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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 66 mention of thee always in my prayers ;
hearing of thy love and faith, which thou “ hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward 66 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 feen, or then visited; see Rom. chap. i. ver. 8; Ephef. chap. i. ver. 15; Col. chap. i. ver. 3, 4.
Toward those churches and persons, with whom he was previously acquainted, heemployed a different phrase; as, " I thank my God always on your behalf,” 1 Cor. chap. i. ver. 4; 2 Theff. chap. i. ver.
upon 'every remembrance of you," Phil. chap. i. ver. 3; 1 Theff. chap. i. ver. 2,
B b 3
3 ; 2 Tim.
3; 2 Tim. chap.i. ver. 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 "ownself besides.” Here thenisa peculiarity. Let us enquire whether the epistle supplies any circumstance which will account for it. We have seen that it may be made out, 1100 from the epistle itself, but from a comparison of the epistle with that to the Colossians, that Philemon was an inhabitant of Coloffe; 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 greatcon«flict I have for you and for them at Laodi
cea, and for as many as have not seen my “ face in the flesh.” Col. ch. ii. ver. I. 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 been long admired: “Though I might “ be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that “ which is convenient, yet for love's fake "" I rather beseech thee, being such a one as “ Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of
Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son " Onefimus, 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
B b 4
“ convenient.” He is careful also to recal, 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 66 thou owest to me even thine own self “ besides." Without laying aside, therefore, the apostolic character, our author foftetis the imperative style of his address, by mixing with it every sentiment and confideration that could move the heart of his correspondent. Aged and in prison, he is content to supplicate and entreat. Onefimus was rendered dear to him by his conversion and his services; the child of his affliction, and “ ministering unto him in the “ bond sof the gospel.” This ought to recommend him, whatever had been his fault, to Philemon's forgiveness: "Receive him as “myself, as myown bowels.” Every thing, however, should be voluntary. St. Paul was determined that Philemon's compliance should flow from his own bounty : “ With“ out thy mind would I do nothing, that • thy benefit should not be as it were of “ necessity, but willingly; trusting nevere theless to his gratitude and attachment for the performance of all that he requested, and for more : Having confidence in thy “ obedience, I wrote unto thee, knowing - that thou wilt also do more than I say."
St. Paul's discourse at Miletus; his speech before Agrippa; his epistle to the Romans, as hath been remarked (No. VIII.); that to the Galatians, chap.iv. ver. 11-20; to the Philippians, chap. i. ver. 29-ch. ii ver. 2; the second to the Corinthians, chap. vi. ver. 1— 13; and indeed some part or other of almost every epistle exhibits examples of a similar application to the feelings and affections of the persons whom he addresses. Anditis observable, that these pathetic effusions, drawn for the most part from his own sufferings and situation, usually precede a command, foften a rebuke, or mitigate the harshness of forne disagreeable truth.