The Virtue of the Individual
and the Nation
Speech at St. Lawrence Jewry, Ash Wednesday, March 4, 1981
Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when traditionally Christians begin a period of thoughtfulness about their relationship with God and how they are trying to serve Him here on Earth. It is therefore fitting that on this occasion we consider some of the things which have made our nation flourish in the past and some of the challenges we face today. My theme will be that the virtue of the nation is only as great as the virtue of the individuals who compose it.
Two years ago in this church, I spoke as both a Christian and a politician about how I found my religious convictions affecting the way I approached the responsibility of government. Since then I have been, as it were, called to higher service! My approach to my present responsibilities remains the same as it was then, and I am indeed thankful that I was brought up in a Christian family and learned the message of the Christian faith. I want to consider some of the characteristics of our way of life which have stood our people in such good stead in times past.
John Newton preached a sermon exactly two hundred years ago in a city church only a step away from this one. In the course of it he said: "Though the occasion will require me to take some notice of our public affairs, I mean not to amuse you with what is usually called a political discourse." I too will endeavour to keep to this self-denying ordinance.