Acton Institute Powerblog

6 Quotes: G.K. Chesterton on freedom and virtue

(Photo credit: Associated Press)

Yesterday was the 144th birthday of G.K. Chesterton. In his honor, here are six quotes by the great British writer on freedom and virtue.

On defending virtue: “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”

On modern freedom: “Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.”

On courage: “Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.”

On emancipation: “What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.”

On mercy: “Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.”

On the necessity of liberty: “Loyalty is the heart of the commonwealth; but liberty is its lungs. You find out the necessity of liberty as you find out the necessity of air — by not having enough of it and gasping.”

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).