« PreviousContinue »
should imitate an example by which they have been taught to think lightly of the evil of falsehood ?
What they are thus taught by example, they are often tempted to do by fear of punishment. There are parents who never correct their children but in anger, whose punitive discipline is conducted in fury, and who think that they discharge their duty when they have visited every delinquency with a severe infliction. To escape this chastisement, which is so indiscreetly administered, a lie is told; another crime is committed ; and, for the same reason, the falsehood is repeated; till by the repetition of the act, the habit is fully formed; and the child, in all probability, advances into life without truth, and without principle.
The temptations to the violation of truth are numerous, -as numerous as are the temptations to dishonesty and fraud. But, perhaps, there is not a more fertile source of falsehood than party spirit and contention. How contrary this spirit is to that charity which “ rejoiceth not in iniquity, but which rejoiceth in the truth,” is shewn by the misrepresentation and calumny which are so eagerly propagated by opposing parties, in their contention for victory. How carefully, then, should we guard against that state of mind which incapacitates us for judging with fairness and candour of the conduct of others, and which might incline us to take pleasure in circulating reports to their disadvantage !
It has already been noticed, that in proportion as truth is of importance to the confidence, virtue, and happiness of mankind, is falsehood criminal and injurious. But in viewing it aright, we must regard it as evil in itself, as a sin against God, as opposed to the infinite purity and rectitude of his nature, as a dishonour to his perfections and character, and absolutely, and in all its forms, forbidden by Him.. The Scriptures do not furnish the slightest indulgence to the practice, whatever be the plea urged in its justification. On the contrary, they declare, that whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, “shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God;” and that "he who will save his life” by the violation of truth, “ shall lose it;" and that “ he who shall lose his life” for the sake of his adherence to truth,“ shall find it.”
The natural and necessary consequences of falsehood are, indeed, such as shew the magnitude of this crime as a source of mischief and of misery. It is the parent of numerous vices; the chief instrument by which plausible but unprincipled men subvert the liberties of nations; and the means by which oppressors and tyrants rule over an enslaved people. In reviewing the history of the world, we cannot but remark, that falsehood has been more widely ruinous to the interests of mankind than war or pestilencethat it is the principal obstacle against which the lovers of their country have had to contend, and by which they have often been deceived, and their benevolent designs frustrated ;—that by its aid, the antiChristian power gradually arose, and at length established its dominion over Christendom;--and that it constitutes the greatest impediment over the world, in the various forms which it has assumed, to the
progress and universal diffusion of divine truth.
How ruinous this crime is to the temporal and spiritual interests of individuals, it is unnecessary to say. Who is there who is not very much dependent for his well-being on the information which he receives from others ;-on the veracity of his agent, in whatever way he employs him ;-on the character which is given of the servants by those on whose attestation he has received them into his family ;-on the truth of those recommendations on the weight of which he intrusts his health and life to a physician ;-the in: struction of his children to a tutor ;-and the comfort and edification of himself and his family to a minister of religion? Is he deceived in these respects by a false friend or neighbour ? how great is the mischief which he experiences from falsehood !
In order fully to trace the consequences of lying, we must view them as they affect the highest interest of men, for time and eternity. It is by this means that evil spirits effect their designs, hostile to the virtue and happiness of mankind. When the mind is filled with fascinating error, truth is refused an entrance. If by truth alone the soul is sanctified and saved, how melancholy is the thought, that its exclusion is accompanied with guilt, and followed with irretrievable mi
“ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
It is unnecessary to point out, at any length, the effects of falsehood on the temporal and eternal interests of the individual who practises it. It is not
till he has become thoroughly hardened and unprin. cipled, that he is freed from the painful remonstrances of his own conscience ;—from a sense of the degrading condition into which, by the unanimous voice of mankind, he is consigned. If he has not yet proceeded thus far, and is not known and shunned as a liar, he is, at least, suffering from the fear of detection; and it is likely that he may conceive it necessary, in order to shield him from exposure, to tell many other falsehoods. The farther he advances, the more he finds himself involved in deceit; the probability is, that he will continue in his course till his iniquity is brought to light, till he has lost all credit and reputation ; and it is well if he does not still persevere in the path of destruction, and become one of those who shall hereafter arise to shame and everlasting contempt.
The next species of falsehood is slander; or that conduct by which it is unjustly attempted to lessen and ruin the reputation of others.
In the race of human life, it often happens that our passions and our apparent interests would lead us to detract from the moral and intellectual merits of a rival; and even when we are restrained by principle and conscience from the arts of defamation, there may be a secret satisfaction felt in seeing him lowered in public estimation. There is no situation in which we
are free from this temptation to injustice, because there is no situation in which the feelings of malice and envy may not operate; and in which we may not see others of our own rank and standing, far more successful and prosperous than we. There is, besides, in every one so much partiality to himself, which while it leads him to fix his view chiefly on his own personal merits, and to magnify them in his own estimation, prevents him from sufficiently acknowledging the worth and qualifications of others.
Of all this a good man will soon be satisfied, from his own experience; and he will endeavour to guard against this injustice by judging of the pretensions of a rival, or even of an enemy, as he would have done, had there been no interference between his claims and theirs. In other words, he will endeavour to do justice to their merits; and to bring himself to love and honour the goodness and genius which have eclipsed
Nor will he retire in disgust from the race, because he has been outstripped by others; but will redouble his exertions in the service of mankind; recollecting that if Providence has been more bountiful to others than to him, he has left open to all the theatre of virtue; whence the merits of individuals are determined, not by their actual attainments, but by the use and improvement which they make of those advantages which their situation has afforded them *.
When we are tempted to depreciate the worth and talents of others, we should recollect, that we not only do injustice to our fellow-creatures, but offer an affront to God; and that in allowing ourselves to feel a secret
* Stewart's Outlines.