Plugging into Manning’s ‘Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost’

One of Cardinal Manning’s greatest works is his ‘Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost,’ penned in 1866, one year after his appointment to Archbishop of Westminster. If you really want to get down to the nuts and bolts of what constitutes true Christian faith, and how reason should serve it, then this book is indispensable. In fact, this is one book that will be retype set and re-published by the Cardinal Manning Society in the near future, with an all new introduction and chapter commentaries as well. Right now we are making some final changes to the Society’s first publication, ‘The Syllabus.’ Hopefully it will be ready for purchase by the end of November. Stay tuned for that. Now back to the ‘Temporal Mission.’

Manning gives an outline at the beginning of this work which neatly lays out how the Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian who remains in the Church. The Divine Teacher never abandons his flock, this Teacher is infallible. For Manning there is no compromise as to where the truth of Christianity remains. He says simply, “Christianity is Catholicism.”  The scope of the book is laid out to prove the core tenets of accepting the Catholic faith, which focus on the Living Voice of the Divine Teacher, faith in that Teacher, and man’s proper use of reason to understand and serve this Teacher. He outlines this in the introduction of the book, which I have produced below.

Object and method of the work. A Divine Teacher always present. Reason either a disciple or a critic. Rationalism true and false. In the former sense it signifies the use of the reason in testing the evidence of a revelation alleged to be divine, or in perceiving the harmony of the Divine Revelation with the human reason. In the latter sense defined to be an abnormal and illegitimate use of like reason. Divided into perfect Mid imperfect, or fully developed and incipient.

1.The former assumes reason to be the fountain of all knowledge relating to God and to the soul, and therefore the source, measure, and limit of what is credible in the theology of natural religion, to the exclusion of all supernatural revelation.

2. The latter assumes reason to be the supreme test or judge of the intrinsic credibility of” revelation admitted in the main to be supernatural. Both kinds of Rationalism are one in principle: both lower the reason, incipient Rationalism hi the Anglican Church. The Church teaches that Faith is an infused grace which elevates and perfects the reason.

Object of the present work to show :

1. That to believe in Revelation is the highest act of the human reason.

  1. That to believe in Revelation, whole and perfect, is the perfection of the reason.

  1. That to submit to the Voice of the Holy Spirit in the Church is the absolute condition to attain a perfect knowledge of Revelation.

  1. That the Divine Witness of the Holy Spirit in the Church anticipates the criticism of the human reason, and refuses to be subject to it.

The four bases or motives of Faith are:

  1. That it is a violation of reason not to believe in the existence of God.

2. That it is a violation of our moral sense not to believe that God has made Himself known to man.

  1. That the Revelation He has given is Christianity.

  1. That Christianity is Catholicism.

Each of these four truths certain by its own proper evidence, and each also confirmatory of the other.

An interesting note here is that in Manning’s eyes, the Holy Spirit will not be subject to human reason. This is the fundamental problem with Protestantism. The intellect becomes one’s compass for truth, instead of the Living Voice of the Holy Ghost. The proper use of reason is to believe in and serve the Divine Revelation revealed by the Holy Ghost in the Church, not to criticize what is revealed endlessly until you satisfy your intellect. The intellect is only perfected after it has accepted the divine truths that God reveals to it. This is a constant theme that runs through much of Manning’s work pertaining to ecclesiology. One cannot separate oneself from the Living Voice of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For Manning, the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within the one Church, and it is only in that one Church that one can arrive at a perfect knowledge of Divine Revelation.

Manning was also a great lover of Saint Thomas, and so we frequently see him make reference to basic Thomistic principles in his writings. He clearly tells his readers that it is a violation of reason to deny the existence of God. This is classic Thomism. If you are familiar with Thomas’ Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, Article 3, and the five ways of knowing God’s existence, then these propositions are easily spotted. It was starting to become in vogue during Manning’s lifetime for theologians to shun Thomistic philosophy in favor of modern philosophical systems. Cardinal Newman was one of these theologians who shied away from classic Thomism, and you can see it in his writings. Manning however was not one of these avant-garde theologians. He often wrote in his personal letters of how great a treasure he considered Saint Thomas’ writings to be for him. This characteristic makes Manning’s writings very clear and easy to understand once you have a grasp on some basic Thomistic principles. I believe that Manning was one of the last of dying breed of theologians, and we are in his debt with the treasure trove of writings he has left us, this book being one of them. Manning was a down to earth, bread and butter type of guy and it shows in his life and in his writings. You can find the text of the complete book online here. Hopefully it will tide you over until we can reproduce a more readable copy for you.




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One Response to Plugging into Manning’s ‘Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost’

  1. I can’t wait to read this one, especially after John Lane recommended it to me as relevant to this thread.

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