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ings of man. The powers of darkness are politic if not wise; but surely nothing can be more irrational in the pretended children of light, than to enlist themselves under the banners of truth, and yet rest their hopes on an alliance with delusion.
As one among the numerous artifices, by which austere truths are to be softened down into palatable falsehoods, and virtue and vice, like the atoms of Epicurus, to receive that insensible clinamen which is to make them meet each other half-way, I have an especial dislike to the expression, pious frauds. Piety indeed shrinks from the very phrase, as an attempt to mix poison with the cup of blessing : while the expediency of the measures which the words were intended to recommend or palliate, appears more and more suspicious, as the range of our experience widens, and our acquaintance with the records of history becomes more extensive and accurate. One of the most seductive arguments of infidelity grounds itself on the numerous passages in the works of the Christian Fathers, asserting the lawfulness of deceit for a good purpose. For how can we rely on their testimony concerning the supernatural facts ? That the Fathers held, almost without exception, that “wholly without breach of duty it is allowed to the teachers and heads of the Christian Church to employ artifices, to intermix falsehoods with truths, and especially to deceive the enemies of the faith, provided only they hereby serve the interests of truth and the advantage of mankind,”* is the unwilling confession of RIBOF. St. Jerome, as is shown by the citations of this learned theologian, boldly attributes this management-falsitatem dispensativameven to the Apostles themselves. But why speak · I of the advantage given to the opponents of Christianity ? Alas!
* De econom. Patrum. Integrum omnino doctoribus et cætus Christiani antistitibus esse, ut dolos versent, falsa veris intermisceant, et imprimis religionis hostes fallant, dummodo veritatis commodis et utilitati inserviant.—I trust, I need not add, that the imputation of such principles of action to the first inspired propagators of Christianity, is founded on a gross misconstrucstion of those passages in the writings of St. Paul, in which the necessity of employing different arguments to men of different capacities and prejudices, is supposed and acceded to. In other words, St. Paul strove to speak intelligibly, willingly sacrificed indifferent things to matters of importance, and acted courteously as a man, in order to win attention as an Apostle. A traveller prefers for daily use the coin of the nation through which he is passing, to bullion or the mintage of his own country: and is this to justify a succeeding traveller in the use of counterfeit coin ?
to this doctrine chiefly, and to the practices derived from it, we must attribute the utter corruption of the religion itself for so many ages, and even now over só large a portion of the civilized world. By a system of accommodating truth to falsehood, the pastors of the Church gradually changed the life and light of the Gospel into the very superstitions which they were commissioned to disperse, and thus paganized Christianity in order to christen Paganism. At this very hour Europe groans and bleeds in consequence.
So much in proof and exemplification of the probable expediency of pious deception, as suggested by its known and recorded consequences. An honest man, however, possesses a clearer light than that of history. He knows, that by sacrificing the law of his reason to the maxim of pretended prudence, he purchases the sword with the loss of the arm that is to wield it. The duties which we owe to our own moral being, are the ground and condition of all other duties; and to set our nature at strife with itself for a good purpose, implies the same sort of prudence, as a priest of Diana would have manifested, who should have proposed to dig up the celebrated charcoal foundations of the mighty temple of Ephesus, in order to furnish fuel for the burntofferings on its altars. Truth, virtue, and happiness, may be distinguished from each other, but can not be divided. They subsist by a mutual co-inherence, which gives a shadow of divinity even to our human nature. Will ye speak wickedly for Godi; and talk deceitfully for him ?* is a searching question, which most affectingly represents the grief and impatience of an uncorrupted mind at perceiving a good cause defended by ill means : and assuredly if any temptation can provoke a wellregulated temper to intolerance, it is the shameless assertion. that truth and falsehood are indifferent in their own natures ; that the former is as often injurious (and therefore criminal) as the latter, and the latter on many occasions as beneficial (and consequently meritorious) as the former.
I feel it incumbent on me, therefore, to place immediately before my readers in the fullest and clearest light, the whole question of moral obligation respecting the communication of truth, its extent and conditions. I would fain obviate all apprehensions either of my incaution on the one hand, or of any insincere
* Job xiii. 7.--Ed.
reserve on the other, by proving that the more strictly we adhere to the letter of the moral law in this respect, the more completely shall we reconcile that law with prudence ; thus securing a purity in the principle without mischief from the practice. I would not, I could not dare, address my countrymen as a friend, if I might not justify the assumption of that sacred title by more than mere veracity, by open-heartedness. Pleasure, most often delusive, may be born of delusion. Pleasure, herself a sorceress, may pitch her tents on enchanted ground. But happiness (or, to use a far more accurate as well as more comprehensive term, solid well-being) can be built on virtue alone, and must of necessity have truth for its foundation. Add, too, the known fact that the meanest of men feels himself insulted by an unsuccessful attempt to deceive him ; and hates and despises the man who has attempted it. What place then is left in the heart for virtue to build on, if in any case we may dare practise on others what we should feel as a cruel and contemptuous wrong in our own persons ? Every parent possesses the opportunity of observing how deeply children resent the injury of a delusion; and if men laugh at the falsehoods that were imposed on themselves during their childhood, it is because they are not good and wise enough to contemplate the past in the present, and so to produce by a virtuous and thoughtful sensibility that continuity in their selfconsciousness, which nature has made the law of their animal life. Ingratitude, sensuality, and hardness of heart, all flow from this source. Men are ungrateful to others only when they have ceased to look back on their former selves with joy and tenderness. They exist in fragments. Annihilated as to the past, they are dead to the future, or seek for the proofs of it everywhere, only not (where alone they can be found) in themselves. A contemporary poet has expressed and illustrated this sentiment with equal fineness of thought and tenderness of feeling :- .
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky!
Or let me die.
And I would wish my days to be
Alas! the pernicious influence of this lax morality extends from the nursery and the school to the cabinet and senate. It is a common weakness with men in power, who have used dissimulation successfully, to form a passion for the use of it, dupes to the love of duping! A pride is flattered by these lies. He who fancies that he must be perpetually stooping down to the prejudices of his fellow-creatures, is perpetually reminding and reassuring himself of his own vast superiority to them. But no real greatness can long co-exist with deceit. The whole faculties of man must be exerted in order to noble energies; and he who is not earnestly sincere, lives in but half-his being, self-mutilated, self-paralyzed.
The latter part of the proposition, which has drawn me into this discussion, that, I mean, in which the morality of intentional falsehood is asserted, may safely be trusted to the reader's own moral sense. Is it a groundless apprehension, that the patrons and admirers of such publications may receive the punishment of their indiscretion in the conduct of their sons and daughters ? The suspicion of Methodism must be expected by every man of rank and fortune, who carries his examination respecting the books which are to lie on his breakfast-table, farther than to their freedom from gross verbal indecencies, and broad avowals of Atheism in the title-page. For the existence of an intelligent
*I am informed, that these very lines have been cited, as a specimen of despicable puerility. So much the worse for the citer. Not willingly in his presence would I behold the sun setting behind our mountains, or listen to a tale of distress or virtue; I should be ashamed of the quiet tear on my own cheek. But let the dead bury the dead! The poet sang for the living. Of what value indeed, to a sane mind, are the likings or dislikings of one man, grounded on the mere assertions of another? Opinions formed from opinions—what are they, but clouds sailing under clouds, which impress shadows upon shadows?
Fungum pelle procul, jubeo ; nam quid mihi fungo?
Conveniunt stomacho non minus ista suo. I was always pleased with the motto placed under the figure of the rosemary in old herbals :
Apage, sus !
Haud tibi spiro. utánna -, Telecatch the singeli oblouse'n cá vraise when a ne
ر ، ه ه ه ) می
First Cause may be ridiculed in the notes of one poem, or placed doubtfully as one of two or three possible hypotheses, in the very opening of another poem, and both be considered as works of safe promiscuous reading virginibus puerisque : and this, too, by many a father of a family, who would hold himself highly culpable in permitting his child to form habits of familiar acquaintance with a person of loose habits, and think it even criminal to receive into his house a private tutor without a previous inquiry concerning his opinions and principles, as well as his manners and outward conduct. How little I am an enemy to free inquiry of the boldest kind, and in which the authors have differed the most widely from my own convictions and the general faith, provided only, the inquiry be conducted with that seriousness, which naturally accompanies the love of truth, and be evidently intended for the perusal of those only, who may be presumed capable of weighing the arguments, I shall have abundant occasion of proving in the course of this work. Quin ipsa philosophia talibus e disputationibus non nisi beneficium recipit. Nam si vera proponit homo ingeniosus veritatisque amans, nova ad eam accessio fiet : sin falsa, refutatione. eorum priores tanto magis stabilientur. *
The assertion, that truth is often no less dangerous than falsehood, sounds less offensively at the first hearing, only because it hides its deformity in an equivocation, or double meaning of the word truth. What may be rightly affirmed of truth, used as synonymous with verbal accuracy, is transferred to it in its higher sense of veracity. By verbal truth, we mean no more than the correspondence of a given fact_to given words. In moral truth, we involve likewise the intention of the speaker, that his words should correspond to his thoughts in the sense in which he ex
* GALILÆI, Syst. Cosm. p. 42.—Moreover, philosophy itself can not but derive benefit from such discussions. For if a man of genius and a lover of truth brings just positions before the public, there is a fresh accession to the stock of philosophic insight; but if erroneous positions, the former truths will by their confutation be established so much the more firmly.
The original is in the following words :
La filosofia medesima non può se non ricever benefizio dalle nostre dispute ; perchè se i nostri pensieri saranno veri, nuovi acquisti si saranno fatti ; se falsi, col ributtargli, maggiormente verranno confermate le prime dottrine.
Dial. I. 44. Padov. 1774.-Ed.