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HOW NOT TO ACHIEVE VIRTUE


How do we move from vice to virtue? Let me tell you first of all how not to... Even ancient pagans, those who never heard the Bible, recognized that living in vice was deadly and destructive. They were far ahead of our modern culture that is foolishly accepting vices and actually calling them virtues.


The Romans had a saying, "To flee vice is the beginning of virtue." This is a nice thing to say, and it would be wonderful if it were actually possible. But the ancient philosophers who "knew" better could never "do" better.


Seneca was one of the great Roman philosophers. But his life was anything but moral as he assisted Nero in murder plots and eventually committed suicide. Friedrich Nitszche, the German philosopher, insisted that the measure of all philosophy is whether one can live by it. He died in syphilitic madness.


By far the most interesting attempt at virtue was made by the young Benjamin Franklin already mentioned above. When he was twenty years old Franklin drew up a list of thirteen virtues that he believed every man should strive to attain. They were: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. He even made a little chart listing these virtues and marked each time he failed to keep one of them. But try as he might, Franklin fell far short of his goals as he admitted in his autobiography. No doubt his life was better for having tried, but the fact is that moral virtue is impossible for human beings.

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