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Justin on the Sole Government of God.1

Justin on the Sole Government of God.1

[Translated by the Rev. G. Reith, M.a.]


Although human nature at first received a union of intelligence and safety to discern the truth, and the worship due to the one Lord of all, yet envy, insinuating the excellence of human greatness, turned men away to the making of idols; and this superstitious custom, after continuing for a long period, is handed down to the majority as if it were natural and true. It is the part of a lover of man, or rather of a lover of God, to remind men who have neglected it of that which they ought to know. For the truth is of itself sufficient to show forth, by means of those things which are contained under the pole of heaven, the order [instituted by] Him who has created them. But forgetfulness having taken possession of the minds of men, through the long-suffering of God, has acted recklessly in transferring to mortals the name which is applicable to the only true God; and from the few the infection of sin spread to the many, who were blinded by popular usage to the knowledge of that which was lasting and unchangeable. For the men of former generations, who instituted private and public rites in honour of such as were more powerful, caused forgetfulness of the Catholic2 faith to take possession of their posterity; but I, as I have just stated, along with a God-loving mind, shall employ the speech of one who loves man, and set it before those who have intelligence, which all ought to have who are privileged to observe the administration of the universe, so that they should worship unchange-ably Him who knows all things. This I shall do, not by mere display of words, but by altogether using demonstration drawn from the old poetry in Greek literature,3 and from writings very common amongst all. For from these the famous men who have handed down idol-worship as law to the multitudes, shall be taught and convicted by their own poets and literature of great ignorance.

First, then, Aeschylus,4 in expounding the arrangement of his work,5 expressed himself also as follows respecting the only God:-

But he was not the only man initiated in the knowledge of God; for Sophocles also thus describes the nature of the only Creator of all things, the One God:-

And Philemon also, who published many explanations of ancient customs, shares in the knowledge of the truth; and thus he writes:-

Even Orpheus, too, who introduces three hundred and sixty gods, will bear testimony in my favour from the tract called Diathecae, in which he appears to repent of his error by writing the following:-

He speaks indeed as if he had been an eyewitness of God's greatness. And Pythagoras6 agrees with him when he writes:-

Then verily he is a god proclaimed."

Then further concerning Him, that He alone is powerful, both to institute judgment on the deeds performed in life, and on the ignorance of the Deity [displayed by men], I can adduce witnesses from your own ranks; and first Sophocles,7 who speaks as follows:-

And Philemon9 again:-

And Euripides:10 -

For him the due reward of punishment."

And that God is not appeased by the libations and incense of evil-doers, but awards vengeance in righteousness to each one, Philemon11 again shall bear testimony to me:-

And God, close by you, sees whate'er you do."

Again, Plato, in Timaeus,12 says: "But if any one on consideration should actually institute a rigid inquiry, he would be ignorant of the distinction between the human and the divine nature; because God mingles many13 things up into one, [and again is able to dissolve one into many things, ] seeing that He is endued with knowledge and power; but no man either is, or ever shall be, able to perform any of these."

But concerning those who think that they shall share the holy and perfect name, which some have received by a vain tradition as if they were gods, Menander in the Auriga says:-

The same Menander, in the Sacerdos, says:-

And yield a laughing-stock unto the age."

Again, the same Menander, stating his opinion about those who are received as gods, proving rather that they are not so, says:-

And in the Depositum:-

And Euripides the tragedian, in Orestes, says:-

The same also in Hippolytus:-

And in Ion:-

And in Archelaus:-

And in Bellerophon:-

And again in the same:-

And Menander in Diphilus:16 -

The same also in the Piscatores:-

The same in the Fratres:-

And in the Tibicinae:-

And the tragedian in Phrixus:-

In Philoctetes:-

In Hecuba:-


I worship thee!"

Here, then, is a proof of virtue, and of a mind loving prudence, to recur to the communion of the unity,18 and to attach one's self to prudence for salvation, and make choice of the better things according to the free-will placed in man; and not to think that those who are possessed of human passions are lords of all, when they shall not appear to have even equal power with men. For in Homer,19 Demodocus says he is self-taught-

though he is a mortal. Aesculapius and Apollo are taught to heal by Chiron the Centaur,-a very novel thing indeed, for gods to be taught by a man. What need I speak of Bacchus, who the poet says is mad? or of Hercules, who he says is unhappy? What need to speak of Mars and Venus, the leaders of adultery; and by means of all these to establish the proof which has been undertaken? For if some one, in ignorance, should imitate the deeds which are said to be divine, he would be reckoned among impure men, and a stranger to life and humanity; and if any one does so knowingly, he will have a plausible excuse for escaping vengeance, by showing that imitation of godlike deeds of audacity is no sin. But if any one should blame these deeds, he will take away their well-known names, and not cover them up with specious and plausible words. It is necessary, then, to accept the true and invariable Name, not proclaimed by my words only, but by the words of those who have introduced us to the elements of learning, in order that we may not, by living idly in this present state of existence, not only as those who are ignorant of the heavenly glory, but also as having proved ourselves ungrateful, render our account to the Judge.

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