Wednesday, July 8, 2015

[A shorter extract of the previous post]

This being considered, have we not, my Brothers, a curious sight before us? This is what we call an enlightened age: we are to have large views of things; everything is to be put on a philosophical basis; reason is to rule: the world is to begin again; a new and transporting set of views is about to be exhibited to the great human family. Well and good; have them, preach them, enjoy them, but deign to recollect the while, that there have been views in the world before you: that the world has not been going on up to this day without any principles whatever; that the Old Religion was based on principles, and that it is not enough to flourish about your "new lamps," if you would make us give up our "old" ones. Catholicism, I say, had its First Principles  before you were born: you say they are false; very well, prove them to be so: they are false, indeed, if yours are true; but not false merely because yours are yours. While yours are yours it is self-evident, indeed, to you, that ours are false; but it is not the common way of carrying on business in the world, to value English goods by French measures, or to pay a debt in paper which was contracted in gold. Catholicism has its First Principles, overthrow them, if you can; endure them, if you cannot. It is not enough to call them effete because they are old, or antiquated because they are ancient. It is not enough to look into our churches, and cry, "It is all a form, because divine favour cannot depend on external observances;" or, "It is all a bondage, because there is no such thing as sin;" or, "a blasphemy, because the Supreme Being cannot be present in ceremonies;" or, "a mummery, because prayer cannot move Him;" or, "a tyranny, because vows are unnatural;" or, "hypocrisy, because no rational man can credit it at all." I say here is endless assumption, unmitigated hypothesis, reckless assertion; prove your "because," "because," "because;" prove your First Principles, and if you cannot, learn philosophic moderation. Why may not my First Principles contest the prize with yours? they have been longer in the world; they have lasted longer, they have done harder work, they have seen rougher service. You sit in your easy-chairs, you dogmatize in your lecture-rooms, you wield your pens: it all looks well on paper: you write exceedingly well: there never was an age in which there was better writing; logical, nervous, eloquent, and pure,—go and carry it all out in the world. Take your First Principles, of which you are so proud, into the crowded streets of our cities, into the formidable classes which make up the bulk of our population; try to work society by them. You think you can; I say you cannot—at least you have not as yet; it is yet to be seen if you can. "Let not him that putteth on his armour boast as he who taketh it off." Do not take it for granted that that is certain which is waiting the test of reason and experiment. Be modest until you are victorious. My principles, which I believe to be eternal, have at least lasted eighteen hundred years; let yours live as many months. That man can sin, that he has duties, that the Divine Being hears prayer, that He gives His favours through visible ordinances, that He is really present in the midst of them, these principles have been the life of nations; they have shown they could be carried out; let any single nation carry out yours, and you will have better claim to speak contemptuously of Catholic rites, of Catholic devotions, of Catholic belief.

 What is all this but the very state of mind which we ridicule, and call narrowness, in the case of those who have never travelled? We call them, and rightly, men of contracted ideas, who cannot fancy things going on differently from what they have themselves witnessed at home, and laugh at everything because it is strange. They themselves are the pattern men; their height, their dress, their manners, their food, their language, are all founded in the nature of things; and everything else is good or bad, just in that very degree in which it partakes, or does not partake, of them [...]

here are many men of one idea in the world: your unintellectual machine, who eats, drinks, and sleeps, is a man of one idea. Such, too, is your man of genius, who strikes out some new, or revives some old view in science or in art, and would apply it as a sort of specific or as a key to all possible subjects; and who will not let the world alone, but loads it with bad names if it will not run after him and his darling fancy [...] History and travel expand our views of man and of society; they teach us that distinct principles rule in different countries and in distinct periods; and, though they do not teach us that all principles are equally true, or, which is the same thing, that none are either true or false, yet they do teach us, that all are to be regarded with attention and examined with patience, which have prevailed to any great extent among mankind. Such is the temper of a man of the world, of a philosopher. He may hold principles to be false and dangerous, but he will try to enter into them, to enter into the minds of those who hold them; he will consider in what their strength lies, and what can be said for them; he will do his best to analyze and dissect them; he will compare them with others; and he will apply himself to the task of exposing and disproving them. He will not ignore them;—now, what I desiderate at the present day in so many even candid men, and of course much more in the multitude which is uncandid, is a recognition that Catholics have principles of their own; I desiderate a study of those principles, a fair representation, a refutation. It is not enough, {298} that this age has its principles too; this does not prove them true; it has no right to put ours on one side, and proceed to make its own the immediate touchstones and the sufficient tribunals of our creed, our worship, our ecclesiastical proceedings, and our moral teaching.

-John Henry Newman

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