Discourse 13. Mysteries of Nature and of Grace

{260} I AM going to assert what some persons, my brethren, those especially whom it most concerns, will not hesitate to call a great paradox; but which, nevertheless, I consider to be most true, and likely to approve itself to you more and more, the oftener you turn your thoughts to the subject, and likely to be confirmed in the religious history of this country as time proceeds. It is this: that it is quite as difficult, and quite as easy, to believe that there is a God in heaven, as to believe that the Catholic Church is His oracle and minister on earth. I do not mean to say that it is really difficult to believe in God (God Himself forbid!) no; but that belief in God and belief in His Church stand on the same kind of foundation; that the proof of the one truth is like the proof of the other truth, and that the objections which may be made to the one are like the objections which may be made to the other; and that, as right reason and sound judgment overrule objections to the being of a God, so do they supersede and set aside objections to the Divine mission of the Church. And I consider that, when once {261} a man has a real hold of the great doctrine that there is a God, in its true meaning and bearings, then (provided there be no disturbing cause, no peculiarities in his circumstances, involuntary ignorance, or the like), he will be led on without an effort, as by a natural continuation of that belief, to believe also in the Catholic Church as God's Messenger or Prophet, dismissing as worthless the objections which are adducible against the latter truth, as he dismisses objections adducible against the former. And I consider, on the other hand, that when a man does not believe in the Church, then (the same accidental impediments being put aside as before), there is nothing in reason to keep him from doubting the being of a God.

The state of the case is this;—every one spontaneously embraces the doctrine of the existence of God, as a first principle, and a necessary assumption. It is not so much proved to him, as borne in upon his mind irresistibly, as a truth which it does not occur to him, nor is possible for him, to doubt; so various and so abundant is the witness for it contained in the experience and the conscience of every one. He cannot unravel the process, or put his finger on the independent arguments, which conspire together to create in him the certainty which he feels; but certain of it he is, and he has neither the temptation nor the wish to doubt it, and he could, should need arise, at least point to the books or the persons from whence he could obtain the various formal proofs on which the being of a God rests, and the irrefragable demonstration thence resulting against the freethinker and {262} the sceptic. At the same time he certainly would find, if he was in a condition to pursue the subject himself, that unbelievers had the advantage of him so far as this,—that there were a number of objections to the doctrine which he could not satisfy, questions which he could not solve, mysteries which he could neither conceive nor explain; he would perceive that the body of proof itself might be more perfect and complete than it is; he would not find indeed anything to invalidate that proof, but many things which might embarrass him in discussion, or afford a plausible, though not a real, excuse for doubting about it.

The case is pretty much the same as regards the great moral law of God. We take it for granted, and rightly; what could we do, where should we be, without it? how could we conduct ourselves, if there were no difference between right and wrong, and if one action were as acceptable to our Creator as another? Impossible! if anything is true and Divine, the rule of conscience is such, and it is frightful to suppose the contrary. Still, in spite of this, there is quite room for objectors to insinuate doubts about its authority or its enunciations; and where an inquirer is cold and fastidious, or careless, or wishes an excuse for disobedience, it is easy for him to perplex and disorder his reason, till he begins to question whether what he has all his life thought to be sins, are really such, and whether conscientiousness is not in fact a superstition.

And in like manner as regards the Catholic Church; she bears upon her the tokens of divinity, which come home to any mind at once, which has not been possessed {263} by prejudice, and educated in suspicion. It is not so much a process of inquiry as an instantaneous recognition, on which the mind believes. Moreover, it is possible to analyse the arguments and draw up in form the great proof, on which her claims rest; but, on the other hand, it is quite possible also for opponents to bring forward certain imposing objections, which, though they do not really interfere with those claims, still are specious in themselves, and are sufficient to arrest and entangle the mind, and to keep it back from a fair examination of the proof, and of the vast array of arguments of which it consists. I am alluding to such objections as the following;—How can Almighty God be Three and yet One; how can Christ be God and yet man; how can He be at once in the Blessed Sacrament under the form of Bread and Wine, and yet in heaven; how is the doctrine of eternal punishment consistent with the Infinite Mercy of God;—or, again, how is it that, if the Catholic Church be from God, the gift of belonging to her is not, and has not been, granted to all men; how is it that so many apparently good men are external to her; why does she pay such honour to the Blessed Virgin and all Saints; how is it that, since the Bible also is from God, it admits of being quoted in opposition to her teaching; in a word, how is it, if she is from God, that everything which she does and says, is not perfectly intelligible to man, intelligible, not only to man in general, but to the reason and judgment and taste of every individual of the species, taken one by one? {264}

Now, whatever my anxiety may be about the next generation, I trust I need at present have none in insisting, before a congregation however mixed, on the mysteries or difficulties which attach to the doctrine of God's existence, and which must be of necessity acquiesced in by every one who believes it. I trust, and am sure, that as yet it is safe even to put before one who is not a Catholic some points which he is obliged to accept, whether he will or no, when he confesses that there is a God. I am going to do so, not wantonly, but with a definite object, by way of showing him, that he is not called on to believe anything in the Catholic Church more strange or inexplicable than he already admits when he believes in a God; so that, if God exists in spite of the difficulties attending the doctrine, so the Church may be of Divine origin, though that truth also has its difficulties;—nay, I might even say, the Church is Divine, because of those difficulties; for the difficulties which exist in the doctrine that there is a Divine Being, do but give countenance and protection to parallel difficulties in the doctrine that there is a Catholic Church. If there be mysteriousness in her teaching, this does but show that she proceeds from Him, who is Himself Mystery, in the most simple and elementary ideas which we have of Him, whom we cannot contemplate at all except as One who is absolutely greater than our reason, and utterly strange to our imagination.

First then, consider that Almighty God had no beginning, and that this is necessary from the nature of the case, and inevitable. For if (to suppose what {265} is absurd) the maker of the visible world was himself made by some other maker, and that maker again by another, you must anyhow come at last to a first Maker who had no maker, that is, who had no beginning. If you will not admit this, you will be forced to say that the world was not made at all, or made itself, and itself had no beginning, which is more wonderful still; for it is much easier to conceive that a Spirit, such as God is, existed from eternity, than that this material world was eternal. Unless then we are resolved to doubt that we live in a world of beings at all, unless we doubt our own existence, if we do but grant that there is something or other now existing, it follows at once, that there must be something or other which has always existed, and never had a beginning. This then is certain from the necessity of the case; but can there be a more overwhelming mystery than it is? To say that a being had no beginning seems a contradiction in terms; it is a mystery as great, or rather greater, than any in the Catholic Faith. For instance, it is the teaching of the Church that the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, yet that there is but one God; this is simply incomprehensible to us, but at least, so far as this, it involves no self-contradiction, because God is not Three and One in the same sense, but He is Three in one sense and One in another; on the contrary, to say that any being has no beginning, is like a statement which means nothing, and is an absurdity. And so again, Protestants think that the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence cannot be true, {266} because, if so (as they argue), our Lord's Body is in two places at once, in Heaven and upon the Altar, and this they say is an impossibility. Now, Catholics do not see that it is impossible at all, that our Lord should be in Heaven yet on the Altar; they do not indeed see how it can be both, but they do not see why it should not be; there are many things which exist, though we do not know how;—do we know how anything exists?—there are many truths which are not less truths because we cannot picture them to ourselves or conceive them; but at any rate, the Catholic doctrine concerning the Real Presence is not more mysterious than how Almighty God can exist, yet never have come into existence. We do not know what is meant by saying that Almighty God will have no end, but still there is nothing here to distress or confuse our reason, but it distorts our mental sight and makes our head giddy to have to say (what nevertheless we cannot help saying), that He had no beginning. Reason brings it home clearly to us, yet reason again starts at it; reason starts back from its own discovery, yet is obliged to endure it. It discovers, it shrinks, it submits; such is the state of the case, but, I say, they who are obliged to bow their neck to this mystery, need not be so sensitive about the mysteries of the Catholic Church.

Then think of this again, which, though not so baffling to the reason, still is most bewildering to the imagination;—that, if the Almighty had no beginning He must have lived a whole eternity by Himself. What an awful thought! for us, our happiness {267} lies in looking up to some object, or pursuing some end; we, poor mortal men, cannot understand a prolonged rest, except as a sort of sloth and self-forgetfulness; we are wearied if we meditate for one short hour; what then is meant when it is said, that He, the Great God, passed infinite ages by Himself? What was the end of His being? He was His own end; how incomprehensible! And since He lived a whole eternity by Himself, He might, had He so willed, never have created anything; and then from eternity to eternity there would have been none but He, none to witness Him, none to contemplate Him, none to adore and praise Him. How oppressive to think of! that there should have been no space, no time, no succession, no variation, no progression, no scope, no termination. One Infinite Being from first to last, and nothing else! And why He? Which is the less painful to our imagination, the idea of only one Being in existence, or of nothing at all? O my brethren, here is mystery without mitigation, without relief! how severe and frightful! The mysteries of Revelation, the Catholic dogmas, inconceivable as they are, are most gracious, most loving, laden with mercy and consolation to us, not only sublime, but touching and winning;—such is the doctrine that God became man. Incomprehensible it is, and we can but adore, when we hear that the Almighty Being, of whom I have been speaking, "who inhabiteth eternity," has taken flesh and blood of a Virgin's veins, lain in a Virgin's womb, been suckled at a Virgin's breast, been obedient to human parents, {268} worked at a humble trade, been despised by His own, been buffeted and scourged by His creatures, been nailed hand and foot to a Cross, and has died a malefactor's death; and that now, under the form of Bread, He should lie upon our Altars, and suffer Himself to be hidden in a small tabernacle!

Most incomprehensible, but still, while the thought overwhelms our imagination, it also overpowers our heart; it is the most subduing, affecting, piercing thought which can be pictured to us. It thrills through us, and draws our tears, and abases us, and melts us into love and affection, when we dwell upon it. O most tender and compassionate Lord! You see, He puts out of our sight that mysteriousness of His, which is only awful and terrible; He insists not on His past eternity; He would not scare and trouble His poor children, when at length He speaks to them; no, He does but surround Himself with His own infinite bountifulness and compassion; He bids His Church tell us only of His mysterious condescension. Still our reason, prying, curious reason, searches out for us those prior and more austere mysteries, which are attached to His Being, and He suffers us to find them out. He suffers us, for He knows that that same reason, though it recoils from them, must put up with them; He knows that they will be felt by it to be clear, inevitable truths, appalling as they are. He suffers it to discover them, in order that, both by the parallel and by the contrast between what reason infers and what the Church reveals, we may be drawn on from the awful discoveries of the one to the {269} gracious announcements of the other; and in order, too, that the rejection of Revelation may be its own punishment, and that they who stumble at the Catholic mysteries may be dashed back upon the adamantine rocks which base the throne of the Everlasting, and may wrestle with the stern conclusions of reason, since they refuse the bright consolations of faith.

And now another difficulty, which reason discovers, yet cannot explain. Since the world exists, and did not ever exist, there was a time when the Almighty changed that state of things, which had been from all eternity, for another state. It was wonderful that He should be by Himself for an eternity; moreover, it had been wonderful, had He never changed it; but it is wonderful, too, that He did change it. It is wonderful that, being for an eternity alone, He should ever pass from that solitary state, and surround Himself with millions upon millions of living beings. A state which had been from eternity might well be considered unchangeable; yet it ceased, and another superseded it. What end could the All-blessed have had in beginning to create, and in determining to pass a second eternity so differently from the first? This mystery, my brethren, will tend to reconcile us, I think, to the difficulty of a question sometimes put to us by unbelievers, viz., if the Catholic Religion is from God, why was it set up so late in the world's day? Why did some thousands of years pass before Christ came and His gifts were poured upon the race of man? But, surely, it is not so strange that the Judge of men should have {270} changed his dealings towards them "in the midst of the years," as that He should have changed the history of the heavens in the midst of eternity. If creation had a beginning at a certain date, why should not redemption? And if we be forced to believe, whether we will or no, that there was once an innovation upon the course of things on high, and that the universe arose out of nothing, and if, even when the earth was created, still it remained "empty and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep," what so great marvel is it, that there was a fixed period in God's inscrutable counsels, during which there was "a bond fastened upon all people," and a "web drawn over them," and then a date, at which the bond of thraldom was broken, and the web of error was unravelled?

Well, let us suppose the innovation decreed in the eternal purpose of the Most High, and that creation is to be; of whom, my brethren, shall it consist? Doubtless of beings who can praise and bless Him, who can admire His perfections, and obey His will, who will be least unworthy to minister about His Throne, and to keep Him company. Look around, and say how far facts bear out this anticipation. There is but one race of intelligent beings, as far as we have experience by nature, and a thousand races which cannot love or worship Him who made them. Millions upon millions enjoy their brief span of life, but man alone can look up to heaven; and what is man, many though he be, what is he in the presence of so innumerable a multitude? Consider the {271} abundance of beasts that range the earth, of birds under the firmament of heaven, of fish in the depths of the ocean, and, above all, the exuberant varieties of insects, which baffle our enumeration by their minuteness, and our powers of conception by their profusion. Doubtless they all show forth the glory of the Creator, as do the elements, "fire, hail, snow, and ice, stormy winds, which fulfil His word". Yet not one of them has a soul, not one of them knows who made it, or that it is made, not one can render Him any proper service, not one can love Him. Indeed how far does the whole world come short in all respects of what it might be! It is not even possessed of created excellence in fulness. It is stamped with imperfection; everything indeed is good in its kind, for God could create nothing otherwise, but how much more fully might He have poured His glory and infused His grace into it, how much more beautiful and Divine a world might he have made, than that which, after an eternal silence, He summoned into being! Let reason answer, I repeat—Why is it that He did not surround himself with spiritual intelligences, and animate every material atom with a soul? Why made He not the very footstool of his Throne and the pavement of His Temple of an angelic nature, of beings who could praise and bless Him, while they did Him menial service? Set man's wit and man's imagination to the work of devising a world, and you would see, my brethren, what a far more splendid design he would submit for it, than met the good pleasure of the Omnipotent {272} and All-wise. Ambitious architect he would have been, if called to build the palace of the Lord of All, in which every single part would have been the best conceivable, the colours all the brightest, the materials the most costly, and the lineaments the most perfect. Pass from man's private fancies and ideas, and fastidious criticisms on the vast subject; come to facts which are before our eyes, and report what meets them. We see a universe, material for the most part and corruptible, fashioned indeed by laws of infinite skill, and betokening an All-wise Hand, but lifeless and senseless; huge globes, hurled into space, and moving mechanically; subtle influences, penetrating into the most hidden corners and pores of the world, as quick and keen as thought, yet as helpless as the clay from which thought has departed. And next, life without sense; myriads of trees and plants, "the grass of the field," beautiful to the eye, but perishable and worthless in the sight of heaven. And, then, when at length we discover sense as well as life, what, I repeat, do we see but a greater mystery still? We behold the spectacle of brute nature; of impulses, feelings, propensities, passions, which in us are ruled or repressed by a superintending reason, but from which, when ungovernable, we shrink, as fearful and hateful, because in us they would be sin. Millions of irrational creatures surround us, and it would seem as though the Creator had left part of His work in its original chaos, so monstrous are these beings, which move and feel and act without reflection and {273} without principle. To matter He has given laws; He has divided the moist and the dry, the heavy and the rare, the light and the dark; He has "placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, a perpetual precept which it shall not pass". He has tamed the elements, and made them servants of the universal good; but the brute beasts pass to and fro in their wildness and their isolation, no yoke on their neck or "bit in their lips," the enemies of all they meet, yet without the capacity of self-love. They live on each other's flesh by an original necessity of their being; their eyes, their teeth, their claws, their muscles, their voice, their walk, their structure within, all speak of violence and blood. They seem made to inflict pain; they rush on their prey with fierceness, and devour it with greediness. There is scarce a passion or a feeling which is sin in man, but is found brute and irresponsible in them. Rage, wanton cruelty, hatred, sullenness, jealousy, revenge, cunning, malice, envy, lust, vain-glory, gluttony, each has its representative; and say, O theistical philosopher of this world, who wouldest fain walk by reason only, and scornest the Catholic faith, is it not marvellous, or explain it, if thou canst, that the All-wise and All-good should have poured over the face of His fair creation these rude and inchoate existences, to look like sinners, though they be not, and these too created before man, perhaps for an untold period, and dividing the earth with him since, and the actual lords of a great portion of it even now?

The crowning work of God is man; he is the flower {274} and perfection of creation, and made to serve and worship his Creator; look at him then, O Sages, who scoff at the revealed word, scrutinise him, and say in sincerity, is he a fit offering to present to the great God? I must not speak of sin; you will not acknowledge the term, or will explain it away; yet consider man as he is found in the world, and,—owning as you must own, that the many do not act by rule or principle and that few give any honour to their Maker—seeing as you see, that enmities, frauds, cruelties, oppressions, injuries, excesses are almost the constituents of human life—knowing too the wonderful capabilities of man, yet their necessary frustration in so brief an existence,—can you venture to say that the Church's yoke is heavy, when you yourselves, viewing the Universe from end to end, are compelled, by the force of reason, to submit your reason to the confession that God has created nothing perfect, a world of order which is dead and corruptible, a world of immortal spirits which is in rebellion?

I come then to this conclusion;—if I must submit my reason to mysteries, it is not much matter whether it is a mystery more or a mystery less, when faith anyhow is the very essence of all religion, when the main difficulty to an inquirer is firmly to hold that there is a Living God, in spite of the darkness which surrounds Him, the Creator, Witness, and Judge of men. When once the mind is broken in, as it must be, to the belief of a Power above it, when once it understands, that it is not itself the measure of all things in heaven and earth, it will have little difficulty in going forward. I do not say it will, or can, go on to other truths, without {275} conviction; I do not say it ought to believe the Catholic faith without grounds and motives; but I say that, when once it believes in God, the great obstacle to faith has been taken away,—a proud, self-sufficient spirit. When once a man really, with the eyes of his soul and by the power of Divine grace, recognises his Creator, he has passed a line; that has happened to him which cannot happen twice; he has bent his stiff neck, and triumphed over himself. If he believes that God has no beginning, why not believe that He is Three yet One? if he owns that God created space, why not own also that He can cause a body to subsist without dependence on place? if he is obliged to grant that God created all things out of nothing, why doubt His power to change the substance of bread into the Body of His Son? It is as strange that, after an eternal rest, He should begin to create, as that, when He had once created, He should take on Himself a created nature; it is as strange that man should be allowed to fall so low, as we see before our eyes in so many dreadful instances, as that Angels and Saints should be exalted even to religious honours; it is as strange that such large families in the animal world should be created without souls and subject to vanity, as that one creature, the Blessed Mother of God, should be exalted over all the rest; as strange, that the book of nature should sometimes seem to vary from the rule of conscience or the conclusions of reason, as that the Church's Scriptures should admit of being interpreted in opposition to her Tradition. And if it shocks a religious mind to doubt of the being of the All-wise {276} and All-good God, on the ground of the mysteries in Nature, why may it not shrink also from using the revealed mysteries as an argument against Revelation?

And now, my dear brethren, who are as yet external to the Church, if I have brought you as far as this, I really do not see why I have not brought you on to make your submission to her. Can you deliberately sit down amid the bewildering mysteries of creation, when a refuge is held out to you, in which reason is rewarded for its faith by the fulfilment of its hopes? Nature does not exempt you from the trial of believing, but it gives you nothing in return; it does but disappoint you. You must submit your reason anyhow; you are not in better circumstances if you turn from the Church; you merely do not secure what you have already sought in nature in vain. The simple question to be decided is one of fact, has a revelation been given? You lessen, not increase your difficulties by receiving it. It comes to you recommended and urged upon you by the most favourable anticipations of reason. The very difficulties of nature make it likely that a revelation should be made; the very mysteries of creation call for some act on the part of the Creator, by which those mysteries shall be alleviated to you or compensated. One of the greatest of the perplexities of nature is this very one, that the Creator should have left you to yourselves. You know there is a God, yet you know your own ignorance of Him, of His will, of your duties, of your prospects. A revelation would be the greatest of possible boons which could be vouchsafed to you. After all, you do not {277} know, you only conclude that there is a God; you see Him not, you do but hear of Him. He acts under a veil; He is on the point of manifesting Himself to you at every turn, yet He does not. He has impressed on your hearts anticipations of His majesty; in every part of creation has He left traces of His presence and given glimpses of His glory; you come up to the spot, He has been there, but He is gone. He has taught you His law, unequivocally indeed, but by deduction and by suggestion, not by direct command. He has always addressed you circuitously, by your inward sense, by the received opinion, by the events of life, by vague traditions, by dim histories; but as if of set purpose, and by an evident law, He never actually appears to your longing eyes or your weary heart, He never confronts you with Himself. What can be meant by all this? a spiritual being abandoned by its Creator! there must doubtless be some awful and all-wise reason for it; still a sore trial it is; so sore, surely, that you must gladly hail the news of His interference to remove or diminish it.

The news then of a revelation, far from suspicious, is borne in upon our hearts by the strongest presumptions of reason in its behalf. It is hard to believe that it has not been given, as indeed the conduct of mankind has ever shown. You cannot help expecting it from the hands of the All-merciful, unworthy as you feel yourselves of it. It is not that you can claim it, but that He inspires hope of it; it is not you that are worthy of the gift, but it is the gift which is worthy of your Creator. It is so urgently probable, that {278} little evidence is required for it, even though but little were given. Evidence that God has spoken you must have, else were you a prey to impostures; but its extreme likelihood allows you, were it necessary, to dispense with all proof that is not barely sufficient for your purpose. The very fact, I say, that there is a Creator, and a hidden one, powerfully bears you on and sets you down at the very threshold of revelation, and leaves you there looking up earnestly for Divine tokens that a revelation has been made.

Do you go with me as far as this, that a revelation is probable? well then, a second remark, and I have done. It is this,—the teaching of the Church manifestly is that revelation. Why should it not be? This mark has she upon her at very first sight, that she is unlike every other profession of religion. Were she God's Prophet or Messenger, she would be distinctive in her characteristics, isolated, and special; and so she is. She is one, not only in herself, but in contrast to everything else: she has no relationship with any other body. And hence too, you see the question lies between the Church and no Divine messenger at all; there is no revelation given us, unless she is the organ of it, for where else is there a Prophet to be found? The anticipation, which I have been urging, has failed, the probability has been falsified, if she be not that Prophet of God. Not that this conclusion is an absurdity, for you cannot take it for granted that your hope of a revelation will be fulfilled; but in whatever degree it is probable that it will be fulfilled, in that degree it is probable that {279} the Church, and nothing else, is the means of fulfilling it. Nothing else; for you cannot believe in your heart that this or that Sect, that this or that Establishment is, in its teaching and its commands, the oracle of the Most High. I know you cannot say in your heart, "I believe this or that, because the English Establishment or the Scotch declares that it is true". Nor could you, I am sure, trust the Russian hierarchy, or the Nestorian, or the Eutychian, as speaking from God; at the utmost you might, if you were learned in these matters, look on them as venerable depositories of historical matter, and witnesses of past ages. You would exercise your judgment and criticism on what they said, and would never think of taking their word as decisive; they are in no sense Prophets, Oracles, Judges, of supernatural truth; and the contrast between them and the Catholic Church is a preliminary evidence in her favour.

A Prophet is one who comes from God, who speaks with authority, who is ever one and the same, who is precise and decisive in his statements, who is equal to successive difficulties, and can smite and overthrow error. Such has the Catholic Church shown herself in her history, such is she at this day. She alone has had the Divine spell of controlling the reason of man, and of eliciting faith in her word from high and low, educated and ignorant, restless and dull-minded. Even those who are alien to her, and whom she does not move to obedience, she moves to respect and admiration. The most profound thinkers and the most sagacious politicians predict her future triumphs {280} while they marvel at her past. Her enemies are frightened at the sight of her, and have no better mode of warfare against her than that of blackening her with slanders, or of driving her into the wilderness. To see her is to recognise her; her look and bearing is the evidence of her royal lineage. True, her tokens might be clearer than they are; I grant it; she might have been set up in Adam, and not in Peter; she might have embraced the whole family of man; she might have been the instrument of inwardly converting all hearts; she might have had no scandals within or misfortunes without; she might in short have been, I repeat, a heaven on earth; but, I repeat, does she not show as glorious in our sight as a creature, as her God does as the Creator? If He does not display the highest possible tokens of His presence in nature, why should His Messenger display such in grace? You believe the Scriptures; does she not in her character and conduct show as Divine as Jacob does, or as Samuel, or as David, or as Jeremias, or in a far higher measure? Has she not notes far more than sufficient for the purpose of convincing you? She takes her rise from the very coming of Christ, and receives her charter, as also her very form and mission, from His mouth. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, {281} shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven."

Coming to you then from the very time of the Apostles, spreading out into all lands, triumphing over a thousand revolutions, exhibiting so awful a unity, glorying in so mysterious a vitality, so majestic, so imperturbable, so bold, so saintly, so sublime, so beautiful, O ye sons of men, can ye doubt that she is the Divine Messenger for whom you seek? Oh, long sought after, tardily found, desire of the eyes, joy of the heart, the truth after many shadows, the fulness after many foretastes, the home after many storms, come to her, poor wanderers, for she it is, and she alone, who can unfold the meaning of your being and the secret of your destiny. She alone can open to you the gate of heaven, and put you on your way. "Arise, shine, O Jerusalem; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; for, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee." "Open ye the gates, that the just nation, that keepeth the truth, may enter in. The old error is passed away; Thou wilt keep peace—peace, because we have hoped in Thee. Lord, Thou wilt give peace to us, for Thou hast wrought all our works for us. O Lord, our God, other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us, but in Thee only make we mention of Thy Name. The dying, they shall not live; the giants, they shall not rise again; therefore Thou hast visited and broken them, and hast destroyed all their memory." {282}

O my brethren, turn away from the Catholic Church, and to whom will you go? it is your only chance of peace and assurance in this turbulent, changing world. There is nothing between it and scepticism, when men exert their reason freely. Private creeds, fancy religions, may be showy and imposing to the many in their day; national religions may lie huge and lifeless, and cumber the ground for centuries, and distract the attention or confuse the judgment of the learned; but on the long run it will be found that either the Catholic Religion is verily and indeed the coming in of the unseen world into this, or that there is nothing positive, nothing dogmatic, nothing real, in any of our notions as to whence we come and whither we are going. Unlearn Catholicism, and you open the way to your becoming Protestant, Unitarian, Deist, Pantheist, Sceptic, in a dreadful, but inevitable succession; only not inevitable by some accident of your position, of your education, and of your cast of mind; only not inevitable, if you dismiss the subject of religion from your view, deny yourself your reason, devote your thoughts to moral duties, or dissipate them in engagements of the world. Go, then, and do your duty to your neighbour, be just, be kindly-tempered, be hospitable, set a good example, uphold religion as good for society, pursue your business, or your profession, or your pleasure, eat and drink, read the news, visit your friends, build and furnish, plant and sow, buy and sell, plead and debate, work for the world, settle your children, go home and die, but eschew religious inquiry, if you will not {283} have faith, nor fancy that you can have faith, if you will not join the Church.

Else avoid, I say, inquiry; for it will but lead you thither, where there is no light, no peace, no hope; it will lead you to the deep pit, where the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the beauteous heavens are not, but chilliness, and barrenness, and perpetual desolation. O perverse children of men, who refuse truth when offered you, because it is not truer! O restless hearts and fastidious intellects, who seek a gospel more salutary than the Redeemer's, and a creation more perfect than the Creator's! God, forsooth, is not great enough for you; you have those high aspirations and those philosophical notions, inspired by the original tempter, which are content with nothing that is, which determine that the Most High is too little for your worship, and His attributes too narrow for your love.

But enough—while we thus speak of the Evil One and his victims, let us not forget to look to ourselves. God forbid that, while we preach to others, we ourselves should become castaways!

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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.