« PreviousContinue »
WHAT is Truth," said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for answer. Certainly there are many that delight in giddiness, and count it a bondage to fix a belief; affecting freewill in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of Philosophers of that kind be gone; yet there remain certain discoursing wits, who are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients.
But it is not only the difficulty and labour, which men take in finding out truth, nor again, that when it is found, it imposes upon mens' thoughts, that brings lies in favour; but a natural, though corrupt love of the jie itself.
One of the later school of the Grecians examines the matter, and wonders why men should love lies; where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant, but for the lie's sake.
But I cannot tell, this same truth is a naked and open day-light, that does not shew the masques,
mummeries, and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that shews best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that shews best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie does ever add pleasure. Does any man doubt, that if there were taken out of mens' minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like; but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves. One of the fathers, in great severity, called poesy, vinum dæmonum, the devil's wine, because it fills the imagination, and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. It is not, however, the lie that passes through the mind, but the lie that sinks in, and settles in it, that does the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever these things are thus in mens' depraved judgments and affections; yet truth, which only judges itself, teaches, that the enquiry of truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature.
The first creature of God in the works of the days, was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his sabbath-work ever since, is the illumination of his spirit. First, he breathed light upon the face of the matter or chaos; then he breathed light into the face of man: and still he breathes and inspires light into the face of his chosen. The Poet * that beautified the sect t which was otherwise inferior to the rest, says yet excellently well: “It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the sea ; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventures thereof below : but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth :” (an hill not to be comnanded, and where the air is always clear and serene :) and to see the errors, and wandrings, and mists, and tempests in the vale below: so 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 Pro vidence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
To pass from theological and pbilosophical truth, to the truth of civil business, it will be acknowledged, even by those that practise it not, that clear and round dealing is the honour of maus' nature, and that mixture of falshood is like an allay in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but émbases it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent, which goes basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that so covers a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious;. and therefore Montaigne says prettily, when he en* Lucretius.
quired 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 lies, is as much as to say, that he is brave towards God, and a coward towards men. 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 that it shall be the last peal, to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men ; it being foretold, that when Christ coines, he shall not find faith upon the earth.
PATIENCE is a Christian virtue, a habit of the mind, that not only bears and suffers contumelies, reproach and oppression, but extracts all the venom, and compounds a cordial out of the ingredients ; that preserves the health, and even restores the chearfulness of the countenance. It is a moral virtue, a temper of mind that controls or resists all the brutish effects of choler, anger,
rage. And in this regard it works miracles too: it prevents the fatal effects which anger would produce, and diverts the outrages which choler and rage would commit. If it be not sharp-sighted enough to prevent danger, it is composed and resolute enough to resist and repel the assault; and by keeping all the faculties awake, is very rarely surprised, and quickly discerns any advantages which are offered, because its reason is never disturbed, much less confounded.
Where this blessed temper is the effect of deliberation, and the observation of the folly and madness of sudden passion, it constitutes the greatest perfection of wisdom. But it has in itself so much virtue and advantage, that when it proceeds from the heaviness of the constitution, and from some defect in the faculties, it is not wholly without use and benefit. It may possibly not do so much good as more sprightly and active men use to perform, but then it never does the harm that quick and hasty men are commonly guilty of; and as fire is much sooner kindled than it is extinguished, we frequently find dull and phlegmatic persons sooner attain to a warmth and maturity of judgment, and to a wonderful discerning of what ought or ought not to be done, than men of quicker and more subtle parts of nature, who seldom bear the labour of thinking. Whereas the other, by continual thinking, repair the defects of nature, and with in