It is somewhat singular, to hear the apostle, whose constant poverty was almost proverbial, undertaking the payment of Onesimus's debts, if he owed his master any thing. But in what he adds of Philemon's owing even himself, to Paul, as having been instrumental in the Lord's hand, for his conversion; we enter upon the apostle's meaning. Dropping therefore, for a moment all the several parties in this transaction; the master, the servant, and the apostle ; if we look at the Lord Jesus Christ, in that gracious act of his, as our Surety and Sponsor; we behold Paul as well as Philemon, and his servant, all alike interested in this one great redemption. Yea, both the writer, and the reader, of these lines, without a personal interest in the Suretyship of Christ, were equally insolvent. For we have all erred and strayed from the Lord; and by nature and by practice run away from his service. And who is there in the consciousness of such things, and having been forgiven our ten thousand talents, can go forth, and take a fellow servant by the throat, for the payment of an hundred pence? Oh! for grace, as the followers of the Lord, " to put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. If any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col. iii. 12, 13.)

And now in summing up the whole of this runaway's history, brought back as he was by means so extraordinary; will not every one that reads it be constrained to say: "What hath God wrought!" And wherefore hath the Holy Ghost preserved the record of it, with so much care, amidst the inspired

writings of his sacred word to the present hour, but to shew what a marvellous work is the work of grace, in every instance of a sinner's recovery? It was not all the tenderness of the kindest master; no nor all the theatenings of God's law, could work a change upon the mind of Onesimus; (and such is the state of all men by nature,) until the Lord took up the cause, and changed "the heart of stone, into an heart of flesh." (Ezek. xxxvi. 26.)

From hence, we ascend to another most important observation, namely, what a wonder-working God is our God, who hath "all hearts at his disposal: and like rivers of waters turneth them whithersoever he pleaseth." (Prov. xxi. 1.) He, and He alone, who could and did say to the boisterous waves, Be still! and instantly there was a calm; can in a moment, turn the sinner "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan, to the living God." And what encouragement is here to godly parents and masters; and indeed, all that are interested in the temporal and spiritual welfare of the rising generation, to seek grace for them from the Lord, "who blesseth the habitation of the just !" (Proverbs iii. 13.) Prayerless families, who rise up and lie down, as herds of the stall, with unbended knees to the Lord, are unconscious of the blessedness of such employments. But what may not be expected; yea what was not actually found, "after many days, as bread cast upon the waters," from this praying family of Philemon, in the instance of Onesimus ! And indeed what may not be everlastingly looked for, to follow the unceasing supplications of the faithful, when the heads of houses enter not on the business of the day, or close in the employment of the night, but in presenting themselves, and their whole family, with themselves, at the throne of grace. It was this very feature of character, which the Lord marked in Abraham, when

the Lord said; "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? For I know him that he will command his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Gen. xviii. 17-19.) Solovely, and so prevailing in the sight of the Lord, is such a circle, on their knees before him, that the Lord will not have one if possible, to be absent.. "Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children;" yea, as if the very presence of babes, in their unconscious state, still pleaded before him, the Lord adds: " and those that suck the breasts." (Joel ii. 16.)


To add no more. Should this history come under the eye of any recovered by grace, and who is returned by the Lord, from sin to salvation; let him take with him the very blessed words of the Lord, by the apostle: "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things which

ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you." (Philip. iv. 8, 9.)







"I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

"I was in the Spirit, on the Lord's day, and heard behind me, a great voice, as of a trumpet,


Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and what thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." (Rev. i. 9-11.)


I Do not know whether the reader is spiritually taught of God; but if he be, I venture to say, that he will find great sweetness in this Scripture account of our adorable Lord's manifestation of himself to his beloved apostle John, in the desolate isle of Patmos; where he was banished, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Numberless are the very blessed things which are contained in it; and numberless are the instructions and consolations which arise out of it to the church of our most glorious

Christ, when a savour from the Lord accompanieth the reading, or the hearing of it. For here, as much as any where, may it be said; that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.)

That this most gracious manifestation of our most glorious Christ, to his servant John, and at the close of Scripture, was not meant for the personal comfort of the beloved apostle only; but for the everlasting comfort of the Lord's people, in all ages of the church, is evident, from many considerations; what the Holy Ghost taught the Lord's people upon another occasion may be safely applied here; namely, that "no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Pet. i. 20.) For, not to enumerate the many manifestations the Lord was pleased to make of himself to his people, after he arose from the dead; the sweet and gracious promises of our most glorious Christ, on this subject, plainly testify, that his intention was to make frequent, yea, a constant communication of himself to them, by such spiritual marks as should carry with them decided testimonies of his presence. And the open displays of himself, which he made then, were designed as pledges of what he would do afterwards; and also to the very end of time, spiritually; when those open displays would not so suitably correspond to his purposes, neither to his people's advantage. And this very blessed and striking appearance of the Lord, to old John, when all the other apostles were dead, and as the last written word of holy Scripture was closing, was meant to shew, that Jesus was, and is, and everlastingly will be, the same all-loving and all-lovely Saviour, as he had been from the beginning; and that he would

« VorigeDoorgaan »