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23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

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Matthew 5:23. Therefore, if thou shalt bring thy gift This clause confirms, and at the same time explains, the preceding doctrine. It amounts to this, that the precept of the law, which forbids murder, (Exodus 20:13,) is obeyed, when we maintain agreement and brotherly kindness, with our neighbor. To impress this more strongly upon us, Christ declares, that even the duties of religion are displeasing to God, and are rejected by him, if we are at variance with each other. When he commands those who have injured any of their brethren, to be reconciled to him, before they offer their gift, his meaning is, that, so long as a difference with our neighbor is kept up by our fault, we have no access to God. But if the worship, which men render to God, is polluted and corrupted by their resentments, this enables us to conclude, in what estimation he holds mutual agreement among ourselves.

Here a question may be put. Is it not absurd, that the duties of charity should be esteemed more highly than the worship of God? We shall then be forced to say, that the order of the law is improper, or that the first table of the law must be preferred to the second. The answer is easy: for the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that it is a false and empty profession of worshipping God, which is made by those who, after acting unjustly towards their brethren, treat them with haughty disdain. By a synecdoche he takes a single class to express the outward exercises of divine worship, which in many men are rather the pretenses, than the true expressions, of godliness. It ought to be observed that Christ, adapting his discourse to that age, speaks of sacrifices. Our condition is now different: but the doctrine remains the same, that whatever we offer to God is polluted, unless, at least as much as lieth in us, (Romans 12:18,) we are at peace with our brethren. Alms are called in Scripture sacrifices of a sweet smell, (Philippians 4:18;) and we learn from the mouth of Paul, that he who

“spends all his substance on the poor,
if he have not charity, is nothing,” (1 Corinthians 13:3.)

Lastly, God does not receive and acknowledge, as his sons, any who do not, in their turn, show themselves to be brethren to each other. Although it is only to those who have injured their brethren that these words are addressed, enjoining them to do their endeavor to be reconciled to them, yet under one class he points out, how highly the harmony of brethren is esteemed by God. When he commands them to leave the gift before the altar, he expresses much more than if he had said, that it is to no purpose for men to go to the temple, or offer sacrifices to God, so long as they live in discord with their neighbors.