Chapter 38 [XXXIV.]—We Must Not Lie, Even for the Sake of Moderation. The Praise of Humility Must Not Be Placed to the Account of Falsehood.
I am favourably disposed, indeed, to the view of our author, when he resists those who say to him, “What you assert seems indeed to be reasonable, but it is an arrogant thing to allege that any man can be without sin,” with this answer, that if it is at all true, it must not on any account be called an arrogant statement; for with very great truth and acuteness he asks, “On what side must humility be placed? No doubt on the side of falsehood, if you prove arrogance to exist on the side of truth.” And so he decides, and rightly decides, that humility should rather be ranged on the side of truth, not of falsehood. Whence it follows that he who said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” 1232 must without hesitation be held to have spoken the truth, and not be thought to have spoken falsehood for the sake of humility. Therefore he added the words, “And the truth is not in us;” whereas it might perhaps have been enough if he merely said, “We deceive ourselves,” if he had not observed that some were capable of supposing that the clause “we deceive ourselves” is here employed on the ground that the man who praises himself is even extolled for a really good action. So that, by the addition of “the truth is not in us,” he clearly shows (even as our author most correctly observes) that it is not at all true if we say that we have no sin, lest humility, if placed on the side of falsehood, should lose the reward of truth.
1 John i. 8.