Chapter 6.

{202} IT is impossible to stop the growth of the mind. Here was Charles with his thoughts turned away from religious controversy for two years, yet with his religious views progressing, unknown to himself, the whole time. It could not have been otherwise, if he was to live a religious life at all. If he was to worship and obey his Creator, intellectual acts, conclusions, and judgments must accompany that worship and obedience. He might not realise his own belief till questions had been put to him; but then a single discussion with a friend, such as the above with Carlton, would bring out what he really did hold to his own apprehension—would ascertain for him the limits of each opinion as he held it, and the inter-relations of opinion with opinion. He had not yet given names to these opinions, much less had they taken a theological form; nor could they, under his circumstances, be expressed in theological language; but here he was, a young man of twenty-two, professing, in an hour's conversation with a friend, what really were the Catholic doctrines and usages of penance, purgatory, councils of perfection, mortification of self, and clerical celibacy. {203} No wonder that all this annoyed Carlton, though he no more than Charles perceived that all this Catholicism did in fact lie hid under his professions; but he felt, in what Reding put out, the presence of something, as he expressed it, "very unlike the Church of England", something new and unpleasant to him, and withal something which had a body in it, which had a momentum which could not be passed over as a vague, sudden sound or transitory cloud, but which had much behind it which made itself felt, which struck heavily.

And here we see what is meant when a person says that the Catholic system comes home to his mind, fulfils his ideas of religion, satisfies his sympathies, and the like; and thereupon becomes a Catholic. Such a person is often said to go by private judgment, to be choosing his religion by his own standard of what a religion ought to be. Now it need not be denied that those who are external to the Church must begin with private judgment; they use it in order ultimately to supersede it; as a man out of doors uses a lamp in a dark night, and puts it out when he gets home. What would be thought of his bringing it into his drawing-room? what would the goodly company there assembled before a genial hearth and under glittering chandeliers, the bright ladies and the well-dressed gentlemen, say to him if he came in with a great-coat on his back, a hat on his head, an umbrella under his arm, and a large stable-lantern in his hand? Yet what would be thought, on the other hand, if he precipitated himself into the inhospitable night and the war of the elements in his ball-dress? "When the king came in to see the {204} guests, he saw a man who had not on a wedding-garment;" he saw a man who determined to live in the Church as he had lived out of it, who would not use his privileges, who would not exchange reason for faith, who would not accommodate his thoughts and doings to the glorious scene which surrounded him, who was groping for the hidden treasure and digging for the pearl of price in the high, lustrous, all-jewelled Temple of the Lord of Hosts; who shut his eyes and speculated, when he might open them and see. There is no absurdity, then, or inconsistency in a person first using his private judgment and then denouncing its use. Circumstances change duties.

But still, after all, the person in question does not, strictly speaking, judge of the external system presented to him by his private ideas, but he brings in the dicta of that system to confirm and to justify certain private judgments and personal feelings and habits already existing. Reding, for instance, felt a difficulty in determining how and when the sins of a Christian are forgiven; he had a great notion that celibacy was better than married life. He was not the first person in the Church of England who had had such thoughts; to numbers, doubtless, before him they had occurred; but these numbers had looked abroad, and seen nothing around them to justify what they felt, and their feelings had, in consequence, either festered within them or withered away. But when a man, thus constituted within, falls under the shadow of Catholicism without, then the mighty Creed at once produces an influence upon him. He sees that it justifies his thoughts, explains {205} his feelings; he understands that it numbers, corrects, harmonises, completes them; and he is led to ask what is the authority of this foreign teaching; and then, when he finds it is what was once received in England from north to south, in England from the very time that Christianity was introduced here; that, as far as historical records go, Christianity and Catholicism are synonymous; that it is still the faith of the largest section of the Christian world; and that the faith of his own country is held nowhere but within her own limits and those of her own colonies; nay, further, that it is very difficult to say what faith she has, or that she has any,—then he submits himself to the Catholic Church, not by a process of criticism, but as a pupil to a teacher.

In saying this, of course it is not denied, on the one hand, that there may be persons who come to the Catholic Church on imperfect motives, or in a wrong way; who choose it by criticism, and who, unsubdued by its majesty and its grace, go on criticising when they are in it; and who, if they persist and do not learn humility, may criticise themselves out of it again. Nor is it denied, on the other hand, that some who are not Catholics may possibly choose (for instance) Methodism, in the above moral way, viz., because it confirms and justifies the inward feeling of their hearts. This is certainly possible in idea, though what there is venerable, awful, superhuman, in the Wesleyan Conference to persuade one to take it as a prophet, is a perplexing problem; yet, after all, the matter of fact we conceive to lie the other way, viz., that Wesleyans {206} and other sectaries put themselves above their system, not below it; and though they may in bodily position "sit under" their preacher, yet in the position of their souls and spirits, minds and judgments, they are exalted high above him.

But to return to the subject of our narrative. What a mystery is the soul of man! Here was Charles, busy with Aristotle and Euripides, Thucydides and Lucretius, yet all the while growing towards the Church, "to the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ". His mother had said to him that he could not escape his destiny; it was true, though it was to be fulfilled in a way which she, affectionate heart, could not compass, did not dream of. He could not escape the destiny of being one of the elect of God; he could not escape that destiny which the grace of his Redeemer had stamped on his soul in baptism, which his good angel had seen written there, and had done his zealous part to keep inviolate and bright, which his own co-operation with the influences of Heaven had confirmed and secured. He could not escape the destiny, in due time, in God's time—though it might be long, though angels might be anxious, though the Church might plead as if defrauded of her promised increase of a stranger, yet a son; yet come it must, it was written in Heaven, and the slow wheels of time each hour brought it nearer—he could not ultimately escape his destiny of becoming a Catholic. And even before that blessed hour, as an opening flower scatters sweets, so the strange unknown odour, pleasing to some, odious to others, went abroad from him upon the winds, and made them marvel what {207} could be near them, and make them look curiously and anxiously at him, while he was unconscious of his own condition. Let us be patient with him, as his Maker is patient, and bear that he should do a work slowly which he will do well.

Alas! while Charles had been growing in one direction, Sheffield had been growing in another; and what that growth had been will appear from a conversation which took place between the two friends, and which shall be related in the following chapter.

Chapter 2-7

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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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