The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Second.
Shepherd. Why, you run, Sir, till you are quite out of breath.
Steward. Yes, I am half an hour past the time appointed, but I could not help it; for, just as I was coming away, Little Faith got hold of me, as he often does: for if there is not any thing upon the table that he can eat, he is sure to follow me into the larder, cellar, or pantry, to see if I have got any secret morsel, or drop of comfort, in reserve for him; and, if I have, I generally give it him.
Shepherd. I was thinking last night, that if any body had heard our yesterday's conversation, it would have caused a deal of laughter among fools: yea, and some who are called shepherds and Stewards, if they had heard our discourse concerning travail, birth, and naval-strings, would have traduced us as indecent and indelicate, if not reproached us with using filthy conversation.
Steward. He that is too pure in his mouth to use the consecrated words of the King's oracles, is too debauched and filthy in his mind to be employed in the in the King's service. The sacred records of his Majesty, and the words by which they are expressed, were indicted by the purest Spirit that ever existed, and penned by the holiest men that ever lived: therefore those who traduce the wholesome words of the Divine records, as improper or impure, cast their slurs upon the Author of the style, and upon the sanctified family which are the heirs of promise; and must be influenced by a different Spirit from them, which can be no other than what is called a foul, or an unclean spirit.
Shepherd. If Peter was not allowed to call the Gentiles, whom the King had sanctified, either common or unclean, what liberties must they take who use such language against the words of the King's mouth - "Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?" Job, iv. 17. "The words of the King are pure words," Psal. xii. 6; "yea, very pure," Psal. cxix. 140. "Every word is pure," Prov. xxx. 5; "and they are pleasant words," Prov. xv. 26.
Steward. Those that say, "Stand by thyself, Come not near to me, for I am holier than thou; are a smoke in the King's nose, and a fire that burneth all the day," Isa. lxv. 5. Which fire can be no other than the fire of sin; and the smoke is the flame and stench of pride and ignorance, which these holiest mortals are filled with. However we have a nation that are pure in their own eyes; but the worst of it is, that they "never were washed from their filthiness," Prov. xxx. 12. But we will go on with our good conversation in the King, and make use of the "words which his Holy Spirit teacheth;" and leave these pure ones to the mercy or vengeance of him who hath said, "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed," Prov. xiii. 13. And in the great day, when the mystery of iniquity shall be revealed, their purity will be brought to light; and then we shall be perfect in knowledge, and have the satisfaction of seeing what it really is, and of judging accordingly.
Shepherd. When we parted yesterday, you was speaking of the bad nursing that Little Faith has had; and of his being permitted, at times, to go to Hagar, and to be carried about by the bond-children. If this is the case, I do not wonder at Little Faith's weakness. I think the free woman, the seed-royal, and the established and warranted servants of the Household, ought to have the sole and whole management of the King's children.
Steward. If Sarah, or the heirs of promise, or any of Sarah's daughters that do well, had the whole management of them, it would not be as it is. As soon as Isaac was born, Sarah turned Hagar out, and her son too. She would never let the bond-woman put the heir of promise to her breasts, lest the dregs of the servant's body should injure the favoured heir; nor permit her to stay in the house, lest the child should learn her ill manners; nor her bond-child neither. Isaac must pass through his whole state of childhood without a playmate, rather than whip tops with, or learn the archer's dexterity of that mocking child of the flesh.
Shepherd. Hagar must undoubtedly have an eternal hatred to Sarah, and the Ishmaelites to the Israelites. The house of Saul were never one with the house of David, nor the bond-woman with the married wife. Sinai and Zion can never agree; nor can the desolate approve of Hephzi-bah: and those who attempt to make reconciliation here stand in a gap that can never be closed; and are proclaiming friendship where the King hath put enmity, and making peace where he hath sent both a sword and a fire. If any of the bond-children come to the court of Zion, they come as spies, to count the towers, mark the bulwarks, or dive into the management of the household, into the rules of it, the ways of it, and to get a smattering of the pure language of the court; only that they may be capable of ensnaring some of the sons or daughters of Zion. Egyptians will be Egyptians.
Steward. True; and we know that Egypt was the most abandoned to idolatry and witchcraft of any place under heaven: and the apostle declared, in his day, that all the children of Grace in Galatia who went to allegorical Hagar were bewitched - "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?" But we have some in the court who speak highly of Hagar, and weep over her family; yea, and are so full of fleshly savour, as to throw out their invectives against those who are faithful in the King's Household; and to judge some to be of the seed-royal who have died by suicide, when the laws of Zion declare that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him; and self-murder is the worst of murder.
Shepherd. If this be the case, it must undoubtedly go hard with these three poor children. Pardon my digression, Sir, as I ask for information, Who is her Majesty's midwife? or, rather, who are her midwives? for I suppose she has more than one.
Steward. There are two, and no more. The most famous is one Mrs. Love. Her town-house is in Jerusalem; but her country-house is at En-rogel, 1 Kings, i. 9, which is the King's gardens, and lies between Bethlehem and the Valley of Hinnom. The other is Lady Truth: she is safe, but the other is the most famous. Both these have persons that act under them, but themselves have always the superintendance.
Shepherd. And was the Queen delivered of Weak Heart, Silly Dove, and Little Faith, by Mrs. Love, or by the other?
Steward. Mrs. Love was at her country-house, and gave orders, and had a hand in it, in a secret way, but did not appear in person: if she had, matters would have been better managed; which was needful, for the Queen bred these three children very badly. She was much troubled with sickness, and seldom eat at quiet during the whole time of her pregnancy; and, after she quickened, she had several frights and sudden surprises, which brought a heavy gloom upon her mind, and subjected her much to bondage and fear; and whatever affects the mother, affects the infant also, for that is nourished at her fountain. When these three children were born, various symptoms of the mother's disorders and frights appeared visible on them; which Mrs. Love generally purges oil and expels by a little of the "oil of joy," Isa. lxi. 3, mingled with "hidden manna," Rev. ii. 17. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment: he that feareth is not made perfect in love," 1 John, iv. 18. Children made perfect in love are wise indeed; for they know their Father! "Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God," 1 John, iv. 7. And he is "a wise child indeed that knows his own father!" say they who speak in proverbs - and I believe he is. However, family likeness is more to be depended upon; and is more satisfactory to some husbands than the positive assertions or the mother, because it has been known that deathbed confessions have given all such preceding assertions the lie.
Shepherd. Then I suppose it was Lady Truth that laid the Queen of these three; and you say she is a safe midwife, though the other be the most famous: therefore these children may be perfect or complete in the truth, though not perfect in love.
Steward. Lady Truth laid the Queen of all these, and impressions of her hands are visible upon them; and the King owns them: for he said, "Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their Saviour," Isa. lxiii. 8. And certain it is, "that truth makes free," John, viii. 32; free from death, though not always from the fear of it; for some shall be delivered - from eternal death - "who, through the fear of it, were ALL THEIR LIFE-TIME subject to bondage," Heb. ii. 13. Thus truth makes free but perfect love casteth out fear: the child of truth is safe; but the child made perfect by love is the most happy.
Shepherd. Then it appears that the King may own some for his who never could as yet lay a claim upon him?
Steward. Doubtless he knows his own, whether all that are his know him or not; and certain it is, that all his seed shall know him, from the least to the greatest, ere they go hence. He that loves the truth, and loves the saints, loves indeed and in TRUTH: "and thereby may know that he is of the TRUTH, and may assure his heart before him," 1 John, iii. 18, 19. But, though the King knows and owns him, yet he knows not the King in the highest sense, nor can he boldly claim him as his Father; and, therefore, has not the comfort of it, because, though he loves the truth and the saints, he is not made perfect in love: and he "that loves not, knoweth not God," 1 John, iv. 8, though God knows him.
Shepherd. I thank you for your satisfactory resolve. But pray Sir, were all these three children nursed in the palace that you are at, or in any other? for I know the King has several palaces or lodges in the nation.
Steward. They were not all brought up at the Royal Palace in the great Metropolis, though they were there for a little time. Weak Heart through the counsels of some rulers, was sent into the North, to what is called the High-priest's Palace; where he wore iron-bows for his neck, to make him carry his head upright; and irons upon his legs and ankles, to bring his limbs in form, in order to set off his gait, and enable him to make a decent appearance; and to submit to the endless human rules, forms, and orders, of the house: but, for the want of a good breast and proper nursing in his youth, he remained unsightly, disproportion-able, and rickety, till within a few days of his death; but, at his departure, he appeared a perfect man.
Shepherd. And, pray, what became of silly Dove? Was he sent to the same place? If he was, I dare say that he fared as bad as the other.
Steward. No, he did not go with his brother; he was sent to the lodge at Bethel, which is in the south country, near the famous city that was once the residence of Melchisedec; where the air is fine, and the country open; plenty of sun and heat, and yet noted at certain seasons for cool breezes. Here he was under the tuition of one Fidelity, an excellent tutor and governor, who so brought him on, under God, that his behaviour, pleasant countenance, and the King's tender affection for him, stand upon record in the Eternal Annals - "As his Majesty's dear Son, and his pleasant Child, for whom his bowels were troubled, and upon whom his infinite compassion was shewed," Jer. xxxi. 20. So that the old name, Silly Dove died away in every body's mouth, and in time became totally extinct.
Shepherd. Just so it fares with some flocks which fall into the hands of careful shepherds; who, under superior direction, suffer them not to want, but make them lie "down in green pastures, and feed them beside the still waters," Psalm, xxiii, l, 2; while others are suffered to be scattered by the wolf, and drove into numberless corners and thickets "in the cloudy and dark days," Ezek. xxxiv. 12. "The lost are not sought after, the strayed are not gathered, the broken are not bound up, and the sick are not strengthened," Ezek. xxxiv. 16. A man of no spiritual under-standing is a foolish shepherd; and, if he is one that has no regard for the flock, they had better be without him than with him; for, when they are scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd, the Owner himself will seek after them; as it is written, "Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out." Others spend half their time in what is called trimming them; which is done by driving a large crutch-stake into the ground, in the shape of a capital Y, while the poor creature stands hanging back with its neck in the crutch - a pin running through the two crutches at the top - and the Shepherd clips off the loose, dangling, and torn wool, just to make the creature look plump and round to the eye; when, if you were to handle the carcase of it, it is as light as an owl, and its ribs are like a paper of pins: and, if it could but speak, it would cry," My leanness! my leanness! all the day long," Isa, xxiv. 16. "Ye eat the fat, and ye Clothe you with the wool; but ye feed not the flock," Ezek. xxxiv. 3. And again, "Neither did my shepherds search for my flock; but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not the flock," Ezek. xxxiv. 8. But pray, Sir, where is Little Faith?
Steward. Little Faith is at the town-palace.
Shepherd. Does he grow at all? Is there any likelihood of his name being buried in oblivion, like that of his brother, Silly Dove? or is he Little Faith, and of little stature still?
Steward. He is Little Faith still; and that name, by the bye, is applicable to some who talk of very great faith, who have no more trophies to shew of their preveiling strength and heroic deeds than he has.
Shepherd. If a man has faith, he must have it to the King; and, if he has enough to live by, fight by, work by, and walk by, it is enough: it is seldom given to boast of; his Majesty does nothing in vain. But my reason for asking is, because sometimes children that are stunted for want of good nursing, and others that are not very proper or sightly in their infancy or childhood, do in their riper years out-grow it, as Silly Dove did.
Steward. If once a weakly infant falls into the hands of Hagar, and in time gets doatingly fond of her, and sucks her breast till it be esteemed preferable to all others, and becomes both a play-fellow and a school-fellow with her children, the effects are not easily got rid of: some have felt the dregs of it even after a pining sickness, and a wasting comparable to salivation, which has been so deep, that "their flesh has consumed away, that it could not be seen; and their bones that were not seen, stuck out," Job, xxxiii. 21. And Little Faith himself, who is not a babe in understanding, though little in faith, sees the hypocrisy of the Old Woman, and the dangerous state of her family, and often groans under the bondage that he contracted among them to this day: but he cannot get rid of it; nor will he, until he is permitted to have a conspicuous view of the King's face. And, though many of the servants were greatly to blame for encouraging the bond-children about the palace, and permitting those to nurse him who were so regardless as not to care whose arms embraced him, so as they did but get their salary; yet Little Faith himself was greatly to blame, also, in former times: for he has had much wholesome counsel and caution since he has been capable of receiving it; and yet he would be hankering after Hagar's habitation, and every now and then he would steal away to have a game with the Hagarenes round the mount; and sometimes he would get disputing with them, or sporting rather, about the proclamations of Zion, which is "taking a dog by the ears; Prov. xxvi. 17; for they had too much of the wisdom of the serpent for Little Faith, who was only equipped with the harmlessness of the dove; so that they poisoned him in the head, and sent him home broken in judgment. And how could it be otherwise, when a bird fought with a viper, and his head has been formerly much confused? Their sophistry, and Zion's proclamations, maintained a long pro and con in his mind; so that he was long "tossed to and fro with every wind," Ephes. iv. 14; neither strengthened, established, nor settled, any how.
Shepherd. Well, Sir, but Little Faith is not without the King's promise: Those that "erred in spirit shall come to understanding;" and, if he has been poisoned, it is said, "that if they eat any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;" for, you know, there is balm in Gilead, and a great Physician there.
Steward. Very true: but if a heedless child provokes the King to send a fiery Serpent, you may depend upon it that he will let him feel the bite, and venom too, before he orders a brazen one to be exhibited, or issues out a command to live by looking thereon.
Shepherd. Pray, Sir, what are the complaints of Little Faith?
Steward. His complaints are numerous: for he is always complaining. But the chief are, he is weak in the knees, and loose in the loins, and has something of a palsy in his hands, which makes them always hang down; and he is timorous in his mind, fearful in his heart, and weak in his ankles, so that he cannot get his shoes up at the heels: it is a rare thing to see "his feet shod," Ephes. vi. 15. And, having been perpetually at play with Hagar's boys, he had learnt their base, low, and mean ways and manners, for which he has been long kept out of the drawing-room.
Shepherd. But he is not without his promises, nor without the fixed love and affection of his Royal Father; who orders his servants to "strengthen the weak hands, to confirm the feeble knees, to lift up the hands that hang down, and to say to the fearful-hearted - "Be strong; fear not!"
Steward. True: but, while his knees are so weak, "he staggers at the promise, through unbelief;" and while the palsy is in his hands, he cannot maintain a comfortable hold: for, you know, it requires some strength "to lay hold on eternal life;" and it requires abiding strength to "hold fast the faithful, as he hath been taught," For the wicked one often steals away the good seed sown in the heart; and if any of the Royal Family get into perils among robbers, Little Faith is sure never to escape; for he has been plundered ere now at the palace gate, and even robbed in the very courts of the King. His timorous mind impairs his memory, which is like a spider's web: it can hold a fly; but, if any weighty or important matter of use to him falls upon it, it is lost and gone in a minute.
Shepherd. If Little Faith cannot hold the King, the King will hold him; nor shall any pluck him out of his hands, for it is not the will of the great and all-wise Disposer of events that one of these little ones should perish - and, you know, Little Faith is a little one. He will strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees too, though he may not permit his Stewards to do it. If he say to the sick of the palsy, "Stretch forth thine hand," it shall be restored whole; and if he say to Unbelief, as he did of Lazarus's grave-clothes, "Loose him, and let him go," the feeblest of the house shall be as David. The King himself calls him "Little Faith," implying that he has faith, though not much; and faith is a seed of God, and a fruit of his Spirit: whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. And, if he does not permit a Steward. to gird up the loins of his mind, it is to try the faith and patience of the Steward., as well as to exercise the weakling; and he is well-pleased with the servant's endeavours, if prayer and importunity be added, though he may not succeed. It is rehearsed, as an encomium upon one, "That he had instructed many, and strengthened the weak hands; and that his words had upholden him that was falling, and that he had strengthened the feeble knees," Job, iv. 3, 4. But he was blamed "for fainting when the same fits came upon him, and for being troubled when he was touched with the same afflictions," Job, iv. 5. Nevertheless, the Lord approves of the tender care, special regard, and earnest endeavours of his servants, knowing that the success depends wholly upon himself. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but none but the King can give the increase; yet it is accepted, if there be a willing mind: his work is with the King; and, if his Majesty does not prosper him, he is nevertheless glorious in his eyes. I have sometimes had a twin lamb which has baffled all my skill and experience: the dam has been tender, milk plenty, the weather fine, the pastures good; and I have endeavoured to let it have the first bite of the fold, and have pitched it upon an eminence, where it was both dry and warm; according to divine direction," I will feed them in good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains," Ezek. xxxiv. 14. But all would not do. You read of "sheep coming up from the washing, each one bearing twins, and not one barren among them," Song, vi. 6. But, though the ewes were not barren, it does not say that the lambs were not feeble, which is often the case with twin-lambs; and some of these I have been obliged to carry up the hill: they have ventured upon my feet when they could not trust their own; like Elisha's suppliant widow, who might as well have gone to the Fountain-head as have come to the Prophet; but, when she took shelter behind a human petitioner, she thought she was safe.
Steward. As it is with your flock, so it is with the household that I am servant to. It is a rare thing to furnish a table so as for Little Faith to come in for his part: if there is an "apple," Song, ii. 5, a "cluster of grapes," Isa. lxv. 8, a little "moonshine," Cant. vi. 10, or any legal scrap belonging to the new-moon feasts; a trifle, which is "but a light thing in the sight of the King," 2 Kings, iii. 18, a "little honey," Prov. xxiv. 13, or "milk," 1 Cor. iii. 2, he may then, perhaps, eat a morsel; but, if it consists of "strong meat, fit for persons of full age," Heb. v. 14, he trembles at it, sees others eat it, and longs for a part, but cannot feed himself for the want of strength in his hands. And, therefore, when we have only these dishes at table, there is nothing for him; and he cries out, "Woe is me! there is no cluster to eat? Micah, vii. 1; and by living upon such weak things, and chiefly upon milk, he gets pot-bellied and heavy, which keeps him back: "for every one that useth milk is unskilful" in the rules and privileges of his Majesty's house; "for he is a babe," Heb. v. 13. For the time, Little Faith ought to have had his hands on the reins of government, and to have reigned as a King; but, instead of that, this heir, as long as he is a child, "differs nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all; but is under tutors and governors:" and there he must remain, "until the time appointed by the Father," Gal. iv. 1, 2.
Shepherd. Do you think that he was properly begotten with the Word of Truth? James, i. 18; and that the incorruptible Seed properly gendered? 1 Peter, i. 23; and that the engrafted Word was received in meekness? James, i. 21. If so, he is of the Seed Royal, and is a Tree of Righteousness, however wild by nature the barren stock; and shall be a fruitful Field, however dry and parched the fallow-ground may have been in times past: for that" Seed never can rot under the clods," Joel, i. 17. Nor shall he always remain a dwarf; but shall arrive to the King's stature, in his appointed time.
Steward. That he is the Offspring of the Universal Sovereign, none of the Royal Family doubt, as his name stands upon record in the Court Calendar, and in the genealogy of the Seed Royal: for they are all the offspring of the Ancient of Days, by faith in the Heir Apparent; and he is expressly styled "Little Faith," and that by his Majesty himself. Nor was he ever disowned by his venerable mother, nor by any of the sons and daughters of Zion, nor by any friends of the family, or by any established or domestic servant of the household; they all have, from age to age, paid a particular attention, and shewed the utmost regard to, "Little Faith;" and have often received that little one in the king's name, and have received the king by so doing. For, though Little Faith be weak in himself, yet his word has often been weighty and powerful to others; and, when his timorous fits have been upon him, and he has been in fear where no fear was, add has fled when none pursued, as is often the case, whole heathen nations have received a command and a particular charge concerning such feeble ones of the tribe - "Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noon-day: hide the outcasts, bewray not him that wandereth. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler." Isa. xvi. 3, 4. That his Majesty, of his own will, begat him by the word of truth, nobody doubts; and that he was born again of incorruptible seed, that lives and abides for ever, can never be disproved. But still his name is Little Faith: and yet, in one sense of the word, his faith is not little; for, if his Majesty should erect his standard, none are at it sooner than he, rather than be included among the rebels. If the king frowns, none stand in more awe, nor at a greater distance: if he issues out a thundering mandate, he is the first that trembles at his word - and, you know, the King looks at, and dwells with, those that tremble at his word; and, if a royal warrant be issued out to apprehend and take an enemy, he is the first that cries out, "Lord! is it I?" and trembles at the thought. So that he is no enemy to the king, nor to any domestic servant, nor to any other, so much as he is to himself. He believes every word that comes out of the king's mouth to be true, and that with unfeigned faith: he stands in awe of the laws of the realm; often expects, for the least offence, to fall under the hottest displeasure of the divine legislator; and is frequently filled with astonishment, mingled with compunction and gratitude, at the superabounding clemency of his dread sovereign, In delaying the just execution of the sentence which he knows is due to him - in one sense of the word - and to all the family, none excepted.
Shepherd. If this be the case, it is surprising to me that Little Faith is so weak; for nothing strengthens weaklings more than credence, for it is by that we are to live. If Little Faith credits the report, the joyful sound of the report, and the glad tidings reported, must be brought home by the hand of Credence; and, if brought home and applied, it becomes nutriment, by which the attentive hearer and obedient receiver is to live, thrive, and grow.
Steward. All this is true: but it is not the case here; for, in one sense, Little Faith has too much faith, and in another sense he has too little. If any person, whether friend or foe to the King, comes with any message in the King's name, whether sent by him or not; if it contains heavy tidings, that there is a rod in brine for Little Faith, or that the King is angry with him; if it amounts either to confiscation of goods, pillory, banishment, imprisonment, or even death itself; it is all credited, and he lives in perpetual expectation of the fullest execution: Thus "the simple one believeth every word," Prov. xiv. 15, and in this he has too much faith. But, if you bring any good tidings from the King concerning his clemency; his tender care of the little ones of the household; the impartiality of his love; that the weak are as precious to him as the strong: that he will strengthen them in due time; that they shall all come into the drawing-room, sooner or later; that all shall see his face with joy, &c. &c. this he cannot believe: and in this sense his name is Little Faith, but not in the other. And, by these acts of incredulity, Little Faith reflects no small dishonour on his Royal Father. Bond, or bastard children, vainly imagine that the King is all clemency, and in their thoughts divest him of all terrible majesty. Little Faith believes his majesty to be terrible, and his clemency to be great where it is shewn; but he cannot steadfastly believe that the King will be propitious to him, which is both his folly and his loss. The former is a bastard and a fool, and debases his Master: the latter is a son, and, by nursing his folly, he dishonours his Father. Besides, there is in our realm a notorious enemy to the King, who for a former act of rebellion was banished the King's presence, favour, and protection, for ever. This enemy, by his devices, dresses up the King in nothing but clemency to the base-born race; and suggests him arrayed in nothing but terrible majesty to the young princes; and Little Faith, in a private way, listens, attends to, and credits, one-half that this enemy suggests, so that he often entertains hard thoughts of the King himself; insomuch that, as a propitious Father, he can hardly, at times, find a fixed dwelling either in the thoughts, heart, affections, or even in the credence, of Little Faith. His Majesty often stands at the door and knocks: "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him," Rev. iii. 20, But, whenever he comes to the apartment of Little Faith, he generally finds him all attention to this rebel; which provokes him to jealousy, and is called the "provoking of his sons and of his daughters," Deut. xxxii, 19. Therefore it is but just that Little Faith should be left to have his belly-full of such counsel, and to see what his adherence to his Father's enemy will do for him, and that, at some future period, the liar may be discovered in his true colours, and Little Faith be brought under some future propitious visit of the King, to see, confess, and lament, his unbelief, which is the greatest sin that ever Little Faith was guilty of since he has been in existence, and the greatest that he ever will be guilty of, if he lives a thousand years: For "he that believes not, has made the Universal Sovereign a liar," 1 John, v. 10, and to make him a liar by infidelity, is to debase him to a level with the devil himself, who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning.
Shepherd. Excuse me, my dear Sir: it is six o'clock, and it is high time for the flock to be watered. If I am not there, the poor sheep will be scattered an hundred ways; for the well is always pestered with false shepherds; and, if one of the King's shepherds be not there, "they are sure to come and drive them away," Exod. ii. 17. For it is in our days, as it was in the days of old, if the Son and Heir of Abraham dig a well, "the herdmen of Gerar are sure to strive for the water," Gen. xxvi. 20, or to stop up the well.
Steward. How long shall you be gone?
Shepherd. About two hours.
Steward. I will meet you again at this spot at half-past eight, if it be agreeable, as this is a leisure evening with me.
Shepherd. If nothing unforeseen prevent, I will surely be here. The presence of the King be with thee.
Steward. The Lord go with thee.