Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Veracity consists in speaking the truth to all who are entitled to hear it, and in matters which concern the good of our neighbour. Psal. xv. 2. •he that speaketh the truth in his heart.' Prov. xii. 17. "he that speaketh truth, showeth forth righteousness.' v. 22. lying Tips are abomination to Jehovah, but they that deal truly are his delight.' XX. 6. 6a faithful man who can find ?' Zech. viii. 16. speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour. Eph. iv. 25.

putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour : for we are members one of another.'

Opposed to this is, first, an improper concealment of the truth. I say improper, for it is not every concealment of the truth that is wrong, inasmuch as we are not on all occasions required to declare what we know : that concealment only is blameable, which proceeds from improper motives.

Secondly, falsehood. Psal. v. 6. thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing.' xii. 1. 'the faithful fail from the children of men: Prov. xiii. 5. 6a righteous man hateth lying ; but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame. xix. 5. he that speaketh lies shall not escape. John viii. 44. 'when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own : for he is a liar, and the father of it.' Rev. xxii. 15. without are dogs....and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.' Hence falsehood is not justifiable, even in the service of God. Job xiii. 7. will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him ?'

The definition commonly given of falsehood is, that it is a violation of truth either in word or deed, with the purpose of deceiving. Since however not only the dissimulation or concealment of truth, but even

direct untruth with the intention of deceiving, may in many instances be beneficial to our neighbour, it will be necessary to define falsehood somewhat more precisely; for I see no reason why the same rule should not apply to this subject, which holds good with regard to homicide, and other cases hereafter to be mentioned, our judgment of which is formed not so much from the actions themselves, as from the intention in which they originated. No rational person will deny that there are certain individuals whom we are fully justified in deceiving. Who would scruple to dissemble with a child, with a madman, with a sick person, with one in a state of intoxication, with an enemy, with one who has himself a design of de- * ceiving us, with a robber? unless indeed we dispute the trite maxim, Cui nullum est jus, ei nulla fit injuria. Yet, according to the above definition, it is not allowable to deceive either by word or deed in any of the cases stated. If I am under no obligation to restore to a madman a sword, or any other deposit, committed to me while in a sound mind, why should I be required to render the truth to one from whom I never received it, who is not entitled to demand it, and who will in all probability make a bad use of it ? If every answer given to every interrogator with the intent of deceiving is to be accounted a falsehood, it must be allowed that nothing was more common even among the prophets and holiest of men.

Hence falsehood may perhaps be defined as fol, lows: Falsehood is incurred when any one, from a dishonest motive, either perverts the truth, or utters what is false to one to whom it is his duty to speak the truth. Thus the devil, speaking in the serpent, was the first

[ocr errors]

liar, Gen. iii. 4. So Cain subsequently, iv. 9. and Sarah, xviii. 15. for when the angels were justly angry with her, she evaded a candid confession of her fault. So also Abraham, xii. 13. and chap. XX. for his fiction concerning Sarah, as he might have learned from his previous experience in Egypt, though intended only for the preservation of his own life, was of a nature to lead others into dangerous error, and a desire of what was not their own, through ignorance of the fact. Thus too David in his flight from Saul, 1 Sam. xxi. 3. inasmuch as he ought not to have concealed from the priest his situation with respect to the king, or to have exposed his host to danger. Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of the same crime, Acts v.

It follows from this definition, first, that parables, hyperboles, apologues, and ironical modes of speech are not falsehoods, inasmuch as their object is not deception but instruction. In this respect it agrees with the common definition. 1 Kings xviii. 27. it came to pass that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud, for he is a God-. xxii. 15. he answered him, Go and prosper, for Jehovah shall deliver it into the hand of the king.' Secondly, that in the proper sense of the word deceit, no one can be deceived without being at the same time injured. When therefore, instead of injuring a person by a false statement, we either confer on him a positive benefit, or prevent him from inflicting or suffering injury, we are so far from being guilty of deceit towards him, however often the fiction may be repeated, that we ought rather to be considered as doing him a service against his will. Thirdly, it is universally admitted that feints and stratagems in war, when unaccompanied by perjury

or breach of faith, do not fall under the description of falsehood. Now this admission is evidently fatal to the vulgar definition ; inasmuch as it is scarcely possible to execute any of the artifices of war, without openly uttering the greatest untruths with the indisputable intention of deceiving ; by which, according to the definition, the sin of falsehood is incurred. It is better therefore to say that stratagems, though coupled with falsehood, are lawful for the cause above assigned, namely, that where we are not under an obligation to speak the truth, there can be no reason why we should not, when occasion requires it, utter even what is false; nor do I perceive why this should be more allowable in war than in peace, especially in cases where, by an honest and beneficial kind of falsehood, we may be enabled to avert injury or danger from ourselves or our neighbour.

The denunciations against falsehood, therefore, which are cited from Scripture, are to be understood only of such violations of truth as are derogatory to the glory of God, or injurious to ourselves or our neighbour. Of this class, besides what were quoted above, are the following texts : Lev. xix. 11. ye shall not deal falsely, neither lie one to another.' Psal. ci. 7. he that worketh deceit shall not tarry within my house; he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.' Prov. vi. 16, 17. yea, seven are an abomination unto him ; a proud look, a lying tongue-, Jer. ix. 5. they will deceive every man his neighbour, and will not speak the truth. In these and similar passages we are undoubtedly commanded to speak the truth; but to whom ? not to an enemy, not to a madman, not to an oppressor, not to an assassin, but

VOL. II.

i

[ocr errors]

to our neighbour, to one with whom we are connected by the bonds of peace and social fellowship. If then it is to our neighbour only that we are commanded to speak the truth, it is evident that we are not forbidden to utter what is false, if requisite, to such as do not deserve that name. Should any one be of a contrary opinion, I would ask him, by which of the commandments falsehood is prohibited ? He will answer doubtless, by the ninth. Let him only repeat the words of that commandment, and he will be a convert to my opinion ; for nothing is there prohibited but what is injurious to our neighbour; it follows, therefore, that a falsehood productive of no evil to him, if prohibited at all, is not prohibited by the commandment in question. · Hence we are justified in acquitting all those holy men who, according to the common judgment of divines, must be convicted of falsehood : Abraham for example, Gen. xxii. 5. when he told his young men, for the purpose of deceiving them and of quieting their suspicions, that he would return with the lad: although he must at the same time have been persuaded in his own mind that his son would be offered up as a sacrifice and left on the mount; for had he expected otherwise, his faith would have been put to no severe trial. His wisdom therefore taught him, that as his servants were in no way interested in knowing what was to happen, so it was expedient for himself that it should be for a time concealed from them. So also Rebecca and Jacob, Gen. xxvii. when by subtlety and proper caution they opened a way to that birthright which Esau had held cheap, a birthright already belonging to Jacob by prophecy, as well as by right of

« AnteriorContinuar »