Monday, April 19, 2004

From Discourses to Mixed Congregations
by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.
"When our Lord gave to the Apostles their commission to preach all over the world, He continued, 'He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned'. And He declared to Nicodemus, 'He that believeth in the Son, is not judged; but he that doth not believe is already judged, because he believeth not in the Name of the Only-begotten Son of God'. He said to the Pharisees, 'If you believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins'. To the Jews, 'Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep'. And you may recollect that before His miracles, He commonly demands faith of the supplicant: 'All things are possible,' He says, 'to him that believeth'; and we find in one place, 'He could not do any miracle,' on account of the unbelief of the inhabitants.

Has faith changed its meaning, or is it less necessary now? Is it not still what it was in the Apostles' day, the very characteristic of Christianity, the special instrument of renovation, the first disposition for justification, one out of the three theological virtues? God might have renewed us by other means, by sight, by reason, by love, but He has chosen to 'purify our hearts by faith'; it has been His will to select an instrument which the world despises, but which is of immense power. He preferred it, in His infinite wisdom, to every other; and if men have it not, they have not the very element and rudiment, out of which are formed, on which are built, the Saints and Servants of God. And they have it not; they are living, they are dying, without the hopes, without the aids of the Gospel, because, in spite of so much that is good in them, in spite of their sense of duty, their tenderness of conscience on many points, their benevolence, their uprightness, their generosity, they are under the dominion (I must say it) of a proud fiend; they have this stout spirit within them, they determine to be their own masters in matters of thought, about which they know so little; they consider their own reason better than any one's else; they will not admit that any one comes from God who contradicts their own view of truth. What! is none their equal in wisdom anywhere? is there none other whose word is to be taken on religion? is there none to wrest from them their ultimate appeal to themselves? Have they in no possible way the occasion or opportunity of faith? Is it a virtue, which, in consequence of their transcendent sagacity, their prerogative of omniscience, they must give up hope of exercising? If the pretensions of the Catholic Church do not satisfy them, let them go somewhere else, if they can. If they are so fastidious that they cannot trust her as the oracle of God, let them find another more certainly from Him than the House of His own institution, which has ever been called by His name, has ever maintained the same claims, has ever taught one substance of doctrine, and has triumphed over those who preached any other. Since Apostolic faith was in the beginning reliance on man's word, as being God's word, since what faith was then such it is now, since faith is necessary for salvation, let them attempt to exercise it towards another, if they will not accept the Bride of the Lamb. Let them, if they can, put faith in some of those religions which have lasted a whole two or three centuries in a corner of the earth. Let them stake their eternal prospects on kings and nobles and parliaments and soldiery, let them take some mere fiction of the law, or abortion of the schools, or idol of a populace, or upstart of a crisis, or oracle of lecture-rooms, as the prophet of God. Alas! they are hardly bestead if they must possess a virtue, which they have no means of exercising,-if they must make an act of faith, they know not on whom, and know not why!"


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