« VorigeDoorgaan »
the more so as their publication can scarcely be welcome in quarters whose authority he is not free to question, and to persons who have means of making their displeasure felt. That Mr Ward has exercised a certain discretion in the use of his material is probable; how his book will be received by authority remains to be seen. But his outspokenness is great. So much has been told us that it is difficult to think that anything of importance has been concealed. The result is a masterpiece of biography, a profoundly painful picture, and a criticism of the Church of Rome from within a criticism, it will seem to many, more damaging, because it is unconscious, than anything that has come from the avowedly Modernist school.
Newman stands high among the founders of what may be called Neo-Catholicism. The Catholic Church of the eighteenth century was a social rather than an intellectual or a moral force. It was part of the established order of things; it was neither aggressive nor propagandist; it asked no more than to be let alone. With the nineteenth came the reaction from the Revolution, represented by De Maistre on the political, by mystics like the Curé d'Ars on the religious, and by Newman on the intellectual side. The first saw in the Papacy the foundation of the social fabric; the second won men by a saintliness whose inspiration, little as it might be suspected, was independent of Church and creed; the third carried the war into the enemies' camp, exposing the weak points of popular Protestantism, and arguing for the identity of the notion of Christianity with that of the Roman Church. Newman was a great man of letters, and a master of English prose; his knowledge of certain sides of human nature was instinctive; he was a subtle and, within limits, an acute thinker; and he was one of the most consummate advocates who ever lived. He possessed the temperament of the artist in an exceptional degree; it does not make for the happiness either of its possessor or of those about him. • Deep natures' (says Mr Ward) are not the most equable. There will be bitter as well as sweet. Where there is intense love and gratitude there will be at times deep anger, deep resentment.' He was not easy to live with ; Manning's view of him--and it was shared by more friendly judges-was that he was difficult to understand.' His transports of emotion were tempestuous.
• Christie walked with him from Oxford to Littlemore when the great separation of 1845 was approaching. Newman spoke never a word all the way, and Christie's hand, when they arrived, was wet with Newman's tears. When he made his confession in Littlemore chapel his exhaustion was such that he could not walk without help. When he went to Rome to set right the differences with his brethren of London . . . he walked barefoot from the halting-stage of the diligence all the way to St Peter's. When Ambrose St John died, he threw himself on the bed by the corpse, and spent the night there.' ('Life,' i, 21.) Such a life is not normal; one cannot mistake the overstrain.
Newman had in an eminent degree the skill in verbal fence characteristic of the Oxford of his generation; but his mastery of expression was greater than his knowledge of fact. In this respect he resembled Mr Gladstone. Both had accustomed themselves to an economy' in the use of language to such an extent that plain men were often at a loss to know what they really meant. Reasoning meant more to him than truth, tradition than testimony. 'A fact is not disproved because the testimony is confused and insufficient'; and, .As if evidence were the test of truth!'* But in figures and modes and fine shades of meaning he was an expert; he analysed conceptions and refined upon terms. Never consciously insincere, he constantly gave the impression of insincerity. You could not detect the fallacy, but a true instinct told you
it was there, Hence the distrust inspired by that subtle and delicately lubricated illative rhetoric by which you are led downwards on an exquisitely elaborated inclined plane, from a truism to a probability, from a strong probability to a fair probability, and from a fair probability to a pious but most improbable belief.' †
When we start with assuming that miracles are not unlikely, we are putting forth a position which lies imbedded, as it were, and involved in the great revealed fact of the Incarnation. So much is plain at starting ; but more is plain too. Miracles are not only not unlikely, they are positively likely; and for this simple reason, because, for the most part, when God begins, He goes on. We conceive that when He first did
* • Essay on Miracles,' pp. 171, 231.
† Philomythus,' p. 32.
a miracle, He began a series; what He commenced, He continued; what has been, will be. Surely this is good and clear reasoning.'* From this position the advance is easy to the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius at Naples and the motion of the eyes of the pictures of the Madonna in the Roman States.' Hence the sense of insecurity with which his dialectical victories inspire us. The superstructure was brilliant, but it was built on sand. His life was one long crusade against the outlook over the world which he knew as Liberalism'; he left this Liberalism triumphant along the whole line. “Now it is scarcely a party; it is the educated lay world,' he says himself in the "Apologia' (cap. v). His name is associated with a movement which the English mind refused to take seriously, and which, while it has left a profound mark on the Anglican clergy, has driven a wedge between the English people and the English Church. He gave up all to follow his ideal; but, like the shores of Ausonia, as he advanced it retreated. The Church of the Fathers could not be reproduced in the nineteenth century. His conception of it, if unlike the actual Church of England, was at least as unlike the actual Church of Rome.
Nothing shows more clearly how far we have passed from the Oxford Movement than the effort of imagination required to picture the Oxford in which it originated. Newman described it in Loss and Gain'; but it is a world very remote from us. Lord Coleridge writes of the Sunday afternoon sermons at St Mary's: “There was scarcely a man of note in the University, old or young, who did not during the last two or three years of Newman's incumbency habitually attend the services and listen to the sermons.' We simply cannot reconstruct the situation. There has been no second Newman; but, if there were twenty, Oxford would not be affected in
It is not that there is less religion than formerly; it is probable that there is more. But it finds other modes of expression; the climate has changed. The distinctive note of the unreformed Oxford in which Newman was so dominant a figure was its provincialism; it stood outside the main stream of the European mind.
* Present Position of Catholics,' pp. 298 (306).
German, in spite of Bishop Lloyd's efforts, was almost unknown; Phrontisterion showed the level of speculative thinking; in theology every extravagance found a congenial home. As a divine, Newman did not rise above this level. His pulpit commentary on the massacre of the Canaanites-men, women and children by the Israelitish tribesmen under Joshua is typical. •Doubtless, as they slew those who suffered for the sins of their fathers, their thoughts turned, first to the fall of Adam, next to that unseen state where all inequalities are righted.' His dialectic, acute as it was, confined itself to the analysis of received terms and current conceptions. He did not attempt to go behind them; this, as David Lewis (who had been his curate) used to say, he would have thought wrong.
He had taken over from popular thought and Puritan tradition certain hard and fast antitheses-the religious and the secular, the supernatural and the natural, the Church and the world. These distinctions, taken absolutely, are misleading; they land us in a dualism which breaks up the essential unity of experience. More particularly is it fatal to the conception of movement in thought and in things. It sees the world as a series of fixed quantities; it forms stereotyped notions, corresponding to stereotyped objects of thought. But there are no fixed quantities in Nature, and consequently no fixed notions in thought. To conceive things in this way is to misconceive them. For us the world is a process; a thing becoming, not a thing become. To some this is a ' hard saying '; in religion, in particular, it cuts the ground (they think) from under their feet. For the theology which it offers is still in the making; it is subversive of preconceived ideas; it leaves many questions unanswered; it excludes, perhaps too deliberately, edification from its aim. It appears, consequently, inconclusive and halfhearted. Newman turned from it on both grounds; it offended at once his sense of completeness and his sensibility. His mission, as he conceived it, was one of relentless war against the “Liberalism" in thought that was breaking up ancient institutions in Church and State, and would not cease from its work till it had
* 'Parochial and Plain Sermons,' iii, 187.
destroyed religion.' There have been times when it has seemed to be so; when good men have distrusted learning because a little learning' has proved a dangerous thing. But the remedy has been not retreat, but advance; not less, but more knowledge; that twofold faith which has been described as "faith in criticism and faith in God.' If it is too much to say that Newman never attained to either, it is certain that he never succeeded in uniting the two. Evangelical as his early training had been, he looked at Evangelical religion from without. The terrors of the law held him. He believed, but .joy and peace in believing' were not his. In his sermons fear is a more prominent motive than love; God is presented rather as a centre of dogma than as a loving Father; the Gospel is not so much a message of salvation as a menace of judgment to come. He looked at Christianity as a creed-which it is not; and demanded from it a system-which it does not possess. And it was all or nothing. Protestantism is but the inchoate state
' or stage of a doctrine, and its final resolution is in Rationalism';* the conception of religion as a vital
a process, a thing living in and with the life of the race and the individual, was one which he never reached.
The old High Church party had not died out at Oxford. It had become somewhat soaked in port, and stiff-jointed with Erastianism; but men like Routh represented a certain learning and tradition. They were in the succession of the Caroline divines; and behind these stood those great, if ill-defined, figures, the Fathers, to whose authority the Reformers had appealed. Here, it seemed, was the solid ground Newman was in search of. • I ever kept before me' (he says) that there was something greater than the Established Church, and that that was the Church Catholic and Apostolic, set up from the beginning, of which she was but the local presence and the organ. She was nothing, unless she was this.'t This ecclesiastical conception of Christianity was the distinctive note of Tractarianism; and it was Newman's ambiguous legacy to the English Church-ambiguous, because it is capable of two interpretations, a spiritual and a material. * Ecclesia spiritus, non est Ecclesia