John Henry Newman, who died on this day in 1890, was one of the greatest figures in English Christianity in the 19th century. He was a profound theologian and philosopher, a brilliant leader and organiser, and he left a body of work behind him that is still read and still influential today.
His family circumstances were not easy, but he went to Oxford as a student and became a Fellow of Oriel College, where he met the saintly John Keble. Newman's drive and energy led to the foundation of the Oxford Movement, which recovered the High Church or Anglo-Catholic tradition in the Church of England. Newman was a magnetic preacher whose sermons in the University Church drew hundreds to hear him. He argued that the CofE was a middle way or 'via media' between the errors of Roman Catholicism and extreme Protestantism. The 'Tracts for the Times' issued by him and his followers were hugely influential in reviving the Church.
However, he came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church was in fact the true Church and joined it in 1845, bringing the Oxford Movement to an end. It was seen by his CofE colleagues as a tragedy and led to the breaking of many friendships. He wrote his famous Apologia Pro Vita Sua or 'Defence of his life', one of the world's great spiritual autobiographies, out of pain at how he was being misrepresented by evangelical clergy.
Newman became a Catholic priest and the head of the Birmingham Oratory, later being named as a cardinal. He was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010.
Here are nine quotes from John Henry Newman (taken from BrainyQuote).
1. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.
2. We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we believe.
3. To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.
4. If we are intended for great ends, we are called to great hazards.
5. From the age of 15, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion; I know of no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery.
6. Growth is the only evidence of life.
7. It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.
8. It is often said that second thoughts are best. So they are in matters of judgment, but not in matters of conscience.
9. Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.