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Hypocrisy

( Originally Published 1902 )



KING LEAR, having become old, and tired of his public duties, resolved to divide his kingdom amongst his children and retire to private life. Before making the division, he asked for a declaration of his children's love. The first daughter, Goneril, was profuse in the expression of her affection for her father, in the following words :

" Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter,
Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty ;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare,
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honor;
As much as child e'er loved, or father found,
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable
Beyond all manner of so much I love you."

The second daughter, Regan, undertook to outdo her sister in her profession of love for the king, as she said:

" I am made of that self-metal as my sister,
And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
I find she names my very deed of love :
Only she comes too short; that I profess
Myself an enemy to all other joys,
Which the most precious square of sense possesses ;
And find, I am alone felicitate
In your dear highness' love."

Following the declarations of affection, the king gave to each of these daughters a third of his realm, retaining the last third for his favorite daughter, Cordelia. Her simple profession of love was as true and loyal as could have been desired or required, yet because it was not so extravagant in its language, or enthusiastic in its expression, King Lear became offended, and disinherited her in the following language :

" Let it be so :—thy truth, then, be thy dower :
For, by the sacred radiance of the sun;
The mysteries of Hecate and the night;
By all the operations of the orbs
From whom we do exist, and cease to be,
Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
Propinquity, and property of blood,
And as a stranger to my heart and me
Hold thee, from this, for ever.
The barbarous Scythian,
Or he that makes his generation messes
To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
Be as well neighbor'd, pitied and relieved
As thou, my sometime daughter."

Soon after the division of the kingdom, Goneril and Regan proved how false a heart can be which is fair in its profession of love. By their conduct they illustrated the fact that their profuse expressions of affection were only to tickle the ear and flatter the heart of their father and make more secure their division of the realm. And Cordelia proved how true a heart can be that is simple and modest in its avowal of love. The king learned, too late, his fatal mistake in accepting an empty expression of love for love itself, and in rejecting real love for its false profession. Lear was not the last king, or man, or. father, who was deceived by extravagant professions of affection.

There were two daughters who professed without possessing, to one possessing, filial affection, and, while we would scarcely be pessimistic enough to claim that the same ratio of two to one exists now, we must admit that there are vast numbers who make extravagant professions of feelings which they do not possess, and which are meant to, and do, deceive their fellow men. There are some who are profuse in their expressions of affection or loyalty to some person or enterprise, who mean what they say at the time, whose hearts are so shallow that it seems impossible for them to be constant. It is bad enough for society to be burdened and deceived with the false promises of such. There are others who profess a love that they do not have, for what advantage there is in it for them. They fawn on wealth, they flatter power, they practice every conceivable kind of hypocrisy to secure dollars and influence for them-selves ; their honeyed lies are multiplied at will to gain some personal advantage ; their imagination is searched for adjectives to express their feelings of loyalty, that they may get the lion's share of the king's estate. Hypocrisy reaches its climax of vileness in children who make a false profession of love for their parents, only that they may secure their possessions. We are glad to believe that there are few of such hypocrites ; we are sorry to say there are some, and they deserve the contempt of this world and the penalties of the next.

All other hypocrisies pale into insignificance before that of professing a love for the King Eternal which is not possessed. It is bad enough when these false declarations come from a careless lip or a shallow heart, but infinitely worse when they have a selfish motive behind them. What man is more contemptible in the sight of earth or heaven than the one who makes a public profession of Christianity for the advantage it will bring to him in his business, profession or calling; than the one who makes a loud declaration of loyalty to the Great King, that he may receive the lion's share in the division of his material realm? God and humanity, in the building up of the family, the church and the state, have to rely upon the Cordelias—the modest, humble, sincere ones, who possess rather than falsely profess their love.



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