S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
One of the fathers has carried this point so high as to declare he would not tell a lie though he were sure to gain heaven by it. However extravagant such a protestation may appear, every one will own that a man may say, very reasonably, he would not tell a lie if he were sure to gain hell by it; or, if you have a mind to soften the expression, that he would not tell a lie to gain any temporal reward by it, when he should run the hazard of losing much more than it was possible for him to gain.
But it is not only the difficulty and labour which men take in finding out the truth; nor, again, that, when it is found, it imposeth upon mens thoughts, that doth bring lies in favour; but a natural, though corrupt, love of the lie itself. One of the later schools of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what should be in it that men should love lies, where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets, nor for advantage, as with the merchant, but for the lies sake.
There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious: and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquireth the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge, If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth is as much as to say that he is brave towards God, and a coward towards men: for a lie faces God, and shrinks from man.
I really know nothing more criminal, more mean, and more ridiculous, than lying. It is the production either of malice, cowardice, or vanity; and generally misses of its aim in every one of these views; for lies are always detected, sooner or later. If I tell a malicious lie, in order to affect any mans fortune or character, I may indeed injure him for some time; but I shall be sure to be the greatest sufferer myself at last; for as soon as ever I am detected (and detected I most certainly shall be) I am blasted for the infamous attempt; and whatever is said afterwards to the disadvantage of that person, however true, passes for calumny. If I lie, or equivocate,for it is the same thing,in order to excuse myself for something that I have said or done, and to avoid the danger or the shame that I apprehend from it, I discover at once my fear, as well as my falsehood; and only increase, instead of avoiding, the danger and the shame: I show myself to be the lowest and the meanest of mankind, and am sure to be always treated as such.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Sept. 21, 1747.
In plain truth, lying is a hateful and accursed vice. We are not men, nor have other tye upon one another, but our word. If we did but discover the horror and ill consequences of it, we should pursue it with fire and sword, and more justly than other crimes. I see that parents commonly, and with indiscretion enough, correct their children for little innocent faults, and torment them for wanton childish tricks, that have neither impression nor tend to any consequence: whereas, in my opinion, lying only, and (what is something a lower form) stomach, are the faults which are to be severely whipd out of them, both in the infancy and progress of the vices, which will otherwise grow up and increase with them: and after a tongue has once got the knack of lying, tis not to be imagined how impossible almost it is to reclaim it.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. ix.
Lying supplies those who are addicted to it with a plausible apology for every crime, and with a supposed shelter from every punishment. It tempts them to run into danger from the mere expectation of impunity, and when practised with frequent success it teaches them to confound the gradations of guilt, from the effects of which there is, in their imaginations at least, one sure and common protection. It corrupts the early simplicity of youth; it blasts the fairest blossoms of genius; and will most assuredly counteract every effort by which we may hope to improve the talents and mature the virtues of those whom it infects.
A lie is properly an outward signification of something contrary to, or at least beside, the inward sense of the mind: so that when one thing is signified or expressed, and the same thing not meant or intended, that is properly a lie.
A lie is properly a species of injustice, and a violation of the right of that person to whom the false speech is directed; for all speaking, or signification of ones mind, implies an act or address of one man to another.
Schoolmen and casuists, having too much philosophy to clear a lie from that intrinsic inordination and deviation from right reason inherent in the nature of it, held that a lie was absolutely and universally sinful.
When I hear my neighbour speak that which is not true, and I say to him, This is not true, or, This is false, I only convey to him the naked idea of his error: this is the primary idea: but if I say, It is a lie, the word lie carries also a secondary idea; for it implies both the falsehood of the speech and my reproach and censure of the speaker.