The Irrationalism Of Infidelity

Being A Reply To “Phases Of Faith”1

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sures having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Tim. 2:19.

To Francis William Newman

You will not be at a loss to discover the author of this attempt at a reply to your last publication, so strangely entitled “Phases of Faith;” nor to recognize one once well known to yourself.

I have had no thought of sparing your book. You have denied and dishonoured in it the Lord that bought me, to whom I owe everything a soul can know in blessing and God reveal in grace. I have no sympathy with cold indifference in such a case. It is a duty to feel. Not to feel proves we have never felt what it seeks to pull down.

With yourself the case is somewhat different. Not that I can distinguish, as some do, between a book and its author. If the book is a guilty one, its author is guilty of it.

But there is another feeling arises as to the author, which does not as to the book. To the book I can measure out, without a pang, unmingled feelings of disgust and contempt; to the author I could not. The thought of him awakens sorrow, regret, pain, a thousand feelings which the evil I find in his work, the thoughts as to Christ once expressed by him and supposed genuine by me, and my own love to souls, however feeble, as alas! it is, contribute to produce. I do mourn; and hence it is I add these few prefatory words.

I have known you, supposed you loved Christ, took for granted (as one unsuspectingly does) you believed in Him, heard a testimony from yourself to your spiritual delight in Him, as the joy, the food, and delight of your soul. Was all a delusion? Is not your present book? Did you feel these things? Were they, as you thought, livingly linked up with a Christ known to yourself? Does your book prove a greater moral elevation? Forgive me, if I think that, independent of all dogma, it proves frightful descent from what at least restrained your steps, your lips, then, if it did not possess your heart. Can you compare what then expressed your joys with the feelings and manner of thinking (I am not talking of views or groundwork of judgment, but of their effects) which your book betrays, and feel happy at it? Take some of your own letters, and say. I have some which, of course, I cannot quote here for these expressions of your feelings. But what a difference when I read them! I cannot bring myself to believe that there was nothing real in them. My soul looks out for some gleam of such thoughts in the book your infidelity has produced; but I can only find a miserable nature let loose by it. Who can tell how deep something else may be buried by such a mass of nature’s ruins and filth, which the mighty grace of God may yet disencumber and make grow, and thus the old serpent lose its natural and congenial haunt?

But I write that you may at least feel that my attacking your book is as far as possible from bitterness toward you. I have no desire to spare your book. I am dealing with a book—with principles and with minds that may be affected by it. I believe it a dishonour to yourself; but as regards your book, you are but a name attached to the moral condition of mind contained in it, and there presented to the public. I am not dealing with you about it, but with it before God and my reader. The thought of yourself, which intruded itself necessarily upon me in reading it, was one of deep sorrow—I trust of gracious feeling. My answer to the book was not the place to express it: I can here assure you of it. If you read my book, you must expect no concealment of a severe (I believe a just) judgment of your publication.

You have here the unfeigned expression of what I feel as regards yourself—not in its strength, as this must be public (and I hate published feeling), but at least the true character of it— pain—sorrow—I trust divine love—and a lingering clinging to the hope that, however low he may have fallen, it is impossible that one who has expressed the feelings you have in bygone times could have done so without some reality.

May the Lord, who alone has power to blot out and overcome our wretchedness, and new-create the heart, make you—as in other ways He has me—a monument of His almighty and infinite grace!

I remain, as one well known to you, and desirous of remaining unknown to others,

Yours with earnest desire in Christ.

1 London:1853.