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ours; yet it has the fault of need. Whatever our philosophy may be, ing itself to be defined.
it seems to us that human experiIt is certainly important to discov. ence decides, that lying is in all caer, if possible, a criterion of lying, ses an act of violence to the moral which will guide honest minds, and constitution of man. the dishonest also, to an instantane- 2. That a lie is invariably sinful, is ous recognition of the divine law. probable from the absence of any This is found in our definition, and criterion by which to distinguish a in no other: a fact which does not radical difference in the moral qual. indeed
prove ours to be correct, but ity of lies. If lies may be innowhich recommends it to a general cently uttered for one's country, why adoption, if it is plain on examina. not for one's family? If we may tion that all that, and that only is em- lie to save our lives, why not to save braced in it, which the Scriptures our reputation or property? And denominate lying.
then why is it not right to lie for the The truth of our definition is per. sake of acquiring property, if it can haps confirmed by the fact, that all be done without injury to others ? those cases of voluntary deception, In the absence of any guide, where which are manifestly lawful, are ef. shall we stop? fected without any false declara- 3. The universal obligation of the tions. Not that cases of deception law of veracity is fully asserted in by language have never been decla- the Scriptures. We have already red useful and right. Few wicked cited several passages which in an actions have wanted apologists. But unqualified manner inculcate the du. we speak of the general sense of ty of veracity. They allow no exmankind.
ceptions. “ Ye are of your
father III. The next step in our plan is, to the devil,” says Christ to the Jews. show the moral nature of lying. In “When he speaketh a lie, he speak. our opinion the law of veracity forbids eth of his own ; for he is a liar and under all circumstances, an attempt the father of it.” " All liars shall to deceive others by the use of lan. have their part in the lake that burn. guage. Lying within our definition eth with fire and brimstone." is invariably wrong. The intention 4. The example of our Savior to deceive, which is one element of confirms our argument. He often lying, is not necessarily wrong; but deceived others, but never by a false. the intention to deceive by falsehood, hood. He sometimes refused to is wrong-so intrinsically wrong that speak ; but when he spoke, he adno benevolent motive of the act, can hered inflexibly to the truth, not reessentially change its character. garding the danger and difficulty in
As a general proposition it will which it would involve him. Nor not be denied that lying is unlawful. can it be doubted, that had he on We shall, therefore, direct our ar- any occasion, for any purpose, atgument to evince the unlawfulness tempted to deceive men by a false of those cases which have the fair. declaration, the whole world would est claim to be considered excep. have pronounced him an impostor. tions to the law of veracity.
5. Any particular advantage which 1. We can not lie with ever so be. may result from lying is outweighed nevolent motives, or under ever so by the general evil. Were we to urgent a necessity, without pain and lose our sense of obligation to speak self-reproach. No conscience in the truth, and our disposition to bewhich moral sensibility has not been lieve the declarations of others, it destroyed, can look quietly and ap- would be impossible to conduct the provingly on attempts to accomplish affairs of life. We could no longer the most laudable ends by falsehood. have the benefit of the past expe• rience of others, and each would be act in direct opposition to the letter dependent for knowledge on his of the general rules of duty laid own limited observation and expe- down in the Decalogue, so it is not rience. These consequences of an. invariably wrong to worship idols, nulling the law of veracity are not, to steal, to commit adultery, to bear it is true, to be expected from any false witness. The motive is to be single act of lying, nor from many considered. There all the right such acts. Yet every lie has this ten- and wrong lie. It would be idle to dency, and in no particular instance deny that the moral quality of accan it be certain, or even probable, tions lies in the intention. There that the general evil will not exceed is no act forbidden in the Bible, the particular advantage of a lie. which may not be innocently comWe are also to bear in mind the mitted by a maniac. But the ques. magnitude of the evil of infecting tion before us is, whether a moral the public mind with the doctrine, agent can attempt to deceive an. that lies may innocently be told for other by a falsehood, with an intengood ends, or to persons who have tion wholly virtuous. It is for the no right to know the truth. Let objector to show that one constant this be understood to be the rule of element of the intention, namely, to duty on the subject, and what con- deceive another by falsehood, is not fidence would remain on earth ? essentially wrong. Other elements How could we tell at what rate a of the intention may be laudableperson addressing us estimates our the relief of want, the vindication right to know the truth, or what of right, the promotion of religionideas he has of the utility of de. but none of these can sanctify his ceiving us ? Let this opinion pre- intention to accomplish these objects vail, (and if it is true it ought to by a falsification of his word. prevail,) then who could be de- IV. This part of our plan em. ceived by a falsehood ? In the very braces “certain practical lessons." cases, in which the necessity of It would certainly be uncivil in lying is claimed to be so urgent that us to suggest that any of our rea. it ceases to be wrong and becomes a ders may be personally benefited virtue, a lie could have no influence. by these hints, which still may enaIt is our view of the extent of the ble them to form a juster estimate law of veracity, which enables any of the conduct of others, and to to practice the deceptions that they correct the loose sentiments of the plead for. Were their views re- community. ceived, there would be an end of Whoever values his happiness, the possible utility of lying; a fact respectability, and good influence, which, it seems to us, is a sufficient should remember how absolutely refutation of their opinion.
they are suspended on his own reThe fact, that the moral quality gard for the law of veracity. No of an action lies in the intention of liar can respect himself, or feel the agent, and not in the external worthy of the respect of others. form of the act, leads some to deny Nor can he long retain the confi. the propriety of asserting the in. dence of his acquaintance. A sinvariable sinfulness of transgress. gle lie often requires other lies to ing any precept of the Decalogue. conceal it, each of which is apt to These commandments, they say, increase the embarrassment, and at are all subject to exceptions; and length to leave the reputation under as an example, they cite the law of a cloud, if not in ruins. The liar the Sabbath. The whole divine law is always trembling with the fear is summed up in benevolence—and of exposure. His mind is in con. since it is sometimes benevolent to stant alarm ; and at length when he
is detected, which happens sooner The same plea is offered in jusor later to all habitual liars, he is tification of the falsehoods of advodespised by society, shunned by his cates in defending their clients in friends, scorned by his enemies, and courts of justice. There is a gen. stung by remorse, until abandoning eral understanding that they will not the hope of regaining his standing scruple to throw dust in the eyeś in the community, he sinks under of the court, by every possible disthe contempt, hatred, and neglect tortion and exaggeration of the evi. of the world. Other stains on one's dence, But this is no excuse for good name may be erased; this is their conduct. They profess entire indelible. Who believes in a liar's sincerity, and wish to be believed professions of reformation ? Who when they utter absolute falsehoods. for this world is more hopelessly a This disregard of truth, it seems to ruined man?
us, is altogether unnecessary for an This ruinous habit is most fre able defense of clients, and the faith. quently the effect of lying for the ful practice of the profession of gratification of others. Flattery, ex. law; but if it is necessary, it would aggerated praise, extravagant com- rather prove the essential immopliments, false apologies for neg. rality of the profession than invalilected courtesies, false professions date the law of veracity. For what of friendship, are only less criminal can be the tendency of deception than grosser falsehoods. “ White in a court of law, except to defeat lies," as they are called, first cor- the ends of justice ? rupted the character of every habit. Lying to the sick, is nearly allied ual liar, first seared his conscience, to these “liberties” of the gentlemen and made him what he is. The first of the bar. The good of the client is lies, little lies, lies for amusement, the apology in one case; the good of are the forerunners of confirmed, the patient in the other. Nothing is unshrinking mendacity. But if they more common than to tell the most could have no such effect on the deliberate falsehoods to the sick, character, they would not be inno when in the opinion of the attend. cent. In some respects the habitant physician, the truth would be of lying in common conversation, hurtful to him. He is assured that or romancing for the entertainment he will recover, and even that he of our company, is worse than lying is convalescing, when in fact he is
more deliberate way. Cer considered in extreme danger; that tainly, nothing is more painful than his friends are well, when perhaps to receive the impression, that the they are dead or dying. No one conversation of a friend is, perhaps will deny these to be lies, but the true-perhaps not.
excuse is, that if the sick person The habit of lying in historical knew his critical situation, he would romances is still more reprehensi. wish to be deceived; or if not, that ble. The apology of this class of it is for his good. No doubt the writers is, that there is a general un- communicating of painful intelliderstanding that all which is said is gence to a patient, which might en. not true. But this is not enough. danger his life, should if possible The reader is not advised that any be avoided. Yet in our view, it is particular statements are false. Er. the highest prudence to answer all ror and truth are mingled without his questions sincerely. Had we any pretense at accuracy, or means a young friend about to enter the of distinguishing them; a kind of medical profession, we would imwriting opposed to all certainty, and press on his mind how vitally it storing the mind of the reader with concerns his success, that his pa. false notions of men and things. tients should be able to repose im
plicit confidence in all his state. equals, or with those whose ven
Nothing is more painful geance they fear to encounter. It than the suspicion, that our medical is the strong that break their treaties attendant is insincere, that we can with the weak-the United States not rely on his word. Nor is this with feeble Indian tribes the brave all. Whoever suspects, that when officers of the “star-spangled banhe or his friends are in extreme ner,” that entice to their camps the danger, his physician will deny the sons of the forest, with false promifact, for fear the truth will injure ses of safety ! him, loses the cheering effect of en- Another species of lying deserves couragement when the symptoms a distinct place in these hints. We are all favorable ; for how can he have in mind the “easy man,” who distinguish the truth from falsehood ? is always of the same opinion with And let it not be forgotten, that if his company. He has opinions of the sick are kept in ignorance of his own, but never defends, and their true state, they are more liable seldom utters them in the presence to injure themselves by voluntary of others. He hears what he conimprudence, to suffer from ground. siders pernicious errors, or what he less apprehension or suspense, and knows to be the most unjust opinto neglect their spiritual interests, ions of men and things, without it may be in the last hours of their contradicting them, and with plain probation.
indications of assent and approbaLying to the insane is a practice tion. His whole study seems to be no less reprehensible. It is not re- to shape his remarks to please his quired either for their benefit or the auditors, and if by chance he is so safety of their attendants. Expe. unfortunate as to express an unrience shows that a bold, decided, popular opinion, he quickly retracts ingenuous treatment, is the best or modifies it. He can not be said means of controlling even the wild- to be without guile, but guile. He est maniac. M. Pinel, physician to is afraid to appear what he is. Althe Female Lunatic Asylum, Sal- though possibly not conscious of depetriere, in Paris, remarks, “ that liberate falsehoods, he is painfully insane persons, like children, lose conscious of insincerity-of walk. all confidence and all respect, if ing in the garb of a false profession.
your words toward them, The “artful man" belongs to the and they immediately set them- same family, an habitual liar; but selves to work, to deceive and cir. he lies because he is a knave, not cumvent you.
This is corrobora. because he is a coward. He is ted by the testimony of the best bold in the utterance of his real physicians of the insane, both in opinions, and not less bold in utterthis country and in Europe.
ing falsehood. He may be a zealot Lying to enemies is so common in religion-a fiery sectarian—who a breach of veracity, so mean and scruples not to wage his partisan so degrading, that we need no apol. warfare by false interpretations of ogy for speaking of it in unmeas. Scripture, by exaggerated state. ured terms of reprobation. Every ments, by defamations of better just war can be conducted to an Perhaps he is an equally unhonorable issue, by open warfare scrupulous politician, eager for the and innocent stratagems. But if we spoils, a fawning sycophant to the must be conquered, or falsify our meanest of his own party, a men.. word to the enemy, let us be con
dacious libeler of his opponents. quered. It must be confessed that Who shall compute the number of nations are not apt to break a truce, lies uttered from the press—from or any other engagement with their the rostrum—from a more sacred
you fail in
place, by designing men ? Who the liar; that little lies, prevarica. shall add to this list the multitude tions, insincere compliments, false which are uttered in the heat of excuses and apologies, and all false party zeal, by' men who are less declarations designed to deceive othmoved by personal considerations ers, are all wrong and pernicious. than by a benevolent regard for Teach them by punishment. Let mankind, whose interests they ima- no lie pass without an expression of gine are suspended on the success your displeasure. When reprimands of their sector party? What a are ineffectual, resort to severer dishumiliating reflection it is, that even cipline ; and when one mode of chas. this “ better sort” of men, are not tisement is insufficient to awaken a willing that human interests should sense of guilt and a purpose of resuffer, rather than pollule their lips formation, resort to others, until the with lies!
propensity to lie is effectually subThe lies of children deserve more dued. attention. It is the only point where Encourage them by reward. When our moralizing promises to be fruit- they promptly tell the truth, though ful. Lying is commonly the first alarmed at the prospect of punishvice of our nature-requiring the ment, remit a part of the penalty, as earliest checks, the earliest parental an expression of your approbation discipline. But wherever it gains a of their sincerity ; and by all other fatal ascendency, it is rather the suitable expedients, teach them the fault of the parents than of the child. advantage of telling the truth on all They should study the best direc. occasions, however much pain it may tions for training up a child in hab- cost them for the time, or to whatits of veracity.
ever danger it may seem to expose Teach them the truth by example them. Fulfill your promises to them with the Guard against driving them to most scrupulous exactness. Speak falsehood by manifesting anger when the truth to them on all occasions, you suspect them of a fault. Pa. whether talking in earnest or in jest; rents should not call their children and if by any unforeseen occurrence to account for misconduct until they it becomes impracticable to fulfill an are perfect masters of their own pas. engagement, do not fail to give them sions ; certainly not when they are such explanations as shall effectual. about to elicit the facts of the case ly remove the suspicion that your by appealing to the veracity of the regard for truth is feeble. Never supposed offender. The manifestalet your personal inconvenience or tion of strong excitement at such a mere expense prevent you from time, will generally so terrify a child, keeping a promise. Let them have that he will lie, as the only possible no cause to doubt your sacred re- refuge from the storm of wrath that gard for the truth.
he perceives is hanging over him. Teach them by precept. Assure The parent should keep cool-should them in the most serious manner, inquire calmly into the facts—should that lies are offensive to God, and seriously, yet kindly represent the will be punished by him ; that they wickedness of lying; and he will are productive of great evil to men; have the victory. that every body despises and abhors