In honor of the bicentenary of the birth of Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman, February 21, 1801.

François Guizot on the Protestant Reformation

Quoted in Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine

Original Edition (1845) Pages 432-433

François Guizot (1784-1874), was a French statesman and author. Premier, 1847-1848, he had been effectively leader of the cabinet since beginning his service as foreign minister, 1840. Sometime history professor, he wrote several notable works, including History of the Revolution in England and History of Civilization in Europe. Guizot was a Protestant.
John Henry Newman quoted at length from Civilization (pages 394-398) in the first edition of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1845. Here is the passage in its entirety. The first quotation, encompassing most of the first paragraph, was omitted from the revised edition of Development, 1878.

Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine

Chapter VIII Section 2 Number 6, Pages 432-433

M. Guizot has contrasted the consistency of the Church of Rome with the inconsistency of its heretical opponents in the points which came into controversy between them. “The Reformers are told,” he says, “‘You provoke licentiousness, you produce it; but yet when you discover it, you wish to constrain and repress it. And how do you repress it? By the most hard and violent means, — you persecute heresy too, by virtue of an illegitimate authority.’ These reproaches much embarrassed the Reformers. When the multitude of different sects was charged against them, instead of acknowledging the legitimacy of their free development, they sought to anathematize dissenters, were annoyed by their existence, and sought some apology for it. And when the dominant party amongst the Reformers were reproached with persecution, not by their enemies, but by the children of the Reformation; when the sects which they anathematized exclaimed, ‘We only do what you did; we separate ourselves from you, as you separated yourselves from Rome,’ they were still more embarrassed, and too frequently their only reply was an increase of severity. The reason of their inconsistency is, that the religious revolution of the sixteenth century had never ascended to the first cause, it had never descended to the ultimate consequences of its work. The rights and the claims of tradition have not been reconciled with those of liberty; and the cause of this must undoubtedly be sought in the fact that the Reformation did not fully comprehend and accept either its own principles or effects.”

With this inconsistency he contrasts the harmonious completeness and the decision of the Roman Catholic theology. “The adversaries of the Reformation,” he says, “knew very well what they were about, and what they required; they could point to their first principles, and boldly admit all the consequences that might result from them. No government was ever more consistent and systematic than that of the Romish Church. In fact, the Court of Rome was much more accomodating, yielded much more than the Reformers; but in principle it much more completely adopted its own system, and maintained a much more consistent conduct. There is an immense power in this full confidence of what is done; this perfect knowledge of what is required; this complete and rational adaptation of a system and a creed.” Then he goes on to the history of the Society of Jesus in illustration. “Everything,” he says, “was unfavourable to the Jesuits, both fortune and appearances; neither practical sense which requires success, nor the imagination which looks for splendour, were gratified by their destiny. Still it is certain that they possessed the elements of greatness; a grand idea is attached to their name, to their influence, and to their history. Why? because they worked from fixed principles, which they fully and clearly understood, and the tendency of which they entirely comprehended. In the Reformation, on the contrary, when the event surpassed its conception, something incomplete, inconsequent, and narrow has remained, which has placed the conquerors themselves in a state of rational and philosophical inferiority, the influence of which has occasionally been felt in events. The conflict of the new spiritual order of things against the old, is, I think, the weak side of the Reformation.”

The 1878 revised edition of Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine is on line at Bob Elder’s Newman Reader.
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Created February 17, 2001; revised February 19, 2001.