Abbildungen der Seite

Mediator whose blood alone could extinguish the sense of sin, but as the goal of a long series of intellectual aspirations, originating (as they would say) in that secret seminal light of the Logos spermaticus by which every soul is naturaliter Christiana ; leading them through the Prophets, in whom the Logos more directly uttered the Divine will; and bringing them finally to the New Testament, in which the Logos incarnate Himself speaks, and responds to every desire of the human soul. But, by whatever process they came to Him, His discipline was the same for them as for others. If the inquiry of the intellect was their original impulse, that inquiry was not satisfied till their hearts were humbled. If the Prophets brought them, they were sent back to the Law, from the threatenings of which alone the Prophets had predicted a Deliverer. The sense of sin, which their ascetic philosophy had not suffered to goad their consciences, was awakened by His word and His Spirit : they found rest for their wearied minds only by finding rest for their troubled hearts. The issue was the same to them as to others : their personal Christianity was the common fellowship of the Spirit. This one and unalterable Christian experience shines in all their pages; but it is at the same time impossible not to perceive that their earliest schoolmaster left a peculiar and indelible tinge upon all their Christian phraseology.

After his conversion, (but how long we know not,) Justin left the land of his birth, and entered upon a course of travels and labours which terminated only with his life. It is not probable that he took orders : had that been the case, tradition, or his own declaration, would have preserved the fact. Moreover, such an ecclesiastical position would not have been consistent with the philosophical pallium which he never threw off, or with the wandering and irregular character of his labours in the service of Christianity. But no ordination could have increased his zeal and fidelity. All his time was the Lord's: in His service he wandered up and down the Roman empire, teaching, writing, founding schools, and making disciples ; disputing with all kinds of enemies, and doing a large amount of good which has found but a slender record in earthly annals. Traces of him are found in Alexandria ; in Ephesus he conducted his celebrated Dialogue with Trypho the Jew ; Rome he visited twice, on each occasion tarrying long, and on the latter establishing the Christian school which gave birth to Tatian, and, we may hope, to many a worthier disciple. There also he published one at least of his two immortal “Apologies ;" and there he sealed his fidelity by martyrdom, after about thirty years of indefatigable toil.

This slight sketch of a Christian career opens a very interesting glimpse into the religious activity of the second century ;-a kind of activity peculiar to this and the next age, of which Justin the philosopher may be regarded as the appropriate type. The canonical Scriptures not being complete,-or, if complete, not having yet bad time to mould the Christian society, its ministry, and usages, into the absolute organization which afterwards distinguished the church,there was much Jatitude in the second century, perhaps more than is generally allowed, for free and unregulated activity. Justin was only one among many who yielded themselves to the unrestrained impulse of the Spirit, to send them whithersoever He would send them. He was not the messenger of any church ; his philosopher's cloak concealed no priestly or diaconal vestments. Wherever he might be, he joined the Christian company, and taught all who might gather round him for instruction. He was an itinerant evangelist ; but could give no other account of bis call than this, that his Master's service was his only object in life, and that in his view the course he adopted was most likely to promote it. Yet, withal, Justin's first Apology shows that the church, with her sacraments and institutions, was to him not only an object of reverential love, but of rigid, dogmatic faith. It was a time of transition ; and a multitude of spontaneous agencies were at work, which we find, so soon as the next century, brought under the strict and firm supervision of the church.

But Justin's ecclesiastical importance is mainly derived from his apologetic writings. These place him at the head of Christian apologists :-first, as being the earliest which are preserved in their integrity; and, secondly, as being the models after which subsequent defenders of the Christian cause moulded their writings.

After the pastoral writings of the apostolical Fathers, the Apology is the earliest type of uninspired Christian literature ; and Justin is the earliest representative of the Apology. It is true that he was not absolutely the first who pleaded the cause of Christianity before the tribunal of Heathenism ; but his were the first writings of this class which had inherent vigour enough to secure their transmission to posterity. A quarter of a century before, Quadratus and Aristides had presented to the Emperor Hadrian the first Christian protests against injustice : but these, with the exception of a few sentences which have floated down to us, have perished. This was a species of service thoroughly suited to Justin's character-impassioned, honest, and fearless ; moreover, his philosophical studies had given him a taste for dialectical pleading; and, lastly, the reputation of Antoninus for proficiency in the most dignified and righteous of all systems of philosophy would naturally encourage him to approach such an Emperor in the attitude of an advocate. Hence, not many years after his conversion, be published his first Apology, addressed to the Emperor, bis heirs, and the Senate and people of Rome.

This Apology, notwithstanding its early date, is, down to its sentences and words, one of the least contested remains of Christian antiquity. It commences with a long and earnest appeal to the justice of the Emperor and Government against the cruelty of their subordinates, who destroyed Christians because of their name. This is conducted with a happy union of respect for the earthly Sovereign and fidelity to the Lord of heaven. “ We desire a fair trial, and no favour : if we are guilty, punish us ; if we are innocent, protect us. We do not desire you to punish our defamers: their own ignorance and wickedness is punishment enough."--The whole of the protest is consistent with this noble sentence. The persecutors of Christianity

- We

are assured that they are striving to injure an immortal cause. are slain, crucified, cast to wild beasts, bound with chains, tortured, and burnt : yet we are not only faithful to our professiou, but we multiply. The more we are persecuted, the more are added to our numbers. As a vine, by being pruned and cut close, puts forth new shoots, and bears a greater abundance of fruit, so is it with us who are the vine which God and His Christ bave planted.” But the Apology soon rises to a luminous statement of the Christian doctrine, and vindicates the worship of One who had been crucified, by all the arguments which a Christian convert from philosophy would be likely to use. Interwoven, however, with these arguments are many others which show that Justin's aim was to publish something more than a mere defence. The calumnies which were everywhere circulated as to the secret assemblies of the Christians are indignantly repelled ; but, at the same time, a calm and rational account is given of Christian worship in all its parts. Pains are evidently taken to render the exbibition of Christianity complete.

The effect of the Apology has been variously estimated. The more probable account is, that it was fruitless as to obtaining any effectual relief. The Emperor's cold Rescripts were insufficient to check the capricious fury of his subordinates in distant parts ; and, with all his philosophical dignity and philanthropy, Antoninus Pius despised the Christians, and resented their bold defiance of the religion of the empire. But, whatever may have been the controversial value of Justin's arguments, his honest and intelligent vindication of the morals and usages of his fellow-worshippers must have had a good effect upon all unprejudiced minds. His defence of the purity of Christian morals must have been irresistible ; none could read his earnest document without feeling an impulse to inquire further and judge for himself.

Many years afterwards, Justin came forward once more as the advocate of Christianity. Marcus Aurelius was then Emperor : to him and the Senate of Rome the second Apology was addressed, on occasion of the unhappy sacrifice of Christian life in the city of Rome, The philosophical Emperor probably did not read, or weigh very attentively, the protest of one who was an apostate from Stoicism. He was entirely under the influence of the philosophers, who spared no pains to deepen his contempt for the Christian cause. With all his affectation of sublime self-government, and with all his unquestiopable excellence in other respects, he dealt ungenerously with his Christian subjects, and their enlightened and honest spokesman. It was his duty, both as a philosopher and as an Emperor, to read the Apologies addressed to him. If he did not read them, he betrayed his trust. If he did, it must have been in the spirit of blind prejudice ; for we find him in his " Meditations " extolling a stoical indifference to death, “but not through mere ostentation as do the Christians, but consistently, and with dignity, and without theatrical display." The triple infamy of Polycarp's death in Smyrna, the martyrdoms in Gaul, and Justin's sacrifice in Rome, rests upon the

old age of the great philosophical Emperor, and will for ever plead mightily against the adulation of history.

Justin's writings against Marcion and the Gnostic heresies were composed in the spirit of apologies for the Christian faith ; but not a vestige of these writings remains.

The “Dialogue with Trypho," however, has been preserved, as a specimen of the manner in which he maintained the defence of Christianity against the Jews. This third class of the church's enemies was, perhaps, the most malignant. The persecutions of the Heathens were intermitting; the heretical sects were in a great measure on the defensive; but the Jewish opponents of the faith were constant in their virulent animosity. They daily cursed the name of Jesus in their synagogues ; and, in Palestine, their enmity was not limited to curses. The sufferings of the Christians through the instigation of Bar-Cochab and his adherents were but the culmination of an incessant series of tribulations which the Jews brought upon these apostates from Judaism in their own land.

The war sent multitudes of Jews to the west; and among the rest Trypho, a philosophical Jew of some eminence. He fell in with Justin at Ephesus: they accosted each other as philosophers ; but the discourse soon deepened into a contest between the Christian and the Jew. The Dialogue, as preserved by Justin, bears every mark of being a free report of a real conversation ; though it is evident that it was also intended to be a general exposition of the relation between Judaism and Christianity.

The Dialogue has all the merits, and all the defects, of Justin's other writings. There are in it occasional gleams of genius. “ It was foretold of you,” he says to Trypho, " that you should be as the sand of the sea-shore; and so indeed you are : if as numerous, as barren likewise, and as unfruitful of all that is good; ever ready to receive the refreshing dew and rain of heaven, and never willing to make any return.” Its clear statement of the Divinity of Christ has made this Dialogue a stumblingblock to Unitarians from the beginning; but sometimes, as in the attempt to illustrate the procession of the Word, the philosopher exposes himself to needless danger. There is much sound interpretation of the Old Testament, but much also that is upsound and fanciful. Trypho does not seem to have been a very bigoted Jew; and the disputants parted on very good terms.

Upon this one Dialogue, and the two Apologies, Justin's literary character rests. In the earlier ages, they were, perhaps, rated too highly; but that has not been the tendency of modern criticism. To estimate them aright, it should be remembered—and the remark applies to many of the early Fathers—that his Christian studies were a second education of mature life. He was not trained to a sound understanding of the ancient and modern sacred writings. His credulity might be extenuated, as a necessary accident of the time and circumstances of his life ; but, if we take away those proofs of credulity which we should be inclined rather to regard as marks of an unsophisticated faith, and those which (like Simon's statue) simply

involve error of information, there will remain little, besides his quotation of the Sibylline oracles, to sustain the charge. Even if it be admitted that his works are wanting in the highest qualities necessary for aggression and demonstration, it cannot be denied that as apology and defence they are as nearly as possible perfect.

It would not, however, be doing full justice to our subject, were we not to regard Justin in his representative character among the Fathers generally. Had all that he indisputably wrote been preserved, and preserved unmutilated, this would have been an easier task. The body of his works would, in that case, have been increased fourfold; and, if we may rely upon the testimonies of his immediate successors, its value also would have been greatly increased. He himself refers to a large treatise, unhappily lost, which was no less than a “ Digest and Confutation of all Heresies." A fragment is still preserved of a treatise on the Resurrection of the Body, which in the eighth century was attributed to Justin ; nor is there any valid reason for denying his authorship. An elaborate work against Marcion, which he undoubtedly wrote, has been lost; and its loss is always regretted by those who study the Gnosticism of the second century. He also brought an immense amount of classical learning to bear upon some other topics ; though only the names of bis essays remain, to excite our regret. These embraced a wide range of subjects :—including Psaltery; the Nature of the Soul ; the Unity of God; an Oration, and also an Appeal, to the Greeks; a treatise de Universo ; and even an Exposition of the Apocalypse. Had all these been preserved, Justin's name as a dogmatic theologian would rank much higher than it does; and the little company of writers who derived their secondary inspiration from the Apostles themselves would scarcely have disputed his claim to be the first of the Fathers. As it is, his title to it is very fairly established.

His character as a writer, however, does not depend upon the imputation of lost works : those which remain claim for him a high order of excellence, while they prove him to have been far below the highest. He was thoroughly acquainted with the ancient philosophical systems; but he does not display a profound insight into their relations to Christianity. This theme runs through his writings, but his treatment of it is superficial. Sometimes it might appear that his views laid too much stress upon the development of philosophy in Christianity, too little upon its Divine facts as a redemption. His doctrine of the Logos, as he applies it to the solution of all the mysteries of man's past history, and to the reconciliation of ancient philosophy with the revelation of Christ, bas in it a certain grandeur ; but its indistinctness made it dangerous. It did not retard, if it did not encourage, that progress of opinion which issued in Neo-Platonism. He displays an astonishing familiarity with the ancient Scriptures, but in many places betrays a deep iguorance of the Hebrew, the language of the country in which he was born. With his generally faithful exposition of the Old Testament there is mingled much that is fauciful and forced ; showing that, though St. Paul undoubtedly was his

« ZurückWeiter »