« VorigeDoorgaan »
ceives a junction of circumstances, which ascertains the conclusion at once. Now, all that is necessary to be added in this place is, that this correspondency evinces the genuineness of one epistle as well as of the other. It is like comparing the two parts of a cloven tally. Coincidence proves the authenticity of both.
And this coincidence is perfect; not only in the main article of showing, by implication, Onesimus to be a Colossian, but in many dependent circum
1. "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have sent again," (ver. 10—12.) It It appears from the Epistle to the Colossians that, in truth, Onesimus was sent at that time to Colosse: "All my state shall Tychicus declare, whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother." Colos. chap. iv. 7—9.
2. "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds," (ver. 10.) It appears from the preceding quotation that Onesimus was with St. Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Colossians; and that he wrote that epistle in imprisonment is evident from his declaration in the fourth chapter and third verse: "Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds."
3. St. Paul bids Philemon prepare for him a lodging: "For I trust," says he, "that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." This agrees with the expectation of speedy deliverance, which he
expressed in another epistle written during the same imprisonment: "Him (Timothy) I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me: but I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly." Phil. chap. ii, 23, 24.
4. As the letter to Philemon and that to the Colossians were written at the same time, and sent by the same messenger, the one to a particular inhabitant, the other to the church of Colosse, it may be expected 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 superscription of the Epistle to the Colossians, is joined with him in this. Tychicus did not salute Philemon, because he accompanied the epistle to Colosse, and would undoubtedly there see him. Yet the reader of the Epistle to Philemon will remark one considerable diversity in the catalogue of saluting friends, and which shows that the catalogue was not copied from that to the Colossians. In the Epistle to the Colossians, Aristarchus is called by St. Paul his fellow prisoner (Colos. chap. iv. 10); in the Epistle to Philemon Aristarchus is mentioned without any addition, and the title of fellow prisoner is given to Epaphras1.
Dr. Benson observes, and perhaps truly, that the appellation of fellow prisoner, as applied by St. Paul to Epaphras, did not imply that they were imprisoned together at the time; any more than your calling a person your fellow traveller imports that you are then upon your travels. If he had, upon any
And let it also be observed, that notwithstanding the close and circumstantial agreement between the two epistles, this is not the case of an opening left in a genuine writing, which an impostor is induced to fill up; nor of a reference to some writing not extant, which sets a sophist at work to supply the loss, in like manner as, because St. Paul was supposed (Colos. chap. iv. 16), to allude to an epistle written by him to the Laodiceans, some person has from thence taken the hint of uttering a forgery under that title. The present, I say, is not that case; for Philemon's name is not mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians; Onesimus's servile condition is no where hinted at, any more than his crime, his flight, or the place or time of his conversion. The story therefore of the epistle, if it be a fiction, is a fiction to which the author could not have been guided by any thing he had read in St. Paul's genuine writings.
Ver. 4, 5. "I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints."
"Hearing of thy love and faith." This is the form of speech which St. Paul was wont to use towards those churches which he had not seen, or then visited: see Rom. chap. i. 8; Ephes. chap. i. 15; Col. chap. i. 3, 4. Toward those churches and persons, with whom he was previously acquainted, he employed a
former occasion, travelled with you, you might afterwards speak of him under that title. It is just so with the term fellow prisoner.
different phrase; as "I thank my God always on your behalf" (1 Cor. chap. i. 4; 2 Thess. chap. i. 3); or, upon every remembrance of you" (Phil. chap. i. 3; 1 Thess. chap. i. 2, 3; 2 Tim. chap. i. 3); and never speaks of hearing of them. Yet I think it must be concluded, from the nineteenth verse of this epistle, that Philemon had been converted by St. Paul himself: "Albeit, I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides." Here then is a peculiarity. Let us inquire whether the epistle supplies any circumstance which will account for it. We have seen that it may be made out, not from the epistle itself, but from a comparison of the epistle with that to the Colossians, that Philemon was an inhabitant of Colosse: and it farther appears, from the Epistle to the Colossians, that St. Paul had never been in that city: "I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh." (Col. chap. ii. 1.) Although, therefore, St. Paul had formerly met with Philemon at some other place, and had been the immediate instrument of his conversion, yet Philemon's faith and conduct afterwards, inasmuch as he lived in a city which St. Paul had never visited, could only be known to him by fame and reputation.
The tenderness and delicacy of this epistle have long been admired: "Though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of
Jesus Christ; I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds." There is something certainly very melting and persuasive in this and every part of the epistle. Yet, in my opinion, 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 shows 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 thee 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 to him the knowledge of Jesus Christ: "I do not say to thee how thou owest to me even thine own self besides." Without laying aside, therefore, the apostolic character, our author softens the imperative style of his address, by mixing with it every sentiment and consideration that could move the heart of his correspondent. Aged and in prison, he is content to supplicate and entreat. Onesimus was rendered dear to him by his conversion and his services: the child of his affliction, and "ministering unto him in the bonds of the gospel." This ought to recommend him, whatever had been his fault, to Philemon's forgiveness:" Receive him as myself, as my own bowels." Every thing, however, should be voluntary. St. Paul was determined that Philemon's compliance should flow from his own bounty: "Without