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    This is the title of a collection of visions, commandments, and similitudes, which were written sometime in the second century by some person not known. From the fact that the writer calls himself Hermas, some have jumped to the conclusion that the writer was the friend of Paul (Romans 16:14), but no one now attributes its production to him. It is now quite generally supposed that he was a brother of Pius I., who was bishop of Rome from 143 to 157 A. D. Mosheim says:—
    “The book entitled ‘The Shepherd of Hermas’ (so called, because an angel, in the form and habit of a shepherd, is the leading character in the drama), was composed in the second century by Hermas, the brother of Pius the Roman bishop. The writer, if he was indeed sane, deemed it proper to forge dialogues held with God and angels in order to insinuate what he regarded as salutary truths, more effectually into the minds of his readers But his celestial spirits talk more insipidly than our scavengers and porters.”—Ecclesiastical History, book 1, cent. 1, part 2, chap. 2, sec. 21.
    FACC 84.2

    In the “Ecclesiastical Commentaries” (cent. 1, sec. 54) he again says of the book:—
    “There is such an admixture of folly and superstition with piety, such a ridiculous association of the most egregious nonsense with things momentous and useful, not only in the celestial visions which constitute the substance of his first book, but also in the precepts and parables which are put into the mouth of the angel in the two others, as to render it a matter of astonishment that men of learning should ever have thought of giving Hermas a place amongst the inspired writers. To me it appears clear that he must have been either a wild, disordered fanatic, or else, as is more likely, a man who, by way of more readily drawing the attention of his brethren to certain maxims and precepts which he deemed just and salutary, conceived himself to be warranted in pretending to have derived them from conversations with God and the angels.”
    FACC 84.3

    In note 2 to the above section, Mosheim says:—
    “Several things, which I cannot well enter into in this place, conspire to impress me with the opinion that Hermas could never have been so far the dupe of an overheated imagination, as to fancy that he saw and heard things which in reality had no existence, but that he knowingly and willfully was guilty of a cheat, and invented those divine conversations and visions which he asserts himself to have enjoyed, with a view to obtain a more ready reception for certain precepts and admonitions which he conceived would prove salutary to the Roman Church. At the time when he wrote, it was an established maxim with many of the Christians, that it was pardonable in an advocate for religion to avail himself of fraud and deception, if it were likely that they might conduce towards the attainment of any considerable good.”
    FACC 85.1

    And the note concludes as follows:—
    “The ‘Pastor of Hermas’ is a fictitious work, of much the same kind with what are termed the ‘Clementina’ and the ‘Recognitions of Clement.’ In its plan however it is somewhat inferior to these, as instead of mortal characters conversing, we have the Deity himself, and his ministers or angels introduced on the scene.”
    FACC 85.2

    There is no reference in the “Pastor of Hermas” to Sunday or to Sunday observance, but, as the translator says in his introductory note—FACC 85.3

    “The work is very important in many respects; but especially as reflecting the tone and style of books which interested and instructed the Christians of the second and third centuries.”FACC 86.1

    Its importance in this respect will be more apparent, after we have given a few specimens of its style. But first we wish to show how it was regarded by the churches of that date. From the translator’s introductory notice we extract the following:—
    “The ‘Pastor of Hermas’ was one of the most popular books, if not the most popular book, in the Christian church during the second, third, and fourth centuries. It occupied a position analogous in some respects to that of Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ in modern times, and critics have frequently compared the two works.”
    FACC 86.2

    “The early writers are of opinion that it was really inspired. Irenaeus quotes it as Scripture; Clemens Alexandrinus speaks of it as making its statements ‘divinely;’ and Origen, though a few of his expressions are regarded by some as implying doubt, unquestionably gives it as his opinion that it is ‘divinely inspired.’ Eusebius mentions that difference of opinion prevailed in his day as to the inspiration of the book, some opposing its claims, and others maintaining its divine origin, especially because it formed an admirable introduction to the Christian faith. For this latter reason it was read publicly, he tells us, in the churches.”FACC 86.3

    With this introduction, we will proceed to the book itself. It opens thus:—
    “He who had brought me up, sold me to one Rhode in Rome. Many years after this I recognized 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.—Book 1, vision 1, chap. 1.
    FACC 86.4

    Since in the next chapter but one the writer speaks of his sons, and quite frequently afterwards of his wife, we cannot feel that his first appearance to us is to his credit. The following will serve to show that the writer is justly called by Mosheim “a wild, disordered fanatic.” It is from the first part of vision 3:—
    “The vision which I saw, my brethren, was of the following nature. Having fasted frequently, and having prayed to the Lord that he would show me the revelation which he promised to show me through that old woman, the same night that old woman appeared to me, and said to me, ‘Since you are so anxious and eager to know all things, go into the part of the country where you tarry; and about the fifth hour I shall appear unto you, and show you all that you ought to see.’ I asked her, saying, ‘Lady, into what part of the country am I to go?’ And she said, ‘Into any part you wish.’ Then I chose a spot which was suitable, and retired. Before, however, I began to speak and to mention the place, she said to me, ‘I will come where you wish.’ Accordingly, I went to the country, and counted the hours, and reached the place where I had promised to meet her. And I see an ivory seat ready placed, and on it a linen cushion, and above the linen cushion was spread a covering of fine linen. Seeing these laid out, and yet no one in the place, I began to feel awe, and as it were a trembling seized hold of me, and my hair stood on end, and as it were a horror came upon me when I saw that I was all alone. But on coming back to myself and calling to mind the glory of God, I took courage, bent my knees, and again confessed my sins to God as I had done before. Whereupon the old woman approached, accompanied by six young men whom I had also seen before; and she stood behind me, and listened to me, as I prayed and confessed my sins to the Lord. And touching me she said, ‘Hermas, cease praying continually for your sins; pray for righteousness, that you may have a portion of it immediately in your house.’ On this, she took me up by the hand, and brought me to the seat, and said to the young men, ‘Go and build.’ When the young men had gone and we were alone, she said to me, ‘Sit here.’ I say to her, ‘Lady, permit my elders to be seated first.’ ‘Do what I bid you,’ said she; ‘sit down.’ When I would have sat down on her right, she did not permit me, but with her hand beckoned to me to sit down on the left. While I was thinking about this, and feeling vexed that she did not let me sit on the right, she said, ‘Are you vexed, Hermas?’ The place to the right is for others who have already pleased God, and have suffered for his name’s sake; and you have yet much to accomplish before you can sit with them.”
    FACC 87.1

    Passing by a great deal of nonsense, for the book contains little else, we come to the seventh chapter of vision 3, where we find the following bit of teaching concerning purgatory:—
    “She finished her exposition of the tower. But I, shameless as I yet was, asked her, ‘Is repentance possible for all those stones which have been cast away and did not fit into the building of the tower, and will they yet have a place in this tower?’ ‘Repentance,’ said she, ‘is yet possible, but in this tower they cannot find a suitable place. But in another and much inferior place they will be laid, and that, too, only when they have been tortured and completed the days of their sins. And on this account will they be transferred, because they have partaken of the righteous Word. And then only will they be removed from their punishments when the thought of repenting of the evil deeds which they have done has come into their hearts. But if it does not come into their hearts, they will not be saved, on account of the hardness of their heart.’”
    FACC 88.1

    Thus was the pagan notion of purgatory early introduced into the church.FACC 89.1

    In book 2, commandment 3, this teacher, whose writings were read in the churches, and were considered inspired, represents himself as weeping because he had all his life been guilty of falsehoods, and the angel gives him the wonderful assurance that if he keeps the words of truth which he hears, “even the falsehoods which you formerly told in your transactions may come to be believed through the truthfulness of your present statements.”FACC 89.2

    In book 3, similitude 5, chapter 2, he is told a story of a man who planted a portion of a field to vines, and left one of his slaves to stake it, and to do nothing else while the master was gone. The slave was to receive his freedom if he did as he was commanded. But after the slave had done what the master had left for him to do, he cleared the vineyard of weeds, and, digging up the remaining portion of the field, he planted that to vines also. When the master returned, he made the slave his heir, for having done so much more than he was commanded to do. This parable is explained as follows in the next chapter:—
    “If you do any good beyond what is commanded by God, you will gain for yourself more abundant glory, and will be more honored by God than you would otherwise be. If, therefore, in keeping the commandments of God, you do, in addition, these services, you will have joy if you observe them according to my command.”
    FACC 89.3

    Bishop Coxe, who is the especial apologist for Hermas, says that “to read into this passage the idea of supererogatory merit is an unpardonable anachronism.” That is, he claims that this passage cannot teach supererogatory merit, because no such doctrine was held at that time! But we may not reason in that way. We can determine what doctrines men believed at that time only by what they taught. The statement that men did not hold that doctrine at that early date, is overthrown by this passage, where it is clearly taught; for the unprejudiced reader will see in it the Catholic dogma that men may be better than the Lord requires them to be. This is the foundation of the antichristian doctrine of indulgences for sin. It is not at all surprising to find this doctrine taught by a semi-heathen writer even in the second century, for it is perfectly in keeping with heathen conceit.FACC 89.4

    The effect of the following childish, silly, and wicked passage upon those who regarded the writings of Hermas as inspired, can be better imagined than described. When we come to consider the great apostasy, we shall see that the reading of such stuff in the church bore its legitimate fruit:—
    “Having spoken these words he wished to depart; but I laid hold of him by the wallet, and began to adjure him by the Lord that he would explain what he had showed me. He said to me, ‘I must rest a little, and then I shall explain to you everything; wait for me here until I return.’ I said to him, ‘Sir, what can I do here alone?’ ‘You are not alone,’ he said, ‘for these virgins are with you.’ ‘Give me in charge to them, then,’ I replied. The Shepherd called them to him, and said to them, ‘I intrust him to you until I come,’ and went away. And I was alone with the virgins; and they were rather merry, but were friendly to me, especially the four more distinguished of them.
    FACC 90.1

    “The virgins said to me, ‘The Shepherd does not come here to-day.’ ‘What, then,’ said I, ‘am I to do?’ They replied, ‘Wait for him until he comes; and if he comes he will converse with you, and if he does not come you will remain here with us until he does come.’ I said to them, ‘I will wait for him until it is late; and if he does not arrive, I will go away into the house, and come back early in the morning.’ And they answered and said to me, ‘You were intrusted to us; you cannot go away from us.’ ‘Where, then,’ I said, ‘am I to remain?’ ‘You will sleep with us,’ they replied, ‘as a brother, and not as a husband: for you are our brother, and for the time to come we intend to abide with you, for we love you exceedingly!’ But I was ashamed to remain with them. And she who seemed to be the first among them began to kiss me. (And the others seeing her kissing me, began also to kiss me), and to lead me round the tower, and to play with me. And I, too, became like a young man, and began to play with them: for some of them formed a chorus, and others danced, and others sang; and I, keeping silence, walked with them around the tower, and was merry with them. And when it grew late I wished to go into the house; and they would not let me, but detained me. So I remained with them during the night, and slept beside the tower. Now the virgins spread their linen tunics on the ground, and made me lie down in the midst of them; and they did nothing at all but pray; and I without ceasing prayed with them, and not less than they. And the virgins rejoiced because I thus prayed. And I remained there with the virgins until the next day at the second hour. Then the Shepherd returned, and said to the virgins, ‘Did you offer him any insult?’ ‘Ask him,’ they said. I said to him, ‘Sir, I was delighted that I remained with them.’”—Book 3, similitude 9, chap. 10, 11.FACC 90.2

    Our reason for placing this matter before the reader is that he may judge for himself of the character of the early writings which are lauded so highly, and that he may see the stuff upon which the early churches were fed. The translator says of the book that it “is very important in many respects; but especially as reflecting the tone and style of books which interested and instructed the Christians of the second and third centuries.” And it is to churches which were interested and instructed by such stuff, that we are urged to look for an example of Christian faith and practice. We are told that the Sunday sabbath is worthy of regard because it originated in the early history of the church; but when we read that the “Pastor of Hermas” was “one of the most popular books, if not the most popular book, in the Christian church during the second, third, and fourth centuries,” and that “the early writers are of opinion that it was really inspired,” we prefer to go elsewhere for a model. And we can feel only pity for the blindness of a man who in this age will defend such a work, as does Bishop Coxe, by saying, “Blessed were the simple folk .... who eagerly drank in the pure and searching morality of the ‘Shepherd.’” Pure and searching morality indeed! How vicious would their teaching have to be before he would call it immoral?FACC 91.1

    In speaking thus of the churches in the second, third, and fourth centuries, the writer would not be understood as holding that there was then no pure and undefiled religion. There were as pure Christians then as there have ever been before or since; but they did not constitute the bulk of the churches. They were the few among whom the Bible was the most popular book, and who followed its clear light instead of the darkness of nominally converted heathen philosophers, or of “wild, disordered fanatics.” If the reader wishes to know the customs of these real Christians, he will find them clearly set forth in the teachings of Christ and the apostles, as found in the Bible, which is the only guide for the Christians of every age.FACC 92.1

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