Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Newman: from 'Feasting in Captivity' (1842)

"We know what prophecy promises us, a holy Church set upon a hill; an imperial Church, far-spreading among the nations, loving truth and peace, binding together all hearts in charity, and uttering the words of God from inspired lips; a Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, that is at unity within itself, peace within its walls and plenteousness within its palaces; "a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish." And, alas! What do we see? We see the Kingdom of God to all appearance broken into fragments - authority in abeyance - separate portions in insurrection -brother armed against brother - truth, a matter not of faith but of controversy. And looking at our own portion of the heavenly heritage, we see heresies of the most deadly character around us and within us; we see error stalking abroad in the light of day and over the length of the land unrebuked—nay, invading high places; while the maintainers of Christian truth are afraid to speak, lest it should offend those to whom it is a duty to defer. We see discipline utterly thrown down, the sacraments and ordinances of grace open to those who cannot come without profaning them and getting harm from them. Works of penance almost unthought of; the world and the Church mixed together; and those who discern and mourn over all this looked upon with aversion, because they will not prophesy smooth things and speak peace where there is no peace. On us have fallen the times described by the Psalmist when he laments, "Thou hast broken the covenant of Thy servant, and cast his crown to the ground. Thou hast overthrown all his hedges and broken down his strongholds ... Thou hast put out his glory and cast his throne down to the ground. The days of his youth hast Thou shortened, and covered him with dishonour..................

One danger there is, that of our attempting one of these aspects or constituent portions of the Christian character while we neglect the other. To attempt Apostolical Christianity at all, we must attempt it all. It is a whole, and cannot be divided; and to attempt one aspect of it only, is to attempt something else which looks like it, instead of it. "All is not gold that glitters," as the proverb goes; and all is not Catholic and Apostolic which affects what is high and beautiful, and speaks to the imagination. Religion has two sides, a severe side, and a beautiful; and we shall be sure to swerve from the narrow way which leads to life, if we indulge ourselves in what is beautiful, while we put aside what is severe.......

Let us recollect this for our own profit; that, if it is our ambition to follow the Christians of the first ages, as they followed the Apostles, and the Apostles followed Christ, they had the discomfort of this world without its compensating gifts. No high cathedrals, no decorated altars, no white-robed priests, no choirs for sacred psalmody, nothing of the order, majesty, and beauty of devotional services had they; but they had trials, afflictions, solitariness, contempt, ill-usage. They were "in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." If we have only the enjoyment and none of the pain, and they only the pain and none of the enjoyment, in what does our Christianity resemble theirs? What are the tokens of identity between us?"
John Henry Newman: Sermons on Subjects of the Day

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