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We may not sunder the veil apart
May sail with us o'er life's stormy sea;
4 And I sit and think, when the sunset's gold Is flushing river, and hill, and shore,
I shall one day stand by the water cold,
And list for the sound of the boatman's oar;
I shall know the loved who have gone before,
The Angel of Death shall carry me.
LIX. TRUE HONESTY.
CHARLES FOLLEN was born at Romrod, in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, September 4, 1796, emigrated to this country in 1824, on account of the danger to which he was exposed from his liberal opinions, and died in January, 1840, a victim of that fearful tragedy,—the burning of the steamboat Lexington, in Long Island Sound. At the time of his death, he was pastor of a church in East Lexington, Massachusetts, and he had previously been for some years Professor of the Language and Literature of Germany in the University at Cambridge.
He was a man of admirable qualities of mind and character. His courage was of the highest temper, and graced by Christian gentleness and forbearance. He had a generous and wide-embracing philanthropy, and yet was never neglectful of the daily charities and kindnesses of life. The duties of his sacred calling he discharged with great fidelity. His sermons were of a high order, and his devotional exercises were most fervid and impressive.
Dr. Follen had also an excellent understanding and a thorough cultivation. While in Germany he had been a teacher of jurisprudence, and his lectures had attracted much attention. He had a taste and a capacity for metaphysical and
psychological investigations, and at the time of his death had made some progress in a work on the nature and functions of the soul. His English style is very remarkable. Not only is there no trace of foreign idiom in it, but his writings might be put into the hands of students of our language as models of accuracy, neatness, and precision.
Dr. Follen's works were published, after his death, by his widow, in ve volumes: the first volume containing a memoir. They consist of sermons, lectures, and occasional discourses. The following extract is taken from one of his sermons.1
HONESTY is often recommended to those who seem more especially to need the recommendation, by the common saying that "honesty is the best policy." This maxim is to a certain extent true, and borne out by experience. 5 The dishonest man is continually undermining his own credit; and not only is credit the first requisite for obtaining the conveniences of life which can be bought or hired, but all our social blessings, arising from the confidence, esteem, and love of our fellow-men, depend essen10 tially on good faith. Our conscience and our reason fully approve of a state of things that should secure the enjoyment of property, of confidence, esteem, and affection, to him who alone deserves them.
So far, then, the common saying, that honesty is the 15 best that is, the most profitable policy, has a good foundation, both in experience and in sound reason. But, like all the other current doctrines of expediency which commend virtue not for its own sake, that is, on account of the happiness which is found in the exercise of virtue,
that common saying, too, which makes honesty an instrument of policy, is untrue and mischievous in some of its most important bearings and consequences.
In the first place, those who are in the habit of considering honesty the most profitable line of conduct, are apt 25 to look upon virtue, in general, as a matter of policy — to value it solely or chiefly in proportion to the price it will bring in the market. This habit of calculating the interest of virtue undermines the moral sensibility, and, by degrees, unfits the selfish calculator for that deep satisfac
tion, arising from the simple consciousness of rectitude, which the truly honest man does not hesitate to purchase with the loss of all the advantages which the most successful policy could have secured.
But besides the immoral tendency of this economical view of virtue, it is not consistent with facts, with experience, that honesty is always the best, the most successful, policy. He is not always the most successful merchant who in no instance deviates from the strict principles of 10 honesty; but rather he whose general way of doing business is so fair and equitable, that he can, without much danger, avail himself of some favorable opportunity to make his fortune by a mode of proceeding which would have ruined his credit if he had been so impolitic as to 15 make this successful deviation from duty the general line of his conduct.
Again, he is not always the most prosperous lawyer who never undertakes the defence of a cause which his conscience condemns; but rather he who never undertakes a 20 cause so palpably unjust that it cannot be gained even by the most skilful and artful management; while the power of making a bad cause appear good, when discreetly employed, is apt to enhance, rather than degrade, his professional character.
Again, he is not always the most influential politician who never deviates from the straight path of political justice; but rather he who gocs upon the common principle that "all is fair in politics," provided he does not become guilty of any such dishonesty as will not be pardoned by O his own party.
In the same way, he is not apt to be the most popular divine, who, regardless both of the praise and of the cen sure of men, declares the whole counsel of God, as it stands revealed to his own mind; but rather he who re35 gards the signs of the times as much as the handwriting of God, modifying the plain honesty of apostolic preaching
with a politic regard to the likes and dislikes, the passions and prejudices, of men.
I believe, then, that experience does not verify the common saying, that honesty is the best- that is, the most 5 profitable policy. It is so in most cases, but not in all.
Hence those who recommend honesty on the ground of its being the best policy, advise men to act from a motive which, in some, perhaps the most important cases, may lead them into dishonesty. Steal no more! Cease to do 10 evil! Learn to do well! These are the simple precepts addressed to the consciences of men, without leaving it to their discretion to decide in what cases they may do evil, if in all others they do well.
If you compare this simple doctrine of Scripture and of 15 conscience, which enjoins honesty because of its intrinsic excellence, with the doctrine of worldly wisdom, which recommends honesty as the most profitable policy, and if you put both maxims to the test of experience, you will know by their fruits which is of God and which of man. 20 In those cases where honesty is in part the worst policy, the man who is virtuous for virtue's sake will choose to endure all the evils connected with the performance of duty, rather than the simple consciousness of guilt; while in all those cases in which honesty turns out to be the best 25 policy, the joy of acting right, without regard to the consequences, exceeds every other reward.
1 LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Who remembers that famous day and year.
"If the British march
2 He said to his friend,
3 Then he said good-night, and with muffled oar
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
4 Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
5 Then he climbed to the tower of the church,