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·THE EDINBURGH REVIEW ON

CARDINAL NEWMAN

The appearance of Newman's biography has naturally called forth a good many estimates of the Cardinal's published works and of his position as a writer and thinker. Many of these estimates have illustrated forcibly the remark of the late Mr. R. H. Hutton that very few of his critics carefully study Newman's career and writings as a whole—a study quite essential to the true understanding of his mind. There are few men in respect of whose opinions really able writers have made such amazing blunders, due perhaps in part to the fact that some of his ultimate conclusions appear to these writers so superstitious as to warrant them in being certain beforehand that his thought cannot be very deep. Mr. Hutton selects as an instance what be calls an astoundingly unintelligent' criticism passed by Professor Huxley on a passage in

a passage in the Essay on Miracles. Newman is speaking of traditional stories of past events, and points out that if they are very long past, the evidence for them may naturally have perished. The absence of evidence is no proof of their falsity. For evidence is not to be expected. They can neither be proved true nor proved false. He uses the phrase 'as if evidence were the test of truth,' and Huxley retorted in the following passage :

*As if evidence were the test of truth!' although the truth in question is the occurrence or non-occurrence of certain phenomena at a certain time or place. This sudden revelation of the great gulf fixed between the ecclesiastical and the scientific mind is enough to take away the breath of one unfamiliar with the clerical organ. Mr. Hutton pointed out that Newman's words were in reality a truism. He did not say that evidence was unnecessary in order that we might know such facts, but only that its absence in such a case did not disprove them. “A looser or more careless bit of interpretation,' added Mr. Hutton, ‘of a very exact writer I never read than Professor Huxley's criticism.' * See Cardinal Newman, by R. H. Hutton, pp. 60 seq. (Methuen.)

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Probably few people have taken Dr. Edwin Abbott very seriously, but his book entitled Philomythus is full of criticisms which equally miss Newman's meaning because the writer is certain beforehand that Newman is aiming at the justification of superstitious beliefs rather than carefully analysing the mental processes.

It had been my intention to review several of the more serious misunderstandings of Newman's drift to which the appearance of my book has given occasion, but the article in The Edinburgh Review of April contains such remarkable illustrations of Mr. Hutton's saying that for the moment it claims all my attention. The reviewer uses very strong epithets in respect of the subject of his attack. He accuses him of 'refined brutality,' speaks of some of his controversial retorts as 'disagreeable and insulting,' charges him with exhibiting the Catholic ferocity—the cruellest spirit on earth.' I make no complaint of strong language used in replying to one who himself, on occasion, hit hard; but I think that two conditions are needed to justify it. In the first place, it should be used only in an essay in which real care is taken to understand the person thus criticised. Otherwise it savours of barbaric abuse. Secondly, I do not think such language should be used by a writer who fires from behind the wall of an anonymous publication. If you abuse an eminent man you should accept the responsibility of doing so, and have the courage of your invective. You should not strike at a dead man's reputation ferociously without giving his defenders the opportunity of challenging you or prosecuting you for libel before the courts of public opinion.

The Edinburgh reviewer's inspection of Newman's writings has been to all appearances so cursory as to lead him to misapprehensions some of which are not far short of ludicrous. It is not a case of a slight misunderstanding here or a slight misunderstanding there of the meaning of a very subtle writer, but he is apparently unacquainted with salient and well-known features of Newman's thought. Doubtless on some subjects passages may be quoted from Newman which, to a hasty reader, appear opposite to the drift of other passages. The writer cited in the introductory chapter to Newman's biography notes how the Roman theologians were puzzled by Newman's apparent combination of liberalism and ultramontanism, of maximism and minimism. But if a critic, instead of endeavouring to master the somewhat subtle positions which such opposite currents mark out, wholly ignores one line of thought and devotes himself exclusively to its opposite as though it gave the man's whole

: I should have noticed the article sooner, but owing to absence from England I did not see it until some time had elapsed after its appearance.

position, he is landed in very absurd conclusions. And if in the lines of argument he does recognise he neglects the explanations whereby the author guards against misunderstanding, the results are yet more absurd. This is what the Edinburgh reviewer has done. The result is an account of Newman's views which has not even the likeness of a caricature,

Let me take a few specimens of his treatment in the order in which they come. The first which I find is not one of the worst, but it is sufficiently remarkable as betraying unacquaintance with Newman's intellectual temper.

The writer quotes from Mark Pattison's estimate of the limitations of the Oxford writers of 1830 and the prejudiced view of history to which, in his opinion, they led, and then proceeds as follows:

Newman never, all through his life, took a step towards overcoming this early prejudice. He imagined a golden age of the Church, or several golden ages, and found them in the first three centuries,' in the time of Alfred the Great or of Edward the Confessor, or in the seventeenth century. He was only sure that the sixteenth century was made of much baser metal. This unhistorical idealisation of the past, even of a barbarous past, was very characteristic of Newman and his friends. They bequeathed to the Anglican Church the strange legend of an age of pure doctrine and heroic practice, to which it should be our aim to return.' The real strength of this legend lies in the fact that it has no historical foundation. The ideal which is presented as a return or a revival is nothing of the kind, bat a creation of our own time, projected by the imagination into the past, from which it comes back with a halo of authority. Newman had his full share of these illusions. (p. 273.)

Now here, be it observed, the writer is not content with stating that Newman looked back-as he certainly did-with regret at certain doctrines which the Church of England had maintained in earlier days and had since lost, or that his imagination was fired by certain episodes in Church history. He accuses Newman of unhistorical idealisation of the actual state of things in the past, and even in a barbarous past, and of wishing to return to it as ideally good for our own days also.

Any careful student of Newman knows that this picture is not only inexact, but the direct contrary to Newman's temper of mind. His whole view of Church history was pessimistic, not optimistic. When the late Sir Rowland Blennerhassett once spoke to him of certain alleged episodes connected with the Vatican Council, Newman replied : ‘Yes, they are very shocking, but they are nothing to what occurred during some of the earlier Councils.' In his Essay on Development he gives it as a Dote of the true Church in the fifth and sixth centuries that in some places its members are degenerate and corrupt, and surpassed in conscientiousness and virtue as in the gifts of intellect by the very heretics whom it condemns.' He protested emphatically against the optimism of those of his followers who were unfamiliar with history like W. G. Ward, or those who did not recognise its anomalies like T. W. Allies. It will be sufficient to illustrate his temper of mind by quoting a few passages from a letter addressed to Mr. T. W. Allies while he was writing his Formation of Christendom. Mr. Allies had in his book treated as an ideal aim for all times the union of Church and State, and other features in the civilisation introduced by Charlemagne and existing in the reigns of Alfred and Edward the Confessor. Newman writes to him as follows:

My position is, that there is no probability in facts (i.e. no evidence) that one organisation of society saves more souls than another. . . . On the other hand, that one system (i.e. the medieval and others besides it) accidentally, i.e. at a given time and place, is better suited than another for the object, I not only grant, but would maintain. And I fully concede, that this or that method of State action (humanly speaking) is absolutely necessary at a certain crisis, in order to extricate the Church from existing difficulties, and set her on her course again; though this remark applies to Victor Emmanuel quite as well as to Charlemagne (without of course denying the sin of the one and the merit of the other), and, moreover, allows me to consider that a system, e.g. the mediæval, enforced out of season may save fewer souls than some other system.

I grant that State protection, patronage, sanction, is (an immense gain] in its abstract idea, but is Stato patronage always so in fact, and in the concrete ? I say, no, because in fact patronage always has been, always will be, something besides patronage, in mundo maligno; it will be interference. When the State gives, it will always take. The Quid pro quo in Christian legislation is Imperial Prerogative. Constantine built churches, and delivered his opinion about orthodoxy and heresy. He honoured bishops, but he introduced himself, and preached to them, in their Ecumenical Assembly, and called himself a bishop for external matters.' We must consider, then, what State Patronage in the concreto connotes, viz. State influence in holy things. . .. I am not speaking against ecclesiastical establishments; I am but asking whether there is proof that the Church saves more souls when established, than when persecuted, or than when tolerated. ... May not I prefer, at this day, for the saving of souls, a Gallio for my ruler to a Philip II., a Gamaliel to a St. Louis ? 3

I think I am speaking well within the mark when I say that the passage I have quoted from the Edinburgh Review ascribes an attitude of mind and a quality of historical judgments to Newman entirely different from those visible in his own written words.

But far more misleading are the pages in which the reviewer professes to give an account of Newman's views on the human reason which he holds to be very disparaging to that faculty.

A critic may be excused for missing some of the qualifications introduced by a very subtle writer in the exposition of his general theory. Still more may he be excused where some of those qualifications indicate a mind of extraordinary complexity and at first sight present paradoxes, or statements not quite in line with the general drift. But what is to be said if be simply strings together a certain number of qualifications and apparent paradoxes and gives them as if they were the whole theory? Yet this is what has happened in the document which I am reviewing. Newman's general argument is contained in the University Sermons, the Grammar of Assent, The Idea of a University, and the Apologia. So far as it is concerned with the disparagement of the results of explicit reasoning in certain conditions its outcome is somewhat as follows: The development of human reason in civilised society is found, as a matter of experience, not to be favourable to religious belief. Are we then to conclude that the human reason witnesses against religion? The alternative is that civilisation is apt to bring along with its development of the reasoning powers a certain sophistication of mind and a certain worldliness of mental atmosphere which are in the matter of religious belief unfavourable to the interests of right reason and truth. This latter alternative Newman accepts. He holds that the reason is apt, when given free rein, to travel beyond its natural sphere, and in so doing to make tangles it cannot resolve, and to reject truths which its own action has thus obscured. Moreover in an evil world it gets steeped in an atmosphere which dims its perception of religious first principles.

* Life of T. W. Allies, p. 120. (Burns and Oates.)

Newman's argument in general pits judgment and accurate perception against cleverness and ingenuity in some urgent matters which admit neither of demonstration nor of scientific induction. Common-sense is often a truer guide (he holds) than ingenuity. “A man,' he says, “may reason well and argue badly, or vice versa. Reason in this higher sense is to be trusted. Reasoning in the sense of clever argument is in certain circumstances untrustworthy. It is often special pleading. Our conscience tells us our often painful duty; and its judgment represents our rational nature in the truest sense. Yet the world or the tempter will suggest plenty of unanswerable arguments to prove that a pleasanter course is a right one. The abnormal development of the dialectical faculty by increased civilisation is not favourable in matters of fundamental religious belief to that purity of perception and single eye for truth which is our chief security for starting from and adhering to true first principles. And it is on the first principles we accept that our decision really

• This is of course the meaning of the reference to Eve in one of Newman's sermons, on which the reviewer bostows his undiscerning scorn. (Edinburgh Review, p. 276.)

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