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ESSAY I. OF TRUTH.
'TTTHAT is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and would not stay VV for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief—affecting1 free-will in thinking, as well as in acting—and, though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing2 wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood- in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not the only difficulty and labour which men take in finding out of truth; nor again, that, when it is found, it imposeth3 upon men's thoughts; that doth bring lies in favour; but a natural, though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later schools of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what should be in it, that men should love lies, where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant, but for the lie's sake. But I cannot tell: this same truth is a naked and open daylight,' that doth not show the masques and mummeries, and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily4 as candlelights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a
1 Affect . To aim at; endeavour after.
'This proud man affect* imperial sway.'—Dryden. - Discoursing. Discursive; rambling.
'We, through madness.
* Impose upon. To lay a restraint upon. (Bacon's Latin original is,' Cogitationibus imponitur captivitas.')
'Unreasonable impositions on tho mind and practice.'— Watts.
* Daintily. Elegantly.
'The Duke exceeded in that his log was daintily formed.'—WMon.
diamond or carbuncle that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would,1 and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing2 to themselves? One of the fathers, in great severity, called poesy 'vinum daemonum,'3 because it filleth the imagination, and yet is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it that doth the hurt such as we spake of before. But howsoever4 these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it—the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it—and the belief of truth', which is the enjoying of it—is the sovereign good of human nature. The first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the sense, the last was the light of reason, and his Sabbath work, ever since, is the illumination of his spirit. First he breathed light upon the face of the matter, or chaos, then he breathed light into the face of man; and still ho breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet,5 that beautified the sect6 that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well, 'It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventures7 thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below;' so1 always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
1 As one would. At pleasure; unrestrained. 3 Unpleasing. Unpleasant; distasteful.
'How dares thy tonguo Sound the unpleasing news ?'—Shakespere.
3 'Wine of demons.'—Augustine.
4 Howsoever. Although.
'The man doth fear Ood, howsoever it seems not in him.'—Shakespere. * Lucretius, ii.
6 The Epicureans.
7 Adventures. Fortunes.
'She smiled with silver cheer.
To pass from theological and philosophical truth to the truth of civil business, it will be acknowledged, even by those that practise it not, that clear and round2 dealing is the honour of man's nature, and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth3 it; for these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet . There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge, * If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is as much as to say that he is brave towards God, and a coward towards man; for a lie faces God, and shrinks from man.'4 Surely the wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith cannot possibly be so highly expressed as in that it shall be the last peal to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men: it being foretold, that when 'Christ cometh,' he shall not'find faith upon earth.'
1 So. Trorided. '80 that tho doctrine be wholesome and edifying, a want of exactness in the manner of speech may be overlooked.'—Atterbury.
* Round. Plain ; fair; candid.
'I will a round, unvarnished tale deliver.'—Shakespere.
1 Kmbose. To vitiate; to aUoy. 'A pleasure, high, rational, and angelic; a plensure embased by no appendant sting.'—South.
4 Essais, liv. ii. chap, xviii.