Cardinal Newman
A Retrospect of Fifty Years, by one of his oldest
living disciples
by William Lockhart, B.A., Oxon.

Burns & Oates, London 1891

{1} [Note] AFFECTIONATE veneration for my old Master in the Science of Truth, has made me wish to say something in honour of his memory; but I am now conscious that I have undertaken more than I can perform, except most imperfectly.

It is, I think, rather more than fifty years since I first had the privilege of knowing John Henry Newman. It was not long after I went to Oxford.

I saw him first on a certain day which I vividly remember. I was walking down High Street—it was between All Souls' and Queen's College. He was crossing, I think, to Oriel. My companion seized my arm, whispering to me, "Look, look there, that is Newman!" I looked, and there I saw him passing along in his characteristic way, walking fast, without any dignity of gait, but earnest, like one who had a purpose; yet so humble and self-forgetting in every portion of his external appearance, that you would not have thought him, at first sight, a man remarkable for anything.

It was only when you came to know him that you recognised or began to recognise what he was.

In speaking of my own reminiscences of Cardinal Newman and of his work, I shall necessarily have to speak of myself, but of myself {2} merely as a type of the ordinary young Oxford man who came under Newman's wonderful influence.

For there was about him a spiritual power, an influence, or rather an effluence of soul, the force of moral greatness, which produced on some a feeling of awe in his presence. There was a tradition in my time at Oxford, that once on market day when the upper end of High Street, near Carfax Church, was much crowded with roughs, and the "Town" and "Gown" element were apt to come into collision, Newman was walking past All Saints' Church in the line of march of a furiously drunken butcher, who came up the street foul-mouthed and blasphemous. When they were near together, Newman stood in his path; my informant, who was a "muscular Christian," the stroke of his college boat, expecting violence, came close up to the butcher, and was just making ready to fell him, when he saw the man stop short; Newman was speaking to him. Very quietly he said, "My friend, if you thought of the meaning of your words you would not say them." The savage was tamed on the spot; he touched his hat, turned round and went back.

When Whately was Principal of S. Alban Hall, Newman was his Vice-Principal. He was afterwards Tutor, and I think Dean, at Oriel; this brought him into contact with the under-graduates. Oriel especially was a "fashionable" college; there were always a good number of noblemen, baronets, gentlemen commoners, distinguished by their velvet, or "tufted" gold tasseled cap, and silk gown. They were mostly fast young men, "hunting in pink" was perhaps {3} the smallest of their irregularities against university discipline. There was apt to be too much wine drunk at supper parties, and in consequence "rows in quad" were frequent. Newman could do more by a few words than any one living. "What did he say to you?" was asked of one who had been called up by Newman for some more or less serious matter. "I don't know," said the other, "but he looked at me."

Newman could read character; one felt in his presence that he read you through and through.

In that wonderful passage in his "Discourses to Mixed Congregations," preached at Birmingham, he speaks out, with certain adaptations, what he had first learned of "polished ungodliness" in young Oxford men of rank, "tufts," as they were called, and of its bad imitations in the sometimes vulgar but superficially polished "tuft hunter," who was sent to Oxford, principally, that he might get "into good society and form useful connections." To the latter the following passage applies: "You my brethren have not been born splendidly; you have no high connections; you have not learned the manner or caught the tone of good society … yet you ape the sins of Dives while you are strangers to his refinement ... you think it the sign of a gentleman to set yourself above religion ... to took at Catholic or Methodist with impartial contempt ... to walk up and down the street with your heads on high, and to stare at whatever meets you, and to say and do worse things, of which these outward extravagances are but the symbol!

"The Creator made you it seems, O my {4} children, for this office and work, to be a bad imitation of polished ungodliness."

And now one more word about Newman's personal appearance and his ways.

Who that has had experience of it can forget the impression made on him by the majesty of Newman's countenance, when one came really to know him and to study it—his meekness, his intensity, his humility, the purity of "a virgin heart in work and will" that was expressed in his eyes, his loving kindness, his winning smile, the wonderful sweetness and pathos, and delicate unstudied harmony of his voice!

Then he had, also, according to times and persons, a wonderful caressing way, which had in it nothing of softness, but which was felt to be a communication of strength from a strong soul, a thing that must be felt to be understood. Then there was at times in him a great vein of humour, and at times a certain playful way which he had of saying things which were full of meaning, and called to mind some passages in St. Paul's writings, suggesting, too, that perhaps there was in him, as in this, so also in other things, a certain likeness to the Great Apostle who made "himself all to all that he might gain all to God."

He impressed me in these ways more perhaps than any but one other man has impressed me—the great master of thought under whom I passed when I left Newman; another of the greatest minds of the age—Antonio Rosmini, the Founder of the Order to which I have the honour to belong.

When Newman read the Holy Scriptures from the lectern of St. Mary's or at Littlemore, we {5} felt more than ever that his words were the words of a Seer, who saw God, and the things of God.

Many men are impressive readers, but we can see they mean to be impressive. They do not reach the soul; they play upon the sense and imagination: they are good actors, certainly; they may or may not be more. They do not forget themselves; you do not forget them.

Newman's reading of the Nicene Creed was a sublime meditation, or rather contemplation. I remember his reading the passage in the Book of Wisdom about the making of idols, and the sublime scorn with which he read of the "carving of the block of wood and the painting it with vermilion," impressed me with the blank stupidity of the attempt to put the idea of God, under any material form, and Newman's sermons were like his reading, the words of one who spoke with the utter conviction and intense earnestness—the quiet unstudied rhetoric—of one who saw truth and spoke what he saw.

These sermons were preached at St. Mary's, the University Church, at the afternoon parish service, when the University Sermon was over. It was always crowded by undergraduates, Bachelors and Masters of Arts, the very flower of "Young Oxford."

The effect of his teaching on us young men was to turn our souls, as it were, inside out; in measure and degree it was like what he says in the Dream of Gerontius of the soul after death presented before God,

"Who draws the soul from out its case
And burns away its stains." {6}

God the Creator was the first theme he taught us, and it contained the premisses of all that followed. We never could be again the same as before, whether we "obeyed the heavenly vision" or neglected it.

We had gained some notion that there were false forms of Christianity to be avoided. Socinianism was one; Roman Catholicism was another; and this had been impressed upon us very strongly. But the Church of England, which we supposed was much the same in doctrine with the other Protestant Churches, we did not doubt was the old and true religion.

The next truth which we learned from the tenor of all his teaching was, that God who is so near us, that "in Him we live and move and are," who is the ultimate hidden force and First Cause beneath the phenomena of the visible universe, and of our own spiritual consciousness and conscience, our Moral Governor, might be expected beforehand to have given a religion to man by supernatural revelation.

He had done so. We accepted the Christianity of the Church of England as the original Revelation.

Being now convinced of the duties we owed to God and to Revelation, we set to work to practice the duties it taught—to repent of our sins and amend our lives, to pray very earnestly, and to frequent the Communion celebrated every Sunday morning early in the chancel of St. Mary's.

An important matter to us was the teaching of Dr. Pusey on Baptism and on Post-Baptismal Sin. From hearing these doctrines, most of us came to hold that, as a fact, we had been made "temples of God in baptism." {7}

What was our present condition, if by sin perhaps from early youth or even from childhood, we had driven out the Spirit of God and had become a dwelling place of evil spirits?

I do not know what to say about others; for myself no words can express the dark terror of my soul. But the Anglican doctrine, clear as it is about baptism, could tell us no remedy for sin committed after baptism.

It was for me most providential that I happened at this critical moment to come across a Roman Catholic book, Milner's "End of Controversy." I read it eagerly, for I was in sore distress. I saw at once, first, that I had been misled and mistaken as to the tenets of the Roman Catholics—that they believed in One God and in Jesus Christ as their only Redeemer and source of Grace; I saw that they taught that, in Baptism, we are made Temples of God, that sin deserves everlasting punishment, but that if we sin God has provided "a second plank after shipwreck," equivalent, if repentance is deep, to a second Baptism—the Holy Sacrament of Penance—Confession and Absolution.

This was the first time I had ever heard of this Sacrament. It was Milner who sent me to the Anglican Prayer-book for the same doctrine of Confession and Priestly Absolution, and then I saw it clearly laid down in the "Ordination Service of Priests" and in the "Office for the Visitation of the Sick." I afterwards read the same doctrine in the works of Jeremy Taylor, and of other Anglican Divines.

I was immensely relieved, and began to practise confession, but never without misgiving, since the first attempt I made with a very High {8} Church cathedral dignitary, who was so scared by my asking him to hear my confession that he said he really could not do it until he had consulted the Archdeacon! It was clear therefore that he had never met with anyone proposing to go to confession until that moment. What then was to be thought of a Church which had neglected for 300 years an essential Sacrament in which it professed in words to believe—what confidence could one have that in other weighty matters it had not neglected its trust?

This led me to see for the first time the meaning of the words in the Creed "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." I saw that the Roman Catholic Church was by far the largest portion of the Church of the Creed. I saw too that England was, up to the time of Henry VIII., a visible part of that Church. I supposed it was so still, or ought to be.

Doubts had begun to arise in my mind whether I ought not to become a Roman Catholic at once, for I could not see how the Church of England could still be a part of that Church from which it had separated. Still the example of Newman, and of so many, more learned and better far than myself, made me wish to be able honestly to dispel my doubts.

But that now happened in the Church of England which awoke us all from our dream that it formed any part of Catholic Christendom.

It was on this wise: The Established Church, by force of a new Act of Parliament, found itself committed by the consent of its Bishops to enter into communion with the German Lutherans and Calvinists, in the establishment of a Bishop of Jerusalem, consecrated by the Archbishop of {9} Canterbury, through a mandate of the Sovereign. This Bishop was to preside over a mixed community of Lutherans, Calvinists, and members of the Church of England, and to enter into communion, if they found the way open—if those heretics were willing—with Nestorians, Eutychians and other Oriental Christians.

In short, the act to which the State Church was absolutely committed, was, to faithful men in the Church of England, a revelation of the false step taken in the 16th Century, when the English Sovereign, with the full consent of the Bishops, made himself Head of the Church, through his law courts, "in all causes Ecclesiastical as well as Civil, supreme."

But Newman and others in good faith tried to content us, and prevent our leaving the Church of England; for he did not believe as yet that it was in schism, and though he was convinced that all Christendom ought to be united with the Bishop of Rome, he did not as yet see that out of that visible unity, the visible Church has no existence.

At this critical moment he published the famous "Tract 90," the object of which was to show that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England were not irreconcilable with the Decrees of the Council of Trent, the last General Council of the Church; that the Articles were intended to include Roman Catholics if they would give up a certain technical dependence on the Bishop of Rome.

"Tract 90" produced an immense sensation throughout the country. This was quite unexpected by Newman. Edition on edition teemed from the press, and he was actually enabled with {10} the proceeds to purchase a large and valuable library. It is that which was first at Littlemore, and is now at Edgbaston.

The heads of the University, however, and the Bishops now raised an universal protest against "Tract 90," and against all attempts to minimise the differences between the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Newman felt that his Eirenicon had failed.

On us young men "Tract 90" had the effect of strengthening greatly our growing convictions that Rome was right and the Church of England wrong.

Now, having taken my degree, I began for the first time very seriously to turn my mind to becoming a clergyman in the Church of England—or perhaps a Catholic priest. Hearing that Newman intended establishing a kind of monastery at Littlemore, near Oxford, I volunteered to join him, and was accepted.

We had now arrived at the year 1842, when we took up residence with Newman at Littlemore. Father Dalgairns and myself were the first inmates. It was a kind of monastic life of retirement, prayer and study. We had a sincere desire to remain in the Church of England, if we could be satisfied that in doing so we were members of the world-wide visible communion of Christianity which was of apostolic origin.

We spent our time at Littlemore in study, prayer and fasting. We rose at midnight to recite the Breviary Office, consoling ourselves with the thought that we were united in prayer with united Christendom, and were using the very words used by the Saints of all ages. We fasted according to the practice recommended {11} in Holy Scripture, and practised in the most austere religious orders of Eastern and Western Christendom. We never broke our fast, except on Sundays and the Great Festivals, before twelve o'clock, and not until five o'clock in the Advent and Lenten seasons.

We regularly practised confession, and went to Communion, I think, daily, at the Village Church. At dinner we met together, and after some spiritual reading at table, we enjoyed conversation with Newman. He spoke freely on all subjects that came up, but I think controversial topics were tacitly avoided. He was most scrupulous not to suggest doubts as to the position of the Church of England to those who had them not.

I remember him once saying that eternal punishment was to him of all Christian doctrines the most overwhelming; that not reason alone, but faith only, in God having revealed it by an infallible authority, could accept it.

Again, he once said that there were no doctrines of the Christian revelation which presented any thing like the intellectual difficulties that might be made to obscure the doctrine of God the Creator. Pantheism solved nothing; it only said, "We know nothing but what we see, and we can draw from it, only that what is, is." Newman would never let us treat him as a superior, but placed himself on a perfect level with the youngest of us. I remember that he insisted on our never calling him Mr. Newman, according to the custom of Oxford when addressing Fellows and Tutors of Colleges. He would have had us call him simply Newman. I do not think we ever ventured on this, though we {12} dropped the Mr. and addressed him without any name.

It was his wish to give us some direct object of study (partly to keep us quiet) in his splendid library, in which were all the finest editions of the Greek and Latin Fathers, and School-men, all the best works on scripture and theology, general literature, prose and poetry, and a complete set of Bollandist "Acta Sanctorum," so far as they had been printed.

He had a project of bringing out Lives of the English Saints, and a translation of Fleury's Ecclesiastical History. I was set to work on the history of the Arian period, with a view to undertaking the translation of a volume.

Newman was an excellent violin player, and he would sometimes bring his violin into the library after dinner and entertain us with exquisite sonatas of Beethoven.

It is said that a well-known Protestant controversialist—Canon Hugh McNeill of Liverpool—a great spouter on anti-Popery platforms, once advised himself to challenge Newman to a public disputation. The great man's answer was like himself. He wrote saying that "Canon McNeill's well-known talent as a finished orator, would make such a public controversy an unfair trial of strength between them, because he himself was no orator. He had had in fact no practice in public speaking. His friends however told him that he was no mean performer on the violin, and if he agreed to meet Canon McNeill, he would only make one condition, that the Canon should open the meeting, and say all he had to say, after which he (Mr. Newman) would conclude with a tune on the violin. {13} The public would then be able to judge which was the best man."

I have said that Newman never alluded to Anglican difficulties, or unless pressed, in private, by direct questions. Once I had been to confession to him; and in other ways he knew I was in great distress about the position of the Church of England ever since I read Milner's "End of Controversy." After I rose from my knees I said to him, "But are you sure that you can give me absolution?" He did not speak for a few moments, then he said in a tone of deep distress, "Why will you ask me, ask Pusey." This was the first indication I had received that he himself was seriously shaken as to his own position in the Anglican Church.

He soon perceived that I was more unsettled than ever. One day he came to my room and said, very kindly but abruptly, as if it was something unpleasant that he must say: "Now I must tell you that you must leave us at once, or else you must promise to remain with us for three years." I answered, "In my present state of mind I could not promise that." He said, "Will you go and see Ward and have a talk with him?" I assented, and the next day I went by appointment into Oxford to see Ward at Balliol. I remember he took me for a walk. I think we talked for three hours, walking round and round the Parks, beyond Wadham College. In the end, I found myself without an answer, thoroughly puzzled, but unconvinced. Ward had just published a huge volume, "The Ideal Church," in which he made a great point of the relations between Conscience and Intellect. His line with me was, that I must know that however {14} convinced in my intellect that I ought to leave the English Church, I must not trust it unless my conscience was up to the same measure as my intellect; and that, knowing myself, could I say that I had cultivated my conscience, by obedience to all that I knew was the Will of God, so as to justify me in being confident in the judgment of intellect?

I went back to Newman in a state of perplexed conscience; but not seeing what else to do, and hesitating in my judgment about the duty of submission to Rome, since I saw that such a learned, wise, and saintly man as Newman did not see it to be his duty, I gave him a promise to remain for the stipulated three years at Littlemore. Years after I found that Newman had not expected me to give the promise.

I kept my promise for about a year, but I was dreadfully unhappy. I thoroughly believed in sin and in Baptism, and that there was no revealed way for the washing away of post-baptismal sin except the Sacrament of Penance, Confession, and Absolution; now I doubted seriously about Anglican orders, but still more about Anglican jurisdiction, for I could see no Church on earth but the Visible Church, in which the successor of St. Peter is the Visible Head and Source of Jurisdiction, with the power of binding and of loosing given by Our Lord to His Visible Church under the Visible Head appointed by Him.

At last I could bear the strain no longer, and with great grief I left my dear Master, and was received into the Catholic Church in August, 1843.

Newman and my friends at Littlemore and {15} Oxford were greatly pained by my secession. Newman considered himself so compromised by it, that he immediately resigned his parish of St. Mary's, and preached his last sermon—his last sermon in the Anglican Church—at Littlemore. It is entitled "The Parting of Friends."

Two years later, in 1845, Newman and the rest of his companions at Littlemore, and many others, made their submission to the Catholic Church. One of the first things he did after this was to pay me a most kind and loving visit at Ratcliffe College, near Leicester, where I was studying.

He and many other learned disciples left the Church of England, (and many others have followed them,) because, through profound study, and earnest seeking after God, during long years of patient waiting, so as to test each step thoroughly, they had come to be utterly convinced that the English Church had forfeited all claim to teach, from the moment it separated from the Visible Church, whose centre is at Rome, its circumference the round world itself. They saw that they had to leave the Church of England as by Law Established under Henry VIII.; rather than join which Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Fisher, and hundreds of others, priests and laymen in England, Ireland, and Scotland laid down their lives.

Our work among English Church people was sundered. Few of the friends we had left cared any longer to associate with us. We had become, I will not say, "the scorn of men," for most men believed we were sincere, however mistaken; but we were "the outcasts of our people." And still more was this the case when the storm {16} arose throughout all England against the Catholics, on the occasion of the restoration of the English Hierarchy, and what was called the Papal Aggression Act of Parliament. But a reaction came: the New Act against Catholics was ignominiously expunged from the Statute Book, as the result of this revulsion of public opinion. After a time, too, we found our old friends, long estranged, venturing to come near us again.

But no event, and no person, has had so much to do with producing this revulsion of public feeling as Cardinal Newman. Nothing is needed to prove this beyond the daily papers and reviews of this month, which show that his death has been treated by the public opinion of England as the loss of one of the greatest, most venerated of England's sons. Yet he was a Catholic, a convert, a Cardinal of Rome, and the writer who has done more to expose the errors of Protestantism than any writer for three centuries.

But during the greater part of the past fifty years the work even of Newman, and still more of the most of us, as priests in the Catholic Church, has been chiefly among the masses of the Irish Catholics resident in England, and the faithful remnant of the old English Catholics.

Yet, as we have ministered to Catholic congregations, many of all classes, and of all Protestant denominations, and many from the ranks of Socinians, and of Rationalists of every degree, have come to us, by all manner of different roads, and lines of thought, and, convinced by the same ultimate reasons that convinced us, have become Catholics.

But in the Church of England itself, the work {17} of Newman is not over. He has done much to save it from the deteriorating spirit of a State religion, tending fast to Socinianism and Rationalism, and raised in it a desire widely felt to prove itself a part of the Catholic Church. English Churchmen, generally, have a pervading consciousness that they are in the presence of the majestic Visible Unity of the Catholic Church. That was not the case fifty years ago.

Meantime great numbers of the ministers of the Church of England, with the prestige of their position, teach publicly nearly every one of those Catholic doctrines which our forefathers abandoned 300 years ago. They delight to call themselves Catholics, and to think that they are one in doctrine with the ancient Church, from the days of St. Augustine up to the days of Henry VIII. Perhaps there is but one doctrine they have not yet reached—the key-stone of the arch—the See of Peter—the centre and the test of Catholic Unity.

Let us hope that in the Church of England, men are as earnest, now, in seeking after dogmatic truth, and "the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," as those who were the first leaders in the Catholicizing Movement of fifty years since.

Well, it took Newman and Manning many years to reach this point, after they had, already, come to believe most Catholic doctrines.

Yet, men of thought and earnestness cannot put themselves into our position of fifty years ago. The case of the Jerusalem Bishopric, and the Gorham case, were a revelation that the Church of England has its public teaching authority solely from the State. Its clergy {18} may teach almost every Catholic doctrine, because all doctrines have been reduced to such opinions on religion as public opinion, and the House of Commons, which roughly, but clearly enough represents public opinion, will tolerate; and it will tolerate nearly everything, short of open atheism and downright Popery.

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Reprinted from the Paternoster Review, Oct., 1890.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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