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This article was written by William Samuel Lilly and was published in 1894.
John Henry Newman, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, was born in the city of London on 21 February 1801. His father, John Newman, who is said to have been of a family of small landed proprietors in Cambridgeshire, was of Dutch extraction, the name being originally spelt Newmann, and was a partner in the banking house of Ramsbottom, Newman, & Co. His mother, Jemima Fourdrinier, belonged to a well-known Huguenot family, long established in London as engravers and paper manufacturers. Newman was the eldest of six children, three boys and three girls. The second son, Charles Robert Newman, died at Tenby in 1884. The youngest was Francis William Newman, professor of Latin at University College, London. Of the three daughters, the eldest, Harriet Elizabeth, married Thomas Mozley; the second, Jemima Charlotte, married John Mozley of Derby; and the third, Mary Sophia, died unmarried in 1828.
At the age of seven Newman was sent to a private school of high character, ‘conducted on the Eton lines’ by Dr. Nicholas, at Ealing. There he inspired those about him with confidence and respect, by his general good conduct and close attention to his studies. It was thus early in his life that he made acquaintance with the works of Sir Walter Scott, to whom he always had a great devotion. Writing in 1871, he says: ‘As a boy, in the early summer mornings, I read “Waverley” and “Guy Mannering” in bed, when they first came out, before it was time to get up; and long before that — I think when I was eight years old — I listened eagerly to “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” which my mother and aunt were reading aloud.’ From a child he was brought up to take great delight in reading the Bible. His imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers and talismans. He thought life might be a dream, himself an angel, and all this world deception. ‘I was very superstitious,’ he adds, ‘and for some time previous to my conversion used constantly to cross myself before going into the dark.’ This ‘inward conversion,’ of which, he writes in the ‘Apologia,’ ‘I am still more certain than that I have hands or feet,’ he dates in the autumn of 1816, when he was fifteen. ‘I fell under the influence of a definite creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma which have never been effaced or obscured.’ The religious literature which he read at this time was chiefly Calvinistic, although a work of a character very opposite to Calvinism — Law's ‘Serious and Devout Call’ — produced a great impression upon his mind. His first acquaintance with the fathers was made in the autumn of 1816, through the long extracts which are given in Milner's ‘Church History,’ and of which he ‘was nothing short of enamoured.’ Simultaneously with Milner he read ‘Newton on the Prophecies’, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the anti-christ predicted by Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John.
He was entered at Trinity College, Oxford, on 14 December 1816, when he was yet two months short of sixteen. In the following June he was called into residence, and he then made the acquaintance of John William Bowden, an acquaintance which ripened into a very intimate friendship. His tutor was the Rev. Thomas Short, whose good opinion he soon won, and never lost, and who appears to have directed his reading with much judgment. In 1818 he gained one of the Trinity scholarships of £60, tenable for nine years, which had been lately thrown open to university competition. In 1819 the bank in which his father was a partner stopped payment. ‘There was no bankruptcy,’ he wrote: ‘every one was paid in full.’ But it was the beginning of a great family trial. In the same year Newman was entered at Lincoln's Inn, where he kept a few terms, it being at this time his father's intention to send him to the bar.
The Trinity scholarship was the only distinction which fell to him during his academical career. He passed with credit his first university examination, but, standing for the highest honours in the final examination, he did badly. ‘He had over-read himself, and, being suddenly called up a day sooner than he expected, utterly broke down, and, after vain attempts for seven days, had to retire, only making first sure of his B.A. degree.’ His name was found ‘below the line’ in the second division of the second class of honours. He was not then twenty, whereas the usual age for graduating was twenty-two.
After graduating B.A. in 1820, Newman remained in Oxford, receiving private pupils, and shortly formed the design of standing for a fellowship at Oriel, ‘the acknowledged centre of Oxford intellectualism.’ In preparation for the examination he gave considerable time to Latin composition, logic, and natural philosophy. He was successful in the competition, and was elected fellow of Oriel on 12 April 1822, a day which he ‘ever felt the turning-point of his life, and of all days most memorable.’
In 1823 the Athenæum Club was founded in London, and Newman was invited to become an original member, but declined the invitation. In the same year Edward Bouverie Pusey was elected fellow of Oriel, and Newman's friendship with him began. On Trinity Sunday, 13 June 1824, he was ordained deacon, and became curate of St. Clement's Church, Oxford, when he did much hard parish work. He preached his first sermon on 23 June at Warton, from the text, ‘Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening.’ His last sermon, as an Anglican clergyman, was preached nineteen years later from the same text. During his early residence at Oriel he associated much with Edward Hawkins (1789-1882), then fellow of the college and vicar of St. Mary's, who did much to ‘root out evangelical doctrines from his creed.’ In 1824 he contributed to the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana’ an article on Cicero and a ‘Life of Apollonius of Tyana.’ In March 1825 he was appointed vice-principal of Alban Hall by the principal, Dr. Whately, with whom he was at the time in close and constant intercourse. His relations with Whately largely cured him of the extreme shyness that was natural to him. Newman says that he owed more to Whately than to any one else in the way of mental improvement, and that he derived from him ‘the idea of the Christian Church as a Divine appointment, and as a substantive body, independent of the State, and endowed with rights, prerogatives, and powers of its own.’ He had a large share in the composition of Whately's ‘Logic,’ as is testified in the preface to that work. He resigned his appointment of vice-principal of St. Alban Hall on becoming tutor of Oriel in 1826. He felt, as he wrote to his mother, that he had ‘a great undertaking in the tutorship;’ that ‘there was always a danger of the love of literary pursuits assuming too prominent a place in the thoughts of a college tutor, or of his viewing his situation merely as a secular office.’ In the same year Richard Hurrell Froude was elected fellow of Oriel, a friend whose influence Newman felt ‘powerful beyond all others to which he had been subjected,’ and whom he described as ‘one of the acutest and cleverest and deepest men in the memory of man.’ In this year, too, he contributed his ‘Essay on Miracles’ to the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana.’ In 1827 he was appointed by William Howley, then bishop of London, one of the preachers at Whitehall. In 1827-8 he was public examiner in classics in the final examination for honours.
In 1828 Hawkins was elected provost of Oriel, in preference to Keble, largely through Newman's influence. In vindication of his choice, Newman said laughingly that if they were electing an angel he would of course vote for Keble, but ‘the case was different’. Pusey afterwards regretted the election, but ‘without it,’ wrote Newman many years later, ‘there would have been no Movement, no Tracts, no Library of the Fathers’. On succeeding to the provostship, Hawkins vacated the vicarage of St. Mary's, the university church, and Newman was presented by his college to the vacant living. In February 1829 he strenuously opposed, on purely academical grounds, Peel's re-election as M.P. for the university, although he had hitherto petitioned annually in favour of Catholic emancipation. A breach between himself and Whately followed, and his association with Keble and Froude gradually grew closer. It was at this time that he began systematically to read the fathers, with a view to writing a history of the principal councils, a design that resulted in his ‘Arians of the Fourth Century’. In 1830 he served as pro-proctor. In the same year he was ‘turned out of the secretaryship of the Church Missionary Society at Oxford,’ because of a pamphlet which he had written expressive of his dissatisfaction with its constitution. He thought there was no principle recognised by it on which churchmen could take their stand. This marks his definitive breach with the evangelical party, shreds and tatters of whose doctrine had up to this time hung about him. He found, as he expressed it, that ‘Calvinism was not a key to the phenomena of human nature, as they occur in the world.’ He adds that ‘the Evangelical teaching, considered as a system and in what was peculiar to itself, failed to find a response in his own religious experience, or afterwards in his parochial.’ In 1831-2 he was one of the select university preachers. This may be called the last step in his public career at Oxford. In 1829 differences had sprung up between himself and the provost of Oriel regarding the duties and responsibilities attaching to his tutorship. He considered the office as of a ‘substantially religious nature,’ which Hawkins did not. The immediate occasion of the disagreement was ‘a claim of the tutors to use their own discretion in the arrangement of the ordinary terminal lecture table.’ Hurrell Froude and Wilberforce supported Newman. But in the struggle which ensued the provost won the victory, and the opposing tutors in 1832 had to resign their posts in the college.
‘Humanly speaking,’ Newman afterwards wrote, ‘the Oxford Movement never would have been had Newman not been deprived of his tutorship, or had Keble, not Hawkins, been provost.’ In December 1832 Newman and his colleague Hurrell Froude went to the south of Europe for Froude's health. In company with Froude and his father, Archdeacon Froude, he visited Gibraltar, Malta, the Ionian Islands, parts of Sicily, Naples, and Rome, where he made the acquaintance of Cardinal (then Dr.) Wiseman. He thought Rome ‘the most wonderful place in the world.’ But he was not attracted by its religion, which seemed to him ‘polytheistic, degrading, and idolatrous.’ It was in Rome that Newman and Froude began the ‘Lyra Apostolica;’ some of the poems included in it were written earlier, and one or two at a later period, but most were composed during this expedition. In April 1833 the Froudes left Rome for France, and Newman returned to Sicily, ‘drawn by a strange love to gaze upon its cities and its mountains.’ At Leonforte he fell dangerously ill of a fever, and during the height of his malady kept exclaiming, ‘I shall not die, I have a work to do.’ In June 1833 he left Palermo for Marseilles in an orange-boat. It was during this voyage, when becalmed for a whole week in the straits of Bonifacio, that his most popular verses, ‘Lead kindly light,’ were written. On 9 July 1833 he reached his mother's house at Iffley. Five days afterwards Keble preached his assize sermon at St. Mary's on national apostasy, which Newman considered the start of the Oxford movement.
Dean Church has observed that the Oxford movement was ‘the direct result of the searchings of heart and the communings for seven years from 1826 to 1833 of Keble, Froude, and Newman.’ ‘Keble had given the inspiration, Froude had given the impetus, then Newman took up the work.’ The moment of Newman's landing in England was, as he himself describes it, ‘critical.’ ‘Ten Irish bishoprics had been at a sweep suppressed, and church people were told to be thankful that things were no worse. It was time to move if there was to be any moving at all.’ Between 25 and 29 July William Palmer, Hurrell Froude, Arthur Philip Perceval and Hugh James Rose met together at Rose's rectory at Hadleigh. It was then resolved to fight for the doctrine of apostolical succession and the integrity of the prayer-book. And out of this meeting sprang the plan of associating for the defence of the church and the ‘Tracts for the Times.’ It was Newman himself who began the tracts, ‘out of his own head,’ as he expresses it, in September 1833. ‘But the Tracts,’ Dean Church writes, ‘were not the most powerful instruments in drawing sympathy to the movement. Without Mr. Newman's four o'clock sermons at St. Mary's the movement might never have gone on, certainly would never have been what it was. While men were reading and talking about the Tracts they were hearing the sermons, and in the sermons they heard the living meaning and reason and bearing of the Tracts, their ethical affinities, their moral standard. The sermons created a moral atmosphere in which men judged the questions in debate.’
Newman had already finished in July 1832 his volume on the ‘Arians,’ which was published at the close of 1833. It was ‘a book,’ as Dean Church judged, ‘which for originality and subtlety of thought was something very unlike the usual theological writings of the day,’ and which made its author's mark as a writer.
Towards the end of 1835 Dr. Pusey joined the ‘Oxford movement,’ and ‘became, as it were, its official chief in the eyes of the world;’ ‘a second head in close sympathy with its original leader, but in many ways very different from him.’ In 1836 Dr. Hampden was appointed regius professor of divinity at Oxford, greatly to the indignation of a considerable section of the university, the liberalism of his Bampton lectures having given much offence. One effect of the controversy which arose, and in which Newman took a leading part, chiefly by his ‘Elucidations of Dr. Hampden's Theological Statements,’ was to open the eyes of many to the meaning of the movement, and to bring some fresh friends to its side. But further Newman felt that as the person whom he and his friends were opposing had committed himself in writing, they ought so to commit themselves too. Hence he was led to the composition of a series of works in defence of Anglo-Catholicism, or the ‘Via Media,’ ‘the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson,’ the principles of which the movement maintained. The first of these was the volume entitled ‘The Prophetical Office of the Church viewed relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism.’ This treatise employed him for three years, from the beginning of 1834 to the end of 1836, and was published in March 1837. It was followed in March 1838 by the book on ‘Justification,’ in May by the ‘Disquisition on the Canon of Scripture,’ and in June by the ‘Tractate on Antichrist.’ These volumes — the contents of which were originally delivered as lectures in ‘a dark, dreary appendage to St. Mary's on the north side,’ called Adam de Brome's Chapel — did much to form a school of opinion which ‘grew stronger and stronger every year, till it came into collision with the nation, and with the church of the nation, which it began by professing especially to serve.’ At the same time Newman became editor of the ‘British Critic,’ which henceforth was naturally the chief organ of the tractarian movement. William George Ward used to express his doubt whether there was anything in all history like Newman's influence at Oxford at this period. Professor Shairp writes: ‘It was almost as if some Ambrose or Augustine of elder days had reappeared;’ and Mr. J. A. Froude declares: ‘Compared with him,’ all the rest were ‘but as ciphers, and he the indicating number.’ There is a great consensus of testimony to the same effect.
Dean Church tells us that the view of the church of England put forward in Newman's volume on ‘Romanism and popular Protestantism’ (1837) has become the accepted Anglican view. But in 1839 its expounder began to question its truth. In the summer of that year he set himself to study the history of the Monophysite controversy. During this course of reading a doubt came across him for the first time of the tenableness of Anglicanism. ‘I had seen the shadow of a hand on the wall. He who has seen a ghost cannot be as if he had never seen it. The heavens had opened and closed again. The thought for a moment had been the church of Rome will be found right after all, and then it vanished. My old convictions remained as before.’ But in September of the same year a further blow came. A friend put into his hand an article by Dr. Wiseman on the ‘Anglican Claim,’ recently published in the ‘Dublin Review.’ The words of St. Augustine against the Donatists, quoted by the reviewer, ‘Securus judicat orbis terrarum,’ seemed to him to ‘pulverise’ the theory of the ‘Via Media.’ ‘They were words which went beyond the occasion of the Donatists, they applied to that of the Monophysites. 'They decided ecclesiastical questions on a simpler rule than that of antiquity. Nay, St. Augustine was one of the prime oracles of antiquity; here, then, Antiquity was deciding against itself.’ He wrote to a friend that it was ‘the first real hit from Romanism which had happened to him,’ that it gave him ‘a stomach ache.’ ‘From this time,’ Dean Church tells us, ‘the hope and exultation with which, in spite of checks, he had watched the movement, gave way to uneasiness and distress.’
In 1841 Newman published ‘Tract 90.’ ‘The main thesis of the essay was this: the Articles do not oppose Catholic teaching; they but partially oppose Roman dogma; they, for the most part, oppose the dominant errors of Rome.’ He meant the tract as a test to determine how far the articles were reconcilable with the doctrines of the ‘Via Media.’ It was received with a storm of indignation, at first in Oxford, and subsequently throughout the country. Archibald Campbell Tait, then senior tutor of Balliol (afterwards archbishop of Canterbury), and three other senior tutors, published a letter charging the tracts with ‘suggesting and opening a way by which men might, at least in the case of Roman views, violate their solemn engagements to the university.’ And the board of heads of houses put forth a judgment expressing the same view. The tractarian party thus came under an official ban and stigma, and Newman saw clearly that his place in the movement was gone. In July he gave up the ‘British Critic’ to his brother-in-law, Thomas Mozley ‘Confidence in me was lost, but I had already lost full confidence in myself. The one question was, What was I to do? I determined to be guided not by my imagination, but by my reason. Had it not been for this severe resolve, I should have been a Catholic sooner than I was.’
But later in the same year (1841) Newman received what he describes as ‘three further blows which broke me.’ In the Arian history he saw the same phenomenon which he had found in the Monophysite. He ‘saw clearly that, in the history of Arianism, the pure Arians were the protestants, the semi-Arians were the Anglicans, and that Rome now was what it was then.’ While he was in the misery of this new unsettlement, the bishops one after another began to charge against him, and he recognised it as a condemnation, the only one in their power. Then came the affair of the Jerusalem bishopric, which exhibited the Anglican church as ‘courting an intercommunion with protestant Prussia and the heresy of the orientals, while it forbade any sympathy or concurrence with the church of Rome’.
‘From the end of 1841,’ Newman tells us in the ‘Apologia,’ ‘I was on my deathbed as regards my membership with the Anglican church, though at the time I became aware of it only by degrees.’ A year later he withdrew from Oxford and took up his abode at Littlemore, ‘with several young men who had attached themselves to his person and to his fortunes, in the building which was not long in vindicating to itself the name of the Littlemore Monastery.’ Here he passed the three years of painful anxiety and suspense which preceded his final decision to join the Roman church, leading a life of prayer and fasting and of monastic seclusion. ‘On the one hand,’ he tells us, ‘I gradually came to see that the Anglican church was formally in the wrong; on the other, that the church of Rome was formally in the right; then that no valid reason could be assigned for continuing in the Anglican, and again that no valid objections could be taken to joining the Roman.’ So in a letter to a lady, written in 1871, he states: ‘My condemnation of the Anglican church arose out of my study of the fathers.’ And similarly in his lectures on Anglican difficulties, he testified that the identity of the Catholicism of to-day with the Catholicism of antiquity was the reason why he was induced, ‘much against every natural inducement,’ to submit to its claims. In 1843 he took two very significant steps. In February he published in the ‘Conservative Journal’ a formal retractation of all the hard things he had said against the church of Rome, and in September he resigned the living of St. Mary's. On the 29th of that month he wrote to a friend: ‘I do so despair of the Church of England, and am so evidently cast off by her, and, on the other hand, I am so drawn to the Church of Rome, that I think it safer, as a matter of honesty, not to keep my living. This is a very different thing from having any intention of joining the Church of Rome.’ At the beginning of 1845 he commenced his ‘Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,’ and was hard at work at it through the year until October. As he advanced in it, his doubts respecting the Roman Church one by one disappeared. Before he reached the end he resolved to be received into the Catholic Church, and the book remains in the state in which it was then, unfinished. He was received in his house at Littlemore on 9 October by Father Dominic the Passionist.
Lord Beaconsfield, some years after the event, described the secession of Newman as a blow under which the church of England still reeled. Mr. Gladstone has expressed the opinion that ‘it has never yet been estimated at anything like the full amount of its calamitous importance.’ One immediate consequence of it was the break-up of the Oxford movement, although the spiritual forces of which that movement had been the outcome soon manifested themselves under other forms. Newman himself quitted Oxford on 23 February 1846, not to return for thirty-two years, and was called by Dr. Wiseman, the vicar apostolic of the midland district, to Oscott, where he spent some months. In October of the same year he went to Rome, where he was ordained priest and received the degree of doctor of divinity. On Christmas-eve 1847 he returned to England with a commission from Pius IX to introduce into this country the institute of the Oratory, founded in the sixteenth century by St. Philip Neri, whose bright and beautiful character had specially attracted him, and who, he writes in a letter dated 26 January 1847, reminded him in many ways of Keble, as ‘formed on the same type of extreme hatred of humbug, playfulness, nay, oddity, tender love for others, and severity.’ After his return, he lived first at Maryvale, Old Oscott, then at St. Wilfrid's College, Cheadle, and subsequently at Alcester Street, Birmingham, where he established the Oratory, which was subsequently removed to Edgbaston. An important memorial of his activity during these first years of his Catholic life is his volume of ‘Discourses to Mixed Congregations,’ published in 1849 — sermons which certainly surpass in power and pathos all his former productions, and which reveal him at his greatest as a preacher. It was in 1849 that he and Father St. John volunteered to assist the Catholic priests at Bilston during a severe visitation of cholera, taking the place of danger, which the bishop had designed for others. In 1850 he founded the London Oratory, which subsequently became an independent house, with Father Faber as its head.
In July 1850 Newman published his ‘Twelve Lectures,’ addressed to the party of the religious movement of 1833 on the difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic teaching. The aim of the volume, as he explained in the preface, was ‘to give fair play to the conscience by removing those perplexities in the view of Catholicity which keep the intellect from being touched by its agency, and give the heart an excuse for trifling with it.’ In October of the same year took place the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England, popularly called the Papal Aggression, which at once produced a violent anti-Catholic agitation. Among other means resorted to for fanning it was the employment of an apostate Dominican monk, named Achilli, to declaim in various parts of the country against the church of Rome. On the other hand Newman delivered to the brothers of the Little Oratory in Birmingham his ‘Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics,’ which were published in September 1851. In the course of one of them he was led to expose the moral turpitude of Achilli with much plainness of speech, and in consequence a criminal information for libel was laid against him. He put in a general plea of not guilty, and then a justification consisting of twenty-three counts, in which, specifying time, date, and circumstance, he charged Dr. Achilli with as many damnatory facts as those named in his lecture. At the trial in the court of queen's bench on 21, 22, 23, and 24 June 1852 a number of witnesses, brought for the most part from Italy, gave evidence establishing those facts. The jury, however, influenced probably by the summing up of the presiding judge (Lord Campbell) in a sense adverse to the defendant, gave their verdict against him, and, a motion for a new trial having been refused, Newman was fined £100 by Mr. Justice Coleridge on 23 January 1853. His expenses in connection with this case, amounting to over £14,000, were defrayed by a public subscription, to which many foreign Catholics contributed.
In 1854 Newman went to Dublin, at the invitation of the Irish Catholic bishops, as rector of the Catholic university, recently established there. It is related in the ‘Memoirs’ of Mr. J. R. Hope Scott that this invitation was given in consequence of a suggestion made by him to Archbishop (afterwards Cardinal) Cullen, who eagerly adopted it, exclaiming, ‘If we once had Dr. Newman engaged as president, I would fear for nothing. After that everything would be easy.’ The event did not justify this expectation. The Catholic university in Dublin was, from the first, a predestined failure, owing to its non-recognition by the state and many other causes, one of which unquestionably was a certain native incapacity in Newman himself for practical organisation. Newman's special gift was not of rule, but of intellectual, ethical, and spiritual inspiration. The most considerable outcome of the Dublin experiment was Newman's volume on the ‘Idea of a University,’ in which he laid down, with great precision of thought and power of language, what he considered the true aims and principles of education. After Newman's return to Birmingham, in 1858, he was much occupied with a project for the establishment at Oxford of a branch house of the Oratory, which might in some sort have become a Catholic college; he, indeed, went so far as to purchase the ground for it. The project, however, came to nothing in consequence of the opposition of certain influential Catholics, among them being Cardinal (then Provost) Manning and William George Ward. A scheme for a new English rendering of the Vulgate, which he took up at the suggestion of Cardinal Wiseman, shared the same fate, through the hostility, as is affirmed, of divers booksellers and others interested in the sale of the Douay version. In 1859 Newman established at Edgbaston the school for the sons of Catholics of the upper classes, in which, down to the day of his death, he took the deepest interest, and which has done much for higher Catholic education in England.
In January 1864 Charles Kingsley, reviewing anonymously in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ Froude's ‘History of England,’ took occasion to remark: ‘Truth for its own sake had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not to be.’ This passage being brought to Newman's notice, he at once wrote to Messrs. Macmillan complaining of this ‘grave and gratuitous slander.’ Thereupon Kingsley avowed himself its author, and a correspondence ensued, in which Newman called upon his accuser either to substantiate the charge by passages from his writings or to confess that he was unable to do so. Kingsley declined to adopt either of these courses, or to go beyond an expression of satisfaction that he had mistaken Newman's meaning. Newman's sense of justice was not satisfied, and he proceeded to publish the correspondence, appending to it certain pungent remarks of his own. Kingsley replied in a pamphlet, entitled ‘What, then, does Dr. Newman mean?’ where he returned to his original accusation, which he had professed to abandon, and endeavoured to support it by a number of extracts from various works of Newman, both Catholic and Anglican. By way of rejoinder, Newman wrote his ‘Apologia pro Vita Sua,’ in which, at the cost of no small suffering to a nature eminently sensitive and shrinking from publicity, the veil was lifted from forty-five years of his inner life. Few books have so triumphantly accomplished their purpose as that remarkable work. Its simple candour wrought conviction even in theological opponents, while it revolutionised the popular estimate of its author. From that time until his death, widely as most of his countrymen differed from his religious opinions, there was probably no living man in whose unswerving rectitude they more entirely believed, or for whom they entertained a greater reverence.
In 1868 the new and uniform edition of Newman's works began with the republication of his Oxford ‘Plain and Parochial Sermons.’ The series was brought to a close in 1881 by his translation of the select treatises of St. Athanasius against the Arians. It extends to thirty-six volumes. Two of them, specially curious and interesting, are those entitled ‘The Via Media,’ which contain lectures, tracts, and letters written between 1830 and 1841 in exposition of that system, with an elaborate preface and frequent notes, wherein the author corrects and refutes his former self.
In 1874 Mr. Gladstone published an article in the ‘Contemporary Review,’ in the course of which he asserted, with special reference to the decrees of the Vatican council, that Rome had equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history, and that ‘no one can become her convert without renouncing his moral and mental freedom, and placing his civil loyalty and duty at the mercy of another.’ These propositions were shortly afterwards embodied and defended by their author in a pamphlet on the Vatican decrees in their bearing on civil allegiance. To which Newman replied in his ‘Letter to the Duke of Norfolk,’ his argument being that the papal prerogatives asserted by the Vatican council do not and cannot touch the civil allegiance of Catholics. The weight of Newman's reply was the greater from the fact that, although personally holding the doctrine of the Pope's infallibility, he had no sympathy with the tone and temper of some of its most prominent supporters, and in a private letter to his bishop, surreptitiously published, had denounced the proceedings of ‘an insolent and aggressive faction’ bent upon carrying it. Similarly in the ‘Letter to the Duke of Norfolk’ he expressed his aversion to ‘the chronic extravagances of knots of Catholics here and there,’ who ‘stated truths in the most paradoxical form, and stretched principles till they were close upon snapping.’
In 1877 Newman was elected an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, and in February 1878 he visited Oxford for the first time since his departure in 1846. In the same month Pius IX died, and was succeeded by Leo XIII. Towards the close of 1878 several leading English Catholic laymen represented to Leo XIII the great work which Newman had accomplished for religion in England, and the high place he held in general estimation. Cardinal Manning supported these representations, and the Pope showed his full appreciation of Newman's worth and merits by calling him to the sacred college. To Newman this honour was wholly unexpected. Such an elevation, he said, had never come into his thoughts, and seemed to him out of keeping with his antecedents. The honour was the greater as it was accompanied by an exemption from the obligation of residence at the pontifical court, hardly ever given save to cardinals who are diocesan bishops. Newman set out for Rome on 16 April 1879, and on 12 May was formally created cardinal of the title of St. George in Velabro. On 1 July he returned to Edgbaston. He paid another visit to Trinity College, Oxford, over Trinity Sunday and Monday, 1880, and preached in St. Aloysius's Church. But, with the exception of rare and short visits to London, he thenceforth remained at Edgbaston until his death on 11 Aug. 1890. After lying in state at the Oratory he was buried at Rednall.
Upon the occasion of his receiving in the Palazzo delle Pigne at Rome the biglietto, formally announcing his elevation to the sacred college, Newman delivered an address to the distinguished company assembled to do him honour, in the course of which he reviewed his own life and work. His testimony of himself was that ‘for thirty, forty, fifty years he had resisted, to the best of his power, the spirit of liberalism in religion,’ by ‘liberalism’ being meant ‘the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another,’ and in that resistance he found the main principle running through all his writings and through all his actions. No doubt Newman was well warranted in thus regarding his career. Certain it is that the conception of Christianity as the absolute religion, as a revelation possessing supreme objective authority, and offering a precise, definite, and inerrant teaching regarding all the great problems of life, was the dominant idea to which he ever clung. In his youth, under the influence of Thomas Scott (1747-1821) and Thomas Newton, he took the popular evangelical view that the Bible is the present infallible and all-sufficient oracle of divine truth. Gradually this opinion dropped off from him. He found, as he thought, in matter of fact, that the sacred scriptures of Christianity were not intended nor fitted to serve as the arbiter of doctrine and practice in religion. ‘We have tried the book,’ he wrote, ‘and it disappoints, because it is used for a purpose for which it was not given. Either no objective revelation has been given, or it has been provided with a means of impressing its objectiveness on the world.’ Thus was he led to the conception of an infallible church. For years he sought to realise this notion in the national establishment, and to give to it — in its officers, its laws, its usages, its worship — that devotion and obedience which he deemed correlative to the very idea of a church. This was the true scope of the tractarian movement, which aroused Oxford from the spiritual torpor of centuries. The condemnation of that movement by the Anglican episcopate was a fatal blow to its leader. His initial principle, his basis, external authority, was cut away from under his feet. The choice open to him was either to forget his most keen and luminous convictions, or to look out for truth and peace elsewhere. After much anxious thought he decided that the church of Rome was the true home of the idea which he could not surrender. And then, in the words of his last Anglican sermon, ‘The Parting of Friends,’ ‘he passed over that Jordan and set out upon his dreary way. He parted with all that his heart loved, and turned his face to a strange land.’ Newman's main contribution to religious controversy has been to present with all the power of his great dialectical skill, with all the winningness of his noble personality, with all the majesty of his regal English, the thesis illustrated by his life — that the communion of Rome alone satisfies the conception of the church as a divine kingdom in the world. He was far too clear-sighted not to discern, and far too candid not to allow, the difficulties which the claims of the papacy present. Still his conclusion was: ‘There is no help for it; we must either give up the belief in the Church as a divine institution altogether, or we must recognise it in that communion of which the Pope is the head; we must take things as they are; to believe in a church is to believe in the Pope.’ And a church seemed to him in the system of revelation what conscience is in the system of nature. It is sometimes said that Newman's defence of his own creed was confined to the proposition that it is the only possible alternative to atheism. So to state his teaching is to caricature it. Starting from the being of God, a truth impressed upon him irresistibly by the voice of conscience, he holds it urgently probable that a revelation has been given. And if a revelation has been given, he considers that it must be sought in Christianity, of which he regards Catholicism as the only form historically or philosophically tenable. His conclusion is: ‘Either the Catholic religion is verily and indeed the coming of the unseen world into this, or there is nothing positive, nothing dogmatic, nothing real in any of our notions as to whence we come or whither we go.’
This is, in substance, the argument which Newman opposed to ‘liberalism in religion.’ So far as the fundamental ideas of his theological and philosophical creed are concerned, he changed very little during his long life. No doubt the key to his mind is to be found in the school of Alexandria, by which he was so strongly influenced at the beginning of his career. Origen and Clement never lost their hold upon him. Even with regard to a distinctively anti-Catholic doctrine, which he imbibed very early in life, he varied much less than is commonly supposed. For many years antichrist was for him the Pope. When he gave up this interpretation it was to substitute for it the spirit of the world working in the church for temporal ends. As he expressed it in writing to a friend in 1876, ‘The church is in the world and the world in the church and the world “totus in maligno positus est.” This is true in all ages and places.’ He never, from first to last, varied from the conviction, maintained in one of his ‘Sermons on Subjects of the Day,’ that ‘the strength of the church lies not in earthly law, or human countenance, or civil station, but in her proper gifts¾in those great gifts which our Lord pronounced to be beatitudes.’ His attitude to modern thought was by no means hostile. It may be truly said of him, as of another, that he sincerely loved light, and preferred it to any private darkness of his own. Thus, early in his Anglican days, he was led to hold freer views of inspiration than were common among his friends. Although the higher Teutonic criticism was never specially studied by him¾he was no German scholar¾he became increasingly conscious, as years went on, of the untenableness of much of the biblical exegesis commonly taught. His last publication was an essay in the ‘Nineteenth Century’ of February 1884, in which he treats of this theme with the extreme caution demanded by its delicacy, but distinctly lays down the pregnant principle: ‘The titles of the canonical books, and their ascription to definite authors, either do not come under their inspiration, or need not be accepted literally;’ ‘nor does it matter whether one or two Isaiahs wrote the book which bears that prophet's name. The church, without settling this point, pronounces it inspired in respect of faith and morals, both Isaiahs being inspired, and if this be assured to us, all other questions are irrelevant and unnecessary.’ Again, in one of his earliest publications — his ‘History of the Arians’ — he enunciated the broad proposition: ‘There is something true and divinely revealed in every religion. Revelation, properly speaking, is an universal, not a local gift;’ and in a private letter of 1882 he states that he holds this in substance as strongly as he did when it was written, fifty years before. Once more, his adoption of the theory of evolution in his essay on ‘Development’ is extremely significant. The abandonment of the old notion that Christianity issued as a complete dogmatic system from its first preachers, the admission that its creed grew by a gradual process, assimilating elements from all sides, is an immense concession to the method of scientific history. Lastly, the doctrine of the indefeasible supremacy of conscience found in him the most eloquent and most unwearied preacher. He is at one with Kant, whom up to 1884 he had never read, in regarding the categorical imperative of duty as the surest foundation of religion, in turning to man's moral being for the directest revelation. His prescient and sensitive intellect was profoundly penetrated by the spirit of the age, and sympathised instinctively with the conquests of the modern mind. And perhaps not the least important part of his work was to communicate this sympathy to many who came under his personal influence. As he himself wrote in 1830, ‘Men live after their death, not only in their writings and chronicled history, but still more in that ἄγραφος μνήμη exhibited in a school of pupils who trace their moral parentage to them.’
Newman wrote extensively on theological subjects; his works include many of the "Tracts for the Times".
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