Here are several arguments used by our apostle, why Philemon should receive Onesimus into his service again.
1. Because St. Paul had sent him for that end a long and tedious journey from Rome to Colosse, and because he came with the apostle's commendary letters, and in his name. We are not easily to reject those that come to us countenanced and encouraged with the commendations of the reverend and faithful ministers of God.
In the close of the first argument, at the foot of the twelfth verse, observe the endearing title he gives Onesimus, he calls him, his own bowels; Receive him that is my own bowels.
O Lord! certainly there is no stronger love, nor more endearing and endeared affection, between any relations upon earth, than between the ministers of the gospel and such of their beloved people whom they have been happily instrumental to beget unto thyself! How inexpressibly dear is the soul of a poor servant to a faithful minister of Christ, and how lovely when once converted!
Receive him, for he is as dear to me as if he had proceeded out of my own bowels.
Again, another argument is this: St. Paul sends him, because he was another's servant, even Philemon his friend; and being very serviceable to the apostle, he would have gladly detained him; but could not satisfy himself to do it, without Philemon's consent. Masters have such a right to their servants, and such a right unto their service, that they are not to be disposed of without their own consent. St. Paul, though he wanted, yet would not detain Onesimus, though a fugitive servant, without Philemon's knowledge; Christian religion is no destroyer, but an establisher, of civil right. Onesimus's conversion to Christianity gave him no manumission and liberty from Philemon's service, and accordingly our apostle remits and sends him back to his old master Philemon.