Dr. Newman, in a very remarkable passage, describes the look and attitude of invading Liberalism, and tells us why he is not forward in the conflict. “It seemed to be a time of all others in which Christians had a call to be patient, in which they had no other way of helping those who were alarmed than that of exhorting them to have a little faith and fortitude, and ‘to beware,’ as the poet says, ’of dangerous steps.’” And he interprets “recent acts of the highest Catholic authority” as meaning that there is nothing to do just now but to sit still and trust. Well; but the Christian Year will do that much for us, just as well.
People who talk glibly of the fearless pursuit of truth may here see a real example of a life given to it—an example all the more solemn and impressive if they think that the pursuit was in vain. It is easy to declaim about it, and to be eloquent about lies and sophistries; but it is shallow to forget that truth has its difficulties. To hear some people talk, it might be thought that truth was a thing to be made out and expressed at will, under any circumstances, at any time, amid any complexities of facts or principles, by half an hour’s choosing to be attentive, candid, logical, and resolute; as if there was not a chance of losing what perhaps you have, as well as of gaining what you think you need. If they would look about them, if they would look into themselves, they would recognise that Truth is an awful and formidable goddess to all men and to all systems; that all have their weak points where virtually, more or less consciously, more or less dexterously, they shrink from meeting her eye; that even when we make sacrifice of everything for her sake, we find that she still encounters us with claims, seemingly inconsistent with all that she has forced us to embrace—with appearances which not only convict us of mistake, but seem to oblige us to be tolerant of what we cannot really assent to.
She gives herself freely to the earnest and true-hearted inquirer; but to those who presume on the easiness of her service, she has a side of strong irony. You common-sense men, she seems to say, who see no difficulties in the world, you little know on what shaky ground you stand, and how easily you might be reduced to absurdity. You critical and logical intellects, who silence all comers and cannot be answered, and can show everybody to be in the wrong—into what monstrous and manifest paradoxes are you not betrayed, blind to the humble facts which upset your generalisations, not even seeing that dulness itself can pronounce you mistaken!