excuse for trifling with it. The absence of temptation or of other moral disadvantage, though not the direct cause of virtuous conduct, still is a great help towards it; and, in like manner, to clear away from the path of an inquirer objections to Catholic truth, is to subserve his conversion by giving room for the due and efficacious operation of divine grace. Religious persons, indeed, do what is right in spite of temptation; persons of sensitive and fervent minds go on to believe in spite of difficulty; but where the desire of truth is languid, and the religious purpose weak, such impediments suffice to prevent conviction, and faith will not be created in the mind, though there are abundant reasons for its creation. In these circumstances, it is quite as much an act of charity to attempt the removal of objections to the truth, which, without excusing, are made the excuse for unbelief, as to remove the occasion of sin in any other department of duty. {xiii}

It is plain that the Author is rather describing what his Lectures were intended to be, than what they have turned out. He found it impossible to fulfil what he contemplated within the limits imposed upon him by the circumstances under which they were written. The very first objection which he took on starting, the alleged connection of the Movement of 1833 with the National Church, has afforded matter for the greater part of the course; and, before he had well finished the discussion of it, it was getting time to think of concluding, and that, in any such way as would give a character of completeness to the whole. Else, after the seventh Lecture, it had been his intention to proceed to the consideration of the alleged claim of the National Church on the allegiance of its members; of the alleged duty of our remaining in the communion in which we were born; of the alleged danger of trusting to reason; of the alleged right of the National Church to forbid doubt about its own claims; of the alleged uncertainty which necessarily attends the claims of any religion whatever; of the tests of certainty; of the relation of faith to reason; of the legitimate force of objections; and of the matter of Catholic evidence. He is ashamed to continue the list much further, lest he should seem to have been contemplating what was evidently impracticable; all he can say in extenuation is, that he never aimed at going more fully into any of the subjects of which he was to treat, than he has done in the sketches which now he presents to the reader. Lastly, he had proposed to end his course with a notice of the objections made by Protestants to particular doctrines, as Purgatory, Intercession of the Saints, and the like. {xiv}

Incomplete, however, as the Lectures may be with reference to the idea with which they were commenced, or compared with what might be said upon each subject which is successively treated, of course he makes no apology for the actual matter of them; else he should not have delivered or published them. It has not been his practice to engage in controversy with those who have felt it their duty to criticise what at any time he has written; but that will not preclude him, under present circumstances, from elucidating what is deficient in them by further observations, should questions be asked, which, either from the quarter whence they proceed, or from their intrinsic weight, have, according to his judgment, a claim upon his attention.

BIRMINGHAM, July 14, 1850.

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Title Page





 1. In Twelve Lectures addressed in 1850 to the Party of the
Religious Movement of




 VOL. 1.





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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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