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JUSTIN DENOUNCES THE DEMONS.
sophers, lovers of science, defenders of justice: do you merit these names? We shall see. We simply ask that you should inform yourselves regarding the charges made against us, and that if they be true we should be punished; but if they be false, right reason should prevent you from condemning the innocent on slanderous charges, and from hearing passion rather than justice.”
“I ask you, what is the proof of a man's guilt ? Is it his aame or his actions ? ' A man is accused of being a Christian; he denies that he is one ; you immediately set him at liberty, you have no fault to find with him. Another, on being accused, makes an open and honest declaration of his faith ; you immediately condemn him. In fact, we are only proscribed for our
Is it not rather the actions and life of these men that ought to be inquired into ?”
“ It is highly important to refer your conduct to its true cause, which I will now explain. In days of yore, evil demons appeared with deceitful forms; they corrupted women and children-they even struck men with stupefaction and awe, so that they no longer judged reasonably. And as, at this time, they did not know of the existence of these demons, they, in their ignorance, took them for gods, and worshipped them under the various names which each of them assumed. Socrates alone was inspired with true reason, and tried to turn men away from this horrible worship.' But the demons, by means of that corruption which they bad instilled in the hearts of men, succeeded in causing him to be put to death as an impious person and an atheist, accusing the great philosopher of having taught a belief in new and strange deities. At the present time the demons are making the same efforts against us; for it is not only among the Greeks that those great truths-emanating from the Word, and proclaimed by Socrates*-have been announced. They were also published among a barbarous nation; they were made known to us by the Word himself, in a visible human form, and named Jesus Christ. It is in him alone that we believe. The authors of so many impostures we declare to be evil demons—those perverse corruptors,
Justin seems here to elevate Socrates into an orthodox prophet,
MIRACLES OF SIMON AND MENANDER.
lower than the men whom they seduce, since men at least love virtue naturally. And for this we are called atheists; and atheists we are, indeed, if these be gods!”
In fact, the ever-recurring burthen of Justin's two Apologies is to the effect that these evil demons—the offspring of sinful amours between disobedient angels and the daughters of menare permitted to annoy the Christians, and to incite their persecutors, until the time when the designs of God will be finally accomplished. Thus, in his first Apology, he exposes the following disgraceful conduct of these inveterate enemies of God:“It was necessary for the devils to arrest the progress of Christianity; they had recourse to another device. They resuscitated two men, Samaritans, Simon and Menander; and these by miracles seduced a multitude of persons, whose eyes are not yet opened. The wonders which Simon did in the middle of Rome, in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, excited the admiration of the senate and people to such a degree, that they took him for a God, and raised statues to him, like those false divinities whom you adore. Be so good, great prince and august senate, to make this inquiry, and examine with care. Those among you who are yet imbued with the doctrine of Simon will soon leave your errors, by favour of the torch of truth which we place before your eyes. But begin, if you please, by knocking down his statue.”
In this Apology, Justin makes a short attack on idolatry and Pagan customs, explains some of the Christian doctrines, and the moral precepts of Christ, to show that he and his brethren were not the impious wretches they had been falsely represented to be, and ends with an interesting description of some Christian customs and religious ceremonies, which had been transformed by the slanderous reports of pagan priestcraft and bigotry into incestuous and cannibal practices.
The occasion of Justin's writing his second Apology was the martyrdom of three Christians in Rome, by order of Urbicus, the prefect of the city. He appeals to the emperor and senate to protect the Christians from such unjust persecution, and defends his fellow-believers from the sneering reproaches and calumnious charges which were popularly cast upon them. He again declares
JUSTIN'S WONDERFUL CONVERSION.
the misfortunes of the Christians to be caused by the machinations of demons, permitted by God to be successful for a time; and warns the Roman government from being led away by their infernal temptations any longer.
In Justin's dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, he gives an account of his own conversion from Paganism to Christianity, which appears to have been an event of a very mysterious, if not miraculous nature. Justin had studied in the schools of Stoic, Peripatetic, and Pythagorean philosophy, and in none of them could his mind find ease. The ignorance of the first, the avarice of the second, and the delay caused by the strict preliminary application to mathematics required by the Pythagoreans, disgusted him with their schools without destroying his thirst for knowledge. There now only remained the philosophy of Plato. Justin studied with ardour, and made astonishing progress; he was carried away by the mysticism of the Platonic doctrines, fled from the haunts of men, and passed some time in solitary contemplation in the wilderness. One day, when he thought himself quite alone, he suddenly perceived a venerable old man, with silver hair and an aspect of wisdom and benevolence, standing near him. A conversation ensued, and when the old man had succeeded in exposing the weakness and vanity of philosophy, and the heavenly origin of Christianity, he disappeared, and was never again seen by his convert.
In this dialogue with Trypho, the Jew of Corinth, Justin Martyr adduces the miracles of Christ as proofs of his anthority, and quotes largely from the Jewish scriptures passages which he considers to be exactly prophetical of the nature and objects of these miracles. He lays particular stress on the frequent expulsion of devils by Christ and by the Christians in his name; but he says that a demon would probably obey if adjured by a Jew in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Athenagoras, about the year 180, addressed his Apology to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, to deprecate the execution of some persecuting edicts which had just been issued against the Christians, and his arguments closely resemble those of Justin Martyr.
Minucius Felix, about twenty years later, wrote a defence of
CHRISTIANS, AT FIRST, PREACH TOLERATION ;
Christianity, in the form of a dialogue between a Heathen and a Christian. He refutes the odious calumnies cast upon the worshippers of Jesus by their pagan adversaries, and at the same time ridicules the absurdities of polytheism, and the vain pretensions of heathen philosophy. He seems to have a more intimate acquaintance with the natural history of devils than Justin, with whom he agrees in imputing the misfortunes of Christians to the mischief-making propensities of these fallen angels. He gives a long detailed account of the miraculous deeds performed by them, and of the horrors, delusions, diseases and misery which in all ages they have been permitted to inflict upon the unfortunate human race.
About this time, Hermias wrote his “ Derision of the Gentile Philosophers,” which displays great powers of sarcasm and irony, and a sufficient amount of stolid bigotry, and distrust of inquiry into natural causes, to show us that such qualities were no more wanting in the primitive Church than in the better-known ages of Papal power.
The Apology of the celebrated Tertullian, who was first a Catholic and then a Montanist, was written two or three years before the year 200, and the case is argued with considerable wit and force. He demonstrates the injustice of persecution for religion; and in another of his works, an address to the Proconsul Seapula, written in the reign of Caracalla, he makes an avowal of admirable principles. “It ought,” he says, “to be left to the free choice of men to embrace that religion which seems to them most agreeable to truth. No one is injured or benefited by another man's religion; it is not an act of religion to force religion, which ought to be adopted spontaneously, and not by compulsion."
When Tertullian speaks thus, and when Justin asks that “the life and actions” of his brethren shall be inquired into, and that they shall not be condemned for their name only,” they ask all that Rationalists and freethinkers demand in the present day. But these arguments in favour of perfect freedom and perfect toleration, which are found in all the early Apologies, disappear from Christian writings after the commencement of the reign of Constantine, when imperial protection secured for the Church the
ANON, FRAUD. AND PERSECUTION.
peaceful and publio exercise of its ceremonies and the right of undisturbedly propagating the faith throughout the Roman world. “In the fourth century,” says Mosheim, "multitudes were drawn inte the profession of Christianity, not by the powers of conviction and arguments, but by the prospect of gain and the fear of punishmeat."
“ At this period,” says the same impartial historian, two monstrous errors were almost universally adopted. The first of these was, that it was an act of virtue to deceive and lie, when by that means the interest of the Church might be promoted. And the second-equally horrible, though in another point of view—was that errors in religion, when maintained and adhered to after proper admonition, were punishable with civil penalties and corporeal torture.” 6. The former of these erroneous maxims was now of a long standing; it had been adopted for some ages past, and had produced an incredible number of ridiculous fables, fictitious prodigies, and pious frauds, to the unspeakable detriment of that glorious cause in which they were employed. And it must be frankly confessed, that the greatest men and the most eminent saints of this century were more or less tainted with this corrupt principle."
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, has the credit of having been the first writer in favour of that detestable doctrine, the justice and expediency of torturing and killing heretics; but the other still more abominable and dangerous error was of much more ancient origin. “ In the second century,” says Mosheim,“ the Christians were infected with the pernicious error that it was not only lawful, but even praiseworthy, to deceive, and even to use the expedient of a lie, in order to advance the cause of truth and piety. The Jews who lived in Egypt had learned and received this maxim from the Platonists and Pythagoreans before the coming of Christ,t as appears incontestible from a number of ancient records."I
It is therefore certain that pious frauds and pious falsehoods * Moshiem's Ecclesiastical History, cent, iv., part ii., chap. 3. + The italics are mine.
Mosheim : Eccles, Hist., cent. ii., part ii., chap. 3.