« PreviousContinue »
commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale helow;' 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.
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." 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. Provided.'So that the doctrine be wholesome and edifying, a want of exactness in the manner of speech may be overlooked.'—Atterbury. 3 Round. Plain; fair; candid.
'I will a round, unvarnished tale deliver.'—Shakespere.
3 Embase. To vitiate; to alloy.'A pleasure, high, rational, and angelic; a pleasure embased by no appendant sting.'—South.
4 Essais, liv. ii. chap, xviii.
'' llliat is truth V 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 he at all attended to the context of the narrative, that never was any one less in a jesting mood than Pilate on this occasion. He 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 admitted 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 furthering 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 Him proclaim Himself 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 his subjects: 'Every one that is of the Truth heareth my words:' as much as to say, 'I claim a kingdom, not over the Israelites 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 He taught; as if He had said, 'Every one that heareth my words is of the Truth.'
And commentators usually satisfy themselves with such an interpretation as makes 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 evidently a description of the persons who were to be the subjects of the kingdom 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 Truth/ and the 'Truth should make them 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 his disciples in consequence of their knowing and perceiving the truth of what He 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 may happen that our interest, or our wishes, are in the same direction; or it may be forced upon us by evidence as irresistible as that of a mathematical 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
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 an author of some note, a professed Protestant Christian, has been heard to declare that he thought very ill of any one who did so; 'unless it were/ he said, 'one man in a million,—some person of surpassing genius.' And this sentiment (which implies a total indifference to truth and falsehood) has been cited with approbation.
1 The chief part of what follows, I have taken the liberty to extract from the JExsay on Truth (2nd Series). The different senses of the word ' truth' are treated of in the Elements of Logic, app. i.
Some men, again, from supposing themselves to have found truth, take for granted that it was for truth they were seeking. But if we either care not to be lovers of Truth, or take for granted that we are such, without taking any pains to acquire the habit, it is not likely that we ever shall acquire it.
Many objections have been urged against the very effort to cultivate such a habit. One is, that we cannot be required to make Truth our main object, but happiness; that our ultimate end is not the mere knowledge of what is true, but the attainment of what is good to ourselves and to others. But this, when urged as an objection to the maxim, that Truth should be sought for its own sake, is evidently founded on a mistake as to its meaning. It is evident, in the first place, that it does not mean the pursuit of all truth on all subjects. It would be ridiculous for a single individual to aim at universal knowledge, or even at the knowledge of all that is within the reach of the human faculties and worthy of human study. The question is respecting the pursuit of truth in each subject on which each person desires to make vp his mind and form an opinion. And secondly, the purport of the maxim that in these points truth should be our object, is, that not mere barren knowledge without practice—truth without any ulterior end, should be sought, but that truth should be sought and followed confidently, not in each instance, only so far as we perceive it to be expedient, and from motives of policy, but with a full conviction both that it is, in the end, always expedient, with a view to the attainment of ulterior objects (no permanent advantage being attainable by departing from it), and also, that, even if some end, otherwise advantageous, could be promoted by such a departure, that alone would constitute it an evil;—that truth, in short, is in itself, independently of its results, preferable to error; that
honesty claims a preference to deceit, even without taking into account its being the best policy.
Another objection, if it cau be so called, is that a perfectly candid and unbiassed state of mind—a habit of judging in each case entirely according to the evidence—is unattainable. But the same may be said of every other virtue: a perfect regulation of any one of the human passions is probably not more attainable than perfect candour; but we are not therefore to give a loose to the passions; we are not to relax our efforts for the attainment of any virtue on the ground that, after all, we shall fall short of perfection.
Another objection which has been urged is, that it is not even desirable, were it possible, to bring the mind into a state of perfectly unbiassed indifference, so as to weigh the evidence in each case with complete impartiality. This objection arises, I conceive, from an indistinct and confused notion of the sense of the terms employed. A candid and unbiassed state of mind, which is sometimes called indifference, or impartiality, i. e., of the judgment, does not imply an indifference of the will—an absence of all wish on either side, but merely an absence of all influence of the wishes in forming our decision,—all leaning of the judgment on the side of inclination,—all perversion of the evidence in consequence. That we should wish to find truth on one side rather than the other, is in many cases not only unavoidable, but commendable; but to think that true which we wish, without impartially weighing the evidence on both sides, is undeniably a folly, though a very common one. If a mode of effectual and speedy cure be proposed to a sick man, he cannot but wish that the result.of his inquiries concerning it may be a wellgrounded conviction of the safety and efficacy of the remedy prescribed. It would be no mark of wisdom to be indifferent to the restoration of health; but if his wishes should lead him (as is frequently the case) to put implicit confidence in the remedy without any just grounds for it, he would deservedly be taxed with folly.
In like manner (to take the instance above alluded to), a good man will indeed wish to find the evidence of the christian religion satisfactory, but will weigh the evidence the more carefully, on account of the importance of the question.
But indifference of the will and indifference of the judgment