Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reading the Anglican Newman

I will be taking directed research in the Anglican writings of J-H Newman this Fall with Dr. John T. Ford of the Catholic University of America in order to fulfill a requirement in modern theology. The following quotes are from my reading. Since part of the object of this course is to ascertain the state of Newman’s mind in the formative period before his conversion, but relative to it, these quotes (in black type) will reflect in part his progressive departure from 19th century Evangelicalism.

'A mere moral strain of teaching duty and enforcing obedience fails in persuading us to practice, not because it appeals to conscience, and commands and threatens (as is sometimes supposed), but because it does not urge and illustrate virtue in the Name and by the example of our blessed Lord. It is not that natural teaching gives merely the Law, and Christian teaching gives the tidings of pardon, and that a command chills or formalizes the mind, and that a free forgiveness converts it (for nature speaks of God’s goodness as well as of His severity, and Christ surely of His severity as well as of His goodness); but that in the Christian scheme we find all the Divine Attributes (not mercy only, though mercy pre-eminently), brought out and urged upon us, which were but latent in the visible course of things.

'Hence it appears that the Gospels are the great instruments (under God’s blessing) of fixing and instructing our minds in a religious course, the Epistles being rather comments on them than intended to supersede them, as is sometimes maintained. Surely it argues a temper of mind but partially moulded to the worship and love of Christ, to make this distinction between His teaching and that of His Apostles, when the very promised office of the Comforter in His absence was, not to make a new revelation, but expressly “to bring all things to their remembrance” which “He had said to them;” not to “speak of Himself,” but “to receive of Christ’s, and show it unto them.” The Holy Spirit came “to glorify Christ,” to declare openly to all the world that He had come on earth, suffered, and died, who was also the Creator and Governor of the world, the Savior, the final Judge of men. It is the Incarnation of the Son of God rather than any doctrine drawn from a partial view of Scripture (however true and momentous it may be) which is the article of a standing or a falling Church. “Every spirit the confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God;…this is that spirit of anti-Christ;” for, not to mention other more direct considerations, it reverses, as far as in it lies, all that the revealed character of Christ has done for our faith and virtue. And hence the Apostles’ speeches in the book of Acts and the primitive Creeds insist almost exclusively upon the history, not the doctrines, of Christianity; it being designed that, by means of our Lord’s Economy, the great doctrines of theology should be taught, the facts of that Economy giving its peculiarity and force to the Revelation.'

‘The Influence of Natural and Revealed Religion Respectively’, Preached on Easter Tuesday, 3 April, 1830.

John Henry Newman, Fifteen Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford Between A.D. 1826 And 1843, (Norte Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1997), 34-35.

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