« PreviousContinue »
THE EPISTLE TO PHILEMON.
THE singular correspondency between
this epistle and that to the Colossians has been remarked already. An assertion in the epistle to the Colossians, viz. that “One“ fimus was one of them,” is verified by the epistle to Philemon; and is verified, not by any mention of Colosse, any the most distant intimation concerning the place of Philemon's abode, but singly by stating Onefimus to be Philemon's servant, and by joining in the salutation Philemon with Archippus; for this Archippus, when we go back to the epistle to the Colossians, appears to have been an inhabitant of that city, and, as it should seem, to have held an office of authority in that church. The case stands thus. Take the epistle to the Colossians alone, and no circumstance is discoverable which makes out the assertion, that Onesimus was
" one of them." Take the epistle to Philemon alone, and nothing at all appears concerning the place to which Philemon or his servant Onesimus belonged. For any thing that is said in the epistle, Philemon might have been a Thessalonian, a Philippian, or an Ephesian, as well as a Colossian. Put the two epistles together and the matter is clear. The reader perceives a junction of circumstances, which ascertains the conclufion 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 dependant circumstances. 1. “ I beseech thee for
son Onefimus, “ whom I have sent again” (ver. 10–12). It appears from the epistle to the Colossians, Bb
that, in truth, Onefimus was sent at that time to Coloffe: “ All my state shall Ty"chicus declare, whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, with Onefimus,
faithful and beloved brother.” Colof. chap. iv ver. 79.
2. “I beseech thee for my fon Onefimus, " 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
that God would open unto us a door 66 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 6 I shall see how it will
" trust in the Lord that I also myself jhall come Mortly.” Phil. chap. ii ver. 23, 24.
4. As the letter to Philemon, and that to the Colossians, were written at the fame time, and sent by the same messenger, the one to a particular inhabitant, the other to the church of Colofie, 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 Aristarcus, 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 falute Philemon, because he accompanied the epistle to Colosse, and would undoubtedly there see hiin. Yet the reader of the epistle to Philemon will remark one considerable diversity in the catalogue of faluting friends, and which shows that the catalogue was not copied from that to the Colossians. In the epistle to the Colossians, Aristarcus is called by St, Paul his fellow-prisoner, Colof. chap. iv. ver. 10.; in the epistle to Philemon, ArifB b 2
tarchus is mentioned without any addition, and the title of fellow-prisoner is given to Epaphras*.
And let it also be observed, that notwithstanding the close and circumstantial agreement between the two epiftles, 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 fophift at work to fupply the loss, in like manner as, because St. Paul was supposed, Colof. chap. iv. ver. 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' servile condition is no where hinted at, any
* 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 former occasion, travelled with you, you might afterwards speak of him under that title. It is just so with the term fellow-prisoner.