Reason and Religion
A Reply to Cardinal Newman
[The Contemporary Review, December 1885]


{842} IT is simply a duty, which I owe alike to Cardinal Newman and the readers of this REVIEW, to ask, whether, in the light of his statement and the rigorous criticism of Dr. Barry, I have anything to retract or modify in the judgment which has provoked these replies. It would, in some respects, be much more pleasant for me to allow the matter to stand where the Cardinal has left it, and were it simply a personal matter between him and me, it would, so far as I am concerned, be allowed so to stand. It costs a very peculiar kind of suffering to conduct a controversy, after his personal intervention, with the one man in all England on whose lips the words of the dying Polycarp sit with equal truth and grace. Not that Cardinal Newman has been either a hesitating or a soft-speaking controversialist. He has been a man of war from his youth, who has conquered many adversaries—amongst them the most inveterate and invincible of English prejudices. He was one who not only changed sides when the battle was hottest, but led a goodly company, with him; yet the change, so far from lessening, increased the honour and admiration in which he was held. He has, as scarcely any other teacher of our age, made us feel the meaning of life, the evil of sin, the dignity of obedience, the beauty of holiness; and his power has been due to the degree in which men have been constrained to believe that his words, where sublimest, have been but the dim and imperfect mirrors of his own exalted spirit. He has taken us into the secret places of his soul, and has held us by the potent spell of his passionate sincerity and matchless style, while he has unfolded his vision of the truth, or his quest after it. He has greatly and variously enriched the religious life of our people, and he lives in our imagination as the last at once of the fathers and of {843} the saints. Whatever the degree of our theological and ecclesiastical difference, it does not lessen my reverence for the man, or my respect for his sincerity.

It is, then, with real pain that I enter the lists against so venerable an opponent. Before, the issue was more or less historical; now, without ceasing to be such, it is burdened with a personal element painful to the younger man. But I have no choice: the issue is too vital to allow me to be silent.

2. Frankly, then, and at the outset, the sum of the matter may be stated thus: Cardinal Newman has done two things—he has repudiated and denounced what my criticism never affirmed, and he has contributed new material illustrative of the very thesis it maintained. He has represented me as describing him as "a hidden sceptic," [Note 1] and as "thinking, living, professing, acting upon a wide-stretching, all-reaching platform of religious scepticism." [Note 2] I never did anything of the sort; it would require an energy and irony of invective equal to the Cardinal's own to describe the fatuous folly of the man who would venture to make any such charge. What he was charged with, and in terms so careful and guarded as ought to have excluded all possible misconception, was "metaphysical" or "philosophical" scepticism. This did not mean that he was other than sincere in word and spirit, especially in all that concerned his religious convictions—his good faith in all his beliefs is, and ever has been, manifest to all honest men; but it meant what it said, that he so conceived the intellect that its natural attitude to religious truth was sceptical and nescient. Scepticism in philosophy means a system which affirms either, subjectively, the impotence of the reason for the discovery of the truth, or, objectively, the inaccessibility of truth to the reason; and such a scepticism, while it logically involves the completest negation of knowledge, has before now been made the basis of a pseudo-supernaturalism, or plea for an infallible authority, that must reveal and authenticate truth, if truth is ever to become or remain man's. This was the scepticism with which Cardinal Newman was charged, and it was held significant, not simply for his personal history, but also for the movement so inseparably connected with his name; and his last paper is as signal an illustration of its presence and action as is to be found in all his writings. The attempt to prove this will be my reply to Dr. Newman, and it will also include a reply to Dr. Barry's vigorous defence of him.


Dr. Newman's reply, then, is so without relevance to the original criticism, save in the way of illustration and confirmation, {844} that it may be well to attempt to make the real point at issue clear and explicit. He speaks of me as having been "misled by the epithets which he had attached in the 'Apologia' to the Reason." [Note 3] The epithets had nothing whatever to do with the matter; all turned on the substantive or material idea. The criticism was simply an endeavour to determine, on the one hand, how Cardinal Newman conceived the Reason and the Conscience in themselves and in relation to the knowledge of God; and, on the other hand, how these conceptions affected or regulated the movement of his mind from Theism to Catholicity. Stated in another form, the question is this: How is knowledge of religious truth possible? What are the subjective conditions of its genesis and continuance? How and whence does man get those principles which are the bases of all his thinking concerning religion? and in what relations do they and the reason, at first, and throughout their respective histories, stand to each other? It is the old problem, under its highest and most complex aspect, as to the grounds and conditions of knowledge, how it is ever or anywhere possible? The older empiricism said: All knowledge is resolvable into sensuous impressions and the ideas which are their faint image or copy. There are no ideas in the mind till the senses have conveyed them in; it is but a sheet of white paper till the outer universe has by the finger of sense written on it those mysterious hieroglyphs which constitute our intelligible world. But the critical transcendentalism replied: The impression explains nothing—must itself be explained: how is it that it becomes rational, an intelligible thing? The mind and the sheet of white paper differ thus—the paper receives the character, but the mind reads it; indeed the character would have no being save in and through the reading of the mind. It is clear, therefore, that we must get before and below the impression to thought, which is by its forms and categories constituted, as it were, the interpreter of the impression, the condition of its being intelligible. Without a constitutive and interpretative Reason, the world that speaks to the senses would be no reasonable world.

Now, Cardinal Newman may be described as, by virtue of his doctrine of the Reason, an empiricist in the province of religious truths. The Reason is, as he is fond of saying, "a mere instrument," unfurnished by Nature, without religious contents or function, till faith or conscience has conveyed into it the ideas or assumptions which are the premisses of its processes, and with religious character only as these processes are conducted in obedience to the moral sense or other spiritual authority. It is to him no constitutive or architectonic faculty, with religious truth so in it that it is bound to seek and to conceive religious truth without it; but it is as regards Religion simply {845} idle or vacant till it has received and accepted the deliverances of conscience? which stand to it much as Hume conceived his "impressions" and their corresponding "ideas" to stand related to mind and knowledge. But, then, to a reason so constituted and construed how is religious knowledge possible? How can religion, as such, have any existence, or religious truth any reality? What works as a mere instrument never handles what it works in; the things remain outside it, and have no place, or standing within its being. And hence my contention was and is, that to conceive reason as Dr. Newman does is to deny to it the knowledge of God, and so to save faith by the help of a deeper unbelief.


1. I repeat, then, the doctrine of the reason Cardinal Newman stated in the October number of this REVIEW is precisely the doctrine on which my criticism was based, and it is essentially, in the philosophical sense, a sceptical doctrine. But let us see how he formulates it. Here is what may be regarded as his earliest statement, with his later notes incorporated:—

"There is no necessary connection between the intellectual and moral principles of our nature1 [1That is, as found in individuals, in the concrete.]; on religious subjects we may prove anything or overthrow anything, and can arrive at truth but accidentally, if we merely investigate by what is commonly called reason2 [2Because we may be reasoning from wrong principles, principles unsuitable to the subject-matter reasoned upon. Thus, the moral sense, or 'spiritual discernment' must supply us with the assumptions to be used as premisses in religious inquiry.], which is in such matters but the instrument, at best, in the hands of the legitimate judge, spiritual discernment." [Note 4]

Here is his latest statement, which will be found in everything material identical with the earliest:—

"In its versatility, its illimitable range, its subtlety, its power of concentrating many ideas on one point, it (the reason) is for the acquisition of knowledge all-important or rather necessary, with this drawback, however, in its ordinary use, that in every exercise of it, it depends for success upon the assumption of prior acts similar to that which it has itself involved, and therefore is reliable only conditionally. Its process is a passing from an antecedent to a consequent, and according as the start so is the issue. In the province of religion, if it be under the happy guidance of the moral sense, and with teachings which are not only assumptions in form, but certainties, it will arrive at indisputable truth, and then the house is at peace; but if it be in the hands of enemies, who are under the delusion that its arbitrary assumptions are self-evident axioms, the reasoning will start from false premisses, and the mind will be in a state of melancholy disorder. But in no case need the reasoning {846} faculty itself be to blame or responsible, except if viewed as identical with the assumptions of which it is the instrument. I repeat, it is but an instrument; as such I have viewed it, and no one but Dr. Fairbairn would say as he does—that the bad employment of a faculty was a 'division,' a 'contradiction,' and 'a radical antagonism of nature,' and 'the death of the natural proof' of a God." [Note 5]

2. Now, I do not wish to be minute in my criticism, and argue that if reason, "in every exercise of it, depends for success on the assumption of prior acts similar to that which it has itself involved," then the genesis and very being of reason are inconceivable, for we are landed in the notion of an infinite series. As to Hume, man was a succession or series of "impressions and ideas;" so to Newman, reason, as mere faculty of reasoning, is a series of "antecedents and consequents;" the difficulty in both cases is the same, to find how the series began, and how, having begun, it has developed into what it is. But without resorting to minute analysis, we may begin with the last sentence of the above quotation; and concerning it, it is enough to say, Dr. Fairbairn never said any such thing, or, meaning what he did and does, could have said it. His criticism referred not to the employment of the faculty, but to the doctrine of the faculty, which determined its use; and this latest statement seems expressly designed to elucidate and justify the criticism. For reason, as here described, is condemned, in all that concerns the higher problems and fundamental verities of thought, to incapacity and impotence. It is emptied of those constitutive and constructive qualities that make it a reason, and by being reduced to a mere ratiocinative instrument, its very ability to handle religious principles, even in a ratiocinative process, is denied. For the reasoning process, to be valid, must proceed from principles valid to the reason; but to be so valid they must be more than deliverances or assumptions coming to it ab extra; they must have a root in its own nature, and be inseparable from the very being of thought. To use principles truly, one must be able to judge concerning their truth, and how can a reason truly and justly act, even as a mere instrument of inference, on the basis of premisses it neither found, nor framed, nor verified, being indeed so constituted as to be unable to do any one of these things. Reason, then, can be ratiocinative only as it is constitutive; we must have truth of thought that we may know or possess truth of being. The getting of principles is a more vital matter than the reasoning concerning them, and if the constitutive or formulative and determinative factor be made not only distinct from, but independent of, the dialectic and deductive, how can they ever be made to agree, save by the subordination or {847} enslavement of the one to the other? And even then they will not agree, for the principles cannot signify the same thing to faculties that are not only distinct, but, as realized in the living person, without "necessary connection." The dictate of the conscience changes its nature when it becomes the axiom of the reason; the "categorical imperative" ceases to be the moment it is translated into a speculative or intellectual truth. It may—it must—be true that the man who is deaf to the voice of conscience cannot reason rightly in religious matters; but it is no less true that the man who doubts or misuses his reason cannot hear or be enlightened by his conscience. The only justification of Cardinal Newman's doctrine would have been the reduction of conscience and reason to a higher unity; his last condemnation is his distinction and division of the faculties, for it involves our nature in a dualism which makes real knowledge of religious truth impossible; there is unity neither in the man who knows nor in the truth as known. For, make a present of true premisses to a faculty merely ratiocinative, and they will be to it only as algebraic symbols, not as truths of religion; its deductive process may be correct, but it will have no religious character. But to a reason without religious character, unable to construe religious truths for what they really are, there can be no legitimate reasoning concerning religion; truth is inaccessible to it, and it is incompetent to the discovery and determination of truth. This is philosophical scepticism, and if, to avoid the logical issue, the truth denied to the reason is granted to the conscience, and is, on its simple authority, to be accepted as a "magisterial dictate," then a "division," or "radical antagonism of nature," is introduced, which is "the death of the natural proof" for the being of a God, and of all the primary truths of religion. This, and no other, was my original criticism of Cardinal Newman, and this, confirmed and illustrated by his latest statement, is my criticism still.


1. Now, this very doctrine of the reason, with its varied limitations and applications, is the heart and essence of the whole matter; it is, in the proper philosophical sense, both empirical and sceptical. It is a doctrine of impotence; the reason is by its very nature disqualified from ever attaining the knowledge of religious truth, as religious; it is a doctrine of nescience, for religious knowledge is, from its very nature, unable to get within, and be really assimilated by, a reason which is a mere inferential or syllogistic instrument. Dr. Newman is very angry at my speaking of his "ultimate ideas, or the regulative principles of his thought," or simply his "underlying philosophy;" and he declares that from "leading ideas" and "fundamental principles" he has "all through his life shrunk, as {848} sophistical and misleading." [Note 6] Well, it may be so, and if it is so, many things that have been a perplexity to people would be explained. But it is possible that if Dr. Newman had been described as a person without "fundamental" or "regulative principles," he would have been angrier still, and, with more reason. However, the matter need not be any further disputed; what meant by his "underlying philosophy" is just this doctrine which he has anew stated and maintained. What was meant by it as "a regulative principle of his thought" was that it exercised over his mind, its dialectic and dialectical method, precisely the sort of influence he has endeavoured to explain and illustrate. Now, what I ventured to say before, I am by the new light the more emboldened to repeat, that this fundamental principle determined, in a way not written in the "Apologia," his whole inner history. He not only doubted the reason, but he mocked and scorned all who sought to enlist it in the service of religion [Note 7]. It was to him no witness or oracle of God, but simply a servant, whose duty was to obey, and whose only virtue was obedience. Here from the critical year 1841 is a significant passage, one out of many, illustrative of how little the empirical and instrumental reason, as he conceived it, had of God, and how little it could find Him in the Nature it was called to interpret:—

The whole framework of nature is confessedly a tissue of antecedents and consequents; we may refer all things forwards to design, or backwards on a physical cause. Laplace is said to have considered he had a formula which solved all the motions of the solar system; shall we say that those motions came from this formula or from a Divine Fiat? Shall we have recourse for our theory to physics or to theology? Shall we assume Matter and its necessary properties to be eternal, or Mind with its divine attributes? Does the sun shine to warm the earth, or is the earth warmed because the sun shines? The one hypothesis will solve the phenomena as well as the other. Say not it is but a puzzle in argument, and no one ever felt it in fact. So far from it, I believe that the study of Nature, when religious feeling is away, leads the mind, rightly or wrongly, to acquiesce in the atheistical theory, as the simplest and easiest. It is but parallel to that tendency in anatomical studies, which no one will deny, to solve all the phenomena of the human frame into material elements and powers, and to dispense with the soul. To those who are conscious of matter, but not conscious of mind, it seems more rational to refer all things to one origin, such as they know, than to assume {849} the existence of a second origin, such as they know not. It is religion, then, which suggests to science its true conclusions; the facts come from knowledge, but the principles come of faith [Note 8].

In this passage, where statement and argument are alike logical results of the implied philosophy of mind, the attitude of the intellectual sceptic is admirably stated; either alternative is consonant to reason, though the negative is rather the more consonant. If reason stands alone, the conclusion will be nescience. It is all a matter of feeling or faith; if it be away, "the study of nature" will lead to acquiescence "in the atheistical theory;" if it be present, the reference will be to the being of God. Dr. Newman elsewhere quotes a doctrine which Hume "has well propounded," though he did it but "in irony":—"Our most holy religion is founded on faith, not on reason." [Note 9] The irony of Hume is the good faith of Newman; while their creeds so differ, their philosophies so agree, that if the sceptic had ever attempted an apology for religion, he would have made it in the manner and on the lines and with all the implicates and inferences of the Catholic.

2. Nature, then, had not simply to the logical and inferential reason, but, even so far as he allowed it, to the constructive and interpretative, no necessary theistic meaning. As he himself says, "Take the system of nature by itself, detached from the axioms of religion, and I am willing to confess—nay, I have been expressly urging—that it does not force us to take it for more than a system." [Note 10] Whence, now, the axioms of religion which were needed to make our view of nature theistic? As they had no ground in the reason, they had to be given—i.e., received on the authority either of conscience or of revelation. If it accepted their dicta, it was religious; if it was without or averse to them, it was atheistic. This is the thesis of the most remarkable of his "University Sermons;" it comes out in his account of what he calls the Divinity of Traditionary Religion, which explains what is true in the various faiths by all men having had "more or less the guidance of tradition, in addition to those internal notions of right and wrong which the Spirit has put into the heart of each individual." [Note 11] It appears too instructively in his doctrine of private judgment, whose province {850} he defines as being to exercise itself upon this simple question, "What and where is the Church?" We are not to think of gaining religious truth for ourselves by our "private examination," but ought only to ask, "Who is God's prophet, and where? Who is to be considered the voice of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church?" [Note 12] It obtained its perfect and logical expression in the argument which proved an infallible authority necessary alike to the being of religion and the Church:— [Note 13]

"As the essence of all religion is authority and obedience, so the distinction between natural religion and revealed lies in this, that the one has a subjective authority and the other an objective. Revelation consists in the manifestation of the Invisible Divine Power, or in the substitution of the voice of a Lawgiver for the voice of conscience. The supremacy of conscience is the essence of natural religion: the supremacy of Apostle, or Pope, or Church, or Bishop, is the essence of revealed; and when such external authority is taken away, the mind falls back again upon that inward guide which it possessed even before Revelation was vouchsafed. Thus, what conscience is in the system of nature, such is the voice of Scripture, or of the Church, or of the Holy See, as we may determine it, in the system of Revelation. It may be objected, indeed, that conscience is not infallible; it is true, but still it is ever to be obeyed. And this is just the prerogative which controversialists assign to the See of St. Peter; it is not in all cases infallible, it may err beyond its special province, but it has ever in all cases a claim on our obedience." [Note 14]

Now, these are only the logical sequences in the process which compelled Dr. Newman to hold Catholicism and Atheism the only real alternatives; but the compulsion came at every point from which he must allow me to call his "underlying philosophy," or simply, his doctrine which made the reason a mere ratiocinative faculty or deductive instrument, by nature void of God, and never able to know him directly or for itself [Note 15]. Its knowledge of religion being always indirect and inferential, "on grounds given," the supreme difficulty was with "the grounds," how to get them, then how to have them accepted, ratified, and obeyed. They were always giving way beneath analysis, or being departed from, or being superseded by "false," or "wrong," or "secular" premisses, which indeed ever seemed to be more easy of acceptance than the religious: in short, his principles of reasoning had no organic connexion with the principles of knowledge or reason. Reason to him had so little in it of the truth that it was as ready to become the instrument of "the false prophet" as of the true; to speak for the one was as congenial to its nature as to speak for the other. And so its natural inability was the source and basis {851} of its historical hostility to religion; the more it was degraded into an instrument, the more it revenged its degradation by becoming unstable, intractable, inimical. The more critical, "aggressive," or "captious" the reason became, the more imperial had to become the authority which supplied it with the "assumptions "or "axioms of religion;" and, as was inevitable, the more imperious the authority grew, the more "rebellious" grew the reason. The result was the one he has so well described in the now classic passage:

"He came to the conclusion that there was no medium in true philosophy between Atheism and Catholicity." [Note 16] But it was the philosophy that did it all, and on its truth depends the validity of the conclusion. Where reason is conceived as a mere instrument, so by nature without the knowledge of God that all it ever knows or determines concerning Him must proceed from principles given "on the simple word of the Divine Informant," named now Conscience, and now Tradition or the Church, then the alternatives—absolute authority or absolute negation—are inexorable. Nay, more, this doctrine, as is so well illustrated by his latest utterance, with its despair of all secular forces and his blind hope in ecclesiastical, is doubly determinative: it yields the theory, on the one hand, of the Church, and, on the other of "the False Prophet," or "human society," by whose action "error spreads and becomes an authority." The subjective is reflected in an objective dualism; the authoritative Church has its counterpart and contradiction in the authoritative world; each succeeds as it has its premisses or assumptions accepted by the reason as data for reasoning. And thus the notion that loses the immanence of God from the reason, loses the active presence of God from the collective history and society of man. The scepticism of the theory on its subjective side has its correlative in the false supernaturalism of the objective; to dispossess reason of its divine contents is to deprive man, in his concrete historical being, of the natural presence and knowledge of God, and to limit God's action and activity to means that are all the more mechanical that they are conceived and described as supernatural.


1. So far we have been concerned with the doctrine of the Reason—first in its intrinsic, and next in what may be termed its biographical significance; now we must look at it in its dialectic or apologetic. Cardinal Newman has of course challenged my interpretation of the "Grammar of Assent," and Dr. Barry thinks it "wanting in insight," and "decidedly, though not intentionally, unjust," due to my not having thrown myself "into the spirit of the work," or {852} "viewed it from within." Now, it was because the work was criticised from the most internal of all standpoints, the biographical, that the criticism was what it was. The work cannot be understood alone; it were simply unintelligible to the man who did not know the writer and his history. It is, in a far deeper sense than the book that bears the title, an "Apologia pro Vita Sua"; and is as remarkable for what it does not as for what it does state and attempt. It holds the place in Newman's collective works that the "Logic" does in Mill's. In the latter, Mill applies his metaphysical doctrine to the discovery and determination of truth; in the "Grammar," Newman uses his philosophical doctrine to explain and vindicate the processes that involve and justify religious belief. He explains, indeed, his object as not "to set forth the arguments which issue in the belief" of certain doctrines, "but to investigate what it is to believe in them, what the mind does, what it contemplates, when it makes an act of faith." [Note 17] But he confesses that to show what it is to believe, is, in a measure, to show "why we believe;" the one problem, indeed, is but the other in its most radical form. Now, the argument from first to last, and in all its stages, reposes on Cardinal Newman's distinctive doctrine of the reason; its inability to be more or other than a formal instrument is the keynote of the book. Reason is to him individual; "every one who reasons is his own centre; and no expedient for attaining a common measure of minds can reverse this truth." [Note 18] In discussing "first principles," or "the propositions with which we start in reasoning on any given subject-matter," he says—

"Sometimes our trust in our powers of reasoning and memory—that is, our implicit assent to their telling truly—is treated as a first principle; but we cannot properly be said to have any trust in them as faculties. At most we trust in particular acts of memory and reasoning. We are sure there was a yesterday, and that we did this or that in it; we are sure that three times six is eighteen, and that the diagonal of a square is longer than the side. So far as this we may be said to trust the mental act by which the object of our assent is verified; but in doing so we imply no recognition of a genera1 power or faculty, or of any capability or affection of our minds, over and above the particular act. We know, indeed, that we have a faculty by which we remember, as we know we have a faculty by which we breathe; but we gain this knowledge by abstraction or inference from its particular acts, not by direct experience. Nor do we trust in the faculty of memory or reasoning as such, even after that we have inferred its existence; for its acts are often inaccurate, nor do we invariably assent to them." [Note 19]

Now, it were a curious point to determine how trust of a "particular act" is possible without trust of the faculty that performs its. If we know a given act to be true, we must have a standard of truth; it is through the truthfulness of the faculty that we know the falsity or truth of its "particular acts." But the significance of the passage {853} does not lie in its inconsistencies, but in its positive doctrine. Reason is but an instrument, a faculty of reasoning, trustworthy in particular acts, not trustworthy throughout. Being so restricted a faculty, we owe to it little, not even the knowledge "that there are things existing external to ourselves." That is due to "an instinct" which we have in common with "the brute creation," and "the gift of reason is not a condition of its existence." [Note 20] As with the belief in an external world, so with the belief in God; reason has nothing to do with either. "We begin to learn about God from conscience." [Note 21] "Now certainly the thought of God, as theists entertain it, is not gained by an instinctive association of His presence with any sensible phenomena; but the office which the senses directly fulfil as regards creation, that devolves directly on certain of our mental phenomena as regards the Creator. Those phenomena are found in the sense of moral obligation." [Note 22]

2. Here, then, on the one hand we have the impotent and instrumental reason, which can never get to God, and is to be trusted only in "particular acts;" and, on the other hand, the capable and authoritative conscience, in which God directly is, and which is to be implicitly obeyed. And this dualism penetrates and pervades the whole book; its argument may be said to be its logical articulation. It is expressed in the distinctions between "notional and real apprehension," "notional and real assent," and between "inference and assent," and it underlies the cardinal doctrine of the "illative sense." [Note 23] That doctrine means that religion can never be handled on universal principles by a reason that may truly be termed universal, but must be left to the man so compacted of conscience and imagination as to have a sense for religion and for the determination of religious questions. If the idea of the reason had been larger and worthier, or if the relation between the reason and the conscience had been more organically conceived, so that, the two had appeared as a unity, the whole argumentative structure, and the principles on which it is built, would have been different. As it is, religion never gets inside the reason, nor the reason inside religion. They are but formally related, never really or vitally connected. Dr. Newman may have a perfect right to limit the province and define the idea of reason in his own way; but then, the exercise of the right has laid him open to a criticism which apparently he has not understood, and which certainly he has said nothing to invalidate. If the reason plays no part in the genesis of the idea of God, it can play no part in its proof; but this position {854} involves the converse; the idea of God and the proofs of His being can never be real possessions of the reason. They remain without it, grounds or premisses for its dialectical exercise; they do not live within it, principles and laws of its very life. The philosophy that so construes the reason as to involve these consequences is sceptical; and this is the philosophy of "The Grammar of Assent."


But what significance has this extended criticism of Cardinal Newman? Dr. Barry has warned me not to identify him with the Catholic Church, for it cannot be identified with "any individual genius however great." [Note 24] I never did nor ever meant so to identify him. The Catholic Church is greater than any theologian, but a theologian may also be greater than the Catholic Church. The Fathers do not belong to Rome, but to Christendom. Rome may have been in them, but more than Rome was there, elements larger and richer than she was able to assimilate. The earlier Greek Fathers had a nobler catholicity than she has reached; the men of the heroic age of the Greek Church had another and more generous anthropology, a freer and loftier ecclesiology than hers. Augustine, too, was greater than Catholicism, for while its developments have done the amplest justice to his ecclesiastical doctrine, they have failed to do equal justice to his theological. The official theology of Rome has more semi-Pelagian than Augustinian elements; the Augsburg Confession expresses in its doctrine of sin more truly and nearly the mind of Augustine than the Tridentine Canons; and Calvin is a better and more faithful exponent of him than either Bellarmine or Petavius. The Schoolmen, too, are in many ways ours: they are, in the widest sense, Catholic divines: the exclusive property of no Church, but the common possession of all. Nor would I identify too closely any modern official or apologetic divine with Catholicism. It has its own history of variations, and it would be no grateful task to write it. The distinction between Rome and Cardinal Newman was an explicit point in my criticism, necessary indeed to its force, and emphasized by the contrast between the causes of the Catholic revival in England and on the Continent. But he was selected as the leader and representative of that revival in the special form it here assumed—its real author and true embodiment, the man without whom it either would not have been, or could not have been what it was. If it is to be understood and critically appraised, it must be through the man that made it. The {855} causes and influences that determined his mind, belong, as it were, to its very essence—help us to see what meaning and worth it has for the spirit and thought of our time. He has told us by act and speech, in every variety of subtle argument and eloquent phrase, that Catholicism is the only secure and open haven for the doubt-driven and storm-tossed soul, that without it the faith and hope of the Christian centuries must be engulphed by the rising tides of negation and godlessness; but when we examine the reasons of his act and his peculiar speech, the bases of his argument and apologies, we find that they proceed from as deep a scepticism as the one he invites us to escape. He has lost God out of the reason and the realm of the reasonable, and thinks He is to be got back only as a Deus ex machinā. To build a supernatural faith on a natural impotence seems to us a suicidal proceeding. We prefer to find God where he has not found Him, and build faith on the sanity of a human reason which is full of God and akin to the divine.


But now we are glad to escape from the ungracious work of analysis and criticism to freer and nobler fields of discussion. The questions which Dr. Barry has raised and so ably handled deserve a fuller treatment than is here possible; but this paper must not close without an attempt to meet the difficulties started by so frank and courteous an opponent. These may be reduced to two points: the relation, first, of the Church or Churches to religion; and next, of authority to religion, on the one hand, and to reason, on the other.

1. Dr. Barry criticizes severely some remarks of mine as to the Churches, and the idea of the Church [Note 25]. We differ here indeed radically. To him the Church is equivalent to religion, co-extensive and identical with it; to me, whether it be conceived as one or as a multitude, it is but a means or agency for the realization of religion, to be judged by its character as means and its relation to its end. He says: "The Christian religion, as hitherto conceived, has been whatever else you please, but certainly an organized system of teaching, one Church or a hundred Churches, but always a body requiring from its members submission to Articles, or to the Bible as {856} cutting short disputes by virtue of its inspiration." [Note 26] The Christian religion may indeed be so conceived, but not the religion of Christ. The Churches have given the former historical being, but they have been only attempts at the latter. Here, if anywhere, "the best is yet to be;" the conditions of realization, rather than the realization itself, are in process of becoming. In the New Testament no two ideas are more distinct than those of the kingdom of heaven or of God, and of the Church; they differ not only formally, but materially. The one is the idea Jesus most loves to state and to explain, that he has most often and variously illustrated by metaphor and parable, that He has steeped in the most august associations, made glorious to hope, beautiful by its promises, awful by its threatenings; the other He has but twice expressed, once in a casual way, and once solemnly in the address to Peter, yet in words that almost seem chosen with the view of accentuating its difference from the Kingdom. He builds the Church, but He founds the Kingdom; human agency may help in the one, but He alone is active in the other. The apostles plant churches, but not kingdoms; they ordain elders, but do not anoint kings. The Kingdom is universal, ethical, ideal, invisible, what already is, yet what is still to be. Men are to come from the East and West, and are to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God; the little child is in it as well as the grown man; the publican and sinner may enter before the Pharisee or Scribe. It is the possession of the poor in spirit and the persecuted; it is righteousness, joy, peace in the Holy Ghost [Note 27]; it is inner, abides within men—is outer, working secretly like the leaven hidden in the meal; it is here and now, yet men are to pray, "Thy kingdom come." It ever moves in a circle of ideas that imply the sole sovereignty of God, the sphere where He reigns and men obey, and His rewards are unto the meek and the obedient. But to all this the idea of the Church stands in contrast: it is vast, visible, instrumental, the scene of varied human activities and agencies—a society men may constitute, order, and administer. The Church is a body, a building, a community. There are many churches; each city may have one or several; in them differences may emerge and disputes rage; man may rule or be ruled, excommunicate or be excommunicated. The Church was the favourite apostolic idea, as the Kingdom was Christ's; while He founded the Kingdom, the Apostles planted, not a Church, but churches. And while these were the means, Christ's was the end; the Kingdom was the religion, but the churches the method of its realization. It is an eternal ideal, ever in process of embodiment, doing its work by virtue alike of the immanence which makes it everywhere present and active, and of the {857} transcendence which makes it a goal to be ever approached, yet never reached; they are historical facts and factors, working in the interests and for the realization of the ideal, creating the conditions needed for it, exhibiting the successive and progressive attempts at its achievement. To identify the churches with the religion is to commit a blunder of the first order; it is to lose the ideal of Jesus, to materialize the spiritual, to reduce to the forms of space and confine within the limits of time the infinite and the eternal. Such a view may be false—that has yet to be proved; but its idea of religion, its work and possibilities, are sublime enough to stand without shame in the presence of the most exalted doctrine of historical Christianity; and it does not lie open to Dr. Barry's criticism—nay, it deprives it of all its relevance. Means that become ends are mischievous; churches may claim to be "the Christian religion," but we cannot allow them to be the religion of Christ.

2. But the other is the greater and graver question: How does authority stand related on the one hand to religion, and on the other to reason? Dr. Barry says that I have made an assault "upon authority itself, considered as the basis of revealed religion." And he argues, in effect, thus: "If you admit the authority of Christ, you admit in principle the very thing you have been contending against." "There is no argument against an infallible Church that may not be directly turned against a visible Christ." "If a dogmatic Church is unreasonable, a dogmatic or inspired Christ is unnecessary." [Note 28] Your position, therefore, is illogical, and from it there are only two logical issues: either maintain your polemic against authority as embodied in Rome, and reduce it to consistency and completeness by denying the authority of Christ; or, maintain the authority of Christ, and follow the principle to its legitimate and complete and most august expression in the Church of Rome. This is a fair argumentum ad hominem, and deserves careful and dispassionate discussion.

(i.) The whole argument is vitiated by an initial assumption—this, viz., that the two authorities are in nature and quality identical and equivalent. While in both cases the one word is used, it expresses two distinct and even opposed notions. There is no sense in which Rome is an authority that Christ is one; and no sense in which Christ is an authority that Rome is one. He is an authority in the sense that conscience is; it is an authority in the sense that the law and the legislature are authorities. His is personal, moral, living; its is organized, definitive, determinative, administrative. The authority which springs from a person, and is exercised through conscience, is the basis of freedom; but the authority of a judicial {858} tribunal or determinative conclave is its limitation or even abrogation. The one presents matter for interpretation and belief, but the other decides what is to be believed, and in what sense. The attribute or essential characteristic of Christ's authority as exercised and accepted is Sovereignty, but the attribute and note of the papal authority is Infallibility. Christ is not infallible in the papal sense, and the papal is not sovereign in the sense predicated of Christ. Christ defines no dogma, formulates no ex cathedrā judgment concerning the mode in which his own person and the relation of the two natures must be conceived, or concerning the rank and conception of his mother, or indeed on any of those things on which Rome has most authoritatively spoken; while the methods of Rome in enforcing her decrees are those of a legal or judicial or institutional sovereignty. So absolute is the difference and so emphatic the contrast between the two authorities that we may say, to allow the sovereignty of Christ is to disallow the infallibility of Rome, and to adopt the latter is to exchange a moral supremacy, which permits no secular expediencies or diplomacies, for one legal and deliberative, which must be now rigid and now elastic as the public interests or the expediencies of the hour may demand. If, then, there is to be argument from the principle of authority, it must conduct to an entirely different conclusion from Dr. Barry's. If we accept authority as embodied in Rome, we cannot admit it as personalized in Christ; if we admit it as personalized in Christ, we cannot accept it as embodied in Rome. That we admit His, is no argument why we should admit another, but rather why no other should be admitted, especially as that other is entirely distinct in nature, opposite in kind, and incompatible in action. To supplement Christ by the Church is to substitute the Church for Christ, to pass from the freedom of a moral sovereignty to the bondage of a judicial infallibility. And so the most conclusive argument against an infallible Church is a sovereign Christ.

(ii.) "But this, it may be said, is to admit the very principle of authority against which you so strenuously contended; it is authority all the same, whether it be of Christ or the Church." But, as has just been argued, the difference between Christ and the Church makes their authorities altogether different. They can be compared only to be contrasted, and are related as the incompatible and the mutually exclusive. And this relation is due not to the antagonism of rival or opposed authorities akin in order or nature, but to the radical difference or essential incompatibility in character and kind of the authorities themselves. Authority as organized, legal, definitive, judicially, and officially infallible, embodied in an episcopate or conclave or church, is one thing, and the authority, personal, moral, religious, which Jesus claimed, is another thing altogether; and the {859} very arguments which proved the former a violation of God's own order, prove the latter its highest expression or manifestation. I cannot allow, indeed, in Dr. Barry's sense of the word, that authority is "the basis of revealed religion." Revelation, but not authority, is the basis of all religion. Without the presence and action of God in nature, through reason, and on man, I could not conceive religion as existing at all. That it exists anywhere is to me evidence that God has been active there, seeking man, as man has been seeking Him. Whatever truth is at any place or any moment found, comes from God, and reveals the God from whom it comes. But all His truth comes through persons, and the degree and quality of truth that so comes is the measure of the persons' authority. Belief is not grounded on authority, but authority is realized through belief. Jesus has authority over me because I believe in Him; I do not believe in Him because of His authority. His words become authoritative through faith; faith does not come because His words are authoritative. His sovereignty is felt to be legitimate and absolute because His absolute truth is recognized; and to this recognition, authority, in the Roman sense, not only does not contribute, but is through and through opposed. To believe in Christ because of the Church's decrees and determinations is to believe in the Church, not in Christ, and to accept its infallibility instead of His sovereignty. The authority based on truth as believed and loved, is in harmony with reason; the authority that claims to be the basis and infallible judge of truth, is contrary to it.

It is impossible indeed, in the few pages allowed me by the grace of the editor, to discuss these large questions. Enough to say, the Bible never was to Protestants an authority in a similar or even a kindred sense to that in which Rome was to Romanists. The difference comes out in its most manifest form in the so-called principle or doctrine of private judgment, which means that the Bible was, by its very nature, not a body of formal ex cathedrā determinations, but, as it were, the home and source of the material that was to be determined by the living Christian spirit, as illumined and guided by the indwelling Spirit of God. To this position the exercise of the reason was a necessity; truth could be authoritative only as it was believed, and belief was possible only as the mind was convinced and satisfied. This does not mean that men must follow an argumentative process before they can believe, but it does mean that it is always their right and in certain cases may be their manifest duty so to do. In saying this we say that religion is truth, and has as truth nothing to fear from the freest exercise of the reason, though much to fear from the partial or prejudiced or sluggish intellect; that the only authority possible to it, or the persons who bring and realize it, is the sovereignty that comes of its {860} and their imperial and imperative truth. Such an attitude seems to me the only attitude that has living faith either in God or religion, either in Christ or His kingdom. If I read His mind aright, He would rather have His Church live face to face and contend hand to hand with the questioning and critical reason, than see it hedged round by the most peremptory and invulnerable infallibility. It is too wide and too comprehensive to be so hedged in, for now, as of old, God does not leave Himself anywhere without a witness. His lines have gone out through all the earth, and His word to the end of the world.

I wish it had been possible to end this paper here and thus. I have now, as before, studiously endeavoured to speak of Cardinal Newman, even while profoundly differing from him and severely judging the philosophic principles on which he has based his special Catholic apologetic, with all the respect and even reverence due to his great age, great services, and eminent saintliness; but he has been pleased to adopt in this case a method and style of controversy that might well provoke, and even justify, speech of another sort. He is the best judge of the spirit and manner that in such circumstances most become him, but I cannot follow him into the postscript he appended to his paper without a distinct and solemn protest. Passion, invective, and inuendo are things easily repaid in kind; but if the original use of them were unworthy, any imitation were unworthier still. What has to be said in correction will be said in the plainest possible way, in full remembrance that the person corrected is Cardinal Newman.

He says: that I have "after all" selected for adverse notice (over and above the "Apologia") only "some clauses in an Oratorian and two sentences in an Oxford Sermon" (p. 466). The facts are these: On the six pages which, in the May number of this REVIEW, are more specially devoted to the discussion of Dr. Newman's position, there are twenty-four references to his works, the list including the "Apologia," "The Grammar of Assent," "University Sermons," "Discourses to Mixed Congregations," and the "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk." Every one of these references seemed and seem to me necessary to the criticism.

He says of the criticism on the "Grammar of Assent," "not a shred of quotation is given to support this charge, not a single reference" (p. 467). True, so far as the selected sentences are concerned; but on the preceding pages there are, bearing directly on the criticism and leading up to it, nine references to the "Grammar."

He says again: "At the end of it, instead of such necessary proof, a sentence is tacked on to it, which after some search I found, not in the essay on Assent, but in one of my sermons, written above {861} thirty years before, taken out of its context, and cut off from the note upon it which I had added in its Catholic edition." At the bottom of the page a reference to the sermons, in the Catholic edition too, is given, and a further reference for comparison to a remark by Mr. Lilly on the passage and its note.

I feel humiliated at having to notice at the end of a grave discussion such things as these, but they were the weapons Cardinal Newman used, demanding and receiving notice only because they were his. Worthier are the five instances of what he considers specific misconception or misrepresentation; but if, instead of attempting to rebut the criticisms of a man "whose own opinions, to tell the truth," he had "not a dream of" (p. 461), he had done something to understand the critic and his criticism, even these charges would not have been made—at least, not in their present form. In no one of these five instances would I allow his construction to be correct. It was in Dr. Newman's choice to intervene or not in this controversy, but it is not in his choice to be allowed, unchallenged, to intervene on false grounds. He has closed with one epilogue, I might retort with another; but, instead, I will utter no word that would rebuke the feeling, which has never, amid all this severe and adverse criticism, died from my heart, of grateful reverence for John Henry Cardinal Newman.


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1. Contemporary Review, October, p. 457.
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2. Ibid. p. 466.
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3. Contemporary Review, p. 460.
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4. "University Sermons," p. 55. The notes are added, for here, as elsewhere throughout the volume, they are significant by their very limitations. They may qualify the text, explain a term or a phrase, protest against a given inference or result; but they never either modify or alter the radical doctrine. These notes are needed to elucidate the criticism, for nothing has been more helpful to it than a minute and comparative study of them.
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5. Contemporary Review, pp. 459-460. A few more instances from the "University Sermons," of Dr. Newman's use of the term Reason, maybe added to those he has himself given; they ought to be studied with the "Catholic Notes," pp. 58, § 4; 60-61, § 7; 65, 67, 70, 73, 88, 179, 194-195, 214-215.
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6. Contemporary Review, p. 467.
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7. See, for example, as applying the principles of the "University Sermons" to contemporary mind and literature, the following Essays:—"Introduction of Rationalistic Principles into Revealed Religion" (1835). This is practically a review, hard and unsympathetic, of Jacob Abbott and Thomas Erskine of Linlathen. "Apostolical Tradition" (1836); "Milman's View of Christianity" (1841), a review of his "most dangerous and insidious" History; "Private Judgment" (1841). This latter is, in particular, instructive and suggestive. These are reprinted in the "Essays, Critical and Historical." Another and even more illustrative paper is "The Tamworth Reading-room": in "Discussions and Arguments," art. iv. This contains the famous letters of "Catholicus 'against Sir Robert Peel and Lord Brougham.
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8. "The Tamworth Reading-room": "Discussions and Arguments," pp. 299-300, 4th edition. To this remarkable passage Dr. Newman has appended the following note:—"This is too absolute, if it is to be taken to mean that the legitimate, and what may be called the objective conclusion from the fact of Nature, viewed in the concrete, is not in favour of the Being and Providence of God" (vide "Essay on Assent," pp. 336, 345, 369; and "Univ. Serm.," p. 194). But this, like the other "Catholic Notes," changes the doctrine in no material respect; it simply protests what the author did not wish to mean.
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9. "University Sermons," p. 60.
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10. "Discussions and Arguments," p. 302. The italics are his own.
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11. "The Arians in the Fourth Century," pp. 79-80 (4th ed.).
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12. "Private Judgment" (1841). "Essays Critical and Historical," vol. ii. pp. 353-355 (5th ed.).
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13. "The Development of Doctrine," pp. 124-125 (2nd ed.).
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14. "Essay on Development." 2nd edit. London, 1846. Pp. 124, 125.
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15. "The knowledge of God is the highest function of our nature, and as regards that knowledge, reason only holds the place of an instrument." (Note in "University Sermons," p. 7.)
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16. "Apologia," p. 198.
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17. "Grammar of Assent," p. 99.
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18. Ibid. p. 345.
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19. Ibid. pp. 60-61.
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20. "Grammar of Assent," pp. 61, 62.
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21. Ibid. p. 63.
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22. Ibid. pp. 103, 104.
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23. It is impossible to summarize here, or illustrate in needed detail, the significant positions in the chapters on Assent, Certitude, Inference, and the Illative Sense: an opportunity of developing their metaphysical basis, and illustrating its bearing on the argument, may yet be furnished.
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24. Contemporary Review, November, p. 662. There are many things in his paper which I cannot accept, whether as representing my position, or in the reply to what it is supposed to be. In the remarks, for example (pp. 670-671), on the parallel and contrast between Newman and Kant, he has quite misapprehended Kant's position, and, as a consequence, the argument which was based upon it.
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25. Dr. Barry is too honourable a critic wilfully to misrepresent the man he criticizes, but here is an admirable example of the art of controversial quotation. He represents me (p. 657) as saying—"That religion must be emancipated from the churches, since these have, on the whole, 'become simply the most irreligious of institutions, mischievous in the very degree of their power.'" Now here is the rather tame original of this rash and atrocious deliverance:—"The Churches are the means, but Religion is the end; and if they, instead of being well content to be and to be held means, good in the degree of their fitness and efficiency, regard and give themselves out as ends, then they become simply the most irreligious of institutions, mischievous in the very degree of their power." (Contemporary Review, March, 1884, p. 354.)
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26. Contemporary Review, November, p. 657.
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27. Rom. xiv. 17.
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28. Contemporary Review, p. 600.
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