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VISIONS OF ST. HERMAS.
AGAINST FILTHY AND PROUD THOUGHTS : ALSO THE NE
GLECT OF HERMAS IN CHASTISING HIS CHILDREN.
1. HE who bred me up sold a certain young maid at Rome; whom when I saw many years after, I remembered her, and began to love her as a sister. It happened some time afterwards, that I saw her washing in the river Tyber; and I reached out my hand unto her, and brought her out of the river. And when I saw her, I thought with myself, saying, how happy should I be if I liad such a wife, both for beau. ty and inannrs. This I thought with myself; nor did I think any thing more. But not long after, as I was walking anil musing on these thoughts, I began to honour this creature of God, thinking with myself how noble and beautiful she was. And when I had walked a little, I fell asleep. And the spirit caught me away, and carried me through a certain place to. wards the right hand, through which no man could pass. It was a place among rocks; very steep, and unp:lszable for water. When I was past this place, I came into a plain, and there falling down upon my knees, I began to pray unto the Lord, and to confess my sins. And as I was praying, the Heaven was opened, and I saw the woman which I had coveted, saluting me from Heaven, and saying, Hermas, hail ! and I looking upon her, answered, lady, what dost
thou do here? she answered me, I am taken hither to accuse thee of sin before the Lord.(a) Lady, said I, wilt thou convince me ?(6) no, said she; but hear the words which I am about to speak unto thee. God who dwelleth in Heaven, and hath made all things out of nothing, and hath multiplied them for his holy churches sake, is angry with thee, because thou hast sinned against me. And I answering, said unto her, lady, if I have sinned against thee, tell me where, or in what place, or when did I ever speak an unseemly or dishonest word unto thee? have I not always esteemed thee as a lady? have I not always reverenced thee as a sister? why then dost thợu imagine these wicked things against me? Then she, smiling upon me, said; the desire of naughtiness has risen up in thy heart. Does it not seem to thee to be an ill thing for a righteous man to have an evil desire rise up in his heart ? it is indeed a sin, and that a very great one, to such a one ; for a righteous man thinketh that which is righteous. And whilst he does so, and walketh uprightly, he shall have the Lord in Heaven favourable unto him in all his business. But as for those who think wickedly in their hearts, they take to themselves death and captivity; and especially those who love this present world, and glory in their riches, and regard not the good things that are to come; their souls wonder up and down, and know not where to fix. Now this is the case of such as are double-minded, who trust not in the Lord, and dispise and neglect their own life. But do thou pray unto the Lord, and he will heal thy sins, and the sins of the whole house, and of all his saints.
2. As soon as she had spoken these words the Heavens were shut, and I remained utterly swallowed up with sadness and fear; and said within myself, if this be laid against me for sin, how can I be saved ? or
(a) In MS. Lambeth. Præcepta fum a Domino ut peccata tuą arzuam. I am commanded of the Lord to reprove thee for thy sins.
(6) In MS. Wilt thou accuse me.
how shall I ever be able to entreat the Lord for my many and great sins ? with what words shall I beseech him to be merciful unto me? As I was thinking over these things, and meditating in myself upon them, behold a chair was set over against me of the whitest wool, as bright as snow. And there came an old woman in a bright garment, having a book in her hand, and sat alone, and saluted me, saying, Hermas, hail.* And I being full of sorrow, and weeping, answered, hail, lady! and she said unto me, why art thou sad, Hermas, who wert wont to be patient, and modest, and always cheerful? I answered and said to her, lady, a reproach has been laid to my charge by an excellent woman, who tells me that I have sinned against her. She replied, far be any such thing from the servant of God. But it may be the desire of her has risen up in thy heart ? for indeed such a thought maketh the servants of God guilty of sin; nor ought such a detestable thought to be in the servant of God; nor should he who is approved by the Spirit, desire that which is evil; but especially Hermas, who contains himself from all wicked lusts, and is full of all simplicity, and of great innocence.
3. Nevertheless the Lord is not so much angry with thee for thine own sake, as upon the account of thy house, which has committed wickedness against the Lord, and against their parents. And for that out of thy fondness towards thy sons; thou hast not admonished thy house, but hast permitted them to live wickedly; for this cause the Lord is angry with thee : but he will heal all the evils that are done in thy house. For through their sins and iniquities, thou art wholly consumed in secular affairs. But now the mercy of God hath taken compassion upon thee, and upon thine house, and hath greatly comforted thee.(c) Only as for thee, do not wonder, but be of an even mind, and comfort thy house. As the workman
* Vid. Hieron. in Hoseam. vii. 9.
bringing forth his work, offers it to whomsoever he pleases ; so shalt thou by teaching every day wilat is just, cut off a great sin. Wherefore cease not to admonish thy sons, for the Lord knows that they will repent with all their heart, and they shall be written in the book of life.(d) And when she had said this, she added unto me; wilt thou hear me read? swered her, lady, I will. Hear then, said she; and opening the book, she read, gloriously, greatly, and wonderfully, such things as I could not keep in my memory. For they were terrible words, such as no man could bear. Howbeit I committed her last words to my remembrance; for they were' but few, and of great use to us. “ Behold the mighty Lord, who by his invisible power, and with his excellent wisdom made the world, and by his glorious counsel beautified his creature, and with the word of his strength fixed the Heaven, and founded the earth upon the waters; and by his mighty power established his holy Church, which he hath blessed ; behold, he will remove the heavens, and the mountains, the hills and the seas; and all things shall be made plain for his elect; that he may render unto them the promise which he has promised, with much honour and joy, if so be that they shall keep the commandments of God, which they have received with great faith.”
4. And when she had made an end of reading, she rose out of the chair ; and behold four young men came and carried the chair to the east. And she called me unto her, and touched my breast, and said unto me, lid my reading please thee? I answered, Jady, these last things please me, but what went before was severe and hard. She said unto me, these Jast things are for the righteous, but the foregoing for the revolters and heathen. And as she was talking with me, two men appeared and took her upon their shoulders, and went to the east, where the chair was.
(d) So MS. Lamb. Et describentur in libre Vita.
And she went cheerfully away; and as she was going said unto me, Hermas, be of good cheer.
AGAIN, OF HIS NEGLECT IN CORRECTING HIS TALKATIVE
WIFE, AND OF HIS LEWD SONS.
1. AS I was on the way to Cumæ, about the same time that I went the year before, I began to call to mind the vision I formerly had. And again the Spirit carried me away, and brought me into the same place in which I had been the year before. And when I was come into the place, I fell down upon my knees and began to pray unto the Lord, and to glorify his name, that he had esteemed me worthy, and had manifested unto me my former sins. And when I arose from prayer, behold I saw over against me the old woman whom I had seen the last year, walking and reading in a certain book. And she said unto me, canst thou tell these things to the elect of God? I answered and said unto her, lady, I cannot retain so many things in my memory, but give me the book and I will write them down. Take it, says she, and see that thou restore it again to me. As soon as I had received it, I went aside into a certain place of the field, and transcribed every letter, for I found no syllables. And as soon as I had finished what was written in the book, the book was suddenly caught out of my hands, but by whom I saw not.
2. After fifteen days, when I had fasted, and entreated the Lord with all carnestness, the knowledge of the writing was revealed unto me. Now the writ. ing was this; thy seed, o Hermas ! hath sinned against the Lord, and have betrayed their parents,