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Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers In English - J. B. Lightfoot, D. D., D.C. L., LL. D.

THE master, who reared me, had sold me to one Rhoda in Rome. After many years, I met her again, and began to love her as a sister. 2After a certain time I saw her bathing in the river Tiber; and I gave her my hand, and led her out of the river. So, seeing her beauty, I reasoned in my heart, saying, ‘Happy were I, if I had such an one to wife both in beauty and in character.’ I merely reflected on this and nothing more. 3After a certain time, as I was journeying to Cumæ, and glorifying God’s creatures for their greatness and splendour and power, as I walked I fell asleep. And a Spirit took me, and bore me away through a pathless tract, through which no man could pass: for the place was precipitous, and broken into clefts by reason of the waters. When then I had crossed the river, I came into the level country, and knelt down, and began to pray to the Lord and to confess my sins. 4Now, while I prayed, the heaven was opened, and I see the lady, whom I had desired, greeting me from heaven, saying, ‘Good morrow, Hermas.’ 5And, looking at her, I said to her, ‘Lady, what doest thou here?’ Then she answered me, ‘I was taken up, that I might convict thee of thy sins before the Lord.’ 6I said to her, ‘Dost thou now convict me?’ ‘Nay, not so,’ said she, ‘but hear the words, that I shall say to thee. God, Who dwelleth in the heavens, and created out of nothing the things which are, and increased and multiplied them for His holy Church’s sake, is wroth with thee, for that thou didst sin against me.’ 7I answered her and said, ‘Sin against thee? In what way? Did I ever speak an unseemly word unto thee? Did I not always regard thee as a goddess? Did I not always respect thee as a sister? How couldst thou falsely charge me, lady, with such villainy and uncleanness? 8’Laughing she saith unto me, ‘The desire after evil entered into thine heart. Nay, thinkest thou not that it is an evil deed for a righteous man, if the evil desire should enter into his heart? It is indeed a sin and a great one too,’ saith she; ‘for the righteous man entertaineth righteous purposes. While then his purposes are righteous, his repute stands stedfast in the heavens, and he finds the Lord easily propitiated in all that he does. But they that entertain evil purposes in their hearts, bring upon themselves death and captivity, especially they that claim for themselves this present world, and boast in its riches, and cleave not to the good things that are to come. 9Their souls shall rue it, seeing that they have no hope, but have abandoned themselves and their life. But do thou pray unto God, and He shall heal thine own sins, and those of thy whole house, and of all the saints.’

2. As soon as she had spoken these words the heavens were shut; and I was given over to horror and grief. Then I said within myself, ‘If this sin is recorded against me, how can I be saved? Or how shall I propitiate God for my sins which are full-blown? Or with what words shall I entreat the Lord that He may be propitious unto me?’ 2While I was advising and discussing these matters in my heart, I see before me a great white chair of snow-white wool; and there came an aged lady in glistening raiment, having a book in her hands, and she sat down alone, and she saluted me, ‘Good morrow, Hermas.’ Then I, grieved and weeping, said, ‘Good morrow, lady.’ 3And she said to me, ‘Why so gloomy, Hermas, thou that art patient and good-tempered, and art always smiling? Why so downcast in thy looks, and far from cheerful?’ And I said to her, ‘Because of an excellent lady’s saying that I had sinned against her.’ 4Then she said, ‘Far be this thing from the servant of God! Nevertheless the thought did enter into thy heart concerning her. Now to the servants of God such a purpose bringeth sin. For it is an evil and mad purpose to overtake a devout spirit that hath been already approved, that it should desire an evil deed, and especially if it be Hermas the temperate, who abstaineth from every evil desire, and is full of all simplicity and of great guilelessness.

3. ‘Yet it is not for this that God is wroth with thee, but that thou mayest convert thy family, that hath done wrong against the Lord and against you their parents. But out of fondness for thy children thou didst not admonish thy family, but didst suffer it to become fearfully corrupt. Therefore the Lord is wroth with thee. But He will heal all thy past sins, which have been committed in thy family; for by reason of their sins and iniquities thou hast been corrupted by the affairs of this world. 2But the great mercy of the Lord had pity on thee and thy family, and will strengthen thee, and establish thee in His glory. Only be not thou careless, but take courage, and strengthen thy family. For as the smith hammering his work conquers the task which he wills, so also doth righteous discourse repeated daily conquer all evil. Cease not therefore to reprove thy children; for I know that if they shall repent with all their heart, they shall be written in the books of life with the saints.3’ After these words of hers had ceased, she saith unto me, ‘Wilt thou listen to me as I read?’ Then say I, ‘Yes, lady’ She saith to me, ‘Be attentive, and hear the glories of God.’ I listened with attention and with wonder to that which I had no power to remember; for all the words were terrible, such as man cannot bear. The last words however I remembered, for they were suitable for us and gentle. 4‘Behold, the God of Hosts, Who by His invisible and mighty power and by His great wisdom created the world, and by His glorious purpose clothed His creation with comeliness, and by His strong word fixed the heaven, and founded the earth upon the waters, and by His own wisdom and providence formed His holy Church, which also He blessed—behold, He removeth the heavens and the mountains and the hills and the seas, and all things are made level for His elect, that He may fulfil to them the promise which He promised with great glory and rejoicing, if so be that they shall keep the ordinances of God, which they received, with great faith.’

4. When then she finished reading and arose from her chair, there came four young men, and they took away the chair, and departed towards the East. 2Then she calleth me unto her, and she touched my breast, and saith to me, ‘Did my reading please thee?’ And I say unto her, ‘Lady, these last words please me, but the former were difficult and hard.’ Then she spake to me, saying, ‘These last words are for the righteous, but the former are for the heathen and the rebellious.’ 3While she yet spake with me, two men appeared, and took her by the arms, and they departed, whither the chair also had gone, towards the East. And she smiled as she departed and, as she was going, she saith to me, ‘Play the man, Hermas.’








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