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II. We learn from this Epistle itself, that it was written when St. Paul was a prisoner, and when he had hope of soon recovering his liberty (6); and thence we conclude, that it was written towards the end of his first confinement at Rome. This opinion is also supported by the following circumstances : Onesimus, the bearer of this Epistle, was one of the persons who were intrusted with that to the Colossians; and in both Epistles,' Timothy, Epaphroditus, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, are spoken of as being present with the Apostle; we therefore infer that they were written at the same time, and consequently we are to place the date of this Epistle in the year 62..
III. THE occasion of writing it was this : Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, had run away from him, and taken up his residence at Rome. It is generally supposed that he had also robbed his master; but the only foundation for that opinion is in the following passage, which does not appear to me conclusive: “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, put that on my account.”— Surely these words do not necessarily imply that Onesimus had been guilty of theft; they may only
allude (6) V. 1 and 22. Vol. I.
allude to the injury which Philemon had sustained by the absence of his slave and the loss of his service. It does not seem probable that St. Paul would have mentioned such a crime in so slight a manner, or that he would have failed to notice the contrition of Onesimus. Paul, having met with him at Rome, converted him to Christianity, and reclaimed him to a sense of his duty: he then sent him back to Colosse with this letter, written with his own hand, to Philemon, request ing him to receive his slave, thus converted and reclaimed, again into his family (C).
IV. This Epistle has always been deservedly admired for the delicacy and address with which it is written ; and it places St. Paul's character in a very amiable point of view. He had converted a fugitive slave to the Christian faith; and he here intercedes with his master in the most earnest and affectionate manner for his pardon; he speaks of Onesimus in terms calculated to soften Philemon's resentment, engages to make full compensation for any injury which he might have sustained from him, and conjures
(c) In the Epistle which St. Paul sent at the same time, to the Colossian Christians in general, of whom Philemon was one, he calls Onesimus “ a faithful and beloved brother.” C. 4. v.9.
him to reconciliation and forgiveness by the now endearing connexion of Christian brotherhood.
This Epistle is a plain proof that Christianity was not intended to make any alteration in the civil conditions of men. Paul considered Onesimus, although converted to the Gospel, as still belonging to his former master; and by deprecating the anger of Philemon, he acknowledged that Onesimus continued liable to punishment (d) for the misconduct of which he had been guilty previous to his conversion.
(d) Grotius says, that Philemon, by the laws of Phrygia, might have punished his slave without application to a magistrate.
CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.
OF THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
1. Authenticity of this Epistle.-II. Its Date.-111. Lan
guage in which it was originally written.—IV. To whom it was addressed.-V. Design and Substance of it.
1. THOUGH the genuineness of the Epistle to, the Hebrews has been disputed both in antient and modern times, its antiquity has never been questioned. It is generally allowed that there are references to it, although the author is not mentioned, in the remaining works of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr; and that it contains, as was first noticed by Chrysostom (a) and Theodoret (b), internal evidence of having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem (c).
The (a) Præf. in Ep. ad Heb. (b) Theod. in Heb. cap. 13. V. 10.
(c) Heb, c. 8. v. 4. c.9. v. 25. c. 10. V, II and 37. €. 13. V. 10.
The earliest writer now extant, who quotes this Epistle as the work of St. Paul, is Clement of Alexandria, towards the end of the second century; but as he ascribes it to St. Paul repeatedly, and without hesitation, we may conclude that in his timne no doubt had been entertained upon the subject, or, at least, that the common tradition of the church attributed it to St. Paul. Clement is followed by Origen, by * Dionysius and Alexander, both bishops of Alexandria, by Ambrose, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Jerome, Chrysostom, and Cyril, all of whom consider this Epistle as written by St. Paul; and it is also ascribed to him in the antient Syriac version, supposed to have been made at the end of the first century. Eusebius says, “Of Paul there are fourteen Epistles, manifest and well known; but yet there are some who reject that to the Hebrews, urging for their opinion that it is contradicted by the church of the Romans, as not being St. Paul's (d).” In Dr. Lardner we find the following remark : “ It is evident that this Epistle was generally received in antient times by those Christians who used the Greek language, and lived in the eastern parts of the Roman empire.” And in another place he says, “ It was received as an Epistle of Paul by many Latin
writers (d) H. E. lib. 3. cap. 3. . .