Julian Period, 4775. Vulgar Era,.



fled from the Service of his Master to Rome, in which Rome.

pected that the same, or nearly the same persons, would be
about St. Paul, and join with him, as was the practice, in the
salutations of the epistle. Accordingly we find the names of
Aristarchus, Marcus, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas, in both
epistles. Timothy, who is joined with St. Paul in the super-
scription of the Epistle to the Colossians, is joined with him
also in this. Tychicus did not salute Philemon, because he
was the bearer, with Onesimus, of the Epistle to Colosse, and
would undoubtedly there see Philemon." That when the apostle
wrote the former epistle he was in bonds, (Col. iv. 3. 18.) which
was the case also when he wrote this (see ver. 1. 10. 13. 23.);
from which, and various other circumstances, we may conclude
that they were written about the same time, in the ninth year
of Nero, A.D. 62.

As some have thought it strange that a private letter, of a
particular business and friendship, should have been admitted
into the sacred canon, not only as a genuine production of St.
Paul, but as also designed by the Holy Spirit for the edifica-
tion of the Church, it will be necessary to shew the important
lessons and duties it enforces. In a religious view, and upon a
spiritual account, it sets before Churchmen, of the highest
dignity, a proper example of attention to the people under their
care, and an affectionate concern for their individual welfare.
It teaches us that all Christians, in their relationship to God,
are on a level. Onesimus the slave, upon becoming a Chris-
tian, is the apostle's dear son and Philemon's brother. Chris-
tianity makes no alteration in men's civil affairs. By Christian
baptism a slave did not become a freedman; his temporal
estate or condition was still the same; and, though Onesimus
was the apostle's son and Philemon's brother upon a religious
acount; yet he was obliged to be Philemon's slave for ever, un-
less his master voluntarily gave him his freedom. Servants
should not be taken, or detained from their own masters with-
out their master's consent (see ver. 13, 14). We should love
and do good unto all men; and make restitution where we have
injured. We should not contemn persons of low estate, nor
disdain to help the meanest slave when it is in our power. The
apostle has here set us an example of benevolence, condescen-
sion, and Christian charity, which it will well become us to
follow. He took pains with, and converted a slave, and in a
most affectionate and earnest manner interceded with his mas-
ter for his pardon. We should be grateful to our benefactors.
This St. Paul touches upon very gently, (ver. 19.) where he
intimates to Philemon that he owed unto him, himself also: and
therefore, in point of gratitude, he was obliged to grant his re-
quest. We should forgive the penitent, and be heartily recon-
ciled to them. The apostle's example teaches us to do all we
can to make up quarrels and differences, and reconcile those
who are at variance. The bishops and pastors of the Christian
Church, and all teachers of religion, have here the most glo-
rious example set before them, to induce them to have a most
tender regard to the souls of men, of all ranks and conditions ;
teaching them not to despair of the souls of the wicked, but to
do every thing in their power to convert them.

It furnishes a noble example also of the influences of Christianity, which, if properly understood, and its doctrines properly applied, becomes the most powerful means of the melioration of


Julian Period, 4775.

Vulgar Æra, 62.

City he had been converted to Christianity by means of Rome. the Apostle's Ministry.

§ 1. PHILEMON, 1–7.

St. Paul, writing on a matter of private Business, addresses
Philemon as a Friend, and not in the Capacity and Autho-
rity of an Apostle-Timothy unites in the Salutation to
Philemon-the beloved Apphia-to Archippus, (Coloss.
iv. 17.) and to the Church at his House-His Benedic-
tion-He tells Philemon that he thanked God always in
his Prayers for the Increase of his Faith towards Jesus
Christ, and his Love towards the Christian Brethren,
and he prays also that the Communication of his Libe-
rality, which is the Fruit of much Faith, may be effica-
cious in bringing others to the Knowledge of every good
Disposition that is in him in Christ Jesus-for they
themselves have much Joy and Consolation in his Love,
more particularly on account of the poor Saints who were
driven from their Homes in the Name of Christ, and went

men: the wicked and profligate, when brought under its influ-
ence, are transformed by it into useful and worthy members of
society. It can convert a worthless slave into a pious, amiable,
and useful man; and make him not only happier and better in
himself, but also a blessing to the community.

The anxiety which the apostle shewed for the welfare of
Onesimus, in return for his affectionate services, could not fail
to cherish good dispositions in the breast of Philemon. We do
a man a great kindness, when we even engage him in acts of
mercy and benevolence. From this epistle we learn what sort
of man the apostle was in private life. He has here displayed
qualities which are in the highest estimation among men; a
noble spirit, arising from a consciousness of his own dignity,
consummate prudence, uncommon generosity, the warmest
friendship, the most skilful address, and the greatest politeness,
as well as purity of manners: qualities which are never found
either in the enthusiast or impostor.

There is something very persuasive in every part of this epistle, yet the character of St. Paul prevails in it throughout. The warm, affectionate, authoritative teacher is interceding with an absent friend for a beloved convert. He urges his suit with an earnestness, befitting perhaps not so much the occasion, as the ardour and sensibility of his own mind. Here also, as every where, he shews himself conscious of the weight and dignity of his mission; nor does he suffer Philemon for a moment to forget it: "I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin them that which is convenient." He is careful also to recall, though obliquely, to Philemon's memory, the sacred obligation under which he had laid him, by bringing him to the knowledge of Christ; "I do not say to thee, how thou owest to me, even thine own self besides."-Sec Adam Clarke in loc. v. 8.

(a) Lib. viii. c. 46. (b) Works, 8vo. vol. vi. p. 381. 4to. vol. iii. p. 324. (c) Nov. Test. Millii et Kusteri, p. 513.

Julian Period, 4775.

Vulgar Era, 62.


about preaching the Gospel, whom the Riches of Phile- Rome. mon have relieved.

1 Paul, a prisoner " of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

2 And to our beloved Apphia and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house:

3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints:

6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

§ 2. PHILEMON 8, to the end.

St. Paul declares, on account of the Love he bore to Phile-
mon, for his benevolent and kind Exertions, that though,
as an Apostle of Christ, he might have commanded him to
do what was fit in the Affair he was about to mention, yet
he prefers beseeching him, by his own Love for him, and
by that which he has shewn to the Saints; for his Son
Onesimus, whom he has begotten to a spiritual Creation,
and has sent back again at his own desire-Do thou there-
fore, St. Paul intreats, receive him into thy Family, who
is, as it were, my own Bowels, my Son, a part of myself
-whom, being so useful to me, I would have detained
with me, that he might have ministered to me, thy spiri-
tual Father, in my Bonds for the Gospel; and performed
those Offices which thou wouldest have done, if thou hadst
been at Rome-but without knowing thy Mind on the Sub-
ject, I would not keep him with me, that the Benefit con-

21 The term "prisoner," in this verse, is supposed by com-
mentators not sufficiently to express the situation of St. Paul
at Rome, and that the Greek word deopios should be trans-
lated, bound with a chain; which it not only signifies, but de-
scribes more accurately the circumstances of the apostle, who,
from being confined for no crime against society, but for heresy
in the Jewish religion, was allowed to live in his own hired
house, with a soldier who kept him. To this soldier be was
tied with a chain, fixed on his right wrist, and fastened to the
.soldier's left arm; which being of sufficient length, permitted
them to walk together without difficulty, wherever the labours
of the apostle directed him.


Julian Period, 4775. Vulgar Æra, 62.

ferred on me in pardoning him, should not be from Ne- Rome.
cessity, but from thy own Good-will-For he departed for
a Season, that by the Providence of God he may be re-
stored to you for ever: not now as a Servant, but as a
beloved Brother in the Lord, and more particularly dear
to me-but how much more to thee, as being thy Pro-
perty, and a part of thy Family; and now being made
a Member of thy heavenly Family, the Church of thy
House-If thou consider me a Partner of thy Affection,
receive him as myself, as he is as it were a part of me,
and in receiving him thou receivest me-If he have
wronged, or owe thee ought, place it all to my Account,
I will discharge all he owes thee; and I promise to re-
pay thee in my own Hand, as I do not desire this Favour
to be granted me from the Consideration of how much
thou art indebted to me, although thou owest me thine
own self-thine Existence as a Christian-let me there-
fore have profit from thee in the Lord-gratify the
earnest longing of my Soul in this-and receive him
again into thy Family-Having Confidence in thy Obe-
dience, from the Knowledge I have of your Christian Ex-
cellencies, I wrote unto thee, in the full Persuasion that
thou wouldest do even more than I request-He sends the
Salutations of Epaphras, their Minister, and others with
him, and concludes with his Blessing to Philemon, and
the Church at his House.

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ
to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

9 Yet for love sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ;

10 I besech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable", but now profitable to thee and to me:

12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels;

13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel.

14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.

22 The word Onesimus signifies useful or profitable, from ovnu, to profit, or to help; which has induced some commentators to suppose, that both here, and in ver. 20, the apostle makes an allusion to the signification of the name of his convert.

Julian Period, 4775. Vulgar Æra, 62.


15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that Rome. thou shouldest receive him for ever 23.

16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, especially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.

18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

21 Having confidence in thy obedience, I wrote unto
thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I

22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust
that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow-prisoner in
Christ Jesus;

24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow-

25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.


St. James writes his Epistle" to the Jewish Christians in


23 The apology made here by the apostle is very similar to that of Joseph for his brethren (Gen. xlv. 5.)

24 This Epistle of St. James, with those bearing the names of the Apostles Peter, Jude, and John, have been generally distinguished by the appellation of Catholic, for which various reasons have been assigned.

Salmeron, and others, have imagined that they were denominated Catholic, or general Epistles, because they were designed to be transcribed and circulated among the Christian Churches, that they might be perused by all; for they contain that one catholic or general doctrine, which was delivered to the Churches by the apostles of our Saviour, and which might be read with advantage by the universal Church of Christ. In like manner they might be called canonical, as containing canons, or general rules and precepts which concern all Christians.

Others are of opinion that they received the appellation of catholic, or general epistles, because they were not written to one person, city, or church, like the Epistles of St. Paul, but to the catholic Church, Christians in general, or to Christians of several countries, or at least to all the Jewish Christians wherever they were dispersed over the face of the earth. Ecumenius, Leontius, Whitby, and others, have adopted this opi



« ElőzőTovább »