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Title: A Lie Never Justifiable
Author: Trumbull, H. Clay (Henry Clay), 1830-1903
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Lie Never Justifiable" ***


A Study in Ethics





That there was need of a book on the subject of which this treats,
will be evidenced to those who examine its contents. Whether this book
meets the need, it is for those to decide who are its readers.

The circumstances of its writing are recited in its opening chapter. I
was urged to the undertaking by valued friends. At every step in its
progress I have been helped by those friends, and others. For much
of that which is valuable in it, they deserve credit. For its
imperfections and lack, I alone am at fault.

Although I make no claim to exhaustiveness of treatment in this
work, I do claim to have attempted a treatment that is exceptionally
comprehensive and thorough. My researches have included extensive and
varied fields of fact and of thought, even though very much in those
fields has been left ungathered. What is here presented is at least
suggestive of the abundance and richness of the matter available in
this line.

While not presuming to think that I have said the last word on this
question of the ages, I do venture to hope that I have furnished fresh
material for its more intelligent consideration. It may be that, in
view of the data here presented, some will settle the question finally
for themselves--by settling it right.

If the work tends to bring any considerable number to this practical
issue, I shall be more than repaid for the labor expended on it; for
I have a profound conviction that it is the question of questions in
ethics, now as always.



August 14,1893




Is a Lie Ever Justifiable?--Two Proffered Answers.--Inducements
and Temptations Influencing a Decision.--Incident in Army Prison
Life.--Difference in Opinion.--Killing Enemy, or Lying to
Him.--Killing, but not Lying, Possibility with God.--Beginning of this
Discussion.--Its Continuance.--Origin of this Book.



Standards and Practices of Primitive Peoples.--Sayings and Doings of
Hindoos.--Teachings of the Mahabharata.--Harischandra and
Viswamitra, the Job and Satan of Hindoo Passion-Play.--Scandinavian
Legends.--Fridthjof and Ingeborg.--Persian Ideals.--Zoroastrian Heaven
and Hell.--"Home of Song," and "Home of the Lie."--Truth the Main
Cardinal Virtue with Egyptians.--No Hope for the Liar.--Ptah, "Lord
of Truth."--Truth Fundamental to Deity.--Relatively Low Standard
of Greeks.--Incidental Testimony of Herodotus.--Truthfulness of
Achilles.--Plato.--Aristotle.--Theognis.--Pindar.--Tragedy of
Philoctetes.--Roman Standard.--Cicero.--Marcus Aurelius.--German
Ideal.--Veracity a Primitive Conception.--Lie Abhorrent among Hill
Tribes of India.--Khonds.--Sonthals.--Todas.--Bheels.--Sowrahs.--
Tipperahs.--Arabs.--American Indians.--Patagonians.--Hottentots.--
East Africans.--Mandingoes.--Dyaks of Borneo,--"Lying Heaps."--Veddahs
of Ceylon.--Javanese.--Lying Incident of Civilization.--Influence of
Spirit of Barter.--"Punic Faith."--False Philosophy of Morals.



Principles, not Rules, the Bible Standard.--Two Pictures of
Paradise.--Place of Liars.--God True, though Men Lie.--Hebrew
Midwives.--Jacob and Esau.--Rahab the Lying Harlot.--Samuel at
Bethlehem.--Micaiah before Jehoshaphat and Ahab.--Character
and Conduct.--Abraham.--Isaac.--Jacob.--David.--Ananias and
Sapphira.--Bible Injunctions and Warnings.



Importance of a Definition.--Lie Positive, and Lie Negative.--Speech
and Act.--Element of Intention.--Concealment Justifiable, and
Concealment Unjustifiable.--Witness in Court.--Concealment that is
Right.--Concealment that is Sinful.--First Duty of Fallen Man.--Brutal
Frankness.--Indecent Exposure of Personal Opinion.--Lie Never
Tolerable as Means of Concealing.--False Leg or Eye.--Duty of
Disclosure Conditioned on Relations to Others.--Deception Purposed,
and Resultant Deception.--Limits of Responsibility for Results of
Action.--Surgeon Refusing to Leave Patient.--Father with Drowning
Child.--Mother and Wife Choosing.--Others Self-Deceived concerning
Us.--Facial Expression.--"A Blind Patch."--Broken Vase.--Closed
Shutters in Midsummer.--Opened Shutters.--Absent Man's Hat in
Front Hall.--When Concealment is Proper.--When Concealment is
Wrong.--Contagious Diseases.--Selling a Horse or Cow.--Covering
Pit.--Wearing Wig.--God's Method with Man.--Delicate Distinction.--
Truthful Statements Resulting in False Impressions.--Concealing
Family Trouble.--Physician and Inquiring Patient.--Illustrations
Explain Principle, not Define it.



Quaker and Dry-goods Salesman.--Supposed Profitableness of
Lying.--Plea for "Lies of Necessity."--Lying not Justifiable between
Enemies in War-time.--Rightfulness of Concealing Movements and Plans
from Enemy.--Responsibility with Flag of Truce.--Difference
between Scout and Spy.--Ethical Distinctions Recognized by
Belligerents.--Illustration: Federal Prisoner Questioned by
Confederate Captors.--Libby Prison Experiences.--Physicians and
Patients.--Concealment not Necessarily Deception.--Loss of
Reputation for Truthfulness by Lying Physicians.--Loss of
Power Thereby.--Impolicy of Lying to Insane.--Dr. Kirkbride's
Testimony.--Life not Worth Saving by Lie.--Concealing One's Condition
from Robber in Bedroom.--Questions of Would-be Murderer.--"Do Right
though the Heavens Fall."--Duty to God not to be Counted out of
Problem.--Deserting God's Service by Lying.--Parting Prayer.



Wide Differences of Opinion.--Views of Talmudists.--Hamburger's
Testimony.--Strictness in Principle.--Exceptions in Practice.--Isaac
Abohab's Testimony.--Christian Fathers not Agreed.--Martyrdom Price
of Truthtelling.--Justin Martyr's Testimony.--Temptations of
Early Christians.--Words of Shepherd of Hermas.--Tertullian's
Estimate.--Origen on False Speaking.--Peter and Paul at Antioch.--
Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great.--Deceit in Interests of
Harmony.--Chrysostom's Deception of Basil.--Chrysostom's Defense
of Deceit.--Augustine's Firmness of Position.--Condemnation of
Lying.--Examination of Excuses.--Jerome's Weakness and Error.--Final
Agreement with Augustine.--Repetition of Arguments of Augustine and
Chrysostom.--Representative Disputants.--Thomas Aquinas.--Masterly
Discussion.--Errors of Duns Scotus.--John Calvin.--Martin Luther.--
Ignatius Loyola.--Position of Jesuits.--Protestants Defending Lying.
--Jeremy Taylor.--Errors and Inconsistencies.--Wrong Definitions.--
Misapplication of Scripture.--Richard Rothe.--Character, Ability,
and Influence. in Definition of Lie.--Failure to Recognize.--Error
Love to God as Only Basis of Love to Man.--Exceptions in Favor of
Lying.--Nitzsch's Claim of Wiser and Nobler Methods than Lying in
Love.--Rothe's Claim of Responsibility of Loving Guardianship--No
Countenance of Deception in Example of Jesus.--Prime Error of Rothe.
--Opinions of Contemporary Critics.--Isaac Augustus Dorner.--
Character and Principles.--Keen Definitions.--High Standards.--
Clearness and Consistency.--Hans Lassen Martensen.--Logic Swayed by
Feeling.--Right Premises and Wavering Reasonings.--Lofty Ideals.--
Story of Jeanie Deans.--Correct Conclusions.--Influence of Personal
Peculiarities on Ethical Convictions.--Contrast of Charles Hodge and
James H. Thornwell.--Dr. Hodge's Correct Premises and Amiable
Inconsistencies.--Truth the Substratum of Deity.--Misconceptions of
Bible Teachings.--Suggestion of Deception by Jesus Christ.--Error as
to General Opinion of Christians.--Dr. Hodge's Conclusions Crushed
by his Premises.--Dr. Thornwell's Thorough Treatment of Subject.--
Right Basis.--Sound Argument.--Correct Definitions.--Firmness for
Truth.--Newman Smyth's Manual.--Good Beginning and Bad Ending.--
Confusion of Terms.--Inconsistencies in Argument.--Loose Reasoning.
--Dangerous Teachings.--James Martineau.--Fine Moral Sense.--Conflict
between Feeling and Conviction.--Safe Instincts.--Thomas Fowler.--
Higher Expediency of Veracity.--Importance to General Good.--Leslie
Stephen.--Duty of Veracity Result of Moral Progress.--Kant and
Fichte.--Jacobi Misrepresented.--False Assumptions by Advocates of Lie
of Necessity.--Enemies in Warfare not Justified in Lying.--Testimony
of Cicero.--Macaulay on Lord Clive's Treachery.--Woolsey on
International Law.--No Place for Lying in Medical Ethics.--Opinions
and Experiences of Physicians.--Pliny's Story of Roman Matron.--Victor
Hugo's Sister Simplice.--Words of Abbé Sicard.--Tact and
Principle.--Legal Ethics.--Whewell's View.--Opinion of Chief-Justice
Sharswood.--Mistakes of Dr. Hodge.--Lord Brougham's Claim.--False
Charge against Charles Phillips.--Chancellor Kent on Moral
Obligations in Law and in Equity.--Clerical Profession Chiefly
Involved.--Clergymen for and against Lying.--Temptation to Lies of
Love.--Supreme Importance of Sound Principle.--Duty of Veracity to
Lower Animals.--Dr. Dabney's View.--Views of Dr. Newman Smyth.--Duty
of Truthfulness an Obligation toward God.--Lower Animals not Exempt
from Principle of Universal Application.--Fishing.--Hunting.--Catching
Horse.--Professor Bowne's Psychological View.--No Place for Lying
in God's Universe.--Small Improvement on Chrysostom's Argument for
Lying.--Limits of Consistency in Logical Plea.--God, or Satan.



One All-Dividing Line.--Primal and Eternal Difference.--Lie Inevitably
Hostile to God.--Lying Separates from God.--Sin _per se_.--Perjury
Justifiable if Lying be Justifiable.--Lying--Lying Defiles Liar,
apart from Questions of Gain in Lying.--Social Evils Resultant from
Lying.--Confidence Essential to Society.--Lying Destructive of
Confidence.--Lie Never Harmless.





Whether a lie is ever justifiable, is a question that has been in
discussion, not only in all the Christian centuries, but ever since
questions concerning human conduct were first a possibility. On
the one hand, it has been claimed that a lie is by its very nature
irreconcilable with the eternal principles of justice and right; and,
on the other hand, it has been asserted that great emergencies may
necessitate a departure from all ordinary rules of human conduct, and
that therefore there may be, in an emergency, such a thing as the "lie
of necessity."

It is not so easy to consider fairly a question like this in the hour
when vital personal interests pivot on the decision, as it is in a
season of rest and safety; yet, if in a time of extremest peril the
unvarying duty of truthfulness shines clearly through an atmosphere of
sore temptation, that light may be accepted as diviner because of its
very power to penetrate clouds and to dispel darkness. Being forced to
consider, in an emergency, the possible justification of the so-called
"lie of necessity," I was brought to a settlement of that question in
my own mind, and have since been led to an honest endeavor to bring
others to a like settlement of it. Hence this monograph.

In the summer of 1863 I was a prisoner of war in Columbia, South
Carolina. The Federal prisoners were confined in the common jail,
under military guard, and with no parole binding them not to attempt
an escape. They were subject to the ordinary laws of war. Their
captors were responsible for their detention in imprisonment, and it
was their duty to escape from captivity, and to return to the army of
the government to which they owed allegiance, if they could do so by
any right means. No obligations were on them toward their captors,
save those which are binding at all times, even when a state of war
suspends such social duties as are merely conventional.

Only he who has been a prisoner of war in a Southern prison in
midsummer, or in a Northern prison in the dead of winter, in time of
active hostilities outside, can fully realize the heart-longings of a
soldier prisoner to find release from his sufferings in confinement,
and to be again at his post of duty at the front, or can understand
how gladly such a man would find a way, consistent with the right, to
escape, at any involved risk. But all can believe that plans of escape
were in frequent discussion among the restless Federal prisoners in
Columbia, of whom I was one.

A plan proposed to me by a fellow-officer seemed to offer peculiar
chances of success, and I gladly joined in it. But as its fuller
details were considered, I found that a probable contingency would
involve the telling of a lie to an enemy, or a failure of the
whole plan. At this my moral sense recoiled; and I expressed my
unwillingness to tell a lie, even to regain my personal liberty or
to advantage my government by a return to its army. This opened an
earnest discussion of the question whether there is such a thing as a
"lie of necessity," or a justifiable lie. My friend was a pure-minded
man of principle, ready to die for his convictions; and he looked at
this question with a sincere desire to know the right, and to conform
to it. He argued that a condition of war suspended ordinary social
relations between the combatants, and that the obligation of
truth-speaking was one of the duties thus suspended. I, on the other
hand, felt that a lie was necessarily a sin against God, and therefore
was never justifiable.

My friend asked me whether I would hesitate to kill an enemy who was
on guard over me, or whom I met outside, if it were essential to our
escape. I replied that I would not hesitate to do so, any more than I
would hesitate at it if we were over against each other in battle.
In time of war the soldiers of both sides take the risks of a
life-and-death struggle; and now that we were unparoled prisoners it
was our duty to escape if we could do so, even at the risk of our
lives or of the lives of our captors, and it was their duty to
prevent our escape at a similar risk. My friend then asked me on what
principle I could justify the taking of a man's life as an enemy, and
yet not feel justified in telling him a lie in order to save his life
and secure our liberty. How could it be claimed that it was more of a
sin to tell a lie to a man who had forfeited his social rights, than
to kill him. I confessed that I could not at that time see the reason
for the distinction, which my moral sense assured me was a real one,
and I asked time to think of it. Thus it was that I came first to face
a question of the ages, Is a lie ever justifiable? under circumstances
that involved more than life to me, and when I had a strong inducement
to see the force of reasons in favor of a "lie of necessity."

In my careful study, at that time, of the principles involved in this
question, I came upon what seemed to me the conclusion of the whole
matter. God is the author of life. He who gives life has the right to
take it again. What God can do by himself, God can authorize another
to do. Human governments derive their just powers from God. The powers
that be are ordained of God. A human government acts for God in the
administering of justice, even to the extent of taking life. If a
war waged by a human government be righteous, the officers of that
government take life, in the prosecution of the war, as God's agents.
In the case then in question, we who were in prison as Federal
officers were representatives of our government, and would be
justified in taking the lives of enemies of our government who
hindered us as God's agents in the doing of our duty to God and to our

On the other hand, God, who can justly take life, cannot lie. A lie
is contrary to the very nature of God. "It is impossible for God to
lie."[1] And if God cannot lie, God cannot authorize another to lie.
What is unjustifiable in God's sight, is without a possibility of
justification in the universe. No personal or social emergency can
justify a lie, whatever may be its apparent gain, or whatever harm may
seem to be involved in a refusal to speak it. Therefore we who were
Federal prisoners in war-time could not be justified in doing what
was a sin _per se_, and what God was by his very nature debarred
from authorizing or approving. I could see no way of evading
this conclusion, and I determinedly refused to seek release from
imprisonment at the cost of a sin against God.

[Footnote 1: Heb. 6: 18]

At this time I had no special familiarity with ethics as a study, and
I was unacquainted with the prominence of the question of the "lie
of necessity" in that realm of thought. But on my return from army
service, with my newly awakened interest in the subject, I came to
know how vigorous had been its discussion, and how varied had been the
opinions with reference to it, among philosophic thinkers in all
the centuries; and I sought to learn for myself what could be known
concerning the principles involved in this question, and their
practical application to the affairs of human life. And now, after all
these years of study and thought, I venture to make my contribution
to this phase of Christian ethics, in an exhibit of the facts and
principles which have gone to confirm the conviction of my own
moral sense, when first I was called to consider this question as a



The habit of lying is more or less common among primitive peoples, as
it is among those of higher cultivation; but it is of interest to note
that widely, even among them, the standard of truthfulness as a duty
is recognized as the correct standard, and lying is, in theory at
least, a sin. The highest conception of right observable among
primitive peoples, and not the average conformity to that standard in
practice, is the true measure of right in the minds of such peoples.
If we were to look at the practices of such men in times of
temptation, we might be ready to say sweepingly with the Psalmist, in
his impulsiveness, "I said in my haste, All men are liars!"[1] But if
we fixed our minds on the loftiest conception of truthfulness as an
invariable duty, recognized by races of men who are notorious as
liars, we should see how much easier it is to have a right standard
than to conform to it.

[Footnote 1: Psa. 116: II.]

A careful observer of the people of India, who was long a resident
among them,[1] says: "More systematic, more determined, liars, than
the people of the East, cannot, in my opinion, be found in the world.
They often utter falsehoods without any apparent reason; and even when
truth would be an advantage, they will not tell it.... Yet, strange to
say, some of their works and sayings represent a falsehood as almost
the unpardonable sin. Take the following for an example: 'The sin of
killing a Brahman is as great as that of killing a hundred cows; and
the sin of killing a hundred cows is as great as that of killing a
woman; the sin of killing a hundred women is as great as that of
killing a child in the womb; and the sin of killing a hundred
[children] in the womb is as great as that of telling a lie.'"

[Footnote 1: Joseph Roberts, in his _Oriental Illustrations_, p. 580.]

The Mahabharata is one of the great epics of ancient India. It
contains a history of a war between two rival families, or peoples,
and its text includes teachings with reference to "everything that it
concerned a cultivated Hindoo to know." The heroes in this recorded
war, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, are in the habit of lying
without stint; yet there is evidence that they recognized the sin of
lying even to an enemy in time of war, and when a decisive advantage
might be gained by it. At a point in the combat when Yudhishthira, a
leader of the Pandavas, was in extremity in his battling with Drona, a
leader of the Kauravas, the divine Krishna told Yudhishthira that, if
he would tell Drona (for in these mythical contests the combatants
were usually within speaking distance of each other) that his loved
"son Aswatthanea was dead, the old warrior would immediately lay down
his arms and become an easy prey." But Yudhishthira "had never been
known to tell a falsehood," and in this instance he "utterly refused
to tell a lie, even to secure the death of so powerful an enemy." [1]
Although it came about that Drona was, as a matter of fact, defeated
by treachery, the sin of lying, even in time of war, and to an enemy,
is clearly brought out as a recognized principle of both theory and
action among the ancient Hindoos.

[Footnote 1: See Wheeler's _History of India_, I., 321.]

There is a famous passion-play popular in Southern India and Ceylon,
which illustrates the Hindoo ideal of truthfulness at every risk or
cost. Viswamitra, the tempter and accuser as represented in the Vedas,
appears in the council of the gods, face to face with Indra. The
question is raised by Indra, who is the most virtuous sovereign on
earth. He asks, "What chief of mortals is there, who has never told
a lie?" Harischandra, king of Ayodiah (Oude) is named as such a
man. Viswamitra denies it. It is agreed (as in the testing of Job,
according to the Bible story) that Viswamitra may employ any means
whatsoever for the inducing of Harischandra to lie, unhindered by
Indra or any other god. If he succeeds in his effort, he shall secure
to himself all the merit of the good deeds of Harischandra; but if
Harischandra cannot be induced to lie, Viswamitra must add half his
merit to that of Harischandra.[1]

[Footnote 1: Arichandra, the Martyr of Truth: A Tamil Drama translated
into English by Muta Coomâra Swâmy; cited in Conway's _Demonology and
Devil Lore_, II., 35-43.]

First, Viswamitra induces Harischandra to become the custodian of a
fabulous treasure, with a promise to deliver it up when called
for. Then he brings him into such a strait that he must give up to
Viswamitra all his possessions, including that treasure and his
kingdom, in order to retain his personal virtue. After this,
Viswamitra demands the return by Harischandra of the gold which
has been already surrendered, claiming that its surrender was not
according to the contract. In this emergency Viswamitra suggests, that
if Harischandra will only deny that he owes this amount to his enemy
the debt shall at once be canceled. "Such a declaration I can never
make," says Harischandra. "I owe thee the gold, and pay it I will."

From this time forward the efforts of Viswamitra are directed to
the inducing of Harischandra to say that he is not in debt to his
adversary; but in every trial Harischandra refuses to tell a lie.
His only son dies in the desert. He and his wife are in poverty
and sorrow; while all the time he is told that his kingdom and his
treasures shall be restored to him, if he will tell only one lie. At
last his wife is condemned to death on a false accusation, and he is
appointed, by the sovereign of the land where she and he have been
sold as slaves, to be her executioner. She calls on him to do his
duty, and strike off her head. Just then Viswamitra appears to him,
saying: "Wicked man, spare her! Tell a lie even now, and be restored
to your former state!"

Harischandra's answer is: "Even though thou didst offer to me
the throne of Indra, I would not tell a lie." And to his wife,
Chandravati, he says encouragingly: "This keen saber will do its duty.
Thou dead, thy husband dies too--this selfsame sword shall pierce my
breast.... Yes, let all men perish, let all gods cease to exist, let
the stars that shine above grow dim, let all seas be dried up, let
all mountains be leveled to the ground, let wars rage, blood flow in
streams, let millions of millions of Harischandras be thus persecuted;
yet let truth be maintained, let truth ride victorious over all, let
truth be the light,--truth alone the lasting solace of mortals and

As Harischandra strikes at the neck of Chandravati, "the sword,
instead of harming her, is transformed into a necklace of pearls,
which winds itself around her. The gods of heaven, all sages, and all
kings, appear suddenly to the view of Harischandra," and Siva, the
first of the gods, commends him for his fidelity to truth, and tells
him that his dead son shall be brought again to life, and his kingdom
and treasures and honors shall be restored to him. And thus the story
of Harischandra stands as a rebuke to the Christian philosopher who
could suppose that God, or the gods, would co-work with a man who
acted on the supposition that there is such an anomaly in the universe
as "a lie of necessity."

The old Scandinavian heroes were valiant in war, but they held that
a lie was not justifiable under any pressure of an emergency. Their
Valhalla heaven was the home of those who had fought bravely; but
there was no place for liars in it. A fine illustration of their
conception of the unvarying duty of truthfulness is given in the saga
of Fridthjof. Fridthjof, heroic son of Thorstein, loved Ingeborg,
daughter of his father's friend, King Bele. Ingeborg's brother Helge,
successor to his father's throne, opposed the match, and shut her up
within the sacred enclosure of the god Balder. Fridthjof ventured
within the forbidden ground, in order to pledge to her his manly
troth. The lovers were pure in purpose and in act, but, if their
interview were known, they would both be permanently harmed in
reputation and in standing. A rumor of their secret meeting was
circulated, and Fridthjof was summoned before the council of heroes to
answer to the charge. If ever a lie were justifiable, it would seem to
be when a pure woman's honor was at stake, and when a hero's happiness
and power for good pivoted on it. Fridthjof tells to Ingeborg the
story of his sore temptation when, in the presence of the council,
Helge challenges his course.

    "'Say, Fridthjof, Balder's peace hast thou not broken, Not seen my
    sister in his house while Day Concealed himself, abashed, before
    your meeting? Speak! yea or nay!' Then echoed from the ring Of
    crowded warriors, 'Say but nay, say nay! Thy simple word we'll
    trust; we'll court for thee,--Thou, Thorstein's son, art good
    as any king's. Say nay! say nay! and thine is Ingeborg!' 'The
    happiness,' I answered, 'of my life On one word hangs; but fear
    not therefore, Helge! I would not lie to gain the joys of Valhal,
    Much less this earth's delights. I've seen thy sister, Have spoken
    with her in the temple's night, But have not therefore broken
    Balder's peace!' More none would hear. A murmur of deep horror The
    diet traversed; they who nearest stood Drew back, as I had with
    the plague been smitten."[1]

[Footnote 1: Anderson's _Viking Tales of the North_, p. 223.]

And so, because Fridthjof would not lie, he lost his bride and became
a wanderer from his land, and Ingeborg became the wife of another;
and this record is to this day told to the honor of Fridthjof,
in accordance with the standard of the North in the matter of

In ancient Persia, the same high standard prevailed. Herodotus says of
the Persians: "The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think,
is to tell a lie; the next worse, to owe a debt; because, among other
reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies."[1] "Their sons are
carefully instructed, from their fifth to their twentieth year, in
three things alone,--to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the
truth."[2] Here the one duty in the realm of morals is truth-telling.
In the famous inscription of Darius, the son of Hystaspes, on the Rock
of Behistun,[3] there are repeated references to lying as the chief of
sins, and to the evil time when lying was introduced into Persia, and
"the lie grew in the provinces, in Persia as well as in Media and in
the other provinces." Darius claims to have had the help of "Ormuzd
and the other gods that may exist," because he "was not wicked, nor a
liar;" and he enjoins it on his successor to "punish severely him who
is a liar or a rebel."

[Footnote 1: Rawlinson's _Herodotus_, Bk. I., § 139.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., Bk. I., § 136.]

[Footnote 3: Sayce's _Introduction to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther_, pp.

The Zoroastrian designation of heaven was the "Home of Song;"
while hell was known as the "Home of the Lie."[1] There was in the
Zoroastrian thought only two rival principles in the universe,
represented by Ormuzd and Ahriman, as the God of truth, and the father
of lies; and the lie was ever and always an offspring of Ahriman, the
evil principle: it could not emanate from or be consistent with the
God of truth. The same idea was manifest in the designation of the
subordinate divinities of the Zoroastrian religion. Mithra was the god
of light, and as there is no concealment in the light, Mithra was also
god of truth. A liar was the enemy of righteousness.[2]

[Footnote 1: Müller's _Sacred Books of the East_, XXXI., 184.]

[Footnote 2: Müller's _Sacred Books of the East_, XXIII., 119 f.,
124 f., 128, 139. See reference to Jackson's paper on "the ancient
Persians' abhorrence of falsehood, illustrated from the Avesta," in
_Journal of Am. Oriental Soc_., Vol. XIII., p. cii.]

"Truth was the main cardinal virtue among the Egyptians," and
"falsehood was considered disgraceful among them."[1] Ra and Ma were
symbols of Light and Truth; and their representation was worn on the
breastplate of priest and judge, like the Urim and Thummim of the
Hebrews.[2] When the soul appeared in the Hall of Two Truths, for
final judgment, it must be able to say, "I have not told a falsehood,"
or fail of acquittal.[3] Ptah, the creator, a chief god of the
Egyptians, was called "Lord of Truth."[4] The Egyptian conception of
Deity was: "God is the truth, he lives by truth, he lives upon
the truth, he is the king of truth."[5] The Egyptians, like the
Zoroastrians, seemed to count the one all-dividing line in the
universe the line between truth and falsehood, between light and

[Footnote 1: Wilkinson's _Ancient Egyptians_, I., 299; III., 183-185.]

[Footnote 2: Exod. 39: 8-21; Lev. 8: 8.]

[Footnote 3: Bunsen's _Egypt's Place in Universal History_, V., 254.]

[Footnote 4: Wilkinson's _Anc. Egyp_., III., 15-17.]

[Footnote 5: Budge's _The Dwellers on the Nile_, p. 131.]

Among the ancient Greeks the practice of lying was very general,
so general that writers on the social life of the Greeks have been
accustomed to give a low place relatively to that people in its
estimate of truthfulness as a virtue. Professor Mahaffy says on this
point: "At no period did the nation ever attain that high standard
which is the great feature in Germanic civilization. Even the Romans,
with all their coarseness, stood higher in this respect. But neither
in Iliad nor in Odyssey is there, except in phrases, any reprobation
of deceit as such." He points to the testimony of Cicero, concerning
the Greeks, who "concedes to them all the high qualities they choose
to claim save one--that of truthfulness."[1] Yet the very way in which
Herodotus tells to the credit of the Persians that they allowed
no place for the lie in their ethics[2] seems to indicate his
apprehension of a higher standard of veracity than that which was
generally observed among his own people. Moreover, in the Iliad,
Achilles is represented as saying: "Him I hate as I do the gates of
Hades, who hides one thing in his heart and utters another;" and it
is the straightforward Achilles, rather than "the wily and shiftful
Ulysses," who is the admired hero of the Greeks.[3] Plato asserts, and
argues in proof of his assertion, that "the veritable lie ... is hated
by all gods and men." He includes in the term "veritable lie," or
"genuine lie," a lie in the soul as back of the spoken lie, and he
is sure that "the divine nature is incapable of a lie," and that in
proportion as the soul of a man is conformed to the divine image,
the man "will speak, act, and live in accordance with the truth."[4]
Aristotle, also, while recognizing different degrees of veracity,
insists that the man who is in his soul a lover of truth will be
truthful even when he is tempted to swerve from the truth. "For the
lover of truth, who is truthful where nothing is at stake [or where it
makes no difference], will yet more surely be truthful where there is
a stake [or where it does make a difference]; for he will [then] shun
the lie as shameful, since he shuns it simply because it is a lie."[5]
And, again, "Falsehood abstractly is bad and blamable, and truth
honorable and praiseworthy; and thus the truthful man being in
the mean is praiseworthy, while the false [in either extreme,
of overstating or of understating] are both blamable, but the
exaggerating man more so than the other."[6]

[Footnote 1: Mahaffy's _Social Life in Greece_, pp. 27, 123. See also
Fowler's _Principles of Morals_, II., 219-221.]

[Footnote 2: _Hist_., Bk. I., §139.]

[Footnote 3: Professor Fowler seems to be quite forgetful of this
fact. He speaks of Ulysses as if he had precedence of Achilles in the
esteem of the Greeks. See his _Principles of Morals_, II., 219.]

[Footnote 4: Plato's _Republic_, II., 382, a, b.]

[Footnote 5: Aristotle's _Eth. Nic_., IV., 13, 1127, a, b.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., IV.]

Theognis recognizes this high ideal of the duty and the beauty of
truthfulness, when he says: "At first there is a small attractiveness
about a lie, but in the end the gain it brings is both shameful and
harmful. That man has no fair glory, in whose heart dwells a lie, and
from whose mouth it has once issued."[1]

[Footnote 1: Theognis, 607.]

Pindar looks toward the same standard when he says to Hiero,
"Forge thy tongue on the anvil of truth;"[1] and when he declares
emphatically, "I will not stain speech with a lie."[2] So, again, when
his appeal to a divinity is: "Thou that art the beginning of lofty
virtue, Lady Truth, forbid thou that my poem [or composition] should
stumble against a lie, harsh rock of offense."[3] In his tragedy of
the Philoctetes, Sophocles makes the whole play pivot on the remorse
of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, over his having lied to Philoctetes
(who is for the time being an enemy of the Greeks), in order to secure
through him the killing of Paris and the overthrow of Troy. The lie
was told at the instigation of Ulysses; but Neoptolemus repents its
utterance, and refuses to take advantage of it, even though the fate
of Troy and the triumph of Greek arms depend on the issue. The plain
teaching of the tragedy is that "the purposes of heaven are not to
be served by a lie; and that the simplicity of the young son of
truth-loving Achilles is better in the sight of heaven, even when
it seems to lead to failure, than all the cleverness of guileful

[Footnote 1: Pythian Ode, I, 86.]

[Footnote 2: Olympian Ode, 4, 16.]

[Footnote 3: Bergk's _Pindar_, 183 [221].]

[Footnote 4: Professor Lamberton]

It is admitted on all hands that the Romans and the Germans had a high
ideal as to the duty of truthfulness and the sin of lying.[1] And so
it was in fact with all peoples which had any considerable measure of
civilization in former ages. It is a noteworthy fact that the duty of
veracity is often more prominent among primitive peoples than among
the more civilized, and that, correspondingly, lying is abhorred as a
vice, or seems to be unknown as an expedient in social intercourse.
This is not always admitted in the theories of writers on morals, but
it would seem to be borne out by an examination into the facts of
the case. Lecky, in his study of "the natural history of morals,"[2]
claims that veracity "usually increases with civilization," and he
seeks to show why it is so. But this view of Lecky's is an unfounded
assumption, in support of which he proffers no evidence; while Herbert
Spencer's exhibit of facts, in his "Cyclopaedia of Descriptive
Sociology," seems to disprove the claim of Lecky; and he directly
asserts that "surviving remnants of some primitive races in India have
natures in which truthfulness seems to be organic; that not only to
the surrounding Hindoos, higher intellectually and relatively advanced
in culture, are they in this respect far superior, but they are
superior to Europeans."[3]

[Footnote 1: See Fowler's _Principles of Morals_, II., 220; also
Mahaffy's _Social Life in Greece_, p. 27. Note, for instance, the high
standard as to truthfulness indicated by Cicero, in his "Offices,"
III., 12-17, 32. "Pretense and dissimulation ought to be banished
from the whole of life." "Reason ... requires that nothing be done
insidiously, nothing dissemblingly, nothing falsely." Note, also,
Juvenal, Satire XIII., as to the sin of a lie purposed, even if not
spoken; and Marcus Aurelius in his "Thoughts," Book IX.: "He ... who
lies is guilty of impiety to the same [highest] divinity." "He, then,
who lies intentionally is guilty of impiety, inasmuch as he acts
unjustly by deceiving; and he also who lies unintentionally, inasmuch
as he is at variance with the universal nature, and inasmuch as he
disturbs the order by fighting against the nature of the world; for he
fights against it, who is moved of himself to that which is contrary
to truth, for he had received powers from nature through the neglect
of which he is not able now to distinguish falsehood from truth."]

[Footnote 2: _History of European Morals_, I., 143.]

[Footnote 3: See Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234 ff.;
also his _Inductions of Ethics_, p. 405 f.]

Among those Hill Tribes of India which have been most secluded, and
which have retained the largest measure of primitive life and customs,
fidelity to truth in speech and act is still the standard, and a lie
is abhorrent to the normal instincts of the race. Of the Khonds of
Central India it is said that they, "in common with many other wild
races, bear a singular character for truthfulness and honesty;"[1] and
that especially "the aborigine is the most truthful of beings."[2]
"The Khonds believe that truthfulness is one of the most sacred of
duties imposed by the gods."[3] "They are men of one word."[4] "The
truth is by a Sonthals held sacred." [5] The Todas "call falsehood one
of the worst of vices."[6] Although it is said by one traveler that
the Todas "practice dissimulation toward Europeans, yet he recognizes
this as a trait consequent on their intercourse with Europeans."[7]
The Bheels, which were said to be "a race of unmitigated savages,
without any sense of natural religion." [8] and "which have preserved
their rude habits and manners to the present day," are "yet imbued
with a sense of truth and honor strangely at contrast with their
external character."[9] Bishop Heber says that "their word is more to
be depended on than that of their conquerors."[10] Of the Sowrahs it
is said: "A pleasing feature in their character is their complete
truthfulness. They do not know how to tell a lie."[11] Indeed, as Mr.
Spencer sums up the case on this point, there are Hill Tribes in India
"originally distinguished by their veracity, but who are rendered less
veracious by contact with the whites. 'So rare is lying among these
aboriginal races when unvitiated by the 'civilized,' that of those in
Bengal, Hunter singles out the Tipperahs as 'the only Hill Tribe in
which this vice is met with.'"[12]

[Footnote 1: Glasfurd, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 32.]

[Footnote 2: Forsyth, _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 3: Macpherson, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 5: Sherwill, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 6: Harkness, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 31.]

[Footnote 7: Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234.]

[Footnote 8: Marshman, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., V., 31.]

[Footnote 9: Wheeler, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 10: Cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 11: Shortt, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 12: Spencer's _Principles of Sociology_, II., 234 ff.]

The Arabs are more truthful in their more primitive state than where
they are influenced by "civilization," or by dealings with those from
civilized communities.[1] And the same would seem to be true of the
American Indians.[2] Of the Patagonians it is said: "A lie with them
is held in detestation." [3] "The word of a Hottentot is sacred;" and
the good quality of "a rigid adherence to truth," "he is master of in
an eminent degree."[4] Dr. Livingstone says that lying was known to
be a sin by the East Africans "before they knew aught of Europeans or
their teaching."[5] And Mungo Park says of the Mandingoes, among the
inland Africans, that, while they seem to be thieves by nature,"
one of the first lessons in which the Mandingo women instruct their
children is _the practice of truth_." The only consolation of a mother
whose son had been murdered, "was the reflection that the poor boy, in
the course of his blameless life, _had never told a lie_."[6] Richard
Burton is alone among modern travelers in considering lying natural to
all primitive or savage peoples. Carl Bock, like other travelers,
testifies to the unvarying truthfulness of the Dyaks in Borneo,[7] and
another observant traveler tells of the disgrace that attaches to a lie
in that land, as shown by the "lying heaps" of sticks or stones along
the roadside here and there. "Each heap is in remembrance of some man
who has told a stupendous lie, or failed in carrying out an engagement;
and every passer-by takes a stick or a stone to add to the accumulation,
saying at the time he does it, 'For So-and-so's lying heap.' It goes on
for generations, until they sometimes forget who it was that told the
lie, but, notwithstanding that, they continue throwing the stones."[8]
What a blocking of the paths of civilization there would be if a "lying
heap" were piled up wherever a lie had been told, or a promise had
been broken, by a child of civilization!

[Footnote 1: Denham, and Palgrave, cited in _Cycl. of Des. Social_.,
V., 30,31.]

[Footnote 2: See Morgan's _League of the Iroquois_, p. 335; also
Schoolcraft, and Keating, on the Chippewas, cited in _Cycl. of
Descrip. Sociol_., VI., 30.]

[Footnote 3: Snow, cited in _Ibid_.]

[Footnote 4: Kolben, and Barrow, cited in _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_.,
IV., 25.]

[Footnote 5: _Cycl. of Descrip. Sociol_., IV., 26.]

[Footnote 6: _Cycl. of Descrip. Social_., IV., 27.]

[Footnote 7: _Head Hunters of Borneo_, p. 209. See also Boyle, cited
in Spencer's _Cycl. of Descrip. Social_., III., 35.]

[Footnote 8: St. John's _Life in the Forests of the Far East_, I., 88

The Veddahs of Ceylon, one of the most primitive of peoples, "are
proverbially truthful."[1] The natives of Java are peculiarly free
from the vice of lying, except in those districts which have had most
intercourse with Europeans.[2]

[Footnote 1: Bailey, cited in Spencer's _Cycl. of Descrip. Social_.,
III., 32.]

[Footnote 2: Earl, and Raffles, cited in _Ibid_., p. 35.]

It is found, in fact, that in all the ages, the world over, primitive
man's highest ideal conception of deity has been that of a God who
could not tolerate a lie; and his loftiest standard of human action
has included the readiness to refuse to tell a lie under any
inducement, or in any peril, whether it be to a friend or to an enemy.
This is the teaching of ethnic conceptions on the subject. The lie
would seem to be a product of civilization, or an outgrowth of the
spirit of trade and barter, rather than a natural impulse of primitive
man. It appeared in full flower and fruitage in olden time among the
commercial Phoenicians, so prominently that "Punic faith" became a
synonym of falsehood in social dealings.

Yet it is in the face of facts like these that a writer like Professor
Fowler baldly claims, in support of the same presupposed theory as
that of Lecky, that "it is probably owing mainly to the development of
commerce, and to the consequent necessity, in many cases, of absolute
truthfulness, that veracity has come to take the prominent position
which it now occupies among the virtues; though the keen sense of
honor, engendered by chivalry, may have had something to do in
bringing about the same result."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Principles of Morality_, II., 220.]



In looking at the Bible for light in such an investigation as this,
it is important to bear in mind that the Bible is not a collection of
specific rules of conduct, but rather a book of principles
illustrated in historic facts, and in precepts based on those
principles,--announced or presupposed. The question, therefore, is
not, Does the Bible authoritatively draw a line separating the truth
from a lie, and making the truth to be always right, and a lie to
be always wrong? but it is, Does the Bible evidently recognize an
unvarying and ever-existing distinction between a truth and a lie, and
does the whole sweep of its teachings go to show that in God's sight
a lie, as by its nature opposed to the truth and the right, is always

The Bible opens with a picture of the first pair in Paradise, to whom
God tells the simple truth, and to whom the enemy of man tells a lie;
and it shows the ruin of mankind wrought by that lie, and the author
of the lie punished because of its telling.[1] The Bible closes with a
picture of Paradise, into which are gathered the lovers and doers of
truth, and from which is excluded "every one that loveth and doeth a
lie;"[2] while "all liars" are to have their part "in the lake that
burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."[3] In the
Old Testament and in the New, God is represented as himself the Truth,
to whom, by his very nature, the doing or the speaking of a lie is
impossible,[4] while Satan is represented as a liar and as the "father
of lies."[5]

[Footnote 1: Gen. 2, 3.]

[Footnote 2: Rev. 22.]

[Footnote 3: Rev. 21: 5-8.]

[Footnote 4: Psa. 31:5; 146:6; John 14:6; Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29;
Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; 1 John 5:7.]

[Footnote 5: John 8:44.]

While the human servants of God, as represented in the Bible
narrative, are in many instances guilty of lying, their lies are
clearly contrary to the great principle, in the light of which the
Bible itself is written, that a lie is always wrong, and that it
cannot have justification in God's sight. The idea of the Bible record
is that God is true, though every man were a liar.[1] God is uniformly
represented as opposed to lies and to liars, and a lie in his sight is
spoken of as a lie unto him, or as a lie against him. In the few cases
where the Bible narrative has been thought by some to indicate an
approval by the Lord of a lie, that was told, as it were, in his
interest, an examination of the facts will show that they offer no
exception to the rule that, by the Bible standard, a lie is never

[Footnote 1: Rom. 3:4.]

Take, for example, the case of the Hebrew midwives, who lied to the
officials of Pharaoh, when they were commanded to kill every Hebrew
male child;[1] and of whom it is said that "God dealt well with the
midwives;... and ... because the midwives feared God,... he made them
houses."[2] Here it is plain that God commended their fear of him,
not their lying in behalf of his people, and that it was "because
the midwives feared God" not because they lied, "that he made them
houses." It was their choice of the Lord above the gods and rulers of
Egypt that won them the approval of the Lord, even though they were
sinners in being liars; as in an earlier day it was the approval of
Jacob's high estimate of the birthright, and not the deceits practiced
by him on Esau and his father Isaac, that the Lord showed in
confirming a blessing to Jacob.[3]

[Footnote 1: Exod. 1: 15-19.]

[Footnote 2: Exod. I: 20, 21.]

[Footnote 3: Gen. 25: 27-34; 27; 1-40; 28: 1-22]

So, also, in the narrative of Rahab, the Canaanitish young woman, who
concealed the Israelitish spies sent into her land by Joshua, and lied
about them to her countrymen, and who was commended by the Lord for
her faith in this transaction.[1] Rahab was a harlot by profession and
a liar by practice. When the Hebrew spies entered Jericho, they went
to her house as a place of common resort. Rahab, on learning who they
were, expressed her readiness, sinner as she was, to trust the God of
Israel rather than the gods of Canaan; and because of her trust she
put herself, with all her heathen habits of mind and conduct, at
the disposal of the God of Israel, and she lied, as she had been
accustomed to lie, to her own people, as a means of securing safety
to her Hebrew visitors. Because of her faith, which was shown in this
way, but not necessarily because of her way of showing her faith, the
Lord approved of her spirit in choosing his service rather than the
service of the gods of her people. The record of her approval is, "By
faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient,
having received the spies with peace."[2]

[Footnote 1: Josh. 2: 1-21.]

[Footnote 2: Heb. II: 31.]

It would be quite as fair to claim that God approved of Rahab's
harlotry, in this case, as to claim that he approved of her lying.
Rahab was a harlot and a liar, and she was ready to practice in both
these lines in the service of the spies. She was not to be commended
for either of those vices; but she was to be commended in that, with
all her vices, she was yet ready to give herself just as she was, and
with her ways as they were, to Jehovah's side, in the crisis hour of
conflict between him and the gods of her people. It was the faith that
prompted her to this decision that God commended; and "by faith" she
was preserved from destruction when her people perished.

Another case that has been thought to imply a divine approval of an
untrue statement, is that of Samuel, when he went to Bethlehem to
anoint David as Saul's successor on the throne of Israel, and, at the
Lord's command, said he had come to offer a sacrifice to God.[1] But
here clearly the narrative shows no lie, nor false statement, made or
approved. Samuel, as judge and prophet, was God's representative in
Israel. He was accustomed to go from place to place in the line of his
official ministry, including the offering at times of sacrifices of
communion.[2] When, on this occasion, the Lord told Samuel of his
purpose of designating a son of Jesse to succeed Saul on the throne,
and desired him to go to Bethlehem for further instructions, Samuel
was unnecessarily alarmed, and said, in his fear, "How can I go? if
Saul hear it, he will kill me." The Lord's simple answer was, "Take
an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. And
call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do:
and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee."

[Footnote 1: 1 Sam. 16: 1-3.]

[Footnote 2: 1 Sam. 7: 15-17; 9: 22-24; 11: 14,15; 20:29.]

In other words, the Lord said to Samuel, I want you to go to
Bethlehem as my representative, and offer a sacrifice there. Say this
fearlessly. In due time I will give you other directions; but do not
borrow trouble on account of them. Do your duty step by step. Speak
out the plain truth as to all that the authorities of Bethlehem have
any right to know; and do not fear any harm through my subsequent
private revelations to you. In these directions of the Lord there is
no countenance of the slightest swerving from the truth by Samuel;
nor is there an authorized concealment of any fact that those to whom
Samuel was sent had any claim to know.

Still another Bible incident that has been a cause of confusion to
those who did not see how God could approve lying, and a cause of
rejoicing to those who wanted to find evidence of his justification
of that practice, is the story of the prophet Micaiah, saying before
Jehoshaphat and Ahab that the Lord had put a lying spirit into the
mouths of all the false prophets who were at that time before
those kings.[1] Herbert Spencer actually cites this incident as an
illustration of the example set before the people of Israel, by their
God, of lying as a means of accomplishing a desired end.[2] But just
look at the story as it stands!

[Footnote 1: 1 Kings 22: 1-23; 2 Chron. 18: 1-34.]

[Footnote 2: _The Inductions of Ethics_, p. 158.]

Four hundred of Ahab's prophets were ready to tell him that a campaign
which he wanted to enter upon would be successful. Micaiah, an honest
prophet of the Lord, was sent for at Jehoshaphat's request, and was
urged by the messenger to prophesy to the same effect as Ahab's
prophets. Micaiah replied that he should give the Lord's message,
whether it was agreeable or not to Ahab. He came, and at first he
spoke satirically as if he agreed with the other prophets in deeming
the campaign a hopeful one. It was as though he said to the king, You
want me to aid you in your plans, not to give you counsel from the
Lord; therefore I will say, as your prophets have said, Go ahead, and
have success. It was evident, however, to Ahab, that the prophet's
words were not to be taken literally, but were a rebuke to him in
Oriental style, and therefore he told the prophet to give him the
Lord's message plainly. Then the prophet gave a parable, or a message
in Oriental guise, showing that these four hundred prophets of Ahab
were speaking falsely, as if inspired by a lying spirit, and that, if
Ahab followed their counsel, he would go to his ruin.

To cite this parable as a proof of Jehovah's commendation of lying is
an absurdity. Jehovah's prophet Micaiah was there before the
king, telling the simple truth to the king. And, in order to meet
effectively the claim of the false prophets that they were inspired,
he related, as it were, a vision, or a parable, in which he declared
that he had seen preparations making in heaven for their inspiring by
a lying spirit. This was, as every Oriental would understand it, a
parliamentary way of calling the four hundred prophets a pack of
liars; and the event proved that all of them were liars, and that
Micaiah alone, as Jehovah's prophet, was a truth-teller. What folly
could be greater than the attempt to count this public charge against
the lying prophets as an item of evidence in proof of the Lord's
responsibility for their lying--which the Lord's prophet took this
method of exposing and rebuking!

There are, indeed, various instances in the Bible story of lies told
by men who were in favor with God, where there is no ground for
claiming that those lies had approval with God. The men of the Bible
story are shown as men, with the sins and follies and weaknesses of
men. Their conduct is to be judged by the principles enunciated in the
Bible, and their character is to be estimated by the relation which
they sustained toward God in spite of their human infirmities.

Abraham is called the father of the faithful,[1] and he was known as
the friend of God.[2] But he indulged in the vice of concubinage,[3]
in accordance with the loose morals of his day and of his
surroundings; and when he was down in Egypt he lied through his
distrust of God, apparently thinking that there was such a thing as
a "lie of necessity," and he brought upon himself the rebuke of an
Egyptian king because of his lying.[4] But it would be folly to claim
that God approved of concubinage or of lying, because a man whom he
was saving was guilty of either of these vices. Isaac also lied,[5]
and so did Jacob;[6] but it was not because of their lies that these
men had favor with God. David was a man after God's own heart[7] in
his fidelity of spirit to God as the only true God, in contrast with
the gods of the nations round about Israel; but David lied,[8] as
David committed adultery.[9] It would hardly be claimed, however, that
either his adultery or his lying in itself made David a man after
God's own heart. So all along the Bible narrative, down to the time
when Ananias and Sapphira, prominent among the early Christians, lied
unto God concerning their very gifts into his treasury, and were
struck dead as a rebuke of their lying.[10]

[Footnote 1: Josh. 24:3; Isa. 51: 2; Matt. 3: 9; Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:9]

[Footnote 2: 2 Chron. 20: 7; Isa. 41: 8; Jas. 2: 23.]

[Footnote 3: Gen. 16: 1-6.]

[Footnote 4: Gen. 12: 10-19.]

[Footnote 5: Gen. 26: 6-10.]

[Footnote 6: Gen. 27: 6-29.]

[Footnote 7: 1 Sam. 11: 1-27]

[Footnote 8: 1 Sam. 21: 1,2.]

[Footnote 9: 2 Sam. 11: 1-27.]

[Footnote 10: Acts 5: 1-11.]

The whole sweep of Bible teaching is opposed to lying; and the
specific injunctions against that sin, as well as the calls to the
duty of truth-speaking, are illustrative of that sweep. "Ye shall not
steal; neither shall ye deal falsely, nor lie one to another,"[1] says
the Lord, in holding up the right standard before his children. "A
lying tongue" is said to be "an abomination" before the Lord.[2] "A
faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness breatheth out
lies,"[3] says Solomon, in marking the one all-dividing line of
character; and as to the results of lying he says, "He that breatheth
out lies shall not escape,"[4] and "he that breatheth out lies shall
perish."[5] And he adds the conclusion of wisdom, in view of the
supposed profit of lying, "A poor man is better than a liar;"[6] that
is, a truth-telling poor man is better than a rich liar.

[Footnote 1: Lev. 19:11.]

[Footnote 2: Prov. 6:16, 17.]

[Footnote 3: Prov. 14:5.]

[Footnote 4: Prov. 19:5.]

[Footnote 5: Prov. 19:9.]

[Footnote 6: Prov. 19:22.]

The inspired Psalms are full of such teachings: "The wicked are
estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born,
speaking lies."[1] "They delight in lies."[2] "The mouth of them that
speak lies shall be stopped."[3] "He that speaketh falsehood shall not
be established before mine [the Psalmist's] eyes."[4] And the Psalmist
prays, "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips."[5] In the New
Testament it is much the same as in the Old. "Lie not one to another;
seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings,"[6] is the
apostolic injunction; and again, "Speak ye truth each one with his
neighbor: for we are members one of another."[7] There is no place for
a lie in Bible ethics, under the earlier dispensation or the later.

[Footnote 1: Psa. 58:3.]

[Footnote 2: Psa. 62:4.]

[Footnote 3: Psa. 63:11.]

[Footnote 4: Psa. 101: 7.]

[Footnote 5: Psa. 120: 2.]

[Footnote 6: Col. 3: 9.]

[Footnote 7: Eph. 4: 25.]



It would seem to be clear that the Bible, and also the other sacred
books of the world, and the best moral sense of mankind everywhere,
are united in deeming a lie incompatible with the idea of a holy
God, and consistent only with the spirit of man's arch-enemy--the
embodiment of all evil. Therefore he who, admitting this, would find a
place in God's providential plan for a "lie of necessity" must begin
with claiming that there are lies which are not lies. Hence it is of
prime importance to define a lie clearly, and to distinguish it from
allowable and proper concealments of truth.

A lie, in its stricter sense, is the affirming, by word or by action,
of that which is not true, with a purpose of deceiving; or the
denying, by word or by action, of that which is true, with a purpose
of deceiving. But the suppressing or concealing of essential facts,
from one who is entitled to know them, with a purpose of deceiving,
may practically amount to a lie.

Obviously a lie may be by act, as really as by word; as when a man
is asked to tell the right road, and he silently points in the wrong
direction. Obviously, also, the intention or purpose of deceiving is
in the essence of the lie; for if a man says that which is not true,
supposing it to be true, he makes a misstatement, but he does not lie;
or, again, if he speaks an untruth playfully where no deception is
wrought or intended, as by saying, when the mercury is below zero,
that it is "good summer weather," there is no lie in the patent

So far all are likely to be agreed; but when it comes to the question
of that concealment which is in the realm of the lie, as distinct from
right and proper concealment, there is more difficulty in making
the lines of distinction clear to all minds. Yet those lines can be
defined, and it is important that they should be.

A witness on the stand in a court of law is bound by his oath, or his
affirmation, to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth," in the testimony that he gives in response to the questions
asked of him. If, therefore, in the course of his testimony, he
declares that he received five dollars for his share in a certain
transaction, when in reality he received five hundred dollars, his
concealment of the fact that he received a hundred times as much as he
admits having received, is practically a lie, and is culpable as such.
Any intentional concealment of essential facts in the matter at issue,
in his answers to questions asked of him as a witness, is a lie in

But a person who is not before a court of justice is not necessarily
bound to tell all the facts involved to every person whom he
addresses, or who desires to have him do so; and therefore, while a
concealment of facts which ought to be disclosed may be equivalent to
a lie, there is such a thing as the concealment of facts which is not
only allowable, but which is an unmistakable duty. And to know
when concealment is right, and when it is wrong, is to know when
concealment partakes of the nature of a lie, and when it is a totally
different matter.

Concealment, so far from being in itself a sin, is in itself right; it
is only in its misuse that it becomes reprehensible in a given case.
Concealment is a prime duty of man; as truly a duty as truth-speaking,
or chastity, or honesty. God, who cannot lie to his creatures,
conceals much from his creatures. "The secret things belong unto the
Lord our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to
our children for ever,"[1] says the author of Deuteronomy; and the
whole course of God's revelation to man is in accordance with this
announced principle of God's concealment of that which ought to be
concealed. He who is himself the revelation of God says to his chosen
disciples, even when he is speaking his latest words to them before
his death: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear
them now;"[2] and he conceals what, as yet, it is better for them
should remain concealed.

[Footnote 1: Deut. 29: 29.]

[Footnote 2: John 16:12.]

There is a profound meaning in the suggestion, in the Bible story of
man's "fall," that, when man had come to the knowledge of good and
evil, the first practical duty which he recognized as incumbent upon
himself, was the duty of concealment;[1] and from that day to this
that duty has been incumbent on him. Man has a duty to conceal his
besetting impurities of thought and inclinations to sin; to conceal
such of his doubts and fears as would dishearten others and weaken
himself by their expression; to conceal his unkindnesses of spirit and
his unjust prejudices of feeling; to conceal, in fact, whatever of his
innermost personality is liable to work harm by its disclosure, and to
a knowledge of which his fellows have no just claim. In the world as
it is, there is more to be concealed than to be disclosed in every
individual life; and concealment rather than disclosure is the rule of
personal action.

[Footnote 1: Gen. 3:6, 7.]

Absolute and unrestricted frankness in social intercourse would be
brutal. The speaking of the whole truth at all times and to everybody
could have neither justification nor excuse between man and man. We
have no right to tell our fellows all that we think of them, or
fear for them, or suspect them of. We have no right to betray the
confidences of those who trust us, or to disclose to all the fact that
we have such confidences to conceal. We have no right to let it be
generally known that there are such peculiar struggles within us as
make our lives a ceaseless battle with temptations and fears and
doubts. There is such a thing as an indecent exposure of personal
opinions, and as a criminal disclosure of the treasures of the inner
life.[1] How to conceal aright that which ought to be concealed, is
one of the vital questions of upright living.

[Footnote 1: See 2 Kings 20: 12-19.]

The duty of right concealment stands over against the sin of lying.
Whatever ought to be concealed, should be concealed, if concealment
is a possibility without sinning. But the strongest desire for
concealment can never justify a lie as a means of concealment; and
concealment at the cost of a lie becomes a sin through the means
employed for its securing. On the other hand, when disclosure is a
duty, concealment is sinful, because it is made to stand in the way of
the performance of a duty. Concealment is not in itself wrong, but it
may become wrong through its misuse. Lying is in itself wrong, and it
cannot be made right through any seeming advantage to be gained by it.

Concealment which is right in one instance may be wrong in another
instance, the difference being in the relations of the two parties in
the case. A man who has lost a leg or an eye may properly conceal
from others generally the fact of his loss by any legitimate means of
concealment. His defect is a purely personal matter. The public has
no claim upon him for all the facts in the premises. He may have an
artificial limb or an artificial eye, so constructed as to conceal his
loss from the ordinary observer. There is nothing wrong in this. It
is in the line of man's primal duty of concealment. But if a man
thus disabled were applying for a life-insurance policy, or were an
applicant for re-enlistment in the army, or were seeking employment
where bodily wholeness is a requisite, it would be his duty to
make known his defect; and the concealment of it from the parties
interested would be in the realm of the lie.

So, again, if a man were proposing marriage, or were entering into
confidential relations with a partner in business, or were seeking
financial aid from a bank, he would have no right to conceal from the
party interested many a fact which he could properly conceal from the

A man who would be justified in concealing from the general public
his mental troubles, or his business embarrassments, or his spiritual
perplexities, could not properly conceal the essential facts in the
case from his chosen adviser in medicine, or in law, or in matters of
religion. It is a man's duty to disclose the whole truth to him who
has a right to know the whole truth. It is a man's right, and it may
become his duty, to conceal a measure of the truth from one who is not
entitled to know that portion of the truth, so far as he can properly
make concealment. But as a lie is never justifiable, it is never a
proper means of concealment; and if concealment be, in any case, a
mode of lying, it is as bad as any other form of lying.

But concealment, even when it is of facts that others have no right to
know, may cause others to be deceived, and deliberate deceit is one
form of a lie. How, then, can concealment that is sure to result in
deception be free from the sin that invariably attaches to a lie in
any form, or of any nature whatsoever?

Concealment which is for the _purpose_ of deception, is one thing;
concealment which is only for the purpose of concealment, but which is
sure to _result_ in deception, is quite another thing. The one is not
justifiable, the other may be. In the one case it is a man's purpose
to deceive his fellow-man; in the other case it is simply his purpose
to conceal what his fellow-man has no right to know, and that
fellow-man receives a false impression, or deceives himself, in

We may, or we may not, be responsible for the obvious results of our
action; and the moral measure of any action depends on the measure of
our responsibility in the premises. A surgeon, who is engaged in an
important and critical operation, is told that he is wanted elsewhere
in a case of life and death. If he sees it to be his duty to continue
where he is because he cannot safely leave this case at this time, he
obviously is not responsible for results which come because of his
absence from the side of the other sufferer. A man is by a river bank
when a boy is sinking before his eyes. If the man were to reach out
his arms to him, the boy might be saved. But the man makes no movement
in the boy's behalf, and the boy drowns. It might seem as though that
man were responsible for that boy's death; but when it is known that
the man is at that moment occupied in saving the life of his own son,
who is also struggling in the water, it will have to be admitted that
the father is not responsible for the results of his inaction in
another sphere than that which is for the moment the sphere of his
imperative duty.

If a wife and mother has to choose between her loving ministry to her
sick husband and to her sick child, and she chooses that which she
sees to be the more important duty of the hour, she is not responsible
for any results that follow from her inability to be in two places at
the same time. A man with a limited income may know that ten families
are in need of money, while he can give help to only two of them. Even
though others starve while he is supplying food to all whom he can
aid, he is not responsible for results that flow from his decision to
limit his ministry to his means.

In all our daily life, our decision to do the one duty of the hour
involves our refusal to do what is not our duty, and we have no
responsibility for the results which come from such a refusal. So in
the matter of the duty of concealment, if a man simply purposes the
concealment from another of that which the other has no right to know,
and does not specifically affirm by word or act that which is not
true, nor deny by act or word that which is true, he is in no degree
responsible for the self-deception by another concerning a point which
is no proper concern of that other person.

Others are self-deceived with reference to us in many things, beyond
our responsibility or knowledge. We may be considered weaker or
stronger, wiser or more simple, younger or older, gladder or sadder,
than we are; but for the self-deception on that point by the average
observer we are not responsible. We may not even be aware of it. It
is really no concern of ours--or of our neighbor's. It is merely an
incident of human life as it is. We may have an aching tooth or
an aching heart, and yet refrain from disclosing this fact in the
expression of our face. In such a case we merely conceal what is our
own possession from those who have no claim to know it. Even though
they deceive themselves as to our condition in consequence of our
looks, we are not responsible for their self-deception, because they
are not possessed of all the facts, nor have they any right to them,
nor yet to a fixed opinion in the case.

If a man were to have a patch put on his coat, he might properly have
it put on the under side of the coat instead of the outer side, thus
making what is called "a blind patch," for the purpose of concealing
the defect in his garment. Even though this course might result in a
false impression on the mind of the casual observer, the man would not
be blameworthy, as he would be if he had pursued the same course with
a purpose of deceiving a purchaser of the coat. So, again, in the
case of a mender of bric-a-brac: it would be right for him to
cement carefully the parts of a broken vase for the mere purpose of
concealing its damaged condition from the ordinary eye, but not for
the purpose of deceiving one who would be a purchaser.

A man whose city house is closed from the public in the summer season,
because of his absence in the country, has a perfect right to come
to that house for a single night, without opening the shutters and
lighting up the rooms in intimation of his presence. He may even keep
those shutters closed while his room is lighted, for the express
purpose of concealing the fact of his presence there, and yet not be
responsible for any false impression on the minds of passers-by, who
think that the proprietor is still in the country, and that the city
house is vacant. On the other hand, if the house be left lighted up
all through the night, with the shutters open, while the inmates are
asleep, for the very purpose of concealing from those outside the fact
that no one in the house is awake and on guard, the proprietor is not
responsible for any self-deception which results to those who have no
right to know the facts in the case.

And so, again, in the matter of having a man's hat or coat on the rack
in the front hall, while there are only women in the house, the sole
purpose of the action may be the concealment of the real condition of
affairs from those who have no claim to know the truth, and not the
deliberate deception of any party in interest. In so far as the
purpose is merely the concealment from others of the defenseless
condition of the house the action is obviously a proper one,
notwithstanding its liability to result in false impressions on the
minds of those who have no right to an opinion in the case.

While a man would be justified in concealing, without falsehood, the
fact of a bodily lack or infirmity on his part which concerned himself
alone, he would not be justified in concealing the fact that he was
sick of a contagious disease, or that his house was infected by
a disease that might be given to a caller there. Nor would he be
justified in concealing a defect in a horse or a cow in order to
deceive a man into the purchase of that animal as a sound one, any
more than he would be justified in slightly covering an opening in the
ground before his house, so as to deceive a disagreeable visitor into
stumbling into that hole.

It would be altogether proper for a man with a bald head to conceal
his baldness from the general public by a well-constructed wig. It
would likewise be proper for him to wear a wig in order to guard his
shining pate against flies while at church in July, or against danger
from pneumonia in January, even though wide-awake children in the
neighboring pews deceived themselves into thinking that he had a fine
head of natural hair. But if that man were to wear that wig for the
purpose of deceiving a young woman, whom he wished to marry, as to his
age and as to his freedom from bodily defects, it would be quite a
different matter. Concealment for the mere purpose of concealment may
be, not only justifiable, but a duty. Concealment for the purpose of
deception is never justifiable.

It would seem that this is the principle on which God acts with
reference to both the material and the moral universe. He conceals
facts, with the result that many a man is self-deceived, in his
ignorance, as to the size of the stars, and the cause of eclipses, and
the processes of nature, and the consequences of conduct, in many an
important particular. But man, and not God, is responsible for man's
self-deception concerning points at which man can make no claim to a
right to know all the truth.

It is true that this distinction is a delicate one, but it is a
distinction none the less real on that account. A moral line, like a
mathematical line, has length, but neither breadth nor thickness.
And the line that separates a justifiable concealment which causes
self-deception on the part of those who are not entitled to know the
whole truth in the matter, and the deliberate concealment of truth for
the specific purpose of deception, is a line that runs all the way
up from the foundations to the summit of the universe. This line of
distinction is vital to an understanding of the question of the duty
of truth-speaking, and of the sin of lying.

An effort at right concealment may include truthful statements which
are likely, or even sure, to result in false impressions on the mind
of the one to whom they are addressed, and who in consequence deceives
himself as to the facts, when the purpose of those statements is
not the deception of the hearer. A husband may have had a serious
misunderstanding with his wife that causes him pain of heart, so that
his face gives sign of it as he comes out of the house in the morning.
The difficulty which has given him such mental anxiety is one which he
ought to conceal. He has no right to disclose it to others. Yet he has
no right to speak an untruth for the purpose of concealing that which
he ought to conceal.

It may be that the mental trouble has already deprived him of sleep,
and has intensified his anxiety over a special business matter that
awaits his attention down town, and that all this shows in his face.
If so, these facts are secondary but very real causes of his troubled
look, as he meets a neighbor on leaving his house, who says to him:
"You look very much troubled this morning. What's the matter with
you?" Now, if he were to say in reply, "Then my looks belie me; for I
have no special trouble," he would say what was not true. But he might
properly say, "I think it is very likely. I didn't sleep well last
night, and I am very tired this morning. And I have work before me
to-day that I am not easy about." Those statements being literally
true, and being made for the purpose of concealing facts which his
questioner has no right to know, their utterance is justifiable,
regardless of the workings of the mind of the one who hears them. They
are made in order to conceal what is back of them, not in order to
deceive one who is entitled to know those primary facts.

If, again, a physician in attendance on a patient sees that there
is cause for grave anxiety in the patient's condition, and deems
it important to conceal his fears, so far as he can without
untruthfulness, he may, in answer to direct questions from his
patient, give truthful answers that are designed to conceal what he
has a right to conceal, without his desiring to deceive his patient,
and without his being responsible for any self-deception on his
patient's part that results from their conversation. The patient may
ask, "Doctor, am I very sick?" The doctor may answer truthfully, "Not
so sick as you might be, by a good deal." He may give this answer with
a cheerful look and tone, and it may result in calming the patient's

If, however, the patient goes on to ask, "But, doctor, do you think
I'm going to die?" the doctor may respond lightly, "Well, most of us
will die sooner or later, and I suppose you are not to be exempt from
the ordinary lot of mortals." "But," continues the patient, "do you
think I am going to die of this disease?" Then the doctor can say,
seriously and truthfully, "I'm sure I don't know. The future is
concealed from me. You may live longer than I do. I certainly hope
you are not going to die yet awhile, and I'm going to do all I can to
prevent it." All this would be justifiable, and be within the limits
of truthfulness. Concealment of the opinions of the physician as to
the patient's chances of life, and not the specific deception of the
patient, is the object of these answers.

In no event, however, would the physician be justified in telling a
lie, any more than he would be in committing any other sin, as a means
of good. He is necessarily limited by the limits of right, in the
exercise of his professional skill, and in the choice of available
means. He is in no wise responsible for the consequences of his
refusal to go beyond those limits.

Concealment may be, or may not be, of the nature of deception.
Concealment is not right when disclosure is a duty. Concealment of
that which may properly be concealed is not in itself wrong. Efforts
at concealment must, in order to be right, be kept within the limits
of strict truthfulness of statement. Concealment for the purpose of
deception is in the realm of the lie. Concealment for the mere purpose
of concealment may be in the realm of positive duty--in the sight of
God and for the sake of our fellows.

It is to be borne in mind that the definitions here given do not pivot
on the specific illustrations proffered for their explanation. If, in
any instance, the illustration seems inapt or imperfect, it may
be thrown aside, and reference made to the definition itself. The
definition represents the principle involved; the illustration is only
a suggestion of the principle.



The story is told of an old Quaker, who, after listening for a time
to the unstinted praises, by a dry-goods salesman, of the various
articles he was trying to dispose of, said quietly: "Friend, it is a
great pity that lying is a sin, since it seems so necessary in thy
business." It has been generally supposed that this remark of the old
Quaker was a satirical one, rather than a serious expression of regret
over the clashing of the demands of God's nature with the practical
necessities of men. Yet, as a matter of fact, there are moral
philosophers, and writers on Christian ethics, who seem to take
seriously the position assumed by this Quaker, and who argue
deliberately that there are such material advantages to be secured
by lying, in certain emergencies, that it would be a great pity to
recognize any unvarying rule, with reference to lying, that would
shut off all possibility of desired gain from this practice under
conditions of greatest urgency.

It is claimed that lying proffers such unmistakable advantages in time
of war, and of sickness, and in dealings with would-be criminals
and the insane, and other classes exempt from ordinary social
consideration, that lying becomes a necessity when the gain from it is
of sufficient magnitude. Looked at in this light, lying is not sinful
_per se_, but simply becomes sinful by its misuse or untimeliness; for
if it be sinful _per se_, no temporary or material advantage from its
exercise could ever make it other than sinful.

If, indeed, the rightfulness of lying is contingent on the results
to be hoped for or to be feared from it, the prime question with
reference to it, in a moral estimate of its propriety, is the limit of
profit, or of gain, which will justify it as a necessity. But with all
that has been written on this subject in the passing centuries, the
advocates of the "lie of necessity" have had to contend with the moral
sense of the world as to the sinfulness of lying, and with the fact
that lying is not merely a violation of a social duty, but is contrary
to the demands of the very nature of God, and of the nature of man
as formed in the image of God. And it has been the practice of such
advocates to ignore or to deny the testimony of this moral sense of
the race, and to persist in looking at lying mainly in the light of
its social aspects.

That the moral sense of the race is against the admissibility of the
rightfulness of lying, is shown by the estimate of this sin as a sin
in the ethnic conceptions of it, even among peoples who indulge freely
in its practice, as well as in the teachings of the sacred books of
the ages. And, moreover, it is _not_ the fact, as is often claimed,
that lying is generally admitted to be allowable between enemies in
war time, or by a physician to his patient, or by a sane man to one
who is insane, or in order to the prevention of crime, or for the
purpose of securing some real or supposed advantage in any case.

The right to conceal from the enemy one's weakness, or one's plans,
by any exhibit of "quaker guns," or of mock fortifications, or of
movements and counter-movements, or of feints of attack, or of surplus
watchfires, in time of warfare, is recognized on all sides. But the
right to lie to or to deceive the enemy by sending out a flag of
truce, as if in desire for a peaceful conference, and following it up
with an attack on his lines in an unsuspecting moment, is not admitted
in any theory of "civilized warfare." And while a scout may creep
within the enemy's lines, and make observations of the enemy's
weakness and strength of position, without being open to any charge of
dishonorable conduct,--if he comes disguised as a soldier of the
other side than his own, or if he claims to be a mere civilian or
non-combatant, he is held to be a "spy," and as such he is denied a
soldier's death, and must yield his life on the gallows as a deceiver
and a liar.

The distinction between justifiable concealment for the mere purpose
of concealment, and concealment for the express purpose of deceiving,
is recognized as clearly in warfare as in peaceful civil life; and the
writer on Christian ethics who appeals to the approved practices of
warfare in support of the "lie of necessity" can have only the plea of
ignorance as an excuse for his baseless argument.

An enemy in warfare has no right to know the details of his opponent's
plans for his overcoming; but his opponent has no right to lie to
him, by word or action, as a means of concealment; for a lie is never
justifiable, and therefore is never a necessity. And this is admitted
in the customs of honorable warfare. Illustrations of this distinction
are abundant. A Federal officer, taken prisoner in battle, was brought
before a Confederate officer for examination. He was asked his name,
his rank, his regiment, his brigade, his division, and his corps. To
all these questions he gave truthful answers promptly; for the enemy
had a right to information at these points concerning a prisoner of
war. But when the question came, "What is the present strength of your
corps?" he replied, "Two and a half millions." "That cannot be true,"
said the Confederate officer. "Do you expect me to tell you the truth,
Colonel, in such a matter?" he responded, in reminder of the fact that
it was proper for him to conceal facts which the other had no right to
know; and his method of concealment was by an answer that was intended
to conceal, but not to deceive.

In Libby Prison, during war time, the attempt to prevent written
messages being carried out by released prisoners was at first made by
the careful examination of the clothing and persons of such prisoners;
but this proved to be ineffectual. Then it was decided to put every
outgoing prisoner on his word of honor as a soldier in this matter;
and that was effectual. A true soldier would require something more
than the average treatise on Christian ethics to convince him that a
lie to an enemy in war time is justifiable as a "lie of necessity," on
the ground of its profitableness.

In dealing with the sick, however desirable it may be, in any
instance, to conceal from a patient his critical condition, the
difference must always be observed between truthful statements that
conceal that which the physician, or other speaker, has a right to
conceal, and statements that are not strictly true, or that are made
for the explicit purpose of deceiving the patient. It is a physician's
duty to conceal from a patient his sense of the grave dangers
disclosed to his professional eye, and which he is endeavoring to meet
successfully. And, in wellnigh every case, it is possible for him to
give truthful answers that will conceal from his patient what he ought
to conceal; for the best physician does not know the future, and his
professional guesses are not to be put forward as if they were assured

If, indeed, it were generally understood, as many ethical writers are
disposed to claim, that physicians are ready to lie as a help to their
patients' recovery, physicians, as a class, would thereby be deprived
of the power of encouraging their patients by words of sincere and
hearty confidence. There are physicians whose most hopeful assurances
are of little or no service to their patients, because those
physicians are known to be willing to lie to a patient in an
emergency; and how can a timid patient be sure that his case does not
present such an emergency? Therefore it is that a physician's habit of
lying to his patients as a means of cure would cause him to lose the
power of aiding by truthful assurances those patients who most needed
help of this sort.

It is poor policy, as policy, to venture a lie in behalf of a single
patient, at the cost of losing the power to make the truth beneficial
to a hundred patients whose lives may be dependent on wise words of
encouragement. And the policy is still poorer as policy, when it is in
the line of an unmistakable sin. And many a good physician like many
a good soldier, repudiates the idea of a "lie of necessity" in his

Since lying is sinful because a lie is always a lie unto God, the fact
that a lie is spoken to an insane person or to a would-be criminal
does not make it any the less a sin in God's sight. And it is held by
some of the most eminent physicians to the insane that lying to the
insane is as poor policy as it is bad morals, and that it is never
justifiable, and therefore is never a "necessity" in that sphere.[1]

[Footnote 1: See, for example, the views of Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride,
physician-in-chief and superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital
for the Insane, in the Report of that institution for 1883, at pages
74-76. In speaking of the duty of avoiding deception in dealings with
the insane, he said: "I never think it right to speak anything but the

So also in dealing with the would-be criminal, a lie is not
justifiable in order to save one's life, or one's possessions that are
dearer than life, nor yet to prevent the commission of a crime or to
guard the highest interests of those whom we love. Yet concealment of
that which ought to be concealed is as truly a duty when disclosure
would lead to crime, or would imperil the interests of ourselves or
others, as it is in all the ordinary affairs of life; but lying as a
means of concealment is not to be tolerated in such a case any more
than in any other case.

If a robber, with a pistol in his hand, were in a man's bedroom at
night, it would not be wrong for the defenseless inmate to remain
quiet in his bed, in concealment of the fact that he was awake, if
thereby he could save his life, at the expense of his property. If a
would-be murderer were seeking his victim, and a man who knew this
fact were asked to tell of his whereabouts, it would be that man's
duty to conceal his knowledge at this point by all legitimate means.
He might refuse to speak, even though his own life were risked
thereby; for it were better to die than to lie. And so in many another

A lie being a sin _per se_, no price paid for it, nor any advantage to
be gained from it, would make it other than a sin. The temptation to
look at it as a "necessity" may, indeed, be increased by increasing
the supposed cost of its refusal; but it is a temptation to
wrong-doing to the last. It was a heathen maxim, "Do right though the
heavens fall," and Christian ethics ought not to have a lower standard
than that of the best heathen morality.

Duty toward God cannot be counted out of this question. God himself
cannot lie. God cannot justify or approve a lie. Hence it follows that
he who deliberately lies in order to secure a gain to himself, or to
one whom he loves, must by that very act leave the service of God, and
put himself for the time being under the rule of the "father of
lies." Thus in an emergency which seems to a man to justify a "lie of
necessity" that man's attitude toward God might be indicated in this
address to him: "Lord, I should prefer to continue in your service,
and I would do so if you were able and willing to help me. But I find
myself in an emergency where a lie is a 'necessity,' and so I must
avail myself of the help of 'the father of lies.' If I am carried
through this crisis by his help, I shall be glad to resume my position
in your service." The man whose whole moral nature recoils from this
position, will not be led into it by the best arguments of Christian
philosophers in favor of the "lie of necessity."



Because of the obvious gain in lying in times of extremity, and
because of the manifest peril or cost of truth-telling in an
emergency, attempts have been made, by interested or prejudiced
persons, all along the ages, to reconcile the general duty of adhering
to an absolute standard of right, with the special inducements, or
temptations, to depart from that standard for the time being. It has
been claimed by many that the results of a lie would, under certain
circumstances, justify the use of a lie,--the good end in this case
justifying the bad means in this case. And the endeavor has also been
made to show that what is called a lie is not always a lie. Yet there
have ever been found stalwart champions of the right, ready to insist
that a lie is a sin _per se_, and therefore not to be justified by any
advantage or profit in its utterance.

Prominent in the earlier recorded discussions of the centuries
concerning the admissibility of the lie, are those of the Jewish
Talmudists and of the Christian Fathers. As in the Bible story the
standard of right is recognized as unvariable, even though such Bible
characters as Abraham and Jacob and David, and Ananias and Sapphira,
fail to conform to it in personal practice; so in the records of the
Talmud and the Fathers there are not wanting instances of godly men
who are ready to speak in favor of a departure from the strictest
requirement of the law of truth, even while the great sweep of
sentiment is seen to be in favor of the line that separates the lie
from the truth eternally.

Hamburger, a recognized Jewish authority in this sphere, represents
the teachings of the Talmud as even more comprehensive and explicit
than the Bible itself, in favor of the universal duty of truthfulness.
He says: "Mosaism, with its fundamental law of holiness, has
established the standard of truthfulness with incomparable
definiteness and sharpness (see Lev. 19: 2, 12, 13, 34-37).
Truthfulness is here presented as derived directly from the principle
of holiness, and to be practiced without regard to resulting benefit
or injury to foe or to friend, to foreigner or to countryman. In this
moral loftiness these Mosaic teachings as to truthfulness pervade the
whole Bible. In the Talmud they receive a profounder comprehension and
a further development. Truthfulness toward men is represented as a
duty toward God; and, on the other hand, any departure from it is a
departure from God."[1]

[Footnote 1: Hamburger's _Real-Encyclopadie für Bibel und Talmud_, I.,
art. "Truthfulness" (_Wahrhaftigkeit_).]

As specimen illustrations of the teachings of the Talmud on this
theme, Hamburger quotes these utterances from its pages: "He who
alters his word, at the same time commits idolatry." "Three are hated
of God: he who speaks with his mouth otherwise than as he feels with
his heart; he who knows of evidence against any one, and does not
disclose it," etc. "Four cannot appear before God: the scorner, the
hypocrite, the liar, and the slanderer." "'A just measure thou shalt
keep;' that is, we should not think one thing in our heart, and speak
another with our mouth." "Seven commit the offense of theft: he who
steals [sneaks into] the good will of another; he who invites his
friend to visit him, and does not mean it in his heart; he who offers
his neighbor presents, knowing beforehand that he will not receive
them," etc.

And Hamburger adds: "Every lie, therefore, however excellent the
motive, is decidedly forbidden.... In the tract Jebamoth, 63, Raba
blames his son for employing a 'lie of necessity' _(nothlüge)_ to
restore peace between his father and his mother.... It is clear that
the Talmud decidedly rejects the principle that 'the end justifies the

[Footnote 1: Compare also art. "Falseness" _(Falscheit)_.]

On the other hand, Hamburger cites Rabbi Ishmael, one of the
Talmudists, as teaching that a Jew might transgress even the
prohibition of idolatry (and lying is, according to Talmudic teaching,
equivalent to idolatry) in order to save his life, provided the act
was not done in public. In support of his position, Rabbi Ishmael
cited the declaration concerning the statutes of Moses in Leviticus
18: 5, "which if a man do he shall live in them," and added by way of
explanation: "He [the Israelite] is to live through the law, but is
not to die through it."[1]

[Footnote 1: See Hamburger's _Real-Encyc_., II., art. "Ismael R."]

And Isaac Abohab, an eminent Spanish rabbi, in his _Menorath
Hammaor_[1] gives other illustrations from the Talmud of the advocacy
of special exceptions to the strict law of truthfulness, with a good
purpose in view, notwithstanding the sweeping claim to the contrary
by Hamburger. He says: "Only when it is the intention to bring about
peace between men, may anything be altered in discourse; as is taught
in the tract Jebamoth. Rabbi Ilai says, in the name of Rabbi Jehuda,
son of Rabbi Simeon: 'One may alter something in discourse for the
sake of establishing harmony.'... Rabbi Nathan says: 'This indeed is a
duty.'... Rabbi Ishmael taught: 'Peace is of such importance that for
its sake God even alters facts.'" In each of these cases the rabbi
cited misapplies a Bible passage in support of his position.

[Footnote 1: See German translation by R.J. Fürstenthal, Discourse
II., I.]

Isaac Abohab adds: "In like manner the rabbis say that one may praise
a bride in the presence of her bridegroom, and say that she
is handsome and devout, when she is neither, if the intention
predominates to make her attractive in the eyes of her bridegroom.
Nevertheless a man is not to tell lies even in trifling matters, lest
lying should come to be a habit with him, as is warned against in the
tract Jebamoth."

Thus it would appear that there were discussions on this subject
among the rabbis of the Talmud, and that while there were those who
advocated the "lie of necessity," as a matter of personal gain or as a
means of good to others, there were those who stood firmly against any
form of the lie, or any falsity, as in itself at variance with the
very nature of God, and with the plain duty of God's children.

Among the Christian Fathers it was much the same as among the Jewish
rabbis, in discussions over this question. The one unvarying standard
was recognized, by the clearest thinkers, as binding on all for
always; yet there were individuals inclined to find a reason for
exceptions in the practical application of this standard. The phase of
the question that immediately presented itself to the early Christians
was, whether it were allowable for a man to deny to a pagan enemy that
he was a Christian, or that one whom he held dear was a Christian,
when the speaking of the truth would cost him his life, or cost the
life of one whom he loved.

There were those who held that the duty to speak the truth was merely
a social obligation, and that when a man showed himself as an enemy
of God and of his fellows, he shut himself out from the pale of this
social obligation; moreover, that when such a man could be deterred
from crime, and at the same time a Christian's life could be
preserved, by the telling of an untruth, a falsehood would be
justifiable. If the lie were told in private under such circumstances,
it was by such persons considered different from a public denial of
one's faith. But, on the other hand, the great body of Christians,
in the apostolic age, and in the age early following, acted on the
conviction that a lie is a sin _per se_, and that no emergency could
make a lie a necessity. And it was in fidelity to this conviction that
the roll of Christian martyrs was so gloriously extended.

Justin Martyr, whose Apologies in behalf of the Christians are the
earliest extant, speaks for the best of the class he represents when
he says: "It is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we
are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie."[1] And again:
"When we are examined, we make no denial, because we are not conscious
of any evil, but count it impious not to speak the truth in all
things, which also we know is pleasing to God."[2] There was no
thought in such a mind as Justin Martyr's, or in the minds of his
fellow-martyrs, that any life was worth saving at the cost of a lie in
God's sight.

[Footnote 1: First Apology, Chapter 8.]

[Footnote 2: Second Apology, Chapter 4.]

There were many temptations, and great ones, to the early Christians,
to evade the consequences of being known as refusers to worship the
gods of the Romans; and it is not to be wondered at that many poor
mortals yielded to those temptations. Exemption from punishment could
be purchased by saying that one had offered sacrifices to the gods,
or by accepting a certificate that such sacrifice had been made, even
when such was not the fact; or, again, by professing a readiness to
sacrifice, without the intention of such compliance, or by permitting
a friend to testify falsely as to the facts; and there were those who
thought a lie of this sort justifiable, for the saving of their lives,
when they would not have openly renounced their Christian faith.[1]
There was much discussion over these practices in the writings of the
Fathers; but while there was recognized a difference between open
apostasy and the tolerance of a falsehood in one's behalf, it was held
by the church authorities that a lie was always sinful, even though
there were degrees in modes of sinning.

[Footnote 1: See Smith and Cheetham's _Dictionary of Christian
Antiquities_, art. "Libelli." See also Bingham's _Antiquities of the
Christian Church_, Book XVI., Chap. 13, Section 5; also Book XVI.,
Chap. 3, Section 14; with citations from Tertullian, Origen, and

Ringing words against all forms of lying were spoken by some of the
Christian Fathers. Says the Shepherd of Hermas: "Love the truth, and
let nothing but truth proceed from your mouth, that the spirit which
God has placed in your flesh may be found truthful before all men; and
the Lord, who dwelleth in you, will be glorified, because the Lord is
truthful in every word, and in him is no falsehood. They, therefore,
who lie, deny the Lord, and rob him, not giving back to him the
deposit which they have received. For they received from him a spirit
free from falsehood. If they give him back this spirit untruthful,
they pollute the commandment of the Lord, and become robbers."[1]

[Footnote 1: Book II., Commandment Third. _The Ante-Nicene Fathers_
(Am. ed.), II., 21.]

Tertullian names among "sins of daily committal, to which we all
are liable," the "sin" of "lying, from bashfulness [or modesty], or
'necessity.'"[1] Origen also speaks of the frequency of "lying, or of
idle talking;"[2] as if possibly its frequency were in some sense an
excuse for it. And Origen specifically claimed that the apostles
Peter and Paul agreed together to deceive their hearers at Antioch by
simulating a dissension between themselves, when in reality they were
agreed.[3] Origen also seemed to approve of false speaking to those
who were not entitled to know all the truth; as when he says of the
cautious use of falsehood, "a man on whom necessity imposes the
responsibility of lying is bound to use very great care, and to use
falsehood as he would a stimulant or a medicine, and strictly to
preserve its measure, and not go beyond the bounds observed by Judith
in her dealings with Holofernes, whom she overcame by the wisdom with
which she dissembled her words."[4]

[Footnote 1: "On Modesty," Chap. 19. _The Ante-Nicene Fathers_, XIV.,

[Footnote 2: Origen's Commentaries on Matthew, Tract VI., p. 60; cited
in Bingham's _Antiq. of Chr. Ch_., Book XVI., Chap. 3.]

[Footnote 3: Gal. 2: 11-14. A concise statement of the influence
of this teaching of Origen on the patristic interpretations of the
passage in Galatians, is given by Lightfoot in his commentary on
Galatians, sixth edition, pp. 128-132.]

[Footnote 4: Quoted from the sixth book of Origen's Miscellanies by
Jerome, in his Apology against Rufinus, Book I., § 18. See _The Nicene
and Post-Nicene Fathers_, second series (Am. ed.), III., 492. See,
also, Neander's _Geschichte der Christlichen Ethik_, pp. 160, 167.]

There were Christian Fathers who found it convenient to lie, in their
own behalf or in behalf of others; and it was quite natural for such
mortals to seek to find an excuse for lies that "seemed so necessary"
for their purposes. When Gregory of Nyssa, in his laudable effort to
bring about a reconciliation between his elder brother Basil and their
uncle, was "induced to practice a deceit which was as irreconcilable
with Christian principles as with common sense,"[1] he was ready to
argue in defense of such a course.

[Footnote 1: Moore's _Life of S. Gregory of Nyssa. The Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers_, second series (Am. ed.), V., 5.]

So again, when his brother Basil was charged with falsehood in a
comparatively "trivial" matter, (where, in fact, he had merely been
in error unintentionally,) Gregory falls back upon the comforting
suggestion, that as to lying, in one way or another everybody is at
fault; "accordingly, we accept that general statement which the Holy
Spirit uttered by the Prophet, 'Every man is a liar.'"[1] Gregory
protests against the "solemn reflections on falsehood" by Eunomius, in
this connection, and his seeing equal heinousness in it whether in
great or very trivial matters. "Cease," he says, "to bid us think it
of no account to measure the guilt of a falsehood by the slightness
or importance of the circumstances." Basil, on the contrary, asserts
without qualification, as his conviction, that it never is permissible
to employ a falsehood even for a good purpose. He appeals to the words
of Christ that all lies are of the Devil.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 46.]

[Footnote 2: Neander's _Geschichte der Christlichen Ethik_, p. 219.]

Chrysostom, as a young man, evaded ordination for himself and secured
it to his dearest friend Basil (who should not be confounded with
Basil the Great, the brother of Gregory of Nyssa) by a course of
deception, which he afterwards labored to justify by the claim that
there were lies of necessity, and that God approved of deception as a
means of good to others.[1] In the course of his exculpatory argument,
he said to his much aggrieved friend Basil: "Great is the value of
deceit, provided it be not introduced with a mischievous intention. In
fact, action of this sort ought not to be called deceit, but rather a
kind of good management, cleverness, and skill, capable of finding
out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the
mind.... That man would fairly deserve to be called a deceiver who
made an unrighteous use of the practice, not one who did so with a
salutary purpose. And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the
greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by
a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has
not deceived."[2]

[Footnote 1: See Smith and Wace's _Dictionary of Christian Biography_,
I., 519 f.; art. "Chrysostom, John."]

[Footnote 2: See Chrysostom's "Treatise on the Priesthood," in _The
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, first series (Am. ed.), IX., 34-38.]

In fact, Chrysostom seems, in this argument, to recognize no absolute
and unvarying standard of truthfulness as binding on all at all times;
but to judge lies and deceptions as wrong only when they are wrongly
used, or when they result in evil to others. He appears to act on the
anti-Christian theory[1] that "the end justifies the means." Indeed,
Dr. Schaff, in reprobating this "pious fraud" of Chrysostom, as
"conduct which every sound Christian conscience must condemn," says
of the whole matter: "The Jesuitical maxim, 'the end justifies the
means,' is much older than Jesuitism, and runs through the whole
apocryphal, pseudo-prophetic, pseudo-apostolic, pseudo-Clementine, and
pseudo-Isidorian literature of the early centuries. Several of the
best Fathers show a surprising want of a strict sense of veracity.
They introduce a sort of cheat even into their strange theory of
redemption, by supposing that the Devil caused the crucifixion under
the delusion [intentionally produced by God] that Christ was a mere
man, and thus lost his claim upon the fallen race." [2]

[Footnote 1: Rom. 3: 7, 8.]

[Footnote 2: See Dr. Schaff's "Prologemena to The Life and Works of
St. Chrysostom," in _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, first Series
(Am. ed.), IX., 8.]

Chrysostom, like Gregory of Nyssa, having done that which was wrong in
itself, with a laudable end in view, naturally attempts its defense by
the use of arguments based on a confusion in his own mind of things
which are unjustifiable, with things which are allowable. He does not
seem to distinguish between deliberate deception as a mode of lying,
and concealment of that which one has a right to conceal. Like many
another defender of the right to lie in behalf of a worthy cause, in
all the centuries, Chrysostom essays no definition of the "lie," and
indicates no distinction between culpable concealment, and concealment
that is right and proper. Yet Chrysostom was a man of loving heart and
of unwavering purpose of life. In an age of evil-doing, he stood firm
for the right. And in spite of any lack of logical perceptions on his
part in a matter like this, it can be said of him with truth that
"perhaps few have ever exercised a more powerful influence over the
hearts and affections of the most exalted natures."[1]

[Footnote 1: Smith and Wace's _Dictionary of Christian Biography_, I.,

Augustine, on the other hand, looks at this question, in accordance
with the qualities of his logical mind, in its relation to an absolute
standard; and he is ready to accept the consequences of an adherence
to that standard, whether they be in themselves desirable or
deplorable. He is not afraid to define a lie, and to stand by his
definition in his argument. He sees and notes the difference between
justifiable concealment, and concealment that is for the purpose of
deception. "It is lawful then," he says on this point, "to conceal at
fitting time whatever seems fit to be concealed: but to tell a lie is
never lawful, therefore neither to conceal by telling a lie."[1]
In his treatise "On Lying" _(De Mendacid_),[2] and in his treatise
"Against Lying" _(Contra Mendaciuni)[3]_ as well as in his treatise
on "Faith, Hope, and Love" _(Enchiridion)_,[4] and again in his
Letters to Jerome,[5] Augustine states the principle involved in this
vexed question of the ages, and goes over all the arguments for and
against the so-called "lie of necessity." He sees a lie to be a sin
_per se_, and therefore never admissible for any purpose whatsoever.
He sees truthfulness to be a duty growing out of man's primal relation
to God, and therefore binding on man while man is in God's sight.
He strikes through the specious arguments based on any temporary
advantages to be secured through lying, and rejects utterly the
suggestion that man may do evil that good may come.

[Footnote 1: _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, first series (Am.
ed.), IX., 466.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., III., 455-477.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., pp. 479-500.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., pp. 230-276.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_., I., "Letters of St. Augustine."]

The sound words of Augustine on this question, as based on his sound
arguments, come down to us with strength and freshness through the
intervening centuries; and they are worthy of being emphasized as the
expressions of unchanging truth concerning the duty of truthfulness
and the sin of lying. "There is a great question about lying," he
says at the start, "which often arises in the midst of our everyday
business, and gives us much trouble, that we may not either rashly
call that a lie which is not such, or decide that it is sometimes
right to tell a lie; that is, a kind of honest, well-meant, charitable
lie." This question he discusses with fulness, and in view of all that
can be said on both sides. Even though life or salvation were to pivot
on the telling of a lie, he is sure that no good to be gained could
compensate for the committal of a sin.

Arguing that a lie is essentially opposed to God's truth--by which
alone man can have eternal life--Augustine insists that to attempt to
save another's life through lying, is to set off one's eternal life
against the mere bodily life of another. "Since then by lying eternal
life is lost, never for any man's temporal life must a lie be told.
And as to those who take it ill, and are indignant that one should
refuse to tell a lie, and thereby slay his own soul in order that
another may grow old in the flesh, what if by our committing adultery
a person might be delivered from death: are we therefore to steal, to
commit whoredom.... To ask whether a man ought to tell a lie for the
safety of another, is just the same as asking whether for another's
safety a man ought to commit iniquity."

"Good men," he says, "should never tell lies." "To tell a lie is never
lawful, therefore neither to conceal [when concealment is desirable]
by telling a lie." Referring to the fact that some seek to find a
justification in the Bible teachings for lying in a good cause,--"even
in the midst of the very words of the divine testimonies seeking place
for a lie,"--he insists, after a full examination of this claim, "that
those [cited] testimonies of Scripture have none other meaning than
that we must never at all tell a lie."

"A lie is not allowable, even to save another from injury." "Every lie
must be called a sin." "Nor are we to suppose that there is any lie
that is not a sin, because it is sometimes possible, by telling a
lie, to do service to another." "It cannot be denied that they have
attained a very high standard of goodness who never lie except to
save a man from injury; but in the case of men who have reached this
standard, it is not the deceit, but their good intention, that is
justly praised, and sometimes even rewarded,"--as in the case of Rahab
in the Bible story. "There is no lie that is not contrary to truth.
For as light and darkness, piety and impiety, justice and injustice,
sin and righteousness, health and sickness, life and death, so are
truth and a lie contrary the one to the other. Whence by how much we
love the former, by so much ought we to hate the latter."

"It does indeed make very much difference for what cause, with what
end, with what intention, a thing be done: but those things which are
clearly sins, are upon no plea of a good cause, with no seeming good
end, no alleged good intention, to be done. Those works, namely,
of men, which are not in themselves sins, are now good, now evil,
according as their causes are good or evil.... When, however, the
works in themselves are evil,... who is there that will say, that upon
good causes, they may be done, so as either to be no sins, or, what is
more absurd, to be just sins?" "He who says that some lies are just,
must be judged to say no other than that some sins are just, and that
therefore some things are just which are unjust: than which what can
be more absurd?" "Either then we are to eschew lies by right doing,
or to confess them [when guilty of them] by repenting: but not, while
they unhappily abound in our living, to make them more by teaching

In replying to the argument that it would be better to lie concerning
an innocent man whose life was sought by an enemy, or by an unjust
accuser, than to betray him to his death, Augustine said courageously:
"How much braver,... how much more excellent, to say, 'I will neither
betray nor lie.'" "This," he said, "did a former bishop of the Church
of Tagaste, Firmus by name, and even more firm in will. For when he
was asked by command of the emperor, through officers sent by him, for
a man who was taking refuge with him, and whom he kept in hiding with
all possible care, he made answer to their questions, that he could
neither tell a lie nor betray a man; and when he had suffered so many
torments of body (for as yet emperors were not Christians), he stood
firm in his purpose. Thereupon, being brought before the emperor, his
conduct appeared so admirable that he without any difficulty obtained
a pardon for the man whom he was trying to save. What conduct could be
more brave and constant?"[1]

[Footnote 1: See _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, first series
(Am. ed.), III., 408.]

The treatise "Against Lying" was written by Augustine with special
reference to the practice and teaching of the sect of Priscillianists.
These Christians "affirmed, with some other of the theosophic sects,
that falsehood was allowable for a holy end. Absolute veracity was
only binding between fellow-members of their sect."[1] Hence it was
claimed by some other Christians that it would be fair to shut out
Priscillianists from a right to have only truth spoken to them, since
they would not admit that it is always binding between man and man.
This view of truthfulness as merely a social obligation Augustine
utterly repudiated; as, indeed, must be the case with every one who
reckons lying a sin in and of itself. Augustine considered, in this
treatise, various hypothetical cases, in which the telling of the
truth might result in death to a sick man, while the telling of a
falsehood might save his life. He said frankly: "And who can bear men
casting up to him what a mischief it is to shun a lie that might save
life, and to choose truth which might murder a man? I am moved by this
objection exceedingly, but it were doubtful whether also wisely." Yet
he sees that it were never safe to choose sin as a means to good, in
preference to truth and right with all their consequences.

[Footnote 1: See Smith and Wace's _Dict. of Chris. Biog_., IV., 478,
art. "Priscillianus."]

Jerome having, like many others, adopted Origen's explanation of the
scene between Peter and Paul at Antioch, Augustine wrote to him in
protest against such teaching, with its implied approval of deceit and
falsehood.[1] A correspondence on this subject was continued between
these two Fathers for years;[2] and finally Jerome was led to adopt
Augustine's view of the matter,[3] and also to condemn Origen for his
loose views as to the duty of veracity.[4] But however Jerome might
vacillate in his theory, as in his practice, concerning the permanent
obligations of truthfulness, Augustine stood firm from first to last
in the position which is justified by the teachings of the Bible and
by the moral sense of the human race as a whole,--that a lie is always
a lie and always a sin, and that a lie can never be justified as a
means to even the best of ends.

[Footnote 1: See _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, first series
(Am. ed.), I., Letters XXVIII., XL.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., Letters LXVII., LXVIII., LXXII., LXXIII.,

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., Letter CLXXX.]

[Footnote 4: _The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers_, second series (Am.
ed.), III., 460 ff.; _Rufinus' Apology_, Book II.; _Jerome's Apology_,
Book I., p. 492.]

From the days of Chrysostom and Augustine to the present time, all
discussions of this question have been but a repetition of the
arguments and objections then brought forward and examined. There can
be, in fact, only two positions maintained with any show of logical
consistency. Either a lie is in its very nature antagonistic to
the being of God, and therefore not to be used or approved by him,
whatever immediate advantages might accrue from it, or whatever
consequences might pivot on its rejection; or a lie is not in itself
a sin, is not essentially at variance with the nature of God, but is
good or evil according to the spirit of its use, and the end to be
gained by it; and therefore on occasions God could lie, or could
approve lying on the part of those who represent him.

The first of these positions is that maintained by the Shepherd of
Hermas, by Justin Martyr, by Basil the Great, and by Augustine;
the second is practically that occupied by Gregory of Nyssa and
Chrysostom, even though they do not explicitly define, or even seem to
perceive, it as their position. There are, again, those like Origen
and Jerome, who are now on one side of the dividing line, and now on
the other; but they are not logically consistent with themselves in
their opinions or practices. And those who are not consistent usually
refrain from explicit definitions of the lie and of falsehood; they
make no attempt at distinguishing between justifiable concealment, and
concealment for the very purpose of deception.

With all the arguments on this question, in all the centuries,
comprised within these well-defined bounds, it were useless to name
each prominent disputant, in order merely to classify him as on the
one side or on the other, or as zigzagging along the line which he
fails to perceive. It were sufficient to point out a few pre-eminent
mountain peaks, in the centuries between the fifth and the nineteen of
the Christian era, as indicative of the perspective history of this

Towering above the greatest of the Schoolmen in the later middle ages
stands Thomas Aquinas. As a man of massive intellect, of keenness
of perception, of consistent logical instincts, and of unquestioned
sincerity and great personal devoutness, we might expect him to be
found, like Augustine, on the side of principle against policy, in
unqualified condemnation of lying under any circumstances whatsoever,
and in advocacy of truthfulness at all hazards. And that, as a matter
of fact, is his position.

In his _Summa Theologies_[1] Aquinas discusses this whole question
with eminent fairness, and with great thoroughness. He first states
the claims of those who, from the days of Chrysostom, had made excuses
for lying with a good end in view, and then he meets those claims
severally. He looks upon lies as evil in themselves, and as in no
way to be deemed good and lawful, since a right concurrence of all
elements is essential to a thing's being good. "Whence, every lie is a
sin, as Augustine says in his book 'Against Lying.'" His conclusion,
in view of all that is to be said on both sides of the question, is:
"Lying is sinful not only as harmful to our neighbor, but because
of its own disorderliness. It is no more permitted to do what is
disorderly [that is, contrary to the divine order of the universe] in
order to prevent harm, than it is to steal for the purpose of giving
alms, except indeed in case of necessity when all things are common
property [when, for instance, the taking of needful food in time of a
great disaster, as on a wrecked ship, is not stealing]. And therefore
it is not allowable to utter a lie with this view, that we may deliver
one from some peril. It is allowable, however, to conceal the truth
prudently, by a sort of dissimulation, as Augustine says." This
recognizes the correctness of Augustine's position, that concealment
of what one has a right to conceal may be right, provided no lie is
involved in the concealment. As to the relative grades of sin in
lying, Aquinas counts lying to another's hurt as a mortal sin, and
lying to avert harm from another as a venial sin; but he sees that
both are sins.

[Footnote 1: _Secunda Secundae_, Quaestio CX., art. III.]

It is natural to find Aquinas, as a representative of the keen-minded
Dominicans, standing by truth as an eternal principle, regardless of
consequences; as it is also natural to find, on the other side, Duns
Scotus, as a representative of the easy-going Franciscans, with his
denial of good absolute save as manifested in the arbitrary will of
God. Duns Scotus accepted the "theory of a twofold truth," ascribed to
Averroes, "that one and the same affirmation might be theologically
true and philosophically false, and _vice versa_." In Duns Scotus's
view, "God does not choose a thing because it is good, but the thing
chosen is good because God chooses it;" "it is good simply and solely
because God has willed it precisely so; but he might just as readily
have willed the opposite thereof. Hence also God is not [eternally]
bound by his commands, and he can in fact annul them."[1] According to
this view, God could forbid lying to-day and justify it to-morrow. It
is not surprising, therefore, that "falsehood and misrepresentation"
are "under certain circumstances allowable," in the opinion of Duns

[Footnote 1: See Kurtz's _Church History_ (Macpherson's Translation),
II., 101, 167-169; Ueberweg's _History of Philosophy_, I., 416, 456
f.; Wuttke's _Christian Ethics_ (Am. ed.), I., 218, Sec. 34.]

So, all along the centuries, the religious teacher who holds to the
line between truth and falsehood as an eternal line must, if logically
consistent, refuse to admit any possible justification of lying. Only
he who denies an eternally absolute line between the true and the
false could admit with consistency the justification by God of an act
that is essentially hostile to the divine nature. Any exception to
this rule is likely to be where a sympathetic nature inclines a
teacher to seek for an excuse for that which seems desirable even
though it be theoretically wrong.

When it comes to the days of the Protestant Reformation, we find John
Calvin, like his prototype Augustine, and like Augustine's follower
Aquinas, standing firmly against a lie as antagonistic to the very
nature of God, and therefore never justifiable. Martin Luther, also,
is a fearless lover of the truth; but he is disposed to find excuses
for a lie told with a good end in view, although he refrains from
asserting that even the best disposed lie lacks the element of
sinfulness.[1] On the other hand, Ignatius Loyola, and his associates
in the founding of the Society of Jesus as a means of checking the
Protestant Reformation, acted on the idea that was involved in the
theology of Duns Scotus, that the only standard of truth and right is
in the absolute and arbitrary will of God; and that, therefore, if
God, speaking through his representative in the newly formed Society,
commands the telling of a lie, a lie is justifiable, and its telling
is a duty. Moreover, these Jesuit leaders in defining, or in
explaining away, the lie, include, under the head of justifiable
concealment, equivocations and falsifications that the ordinary mind
would see to be forms of the lie.[2]

[Footnote 1: See Martensen's _Christian Ethics_, p. 216. Compare, for
example, Luther's comments on Exodus I: 15-21, with Calvin's comments
on Genesis 12: 14-20.]

[Footnote 2: See Symonds's _Renaissance in Italy_, I., 263-267;
Cartwright's _The Jesuits_; Meyrick's _Moral Theology of the Church
of Rome_; Pascal's _Provincial Letters_. See, also, Kurtz's _Church
History_, II., 430.]

It is common to point to the arguments of the Jesuits in favor of lies
of expediency, in their work for the Church and for souls, as though
their position were exceptional, and they stood all by themselves in
including falsehood as a means to be employed rightfully for a good

But in this they are simply logically consistent followers of those
Christian Fathers, and their successors in every branch of the Church,
who have held that a lie for righteous purposes was admissible when
the results to be secured by it were of vital importance. All the
refinements of casuistry have their value to those who admit that a
lie may be right under certain conceivable circumstances; but to those
who, like Augustine and Aquinas, insist that a lie is a sin _per se_,
and therefore never admissible, casuistry itself has no interest as a
means of showing when a sin is not sinful.[1]

[Footnote 1: Hence the casuistry of the Schoolmen and of the Jesuits,
and the question of Mental Reservations, and of "Probabilities," are
not treated in detail here.]

Some of the zealous defenders of the principles and methods of
the Jesuits affirm that, in their advocacy of dissimulation and
prevarication in the interests of a good cause, the Jesuits do not
intend to justify lying, but are pointing out methods of proper
concealment which are not within the realm of the lie. In this
(waiving the question whether these defenders are right or not as to
the fact) they seem even more desirous of being counted against lying
than those teachers, in the Romish Church or among Protestants, who
boldly affirm that a lie itself is sometimes justifiable. Thus it is
_claimed_ by a Roman Catholic writer, in defense of the Jesuits, that
Liguori, their favorite theologian, taught "that to speak falsely
is immutably a sin against God. It may be permitted under no
circumstances, not even to save life. Pope Innocent III. says, 'Not
even to defend our life is it lawful to speak falsely;'" therefore,
when Liguori approves any actions that seem opposed to truthfulness,
"he allows the instances because they are not falsehood."[1] On the
other hand, Jeremy Taylor squarely asserts: "It is lawful to tell
a lie to children or to madmen, because they, having no powers of
judging, have no right to the truth."[2]

[Footnote 1: See Meyrick's _Moral Theology of the Church of Rome_,
Appendix, p. 256 f.]

[Footnote 2: Jeremy Taylor's _Ductor Dubitantium_, in his Works, X.,

But Jeremy Taylor's trouble is in his indefinite definition of "a
lie," and in his consequent confusion of mind and of statement with
reference to the limitations of the duty of veracity. He writes on
this subject at considerable length,[1] and in alternation declares
himself plainly first on one side, and then on the other, of the main
question, without even an attempt at logical consistency. He starts
out with the idea that "we are to endeavor to be like God, who is
truth essentially;" that "God speaks truth because it is his nature;"
that "the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament do indefinitely
and severely forbid lying," and "our blessed Saviour condemns it by
declaring every lie to be of the Devil;" and that "beyond these things
nothing can [could] be said for the condemnation of lying." All that
certainly is explicit and sound,--as sound as Basil the Great, as
St. Augustine, or as Thomas Aquinas!

[Footnote 1: Jeremy Taylor's _Ductor Dubitantium_, in his Works, X.,

When he attempts the definition of a lie, however, Jeremy Taylor would
seem to claim that injustice toward others and an evil motive are of
its very essence, and that, if these be lacking, a lie is not a lie.
"Lying is to be understood to be something said or written to the hurt
of a neighbor, which cannot be understood [by the hearer or reader]
otherwise than to differ from the mind of him that speaks." As
Melanchthon says, "To lie is to deceive our neighbor to his hurt." "If
a lie be unjust, it can never become lawful; but if it can be separate
from injustice, then it may be innocent."

Jeremy Taylor naturally falls back on the Bible stories of the Hebrew
midwives and Rahab the harlot, and assumes that God commended their
lying, as lying, because they had a good end in view; and he asserts
that "it is necessary sometimes by a lie to advantage charity by
losing of a truth to save a life," and that "to tell a lie for
charity, to save a man's life, the life of a friend, of a husband, of
a prince, of an useful and a public person, hath not only been done in
all times, but commended by great and wise and good men." From this it
would appear that lying, which Jeremy Taylor sets out with denouncing
as contrary to God's nature, and as declared by our Saviour to be
always of the Devil, may, under certain circumstances, be a godly sin.
Gregory of Nyssa and young Chrysostom could not have done better than
this in showing the sinlessness of a sin in a good cause.

Seeing that concealment of that which is true is often a duty, and
seeing also that concealment of that which ought to be disclosed
is often practically a lie, Jeremy Taylor apparently; jumps to the
conclusion that concealment and equivocation and lying are practically
the same thing, and that therefore lying is sometimes a duty, while
again it is a sin. He holds that the right to be spoken to in
truthfulness, "though it be regularly and commonly belonging to all
men, yet it may be taken away by a superior right supervening; or it
may be lost, or it may be hindered, or it may cease upon a greater
reason." As "that which is but the half of a true proposition either
signifies nothing or is directly a lie," it must be admitted that "in
the same cases in which it is lawful to tell a lie, in the same cases
it is lawful to use a mental reservation;" and "where it is lawful to
lie, it is lawful to equivocate, which may be something less than a
plain lie." Moreover, "it is lawful upon a just cause of great charity
or necessity to use, in our answers and intercourses, words of divers
signification, though it does deceive him that asks."

Jeremy Taylor ingenuously confesses that, in certain cases where lying
is allowable or is a duty, "the prejudice which the question is like
to have is in the meaning and evil sound of the word lying; which,
because it is so hateful to God and man, casts a cloud upon anything
that it comes near." But, on the whole, Jeremy Taylor is willing to
employ with commendation that very word "lying" which is "so hateful
to God and man." And in various cases he insists that "it is lawful to
tell a lie," although "the lie must be charitable and useful,"--a good
lie, and not a wicked lie; for a good lie is good, and a wicked lie
is wicked. He does not shrink from the consequences of his false

Jeremy Taylor can therefore be cited as arguing that a lie is never
admissible, but that it often is commendable. He does not seem to
be quite sure of any real difference between lying and justifiable
concealment, or to have in his mind an unvarying line between
truthfulness and lying. He admits that God and man hate lying, but
that a good lie, nevertheless, is a very good thing. And so he leaves
the subject in more of a muddle than he found it.

Coming down to the present century, perhaps the most prominent and
influential defender of the "lie of necessity," or of limitations to
the law of veracity, is Richard Rothe; therefore it is important to
give special attention to his opinions and arguments on this subject.
Rothe was a man of great ability, of lovely spirit, and of pervasive
personal influence; and as a consequence his opinions carry special
weight with his numerous pupils and followers.

Kurtz[1] characterizes Rothe as "one of the most profound thinkers
of the century, equaled by none of his contemporaries in the grasp,
depth, and originality of his speculation," and his "Theological
Ethics" as "a work which in depth, originality, and conclusiveness
of reasoning, is almost unapproached." And in the opinion of
Lichtenberger,[2] Rothe "is unquestionably the most distinguished
theologian of the School of Conciliation, and the most original
thinker since Schleiermacher," while "he also showed himself to be one
of the humblest Christians and one of the finest formed characters of
his age." It is not to be wondered at therefore, that, when such a
leader in thought and in influence as Rothe declares himself in favor
of a judicious use of falsehood as a means of good, many are inclined
to feel that there must be some sound reason for his course. Yet, on
the other hand, the arguments in favor of falsehood, put forward
by even such a man, ought to be scrutinized with care, in order to
ascertain if they are anything more than the familiar arguments on the
same side repeated in varying phrase in all the former centuries from
Chrysostom to Jeremy Taylor.

[Footnote 1: _Church History_ (Macpherson's translation), III., 201.]

[Footnote 2: _History of German Theology in the 19th Century_, p.

The trouble with Rothe in his treatment of this Matter[1] is, that he
considers the duty of truthfulness merely in its personal and social
aspects, without any direct reference to the nature, and the declared
will, of God. Moreover, his peculiar definition of a lie is adapted
to his view of the necessities of the case. He defines a lie as
"the unloving misuse of speech (or of other recognized means of
communication) to the intentional deception of our neighbor." In his
mind, lovelessness toward one's fellow-man is of the very essence of
the lie, and when one speaks falsely in expression of a spirit of love
to others, it is not necessarily a lie.

[Footnote 1: Rothe's _Theologische Ethik_, IVter Band, §§ 1064, 1065.]

Rothe does not seem to recognize, in its application to this matter,
the great principle that there is no true love for man except in
conformity to and in expression of love for God; hence that nothing
that is in direct violation of a primal law of God can be an
exhibition of real love for one of God's creatures.

It is true that Rothe assumes that the subject of Theological Ethics
is an essential branch of Speculative Theology; but in his treatment
of Special Duties he seems to assume that Society rather than God is
their background, and therefore the idea of sin as sin does not enter
into the discussion. His whole argument and his conclusions are an
illustration of the folly of attempting to solve any problem in ethics
without considering the relation to it of God's eternal laws, and of
the eternal principles which are involved in the very conception of
God. Ethics necessarily includes more than social duties, and must be
considered in the light of duty to God as above all.

"The intentional deception of our neighbor," says Rothe, "by saying
what is untrue, is not invariably and unqualifiedly a lie. The
question in this case is essentially one of the purpose.... It is only
in the case where the untruth spoken with intent to deceive is at the
same time an act of unlovingness toward our neighbor, that it is a
violation of truthfulness as already defined, that is, a lie." In
Rothe's view, "there are relations of men to each other in which
[for the time being] avowedly the ethical fellowship does not exist,
although the suspension of this fellowship must, of course, always
be regarded as temporary, and this indeed as a matter of duty for at
least one of the parties. Here there can be no mention of love, and
therefore no more of the want of it." Social duties being in such
cases suspended, and the idea of any special duty toward God not being
in consideration, it is quite proper, as Rothe sees it, for enemies in
war, or in private life, to speak falsely to each other. Such enemies
"naturally have in speech simply a weapon which one may use against
the other.... The duty of speaking the truth cannot even be thought of
as existing between persons so arrayed against each other.... However
they may try to deceive each other, even with the help of speech, they
do not lie."

But Rothe goes even farther than this in the advocacy of such
violations, or abrogations, of the law of veracity, as would undermine
the very foundations of social life, and as would render the law
against falsehood little more than a variable personal rule for
limited and selected applications,--after the fashion of the American
humorist who "believed in universal salvation if he could pick his
men." Rothe teaches that falsehood is a duty, not only when it is
needful in dealing with public or personal enemies, but often, also,
in dealing with "children, the sick, the insane, the drunken, the
passionately excited, and the morally weak,"--and that takes in
a large share of the human race. He gives many illustrations of
falsehood supposed to be necessary (where, in fact, they would seem to
the keen-minded reader to be quite superfluous[1]) and having affirmed
the duty of false speaking in these cases, he takes it for granted
(in a strange misconception of the moral sense of mankind) that the
deceived parties would, if appealed to in their better senses, justify
the falsehoods spoken by mothers in the nursery, by physicians in the
sick-room, and by the clear-headed sober man in his intercourse with
the angry or foolish or drunken individual.

[Footnote 1: Nitzsch, the most eminent dogmatic theologian among
Schleiermacher's immediate disciples, denies the possibility of
conceiving of a case where loving consideration for others, or any
other dutiful regard for them, will not attain its end otherwise and
more truly and nobly than by lying to them, or where "the loving liar
or falsifier might not have acted still more lovingly and wisely
without any falsification.... The lie told from supposed necessity or
to serve another is always, even in the most favorable circumstances,
a sign either of a wisdom which is lacking in love and truth, or of a
love which is lacking in wisdom."]

"Of course," he says, "such a procedure presupposes a certain relation
of guardianship, on the part of the one who speaks untruth, over him
whom he deceives, and a relative irresponsibility on the part of the
other,--an incapacity to make use of certain truths except to his
actual moral injury. And in each case all depends on the accuracy of
this assumption." It is appalling to find a man like Rothe announcing
a principle like this as operative in social ethics! Every man to
decide for himself (taking the responsibility, of course, for his
personal decision) whether he is in any sense such a guardian of his
fellow-man as shall make it his duty to speak falsely to him in love!

Rothe frankly admits that there is no evidence that Jesus Christ,
while setting an example here among men, ever spoke one of these
dutiful untruths; although it certainly would seem that Jesus might
have fairly claimed as good a right to a guardianship of his earthly
fellows as the average man of nowadays.[1] But this does not restrain
Rothe from deliberately advising his fellow-men to a different course.

[Footnote 1: Rothe says on this point: "That the Saviour spoke untruth
is a charge to whose support only a single passage, John 7:8, can be
alleged with any show of plausibility. But even here there was no
speaking of untruth, even if [Greek: ank][a disputed reading] be
regarded as the right reading." See on this passage Meyer in his
_Commentary_, and Westcott in _The Bible Commentary_.]

Rothe names Marheineke, DeWette, von Ammon, Herbart, Hartenstein,
Schwartz, Harless, and Reinhard, as agreeing in the main with his
position; while as opposed to it he mentions Kant, Fichte, Krause,
Schleiermacher, von Hirscher, Nitzsch, Flatt, and Baumgarten-Crusius.
But this is by no means a question to be settled by votes; and not one
of the writers cited by Rothe as of his mind, in this controversy,
has anything new to offer in defense of a position in such radical
disagreement with the teachings of the Bible, and with the moral sense
of the race, on this point, as that taken by Rothe. In his ignoring
of the nature and the will of God as the basis of an argument in this
matter, and in his arbitrary and unauthorized definition of a lie
(with its inclusion of the claim that the deliberate utterance of a
statement known to be false, for the express purpose of deceiving the
one to whom it is spoken, is not necessarily and inevitably a lie),
Rothe stands quite pre-eminent. Wuttke says, indeed, of Rothe's
treatment of ethics: "Morality [as he sees it] is an independent
something alongside of piety, and rests by no means on piety,--is
entirely co-ordinate to and independent of it."[1] Yet so great is the
general influence of Rothe, that various echoes of his arguments for
falsehoods in love are to be found in subsequent English and American
utterances on Christian ethics.

[Footnote 1: Wuttke's _Christian Ethics_ (Lacroix's transl.), § 48.]

Contemporaneous with Richard Rothe, and fully his peer in intellectual
force and Christ-likeness of spirit, stands Isaac August Dorner. Dr.
Schaff says of him:[1] "Dr. Dorner was one of the profoundest and
most learned theologians of the nineteenth century, and ranks with
Schleiermacher, Neander, Nitzsch, Julius Müller, and Richard Rothe. He
mastered the theology of Schleiermacher and the philosophy of Hegel,
appropriated the best elements of both, infused into them a positive
evangelical faith and a historic spirit;" and as a lecturer,
especially "on dogmatics and ethics ... he excelled all his
contemporaries." And to this estimate of him Professor Mead adds:[2]
"Even one who knows Dorner merely as the theological writer, will in
his writings easily detect the fine Christian tone which characterized
the man; but no one who did not personally know him can get a true
impression of the Johannean tenderness and childlike simplicity which
distinguished him above almost any one of equal eminence whom the
world has ever known."

[Footnote 1: _Supplement to Schaff-Hertzog Encyc. of Relig. Knowl_.,
p. 58.]

[Footnote 2: Preface to Dorner's _System of Christian Ethics_ (Am.
ed.), p. vii.]

When, therefore, it is considered that, after Rothe had given his
views on veracity to the world, Dorner wrote on the same subject, as
the very last work of his maturest life, a special interest attaches
to his views on this mooted question. And Dorner is diametrically
opposed to Rothe in this thing. Dorner bases the duty of truthfulness
on our common membership in Christ, and the love that grows out of
such a relation.[1] "Truth does not," indeed, "demand that all that is
in a man should be brought out, else it would be a moral duty for him
to let also the evil that is in him come forth, whereas it is his
duty to keep it down." But if an untrue statement be made with the
intention to deceive, it is a lie.

[Footnote 1: See Dorner's _System of Christian Ethics_ (Am. ed.), pp.

"Are there cases," he asks, "where lying is allowable? Can we make out
the so-called 'white lie' to be morally permissible?" Then he takes up
the cases of children and the insane, who are not entitled to know all
the truth, and asks if it be right not only to conceal the truth but
to falsify it, in talking with them. Concealment may be a duty, he
admits, but he denies that falsifying is ever a duty. "How shall
ethics ever be brought to lay down a duty of lying [of 'white lying'],
to recommend evil that good may come? The test for us is, whether we
could ever imagine Christ acting in this way, either for the sake of
others, or--which would be quite as justifiable, since self-love is a
moral duty--for his _own_ sake."

As to falsifying to a sick or dying man, he says, "we overestimate the
value of human life, and, besides, we in a measure usurp the place
of Providence, when we believe we may save it by committing sin." In
other words, Dorner counts falsifying with the intention of deceiving,
even with the best of motives, a lie, and therefore a sin--never
justifiable. Like Augustine, Dorner recognizes degrees of guilt in
lies, according to the spirit and motive of their telling; but in any
event, if there be falsehood with the purpose of deceiving, it is a
sin--to be regretted and repented of.

Dorner makes a fresh distinction between the stratagems of war and
lying, which is worthy of note. He says that playful fictions, after
the manner of riddles to be guessed out, are clearly allowable. So "in
war, too, something like a game of this kind is carried on, when by
way of stratagem some deceptive appearance is produced, and a riddle
is thus given to the enemy. In such cases there is no falsehood;
for from the conditions of the situation,--whether friendly or
hostile,--the appearance that is given is confessedly nothing more
than an appearance, and is therefore honest."

The simplicity and clearness of Dorner, in his unsophistical treatment
of this question, is in refreshing contrast with the course of
Rothe,--who confuses the whole matter in discussion by his arbitrary
claim that a lie is not a lie, if it be told with a good purpose and a
loving spirit. And the two men are representative disputants in
this controversy of the centuries, as truly as were Augustine and

A close friend of Dorner was Hans Lassen Martensen, "the greatest
theologian of Denmark," and a thinker of the first class, "with high
speculative endowments, and a considerable tincture of theosophical
mysticism."[1] Martensen's "Christian Ethics" do not ignore God
and the Bible as factors in any question of practical morals under
discussion. He characterizes the result of such an omission as "a
reckoning of an account whose balance has been struck elsewhere; if
we bring out another figure, we have reckoned wrong." Martensen's
treatment of the duty of veracity is a remarkable exhibit of the
workings of a logical mind in full view of eternal principles, yet
measurably hindered and retarded by the heart-drawings of an amiable
sentiment. He sees the all-dividing line, and recognizes the primal
duty of conforming to it; yet he feels that it is a pity that such
conformity must be so expensive in certain imaginary cases, and he
longs to find some allowance for desirable exceptions.[2]

[Footnote 1: See Kurtz's _Church History_ (Macpherson's transl.),
III., 201; _Supplement to Schaff-Hertzog Encyc. of Relig. Knowl_., p.
57; _Johnson's Univ. Cycl._., art. "Martensen."]

[Footnote 2: Martensen's _Christian Ethics (Individual)_, (Eng.
trans.,) pp. 205-226.]

Martensen gives as large prominence as Rothe to love for one's
fellow-man; but he bases that love entirely, as Rothe does not, on
love for Christ. "Only in Christ, and [in] the light which, proceeding
from him, is poured over human nature and all human life, can we love
men in the central sense, and only then does philanthropy receive its
deepest religious and moral character, when it is rooted in the truth
of Christ." And as Christ is Truth, those who are Christ's must never
violate the truth. "'Thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not
lie, neither in word nor deed; thou shalt neither deny the truth, nor
give out anything that is not truth for truth,'--this commandment must
dominate and penetrate all our life's relations." "Truth does not
exist for man's sake, but man for the sake of the truth, because the
truth would reveal itself to man, would be owned and testified
by him." This would seem to be explicit enough to shut out the
possibility of a justifiable lie!

"Yet it does not follow from this," says Martensen, "that our duty to
communicate the truth to others is unlimited.... 'There is a time to
be silent, and a time to speak.' No one is bound to say everything to
everybody." Here he distinguishes between justifiable concealment and
falsehood. Then he comes to the question "whether the so-called 'lie
of exigency' can ever be justifiable." He runs over the arguments on
both sides, and recalls the centuries of discussion on the subject.
He thinks that adherence to the general principle which forbids lying
would, in certain cases where love prompted to falsehood, cause in
most minds an inward feeling that the letter killeth, and that to
follow the promptings of love were better. Hence he argues that "as
in other departments there are actions which, although from the
standpoint of the ideal they are to be rejected, yet, from the
hardness of men's hearts, must be approved and admitted, and under
this restriction become relatively justifiable and dutiful actions,
simply because greater evils are thereby averted; so there is also an
untruth from exigency that must still be allowed for the sake of human
weakness." And in his opinion "it comes to this, that the question of
casuistry cannot be solved by general and abstract directions, but
must be solved in an individual, personal way, especially according to
the stage of moral and religious development and ripeness on which the
person in question is found."

Having made these concessions, in the realm of feeling, to the
defenders of the "lie of exigency," which may be "either uttered from
love to men, or as defense against men--a defense in which either a
justifiable self-love or sympathy with others is operative," Martensen
proceeds to show that every such falsehood is abnormal and immoral.
"When we thus maintain," he says, "that in certain difficult cases an
'untruth from necessity' may occur, which is to be allowed for the
sake of human weakness, and under the given relations may be said to
be justified and dutiful, we cannot but allow, on the other hand, that
in every such untruth there is something of sin, nay something that
needs excuse and forgiveness.... Certainly even the truth of the
letter, the external, actual truth, even the formally correct, finds
its right, the ground of its validity, in God's holy order of the
world. But by every lie of exigency the command is broken, 'Thou shalt
not bear false witness.'"

Martensen protests against the claim of Rothe that a falsehood spoken
in love "is not at all to be called a lie, but can be absolutely
defended as morally _normal_, and so in no respect needs pardon."
"However sharply we may distinguish between lie and untruth
(_mendacium_ and _falsilo-quium_), the untruth in question can never
be resolved into the morally normal." And he suggests that if one had
more of wisdom and courage and faith, he might be true to the truth in
an emergency without fear of the consequences.

"Let us suppose, for instance," he says, "the ... case, where the
husband deceives his sick spouse from fear that she could not survive
the news of the death of her child; who dare maintain that if the man
had been able in the right way, that is in the power of the gospel,
with the wisdom and the comfort of faith, to announce the death of the
child, a religious crisis might not have arisen in her soul, which
might have a healing and quickening effect upon her bodily state? And
supposing that it had even led to her death, who dare maintain that
that death, if it was a Christian death, were an evil, whether for the
mother herself, or for the survivors?

"Or, let us take the woman who, to save her chastity, applies the
defense of an untruth: who dare maintain that if she said the truth to
her persecutors, but uttered it in womanly heroism, with a believing
look to God, with the courage, the elevation of soul springing from
a pure conscience, exhibiting to her persecutors the badness and
unworthiness of their object, she might not have disarmed them by that
might that lies in the good, the just cause, the cause whose defense
and shield God himself will be? And even if she had to suffer what is
unworthy, who dare maintain that she could not in suffering preserve
her moral worth?"

Martensen recalls the story of Jeanie Deans, in Scott's "Heart of
Midlothian," who refuses to tell a lie of exigency in order to save
her sister's life; yet who, having uttered the truth which led to her
sister's sentence of death, set herself, in faith in God, to secure
that sister's pardon, and by God's grace compassed it. "Most people
would at least be disposed to excuse Jeanie Deans, and to forgive
her, if she had here made a false oath, and thereby had afforded her
protection to the higher truth." And if a loving lie of exigency be a
duty before God, an appeal to his knowledge of the fact is, of course,
equally a duty. To refuse to appeal to God in witness of the truth of
a falsehood that is told from a loving sense of duty, is to show a
lack of confidence in God's approval of such an untruth. "But she
will, can, and dare, for her conscience' sake, not do this."

"But the best thing in this tale," adds Martensen, "is that it is
no mere fiction. The kernel of this celebrated romance is actual
history." And Sir Walter Scott caused a monument to be erected in his
garden, with the following inscription, in memory of this faithful

"This stone was placed by the Author of 'Waverley' in memory of Helen
Walker, who fell asleep in the year of our Lord 1791. This maiden
practiced in humility all the virtues with which fancy had adorned the
character that bears in fiction the name of Jeanie Deans. She would
not depart a foot's breadth from the path of truth, not even to save
her sister's life; and yet she obtained the liberation of her sister
from the severity of the law by personal sacrifices whose greatness
was not less than the purity of her aims. Honor to the grave where
poverty rests in beautiful union with truthfulness and sisterly love."

"Who will not readily obey this request," adds Martensen, "and hold
such a memory in honor?... Who does not feel himself penetrated with
involuntary, most hearty admiration?"

In conclusion, in view of all that can be said on either side of the
question, Martensen is sure that "the lie of exigency itself, which we
call inevitable, leaves in us the feeling of something unworthy, and
this unworthiness should, simply in following Christ, more and more
disappear from our life. That is, the inevitableness of the lie
of exigency will disappear in the same measure that an individual
develops into a true personality, a true character.... A lie of
exigency cannot occur with a personality that is found in possession
of full courage, of perfect love and holiness, as of the enlightened,
all-penetrating glance. Not even as against madmen and maniacs will a
lie of exigency be required, for to the word of the truly sanctified
personality there belongs an imposing commanding power that casts out
demons. It is this that we see in Christ, in whose mouth no guile
was found, in whom we find nothing that even remotely belongs to the
category of the exigent lie."

So it is evident that if one would seek excuse for the lie of
exigency, in the concessions made by Martensen, he must do so only on
the score of the hardness of his heart, and the softness of his head,
as one lacking a proper measure of wisdom, of courage, and of faith,
to enable him to conform to the proper ideal standard of human
conduct. And even then he must recognize the fact that in his weakness
he has done something to be ashamed of, and to demand repentance. Cold
comfort that for a decent man!

It would seem that personal temperament and individual peculiarities
had their part in deciding a man's attitude toward the question of the
unvarying duty of veracity, quite as surely as the man's recognition
of great principles. An illustration of this truth is shown in the
treatment of the subject by Dr. Charles Hodge on the one hand, and by
Dr. James H. Thornwell on the other, as representatives, severally, of
Calvinistic Augustinianism in the Presbyterian Church of the United
States, in its Northern and Southern branches. Starting from the same
point of view, and agreeing as to the principles involved, these two
thinkers are by no means together in their conclusions; and this, not
because of any real difference in their processes of reasoning, but
apparently because of the larger place given by the former to the
influence of personal feeling, as over against the imperative demands
of truth.

Dr. Hodge begins with the recognition and asseveration of eternal
principles, that can know no change or variation in their application
to this question; and then, as he proceeds with its discussion, he is
amiably illogical and good-naturedly inconsistent, and he ends in a
maze, without seeming quite sure as to his own view of the case,
or giving his readers cause to know what should be their view. Dr.
Thornwell, on the other hand, beginning in the same way, proceeds
unwaveringly to the close, in logical consistency of reasoning;
leaving his readers at the last as fully assured as he is as to the
application of unchangeable principles to man's life and duties.

No one could state the underlying principles involved in this question
more clearly and explicitly than does Dr. Hodge at the outset;[1] and
it would seem from this statement that he could not be in doubt as to
the issue of the discussion of this question of the ages. "The command
to keep truth inviolate belongs to a different class [of commands]
from those relating to the sabbath, to marriage, or to property. These
are founded on the permanent relations of men in the present state of
existence. They are not in their own nature immutable. But truth is
at all times sacred, because it is one of the essential attributes of
God, so that whatever militates against or is hostile to truth is in
opposition to the very nature of God."

[Footnote 1: See Hodge's _Systematic Theology_, III., 437-463.]

"Truth is, so to speak, the very substratum of Deity. It is in such a
sense the foundation of all the moral perfections of God, that without
it they cannot be conceived of as existing. Unless God really is what
he declares himself to be; unless he means what he declares himself to
mean; unless he will do what he promises,--the whole idea of God is
lost. As there is no God but the true God, so without truth there is
and can be no God. As this attribute is the foundation, so to speak,
of the divine, so it is the foundation of the physical and moral order
of the universe.... There is, therefore, something awfully sacred in
the obligations of truth. A man who violates the truth, sins against
the very foundation of his moral being. As a false god is no god, so a
false man is no man; he can never be what man was designed to be; he
can never answer the end of his being. There can be in him nothing
that is stable, trustworthy, or good."

Here is a platform that would seem to be the right standing-place for
all and for always. Dr. Hodge apparently recognizes its well-defined
limits and bounds; yet when he comes to discuss the question whether a
certain person is, in a supposable case, on it, or off it, he does not
seem so sure as to its precise boundary lines. He begins to waver
when he cites Bible incidents. Recognizing the fact that fables
and parables, and works of fiction, even though untrue, are not
falsehoods, he strangely jumps to the conclusion that the "intention
to deceive" is "not always culpable." He immediately follows this
non-sequitur with a reference to the lying Hebrew midwives,[1] and he
quotes the declaration of God's blessing on them, as if it were an
approval of their lying, or their false speaking with an intention to
deceive, instead of an approval of their spirit of devotion to God's

[Footnote 1: Exod. I: 19, 20.]

[Footnote 2: Comp. p. 35 f., _supra_.]

From the midwives he passes to Samuel, sent of God to Bethlehem; [1]
and under cover of the expressed opinions of others, Dr. Hodge says
vaguely: "Here, it is said, is a case of intentional deception
commanded. Saul was to be deceived as to the object of Samuel's
journey to Bethlehem." Yet, whoever "said" this was guilty of a
gratuitous charge of intentional deception, against the Almighty.
Samuel was directed of God to speak the truth, so far as he spoke at
all, while he concealed from others that which others had no right to
know.[2] It would appear, however, throughout this discussion, that
Dr. Hodge does not perceive the clear and important distinction
between justifiable concealment from those who have no right to a
knowledge of the facts, and concealment, or even false speaking, with
the deliberate intention of deceiving those interested. In fact, Dr.
Hodge does not even mention "concealment," as apart from its use for
the specific purpose of deception.

[Footnote 1: I Sam. 16: i, 2.]

[Footnote 2: Comp. pp. 38-40, _supra_.]

Again Dr. Hodge cites the incident of Elisha at Dothan[1] as if
in illustration of the rightfulness of deception under certain
circumstances. But in this case it was concealment of facts that might
properly be concealed, and not the deception of enemies as enemies,
that Elisha compassed. The Syrians wanted to find Elisha. Their eyes
were blinded, so that they did not recognize him when in his presence.
In order to teach them a lesson, Elisha told the Syrians that they
could not find him, or the city which was his home, by their own
seeking; but if they would follow him he would bring them to the man
whom they sought. They followed him, and he showed himself to them.
When their eyes were opened in Samaria he would not suffer them to be
harmed, but had them treated as guests, and sent back safely to their

[Footnote 1: Kings 6: 14-20.]

Having cited these three cases, no one of which can fairly be made to
apply to the argument he is pursuing, Dr. Hodge complacently remarks:
"Examples of this kind of deception are numerous in the Old Testament.
Some of them are simply recorded facts, without anything to indicate
how they were regarded in the sight of God; but others, as in the
cases above cited, received either directly or by implication the
divine sanction."

But Dr. Hodge goes even farther than this. He ventures to suggest that
Jesus Christ deceived his disciples by intimating what was not true
as to his purpose, in more than one instance. "Of our blessed
Lord himself it is said in Luke 24:28, 'He made as though [Greek:
prosepoieito]--he made a show of: he would have gone further.' He so
acted as to make the impression on the two disciples that it was
his purpose to continue his journey. (Comp. Mark 6: 48.)"[1] This
suggestion of Dr. Hodge's would have been rebuked by even Richard
Rothe, and would have shocked August Dorner. Would Dr. Hodge deny that
Jesus _could_ have had it in his mind to "go further," or to have
"passed by" his disciples, if they would not ask him to stop? And if
this were a possibility, is it fair to intimate that a purpose of
deception was in his mind, when there is nothing in the text that
makes that a necessary conclusion? Dr. Hodge, indeed, adds the
suggestion that "many theologians do not admit that the fact recorded
in Luke 24:28 [which he cites as an illustration of justifiable
deception by our Lord] involved any intentional deception;" but this
fact does not deter him from putting it forward in this light.

[Footnote 1: When Jesus came walking on the sea, toward his disciples
in their tempest-tossed boat, "he would have passed them by;" but
their cry of fear drew him toward them.]

In the discussion of the application to emergencies, in practical
life, of the eternal principle which he points out at the beginning,
Dr. Hodge is as far from consistency as in his treatment of Bible
narratives. "It is generally admitted," he says, "that in criminal
falsehoods there must be not only the enunciation or signification of
what is false, and an intention to deceive, but also a violation of
some obligation." What obligation can be stronger than the obligation
to be true to God and true to one's self? If, as Dr. Hodge declares,
"a man who violates the truth, sins against the very foundation of his
moral being," a man would seem to be always under an obligation not to
violate the truth by speaking that which is false with an intention to
deceive. But Dr. Hodge seems to lose sight of his premises, in all his
progress toward his conclusions on this subject.

"There will always be cases," he continues, "in which the rule of duty
is a matter of doubt. It is often said that the rule above stated
applies when a robber demands your purse. It is said to be right to
deny that you have anything of value about you. You are not bound to
aid him in committing a crime; and he has no right to assume that
you will facilitate the accomplishment of his object. This is not so
clear. The obligation to speak the truth is a very solemn one; and
when the choice is left a man to tell a lie or lose his money, he
had better let his money go. On the other hand, if a mother sees a
murderer in pursuit of her child, she has a perfect right to mislead
him by any means in her power [including lying?]; because the general
obligation to speak the truth is merged or lost, for the time
being, in the higher obligation." Yet Dr. Hodge starts out with the
declaration that the obligation "to keep truth inviolate," is highest
of all; that "truth is at all times sacred, because it is one of the
essential attributes of God;" that God himself cannot "suspend or
modify" this obligation; and that man is always under its force. And
now, strangely enough, he claims that in various emergencies "the
general obligation to speak the truth is merged, or lost, for the time
being, in the higher obligation." The completest and most crushing
answer to the vicious conclusions of Dr. Hodge as to the varying
claims of veracity, is to be found in the explicit terms of his
unvaryingly correct premises in the discussion.

Dr. Hodge appears to be conscious of his confusion of mind in this
discussion, but not to be quite sure of the cause of it. As to his
claim that the general obligation to speak the truth may be merged for
the time being in a "higher obligation," he says: "This principle is
not invalidated by its possible or actual abuse. It has been greatly
abused." And he adds, farther on, in the course of the discussion:

"The question now under consideration is not whether it is ever right
to do wrong, which is a solecism; nor is the question whether it is
ever right to lie; but rather what constitutes a lie."

Having claimed that a lie necessarily includes falsity of statement,
an intention to deceive, and "a violation of some obligation," Dr.
Hodge goes on to show that "every lie is a violation of a promise,"
as growing out of the nature of human society, where "every man is
expected to speak the truth, and is under a tacit but binding promise
not to deceive his neighbor by word or act." And, after all this, he
is inclined to admit that there are cases in which falsehoods with
the intention of deceiving are not lying, and are justifiable. "This,
however," he goes on to say, "is not always admitted. Augustine, for
example, makes every intentional deception, no matter what the object
or what the circumstances, to be sinful." And then, in artless
simplicity, Dr. Hodge concludes: "This would be the simplest ground
for the moralist to take. But as shown above, and as generally
admitted, there are cases of intentional deception which are not

According to the principles laid down at the start by Dr. Hodge,
there is no place for a lie in God's service; but according to the
inferences of Dr. Hodge, in the discussion of this question, there are
places where falsehoods spoken with intent to deceive are admissible
in God's sight and service. His whole treatment of this subject
reminds me of an incident in my army-prison life, where this question
as a question was first forced upon my attention. The Union prisoners,
in Columbia at that time, received their rations from the Confederate
authorities, and had them cooked in their own way, and at their own
expense, by an old colored woman whom they employed for the purpose.
Two of us had a dislike for onions in our stew, while the others were
well pleased with them. So we two agreed with old "Maggie," for a
small consideration, to prepare us a separate mess without onions. The
next day our mess came by itself. We took it, and began our meal with
peculiar satisfaction; but the first taste showed us an unmistakable
onion flavor in our stew. When old Maggie came again, we remonstrated
with her on her breach of engagement. "Bless your hearts, honeys," she
replied, "you must have _some_ onions in your stew!" She could not
comprehend the possibility of a beef stew without onions, even though
she had formally agreed to make it.

Dr. Hodge's premises in the discussion of the duty of truthfulness
rule out onions; but his inferences and conclusions have the odor and
the taste of onions. He stands on a safe platform to begin with; but
he is an unsafe guide when he walks away from it. His arguments in
this case are an illustration of his own declaration: "An adept in
logic may be a very poor reasoner."

Dr. Thornwell's "Discourses on Truth"[1] are a thorough treatment of
the obligation of veracity and the sin of lying. He is clear in his
definitions, marking the distinction between rightful concealment as
concealment, and concealment for the purpose of deception. "There are
things which men have a right to keep secret," he says, "and if a
prurient curiosity prompts others officiously to pry into them, there
is nothing criminal or dishonest in refusing to minister to such
a spirit. Our silence or evasive answers may have the effect of
misleading. That is not our fault, as it was not our design. Our
purpose was simply to leave the inquirer as nearly as possible in the
state of ignorance in which we found him: it was not to misinform him,
but not to inform him at all.

[Footnote 1: In Thornwell's _Collected Writings_, II., 451-613.]

"'Every man,' says Dr. Dick, 'has not a right to hear the truth when
he chooses to demand it. We are not bound to answer every question
which may be proposed to us. In such cases we may be silent, or we may
give as much information as we please, and suppress the rest. If the
person afterward discover that the information was partial, he has no
title to complain, because he had no right even to what he obtained;
and we are not guilty of a falsehood unless we made him believe, by
something which we said, that the information was complete.'" "The
_intention_ of the speaker, and the _effect_ consequent upon it, are
very different things."

Dr. Thornwell recognizes the fact that the moral sense of humanity
discerns the invariable superiority of truth over falsehood. "If we
place virtue in sentiment," he says, "there is nothing, according to
the confession of all mankind, more beautiful and lovely than truth,
more ugly and hateful than a lie. If we place it in calculations of
expediency, nothing, on the one hand, is more conspicuously useful
than truth and the confidence it inspires; nothing, on the other, more
disastrous than falsehood, treachery, and distrust. If there be then a
moral principle to which, in every form, humanity has given utterance,
it is the obligation of veracity." "No man ever tells a lie without a
certain degree of violence to his nature."

Dr. Thornwell bases this obligation of veracity on the nature of God,
and on the duty of man to conform to the image of God in which he was
created. "Jesus Christ commends himself to our confidence and love,"
he says, "on the ground of his being the truth;... and makes it the
glory of the Father that he is the God of truth, and the shame and
everlasting infamy of the prince of darkness that he is the father
of lies;" and he adds: "The mind cannot move in charity, nor rest in
Providence, unless it turn upon the poles of truth." "Every man is as
distinctly organized in reference to truth, as in reference to any
other purpose."

In Dr. Thornwell's view, it is not, as Dr. Paley would have it, that
"a lie is a breach of promise," because as between man and man "the
truth is expected," according to a tacit understanding. As Dr.
Thornwell sees it, "we are not bound by any other expectations of man
but those which we have authorized;" and he deems it "surprising
to what an extent this superficial theory of 'contract' has found
advocates among divines and moralists," as, for example, Dr. Robert
South, whom he quotes.[1] "If Dr. Paley had pushed his inquiries a
little farther," adds Thornwell, "he might have accounted for this
expectation [of truthfulness] which certainly exists, independently of
a promise, upon principles firmer and surer than any he has admitted
in the structure of his philosophy. He might have seen it in the
language of our nature proclaiming the will of our nature's God." The
moral sense of mankind demands veracity, and abhors falsehood.

[Footnote 1: Smith's _Sermon, on Falsehood and Lying_.]

Dr. Thornwell is clear as to the teachings of the Bible, in its
principles, and in the illustration of those principles in the sacred
narrative. The Bible as he sees it teaches the unvarying duty of
veracity, and the essential sinfulness of falsehood and deception. He
repudiates the idea that God, in any instance, approved deception, or
that Jesus Christ practiced it. "When our Saviour 'made as though he
would have gone farther,' he effectually questioned his disciples
as to the condition of their hearts in relation to the duties of
hospitality. The angels, in pretending that it was their purpose to
abide in the street all night, made the same experiment on Lot. This
species of simulation involves no falsehood; its design is not to
deceive, but to catechize and instruct. The whole action is to be
regarded as a sign by which a question is proposed, or the mind
excited to such a degree of curiosity and attention that lessons of
truth can be successfully imparted."

And so on through other Bible incidents. Dr. Thornwell has no
hesitation in distinguishing when concealment is right concealment,
and when concealment is wrong because intended to deceive.

Exposing the incorrectness of the claim, made by Dr. Paley, as by
others, that certain specific falsehoods are not lies, Dr. Thornwell
shows himself familiar with the discussion of this question of
the ages in all the centuries; and he moves on with his eye fixed
unerringly on the polar star of truth, in refreshing contrast with the
amiable wavering of Dr. Hodge's footsteps.

"Paley's law," he concludes, "would obviously be the destruction of
all confidence. How much nobler and safer is the doctrine of the
Scriptures, and of the unsophisticated language of man's moral
constitution, that truth is obligatory on its own account, and that he
who undertakes to signify to another, no matter in what form, and no
matter what may be the right in the case to know the truth, is bound
to signify according to the convictions of his own mind! He is not
always bound to speak, but whenever he does speak he is solemnly bound
to speak nothing but the truth. The universal application of this
principle would be the diffusion of universal confidence. It would
banish deceit and suspicion from the world, and restrict the use of
signs to their legitimate offices."

A later work on Christian Ethics, which acquires special prominence
through its place in "The International Theological Library," edited
by Drs. Briggs and Salmond, is by Dr. Newman Smyth. It shows signs of
strength in the premises assumed by the writer, in accordance with the
teachings of Scripture and of the best moral sense of mankind; and
signs of weakness in his processes of reasoning, and in his final
conclusion, according to the mental methods of those who have wavered
on this subject, from John Chrysostom to Richard Rothe and Charles

Dr. Smyth rightly bases Christian ethics on the nature and will of
God, as illustrated in the life and teachings of the divine-human Son
of God. "A thoroughly scientific ethics must not only be adequate
to the common moral sense of men, but prove true also to the moral
consciousness of the Son of man. No ethics has right to claim to be
thoroughly scientific, or to offer itself as the only science of
ethics possible to us in our present experience, until it has sought
to enter into the spirit of Christ, and has brought all its, analysis
and theories of man's moral life to the light of the luminous ethical
personality of Jesus Christ."[1]

[Footnote 1: Smyth's _Christian Ethics_, p. 6.]

In his general statement of "the duty of speaking the truth," Dr.
Smyth is also clear, sound, and emphatic.[1] "The law of truthfulness
is," he says, "a supreme inward law of thought." "The obligation of
veracity ... is an obligation which every man owes to himself. It is a
primal personal obligation. Kant was profoundly right when he regarded
falsehood as a forfeiture of personal worth, a destruction of personal
integrity.... Truthfulness is the self-consistency of character;
falsehood is a breaking up of the moral integrity. Inward truthfulness
is essential to moral growth and personal vigor, as it is necessary
to the live oak that it should be of one fiber and grain from root to
branch. What a flaw is in steel, what a foreign substance is in any
texture, that a falsehood is to the character,--a source of weakness,
a point where under strain it may break.... Truthfulness, then, is
due, first by the individual to himself as the obligation of personal
integrity. The unity of the personal life consists in it."

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., pp. 386-389.]

And in addition to the obligation of veracity as a duty to one's self,
Dr. Smyth recognizes it as a duty to others. He says: "Truthfulness is
owed to society as essential to its integrity. It is the indispensable
bond of social life. Men can be members, one of another in a social
organism only as they live together in truth. Society would fall, to
pieces without credit; but credit rests on the general social virtue
of truthfulness.... The liar is rightly regarded as an enemy to
mankind. A lie is not only an affront against the person to whom it is
told, but it is an offense against humanity."

If Dr. Smyth had been content to leave this matter with the explicit
statement of the principles that are unvaryingly operative, he would
have done good service to the world, and his work could have been
commended as sound and trustworthy in this department of ethics; but
as soon as he begins to question and reason on the subject, he
begins to waver and grow confused; and in the end his inconclusive
conclusions are pitiably defective and reprehensible.[1]

[Footnote 1: Smyth's _Christian Ethics_, pp. 392-403]

In considering "the so-called lies of necessity," Dr. Smyth declares
with frankness: "Some moralists in their supreme regard for truth will
not admit that under any conceivable circumstances a lie can be
deemed necessary, not even to save life or to prevent a murderer from
accomplishing his fiendish purpose." And then over against this he
indicates his fatal confusion of mind and weakness of reasoning in
the suggestion: "But the sound human understanding, in spite of the
moralists, will prevaricate, and often with great vigor and success,
in such cases. Who is right,--Kant, or the common moral sense? Which
should be followed,--the philosophic morality, or the practice of
otherwise most truthful men?"

It is to be noted that, in these two declarations, Dr. Smyth puts
lying as if it were synonymous with prevarication; else there is no
reason for his giving the one as over against the other. And this
indicates a peculiar difficulty in the whole course of Dr. Smyth's
argument concerning the "so-called lie of necessity." He essays no
definition of the "lie." He draws no clear line of distinction between
a lie, a falsehood, a deceit, and a prevarication, or between a
justifiable concealment and an unjustifiable concealment; and in
his various illustrations of his position he uses these terms
indiscriminately, in such a way as to indicate that he knows no
essential difference between them, or that he does not care to
emphasize any difference.

If, in the instance given above, Dr. Smyth means that "the sound human
understanding, in spite of the moralists," will approve lying, or
falsifying with the intention to deceive, he ought to know that the
sound human understanding will not justify such a course, and that it
is unfair to intimate such a thing.[1] And when he asks, in connection
with this suggestion, "Who is right,--Kant, or the common moral sense?
Which should be followed, the philosophic morality, or the practice of
otherwise most truthful men?" his own preliminary assertions are his
conclusive answer. He says specifically, "Kant was profoundly right
when he regarded falsehood as a forfeiture of personal worth, a
destruction of personal integrity;" and the "common moral sense" of
humanity is with Kant in this thing, in accordance with Dr. Smyth's
primary view of the case, as over against the intimation of Dr.
Smyth's question. As to the suggested "practice of otherwise most
truthful men" in this thing,--if men who generally tell the truth,
lie, or speak falsely, or deceive, under certain circumstances, they
are much like men who are generally decent, but who occasionally,
under temptation, are unchaste or dishonest; they are better examples
in their uprightness than in their sinning.

[Footnote 1: See pp. 9-32, _supra_.]

It would seem, indeed, that, notwithstanding his sound basis of
principles, which recognizes the incompatibility of falsehood with
true manhood and with man's duty to his fellows, Dr. Smyth does not
carry with him in his argument the idea of the essential sinfulness of
a lie, and therefore he is continually inconsistent with himself. He
says, for example, in speaking of the suspension of social duties in
war time: "If the war is justifiable, the ethics of warfare come at
once into play. It would be absurd to say that it is right to kill
an enemy, but not to deceive him. Falsehood, it may be admitted, as
military strategy, is justifiable, if the war is righteous."

Here, again, is the interchange of the terms "deception" and
"falsehood." But unless this is an intentional jugglery of words,
which is not to be supposed, this means that it would be absurd to
say that it is right to kill an enemy, but not right to tell him a
falsehood. And nothing could more clearly show Dr. Smyth's error of
mind on this whole subject than this declaration. "Absurd" to claim
that while it is right to take a man's life in open warfare, in a just
cause, it would not be right to forfeit one's personal worth, and to
destroy one's personal integrity, which Dr. Smyth says are involved
in a falsehood! "Absurd" to claim that while God who is the author
of life can justify the taking of life, he cannot justify the sin of
lying! No, no, the absurdity of the case is not on _that_ side of the

There is no consistency of argument on this subject in Dr. Smyth's
work. His premises are sound. His reasoning is confused and
inconsistent. "Not only in some cases of necessity is falsehood
permissible, but we may recognize a positive obligation of love to
the concealment of the truth," he says. Here again is that apparent
confounding of unjustifiable "falsehood" with perfectly proper
"concealment of truth." He continues: "Other duties which under such
circumstances have become paramount, may require the preservation of
one's own or another's life through a falsehood. Not only ought one
not to tell the truth under the supposed conditions, but, if the
principle assumed be sound, a good conscience may proceed to enforce a
positive obligation of untruthfulness.... There are occasions when the
interests of society and the highest motives of Christian love may
render it much more preferable to discharge the duty of self-defense
through the humanity of a successful falsehood, than by the barbarity
of a stunning blow or a pistol-shot. General benevolence demands that
the lesser evil, if possible, rather than the greater, should be
inflicted on another."

Just compare these conclusions of Dr. Smyth with his own premises.
"Truthfulness ... is an obligation which every man owes to himself.
It is a primal personal obligation.... Truthfulness is the
self-consistency of character; falsehood is a breaking up of the moral
integrity." "The liar is rightly regarded as an enemy to mankind. A
lie is not only an affront against the person to whom it is told, but
it is an offense against humanity." But what of all that? "There are
occasions when the interests of society and the highest motives of
Christian love may render it much more preferable to discharge the
duty of self-defense through the humanity of a successful falsehood,
than by the barbarity of a stunning blow or a pistol-shot. General
benevolence demands that the lesser evil, if possible, rather than the
greater, should be inflicted on another." Better break up one's
moral integrity, and fail in one's primal personal obligation to
himself,--better become an enemy of mankind, and commit an offense
against humanity,--than defend one's self against an outlaw by the
barbarity of a stunning blow or a bullet!

Would any one suppose from his premises that Dr. Smyth looked upon
personal truthfulness as a minor virtue, and upon falsehood as a
lesser vice? Does he seem in those premises to put veracity below
chastity, and falsehood below personal impurity? Yet is he to be
understood as intimating, in this phase of his argument, that
unchastity, or dishonesty, or any other vice than falsehood, is to be
preferred, in practice, over a stunning blow or a fatal bullet against
a would-be murderer?[1] The looseness of Dr. Smyth's logic, as
indicated in this reasoning on the subject of veracity, would in its
tendency be destructive to the safeguards of personal virtue and of
social purity; and his arguments for the lie of exigency are similar
to those which are put forward in excuse for common sins against
chastity, by the free-and-easy defenders of a lax standard in such
matters. "Some moralists," says the average young man of the world,
"in their extreme regard for personal purity, will not admit that any
act of unchastity is necessary, even to protect one's health, or as an
act of love. But the men of virility and strong feeling will let down
occasionally at this point, in spite of the moralists. Which should be
followed,--the philosophic morality, or the practice of many otherwise
decent and very respectable men?"

[Footnote 1: See Augustine's words on this point, quoted at p. 100,

Confounding, as always, a wise and right concealment of truth with
actual falsehood, Dr. Smyth says of the duty of a teacher in the
matter of imparting truth to a pupil according to the measure of the
pupil's ability to receive it: "An occasional friendly use of truth
as a crash towel may be wholesome; but ordinarily there is a more
excellent way." _That_ is a counting of truth precious, with a

Dr. Smyth seems inclined to accept in the main the conclusions,
on this whole subject, of Rothe, but without Rothe's measure of
consistency in the argument. Rothe starts wrong, and of course ends
wrong. Dr. Smyth, like Dr. Hodge, starts right and ends wrong. No
sorer condemnation of Dr. Smyth's position can be made, than by the
simple presentation of his own review of his own argument, when he
says: "To sum up, then, what has been said concerning the so-called
lies of necessity, the principle to be applied with wisdom is simply
this: give the truth always to those who in the bonds of humanity
have the right to the truth; conceal it or falsify it only when it is
unmistakably evident that the human right to the truth from others
has been forfeited, or temporarily is held in abeyance by sickness,
weakness, or some criminal intent: do not in any case prevaricate,
unless you can tell the necessary falsehood deliberately and
positively, from principle, with a good conscience void of offense
toward men, and sincere in the sight of God." What says the moral
sense of humanity to such a position as that?

As over against the erroneous claim, made by Richard Rothe, and Newman
Smyth, and others, that the "moral sense" of mankind is at
variance with the demands of "rigid moralists," in regard to the
unjustifiableness of falsehood, it is of interest to note the
testimony of strong thinkers, who have written on this subject with
the fullest freedom, from the standpoint of speculative philosophy,
rather than of exclusively Christian ethics. For example, James
Martineau, while a Christian philosopher, discusses the question of
veracity as a philosopher, rather than as a Christian, in his "Types
of Ethical Theory;"[1] and he insists that "veracity is strictly
natural, that is, it is implied in the very nature which leads us to
intercommunion in speech."

[Footnote 1: Martineau's _Types of Ethical Theory_, II., 255-265.]

As he sees it, a man is treacherous to himself who speaks falsely at
any time to any one, and the man's moral sense recoils from his
action accordingly. Dr. Martineau says: "It is perhaps, the peculiar
_treachery_ of this process which fixes upon falsehood a stamp of
_meanness_ quite exceptional; and renders it impossible, I think, to
yield to its inducements, even in cases supposed to be venial, without
a disgust little distinguishable from compunction. This must have been
Kant's feeling when he said: 'A lie is the abandonment, or, as it
were, the annihilation of the dignity of man.'"

Dr. Martineau is not so rigid a moralist but that he is ready to agree
with those easy-going theologians who find a place for exceptional
falsehoods in their reasoning; yet he is so true a man in his moral
instincts that his nature recoils from the results of such reasoning.
"After all," he says, "there is something in this problem which
refuses to be thus laid to rest; and in treating it, it is hardly
possible to escape the uneasiness of a certain moral inconsequence. If
we consult the casuist of Common Sense he usually tells us that, in
theory, Veracity can have no exceptions; but that, in practice, he is
brought face to face with at least a few; and he cheerfully accepts a
dispensation, when required, at the hands of Necessity.

"I confess rather to an inverse experience. The theoretic reasons for
certain limits to the rule of veracity appear to me unanswerable; nor
can I condemn any one who acts in accordance with them. Yet when I
place myself in a like position, at one of the crises demanding a
deliberate lie, an unutterable repugnance returns upon me, and makes
the theory seem shameful. If brought to the test, I should probably
act rather as I think than as I feel,[1] without, however, being able
to escape the stab of an instant compunction and the secret wound of a
long humiliation. Is this the mere weakness of superstition? It may be
so. But may it not also spring from an ineradicable sense of a common
humanity, still leaving social ties to even social aliens, and, in
the presence of an imperishable fraternal unity, forbidding to the
individual of the moment the proud right of spiritual ostracism?..."

[Footnote 1: No, a man who feels like that would be true in the hour
of temptation. His doubt of himself is only the tremulousness of true

"How could I ever face the soul I had deceived, when perhaps our
relations are reversed, and he meets my sins, not with self-protective
repulse, but with winning love? And if with thoughts like these there
also blends that inward reverence for reality which clings to the very
essence of human reason, and renders it incredible, _à priori_,
that falsehood should become an implement of good, it is perhaps
intelligible how there may be an irremediable discrepancy between the
dioptric certainty of the understanding and the immediate insight of
the conscience: not all the rays of spiritual truth are refrangible;
some there are beyond the intellectual spectrum, that wake invisible
response, and tremble in the dark."

Dr. Martineau's definition of right and wrong is this:[1] "Every
action is right, which, in presence of a lower principle, follows
a higher: every action is wrong, which, in presence of a higher
principle, follows a lower;" and his moral sense will not admit the
possibility of falsehood being at any time higher than truth, or of
veracity ever being lower than a lie.

[Footnote 1: _Types of Ethical Theory_, II., 270.]

Professor Thomas Fowler, of the University of Oxford, writing as a
believer in the gradual evolution of morals, and basing his philosophy
on experience without any recognition of _à priori_ principles, is
much more nearly in accord, at this point,[1] with Martineau, than
with Rothe, Hodge, and Smyth. Although he is ready to concede that
a lie may, theoretically, be justifiable, he is sure that the moral
sense of mankind is, at the present state of average development,
against its propriety. Hence, he asserts that, even when justice
might deny an answer to an improper question, "outside the limits of
justice, and irrespectively of their duty to others, many persons are
often restrained, and quite rightly so, from returning an untruthful
or ambiguous answer by purely self-regarding feelings. They feel that
to give an untruthful answer, even under such circumstances as I
have supposed, would be to burden themselves with the subsequent
consciousness of cowardice or lack of self-respect. And hence,
whatever inconvenience or annoyance it may cost them, they tell the
naked truth, rather than stand convicted to themselves of a want of
courage or dignity."

[Footnote 1: _Principles of Morals_, II., 159-161.]

"Veracity, though this was by no means always the case," Professor
Fowler continues, "has become the point of honor in the upper ranks of
modern civilized societies, and hence it is invested with a sanctity
which seems to attach to no other virtue; and to the uninstructed
conscience of the unreflective man, the duty of telling the truth
appears, of all duties, to be the only duty which never admits of
any exceptions, from the unavoidable conflict with other duties."
He ranges the moral sense of the "upper ranks of modern civilized
societies," and "the uninstructed conscience of the unreflective man,"
against any tolerance of the "lie of necessity," leaving only the
locality of Muhammad's coffin for those who are arrayed against the
rigid moralists on this question.

While he admits the theoretical possibility of the "lie of necessity,"
Professor Fowler concludes as to its practical expediency: "Without
maintaining that there are no conceivable circumstances under which a
man will be justified in committing a breach of veracity, it may at
least be said that, in the lives of most men, there is no case likely
to occur in which the greater social good would not be attained by the
observation of the general rule to tell the truth, rather than by the
recognition of an exception in favor of a lie, even though that lie
were told for purely benevolent reasons." That is nearer right than
the conclusions of many an inconsistent intuitionist!

Leslie Stephen, a consistent agnostic, and a believer in the slow
evolution of morals, in his "Science of Ethics,"[1] naturally holds,
like Herbert Spencer, to the gradual development of the custom of
truthfulness, as a necessity of society.[2] The moral sense of
primitive man, as he sees it, might seem to justify falsehood to an
_enemy_, rather than, as Rothe and Smyth would claim, to those who are
_wards of love_. In illustration of this he says: "The obligation to
truthfulness is [primarily] limited to relations with members of the
same tribe or state; and, more generally, it is curious to observe how
a kind of local or special morality is often developed in regard to
this virtue. The schoolboy thinks it a duty to his fellows to lie
to his master, the merchant to his customer, and the servant to his
employer; and, inversely, the duty is often recognized as between
members of some little clique or profession, as soon as it is seen to
be important for their corporate interest, even at the expense of the
wider social organization. There is honor among thieves, both of the
respectable and other varieties."

[Footnote 1: Leslie Stephen's _Science of Ethics_, pp. 202-209.]

[Footnote 2: See pp. 26-32, _supra_.]

But Leslie Stephen sees that, in the progress of the race, the
importance of veracity has come to a recognition, "in which it differs
from the other virtues." While the law of marriage may vary at
different periods, "the rule of truthfulness, on the other hand, seems
to possess the _a priori_ quality of a mathematical axiom.... Truth,
in short, being always the same, truthfulness must be unvarying. Thus,
'Be truthful' means, 'Speak the truth whatever the consequences,
whether the teller or the hearer receives benefit or injury.' And
hence, it is inferred, truthfulness implies a quality independent of
the organization of the agent or of society." While Mr. Stephen would
himself find a place for the "lie of necessity" under conceivable
circumstances, he is clear-minded enough to perceive that the moral
sense of the civilized world is opposed to this view; and in this he
is nearer correct than those who claim the opposite.

It is true that those who seek an approbation of their defense of
falsehoods which they deem a necessity, assume, without proof, their
agreement with the moral sense of the race. But it is also true that
there stands opposed to their theory the best moral sense of primitive
man, as shown in a wide area of investigation, and also of thinkers
all the way up from the lowest moral grade to the most rigorous
moralists, including intuitionists, utilitarians, and agnostics.
However deficient may be the practice of erring mortals, the ideal
standard in theory, is veracity, and not falsehood.

As to the opinions of purely speculative philosophers, concerning the
admissibility of the "lie of necessity," they have little value except
as personal opinions. This question is one that cannot be discussed
fairly without relation to the nature and law of God. It is of
interest, however, to note that a keen mind like Kant's insists that
"the highest violation of the duty owed by man to himself, considered
as a moral being singly (owed to the humanity subsisting in his
person), is a departure from truth, or lying."[1] And when a man
like Fichte,[2] whom Carlyle characterizes as "that cold, colossal,
adamantine spirit, standing erect like a Cato Major among degenerate
men; fit to have been the teacher of the Stoa, and to have discoursed
of beauty and virtue in the groves of Academe," declares that no
measure of evil results from truth-speaking would induce him to tell a
lie, a certain moral weight attaches to his testimony. And so with
all the other philosophers. No attempt at exhaustiveness in their
treatment is made in this work. But the fullest force of any fresh
argument made by them in favor of occasional lying is recognized so
far as it is known.

[Footnote 1: See Semple's _Kant's Metaphysic of Ethics_, p. 267.]

[Footnote 2: See Martensen's _Christian Ethics (Individual)_, § 97.]

One common misquotation from a well-known philosopher, in this line,
is, however, sufficiently noteworthy for special mention here. Jacobi,
in his intense theism, protests against the unqualified idealism of
Fichte, and the indefinite naturalism of Schelling; and, in his famous
Letter to Fichte,[1] he says vehemently: "But the Good what is it?
I have no answer if there be no God. As to me, this world of
phenomena--if it have all its truth in these phenomena, and no more
profound significance, if it have nothing beyond itself to reveal
to me--becomes a repulsive phantom, in whose presence I curse the
consciousness which has called it into existence, and I invoke against
it annihilation as a deity. Even so, also, everything that I call
good, beautiful, and sacred, turns to a chimera, disturbing my spirit,
and rending the heart out of my bosom, as soon as I assume that it
stands not in me as a relation to a higher, real Being,--not a mere
resemblance or copy of it in me;--when, in fine, I have within me an
empty and fictitious consciousness only. I admit also that I know
nothing of 'the Good _per se_,' or 'the True _per se_,' that I even
have nothing but a vague notion of what such terms stand for. I
declare that it revolts me when people seek to obtrude upon me the
Will which wills nothing, this empty nut of independence and freedom
in absolute indifference, and accuse me of atheism, the true and
proper godlessness, because I show reluctance to accept it."

[Footnote 1: F.H. Jacobi's _Werke_, IIIter Band, pp. 36-38.]

Insisting thus that he must have the will of a personal God as a
source of obligation to conform to the law of truth and virtue, and
that without such a source no assumed law can be binding on him,
Jacobi adds: "Yes I am the atheist, and the godless man who, in
opposition to the Will that wills nothing, will lie as the lying
Desdemona lied; will lie and deceive as did Pylades in passing himself
off as Orestes; will commit murder as did Timoleon; break law and oath
as did Epaminondas, as did John De Witt; will commit suicide as did
Otho; will undertake sacrilege with David; yes and rub ears of corn on
the Sabbath merely because I am an hungered, and because the law is
made for man and not man for the law."

Jacobi's reference, in this statement, to lying and other sins, was
taken by itself as the motto to one of Coleridge's essays;[1] and this
seems to have given currency to the idea that Jacobi was in favor of
lying. Hence he is unfairly cited by ethical writers[2] as having
declared himself for the lie of expediency; whereas the context shows
that that is not his position. He is simply stating the logical
consequences of a philosophy which he repudiates.

[Footnote 1: Coleridge's Works: _The Friend_, Essay XV.]

[Footnote 2: See, for instance, Martensen's _Christian Ethics
(Individual)_, §97.]

Among the false assumptions that are made by many of the advocates of
the "lie of necessity" is the claim that in war, in medical practice,
and in the legal profession, the propriety of falsehood and deceit,
in certain cases, is recognized and admitted on all sides. While the
baselessness of this claim has been pointed out, incidentally, in the
progress of the foregoing discussion,[1] it would seem desirable to
give particular attention to the matter in a fuller treatment of it,
before closing this record of centuries of discussion.

[Footnote 1: See pp. 71-75, _supra_.]

It is not true that in civilized warfare there is an entire
abrogation, or suspension, of the duty of truthfulness toward an
enemy. There is no material difference between war and peace in this
respect. Enemies, on both sides, understand that in warfare they are
to kill each other if they can, by the use of means that are allowable
as means; but this does not give them the privilege of doing what is
utterly inconsistent with true manhood.

Enemies are not bound to disclose their plans to each other. They have
a duty of concealing those plans from each other. Hence, as Dorner has
suggested, they proffer to each other's sight only appearances, not
assurances; and it is for each to guess out, if he can, the real
purpose of the other, below the appearance. An enemy can protect his
borders by pitfalls, or torpedoes, or ambushes, carefully concealed
from sight, in order to guard the life of his own people by destroying
the life of his opponents, or may make demonstrations, before the
enemy, of possible movements, in order to conceal his purposed
movements; but in doing this he does only what is allowable, in
effect, in time of peace.[1]

[Footnote 1: Several of the illustrations of Oriental warfare in the
Bible record are to be explained in accordance with this principle.
Thus with the ambush set by Joshua before Ai (Josh. 8: 1-26):
the Canaanites did not read aright the riddle of the Israelitish
commander, and they suffered accordingly. Yet Dr. Dabney (_Theology_,
p. 424) cites this as an instance of an intentional deception which
was innocent in God's sight. And again, in the case recorded at 2
Kings 7: 6, where the Lord "made the host of the Syrians to hear a
noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great
host,... and they arose and ... fled for their life," thinking that
Hittite and Egyptian forces were approaching, it is evident that God
simply caused the Syrians, who were contending with his people, to
feel that they were fighting hopelessly against God's cause. The
impression God made on their minds was a correct one. He could bring
chariots and horses as a great host against them. They did well to
realize this fact. But the Syrians' explanation of this impression was
incorrect in its details.]

A similar method of mystifying his opponent is adopted by the
base-ball pitcher in his demonstrations with the ball before letting
it drive at the batsman. The batsman holds himself responsible for
reading the riddle of the pitcher's motions. Yet the pitcher is
forbidden to deceive the batsman by a feint of delivering the ball
without delivering it.

If an enemy attempts any communication with his opponent, he has no
right to lie to, or to deceive him. He must not draw him into an
ambuscade, or over concealed torpedoes, on the plea of desiring an
amicable interview with him; and his every word given to an enemy must
be observed sacredly as an obligation of truth.

Even before the Christian era, and centuries prior to the time when
Chrysostom was confused in his mind on this point, Cicero wrote as
to the obligations of veracity upon enemies in time of war, and in
repudiation of the idea that warfare included a suspension of all
moral relations between belligerents during active hostilities.[1]

[Footnote 1: Cicero's _De Officiis_, I., 12, 13.]

He said: "The equities of war are prescribed most carefully by the
heralds' law (_lex fetialis_) of the Roman people," and he went on to
give illustrations of the recognized duty of combatants to keep within
the bounds of mutual social obligations. "Even where private persons,
under stress of circumstances, have made any promise to the enemy," he
said, "they should observe the exactest good faith, as did Regulus, in
the first Punic war, when taken prisoner and sent to Rome to treat of
the exchange of prisoners, having sworn that he would return. First,
when he had arrived, he did not vote in the Senate for the return of
the prisoners. Then, when his friends and kinsmen would have detained
him, he preferred to go back to punishment rather than evade his faith
plighted to the enemy.

"In the second Punic war also, after the battle of Cannae, of the ten
Romans whom Hannibal sent to Rome bound by an oath that they would
return unless they obtained an agreement for the redemption of
prisoners, the censors kept disfranchised those who perjured
themselves, making no exception in favor of him who had devised a
fraudulent evasion of his oath. For when by leave of Hannibal he had
departed from the camp, he went back a little later, on pretense
of having forgotten something. Then departing again from the camp
[without renewing his oath], he counted himself set free from the
obligation of his oath. And so he was free _so_ far as the words went,
but not so in reality; for always in a promise we must have regard to
the meaning of our words, rather than to the words themselves."

In modern times, when Lord Clive, in India, acted on the theory that
an utter lack of veracity and good faith on the part of an enemy
justified a suspension of all moral obligations toward him, and
practiced deceit on a Bengalee by the name of Omichund, in order to
gain an advantage over the Nabob of Bengal, he was condemned by the
moral sense of the nation for which he thus acted deceitfully; and, in
spite of the specious arguments put forth by his partisan defenders,
his name is infamous because of this transaction.

"English valor and English intelligence have done less to extend
and preserve our Oriental empire than English veracity," says Lord
Macaulay. "All that we could have gained by imitating the doublings,
the evasions, the fictions, the perjuries, which have been employed
against us, is as nothing when compared with what we have gained by
being the one power in India on whose word reliance can be placed.
No oath which superstition can devise, no hostage however precious,
inspires a hundredth part of the confidence which is produced by the
'yea, yea,' and the 'nay, nay,' of a British envoy." Therefore it is
that Lord Macaulay is sure that "looking at the question of expediency
in the lowest sense of the word, and using no arguments but such as
Machiavelli might have employed in his conferences with Borgia, we
are convinced that Clive was altogether in the wrong, and that he
committed, not merely a crime but a blunder."[1]

[Footnote 1: Macaulay's _Essay on Lord Clive_.]

So again when an English vessel of war made signals of distress,
off the coast of France, during the war with Napoleon, and thereby
deceived men from the enemy into coming to its relief, and then held
them as prisoners, the act was condemned by the moral sense of the
world. As Woolsey says, in his "International Law:"[1] "Breach of
faith between enemies has always been strongly condemned, and that
vindication of it is worthless which maintains that, without an
express or tacit promise to our enemy, we are not bound to keep faith
with him."

[Footnote 1: Sect. 133, p. 213.]

The theologian who assumes that the duty of veracity is suspended
between enemies in war time is ignorant of the very theory of
civilized warfare; or else he fails to distinguish between justifiable
concealment, by the aid of methods of mystifying, and falsehood which
is never justifiable. And that commander who should attempt to justify
falsehood and bad faith in warfare on the ground that it is held
justifiable in certain works on Christian ethics, would incur the
scorn of the civilized world for his credulity; and he would be told
that it is absurd to claim that because he is entitled to kill a man
in warfare it must be fair to lie to him.

In the treatment of the medical profession, many writers on ethics
have been as unfair, as in their misrepresentation of the general
moral sense with reference to warfare. They have spoken as if "the
ethics of the medical profession" had a recognized place for falsehood
in the treatment of the sick. But this assumption is only an
assumption. There are physicians who will lie, and there are
physicians who will not lie; and in each case the individual physician
acts in this matter on his own responsibility: he has no code of
professional ethics justifying a lie on his part as a physician, when
it would not be justifiable in a layman.

Concealment of that which he has a right to conceal, is as clearly a
duty, in many a case, on the part of a physician, as it is on the
part of any other person; but falsehood is never a legitimate, or an
allowable, means of concealment by physician or layman. As has been
already stated[1] if it be once known that a physician is ever ready
to speak words of cheer to a patient falsely, that physician is
measurably deprived of the possibility of encouraging a patient by
truthful words of cheer when he would gladly do so. And physicians
would probably be surprised to know how generally they are estimated
in the community according to their reputation in this matter. One is
known as a man who will speak falsely to his patients as a means of
encouragement, while another is known as a man who will be cautious
about giving his opinion concerning chances of recovery, but who will
never tell an untruth to a patient or to any other person. But in no
case can a physician claim that the ethics of his profession as a
profession justify him in a falsehood to any person--patient or no

[Footnote 1: See p. 75 f., _supra_.]

A distinguished professor in one of the prominent medical colleges of
this country, in denying the claim of a writer on ethics that it may
become the duty of a physician to deceive his patient as a means of
curing him, declares that a physician acting on this theory "will not
be found in accord with the best and the highest medical teaching of
the present day;" and he goes on to say:[1] "In my profession to-day,
the truth properly presented, we have found, carries with it a
convincing and adjusting element which does not fail to bring the
afflicted person to that condition of mind that is most conducive
to his physical well-being, and let me add also, I believe, to his
spiritual welfare." This statement was made in connection with the
declaration that in the hospital which was in his charge it is not
deemed right or wise to deceive a patient as to any operation to be
performed upon him. And there are other well-known physicians who
testify similarly as to the ethics of their profession.

[Footnote 1: In a personal communication to the author.]

An illustration of the possible good results of concealing an
unpleasant fact from a sick person, that has been a favorite citation
all along the centuries with writers on ethics who would justify
emergency falsehoods, is one which is given in his correspondence by
Pliny the younger, eighteen centuries ago.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Epistles of Pliny the Younger_, Book III., Epis. 16.
Pliny to Nepos.]

Caecinna Paetus and his son "were both at the same time attacked with
what seemed a mortal illness, of which the son died.... His mother
[Arria] managed his funeral so privately that Paetus did not know of
his death. Whenever she came into his bedchamber, she pretended that
her son was better, and, as often as he inquired after his health,
would answer that he had rested well, or had eaten with an appetite.
When she found she could no longer restrain her grief, but her tears
were gushing out, she would leave the room, and, having given vent to
her passion, return again with dry eyes and a serene countenance, as
if she had dismissed every sentiment of sorrow."

This Roman matron also committed suicide, as an encouragement to her
husband whom she desired to have put an end to his own life, when he
was likely to have it taken from him by the executioner; and Pliny
commends her nobleness of conduct in both cases. It is common among
ethical writers, in citing this instance in favor of lying, to say
nothing about the suicide, and to omit mention of the fact that the
mother squarely lied, by saying that her dead boy had eaten a good
breakfast, instead of employing language that might have been the
truth as far as it went, while it concealed that portion of the truth
which she thought it best to conceal. It is common to quote her as
simply saying of her son" He is better;"[1] quite a different version
from Pliny's, and presenting a different issue.

[Footnote 1: See Newman Smyth's _Christian Ethics_, p. 395, where
this case is stated with vagueness of phrase, and as thus stated is

It was perfectly proper for that mother to conceal the signs of her
sorrow from her sick husband, who had no right to know the truth
concerning matters outside of his sick-room at such a time. And if,
indeed, she could say in all sincerity, as expressive of her feelings
in the death of her son, by the will of the gods, "He is better," it
would have been possible for her to feel that she was entitled to say
that as the truth, and not as a falsehood; and in that case she would
not have intended a deceit, but only a concealment. But when, on the
other hand, she told a deliberate lie--spoke falsely in order to
deceive--she committed a sin in so doing, and her sin was none the
less a sin because it resulted in apparent good to her husband. An
illustration does not overturn a principle, but it may misrepresent

Another illustration, on the other side of the case, is worth citing
here. Victor Hugo pictures, in his _Les Miserables_,[1] a sister of
charity adroitly concealing facts from a sick person in a hospital,
while refusing to tell a falsehood even for the patient's good. "Never
to have told a falsehood, never to have said for any advantage, or
even indifferently, a thing which was not the truth, the holy truth,
was the characteristic feature of Sister Simplice." She had taken the
name of Simplice through special choice. "Simplice, of Sicily, our
readers will remember, is the saint who sooner let her bosom be
plucked out than say she was a native of Segeste, as she was born at
Syracuse, though the falsehood would have saved her. Such a patron
saint suited this soul." And in speaking of Sister Simplice, as never
having told even "a white lie," Victor Hugo quotes a letter from the
Abbé Sicard, to his deaf-mute pupil Massieu, on this point: "Can there
be such a thing as a white lie, an innocent lie? Lying is the absolute
of evil. Lying a little is not possible. The man who lies tells
the whole lie. Lying is the face of the fiend; and Satan has two
names,--he is called Satan and Lying." Victor Hugo the romancer would
seem to be a safer guide, so far, for the physician or the nurse in
the sick-room, than Pliny the rhetorician, or Rothe the theologian.[2]

[Footnote 1: Book VII.]

[Footnote 2: Yet Victor Hugo afterwards represents even Sister
Simplice as lying unqualifiedly, when sorely tempted--although not in
the sick-room.]

A well-known physician, in speaking to me of this subject, said:
"It is not so difficult to avoid falsehood in dealing with anxious
patients as many seem to suppose. _Tact_, as well as _principle_, will
do a good deal to help a physician out, in an emergency. I have never
seen any need of lying, in my practice." And yet another physician,
who had been in a widely varied practice for forty years, said that he
had never found it necessary to tell a lie to a patient; although he
thought he might have done so if he had deemed it necessary to save
a patient's life. In other words, while he admitted the possible
justification of an "emergency lie," he had never found a first-class
opening for one in his practice. And he added, that he knew very well
that if he had been known to lie to his patients, his professional
efficiency, as well as his good name, would have suffered. Medical
men do not always see, in their practice, the supposed advantages of
lying, which have so large prominence in the minds of ethical writers.

Another profession, which is popularly and wrongly accused of having
a place for the lie in its system of ethics, is the legal profession.
Whewell refers to this charge in his "Elements of Morality" (citing
Paley in its support). He says: "Some moralists have ranked with the
cases in which convention supersedes the general rule of truth, an
advocate asserting the justice, or his belief in the justice, of his
client's cause." But as to an advocate's right in this matter, Whewell
says explicitly: "If, in pleading, he assert his belief that his cause
is just, when he believes it unjust, he offends against truth; as any
other man would do who, in like manner, made a like assertion."[1]

[Footnote 1: Whewell's _Elements of Morality_, § 400.]

Chief-Justice Sharswood, of Pennsylvania, in his standard work on
"Legal Ethics," cites this opinion of Whewell with unqualified
approval; and, in speaking for the legal profession, he says: "No
counsel can with propriety and good conscience express to court or
jury his belief in the justice of his client's cause, contrary to the
fact. Indeed, the occasions are very rare in which he ought to throw
the weight of his private opinion into the scales in favor of the side
he has espoused." Calling attention to the fact that the official
oath of an attorney, on his admission to the bar, in the state of
Pennsylvania, includes the specific promise to "use no falsehood," he
says: "Truth in all its simplicity--truth to the court, client,
and adversary--should be indeed the polar star of the lawyer. The
influence of only slight deviations from truth upon professional
character is very observable. A man may as well be detected in a great
as a little lie. A single discovery, among professional brethren, of a
failure of truthfulness, makes a man the object of distrust, subjects
him to constant mortification, and soon this want of confidence
extends itself beyond the Bar to those who employ the Bar. That
lawyer's case is truly pitiable, upon the escutcheon of whose honesty
or truth rests the slightest tarnish."[1]

[Footnote 1: Sharswood's _Essay on Professional Ethics_, pp. 57,
99,102,167 f.]

As illustrative of the carelessness with which popular charges against
an entire profession are made the basis of reflections upon the
ethical standard of that profession, the comments of Dr. Hodge on
this matter are worthy of particular notice. In connection with his
assertion that "the principles of professional men allow of many
things which are clearly inconsistent with the requirements of the
ninth commandment," he says: "Lord Brougham is reported to have said,
in the House of Lords, that an advocate knows no one but his client.
He is bound _per fas et nefas_, if possible, to clear him. If
necessary for the accomplishment of that object, he is at liberty to
accuse and defame the innocent, and even (as the report stated) to
ruin his country. It is not unusual, especially in trials for murder,
for the advocates of the accused to charge the crime on innocent
parties and to exert all their ingenuity to convince the jury of their
guilt." And Dr. Hodge adds the note that "Lord Brougham, according
to the public papers, uttered these sentiments in vindication of the
conduct of the famous Irish advocate Phillips, who on the trial of
Courvoisier for the murder of Lord Russell, endeavored to fasten the
guilt on the butler and housemaid, whom he knew to be innocent, as his
client had confessed to him that he had committed the murder."[1]

[Footnote 1: Hodge's _Systematic Theology_, III., 439.]

Now the facts, in the two very different cases thus erroneously
intermingled by Dr. Hodge, as given by Justice Sharswood,[1] present
quite another aspect from that in which Dr. Hodge sees them, as
bearing on the accepted ethics of the legal profession. It would
appear that Lord Brougham was not speaking in defense of another
attorney's action, but in defense of his own course as attorney of
Queen Caroline, thirty years before the Courvoisier murder trial. As
Justice Sharswood remarks of Lord Brougham's "extravagant" claims: "No
doubt he was led by the excitement of so great an occasion to say what
cool reflection and sober reason certainly never can approve." Yet
Lord Brougham does not appear to have suggested, in his claim, that
a lawyer had a right to falsify the facts involved, or to utter an
untruth. He was speaking of his supposed duty to defend his client,
the Queen, against the charges of the King, regardless of the
consequences to himself or to his country through his advocacy of her
cause, which he deemed a just one.

[Footnote 1: Sharswood's _Legal Ethics_, p. 86 f.]

And as to the charge against the eminent advocate, Charles Phillips,
of seeking to fasten the crime on the innocent, when he knew that his
client was guilty, in the trial of Courvoisier for the murder of Lord
Russell, that charge was overwhelmingly refuted by the testimony of
lawyers and judges present at that trial. Mr. Phillips supposed his
client an innocent man until the trial was nearly concluded. Then came
the unexpected confession from the guilty man, accompanied by the
demand that his counsel continue in his case to the end. At first Mr.
Phillips proposed to retire at once from the case; but, on advising
with eminent counsel, he was told that it would be wrong for him to
betray the prisoner's confidence, and practically to testify against
him, by deserting him at that hour. He then continued in the case,
but, as is shown conclusively in his statement of the facts, with its
accompanying proofs, without saying a word or doing a thing that might
properly be deemed in the realm of false assertion or intimations.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Sharswood's _Legal Ethics_, pp. 103-107, 183-196.]

The very prominence given in the public press to the charges against
Mr. Phillips, and to their refutation, are added proof that the moral
sense of the community is against falsehood under any circumstances or
in any profession.

Members of the legal profession are bound by the same ethical
obligations as other men; yet the civil law, in connection with which
they practice their profession, is not in all points identical
with the moral law; although it is not in conflict with any of its
particulars. As Chancellor Kent says: "Human laws are not so perfect
as the dictates of conscience, and the sphere of morality is more
enlarged than the limits of civil jurisdiction. There are many duties
that belong to the class of imperfect obligations, which are binding
on conscience, but which human laws do not and cannot undertake
directly to enforce. But when the aid of a Court of Equity is sought
to carry into execution ... a contract, then the principles of ethics
have a more extensive sway."[1]

[Footnote 1: Kent's _Commentaries_, Lect. 39, p. 490 f. (4th ed.);
cited in Story's _Equity Jurisprudence_, VI., p. 229 (13th ed.).]

In the decisions of Equity courts, while the duty of absolute
truthfulness between parties in interest is insisted on as vital, and
a suppression of the truth from one who had a right to its knowledge,
or a suggestion of that which is untrue in a similar case("_suggestio
falsi aut suppressio veri_"), is deemed an element of fraud, the
distinction between mere silence when one is entitled to be silent,
and concealment with the purpose of deception, is distinctly
recognized, as it is not in all manuals on ethics.[1] This is
indicated, on the one hand, in the legal maxim _Aliud est celare,
aliud tacere_,--"It is one thing to conceal, another to be silent;"
silence is not necessarily deceptive concealment;[2] and on the other
hand in such a statement as this, in Benjamin's great work on Sales:
"The nondisclosure of hidden facts [to a party in interest] is the
more objectionable when any artifice is employed to throw the buyer
off his guard; as by telling half the truth."[3] It is not in any
principles which are recognized by the legal profession as binding on
the conscience, that loose ethics are to find defense or support.

[Footnote 1: See Bispham's _Principles of Equity_, p. 261, (3d ed.);
Broom's _Legal Maxims_, p. 781 f. (7th Am. ed.); Merrill's _American
and English Encyclopedia of Law_, art. "Fraud."]

[Footnote 2: See Anderson's _Dictionary of Law_, p. 220; Abbott's _Law
Dictionary_, I., 53.]

[Footnote 3: _Treatise on the Law of Sale of Personal Property_, p.
451 f.]

But the profession that has most at stake in this discussion, and
that, indeed, is most involved in its issue, is the ministerial, or
clerical, profession. While it was Jewish rabbis who affirmed most
positively, in olden time, the unwavering obligations of truthfulness,
it was Jewish rabbis, also, who sought to find extenuation or excuse
for falsehoods uttered with a good intention. And while it was
Christian Fathers, like the Shepherd of Hermas, and Justin Martyr, and
Basil the Great, and Augustine, who insisted that no tolerance should
be allowed to falsehood or deceit, it was also Christian Fathers, like
Gregory of Nyssa, and Chrysostom, who having practiced deceit for
what they deemed a good end, first attempted a special plea for such
falsities as they had found convenient in their professional labors.
And it was other Christian Fathers, like Origen and Jerome, who sought
to find arguments for laxity of practice, at this point, in the course
of the Apostles themselves.

All the way along the centuries, while the strongest defenders of the
law of truthfulness have been found among clergymen, more has been
written in favor of the lie of necessity by clergymen than by men of
any other class or profession. And if it be true, as many of these
have claimed, that deceit and falsehood are a duty, on the part of a
God-loving teacher, toward those persons who, through weakness, or
mental incapacity, or moral obliquity, are in the relation to him of
wards of love, or of subjects of guardianship, there is no profession
in which there is more of a call for godly deception, and for holy
falsehood, than the Christian ministry. If it be true that a lie, or a
falsehood, is justifiable in order to the saving of the physical life
of another, how much better were it to tell such a lie in the loving
desire to save a soul.

If the lie of necessity be allowable for any purpose, it would seem
to be more important as a means of good in the exercise of the
ministerial profession, than of any other profession or occupation.
And if it be understood that this is the case, what dependence can be
put, by the average hearer, on the most earnest words of a preacher,
who may be declaring a truth from God, and who, on the other hand, may
be uttering falsehoods in love? And if it be true, also, as some of
these clergymen have claimed, that God specifically approved falsehood
and deception, according to the Bible record, and that Jesus Christ
practiced in this line, while here on earth, what measure of
confidence can fallible man place in the sacred text as it has come to
him? The statement of this view of the case, is the best refutation
of the claim of a possible justification for the most loving lie

The only other point remaining untouched, in this review of the
centuries of discussion concerning the possible justifiableness of a
lie under conceivable circumstances, is in its relation to the lower
animals. It has been claimed that "all admit" that there is no
impropriety in using any available means for the decoying of fish or
of beasts to their death, or in saving one's self from an enraged
animal; hence that a lie is not to be counted as a sin _per se_, but
depends for its moral value on the relation subsisting between its
utterer and the one toward whom it is uttered.

Dr. Dabney, who is far less clear and sound than Dr. Thornwell in his
reasoning on this ethical question, says: "I presume that no man
would feel himself guilty for deceiving a mad dog in order to destroy
him;"[1] and he argues from this assumption that when a man, through
insanity or malice, "is not a rational man, but a brute," he may
fairly be deemed as outside of the pale of humanity, so far as
the obligations of veracity, viewed only as a social virtue, are

[Footnote 1: Dabney's _Theology_ (second edition), p. 425 f.]

Dr. Newman Smyth expands this idea.[1] He says: "We may say that
animals, strictly speaking, can have no immediate right to our words
of truth, since they belong below the line of existence which marks
the beginning of any functions of speech." He adds that animals "may
have direct claims upon our humanity, and so indirectly put us under
obligations to give them straightforward and fair treatment," and that
"truthfulness to the domestic animal, to the horse or the dog, is
to be included as a part of our general obligation of kindness to
creatures that are entirely dependent upon our fidelity to them and
their wants." But he cites the driving of horses with blinders,[2] and
the fishing for trout with artificial flies, as evidence of the fact
that man recognizes no sinfulness in the deceiving of the lower
animals, and hence that the duty of veracity is not one of universal

[Footnote 1: Smyth's _Christian Ethics_, p. 398.]

[Footnote 2: Here is another illustration of Dr. Smyth's strange
confusion of concealment with deception. It would seem as though a man
must have blinders before his own eyes, to render him incapable of
perceiving the difference between concealing a possible cause of
fright from an animal, and intentionally deceiving that animal.]

If, indeed, the duty of truthfulness were only a social obligation,
there might be a force in this reasoning that is lacking when we see
that falsehood and deceit are against the very nature of God, and
are a violation of man's primal nature. A lie is a sin, whenever and
however and to whomsoever spoken or acted. It is a sin against God
when uttered in his sight.

Man is given authority from God over all the lower animals;[1] and he
is empowered to take their lives, if necessary for his protection or
for his sustenance. In the exercise of this right, man is entitled to
conceal from the animals he would kill or capture the means employed
for the purpose; as he is entitled to conceal similarly from his
fellow-man, when he is authorized to kill him as an enemy, in time of
war waged for God. Thus it is quite proper for a man to conceal the
hook or the net from the fish, or the trap or the pitfall from the
beast; but it is not proper to deceive an animal by an imitation of
the cry of the animal's offspring in order to lure that animal to
its destruction; and the moral sense of the human race makes this

[Footnote 1: Gen. 1:28; 9:1-3.]

An illustration that has been put forward, as involving a nice
question in the treatment of an animal, is that of going toward a
loose horse with a proffered tuft of grass in one hand, and a halter
for his capture concealed behind the back in the other hand. It is
right to conceal the halter, and to proffer the grass, provided they
are used severally in their proper relations. If the grass be held
forth as an assurance of the readiness of the man to provide for the
needs of the horse, and it be given to him when he comes for it, there
is no deception practiced so far; and if, when horse and man are
thus on good terms, the man brings out the halter for its use in the
relation of master and servitor between the two, that also is proper,
and the horse would so understand it. But if the man were to refuse
the grass to the horse, when the two had come together, and were to
substitute for it the halter, the man would do wrong, and the horse
would recognize the fact, and not be caught again in that way.

Even a writer like Professor Bowne, who is not quite sure as to the
right in all phases of the lying question, sees this point in its
psychological aspects to better advantage than those ethical writers
who would look at the duty of truthfulness as mainly a social virtue:
"Even in cases where we regard truth as in our own power," he says,
"there are considerations of expediency which are by no means to be
disregarded. There is first the psychological fact that inexactness of
statement, exaggeration, unreality in speech, are sure to react upon
the mental habit of the person himself, and upon the estimate in which
his statements are held by others. In dealing with children, also,
however convenient a romancing statement might momentarily be, it is
unquestionable that exact truthfulness is the only way which does not
lead to mischief. Even in dealing with animals, it pays in the long
run to be truthful. The horse that is caught once by false pretenses
will not be long in finding out the trick. The physician also who
dissembles, quickly comes to lose the confidence of his patient, and
has thereafter no way of getting himself believed."[1]

[Footnote 1: Bowne's _Principles of Ethics_, p. 224.]

The main question is not whether it is fair toward an animal for a man
to lie to him, but whether it is fair toward a man's self, or toward
God the maker of animals and of men, for a man to lie to an animal. A
lie has no place, even theoretically, in the universe, unless it be in
some sphere where God has no cognizance and man has no individuality.

       *       *       *       *       *

It were useless to follow farther the ever-varying changes of the
never-varying reasonings for the justification of the unjustifiable
"lie of necessity" in the course of the passing centuries. It is
evident that the specious arguments put forth by young Chrysostom, in
defense of his inexcusable lie of love fifteen centuries ago, have
neither been added to nor improved on by any subsequent apologist
of lying and deception. The action of Chrysostom is declared by his
biographers to be "utterly at variance with the principles of truth
and honor," one which "every sound Christian conscience must condemn;"
yet those modern ethical writers who find force and reasonableness in
his now venerable though often-refuted fallacies, are sure that the
moral sense of the race is with Chrysostom.

Every man who recognizes the binding force of intuitions of a primal
law of truthfulness, and who gives weight to _à priori_ arguments for
the unchanging opposition of truth and falsehood, either admits, in
his discussion of this question, that a lie is never justifiable,
or he is obviously illogical and inconsistent in his processes of
reasoning, and in his conclusions. Even those who deny any _à priori_
argument for the superiority of truthfulness over falsehood, and whose
philosophy rests on the experimental evidence of the good or evil of
a given course, are generally inclined to condemn any departure from
strict truthfulness as in its tendencies detrimental to the interests
of society, aside from any question of its sinfulness. The only
men who are thoroughly consistent in their arguments in favor of
occasional lying, are those who start with the false premise that
there is no higher law of ethics than that of such a love for one's
neighbor as will make one ready to do whatever seems likely to
advantage him in the present life.

Centuries of discussion have only brought out with added clearness the
essential fact that a lie is eternally opposed to the truth; and that
he who would be a worthy child of the Father of truth must refuse to
employ, under any circumstances, modes of speech and action which
belong exclusively to the "father of lies."



It would seem that the one all-dividing line in the universe, which
never changes or varies, is the line between the true and the false,
between the truth and a lie. All other lines of distinction, such even
as those which separate good from evil, light from darkness, purity
from impurity, love from hate, are in a sense relative and variable
lines, taking their decisive measure from this one primal and eternal
dividing line.

This is the one line which goes back of our very conception of a
personal God, or which is inherent in that conception. We cannot
conceive of God as God, unless we conceive of him as the true God, and
the God of truth. If there be any falsity in him, he is not the true
God. Truth is of God's very nature. To admit in our thought that a lie
is of God, is to admit that falsity is in him, or, in other words,
that he is a false god.

A lie is the opposite of truth, and a being who will lie stands
opposed to God, who by his very nature cannot lie. Hence he who lies
takes a stand, by that very act, in opposition to God. Therefore if it
be necessary at any time to lie, it is necessary to desert God and be
in hostility to him so long as the necessity for lying continues.

If there be such a thing as a sin _per se_, a lie is that thing; as
a lie is, in its very nature, in hostility to the being of God.
Whatever, therefore, be the temptation to lie, it is a temptation to
sin by lying. Whatever be the seeming gain to result from a lie, it
is the seeming gain from a sin. Whatever be the apparent cost or loss
from refusing to lie, it is the apparent cost or loss from refusing to

Man, formed in the moral image of God, is so far a representative of
God. If a man lies, he misrepresents and dishonors God, and must incur
God's disapproval because of his course. This fact is recognized in
the universal habit of appealing to God in witness of the truthfulness
of a statement, when there is room for doubt as to its correctness.
The feeling is general that a man who believes in God will not lie
unto God under the solemnity of an oath. If, however, it were possible
for God to approve a lie on the part of one of his children, then that
child of God might confidently make solemn oath to the truth of his
lie, appealing to God to bear witness to the lie--which in God's mind
is, in this case, better than the truth. In God's sight an oath is no
more sacred than a yea, yea; and every child of God speaks always as
in the sight of God. Perjury is no more of an immorality than ordinary
lying; nor is ordinary lying any less a sin than formal perjury.

The sin of lying consists primarily and chiefly in its inconsistency
with the nature of God and with the nature of God's image in man. It
is not mainly as a sin against one's neighbor, but it is as a sin
against God and one's self, that a lie is ever and always a sin. If it
were possible to lie without harming or offending one's neighbor, or
even if it were possible to benefit one's fellow-man by a lie, no man
could ever tell a lie, under any circumstances or for any purpose
whatsoever, without doing harm to his own nature, and offending
against God's very being. If a lie comes out of a man on any
inducement or provocation, or for any purpose of good, that man is
the worse for it. The lie is evil, and its coming out of the man is
harmful to him. "The things which proceed out of the man are those
that defile the man,"[1] said our Lord; and the experience of mankind
bears witness to the correctness of this asseveration.

[Footnote 1: Mark 7:15.]

Yet, although the main sin and guilt and curse of a lie are ever on
him who utters that lie, whatever be his motive in so doing, the
evil consequences of lying are immeasurable in the community as a
community; and whoever is guilty of a new lie adds to the burden of
evil that weighs down society, and that tends to its disintegration
and ruin. The bond of society is confidence. A lie is inconsistent
with confidence; and the knowledge that a lie is, under certain
circumstances, deemed proper by a man, throws doubt on all that that
man says or does under any circumstances. No matter why or where the
one opening for an allowable lie be made in the reservoir of public
confidence, if it be made at all, the final emptying of that reservoir
is merely a question of time.

To-day, as in all the days, the chief need of men, for themselves and
for their fellows, is a likeness to God in the impossibility of lying;
and the chief longing of the community is for such confidence of men
in one another as will give them assurance that they will not lie one
to another. There was never yet a lie uttered which did not bring more
of harm than of good; nor will there ever be a harmless lie, while God
is Truth, and Satan is the father of lies.


  Abbé Sicard: cited
  Abbott, Benjamin V.; cited
  Abohab, Isaac: quotation from
  Abraham: his deceiving
  Achilles, truthfulness of
  Act and speech, lying in
  Advantages of lying, supposed
  Africans, truthfulness among
  Ahab's false prophets
  Ahriman, father of lies
  American Indians, habits of
  Ananias and Sapphira
  Anderson, Rasmus B.: cited
  Animals, deception of
  Aquinas, Thomas: cited
  Arabs, influence of civilization on
  Aristotle: cited
  Army prison life, incidents in
  Augustine: cited
  Aurelius, Marcus: cited

  Bailey: cited
  Barrow, Sir John: cited
  Base-ball, concealment in
  Basil, friend of Chrysostom
  Basil the Great: cited
  Baumgarten-Crusius: cited
  Benjamin, Judah P.: cited
  Bergk, Theodor: cited
  Bethlehem, Samuel at
  Bheels, estimate of truth by
  Bible: principles, not rules, in
    first record of lie in
    story of man's "fall" in
    standard of right
    forbids lying
  Bible teachings on lying
  Bingham, Joseph: cited
  Bispham, George T.: cited
  Bock, Carl: cited
  Bowne, B.P., quotation from
  Boyle, F.: cited
  Brahmans, estimate of truth by
  Briggs and Salmond: cited
  Broom, Dr. Herbert: cited
  Brougham, Lord: cited
  Budge, E.A.: cited
  Bunsen, C.K.J,; cited
  Burton, Richard: cited, 30.

  Caecinna Paetus: cited
  Calvin, John: cited
  Carlyle, Thomas: cited
  Cartwright, William C.: cited
  Chastity, lying to save
  Children's right to truth
  Choosing between duties
  Christ, example of
  Christian ethics, basis of
  Christian Fathers, discussion by
  Christians, early, discussion by
  Chrysostom: cited
  Cicero: cited
  Clergymen, position of
  Clive, Lord: cited
  Coleridge, S.T.: cited
  Concealment, justifiable
  Concealment, unjustifiable
  Confidence essential to society
  Contract, overpressing theory of
  Conway, Moncure D.: cited
  Court, oath in
  Courvoisier, trial of
  Crime, lying to prevent
  Cyprian: cited

  Dabney, Dr. R.L.: cited
  Darius, inscription of
  David: his deceiving
  "Deans, Jeanie," story of
  Deception: antagonistic to nature of God
    among Phoenicians
    by Hebrew midwives
    by Rahab
    by Jacob
    Samuel charged with
  Micah charged with
    by Abraham
    by Isaac
    by David
    by Ananias and Sapphira
    in speech and in act
    concealment not necessarily
    purposed and resultant
    of lower animals
    in medical profession
    of insane
    in flag of truce
    teaching of Talmudists as to
    Peter and Paul charged with
    teaching of Jesuits
    of the intoxicated
    Elisha charged with
    Joshua charged with
    in legal profession
    in ministerial profession,
  Definitions of lie
  Denham: cited
  De Wette: cited
  Dick, Dr., quotation from
  Dorner, Dr. Isaac A.: cited
  Drona, story of Yudhishthira and
  Duns Scotus: cited
  Duty: of truthfulness;
    of disclosure, conditional;
    choosing of more important;
    of right concealment;
    to God not to be counted out.
  Dyaks; their truthfulness

  Earl, G.W.: cited
  Early Christians, temptations of
  East Africans, estimate of truth by
  Egyptian idea of deity synonymous with truth
  Elisha and Syrians
  Enemy, duty of truthfulness to
  Esau, deceit practiced on
  Eunomius: cited
  Evil as a means of good
  Exigency, lie of (see _Lie of Necessity_)

  False impressions, limit of responsibility for
  Falsehood: estimate of, in India;
    in Ceylon;
    in Persia;
    in Egypt;
    "Punic faith," synonym of;
    in medical profession;
    its use as means of good;
    spoken in love;
    in legal profession.
  Family troubles, concealment of
  Fichte: cited
  Firmus, Bishop: cited
  Flag of truce, sending of
  Flatt: cited
  Forsyth, Capt. J.: cited
  Fowler, Professor: cited
  Frankness, brutal
  Fridthjof and Ingeborg, story of
  Fürstenthal, R.J.: cited

  German ideal of truth
  Glasfurd: cited
  God: killing, but not lying, a possibility with;
    cannot lie;
    his concealments from man;
    is truth;
    called to witness lie;
  Greeks, ancient: their estimate of truth
  Gregory of Nyssa: cited
  "Hall of two truths"
  Hamburger, Dr. I.: cited
  Hannibal: cited
  Harischandra, story of
  Harkness, Capt. Henry: cited
  Harless: cited
  Hartenstein: cited
  Heber, Bishop: cited
  Hebrew midwives
  Hebrew spies
  Hegel: cited
  Heralds' law
  Herbart: cited
  Hennas, Shepherd of: cited
  Herodotus: cited
  Hill Tribes of India: their estimate of truth
  Hindoo; estimate of truth;
  Hodge, Dr. Charles; cited
  "Home of Song"
  "Home of the Lie"
  Hottentot, estimate of truth
  Hugo, Victor: cited
  Hunter, W.W.: cited

  Ilai, Rabbi: cited
  Iliad, estimate of truth in
  Indians, American, influence of civilization on
  Ingeborg and Fridthjof of, story of
  Innocent III.: cited
  Insane: lying to
    their right to truth
  Inscription of Darius
  Intoxicated, the: their right to truth
  Isaac: his deceiving
  Isaac, Jacob, and Esau
  Ishmael, Rabbi: cited

  Jackson, Prof. A.V.W.: cited
  Jacob: his deceiving
    his lie to Isaac
  Jacobi, F.H.: cited
  Javanese: their truthfulness
  Jehoshaphat and Ahab
  Jehuda, Rabbi: cited
  Jerome: cited
  Jesuits, teaching of
  Jewish Talmudists, discussions of
  Johnson's Cyclopaedia: cited
  Judith and Holofernes
  Justin Martyr: cited
  Juvenal: cited

  Kant, Immanuel: cited
  Keating, W.H.: cited
  Kent, Chancellor: cited
  Khonds of Central India, truthfulness among
  Killing an enemy or lying to him
  Kirkbride, Dr. Thomas S., testimony of
  Kolben, P.: cited
  Krause: cited
  Kurtz, Prof. J.H.: cited

  Lamberton, Prof. W.A.: cited
  Lecky, W.E.H.: cited
  Legal profession, ethics of
  Legends, Scandinavian
  Liar: an enemy of righteousness
    form of prayer for
  Liars, place of
  Libby Prison, incident of
  Lichtenberger, F.: cited
  Life, losing of truth to save
  Life insurance, truthfulness in
  Lightfoot, Bishop: cited
  Liguori: cited
  Livingstone, David: cited
  Logic swayed by feeling
  Loyola, Ignatius: cited
  Luther, Martin: cited

  MA, symbol of Truth
  Macaulay, Lord, on Lord Clive's treachery
  Macpherson, Lieutenant: cited
  Mahabharata on lying
  Mahaffy, Prof. J.P.: cited
  Mandingoes: their estimate of truth
  Marcus Aurelius, quotation from
  Marheineke: cited
  Marriage, duty of truthfulness in connection with
  Marshman, Joshua: cited
  Martensen, Hans Lassen: cited
  Martineau, Dr. James, quotations from
  Martyrdom price of truth-telling
  Mead, Professor: cited
  Medical profession, no justifiable falsehood in
  Melanchthon: cited
  _Menorath Hammaor_, reference to
  Merrill, J.H.: cited
  Meyer, Dr. H.A.W.: cited
  Meyrick, Rev. F.: cited
  Micaiah, story of
  Midwives, Hebrew, lies of
  Mithra, god of truth
  Moore, William: cited
  Moral sense of man against lying
  Morgan: cited
  Müller, Julius: cited
  Müller, Prof. Max: cited Murderer, concealment from would-be
  Nathan, Rabbi: cited
  Neander: cited
  Nitzsch: cited

  Oath of witness in court
  Omichund, deceit practiced on
  One all-dividing line
  Origen: cited
  Ormuzd, Zoroastrian god of truth

  Paley, Dr.: definition of lie
  Palgrave, W.G.: cited
  Paradise, two pictures of
  Park, Mungo: cited
  Pascal: cited
  Passion-play, Hindoo
  Patagonians: their view of lying
  Patient, deception of, by physician
  Paul and Peter: suggestion of their deceiving
  Perjury justifiable, if lying be
  Persian ideals
  Peter and Paul: suggestion of their deceiving
  Phillips, Charles, misrepresented
  Philoctetes, tragedy of
  Phoenicians: their untruthfulness
  Physician, lying by
  Pindar: cited
  Place of liars
  Plato: cited
  Pliny the younger: cited
  Pope Innocent III.: cited
  Prayer, form of, for liar
  Principles, not rules, Bible standard
  Priscillianists, sect of
  Prophets, lying
  Plan, lord of truth
  "Punic faith," synonym of falsehood
  Pylades and Orestes

  Quaker and salesman
  "Quaker guns," concealment by means of

  Ra, symbol of light
  Raba: cited
  Raffles, Sir T.S.: cited
  Rahab the harlot, lying of
  Rawlinson, Prof. George: cited
  Reinhard: cited
  Responsibility, limit of
  Robber: concealment from
    lying to
  Roberts, Joseph, quotation from
  Rock of Behistun, inscription on
  Roman Catholic writers, views of
  Roman matron, story of: cited by Pliny
  Roman standard of truthfulness
  Rothe, Richard: cited

  St. John, Sir Spencer: cited
  Samuel at Bethlehem
  Sapphira: her deceiving
  Satan, "father of lies"
  Sayce, Prof. A.H.: cited
  Scandinavian legends
  Schaff, Dr. Philip: cited
  Schaff-Hertzog: cited
  Schleiermacher: cited
  Schoolcraft, H.R.: cited
  Schwartz: cited
  Scott Sir Walter: cited
  Self-deception in others, limit of responsibility for
  Semple, J.W.: cited
  Sharswood, Chief-Justice: cited
  Shepherd of Hermas, quotation from
  Sherwill: cited
  Shorn, Dr. J.: cited
  Sick: their right to truth
  Simplice, Sister, story of
  Sin _per se_, lying
  Smith and Cheetham: cited
  Smith and Wace: cited
  Smyth, Dr. Newman: cited
  Sonthals, truthfulness among
  South, Dr. Robert: cited
  Sowrahs, truthfulness among
  Speech and act, lying in
  Spencer, Herbert: cited
  Spies, Hebrew, Rahab and
  Spy denied soldier's death
  Stephen, Leslie: cited
  Story, Justice: cited
  Surgeon's responsibility for his action
    testimony as to deceiving patient
  Symonds J.A.: cited
  Syrians, Elisha and

  Talmud, teachings of
  Talmudists, discussion among
  Taylor, Jeremy; cited
  Teaching of Jesuits
  Temptations influencing decision
  Tertullian: cited
  Theognis: cited
  Thornwell, Dr. James H.: cited
  Tipperahs: their habit of lying
  Todas, truthfulness among
  Tragedy of Philoctetes
  Truce, flag of, use of
  Truth: universal duty of telling
    God is
    not every one entitled to full
    dearer than life
    justifiable concealment of
    unjustifiable concealment of
  Truth, estimate of: among Hindoos
    among Scandinavians
    in ancient Persia
    in ancient Egypt
    among Romans
    among ancient Greeks
    among ancient Germans
    among Hill Tribes of India
    among Arabs
    among American Indians
    among Patagonians
    among Africans
    among Dyaks
    among Veddahs
    among Javanese

  Ueberweg, F.: cited
  Ulysses, reference to
  Urim and Thummim

  Veddahs of Ceylon: their truthfulness
  Veracity: duty of
    of Greeks
    of Persians
    of primitive and civilized peoples compared
    of Hill Tribes of India
    of Arabs
    of American Indians
    of Africans
    of Dyaks
    of Veddahs
    of Javanese
  Viswamitra and Indra, story of
  Von Ammon: cited
  Von Hirscher: cited

  Walker, Helen, example of
  War: justifiable concealment in
    duty of veracity in
  Westcott, Bishop: cited
  Wheeler, J. Talboys; cited
  Whewell, Dr. William: cited
  "White lie"
  Wig, concealment by
  Wilkinson, Sir J.G.: cited
  Witness, oath of, in court
  Woolsey, President: cited
  Wuttke, Dr. Adolf: cited

  Yudhishthira and Drona, mythical story of

  Zoroastrian designation of heaven and hell


    1: 28
    2 and 3
    3: 6, 7
    9: 1-3
   12: 10-19
   12: 14-20
   16: 1-6
   25: 27-34
   26: 6-10
   27: 1-40
   27: 6-29
   28: 1-22
   39: 8-21

    1: 15-19
    1: 15-21
    1: 19, 20
    1: 20, 21

    8: 8
   18: 5
   19: 2, 12, 13, 34-37
   19: 11

   23: 19

   29: 29

    2: 1-21
    8: 1-26
   24: 3

    7: 15-17
    9: 22-24
   11: 14, 15
   13: 14
   15: 29
   16: 1, 2
   16: 1-3
   20: 29
   21: 1, 2

   11: 1-27

  1 KINGS.
   22: 1-23

  2 KINGS.
    6: 14-20
    7: 6
   20: 12-19

   18: 1-34
   20: 7

   31: 5
   58: 3
   62: 4
   63: 11
  101: 7
  116: 11
  120: 2
  146: 6

    6: 16, 17
   14: 5
   19: 5, 9, 22

   41: 8
   51: 2

    3: 9

    6: 48
    7: 15

   24: 28

    7: 8
    8: 44
   14: 6
   16: 12

    5: 1-11
   13: 22

    3: 4
    3: 7, 8
    4: 12

    2: 11-14
    3: 9

    4: 25

    3: 9

    1: 2

    6: 18
   11: 31

    2: 23

  1 JOHN.
    5: 7

   21: 5-8

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