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First Vision, 1
AGAINST FILTHY AND PROUD THOUGHTS, AND THE CARELESSNESS OF HERMAS IN CHASTISING
He who had brought me up, sold me to one Rhode in Rome. Many years after this I
recognised her, and I began to love her as a sister. Some time after, I saw her
bathe in the river Tiber; and I gave her my hand, and drew her out of the river.
The sight of her beauty made me think with myself, "I should be a happy man if I
could but get a wife as handsome and good as she is." This was the only thought
that passed through me: this and nothing more. A short time after this, as I was
walking on my road to the villages, and magnifying the creatures of God, and
thinking how magnificent, and beautiful, and powerful they are, I fell asleep.
And the Spirit carried me away, and took me through a pathless place, through
which a man could not travel, for it was situated in the midst of rocks; it was
rugged and impassible on account of water. Having passed over this river, I came
to a plain. I then bent down on my knees, and began to pray to the Lord and to
confess my sins. And as I prayed, the heavens were opened, and I see the woman
whom I had desired saluting me from the sky, and saying, "Hail, Hermas!" And
looking up to her, I said, "Lady, what doest thou here?" And she answered me, "I
have been taken up here to accuse you of your sins before the Lord." "Lady,"
said I, "are you to be the subject of my accusation?" "No," said she; "but hear
the words which I am going to speak to you. God, who dwells in the heavens, and
made out of nothing the things that exist, and multiplied and increased them on
account of His holy Church, is angry with you for having sinned against me." I
answered her, "Lady, have I sinned against you? How? or when spoke I an unseemly
word to you? Did I not always think of you as a lady? Did I not always respect
you as a sister? Why do you falsely accuse me of this wickedness and impurity?"
With a smile she replied to me, "The desire of wickedness arose within your
heart. Is it not your opinion that a righteous man commits sin when an evil
desire arises in his heart? There is sin in such a case, and the sin is great,"
said she; "for the thoughts of a righteous man should be righteous. For by
thinking righteously his character is established in the heavens, and he has the
Lord merciful to him in every business. But those who entertain wicked thoughts
in their minds are bringing upon themselves death and captivity; and especially
is this the case with those who set their affections on this world, and glory in
their riches, and look not forward to the blessings of the life to come. For
many will their regrets be; for they have no hope, but have despaired of
themselves and their life. But do thou pray to God, and He will heal thy sins,
and the sins of thy whole house, and of all the saints."
The Shepherd of Hermas, Fifth Vision
CONCERNING THE COMMANDMENTS.
After I had been praying at home, and had sat down on my couch, there entered a
man of glorious aspect, dressed like a shepherd, with a white goat's skin, a
wallet on his shoulders, and a rod in his hand, and saluted me. I returned his
salutation. And straightway he sat down beside me, and said to me, "I have been
sent by a most venerable angel to dwell with you the remaining days of your
life." And I thought that he had come to tempt me, and I said to him, "Who are
you? For I know him to whom I have been entrusted." He said to me, "Do you not
know me?" "No," said I. "I," said he, "am that shepherd to whom you have been
entrusted." And as he was speaking, his figure was changed; and then I knew that
it was he to whom I had been entrusted. And straightway I became confused, and
fear took hold of me, and I was overpowered with deep sorrow that I had answered
him so wickedly and foolishly. But he answered, and said to me, "Do not be
confounded, but receive strength from the commandments which I am going to give
you. For I have been sent," said he, "to show you again all the things which you
saw before, especially those of them which are useful to you. First of all,
then, write down my commandments and similitudes, and you will write the other
things as I shall show you. For this purpose," said he, "I command you to write
down the commandments and similitudes first, that you may read them easily, and
be able to keep them." Accordingly I wrote down the commandments and similitudes,
exactly as he had ordered me. If then, when you have heard these, ye keep them
and walk in them, and practise them with pure minds, you will receive from the
Lord all that He has promised to you. But if, after you have heard them, ye do
not repent, but continue to add to your sins, then shall ye receive from the
Lord the opposite things. All these words did the shepherd, even the angel of
repentance, command me to write.
The Shepherd of Hermas, Commandment 4, 3
And I said to him, "I should like to continue my questions." "Speak on," said
he. And I said, "I heard, sir, some teachers maintain that there is no other
repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and
received remission of our former sins." He said to me, "That was sound doctrine
which you heard; for that is really the case. For he who has received remission
of his sins ought not to sin any more, but to live in purity. Since, however,
you inquire diligently into all things, I will point this also out to you, not
as giving occasion for error to those who are to believe, or have lately
believed, in the Lord. For those who have now believed, and those who are to
believe, have not repentance for their sins; but they have remission of their
previous sins. For to those who have been called before these days, the Lord has
set repentance. For the Lord, knowing the heart, and foreknowing all things,
knew the weakness of men and the manifold wiles of the devil, that he would
inflict some evil on the servants of God, and would act wickedly towards them.
The Lord, therefore, being merciful, has had mercy on the work of His hand, and
has set repentance for them; and He has entrusted to me power over this
repentance. And therefore I say to you, that if any one is tempted by the devil,
and sins after that great and holy calling. in which the Lord has called His
people to everlasting life, he has opportunity to repent but once. But if he
should sin frequently after this, and then repent, to such a man his repentance
will be of no avail; for with difficulty will he live." And I said, "Sir, I feel
that life has come back to me in listening attentively to these commandments;
for I know that I shall be saved, if in future I sin no more." And he said, "You
will be saved, you and all who keep these commandments."