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JUSTIN MARTYR, AND HIS TIMES.* THERE are certain departments of knowledge which seem to be the monopoly of a few. In our very busy age, when every one in his own sphere is moving at the greatest speed, the multitude have but little opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the men of other days, though these may have occupied the most important positions, and by their labours laid us under the heaviest obligation. We live in the enjoyment of our advantages, and appropriate the fruit of their energy, fidelity, and zeal, without troubling ourselves even about the names of our benefactors. The inspired records preclude our ignorance of many of the Lord's chosen instruments for the spread and perpetuation of His truth. St. Luke's brief account of early Christian progress is in the hands of the humblest among us, thanks to the grand movement of the sixteenth century, which broke the seal that a crafty hierarchy had placed upon the word of God; and by his simple but matchless annals we are made almost intimately acquainted with the bigh endowments, the quenchless zeal, and the marvellous success of the Apostle of the Gentiles. And in those inspired letters, which St. Paul in particular wrote, we are furnished with the names of many of his fellow-soldiers in the sacred conflict. Few of us inquire what became of these men. But our ignorance of their history gives a great advantage to the sceptic, who is bold enough to intimate that the documents which contain their names, and from which we have learned the way of salvation, are little beyond an ingenious appropriation of the myths of a prior antiquity. True successors of the apostles were these honoured men; and nobly they sustained their part in the church's early struggles. It appears that the first person who presided over the church of Rome, after the martyrdom of the apostles, was Linus, whom St. Paul mentions in his Epistle from Rome to Timothy : "Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” Clement, whom the apostle recognises, in writing to the Philippians, speaking of "Clement also,” and “other” bis “fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life," was the third in the succession to that important charge. "Dionysius the Areopagite," who was awakened by the preaching of St. Paul at Athens, is said to have
Among the authorities used in preparing this article, the principal are Eusebius; (iv. 8–18 ;) Neander, Vols. i., ii. ; Guericke ; Kurtz ; Life and Times of Justin Martyr, by Semisch ; Dr. Gaussen on the Caron ; and Dr. Cunningham's “ Historical Theology," Vol. i.-See also an article in this Magazine, for January, 1859.
VOL. X.-FIFTH SERIES.
been the first who presided over the church in that ancient queen of cities. All these were men who lived, and acted, and died, in the service of God and the church. Little is generally known of those who are honoured with the designation of “apostolic fathers.” Well would it be for us, if the stirring events in which they took so prominent a part, and which are full of interest, were studied in place of much of the light and fictitious literature which now assumes to teach the duties of life in the most captivating form. In the truthful records of the past, examples of virtue and self-sacrificing love abound, from which all may draw lessons of manly fortitude in suffering, of unfaltering friendship in the crisis of danger, and of loyalty to principle, eren when it involved “the loss of all things."
In this paper, we propose to give some account of a man who occupied a singular position in early church-history. The constancy of his faith, and his ultimate sacrifice of life in the cause of ibe blessed Saviour, have secured to him, by universal consent, the most honourable title of “Martyr.” When Justin embraced Christianity, the last surviving of the apostles had gone to his reward ; and most of the men who bad enjoyed the advantage of personal intercourse with any of the illustrious Twelve, had also finished their allotted work. He appeared at a very important time, which may be properly regarded as one of transition. Wbile apostles lived, their authority and teaching, if not unquestioned, were paramount in the churches which they had founded ; and it is not surprising if their immediate successors too were regarded with an almost mysterious reverence. When apostolic voices were silenced by the sword of persecution, the providence of God introduced a man in many respects remarkably adapted to the occasion. His education and culture freed him from all superstitious regard to merely human authority; and his thorough honesty prepared him to receive implicitly what he believed to be the teaching of the Divine oracles. His influence on his own age was considerable ; and he stands, to our view, midway between the weakness and jejune mysticism of some who take rank among the "apostolic fathers,” and the theological degeneracy of the succeeding century. There is no companion-figure to Justin in that carly period. He appears as a scholar, and a man of free thought, in comparison with his immediate predecessors; and as an earnest biblical Christian, in comparison with too many who came after him.
Let honourable mention be made, in passing, of Clement of Rome; a man of sound understanding, and of truly primitive spirit, whose Epistle to the Corinthians “is to be regarded as” presenting to us "the earliest genuine remains of Christian antiquity." Though it may not have entirely escaped the mischievous hand of the interpolator, it is still worthy of one who had held intercourse with the apostles of the Lord. In his endeavour to allay the dissensions existing in the church of Corinth, he is especially anxious about the state of heart prevailing among the flock, while, with commendable prudence, he upholds the just authority of the appointed pastors. The brief remains of Polycarp are held precious, though they possess little intrinsic value beyond “bearing testimony, directly and indirectly, to the leading facts of Christianity, and to the general reception of the books of Scripture." The anonymous Epistle to Diognetus is distinguished by greater internal worth, and supplies a masterly answer to the question,—"Why am I a Christian ?" It must have been written by a person of much more than ordinary refinement,--not improbably, a convert from the most bighly educated ranks of heathenism.
It is of some importance to take a general view of the state of the church during Justin's time, in order rightly to estimate his character and bis work. Christianity appeared as a power of spiritual regeneration among men, accomplishing in every case, when truly embraced, an extraordinary change in the inner nature, and in the whole external life. It was a Divine leaven, which brought all into harmony with itself. Against it all the learning, wealth, and power of the world were soon arrayed in open and deadly hostility. Of secular inducements to accept it, there were truly none. The success which attended it, nevertheless, filled its opponents with astonishment and dismay. Under its inexplicable power, multitudes willingly “suffered the loss of all things,” and, utterly destitute, appeared consciously the wealthier, and immeasurably the happier. Those early conversions were, in the main, both genuine and distinct. The change which passed upon the primitive disciples, in contrast with their former license and idolatry, was both patent and signal. The line of demarkation between the old world and the new was broadly traced. Everywhere communities of men appeared, whose purity of life, and fraternal love, altogether beyond question, constitnited them lights in the midst of a dense moral darkDess. It would betray an oblivion of human nature, as well as of some monitory texts of holy writ, to suppose that there were no "spots in the primitive "feasts of charity.” The discipline of the Christians was, not withstanding, simple and severe. It required an uncompromising renunciation of former sinful practices, and the cultivation of the things that are pure and lovely. They watched over each other with brotherly jealousy and tenderness. While marriage was esteemed “honourable in all,” its sacred vows were maintained. The family was conformed to the Christian model. The pleasures of sin, and of the old heathen regime, were not only renounced, but loathed. The claims of the civil magistrate were freely recognised; but his attempts to violate conscience and Christian freedom were resisted to the last extremity. They accepted the teaching of their Divine Master with unquestioning submission ; seeking to "render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” So writes Justin :-" Tribute and custom we above all others are everywhere ready to pay to your appointed officers, as our Master has taught us. We pray to God alone; but you we cheerfully serve in all other things, since we acknowledge you as rulers of men.”
On these general principles they were all agreed : but the application of them sometimes involved considerable difficulty.
It was often almost impossible to distinguish between the elements which were merely civil or social, and those which were religious. The origin and first connexion of many things, which had sprung from a
heathen religious source, had "faded away from the popular consciousness." While Christianity was intended to purify and ennoble all that was right in human relations and institutions, it was not easy to decide in every case what might be received into association with it, and thus freed from impure admixture, and what must be utterly rejected. Some things not essentially wrong might appear so to the newly saved, from their old connexion with the vices of the heathen world. Hence arose questions of extreme delicacy, requiring for their decision much practical wisdom, as well as stern fidelity. Different opinions prevailed, according to the mental constitution of leaders and converts in the church ; and the whole subject was coloured, to the popular eye, as prominence was given to the assimilative or to the aggressive power of Christianity. Comparatively few combined the deep Christian earnestness, with the scientific clearness of judgment, which the adoption of the assimilative process demanded. The great body of sincere Christians recoiled from any association with heathenism. In the glow of their first love, they regarded all their former customs and habits with the sterbest reprobation. The conscience of the church resembles that of the individual
, and must pass through a similar course of training. “In the development of the Christian life, the extreme aggressive element must, naturally, first predominate." This is not only natural, but safe. The spirit of accommodation, if prematurely admitted, almost inevitably leads to unworthy compromise.
It has been intimated, that the discipline of the church was setere. All who relapsed into their former sins, or yielded to the ordeal of persecution, were subjected to numerous acts of penitential humiliation; and it was only after a long and painful process that they were restored to confidence, and to a place in the holy brotherhood. The light within the church was clear and strong; but the way of approach was strait. The social relation of men was then a question, as of deep interest, 80 of peculiar difficulty. The Saviour had distinctly proclaimed the unity of the race, and the dignity of the individual man. The sinful condition of all He traced to one and the same source; and the highest freedom was offered to the most abject, equally with the purpled emperor. The deep consciousness of the church felt this, and responded. The slave became a Christian, and a spiritually free man; but he who claimed absolute proprietorship in him remained a heathen, and a slave to sin. The right of personal freedom was not disputed, even for a moment; but the church had no political commission. Strong in their belief of the regenerating power of their religion, the converts calmly submitted to present wrong, fully convinced that the new spirit and principles would penetrate every order of society, and achieve a victory of universal
: emancipation by the prior victory of individual conversion. There were many who, with an intelligent appreciation of what is inalienably due to man, meekly endured the yoke, in anticipation of future relief by the aggressive power of their religion.
The case of a professedly Christian state is widely different. For a government which pretends to recognise the teaching of Christ and His apostles as Divine, and therefore authoritative, to make and retain laws which rivet the iron upon the necks of fellow-men, is an inconsistency which ought not to be endured for an hour. The advocacy of slavery, amid the light of this age, is an unaccountable outrage, and one that proclaims the infatuating power of human selfishness. In answer to a plea of wbich some make much, let a single word suffice. He who is so demoralized as to enslave his fellows, or willingly to hold them in bonds, has sunk to a depth at which compassionate feelings may not be expected to flourish. He may cherish something like kindness toward his beast; but he can hardly entertain such a sentiment toward his brother-man of whom he has attempted to make a brate. The lurking sense of wrong-doing, which cannot be wholly quenched in the heart of the worst, will keep up a constant asperity within him, impelling him to enforce his assumed right by severity ; and he will not seem to apologize for his usurpation by superfluous kindness.
The church of early times rejoiced in its newly-awakened feeling of brotherhood. The Saviour's “new commandment,” that His disciples should “love one another," was freely obeyed from the spontaneous impulse of a new nature. The spirit of the Pentecostal believers, who " had all things common," was to some extent applied in the regulation of their internal affairs. By stated contributions they ministered to the necessities of the distressed, of widows, and of orphans. The stranger was cheerfully embraced, and made a partaker of their hospitality. On occasions of general calamity, distant churches hastened to give practical expression to their sympathy, by acts of substantial generosity, which were often performed at the cost of much sacrifice. Captives were ransomed, in testimony of an inward sense of the universal brotherhood. A new community had arisen, baptized with the long-lost spirit of love, which stood forth in striking contrast to the cowardly avarice of the surrounding world. While this company of brothers joyfully performed the duties of their new-born relation, the proud and wealthy cities of heathenism, with all their learning, their poetry and eloquence, their philosophy and politics, their marble palaces and temples, had no refuge for the destitute, no home for the orphan, no hospital for the afflicted. Justin could fearlessly say, in one of his "Apologies, "-" We, who were once slaves of lust, bare now delight only in purity of morals; we, who once practised arts of magic, have consecrated ourselves to the eternal God. We, who once prized gain abore all things, now give even all that we have to the common use, and share it with every one that is in want. We, who once bated and murdered one another, and on account of difference of customs would not share our hearth with strangers, do now, since the appearance of Christ, live in common with them. We pray for our enemies ; We seek to teach them who hate us without cause, so to order their lives according to Christ's glorious doctrine, that they may hold the joyful hope of receiving like blessings with us from God, the Lord of all."
The church of those times had a more just appreciation of its relntion to the world, than we find in the centuries immediately succeeding.