owes B. one hundred dollars: now, to enforce the payment of this money would be in itself a just act, because the money is honestly owed by A.; but if, in doing this, B. should take the last bed from under the wife and children of A., and deprive them of the last morsel of bread, the act itself
would be a very wicked one, and he would be judged by mankind as but little less guilty than a highway robber, because this is a case in which the claims of benevolence
march before the claims of mere justice
. Not to respect the claims of benevolence in such a case is to act upon the principle
of pure selfishness
. This act, then, would envelop also a wrong principle — selfishness; and it is the nature of a wrong principle to spread the hue and poison of guilt over every act into which it enters.
Truth, and its opposite, as principles, are striking examples.
If we speak at all, we should speak the truth.
Every utterance into which, in its proper, generic sense, the lie
enters, even in the least degree, is a poisoned act; and he who does this, is to that extent a basely wicked man, however smooth his tongue or winning his manners.
Guilt has poisoned his utterance; and if this vice be not speedily arrested in its progress, it will spread itself through the whole mass, and break down his entire moral constitution.
But it does not certainly follow that all utterances which