Apologia Pro Vita Sua, being a History of his Religious Opinions, by John Henry Cardinal Newman, Revised edition of 1865.
Annotation of text (marginal notes, end notes designated /a/, /b/, /c/ etc., and inserted notes in curly brackets) copyright ©2010 David Trumbull for Agathon Associates. All Rights Reserved.

Note C. on Page 153 {in Chapter 4)
Sermon on Wisdom and Innocence

The professed basis of the charge of lying and equivocation made against me, and, in my person, against the Catholic clergy, was, as I have already noticed in the Preface, a certain Sermon of mine on "Wisdom and Innocence," being the 20th in a series of "Sermons on Subjects of the Day," written, preached, and published while I was an Anglican. Of this Sermon my accuser spoke thus in his Pamphlet:—

"It is occupied entirely with the attitude of 'the world' to 'Christians' and 'the Church.' By the world appears to be signified, especially, the Protestant public of these realms; what Dr. Newman means by Christians, and the Church, he has not left in doubt; for in the preceding Sermon he says: 'But if the truth must be spoken, what are the humble monk and the holy nun, and other regulars, as they are called, but Christians after the very pattern given us in Scripture, &c.'.... This is his definition of Christians. And in the Sermon itself, he sufficiently defines what he means by 'the Church,' in two notes of her character, which he shall give in his own words: 'What, for instance, though we grant that sacramental confession and the celibacy of the clergy do tend to consolidate the body politic in the relation of rulers and subjects, or, in other words, to aggrandize the priesthood? for how can the Church be one body without such relation?'"—Pp. 8, 9.

He then proceeded to analyze and comment on it at great length, and to criticize severely the method and tone of my Sermons generally. Among other things, he said:—

"What, then, did the Sermon mean? Why was it preached? To insinuate that a Church which had sacramental confession and a celibate clergy was the only true Church? Or to insinuate that the admiring young gentlemen who listened to him stood to their fellow-countrymen in the relation of the early Christians to the heathen Romans? Or that Queen Victoria's Government was to the Church of England what Nero's or Dioclesian's was to the Church of Rome? It may have been so. I know that men used to suspect Dr. Newman,—I have been inclined to do so myself,—of writing a whole Sermon, not for the sake of the text or of the matter, but for the sake of one single passing hint—one phrase, one epithet, one little barbed arrow, which, as he swept magnificently past on the stream of his calm eloquence, seemingly unconscious of all presences, save those unseen, he delivered unheeded, as with his finger-tip, to the very heart of an initiated hearer, never to be withdrawn again. I do not blame him for that. It is one of the highest triumphs of oratoric power, and may be employed honestly and fairly by any person who has the skill to do it honestly and fairly; but then, Why did he entitle his Sermon 'Wisdom and Innocence?'

"What, then, could I think that Dr. Newman meant? I found a preacher bidding Christians imitate, to some undefined point, the 'arts' of the basest of animals, and of men, and of the devil himself. I found him, by a strange perversion of Scripture, insinuating that St. Paul's conduct and manner were such as naturally to bring down on him the reputation of being a crafty deceiver. I found him—horrible to say it—even hinting the same of one greater than St. Paul. I found him denying or explaining away the existence of that Priestcraft, which is a notorious fact to every honest student of history, and justifying (as far as I can understand him) that double dealing by which prelates, in the middle age, too often played off alternately the sovereign against the people, and the people against the sovereign, careless which was in the right, so long as their own power gained by the move. I found him actually using of such (and, as I thought, of himself and his party likewise) the words 'They yield outwardly; to assent inwardly were to betray the faith. Yet they are called deceitful and double-dealing, because they do as much as they can, and not more than they may.' I found him telling Christians that they will always seem 'artificial,' and 'wanting in openness and manliness;' that they will always be 'a mystery' to the world, and that the world will always think them rogues; and bidding them glory in what the world (i.e. the rest of their countrymen) disown, and say with Mawworm, 'I like to be despised.' {from The Hypocrite (act V, scene. 1), by Isaac Bickerstaff (1733-1812)}

"Now, how was I to know that the preacher, who had the reputation of being the most acute man of his generation, and of having a specially intimate acquaintance with the weaknesses of the human heart, was utterly blind to the broad meaning and the plain practical result of a Sermon like this, delivered before fanatic and hot-headed young men, who hung upon his every word? that he did not foresee that they would think that they obeyed him by becoming affected, artificial, sly, shifty, ready for concealments and equivocations?" &c. &c.—Pp. 14-16.

My accuser asked in this passage what did the Sermon mean, and why was it preached. I will here answer this question; and with this view will speak, first of the matter of the Sermon, then of its subject, then of its circumstances.

1. It was one of the last six Sermons which I wrote when I was an Anglican. It was one of the five Sermons I preached in St. Mary's between Christmas and Easter, 1843, the year when I gave up my Living. The MS. of the Sermon is destroyed; but I believe, and my memory too bears me out, as far as it goes, that the sentence in question about Celibacy and Confession, of which this writer would make so much, was not preached at all. The Volume, in which this Sermon is found, was published after that I had given up St. Mary's, when I had no call on me to restrain the expression of any thing which I might hold: and I stated an important fact about it in the Advertisement, in these words:—

"In preparing [these Sermons] for publication, a few words and sentences have in several places been added, which will be found to express more of private or personal opinion, than it was expedient to introduce into the instruction delivered in Church to a parochial Congregation. Such introduction, however, seems unobjectionable in the case of compositions, which are detached from the sacred place and service to which they once belonged, and submitted to the reason and judgment of the general reader."

This Volume of Sermons then cannot be criticized at all as preachments; they are essays; essays of a man who, at the time of publishing them, was not a preacher. Such passages, as that in question, are just the very ones which I added upon my publishing them; and, as I always was on my guard in the pulpit against saying any thing which looked towards Rome, I shall believe that I did not preach the obnoxious sentence till some one is found to testify that he heard it.

At the same time I cannot conceive why the mention of Sacramental Confession, or of Clerical Celibacy, had I made it, was inconsistent with the position of an Anglican Clergyman. For Sacramental Confession and Absolution actually form a portion of the Anglican Visitation of the Sick; and though the 32nd Article says that "Bishops, priests, and deacons, are not commanded by God's law either to vow the state of single life or to abstain from marriage," and "therefore it is lawful for them to marry," this proposition I did not dream of denying, nor is it inconsistent with St. Paul's doctrine, which I held, that it is "good to abide even as he," i.e. in celibacy.

But I have more to say on this point. This writer says, "I know that men used to suspect Dr. Newman,—I have been inclined to do so myself,—of writing a whole Sermon, not for the sake of the text or of the matter, but for the sake of one simple passing hint,—one phrase, one epithet." Now observe; can there be a plainer testimony borne to the practical character of my Sermons at St. Mary's than this gratuitous insinuation? Many a preacher of Tractarian doctrine has been accused of not letting his parishioners alone, and of teasing them with his private theological notions. The same report was spread about me twenty years ago as this writer spreads now, and the world believed that my Sermons at St. Mary's were full of red-hot Tractarianism. Then strangers came to hear me preach, and were astonished at their own disappointment. I recollect the wife of a great prelate from a distance coming to hear me, and then expressing her surprise to find that I preached nothing but a plain humdrum Sermon. I recollect how, when on the Sunday before Commemoration one year, a number of strangers came to hear me, and I preached in my usual way, residents in Oxford, of high position, were loud in their satisfaction that on a great occasion, I had made a simple failure, for after all there was nothing in the Sermon to hear. Well, but they were not going to let me off, for all my common-sense view of duty. Accordingly they got up the charitable theory which this Writer revives. They said that there was a double purpose in those plain addresses of mine, and that my Sermons were never so artful as when they seemed common-place; that there were sentences which redeemed their apparent simplicity and quietness. So they watched during the delivery of a Sermon, which to them was too practical to be useful, for the concealed point of it, which they could at least imagine, if they could not discover. "Men used to suspect Dr. Newman," he says, "of writing a whole Sermon, not for the sake of the text or of the matter, but for the sake of one single passing hint, ... one phrase, one epithet, one little barbed arrow, which, as he swept magnificently past on the stream of his calm eloquence, seemingly unconscious of all presences, save those unseen, he delivered unheeded," &c. To all appearance, he says, I was "unconscious of all presences." He is not able to deny that the "whole Sermon" had the appearance of being "for the sake of the text and matter;" therefore he suggests that perhaps it wasn't.

2. And now as to the subject of the Sermon. The Sermons of which the Volume consists are such as are, more or less, exceptions to the rule which I ordinarily observed, as to the subjects which I introduced into the pulpit of St. Mary's. They are not purely ethical or doctrinal. They were for the most part caused by circumstances of the day or of the moment, and they belong to various years. One was written in 1832, two in 1836, two in 1838, five in 1840, five in 1841, four in 1842, seven in 1843. Many of them are engaged on one subject, viz. in viewing the Church in its relation to the world. By the world was meant, not simply those multitudes which were not in the Church, but the existing body of human society, whether in the Church or not, whether Catholics, Protestants, Greeks, or Mahometans, theists or idolaters, as being ruled by principles, maxims, and instincts of their own, that is, of an unregenerate nature, whatever their supernatural privileges might be, greater or less, according to their form of religion. This view of the relation of the Church to the world as taken apart from questions of ecclesiastical politics, as they may be called, is often brought out in my Sermons. Two occur to me at once; No. 3 of my Plain Sermons, which was written in 1829, and No. 15 of my Third Volume of Parochial, written in 1835. On the other hand, by Church I meant,—in common with all writers connected with the Tract Movement, whatever their shades of opinion, and with the whole body of English divines, except those of the Puritan or Evangelical School,—the whole of Christendom, from the Apostles' time till now, whatever their later divisions into Latin, Greek, and Anglican. I have explained this view of the subject above at pp. 69-71 of this Volume. When then I speak, in the particular Sermon before us, of the members, or the rulers, or the action of "the Church," I mean neither the Latin, nor the Greek, nor the English, taken by itself, but of the whole Church as one body: of Italy as one with England, of the Saxon or Norman as one with the Caroline Church. This was specially the one Church, and the points in which one branch or one period differed from another were not and could not be Notes of the Church, because Notes necessarily belong to the whole of the Church every where and always.

This being my doctrine as to the relation of the Church to the world, I laid down in the Sermon three principles concerning it, and there left the matter. The first is, that Divine Wisdom had framed for its action laws, which man, if left to himself, would have antecedently pronounced to be the worst possible for its success, and which in all ages have been called by the world, as they were in the Apostles' days, "foolishness;" that man ever relies on physical and material force, and on carnal inducements as Mahomet with his sword and his houris, or indeed almost as that theory of religion, called, since the Sermon was written, "muscular Christianity;" but that our Lord, on the contrary, has substituted meekness for haughtiness, passiveness for violence, and innocence for craft: and that the event has shown the high wisdom of such an economy, for it has brought to light a set of natural laws, unknown before, by which the seeming paradox that weakness should be stronger than might, and simplicity than worldly policy, is readily explained.

Secondly, I said that men of the world, judging by the event, and not recognizing the secret causes of the success, viz. a higher order of natural laws,—natural, though their source and action were supernatural, (for "the meek inherit the earth," by means of a meekness which comes from above,)—these men, I say, concluded, that the success which they witnessed must arise from some evil secret which the world had not mastered,—by means of magic, as they said in the first ages, by cunning as they say now. And accordingly they thought that the humility and inoffensiveness of Christians, or of Churchmen, was a mere pretence and blind to cover the real causes of that success, which Christians could explain and would not; and that they were simply hypocrites.

Thirdly, I suggested that shrewd ecclesiastics, who knew very well that there was neither magic nor craft in the matter, and, from their intimate acquaintance with what actually went on within the Church, discerned what were the real causes of its success, were of course under the temptation of substituting reason for conscience, and, instead of simply obeying the command, were led to do good that good might come, that is, to act in order to secure success, and not from a motive of faith. Some, I said, did yield to the temptation more or less, and their motives became mixed; and in this way the world in a more subtle shape had got into the Church; and hence it had come to pass, that, looking at its history from first to last, we could not possibly draw the line between good and evil there, and say either that every thing was to be defended, or certain things to be condemned. I expressed the difficulty, which I supposed to be inherent in the Church, in the following words. I said, "Priestcraft has ever been considered the badge, and its imputation is a kind of Note of the Church: and in part indeed truly, because the presence of powerful enemies, and the sense of their own weakness, has sometimes tempted Christians to the abuse, instead of the use of Christian wisdom, to be wise without being harmless; but partly, nay, for the most part, not truly, but slanderously, and merely because the world called their wisdom craft, when it was found to be a match for its own numbers and power."

Such is the substance of the Sermon: and as to the main drift of it, it was this; that I was, there and elsewhere, scrutinizing the course of the Church as a whole, as if philosophically, as an historical phenomenon, and observing the laws on which it was conducted. Hence the Sermon, or Essay as it more truly is, is written in a dry and unimpassioned way: it shows as little of human warmth of feeling as a Sermon of Bishop Butler's. Yet, under that calm exterior there was a deep and keen sensitiveness, as I shall now proceed to show.

3. If I mistake not, it was written with a secret thought about myself. Every one preaches according to his frame of mind, at the time of preaching. One heaviness especially oppressed me at that season, which this Writer, twenty years afterwards, has set himself with a good will to renew: it arose from the sense of the base calumnies which were heaped upon me on all sides. It is worth observing that this Sermon is exactly contemporaneous with the report spread by a Bishop (vid. supr. p. 181 {in Chapter 4}), that I had advised a clergyman converted to Catholicism to retain his Living. This report was in circulation in February 1843, and my Sermon was preached on the 19th. In the trouble of mind into which I was thrown by such calumnies as this, I gained, while I reviewed the history of the Church, at once an argument and a consolation. My argument was this: if I, who knew my own innocence, was so blackened by party prejudice, perhaps those high rulers and those servants of the Church, in the many ages which intervened between the early Nicene times and the present, who were laden with such grievous accusations, were innocent also; and this reflection served to make me tender towards those great names of the past, to whom weaknesses or crimes were imputed, and reconciled me to difficulties in ecclesiastical proceedings, which there were no means now of properly explaining. And the sympathy thus excited for them, re-acted on myself, and I found comfort in being able to put myself under the shadow of those who had suffered as I was suffering, and who seemed to promise me their recompense, since I had a fellowship in their trial. In a letter to my Bishop at the time of Tract 90, part of which I have quoted, I said that I had ever tried to "keep innocency;" and now two years had passed since then, and men were louder and louder in heaping on me the very charges, which this Writer repeats out of my Sermon, of "fraud and cunning," "craftiness and deceitfulness," "double-dealing," "priestcraft," of being "mysterious, dark, subtle, designing," when I was all the time conscious to myself, in my degree, and after my measure, of "sobriety, self-restraint, and control of word and feeling." I had had experience how my past success had been imputed to "secret management;" and how, when I had shown surprise at that success, that surprise again was imputed to "deceit;" and how my honest heartfelt submission to authority had been called, as it was called in a Bishop's charge abroad, "mystic humility;" and how my silence was called an "hypocrisy;" and my faithfulness to my clerical engagements a secret correspondence with the enemy. And I found a way of destroying my sensitiveness about these things which jarred upon my sense of justice, and otherwise would have been too much for me, by the contemplation of a large law of the Divine Dispensation, and felt myself more and more able to bear in my own person a present trial, of which in my past writings I had expressed an anticipation.

For this feeling and thus speaking this Writer compares me to "Mawworm." "I found him telling Christians," he says, "that they will always seem 'artificial,' and 'wanting in openness and manliness;' that they will always be 'a mystery' to the world; and that the world will always think them rogues; and bidding them glory in what the world (that is, the rest of their fellow-countrymen) disown, and say with Mawworm, 'I like to be despised.' Now how was I to know that the preacher ... was utterly blind to the broad meaning and the plain practical result of a Sermon like this delivered before fanatic and hot-headed young men, who hung upon his every word?"—Fanatic and hot-headed young men, who hung on my every word! If he had undertaken to write a history, and not a romance, he would have easily found out, as I have said above, that from 1841 I had severed myself from the younger generation of Oxford, that Dr. Pusey and I had then closed our theological meetings at his house, that I had brought my own weekly evening parties to an end, that I preached only by fits and starts at St. Mary's, so that the attendance of young men was broken up, that in those very weeks from Christmas till over Easter, during which this Sermon was preached, I was but five times in the pulpit there. He would have found, that it was written at a time when I was shunned rather than sought, when I had great sacrifices in anticipation, when I was thinking much of myself; that I was ruthlessly tearing myself away from my own followers, and that, in the musings of that Sermon, I was at the very utmost only delivering a testimony in my behalf for time to come, not sowing my rhetoric broadcast for the chance of present sympathy.

Again, he says: "I found him actually using of such [prelates], (and, as I thought, of himself and his party likewise,) the words 'They yield outwardly; to assent inwardly were to betray the faith. Yet they are called deceitful and double-dealing, because they do as much as they can, not more than they may.'" This too is a proof of my duplicity! Let this writer, in his dealings with some one else, go just a little further than he has gone with me; and let him get into a court of law for libel; and let him be convicted; and let him still fancy that his libel, though a libel, was true, and let us then see whether he will not in such a case "yield outwardly," without assenting internally; and then again whether we should please him, if we called him "deceitful and double-dealing," because "he did as much as he could, not more than he ought to do." But Tract 90 will supply a real illustration of what I meant. I yielded to the Bishops in outward act, viz. in not defending the Tract, and in closing the Series; but, not only did I not assent inwardly to any condemnation of it, but I opposed myself to the proposition of a condemnation on the part of authority. Yet I was then by the public called "deceitful and double-dealing," as this Writer calls me now, "because I did as much as I felt I could do, and not more than I felt I could honestly do." Many were the publications of the day and the private letters, which accused me of shuffling, because I closed the Series of Tracts, yet kept the Tracts on sale, as if I ought to comply not only with what my Bishop asked, but with what he did not ask, and perhaps did not wish. However, such teaching, according to this Writer, was likely to make young men "suspect, that truth was not a virtue for its own sake, but only for the sake of the spread of 'Catholic opinions,' and the 'salvation of their own souls;' and that cunning was the weapon which heaven had allowed to them to defend themselves against the persecuting Protestant public."—p. 16.

And now I draw attention to a further point. He says, "How was I to know that the preacher ... did not foresee, that [fanatic and hot-headed young men] would think that they obeyed him, by becoming affected, artificial, sly, shifty, ready for concealments and equivocations?" "How should he know!" What! I suppose that we are to think every man a knave till he is proved not to be such. Know! had he no friend to tell him whether I was "affected" or "artificial" myself? Could he not have done better than impute equivocations to me, at a time when I was in no sense answerable for the amphibologia of the Roman casuists? Had he a single fact which belongs to me personally or by profession to couple my name with equivocation in 1843? "How should he know" that I was not sly, smooth, artificial, non-natural! he should know by that common manly frankness, by which we put confidence in others, till they are proved to have forfeited it; he should know it by my own words in that very Sermon, in which I say it is best to be natural, and that reserve is at best but an unpleasant necessity. For I say there expressly:—

"I do not deny that there is something very engaging in a frank and unpretending manner; some persons have it more than others; in some persons it is a great grace. But it must be recollected that I am speaking of times of persecution and oppression to Christians, such as the text foretells; and then surely frankness will become nothing else than indignation at the oppressor, and vehement speech, if it is permitted. Accordingly, as persons have deep feelings, so they will find the necessity of self-control, lest they should say what they ought not."

He sums up thus:

"If [Dr. Newman] would ... persist (as in this Sermon) in dealing with matters dark, offensive, doubtful, sometimes actually forbidden, at least according to the notions of the great majority of English Churchmen; if he would always do so in a tentative, paltering way, seldom or never letting the world know how much he believed, how far he intended to go; if, in a word, his method of teaching was a suspicious one, what wonder if the minds of men were filled with suspicions of him?"—p. 17.

Now, in the course of my Narrative, I have frankly admitted that I was tentative in such of my works as fairly allowed of the introduction into them of religious inquiry; but he is speaking of my Sermons; where, then, is his proof that in my Sermons I dealt in matters dark, offensive, doubtful, actually forbidden? He must show that I was tentative in my Sermons; and he has the range of eight volumes to gather evidence in. As to the ninth, my University Sermons, of course I was tentative in them; but not because "I would seldom or never let the world know how much I believed, or how far I intended to go;" but because University Sermons are commonly, and allowably, of the nature of disquisitions, as preached before a learned body; and because in deep subjects, which had not been fully investigated, I said as much as I believed, and about as far as I saw I could go; and a man cannot do more; and I account no man to be a philosopher who attempts to do more.