Sunday, March 9, 2014
In Praise of Virtue
Guest Sermon by Rev. Richard Price
Virtue is the image of God in the soul, and the noblest thing in the creation; and, therefore, it must be the principal ground of true happiness. It is the rule by which God meant that we should act; and, therefore, must be the way to the bliss for which he intended us. That Being who gave us our sense of moral obligations, must have designed that we should conform to them.
Virtue, in the very idea of it, implies health and order of mind. The human soul is a composition of various affections standing in different relations to one another; and all placed under the direction of conscience, our supreme faculty.
When we are truly virtuous, none of these affections are allowed to err either by excess or defect. They are kept in their proper subordinations to one another. The faculty that was made to govern preserves its authority; and a due balance is maintained among our inward powers. To be virtuous, therefore, is to be in our natural and sound state. It is to be freed from all inward tumult, anarchy, and tyranny. It is to enjoy health, and order, and vigor, and peace, and liberty; and, therefore, the greatest happiness.
By practicing virtue, we gain more of the united pleasures arising from the gratification of all our powers, than we can in any other way.
Thousands are every day dying martyrs to ambition, to lust, to covetousness, and intemperance. But seldom does it happen, that virtue puts us to any such trial.
How wrong it is to conceive of religious virtue as an enemy to pleasure! This is doing it the greatest injustice. It is, without all doubt, the very best friend to true pleasure. If we were to judge it from the stiffness and severity of some who pretend it is, we might be forced to entertain a different opinion of virtue. But such persons do not show it to us in its true form. They mistake its nature, and are strangers to its genuine spirit. Instead of driving us, with the wretched votaries of superstition, into deserts and cloisters, and making us morose and .gloomy, virtue calls us out into society, and disposes us to constant readiness and cheerfulness.
What reasons have we for seeking virtue above all things! You have heard how happy it will make us. Let us then, pray for virtue earnestly; and despise everything that can come in competition with it. If we have this, we can want nothing that is desirable. If we want this, we can have nothing that will do us any substantial service. Go then, all you careless and irreligious men. Take to yourselves your money, your honors, and polluted pleasures. I would, desire Virtue only. There is nothing else worth an eager wish. Here would I center all my cares and labors.
Richard Price (1723-1791) was a Welsh non-conformist minister and theologian.