A Great Fact

Author: The Tablet

A Great Fact

The Tablet

Account of the conversion of Mr Newman

Our readers will naturally expect from us a few words on the subject of Mr Newman's conversion, but we confess we find great difficulties in fulfilling that expectation. The subject is so wide and yet so simple, so personal and yet so diffusive, that we hardly know what to say or what to avoid saying. To use the current slang of the day, Mr Newman's conversion is "a great fact". It has been looked for anxiously and long. It has been prayed for; it has been written for; it has been wished; it has been dreaded; it has at length come. So far as a remote observer can presume, imperfectly at the best, to judge of character, the Anglican Establishment has been deprived of the largest mind and the most penetrating intellect lately to be found, at least among her ecclesiastical children.

The least part of what has occurred is that a man informed by profound genius has passed from heresy to the Church; has brought over to the camp of truth the stores of his profound learning, of his active and disciplined intelligence. This, of itself however, is no immemorable event. Not merely among those commonly called the Puseyites was Mr Newman without a peer. If during the last half or entire century the Anglican Church can name a Divine his equal in power and comprehensiveness of mind, that name is unknown to us....

This man — who, considered as an individual, was the very best leader they could have chosen — they chose for their guide in the outset of his vehemence against Rome; they have continued with him in the changes of his opinions; they are now, many of them at least, accompanying or following him in the final change which has brought him to an everlasting rest.... With his whole mind he has composedly examined and maturely weighed every part of the subject under his consideration. We may almost say that no nook or cranny of it has escaped his searching glance. He commenced fifteen years ago an ardent anti-Romanist. During that time, with every prejudice against the truth, he has diligently laboured in his endeavours to place the Anglican theory on a sound basis in his own mind and before the public. He has tried scheme after scheme. Step by step he has fallen back before the resistless onset of truth. He has yielded slowly; reluctantly — we may say; surrendering no point gratuitously... and sparing no pains or labour to escape, if it might honestly be done, the last, great, painful, satisfying change....

Mr Newman's especial ground is theology, and the various theological systems of ancient and modern times he has studied with a minuteness and subtlety of mind which we suspect few living writers or thinkers have exceeded. But with all this he is not a dry theologian; a man of an angular, arid, restricted, scientific mind. With the minute industry of a pedant, and the method and intellectual perspicacity of a logician, he has a large and masculine imagination; and we cannot but think that he has displayed some of the rarest qualities necessary for the calling of a profound historian.

All these capacities of intellect, directed by the purest and simplest honesty, Mr Newman, aided by the counsels of numerous persons of high ability and unquestioned learning, of whom he was the companion and associate or the guide, has employed for fifteen years and more in an attempt to make good the cause of Anglicanism — first to uphold it in enmity to Rome, and then to establish its claim to an equal sisterhood. In both these attempts he, who ought to have succeeded if any rational man could succeed, has signally failed, and has just proclaimed his failure to the world. He, too, like so many before him, and so many that are to follow, has renounced Opinion for Faith; Heresy for Truth; and the ever-changing fluctuations of human speculation for the unchanging certainty of the teaching of God's Church....

Our main purpose in this article was to congratulate Mr Newman warmly and with the most devoted affection on his happy conversion, and our readers upon their share in the fortunate event. God knows, it fills us with a joy which we cannot adequately express....

Published by 'The Tablet'. London, vol. vi, No. 286, 25 Oct. 1845, pp. 673-674 (excerpts)

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
22 September 2010, page 14

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