Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.

It is very little use, then, for Dr. Newman to tell Dr. Pusey or any one else, “You may safely trust us English Catholics as to this devotion.”  “English Catholics,” as such,—­it is the strength and the weakness of their system,—­have really the least to say in the matter.  The question is not about trusting “us English Catholics,” but the Pope, and the Roman Congregation, and those to whom the Roman authorities delegate their sanction and give their countenance.  If Dr. Newman is able, as we doubt not he is desirous, to elevate the tone of his own communion and put to shame some of its fashionable excesses, he will do a great work, in which we wish him every success, though the result of it might not really be to bring the body of his countrymen nearer to it.  But the substance of Dr. Pusey’s charges remain after all unanswered, and there is no getting over them while they remain.  They are of that broad, palpable kind against which the refinements of argumentative apology play in vain.  They can only be met by those who feel their force, on some principle equally broad.  Dr. Newman suggests such a ground in the following remarks, which, much as they want qualification and precision, have a basis of reality in them:—­

It is impossible, I say, in a doctrine like this, to draw the line cleanly between truth and error, right and wrong.  This is ever the case in concrete matters which have life.  Life in this world is motion, and involves a continual process of change.  Living things grow into their perfection, into their decline, into their death.  No rule of art will suffice to stop the operation of this natural law, whether in the material world or in the human mind....  What has power to stir holy and refined souls is potent also with the multitude, and the religion of the multitude is ever vulgar and abnormal; it ever will be tinctured with fanaticism and superstition while men are what they are.  A people’s religion is ever a corrupt religion.  If you are to have a Catholic Church you must put up with fish of every kind, guests good and bad, vessels of gold, vessels of earth.  You may beat religion out of men, if you will, and then their excesses will take a different direction; but if you make use of religion to improve them, they will make use of religion to corrupt it.  And then you will have effected that compromise of which our countrymen report so unfavourably from abroad,—­a high grand faith and worship which compels their admiration, and puerile absurdities among the people which excite their contempt.

It is like Dr. Newman to put his case in this broad way, making large admissions, allowing for much inevitable failure.  That is, he defends his Church as he would defend Christianity generally, taking it as a great practical system must be in this world, working with human nature as it is.  His reflection is, no doubt, one suggested by a survey of the cause of all religion.  The coming short of the greatest

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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