Friday, August 20, 2010

"Conscious of what might be said against themselves, they are cautious what they say against others"

"Such men, being thus indulgent to themselves, are indulgent to each other; they make allowance for all around them, as taking what they give freely.  This is the secret of being friends with the world, to have a sympathy and a share in its sins.  They who are strict with themselves are strict with the world; but where men grant themselves a certain licence of disobedience, they do not draw the line very rigidly as regards others.  Conscious of what might be said against themselves, they are cautious what they say against others; and they meet them on the understanding of a mutual sufferance.  They learn to say that the private habits of their neighbors are nothing to them; and they hold intercourse with them only as public men, or members of society, or in the way of business, not at all as with responsible beings having immortal souls.  They desire to see and know nothing but what is on the surface; and they call a man's personal history sacred, because it is sinful.  In their eyes, their sole duty to their neighbor is, not to offend him; whatever his morals, whatever his creed, is nothing to them."

"Such persons appeal to Scripture, and they must be refuted, as is not difficult, from Scripture; but the multitude of men do not take so much trouble about the matter.  Instead of even professing to discover what God has said, they take what they call a commonsense view of it.  They maintain it is impossible that religion should really be so strict according to God's design.  They condemn the notion as overstrained and morose.  They profess to admire and take pleasure in religion as a whole, but think that it should not be needlessly pressed in details, or, as they express it, carried too far.  They complain of its particularity, if I may use the term, or its want of indulgence and consideration in little things; that is, in other words, they like religion before they have experience of it—in prospect—at a distance—till they have to be religious.  They like to talk of it, they like to see men religious; they think it commendable and highly important; but directly religion comes home to them in real particulars of whatever kind, they like it not.  It suffices them to have seen and praised it; they feel it a burden whenever they feel it at all, whenever it calls upon them to do what otherwise they would not do."

John Henry (Cardinal) Newman, "The strictness of the law of Christ" (9 July 1837, on Rom 6:18), Parochial and plain sermons, vol. 4, Sermon 1.  Cardinal Newman's best plain sermons, ed. Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J. (New York, NY:  Herder and Herder, 1964), 7-8, 11-12 (1-15).

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