Justin Martyr (c. 114 – c. 165) was born in Samaria and was converted to Christ from a background in pagan philosophy. He was uncompromising in his evangelism, and this ultimately cost him his life. After refuting a philosopher called Crescens in public discussion, he and four of his friends fell victim to Crescens’ revenge. The prefect of Rome, Rusticus, demanded that Justin and his colleagues burn incense to the pagan gods; when they refused, they were tortured and killed. Justin’s answer still testifies to his love for the only God. The following was recorded at the trial.
The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe that you will ascend into heaven?”
Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have his gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.”
Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?”
Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.”
Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.”
Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.”
Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.”
Justin said “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgement-seat of our Lord and Saviour.”
Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”1
1 “The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs: Justin, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus, Who Suffered at Rome,” Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 306.