Oxford University Sermons
John Henry Newman


Preface to Third Edition
Title Page

Revised May, 2001—NR.

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Title Page
  1. The Philosophical Temper, First Enjoined by the Gospel      1.
  2. The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively     16.
  3. Evangelical Sanctity the Perfection of Natural Virtue    37.
  4. The Usurpations of Reason    54.
  5. Personal Influence, the Means of Propagating the Truth    75.
  6. On Justice, as a Principle of Divine Governance    99.
  7. Contest between Faith and Sight  120.
  8. Human Responsibility, as Independent of Circumstances  136.
  9. Wilfulness, the Sin of Saul  156.
10.  Faith and Reason, Contrasted as Habits of Mind  176.
11. The Nature of Faith in Relation to Reason  202.
12. Love the Safeguard of Faith against Superstition  222.
13. Implicit and Explicit Reason  251.
14. Wisdom, as Contrasted with Faith and with Bigotry  278.
15. The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine  312.

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{v} WHEN I lately asked your leave to prefix your name to this Volume of Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, I felt I had to explain to myself and to my readers, why I had not offered it to you on its first publication, rather than now, when the long delay of nearly thirty years might seem to have destroyed the graciousness of my act.

For you were one of those dear friends, resident in Oxford, (some, as Charles Marriott and Charles Cornish now no more,) who in those trying five years, from 1841 to 1845, in the course of which this Volume was given to the world, did so much to comfort and uphold me by their patient, tender kindness, and their zealous services in my behalf.

I cannot forget, how, in the February of 1841, you suffered me day after day to open to you my anxieties and plans, as events successively elicited them; and much less can I lose the memory of your great act of friendship, as well as of justice and courage, in the {vi} February of 1845, your Proctor's year, when you, with another now departed, shielded me from the "civium ardor prava jubentium," by the interposition of a prerogative belonging to your academical position.

But much as I felt your generous conduct towards me at the time, those very circumstances which gave occasion to it deprived me then of the power of acknowledging it. That was no season to do what I am doing now, when an association with any work of mine would have been a burden to another, not a service; nor did I, in the Volumes which I published during those years, think of laying it upon any of my friends, except in the case of one who had had duties with me up at Littlemore, and overcame me by his loyal and urgent sympathy.

Accept then, my dear Church, though it be late, this expression of my gratitude, now that the lapse of years, the judgment passed on me by (what may be called) posterity, and the dignity of your present position, encourage me to think that, in thus gratifying myself, I am not inconsiderate towards you.

I am, my dear Dean,
Your very affectionate friend,

ADVENT, 1871.

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{vii} OF the following Sermons, the First, Third, and Sixth were preached by the Author in Vice-Chancellor's Preaching Turns; the Second in his own; the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth in his turns as Select Preacher.

The Six since 1832, which close the series, were preached in private College turns, which were made available to him, as being either at his own disposal or at that of his personal friends.

Though he has employed himself for the most part in discussing portions of one and the same subject, yet he need scarcely say, that his Volume has not the method, completeness, or scientific exactness in the use of language, which are necessary for a formal Treatise upon {viii} it; nor, indeed, was such an undertaking compatible with the nature and circumstances of the composition.

The above is the Advertisement prefixed to the Original Edition, dated February 4, 1843, except that, an additional Sermon being added to the present Edition—viz., No. 3—alterations in its wording were unavoidable.

December, 1871.

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{ix} THESE Discourses were originally published, except as regards some verbal corrections, just as they were preached. The author would gladly at that time have made considerable alterations in them, both in the way of addition and of omission; but, professing, as they did, to be "preached before the University," he did not feel himself at liberty to do so. Much less does he alter them now; all that he has thought it right to do has been, by notes in brackets at the foot of the page, to draw attention to certain faults which are to be found in them, either of thought or of language, and, as far as possible, to set these right.

Such faults were only to be expected in discussions of so difficult a character as some of them pursue, written at intervals, and on accidental, not to say sudden opportunities, and with no aid from Anglican, and no {x} knowledge of Catholic theologians. He is only surprised himself, that, under such circumstances, the errors are not of a more serious character. This remark especially applies to the Discourses upon the relation of Faith to Reason, which are of the nature of an exploring expedition into an all but unknown country, and do not even venture on a definition of either Faith or Reason on starting. As they proceed, however, they become more precise, as well as more accurate, in their doctrine, which shall here be stated in a categorical form; and, as far as possible, in the words used in the course of them.

1. Before setting down a definition of Faith and of Reason, it will be right to consider what is the popular notion of Faith and Reason, in contrast with each other.

"I have not yet said what Reason really is, or what is its relation to Faith, but have merely contrasted the two together, taking Reason in the sense popularly ascribed to the word," x. 45.

Vide also xii. 7, 11, 36; xiii. 1, 4; xiv. 32.

2. According to this popular sense, Faith is the judging on weak grounds in religious matters, and Reason on strong grounds. Faith involves easiness, and Reason slowness in accepting the claims of Religion; by Faith is meant a feeling or sentiment, by Reason an exercise of common sense; Faith is conversant {xi} with conjectures or presumptions, Reason with proofs.

"Whatever be the real distinction and relation between Faith and Reason, the contrast which would be made between them on a popular view, is this,—that Reason requires strong evidence before it assents, and Faith is content with weaker evidence," x. 17.

"Faith and Reason are popularly contrasted with each other; Faith consisting of certain exercises of Reason which proceed mainly on presumption, and Reason of certain exercises which proceed mainly upon proof," xii. 3.

Vide also 2, 7, 10, 36; and v. 19; x. 26, 32; xi. 17.

3. But now, to speak more definitely, what ought we to understand by the faculty of Reason largely understood?

"By Reason is properly understood any process or act of the mind, by which, from knowing one thing, it advances on to know another," xii. 2.

Vide also xi. 6, 7; xiii. 7, 9; xiv. 28.

4. The process of the Reasoning Faculty is either explicit or implicit: that is, either with or without a direct recognition, on the part of the mind, of the starting-point and path of thought from and through which it comes to its conclusion.

"All men have a reason, but not all men can give a reason. We may denote these two exercises of mind as reasoning and arguing," xiii. 9. Vide the whole of the discourse.

5. The process of reasoning, whether implicit or explicit, is the act of one and the same faculty, to {xii} which also belongs the power of analyzing that process, and of thereby passing from implicit to explicit. Reasoning, thus retrospectively employed in analyzing itself, results in a specific science or art, called logic, which is a sort of rhetoric, bringing out to advantage the implicit acts on which it has proceeded.

"Clearness in argument is not indispensable to reasoning well. The process of reasoning is complete in itself, and independent; the analysis is but an account of it," xiii. 10; vide 8.

"The warfare between Error and Truth is necessarily advantageous to the former, as being conducted by set speech or treatise; and this, not only from ... the deficiency of truth in the power of eloquence, and even of words, but moreover, from the very neatness and definiteness of method, required in a written or spoken argument. Truth is vast and far stretching, viewed as a system … hence it can hardly be exhibited in a given number of sentences. … Its advocate, unable to exhibit more than a fragment of the whole, must round off its rugged extremities, etc. ... This, indeed, is the very art of composition," &c., v. 21.

"They who wish to shorten the dispute, look out for some strong and manifest argument, which may be stated tersely, handled conveniently, and urged rhetorically," &c., xiii. 36.

Vide xiv. 30.

6. Again: there are two methods of reasoning— priori, and posteriori; from antecedent probabilities, or verisimilitudes, and from evidence, of which the method of verisimilitude more naturally belongs to implicit reasoning, and the method of evidence to explicit.

"Proofs may be strong or slight, not in themselves, but according {xiii} to the circumstances under which the doctrine professes to come to us, which they are brought to prove; and they will have a great or small effect upon our minds, according as we admit those circumstances or not. Now, the admission of those circumstances involves a variety of antecedent views, presumptions, implications, associations, and the like, many of which it is very difficult to detect and analyze," &c., xiii. 33.

Vide also 9, and xii. 36.

7. Again:—though the Reasoning Faculty is in its nature one and the same in all minds, it varies, without limit, in point of strength, as existing in the concrete, that is, in individuals, and that, according to the subject-matter to which it is applied. Thus, a man may reason well on matters of trade, taken as his subject, but be simply unable to bring out into shape his reasoning upon them, or to write a book about them, because he has not the talent of analyzing—that is, of reasoning upon his own reasonings, or finding his own middle terms.

"How a man reasons is as much a mystery as how he remembers. He remembers better and worse on different subject-matters, and he reasons better and worse. The gift or talent may be distinct, but the process of reasoning is the same," xiii. 10.

Vide also xi. 6.

8. This inequality of the faculty in one and the same individual, with respect to different subject-matters, arises from two causes:—from want of experience and familiarity in the details of a given subject-matter; and {xiv} from ignorance of the principles or axioms, often recondite, which belong to it.

"The man who neglected experiments, and trusted to his vigour of talent, would be called a theorist; and the blind man who seriously professed to lecture on light and colours could scarcely hope to gain an audience … He might discourse with ease and fluency, till we almost forgot his lamentable deprivation; at length on a sudden, he would lose himself in some inexpressibly great mistake," iv. 8.

"However full and however precise our producible grounds may be, however systematic our method, however clear and tangible our evidence, yet, when our argument is traced down to its simple elements, there must ever be something which is incapable of proof," xi. 18.

9. Hence there are three senses of the word "Reason," over and above the large and true sense. Since what is not brought out into view cannot be acknowledged as existing, it comes to pass that exercises of reasoning not explicit are commonly ignored. Hence by Reason, relatively to Religion, is meant, first, expertness in logical argument.

"Reason has a power of analysis and criticism in all opinions and conduct, and nothing is true or right but what may be justified, and, in a certain sense, proved by it; and unless the doctrines received by Faith are approvable by Reason, they have no claim to be regarded as true," x. 13.

Vide also 14, 16.

10. And again, since Evidences are more easily {xv} analyzed than verisimilitudes, hence reasonings, that is, investigations, on the subject of Religion, are commonly considered to be nothing but posteriori arguments; and Reason relatively to Religion becomes a faculty of framing Evidences. This, again, is a popular sense of the word, as applied to the subject of Religion, and a second sense in which I have used it.

"Reason is influenced by direct and definite proof: the mind is supposed to reason severely, when it rejects antecedent proof of a fact, rejects every thing but the actual evidence producible in its favour," x. 26.

"Reason, as the word is commonly used, rests on the evidence," x. 32.

11. The word "Reason" is still more often used in these Discourses in a third sense, viz., for a certain popular abuse of the faculty; viz., when it occupies itself upon Religion, without a due familiar acquaintance with its subject-matter, or without a use of the first principles proper to it. This so-called Reason is in Scripture designated "the wisdom of the world;" that is, the reasoning of secular minds about Religion, or reasonings about Religion based upon secular maxims, which are intrinsically foreign to it; parallel to the abuse of Reason in other subject-matters, as when chemical truths are made the axioms and starting-points in medical science, or the doctrine of final causes {xvi} is introduced into astronomical or geological inquiries.

Hence one of these Discourses is entitled "The Usurpations of Reason;" and in the course of it mention is made of "captious Reason," "forward Reason," &c. Vide note on iv. 9.

12. Faith is properly an assent, and an assent without doubt, or a certitude.

"Faith is an acceptance of things as real," xi. 9.

"Faith simply accepts testimony," x. 8.

"Faith is not identical with its grounds and its object," xiii. 4

"Faith starts with probabilities, yet it ends in peremptory statements; it believes an informant amid doubt, yet accepts his information without doubt," xiv. 34.

Vide also 39; x. 34; xi. 1; xv. 3.

13. Since, in accepting a conclusion, there is a virtual recognition of its premisses, an act of Faith may be said (improperly) to include in it the reasoning process which is its antecedent, and to be in a certain aspect an exercise of Reason; and thus is coordinate, and in contrast, with the three (improper) senses of the word "Reason" above enumerated, viz., explicit, evidential, and secular Reason.

"If Reason is the faculty of gaining knowledge upon grounds given, an act or process of Faith is an exercise of Reason, as being an instrument of indirect knowledge concerning things external to us," xi. 8, 9.

14. Faith, viewed in contrast with Reason in these {xvii} three senses, is implicit in its acts, adopts the method of verisimilitude, and starts from religious first principles.

Vide iv. 6; x. 27, 44; xi. 1, 25; xii. 3, 27, 37.

15. Faith is kept from abuse, e.g. from falling into superstition, by a right moral state of mind, or such dispositions and tempers as religiousness, love of holiness and truth, &c.

This is the subject of the twelfth discourse; in which, however, stress ought to have been also laid upon the availableness, against such an abuse of Faith, of Reason, in the first and second (improper) senses of the word.

The Author has lately pursued this whole subject at considerable length in his "Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent."

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Title Page




BETWEEN A.D. 1826 AND 1843





"Mane semina tuum, et vespere ne cesset manus tua. Quia nescis, quia
magis oriatur, hos aut illud; et si utrumque simul, melius erit."






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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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