True Christian Religion (Ager) n. 415

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415. V. THE CHURCH IS THE NEIGHBOR WHO IS TO BE LOVED IN A STILL HIGHER DEGREE, AND THE LORD'S KINGDOM IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE. Since man was born for eternal life, and is introduced into it by the church, the church is to be loved as the neighbor in a higher degree, because it teaches the means which lead to eternal life and introduces man into it, leading to it by the truths of doctrine and introducing into it by goods of life. This does not mean that the priesthood should be loved in a higher degree, and the church because of the priesthood; but it means that the good and truth of the church should be loved, and the priesthood for the sake of these. The priesthood merely serves, and is to be honored so far as it serves. The church is the neighbor that is to be loved in a higher degree, thus even above one's country, for the reason also, that by his country man is initiated into civil life, but by the church into spiritual life, and by that life man is separated from a merely animal life. Moreover, civil life is a temporary life, which has an end and which is then as if it had not been; while the spiritual life is eternal, having no end; therefore of the latter may be predicated being [esse], but of the former non-being. The distinction is like that between the finite and the infinite, between which there is no ratio; for the eternal is the infinite as to time.

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