Note 1. Passage from Blanco White
Note 2. Correspondence on Ecclesiastical Miracles


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Note 1. (p. 18.)

{404} THE following is the passage as it stands in Mr. Blanco White's work, a portion of which is extracted in Lecture 1.:—

"The Jesuits, till the abolition of that order, had an almost unrivalled influence over the better classes of Spaniards. They had nearly monopolized the instruction of the Spanish youth, at which they toiled without pecuniary reward; and were equally zealous in promoting devotional feelings both among their pupils and the people at large. It is well known that the most accurate division of labour was observed in the allotment of their various employments. Their candidates, who, by a refinement of ecclesiastical policy, after an unusually long probation, were bound by vows which, depriving them of liberty, yet left a discretionary power of ejection in the Order, were incessantly watched by the penetrating eye of the Master of Novices; a minute description of their character and peculiar turn was forwarded to the superiors, and at the end of the noviciate they were employed to the advantage of the community, without ever thwarting the natural bent of the individual, or diverting his natural powers by a multiplicity of employments. Wherever, as in France and Italy, literature was in high estimation, the Jesuits spared no trouble to raise among themselves men of eminence in that department. In Spain their chief aim was to provide their houses with popular preachers, and zealous, yet prudent and gentle, confessors. Pascal and the Jansenist party, of which he was the organ, accused them of systematic laxity in their moral doctrines, but the charge, I believe, though plausible in theory, was perfectly groundless in practice. If, indeed, ascetic virtue could ever be divested of its connatural evil tendency— if a system of moral perfection, that has for its basis, however disavowed and disguised, the Manichĉan doctrine of the two principles, could be applied with any partial advantage as a rule of conduct, it was so in the hands of the {405} Jesuits. The strict, unbending maxims of the Jansenists, by urging persons of all characters and tempers on to an imaginary goal of perfection, bring quickly their whole system to the decision of experience. They are like those enthusiasts who, venturing upon the practice of some Gospel sayings in the literal sense, have made the absurdity of that interpretation as clear as noonday light. A greater knowledge of mankind made the Jesuits more cautious in the culture of devotional feelings. They well knew that but few can prudently engage in open hostility with what, in ascetic language, is called the world. They now and then trained up a sturdy champion, who, like their founder Loyola, might provoke the enemy to single combat with honour to his leaders; but the crowd of mystic combatants were made to stand upon a kind of jealous truce, which, in spite of all care, often produced some jovial meetings of the advanced parties on both sides. The good fathers came forward, rebuked their soldiers back into the camp, and filled up the place of deserters by their indefatigable industry in engaging recruits.

"The influence of the Jesuits on Spanish morals, from everything I have learned, was undoubtedly favourable. Their kindness attracted the youth from their schools to their Company; and though it must be acknowledged that many arts were practised to decoy the cleverest and the wealthiest into the order, they also greatly contributed to the preservation of virtue in that slippery age, both by ties of affection and the gentle check of example. Their churches were crowded every Sunday with regular attendants, who came to confess and receive the sacrament. The practice of choosing a certain priest, not only to be the occasional confessor but director of the conscience, was greatly encouraged by the Jesuits. The ultimate effects of this surrender of the judgment are indeed dangerous and degrading; but in a country where the darkest superstition is constantly impelling the mind into the opposite extremes of religious melancholy and profligacy, weak persons are sometimes preserved from either by the friendly assistance of a prudent director, and the Jesuits were generally well qualified for that office. Their conduct was correct, and their manners refined. They kept up a dignified intercourse with the middling and higher classes, and were always ready to help and instruct the poor, without descending to their level. Since the expulsion of the Jesuits, the better classes for the most part avoid the company of monks and friars, except in an official capacity; while the lower ranks, from which these professional saints are generally taken, and where they reappear raised, indeed, into comparative importance, but grown bolder in grossness and vice, suffer more from their influence than they would by being left without any religious ministers."

He adds this note:—

"The profligacy now prevalent among the friars, contrasted with the conduct of the Jesuits, as described by the most credible living witnesses, {406} is excessively striking. Whatever we may think of the political delinquencies of their leaders, their bitterest enemies have never ventured to charge the order of Jesuits with moral irregularities. The internal policy of that body precluded the possibility of gross misconduct. No Jesuit could step out of doors without calling on the superior for leave and a companion, in the choice of whom great care was taken to vary the couples. Never were they allowed to pass a single night out of the convent, except when attending a dying person; and even then they were under the strictest injunctions to return at whatever hour the soul departed.'—Doblado's Letters in the New Monthly Magazine, 1821, vol. ii. pp. 157, 158.

An objection has been taken to the validity of the argument in the latter part of the same Lecture, in which it is attempted to expose the polemic which Protestants commonly use against the Catholic Church, by comparing it to a supposed tirade of some Russian against England; and that, upon the ground that the maxims of the English Constitution (e.g., the king can do no wrong) are confessedly fictions, whereas the Church's infallibility is a dogma expressing a truth. In this particular respect, certainly, the cases are not parallel; but they need not be parallel for the argument. The point urged against the Protestant is this—That, whereas every science, polity, institution, religion, uses the words and phrases which it employs in a sense of its own, or a technical sense, Englishmen, allowing and exemplifying this very principle in the case of their own Constitution, will not allow it to the divines of the Catholic Church. E.g., the "Omnipotence of Parliament" is a phrase of English law, in which the word omnipotence is taken otherwise than when it is ascribed to Almighty God; and so, too, when used by Catholic divines of the Blessed Virgin. If any one exclaims against its adoption, in the latter case, by Catholics, let him also protest against its adoption, in the former case, by English lawyers; if he rejects explanations, distinctions, limitations, in the latter case, and calls them lame, subtle, evasive, &c., let him do so in the former case also; whereas Protestants denounce such explanations as offered by Catholics, and take a {407} pride in them as laid down by English lawyers. In like manner, "the king can do no wrong" has a sense in constitutional law, though not the sense which the words would suggest to a foreigner who heard them for the first time; and "the Pope is infallible" has its own sense in theology, but not that which the words suggest to a Protestant, who takes the words in their ordinary meaning. And, as it is the way with Protestants to maintain that the Pope's infallibility is intended by us as a guarantee of his private and personal exemption from theological error, nay, even from moral fault of every kind; so a foreigner, who knew nothing of England, were he equally impatient, prejudiced, and indocile, might at first hearing confound the maxim, "the king can do no wrong," with the dogma of some Oriental despotism or theocracy.

For a fuller explanation of the argument, vid. Lecture VIII.

I may add that I have been informed since I published Lecture III., that Mr. Hallam, in a later edition than my own of his Middle Ages, has explained his severe remarks upon St. Eligius. Nothing less could be expected from a person of his great reputation.

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Note 2.

THE question of Ecclesiastical Miracles is treated in Lecture VII. solely with reference to their general verisimilitude, or the antecedent probability or improbability of their occurrence; that is, to the pre-judgment, favourable or otherwise, which spontaneously arises in our minds, upon hearing reports or reading statements of particular miraculous occurrences. This antecedent probability depends on two conditions—viz., first of all, whether there is an existing cause adequate to the production of such phenomena; and next, since there certainly is such—viz., the Creator—whether in the particular case, the alleged miracle sufficiently resembles {408} His known works in character and object to admit of being ascribed to Him. Two questions remain to be determined, which do not come into discussion in the Lecture; first, whether the fact under consideration is really miraculous—that is, such as not to be referable to the operation of ordinary processes of nature or of art; and, secondly, whether it comes to us with such evidence, either from sight or from testimony, as warrants us in accepting it as having really taken place.

Thus the liquefaction of St. Januarius' Blood at Naples, in order to its reception as miraculous—(1) must be possible; (2) must be parallel to God's known works in nature or in revelation, or suitable to Him; (3) must be clearly beyond the operation of chemical or other scientific means, or jugglery of man or evil spirit; and (4) must be wrought publicly.

The antecedent probability of such miracles is, I repeat, all that concerned me in Lecture VII.; but I went on, at the end of it, to avow my own personal belief in some of them as facts, lest I should be suspected of making a sham defence of what I did not in my heart myself accept. Here I subjoin, from the columns of the Morning Chronicle, a correspondence on this subject, which took place in 1851, between the late Dr. Hinds and myself, soon after the delivery of the Lecture:—

No. 1.

Y DEAR LORD,—A slip of a Norwich paper has been sent me, which purports to give a speech of the 'Bishop of the diocese,' delivered in St. Andrew's Hall, at a meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Though the name of the diocese is not stated, I cannot be mistaken, under the circumstances, in ascribing the speech to your lordship. Yet I know not how to credit that certain words contained in it, which evidently refer to me, should have been uttered by one who is so liberal, so fair, and temperate in his general judgments as your lordship.

"The word, are these:—'My friends, I have heard—and I am sure {409} all of you who have heard of it will share with me in the disgust as well as the surprise with which I have heard of it—that there is a publication circulated through this land, the stronghold of Bible Christianity—a publication issuing from that Church against which we are protesting, and which is, on the other hand, the stronghold of human authority—a publication issuing from one of the most learned of its members, a man who, by his zeal as a convert, and by his position and acceptance with that Church, speaks with the authority of the Church itself, and represents its doctrines and feelings—a publication, as I have heard with dismay, read, admired, circulated, which maintains that the legendary stories of those puerile miracles, which I believe until now few Protestants thought that the Roman Catholics themselves believed; that these legends have a claim to belief equally with that Word of God which relates the miracles of our God, as recorded in the Gospel, and that the authority of the one is as the authority of the other, the credibility of the one based on a foundation no less sure than the credibility of the other.'

"The statements here animadverted on are as contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church as they can be repugnant to your own views of Christian truth.

"Should I be right in supposing that you did not really impute them to me, I beg to apologise to you for putting you to the trouble of disavowing the newspaper account; but if, contrary to my expectation, you acknowledge them to be yours, I take the liberty of begging your lordship to refer me to the place in any work of mine in which they are contained.

"You will not, I am sure, be surprised if, at a moment like the present, when so many misrepresentations are made of Catholicism and its defenders, I should propose, as I do, to give the same publicity to any answer you shall favour me with, as has been given to the speech the report of which has occasioned my question.

"I am, my dear Lord, yours very faithfully,

No. 2.

"LONDON, October 8.
Y DEAR NEWMAN,—As I have already replied to an inquiry, the same as that which you make, in a letter to the Rev. W. Cobb, Roman Catholic priest in Norwich, I enclose a copy of that letter.

"If I have misrepresented you, you will, I hope, believe me when I say that it has been from misunderstanding you. Permit me to add, that {410} what has misled me is likely, you may be sure, to mislead others. I shall rejoice, therefore, at any public statement from you which may disabuse your readers of false impressions. When you are found to be maintaining (as you appear to do) that the miracles of the apostolic age were only the beginning of a like miraculous development, to be manifested and accredited through succeeding times, and professing your belief in the facts of this further miraculous development, in terms as solemn as those of a creed, it is very difficult to avoid the impression that the scriptural narratives are to be regarded as the beginning only of a series of the like histories, partaking of their credibility and authority, although the one may be called Scripture and the other legend.

"Time and circumstances have so long divided us, that I ought to apologize for the familiar mode in which I have addressed you; but your handwriting has brought back on my mind other days, and some dear friends, who were then friends and associates of both of us; and I would still desire you to believe me very truly yours,
S. N

No. 3 (enclosed in No. 2).

EVEREND SIR,—My absence from home when your letter was delivered, and my not having Dr. Newman's publications by me when I received it here, have caused a delay in my making reply to your inquiry. The work to which I alluded, when I stated, in St. Andrew's Hall, that he asserted for certain legendary accounts of miracles the same credibility which is claimed for the Scriptural narratives and statements of miracles, is his 'Lectures on Catholicism in England,' more particularly Lecture VII., p. 298. In this passage, after discriminating between some legends and others, as we discriminate between genuine Scripture and that which is either spurious or doubtful, he professes his faith in those the authority of which he pronounces to be unquestionable in terms such as these:—

"'I think it impossible to withstand the evidence which is brought for the liquefaction of the blood of S. Januarius at Naples, and for the motion of the eyes of the pictures of the Madonna in the Roman States. I firmly believe that Saints, in their lifetime, have before now raised the dead to life, crossed the sea without vessels, multiplied grain and bread, cured incurable diseases, and stopped the operation of the laws of the universe in a multitude of ways. Many men, when they hear an educated man so speak, will at once impute the avowal to insanity, or to an idiosyncrasy, or to imbecility of mind, or to decrepitude of powers, or {411} to fanaticism, or to hypocrisy. They have a right to say so if they will; and we have a right to ask them why they do not say it of those who bow down before the mystery of mysteries, the Divine incarnation.'

"He pursues the same view in his volume of 'Discourses for Mixed Congregations,' setting aside, as a thing of nought, the essential difference between the claim which Scripture has on our belief in miracles related there, and that of human legends for the like statements, and recognizing no difference but that of the marvellousness of the things related in the one or the other.

"'They (speaking of Protestants) have not in them the principle of faith, and, I repeat it, it is nothing to the purpose to urge that at least they firmly believe Scripture to be the Word of God. In truth, it is much to be feared that their acceptance of Scripture itself is nothing better than a prejudice or inveterate feeling impressed on them when they were children. A proof of this is this—that while they profess to be so shocked at Catholic miracles, and are not slow to call them "lying wonders," they have no difficulty at all about Scripture narratives, which are quite as difficult to the reason as any miracles recorded in the history of the saints. I have heard, on the contrary, of Catholics, who have been startled at first reading in Scripture the narrative of the ark in the deluge, of the Tower of Babel, of Balaam and Balak, of the Israelites' flight from Egypt and entrance into the promised land, and of Esau's and of Saul's rejection, which the bulk of Protestants receive without any effort of mind.'—Page 217.

"In his speech at the Birmingham meeting, he propounded the same view, in reference to God's revelation through nature, as he has, in the preceding passages, in reference to God's written word. He said on that occasion, if his words are rightly reported—'We have no higher proof of the doctrines of natural religion—such as the being of a God, a rule of right and wrong, and the like—than we have of the Romish system,' including, I must presume, all those legendary statements which he so strongly represents as part of that system.

"It would be very satisfactory to me to have any authoritative disclaimer of these publications as exponents of your Church's views; for they alarm me, from their tendency to bring into discredit that faith which, notwithstanding the serious differences that unhappily divide us, we still, God be thanked, hold in common, and cherish in common.

"I ought to add that, in giving those last words which you have quoted from the newspapers, the reporters must have heard me imperfectly, or have misapprehended me. I did not say that Dr. Newman asserted, for the miracles related in the Romish legends, credibility based upon the foundation of divine revelation no less than those of Scripture. What I said was, that he claimed for the miracles related in the legends, the authorship of which was human, the same amount of {412} credibility as for the miracles and divine revelations recorded in Scripture, the authorship of which was divine; thus leading his readers either to raise the authority of the legends to that of Scripture, or to bring down the authority of Scripture to that of the legends, the latter of which appeared me to be the more likely result.

"I am, rev. sir, your faithful servant,
S. N

No. 4.

Y DEAR LORD,—I thank you for the kind tone of your letter, which it was very pleasant to me to find so like that of former times, and for the copy you enclose of your answer to Mr. Cobb.

"Your lordship's words, as reported in the Norwich paper, were to the effect that I believed the ecclesiastical miracles to have 'a claim to belief equally with that Word of God which relates the miracles of our God as recorded in the gospels;' that I made 'the authority of the one as the authority of the other,' and 'the credibility of the one as based on a foundation no less sure than the credibility of the other.'

"You explain this in a letter to Mr. Cobb thus:—'I did not say that Dr. Newman asserted, for the miracles related in the Romish legends, a credibility based upon the foundation of divine revelation no less than those of Scripture. What I said was, that he claimed for the miracles related in the legends, the authorship of which was human, the same amount of credibility as for the miracles and divine revelations recorded in Scripture, the authorship of which was divine.'

"Will you allow me to ask you the meaning of your word 'credibility'? for it seems to me a fallacy is involved in it. Archbishop Whately says that controversies are often verbal. I cannot help being quite sure that your lordship's difficulty is of this nature.

"When you speak of a miracle being credible you must mean one of two things—either that it is 'antecedently probable,' or verisimile; or that it is 'furnished with sufficient evidence,' or proveable. In which of these senses do you use the word? If you describe me as saying that the ecclesiastical miracles come to us on the same evidence as those of Scripture, you attribute to me what I have never dreamed of asserting; if you understand me to say that the ecclesiastical miracles are on the same level of antecedent probability with those of Scripture, you do justice to my meaning, but I do not conceive it is of a nature to raise 'disgust.'

"I am not inventing a distinction for the occasion; it is found in Archbishop Whately's works; and I have pursued it at great length in my 'University Sermons,' and in my 'Essay on Miracles,' published in {413} 1843, which has never been answered as far as I know, and a copy of which I shall beg to present to your lordship.

"1. First, let us suppose you to mean by 'credible' antecedently probable, or likely (verisimile), and you will then accuse me of saying that the ecclesiastical miracles are as likely as those of Scripture. What is there extreme or disgusting in such a statement, whether you agree with it or not? I certainly do think that the ecclesiastical miracles are as credible (in this sense) as the Scripture miracles; nay, more so, because they come after Scripture, and Scripture breaks (as it were) the ice. The miracles of Scripture begin a new law; they innovate on an established order. There is less to surprise in a second miracle than in a first. I do not see how it can be denied that ecclesiastical miracles, as coming after Scripture miracles, have not to bear the brunt of that antecedent improbability which attaches, as Hume objects, to the idea of a violation of nature. Ecclesiastical miracles are probable, because Scripture miracles are true. This is all I have said or implied in the two passages you have quoted from me, as is evident from both text and context.

"As to the former passage of the two, I there say, that if Protestants are surprised at my having no difficulty in believing ecclesiastical miracles, I have a right to ask them why they have no difficulty in believing the Incarnation. Protestants find a difficulty in even listening to evidence adduced for ecclesiastical miracles. I have none. Why? Because the admitted fact of the Scripture miracles has taken away whatever prima facie unlikelihood attaches to them as a violation of the laws of nature. My whole Lecture is on the one idea of 'Assumed Principles,' or antecedent judgments or theories; it has nothing to do with proof or evidence. And so of the second passage. I have but said that Protestants 'have no difficulty at all about Scripture miracles, which are quite as difficult to the reason as any miracle recorded in the history of the saints.' Now, I really cannot conceive a thoughtful person denying that the history of the ark at the deluge is as difficult to reason as a saint floating on his cloak. As to the third passage you quote as mine, about 'revelation through nature,' and 'legendary statements,' I know nothing about it. I cannot even guess of what words of mine it is the distortion. Tell me the when and where, and I will try to make out what I really said. If it professes to come from my recent lectures, all I can say is that what I spoke I read from a printed copy, and what I printed I published, and what is not in the printed volume I did not say.

"2. But now for the second sense of the word 'credible.' Do you understand me to say that the ecclesiastical miracles come to us on as good proof or grounds as those of Scripture? If so, I answer distinctly, I have said no such thing anywhere. The Scripture miracles are credible, i.e., proveable, on a ground peculiar to themselves on the authority of God's Word. Observe my expressions. I think it 'impossible {414} to withstand the evidence which is brought for the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius.' Should I thus speak of the resurrection of Lazarus? should I say, 'I think it impossible to withstand the evidence for his resurrection?' I cannot tell how Protestants would speak, but a Catholic would say, 'I believe it with a certainty beyond all other certainty, for God has spoken.' Moreover, I believe with a like certainty every one of the Scripture miracles, not only that apostles and prophets 'in their lifetime have before now, raised the dead to life,' &c., but that Elias did this, and St. Peter did that, and just as related, and so all through the whole catalogue of their miracles. On the other hand, ecclesiastical miracles may be believed, one more than another, and more or less by different persons. This I have expressed in words which occur in the passage from which you quote, for, after saying of one, 'I think it impossible to withstand the evidence for' it, I say of another extraordinary fact no more than, 'I see no reason to doubt' it; and of a third, still less, 'I do not see why it may not' be; whereas, whatever God has said is to be believed absolutely and by all. This applies to the account of the ark; I believe it, though more difficult to the reason, with a firmness quite different from that with which I believe the account of a saint's crossing the sea on his cloak, though less difficult to the reason; for the one comes to me on the Word of God, the other on the word of man.

"The whole of what I have said in my recent Lecture comes to this; that Protestants are most inconsistent and one-sided, in refusing to go into the evidence for ecclesiastical miracles, which, on the first blush of the matter, are not stranger than those miracles of Scripture which they happily profess to admit. How is this the same as saying that when the grounds for believing those ecclesiastical miracles are entered on, God's Word through His Church, on which the Catholic rests the miracles of the Law and the Gospel, is not a firmer evidence than man's word, on which rest the miracles of ecclesiastical history?

"So very clear is this distinction between verisimilitude and evidence, and so very clearly (as I consider) is my own line of argument founded on it, that I should really for my own satisfaction like your lordship's assurance that you had carefully read, not merely dipped into, my Lecture, before you delivered your speech. Certain it is, that most people, though they are not the fit parallels of a person of your dispassionate and candid mind, do judge of my meaning by bits of sentences, mine or not mine, inserted in letters in the newspapers.

"Under these circumstances, I entertain the most lively confidence that your lordship will find yourself able to reconsider the word disgust, as unsuitable to be applied to statements which, if you do not approve, at least you cannot very readily refute. I am, my dear lord,
"With every kind feeling personally to your lordship,
Very truly yours,
OHN H. NEWMAN." {415}

No. 5.

"NORWICH, October 17.
Y DEAR NEWMAN,—One of the secretaries of the Bible Society has asked my permission to reprint what I said as Chairman of the meeting at Norwich. I will most readily avail myself of this reprint to withdraw the expression 'disgust,' as it appears to be offensive. I will also, as is due to you, have a note appended, referring to the passages in your writings to which my observations were more particularly directed, and stating that you disavow the construction which I put on them.

"At the same time I am unable still to come to any other conclusion than that of the dangerous tendency which I have represented them to have. If you maintain, as you distinctly do, not only the antecedent probability (credulity in that sense) of the legendary miracles, but your firm belief in certain of them, specifically stated as facts proved, and if you further contend that these miracles are only a continuation of those recorded in Scripture, the impression appears to me inevitable, that the legendary channel through which God must have appointed them to be attested and preserved has a purpose and authority the same with Scripture. What I should fear is, not indeed that the generality of your readers will exalt legends into Scripture; but that, seeing grounds for discrediting the legends, they will look on all narratives of miracles, scriptural and legendary, as alike doubtful, and more than doubtful. In short, your view, as I see it, tends to a scepticism and infidelity of which I fully acquit you.

"The report of your speech at Birmingham I read in the Times, but the quotation which I sent to Mr. Cobb, I took from a letter in the Spectator of Sept. 27, the writer's quotation, according with my impression of your speech as reported, containing words to that effect.

"The kind present which you propose for me will, I assure you, be valued, if for no more, as a token that we are still friends, notwithstanding a wide severance in matters of faith, and that we may still believe all things and hope all things for one another.

"My dear Newman, yours truly,
S. N

No. 6.

Y DEAR LORD,—I thank your lordship with all my heart for your very kind and friendly letter just received, and for your most frank and {416} ready compliances with the request which I felt it my duty to make to you.

"It is a great satisfaction to me to have been able to remove a misapprehension of my meaning from your mind. There still remains, I confess, what is no misapprehension, though I grieve it should be a cause of uneasiness to you—my avowal, first, that the miraculous gift has never left the Church since the time of the Apostles, though displaying itself under different circumstances, and next that certain reputed miracles are real instances of its exhibition. The former of these two points I hold in common with all Catholics; the latter on my own private judgment, which I impose on no one.

"If I keep to my intention of making our correspondence public it is, I assure you, not only as wishing to clear myself of the imputation which has in various quarters been cast upon my Lecture, but also in no slight measure, because I am able to present to the world the specimen of an anti-Catholic disputant, as fair and honourable in his treatment of an opponent, and as mindful of old recollections, as he is firm and distinct in the enunciation of his own theological view.

"That the Eternal Mercy may ever watch over you and guide you, and fill you with all knowledge and with all peace, is, my dear lord, the sincere prayer of
Yours most truly,


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