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Commandment First.

On Faith in God.

First of all, believe 152 that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing. He alone is able to contain the whole, but Himself cannot be contained. 153 Have faith therefore in Him, and fear Him; and fearing Him, exercise self-control. Keep these commands, and you will cast away from you all wickedness, and put on the strength of righteousness, and live to God, if you keep this commandment.



[These first words are quoted by Irenæus, vol. i. p. 488, this series. Note that this book begins with the fundamental principle of faith, which is everywhere identified by Hermas (as in Vision ii. cap. 2) with faith in the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is also everywhere exhibited in this work. But the careful student will discover a very deep plan in the treatment of this subject. Repentance and faith are the great themes, and the long-suffering of God, against the Montanists. But he begins by indicating the divine character and the law of God. He treats of sin in its relations to the law and the gospel: little by little, opening the way, he reaches a point, in the Eighth Similitude, where he introduces the New Law, identifying it, indeed, with the old, but magnifying the gospel of the Son of God. Hermas takes for Granted the “Son of man;” but everywhere he avoids the names of His humanity, and brings out “the Son of God” with emphasis, in the spirit of St. John’s Gospel (cap. i.) and of the Epistle to the Hebrews (cap. i.), as if he feared the familiarities even of believers in speaking of Jesus or of Christ, without recognising His eternal power and Godhead.]


Contained.—Vat. and Pal. add: and who cannot be defined in words, nor conceived by the mind. [Here we have the “Incomprehensible,” so familiar in the liturgic formula improperly called the Athanasian Creed. In the Latin immensus, in the Greek ἄπειρος; i.e., “non mensurabilis, quiâ inlocalis, incircumscriptus, ubique totus, ubique prœsens, ubique potens.” Not intelligible is too frequently supposed to be the sense, but this is feeble and ambiguous. See Waterland, Works, iv. p. 320 London, 1823.]

Next: Commandment Second. On Avoiding Evil-Speaking, and on Giving Alms in Simplicity.