Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"the actions of saints are not always patterns for us"

Actions can be "indifferent in the abstract, not in the concrete.  Eating, sleeping, talking, walking, may be neither good nor bad, viewed in their bare idea; but it is a very different thing to say that this man, at this time, at this place, being what he is, is neither right nor wrong in eating or walking.  And further, the very same action, done by two persons, is utterly different in character and effect, good in one, bad in another.  This, Gentlemen, is what is meant by saying that the actions of saints are not always patterns for us.  They are right in them, they would be wrong in others, because an ordinary Christian fulfils one idea, and a saint fulfils another.  Hence it is that we bear things from some people, which we should resent, if done by others; as for other reasons, so especially for this, that they do not mean the same thing in these and in those."

     John Henry Newman, The idea of a university defined and illustrated, Discourse V ("General knowledge viewed as one philosophy"), ed. I. T. Ker (Oxford:  The Clarendon Press, 1976), 426 (Appendix I).

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