The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the First.
As a certain Steward. of his Majesty's household was one morning walking abroad for the benefit of the air, he promiscuously met with a rustic shepherd, whom he accosted in the following manner:-
Steward. Good morning to you, shepherd. Shepherd I call you; for such you appear to be by the crook in your hand.
Shepherd. Sir, a good morning to you. You have called me right; for a shepherd I am by profession, such an one as I am.
Steward. Yours is an occupation that exposes people to all sorts of weather - wet and dry, cold and heat; and it requires both wisdom and watchfulness, especially if a man be careful, to "give a portion to seven, and also to eight," Eccles. xi. 2.
Shepherd. True; and, the more a man looks to his flocks and to his herds, the less he is esteemed in the world; for it is in our days, as it was in the days of Joseph, "Every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians," Gen. xlvi. 34.
Steward. Better be an abomination to the Egyptians, than an abomination to Him that employs him. They that take the oversight of the flock, must receive their wages from the Chief Shepherd, when he shall appear. "The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field," Prov. xxvli. 26; or, "a ransom for the lambs," Prov. xxi. 18. The former shall one day come for thine hire; "so shall thy righteousness answer for thee in time to come," Gen. xxx. 33.
Shepherd. It is this, and being allowed at times to draw a little Pocket-money, that encourages me in the work, or else the treatment that I have met with has been enough to drive any man from the business who took it upon himself of his own accord. Though I have heard much talk of dumb dogs, in the days of old, I have found but very few of them; for, if they could not bark at the wolf, they could give tongue at the sheep, and at me also.
Steward. Pray, how many head may you have in your flock?
Shepherd. I cannot say justly; the Chief Shepherd keeps the book of name and number; but I believe there is somewhat above a thousand.
Steward. And have you all these to feed and to fold yourself?
Shepherd. Yes; and am obliged to draught them, and change them too, every two or three days; for sheep never do well long together upon one walk: the more they are shifted, the better they thrive.
Steward. You have got some lambs, I perceive, among them; and some ewes great with young - they do not bring forth together regularly, nor kindly, do they?
Shepherd. This sort of sheep are like orange-trees; they go to blossom, or are in bearing, all the year round: and some of the weakest of the lambs are more trouble to me than all the rest; they are always creeping through the hurdles; and I am afraid that my master will send the dog Smut after them; and that voracious creature makes such havock with these weaklings, that he leaves nothing "but two legs, or a piece of an ear," Amos. iii. 12, and sometimes I fret so at the sight of it, that I could wish that I had been any thing rather than a shepherd. It is like a sword to me; and I am obliged to cry out, "Deliver my soul from the sword: my darling from the power of the dog," Psalm, xxii. 20.
Steward. To be contented in one's station is best. There is no place of servitude without its difficulties and disagreeable circumstances. Wherein a man is called, therein let him abide - a rolling stone gathers no moss. I am not a little tried, where the bounds of my habitation are fixed.
Shepherd. If I may be so bold, pray, Sir, what may your trade or calling be? Neither your hands nor your appearance look as it you worked very hard.
Steward. There is a labour of the mind, and a labour of the body. I have been exercised with both; and, I think, the former is hardest.
Shepherd. Care and anxiety certainly wear a man away, or else Jethro would never have counselled Moses to look out such a number of men to bear a part with him.
Steward. I have my share of that; for it hath fallen to my lot to be one of the Steward.s of his Majesty's household, or what is commonly called a clerk of the kitchen, so that the care of many lies on me: and, you know, it is "required in Steward.s that a man be found faithful," 1 Cor. iv. 2.
Shepherd. Yes, you must give an account of your master's goods, as well as I of my flock; and, if we are fully persuaded that we can do it with cheerfullness, and not with grief, it affords comfort and satisfaction to the mind. But the office of a Steward. in the Royal Family must be a much easier place, and a more honourable station in life, than that of a shepherd.
Steward. He is the best judge where the shoe pinches that wears it. A Steward. is much envied: many of the servants are obliged to come to him for necessaries, advice, and direction; and, if he deals faithfully with all, every one, in his turn, will have a pick at him.
Shepherd. Very true, Sir. I was quite mistaken in my judgement of you. I should not have taken you to have been a servant: I thought, by your genteel appearance, that you was a reputable tradesman, a man in business for yourself.
Steward. God forbid! for none of my family ever set up for themselves but what came to beggary. Therefore, I never desire to be out of his Majesty's service, independent of him, or one hour upon my own hands, notwithstanding the many disagreeable things that attend the service.
Shepherd. Pray, Sir, what may your business chiefly be?
Steward. I provide for one part of the household such things as his Majesty orders me to get for them; I buy the meat, the wine, oil, milk, honey, butter, and fruit; I examine the cellar and the wardrobe, see to the family's table and apparel, and look to the doors and gates: I receive orders; and carry grievances, complaints, addresses, and grateful acknowledgments, to the King, &c.
Shepherd. Indeed! you have much upon your hands, and head too; as you must have a deal of accounts to cast up, many books to keep and settle, and many reckonings to make: "For to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more," Luke, xii. 48.
Steward. True: and where much is given, much is required. It a man be not punctual, he will not magnify his office; and, if once he loses his character, it is ten to one if he is of any more use in the household, even though he should succeed in getting a pension for himself. And, if his Majesty seems in the least to honour or favour him, there are many watching for his halting. "Report! report!" say they," and we will report it!" Jer. xx. 10.
Shepherd. I wonder his Majesty permits such to approach the royal apartments; for he is not one that favours an eye-servant, or "helps an evil doer," Job, viii. 20.
Steward. Many draw near to him, and approach his presence, that never found favour in his sight. In a great house, there are not only vessels of gold, and silver, and wood, and earth, but the best and worst of servants also. We have an Old Fellow, that is permitted to skulk about the palace-yard, and has been for a number of years; who is interfering with every body, every thing, and every word.
Shepherd. Perhaps he is kept for his former good services. If he was not in favour, he would hardly be allowed to dwell among the household.
Steward. As for good services, it has never been in his power to perform any; nor is he any friend to the King, or the King to him. I believe he is kept in existence chiefly for the trial of faithful servants during his Majesty's pleasure. Many have wished and petitioned for his final dismission, or utter destruction; but them he is still, and there he is like to be.
Shepherd. Well, Sir, "what cannot be cured, must be endured." Pray, has his Majesty many children?
Steward. O yes! - we increase and multiply: the Queen is always pregnant, in child-bed, or breeding, the whole year round.
Shepherd. And, pray, who has the care of the children? I suppose every one has a distinct nurse and rocker, have they not?
Steward. Any of the family may "suckle," Isaiah, lxvi. 12 - "swaddle," Lam. ii. 22 - "dandle," Isaiah, lxvii. 12 - bear upon their sides, or rock them, that will; and those of the family, even the young princes and princesses, that can hardly walk without a back-string or a go-cart, are fond of lugging them about I have sometimes seen one, that has itself staggered through weakness, endeavouring to keep another from falling into the ditch; and some, who are so tender-eyed as to be incapable of looking at a candle, much less at the sun, are often endeavouring to bring others from, or cautioning them against, the black hole, or horrible pit.
Shepherd. That is a good thing. It is with them as it is with lambs; the more they sport about and play, the stronger they grow, and the better they thrive: and so it is with children; the more they are tossed and tumbled about, the better; it keeps them from the rickets, and strengthens their limbs, if they do not humour them too much, nor handle them too roughly.
Steward. "Too many fingers often spoil the pie;" and too many nurses often hurt the child. All have not got sincere milk that draw out the breast: some suckle with the "poison of asps," Job, xx. 16, and stunt them in their infancy; and it is a rare thing to see such with proportionable heads. Others, again, both "nourish and cherish them like real nurses," 1 Thess. ii. 7. And, as for children, their taste is not very quick at discerning "perverse things," Job, vi. 30. "Stolen waters are sweet," Prov. ix. 17, as well as honey; and, if they taste but the candy, it is enough for them, they take all down.
Shepherd. But pray, sir, have you the care of them? This work is more fit for women than men.
Steward. The mother and her daughters are commanded to suckle them, and bear them upon their sides, as we have before observed; but, as soon as they are off the knee, I have the care of some of them. As a Steward. of the Household, "I am to give them a portion of meat in due season," Luke, xii. 42; to look to their ways, manners, and education; and likewise to their clothing: for there is "a punishment to the princes and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel," Zeph. i. 8. And when there are any that are stunted, sickly, weakly, or rickety, I have more trouble with such a child than I have with all the family beside. I have had three of these under my care at once; and I used to doubt whether they ever would be able to go alone and feed themselves or not; but two of them are now gone from my care.
Shepherd. Pray what are their names? Are they down in the Court Calendar?
Steward. Yes: the name of one is "Weak Heart," Ezek. xvi. 30; the other," Silly Dove," Hos. vii. 11; and the last," Little Faith," Matt. vi. 30. Which shews that the first has a heart, though weak; that the second is a dove though silly; and that the third has faith, though but little.
Shepherd. I perceive, sir, that you and I both serve one master, though you are in the household, and I in the field; therefore, tell me the reasons why so many of his Majesty's children are so often rickety and feeble. One would think that the King would tend at no expense; and, therefore, the Queen must have the best help, and her offspring the best of care.
Steward. The fault lies not in the King, who stands at no expense, nor in the Queen, "who is a tender and delicate woman," Jer. vi. 2; but it lies chiefly in placemen, and in the rulers of the house, who are often biassed, not faithful to their trust, nor watchful to keep intruders out; but often recommend unwise and unskilful persons to the young of the family; till, at times, it is more like Ahab's court than David's palace. Besides, groaning-times are times that old ladies are all in motion: they are always very busy and active at those seasons; and, while the Queen is in labour, she has enough to do to bear up under her own sorrows; and, therefore, cannot tell who are about her person, whether friends or foes. If the latter, the fault lies in them who called the Gossips, or those who recommended them. You know, that every person is not loyal that tastes the Queen's candle: various Persons getting about the child-bed, where every lady speaks her mind freely, and in the general fluently, after the "groaning-ale is broached;" till, in process of time, the hubbub is like the confused assembly at Ephesus: "some say one thing, and some another, till the greater part know not wherefore, nor for what they are come together." At these times, disaffected learn a cant, and get a wild gibberish, which introduces them as familiars to the household; and, if one is faithful to his trust, tries to get them out, another acts against his conscience in venting to keep them in; and there were too many of this about the Queen's person while she was in labour with Silly Dove, and Weak Heart.
Shepherd. Well, sir, but let the gossips be what they doubtless her Majesty had her proper maidens, or worn waiting, about her; and her proper midwife, doubtless; and the care of the Queen's person must rest chiefly in the hands of these.
Steward. In our days, every mole-catcher pretends to skill in mid-wifery; and every old barren woman will give directions at a groaning, who never knew what conception means, much less the bitter throes of child-birth. These generally hurry the birth, knowing nothing from experience; but, having imbibed some notions by observation, they will therefore neither let nature struggle with her own weakness, nor leave Providence to work his will.
Shepherd. Such are like some shepherds that I have known, who, by their over-carefulness, do more hurt than good in lambing time. If an ewe seems long in yeaning, they are always forward at drawing the lambs, for fear of losing the ewe; by which means many a lamb hath had its shoulder dislodged, or pulled out of place, which has rendered it either weakly or a cripple all its days; whereas the best way is to turn their heads toward the Hill of Zion, or to the rising ground; and see that they lie to an advantage, attend upon them, and watch over them; keep wild beasts off, and "foolish shepherds that cannot understand, from intermeddling," Isa. lvi. 11, and leave them in the invisible hand of Him "who carries the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young," Isa. xl. 11.
Steward. You talk like a shepherd that has some knowledge of his business. Nature should not be forced; nor will Providence be hurried. Blind, unskilful, or ignorant persons, and mere pretenders, do as much mischief in the King's household as such foolish shepherds do in the field: for, if any in the house be touched either with the green-sickness, or with the hip, are griped or qualmish - whether it be the Queen, or any of the concubines, servants, or princesses - it is all put down, and taken for granted to be Zion's labour. Whereas some groan under a false conception; "They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity; and their belly prepareth deceit," Job, xv. 35. Others have been with child, and have laboured, and brought forth wind: they wrought no deliverance; nor were they delivered themselves, till the promise came - "Thy dead men shall live," Isa. xxvi. 18, 19. Some, who assume the name of Queen, and lay claim to his Majesty's person, find all their glory and lustre vanish as soon as they put their hands upon their loins: "Their glory flies away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception," Hosea, ix. 11. Others, after a deal of counterfeit labour, just to attract pity from the gossips, produce "a snail that melteth away: it is an untimely birth, which never sees the sun," Psa. lviii. 8. All these, in the eyes of some, pass for child-bearing women: preparations are made; kerchiefs and pillows are prepared, Ezek. xiii. 18, the garden of spices is robbed, Song, vi. 2, cordial and consolation are flying about even for the dead, for such are not the bride, Jer. xvi. 7, 8, and every granny is condoling the hypocrite, till the abortive birth discovers the hypocrisy of the bond-woman: then "she that was full hires herself out for bread," 1 Sam. ii. 5; and, after that, becomes a pest, and a plague (if she can) to every royal lodge in his Majesty's dominions. Ancient palaces, as well as modern, from the royal family of Abraham down to Solomon, and from Solomon to the latest regal reign of the Prince of peace, the household hath been (and will be) pestered, more or less, with these strange women.
Shepherd. But you don't think, sir, that Weak Heart, Silly Dove, and Little Faith, are either children of whoredom, or a seed of falsehood. They are not born of fornication, are they? If they were the children of the concubines, or of the desolate which hath no husband, you would not have the charge and care of them, I should think; for the bread of his Majesty's household is not to be cast to dogs, nor to the "bastards of Ashdod," Neh. xiii. 24.
Steward. True; these three children of the wood are not legitimate; "they are the offspring and issue of Zion," Isa. xxii. 24, and are called the Feeble Ones of the "house of David," Zech. xii. 8, and their feebleness is chiefly owing to the grannies and gossips that attended her Majesty in labour; who have neither patience to let the birth take its course, nor wisdom to watch and wait the events of Providence, who asks this important question, "Shall I cause to travail, and not cause to bring forth? and shall I bring to the birth, and shut the womb, saith thy God? Isa. lxvi. 9. The work should be left to him whose work it is; and his aid be implored, and his time submitted to, who has fixed a every purpose, "a time to be born, and a time to die:" instead of this, the birth is hastened; threatenings are used; warnings are given; different counsels are taken; all sorts of tenders are called in; endless advice, some right, and some wrong, is attended to; and violence is often used: and, what with their different slops, wherreting tongues, and violent measures, they are Forced" before the decree brings forth," Zeph. ii. 2. I think it is better "to tarry too long (like Ephraim) in the place of the breaking forth of children," Hos. xiii. 13, than (like Ishmael) to make an appearance fourteen years before the time of the promise; "for this breach is sure to be upon him that breaks forth, and his name must be called Pharez," Gen. xxxviii. 29.
Shepherd. We have got just such novices among cattle as you have in the household. Some are running with food as soon as cattle "bow themselves to bring forth their young, and to cast out their sorrows," Job, xxix. 3; others with hot drinks, and some drenching them with a horn: which is only troubling them; for, when they are in pain, they cannot eat, only at intervals, when there is a little intermission. To get them into the barn in time, if the weather be cold, attend upon them, and pray, as the Psalmist did, "that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets," Psal. cxliv. 13, is the best way of proceeding, in my judgment. And as it is with cattle, so it is, in this respect, with the human species. If the woman goes not her proper time, her offspring must of course be weakly.
Steward. It is the case with these. Weak Heart, Silly Dove, and Little Faith, are but seven months children.
Shepherd. I have heard, that all the honourable matrons, ladies in waiting, women of the childbed-chamber, grannies, gossips, and nurses, in short, all who engage, either in the talkative or the active part, on those occasions (who use proverbs), and whose veracity must not be questioned without incurring displeasure - do affirm this proverb to be true, with one voice; namely, that "A seven months child generally lives, but an eight months child seldom does." If these are allowed to give a portion to seven, and also to eight, the proverb deals life to the former, and death to the latter.
Steward. I doubt not of these little ones living for ever: yet such are to be pitied, because they were neglected. Poor Little Faith was entangled in his navel-string at his birth; which requires a sharp knife, but sharpness was not used, Tit. i. 13; 2 Cor. xiii. 10. You know, "There are that speaketh like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is health," Prov. xii. 18. This cuts a child off from the wisdom of the flesh, and begets a "fear in the heart, which (as wisdom saith) is health to his navel, and marrow to his bones," Prov. xxxvii. 8. The ties of nature are strong; and the child that is entangled with them is sure to savour of the old cask, and to be put behind. "Get thee behind me," said the King to Little Faith: "thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men," Matt xvi. 23. Hence the heavy complaint in the ancient Records "And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born, thy navel was not cut," Ezek. xvi. 4. Poor children thus entangled in the ties of nature must unavoidably draw nutriment from flesh and blood: and, where this is the case, the birth cannot be clear; "for we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of GOD;" John, i. 13. Yea, and it is no uncommon thing, in our days, to see a bond-child assume the highest office in his Majesty's household; giving orders and directions to the whole family, with his navel-string round his neck, instead of a ravishing chain, Cant. iv. 9, sticking to Hagar's knees, instead of Zion's lap; and cleaving to the first Adam, in preference to the second. Nor were the poor infants managed properly when they came: they should have been taken to the "fountain opened for the house of David," with earnest importunities to be "washed and supplied;" and they should have been "seasoned with salt," by the ministry of grace; and have been swaddled with the girdle of truth, which "girds up the loins of the mind," and keeps them from staggering. But, poor babes! they fell into the hands of grannies that had no skill, and physicians of no value, and nurses of neither truth nor pity. And of such God complains: "Thy navel was not cut; neither wast thou washed in water, to supple thee. Thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these things unto thee, to have compassion upon thee," Ezek. xvi. 4, 5.
Shepherd. But pray, sir, who was appointed to nurse them? or, into whose hands were they committed? For certainly, if they are any part of the Seed Royal, proper care is taken, and proper persons appointed for the business.
Steward. That they are of the Seed Royal, I have no doubt, because the Queen "received strength to conceive seed," Heb. xi. 11; and would have "received strength to bring forth also," Isa. lxvi. 9; if they had let her alone. And that proper persons are appointed by the King to nurse and take care of the children, is true also. But some who are called rulers falsely, and some that are really so, appoint many whom his Majesty never appointed. Such, in former days, set up kings, but not by him; and heaped to themselves tutors, but not by his orders; and nurses too; or else why stands the above complaint upon record respecting their not being salted, supplied, and swaddled? And some are palmed upon the King, and nursed with all tenderness, when they are not his offspring; and others, that are really so, are often put into improper hands, who are friends neither to the King nor the country, and that for the sake of their dozens and the salary And too many of our rulers give heed to, and take all to be true, that these old honourable ladies say at the labour and the birth; if any ladies of candour do but cry out," This is one of the promised seed, it is the very picture of his Majesty;" - when we know that some complimental ladies would pass the same encomium upon a monkey, if it lay in the cradle; whose word is not to be taken, nor their judgment trusted to. Every one should be persuaded in his own mind, and have the testimony of his own conscience, if he acts uprightly, as one that must give an account: for many will cry out, "Such an one is a proper child! This is a precious seed!" And, "The other is the very portrait of the Father! Take it into the King's Household." Whereas, when you bring it to the light, and compare it with the King's image, 2 Cor. iii. 18; or with the King's children, Judg. viii. 18; we may say of it, as a gentleman once said, who was in company with me in the church-yard belonging to the famous corporation of Queenborough, in Kent, where we were reading some pompous descriptions and epitaphs upon the grave-stones of some of the jurats and other great men who had formerly belonged to that corporation. Among other curiosities, a singular piece of sculpture presented itself to view, the meaning of which puzzled us all; but, after long examination, we construed the aim of the artist to be this - "Time with his glass; the Judge in the clouds; and the Earth giving up her dead." The gentleman concluded that the artist had not transgressed the second commandment, for "he had not made the likeness of any thing, either in heaven above, or in the earth beneath." And so we may say of some who would fain appear to be new creatures; the feigned mask defaces the image of the earthly Adam, and there is no impression to be found of the image of the heavenly Adam. But, alas! some who have been so long accustomed to the cant of Jacobite courtiers, and so often biased in favour of their friends, will let many pass for new creatures, and for wet nurses too, who never were pregnant with any thing but mischief; but have learned to mimic and talk by observation, and the art of nursing in a systematical way; who are branded with "a miscarrying womb and dry breasts," Hos. ix. 14. And, if even Hagar comes in, she may give them a drop, if she will; and her bond-children are sent to play with them, any how, so as they can but be kept from crying.
Shepherd. Then some of the rulers of the household act as Moses did when he kept Jethro's flock: though it is not much to be wondered at; for a man brought up in a palace cuts but an awkward figure at first with a crook. But, what I was going to observe was, that he led his flock to the back side of Horeb; which, according to report, stands in a barren wilderness, and in a dry land. I will be bold to affirm, that David never led his flocks there when he followed the ewes great with young: for, though he kept sheep in the wilderness, yet he generally sought for the valleys, as fat pastures, green pastures, streams and rivers, are so often mentioned in his writings. But Moses, and some of your rulers, seem to agree pretty well: he led the flock to the back side of the mount; and, if the children are allowed to go to Hagar, they are taken to the front of it. What musical sound is that which echoes from the hills? Hark!
Steward. O dear! the sound is made by his Majesty's seven trumpeters. To-day, being court-day, we have a feast on the holy mountain: and I must run, for I am obliged to attend the table; but should be glad of another interview, if a leisure hour should offer.
Shepherd. I shall have pitched my fold, watered the flock, and can leave them safely in the inclosures, by to-morrow at half-past twelve; and will, if God permit, meet you under the fig-tree at the corner of the wall, precisely at one o'clock.
Steward. My time is not my own; but, if the King should not send me elsewhere, I will be sure to be there. The Lord be with thee.
Shepherd. And with thy spirit.