1:8-14 It does not lower any one to condescend, and sometimes even to beseech, where, in strictness of right, we might command: the apostle argues from love, rather than authority, in behalf of one converted through his means; and this was Onesimus. In allusion to that name, which signifies profitable, the apostle allows that in time past he had been unprofitable to Philemon, but hastens to mention the change by which he had become profitable. Unholy persons are unprofitable; they answer not the great end of their being. But what happy changes conversion makes! of evil, good; of unprofitable, useful. Religious servants are treasures in a family. Such will make conscience of their time and trusts, and manage all they can for the best. No prospect of usefulness should lead any to neglect their obligations, or to fail in obedience to superiors. One great evidence of true repentance consists in returning to practise the duties which have been neglected. In his unconverted state, Onesimus had withdrawn, to his master's injury; but now he had seen his sin and repented, he was willing and desirous to return to his duty. Little do men know for what purposes the Lord leaves some to change their situations, or engage in undertakings, perhaps from evil motives. Had not the Lord overruled some of our ungodly projects, we may reflect upon cases, in which our destruction must have been sure.
13. I—emphatical. I for my part. Since I had such implicit trust in him as to desire to keep him with me for his services, thou mayest.
I would have retained—different Greek from the "would," Phm 14, "I could have wished," "I was minded" here; but "I was not willing," Phm 14.
in thy stead—that he might supply in your place all the services to me which you, if you were here, would render in virtue of the love you bear to me (Phm 19).
bonds of the gospel—my bonds endured for the Gospel's sake (Phm 9).