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Truth_Illustrations and Motives of Falsehood - Children and
Servants prone to falsify_Rousseau's Confession of a Falsehood—Sincerity-Insincerity the Vice of polished life-Sincerity degenerating into Rudeness_Affectation—Exaggeration -Justice-Confused notions of it-May be rendered intelligible to Children.
TREATING of TRUTH, Locke observes, “There is no body in the commonwealth of learning who does not profess himself a lover of truth, and there is not a rational creature that would not take it amiss to be thought otherwise of, and yet, for all this, one may truly say that there are very few lovers of truth, for truth-sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know whether he be so in earnest, is worth inquiry, and I think there is one unerring mark of it, viz., the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not truth in the love of it; loves not truth for truthsake, but for some other by-end.”
Falsehood seems to have its source either in cowardice, malice, or ambition: the desire to evade punishment, gratification of hatred, or that propensity to magnify the idea of self, through the acquisition of power or fame, which is so urgent in our nature, and which, if not attainable by legitimate means, is aimed at through the assumption of qualities which do not really belong to us.
The earliest recorded lie, or equivocation, which is the same thing, is coeval with the fall of man, and following close upon the first fatal act of disobedience, namely, that of Adam, our first parent, in the Garden of Eden, who, after he had eaten of the forbidden fruit, and had hidden himself, replied to the voice of God, which called him, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” This was the falsehood of cowardice, and, like most that have succeeded it, betrayed itself by the very subterfuge resorted to. The second recorded was also a falsehood of cowardice, though more direct, and of a bolder tone, like the character of him who uttered it. I allude to the falsehood of Cain, after he had slain his brother. " And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother's keeper ?”
Various instances of this species of lying are found in the Scriptures, and they are almost always accoinpanied by their punishment, frequently immediate, bearing awful testimony to the abhorrence in which the vice is held by the Almighty. For example, the lie, joined to covetousness, of Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha, which
was punished by the leprosy of Naaman cleaving unto him and his seed for ever; the bitter repentance of Peter, after having denied Christ; and afterwards, as recorded in the Acts, the signal and immediate punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied, not unto men, but unto the Holy Ghost.
The falsehood of ambition is amply exemplified among the heathen priesthood of all countries and all ages: in the Mumbo Jumbo of savage Africa, at the present day, as in the proud High Priest of Isis in ancient Egypt; in the impostor of Mecca, as in the crafty and obscene minįsters of the temple of Juggernaut: all must be regarded as exhibitions of the same corrupt principle—the desire to magnify the idea of self at the expense of truth. I have, elsewhere, shewn how disciples of a purer creed, yielding to the same unholy influence, have suffered themselves to lapse into falsehood and heresy little less gross than those of paganism. All soothsayers, and pretenders to divination-in short, all charlatans, of whatever denominationmust be numbered in this class; and something modified, it is true, but still pertaining to it, all vain boasters, who endeavour to support their empty pretensions either by exaggeration, misrepresentation, or a still more direct violation of truth.
Unworthy as are these, still more vicious they who exaggerate, misrepresent, and lie, through malevolence; the slanderers, the detractors, the 66 bearers of false witness :” and let respect for
truth once be lost, and habits of falsehood indulged in, who shall say that persons who first began to infringe the sacred rule out of sheer vanity, will not do so should personal pique or self-interest sway them, out of malice? Even the listener to the tale of scandal partakes in some measure of the sin, if the love of truth, for truth-sake, urge him not to sift it thoroughly.
Independent of the wickedness of lying, the folly of it is great and obvious. There never yet was an habitual liar who escaped detection; for though one deviation of the kind may chance to pass unnoticed, it is most probable that it will involve the necessity of more in order to support the first; and then the difficulties and perplexities of the case are interminable; so that we may liken falsehood to a labyrinth, into which, if we once set foot, we are lost. The value of a character for truth is above all other possessions. “Honesty is the best policy,” and Ithurial's spear the only safe weapon wherewith to fight our way through the world.
Children and servants are, from their subordinate situation, frequently induced to falsify through cowardice; and the fact that they are so, is a strong argument against severity. Children would never, in my opinion, be guilty of this vice, if properly treated. On this point, the Edgeworths give very excellent advice: “If a child voluntarily comes to us with a history of an accident, may no love of goods or chattels, of windows, of china, or even of looking-glasses, come in competition with our
PRONE TO FALSIFY.
love of truth. An angry word, an angry look may
intimidate the child who has summoned all his little courage to make this confession. It is not requisite that parents should pretend to be pleased and gratified with the destruction of their furniture; but they may, it is to be hoped, without dissimulation, shew that they set more value upon the integrity of their children than upon a lookingglass."
It is of the utmost importance that parents themselves, and all who undertake to instruct, should adhere rigidly to truth. There must be no deviations, however slight or jesuitically managed; no moral delusions, no artifice, no plots in our system of education. All must be open-clear as noon-day. When once a deviation from truth is detected by a child in his instructor, his confidence is lost for ever. Not only in relation to our children, but in our relations with every body else, we ought to act scrupulously in this respect; and I believe it to be very possible, even in the artificial atmosphere in which many of us exist, so to order our living and conversation as to afford to the young an uniform example of truth.
Rousseau, in his educational writings, lays great stress upon the necessity of truth; though I am not sure, except in advising that children should never be questioned on any circumstances in which it can be their interest to deceive, that the rules he gives are the best calculated to promote the end in view. He attributes his abhorrence of