« AnteriorContinuar »
Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready: 'It hath lengthened life; it has mitigated pain ; it has ex. tinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil ; it has given new securities to the mariner ; it has furnished new arms to the warrior ; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendor of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision ; it has multiplied the power of the human muscle ; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxionis recesses of the earth, to traverse the land on cars which whirl along without horses, and the ocean in ships which sail against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits. For it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-post to-morrow.'
What is truth ? said jesting Pilate ; 1 and would not stay for an answer. Certainly, there be 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 which 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 labor which men take in finding out of truth; nor again, that, when it is found, it imposeth upon men's thoughts, that doth bring lies in favor; but a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later schools 2 of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what should be in it, that men should love lies; where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets ; nor for advanta e, as with the merchant, but for the lie's sake. But I cannot tell : this same truth is a naked and open daylight, that doth not show the masks, and 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 showeth best by day, but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of inen poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves?' One of the fathers," in great severity, called poesy num dæmonum,” 2 because it filleth the imagination, and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in, and settleth in it, that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But 'howsoever these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry 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 ; 8 the last was the light of reason ; 4 and his sabbath work, ever sînce, 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 breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet that beautified the sect,2 that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: “It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed
1 He refers to the following passage in the Gospel of St. John, xviii. 38: “Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find'in him no fault at all.”
2 He probably refers to the “New Academy,” a sect of Greek philosophers, one of whose moot questions was, “ What is truth?". Upon which they came to the unsatisfactory conclusion, that mankind has no criterion by which to form a judgment:
1 Perhaps he was thinking of St. Augustine. - See Aug. Como fess. i. 25, 26.
2 “ The wine of evil spirits.".
3 Genesis i. 3: “ And God said, Let there be light, and there was light."
4 At tho moment when “ The Lord God formed man out of 8 Lord Bacon has either translated this passage of Lucretius from memory, or has purposely paraphrased it. The following is the literal translation of the original: “'Tis a pleasant thing, from the shore, to behold the dangers of another upon the mighty ocean, when the winds are lashing the main; not because it is a grateful pleasure for any one to be in misery, but because it is a pleasant thing to see those misfortunes froin which you yourself are free : 'tis also a pleasant thing to behold the mighty
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,” (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene,) " and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below; so always that this prospect be
the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” — Genesis ii. 7.
1 Lucretius, the Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher, is alluded to. — - Lucret. ii. init. Comp. Adv. of Learning, i. 8. 5.
2 He refers to the sect which followed the doctrines of Epicurus. The life of Epicurus himself was pure and abstemious in the extreme. One of his leading tenets was, that the aim of all speculation should be to enable men to judge with certainty what course is to be chosen, in order to secure health of body and tranquillity of mind. The adoption, however, of the term
pleasure,” as denoting this object, has at all periods subjected the Epicurean system to great reproach; which, in fact, is due rather to the conduct of many who, for their own purposes, have taken shelter under the system in name only, than to the tenets themselves, which did not inculcate libertinism. Epicurus admitted the existence of the Gods, but he deprived them of the characteristics of Divinity, either as creators or preservers of the world.
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 providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
To pass from theological and philosophical 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 honor of man's nature, and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge; saith he, "If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, 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 ;
contests of warfare, arrayed upon the plains, without a share in the danger; but nothing is there more delightful than to occupy the elevated temples of the wise, well fortified by tranquil learning, whence you may be able to look down upon others, and see them straying in every direction, and wandering in search of the path of life.”
1 Michael de Montaigne, the celebrated French Essayist. His Essays embrace a variety of topics, which are treated in a sprightly and entertaining manner, and are replete with remarks indicative of strong native good sense. He died in 1592. The following quotation is from the second book of the Essays, c. 18: “Lying is a disgraceful vice, and one that Plutarch, an ancient writer, paints in most disgraceful colors, when he says that it is "affording testimony that one first despises God, and then fears men;' it is not possible more happily to describe its horrible, dis gusting, and abandoned nature; for, can we imagine any thing more vile than to be cowards with regard to men, and brave with regard to God ?”