The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Third.
Steward. Why, you return sooner than you expected; it is barely two hours since you went from hence.
Shepherd. "When the stone is rolled away from the well's mouth," Gen. xxix. 3, I endeavour to fill all the troughs, if I can; and, when I have got plenty of water ready drawn, the watering-work is soon done, both with ease and pleasure. The hardest work is to roll away the stone: and sometimes it is hard work to draw the water, for the well is deep, and most profoundly so when the springs are low. Pray, have you staid here ever since?
Steward. Ever since; and I am almost surprised that Little Faith has not found me out, for he sticks closer to my skirts than any of the family.
Shepherd. I was thinking, as I ran along, about what you said of the wretched sin of infidelity, and the heinous nature of it; and I think this is the TAP-ROOT of the corrupt tree that got hold of the human mind when the Adversary laid the axe to the heart of our first parents; for the human mind is never without natural faith; for if the king of the bottomless pit, or any of his children, bring a thousand impossibilities, self-contradictions, arrant and glaring falsehoods; if gilded or varnished over, they will gain credence. If one advance that Satan can cast out Satan, it is believed. If the common soldiers tell Herod that the disciples of the Saviour stole him away while they slept, Herod is persuaded, and credits the testimony of an eye-witness fast asleep. Simon Magus gains the confidence and affections of a whole city, and passes for the great Power of God; but, when the King comes, he is called Beelzebub. Thus the Lord came in his Father's name, and was not received: another comes in his own name, and him they all receive. Hence it appears that Infidelity has only the God of Truth for its object; it disdains to give the lie to any but God: for hypocrites, villains, witches, and devils, can find faith upon earth to receive all that can be hatched in hell; but a divine message hath no place in us till a divine power give it entrance and residence.
Steward. This is what I told you before - that unbelief makes God a liar: and it really is the first sin that ever pierced the mind, either of men or fallen angels. Devils believe in wrath to come, and tremble; but cannot exercise credence on divine clemency, for want of a divine warrant, or an offer made, or a promise published. But the children of men have a voice directed to them, but cannot receive it, "for they are all concluded in unbelief;" yet the heirs of promise shall surely believe; for the promise brings, not only the blessing, but credence also - and this poor Little Faith finds and feels at times, notwithstanding the bad hands and cruel management that he has met with.
Shepherd. I see the case of Little Faith more clearly, now than ever: but I think those servants who brought the canting gossips from Sinai, at the Queen's labour, were the most to blame; I mean those who hurried the birth of Little Faith; those who encouraged them, and nurtured them, about the palace; and those who procured the nurse; and the nurse herself, who let Hagar suckle the child - for any sensible person ought to know that, whatever infection a woman hath, infects her milk, and must unavoidably infect the child that subsists on it: and, I think, it would have been better for Little Faith to have lived upon the milk of "the wild ass that is used to the wilderness - in her month they might have found her," Jer. ii. 24 - than upon the milk of that bond-woman; who, according to ancient records, was never either purified or cleansed.
Steward. Those servants are, doubtless, to blame: nor will their conduct pass unresented, nor themselves go without rebuke; for whatsoever is done for his Majesty's little ones, or to the injury of them, is all taken as done to him: and were it possible (as it is not) for Little Faith even to die, his blood would be required at the servants' hands; they would be arraigned, as murderers, for permitting his people to perish for lack of knowledge; and would be punished as such, either in this world or in the next.
Shepherd. So it was, in the days of old, with a famous one of my occupation, whose honest confession stands on the ancient records: "These twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee, I bare the loss of it: of my hands didst thou require it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night," Gen. xxxi. 38, 39. And so it is also with the servants of his Majesty's household who are employed in building up the fraternity of Zion: "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward: if any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss," 1 Cor. iii. 13, 14, 15. Few are aware of this, who thrust themselves, or are by others thrust, into the King's service; who are the chief causes of the sufferings of such as Little Faith.
Steward. They are; yet, as was before observed, Little Faith himself is greatly to blame for stealing away from the rest of the King's children, when he knew better; and getting perpetually to play with Hagar's boys, where he learnt so much of their base language; and filled his head with old wives' fables; and heard their fabulous stories of ghosts, phantoms, apparitions, and spirits; of Jack the giant-killer, of raising the devil, of Jack-O'lanterns, fairies, hags, and night-mares; together with stories of witches, wizards, dreamers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, conjurors, enchanters, star-gazers, sorcerers, soothsayers, diviners, magicians, and astrologers; who pretend to calculate nativities, and, by the aspects of the planets, to fix the state or doom of mortals; which has driven many into careless, loose, and desperate living. Three such characters I have known, and God requited them for adhering to such things - which are wickedness, devilism, vanities, and lies. These things begirt Little Faith with legions of imaginary fears, and terrors; so that he is often afraid to look behind him or even to put his hand out of the bed: and, being haunted with these ideal vanities, he is often a terror to himself. We are commanded by the King" not to hearken to such prophets, nor diviners, nor dreamers, nor enchanters, nor sorcerers, which speak to us, for they prophesy lies," Jer. xxvii. 9, 10. And again," Thus saith Jehovah, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them; for the customs of the people are vain," Jer. x. 2, 8. He took also to reading some novels published by the Hagarenes, till he was more like an Athenian than a prince; and would often get into disputes with them; and loved secretly to hear and to tell some new thing.
Shepherd. If once a child is habituated to these things, they will stick by him, more or less, as long as he lives. Besides, they debase the mind, and keep it low and mean; and there is, for a time, a secret regard to the bastard race, which is commonly called a charitable opinion or judgment of them. So that Little Faith did not keep them at their proper distance, when he saw through them; nor consider his own dignity, nor live up to it; which is dishonourable to the King: and therefore, though an heir, he is justly kept under tutors and governors, that he may, for a season, differ nothing from a servant; because he debased his sonship to the mean level of servitude.
Steward. Yea, and since he has known better, and felt the displeasure of the King for his former folly, he has not long since gone, when there hath been a report spread of any herald, bellman, town-corporal, or common crier being sent with a proclamation from Sinai: so that he gets out of the reach of the promise, which runs thus - "Blessed is the man that heareth ME; watching DAILY at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." Prov. viii. 34. But he was not daily at the King's gates; for he was sometimes at the gates of fools, if not at the gates of hell; and often at Hagar's castle, instead of waiting at the posts of Wisdom's doors.
Shepherd. If he affects Hagar and her boys, it is a strong tie. Such "zealously affect children, but not well: yea, they would exclude them from the King's favour, that they might affect them," Gal. iv. 17. Which is no better than the practice of those beggars who steal children in London, and put out their eyes, in order to furnish themselves with a lamentable cry in begging for a blind child, that they might get their bread, and live in idleness. However, Little Faith suffers for this now; and, I dare say, he often reads the long scroll of his folly under the rod that lies on him; for, as you before observed, he can credit the report of the King's displeasure, if not the report of his mercy.
Steward. Certain it is, that the whole lineage of Hagar, who often swarm and skulk about the walls of Zion, come for no other purpose than to spy out the liberty of the King's children, that they may deceive, delude, seduce, and "bring them into bondage," Gal. ii. 4. And certain it is also, that Little Faith labours under the bondage he contracted among them, and that to this day: but they will not easily deceive him again; for, as was before observed, he has a strong faith in the justice, the truth, the holiness, the immutability, and the terrible majesty, of the King; he never staggers at these: but at his love, mercy, compassion, slowness to anger, the abundance of his goodness, and the plenteousness of his redemption, he often staggers. "He trembles at the word of truth," Isa. lxvi. 5, and "staggers at the promise [of mercy] through unbelief," Rom. iv. 20.
Shepherd. Pray, does Little Faith privately indulge a rebellious spirit? Does he oppose the sovereignty, the decrees, the counsel and purposes, of his Sovereign Father? Does he ever dispute obstinately against the discriminating acts of the King, which daily appear in reducing some rebels to obedience, and in the administration of strict justice to others.
Steward. He that does so, is not Little Faith, but a "little fox," Cant. ii. 15. He is not a child of truth, but a seed of falsehood; not a saint, but a sophist; not a child of God, but a child of the Devil, 1 John, iii. 10. "Whoso transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God," 2 John, 9. And, if God be not his father, the Devil is; and so it will appear, sooner or later. The characteristic of the King's seed is, that they shall be both teachable and tractable, whatever they might have been in times past: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them;" Isa. xi. 6.
Shepherd. Pray, have you the care of Little Faith's education? or, who is his tutor?
Steward. His Majesty himself superintends the tuition of them all; they are all taught of him: but he keeps several under-teachers, whom he calls, qualifies, and commissions to teach; and these receive their lessons daily from the King, who bids them go and speak thus. And they who carry his messages, and teach according to his lessons, are his established teachers, and no other.
Shepherd. But, is it not surprising that his Majesty should suffer his servants, or those who feign themselves to be so, to permit such nurses and teachers to injure his children, especially such as poor Little Faith?
Steward. It is suffered so to be, that they may gather together those who are rebels to his government, that they may ripen for the day of vengeance; and that themselves also, by their presumption and hypocrisy, may fulfil his purposes, who calls them "ungodly men, before of old ordained to this condemnation," Jude, 4. But, as to his select seed, they shall never be deceived, finally, nor be finally led astray. Little Faith is a living witness of this, that "not one little one can perish." It is a rare thing now to find him at the castle of the Hagarenes; and, if one of them come to the palace, he is ready to stop his ears if he opens his mouth. Little Faith is very tender, and takes his learning pretty well, and has tolerable discernment; and his judgment is sounder than could be expected, but his knees and hands are very weak.
Shepherd. Did you never try to bathe him in the river of life? - "The prophet went in up to his ankles, knees, and loins: and might have swam if he had pleased," Ezek. xlvii. 4, 5. And I have sometimes thought that the prophet, at that time, might have some staggerings in his mind concerning the future state of the Israelitish church, and their re-establishment after the accomplishment of their long captivity; which if he had, as I conjecture: he must have been wonderfully strengthened and braced up by spiritual might in the inner man, after being brought three times through the river. You know the King doth nothing in vain.
Steward. Little Faith is so timorous, that he is afraid to venture all his weight upon it, or commit himself wholly to the strength of it, doubting whether it will bear him up or not: though I have often seen him upon the bank of it, tasting of it, and venture to paddle a little in it, far enough to wet his feet; and very happy he has seemed to be, and has often thought, for a few minutes, that he could swim across the profoundest depths of it. His countenance hath been so brightened up, that he has not envied those who were up to the neck in it.
Shepherd. And suppose Little Faith had sunk in it, and been drowned, he would not have been lost; for that river is neither destruction nor perdition: "There the glorious Jehovah will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams," Isa. xxxiii. 21. And he who ventures there, if he sinks, and lies in it to all eternity, will never wish to come up nor come out.
Steward. True: but Little Faith proceeds with caution; he looks before he leaps. He is like Thomas; he has a great opinion of the testimony of his eyes. Besides, when Little Faith has made an excursion on the banks of the river, and has taken a pleasing survey of it, tasted it, and paddled a little in it, he has often found, as soon as he has lost sight of the river, and the sun has withdrawn his rays, that the clouds have gathered thick upon his head, the fog has gathered fast upon his heels, and he hath seemed to be farther from the river than ever: and the enemy always visits Little Faith when the clouds and fog are about him; at which times he is sure to gain his attention; and then generally suggests - "That it was rashness and presumption in him to venture so near as he did; and a wonder that he was not destroyed for daringly presuming to take but a drop of the river of pleasure to himself; neither the invitation of the King, his favour, promise, nor promised felicity, being by any means, or in any sense, intended for him." And, after Little Faith has been thus begloomed with the clouds and fog, and buffeted by the enemy, he proceeds with more caution than ever; begs pardon for his presumption; and promises never to be guilty of applying any favour, bounty, or royal indulgence, to himself again, by any means, on any terms, or by any entreatment or invitation whatsoever; but that he would "say, in his haste, that all men (Stewards as well as others) are liars," rather than believe there can be any favour, pity, or compassion, shewn to him, who is by no means worthy to be called the King's son, nor to be ranked among his hired servants, nor even to be "set with the [dumb] dogs of his flock," Job, xxx. 1. Notwithstanding all these secret vows and promises, after such sharp temptations, Little Faith, at times, has forgot all; and, before he hath been aware, while his mind has been engaged in the sanctuary, "the waters have issued out from under the threshold of the house a second time," Ezek. xlvii. 1; and he being off his guard, before he was aware, he has found himself upon the very banks of the river again, and has been as charmed and delighted as ever; insomuch, that he has forgot his former adversity, being answered by the King in the joy of his heart; but, as soon as a thought hath come across his mind respecting a future cloudy and dark day, he has begun to tremble at the distant adversity; and, by pondering on and meeting his troubles half way, the Adversary meets him, who is half invited by Little Faith himself; and then robs him, and again chains down all his thoughts to the "meditation of terror," Isa. xxxiii. 18.
Shepherd. He is Little Faith, indeed! for he calls his highest acts of obedience his presumption; and that he will find, in the end: for, however he may put these things far from him in times of temptation, he must court them, and gather them all about him too, in times of sickness. It is such presumptuous acts as these, as he falsely calls them, that must bring him into the joyful presence of his Sovereign, and nothing else, let him go whenever he may. But, I see, it is in the King's household as it is with a shepherd's flock; there are divers sizes, ages, and sorts. I have got "rams," Gen. xxxi. 10; "sheep," John, x. 4; "ewes great with young," Isa. xl. 11; and "lambs to feed and attend too," John, xxi. 15; and you have got old and young, strong and weak, to wait upon and watch over.
Steward. The family consists of "fathers," 1 John, ii. 13; "young men," 1 John, ii. 14; "little children," 1 John, v. 21; and "newborn babes," 1 Peter, ii. 2. But, as for Little Faith, I know not which to call him: he is old enough to be a father, and ought by this time to have been a tutor; for, in understanding and discernment, he is a man; in simplicity, a little child; but, in the exercise of faith, he is a babe. He has something about him of each degree; but is complete in neither. In the King's forest there are not only "oaks, whose seed is in them," Isa. vi. 13; and "cedars, firs, pines, palm-trees," Cant. vii. 8; and "olives; but also box-trees," Isa. lxi. 19; and myrtles, which may be put into pots, and placed on a lady's toilet; and it is to the comfort of Little Faith, and other weaklings, that the King was seen "upon a red horse, and stood among the myrtle-trees that were in the bottom," Zech. i. 8. So that these are not without his powerful, though often without his comfortable, presence.
Shepherd. And, pray, where does Little Faith creep to when he gets his head in the clouds?
Steward. He is not without his holes, nor yet without "his prison-houses," Isa. lxii. 22; for when he used to play with Hagar's boys they often amused themselves, as foolish children will do, with building little "houses on the sand," Matt. vii. 26; and to that sand-bank he cleaves to this day. Let any storm gather over Little Faith; any shadow of a cloud approach him; any suggestion or fiery dart be hurled at him; any reproof be given him; any frown be felt from the King; any imaginary trouble be expected by him; or even a sharp word, a look of displeasure, or the least slight, from any of the household; he makes no more ado, but he gathers all about him, packs up, and embraces all his real and imaginary troubles together, and into his hole in the sand-bank he goes; and you may TOLE him out again, if you can. That is his haunt, that is his refuge, and that is his last retreat: the fox has its hole, and Little Faith has his burrow also: he is not without his starting-holes in the world. The King has not only got an "abundance of the seas, but he has got treasure that is hid in the sand," Deut. xxxiii. 19; and Little Faith is a part of it.
Shepherd. Little Faith is not the only one that cleaves to the sandbank: more build there than on the Rock. But, pray, how long may he continue in his dusty residence before he makes his appearance abroad again?
Steward. Nothing brings him out again but the warm rays of the Sun, when "he arises with healing in his beams: then he goes forth, and seems to grow up as a calf of the stall," Mal. iv. 9. But, the very moment the rays are withdrawn, "he is gone again, like the shadow when it declineth; and then he is tossed up and down like the locust," Psal. cix. 23.
Shepherd. I wonder he never makes a mistake in his hasty flights: and takes shelter in the cleft of the Rock, instead of the sandbank. But, I suppose, he thinks of the Rock, as Lot did of the mountain, that it is too far off; he cannot fly there, "lest some evil take him, and he die;" but the sand-bank, like "Zoar, is near to flee into," Gen. xix. 20.
Steward. In his own apprehensions, he is often far from the Rock, though the Rock is never far from him: nor is there any likelihood of his mistaking the Rock for the sand; for none will embrace the Rock, for want of a shelter, till they are led by the invisible hand of him who is stronger than they. But all this is owing to his having been suffered to play with the bond-children. Hagar's boys and he used to be perpetually at hide and seek, in the dark cells of the Hagarene Castle, which debases the mind below the common level of mortals; insomuch that he becomes more like a subterranean inhabitant of the gloomy recesses of fiends than a child of light. When Little Faith first came to the Palace Royal, he could hardly bear the rays of a candle: he peeped out of obscurity, and out of darkness, like one abashed and confounded; and muttered a wild gibberish, neither Hebrew nor Ashdod, so that we could hardly understand the child.
Shepherd. I know that all the Hagarenes wear veils from their infancy; and their very residence is in "blackness and darkness," Heb. xii. 18; so that poor Little Faith, when he came home to his Father's house, must have appeared as if he had been in a new world.
Steward. He did: and, when he came to see the appearance that the other children made, to hear the language of the Court, and perceived the wisdom and the felicity of the family, he seemed dejected, appeared like an alien among them, and could not believe that he was one of the Seed Royal.
Shepherd. How poor children may be injured by bad nurses, rude play-fellows, and ill-designing tutors, even fill not only their principles and manners are corrupted, but their very faculties are bemeaned and beggared, and the brilliant likeness of the family apparently eclipsed and defaced! - And, pray sir, how does he live now?
Steward. His life is truly exemplary: he walks with watchfulness tenderness, and fear, and makes conscience of every thing. His fear is roach compounded of a servile or slavish spirit: at times, however, those bonds seem to burst; but, soon after, they regender again; which is often the case, till a child sees its own way, feels the use of its own limbs, enjoys the smiles of its Royal Father, and wholly depends on his love, his wisdom, and his power. Besides, Little Faith has got a whole code of laws and rules of his own making; and others, which he has imbibed by perusing numberless volumes of human commandments; neither of which have any footing or foundation in the Records of Zion. Some of these are weighty points with him; and those who see and know him, let him eat his herbs unmolested, and take care not to stagger him by eating meat in an idol's temple; knowing that, when he becomes a man, he will put away childish things. As for touch not, taste not, handle not, we know that they are all to "perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men," Col. ii. 21.
Shepherd. It is surprising that he should remain so weak, after so much wholesome counsel and instruction, having been an eye and an ear-witness so long of the long-forbearance and unparalleled clemency of the King; and after so many groundless expectations of wrath, imprisonment, and banishment, being repeatedly cut off and brought to nothing; by which his enemy has been perpetually proved a liar, and his unbelief as often confounded.
Steward. It is not to be wondered at, when all things are properly considered. His own mother, when she was pregnant with him, was very little better; for, as soon as she heard a voice from the throne, saying," Sing, O Heavens! and be joyful, O Earth! and break forth into singing, O Mountains! for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted," Isa. xlix. 13. But infidelity returned this answer by her mouth-"Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me," ver. 14. Her faith gave her unbelief, and her mouth too, the lie, when she uttered it. She calls him, "my Lord;" whereas, if he had forsaken her, and forgotten her, it could not be thought that he was any Lord of hers but old dotish women, when they get into a peevish fit, will say any thing but the truth; and, if she could mutter such a self-contradictory speech against the best of husbands, who hates putting away, it is no wonder it the children do the same by the best of fathers: "Every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against her, saying, As is the mother, so is the daughter," Ezek. xvi. 44. That she did tell lies, is clear from the answer given her by the King; and, if she lies, she ought to be told of it - "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," saith the King, Isa. xlix. 15. Let the King be true, but every woman a liar.
Shepherd. I suppose that, if all the Stewards and faithful servants of his Majesty's household were to combine together, in order to set Little Faith upon his feet, and make him stand by the confidence of his father's immutable love, that they would not be able to get him entirely clear of the sand-bank, or to lay his infidelity in the dust.
Steward. And if the same combination were to use their united efforts in order to prove that Little Faith is illegitimate, base born or only a pretender, and that lie is not of the Seed Royal; consequently, no heir of his Majesty's favour, property, throne, or glory - you might bring the staggers upon him, and extort a deep sigh, or a heavy groan, from his heart; but he would stand just where he does. Little Faith is not to be hurried; nor can he be greatly, much less finally, moved. "They that trust (whether weak or strong) are like Mount Zion, that cannot be moved." Little Faith's confession is already gone out of the mouth of the King; and, when the King bids him speak it, it will soon be known what strength this little one has got: "Let the weak say, 'I am strong,'" Joel, iii. 10. "The King strengtheneth the spoiled against the mighty," Amos, v. 9. And he will not be slack concerning his promise, though Little Faith "be slow of heart to believe it."
Shepherd. Little Faith is a singular mystery; for, according to your account, he is seldom, if ever, upon the mount; and yet stands as the everlasting hills. One of old said, when he gained the summit of a certain hill, "I shall never be moved; thou, Lord, of thy goodness, hast made my hill so strong!" But, for one to stand so fast that seldom, if ever, ascends the mount, is to me a mystery.
Steward. It is not what Little Faith says, in his fits of infidelity that shall sink him for ever; nor what a rapturous child may in a day of prosperity, that shall immutably fix him. It is word of the King, and not their own, that establishes them Jehovah says, "They shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them. The feeble, in that day, shall be as David. And he shall give a reward to his servants the prophets, and to all that fear his name, small and great." It is this that leads one to the rock, and keeps the other from the gulf. And, when Jehovah can be perjured in his oath, cease to be true, fail in his faithfulness, forget to be gracious, change in his purpose, and appear mutable in his will; then may this little one perish, but not till then. Therefore Little Faith not only stands as the everlasting hills, but he stands as firm in his Royal Head as the throne of God in heaven!
Shepherd. You speak with some degree of warmth, my brother.
Steward. Because you seemed to question me in an oblique manner.
Shepherd. I own there is great propriety in what you have advanced: The safety of the whole family, doubtless, lies in the immutability of Jehovah's counsel; his promise; the covenant made; and in the Covenant Head, with whom the bargain was struck, and in whom it must unavoidably stand, as the days of heaven. But, what surprised me most was, that Little Faith, who staggers at every promise, should be enabled to stand, with his weak faith, against the united efforts of all the King's servants, could such a combination be entered into.
Steward. One of old, in his fits of infidelity, declared - "If I had called [that is, in prayer], and He had answered me [that is, if God had answered him], I would not believe that he had hearkened to my voice," Job, ix. 16. "I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. I shall go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death, without any order," Job, x. 21, 22. But, as soon as his three friends joined in the same verdict," one telling him that his wickedness was great, and his iniquities infinite," Job, xxii. 5; - another declaring, "That, if he, were pure and upright, God would awake for him, and make the habitation of his righteousness prosperous," Job, viii. 6 - another telling him, "He had fulfilled the judgment of the wicked, therefore judgment and justice took hold on him," Job, xxxvi. 17; - another said," Thou hast taken a pledge of thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing," Job, xxii. 6. Yet all this doth not move him. "I am not inferior to you," saith he. "What know you that I know not? I know I shall be justified: who will condemn me? When I am tried, I shall come forth as gold. My witness is in heaven, my record is on high. I know that my Redeemer liveth. I shall see God for myself, and not for another." Thus it appears, that they could neither raise him up nor knock him down; he is proof against all their consolation, and against all their invectives; and, whatever such may say in their fits of unbelief, they do not believe the same in their hearts, and if you was to say as the infidelity of Little Faith does, and attempt to confirm his incredulous confession, he would resist your arguments in his heart; nor could you fix one of them upon his conscience. "Him that is WEAK IN FAITH receive you, for God hath RECEIVED him." "Who are they, then, that can thus judge another man's servant? To his own Master he standeth or falleth: yea, he SHALL be holden up; God is able to make him stand,; Rom. xiv. 1-4. And stand he does, in spite of himself, in spite of the devil, in spite of infidelity, and in spite of all the world. Yea, if he were to "play on the hole of the asp, or put his hand on the cockatrice den, he could neither be hurt nor destroyed," Isa. xi. 8, 9. "For this child shall come to his grave in peace, and shall die an hundred years old," Isa. lxv. 20, - "because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel," 1 Kings, xiv. 13.
Shepherd. And, pray, does Little Faith cleave close to the King's courts, through all these discouragements, and many denials of seeing the King's face?
Steward. Time hath been when he did not, as was before observed; but now, none are more loyal, nor more steadfast in their visits, than Little Faith. Court-days, feast-days, levee-days, fast days, drawing-room days, birth-days, marriage-days or mourning-days, rout-days, ball-days or concert-days, days of prosperity and days of prosperity - when either war is declared or peace proclaimed - Little Faith is sure to be there. It is a rare thing for any to say of him, as Saul did of the son of Jesse, that "his seat is empty." - He has his mental changes like the moon; yet, in his regular motions (excepting indisposition of body) he is as constant as the luminaries of heaven; for Jehovah himself leads him, though it is in a way that he knows not; "and will, one day or other, make darkness light before him, and crooked things straight."
Shepherd. That shews the bent of his heart: and it must be with some degree of toil that Little Faith pays his constant visits at the courts of Zion; for he does" not ride in the chariot paved with love, like the daughters of Jerusalem," Cant. iii. 10; nor does he mount his horse," and ride like Ephraim," Hos. x. 12.
Steward. It matters not how he goes; there he constantly is, and there he will be, for he is determined to know both the worst and the best of it: and certain it is, that they shall not be ashamed that wait on, nor that wait for, the King; for he never said to any of the seed, "Seek ye me in vain;" he always declares things that are right.
Shepherd. Then Little Faith has a good character at court?
Steward. None more so. Any who know him will give credit to his word; or entrust him, or credit him, with any thing. No one doubts of his loyalty or punctuality; for he exceeds others in fear, diligence, and conscientiousness, as much, or more, than some excel him in confidence, fortitude, and wisdom. His weakness, infirmity, failing, and besetting sin, is unbelief; on which account his Majesty hath said, more than once, "O thou of little faith!" Were he once master of this sin, he would be a man with a witness!
Shepherd. Some of the Seed Royal have had their "horns iron, and their hoofs brass," Mic. iv. 13. Others are called "lions," Prov. xxviii.; or, Jehovah's "goodly horse in the battle," Zech. x. 3. Others, the "rod of his inheritance," Jer. Ii. 19. Others, his battle-axe, and his weapons of war; with which "he breaks in pieces nations and kingdoms;" with which he breaks in pieces the horse and his rider, the chariot and the driver; and with which "he breaks in pieces both men and women, old and young; the young man and the maid; the false shepherd and his flock; the husbandman and his yoke of oxen; the captain and the rulers." Jer. li. 19, 20, 21, 22, 28. But Little Faith is not mentioned among all these. He appears to hear a very faint resemblance of a Lion, a Troop Horse, a Battle Axe, a War Chariot, a Smiting Rod, a Burdensome Stone, a Brazen Pillar, or an Iron Wall; and therefore must cut a very poor figure in the day of battle: for, as you have acknowledged, he is often in fear where no fear is, and often flies when none pursues him; and, if so, what would he do if pursued in reality! "For, if he hath run with footmen and they have wearied him, how would he do if called to contend with horses! And if he is wearied in a land of peace, what would he do in the swellings of Jordan!"
Steward. You don't talk much like a shepherd now. You read of a shepherd that "gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom:" and, if so, they are as nigh to the heart of the shepherd, and as safe in his arms, as the rams with their iron horns and brazen hoofs, which are often pushed into the hottest of the battle. Such as Little Faith are compared to "a few hairs hid in the skirt of the Son of Man," Ezek. v. 3; and are called the Lord's "hair, which is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead," Cant vi. 5. They all appear to have a testimony borne in their behalf by the whole heap, or whole cloud, of witnesses, which the word GILEAD signifies. And you must know that hairs grow nearer the head than any other members whatsoever: and if "the hairs of a saint's head are all numbered," so that not one of them shall perish, or fall to the ground; what must these be that grow on the Covenant head, and are "hid in the skirts of the Son of Man!" It is true Little Faith says, "I watch, and am as a sparrow, alone upon the housetop," Psalm, cii. 7. Yet we know that, though "two sparrows are sold for one farthing," Matt. x. 29; "yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without our heavenly Father's leave."
Shepherd. I perceive you are a staunch advocate for Little Faith, and the Records of Zion furnish you with many and weighty arguments in favour of him: therefore I shall not in future lie at the catch, as I can judge of your care and sensations from what I have felt when the dog Smut has been sent to fetch a strolling lamb back that has strayed from the fold. I have been ready to cry, with the Psalmist, "Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog," Psalm, xxii. 20.
Steward. I hope I shall never be left to "speak wickedly for God," or, "to talk deceitfully for him," Job, xiii. 7; nor be allowed to "condemn the just," or, "to justify the wicked; for both these are an abomination to God," Prov. xvii. 15. But as I find Little Faith's name, character, and conduct, upon record in the Eternal Register, I am determined to defend his birth, parentage, &c. to the uttermost; knowing that, though Little Faith is often, in appearance, like a fatherless child, yet the promise is, "I will not leave you orphans," John, xiv. 18. For "A Judge of the widows, and a Father of the fatherless, is God, in his holy habitation," Psal. lxviii. 5. I will say no more in the Little Faith than what I see a scriptural warrant for. If God give me grace, and the lip of truth, (as I hope he will) I am determined that "my heart shall not reproach me [for this] so long as I live," Job, xxvii. 6; "nor shall my tongue utter deceit," Job, xxvii. 4 "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make (Little Faith) obedient by word and deed," Rom. xv. 18.
Shepherd. To warp from the truth, to build weaklings up in flesh and blood, or to attempt to strengthen them by speaking falsely, is leading them to Satan instead of Christ "He is sure to comfort in vain, in whose answers there remaineth falsehood," Job, xxi. 34. Pray is Little Faith a favourer of the Steward.s of the House, and of the Seed Royal?
Steward. A great favourer of those who are true and faithful to the King; though none tremble or stand in awe, more than he does, when any message is delivered from his Majesty to the family. "In his eyes a vile person is condemned, but he honoureth them that fear the King." This is a true characteristic of a son of Zion Psalm, xv. 4. And, as for the Seed Royal, he views them as perfections of beauty; and before them appears, in his own eyes, nothing but deformity: and it is the Holy Seed, and they only, that "esteem others better than themselves," Phil. ii. 3. He is troubled, at times, with jealousy; and often secretly envies the abounding happiness of some; and in private frequently sighs, and says, "O that I could but see the King's face! O that I had but a tenth part of their felicity! Surely I would put my mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope of this!" Lam. iii. 29. "But my soul is far from peace; I forget prosperity: my strength and my hope are perished from the King? Lam. iii. 17, 18. Thus he often mourns in silence.
Shepherd. Has Little Faith considered that ancient, but most excellent and most gracious speech, published by the Evangelical Herald in the Jewish AEra: "Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the King, and speak, saying 'Jehovah hath utterly separated me from his people.' Neither let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree!' Also, the sons of the stranger that join themselves to Jehovah, to serve him, and to love the name of him; to be his servants; every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my Covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain," Isa. lvi. 3.
Steward. There is scarcely a statute, edict, judgment or testimony, gracious speech, proclamation, declaration, invitation, or directions but what Little Faith has perused, and pondered dyer in his heart. He is very studious, and perpetually poring on the ancient Records; and is so versed in them, that if an herald errs in proclaiming any part thereof, it is ten to one but Little Faith finds him out, for he brings all to his own sensations; and, if the King's speech be so handled as to contradict the power, it is sure to be suspected by him, whether he speaks about it or not. For if the herald seems to be bordering on the mount, or directing in the least towards Hagarene castle, Little Faith feels him, and sits as if he was all eye, all ear, and all attention: and, as soon as he begins to knit his brows, it is all over; he sets off, and leaves the court dejected and dismayed; for he has compassed that mount long enough. Thus you may perceive that he grows in knowledge.
Shepherd. It is surprising that such a teachable, tractable, diligent, well-affected child, should be so often, and so long, kept from the presence of the King, who is the best and most indulgent parent existing; for it is but seldom that Little Faith is favoured with a glimpse of his Majesty's face.
Steward. Little Faith has such a humbling sight of himself, and stands, in his own apprehension, at such an infinite distance from the King, and is so over-modest, that he often refuses even what he sorely needs. "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice, and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not; my soul refused to be comforted," Psal. lxxvii, 1, 2. Here he confesses that he prayed, and that God gave ear to his prayer, even while his sore ran, and the balm of Gilead was so much needed; yet he refused to be comforted, although he is obliged to own that he prevailed in prayer. These little ones are such a strange composition as is not easily accounted for: for, although they often go mourning all the day long, saying, "O that I could but see the King's face!" yet if he draws near to them, they will either run away, or put him away. One of this stamp, who was struck with the displays of Omnipotence, fell down at the King's knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord? Luke, v. 8. If he was a sinful man, or a man full of sin, he must have been a very proper object of the King's clemency; and, He visited this world to call sinners to repentance, and to save sinners, why should Little Faith bid him depart from him?
Shepherd. According to your account of Little Faith, the King's word of truth has got a place in his thoughts, heart, and affections; and it is strange to me that the consolation of Israel should be kept out by unbelief.
Steward. With respect to the word of truth, and with respect to every report touching the King's name, nature, offices, majesty, and glory, Little Faith has no less than a full assurance. "Then said the King unto the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" And Little Faith answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Messiah, the Son of the living God," John, vi. 67, 68, 69. Here is faith, and assurance; and yet this noble confessor is expressly styled Little Faith, and that by the King himself, Matt. xiv. 31.
Shepherd. He is a mystery, indeed! A man with weak hands! and feeble knees! and of little faith! And yet, you say, he has got an assurance!
Steward. It is no more mysterious than true. He did believe, and was sure: there was both truth and reality in his faith; and then it was in exercise. Little Faith seldom, if ever, doubts of the reality of the things credited; though he often doubts of his interest in the things which he is sure do exist, and are to be enjoyed. Touching his part or lot in the King's love, and in the kingdom to come, he often doubts; and, with respect to the appropriating acts of faith, his hands are weak; a fear of failing, or coming short, is the foundation of his doubts; and with respect to laying hold, maintaining his hold, or making application to himself, he is one of little faith.
Shepherd. And do you find these little ones existing in the purpose, covenant, and promise, of the Ancient of Days?
Steward. Yes; they are called small, least, and little ones, in all these: "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, saving 'know the Lord;' for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jer. xxxi. 34. "He will bless them that fear the Lord, small and great," Psalm, cxv. 13. "He gives a reward to his servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear his name, small and great." Rev. xi. 18. "He that is least among you all, the same shall be great." Luke, ix. 48. Thus it appears that Little Faith stands in miniature, even in the purpose, promise, and covenant; and among the citizens of Mount Zion also. He is the offspring of the Ancient of Days, and one of the Seed Royal, and of" the precious sons of Zion," Lam. iv. 2; and the incorruptible seed is in him. The King hears his prayer, as hath been shewn; and that is more than some can say who talk and boast of great faith. "Lord save, or I perish!" said Little Faith, and he was heard and answered in a minute. "The King giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." A babe in grace stands his ground, "when young men utterly fall," Isa. xl. 29, 30. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget Zion, nor the children of her womb." Thus the pedigree of Little Faith is traced; his birth and parentage are sufficiently proved; and, with respect to his education, he comes on greatly in that. His life is exemplary; his character is bright; and his visits to Court, with his behaviour there, are such as bespeak him sincere, attentive, watchful, devout, diligent, loyal, and obedient to his Majesty; affectionate to every loyal courtier and established servant; and, in short, to all the Seed Royal, from the least to the greatest; as he is dotingly fond of the faithful; ready and willing to assist any of the family; and touched with mental grief at the least misconduct, either in any of the servants, or in the King's seed. All which are characteristics of the truly noble Seed, of high, holy, and heavenly birth. Pray, Shepherd, do yon know what o'clock it is?
Shepherd. No, Sir: nor do I care; for it is sleeping time, and I call that my own; and, when I spend half the night in devotion, in good company, in good conversation, or in minuting down any favour, deliverance, or mercy, of the day, I call it redeeming the time; and, I think, in one sense, it is.
Steward. I must withdraw, for we have an evening to offer; and I am appointed to bless it, and to implore the benediction and protection of Heaven upon the family before they go to rest.
Shepherd. As the King hath made every thing beautiful in its season, so our interviews must be at seasonable opportunities But to-morrow will be a busy day with me: I must minutely examine the whole flock. The weather is very hot, and the flies are very busy I have got my crook, my shears, my shab-water, my tar, and turpentine, all ready.
Steward. What do you do with these?
Shepherd. We use a great deal of the juice of the fir, especially, when "flies are busy," Eccles. x. 1; and I find it no easy matter to cure a whimsical, capricious, fanciful head, of maggots: if the shears were not used, we should have half the flock crawling alive with them; and, when once this is the case, they are always creeping into the hedges, and you can hardly find them
Steward. Well, as to-morrow will be a busy day with you, shall you be at leisure the day following, because that will be also a leisure day with me?
Shepherd. I can spend the forenoon with you, if you can make it convenient to come to my booth, which is at the foot of the hill. just above the tents of Kedar.
Steward. If Heaven permit, I will be there. Adieu!
Shepherd. Till then, farewell; and be sure, at the offering up of the evening sacrifice, to remember me.