Practicing the Art of Virtue

Take a moment and read over the lyrics to Adrienne Young’s song “The Art of Virtue.” They have been ringing in my mind for several days now, and I cannot help share them with you now.

Included with the album that song appears on, Ms. Young included a little workbook entitled “The Thirteen Virtues,” which apparently is taken from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography to some extent. As the title suggests, 13 different virtues are discussed and each is given a chart. Each week, it says, one should focus on one virtue, marking any failures at the end of each day. Over the course of a year, each virtue is focused upon for four weeks, and growth is of course expected.

The virtues are as follows, verbatim:

  • Temperence – Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.
  • Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
  • Order – Let all things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • Industry – Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Moderation – Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  • Tranquility – Be not distrubed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  • Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Ms. Young, in the album liner, expounds devotion thusly:

The desire to be a virtous being is an unremitting endeavor, immediate, and ultimately personal. If my passion to lead an honorable existence is sincere, then it is my OWN garden I must cultivate. Meditating on peace, taking heart in shortcomings by remaining mindful, fostering patience, offering forgiveness, being joyful, demonstrating sincerity & non-judgement, nurturing self-love, dwelling in the positive, visualizing love. It’s devotion to principles in action, such as these, that build strength of character, and in turn, do undoubtedly nourish the Greater Good.

She also prints a portion of the 1660 Declaration from the Harmless and Innocent People of God, Called Quakers, which I will share here as well:

…We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world.

…the Spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move unto it; and we certainly know, and testify to the world, that the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war agianast any man with outward weapons, neitehr for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kigndoms of this world.

Now for the sobering question: Does the church as a whole reflect this? Is the church of today virtuous?

“Imitate Jesus,” Franklin said. May I be so bold as to say that it is easy to follow the principles of the epistles? I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow the epistles, but they are far from a complete picture. Too often we, as a whole, forget about Christ.

Do we really love our enemies? Is our giving, our prayer, our fasting private? Do we love the “least of these”? Do we act like it?

Again, I’m going to be bold by saying that Jesus’ teachings barely reflect those of the so-called Christian Right, of which I have considered myself a part for quite some time.

The thought is sobering that Jesus would not be calling for us to outlaw homosexuality. He would sit down with the homosexual and shed abroad the love of God in that person’s heart. The thought is sobering that Jesus would not be calling for a ban on abortion. He would sit down with the mother who committed abortion and shower love upon her. “Your belief has saved you, and you will see your daughter again. Go, and sin no more,” I can hear the Master say.

Are we more like the Pharisees–quick to condemn and crucify–or are we imitating Christ? Are so sinless in our daily walk that we can cast stones?
Are we living a life of virtue? Are we living a life adequately described by “Christian,” or have we taken His name in vain?

  • Temperence – Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 2:6
  • Silence – 1 Timoth 2:11; James 1:26; James 3
  • Order – 1 Corinthians 14:40
  • Resolution – 2 Corinthians 1:17; 9:7
  • Frugality – Isaiah 52:13
  • Industry – 1 Timothy 5:13; Ephesians 5:16
  • Sincerity – 1 Corinthians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 1:12
  • Justice – Philippians 4:8; Colossians 4:1; Titus 1:8
  • Moderation – Philippians 4:5
  • Cleanliness – Romans 14:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1
  • Tranquility – Luke 3:14; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8
  • Chastity – Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:2; 2 Timothy 2:22
  • Humility – Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; Romans 8:29

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