By an interesting coincidence Bradford Littlejohn has written a piece on virtue ethics. Not an historical piece, as my mini series on William Ames and the Westminster catechisms is, but a contemporary piece, expressing a concern with ethics in a world coming to terms with new technology. I’ll briefly summarise Littlejohn’s approach. You can read it in here for yourself, and there’s more besides this.
When they give exhortations to virtue, can only tell us to live agreeably to nature…who, in their commendation of virtue, never rise higher than the dignity of man.
Moral habits, habits of the rational will, are the same, except that they require conscious cultivation and, to a greater or lesser extent, divine grace: they are learned patterns of behaviour which enable us to excel at being the kind of creatures God made us to be, to act excellently toward ourselves, our neighbors, and God. A virtuous person may still sin, and a vicious person may still make a right choice, but in both cases it will be harder to go against habit than with it.
All these virtues do seem to be prescribed together, and almost by name. 2 Pet.1, 4 and 6. Add to Faith Virtue: that is Justice or an universal rectitude; to virtue knowledge, that is Prudence directing aright all your ways: to prudence, continence, that is, that temperance whereby ye may contained your selves from all allurement of pleasures, wherewith men use to be fleshed, and drawn away from the right way: to continence, patience, that is fortitude; whereby ye may endure any hardship for righteousness sake. But that which follows there of piety and charity doth contain a distribution of virtue, to be propounded in its proper place.