We have just passed the season of "you better be good for goodness sake"(what a bunch of conflicting moral messages that song projects-its only virtue is that Bruce Springsteen recorded it...) but William Ellery Channing takes it up in this conclusion to his sermon, "Perfect Life the End of Christianity."
"My friends, I have stated in this discourse the Great Good which Jesus Christ came to spread through the earth—the highest benefit which he can confer. I know nothing of equal worth with Moral Excellence; with an enlightened, powerful, disinterested and holy mind ; with a love to God which changes us into His likeness. L know nothing so important to us as the Perfection of our own Spirits. Perfect Goodness is the Supreme Good, may I not say the only good ? We often hear, indeed, of the Rewards of virtue, as if they were something separate from virtue, and virtue was but the means. But I am sure that Virtue itself is worth more than all outward rewards ; its truest recompense is found in itself, in its own growing vigour, in its own native peace, in the harmony which it establishes between our souls and God, in the sympathy and friendship by which it identifies us with the Universe. So we hear of the Punishments of sin as if they were the greatest evils to be dreaded. But Sin, I am sure, is itself more terrible than all its consequences, more terrible than any hell; and its chief misery is bound up in its own hateful nature. Of course, the only redemption of a human being is the recovery of his Spirit from moral evil, from whatever stains and debases it, to the purity, philanthropy, piety, and perfectness of a Child of God, such as was manifested in the Beloved Son.
To do the Will of our Heavenly Father,—to form ourselves after the purest Ideal of Goodness, which Nature, Conscience, Revelation present as a pattern,—is the great work of earthly existence. This practical use of the Gospel is the only saving Faith in Jesus Christ. For we know him, and believe in him, only in so far as we recognize, love and imitate the Perfection of his Character and Life. To prefer Universal Rectitude, the boundless Love of God and fellow beings, the Perfect Life, before all other good, is the only true wisdom, is the only real worship. We know nothing of a Future World, unless we hear proceeding from it a Voice of Benediction, that warns and welcomes us to enter now into that Purity, Integrity, Charity, Holiness, Peace and Joy, which are the bliss of Heaven."