Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
THE PASTOR OF HERMAS: Commandment Eighth. We Ought to Shun that Which is Evil, and Do that Which is Good.
We Ought to Shun that Which is Evil, and Do that Which is Good.
“I told you,” said he, “that the creatures of God are double, 201 for restraint also is double; for in some cases restraint has to be exercised, in others there is no need of restraint.” “Make known to me, sir,” say I, “in what cases restraint has to be exercised, and in what cases it has not.” “Restrain yourself in regard to evil, and do it not; but exercise no restraint in regard to good, but do it. For if you exercise restraint in the doing of good, you will commit a great sin; 202 but if you exercise restraint, so as not to do that which is evil, you are practising great righteousness. Restrain yourself, therefore, from all iniquity, and do that which is good.” “What, sir,” say I, “are the evil deeds from which we must restrain ourselves?” “Hear,” says he: “from adultery and fornication, from unlawful revelling, 203 from wicked luxury, from indulgence in many kinds of food and the extravagance of riches, and from boastfulness, and haughtiness, and insolence, and lies, and backbiting, and hypocrisy, from the remembrance of wrong, and from all slander. These are the deeds that are most wicked in the life of men. From all these deeds, therefore, the servant of God must restrain himself. For he who does not restrain himself from these, cannot live to God. Listen, then, to the deeds that accompany these.” “Are there, sir,” said I, “any other evil deeds?” “There are,” says he; “and many of them, too, from which the servant of God must restrain himself—theft, lying, robbery, false witness, overreaching, wicked lust, deceit, vainglory, boastfulness, and all other vices like to these.” “Do you not think that these are really wicked?” “Exceedingly wicked in the servants of God. From all of these the servant of God must restrain himself. Restrain yourself, then, from all these, that you may live to God, and you will be enrolled amongst those who restrain themselves in regard to these matters. These, then, are the things from which you must restrain yourself.”
“But listen,” says he, “to the things in regard to which you have not to exercise self-restraint, but which you ought to do. Restrain not yourself in regard to that which is good, but do it.” “And tell me, sir,” say I, “the nature of the good deeds, that I may walk in them and wait on them, so that doing them I can be saved.” “Listen,” says he, “to the good deeds which you ought to do, and in regard to which there is no self-restraint requisite. First of all 204 there is faith, then fear of the Lord, love, concord, words of righteousness, truth, patience. Than these, nothing is better in the life of men. If any one attend to these, and restrain himself not from them, blessed is he in his life. Then there are the following attendant on these: helping widows, looking after orphans and the needy, rescuing the servants of God from necessities, the being hospitable—for in hospitality good-doing finds a field—never opposing any one, the being quiet, having fewer needs than all men, reverencing the aged, practising righteousness, watching the brotherhood, bearing insolence, being long-suffering, encouraging those who are sick in soul, not casting those who have fallen into sin from the faith, but turning them back and restoring them to peace of mind, admonishing sinners, not oppressing debtors and the needy, and if there are any other actions like these. 205 Do these seem to you good?” says he. “For what, sir,” say I, “is better than these?” “Walk then in them,” says he, “and restrain not yourself from them, and you will live to God. 206 Keep, therefore, this commandment. If you do good, and restrain not yourself from it, you will live to God. All who act thus will live to God. And, again, if you refuse to do evil, and restrain yourself from it, you will live to God. And all will live to God who keep these commandments, and walk in them.”
[Command. vi. cap. i. p. 24, supra. The idea taken from Ecclus. xxxiii. 15, and Eccles. vii. 14.]25:202
For … sin, omitted in Lips.25:203
[Gal. 5:10, 21; 1 Pet. iv. 3.]25:204
[First of all, faith, holy fear, love etc. Then, works of mercy. Could evangelical morality be more beautifully illustrated?]25:205
[1 Pet. iv. 9. Who does not feel humbled and instructed by these rules of holy living. No wonder Athanasius, while rejecting it from the canon (Contra Hæresim Arian., p. 380) calls this a “most useful book.” De Incarnatione, p. 38. Paris, 1537.]25:206
From them … all who act thus will live to God, omitted in Vat., which ends thus: If you keep all these commandments, you will live to God, and all who keep these commandments will live to God.
Next: Commandment Ninth. Prayer Must Be Made to God Without Ceasing, and with Unwavering Confidence.
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