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Essays (1625)

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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 1

Of Truth
1 WHAT is Truth;said jesting Pilate;And would not stay for an Answer. Certainly there be,that delight in Giddinesse;And count it a Bondage, to fix a Beleefe; Affecting Free-will in Thinking, as well as in Acting.And though the Sects of Philosophers of that Kinde be gone, yet there remaine certaine discoursing Wits, which are of the same veines,though there be not so much Bloud in them, as was in those of the Ancients. But it is not onely the Difficultie, and Labour, which Men take in finding out of Truth; Nor againe, that when it is found, it imposeth vpon mens Thoughts; that doth bring Lies in fauour: But a naturall, though corrupt Loue, of the Lie it selfe. One of the later Schoole of the Grecians, examineth the matter, and is at a stand, to thinke what should be in it, that men should loue Lies; Where neither they make for Pleasure, as with Poets; Nor for Aduantage, as with the Merchant; but for the Lies sake. But I cannot tell: This same Truth, is a Naked, and Open day light, that doth not shew, the Masques, and Mummeries, and Triumphs of the world, halfe so Stately, and daintily, as Candlelights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a Pearle, that sheweth best by day: But it will not rise, to the price of a Diamond, or Carbuncle, that sheweth best in varied lights. A mixture of a Lie doth euer adde Pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of Mens Mindes, Vaine Opinions, Flattering Hopes, False valuations, Imaginations as one would, and the like; but it would leaue the Mindes, of a Number of Men, poore shrunken Things; full of Melancholy, and Indisposition, and vnpleasing to themselues? One of the Fathers, in great Seuerity, called Poesie, Vinum Dæmonum; because it filleth the Imagination, and yet it is, but with the shadow of a Lie. But it is not the Lie, that passeth through the Minde, but the Lie that sinketh in, and setleth in it, that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoeuer these things are thus, in mens depraued Iudgements, and Affections, yet Truth, which onely doth iudge it selfe, teacheth, that the Inquirie of Truth, which is the Loue-making, or Wooing of it; The knowledge of Truth, which is the Presence of it; and the Beleefe of Truth, which is the Enioying of it; is the Soueraigne Good of humane Nature. The first Creature of God, in the workes of the Dayes, was the Light of the Sense; The last, was the Light of Reason; And his Sabbath Worke, euer since, is the Illumination of his Spirit. First he breathed Light, vpon the Face, of the Matter or Chaos; Then he breathed Light, into the Face of Man; and still he breatheth and inspireth Light, into the Face of his Chosen. The Poet, that beautified the Sect, that was otherwise inferiour to the rest, saith yet excellently well: It is a pleasure to stand vpon the shore, and to see ships tost vpon the Sea: A pleasure to stand in the window of a Castle, and to see a Battaile, and the Aduentures thereof, below: But no pleasure is comparable, to the standing, vpon the vantage ground of Truth: ( A hill not to be commanded, and where the Ayre is alwaies cleare and serene; ) And to see the Errours, and Wandrings, and Mists, and Tempests, in the vale below: So alwaies, that this prospect, be with Pitty, and not with Swelling, or Pride. Certainly, it is Heauen vpon Earth, to haue a Mans Minde Moue in Charitie, Rest in Prouidence, and Turne vpon the Poles of Truth.
2 To passe from Theologicall, and Philosophicall Truth, to the Truth of ciuill Businesse; It will be acknowledged, euen by those, that practize it not, that cleare and Round dealing, is the Honour of Mans Nature; And that Mixture of Falshood, is like Allay in Coyne of Gold and Siluer, which may make the Metall worke the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding, and crooked courses, are the Goings of the Serpent; which goeth basely vpon the belly, and not vpon the Feet. There is no Vice, that doth so couer a Man with Shame, as to be found false, and perfidious. And therefore Mountaigny saith prettily, when he enquired the reason, why the word of the Lie, should be such a Disgrace, and such an Odious Charge? Saith he, If it be well weighed, To say that a man lieth, is as much to say, as that he is braue towards God, and a Coward towards men. For a Lie faces God, and shrinkes from Man. Surely the Wickednesse of Falshood, and Breach of Faith, cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last Peale, to call the Iudgements of God, vpon the Generations of Men, It being foretold, that when Christ commeth, He shall not finde Faith vpon the Earth.

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