To Consentius: Against Lying

truth. Why then, if otherwise it be not possible to succour Coktra men in peril, do I not also commit whoredom, which is"""*" therefore contrary to truth, for that it is contrary to chastity, and yet, to succour men in peril, do speak a lie which most openly is contrary to truth itself? Wherein hath chastity so highly deserved at our hands, and truth offended us? When all chastity is of the truth, and not the body's but the mind's chastity is truth, yea, in the mind dwelleth even the body's chastity. Lastly, as I shortly before said, and say again, whoever for the recommending and defending of any lie speaks against me, what speaks he, if he speaks not truth? Now if he is therefore to be heard because he speaks truth, how wishes he to make me, by speaking truth, a liar? How does lying take unto itself truth as its patroness? Or, is it for her own adversary that she conquers, that by herself she may be conquered? Who can bear this absurdity? In no wise therefore may we say, that they who assert that it is sometimes right to lie, in asserting that are truthful; lest, what is most absurd and foolish to believe, truth should teach us to be liars. For what sort of thing is it, that no man learns of chastity that we may commit adultery; that we may offend God none learns of piety; that we may do any man harm, none learns of kindness; and that we may tell lies, we are to learn of truth! But then if this thing truth teaches not, it is not true; if not true, it is not meet to be learned; if not meet to be learned, never therefore is it meet to tell a lie.

39. But, some man will say, Strong meat is for them that Heb. 5, are perfect. For in many things a relaxation by way of14' indulgence is allowed to infirmity, although in her utmost sincerity the things be no-wise pleasing to truth. Let him say this, whoever dreads not the consequences which are to be dreaded, if once there shall be in any way any lies permitted. In no wise, however, must they be permitted to climb up to such a height as to reach to perjuries and blasphemies: nor must any plea whatever be held out, for which it should be right that perjury should be committed, or, what is more execrable, that God should be blasphemed. For it does not follow that because the blaspheming is only in pretence and a lie, therefore He is not blasphemed. For at


466IgnoranceandpreIencecompared. Lying foranother's soul.

Contra this rate it might be said that perjury is not committed,

"ciuh*" because it is by a lie that it is committed: for who can be

~ by truth a perjurer? So also by truth can no man be a

blasphemer. Doubtless it is a milder kind of false swearing,

when a person does not know that thing to be false and

believes it to be true, which he swears: like as also Saul

lTim.i, blasphemed more excusably, because he did it ignorantly. But the reason why it is worse to blaspheme than to perjure one's self, is, that in false swearing God is taken to witness a false thing, but in blaspheming false things are spoken of God Himself. Now by so much is a man more inexcusable, whether perjurer or blasphemer, by how much the more, while asserting the things wherein they perjure or blaspheme, they know or believe them to be false. Whoever therefore says that for an imperilled man's temporal safety or life a He may be told, doth too much himself swerve from the path of eternal safety and life, if he says that on that behalf one may even swear by God, or even blaspheme God. xx. 40. But sometimes a peril to eternal salvation itself is put

oppo- forth against us1; which peril, they cry out, we by telling a lie, if otherwise it cannot be, must ward off. As, for instance, if a person who is to be baptized be in the power of impious and infidel men, and cannot be got at that he may be washed with the laver of regeneration, but by deceiving his keepers with a lie. From this most invidious cry, by which we are compelled, not for a man's wealth or honours in this world which are fleeting by, not for the life itself of this present time, but for the eternal salvation of a human being, to tell a lie, whither shall I betake me for refuge but unto thee,

«propo- O truth? And by thee is put forth before me*, Chastity. For why, if those keepers may be enticed to admit us to baptize the man, by our committing lewdness, do we refuse to do things contrary to chastity, and yet, if by a lie they may be deceived, consent to do things contrary to truth? when without doubt no man would faithfully think chastity amiable, but because it is enjoined of truth? So then, to get at a man to baptize him, let the keepers be deceived by lying, if truth bid it. But how can truth bid in order that a man may be baptized, that we should tell a lie, if chastity biddeth not, in order that a man be baptized, that we should commit whore


Truth to be kept as chastity. All sin called lying. 467

dom? Now why doth chastity not bid this, but because this Contra truth teacheth not? If then, save what truth teacheth, we",,""' ought not to do, when truth teacheth not even for the sake of baptizing a man to do what is contrary to chastity, how shall she teach us to do for the sake of baptizing a man what is contrary to herself, the truth? But like as eyes not strong enough to look upon the sun yet do gladly look upon the objects which are by the sun enlightened, so, souls which have already strength to delight in the beauty of chastity are yet not straightway able to consider in her very self that truth whence chastity hath her light, insomuch that when it cometh to the doing of somewhat that is adverse to truth, they should so start back in honor as they do start back in horror if ought be proposed to be done that is adverse to chastity. But that son, who, receiving the word shall be far from perdition, and nothing false cometh forth ofProv.29, his mouth, accounts it as much debarred from him if, to at' the succouring of his fellow man he be urged to pass through a lie, as if it were through the deed of lewdness. And the Father heareth and granteth his prayer that he may avail without a lie to succour whom the Father Himself, Whose judgments are unsearchable, willeth to be succoured. Such a son therefore so keeps watch against a lie, as he doth against sin. For indeed sometimes the name of lie is put for the name of sin: whence is that saying, AllPs. 116, men are liars. For it is so said, as if it were said, All men' are sinners. And that: But if the truth of God hath abounded Rom. 3, through my lie. And therefore, when he lies as a man he" sins as a man, and will be held by that sentence in which it is said, All men are liars; and, If we say that we have noi John sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But1'8' when nothing false cometh forth of his mouth, according to that grace will it so be, of which is said: He that is born of\ John Qod, sinneth not. Foi were this nativity by itself alone in' us, no man would sin: and when it shall be alone, no man will sin. But now, we as yet drag on that which we were born corruptible: although, according to that which we are new-born, if we walk aright, from day to day we are renewed 2 Cor. inwardly. But when this corruptible shall have put on in-

H h 2 53—66.' 468 Even adulterers sometimes fear perjury.

Contra corruption, life will swallow it up wholly, and not a sting of "J"' death will remain. Now this sting of death is sin. xxi 41. Either then we are to eschew lies by right doing, or to confess them by repenting: but not, while they unhappily abound in our living, to make them more by teaching also. But let him who thinks this, choose out whereby he may help his fellow man being in peril, to what safety he will, what kinds soever of lies; provided yet even of such men we obtain our demand, that upon no cause must we be carried on to false-swearing and to blaspheming. These wickednesses at least let us judge either greater than deeds of lewdness, or certainly not smaller. For indeed it is worth thinking of, that very often men, where they suspect them of adultery, challenge their wives to an oath: which surely they would not do, unless they believed that even they who were not afraid to perpetrate adultery, might be afraid of perjury. Because in fact also some lewd women who were not afraid by unlawful embraces to deceive their husbands, have been afraid to call God deceitfully to witness unto those same husbands whom they had deceived. What cause then can there be, that a chaste and religious person should be unwilling by adultery to help a man to baptism, yet be willing to help bim by perjury, which even adulterers are wont to dread? And then, if it be shocking to do this by perjuring one's self, how much rather by blaspheming? Far be it then from a Christian to deny and blaspheme Christ, that he may make another man a Christian; and by losing himself seek to find one, whom, if he teach him such things, he may cause to be lost when found. The book then which is called 'the Pound,' thou must in this method refute and destroy; namely, that head of it in which they dogmatize that for the purpose of concealing religion a lie may be told, this thou shalt understand must be the first to be amputated; in such manner, that their testimonies by which they labour to advance the Holy Books as patrons of their lies, thou must demonstrate partly not to be lies, partly, even those which are such, to be not meet to be imitated: and if infirmity usurps to herself thus much, that somewhat shall be venially permitted unto her which truth approve not, Sin not to be committed to delect sin. 469

yet that thou unshakenly hold and defend, that in divine Conte* religion it is at no time whatever right to tell a lie. And, as "<.,„„*" for concealed heretics, that, as we are not to find out concealed adulterers by committing of adulteries, nor murderers by committing of murders, nor practisers of black arts by malepractising of black arts, so neither must we seek to find out ooa liars by telling lies or blasphemers by blaspheming: according to the reasonings which we have in this volume so copiously set forth, that unto the goal of the same, which we fixed to be in this place, we have with difficulty come at last.