Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
1. As private persons, in your mutual traffic with one another, it will necessarily happen that, whatever your stations in life are, you must incur debts, and stand accountable to one another for certain goods and commodities received, for labour done, or for money borrowed. When St. Paul therefore directs you to owe no man anything, he only means that you are not to incur debts wantonly, nor keep in debt needlessly. But there is one debt which, he says, you can never discharge. This debt is the debt of Christian love.
2. Examine into the reasons on which it is founded, and why this exertion of Christian love is a debt of that kind, which can never be paid so fully as to absolve us from any further payment of it.
(1) The first reason is founded on the relation in which we stand to Almighty God. The innumerable benefits which we daily and hourly receive at His hands demand the constant tribute of love and gratitude; but we have no way of expressing this affection so effectually as by acts of kindness to our fellowcreatures.
(2) The force of the next reason depends on the frame and constitution of human nature, which is so replete with wants and weaknesses, consisting indeed of various kinds, yet distributed in pretty equal proportion among the species, that it is, morally speaking, impossible for us to be independent one of another.
(3) The last reason consists in the very nature of the principle itself, and of those intrinsic properties, without which it ceases to be the thing which we mean by the terms we use to define it. Now, were benevolence a passive principle that contented itself with being, what the word imports, only a well-wishing, not a well-doing quality, it might not be required to be in constant use and exertion. But when used to denote Christian love and charity, and to have the same meaning with these terms, it implies a strenuous and unwearied exercise of one of the most active faculties of the human soul, which is better, perhaps, expressed by the term beneficence. Our charity must therefore be commensurate with our life; it must act so long as we act, for if it ever faileth it ceaseth to be charity, because we see that the apostle tells us it is one of its essential properties never to fail or cease from acting.
3. On these three reasons we build this conclusion that the debt of charity or benevolence to our neighbour is a debt which we must take all opportunities of paying him, and of which we must only close the payment when death closes our eyes. May we not assure ourselves that a soul actuated by so Divine a principle here on earth, must, of all other things, be best prepared to participate the joys of heaven?
(W. Mason, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.