Social and Personal Progress

Archbishop Ullathorne in his book Endowments of Man reflects on human progress in its social and personal aspects:

“The men of this world, who are truly so-called when they rarely look beyond it, never tire to speak of human progress. Yet, strange to say, they invariably omit the object, aim, or end of that progress. Progress with them is the accumulation of natural knowledge, human inventions, the fruits of industry, and the resources of earthly pleasure all that, in a word, which the man leaves when he quits the body. Even the pagan philosophers were wiser in principle when, conscious of their immortality, they taught the supreme good of the soul.”

“The path marked out by God for man’s advancement is from his first rudimental and natural existence to the final filling up and perfecting of his nature in the highest life and divinest good. This is not merely a personal, but a social advancement, begun in the great society of God’s Church here below, where the Son of God reigns and the Holy Spirit operates, and the whole society mutually help each other onwards; and, from the Church on earth, the advancement is to the society of God in heaven, and the company of the angels and of the spirits of the just made perfect.”

“Progress in any other direction than the way of the just, whatever shows it may give to the imagination, with whatever flatteries it may soothe the pride of life, whatever concupiscences it may excite in the inferior man, with whatever diversions it may amuse his vanity, is progress downwards. It is a descent, and a shameful descent, from the appointed order of human progress, and a failure from the divine standard of manhood. This divine philosophy pervades the Scriptures, and finds its confirmation in the constitution of the soul, in the light of the mind, and in the deepest aspirations of our inward nature. But nowhere has this divine philosophy of human progress been more strongly inculcated than by St. Paul, who exhorts us to advance from image to image, and from likeness to likeness, as from the spirit of the Lord, that we may reach to the stature of a perfect man.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Faith: What It Is and Is Not

First, what faith is not, in the words of Archbishop Ullathorne: “Faith, then, is not a product of human thought, although just thinking upon God and the soul will lead to faith. It is not the work of imagination or of sentiment. It is not a thinking, but a believing; not an imagining, because the object of faith is independent of the man and is most certain; not a sentiment, but a truth to which the will assents. It is not opinion, for opinion is uncertain and changeable, whilst faith is fixed and unchangeable. When a man says, ‘These are my religious opinions,’ we know he has not faith.” (Groundwork of the Christian Virtues)

And now, what faith is, in Ullathorne’s words: “The manifold providence of God is partly open to natural reason, but the great prospect of that providence awaits our faith. . . . And as the heavens reflect their light upon the earth, so does faith reflect its celestial light upon our less expansive reason. But beyond the luminous sphere of faith there is the infinite sphere of God’s eternal light, from which He sends forth his providential wisdom upon the world and its inhabitants, in secret as well as in open ways, that from what we see we may believe what we do not see, and may venerate the whole providence of God with humility and entrust ourselves to its guidance with faith.” (Endowments of Man)

“Nothing in this world is so marvellous as the transformation that a soul undergoes when the light of faith descends upon the light of reason. It is like the sunlight coming upon the moonlight and dissipating a thousand shadows and delusions.” (Endowments of Man)

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Faith: The Road to Knowledge

Archbishop Ullathorne demonstrates how even the human way to obtain knowledge requires a great deal of faith:

“It begins with faith,” he writes, “and the greater part by far of everyone’s knowledge has no other ground than faith. Were a man to separate his knowledge into two parts, and distinguish what he knows from his own observation or perception from what he only knows on the testimony of other men, he would be amazed to find how little he knows at first hand, and how much he knows upon the faith of testimony, and on no other ground. The great map of everyone’s knowledge rests on faith. What we know not on personal knowledge, we take on the testimony of those who had or who have personal knowledge. We thus know history, and what passes at a distance from us, and what is in other men’s minds, and what others have seen, or investigated, or experienced. It is upon faith in each other that the whole business of life is conducted. Society exists and is held together on the principle of faith, and the cessation of faith in each other would be dissolution of society.” (Groundwork of the Christian Virtues)

“Faith comes first, and after faith comes understanding. ‘Unless ye believe,’ says the Scripture, ‘ye shall not understand.’ So it is in nature; so it is in the supernatural still more. As simple, docile children, we first believe our parents; through that belief our reason is developed, and so we begin to understand. We believe our teachers, resting first on their authority; then by degrees we see for ourselves and understand what in their teaching is true. We believe historians, or the past would be a blank; we believe voyagers and travellers, or we should know but little of this world; we believe the observations of men of science, or we should be contracted to our own narrow experience; we believe what truthful people say of themselves and of others, in conversation and in biography and in correspondence, or our knowledge of human nature would be marvellously limited. The vast body of our human knowledge rests on human faith, and upon that knowledge, once obtained, our understanding is exercised.” (Letter in Memoirs of Lady Chatterton)

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Light and Shadows

In his book Endowments of Man, Archbishop Ullathorne explains that God gives us just the right amount of knowledge to allow us to choose whether or not to believe:

“All things in the creation have their lights and shadows. There is nothing in this visible world, from the sun in the heavens to the pebble that rolls under our feet; from the man with whom we are familiar to the insect we examine with the microscope, that has not one side in light and another that is in obscurity.”

“Whatever we know in this world, whether by perception or by the testimony of others, is partly known and partly unknown; yet we have sufficient knowledge to secure certainty, sufficient for conviction, for assent, for belief, and for our guidance. And nothing can be more irrational, nothing more unphilosophical, than to argue from the obscure against the clear side of any fact or truth, as if the one was the denial of the other; whereas that which is clear vouches for that which is obscure in one and the same subject. Yet this is the common method of sceptics and unbelievers.”

“But if our natural knowledge presents us with both lights and shadows; with clear evidence, attended by obscurities beyond the reach of our limited mind and faculties; how much more must we expect this to be the case when our minds are brought into contact with the divine and supernatural truths of revelation.”

“Nor must it be forgotten, that in this divine economy of revelation, the God of heaven contemplates a two fold purpose: the one to enlighten us with divine truth, and to guide us by that light on our way to heaven; the other to try our faith and obedience.”

“The light given with divine revelation is so tempered that the good may use it with confidence, and are never without sufficient light, whilst it is within the power of the evil-disposed to refuse that light. For God has made His revelation the text and trial of truth, whether we will freely accept His truth by faith or not. There is light enough, and much more than enough, to test spirits of those who are proud-minded and unwilling to see. There is light to enlighten the faithful and obscurity to humble them. There is obscurity enough for the unfaithful man to blind himself with, whilst there is light enough to condemn him for his willing blindness. There is brightness enough in the doctrines of faith to make our belief reasonable, and darkness enough to make our adhesion a meritorious obedience and an act of fidelity to divine authority.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Lights

The human person is composed of a body and a spirit, and each part perceives a different kind of light. Archbishop Ullathorne in his book Endowments of Man distinguishes between these two kinds of light.

“We receive two kinds of light, the one corporal, the other mental: the one given to the eyes of the body, the other to the eyes of the soul. The corporal light is a resplendent image of the spiritual light. The two small eyes that are set in our face have no proportion whatever to the vast prospect of earth and heaven that we are enabled to see through them. Compared with the vastness of their objects, our eyes are as nothing. But the eyes are only the instrument, the power of vision is in the soul.”

“How is the vision accomplished?” he asks. “Through the gift of light. But that light is no part of our nature; it is external to us, and we are subject to its influence. It is the medium which God has provided for bringing the forms of all visible things through our eyes to our mind. We can never confound the source of that light with ourselves. The source of that light is the sun, which God has placed at a distance from us, so remote as to exceed the power of imagination to represent that distance. Yet from that distant source of light we receive the power of vision, and warmth, and fostering strength to our earthly frame. Were God to remove the sun from the sphere in which it acts, we might pine away and perish in darkness.”

“The material sun is the visible symbol of the eternal Word of God, who is the Sun of all intelligences, and who sends forth His light and His truth to all minds. ‘That was the true light, which enlightened every man that cometh into the world.’ For the light that makes God known is from God, the light that manifests eternal principles is from eternity.”

“Not that whilst we are in this world we can see the truth of God, even by the light of faith, and much less by the light of reason, for that would be to see God, which is reserved for the life to come. We do not even see the created Sun in Himself, but only in certain rays of His light, as they are reflected and tempered by the atmosphere of this world through which they pass. Yet they make the Sun known to us through its action reflected upon us. So have we received into our minds a certain reflection and participation of the light of eternal and unchangeable truth, tempered indeed to the feebleness of our nature, but revealing to us its Divine Author.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Mystery and Providence

In his book Endowments of Man, Archbishop Ullathorne reminds us of how little we know of our world, yet assures us that all its workings are safely in the care of Divine Providence:

“The action of God is clearly visible in the ordering of the world; and where the light of reason is not utterly perverted, all men at times feel His power in the creation. What but the continuance of God’s creative will upholds the world in existence? What but His regulating providence makes the elements of the world keep their place, their proportions, and their equable balance, so admirably tempered to human needs? What but His will and wisdom have ordained all things in number, weight, and measure? What makes the earth and orbs of heaven to move in their appointed courses? What makes the sun to glow with a splendour softened to the requirements of human eyes and human life? What causes the moon and the glittering stars to illuminate our night? What causes the winds to breathe in gentle gales or to blow with purging vehemence? What makes the ever-changing clouds, those curtains from the solar heat and revivers of the earth, to muster in their squadrons and career before the winds, the showers to fall, the streams to flow, the seas to agitate their purifying waves, the earth to germinate in flowers and fruits, the air to feed the flame of mortal life, the waters to fertilise, all nature to bring forth?”

“To give names to hidden causes is to confess their existence, but not to discover what they are. Science may trace the dependencies of things upon each other, at least on the visible side of them that is exposed to human sight, and may follow the limits of the lower end of the chain of causation. But what and where is the primal force from which all causation springs? What primal force moves all material things that are in their nature passive? What keeps them orderly, temperate, and measured in their movements, whether worlds, or elements, or things that vegetate, or that move with the force and harmony of animal life? We may ask what, and what in vain, so long as we search for their causes in material nature.”

“The Divine Author of all is the first mover of all, whilst He is Himself immovable; and the creation receives its energies and modes of movement from the most tranquil, yet ever-acting, will of God, ‘who maketh His sun to shine over the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and unjust.'”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Building Upon Humility

In his book Groundwork of the Christian Virtues, Archbishop Ullathorne discusses at length the benefits of the virtue of humility. For example, he suggests that “a few truly humble souls will change the hearts of many, and will prevent much sin, if only by their prayers.”

Humility, he argues, is a foundation for the other virtues. He offers this analogy: “Once make a good fire, and everything combustible will feed it. Once get a good foundation of humility, and every virtue that it receives will increase its power. Where a good soil has been well opened out, and the heavens are propitious, you may grow any fruit in it; but to humility the heavens are always propitious.”

Unfortunately, the value of humility is not universally recognized: “As the pillar that led Israel from Egypt to the Land of Promise was both light and cloud, so this virtue of humility is light to the children of belief, whilst to the children of this world it takes the appearance of an obscure and unintelligible cloud. It enlightens the humble; it perplexes the proud.”

“Because humility is accused by pride of acting the part of vice in lowering the dignity of man, in degrading him from his worth, and bringing him under a mean and timid superstition, our next duty will be to show that this virtue belongs to the dignity of truth and the nobility of justice. The fumes that ascend from the animal senses to the mind, and the enchantments that are worked by self-love in the imagination, obscure the vision of truth. . . . Instead of lowering man from his true dignity, this virtue dissolves the theatrical illusions of mock dignity; instead of debasing his worth, humility discovers where his true worth lies, and dispels the fictitious charms of false greatness. The first office of humility is to put up with no deception, but to find the very truth respecting ourselves. When the truth is found, the second office of humility is to do justice to the discovery, and to be severe in repressing what is false and unjust in the estimate we have taken of ourselves. But we can only take this just measure of ourselves in the light of God’s truth, and by the rule of His justice; and this caused the Psalmist to say: ‘I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are equity; and in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me.'”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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