Monday, October 11, 2004

On October 11, 1845
John Keble, one of Venerable John Henry Newman's dearest friends, wrote him this letter upon hearing of his conversion to Catholicism.

I had written thus far about a week ago, and then left off for very weariness, and now that I was thinking of going on with my writing I find that the thunderbolt has actually fallen upon us, and you have actually taken the step which we greatly feared. I will not plague you, then, with what I might otherwise have set down—something which passed, directly relating to yourself, in what fell from my dear wife on this day fortnight, when, in perfect tranquillity and self-possession, having received the Holy Communion, she took leave of us all, expecting hourly to sink away. By God's great mercy she revived, and still continues among us, with, I trust, increasing hopes of recovery; but the words which she spoke were such that I must always think of them as of the last words of a saint. Some of them I had thought of reporting to you, but this, at any rate, is not the time.

Wilson has told me how kindly you have been remembering us in our troubles; it was very kind, when you must have so much upon your own mind. Who knows how much good your prayers and those of other absent friends may have done us, both here and at Bisley?—for there, too, as I daresay you know, has been a favourable change, and a more decided one, I imagine, than here; at least their doctor has told them they may make themselves comfortable, which is far beyond anything that has yet been said to us. But his recovery is very, very slow. There, too, as well as here, everything has fallen out so as to foster the delusion, if delusion it be, that we are not quite aliens, not living among unrealities. Yet you have no doubt the other way. It is very mysterious, very bewildering indeed; but, being so, one's duty seems clearly pointed out: to abide where one is, till some new call come upon one. If this were merely my own reason or feeling, I should mistrust it altogether, knowing, alas! that I am far indeed from the person to whom guidance is promised; but when I see the faith of others, such as I know them to be, and so very near to me as God has set them, I am sure that it would be a kind of impiety but to dream of separating from them.

Besides the deep grief of losing you for a guide and helper, and scarce knowing which way to look, ... you may guess what uncomfortable feelings haunt me, as if I, more than anyone else, was answerable for whatever of distress and scandal may occur. I keep on thinking, 'If I had been different, perhaps Newman would have been guided to see things differently, and we might have been spared so many broken hearts and bewildered spirits.' To be sure, that cold, hard way of going on, which I have mentioned to you before, stands my friend at such times, and hinders me, I suppose, from being really distressed; but this is how I feel that I ought to feel, and I tell you ... And now I wish you to help me. That way of help, at any rate, is not forbidden you in respect of any of us.

My dearest Newman, you have been a kind and helpful friend to me in a way in which scarce anyone else could have been, and you are so mixed up in my mind with old and dear and sacred thoughts that I cannot well bear to part with you, most unworthy as I know myself to be. And yet I cannot go along with you. I must cling to the belief that we are not really parted: you have taught me so, and I scarce think you can unteach me. And having relieved my mind with this little word, I will only say, God bless you, and reward you a thousandfold for all your help in every way to me unworthy, and to many others! May you have peace where you are gone, and help us in some way to get peace; but somehow I scarce think it will be in the way of controversy. And so, with somewhat of a feeling as if the spring had been taken out of my year,
I am, always, your affectionate and grateful,

Also, Jamie has two more posts about An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.


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