Virtue, in this sense, isn't simply another way of saying "goodness." The word has sometimes been flattened out like that (perhaps because we instinctively want to escape its challenge), but that isn't its strict meaning. Virtue, in this strict sense, is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn't "come naturally" -- and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what's required "automatically," as we say. On that thousand and first occasion, it does indeed look as if it "just happens;" but reflection tells us that it doesn't "just happen" as easily as that...
...virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices have become "second nature." Not "first nature," as though they happened "naturally." Rather, a kind of second-order level of "naturalness." Like an acquired taste, such choices and actions, which started off being practiced with difficulty, ended up being, yes, "second nature."
Wednesday, June 2
N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, pp. 20-21: