on Romans 13 :8
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another - In the preceding verses the apostle has been showing the duty, reverence, and obedience, which all Christians, from the highest to the lowest, owe to the civil magistrate; whether he be emperor, king, proconsul, or other state officer; here he shows them their duty to each other: but this is widely different from that which they owe to the civil government: to the first they owe subjection, reverence, obedience, and tribute; to the latter they owe nothing but mutual love, and those offices which necessarily spring from it. Therefore, the apostle says, Owe no man; as if he had said: Ye owe to your fellow brethren nothing but mutual love, and this is what the law of God requires, and in this the law is fulfilled. Ye are not bound in obedience to them as to the civil magistrate; for to him ye must needs be subject, not merely for fear of punishment, but for conscience sake: but to these ye are bound by love; and by that love especially which utterly prevents you from doing any thing by which a brother may sustain any kind of injury.
on Romans 13 :8
Owe no man anything - Be not "in debt" to anyone. In the previous verse the apostle had been discoursing of the duty which we owe to magistrates. He had particularly enjoined on Christians to pay to "them" their just dues. From this command to discharge fully this obligation, the transition was natural to the subject of debts "in general," and to an injunction not to be indebted to "any one." This law is enjoined in this place:
(1) Because it is a part of our duty as good citizens; and,
(2) Because it is a part of that law which teaches us to love our neighbor, and to "do no injury to him," Romans 13:10.
The interpretation of this command is to be taken with this limitation, that we are not to be indebted to him so as to "injure" him, or to work "ill" to him.
This rule, together with the other rules of Christianity, would propose a remedy for all the evils of bad debts in the following manner.
(1) it would teach people to be "industrious," and this would commonly prevent the "necessity" of contracting debts.
(2) it would make them "frugal, economical," and "humble" in their views and manner of life.
(3) it would teach them to bring up their families in habits of industry. The Bible often enjoins that; see the note at Romans 12:11; compare Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 24:30-34; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Ephesians 4:25.
(4) Religion would produce sober, chastened views of the end of life, of the great design of living; and would take off the affections from the splendor, gaiety, and extravagances which lead often to the contraction of debts; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7; Titus 2:12; 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Peter 3:5; 1 Timothy 2:9.
(5) Religion would put a period to the "vices" and unlawful desires which now prompt people to contract debts.
(6) it would make them "honest" in paying them. It would make them conscientious, prompt, friends of truth, and disposed to keep their promises.
But to love one another - Love is a debt which "can" never be discharged. We should feel that we "owe" this to all people, and though by acts of kindness we may be constantly discharging it, yet we should feel that it can "never" be fully met while there is opportunity to do good.
For he that loveth ... - In what way this is done is stated in Romans 13:10. The law in relation to our neighbor is there said to be simply that we do no "ill" to him. Love to him would prompt to no injury. It would seek to do him good, and would thus fulfil all the purposes of justice and truth which we owe to him. In order to illustrate this, the apostle, in the next verse, runs over the laws of the Ten Commandments in relation to our neighbor, and shows that all those laws proceed on the principle that we are to "love" him, and that love would prompt to them all.
on Romans 13 :8
13:8 From our duty to magistrates he passes on to general duties. To love one another - An eternal debt, which can never be sufficiently discharged; but yet if this be rightly performed, it discharges all the rest. For he that loveth another - As he ought. Hath fulfilled the whole law - Toward his neighbour.