William Burkitt Notes and Observations - Philemon 1:15 - 1:15

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William Burkitt Notes and Observations - Philemon 1:15 - 1:15

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Here our apostle answers an objection which possibly Philemon might make: Thus, "Onesimus ran away from me; what reason have I to receive him again?" The apostle seems thus to rely upon it: if his departing from thee was so managed by the wise and merciful providence of God, that it might be an occasion of thy receiving him again for ever, then, for all his departure thou oughtest to receive him. But verily thus it is, the wisdom of God has thus overruled the matter; he went from thee a fugitive, thievish and purloining; but he returns, a convert, a Christian, a brother in the faith, and as such to be entertained by thee, being doubly related to thee, both as a servant, and as a fellow-member of Christ.

Observe here, 1. The large extent, and next the overruling power, of the Divine Providence: its extent, it reaches not only to kingdoms and nations, but to families and persons, even to poor bond-slaves; a fugitive runs not from his service, but the providence of God eyes and observes it, nay wisely and mercifully overrules it.

Oh! the depth of divine knowledge and wisdom! the providence of God concerns itself, and has a hand in those actions of men which are sinful, without any blemish to his holiness; he concurs to the act but not to the alaxy and disorder of the action; he that rides a lame horse is the cause of his going, but not of his halting.

Observe, 2. The privilege of our spiritual conjunction in Christ above any other civil conjunction being effected by the bond of the Spirit, is indissoluble, it is for ever. Death itself cannot dissolve it, yea, it knits the knot faster: He departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever.

Observe, 3. That although Christianity doth not take away the degrees of persons, and the civil differences between man and man, yet it maketh us all equal and fellow-brethern in Christ. Receive him now, not barely as a servant, but above a servant, as a brother in Christ; you and he are now brethern by grace.

Learn hence, That religious servants are more than ordinary servants, they are brethren in Christ; and when humility, fidelity, and prudence are found with them, as they are more than ordinary servants, so God expects that we should give them more than ordinary respect; and we sin in denying it. O servants, would you have high respect showed to you? become then first humble servants to Jesus Christ, and then faithful and prudent servants where God has placed you, and you shall never want respect either from God or men: for them that honour God, he will honour.