Sunday, December 05, 2004

From Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects
by Venerable John Henry Newman

St. John the Baptist's character, I am persuaded, would startle most people, if they were not used to Scripture; and when men begin to doubt about the integrity of Scripture, it will be turned against the authenticity or the authority of the particular passages which relate to it. Let us realize to ourselves a man living on locusts and wild honey, and with a hair shirt on, bound by a leathern girdle. Our Lord indeed bids us avoid outward show, and therefore the ostentation of such austerity would be wrong now, of course; but what is there to show that the thing itself would be wrong, if a person were moved to do it? Does not our Saviour expressly say, with reference to the austerities of St. John's disciples, that after His departure His own disciples shall resemble them,—"then shall they fast"? Yet, I suppose, most persons would cry out now against the very semblance of the Baptist's life; and why? Those who gave a reason would perhaps call it Jewish. Yet what had St. John to do with the Jews, whose religion was one, not of austerity, but of joyousness and feasting, and that by divine permission? Surely the same feeling which would make men condemn an austere life now, if individuals attempted it, which makes them, when they read of such instances in the early Church, condemn it, would lead the same parties to condemn it in St. John, were they not bound by religious considerations; and, therefore, I say, if ever the time comes that men begin to inquire into the divinity of the separate parts of Scripture, as they do now scrutinize the separate parts of the Church system, they will no longer be able to acquiesce in St. John's character and conduct as simply right and religious.


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