Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/868

This page needs to be proofread.




toned style, fertility of illustration, anil short .sharp cnergj', have lost nothing by Jigc. In tone they are severe and often melancholy, as if the utterance of an isolated spirit. Though gracious and even tender- hearted, Newman's peculiar temper included deep re- serve. He had not in his composition, as he says, a grain of conviviality. He was always the Oxford scholar, no democrat, suspicious of popular move- ments; but keenly interested in political studies as bearing on the fortunes of the Church. This disposi- tion was intensified by his friendship with Keble, whose "Christian Year" came out in 1827, and with R. Hurrell Froudc, a man of impetuous thought and self-<lenyiiig jiractice. In 1S32 he quarrelled with Dr. Hawkins, wlio would not endure the pastoral idea whiili Newman cherished of his college work. He resigned his tutorship, went on a long voyage round the Mediterranean with Froude, and came back to Oxford, where on 14 July, 1833, Keljle preached the Assize sermon on "National Apostasy". That day, the anniversary of the French Revolution, gave birth to the Oxford Movement.

Newman's voyage to the coasts of North Africa, Italy, Western Greece, and Sicily (Dec, 1832-July, 1833) was a romantic episode, of which his diaries have preserved the incidents and the colour. In Rome he saw Wiseman at the English College; the city, as mother of rehgion to his native land, laid a spell on him never more to be undone. He felt called to some high mission; and when fever took hira at Leonforte in Sicily (where he was wandering alone) he cried out, "I shall not die, I have not sinned against the hght." Off Cape Ortegal, 11 Dec, 1832, he had composed the first of a series of poems, condensed, passionate, and original, which prophesied that the Church would yet reign as in her youth. Becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio, he sought guidance through the tender verses, "Lead, Kindly Light", deservedly treasured by all the English-speaking races. They have been called the marching song of the Tractarian host. But during the earlier stages of that journey it was not clear, even to the leader himself, in what di- rection they were moving — away from the Revolution, certainly. Reform was in the air: ten Irish bishoprics had been suppressed; disestablishment might not be far off. There was need of resistance to the enemies without, and of a second, but a Catholic, reformation within. The primitive Church must somehow be re- stored in England.

Others met in committee and sent up an address to Canterbury; Newman began the "Tracts for the Times", as he tells us with a smile, "out of his own head". To him Achilles always seemed more than the host of the Acha;ans. He took his motto from the Iliad: "They shall know the difference now." Achil- les went down into battle, fought for eight years, won victory upon victory, but was defeated by his own weapons when "Tract 90" appeared, and retired to his tent at Litflemore, a broken champion. Neverthe- less, he had done a lasting work, greater than Laud's and likely to overthrow Cranmer's in the end. He had resuscitated the Fathers, brought into relief the sacramental system, paved the \v'ay for an astonishing revival of long-forgotten ritual, and given the clergy a hold upon thousands at the moment when Erastian principles were on the eve of triumph. "It was soon after 18.30", says Pattison grimly, "that the Tracts desolated Oxford life." Newman's position was des- ignated the Via Media. The English Church, he maintained, lay at an equal distance from Rome and Geneva. It was Catholic in origin and doctrine; it anathematized as heresies the peculiar tenets whether of Calvin or Luther; it could not but protest against "Roman corruptions", which were excrescences on primitive truth. Hence England stood bv the Fa- thers, whose teaching the Prayer Book handed down; it appealed to antiquity, and its norm was the undi-

vided Church. "Charles", said Newman, "is the king. Laud the prelate, Oxford the sacred city, of this principle." Patristic study became the order of the day. Newman's first volume, "The Arians of the Fourth Century", is an undigested, but valuable and characteristic, treatise, wholly Alexandrian in tone, dealing with creeds and sects on the hnes of the "Econ- omy". As a history it fails; the manner is confused, the style a contrast to his later intensity and direct- ness of expression. But as a thinker Newman never travelled much beyond the "Arians" (pubhshed 1833). It implies a my.stic philosophy controlled by Christian dogma, as the Church expounds it.

In the "Apologia" we find this key to his mental development dropped by Newman, not undesignedly. "I understood", he says, "... that the e.xterior world, physical and historical, was but the manifesta- tion to our senses of realities greater than itself. Na- ture was a parable, Scripture was an allegory; pagan literature, philosophy, and mythology, properly un- derstood, were but a preparation for the Gospel. The Greek poets and sages were in a sense prophets." There had been a "dispensation" of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. Both had outwardly come to nought ; from and through each had the evangeli- cal doctrine been made manifest. Thus room was granted for the anticipation of deeper disclosures, of truths still under the veil of the letter. Holy Church "will remain after all but a symbol of those heavenly facts which fill eternity. Her mysteries are but the expression in human language of truths to which the human mind is unequal" ("Apol.", ed. 189.5, p. 27). Such was the teaching that "came hke music" to his inward ear, from Athens and Alexandria. Newman's life was devoted, first, to applying this magnificent scheme to the Chiu-ch of England; and then, when it would not suit those insular dimensions, to the Church of the centre, to Rome. But its wide implications even this far-glancing \'ision did not take in. How- over, it substituted a dynamic and progressive princi- ple in Christianity for one merely static. But the Anglican position was supposed to rely on Vincent of Lerins's Qiwd ulrique, admitting of no real develop- ments; its divines urged against Bossuet the "va- riations" of Catholicism. From 1833 to 1839 the Tractarian leader held this line of defence without a misgiving. Suddenly it gave way, and the Via Media disappeared.

Meanwhile, Oxford was shaken hke Medicean Flor- ence by a new Savonarola, who made disciples on every hand; who stirred up sleepy Conservatives when Hampden, a commonplace don, subjected Christian verities to the dissolving influence of Nom- inalism; and who multiplied books and lectures deal- ing with all religious parties at once. "The Prophetic Office" was a formal apoloey of the Laudian type; the obscure, but often beautiful, "Treatise on Justifica- tion" made an effort "to show that there is little dif- ference but what is verbal in the various views, found whether among Catholic or Protestant divines" on this subject. Dollinger called it "the greatest master- piece in theology that England had producerl in a hun- dred years", and it contains the true answer to Puri- tanism. The "University Sermons", profound iis their theme, aimed at determining the powers and limits of reason, the methods of revelation, the pcssi- bilities of a real theology. Newman wrote so much that his hand almost failed him. Among a crowd of admirers only one perhaps, Hurrell Froude, could meet him in thought on fairly equal terms, and Froude passed away at Dartington in 18.30. The pioneer went his road alone. He made a had party-leader, being liable to sudden gusts and personal resolutions which ended in catastrophe. But from 1839, when be reigned at Oxford without a rival, he was already faltering. In his own language, he had .seen a — the shadow of Rome overclouding his Anghcan compromise.