Newman asserts that to be a Christian calls for more than honesty, justice and temperance; it means to seek Christian perfection in Christ’s footsteps.
To be a Christian is more than what most people believe it to be. They say they do not harm others; they are kind and take care of their families; they do not defraud or harm others.
Newman notes that it is possible to act with fairness and propriety, but not altogether in a Christian manner. He grants that these virtuous deeds may proceed from the heart and are praiseworthy, yet they do not determine that a person has received the Gospel of Christ in power. He asks the reason why and replies:
“For the simple reason that they are not enough. A Christian’s faith and obedience is built on all this, but is only built on it. It is not the same as it.”
To be a Christian, according to Newman, is more than being a good pagan. He explains that men must practice the human virtues so that they rise to the level of Christian virtues. According to the scholastic adage, grace builds on nature.
But “they must never be contented with themselves, or stand still and relax their efforts, but must go on unto perfection.” Otherwise he feels they are not spiritual men: they are those who have received the kingdom of God in word, but not in power.
Quoting a number of passages of Scripture, Newman asserts that to be a Christian calls for more than honesty, justice and temperance. St. Paul, in one of the passages he quotes, says: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Also: “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” [2 Cor. v. 14, 17. Gal. ii. 20.]
Newman contends that the difference in being a Christian is made by the person of Jesus Christ. We must adore Christ as our Lord and love him as our Redeemer.
We must have a deep sense of our guilt, and of the difficulty of securing heaven; we must live as in His presence, daily pleading His cross and passion, thinking of His holy commandments, imitating His sinless pattern, and depending on the gracious aids of His Spirit; that we may really and truly be servants of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name we were baptized.
Furthermore we must deny ourselves for his sake, also in lawful things, mastering our souls in order to serve Him, exercising humility, practicing charity and giving much of what we have. This is what it means to be a Christian, and it is only attained in some measure through God’s grace after many years of toil. By the time of our death we should have become what St. Paul calls ‘new creatures.’
Let us pray to God then that we may thus act without any calculation and for love of the truth. And without judging others for only God knows to whom the Gospel has been preached and the heart of each man. Rather, we must strive for the holiness of the Apostles.