Whatever controversies and variety of opinions there are about the nature of virtue, yet all mean by it something beautiful, or rather some kind of beauty or excellency.
It is not all beauty that is called virtue; for instance, not the beauty of a building, but some beauty belonging to beings that have perception and will.
It is not all beauty of mankind that is called virtue; for instance, not the external beauty of the countenance – but it is a beauty that has its original seat in the mind. Yet, perhaps not everything that may be called a beauty of mind is properly called virtue. There is a beauty of understanding and speculation.
But virtue is the beauty of those qualities and acts of the mind that are of a moral nature, i.e., such as are attended with desert or worthiness of praise or blame. Things of this sort belong to the disposition and will, or the heart.
Therefore, I shall not depart from the common opinion when I say that virtue is the beauty of the qualities and exercises of the heart, or those actions which proceed from them. So then when it is inquired what it is which renders any habit, disposition, or exercise of the heart truly beautiful, what I mean by true virtue is that which belongs to the heart of any intelligent being.
It is plain by the Holy Scriptures that virtue most essentially consists in love.