On Personhood and Virtue in 2012

The Webster 1828 definition of Virtue: “ 3. Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue, as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion. In this sense it is true,

That virtue only makes our bliss below.

Virtue is nothing but voluntary obedience to truth.””

 

Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
2 Peter 1:3 NKJV, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…”

2 Peter 1:5
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge…”

 

Is there need for virtue in our culture presently?  A desperate one, you answer? “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…”  Let’s do that for a few moments, shall we?  What if we, each as individuals, choose to live a personal life of virtue and live with “voluntary obedience to truth?”  What if we choose the “practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws”?

Aren’t we encouraged in 2 Peter 1:5 as we read, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue (‘without works, faith is dead’?); and to virtue knowledge”?

Indeed we are admonished twice in scripture that if we are zealous without knowledge, that it is not good as in

Proverbs 19:2 MSG, “Ignorant zeal is worthless; haste makes waste.”

Proverbs 19:2 NLT, “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.”

Romans 10:1-3 NLT, “Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.  I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal.  For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law.”

 

In short, we don’t have to keep the law, we get to!   But we need to understand what God wants and what God’s way to do things are.  The word “virtue” is used many times in quotes from the Founding Fathers:

SAMUEL ADAMS WRITES ON LIBERTY: Year 1748—Age 28

“In the state of nature, every man has a right to think and act according to the dictates of his own mind, which, in that state, are subject to no other control and can be commanded by no other power than the laws and ordinances of the great Creator of all things. The perfection of liberty therefore, in a state of nature, is for every man to be free from any external force, and to perform such actions as in his own mind and conscience he judges to be Tightest; which liberty no man can truly possess whose mind is enthralled by irregular and inordinate passions; since it is no great privilege to be free from external violence if the dictates of the mind are controlled by a force within, which exerts itself above reason.

“This is liberty in a state of nature, which, as no man ought to be abridged of, so no man has a right to give up, or even part with any portion of it, but in order to secure the rest and place it upon a more solid foundation; it being equally with our lives the gift of the same bounteous Author of all things.…

“… [W]e must distinguish and consider liberty as it respects the whole body and as it respects each individual. As it respects the whole body, it is then enjoyed when neither legislative nor executive powers (by which I mean those men with whom are intrusted the power of making laws and of executing them) are disturbed by any internal passion or hindered by any external force from making the wisest laws and executing them in the best manner; when the safety, the security, and the happiness of all is the real care and steady pursuit of those whose business it is to care for and pursue it; in one short word, where no laws are carried through humor or prejudice, nor controlled in their proper execution by lust of power in the great, nor wanton licentiousness in the vulgar.…

“As it respects individuals, a man is then free when he freely enjoys the security of the laws and rights to which he is born; when he is hindered by no violence from claiming those rights and enjoying that security, but may at any time demand the protection of the laws under which he lives, …

“.… He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country.…

The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people: …

[excerpts are from: William V. Wells*, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams*, Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1865, 1: 19, 20, 22–23.][1]

 

FROM RICHARD FROTHINGHAM’S “THE RISE OF THE REPUBLIC”, 1890

“This remark is applicable not only to the band of patriots just enumerated, but to others also whose names are household words. Through the entire struggle, the people sought out, held fast to, and rallied around greatness and virtue, and made these qualities subserve the public good. No outpourings of obloquy, no thickening peril, shook this noble trust. No gusts of feeling from temporary reverses moved them to seek new guides; but as dangers multiplied, confidence strengthened. And so it was that out of rare public virtue grew our great republican government.…  [“republican” does not mean in the sense of ”Republican” vs “Democrat” but rather is defined to mean a form of government that was confined to a written standard- vs the dictates of a king who was ruling by his own whim and prerogative.]

“The great question was now discussed at every fireside, and the favorite toast at every dinner-table was, “May the independent principles of ‘Common Sense’ be confirmed throughout the United Colonies.” … It was said to a people trained under Christian influences, who habitually looked upward in every form of supplication, that the spirit which actuated the United Colonies “was as much from God as the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, and was introductory to something great and good to mankind.”

“The issue was of a nature to rouse passion, alarm wealth, and stir society to its depths. In each colony, the friends and opponents of independence, animated at times by intemperate as well as by judicious zeal, hurled against each other the usual weapons of partisan strife, poisoned by the hatred and revenge engendered by civil war.…

“It happened that on the 15th of May a great popular movement also reached a decisive result. This bore directly on independence, demanded in November by a few, in January by only a small party, but in March by a public opinion becoming every day more importunate. This change was by no means unrepresented in Congress, which was paving the way to independence; …

“While Congress was hesitating, “A Lover of Order,” on the 9th of March, proposed through the newspapers that the constituents of each delegation should be invited to declare their sentiments on independence through their local organizations; remarking that in this manner the continent first declared their determination to resist by force the power of Great Britain, and in so important a question the Congress ought only to echo back the sentiments of the people, and their decision ought to determine the question.…”[2]

Aren’t you encouraged that virtue must begin in our hearts?  Once established and nurtured there, if knowledge is added and shared, virtue will spread. With the blood of over 50 million babies on our hands, we are in great need of virtue.   Virtue once saved our nation.  May we commit to a “practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws.”

 

“The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people: …”

            “.… He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

 

These are the Christian ideals that made this nation great.  Surely the Lord is well able to revive us again.  Let us pray and labor in 2012 in hope that, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to LIFE and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…”  [all emphasis is mine]



[1]Hall, Verna M.: The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America, Vol. I. Christian Self-Government. Founders Edition. San Francisco : Foundation for American Christian Education, 2006, S. 364B

[2]Hall, Verna M.: The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America, Vol. I. Christian Self-Government. Founders Edition. San Francisco : Foundation for American Christian Education, 2006, S. 351

(c) 2012 Mrs. Brenda MacMenamin

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