...amid the twilight of the present
…yet a Faith, which generously apprehends Eternal Truth, though at times it degenerates into superstition, is far better than that cold, sceptical, critical tone of mind, which has no inward sense of an overruling, ever-present Providence, no desire to approach its God, but sits at home waiting for the fearful clearness of His visible coming, whom it might seek and find in due measure amid the twilight of the present world.
That’s from the 11th sermon in this collection, preached on January 13, 1839. These can be pretty dense reading, and to be sure, these were originally written to be read aloud to a (packed) congregation. Keeping in mind that they were delivered in the period before his conversion - and I generously allow that this simply be the benefit of hindsight - a sense of his mind has been coming through his arguments and assertions.
The last sermon in this collection, “The Theory of Developments in Religious Doctrine,” was only months away from his final sermon at St. Mary’s. His conversion was still a couple of years away. A scarlet thread in his writing shows up now and again, a brilliant mind contending with itself in the matter of Truth: how it is to be known, and what we are to do once we know it.
I was speaking with my pastor the other day and the conversation turned to Newman. He gave me a small book of meditations on his writing. They’re short, and very well suited to daily devotional reading. These small gems leave behind, thankfully, the arena of intellectual disputation and reflect a simple, lively joy:
God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for his purposes, as necessary in my place as an archangel in his - if, indeed, I fail, God can raise another, as he could make the stones children of Abraham.
Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nought. I shall do good. I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, though not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.