Utterly Dependent

From “Religious Faith Rational,” Plain and Parochial Sermons (1829)

To hear some men speak (I mean men who scoff at religion), it might be thought we never acted on faith or trust, except in religious matters; whereas we are acting on trust every hour of our lives…

Whatever such profane persons may say about their willingness to believe, if they could find reason, they may admit that we daily take things on trust, and that to act on faith is in itself quite a rational procedure. They may pretend that they do not quarrel with being required to believe, but say that they do think it hard that better evidence is not given them for believing what they are bid believe undoubtingly, for example, the divine authority of the Bible. In spite of all this… they do murmur at being required to believe. They do dislike being bound to act without seeing, they do prefer to trust themselves to trusting God, even though it could be plainly proved to them that God was in truth speaking to them. Did they see God, did he show himself as he will appear at the last day, still they would be faithful to their own miserable and wretched selves, and would be practically disloyal to the authority of God…

Why do they ridicule such conscientious persons as will not swear, or jest indecorously, or live dissolutely? Clearly, it is their very faith itself they ridicule; it is not their believing on false grounds, but their believing at all. Here such persons show what it is which rules them within. They do not like the tie of religion. They do not like dependence. To trust another, much more to trust another implicitly, is to acknowledge oneself to be an inferior; and this man’s proud nature cannot bear to do. He is apt to think it unmanly, and to be ashamed of it. He promises himself liberty by breaking the chain (as he considers it) which binds him to his maker and redeemer…

Almost everything we do is grounded on mere trust in others. We are from our birth dependent creatures, utterly dependent, dependent immediately on man, and that visible dependence reminds us forcibly of our truer and fuller dependence upon God

St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was among the most widely influential English theologians of the nineteenth century. One of the principal leaders of Anglicanism’s Catholic revival at Oxford in the 1830’s, he became a Roman Catholic in 1845, and was an Oratorian for the remainder of his life. He was made a cardinal shortly before his death and was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2019. His Parochial and Plain Sermons, first published in 1863, were written in his years as an Anglican priest, while serving as vicar of Oxford’s Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. His feast day on the Roman Calendar is October 9 and he is commemorated on other days on on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican Churches.


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