Continuing on with my series on the Seven Notes, I would call them tests, which Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman developed for determining whether some aspect of Church teaching is a development of doctrine or a corruption of doctrine. We began with Note Six-Conservative Action Upon Its Past, and I would highly recommend that any one who has not read the first post in the series read it here before reading this post. We then proceeded with an examination of the First Note-Preservation of Type here, the Second Note-Continuity of Principles here , the Third Note-Power of Assimilation here and the Fourth Note-Logical Sequence here. This post will deal with the Fifth Note-Anticipation of Its Future.
Newman contends that in the development of an idea we may see anticipations of future developments at any early stage in the history of an idea. Such anticipations may serve as evidence, after such an anticipation of a development comes to fruition, that we are seeing a true development and not a corruption of the idea. Newman demonstrates what he is talking about by noting stories of the lives of great men when an early event anticipates the later course that a life is to take.
Nothing is more common, for instance, than accounts or legends of the anticipations, which great men have given in boyhood of the bent of their minds, as afterwards displayed in their history; so much so that the popular expectation has sometimes led to the invention of them. The child Cyrus mimics a despot’s power, and St. Athanasius is elected Bishop by his playfellows.
In the world of English politics Newman sees in the reign of James I an early use of patronage to influence political parties.
In the reign of James the First, we have an observable anticipation of the system of influence in the management of political parties, which was developed by Sir R. Walpole a century afterwards. This attempt is traced by a living writer to the ingenuity of Lord Bacon. “He submitted to the King that there were expedients for more judiciously managing a House of Commons; … that much might be done by forethought towards filling the House with well-affected persons, winning or blinding the lawyers … and drawing the chief constituent bodies of the assembly, the country gentlemen, the merchants, the courtiers, to act for the King’s advantage; that it would be expedient to tender voluntarily certain graces and modifications of the King’s prerogative,” &c. The writer adds, “This circumstance, like several others in the present reign, is curious, as it shows the rise of a systematic parliamentary influence, which was one day to become the mainspring of government.”
Newman saw the Lutheranism of his time as sunk in heresy or infidelity. He sees anticipations of this in the positions of Martin Luther.
Lutheranism has by this time become in most places almost simple heresy or infidelity; it has terminated, if it has even yet reached its limit, in a denial both of the Canon and the Creed, nay, of many principles of morals. Accordingly the question arises, whether these conclusions are in fairness to be connected with its original teaching or are a corruption. And it is no little aid towards its resolution to find that Luther himself at one time rejected the Apocalypse, called the Epistle of St. James “straminea,” condemned the word “Trinity,” fell into a kind of Eutychianism in his view of the Holy Eucharist, and in a particular case sanctioned bigamy. Calvinism, again, in various distinct countries, has become Socinianism, and Calvin himself seems to have denied our Lord’s Eternal Sonship and ridiculed the Nicene Creed.
Newman concludes by stating that a definite anticipation of a future development in an idea is evidence of a true development rather than a corruption.