XVI. Of Repentance, the Manner of It, and Rules About It.

Sinners were strictly judged within the church with fasting. They would remove that offender from the church and depending on the offense they would give them 2-7 weeks of fasting. When they completed their fast they inspected them to see if the sin was dealt with, if they truly had repented they were allowed back into the body.

FULL TEACHING

When thou seest the offender, with severity command him to be cast out; and as he is going out, let the deacons also treat him with severity, and then let them go and seek for him, and detain him out of the Church; and when they come in, let them entreat thee for him. For our Savior Himself entreated His Father for those who had sinned, as it is written in the Gospel: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luk_23:34) Then order the offender to come in; and if upon examination thou findest that he is penitent1, and fit to be received at all into the Church when thou hast afflicted him his days of fasting, according to the degree of his offence — as two, three, five, or seven weeks — so set him at liberty, and speak such things to him as are fit to be said in way of reproof2, instruction, and exhortation to a sinner for his reformation, that so he may continue privately in his humility, and pray to God to be merciful to him, saying: “If Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand? For with Thee there is propitiation3.” (Ps_130:3) Of this sort of declaration is that which is said in the book of Genesis to Cain: “Thou hast sinned; be quiet;” (Gen_4:7, LXX) that is, do not go on in sin. For that a sinner ought to be ashamed for his own sin, that oracle of God delivered to Moses concerning Miriam is a sufficient proof, when he prayed that she might be forgiven. For says God to him: “If her father had spit in her face, should she not be ashamed? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterwards let her come in again.” (Num_12:14. — R.) We therefore ought to do so with offenders, when they profess their repentance, — namely, to separate them some determinate time, according to the proportion of their offence, and afterwards, like fathers to children, receive them again upon their repentance.

~Constitution of the Apostles- Book II Part 1 Vol. 7

Vision Second. - Again, of His Neglect in Chastising His Talkative Wife and His Lustful Sons, and of His Character.

Hermas, in his 2nd vision, is chastised for failing to admonish his talkative wife, his lustful sons, and his own character.  He makes it clear that one must repent with all their heart and drive out all doubts from their minds for forgiveness to be granted.  In regards to God’s elect, if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved as there are limits to the repentance of the righteous. The saints are given many chances to repent, but to the unbelievers or heathens, repentance will be possible even to the last day.  Hermas is directed to tell those who preside over the Church, to direct their ways in righteousness that they may receive the full promises/inheritance.

FULL TEACHING

Chap. I.

 

As I was going to the country about the same time as on the previous year, in my walk I recalled to memory the vision of that year. And again, the Spirit carried me away, and took me to the same place where I had been the year before. (Eze_1:1, Eze_3:23) On coming to that place, I bowed my knees and began to pray to the Lord, and to glorify His name, because He had deemed me worthy, and had made known to me my former sins. On rising from prayer, I see opposite me that old woman, whom I had seen the year before, walking and reading some book. And she says to me, “Can you carry a report of these things to the elect of God?” I say to her, “Lady, so much I cannot retain in my memory, but give me the book and I shall transcribe it.” “Take it,” says she, “and you will give it back to me.” Thereupon I took it, and going away into a certain part of the country, I transcribed the whole of it letter by letter; but the syllables of it I did not catch. No sooner, however, had I finished the writing of the book, then all of a sudden it was snatched from my hands; but who the person was that snatched it, I saw not.

 

Chap. II.

 

Fifteen days after, when I had fasted and prayed much to the Lord, the knowledge of the writing was revealed to me. Now the writing was to this effect: Your seed, O Hermas, has sinned against God, and they have blasphemed against the Lord, and in their great wickedness they have betrayed their parents. And they passed as traitors of their parents, and by their treachery did they not reap profit. And even now they have added to their sins lusts and iniquitous pollutions, and thus their iniquities have, been filled up. But make known (rebuke with) these words to all your children, and to your wife, who is to be your sister. For she does not restrain her tongue, with which she commits iniquity; but, on hearing these words, she will control herself, and will obtain mercy. For after you have made known to them these words which my Lord has commanded me to reveal to you, then shall they be forgiven all the sins which in former times they committed, and forgiveness will be granted to all the saints who have sinned even to the present day, if they repent with all their heart, and drive all doubts from their minds. For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day. You will tell, therefore, those who preside over the Church, to direct their ways in righteousness, that they may receive in full the promises with great glory. Stand steadfast, therefore, ye who work righteousness, and doubt not, that your passage (journey) may be with the holy angels. Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy they who shall not deny their own life. For the Lord hath sworn by His Son, that those who denied their Lord have abandoned their life in despair, for even now these are to deny Him in the days that are coming. To those who denied in earlier times, God became gracious, on account of His exceeding tender mercy.

 

Chap. III.

 

“But as for you, Hermas, remember not the wrongs done to you by your children, nor neglect your sister, that they may be cleansed from their former sins. For they will be instructed with righteous instruction, if you remember not the wrongs they have done you. For the remembrance of wrongs worketh death. And you, Hermas, have endured great personal (worldly) tribulations on account of the transgressions of your house, because you did not attend to them, but were careless and engaged in your wicked transactions. But you are saved, because you did not depart from the living God, and on account of your simplicity and great self-control. These have saved you, if you remain steadfast. And they will save all who act in the same manner and walk in guilelessness and simplicity. Those who possess such virtues will wax strong against every form of wickedness and will abide unto eternal life. Blessed are all they who practice righteousness, for they shall never be destroyed. Now you will tell Maximus: Lo! tribulation cometh on. If it seemeth good to thee, deny again. The Lord is near to them who return unto Him, as it is written in Eldad and Modat, who prophesied to the people in the wilderness.”

~Hermas– The Pastor of Hermas Book I Pt. I Vol. 2

Similitude Seventh. — They Who Repent Must Bring Forth Fruits Worthy of Repentance.

The angel of repentance explains to Hermas the process of repentance that is necessary to purify our hearts from all evil. The angel of punishment is sent to afflict us to humble us so that we may come to a deep and pure place of repentance, repenting with the whole heart. There is no true repentance without affliction.

FULL TEACHING

After a few days I saw him in the same plain where I had also seen the shepherds; and he said to me, “What do you wish with me?” I said to him, “Sir, that you would order the shepherd who punishes to depart out of my house, because he afflicts me exceedingly.” “It is necessary, he replied, “that you be afflicted; for thus,” he continued, “did the glorious angel command concerning you, as he wishes you to be tried.” “What have I done which is so bad, sir,” I replied, “that I should be delivered over to this angel?” “Listen,” he said: “Your sins are many, but not so great as to require that you be delivered over to this angel; but your household has committed great iniquities and sins, and the glorious angel has been incensed at them on account of their deeds; and for this reason he commanded you to be afflicted for a certain time, that they also might repent, and purify themselves from every desire of this world. When, therefore, they repent and are purified, then the angel of punishment will depart.” I said to him, “Sir, if they have done such things as to incense the glorious angel against them, yet what have I done?” He replied, “They cannot be afflicted at all, unless you, the head of the house, be afflicted: for when you are afflicted, of necessity they also suffer affliction; but if you are in comfort, they can feel no affliction.” “Well, sir,” I said, “they have repented with their whole heart.” “I know, too,” he answered, “that they have repented with their whole heart: do you think, however, that the sins of those who repent are remitted? Not altogether, but he who repents must torture his own soul, and be exceedingly humble in all his conduct, and be afflicted with many kinds of affliction; and if he endure the afflictions that come upon him, He who created all things, and endued them with power, will assuredly have compassion, and will heal him; and this will He do when He sees the heart of every penitent pure from every evil thing: and it is profitable for you and for your house to suffer affliction now. But why should I say much to you? You must be afflicted, as that angel of the Lord commanded who delivered you to me. And for this give thanks to the Lord, because He has deemed you worthy of showing you beforehand this affliction, that, knowing it before it comes, you may be able to bear it with courage. I said to him, “Sir, be thou with me, and I will be able to bear all affliction.” “I will be with you,” he said, “and I will ask the angel of punishment to afflict you more lightly; nevertheless, you will be afflicted for a little time, and again you will be re-established in your house. Only continue humble, and serve the Lord in all purity of heart, you and your children, and your house, and walk in my commands which I enjoin upon you, and your repentance will be deep and pure; and if you observe these things with your household, every affliction will depart from you. (2Sa_3:31, 2Sa_3:32, 2Sa_3:33) And affliction,” he added, “will depart from all who walk in these my commandments.”

 ~Hermas– The Pastor Book III Pt. 2, Vol. 2

Similitude Sixth. — Of the Two Classes of Voluptuous Men, and of Their Death, Falling Away, and the Duration of Their Punishment.

Hermas is visited by and Angel, during his conversation with the angel he explains the punishments for the pleasures of sin, of indulging in luxuries and the difference between death and corruption. He also describes the importance of walking in the commandments and true repentance.

FULL TEACHING

I.

Sitting in my house, and glorifying the Lord for all that I had seen, and reflecting on the commandments, that they are excellent, and powerful, and glorious, and able to save a man’s soul, I said within myself, “I shall be blessed if I walk in these commandments, and everyone who walks in them will be blessed.” While I was saying these words to myself, I suddenly see him sitting beside me, and hear him thus speak: “Why are you in doubt about the commandments which I gave you? They are excellent: have no doubt about them at all, but put on faith in the Lord, and you will walk in them, for I will strengthen you in them. These commandments are beneficial to those who intend to repent: for if they do not walk in them, their repentance is in vain. You, therefore, who repent cast away the wickedness of this world which wears you out; and by putting on all the virtues of a holy life, you will be able to keep these commandments, and will no longer add to the number of your sins. Walk, therefore, in these commandments of mine, and you will live unto God. All these things have been spoken to you by me.” And after he had uttered these words, he said to me, “Let us go into the fields, and I will show you the shepherds of the flocks.” “Let us go, sir,” I replied. And we came to a certain plain, and he showed me a young man, a shepherd, clothed in a suit of garments of a yellow color: and he was herding very many sheep, and these sheep were feeding luxuriously, as it were, and riotously, and merrily skipping hither and thither. The shepherd himself was merry, because of his flock; and the appearance of the shepherd was joyous, and he was running about amongst his flock. [And other sheep I saw rioting and luxuriating in one place, but not, however, leaping about.]

 

II.

 

And he said to me, “Do you see this shepherd?” “I see him, sir,” I said. “This,” he answered, is the angel of luxury and deceit: he wears out the souls of the servants of God, and perverts them from the truth, deceiving them with wicked desires, through which they will perish; for they forget the commandments of the living God, and walk in deceits and empty luxuries; and they are ruined by the angel, some being brought to death, others to corruption:” I said to him, “Sir, I do not know the meaning of these words, ‘to death, and to corruption.’” “Listen,” he said. “The sheep which you saw merry and leaping about, are those which have torn themselves away from God for ever and have delivered themselves over to luxuries and deceits [of this world. Among them there is no return to life through repentance, because they have added to their other sins, and blasphemed the name of the Lord. Such men therefore, are appointed unto death. And the sheep which you saw not leaping, but feeding in one place, are they who have delivered themselves over to luxury and deceit] but have committed no blasphemy against the Lord. These have been perverted from the truth: among them there is the hope of repentance, by which it is possible to live. Corruption, then, has a hope of a kind of renewal, but death has everlasting ruin.” Again, I went forward a little way, and he showed me a tall shepherd, somewhat savage in his appearance, clothed in a white goatskin, and having a wallet on his shoulders, and a very hard staff with branches, and a large whip. And he had a very sour look, so that I was afraid of him, so forbidding was his aspect. This shepherd, accordingly, was receiving the sheep from the young shepherd, those, that were rioting and luxuriating, but not leaping; and he cast them into a precipitous place, full of thistles and thorns, so that it was impossible to extricate the sheep from the thorns and thistles; but they were completely entangled amongst them. These, accordingly, thus entangled, pastured amongst the thorns and thistles, and were exceedingly miserable, being beaten by him; and he drove them hither and thither, and gave them no rest; and, altogether, these sheep were in a wretched plight.

 

III.

 

Seeing them, therefore, so beaten and so badly used, I was grieved for them, because they were so tormented, and had no rest at all. And I said to the Shepherd who talked with me, “Sir, who is this shepherd, who is so pitiless and severe, and so completely devoid of compassion  for these sheep?” “This,” he replied, “is the angel of punishment; and he belongs to the just angels and is appointed to punish. He accordingly takes those who wander away from God, and who have walked in the desires and deceits of this world, and chastises them as they deserve with terrible and diverse punishments.” “I would know, sir,” I said, “Of what nature are these diverse tortures and punishments?” “Hear,” he said, “the various tortures and punishments. The tortures are such as occur during life. For some are punished with losses, others with want, others with sicknesses of various kinds, and others with all kinds of disorder and confusion; others are insulted by unworthy persons, and exposed to suffering in many other ways: for many, becoming unstable in their plans, try many things, and none of them at all succeed, and they say they are not prosperous in their undertakings; and it does not occur to their minds that they have done evil deeds, but they blame the Lord. When, therefore, they have been afflicted with all kinds of affliction, then are they delivered unto me for good training, and they are made strong in the faith of the Lord; and for the rest of the days of their life they are subject to the Lord with pure hearts, and are successful in all their undertakings, obtaining from the Lord everything they ask; and then they glorify the Lord, that they were delivered to me, and no longer suffer any evil.”

 

IV.

 

I said to him, “Sir, explain this also to me.” “What is it you ask?” he said. “Whether, sir,” I continued, “they who indulge in luxury, and who are deceived, are tortured for the same period of time that they have indulged in luxury and deceit?” He said to me, “They are tortured in the same manner.” [“They are tormented much less, sir,” I replied;] “for those who are so luxurious and who forget God ought to be tortured seven-fold.” He said to me “You are foolish, and do not understand the power of torment.” “Why, sir,” I said, “if I had understood it, I would not have asked you to show me.” “Hear,” he said, “the power of both. The time of luxury and deceit is one hour; but the hour of torment is equivalent to thirty days. If, accordingly, a man indulge in luxury for one day, and be deceived and be tortured for one day, the day of his torture is equivalent to a whole year. For all the days of luxury, therefore, there are as many years of torture to be undergone. You see, then,” he continued, “that the time of luxury and deceit is very short, but that of punishment and torture long.”

 

V.

 

“Still,” I said, “I do not quite understand about the time of deceit, and luxury, and torture; explain it to me more clearly.” He answered, and said to me, “Your folly is persistent; and you do not wish to purify your heart and serve God. Have a care,” he added, “lest the time be fulfilled, and you be found foolish. Hear now,” he added, “as you desire, that you may understand these things. He who indulges in luxury, and is deceived for one day, and who does what he wishes, is clothed with much foolishness, and does not understand the act which he does until the morrow; for he forgets what he did the day before. For luxury and deceit have no memories, on account of the folly with which they are clothed; but when punishment and torture cleave to a man for one day, he is punished and tortured for a year; for punishment and torture have powerful memories. While tortured and punished, therefore, for a whole year, he remembers at last his luxury and deceit, and knows that on their account he suffers evil. Every man, therefore, who is luxurious and deceived is thus tormented, because, although having life, they have given themselves over to death.” “What kinds of luxury, sir,” I asked, “are hurtful?” “Every act of a man which he performs with pleasure,” he replied, “is an act of luxury; for the sharp-tempered man, when gratifying his tendency, indulges in luxury; and the adulterer, and the drunkard, and the back-biter, and the liar, and the covetous man, and the thief, and he who does things like these, gratifies his peculiar propensity, and in so doing indulges in luxury. All these acts of luxury are hurtful to the servants of God. On account of these deceits, therefore, do they suffer, who are punished and tortured. And there are also acts of luxury which save men; for many who do good indulge in luxury, being carried away by their own pleasure: this luxury, however, is beneficial to the servants of God, and gains life for such a man; but the injurious acts of luxury before enumerated bring tortures and punishment upon them; and if they continue in them and do not repent, they bring death upon themselves.”

~Hermas- The Pastor Hermas Bk. III Part 1 Vol. 2