St. John Chrysostom -- By: John Alfred Faulkner
BSac 47:186 (April 1890) p. 237
St. John Chrysostom
There were ten men whom God gave to the church in the fourth century, men as great, perhaps, as any one century can boast of. These were Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory Nazianzen, his brother Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Ephraem Syrus, Ambrose, Jerome, Chrysostom, and Augustine. These men have left an ineffaceable impress upon the life and theology of the church. Of these ten no one deserves a higher estimation than he whose life and genius we are now to consider.
John, afterwards called Chrysostom, the Golden Mouth, was born in Antioch, Syria, in 347. As in the case of Frederick W. Robertson, whom he resembled in many respects, his father was a military officer of rank, who died when he was an infant, leaving him to the care of his mother Anthusa, a woman of more than ordinary character and talent. She devoted herself to the training of her son, and it is chiefly to her influence that he was kept from contamination by the vices of one of the wickedest cities of the world, and was at last given to the church as a shining ornament. She was to him what Monica was to Augustine, and Nonna to Gregory Nazianzen. It was with reference to her that Libanius, John’s pagan teacher, when told that he was the son of a widow who at the age of forty had lost her husband twenty years, exclaimed with mingled jealousy and admiration, “Heavens! what wonderful women these Christians have! “Anthusa gave her son the benefit of the best intellectual culture of the age in the school of Libanius, the most distinguished
BSac 47:186 (April 1890) p. 238
rhetorician and literary representative of heathenism at the close of the fourth century. Anthusa was not careful whether it was a pagan or a Christian school, deeming rightly that the careful home training in Christian principles would be a safeguard in any moral or intellectual temptations to which he might be exposed. Libanius esteemed him his best pupil, and desired him to become his successor as professor of rhetoric.
Chrysostom began his public life as a lawyer, and he promised to obtain eminence in that calling.
“The profession of law,” says W. R. Stephens, “was at that time the great avenue to civil distinction. The amount of litigation was enormous. One hundred and fifty advocates were required at the court of the praetorian prefect in the East alone. The display of talents in the law courts frequently obtained for a man the government of a province, whence the road was open to those higher dignities of vice-prefect, prefect, patrician, and consul, which were honored by the title ‘illustrious.”1
But the upr...
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