« הקודםהמשך »
entire in all its members, and then to nourish it to its full inaturity. As we are slow of heart to attend to such instructions, -it enforces them with motives the most generous and the most animating. It represents to us, as it were in prophetic vision, that blessed hope, even the glorious appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; when he shall come with everlasting blessings in his hands, to reward all his faithful people ; and with the terrors of divine vengeance, to be poured forth upon all that have rejected the authority of his gospel. And, that the most powerful considerations of gratitude may join with those of the highest interest, it directs our eyes to this divine triumphant Saviour, as having once given himself to torture and death for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us to himself, a peculiar people, devoted to God, and zealous of good works. And surely, if this view cannot prevail upon us to consecrate ourselves to God, and to engage with vigour in his service, we must be utterly insensible, and worthy of the severest punishment. Let these lessons, therefore, every where be taught with all authority. Let them be addressed at once to the meanest and the greatest of mankind; that they may join in a pious care, to adorn the doctrine of such a Saviour, and to secure their share in such a salvation.
He exhorts Titus to recommend obedience to magistrates ; benevolence, can
dour, and meekness, Reminds him of that grace to which Christians owe all their hopes ; presses him to enforce practical religion in opposition to idle controversies, and instructs him how to proceed with heretics. Ch. üi.
N HILE you continue with the Cretans remind them of being
subject to principalities and power's, to obey governors, to 2 be ready to every good work; to calumniate no man, not to be 3 contentious, but, gentle, shewing all meekness to all men. For we ourselves also were formerly foolish, disobedient, wandering from the paths of truth and virtue, enslaved to various lusts and
pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one anoth4 er. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards 5 man appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we had done,
but according to his own mercy, he saved us by the washing of re6 generation, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he pour7 ed out upon us richly by Jesus Christ our Saviour : that being jus
tified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope 8 of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and concerning these
things I will that thou affirm constantly, that 80 they who have be
lieved in God, may be careful to signalize theinselves in good 9 works. These things are good and profitable to men. But avoid
foolish questions, and genealogies, and strifes, and contentions 10 about the Mosaic law ; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man
that is a heretic", after the first and second admonition, reject; * One who introduces such controversies as the above, and perversely maintains them in a manner injurious to the peace of society,
ii knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-con- .
demned. 12 When I shall send to thee Artemas, or Tychicus to supply thy
place, endeavour to come to me at Nicopolis ; for there I have de13 termined to pass the winter. Zenas the lawyer, and Apollos,
bring forward on their journey to me with diligence, that nothing 14 may be wanting to them which thou canst supply. And let all
those that belong to us learn to distinguish then selves in good
works, for necessary purposes, that they may not be unfruitful. 15 All that are with me, salute thee. Salute them who love us in the
faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
REFLECTIONS. Let the remembrance of the irregularities with which we ourselves were once chargeable, of that sinful and miserable condition in which we once were, make us candid to others, and silence our too severe censures against them. And let us rather, with the apostle, humbly adore that grace which has now made a difference between us and those that are still foolish and disobedient, wandering in the paths of vice, and enslaved to divers lusts and passions. Let the kindness and philanthropy of God, be daily celebrated and adored by us ; of God, who hath saved us, not by the righteousness of our works, but by his own rich and overflowing mercy ; hath justified us by his free grace, in Christ, and thereby made us heirs, according to the hope of eternal life. Nor let us ever forget how much we are indebted to the regenerating and renewing influences of the Holy Ghost, shed abroad upon us richly by Jesus Christ our Saviour. May it wash and purify our souls more and more from every stain of sin, and may it inspire us with a pious ardour to honour our profession, by distinguishing ourselves in all good works for necessary uses, and according to the calls which providence gives us in life. Having professed our belief in God, let us carefully practise all the virtues of the Christian character; for these things are indeed good and profitable to men. But let us guard against those airy curiosities and abstruse speculations, which, on the contrary, are unprofitable and vain.
May all the churches of Christ be delivered from such factious members and teachers as would depart from the infallible rule of truth which is laid down in the word of God, and would subvert the faith once delivered to the saints ; introducing, instead of it, the doctrines of men, and teaching things which tend to alienate the minds of Christians from the gospel, and from each other, that they may set up their own authority, and promote their own secular interest. We ought undoubtedly to be cautious how we pass such a censure on particular persons, without clear and evident proofs ; but when such proofs arise, and the persons in question appear to be the turbulent and pernicious heretics that St. Paul describes, it were to be wished they might always meet with the treatment which he recommends. They ought first to be plainly and seriously admonished ; and, if repeated admonitions are rejected, it is the duty of the wiser and sounder parts of Christian societics to expel them ; that they may be less capa
ble of doing mischief, and the gangrene of such pernicious principles and dispositions may not spread, to the disgrace and ruin of the churches to which they belong. But let it ever be remembered, that this is all the remedy which scripture furnishes us with ; and they, who, to the solemn censure of disturbed and injured churches, add any corporal severities, or civil penalties whatsoever, are taking up weapons which Christ has never put into their hands, and may very probably do more mischief in the church and the world than the most erroneous of those against whom they would arm their terrors.
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO PHILEMON.
PHILEMON was an inhabitant of Colosse, and a convert of Paul, by
whom he was highly esteemed. He seems to have been a person of distinction, and of eminent usefulness in the service of the gospel, though there is no proof that he was a minister. This epistle to him is thought to have been written about the year 63. The occasion of it was this : Onesimus, Philemon's slave, had absconded* from his master and fled to Rome, where he happily met with Paul, then a prisoner at large, by whose means he was converted. Paul kept him for some time to wait upon himself, and found him useful to him. Having had sufficient evidence of the reality of the change, he sent hime back to his master with this letter, in which he strongly urges Philemon to take him into his family again, recommending him not merely as a servant but as a fellow-Christian. “ It is impossible to read [with due attention) this admirable epistle without being touched with the delicacy of sentiment, and the masterty address that appear in every part of it.”
Paul introduces his design in favour of the fugitive servant Onesimus,
with an affectionate salutation. Ver. 1-7.
I D AUL a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy a brother, to 2 r Philemon our beloved, and fellow-labourer, and to the beloved
Apphia his consort, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier in the holy 3 warfare, and to the church that is in thine house ; Grace and
peace be unto you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus 4 Christ. I always thank my God, making mention of thee in my 5 prayers; hearing of the faith which thou hast towards the Lord 6 Jesus, and of thy love to all the saints; that thy communion in
the faith may be efficacions in the acknowledgment of every good
* There is no proof that he had robbed him, as the author and others sup pose. ED.
y thing which is in you, and particularly towards Christ Jesus. For
we are greatly rejoiced and comforted by thy love, that the bowels of the poor saints are refreshed by thee our brother. ..
REFLECTIONS. If any could be so weak as to think the character of the Christian and the minister at all inconsistent with that of the well-bred man, they must see a remarkable demonstration to the contrary in this familiar epistle of St. Paul to his friend Philemon; which is conducted with the happiest address, and which, in true politeness, may vie with that of the greatest masters of the epistolary style in antiquity. The Introduction o leads us naturally to a variety of useful remarks, and conveys important instruction in the vehicle of well-deserved praise. How elevated soever the station of Philemon might be, and how plentiful soever his circumstances, it was his chief glory and felicity to be distinguished for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and love to all the saints. And indeed it is most unworthy the profession we make of faith in Christ, as the great Head of the church, not to love all his members : unworthy our character of saints, not to feel a sympa. thetic affection for all that are sanctified. If others are deficient here, as alas! many are too sadly deficient, let us exhort ourselves so much. the more, and labour to give the most substantial demonstrations of our love. It will be an honour to us, and to the Christian name, that our communion in this precious faith should extort an acknowledgment of good things in us, from all who are intimately acquainted and con. versant with us. Thus shall we diffuse happiness in a wide circle : for it is a sincere joy to all good men, to behold the graces and the usefulness of others. Especially are the hearts of faithful and zealous ministers comforted, when the bowels of poor saints are refreshed. by the liberality of the rich. They share alternately the pleasure which is felt on the side of the pious benefactors and their grateful beneficiaries ; and were they, with Paul, in the confinement and necessities of a prison, the report would delight and enlarge their souls.
The apostle entreats Philemon kindly to receive Onesimus, his fugitive slave,
who had been converted by laim at Rome. Ver. 8, &c.
8 W H EREFORE, though I might take great freedom in
V Christ, to enjoin that which is proper for thee; I rather by love entreat thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and 10 now also the prisoner of Jesus Christ. I entreat thee concerning
a son of mine, whom I have begotten to Christ in my bonds, Il namely thy servant Onesimus, who was once unprofitable to thee, 12 but is now profitable both to thee and to me; whom I have sent
back again to thee. Do thou therefore receive him, as it were my * Supposing him to have been 24 at the death of Stephen, he would now be 53. Whitby makes him to have been 63.
† Alluding to the meaning of the name Onesimus, which signifies profitable.
13 own bowels; as a part of myself. Whom I was desirous to have
kept near me, that he might, in thy stead, have attended upon me 14 in the bonds of the gospel. But I would do nothing without thy
consent; that thy benefit might not seem to be of necessity, but 15 voluntary. For perhaps he was separated from thee for a while to 16 this very end, that thou mightest enjoy him for ever ; not now as a
servant only but above a servant, a beloved brother, especially to
me, but how much more to thee, both in the flesh and in the 17 Lord ? If therefore thou esteem me a companion for partner in 18 Christ] receive him as myself. If he have injured thee in any 19 matter, or is indebted to thee, charge it to my account. I Paul
have written it with my own hand, I will pay it again : not to say
to thee that thou owest even thine own self unto me as the instru20 ment of thy conversion. Yes, my brother, let me have joy of thee
in the Lord : refresh my bowels in the Lord [ by this act of benefi. 21 cence.] I have written to thee in confidence of thy obedience to 22 my request, knowing that, thou wilt do even more than I say. I
must also desire thee to prepare a lodging for me ; for I hope that 23 I shall ere long, through your prayers, be granted to you.Epa24 phras, my fellow-captive in Christ Jesus, saluteth thee : as also do
Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow-labourers. 25 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your * spirit.
REFLECTIONS. How amiable is the condescension of the holy apostle ! how charm ing and delicate his address in this whole section, which makes the immediate occasion of this letter, minute as it may seem, matter of congratulation to the Christian world. St. Paul lays aside the authority, which his office, his age, his sufferings, gave him, to address Philemon, as on a foot of equal friendship, choosing rather, by love to entreat. Let the example be imitated by those in superior stations and relations of life; and let them learn likewise, from the tender, ness which such a man expresses about this poor slave, in whom he traced the appearance of a truly Christian temper, to interest themselves in the happiness of those whose rank is far beneath their own; and learn to make the situation of their servants easy, by a kind and friendly treatment. Well may such a care be expected, especially when we can look on such as brethren, beloved in the Lord, and partakers with us in the same Saviour and hope
Let those, to whom God hath blessed the labours of his faithful ministers, as the means of their conversion, remember it with pleasure, and ascribe it to the riches of divine grace, to which all is origi. nally to be traced ; remembering also, that there is a sense in which they owe even themselves to those who have been honoured as the instruments of bringing them to Christ, without an acquaintance with whom they had lost themselves, and been ruined for ever. Let the
* The word is plural (wuwy) and therefore comprehends the other persons to whom the cpistle is inscribed. v. 2. Ep. VOL. II.