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supposition a true conclusion may be erected.

9. (3.) It is lawful to tell a lie to our neighbour by con-
sent, provided the end be innocent or pious. Thus St. Chry-
sostom and St. Jerome say that St. Peter suffered himself to
be reproved by St. Paul before the Gentiles for too much
compliance with the Jews : not that he did it seriously, but
xar oixovopiav, he acted a part by consent to establish Christ-
ian liberty amongst the Gentiles. I do not consent to the
instance, because St. Paul tells it to the Galatians as a solemn
story and a direct narrative, adding withal dogmatically, that
St. Peter was to be blamed : but the instance will serve rightly
to illustrate this limitation of the rule. But thus the parties
in a war may write exactly contrary to the truth, when they
are understood to what purpose, and when it is by consent.
Because he who hath the right to truth, hath quitted it, and
his communication does serve the ends of society well enough,
and his words, though they are not agreeable to his ordinary
mind, yet they are made to be so by particular institution
and design. Thus, in besieged places, they write letters of
confidence and great ostentation of the strengths which they
have not, when their parties have consented that they should
do so for their just advantages.

10. (4.) To tell a lie for charity, to save a man's life, the
life of a friend, of a husband, of a prince, of a useful and a
public person, hath not only been done in all times, but
commended by great, and wise, and good men. oil vspisis
xa! -4/y5o5 IXSP ^-/r^ dyo^ie/v, "To tell a lie to save a life is
no harm," said old Pisander.P Thus the Egyptian midwives
are commended, because by their lie they saved the Israel-
itish infants: "O magnum humanitatis ingenium! Opium
pro salute mendacium!" says St. Austin of them : " It was
an excellent invention of kindness, and a pious lie for the
safety of the innocents;" and St. Ambrose and St. Jerome
commend them so, that they supposed them to receive eter-
nal rewards. The same was the case of Rahab ; to whom, it
should seem that Phinehas, who was one of the spies, had
given instruction and made in her fair dispositions to tell a lie

P Stob. Floril. tit xii. line 9. Buon, p. 79.


for their concealment. For when she had hidden Caleb,
Phinehas said to her, " ' Ego sum sacerdos.' Sacerdotes
vero, quippe angelorum similes, si volunt, aspectabiles sunt ;
si nolunt, non cernuntur." But she made no use of that, but
said directly they were gone away. Concerning which lie
of hers, St. Chrysostom q cries out, *n xaXou 4/sudous, a) xaXou
5oXou, ou <Tgo5;Soi/ro$ ra Ss/fct, aXXcb tpvXdrrovros ryv evc&fSsiav,
" O excellent lie ! O worthy deceit of her that did not be-
tray the Divine persons, but did retain piety!" Thus we
find St. Felix r telling a lie to save his life from the heathen

Felicem sitit impietas

Felicemque rogant, Felix ubi cernitur : et non
Cernitur ipse, nee ipse vir est, cum sit prope, longe est.

persensit et ipse faventis
Consilium Christi, ridensque rogantibus infit,
' Nescio Felicem quern quaeritis : ' ilicet illi
Praetereunt ipsum ; discedit at ille platea,
Illudente canes Domino frustratus biantes.

They asked where Felix was ; himself answered, that ' he
knew not Felix whom they looked for : ' and yet no man finds
fault with this escape. " Deceptio et mendacium semper
alias mala res, tune tantum sunt usui quando pro remedio
sunt amicis curandis, aut ad vitandum apud hostes peri-
culum ; " they are the words of Celsus in Origen : " A lie is
otherwise evil, only it is then useful when it is for remedy to
cure the evils of our friends, or to avoid the evils from our
enemies." The same almost with the expression of Clemens
Alexandrinus," who allows ^ivds&ai h Stgawtias [it^i, "to lie
when it is a remedy." So Lucian b amongst the heathens,
"Qui, cum usus postulat, mentiuntur, venia nimirum hi, imo
laude plerique eorum digni sunt; quicunque vel hostes fefel-
lerunt, vel ad salutem tali quopiam pharmaco usi sunt in
necessitatibus ; They are not only to be excused or par-
doned, but to be commended, that lie, when they use it as a
remedy or a medicine in the danger or necessities of our
friends;" where also the scholiast does allow an officious lie.
So we must use a lie, says Cassian, "quasi natura ei insit

i Homil. v. de Poenitent. Natali. v. S. Felicis. a In Philopseu.

1 he original words are, Hwyyviaftns roiya^ovv euro! yi p.'a.\\ov xai itfauvou rmf
avruv ci^ioi, oiroroi fi mkiftievf ilyvra.'rvffav , ITT} ffurngia. ra raiourtu QagfAdxiy i%g-
funro rols ^uvtis- Philops. c. i. liipont. vol. vii. p. 248. (J. R. P.)

Lib. v. Constit. c. 37.


hellebori, as a man uses hellebore:" and he commends
Archebius for deceiving some persons with a charitable lie.
It is therefore no wonder, if Pliny d commends Arria, the
wife of Caecina Paetus, for so often lying to her sick husband
in the concealment of the death of their beloved boy ; which
she therefore hid, lest the grief should extinguish her hus-
band. In short, St. Austin 6 says, that all the philosophers,
as Plato, Xenophon, Lucian, the lawyers, the physicians,
the rhetoricians, and theologues, did affirm that it was some-
times lawful to tell a lie : that is, when it did good and no
evil : Tb ya% aya&bv xeeTrrov ssn rrj uXri&tiaf, Said Proclus,
" For charity is better than truth," and to save a man's life
is better than a true story. The Archbishop of Tyre (as I
remember) tells a story, that a malicious Saracen had secretly
defiled one of the mosques, or places of worship, which the
Turks have in Jerusalem. The fact was imputed to the
Christians, who, generally denying it, but having no credit
with their enemies, were all presently dragged to the place
of execution. Amongst them there was a young man pious
and noble, who, seeing all his brethren in a sad condition,
and himself equally involved, by an officious and charitable
lie, took the fact upon himself, and confessed himself alone
to be the doer of it, and that the rest knew nothing of it.
Himself, indeed, was put to death with exquisite torments,
but he saved the lives of all the rest ; who, T doubt not,
believed that young man to have in heaven a great reward
for his piety, and no reproof for his innocent and pious lie;
for, in memory of this noble act, the Christians, in Jeru-
salem, once a-year, marched with palms in their hands into
the city, to perpetuate the memory of that deliverance.

11. (5.) Now, this may be better admitted, in case the
charitable lie be told to him to whom the good accrues ; for
then there is a leave justly presumed; and he that receives
the good is willing to receive it with the loss of a useless or
hurtful truth, and therefore there is no injustice done : as he
that takes his neighbour's goods, for which he hath reason
to believe his neighbour willing, is no thief, nor the other a
deceiver. 'AKar<p f&iv, airarsuv &s oux effnv' ou ya,g rXoj f^si
rqv avdrriv roD voffovvros, dXXa rr\v eurrjgiav, Says AndroniCUS
Rhodius ; " He does indeed deceive, but he is no deceiver ;

d Lib. iii. Epist. 16. Gierig. vol. i. p. 276. e Quaest. Iriii. in Levi


because not the cozening, but the curing of his friend, is the
purpose of his false affirmative." And to this we suppose
that every man is willing enough, and therefore not at all
injured. And this reason was good in such charitable decep-
tions, which are by implicit consent or leave justly presumed :
so Darius Hystaspes in Herodotus, " Ubi expedit mendacium
dicere, dicatur : nam idem optamus, et qui mendacium dici-
mus, et qui veritatem." Every man is willing enough to be
deceived into his own advantage ; and therefore when it is so,
in such things where the man is willing to receive advantage,
there is no harm done, if he be deceived that he may not be
undone. He that is in danger of drowning, is willing enough
to be pulled out of the water, though by the ears, or the hair
of his head ; and we have reason to believe so in the present
affair. " Mendacium nemini noxium, sed alicui commodum,
honestum esse," said Bishop Heliodorus, in his * Fair Ethio-
pian.' He was indeed then writing a romance, by which he
intended to do good and no harm, and therefore believed
himself innocent. Upon this account the apologues or fables
of jEsop, the parables of wise men, and their dark sayings,
the cases which lawyers put, and the fictions of law, have
their justification, " Et prodesse solent, et delectare;" they
hurt no man, and do good to every man; "they do him
profit, and they do him pleasure."

Exit in immensum foecunda licentia vatum ;
Obligat historica nee sua verba fide. f

Poets do intend to teach, not to deceive, in their fictions,
and therefore are allowed.

12. (6.) But if the lie be told to another for the preserv-
ation, not of himself, but of a third person, then the case
is more difficult, for here is no presumptive leave, hut it is
against the mind of the inquirer. Now, concerning this,
though it be allowed by very many of the ancient doctors of
the Church, and by the wisest among the heathens, and hath
in it a very great charity ; yet I cannot see sufficient cause
to allow it.

KaXov ju,tv ouv eux tffTt TO, ^luitj Xsyfjv*
"O<rij/ 5' aXflgay Ss/vov 'kniu' yn,

rov litftTv \VTI, xctl 70 [t,1\ x,tz),ov.%

It is at no hand good to tell a lie : but when a truth brings

f Ovid. Eleg. iii. 12. 41. Mitscherl. vol. i. p. 202.
* Sophocl. in Creusa. Stob. Floril. tit. xii. p. 79.


an intolerable evil, it is pardonable, but not commendable ;"
so the Greek tragedy: because it is of itself evil to lie to our
neighbour. Not that every false proposition, spoken know-
ingly, is a sin ; but if it be spoken to deceive, and not to
profit, it is spoken to the injury of him that hears, and is a
sin, because it is unjust, and therefore not to be done for any
good ; and it is in this very instance, in which St. Paul waa
angry at them who intimated that he told a lie for a good
end ; it may not be done, when to do it is unjust or injurious.
I approve, therefore, the opinion of St. Austin, 11 t am sure
it was one of his opinions, for in this question he had more
than one : " Duo sunt genera mendaciorum, in quibus non
est magna culpa, sed tamen non sunt sine culpa; : There
are two sorts of lies which have in them no great fault, but
yet they are not innoceat : the one is to lie in jest ; which is
therefore not pernicious, because it does not deceive, for it
is taken but for a jest : the other is to lie for the good of our
neighbour; which therefore is the less, because it hath some-
thing in it of good-will." And Tertullian' is of the same
opinion, who reckons 'necessitate mentiri, to lie in the
time of need,' amongst the sins of daily incursion, or of an
unavoidable infirmity. And St. Austin discourses it very
well ; " When it is asked, whether a good man may lie or no,
we ask not after him that belongs to Egypt, to Jericho, or to
Babylon, or to the earthly Jerusalem which is in bondage
with her children : but what is his office that belongs to the
mother of us all, that city that is from above? and then we
answer, that no lie is of the truth : but, concerning the
citizens of this city, it is written, that a lie was not found in
their mouths." k So that, upon this account, all those exam-
ples recorded in Scripture, of great persons telling a lie in
the time of the danger of themselves or others is no warrant,
no argument of the lawfulness of it ; for they were under a
looser law, but we under a more perfect and more excellent ;
and yet they did not do well ; and if we imitate them, we do

13. And, therefore, we find great examples of Christians
and of heathens, whose charity was not cold, but their love
of truth and righteousness was much warmer than in the

h Caul. 22. qu. 2. c. Nequis. ' Lib. de Pudicit.

k De Mendacio, ad Consentium.


former examples. St. Austin 1 tells of Firmus, bishop ofTra-
gasta, that \vhen one, who, by evil chance, had killed a man,
fled to him to be concealed from the avengers of blood ; to
the inquirers he answered, " Nee mentiri se posse, nee homi-
nem prodere, He could neither lie, nor yet betray the man."
For which answer and refusal the bishop, being brought
before the emperor, as a reward both of his charity and his
truth, he obtained pardon for the man. And it was a great
thing which Probus tells of Epaminondas, and Plutarch of
Aristides, that they were so great and severe lovers of truth,
that they would not lie so .much as in jest. Indeed that was
very well : and it is of greater obligation to Christians, to
whom not only purity and simplicity, ingenuity and sincerity,
are commanded, but all vain talking is forbidden. But the
case is not so clear in the matter of difference, when it
happens between a great charity and an unconcerning truth.
For who would not save his father's life, or the life of his
king, or of a good bishop and a guide of souls, at the charge
of a harmless lie, from the rage of persecutors and tyrants?
God, indeed, in his providence, hath so ordered the affairs
of the world that these cases seldom happen : but when any
man is surprised or tried, unless he be sure that it is in that
case a sin to tell a lie, he may be sure it is a very great sin
to betray his prince or prelate, his father or his friend. Every
man, in that case, would dispute hardly, rather than give up
a good man to death. And if it be come to a dispute, and
that it be doubtful on either hand whether the lie in that
case, or whether the betraying the man to death, be the sin,
it is the safer way to determine for the charity than for the
veracity ; because, in case it be a sin to give him up, it is a
much greater sin than to tell such a lie : and then comes in
the rule, " Caret peccato, quod ex duobus minus est." The
lie is the less evil ; and therefore it is no sin, when it is chosen
to avoid that which, for aught we know, is the greater.
But this is upon supposition that the case is doubtful. To
which also must be added, that it must also suppose that it
is just to save the man, or that we think it so : for to rescue
a malefactor, a bandit, a fugitive of law, hath in it no such
obligation. But if it be just that the man be saved, that is
a higher justice than the obligation of telling truth to the
1 Lib. de Meadac. c. 13.


persecutor ; to whom it is as great charity, if from him we
take the power of doing evil, as it is justice to rescue the
innocent. Now this, and the opinion of so many great men
that allow it, and the favourable nature of the case, are
enough at least to make this matter probable ; and if there
be a doubt, it is enough to establish it : the question being
uncertain, is enough to make the practice certain.

And, indeed, if we consider things without the prejudice
of easy and popular opinions, though it be said that to tell
truth is an act of justice ; yet this is not true in all proposi-
tions, but in such truths only which concern a man for some
real good to him, or for some imaginary good which hath no
real evil. But when the telling of a truth will certainly be
the cause of evil to a man, though he have right to truth, yet
it must not be given to him to his harm : it is like the giving
to a madman his own sword ; you had better give him a
wooden dagger, though the other be his own. But, in an
unconcerning truth, what interest can any man have that is
worth preserving ? What wrong is done to me if I be told
that Alexander died upon the floor, and not upon a feather-
bed? or that Pittacus's wife hurt her fingers when she threw
down the table of meat before her husband's friends? Truth
is justice when it does good, when it serves the end of wis-
dom, or advantage, or real pleasure, or something that ought
or may be desired ; and every truth is no more justice than
every restitution of a straw to the right owner is a duty. " Be
not over-righteous," says Solomon. In these things, there
is no question but the pretences of little justice ought to
serve the great end of charity ; and much rather if the truth
will do no good and will do hurt to him that inquires, and
more to him who is inquired after. The persecutor hath a
right to truth, but no right to be undone ; and therefore he
is not wronged by that lie that saves him harmless in some
measure, and his brother in more ; and if he be not wronged,
then no man is : and then the lie that so well serves charity
is not against justice ; and unless every lie be intrinsically
evil and malicious, it hath in such cases no irregularity. And
if it be objected, that ' we must not tell a lie for God, there-
fore much less for our brother ;' I answer, that it does not
follow : for God needs not a lie, but our brother does : and,
besides this, there can no service be pretended to be done


to God by a lie, but it must be in the matter of justice or re-
ligion, in both which cases a lie is neither to be told for God
nor- our brother ; but a real service may be done for our
brother by such a lie as sins neither against justice nor reli-
gion ; in -which case only T say it may seem to be allowable.

14. But, then, from these premises the truth in the in-
stance of the rule is established ; for it is not lawful for a
guilty prisoner to say ' Not guilty,' when he is justly interro-
gated. " Christianum non mentiri, etiamsi moriatur ex tor-
mentis," said Clemens Alexandrinus ; m "A Christian will
not lie, though to escape death with torments :" for the law
says, "Thou shalt not kill;" and the law .says, "Thou shalt
not lie;" but the law itself does sometimes kill, but the law
does never lie. For although it be said that no man is bound
to accuse himself, and indeed the laws of man do not tie him
to do it : yet this hinders not the conclusion in this case ;
for in the present case the man is accused already, and he is
not called to be his own accuser, but to confess the fact if he
be justly accused by the law: for why does the judge ask,
but to be answered truly ? For there being three ways in law
of proceeding to definitive sentence, 1 . The notoriety of the
fact ; 2. The conviction of witnesses ; and, 3. The confession of
the party ; in the destitution of the first, to prevent the trou-
ble of the second, the law interrogates concerning the third ;
and it is as in the case of Joshua and Achan, " My son^give
glory unto the Lord, and confess thy fault." It is true it is
a favourable case ; and when a man's life is at stake, he hath
brought himself into an evil necessity : but there is no excus-
ing of a false denial, but it is certainly criminal ; and nothing
can excuse it, unless the law should give leave to such persons
to say what they would, which cannot be supposed in any
good government; for then trials of criminal causes between
the judge and the thief would be like a match at fencing,
and it is infinitely confuted by those laws which use to
examine by scourgings or torture : which whether it be law-
ful or unlawful, I do not here determine, but I affirm it to be
a great testimony that laws do not love to be played withal,
but when they ask soberly, intend to be answered truly.

This is also to be extended to the case of advocates, who,
in a good cause, must not use evil arts. For we must not

Num. t6.


tell a lie for God, and therefore not for the interest of any
moral virtue, nor for the defence of righteousness; for a cavil
or an injurious lie is out of the way to justice, and she must
not be directly wronged that she may be indirectly righted.
In the civil law it is permitted, that to avoid abuses and the
injurious craft of the opposite party, the advocate of the
right may use all arts that are not lies and falsity : " Nee vide-
tur dolo fecisse qui fraudem excluserit," says the law. n He
may be overthrown by art, so he be not by that which is
false : " sic ars deluditur arte." But in the case which the
lawyers out of Baldus put, the question is evident. Agricola
borrows of Sempronius five hundred pounds, and pays him
at the day, but without witness : Sempronius sues him for
the money : Agricola owes him none, but cannot prove the
payment ; but yet may not, when he is particularly inter-
rogated, to save himself from injury, deny that ever he re-
ceived any. He must confess the truth, though he pay the
money again. Covaruvias affirms that he may, in this case,
lawfully deny that ever he received any ; because he is not
indebted, he received none that remains in his hand : and to
other purposes the judge cannot question him ; and if he
does he is unjust, and therefore Agricola is not tied to an-
swer rightly. But this is not well said nor well considered.
For the judge being competent may require him to answer ;
and the intention of the question is not to know whether
Agricola had paid the money, yea or no ; but whether he
borrowed it, for if he did, the judge is afterward to inquire
concerning the payment: and as Sempronius was tied to
prove that, so is Agricola tied to prove this ; and a lie is not
to be confuted by a lie, nor the error of Agricola in not tak-
ing witnesses, or an acquittance, to be supplied by a direct
denial of a truth. But if Sempronius had lent Agricola
five hundred pounds, whereof he hath received two hundred
pounds, if the judge ask whether he owes him that sum which
Sempronius demands, he may indefinitely and without more
punctuality deny the debt, that is, of five hundred pounds,
saying that he owes it not : and if the law be such that the
confession of one part entitles him to the whole, he may deny
the whole to be due, in case he hath paid a part. But with
these two cautions, 1. That if he be asked concerning a part,

L. Compat. Sect. Titio, ff. de Legal. Secundo.


he answer to that as justly as he answers to the whole ; 2.
That he do not make use of this subterfuge to defraud Sena-
pronius of what is due debt, but only to defend himself from
the undue demand. These cautions being observed, he hath
liberty so to defend his cause, because " majori suinmce ne-
gative prolatae minorem nee naturaliter nee civiliter inesse,"
say the lawyers. A man by denying the whole does not
deny the part, though he that affirms the whole, affirms the
part ; and therefore this defence is just because it is true.
But now if in a just cause the advocate or party may not
tell a lie, I conclude that much less may he do it in an un-
just cause, and for the defence of wrong. But ' much less '
signifies nothing, for it may not at all be done in either; and
in pure perfect negatives there can be no degrees. But in
artifices and crafty intercourses there is some difference :
these may be used to defend a just cause that can no other
way be defended ; but they may not be used to promote an
evil cause ; because they of themselves, though they be in-
different, yet not serving a good end but an evil, do there-
fore become evil. And therefore the Greek that denied the
* depositum ' of his friend, and offered to swear at the altar
that he had restored it already, did not preserve his conscience
and his oath, by desiring his friend to hold the staff in which
he had secretly conveyed the money. It is true, he delivered
it into his hand, desiring that he would hold it till he had
sworn; but that artifice was a plain cozenage, and it was
prettily discovered : for the injured person, in indignation at
the perjury, smote the staff upon the ground, and broke it,
and espied the money. But that made all right indeed,
though against the intention of the perjury. Such like arts
as these must not be used to do a mischief; if they do cha-
rity and justice, though they have not something to legi-
timate them, they have very much to excuse them.

15. (7.) It is lawful to do otherwise than we have said,
when the doing is better than the saying : if the saying were
ill, there is no scruple of it ; for it ought not to be done, but
the saying is to be repented of: not that the saying was a
lie, for there is no way of making it good but by causing
it to pass into a lie, that is, into vanity and nothing. But
then, if the saying be less good, and the deed be contrary,
and yet much better, the truth is not so much as the bounty ;


and there is no injustice in the lie, because there is charity
in the action, and a sufficient leave presumed to be given by
him that is concerned. Thus the emperor that said he would
cut off every one that pissed against the wall, being after-

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