Friday, September 3, 2010

Newman on those who mistake the signs of His coming

"I had rather be he, who, from love of Christ and want of science, thinks some strange sight in the sky, comet or meteor, to be the sign of His coming, than the man, who, from more knowledge and from lack of love, laughs at the mistake."

John Henry (Cardinal) Newman, "Waiting for Christ" (6 December 1840, on Rev 16:15), Parochial and plain sermons, vol. 6, Sermon 17.  Cardinal Newman's best plain sermons, ed. Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J. (New York, NY: Herder and Herder, 1964), 129 (120-137).  This follows
though Christians might be mistaken in what they took to be signs of Christ's coming, yet they were not wrong in their state of mind; they were not mistaken in looking out, and that for Christ.  Whether credulous or not, they only acted as one acts towards some person beloved, or revered, or admired on earth.  Consider the mode in which loyal persons look up to a good prince; you will find stories current, up and down the country, in his favour; people delight in believing that they have fallen in with tokens of his beneficence, nobleness, and paternal kindness.  Many of these reports are false, yet others are true, and, on the whole, we should not think highly of that man who, instead of being touched at this mutual sympathy between sovereign and people, occuped himself merely in carping at what he called their credulity, and sifting the accuracy of this or that particular story.  A great thing, truly, after all, to be able to detect a few mis-statements, and to expose a few fictions, and to be without a heart!  And forsooth, on the other hand, a sad deficiency in that people, I suppose, merely to be right on the whole, not in every particular, and to have the heart right!  Who would envy such a man's knowledge?  Who would not rather have that people's ignorance?  And, in like manner, I had rather . . .
etc. (128-129). Nonetheless, Newman does distinguish "loyal persons" like these from "Enthusiasts, sectaries, wild presumptuous men" (131).

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