Newmanianism/VIII. An appeal from the Editor of "The Spectator" to Mr. R.H. Hutton
7. I answer to my assertion that Newman's religion was a religion of fear -by which, of course, I meant that fear unduly predominated- the Editor thought it sufficient to refer to a single passage in Newman's poem "Gerontius", expressive of the love felt by the soul after death for the Saviour. I replied that single passages proved little; that this particular passage proved nothing about the state of feeling during life; but that, if a single passage could be of value, the following seemed to be the point ("Gerontius", Poems, p.341):-
"Along my hearthly life, the thought of death
And judgement was to me most terrible;
I had it aye before me, and I saw
The Judge severe, e'en in the Crucifix".
What did the Editor reply to this? He thought it sufficient to quote another passage in which Newman says that the "vision of faith" is compatible with anxiety about failing and with a host of other feelings, concluding with these words, "We can weep while we smile, and labour while we meditate".
How is this to the point? The question is whether the constant ("aye before me") "terrible thought of death and judgement", is compatible with a religion of Christian joy; and whether he can be described as "rejoicing in the Lord away" who cannot even contemplate Christ upon the Cross whithout always thinking of "the Judge severe". In answer to this question, Mr. Hutton puts us off with a statement that we can "weep while we smile". Perhaps. But that is not the question. "Terrbile" implies "terror". The question therefore is, whether Christian love is compatible with unremitting "terror".
Here I appeal. From the Editor of the Spectator I appeal to Mr. R.H. Hutton, the author of Cardinal Newman, pp. 183 - 4, where Mr. Hutton comments upon a passage which I have selected as an admirable instance of Newmanian "Oscillation" (see Philomythus, p. 224). In this passage Newman desires to prove that love -instead of being (as is generally supposed) the basis of Christian faith- is only a kind of Preservative (in 1878 altered into "Conservative") addition to fear. How he achieves this feat I have tried elsewhere to explain; but let the reader note Mr. Hutton's comment, which I adopt: "Surely it degrades love to speak of it as mere "preservative addiction" to a Gospel of fear. That is just what I say. Only I would omit "surely" because, oddly enough, that word sometimes implies the possibility of a shade of doubt. And I should word it otherwise. Mr. Hutton seems to think that this deliberate expression of Newman's opinion is only a kind of impersonal excrescence, and says "It degrades". On the contrary, Newman's whole Anglican life and Anglican teaching are permeated with his belief. It is a part of his immost self; and there is not the slighest ground for supposing that he did not in all sincerity mean what he said. So I, while agreeing with Mr. R.H. Hutton, should express my agreement with just a shade of difference, thus: "Newman habitually and deliberately degrades love by speaking of it, and thinking of it, as a mere "preservative" (or 'conservative') addition to a Gospel of fear. And this, and nothing else, is what I meant by asserting that Newman's religion was "a religion of fear".
This is a very important point indeed, a point so important, that, in comparison with it, everything else that I have said, or thought of saying, about Cardinal Newman sinks into absolute insignificance. It is therefore a satisfaction that on this point I am in accord with Mr. R.H. Hutton the author -though, of course, not with the Editor of the Spectator.