Excerpt from the Law of God
By Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of New York
The complete opposite of sin is virtue. Its rudiments are found in every person, as remnants of that natural good which was placed into the nature of man by his Creator. It is found in a pure and complete form only in True Christianity, for Christ the Savior said: “Without Me ye can do nothing.”
Christianity teaches us that man’s earthly life is a time of moral struggle, a time of preparation for the future, eternal life. Consequently, the tasks of man’s earthly life consist of correctly preparing for future eternity. The earthly life is brief and it does not repeat itself, for man lives but once on earth. Therefore, in this earthly life, one must work at virtue if one does not wish to destroy one’s soul. For this is precisely what God’s truth demands of one on the threshold of eternity.
Each Christian, with God’s help, shapes his own earthly life, in the sense that he or she directs its course toward virtue. In order to be virtuous, however, one must not only do good for others, but work on oneself, struggling with his insufficiencies and vices, developing in himself a good, Christian-valued foundation. This work on oneself, this struggle toward moral perfection of man’s earthly life is indispensable for every Christian. The Lord Himself said: “the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault and violent men seize it by force”(Mt.11:12).
The moral character and features of each person are worked out in such a life-struggle. A Christian must, of course, be a Christian before all else, a person with an established, solid moral character and he must aim for the building of such a character. In other words, he must strive for progress in himself toward moral perfection.
Thus, from a Christian point of view, life is a moral struggle, a path of constant striving toward good and perfection. There can be no pause on this path, according to the law of the spiritual life. A man who stops working on himself will not remain the same as he was, but will inevitably become worse – like a stone which is thrown upwards and stops rising, it will not remain suspended in the air, but will fall downward.
“The Law of God”