We seldom speak of the virtue which we have, but much oftener of that which we lack.
An ardent love and admiration of virtue seems to imply the existence of something opposite to it, and it seems highly probably that the same beauty of form and substance, the same perfection of character could not be generated without the impressions of disapprobation which arise from the spectacle of moral evil.
The unexamined life, said Socrates, is unfit to be lived by man. This is the virtue of liberty, and the ground on which we may justify our belief in it, that it tolerates error in order to serve truth.
The most precious of all possessions, is power over ourselves; power to withstand trial, to bear suffering, to front danger; power over pleasure and pain; power to follow convictions, however resisted by menace and scorn; the power of calm reliance in scenes of darkness an storms. He that has not a mastery over his inclinations; he that knows not how to resist the importunity of present pleasure or pain, for the sake of what reason tells him is fit to be done, wants the true principle of virtue and industry, and is in danger of never being good for anything.
Since man is endowed with intelligence and determines his own ends, it is up to him to put himself in tune with the ends necessarily demanded by his nature. This means that there is, by very virtue of human nature, an order or a disposition which human reason can discover and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that.
Experience constantly proves that every man who has power is impelled to abuse it; he goes on till he is pulled up by some limits. Who would say; it! virtue even has need of limits.
Every duty brings its peculiar delight, every denial its appropriate compensation, every thought its recompense, every love its elysium, every cross its crown; pay goes with performance as effect with cause. Meanness overreaches itself; vice vitiates whoever indulges it; the wicked wrong their own souls; generosity greatens; virtue exalts; charity transfigures; and holiness is the essence of angelhood. God does not require us to live on credit; he pays us what we earn as we earn it, good or evil, heaven or hell, according to our choice.
Cause | Character | Charity | Choice | Compensation | Credit | Duty | Evil | Generosity | God | Good | Heaven | Hell | Love | Meanness | Recompense | Thought | Virtue | Virtue | Wrong | God | Thought | Vice |
The recognition of virtue is not less valuable from the lips of the man who hates it, since truth forces him to acknowledge it; and though he may be unwilling to take it into his inmost soul, he at least decks himself out in its trappings.