I, Paul, write this with my own hand. I will repay it--not to mention that you owe me your very self.
have, but in what we are. All things, houses, estates, lands, are outside us. The self is all.
I. INDEBTEDNESS OF PHILEMON. Philemon owed his spiritual conversion, all the rich inheritance in the soul, to the ministry of Paul; and he delicately enough reminds him of this in an indirect form of speech, "Albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self." It is one of those touches which show what a true gentleman St. Paul was. There is more than claim of right to counsel him, viz. the modest reminder that, if need be, he would repay any loss that Philemon might have sustained through the detention by Paul of Onesimus.
II. EXPECTATION CONCERNING HIM. "Let me have joy of thee in the Lord." "Refresh me." What by? That which alone can rejoice the heart of a true father in the gospel, viz. Christ's own Spirit in Christ's disciples. The gospel was to be spread, not alone by eloquence or erudition, but by Christ's own religion alive and in action in all who confessed his Name. - W.M.S.
Written it with mine own hand
(Bp. Wm. Alexander.)whole Epistle was written with the apostle's own hand; rather it would seem that he made this engagement of repayment to be more emphatic and significant by distinguishing it from the rest of the Epistle, and by taking the pen from the hand of his secretary, and by inditing that particular clause with his own autograph, well known to Philemon.
(Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)
(W. Jones, D. D.)
1. It is a common proverb among us, fast bind, last find. That which is loosely bound is lightly lost; but a three-fold cord, well tied and twisted by word, by writing, by seal, is not easily broken. A word affirmeth, a writing confirmeth, a seal assureth, and everyone of them bindeth to confirm our promise. We see by daily experience that men are both mortal and mutable, and words prove oftentimes but wind, albeit ratified with the greatest solemnity. True it is, our word ought to be as good as a thousand obligations, but deceit is bred naturally in our hearts, so that we cannot ground upon the bare word of men to find good dealing. Otherwise, the Lord would never have given so many laws to restrain wrong and injustice, fraud, and oppression. All these, or at least a great part of them, are prevented by setting down our covenants and agreements in writing under our hands and seals.
2. It is needful to have this manner of dealing among us, to the end that equity and upright dealing might be observed among us, and that all occasions of wrangling and wresting of words and bargains might be cut off as with the sword of justice.
3. That all occasion of controversy and cousenage might be taken away. For if there were no writing to show (the memories of men being frail, and their practices being unfaithful) the world would be full of all loose dealings, and concord would be banished from among men.
4. Good assurance is to be allowed and received, to the end we may safely dispose of such things that are in our power and possession, either to our posterity or otherwise. Hence hath been in all ages, the laudable and commendable use of making wills and testaments, which the word of God approveth by delivering divers rules belonging to that profession. The law of God and of nature hath taught: that the will and testament of the dead ought not to be abrogated or altered; and that no will is of force until the testator be dead. Now we know not whether the gifts that we give, and the legacies that we bequeath, be of our own proper goods or the goods of other men, except we have beforehand a sufficient assurance of them made unto us. Seeing, therefore, where there is a fast knot, there is a sure keeping; seeing upright dealings is to be observed; seeing occasions of quarrels and contentions are to be stopped; and seeing the goods that God hath given unto us are rightly to be bestowed: it followeth that everyone is to provide for the security and quietness of his estate by all lawful means, not only by word of mouth, but by assurance in writing, that thereby he may foresee the danger that may come upon him and be wary and circumspect in all his doings, according to the saying of Christ, the Teacher and Author of true wisdom, "Be ye wise as serpents and innocent as doves. For if wisdom do season all our affairs, then also our contracts that are common in this life."
(R. Nisbet, D. D.)
Thou owest unto me even thine own self besides
(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. God is our Father who cares for us, and we therefore owe SUBMISSION TO HIS WILL when crosses and tribulation come. Tribulations borne with resignation shall mellow our nature, and be as a mould to fashion our character like unto Christ.
II. Do you not owe to yourself and to your fellow men the DOING OF DUTY? As the men who built Jerusalem, each repaired the wall before his door, so let us each do the duty that lies next us. We are not like the spectators in a theatre. We are the tragedians; we are the actors; daily life is our stage; Christ, and the angels, and our fellow men, are the spectators. Let us do our duty manfully, as Christ did. Do it because it is right; and remember that duty well done will honour us at the judgment day.
III. PAY YOUR DEBT OF RELIGION TO THE WORLD. When passing Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral, if I have a quarter of an hour to spare, I always enter the sacred building and walk reverently over the graves of the good men of the past, and while looking on their partly obliterated names, I am inspired by their example to pray that my life may also be beneficial to my fellow men. What can be grander than a life which exhibits true Christian religion! Cannot you make yours such a life? Is it not a debt you owe to your neighbour? Pay the debt by embodying in your life the eternal truth which Christ has given to the world.
1. They are most of all to be loved and highly esteemed of us that do us most good; we are most deeply indebted unto them that labour most for our benefit.
2. Again, they are unto us instead of Christ. They are His officers that He hath appointed in His Church, who, when He ascended into heaven, gave gifts unto men and ordained those that should teach His people unto the end of the world.
3. They are the ministers by whom we believe, and consequently by whom we are saved. They are our fathers in Christ, by whom we are begotten to eternal life. The uses arising from hence are of divers sorts.(1) It directeth us to other necessary truths to be learned of us, It is noted by the apostle to be one general use of the Scripture, that it serveth and sufficeth to teach all truth needful to salvation, so the former point being received will help us to find out and conclude other truths. First we learn that, wheresoever there is a true profession, a sound feeling, a true taste of religion, or joy of salvation, there will be a reverent account and joyful entertainment of the teachers and publishers of the gospel. On the other side, a light and slender account of the ministers argueth a light account of the word of Christ, of the doctrine of salvation, and of the trueness of religion. Thus then we see how we may prove ourselves whether we be in the faith or not, even by the good estimation that we have of such as are the bringers of it. Secondly, we may gather from hence that the greatest part of the world lieth deeply and dangerously in condemnation, because such hath been the unthankfulness thereof toward the ministers and messengers of salvation, that it never respected them or gave them any reverence.(2) As this doctrine serveth to teach, so it is profitable to reprove divers sorts of men; but I will only touch these three. First, it maketh against such as make a bad and base account of the ministers of God, and think they owe no duty to their pastors, but reckon them as their vassals and servants; suppose that they are bound to please them and follow their humours, and account their teachers beholden unto them for vouchsafing to hear them as crediting their ministry by their presence. If a man abuse an ambassador of a prince and set him at nought, it is reputed and revenged as a disgrace and dishonour done to the prince himself; so, if we shall abase and disgrace the ministers of the gospel, which are the messengers of God, we shall never escape without punishment, but bring upon ourselves swift damnation. Is not he a godless and ungracious child that mocketh and despiseth his father, after the example of cursed Shem, who tasted of God's wrath for his contempt? Lastly, it reproveth such as refuse to give them sufficient maintenance, and do bar them of that competent and convenient portion that God hath allotted unto them in His word. For, if such as have spent their strength to bring us unto God, ought above all others to be regarded of us and have a worthy recompense of their labours; surely they deserve to be checked and controlled that deal stingy toward them, who have kept back nothing from them, but revealed unto them the whole counsel of God. Thirdly, seeing the benefits brought unto us, both upon our bodies and souls, by the means of the ministry, can never be worthily esteemed and sufficiently expressed; it serveth to instruct us in the necessary duties of our obedience, even to testify our love to the truth by reverencing and respecting them that are the Lord's messengers to bring the truth unto our doors. Lastly, seeing they by whose ministry we are gained to God and preserved in the state of salvation being gained, ought to be most dear unto us, we owing unto them our own selves; this must teach the ministers of God a necessary duty and lesson to be marked of them, to wit, to endeavour by their daily diligence and continual preaching of the gospel, to make the people indebted unto them. For how do the people come so much in their debt but that they receive heavenly doctrine by their ministry as from the mouth of God? All men are not to be handled after one manner, but one after one manner, and another after another. He were a bad and mad physician that would use all his patients to one receipt. Some have gross humours in them, and stand in need to be purged; some more strongly, others more gently, according to their condition and constitution. Others have more need to have nature restored than purged, such must have cordials and restoratives ministered unto them. So it is with such as need physic for the soul.
I. OUR TRANSCENDENT DEBT. The Christian teacher may say to the soul which by his ministrations has been brought back to God and to peace in a very real sense: "Thou owest thyself to me." But I pass from that altogether to the consideration of the loftier thought that is here. It is a literal fact that all of you Christian people, if you are Christians in any real sense, do owe your whole selves to Jesus Christ. Does a child owe itself to its parent? And has not Jesus Christ, if you are His, breathed into you, by supernatural and real communication, a better life and a better self, so that you have to say, "I live, yet not I, but Jesus Christ liveth in me." And if that be so, is not your spiritual being, your Christian self, purely and distinctly a gift from Him? Does a man that is lying wrestling with mortal disease, and who is raised up by the skill and tenderness of his physician, owe his life to the doctor? Does a man that is drowning, and is dragged out of the river by some strong hand, owe himself to his rescuer? And is it not true that you and I were struggling with a disease which in its present form was mortal, and would very quickly end in death? Is it not true that all souls separated from God, howsoever they may secrete be living, are dead; and have not you been dragged from that living death by this dear Lord, so as that, if you have not perished, you owe yourselves to Him? Does a mad man who has been restored to self-control and sanity owe himself to the sedulous care of him that has healed him? And is it not true, paradox as it sounds, that the more a man lives to himself the less he possesses him. self; and that you have been delivered, if you are Christian men and women, from the tyranny of lust and passions, and from the abject servitude to the lower parts of your nature, and to all the shabby tyrants, in time and circumstance, that rob a man of himself; and have been set free and made sane and sober, and your own masters and your own owners, by Jesus Christ? To live to self is to lose self, and when we come to ourselves we depart from ourselves; and He that has enabled us to rule our own mutinous and anarchic nature, and to put will above passions, and tastes, and flesh, and conscience above will, and Christ above conscience, has given us the gift which we never had before of an assured possession of our own selves.
II. THE ALL-COMPREHENDING OBLIGATION BASED UPON THIS. If it be true that by the sacrifice of Himself Christ has given us ourselves, what then? Why, then, the only adequate response to that gill made ours at such cost to the giver, is to give ourselves back wholly to Him who gave Himself wholly to us. Christ can only buy me at the cost of Himself. Christ only wants myself when He gives Himself. In the sweet commerce of that reciprocal love which is the foundation of all blessedness, the only equivalent for a heart is a heart. As in our daily life, and in our sweet human affections, husband and wife, and parent and children, have nothing that they can barter the one with the other except mutual interchange of self; so Jesus Christ's great gift to me can only be acknowledged, adequately responded to, when I give myself to Him. And if I might for a moment dwell upon the definite particulars into which such an answer will expand itself, I might say this entire surrender of self will be manifested by the occupation of all our nature with Jesus Christ. He is meant to be the food of my mind as truth; He is meant to be the food of my heart as love; He is meant to be the Lord of my will as supreme Commander. Tastes, inclinations, faculties, hopes, memories, desires, aspirations, they are all meant as so many tendrils by which my many fingered spirit can twine itself round Him, and draw from Him nourishment and peace. Again, this entire surrender will manifest itself in the devotion of our whole being to His name and glory. Words easily spoken! words which, if they were truly transmuted into life by any of us, would revolutionise our whole nature and conduct! And further, this entire surrender of self will manifest itself in regard not only of our being and our acting, but of our having. I do not want to dwell upon this point at any length, but let me remind you, that a slave has no possessions of his own. And you and I, if we are our own owners, are so only because we are Christ's slaves. Therefore we have nothing. In the old bad days the slave's cottage, his little bits of chattels, the patch of garden ground with its vegetables, and the few coins that he might have saved by selling these, they all belonged to his master because he belonged to his master. And that is true about you and me, and our balance at our bankers', and our houses and our possessions of all sorts. We say we believe that; do we administer these possessions as if we did believe it?
III. THE REPAYMENT. Jesus Christ stops in no man's debt. There is an old story in one of the historical books of the Old Testament about people who, in the middle of a doubtful negotiation, were smitten by conscience and drew back from it. But one of them, with commercial shrewdness, remembered that a portion of their capital was already invested, and he says, "What shall we do for the thousand talents that we have given, and are now sacrificing at the bidding of conscience?" And the answer was: "The Lord is able to give thee much more than these." That is true of all sacrifices for Him. He has given us abundant wages beforehand. What we give is His before it was ours. It remains His when it is called ours. We but give Him back His own. There is really nothing to repay, yet He repays in a hundred ways. He does so by giving us a keen joy in the act of surrender. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Christ bestows ourselves upon ourselves that we may have some portion of that joy. And with it come other gladnesses. There is not only the joy of surrender and the enhanced possession of all which is surrendered, but there is the larger possession of Himself which comes always as the issue of a surrender of ourselves to Him. When we thus yield He comes into our souls.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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