Excerpts from "The Shepherd of Hermas"
that deal with
Self Denial, Purity  &  Sexual Abstinence


Of putting away one's wife for adultery.

FURTHERMORE, said he, I command thee, that thou keep thyself chaste; and that thou suffer not any thought of any other marriage, or of fornication, to enter into thy heart: for such a thought produces great sin.
2     But be thou at all times mindful of the Lord, and thou shalt never sin. For if such an evil thought should arise in thy heart, thou shouldest be guilty of a great sin; and they who do such things, follow the way of death.
3     Look therefore to thyself, and keep thyself from such a thought; for where chastity remains in the heart, of a righteous man, there an evil thought ought never to arise.
4     And I said unto him, Sir, suffer me to speak a little to you. He bade me say on. And I answered, Sir, if a man that is faithful in the Lord shall have a wife, and shall catch her in adultery; doth a man sin that continues to live still with her?
5     And he said unto me, As long as he is ignorant of her sin, he commits no fault in living with her; but if a man shall know his wife to have offended, and she shall not repent of her sin, but go on still in her fornication, and a man shall continue nevertheless to live with her, he shall become guilty of her sin and partake with her in her adultery
6     And I said unto him, What therefore is to be done if the woman continues on in her sin? He answered, Let her husband put her away and let him continue by himself. But if he shall put away his wife, and marry another, he also doth commit adultery.
7     And I said, What if the woman that is so put away, shall repent and be willing to return to her husband, shall she not be received, by him? He said, unto me, Yes; and, if her husband, shall not receive her, he will sin, and commit a great offence against himself: but he ought to receive the offender, if she repents; only not often.
8     For to the servants of God there is but one repentance. And for this cause a man that putteth away his wife ought not to take another, because she may repent.
9     This act is alike both in the man and in the woman. Now they commit adultery, not only who pollute their flesh, but who also make an image. If therefore a woman perseveres in any thing of this kind, and repents not, depart from her, and live not with her, otherwise thou also shalt be partaker of her sin.
10     But it is therefore commanded that both the man and the woman should remain unmarried, because such persons may repent.
11     Nor do I in this administer any occasion for the doing of these things; but rather that whoso has offended, should, not offend, any more.
12     But for their former sins, God who has the power of healing will give a remedy; for he has the power of all things.


26     And I said, If a husband or a wife die, and the party which survives marry again, does he sin in so doing? He that marries says he, sins not: howbeit, if he shall remain single, he shall thereby gain to himself great honour before the Lord.
27     Keep therefore thy chastity and modesty, and thou shalt live unto God. Observe from henceforth those things which I speak with thee, and command thee to observe, from the time that I have been delivered unto thee, and dwell in thy house.

From the Second Book of Hermas, called his COMMANDS:
Command IV:  1-12, 26,27.



That we must flee from evil, and do good..

I HAVE told thee, said he, that there are two kinds of creatures of the Lord, and that there is a two-fold abstinence. From some things therefore thou must abstain, and from others not.
2     I answered, Declare to me, sir, from what I must abstain, and from what not. Hearken, said he. Keep thyself from evil, and do it not; but abstain not from good, but do it. For if thou shalt abstain from what is good, and not do it, thou shalt sin. Abstain therefore from all evil, and thou shalt know all righteousness.
3     I said, What evil things are they from which I must abstain? Hearken, said he; from adultery, from drunkenness, from riots, from excess of eating, from daintiness and dishonesty, from pride, from fraud, from lying, from detraction, from hypocrisy, from remembrance of injustices, and from all evil speaking.
4     For these are the works of iniquity, from which the servant of God must abstain. For he that cannot keep himself from these things, cannot live unto God.
5     But hear, said he, what follows of these kind of things: for indeed many more there are from which the servant of God must abstain. From theft, and cheating; from false witness, from covetousness, from boasting, and all other things of the like nature.
6     Do these things seem to thee to be evil or not? Indeed they are very evil to the servants of God. Wherefore the servant of God must abstain from all these works.
7     Keep thyself therefore from them, that thou mayest live unto God, and be written among those that abstain from them. And thus have I shown thee what things thou must avoid: now learn from what thou must not abstain.
8     Abstain not from any good works, but do them. Hear, said he, what the virtue of those good works is which thou must do, that thou mayest be saved. The first of all is faith; the fear of the Lord; charity; concord; equity; truth; patience; chastity.
9     There is nothing better than these things in the life of man; who shall keep and do these things in their life. Hear next what follow these.
10     To minister to the widows; not to despise the fatherless and poor; to redeem the servants of God from necessity; to be hospitable; (for in hospitality there is sometimes great fruit) not to be contentious, but be quiet.
11     To be humble above all men; to reverence the aged; to labour to be righteous; to respect the brotherhood; to bear affronts; to be long-suffering; not to cast away those that have fallen from the faith, but to convert them, and make them be of good cheer: to admonish sinners; not to oppress those that are our debtors; and all other things of a like kind.
12     Do these things seem to thee to be good or not? And, I said, What can be better than these words? Live then, said he, in these commandments, and do not depart from them. For if thou shalt keep all these commandments, thou shalt live unto God. And, all they that shall keep these commandments shall live unto God.

From the Second Book of Hermas, called his COMMANDS:
Command VIII: complete text.



Of a two-fold desire.

AGAIN he said unto me; remove from thee all evil desires, and put on good and holy desires. For having put on a good desire, thou shalt hate that which is evil, and bridle it as thou wilt. But an evil desire is dreadful, and hard to be tamed.
2     It is very horrible and wild and by its wildness consumes men. And especially if a servant of God shall chance to fall into it, except he be very wise, he is ruined by it. For it destroys those who have not the garment of a good desire and are engaged in the affairs of this present world; and delivers them unto death.
3     Sir, said I, what are the works of an evil desire, which bring men unto death? Shew them to me, that I may depart from them. Hear, said he, by what works an evil desire bringeth the servants of God unto death.
4     First of all, it is an evil desire to covet another man's wife; or for a woman to covet another's husband; as also to desire the dainties of riches; and multitude of superfluous meats; and drunkenness; and many delights.
5     For in much delicacy there is folly, and many pleasures are needless to the servants of God. Such lusting therefore is evil and pernicious, which brings to death the servants of God. For all such lusting is from the devil.
6     Whosoever therefore shall depart from all evil desires, shall live unto God; but they that are subject unto them shall die for ever. For this evil lusting is deadly. Do thou therefore put on the desire of righteousness, and being armed with the fear of the Lord resist all wicked lusting.
7     For this fear dwelleth in good desires; and when evil coveting shall see thee armed with the fear of the Lord, and resisting it; it will fly far from thee, and not appear before thee, but be afraid of thy armour.
8     And thou shalt have the victory, and be crowned for it; and shalt attain to that desire which is good; and shalt give the victory which thou hast obtained unto God, and shalt serve him in doing what thou thyself wouldest do.
9     For if thou shalt serve good desires, and be subject to them; thou shalt be able to get the dominion over thy wicked lustings; and they shall be subject to thee as thou wilt.
10     And I said, Sir, I would know how to serve that desire which is good? Hearken, said he, Fear God and put thy trust in him, and love truth, and righteousness, and do that which is good.
11     If thou shalt do these things, thou shalt be an approved servant of God; and shalt serve him: and all others who shall in like manner serve a good desire shall live unto God.
12     And when he had fulfilled these twelve commands, he said unto me, thou hast now these commands, walk in them; and exhort those that hear them that repent, and that they keep their repentance pure all the remaining days of their life.
13     And, fulfil diligently this ministry which I commit to thee, and thou shalt receive great advantage by it; and shalt find favour with all such as shall repent, and shall believe thy words. For I am with thee, and will help them to believe.
14     And I said unto him, Sir, these commands are great and excellent, and able to cheer the heart of that man that shall be able to keep them. But, Sir, I cannot tell whether they can be observed by any man?
15     He answered, Thou shalt easily keep these commands, and they shall not be hard: howbeit, if thou shalt suffer it once to enter into thy heart that they cannot be kept by any one, thou shalt not fulfil them.
16     But now I say unto thee, if thou shalt not observe these commands, but shall neglect them, thou shalt not be saved, nor thy children, nor thy house: because thou hast judged, that these commands cannot be kept by man.
17      These things he spake very angrily unto me, insomuch that he greatly affrighted me, For he changed his countenance, so that a man could not hear his anger.
18     And, when he saw me altogether troubled and confounded, he began to speak more moderately and cheerfully, saying, O foolish, and without understanding!
19     Unconstant, not knowing the majesty of God, how great and wonderful he is: who created the world for man, and hath made every creature subject unto him: and given him all power, that he should be able to fulfil all these commands.
20     He is able, said he, to fulfil all these commands, who has the Lord in his heart: but they who have the Lord only in their mouths, and their heart is hardened, and they are far from the Lord; to such persons these commands are hard and difficult.
21     Put therefore, ye that are empty and light in the faith, the Lord your God in your hearts; and ye shall perceive how that nothing is more easy then these commands, nor more pleasant, nor more gentle and holy.
22     And turn yourselves to the Lord your God, and forsake the devil and his pleasures, because they are evil, and bitter, and impure. And fear not the devil, because he has no power over you.
23     For I am with you, the messenger of repentance, who have the dominion over him. The devil doth indeed affright men; but his terror is vain. Wherefore fear him not, and he will flee from you.
24     And I said unto him; Sir, hear me speak a few words unto you. He answered, Say on: A man indeed desires to keep the Commandments of God: and there is no one but what prays unto God, that he may be able to keep his commandments.
25     But the devil is hard, and by his power rules over the servants of God. And he said, He cannot rule over the servants of God, who trust in him with all their hearts.
26     The devil may strive, but he cannot overcome them.
27     For if ye resist him, he will flee away with confusion from you. But they that are not full in the faith, fear the devil, as if he had some great power. For the devil tries the servants of God and if he finds them empty, he destroys them.
28     For as man, when he fills up vessels with good wine, and among them puts a few vessels half full, and comes to try and taste of the vessels, doth not try those that are full, because he knows that they are good; but tastes those that are half full, lest they should grow sour; (for vessels half full soon grow sour, and, lose the taste of wine:) so the devil comes to the servants of God to try them.
29     They that are full of faith resist him stoutly, and he departs from them, because he finds no place where to enter into them: then he goes to those that are not full of faith, and because he has place of entrance, he goes into them, and does what he will with them, and they become his servants.
30      But I, the messenger of repentance, say unto you, fear not the devil, for I am sent unto you, that I may be with you, as many as shalt repent with your whole heart, and that I may confirm you in the faith.
31     Believe therefore, ye who by reason of your transgressions have forgot God, and your own salvation; and adding to your sins have made your life very heavy.
32     That if ye shall turn to the Lord, with your whole hearts, and shall serve him according to his will; he will heal you of your former sins, and ye shall have dominion over all the works of the devil.
33     Be not then afraid, in the least of his threatenings, for they are without force, as the nerves of a dead man. But hearken unto me, and fear the Lord Almighty, who is able to save and to destroy you; and keep his commands, that ye may live unto God.
34     And I said, unto him; Sir, I am now confirmed in all the commands of the Lord whilst that you are with me, and I know that you will break all the power of the devil.
35     And we also shall overcome him, if we shall be able, through the help of the Lord, to keep these commands which you have delivered.
36     Thou shalt keep them, said he, if thou shalt purify thy heart towards the Lord. And all they also shall keep them who shall cleanse their hearts from the vain desires of the present world, and shall live unto God.

From the Second Book of Hermas, called his COMMANDS:
Command XII: complete text.



Of a true fast, and the rewards of it,
also of the cleanliness of the body.

29      First of all, take heed to thyself, and keep thyself from every wicked act, and from every filthy word, and from every hurtful desire; and purify thy mind from all the vanity of this present world. If thou shalt observe these things; this fast shall be right.
30     Thus therefore do. Having performed what is before written, that day on which thou fastest thou shalt taste nothing at all but bread and water; and computing the quantity of food which thou art want to eat upon other days, thou shalt lay aside the expense which thou shouldest have made that day, and give it unto the widow, the fatherless, and the poor.
31     And thus thou shalt perfect the humiliation of thy soul; that he who receives of it may satisfy his soul, and his prayer come up to the Lord God for thee.
32     If therefore thou shalt thus accomplish thy fast, as I command thee, thy sacrifice shall be acceptable unto the Lord, and thy fast shall be written in his book.
33     This station, thus performed, is good and pleasing and acceptable unto the Lord. These things if thou shalt observe with thy children and with all thy house, thou shalt be happy.
34     And whosoever, when they hear these things, shall do them, they also shall be happy; and whatsoever they shall ask of the Lord they shall receive it.


57     For every pure body shall receive its reward; that is found without spot, in which the Holy Spirit has been appointed to dwell. And thus you have now the exposition of this parable also.
58     Sir, said I, I now understand your meaning, since I have heard this exposition. Hearken farther, said he: keep this thy body clean and pure, that the spirit which shall dwell in it may bear witness unto it, and be judged to have been with thee.
59     Also take heed that it be not instilled into thy mind that this body perishes, and thou abuse it to any lust. For if thou shalt defile thy body, thou shalt also at the same time defile the Holy Spirit; and if thou shalt defile the Holy Spirit, thou shalt not live.
60     And I said, What if through ignorance this should have been already committed, before a man heard these words; How can he attain unto salvation, who has thus defiled his body?
61 He replied, As for men's former actions which through ignorance they have committed, God only can afford a remedy unto them; for all the power belongeth unto him.
62     But now guard thyself; and seeing God is almighty and merciful, he will grant a remedy to what thou hast formerly done amiss, if for the time to come thou shalt not defile thy body and spirit:
63     For they are companions together, and the one cannot be defiled but the other will be so too. Keep therefore both of them pure, and thou shalt live unto God.

From the Third Book of Hermas,which is called his SIMILITUDES:
SIMILITUDE V:  29-34, 57-63.



169     But after that they had thus agreed in one mind there began to be one body of them all; howbeit some of them polluted themselves, and were cast off from the kind of the righteous, and again returned to their former state, and became even worse than they were before.
170     How, said I, sir, were they worse who knew the Lord? He answered: If he who knows not the Lord liveth wickedly, the punishment of his wickedness attends him.
171     But he who has known the Lord, ought to abstain altogether from all wickedness, and more and more to be the servant of righteousness.
172     And does not he then seem to thee to sin more who ought to follow goodness, if he shall prefer the part of sin; than he who offends without knowing the power of God?
173     Wherefore these are indeed ordained unto death; but they who have known the Lord, and have seen his wonderful works, if they shall live wickedly, they shall be doubly punished, and shall die for ever.
174    As therefore thou hast seen that after the stones were cast out of the tower, which had been rejected; they were delivered to wicked and cruel spirits; and thou beheldest the tower so cleansed, as if it had all been made of one stone:
175     So the church of God, when it shall be purified: (the wicked and counterfeits, the mischievous and doubtful, and all that have behaved themselves wickedly in it, and committed divers kinds of sin, being cast out) shall become one body, and there shall be one understanding, one opinion, one faith, and the same charity.
176     And then shall the Son of God rejoice among them, and shall receive his people with a pure will.

From the Third Book of Hermas, which is called his SIMILITUDES:
SIMILITUDE IX:  169-176.


NOTE: The excerpted text above is taken from the book, "The Lost Books of the Bible", published by  World Bible Publishers, Inc. for Alpha House, Inc., 1926-1927.   Notes from the book that preceded the entire Hermas text, regarding this manuscript and its translation, are as follows:

About the "The Shepherd of Hermas"

[This book is thus entitled, because it was composed by Hermas, brother to Pius, bishop of Rome; and because the Angel, who bears the principal part in it, is represented in the form and habit of a shepherd. Irenaeus quotes it under the very name of Scripture. Origen thought it a most useful writing, and that it was divinely inspired; Eusebius says, that, though it was not esteemed canonical, it was read publicly in the churches, which is corroborated by Jerome; and Athanasius cites it, calls it a most useful work, and observes, that though it was not strictly canonical, the Fathers appointed it to be read for direction and confirmation in faith and piety. Jerome, notwithstanding this, and that he applauded it in his catalogue of writers, in his comments upon it afterwards, terms it apocryphal and foolish. Turtullian praised it when a Catholic, and abused it when a Montanist. Although Gelasius ranks it among the apocryphal books, it is found attached to some of the most ancient MSS, of the New Testament; and Archbishop Wake, believing it the genuine work of an apostolical Father, preserves it to the English reader by the following translation, in which he has rendered the books not only more exact, but in greater purity than they had before appeared. The archbishop procured Dr. Crabe to entirely collate the old Latin version with an ancient MS, in the Lambeth library; and the learned prelate himself still further improved the whole from a multitude of fragments of the original Greek never before used for that purpose.]



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