Sunday, April 25, 2004

From Discourses to Mixed Congregations
by Venerable John Henry Newman, C.O.
"Such are the means which God has provided for the creation of the Saint out of the sinner; He takes him as he is, and uses him against himself: He turns his affections into another channel, and extinguishes a carnal love by infusing a heavenly charity. Not as if He used him as a mere irrational creature, who is impelled by instincts and governed by external incitements without any will of his own, and to whom one pleasure is the same as another, the same in kind, though different in degree. I have already said, it is the very triumph of His grace, that He enters into the heart of man, and persuades it, and prevails with it, while He changes it. He violates in nothing that original constitution of mind which He gave to man: He treats him as man; He leaves him the liberty of acting this way or that; He appeals to all his powers and faculties, to his reason, to his prudence, to his moral sense, to his conscience: He rouses his fears as well as his love; He instructs him in the depravity of sin, as well as in the mercy of God; but still, on the whole, the animating principle of the new life, by which it is both kindled and sustained, is the flame of charity. This only is strong enough to destroy the old Adam, to dissolve the tyranny of habit, to quench the fires of concupiscence, and to burn up the strongholds of pride.

And hence it is that love is presented to us as the distinguishing grace of those who were sinners before they were Saints; not that love is not the life of all Saints, of those who have never needed a conversion, of the Most Blessed Virgin, of the two St. John's, and of those others, many in number, who are 'first-fruits unto God and the Lamb;' but that, while in those who have never sinned gravely love is so contemplative as almost to resolve itself into the sanctity of God Himself; in those, on the contrary, in whom it dwells as a principle of recovery, it is so full of devotion, of zeal, of activity, and good works, that it gives a visible character to their history, and is ever associating itself with our thoughts of them.

Such was the great Apostle, on whom the Church is built, and whom I contrasted, when I began, with his fellow-Apostle St. John: whether we contemplate him after his first calling, or on his repentance, he who denied his Lord, out of all the Apostles, is the most conspicuous for his love of Him. It was for this love of Christ, flowing on, as it did, from its impetuosity and exuberance, into love of the brethren, that he was chosen to be the chief Pastor of the fold. 'Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these?' was the trial put on him by his Lord; and the reward was, 'Feed My lambs, feed My sheep'. Wonderful to say, the Apostle whom Jesus loved, was yet surpassed in love for Jesus by a brother Apostle, not virginal as he; for it is not John of whom our Lord asked this question, and who was rewarded with this commission, but Peter.
Look back at an earlier passage of the same narrative; there, too, the two Apostles are similarly contrasted in their respective characters; for when they were in the boat, and their Lord spoke to them from the shore, and 'they knew not that it was Jesus,' first 'that disciple, whom Jesus loved, said to Peter, It is the Lord,' for 'the clean of heart shall see God;' and then at once 'Simon Peter,' in the impetuosity of his love, 'girt his tunic about him, and cast himself into the sea,' to reach Him the quicker. St. John beholds and St. Peter acts."


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