IT IS BENEFICIAL FOR SOCIETY FOR IT TO HELP CONCAVE-CONVEX COUPLES WITH PARENTAL RESPONSABILITY STAY STRONG.
Strengthening such marriages through deepening the couple’s awareness that they are an iconic structure that is essential to creation and reproduction and no random structure is beneficial
The concave-convex couple unit is a particular unit.
Empowering your marriage by realizing and acknowledging that you are in the image of a creative Power and the fruitfulness of the human parental couple is a living and effective “image”, a visible sign of that creative entity is important.
Marriage gives a man and woman an intense unique experience whose intimacy embraces both genders emotions fully.
Strengthening marriages through deepening the couple’s awareness that it is a iconic structure essential to the creator and no random structure stabilizes the fully gender inclusive emotional and role-model environment for children.
The purpose of marriage education is to reduce people from making mistakes in this area.
A loving Marriage is a high value accomplishment worth striving for, achieving, committing to and protecting.
Masculine and Feminine receive their meaning from one another and fulfill their concave/convex balance together in marriage. They act out common elements which are found throughout the natural world. Entities possesses dual characteristics of yang (masculinity) and yin (femininity) and a completeness comes into existence only when these characteristics have formed reciprocal relationships. Each is the other half of the other.
TET works to liberate God from Denomination and Sect.
Each new religion starts off proclaiming one world under God but developes into another denomination. Amongst the characteristics of a sectional faith of denomination are
The original temptation set before our first parents, was that of proving their freedom, by using it without regard to the will of Him who gave it.
The original excuse offered by them after sinning was, that they were not really free, that they had acted under a constraining influence, the subtlety of the tempter.
This has been the course of lawless pride and lust ever since; to lead us, first, to exult in our uncontrollable liberty of will and conduct; then, when we have ruined ourselves, to plead that we are the slaves of necessity.
It has been always the job of Religion and Law to protest against the sophistry of evil, and to preserve those truths which the unbelieving heart corrupts, both the freedom and the responsibility of man, the sovereignty of the Creator, the supremacy of the law of conscience within us, and the irrelevancy of external circumstances in the judgment which is to be made upon our conduct and character.
We are accountable for what we do and what we are,—that, in spite of all aids or hindrances from without, each person is the cause of their own happiness or misery, is a truth proved to us both by Conscience and Acquired Knowledge.
Nature conveys it to us in the feeling of guilt and remorse, which implies self-condemnation. On the other hand, It is the great prevailing principle, in every age of the world, and through every Culture.
The change of times, the varieties of knowledge, the gifts of grace, do not interfere with the integrity of this momentous truth.
Praise to the good, punishment to the bad, is the revealed rule of God’s government from the beginning to the consummation of all things. The flaw of our ancestors did not abolish, nor do the provisions of mercy supersede it.
It is my wish now to give some illustrations of the operation of this sophistry in the affairs of life; not that it is a subject which admits of novelty in the discussion, but with the hope of directing attention to a mode of deceiving our consciences, common in all ages since the original transgression, and not least successful in our own.
To find fault with the circumstances in which we find ourselves, is our ready and familiar excuse when our conduct is criticized in any way. Yet even the heathen moralist saw that all those actions are voluntary, in which we ourselves are in any way ultimately the principle of action; and that praise and blame are awarded, not according to the mode in which we should have behaved, had circumstances been different, but according as we actually conduct ourselves, things being as they are.
It is we, and not our circumstances, that are, after all, the main cause of what we do and what we are.
Full text of Human Responsibility, as Independent of Circumstances.
John Henry Newman.
THE original temptation set before our first parents, was that of proving their freedom, by using it without regard to the will of Him who gave it. The original excuse offered by them after sinning was, that they were not really free, that they had acted under a constraining influence, the subtilty of the tempter. They committed sin that they might be independent of their Maker; they defended it on the ground that they were dependent upon Him. And this has been the course of lawless pride and lust ever since; to lead us, first, to exult in our uncontrollable liberty of will and conduct; then, when we have ruined ourselves, to plead that we are the slaves of necessity.
2. Accordingly, it has been always the office of Religion to protest against the sophistry of Satan, and to preserve the memory of those truths which the unbelieving heart corrupts, both the freedom and the responsibility of man;—the sovereignty of the Creator, the supremacy of the law of conscience as His representative within us, and the irrelevancy of external circumstances in the judgment which is ultimately to be made upon our conduct and character.
3. That we are accountable for what we do and what we are,—that, in spite of all aids or hindrances from without, each soul is the cause of its own happiness or misery,—is a truth certified to us both by Nature and Revelation. Nature conveys it to us in the feeling of guilt and remorse, which implies self-condemnation. In the Scriptures, on the other hand, it is the great prevailing principle throughout, in every age of the world, and through every Dispensation. The change of times, the varieties of religious knowledge, the gifts of grace, interfere not with the integrity of this momentous truth. Praise to the obedient, punishment on the transgressor, is the revealed rule of God’s government from the beginning to the consummation of all things. The fall of Adam did not abolish, nor do the provisions of Gospel-mercy supersede it.
4. At the creation it was declared, “In the day that thou eatest … thou shalt surely die.” On the calling of the Israelites, the Lord God was proclaimed in sight of their lawgiver as “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” And when Moses interceded for the people, with an earnestness which tended to the infringement of the Divine Rule, he was reminded that he could not himself be really responsible for others. “Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book.” The prophetical Dispensation enforced the same truth still more clearly. “With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure, and with the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die; make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die?” And after Christ had come, the most explicit of the inspired expounders of the New Covenant is as explicit in his recognition of the original rule. “Every man shall bear his own burden … Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Even in his Epistle to the Romans, where he is directly engaged in declaring another, and at first sight opposite doctrine, he finds opportunity for confessing the principle of accountableness. Though exalting the sovereign power and inscrutable purposes of God, and apparently referring man’s agency altogether to Him as the vessel of His good pleasure, still he forgets not, in the very opening of his exposition, to declare the real independence and responsibility of the human will. “He will render to every man according to his deeds; … tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil … but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; … for there is no respect of persons with God;”—declarations, which I will not say are utterly irreconcilable in their very structure with (what is called) the Calvinistic creed, but which it is certain would never have been written by an assertor of it in a formal exposition of his views for the benefit of his fellow-believers. Lastly, we have the testimony of the book which completes and seals up for ever the divine communications. “My reward is with Me; to give every man according as his work shall be. Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” [Gen. ii. 17. Exod. xxxiv. 7; xxxii. 33. Ps. xviii. 26. Ez. xviii. 4, 31. Gal. vi. 5-7. Rom. ii. 6-11. Rev. xxii. 12, 13.]
5. Moreover, we have the limits of external aids and hindrances distinctly stated to us, so as to guarantee to us, in spite of existing influences of whatever kind, even of our original corrupt nature, the essential freedom and accountableness of our will. As regards external circumstances: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” As regards the corrupt nature in which we are born: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed; then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” And as regards divine assistances: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened … if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” [1 Cor. x. 13. James i. 13-15. Heb. vi. 4-6.]
6. Far be it from any one to rehearse triumphantly, and in the way of controversy, these declarations of our privilege as moral agents; rather, so fearful and burdensome is this almost divine attribute of our nature, that, when we consider it attentively, it requires a strong faith in the wisdom and love of our Maker, not to start sinfully from His gift; and at the mere prospect, not the memory of our weakness, to attempt to transfer it from ourselves to the agents, animate and inanimate, by which we are surrounded, and to lose our immortality under the shadows of the visible world. And much more, when the sense of guilt comes upon us, do we feel the temptation of ridding ourselves of our conviction of our own responsibility; and, instead of betaking ourselves to Him who can reverse what we cannot disclaim, to shelter ourselves under the original unbelief of our first parents, as if the serpent gave it to us and we did eat.
7. It is my wish now to give some illustrations of the operation of this sophistry in the affairs of life; not that it is a subject which admits of novelty in the discussion, but with the hope of directing attention to a mode of deceiving our consciences, common in all ages since the original transgression, and not least successful in our own.
8. To find fault with the circumstances in which we find ourselves, is our ready and familiar excuse when our conduct is arraigned in any particular. Yet even the heathen moralist saw that all those actions are voluntary, in which we ourselves are in any way ultimately the principle of action; and that praise and blame are awarded, not according to the mode in which we should have behaved, had circumstances been different, but according as we actually conduct ourselves, things being as they are. Commenting on goods thrown overboard in a storm, he remarks “that such acts must be considered voluntary, as being the objects of our choice at the time when they are done, for our conduct is determined according to the emergency.” In truth, nothing is more easy to the imagination than duty in the abstract, that is, duty in name and not in reality. It is when it assumes a definite and actual shape, when it comes upon us under circumstances (and it is obvious it can come in no other way), then it is difficult and troublesome. Circumstances are the very trial of obedience. Yet, plain as this is, it is very common to fancy our particular condition peculiarly hard, and that we should be better and happier men in any other.
9. Thus, for instance, opportunity, which is the means of temptation in the case of various sins, is converted into an excuse for them. Perhaps it is very plain that, except for some unusual combination of circumstances, we could never have been tempted at all; yet, when we fall on such an occasion, we are ready to excuse our weakness, as if our trial were extraordinary.
10. Again, the want of education is an excuse common with the lower classes for a careless and irreligious life.
11. Again, it is scarcely possible to resist the imagination, that we should have been altogether other men than we are, had we lived in an age of miracles, or in the visible presence of our Lord; that is, we cannot persuade ourselves that, whatever be the force of things external to us in modifying our condition, it is we, and not our circumstances, that are, after all, the main causes of what we do and what we are.
12. Or, again, to take a particular instance, which will perhaps come home to some who hear me, when a young man is in prospect of ordination, he has a conceit that his mind will be more fully his own, when he is actually engaged in the sacred duties of his new calling, than at present; and, in the event he is perhaps amazed and frightened, to find how little influence the change of circumstances has had in sobering and regulating his thoughts, whatever greater decency his outward conduct may exhibit.
13. Further, it is the common excuse of wilful sinners, that there are peculiarities in their present engagements, connexions, plans, or professions, incompatible with immediate repentance; according to the memorable words of Felix, “When I have a convenient season, I will send for thee.”
14. The operation of the same deceit discovers itself in our mode of judging the conduct of others; whether, in the boldness with which we blame in them what, under other circumstances, we allow in ourselves; or, again, in the false charity which we exercise towards them. For instance, the vices of the young are often regarded by beholders with an irrational indulgence, on the ground (as it is said) that youth ever will be wanton and impetuous; which is only saying, if put into plain language, that there are temptations which are not intended as trials of our obedience. Or when, as lately, the lower orders rise up against the powers that be, in direct opposition to the word of Scripture, they are excused on the ground of their rulers being bigoted and themselves enlightened; or because they feel themselves capable of exercising more power; or because they have the example of other nations to incite them to do so; or simply (the more common excuse) because they have the means of doing so: as if loyalty could be called a virtue when men cannot be disloyal, or obedience had any praise when it became a constraint. In like manner, there is a false charity, which, on principle, takes the cause of heresy under its protection; and, instead of condemning it, as such, busies itself in fancying the possible circumstances which may, in this or that particular instance, excuse it; as if outward fortunes could change the nature of truth or of moral excellence, or as if, admitting the existence of unavoidable misbelief to be conceivable, yet it were not the duty of the Christian to take things as they are given us in Scripture, as they are in themselves, and as they are on the whole, instead of fastening upon exceptions to the rule, or attempting to ascertain that combination and balance of circumstances, in favour of individuals, which is only known to the Omniscient Judge.
15. The following apology for the early profligacy of the notorious French infidel of the last century is found in even the respectable literature of the present day, and is an illustration of the kind of fatalism now under consideration. “It is certain,” the apologist says, “that a brilliant, highly-gifted, and more than commonly vivacious young man, like Voltaire, who moved in the high tide of Parisian society, must necessarily be imbued with the levity and laxity that on every side surrounded him, and which has rendered the period in question proverbial for profligacy and debauchery … This is not observed in defence of his moral defects, or of any one else, but in answer to those who expect the virtues of a sage from the education of an Alcibiades. His youthful career seems to have been precisely that of other young men of his age and station, neither better nor worse. It is scarcely necessary to prove the tinge which such a state of society must bestow upon every character, however intellectually gifted, which is formed in the midst of it.” No one can say that the doctrine contained in this extract is extravagant, as opinions go, and unfair as a specimen of what is commonly received in the world, however boldly it is expressed. Yet it will be observed, that vice is here pronounced to be the necessary effect of a certain state of society, and, as being such, not extenuated merely, as regards the individual (as it may well be), but exculpated; so that, while the actions resulting from it are allowed to be intrinsically bad, yet the agent himself is acquitted of the responsibility of committing them.
16. The sophistry in question sometimes has assumed a bolder form, and has displayed itself in the shape of system. Let us, then, now direct our attention to it in some of those fortified positions, which at various times it has taken up against the plain declarations of Scripture and Conscience.
17. Fatalism is the refuge of a conscience-stricken mind, maddened at the sight of evils which it has brought upon itself, and cannot remove. To believe and tremble is the most miserable of dooms for an immortal spirit; and bad men, whose reason has been awakened by education, resolved not to be “tormented before their time,” seek in its intoxication a present oblivion of their woe. It is wretched enough to suffer, but self-reproach is the worm which destroys the inward power of resistance. Submission alone makes pain tolerable in any case; and they who refuse the Divine yoke are driven to seek a sedative in the notion of an eternal necessity. They deny that they ever could have been other than they are. “What heaven has made me, I must be,” is the sentiment which hardens them into hopeless pride and rebellion.
18. And it must be confessed, so great is the force of passion and of habit, when once allowed to take possession of the heart, that these men seem to have in their actual state, nay in their past experience, long before the time of their present obduracy, an infallible witness in behalf of their doctrine. In subduing our evil nature, the first steps alone are in our own power; a few combats seem to decide the solemn question, to decide whether the sovereignty is with the spirit or the flesh; nisi paret, imperat, is become a proverb. When once the enemy of our souls “comes in like a flood,” what hope is there that he ever will be expelled? And what servitude can be compared to the bondage which follows, when we wish to do right, yet are utterly powerless to do it? whether we be slaves to some imperious passion, hushed indeed in its victim’s ordinary mood, and allowing the recurrence of better thoughts and purposes, but rising suddenly and sternly, in his evil hour, to its easy and insulting triumph; or, on the other hand, to some cold sin which overhangs and deadens the mind, sloth, for instance, or cowardice, binding it down with ten thousand subtle fastenings to the earth, nor suffering it such motion as might suffice it for a renewal of the contest. Such, in its worst forms, is the condition of the obdurate sinner; who, feeling his weakness, but forgetting that he ever had strength, and the promise of aid from above, at length learns to acquiesce in his misery as if the lot of his nature, and resolves neither to regret nor to hope. Next he amuses his reason with the melancholy employment of reducing his impressions into system; and proves, as he thinks, from the confessed influence of external events, and the analogy of the physical world, that all moral phenomena proceed according to a fixed law, and that we are not more to blame when we sin than when we die.
19. The Calvinistic doctrine, if not the result, is at least the forerunner of a similar neglect of the doctrine of human responsibility. Whatever be the fallacies of its argumentative basis, viewed as a character of mind, it miscalculates the power of the affections, as fatalism does that of the passions. Its practical error is that of supposing that certain motives and views, presented to the heart and conscience, produce certain effects as their necessary consequence, no room being left for the resistance of the will, or for self-discipline, as the medium by which faith and holiness are connected together. It is the opinion of a large class of religious people, that faith being granted, works follow as a matter of course, without our own trouble; and they are confirmed in their opinion by a misconception of our Church’s 12th Article, as if to assert that works “spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith” could only mean that they follow by a kind of physical law. When this notion is once entertained, it follows that nothing remains to be done but to bring these sovereign principles before the mind, as a medicine which must work a cure, or as sights which suddenly enlighten and win the imagination. To care for little duties, to set men right in the details of life, to instruct and refine their conscience, to tutor them in self-denial,—the Scripture methods of working onwards towards higher knowledge and obedience,—become superfluous, nay, despicable, while these master visions are withheld. A system such as this will of course bring with it full evidence of its truth to such debilitated minds as have already so given way to the imagination, that they find themselves unable to resist its impressions as they recur. Nor is there among the theories of the world any more congenial to the sated and remorseful sensualist, who, having lost the command of his will, feels that if he is to be converted, it must be by some sudden and violent excitement. On the other hand, it will always have its advocates among the young and earnest-minded, who, not having that insight into their hearts which experience gives, think that to know is to obey, and that their habitual love of the Truth may be measured by their momentary admiration of it. And it is welcomed by the indolent, who care not for the Scripture warnings of the narrowness of the way of life, provided they can but assure themselves that it is easy to those who are in it; and who readily ascribe the fewness of those who find it, not to the difficulty of connecting faith and works, but to a Divine frugality in the dispensation of the gifts of grace.
20. Such are some of the elements of that state of mind which, when scientifically developed, assumes the shape of Calvinism; the characteristic error, both of the system and of the state of mind, consisting in the assumption that there are things external to the mind, whether doctrines or influences, such, that when once presented to it, they suspend its independence and involve certain results, as if by way of physical consequence; whereas, on studying the New Testament, we shall find, that amid all that is said concerning the inscrutable decrees of God, and His mysterious interposition in the workings of the human mind, still every where the practical truths with which Revelation started are assumed and recognized; that we shall be judged by our good or evil doings, and that a principle within us is ultimately the cause of the one and the other. So that it is preposterous in us to attempt to direct our course by the distant landmarks of the Divine counsels, which are but dimly revealed to us, overlooking the clear track close before our eyes provided for our need. This perverse substitution in matters of conduct of a subtle argumentative rule for one that is plain and practical, is set before us, by way of warning, in the parable of the talents. “Lord, I knew Thee that Thou art a hard man … and I was afraid, and went and hid Thy talent in the earth.”
21. Another illustration may be given of the systematic disparagement of human responsibility, and the consequent substitution of outward events for the inward rule of conscience in judging of conduct.
The influence of the world, viewed as the enemy of our souls, consists in its hold upon our imagination. It seems to us incredible that any thing that is said every where and always can be false. And our faith is shown in preferring the testimony of our hearts and of Scripture to the world’s declarations, and our obedience in acting against them. It is the very function of the Christian to be moving against the world, and to be protesting against the majority of voices. And though a doctrine such as this may be perverted into a contempt of authority, a neglect of the Church, and an arrogant reliance on self, yet there is a sense in which it is true, as every part of Scripture teaches. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,” is its uniform injunction. Yet so irksome is this duty, that it is not wonderful that the wayward mind seeks a release from it; and, looking off from what is within to what is without, it gradually becomes perplexed and unsettled. And, should it so happen that the face of society assumes a consistent appearance, and urges the claims of the world upon the Conscience as if on the ground of principle and system, then still greater is the difficulty in which it has entangled itself. Then it is that acts which, exhibited in individual instances, would have been condemned as crimes, acquire a dignity from the number of the delinquents, or their assumption of authority, and venture to claim our acquiescence as a matter of right. What would be insubordination, or robbery, or murder, when done by one man, is hallowed by the combination of the great or the many.
22. Thus, for instance, what is more common at the present day than for philosophers to represent society as moving by a certain law through different stages, and its various elements as coming into operation at different periods; and then, not content with stating the fact (which is undeniable), to go on to speak as if what has been, and is, ought to be; and as if because at certain eras this or that class of society gains the ascendancy, therefore it lawfully gains it? whereas in truth the usurpation of an invader, and the development (as it is called) of the popular power, are alike facts, and alike sins, in the sight of Him who forbids us to oppose constituted authority. And yet the credulous mind hangs upon the words of the world, and falls a victim to its sophistry; as if, forsooth, Satan could not work his work upon a law, and oppose God’s will upon system. But the Christian, rejecting this pretentious guide of conduct, acts on Faith, and far from being perplexed to find the world consistent in its disobedience, recollects the declarations of Scripture which foretell it.
23. Yet so contrary to common sense is it thus to assert that our conduct ought to be determined merely by what is done by a mixed multitude, that it was to be expected that the ingenious and eager minds who practically acknowledge the principle, should wish to place it on some more argumentative basis. Accordingly, attempts have been made by foreign writers to show that society moves on a law which is independent of the conduct of its individual members, who cannot materially retard its progress, nor are answerable for it,—a law which in consequence is referable only to the will of the Creator. “Historical causes and their effects being viewed, at one glance, through a long course of years, seem,” it has been said, “from their steady progression, to be above any human control; an impulse is given, which beats down resistance, and sweeps away all means of opposition; century succeeds to century, and the philosopher sees the same influence still potent, still undeviating and regular; to him, considering these ages at once, following with rapid thought the slow pace of time, a century appears to dwindle to a point; and the individual obstructions and accelerations, which within that period have occurred to impede or advance the march of events, are eliminated and forgotten.”
24. This is the theory; and hence it is argued that it is our wisdom to submit to a power which is greater than ourselves, and which can neither be circumvented nor persuaded; as if the Christian dare take any guide of conscience except the rule of duty, or might prefer expediency (if it be such) to principle. Nothing, for instance, is more common than to hear men speak of the growing intelligence of the present age, and to insist upon the Church’s supplying its wants; the previous question being entirely left out of view, whether those wants are healthy and legitimate, or unreasonable,—whether real or imaginary,—whether they ought to be gratified or repressed; and it is urged upon us, that unless we take the lead in the advance of mind ourselves, we must be content to fall behind. But, surely our first duty is, not to resolve on satisfying a demand at any price, but to determine whether it be innocent. If so, well; but if not, let what will happen. Even though the march of society be conducted on a superhuman law, yet, while it moves against Scripture Truth, it is not God’s ordinance,—it is but the creature of Satan; and, though it shiver all earthly obstacles to its progress, the gods of Sepharvaim and Arphad, fall it must, and perish it must, before the glorious fifth kingdom of the Most High, when He visits the earth, who is called Faithful and True, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and on His head many crowns, who smites the nations with a rod of iron, and treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
My object in the foregoing remarks has been to illustrate, in various ways, the operation of an all-important truth; that circumstances are but the subject-matter, and not the rule of our conduct, nor in any true sense the cause of it. Let me conclude with one more exemplification of it, which I address to the junior part of my audience.
25. In this place, where the stated devotional services of the Church are required of all of us, it is very common with our younger members to slight them, while they attend on them, on the ground of their being forced upon them. A like excuse is sometimes urged in behalf of an unworthy participation of the Lord’s Supper, as if that communion could not reasonably be considered real, or dangerous to the impenitent, which was performed under constraint.
26. Now, let such an apologist be taken on his own ground. Let it be granted to him, for argument’s sake, though in no other way, that this general exaction of religious duties is unwise; let him be allowed the full force of his objections to a system, which he has not yet experience to understand. Yet do these outward circumstances change the nature of the case in any practical respect, or relieve him of his responsibility? Rather, is it not his plain duty to take things as he finds them, since he has not the power of changing them; and, leaving to his superiors what pertains to them, the task of deciding on the system to be pursued, to inquire how he ought to act under it, and to reflect what his guilt will be in the day of account, if week after week he has come into the presence of God with a deliberate profanation in his right hand, or at least with irreverence of manner, and an idle mind?
27. And, again, as regards the Holy Communion, how do the outward circumstances which bring us thither affect the real purpose of God respecting it? Can we in earthly matters remove what we dislike, by wishing it away?—and shall we hope, by mere unbelief, to remove the Presence of God from His ordinance? As well may we think of removing thereby the visible emblems of bread and wine, or of withdrawing ourselves altogether from the Omnipresent Eye of God itself. Though Christ is savingly revealed in the Sacrament only to those who receive Him in faith, yet we have the express word of Scripture for saying, that the thoughtless communicant, far from remaining as if he did not receive it, is guilty of the actual Body and Blood of Christ,—guilty of the crime of crucifying Him anew, as not discerning that which lies hid in the rite. This does not apply, of course, to any one who communicates with a doubt merely about his own state—far from it!—nor to those who resolve heartily, yet in the event fail to perform, as is the case with the young; nor to those even who may happen to sin both before and after the reception of the Sacrament. Where there is earnestness, there is no condemnation; but it applies fearfully to such as view the Blessed Ordinance as a thing of course, from a notion that they are passive subjects of a regulation which others enforce; and, perhaps, the number of these is not small. Let such persons seriously consider that, were their argument correct, they need not be considered in a state of trial at all, and might escape the future judgment altogether. They would have only to protest (as we may speak) against their creation, and they would no longer have any duties to bind them. But what says the word of God? “That which cometh into your mind, shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.” And then follows the threat, addressed to those who rebel:—”As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you … And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”
28. And these words apply to the whole subject which has engaged us. We may amuse ourselves, for a time, with such excuses for sin as a perverted ingenuity furnishes; but there is One who is justified in His sayings, and clear when He judgeth. Our worldly philosophy and our well-devised pleadings will profit nothing at a day when the heaven shall depart as a scroll is rolled together, and all who are not clad in the wedding-garment of faith and love will be speechless. Surely it is high time for us to wake out of sleep, to chase from us the shadows of the night, and to realize our individuality, and the coming of our Judge. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,”—”let us be sober, and watch unto prayer.”
The Education for Peace Institute. Department of Newman Studies.
The Evangelists were sent out as lambs amongst wolves, their miraculous powers gained their cause a hearing, but did not protect them from martyrdom. How then, in spite of the obstacles to their success, did they succeeded? How did they gain lodgement in the world, which they hold down to this day, and what enabled them to spread principles distasteful to the majority? What is that hidden attribute of the Truth, how does it act, prevailing over the many and multiform errors by which it is simultaneously and incessantly attacked ? We might refer its success to the will and blessing of Him who revealed it.
But it is also useful to inquire into the human means by which His Providence acts in the world. We cannot rightly ascribe the influence of moral truth in the world to the gift of miracles, that gift having been broadly withdrawn at an early point. Nor can it be maintained that the visible Church, which the miracles formed, has taken their place; though doubtless the Church is the appointed instrument, by which that Truth is conveyed to the world; and how, corrupt body as it was then as now, still it preserved, with such remarkable fidelity those same unearthly principles which had been once delivered to it.
Some imagine that truth can be considered by rational beings, without reference to their moral character, whether good or bad; but this is not plausible. Its real influence consists directly in some inherent moral power, in virtue in some shape or other.
It is proposed to consider, whether the influence of Truth in the world does not arise from the personal influence of those who are commissioned to teach it. It is best to begin by tracing the mode in which the moral character of such an organ of the Truth is formed; we will suppose this Teacher of the Truth; such a one as has never transgressed his sense of duty, but from his earliest childhood upwards has been only engaged in increasing and perfecting the light originally given him, the light of Truth dawns continually brighter; the shadows which at first troubled it vanish.
In all existing patterns, besides actual defects, there are also varieties of disposition, taste, and talents, of bodily organization, to modify the dictation of that inward light which is itself divine and unerring. The Primitive Church, which, in spite of the corruptions which disfigured it from the first, still in its collective holiness may be considered to make as near an approach to the pattern of Christ as fallen man ever will attain. Such a gifted individual, will of all men be least able to defend his own views, as he takes no external survey of himself. The longer one has persevered in the practice of virtue, the less likely he is to recollect how he began it; by what process one truth led to another. We may further venture to assert, not only that moral Truth will be least skilfully defended by those, who are the genuine depositories of it, but that it cannot be adequately explained and defended in words at all. Its views and human language are lacking in a common quality necessary for a comparison. After all, what is language but an artificial system adapted for particular purposes, moral character in itself, as exhibited in thought and conduct, cannot be duly represented in words.
But it is an old saying, that men profess a sincere respect for Virtue, and then let her starve; so that it is a marvel how the Truth had ever been spread and maintained among men. For it is not a mere set of opinions that he has to promulgate, which may lodge on the surface of the mind; but he is to be an instrument in changing the heart, and modelling all men after one exemplar; making them like himself, or rather like One above himself. Yet the power of Truth actually did overcome these vast obstacles to its propagation; making infidelity the assailant instead of the assailed party.
“Reason” asks many questions; fancying that clear and ready speech is the test of Truth, which it is not. Intellectual men without sufficient personal virtue, may simulate virtue, and thus become the rival of the true saints of God. Nothing is so easy as to be religious on paper.
How then, has truth maintained its ground among men, and subjected to its dominion unwilling minds? I answer, that it has been upheld in the world, not as a system, not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such men as have already been described, who are at once the teachers and the patterns of it. First, is to be taken into account the natural beauty and majesty of virtue, which is more or less felt by all but the most abandoned. I do not say virtue in the abstract -virtue in a book.
The abandoned cannot bear holiness embodied in personal form. The silent conduct of a conscientious man secures him from beholders a feeling different in kind from any which is created by the mere reason. The conduct of a religious person is quite above them. They cannot imitate him. It may be easy for the educated among them to make speeches, or to write books; but high moral excellence is the attribute of a school to which they are almost strangers.
One little deed, done against natural inclination for God’s sake, though in itself of a conceding or passive character, to brook an insult, to face a danger to protect others, or to resign an advantage, has in it a power outbalancing all the dust and chaff of mere verbal profession; verbal faith or verbal zeal. The attraction, exerted by unconscious holiness, is of an urgent and irresistible nature; it draws forth the affection and loyalty of all who are in a measure like-minded; who understand that which is “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Then they would become aware that Christ’s presence was before them and would glorify God in His servant and all this while they themselves would be changing into that glorious Image which they gazed upon, and be in training to succeed him in its propagation. These few are enough to carry on God’s noiseless work. The Apostles were such men; others might be named as successors to their holiness. These communicate their light to others by whom, in its turn, it is distributed through the world. Each receives and transmits the sacred flame fully purposed to send it on as bright as it has reached him; and thus this holy fire, at length reaches us in safety, and will in like manner, be carried forward even to the end.
Personal Influence, the Means of Propagating the Truth.
“Out of weakness were made strong.”
- The history of the Old Testament Saints, conveyed in these few words, is paralleled or surpassed in its peculiar character by the lives of those who first proclaimed the Christian Dispensation. “Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves,” was the warning given them of their position in the world, on becoming Evangelists in its behalf. Their miraculous powers gained their cause a hearing, but did not protect themselves. St. Paul records the fulfilment of our Lord’s prophecy, as it contrasts the Apostles and mankind at large, when he declares, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat; we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” [1 Cor. iv. 12, 13.] Nay, these words apply not only to the unbelieving world; the Apostle had reason to be suspicious of his Christian brethren, and even to expostulate on that score, with his own converts, his “beloved sons.” He counted it a great gain, such as afterwards might be dwelt upon with satisfaction, that the Galatians did not despise nor reject him on account of the infirmity which was in his flesh; and, in the passage already referred to, he mourns over the fickleness and coldness of the Corinthians, who thought themselves wise, strong, and honourable, and esteemed the Apostles as fools, weak, and despised.
- Whence, then, was it, that in spite of all these impediments to their success, still they succeeded? How did they gain that lodgement in the world, which they hold down to this day, enabling them to perpetuate principles distasteful to the majority even of those who profess to receive them? What is that hidden attribute of the Truth, and how does it act, prevailing, as it does, single-handed, over the many and multiform errors, by which it is simultaneously and incessantly attacked?
- Here, of course, we might at once refer its success to the will and blessing of Him who revealed it, and who distinctly promised that He would be present with it, and with its preachers, “always, even unto the end.” And, of course, by realizing this in our minds, we learn dependence upon His grace in our own endeavours to recommend the Truth, and encouragement to persevere. But it is also useful to inquire into the human means by which His Providence acts in the world, in order to take a practical view of events as they successively come before us in the course of human affairs, and to understand our duty in particulars; and, with reference to these means, it is now proposed to consider the question.
- Here, first of all,—
It is plain that we cannot rightly ascribe the influence of moral truth in the world to the gift of miracles, which was entrusted to the persons who promulgated it in that last and perfect form, in which we have been vouchsafed it; that gift having been withdrawn with the first preaching of it. Nor, again, can it be satisfactorily maintained that the visible Church, which the miracles formed, has taken their place in the course of Divine Providence, as the basis, strictly speaking, on which the Truth rests; though doubtless it is the appointed instrument, in even a fuller sense than the miracles before it, by which that Truth is conveyed to the world: for though it is certain that a community of men, who, as individuals, were but imperfectly virtuous, would, in the course of years, gain the ascendancy over vice and error, however well prepared for the contest, yet no one pretends that the visible Church is thus blessed; the Epistle to the Corinthians sufficiently showing, that, in all ages, true Christians, though contained in it, and forming its life and strength, are scattered and hidden in the multitude, and, but partially recognizing each other, have no means of combining and cooperating. On the other hand, if we view the Church simply as a political institution, and refer the triumph of the Truth, which is committed to it, merely to its power thence resulting,— then, the question recurs, first, how is it that this mixed and heterogeneous body, called the Church, has, through so many centuries, on the whole, been true to the principles on which it was first established; and then, how, thus preserving its principles, it has, over and above this, gained on its side, in so many countries and times, the countenance and support of the civil authorities. Here, it would be sufficient to consider the three first centuries of its existence, and to inquire by what means, in spite of its unearthly principles, it grew and strengthened in the world; and how, again, corrupt body as it was then as now, still it preserved, all the while, with such remarkable fidelity those same unearthly principles which had been once delivered to it.
- Others there are who attempt to account for this prevalence of the Truth, in spite of its enemies, by imagining, that, though at first opposed, yet it is, after a time, on mature reflection, accepted by the world in general from a real understanding and conviction of its excellence; that it is in its nature level to the comprehension of men, considered merely as rational beings, without reference to their moral character, whether good or bad; and that, in matter of fact, it is recognized and upheld by the mass of men, taken as individuals, not merely approved by them, taken as a mass, in which some have influence over others,—not merely submitted to with a blind, but true instinct, such as is said to oppress inferior animals in the presence of man, but literally advocated from an enlightened capacity for criticizing it; and, in consequence of this notion, some men go so far as to advise that the cause of Truth should be frankly committed to the multitude as the legitimate judges and guardians of it.
- Something may occur to expose the fallacy of this notion, in the course of the following remarks on what I conceive to be the real method by which the influence of spiritual principles is maintained in this carnal world. But here, it is expedient at once to appeal to Scripture against a theory, which, whether plausible or not, is scarcely Christian. The following texts will suggest a multitude of others, as well as of Scripture representations, hostile to the idea that moral truth is easily or generally discerned. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” [1 Cor. ii. 14.] “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” [John i. 5.] “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given.” [Matt. xiii. 12.] “Wisdom is justified by her children.” [Matt. xi. 19.]
- On the other hand, that its real influence consists directly in some inherent moral power, in virtue in some shape or other, not in any evidence or criterion level to the undisciplined reason of the multitude, high or low, learned or ignorant, is implied in texts, such as those referred to just now:—”I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
- This being the state of the question, it is proposed to consider, whether the influence of Truth in the world at large does not arise from the personal influence, direct and indirect, of those who are commissioned to teach it.
- In order to explain the sense in which this is asserted, it will be best to begin by tracing the mode in which the moral character of such an organ of the Truth is formed; and, in a large subject, I must beg permission to be somewhat longer (should it be necessary) than the custom of this place allows.
- We will suppose this Teacher of the Truth so circumstanced as One alone among the sons of Adam has ever been, such a one as has never transgressed his sense of duty, but from his earliest childhood upwards has been only engaged in increasing and perfecting the light originally given him. In him the knowledge and power of acting rightly have kept pace with the enlargement of his duties, and his inward convictions of Truth with the successive temptations opening upon him from without to wander from it. Other men are surprised and overset by the sudden weight of circumstances against which they have not provided; or, losing step, they strain and discompose their faculties in the effort, even though successful, to recover themselves; or they attempt to discriminate for themselves between little and great breaches of the law of conscience, and allow themselves in what they consider the former; thus falling down precipices (as I may say) when they meant to descend an easy step, recoverable the next moment. Hence it is that, in a short time, those who started on one line make such different progress, and diverge in so many directions. Their conscience still speaks, but having been trifled with, it does not tell truly; it equivocates, or is irregular. Whereas in him who is faithful to his own divinely implanted nature, the faint light of Truth dawns continually brighter; the shadows which at first troubled it, the unreal shapes created by its own twilight-state, vanish; what was as uncertain as mere feeling, and could not be distinguished from a fancy except by the commanding urgency of its voice, becomes fixed and definite, and strengthening into principle, it at the same time develops into habit. As fresh and fresh duties arise, or fresh and fresh faculties are brought into action, they are at once absorbed into the existing inward system, and take their appropriate place in it. Doubtless beings, disobedient as most of us, from our youth up, cannot comprehend even the early attainments of one who thus grows in wisdom as truly as he grows in stature; who has no antagonist principles unsettling each other—no errors to unlearn; though something is suggested to our imagination by that passage in the history of our Blessed Lord, when at twelve years old He went up with His parents to the Temple. And still less able are we to understand the state of such a mind, when it had passed through the temptations peculiar to youth and manhood, and had driven Satan from him in very despair.
- Concerning the body of opinions formed under these circumstances,—not accidental and superficial, the mere reflection of what goes on in the world, but the natural and almost spontaneous result of the formed and finished character within,—two remarks may be offered. That every part of what may be called this moral creed will be equally true and necessary; and (if, as we may reasonably suppose, the science of morals extends without limit into the details of thought and conduct) numberless particulars, which we are accustomed to account indifferent, may be in fact indifferent in no truer sense, than in physics there is really any such agent as chance; our ignorance being the sole cause of the seeming variableness on the one hand in the action of nature, on the other in the standard of faith and morals. This is practically important to remember, even while it is granted that no exemplar of holiness has been exhibited to us, at once faultless yet minute; and again, that in all existing patterns, besides actual defects, there are also the idiosyncrasies and varieties of disposition, taste, and talents, nay of bodily organization, to modify the dictates of that inward light which is itself divine and unerring. It is important, I say, as restraining us from judging hastily of opinions and practices of good men into which we ourselves cannot enter; but which, for what we know, may be as necessary parts of the Truth, though too subtle for our dull perceptions, as those great and distinguishing features of it, which we, in common with the majority of sincere men, admit. And particularly will it preserve us from rash censures of the Primitive Church, which, in spite of the corruptions which disfigured it from the first, still in its collective holiness may be considered to make as near an approach to the pattern of Christ as fallen man ever will attain; being, in fact, a Revelation in some sort of that Blessed Spirit in a bodily shape, who was promised to us as a second Teacher of Truth after Christ’s departure, and became such upon a subject-matter far more diversified than that on which our Lord had revealed Himself before Him. For instance, for what we know, the Episcopal principle, or the practice of Infant Baptism, which is traceable to Apostolic times, though not clearly proved by the Scripture records, may be as necessary in the scheme of Christian truth as the doctrines of the Divine Unity, and of man’s responsibility, which in the artificial system are naturally placed as the basis of Religion, as being first in order of succession and time. And this, be it observed, will account for the omission in Scripture of express sanctions of these and similar principles and observances; provided, that is, the object of the Written Word be, not to unfold a system for our intellectual contemplation, but to secure the formation of a certain character.
- And in the second place, it is plain, that the gifted individual whom we have imagined, will of all men be least able (as such) to defend his own views, inasmuch as he takes no external survey of himself. Things which are the most familiar to us, and easy in practice, require the most study, and give the most trouble in explaining; as, for instance, the number, combination, and succession of muscular movements by which we balance ourselves in walking, or utter our separate words; and this quite independently of the existence or non-existence of language suitable for describing them. The longer any one has persevered in the practice of virtue, the less likely is he to recollect how he began it; what were his difficulties on starting, and how surmounted; by what process one truth led to another; the less likely to elicit justly the real reasons latent in his mind for particular observances or opinions. He holds the whole assemblage of moral notions almost as so many collateral and self-evident facts. Hence it is that some of the most deeply-exercised and variously gifted Christians, when they proceed to write or speak upon Religion, either fail altogether, or cannot be understood except on an attentive study; and after all, perhaps, are illogical and unsystematic, assuming what their readers require proved, and seeming to mistake connexion or antecedence for causation, probability for evidence. And over such as these it is, that the minute intellect of inferior men has its moment of triumph, men who excel in a mere short-sighted perspicacity; not understanding that, even in the case of intellectual excellence, it is considered the highest of gifts to possess an intuitive knowledge of the beautiful in art, or the effective in action, without reasoning or investigating; that this, in fact, is genius; and that they who have a corresponding insight into moral truth (as far as they have it) have reached that especial perfection in the spiritual part of their nature, which is so rarely found and so greatly prized among the intellectual endowments of the soul.
- Nay, may we not further venture to assert, not only that moral Truth will be least skilfully defended by those, as such, who are the genuine depositories of it, but that it cannot be adequately explained and defended in words at all? Its views and human language are incommensurable. For, after all, what is language but an artificial system adapted for particular purposes, which have been determined by our wants? And here, even at first sight, can we imagine that it has been framed with a view to ideas so refined, so foreign to the whole course of the world, as those which (as Scripture expresses it) “no man can learn,” but the select remnant who are “redeemed from the earth,” and in whose mouth “is found no guile”? [Rev. xiv. 3, 5.] Nor is it this heavenly language alone which is without its intellectual counterpart. Moral character in itself, whether good or bad, as exhibited in thought and conduct, surely cannot be duly represented in words. We may, indeed, by an effort, reduce it in a certain degree to this arbitrary medium; but in its combined dimensions it is as impossible to write and read a man (so to express it), as to give literal depth to a painted tablet.
- With these remarks on the nature of moral Truth, as viewed externally, let us conduct our secluded Teacher, who is the embodied specimen of it, after his thirty years’ preparation for his office, into the noise and tumult of the world; and in order to set him fairly on the course, let us suppose him recommended by some external gift, whether ordinary or extraordinary, the power of miracles, the countenance of rulers, or a reputation for learning, such as may secure a hearing for him from the multitude of men. This must be supposed, in consequence of the very constitution of the present world. Amid its incessant din, nothing will attract attention but what cries aloud and spares not. It is an old proverb, that men profess a sincere respect for Virtue, and then let her starve; for they have at the bottom of their hearts an evil feeling, in spite of better thoughts, that to be bound to certain laws and principles is a superstition and a slavery, and that freedom consists in the actual exercise of the will in evil as well as in good; and they witness (what cannot be denied) that a man who throws off the yoke of strict conscientiousness, greatly increases his producible talent for the time, and his immediate power of attaining his ends. At best they will but admire the religious man, and treat him with deference; but in his absence they are compelled (as they say) to confess that a being so amiable and gentle is not suited to play his part in the scene of life; that he is too good for this world; that he is framed for a more primitive and purer age, and born out of due time. [Makarisantes humon to apeirokakon], says the scoffing politician in the History, [ou zeloumen to aphron];—would not the great majority of men, high and low, thus speak of St. John the Apostle, were he now living?
- Therefore, we must invest our Teacher with a certain gift of power, that he may be feared. But even then, how hopeless does this task seem to be at first sight! how improbable that he should be able to proceed one step farther than his external recommendation carries him forward! so that it is a marvel how the Truth had ever been spread and maintained among men. For, recollect, it is not a mere set of opinions that he has to promulgate, which may lodge on the surface of the mind; but he is to be an instrument in changing (as Scripture speaks) the heart, and modelling all men after one exemplar; making them like himself, or rather like One above himself, who is the beginning of a new creation. Having (as has been said) no sufficient eloquence—nay, not language at his command—what instruments can he be said to possess? Thus he is, from the nature of the case, thrown upon his personal resources, be they greater or less; for it is plain that he cannot commit his charge to others as his representatives, and be translated (as it were), and circulated through the world, till he has made others like himself.
- Turn to the history of Truth, and these anticipations are fulfilled. Some hearers of it had their conscience stirred for a while, and many were affected by the awful simplicity of the Great Teacher; but the proud and sensual were irritated into opposition; the philosophic considered His doctrines strange and chimerical; the multitude followed for a time in senseless wonder, and then suddenly abandoned an apparently falling cause. For in truth what was the task of an Apostle, but to raise the dead? and what trifling would it appear, even to the most benevolent and candid men of the world, when such a one persisted to chafe and stimulate the limbs of the inanimate corpse, as if his own life could be communicated to it, and motion would continue one moment after the external effort was withdrawn; in the poet’s words,[thrasos akousion andrasi thneskousi komizon].
Truly such a one must expect, at best, to be accounted but a babbler, or one deranged by his “much learning “—a visionary and an enthusiast,— [kart’ apomousos estha gegrammenos],
fit for the wilderness or the temple; a jest for the Areopagus, and but a gladiatorial show at Ephesus, [epithanatios], an actor in an exhibition which would finish in his own death.
- Yet (blessed be God!) the power of Truth actually did, by some means or other, overcome these vast obstacles to its propagation; and what those means were, we shall best understand by contemplating it, as it now shows itself when established and generally professed; an ordinary sanction having taken the place of miracles, and infidelity being the assailant instead of the assailed party.
- It will not require many words to make it evident how impetuous and (for the time) how triumphant an attack the rebellious Reason will conduct against the long-established, over-secure, and but silently-working system of which Truth is the vital principle.
- First, every part of the Truth is novel to its opponent; and seen detached from the whole, becomes an objection. It is only necessary for Reason to ask many questions; and, while the other party is investigating the real answer to each in detail, to claim the victory, which spectators will not be slow to award, fancying (as is the manner of men) that clear and ready speech is the test of Truth. And it can choose its questions, selecting what appears most objectionable in the tenets and practices of the received system; and it will (in all probability), even unintentionally, fall upon the most difficult parts; what is on the surface being at once most conspicuous, and also farthest removed from the centre on which it depends. On the other hand, its objections will be complete in themselves from their very minuteness. Thus, for instance, men attack ceremonies and discipline of the Church, appealing to common sense, as they call it; which really means, appealing to some proposition which, though true in its own province, is nothing to the purpose in theology; or appealing to the logical accuracy of the argument, when every thing turns on the real meaning of the terms employed, which can only be understood by the religious mind.
- Next, men who investigate in this merely intellectual way, without sufficient basis and guidance in their personal virtue, are bound by no fears or delicacy. Not only from dullness, but by preference, they select ground for the contest, which a reverent Faith wishes to keep sacred; and, while the latter is looking to its stepping, lest it commit sacrilege, they have the unembarrassed use of their eyes for the combat, and overcome, by skill and agility, one stronger than themselves.
- Further, the warfare between Error and Truth is necessarily advantageous to the former, from its very nature, as being conducted by set speech or treatise; and this, not only for a reason already assigned, the deficiency of Truth in the power of eloquence, and even of words, but moreover from the very neatness and definiteness of method required in a written or spoken argument. Truth is vast and far-stretching, viewed as a system; and, viewed in its separate doctrines, it depends on the combination of a number of various, delicate, and scattered evidences; hence it can scarcely be exhibited in a given number of sentences. If this be attempted, its advocate, unable to exhibit more than a fragment of the whole, must round off its rugged extremities, and unite its straggling lines, by much the same process by which an historical narrative is converted into a tale. This, indeed, is the very art of composition, which, accordingly, is only with extreme trouble preserved clear of exaggeration and artifice; and who does not see that all this is favourable to the cause of error,—to that party which has not faith enough to be patient of doubt, and has just talent enough to consider perspicuity the chief excellence of a writer? To illustrate this, we may contrast the works of Bishop Butler with those of that popular infidel writer at the end of the last century, who professed to be the harbinger of an “Age of Reason.”
- Moreover, this great, though dangerous faculty which evil employs as its instrument in its warfare against the Truth, may simulate all kinds of virtue, and thus become the rival of the true saints of God, whom it is opposing. It may draw fine pictures of virtue, or trace out the course of sacred feelings or of heavenly meditations. Nothing is so easy as to be religious on paper; and thus the arms of Truth are turned, as far as may be found necessary, against itself.
- It must be further observed, that the exhibitions of Reason, being complete in themselves, and having nothing of a personal nature, are capable almost of an omnipresence by an indefinite multiplication and circulation, through the medium of composition: here, even the orator has greatly the advantage over the religious man; words may be heard by thousands at once,—a good deed will be witnessed and estimated at most by but a few.
- To put an end to these remarks on the advantages accruing to Error in its struggle with Truth;—the exhibitions of the Reason, being in their operation separable from the person furnishing them, possess little or no responsibility. To be anonymous is almost their characteristic, and with it all the evils attendant on the unchecked opportunity for injustice and falsehood.
- Such, then, are the difficulties which beset the propagation of the Truth: its want of instruments, as an assailant of the world’s opinions; the keenness and vigour of the weapons producible against it, when itself in turn is to be attacked. How, then, after all, has it maintained its ground among men, and subjected to its dominion unwilling minds, some even bound to the external profession of obedience, others at least in a sullen neutrality, and the inaction of despair?
- I answer, that it has been upheld in the world not as a system, not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such men as have already been described, who are at once the teachers and the patterns of it; and, with some suggestions in behalf of this statement, I shall conclude.
- Here, first, is to be taken into account the natural beauty and majesty of virtue, which is more or less felt by all but the most abandoned. I do not say virtue in the abstract,—virtue in a book. Men persuade themselves, with little difficulty, to scoff at principles, to ridicule books, to make sport of the names of good men; but they cannot bear their presence: it is holiness embodied in personal form, which they cannot steadily confront and bear down: so that the silent conduct of a conscientious man secures for him from beholders a feeling different in kind from any which is created by the mere versatile and garrulous Reason.
- Next, consider the extreme rarity, in any great perfection and purity, of simple-minded, honest devotion to God; and another instrument of influence is discovered for the cause of Truth. Men naturally prize what is novel and scarce; and, considering the low views of the multitude on points of social and religious duty, their ignorance of those precepts of generosity, self-denial, and high-minded patience, which religion enforces, nay, their scepticism (whether known to themselves or not) of the existence in the world of severe holiness and truth, no wonder they are amazed when accident gives them a sight of these excellences in another, as though they beheld a miracle; and they watch it with a mixture of curiosity and awe.
- Besides, the conduct of a religious man is quite above them. They cannot imitate him, if they try. It may be easy for the educated among them to make speeches, or to write books; but high moral excellence is the attribute of a school to which they are almost strangers, having scarcely learned, and that painfully, the first elements of the heavenly science. One little deed, done against natural inclination for God’s sake, though in itself of a conceding or passive character, to brook an insult, to face a danger, or to resign an advantage, has in it a power outbalancing all the dust and chaff of mere profession; the profession whether of enlightened benevolence and candour, or, on the other hand, of high religious faith and of fervent zeal.
- And men feel, moreover, that the object of their contemplation is beyond their reach—not open to the common temptations which influence men, and grounded on a foundation which they cannot explain. And nothing is more effectual, first in irritating, then in humbling the pride of men, than the sight of a superior altogether independent of themselves.
- The consistency of virtue is another gift, which gradually checks the rudeness of the world, and tames it into obedience to itself. The changes of human affairs, which first excited and interested, at length disgust the mind, which then begins to look out for something on which it can rely, for peace and rest; and what can then be found immutable and sure, but God’s word and promises, illustrated and conveyed to the inquirer in the person of His faithful servants? Every day shows us how much depends on firmness for obtaining influence in practical matters; and what are all kinds of firmness, as exhibited in the world, but likenesses and offshoots of that true stability of heart which is stayed in the grace and in the contemplation of Almighty God?
- Such especially will be the thoughts of those countless multitudes, who, in the course of their trial, are from time to time weighed down by affliction, or distressed by bodily pain. This will be in their case, the strong hour of Truth, which, though unheard and unseen by men as a body, approaches each one of that body in his own turn, though at a different time. Then it is that the powers of the world, its counsels, and its efforts (vigorous as they seemed to be in the race), lose ground, and slow-paced Truth overtakes it; and thus it comes to pass, that, while viewed in its outward course it seems ever hastening onwards to open infidelity and sin, there are ten thousand secret obstacles, graciously sent from God, cumbering its chariot-wheels, so that they drive heavily, and saving it from utter ruin.
- Even with these few considerations before us, we shall find it difficult to estimate the moral power which a single individual, trained to practise what he teaches, may acquire in his own circle, in the course of years. While the Scriptures are thrown upon the world, as if the common property of any who choose to appropriate them, he is, in fact, the legitimate interpreter of them, and none other; the Inspired Word being but a dead letter (ordinarily considered), except as transmitted from one mind to another. While he is unknown to the world, yet, within the range of those who see him, he will become the object of feelings different in kind from those which mere intellectual excellence excites. The men commonly held in popular estimation are greatest at a distance; they become small as they are approached; but the attraction, exerted by unconscious holiness, is of an urgent and irresistible nature; it persuades the weak, the timid, the wavering, and the inquiring; it draws forth the affection and loyalty of all who are in a measure like-minded; and over the thoughtless or perverse multitude it exercises a sovereign compulsory sway, bidding them fear and keep silence, on the ground of its own right divine to rule them,—its hereditary claim on their obedience, though they understand not the principles or counsels of that spirit, which is “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
- And if such be the personal influence excited by the Teacher of Truth over the mixed crowd of men whom he encounters, what (think we) will be his power over that select number, just referred to, who have already, in a measure, disciplined their hearts after the law of holiness, and feel themselves, as it were, individually addressed by the invitation of his example? These are they whom our Lord especially calls His “elect,” and came to “gather together in one,” for they are worthy. And these, too, are they who are ordained in God’s Providence to be the salt of the earth,—to continue, in their turn, the succession of His witnesses, that heirs may never be wanting to the royal line though death sweeps away each successive generation of them to their rest and their reward. These, perhaps, by chance fell in with their destined father in the Truth, not at once discerning his real greatness. At first, perhaps, they thought his teaching fanciful, and parts of his conduct extravagant or weak. Years might pass away before such prejudices were entirely removed from their minds; but by degrees they would discern more and more the traces of unearthly majesty about him; they would witness, from time to time, his trial under the various events of life, and would still find, whether they looked above or below, that he rose higher, and was based deeper, than they could ascertain by measurement. Then, at length, with astonishment and fear, they would become aware that Christ’s presence was before them; and, in the words of Scripture, would glorify God in His servant [Gal. i. 24.]; and all this while they themselves would be changing into that glorious Image which they gazed upon, and be in training to succeed him in its propagation.
- Will it be said, This is a fancy, which no experience confirms? First, no irreligious man can know any thing concerning the hidden saints. Next, no one, religious or not, can detect them without attentive study of them. But, after all, say they are few, such high Christians; and what follows? They are enough to carry on God’s noiseless work. The Apostles were such men; others might be named, in their several generations, as successors to their holiness. These communicate their light to a number of lesser luminaries, by whom, in its turn, it is distributed through the world; the first sources of illumination being all the while unseen, even by the majority of sincere Christians,—unseen as is that Supreme Author of Light and Truth, from whom all good primarily proceeds. A few highly-endowed men will rescue the world for centuries to come. Before now even one man has impressed an image on the Church, which, through God’s mercy, shall not be effaced while time lasts. Such men, like the Prophet, are placed upon their watch-tower, and light their beacons on the heights. Each receives and transmits the sacred flame, trimming it in rivalry of his predecessor, and fully purposed to send it on as bright as it has reached him; and thus the self-same fire, once kindled on Moriah, though seeming at intervals to fail, has at length reached us in safety, and will in like manner, as we trust, be carried forward even to the end.
- To conclude. Such views of the nature and history of Divine Truth are calculated to make us contented and resigned in our generation, whatever be the peculiar character or the power of the errors of our own times. For Christ never will reign visibly upon earth; but in each age, as it comes, we shall read of tumult and heresy, and hear the complaint of good men marvelling at what they conceive to be the especial wickedness of their own times.
- Moreover, such considerations lead us to be satisfied with the humblest and most obscure lot; by showing us, not only that we may be the instruments of much good in it, but that (strictly speaking) we could scarcely in any situation be direct instruments of good to any besides those who personally know us, who ever must form a small circle; and as to the indirect good we may do in a more exalted station (which is by no means to be lightly esteemed), still we are not absolutely precluded from it in a lower place in the Church. Nay, it has happened before now, that comparatively retired posts have been filled by those who have exerted the most extensive influences over the destinies of Religion in the times following them; as in the arts and pursuits of this world, the great benefactors of mankind are frequently unknown.
- Let all those, then, who acknowledge the voice of God speaking within them, and urging them heaven-ward, wait patiently for the End, exercising themselves, and diligently working, with a view to that day when the books shall be opened, and all the disorder of human affairs reviewed and set right; when “the last shall be first, and the first last;” when “all things that offend, and they which do iniquity,” shall be gathered out and removed; when “the righteous shall shine forth as the sun,” and Faith shall see her God; when “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, for ever and ever.”
Blessed John Henry Newman.