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The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit - By using the plural, ὑμων, your, the apostle in effect directs or addresses the epistle, not only to Philemon, but to all the Church at his house.
Amen - Is wanting as usual in the best MSS.
The subscriptions are also various, as in preceding cases.
The Epistle to Philemon was written at Rome, and sent by the hand of Onesimus. - Syriac.
Through the help of God the epistle is finished. It was written at Rome by the hand of Onesimus, servant to Philemon. - Arabic.
To the man Philemon. - Aethiopic.
It was written at Rome, and sent by Onesimus. - Coptic.
The Epistle to Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus: the end of the Epistle to Philemon and Apphia, the master and mistress of Onesimus; and to Archippus, the deacon of the Church at Colosse: it was written from Rome by Onesimus, a servant. - Philoxesian Syriac.
To Philemon. - To Philemon is finished. - To Philemon, written from Rome by Onesimus - Onesiphorus. - From Paul, by Onesimus, a servant. - From the presence of Paul and Timothy. - The Epistle of Paul the apostle to Philemon. - The common Greek text has, To Philemon, written from Rome by Onesimus, a servant.
As some have thought it strange that a private letter, of a particular business and friendship, should have got a place in the sacred canon, others have been industrious to find out the general uses which may be made of it. The following are those which seem to come most naturally from the text: -
1. In a religious point of view, all genuine Christian converts are on a level; Onesimus, the slave, on his conversion becomes the apostle's beloved son, and Philemon's brother.
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The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ... - Notes, 2 Timothy 4:22.
The subscription to the Epistle is of no authority, but in this case is undoubtedly correct. Compare the remarks at the close of 1 Corinthians, and Titus.
Remarks On Philemon
Having now passed through with the exposition of this Epistle, it may be proper to copy, for comparison with it, one of the most beautiful specimens of epistolary composition to be found in profane literature, an epistle of Pliny, written on a similar occasion, and having a strong resemblance to this. As a matter of taste, it is of importance to show that the sacred writers do not fall behind the most favorable specimens of literary composition to be found in uninspired writings. The epistle of Pliny was directed to his friend Sabinianus, in behalf of his manumitted slave who had offended him, and who was consequently cast out of his favor. It is in the following words:
C. Plinius Sabiniano, S. (in Latin)
Libertus tuus, cui succensere te dixeras, venit a.d. me, advolutusque pedibus meis, tanquam tuis, haesit: flevit muitum, multum rogavit, maltum etiam tacuit: in summa, fecit mihi fidem poenitentiae Vere credo emendatum, quia deliquisse sentit. Irasceris scio; et irasceris merito, id quoque scio: sed tune praecipua mansuetudinis laus, cure irae causa justissima est. Amasti hominem; et spero amabis: interim sufficit ut exorari te sinas. Licebit rursus irasci, si meruerit; quod exoratus excusatius facies.
Remitte aliquid adolescentiae ipsius; remitte lachrymis; remitte indulgentiae tuae; ne torseris illum, ne torseris etiam te. Torqueris enim cum tam lenis irasceris. Vereor, ne videar non rogare, sed cogere, si precibus ejus meas junxero. Jungam tamen tanto plenius et effusius quanto ipsum acrius severiusque corripui, destricte minatus, nunquam me postea rogaturum. Hoc illi, quem terreri oportebat; tibi non idem. Nam fortasse iterum rogabo, impetrabo irerum: sit mode tale, ut rogare me, ut praestare te, deceat. Vale. Epistolar. Lib. ix. Ephesians 21.
Caius Pliny to Sabinianus, health (English translation)
'Thy freed man, with whom thou didst say thou wert incensed, came to me, and having thrown himself at my feet, grasped them as if they had been thine. He wept much; pleaded much; and yet pleaded more by his silence. In short, he fully convinced me that he was a penitent. I do sincerely believe that he is reformed, because he perceives that he has done wrong. I know that thou art incensed against him; and I know also that thou art justly so; but then clemency has its chief praise when there is the greatest cause for anger. Thou hast loved the man; and I hope that thou wilt love him again. In the meantime, it may suffice that thou dost suffer thyself to be entreated for him. It will be right for thee again to be offended if he deserves it: because, having allowed thyself to be entreated, you will do it with greater propriety.
'Forgive something for his youth; forgive on account of his tears; forgive on account of thine own kindness: do not torment him; do not torment thyself - for thou wilt be tormented when thou, who art of so gentle a disposition, dost suffer thyself to be angry. I fear, if I should unite my prayers to his, that I should seem not to ask, but to compel. Yet I will write them, and the more largely and earnestly, too, as I have sharply and severely reproved him; solemnly threatening him, should he offend again, never more to intercede for him. This I said to him, because it was necessary to alarm him; but I will not say the same to thee. For perhaps I may again entreat thee, and again obtain, if now that shall be done which it is fit that I should ask and you concede. Farewell."
Those who compare these two epistles, much as they may admire that of Pliny as a literary composition and as adapted to secure the end which he had in view, will coincide with the remark of Doddridge, that it is much inferior to the letter of Paul. There is less courtesy - though there is much; there is less that is touching and tender - though there is much force in the pleading; and there is much less that is affecting in the manner of the appeal than in the Epistle of the apostle.
The Epistle to Philemon, though the shortest that Paul wrote, and though pertaining to a private matter in which the church at large could not be expected to have any direct interest, is nevertheless a most interesting portion of the New Testament, and furnishes some invaluable lessons for the church.
1. It is a model of courtesy. It shows that the apostle was a man of refined sensibility, and had a delicate perception of what was due in friendship, and what was required by true politeness. There are turns of thought in this Epistle which no one would employ who was not thoroughly under the influence of true courtesy of feeling, and who had not an exquisite sense of what was proper in intercourse with a Christian gentleman.
2. The Epistle shows that he had great tact in argument, and great skill in selecting just such things as would be adapted to secure the end in view. It would be hardly possible to accumulate, even in a letter of fiction, more circumstances which would be fitted to accomplish the object which he contemplated, that he has introduced into this short letter, or to arrange them in a way better fitted to secure the desired result. If we remember the state of mind in which it is reasonable to suppose Philemon was in regard to this runaway servant, and the little probability that a man in his circumstances would receive him with kindness again, it is impossible not to admire the address with which Paul approaches him. It is not difficult to imagine in what state of mind Philemon may have been, or the obstacles which it was necessary to surmount in order to induce him to receive Onesimus again - and especially to receive him as a Christian brother.
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