Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Feast of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop and Martyr
is today. There is information on him here.

On this date in 1850, Venerable John Henry Newman,C.O., preached a sermon, of which the following notes survive:

On the Office of the Church—St. Thomas the Martyr
1. INTROD.—This is the birthday of a great saint, one of the greatest of English saints, whose fame has gone out, etc.; a saint of the universal Church, especially known in France, North Italy, Roman States, etc.; nay, whose feast is embodied in the octave of Christmas.

2. His manner of death.

3. What did he die for? If you ask a Protestant history, it will mention some minute ground, some question of detail, of course; but, if examined, for that which is ever the cause of battle between the world and the Church. Parallel it to the early age, a grain of incense; the present moment, calling bishops bishops of sees, etc. But all these are accidents—the ground, one and the same.

4. To explain this I must go into the subject. State of the world before Christ came—the world left to itself; doubt and inquiry; philosophers; pagans; yet no known truth. Philosophers felt it impossible to throw truth into a popular form. Hence they were tempted to believe there was no truth. Great difference between religious truth and scientific, etc. We can get to sciences of geology, etc., because we start from what we see, but who shall tell the designs of the Divine Mind?

5. Prophecy of a Teacher—voice behind thee [?]—a law—a light (Isaias ix.)—Isaias xxv.—Thus a master, or guide, or monitor to be set up.

6. Such is the one province which Christianity was to fulfil. Now Protestants think this fulfilled in the Bible. But the Bible has not in fact been the means. (1) The majority have not been able to read. (2) And now fifty years' experience shows it is not God's way . (3) Nor can it be, for a book does not speak; it is shut till it is opened. A law cannot enforce itself; it implies an executive; not a book instead of a physician, etc. (4) It is nowhere said in Scripture that Scripture was to be the guide, but it is said what is to fight with the gates of hell, viz.

7. the Church—texts. This is set up, and did exist before, etc., in all lands to appeal to high and low, to all ranks and callings—(enlarge). To moderate, and in a certain sense to interfere, viz. with the conscience—on the misery of princes being made so much of from youth—to give the law and to teach the faith.

8. This is the quarrel—the world does not like to be taught. (The Jewish kings did not like prophets.) The Church interferes with it; she lifts up a witness. Men regret the old pagan times when each could say and think what he pleased. Kings and ministers, etc., etc., don't like to be interfered with.

9. This, then, was the world's quarrel with St. Thomas. Henry II. felt the Protestant ground just as the meetings now held do—it is the same spirit—therefore does the world persecute us now. When, then, men object that we interfere with conscience, etc., etc., we say 'yes.' And if we did not, we should not be the Church; if we did not, there would be no good in a Church.

10. And you may be sure that the Church will never betray its trust.

It is also the feast of a later English martyr, Blessed William Howard.


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