Tuesday, March 23, 2004

On March 23, 1851...
Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O., preached a sermon, of which the following notes survive:
On the Strong Man of Sin and Unbelief
"1. INTROD.—'The strong man' represents the sinner in his strength and security. It represents him fortified by his three friends—the world, the flesh, and the devil. 'The old man,' Eph. iv. 22 , the old Adam, the evil spirit who has taken possession of him.

2. He has a 'house.' It is a castle: nor is it the work of a day. How long it takes to build a castle! and buildings grow up about it, fort after fort, treasure house after treasure house, viz. by habits. (Explain about habits.) No one remains without them; they are intended to be a defence for the good. They also become a defence in wickedness. Supernatural habits and natural habits.

3. Absence of faith—'The light that is in them.' His standard of things—scoffs at things supernatural; does not think himself a bad man because he does not pray; is in 'peace'; perfectly satisfied with his standard; may not come up to it; is firmly seated. He may be educated, learned, able, etc.; this only increases the evil.

4. Enormous strength of a bad man. His vis inertiae, his momentum. In his black panoply, armed cap-à-pie like a knight in story, such the bad man. Then fancy a host of them, the rulers of this world, like a bodyguard of Satan, or his 'guards.'

5. Such are the enemies of Christ, described in the Gospel: 'We wrestle not against,' etc., Eph. vi. 12. Then Christ's grace more powerful: 'A stronger than he,' etc.

6. No one can come up to the strength of God's grace—stronger than the elements; stronger than miracles. It bears up against anything; it overcomes everything. On the wonderful way in which Christianity overthrew the establishment of paganism (vide Döllinger).

7. Let this be your comfort if you feel afraid, and have to do a great work. God's grace can convert; it has converted from sin of whatever kind. "

(Note: The sermon apparently used some of the researches of the famous ecclesiastical historian Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger. Twenty years later, Döllinger was excommunicated for refusing to accept the dogma of papal infallibility. The Venerable was among the many people who attempted to get him to come to his senses, but he refused, and died out of communion with the Church. Sad. )


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