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a principle of probity. They believe, and believe aright, that “ honesty is the best policy.” According to this sound maxim they mean to act, and they greatly find their account in it. In short, none are wiser in their generation than those who are honest altogether from policy. While carefully minding to keep themselves within the hedge of the law, they, without mercy or pity, take every advantage that the law will let them. They escape the infamy and punishment, which commonly befall the impolitic wights, who are versed in the black art of downright roguery. Thus they walk in a plain and safe path. An honest reputation is their passport, and the laws of society are their protection. These are your hard honest men, who are honest merely for their own safety and profit, and are just as selfish in their honesty as in every thing else. True enough, the poet is worthy of reprehension, if he meant them. But, though the fear of disgrace or punishment, and the desire of a fair character may give birth to a creditable, but contracted and spurious kind of honesty, which has in it nothing of the dignity of virtue; yet the truly honest man, however low in circumstances, or mean in parts, is one of Virtue's nobility.
The truly honest man would be just as honest without law, as with it. Guided by the paramount authority of conscience, he neither withholds aught, nor exacts aught on the mere plea, that civil law is on his side.
The truly honest is he, who makes it a cardinal point to do to others, as he would be done unto; and who decides with justice, when self-interest and justice are in opposite scales.
The truly honest man is never ostentatious of his honesty. Ostentation of it is always an ill sign; it looks like putting on a patch to hide a blemish.
But enough of definition. One good example is worth a score of definitions: and the following example, all will allow to be a good one. The anecdote is given in St Pierre's Studies of Nature.
• In the last war in Germany, a captain of the cavalry was ordered out on a foraging party. He put himself at the head of his troop, and marched to the quarter assigned him. It was a solitary valley, in which hardly any thing but woods could be seen.
In the midst of it stood a little cottage; on perceiving it, he went up and knocked at the door; out comes an ancient Hernouten, with a beard silvered by age. "Father,' says the officer, show me a field where I can set my troops a foraging.'
Presently,' replied the Hernouten. The good old man walked before, and conducted them out of the valley. After a quarter of an hour's march, they found a fine field of barley. There is the very thing we want,' says the captain. 'Have patience for a few minutes,' replied his guide, and you shall be satisfied.' They went on, and at the distance of about a quarter of a league farther, they arrived at another field of barley. The troop immediately dismounted, cut down the grain, trussed it up, and remounted. The officer, upon this, says to his conductor, Father, you have given yourself and us unnecessary trouble; the first field was much better than this.' 'Very true, sir,' replied the good old man, but it is not mine.""
Such an example of honesty, I repeat, is worth a score of definitions. Here we have not an abstract notion of honesty, but we see it, as it were, embodied. Here we behold the express form and visage of genuine, Christian honesty, acting on the principle of loving one's neighbor as one's self. And what though the exemplar was an obscure and a lowly man, distinguished neither for parts nor learning ? In the moral frame of his mind there was a nobleness of heavenly origin; a nobleness far superior to eminent natural parts, which belong alike to the best, and the worst of human beings.
Compare this humble Hernouten, or Moravian, with the illustrious chieftains who figured in that German war, and whose bloody deeds are emblazoned on the page of history. Compare his disinterestedness with their selfishness; his philanthropy with their greedy avarice, and fell ambition; his tender and scrupulous regard to the rights of his neighbor, with their unfeeling spirit of plunder and rapine ;--and judge which party is entitled to stand higher on the scale of genuine honor.
One of the best religious confessions extant is that of Zaccheus, a rich publican, who, probably, had been not a little dishonest and extortionous :-“Lord, one half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." This is practical orthodoxy.
OF THE PREVAILING HABIT OF PROMISE-BREAKING IN COMMON
In the polite world, forms of speech are used, which are not meant to be understood according to their obvious meaning. For instance, when one man says or writes to another, Your humble servant, or, Your most obedient, he intends not to bind himself to clean the boots of the one he thus addresses, or to do him any sort of menial service; and much less does he mean that he is ready and willing to yield him obedience, in all cases whatsoever. It is hardly worth while, however, to enlarge on this topic, as the aforesaid forms of speech have almost become obsolete, at least in these United States. Pledges of humble service, and pas sive obedience, mutually given in the interchange of civilities, are now as rare in this country, as they were once common This is no matter of regret; for it is not a flower that has been plucked up, but a weed.
But there is one other form of words, which seems to have
come into general abuse, over this whole country; and the more is the pity, as these last are words of grave import, as well as of obvious sense: I mean the phrase, so abundantly used, -I promise to pay. In other times, these words were passed with timid caution, and when passed they were held sacred; but they are now coming to be words of mere form, meaning nothing; very like the old complimentary phrases --Your humble servantYour most obedient. Not but that the promisee always interprets the text as of old, according to its literal or expressed meaning. But the promiser perverts the text, that he may accommodate it to his own heterodox notions; or, rather, after the Romish doctrine of mental reservation, he mentally interpolates the word-never --making it run thus;-I promise (never) to pay.
It would be endless to recount all the mischiefs that are flowing in upon society from this prevailing heresy; nor is it needful, since most of them are too obvious to escape notice. Wherefore, not to mention the sore disappointments, the indig. nant heart-burnings, daily arising, in ten thousand instances, from this single source; nor yet to mention its destructive influence upon all confidence between man and man :-passing over these topics, and others akin to them, I shall consider the matter merely as it affects the interests of the delinquent party.
Be it supposed that he is a man, possessed of several estimable qualities; that he has a large stock of what is called good nature; that he is obliging and compassionate; that, in the main, he is a moral man; and, finally, that there is no apparent blemish in his character, save this alone.--Give the delinquent all these good qualities, and yet “ the dead fly, in the precious ointment,” spoils the whole compound.