« PreviousContinue »
ESSAY I. OF TRUTH.
"W HAT is truth ? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay
for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief-affecting! free-will in thinking, as well as in acting—and, though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing 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 only the difficulty and labour which men take in finding out of truth ; nor again, that, when it is found, it imposeth 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 triumplis of the world, half so stately and daintilya as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the
* Affect. To aim at ; endeavour after.
“This proud man affects imperial sway.'— Dryden. · Discoursing. Discursive ; rambling.
“We, through madness,
And prate of things as we pretend they were.'— Ford. • Impose upon. To lay a restraint upon. (Lat. “Cogitationibus imponitur captivitas.')
Unreasonable impositions on the mind and practice.'— Watts. • Daintily. Elegantly.
The Duke exceeded in that his leg was daintily formed.' — Wotton.
price of a 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,' and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves? One of the fathers, in great severity, called poesy vinum dæmonum," 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 do:h the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever 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 le breathed light upon the face of the matter, or chaos, then he breathed light into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet," that beautified the sect, 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 adventures thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth (a hill not to be
"As one would. At pleasure ; unrestrained. * Unpleasing. Unpleasant; distasteful.
llow dares thy tongue
Sound the unpleasing news?—Shakespere. 3.Wine of demons'-Augustine. 4 Howsoever. Although.
"The man doth fear God, horosoever it seems not in him.'-Shakespere.
“She smiled with silver cheer,
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;' so' 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.
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 round 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 embaseth 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 80 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,' 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 inen: it being foretold, that when Clirist cometh,' he shall not find faith upon earth.'
So. Provided. * So that the 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. • Embase. To vitiate ; to alloy “A pleasure, high, rational, and angelic; a pleasure embased by no appendant sting.'--South.
* Essais, Liv. ii. chap. xviii.
•What is truth ? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for
Any one of Bacon's acuteness, or of a quarter of it, might easily have perceived, had le at all attended to the context of the narrative, that never was any one less in a jesting mood than Pilate on this occasion. Ile was anxious to release Jesus; which must have been from a knowledge of the superhuman powers of Him he had to do with.. A man so unscrupulous as Pilate is universally adinitted to have been, could not have felt any anxiety merely from a dislike of injustice; and therefore his conduct is one confirmation of the reality of the numerous miracles Jesus wrought. They, and they only, must have filled him with dread of the consequences of doing any wrong to such a person, and probably, also, inspired him with a hope of fiurthering some ambitious views of his own, by taking part with one whom he (in common with so many others) expected to be just about to assume temporal dominion, and to enforce his claim by resistless power. He tries to make IIim proclaim Ilimself a King; and when Jesus does this, but adds that his kingdom is not of this world, still Pilate catches at the word, and says, “Art thou a king, then? Jesus then proceeds to designate who should be lis subjects : ‘Every one that is of the Truth heareth my words: as much as to say, 'I claim a kingdom not over the Israelite by race; not over all whom I can subjugate by force, or who will submit to me through fear or interest; but over the votaries of truth,—those who are of the truth,' '—those who are willing to receive whatever shall be proved true, and to follow wherever that shall lead. And Pilate is at a loss to see what this has to do with his inquiry. “I am asking you about your claims to empire, and you tell me about truth : what has truth to do with the question ?
Most readers overlook the drift of our Lord's answer, and interpret the words as a mere assertion (which every teacher makes) of the truth of what Ile taught; as if Ile had said, ‘Every one that heareth my words is of the Truth.'
And commentators usually satisfy themselves with such an interpretation as inakes the expression intelligible in itself, without considering how far it is pertinent. A mere assertion of the truth of his teaching would not have been at all relevant to the inquiry made. But what he did say was eviden:ly a description of the persons who were to be the subjects of the kingdoin that is not of this world.'
Much to the same effect is his declaration that those who should be his disciples indeed should know the Truthi,' and the * Truth should make thein free;' and that “if any man will do' [is willing to do] 'the will of the Father, he shall know of the doctrine.' Men were not to become liis disciples in consequence of their knowing and perceiving the truth of what IIe taught, but in consequence of their having sufficient candour to receive the evidence which his miracles afforded, and being so thoroughly of the Truth' as to give themselves up to follow wherever that should lead, in opposition to any prejudices or inclinations of their own; and then knowledge of the truth was to be their reward. There is not necessarily any moral virtue in receiving truth; for it inay happen that our interest, or our wishes, are in the same direction; or it may be forced upon is by evidence as irresistible as that of a ma:hematical demonstration. The virtue consists in being a sincere votary of Truth;—what our Lord calls being of the Truth, '—rejecting 'the hidden things of dishonesty,' and carefully guarding against every undue bias. Every one wishes to have Truth on his side; but it is not every one that sincerely wishes to be on the side of Truth.
. The inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it."
This love-making or wooing of Truth implies that first step towards attaining the establishment of the habit of a steady thorough-going adherence to it in all philosophic, and especially religious, inquiry—the strong conviction of its value. To this must be united a distrust of ourselves. Men miss truth more often from their indifference about it than from intellectual incapacity. A well-known statesman is reported to have said that no gentleman would ever change his religion. And
'The chief part of what follows is taken from the Essay on Truth (20 Series).