Samuel Butler: The Way of All Flesh

65. CHAPTER LXV (continued)

Monstrous, odious falsehood! Ernest's feeble pulse quickened and his pale face flushed as this hateful view of life presented itself to him in all its logical consistency. It was not the fact of most men being liars that shocked him--that was all right enough; but even the momentary doubt whether the few who were not liars ought not to become liars too. There was no hope left if this were so; if this were so, let him die, the sooner the better. "Lord," he exclaimed inwardly, "I don't believe one word of it. Strengthen Thou and confirm my disbelief." It seemed to him that he could never henceforth see a bishop going to consecration without saying to himself: "There, but for the grace of God, went Ernest Pontifex." It was no doing of his. He could not boast; if he had lived in the time of Christ he might himself have been an early Christian, or even an Apostle for aught he knew. On the whole he felt that he had much to be thankful for.

The conclusion, then, that it might be better to believe error than truth should be ordered out of court at once, no matter by how clear a logic it had been arrived at; but what was the alternative? It was this, that our criterion of truth--i.e. that truth is what commends itself to the great majority of sensible and successful people--is not infallible. The rule is sound, and covers by far the greater number of cases, but it has its exceptions.

He asked himself, what were they? Ah! that was a difficult matter; there were so many, and the rules which governed them were sometimes so subtle, that mistakes always had and always would be made; it was just this that made it impossible to reduce life to an exact science. There was a rough and ready rule-of-thumb test of truth, and a number of rules as regards exceptions which could be mastered without much trouble, yet there was a residue of cases in which decision was difficult--so difficult that a man had better follow his instinct than attempt to decide them by any process of reasoning.

Instinct then is the ultimate court of appeal. And what is instinct? It is a mode of faith in the evidence of things not actually seen. And so my hero returned almost to the point from which he had started originally, namely that the just shall live by faith.

This is page 292 of 431. [Mark this Page]
Mark any page to add this title to Your Bookshelf. (0 / 10 books on shelf)
Customize text appearance:
Color: A A A A A   Font: Aa Aa   Size: 1 2 3 4 5   Defaults
(c) 2003-2012 and Michael Moncur. All rights reserved.
For information about public domain texts appearing here, read the copyright information and disclaimer.