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.
After 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.
After a certain time, as I was journeying to Cumae, and glorifying God's creatures for their greatness and splendor 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.
Now, while I prayed, the heaven was opened, and I see the lady, whom I had desired, greeting me from heaven, saying, "Good morrow, Hermas."
And, looking at her, I said to her, "Lady, what do you here?" Then she answered me, "I was taken up, that I might convict you of your sins before the Lord."
I said to her, "Dost you now convict me?" "No, not so," said she, "but hear the words, that I shall say to you. God, Who dwells 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 you, for that you did sin against me."
I answered her and said, "Sin against you? In what way? Did I ever speak an unseemly word unto you? Did I not always regard you as a goddess? Did I not always respect you as a sister? How couldst you falsely charge me, lady, with such villainy and uncleanness?
"Laughing she says unto me, "The desire after evil entered into your heart. No, don't you think 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," says she; "for the righteous man entertains righteous purposes. While then his purposes are righteous, his repute stands steadfast in the heavens, and he finds the Lord easily propitiated in all that he does. But they who entertain evil purposes in their hearts, bring upon themselves death an captivity, especially they who claim for themselves this present work and boast in its riches, and cling not to the good things that are to come.
Their souls shall rue it, seeing that they have no hope, but have abandoned themselves and their life. But do you pray unto God and He shall heal your own sins, and those of your whole house, and of all the saints."
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 which words shall I entreat the Lord that He may be propitious unto me?
While 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."
And she said to me "Why so gloomy, Hermas, you that are patient and good-tempered and are always smiling? Why so downcast in your looks, and far from cheerful?" And I said to her, "Because of an excellent lady's saying that I had sinned against her."
Then she said, "Far be this thing from the servant of God! Nevertheless the thought did enter into your heart concerning her. Now to the servants of God such a purpose brings sin. For it is an evil and mad purpose to overtake a devout spirit that has been already approved, that it should desire an evil deed, and especially if it be Hermas the temperate, who abstains from every evil desire, and is full of all simplicity and of great guilelessness.
"Yet it is not for this that God is wroth with you, but that you may convert your family, that has done wrong against the Lord and against you their parents. But out of fondness for your children you did not admonish your family, but did suffer it to become fearfully corrupt. Therefore the Lord is wroth with you. But He will heal all your past sins, which have been committed in your family; for by reason of their sins and iniquities you had been corrupted by the affairs of this world.
But the great mercy of the Lord had pity on you and your family, and will strengthen you, and establish you in His glory. Only be not you careless, but take courage, and strengthen your 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 your 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."
After these words of hers had ceased, she says unto me, "Wilt you listen to me as I read?" Then say I, "Yes, lady." She says 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.
"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 removes the heavens and the mountains and the hills and the seas, and all things are made level for His elect, that He may fulfill 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."
When then she finished reading and arose from her chair, there came four young men, and they took away the chair, and departed toward the East.
Then she calls me unto her, and she touched my breast, and says to me, "Did my reading please you?" And I say unto her, "Lady, these last words please me, but the former were difficult and hard." Then she spoke to me, saying, "These last words are for the righteous, but the former are for the heathen and the rebellious."
While she yet spoke with me, two men appeared, and took her by the arms, and they departed, whither the chair also had gone, toward the East. And she smiled as she departed and, as she was going, she says to me, "Play the man, Hermas."