In “Moses the Type of Christ,” Newman compares and contrasts Moses and Jesus, asserting that “Christ is a second Moses, and a greater.” In three parts, Newman explains that Moses is second to Jesus because, unlike Jesus, Moses is a sinner. Newman discusses Moses’ sin in the last three paragraphs of his sermon. He writes, “ . . . This shows us the infinite difference between the best of a sinful race and Him who was sinless . . . all his former gentleness . . . was unprofitable, and without merit . . . . Thus we see how it would be with us if God were extreme to mark what is done amiss.” Moses serves as a warning for Christians, that despite living a long life of doing good, committing a single sin, however slight, can bar one from Canaan altogether. Newman urges his audience to consider God’s punishment for a man like Moses, “the best of a sinful race,” and how much more “extreme” God would be with them. Newman extends the notion of Moses as a warning for Christians by invoking guilt and shame:

But what shall be said of those who do neither the one nor the other, — who neither vow obedience, nor come to Him for grace? — who sin deliberately after they have known the truth — who review their sins in time past in a reckless hard-hearted way, or put them aside out of their thoughts — who can bear to jest about them, to speak of them to others unblushingly, or even to boast of them, and to determine on sinning again, — who think of repenting at some future day, and resolve on going their own way now, trusting to chance for reconciliation with God, as if it were not a matter to be very anxious about? ["Moses the Type of Christ" p. 6]

Here, Newman uses questions, repetition, and length to convey, and even exaggerate, the graveness of committing a sin. The series of questions, achieving greater drama with each one, climaxes to successfully elicit guilt from the audience. Thus, while Newman’s sermon chiefly compares Moses and Jesus, it also compares Moses and Newman’s audience. While Jesus traditionally serves as the ultimate model for Christians, Moses, as a sinner, seems to provide an alternate and very effective model as well.

Questions

1. How does the author present himself as an authority? Does Newman ever present himself as a “type of Christ”?

[Response from Leila Meglio: Newman takes an interesting tone in his sermon. He seems to speak primarily in the collective-- he uses "we" to consistently make points -- "we see" or "if we survey" which makes him not only one of the crowd he is speaking to but also makes it difficult for them to disagree with his points. He becomes the authority because he takes a tone that, of course, "we" all are making this connection together--so it must be true. He uses "I" and "me" sparingly, and "you" is most prominently featured in the final beseeching paragraph. He sets it up so that he creates this sense of "we" and then pulls away from it just enough to show that while he is one of the group, he is also the one illuminating them to what they (should) already know. There is a slight sense that he is a type of Christ--or actually, he appears to be more a type of Moses, the enlightened mortal. The way he uses "those" in the paragraph cited makes the distinction between himself and the sinners he condemns for resting too lightly on God's forgiving nature very clear; he doesn't even refer to them as people, just "those who..." I think this is an interesting strategy to take, where he on the one hand works to make himself even as preacher appear to be just a part of a larger collective and yet at key moments removes himself from that and identifies himself as an authority, a person to inform, a person who can take a step back and look at the larger picture to decipher to correct way to behave in order to be pious or at least accepted by God. But I think it makes him a stronger authority; he doesn't seem like the distant preacher, but that helpful and intelligent friend who reminds you how things are generally done or gives some advice, that person you want to trust.]

2. In what ways is Newman or Melvill more sympathetic to Moses?

3. In the passage above, are Newman’s devices successful in drawing in the audience or are they condescending or preachy?

4. Does Newman’s efforts simultaneously to elevate Moses as “the best of a sinful race” and maintain that he is still second to Jesus ever contradict each other?


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Last modified 31 January 2011