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Chapter XXV.

The Love Of Our Neighbor, More Particularly Considered.

Of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.—2 Peter 2:19.

There is no bondage more hard and grievous, than to be under the yoke of the passions: but of all these, none is so cruel as hatred, which so weakens and depresses all the powers both of body and mind, as not to leave to the man one free thought. On the contrary, he who lives in love is free. He is no slave to anger, envy, covetousness, pride, lying, or calumny; and being delivered from these by love, he suffers not himself to be subdued by evil desires, but continues Christ's freeman (1 Cor. 7:22) in the liberty of the Spirit: for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Cor. 3:17. Whosoever, therefore, walks in the love of Christ, is no longer a slave to sin, or a servant to carnal affections; for the Spirit of God's love has freed and purified him from carnal concupiscence. And we see that the love of God extends over all men; of which we not only find sufficient proofs in Scripture, but the footsteps of his universal benignity are also everywhere displayed in nature. We are all equally covered with the heavens, and have all the use of the sun, the air, the earth, and the water; as well they who are of high degree, as they who are of the meanest condition. And the very same mind that is in God towards us, ought also to be in us towards men; God himself having set us a pattern of universal kindness for our imitation. He regards not one more than another, but loves all with an equal affection. With him there is no respect of persons, of dignity, or merit; but he beholds all alike in Christ. This is for our instruction. Now, as God acts towards us, so ought we to act towards our neighbor. And truly, after the same manner as we deal with man, so God will deal with us again. We need not go far to inquire what favor we have with God Almighty. If we but enter into our own conscience, it will impartially tell us, what mind and affection we bear to our neighbor; and as we have done to him, so will God certainly do to us again, and return our works into our own bosom. And in this sense it is said of God, that “with the pure he shews himself pure; and with the froward, shews himself froward” (Ps. 18:26); that is, if thou bearest an evil mind to thy neighbor, God will be thine adversary also.

2. Since, therefore, God has no need of our service, he has substituted our neighbor in his place, to receive our charity, and has commanded us to pay it as to himself. He has made this love of our neighbor the very touch-stone by which we are to examine the sincerity of our love to God.


3. And it is for this reason that he has enjoined the love of our neighbor with so great earnestness, requiring us to show constantly the same love to him which God shows to us. For unless a man be fully reconciled to, and be in perfect charity with his neighbor, he cannot have the favor or grace of God. And although all the sins of the world are atoned for by the death of Christ, and a full pardon obtained, yet all mankind may in some sense be said to be in the same circumstances with the servant in the parable, who had not wherewithal to pay; the king freely remitted him all his debts: but when he afterwards behaved himself cruelly towards his fellow-servant, the king revoked his pardon, and condemned the servant, on account of the hard usage with which he treated his neighbor. Matt. 18:23, etc. This parable Christ concludes with the remarkable expression: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother, their trespasses.” Verse 35. And, “With the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38.

4. Hence, it plainly appears, that man was not created for himself alone, but for his neighbor's sake also. So strict is the commandment of loving our neighbor, that when it is broken, the very end of our creation is destroyed, and the love of God is immediately withdrawn from the soul. Nothing is left but the severest justice, judging and condemning all that are void of this charity.

5. If we duly considered these things, we should never be angry with one another; neither would “the sun ever go down upon our wrath.” Eph. 4:26. It is true, on the one hand, that Christ by his death on the cross has offered a full and complete atonement for all our trespasses, and in this respect, has remitted all our sins at once; yet is it, on the other hand, an awful consideration, that the whole extent of the merits of Christ will be of no avail at all to us, if we continue to hate our brother, and will neither pardon nor love him. We shall be entirely cut off from all the benefits that flow from the atonement.

6. Hence it appears how important the love of our neighbor must be in the sight of God, binding us even to such a degree, that God refuses to be loved by us, unless we love our neighbor also; so that if we fail in our benevolence toward the latter, we fall at the same time from grace and divine charity. And for this reason, we were created all equal and of the same nature, that we might not despise one other; but, like children of one common parent, live in peace and love, and endeavor to maintain a good and serene conscience.

7. Now, whoever hates and despises his brother, hates and despises God also, who has forbidden all such animosities in the severest terms. If thou contemnest thy brother, God also contemns thee; which hastens thy judgment and condemnation, and deprives thee of all interest in the merit and redemption of Christ, by which sin is forgiven.

8. For it cannot be possible that a heart filled with wrath and bitterness, should in any degree reap a saving fruit from the blood of Christ, which was shed from a motive of pure love. Yea, the above parable (Matt. 18:35) plainly convinces us, that God was less offended at the debt of ten thousand talents, than at the barbarous cruelty of which the servant was 85 guilty; he can overlook the debt, but he cannot overlook the want of love. Let us, therefore, ponder the words with which the Lord concludes the parable: “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you.”

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