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moral government, in as far as that immediately relates to our holiness and happiness, is so necessary, that there can be no foundation of virtue and no true obedience without it. It is this only that forms the means of sanctification, of comfort, and of hope, that enriches, purifies, and saves mankind; and in proportion as the glory of God, and the salvation and progressive improvement of immortal beings, are valuable, is the real worth of moral and religious truth. It is on this ground that they only are blessed who know the joyful sound; that the Saviour prays,
“ sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth *.”
Truth, then, is essentially necessary, in the first place, to the mutual confidence of intelligent beings. It is only in proportion as we can rely on the veracity of others that we can place trust in them. It is because there cannot be a suspicion entertained concerning the truth of God, that is, concerning his veracity, that he is the object of confidence to all the ends of the earth. Could a doubt be admitted as to the truth of his testimony, of his promises, and of his laws, his requisitions might, from fear of punishment, be complied with, but they could not from love be obeyed. It is truth that surrounds his government with glory and majesty, and that renders his character the subject of delightful contemplation and confidence. It is because he is a God of truth, and without iniquity, that he is the rock, the foundation of trust to the universe, and that all his ways are judgment.
Truth is requisite, in the second place, to the virtue or holiness of intelligent beings. It is at once the
* John xyii. 17.
evidence of their holiness, and the means of its production. A being without truth, is a being without virtue and respectability ; corrupt in himself, and a source of corruption to all around him. It is by truth only, moral and religious, that man is enlightened, purified, and prepared for a nobler existence. It is because the law of the Lord has this character of
perfection, that it has efficacy to convert the soul. It is in consequence of his word being the truth, that it forms an infallible directory to our faith and conduct, and leads to the practice of all righteousness.
Truth, in the third place, is necessary to the happiness of all intelligent creatures. The pleasures which arise from its discovery are pure and endless. There are pleasures of imagination, doubtless, because he who has formed us has, in infinite goodness and wisdom, multiplied the sources of our enjoyment; but even such pleasures, without material detriment to our virtue and happiness, must not spring from falsehood, though they may proceed from fiction. That enjoyment only is lasting which issues from the knowledge of truth, and especially of that truth which relates to the character and government of God, to the mediation of the Redeemer, to the salvation of man, and to the immortality of glory and blessedness which the Gospel reveals. Such glorious themes, so immediately allied to all that concerns us as sentient and accountable creatures, must deeply interest, purify, and convey never-failing gladness to the heart.
Hence the importance of veracity. It is by communication chiefly that we come to the knowledge of truth. It is very much by the experience and information of others that our faculties are developed and improved ; that we are capable in any measure of interpreting the works of nature and providence; that we know any thing of Him that made us; and of our own origin, duties, and destiny. How dependent are mankind on each other's veracity, in regard to their daily transactions; their food, clothing, and medicine; their education and instruction; their tranquillity and happiness; and their success and usefulness! Than this no disposition, no duty, can be of greater importance to man in the various stages of his existence, as a sentient, intellectual, moral and religious being; and no crime can be greater in magnitude, or more ruinous in its consequences, than its violation. The enemy of all good, the head of apostate angels, is characterized as the violator of truth, a liar and the father of lies. Take away veracity from the universe, and
annihilate love, friendship, virtue, and happiness; and with millions of beings, the whole creation becomes an insupportable solitude.
ON THE NATURE AND OBLIGATION OF A PROMISE. It has been truly remarked, that“ it is a prerogative of man, that he can communicate his knowledge of facts by testimony, and enter into engagements by promise or contract. God has given him these powers by a part of his constitution, which distinguishes him from all brute animals. And whether they are original powers, or resolvable into other original powers, it is evident that they spring up in the human mind at an early period of life, and are found in every individual of the species, whether savage or civilized.
“ For we see that children, as soon as they are capable of understanding declarations and promises, are led by their constitution to rely upon them. They are no less led by their constitution to veracity and candour on their own part. Nor do they ever deviate from this road of truth and sincerity, until corrupted by bad example and company. This disposition to sincerity in themselves, and to give credit to others, whether we call it instinct, or whatever name we give it, must be considered as the effect of their constitution *." The question, whether the disposition to speak truth, and to give credit to the declarations of others, be an original principle in the human mind, or, merely the effect of association and experience, I do not consider of such importance as to merit a particular consideration.
No obligation can be stronger than that which attaches to the fulfilment of a declaration or promise ; and the man who feels not its force, irrespective of the effect which a character for fidelity, or the opposite, will have on his rank in human estimation, is already deeply depraved. We are led by the constitution of our nature to prefer truth to falsehood, and sincerity to deceit; nor is it till some evil affection is awakened and some pernicious example followed, that this
* Reid's Works, v. iii. p. 546.
order is inverted, and that the path of open veracity and honesty is relinquished. At a more mature period of life, in addition to the testimony of conscience concerning the obligations of truth and fidelity, we have powerful motives to a sacred observance of them, arising from views of utility. The authority of God on this subject is decisive: “ Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.”
“ Without are murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” “ All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death *." “ When an individual, by an engagement, has transferred to his neighbour one of the gifts which God had bestowed upon him, the latter has the same right to it which the original proprietor had before the transfer; and if it be withheld from him he has the same right to use force for the recovery of it as for the recovery of any other article of his property.”
Moralists and casuists have thought it necessary to ascertain the sense in which promises are to be interpreted. This appears to me to be a superfluous task, since it is not more manifest that a promise is obligatory, than that it is obligatory in the sense in which the promiser knew, at the time, the promisee received it. The expectation excited by the promise is nothing more than the promiser was aware of; and to this extent he is clearly bound to fulfil his word. He has knowingly and voluntarily conveyed
* Rev. xxii. 15. xxi. 8.