The title of this reflection is the essential question every man and woman needs to ask. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Blessed Newman’s sermon, “Faith, the Title for our Justification,” in which he explores this question and wonders if faith is all that is needed for salvation.

In Part 2 we turn to the final objection Newman faces: if Scripture says that one must simply believe to be saved, how can we put conditions on it, such as receiving baptism? Do our conditions twist the plain meaning of Scripture? Or as Newman puts it, “Is Scripture, it may be said, for plain men or not?—does it speak to the artless, guileless, and simple-minded, or does it require a refined and cultivated intellect to understand it?”

Newman begins by admitting that there is a sense in which it is true, that simply “believing is [a person’s] power” to receive salvation. But here Newman proves how beautifully simple his reading of Scripture is in contrast with those who debate him. He reads like a little child or a saint. He assumes nothing, while those who claim to have the plain meaning assume more than the text offers.

Though faith is our title, our right, to justification, this does not imply anything about the “…time or mode of our justification.” To have a title is certainly the first important step to possessing it, but it is only the first step. In human affairs, if someone has a title deed to a house, they have it by right, but that does not necessarily mean they are living in it yet. Newman gives his own example:

“The infant children of Christians have a right to be made Christians; but are they made     Christians merely by [sic] the right to be so made? if so, why do we baptize them? Faith, then, in the  general scheme of the Gospel, is what their very birth and origin is in the particular case of the children of Christians. It constitutes a claim in our case that we should be made Christians…”

Newman closes this point by saying that the words of Scripture speak plainly of faith as our right to be justified, but we add to the words of Scripture if we say that by faith we are now justified.

That faith is the means to justification Newman explains by comparing it to prayer. Prayer is also considered a means, and we are told to continue in prayer until we have received what we ask for. We know that if we pray we shall obtain – as Jesus says, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” But when and how we shall receive the answer to our prayer is not promised, and the fact that we are told to persevere in prayer, and that we should “seek,” means we should not expect the answers to prayer to come instantly. Likewise, “Believe, and thou shalt have” implies more than one act of faith, and in fact means “to live in faith and to walk in faith is our title; and to begin [sic] to have faith is to enter the road leading, infallibly leading, to justification, by a series of events or conditions, of which faith is the first and sole on our part,” Newman argues. And while God does sometimes answer prayer immediately, and does sometimes justify immediately, we cannot expect this from the plain words of these Scriptures.

If we look to the examples of justification by faith given to us in the New Testament, we will see how they confirm this understanding. We see that faith is only the first step for those who are justified. St. Paul was struck by the light of Christ, but he was not immediately justified. Unable to see, he had to wait and pray until Ananias came to baptize him. Newman also calls to mind the Ethiopian Eunuch who read Scripture and then had it explained by Phillip and by this hearing he gained faith. But then he asked what would keep him from being baptized, because he knew this was not just a ritual but the justification he was seeking. Newman says tells us that Phillip says there is one condition – that he believe – and if he fulfilled this condition he could receive baptism. And since, as Newman states, no man puts conditions before worthless things, it must be that baptism is the very end that the means of faith brought the Eunuch to finding.

The early Church understood the sense in which faith was the title to justification. It was an accepted truth that those who died as martyrs were “baptized by blood” and those who died in faith before receiving baptism were “baptized by desire.” Baptism and justification were obtained by faith and rather than excusing baptism from these, it was taken for granted that God worked a miracle to baptize them apart from human action.

Newman concludes that it is clear now what this means for “disordered state of Christendom.” The grace of God is “lodged in a divinely appointed body, and spreads from it [sic].” Unless one is grafted into this body, one is not justified. Faith is the means to the grafting, but it does not accomplish it. Now, in the disordered state of the body, there are many men and women who have faith but not baptism, who by their own fault or unwillingly are part of schismatic sects or heretical bodies, and as such they have not entered into the “privileges of regeneration. The power of the Spirit, the cleanness and lustre of the new creature, the intercourse with heaven, the light of God’s countenance, the fullness of justification…” Despite this loss of privileges, all who sincerely call upon the Lord by faith shall be saved.

However, this disorder is mournful, Newman says, and we can see it: “We see the consequence of such an anomalous state all around us. How miserable is the inconsistency of even our good men! how excellent in some points, how very faulty in others! How clear and edifying seems the faith of many who yet are very poorly advanced in sanctification!”

How clearly we can see from this sermon that faith alone does not save. Faith is our title, our right to justification. But man is saved (justified) by the grace of the Holy Spirit working through faith in baptism. We should be grateful that God has grafted us into his Church and we should pray earnestly and daily that he would draw all others into it as well.

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The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

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In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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