The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Fifth.
Steward. So I have found you at the old spot?.
Shepherd. No fear of that: I always creep here when the cruse is empty; for, after folding-times, I can compare myself to none but that Nazarite who was shorn of his strength by the Philistines, for I hate to look any body in the face.
Steward. As iron sharpeneth iron, so the face of a friend sharpens a dejected brother by hearty counsel.
Shepherd. I have been thinking, at times, ever since I parted with you last, about those Asiatic mountaineers: their character and conduct are singular.
Steward. They are: they ever have been a plague and a pest to every royal seed and loyal servant that has appeared in his Majesty's dominions for near, if not quite, three thousand years.
Shepherd. And, pray, what good can either the mother or the children get by skulking about the palace? As there is an irreconcilable enmity between them, they must, at times, have all their prejudices stirred up, and be rendered miserable in themselves to the last degree. And the disagreeable sensations produced by the repeated rebukes and rebuffs that they get, would be enough, one would imagine, to deter them from even approaching the palace-yard.
Steward. It is a turbulent race, that cannot rest: and, as they have neither rest nor peace themselves, they cannot endure to see it enjoyed by others; and, being sworn enemies to government, their own bosoms are oft becalmed if they can but vex or perplex one of the King's children, or even a servant that is truly and heartily loyal to his Majesty.
Shepherd. Pray, were any of their predecessors ever of, or ever employed in, the Royal Family, that they are such a pest at court? If not, I should think that they must be total strangers to the Household, and to the order of the family; and therefore keep their distance through ignorance, and take no notice of them, as thousands do, who, like Gallio, care for none of these things.
Steward. A certain prince and princess, of ancient date, who were of the Blood Royal, as they were on their travels, passing through the country of Mizraim, of the land of Ham, promiscuously met with Hagar the great, great, great, great-grandmother of these Hagarenes, and hired her as a "servant of all work:" in which low station she behaved herself for some time, in appearance, with great fidelity; till, in process of time, she so ingratiates herself into the affections of the princess, that she took her to be her own maid, to attend chiefly on her person as a" maid o honour."
Shepherd. Prosperity is sure to try the integrity of persons, and to discover the principles which actuate them. If a wise child, like the little Hebrew that was sold by his brethren, prosper in Egypt, his gratitude to his benefactor is excited; he is laid under such filial ties of obligation, that he would endure false imprisonment rather than injure him. But, if fools prosper, their prosperity terminates in their ruin: "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them," Prov. i. 32.
Steward. The proverb is verified by the matter now in hand. Hagar having been in the family upwards of twelve years, been exalted to the high station of a "maid of honour," and being in great favour with the princess, she became almost her equal. It appears that the dominions of this royal pair were very large by Divine donation, and they both knew that their names and family were never to be extinct: and the princess herself being barren - an heir-apparent being greatly wanted - and she despairing of issue, quits the "dry bed," in hopes of making it "green," Cant. i. 16, by her "maid of honour;" and persuades her prince to compliance, as it was done in hopes of an heir, which she was determined to adopt, Gen. xvi. 2.
Shepherd. This was going a singular length, indeed! surpassing the bounds of women; and must try the loyalty of the "maid of honour," with a witness!
Steward. It did, for she conceived; and, when she perceived she had, she despised her benefactress, and even tried to supplant her on her own pavilion This treatment reaching the ears of the prince, he disdains to appear in the chair; but orders his princes, to mount it herself, and to proceed against her maid by the statutes and laws of her own house, which she immediately consented to; and proceeds against her without either clerk of the peace, witness, jury, bailiff, crier, or executioner. The princess was both the plaintiff and defendant: she bore the witness, brought in her own verdict, passed her own sentence and executed it; but whether it terminated in caning, or cudgelling with the crutch, we cannot ascertain: however, <I<hard measures, rough dealings, and banishment, are left upon record.
Shepherd. I thought how it would end; for, as Wisdom says, "For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: for a servant when he reigneth, and a fool when he is filled with meat; for an odious woman when she is married, and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress." Prov. xxx. 21, 22, 23. Pray, where was she banished to? Where was her place et exile fixed by the despotic sentence of the princess?
Steward. As the princess was the only executioner, she drove her from the pavilion into the wilderness; and sent her prohibitions, and a few thundering sentences, after her; but could not follow her far, through infirmity and age.
Shepherd. And did she ever presume to return from transportation?
Steward. No: she never forgot the fiery trial; for it is granted that she had been proceeded against to the utmost rigour of female severity. In such hands the culprit, especially in such cases where a right to the chair is disputed by a rival to the bed - in such hands, and in such cases, I say, it is impossible that any lenity can be shewn, mediation or mitigation be expected.
Shepherd. And so she never returned again?
Steward. Not of her own accord; but the Higher-Powers interfered, and called her by the appellation of "Sarah's Maid," in order to debase her; and, to cut off all hopes of her offspring being heir to the kingdom, told her that she should bear a son who should be a "wild man; his hand should be against every man, and every man's hand against him;" and then bade her go home, and submit herself to her mistress.
Shepherd. This must try the princess to the quick; for it is, in effect, revoking the despotic sentence.
Steward. The counsel of the Higher Powers must stand. This was done to humble the princess for her incredulity, that she might meet with perplexity from her own inventions; and to shew her that the Higher Powers should have been consulted before the culprit had been proceeded against, and their approbation or disapprobation called for before the sentence had been so rigorously executed. And, furthermore, to mortify her for undervaluing her dignity conferred from above, by raising her slave to an equal footing with herself in the commanding chair; and more still, by giving up her right to the bed and embraces of the prince.
Shepherd. And, pray, how long did she continue in the royal pavilion after her return from banishment?
Steward. Upwards of fourteen years, but in the capacity of a servant of all work. But the son coming forth, attracted the affections of the prince, which was an additional mortification to the princess: but, after the term of two apprenticeships, the princess brought forth a son herself.
Shepherd. The wonderful works of the Higher Powers who "make the barren woman to keep house, and be a joyful mother of children."
Steward. She was; for, at her delivery, she said, "The Most High hath made me so to laugh, that all who hear will laugh with me." But, as soon as the servant saw the heir-apparent, and the affections of the prince go daily over to the heir of promise, at the great feast, on the day of weaning, before all the company - gossips, midwife, friends, and neighbours - she burst forth with open contempt; and her son drew out the wide mouth, and mocked at the heir-apparent. This contempt and raillery fell on the Higher Powers, who had given the princess supernatural strength, and by virtue of whose promise and promised power the heir was brought forth; and they who "thus mock are sure to have their bands made strong," Isa. xxviii. 22.
Shepherd. And was she continued in the royal pavilion after this? I should have thought, that at this great feast, when all the matrons who attended the groaning were present, that they would have empanelled and appointed both a female council and jury, and have insisted on a repetition and re-execution of the sentence of banishment.
Steward. Whether the princess received counsel from any of the ladies at court, on the weaning day, or not, is not certain: however, the sentence was repeated and ratified by the Higher Powers; and both the mother and the son were banished the royal pavilion for ever. Since that time, she has borne no other name than "the bond-woman" - a bond slave, who had been used as a concubine, and was banished for her insolence: and the child is called "a child of the flesh;" a son of the bond-woman; a servant, because his mother was not free; and an illegitimate child, or a bastard.
Shepherd. And has neither Hagar, nor any of her posterity, ever been allowed by the Higher Powers to enter the royal pavilion since?
Steward. No: the sentence has never been revoked; but has been explained and re-enforced since; by which they are prohibited, not only entering the royal pavilion, but even the chapel-royal also, and that by an eternal statute: "A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord: even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord," Deut. xxiii. 2. Thus the prohibition reaches to the tenth generation, and allows no grant or toleration then.
Shepherd. This easily accounts for the conduct of the Hagarenes. No doubt but some scraps of the language of the court, and of the orders of the palace, government of the household, and external privileges - such as circumcision, sacrificing, hypocritical petitioning, formal devotion, and sham festivity - were handed down by tradition from age to age; which must render them capable of deceiving even the Seed Royal while in a state of nonage or minority.
Steward. Their great grandmother deceived the princess herself: for, when she came home from banishment by order of the Higher Powers, and had rehearsed their orders in the ears of the princess, she staggered her for years; and her bond-children have staggered the heirs of promise to this day, as much as ever their great-grandmother staggered the free woman.
Shepherd. But, as he was to be a wild man, "and his hand against every man, and every man's hand against him," Gen. xvi. 12, it is as impossible to reconcile, or bring about an union between those two parties, as it is to make the sheep and the goats one fold; and it must be a presumptuous undertaking to attempt to effect it.
Steward. A "wild man" he is, and wild he will be, for sovereign clemency will never tame either him or his. A child of the flesh he is called; and "the children of the flesh, these are not the children of the King; but the children of the promise [in opposition to them] are counted for the seed," Rom. ix. 8. Hence the Divine proclamation, "I am the Jehovah of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations," Exod. iii. 15. From which name and memorial the Hagarenes and Ishmaelites are excluded for ever.
Shepherd. And yet, when the King of kings visited the Lowland Palace, he found many of these in the house; yea, I believe the palace was filled with them.
Steward. He did so; but he told them that the "servant should not abide in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever," John, viii. 35. And he was as good as his word: for he left Jerusalem "in bondage with her children;" and at last left their house desolate unto them, in the same case with Hagar, who was a figure of it, until provoked to the utmost; and then he burnt the palace over their head, and numbers of them in it; and went into another country, and built another: and, at last, visited this our island, and spread his royal pavilion over us, in this our "glorious holy mountain between the. seas," where Antichrist has long wished to "plant the tabernacles of his palaces:" which spot his children are contending for now, and which will be gained over in time to their father; "and then he shall come to his end, and none shall help him," Dan. xi. 45. And, after that, the King will build up a city, and a mansion, that shall for ever secure the Seed Royal from the Hagarenes.
Shepherd. Pray, why was the mocker called a "wild man?"
Steward. Chiefly, because the Hagarenes were never to be tamed by grace. Their original was wild: they were to be wood-rangers in the wilderness, in a wild and uncultivated soil; live at a wild rate, by robbery and rapine, which is a wild, and extravagant manner. They are wild in their manners, practices, and customs; wild in their religious sentiments and notions; wild in their language; and wild in their spirits, which will never be tamed, humbled, or reconciled to the Seed Royal-and yet they use every artifice and stratagem to ensnare them; to palm bastards upon the King, and to fill the palace with them.
Shepherd. And yet they must know that they cannot finally deceive nor destroy the King's children, much less the King himself. And if they know this - as I think they must, by the King's undeceiving all that have been deceived by them, and by discovering the hypocrisy and bringing to a fearful end such numbers of bastards as have been palmed upon him - to persist, in defiance of all demonstrations, and all convictions raised by them, and that for such a number of years together, shews they are as indefatigable and unwearied in mischief as the dog smut; who, when he gets a sheep or a lamb by the ear, never lets go his hold till his teeth meet, and his hold be torn out, unless he be called off, or choked off; and he barks and growls while he holds them, till he is ready to split the drum of the ear. I have seen a poor lamb, after the dog has been called off, stand and pant for breath; reel and stagger like a drunkard; and be in such a fright and confusion. as not to know where it is, nor to be able to feed at quiet for months together.
Steward. If he tears their ears at that rate, his teeth should be cropped. Most shepherds crop the teeth of their dogs.
Shepherd. We have two dogs. My Master has "broken the teeth of LION," Psa. lviii. 6, but not the teeth of SMUT; which, I suppose, is omitted, that he may give them a pretty good shaking who are tossed as a Prey to his teeth. - But to return to our subject about the Hagarenes. It appears to me, by what you have said, sir, that Hagar's first crime was aspiring to government and sovereignty.
Steward. As soon as she had conceived - which was but a carnal and an unlawful conception at best - the first crime she committed was, that she despised the blessed Mother of many nations, whom the King had blessed, and made so. The desolate, who had no divine husband, despised the married wife; and this desolation is applied to all who hate the free-born daughters of Sarah to this day: "They that hate the just shall be desolate," Psalm, xxxiv. 21.
Shepherd. It appears to me, that the next thing she had in view was superiority: she aimed at the commanding chair; for she scorned her superior, and her government also.
Steward. She did; and, by so doing, turned the seat of command into a scorner's chair, and was dealt with accordingly. In short, self-will was her law: at equality with the Prince himself she aspired; at the princess of the household she was disgusted; and at the absolute government of the royal pavilion she aimed; and for exalting herself she was abased.
Shepherd. And it appears to me that her son acted the same part. He laid a claim upon the prince, as his sire; and expected to become his heir - heir of his dignity, of his blessings, promises, covenants, royalty, dominions, and personal property - and that by unlawful and carnal descent; for he was but an illegitimate child of the flesh, or a bastard, at best. A pretty heir, truly, to inherit the treasures of sovereign grace, and the Bounties of divine Providence! The wild man would have cut a noble figure in the heavenly country; and in the city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God!
Steward. Free-will was his law; pride and covetousness were his motives; at sovereignty he aimed; and, when the heir of promise, the heir-apparent, the type of the great King, appeared, he forbore not to mock at the infant; and, by despising that little one, he despised the King that sent him, and was banished for ever.
Shepherd. I see the reason why Hagar is called desolate: it is because she was without God, as Sinai is, of which she is the figure-and Ishmael is called the bond-son, because he is in bondage to the law; and, if so, he must be under the curse of it. Self-will, and despising sovereignty, were the bane and destruction of both the mother and the son.
Steward. They were; and you have touched upon their characteristics, which are left upon record for a caution to all generations. They are called the children of the flesh; and are said to "walk after the flesh," instead of walking in the Spirit; to despise government, and refuse to submit to the sovereignty of the King of kings. Presumptuous are they: they presume without divine leave; and venture to build their hopes, and to advance, and affirm (to others), without a divine warrant. self-willed, they ridicule and oppose, contemn and blaspheme, the sovereign will of their Maker, the decrees and counsels of it; exalt themselves to sovereignty, and make self-will their law. "They are not afraid to speak evil of dignities," 2 Pet. ii. 10. They are not afraid to speak evil of the uncontrollable power and sovereign sway of the King of saints; and the delegated power of the elect, who are made kings and priests: yea, both are spoken evil of without fear; yea, and ascribed to Abaddon himself!
Shepherd. He is a wild man indeed! and the wild man seems to live in all the children: and I am sure the prophecy will be fulfilling to the end of time; for he can neither forsake his principles nor his practices till God withdraws his prophecy - and therefore his hand will be against every loyalist, and every loyalist will have his hand against him, as long as the world stands.
Steward. And longer too; for they will hate the seed-royal even an the gloomy regions: nor will the children of Zion find any love to them, though filled with immortal love, in the realms of bliss.
Shepherd. This accounts for their skulking about the palace-royal: is to make the children self-willed; set them to despise the sovereignty - and government of their royal Father; to ridicule the laws of Zion; and to slight the royal apparel of Mordecai, by whom the welfare of Israel is sought, and by which he speaks peace to all his seed.
Steward. In short, that is their whole work, except digging down the walls of Zion, and debasing the royal family to an equal footing with themselves. These points are enforced by all the magicians, sorcerers, astrologers, and prognosticators, that ever have appeared, or ever will appear, in the synagogues of the Hagarenes. And I know that there is neither prince nor princess in all the King's household but would find, if they would observe carefully, the same things suggested to them in secret, even by Abaddon himself; which is a manifest proof of his being the author of these rebellious and destructive tenets, and the chief tutor of those academicians.
Shepherd. I believe you are right: though sometimes Abaddon comes as an angel of light, and suggests these things; while he operates in the blood, tickles the fleshly feelings, softens the passions, stirs up the "corrupt affections," Rom. i. 26, of nature, and drowns the cheeks with tears. Yet rebellion, self-will, and despising government, boil at the bottom: and often, when he is not likely to succeed with candour, he will bring the same things with rage and violence; and, if he cannot fix them in the heart, he will buffet the mind with them till he renders it incapable of attending to any thing else.
Steward. He will. But the most usual way is by a preparatory dose, which gives motion to the fleshly passions, attended with tickling the sympathetic feelings of nature; and then the pill, this bread of deceit, gilded with candour, is swallowed down, but "afterwards the mouth is filled with gravel," Prov. xx. 17. And I know, by sound experience, that such must "be purged with hyssop," before ever they can find QUIETNESS IN THEIR BELLY," Job, xx.20.
Shepherd. Whether Smut growl's, or whether he fawns, I know he aims at nothing but biting, destroying, and devouring, both the sheep and lambs.
Steward. And I know that the Hagagarenes and Athaliah are both agreed In conspiracy; for nothing less is intended than "cutting off all the seed-royal," 2 Kings, xi. 1. For my own part, I am as much hurt if I see any of the King's children with Hagar's boys, as you are at seeing a lamb in the jaws of smut. I have formerly observed Little Faith, after stealing away to get among them, when he has come home, even when he was a little thing, not much higher than a twopenny loaf, he would hustle up against me, and mutter enough to convince me where he had been, and to discover the wretched rebellion that they had instilled into the mind of the child.
Shepherd. Why, what could such a little pismire say?
Steward. Say! He would prim up his mouth, blink with his eyes, look this way and that way, and then begin - "I wonder the King has not more children. Why don't he adopt some of the other sort of boys? Why don't he adopt all? I find a love to them; and, if I love them, how much more must He love them whose name and nature is love! as you yourself sometimes have owned, Mr. Steward.!"
Shepherd. Then Little Faith "thinks the King is just such an one as himself," Psa, 1. 21. And, pray, what answer did you give the little pigganani?
Steward. I told him that why and wherefore were not proper words for infants; and that neither the Queen, the children, nor the servants, were allowed the use of them, especially in a rebellious way, when finding fault with the proceedings of his Majesty, "who works all things alter the counsel of his own will." And I farther told him to bridle his tongue, and take heed that he did not affect a company of rebels, nurse a spirit of conspiracy, despise the government of his Father, and aim at sovereignty himself, till he hung in an oak, and perished in his rebellion, like Absalom.
Shepherd. And how did he take it? Would his countenance stand?
Steward. He could easily perceive that I knew where he had been, and that I gave an answer to what was in his heart, as well as to what came out of his mouth. As to his looks, he appeared like a dog that had burnt his tail in the cook's kitchen, and was skulking away to his kennel with a whip and bell at his heels.
Shepherd. This shews that their own conscience is point-blank against their rebellion, as well as the King and the records of Zion; for the countenance, even of a child, cannot stand before an appeal to either.
Steward. There never was a Hagarene in the world, nor even one of the seed-royal, when seduced by them, that could ever stand one minute justified before the bar of his own conscience; though he may expect to stand before the throne of divine judgment, thinking there will be less discernment, or more lenity, from terrible Majesty, than is to be found or obtained in a court of equity "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if he sin against the King, who shall entreat for him?" 1 Sam. ii. 25.
Shepherd. Pray, did they never send Little Faith home muttering against the apparel of the court? for they are most desperately enraged against that.
Steward. This is easily accounted for, for they are expressly called "the children of the flesh, the offspring of the earthy father;" and, "as is the earthy head, such are they also that are earthy." While their great grandfather stood in the flesh, he wore no apparel but that of his own manufacturing; but, when he was brought to judgment, stripped of his aprons, and the shame of his nakedness exposed to view, he very cordially received one ready made, freely bestowed, and kindly put on, by another; nor did he ever find peace till then.
Shepherd. I say, did Little Faith never mutter nothing against the royal robes when he used to come home from the Hagarene castle?
Steward. Often. I remember, he once told me that he thought the Hagarenes were as well dressed as the King's children. And as for Jack, and Charles, and Tom, he had heard them say that they never fell down, nor bedaubed their clothes, in all their lives; nor is there a speck upon them to this day.
Shepherd. A likely matter, that children should be more clean and pure - who roll all the year round in a sand bank - than those who are kept in the King's palace!
Steward. "And as to the royal robes," says Little Faith," they laugh at them; and I think they are full as well dressed as any of my and sisters. Besides," says he, "if we all wear robes alike, we shall not know one from another. Hagar's boys wear every one his own clothes, and they always appear well dressed; and for my own part, I should like it best, if I might wear my own apparel" Isa. iv. 1.
Shepherd. And what could you say to the little, pert, corrupted thing?
Steward. I always gave it him when I got him alone. I told him that his belly would ache by and by; and then he would cry out, "O that I could see the King's face! He never kisses me as he does the other boys." I told him that, while he affected the dress of the Hagarenes, he should never know what the kiss of his Father, nor even what a gracious smile from him, means: for the King never embraced nor kissed any child in all the palace till he was humbled for his pride, brought to contrition, stripped of his old clothes, and submitted to have the best robe put on him, a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet, Luke, xv. 22. The best robe, the smiles, and the kiss, always go together. Yea, and he had the impertinence once to tell me, that the Hagarenes are never punished, whipped, nor flogged, as the children at the palace are: they never knew what it was to be troubled or plagued, horsed or whipped, or to have a weal in their back, in all their lives.
Shepherd. I am surprised at the insolence of Little Faith. What answer could you give him? Surely it is a just observation of Wisdom, that "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, and the rod of correction shall drive it out," Prov. xxii. 1.5. "Yea, thou shalt beat him," saith Wisdom, "with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell," Prov. xxiii. 14. And surely Little Faith groaned for Mrs. Birch!
Steward. Yes, and he had her too: for, according to the power given me for edification, "I went to him with the rod," 1 Cor. iv. 21, and told him that "the things which he feared were like to come upon him." He was afraid of being called a bastard: but, "if he was without chastisement, of which all the King's children were partakers, that he was a bastard, and not a son," Heb. xii. 8. And that what he had said proved that all the Hagarenes were bastards: they had no changes, and therefore feared not the King. I have threatened him, rebuked him, and whipped him, till he hath bellowed again; and run behind the pillars of the hall, under the staircase, behind the door, under the seats, or any where, so as he could but get out of my sight. But I knew he dared not carry any complaint to the King, nor even run away; nor could he ever get out of the reach of my tongue, nor out of the sight of my eye, nor from the stripes that I had given him, nor from the charges which I had brought in against him.
Shepherd. I dare say he hated you in his heart. And doubtless others of the household have often healed his hurt slightly, and cried Peace to him, before the King had spoken peace, Jer. vi. 14; and represented you as taking (like Moses) too much upon you, and using too great severity. But this never cures the bellyache!
Steward. I knew the King's pleasure concerning him; used his rules with respect to my dealings with him; secretly put up my petitions in the behalf of him; and expected the fulfilment of the King's promise, namely, "that he who reproveth him shall find more favour in his eyes than he that flattereth with his lips," Prov. xxviii. 23, - and so I always found it. And I told him, moreover, that the Hagarenes boasted of their whole backs: but they never told him how many stripes bastards were beaten with in the black hole, when they were cast into outer darkness.
Shepherd. This is levelling the walls of Zion with a witness; leading the children through the breaches; and disfiguring the royal family, till they are scarcely known from the natives of Meshech, which are loitering about the tents of Kedar. One of the royal family, in ancient times, groaned in spirit only at a sight of these rude boys: "Woe is me, that I sojourn in Meshech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar," Psalm, cxx. 5. Yea, he declared that he would "rather be a door-keeper at the King's house than dwell in the tents of wickedness." How dreadfully, therefore, must the manners of Little Faith be corrupted, when he approved, and even admired, the conversation and apparel of the Hagarenes!
Steward. He really was awfully corrupted, and that is what they aim at. When any of the young princes, or princesses, have invited any of the more accomplished or more refined among Hagar's family to come to any of the King's feasts; and have spoken respectfully of the clerk or Steward's fidelity, telling them, that he is sure to furnish the table with whatever the King allows; that he keeps nothing back, nor sets any thing aside for himself. -
Shepherd. Excuse my breaking in so abruptly - but what I was going to say is, that those very things which they mention as inducements to bring them, are the very things which their soul hateth: they can never banquet on such things as these, nor enjoy their stolen morsel, while such dishes are before them. "Fools can only feed upon foolishness," Prov. xv. 14. Strong meat never sits well upon those who "fill their belly with the east wind," Job, xv. 2.
Steward. Not that, indeed - for I have observed when I have seen the young princes and princesses leading them through the dressing apartments into the dining-room, that, as soon as they have cast their eyes on the royal robes, they have given such a secret, sly, contemptuous, inveterate leer, or glance, that I could compare their faces to nothing but the image of the devil that I once saw, who is represented as peeping out under the battlements of LINCOLN MINSTER. And, even at table, they could eat nothing of the King's meat. They acted as their Gibeonitish relations did when they came to Joshua - they came not to take hold of the King's covenant already made, but "to make a league with him," Josh. x. 6, and therefore they brought their own old shoes, old garments, and their mouldy bread, with them, Josh. ix. 5. To have their feet shod, their souls fed, and themselves enrobed, at the King's expense, they cannot away with. Just so do these Hagarene ladies act: they carry their own crust in their satchels, and sit and mumble it like a squirrel; while their hearts, like a pouting pigeon, swell with indignation at every dish that stands before them, and even at the poor servant also who attends the table. In short, they want nothing of the King but his name; nor any favour of him, but to nurse their pride, and honour them before the elders of the people. The universal language of every Hagarene stands upon record thus, "In that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach." Isa. iv. 1.
Shepherd. It is surprising to me that the young princes and princesses do not see through such persons themselves, for some of the King's children are very discerning; and I am sure they must be all so, if they take after either their father or their mother.
Steward. When any of the Hagarenes come to the palace, they never come without a mask, or a veil, The penitent Jewess at the feet of the Messiah never appeared with more simplicity, sincerity, contrition, and devotion, than they do. They are swift to hear, and slow to speak. Of loyalty, and love to the King, they talk; of their unworthiness, they complain; for super-abounding service, they contend; and, to all you can say they give their apparent consent, if they perceive any at the table who have the "gift of discerning of spirits," 1 Cor. xii. 10. With this mask, this veil, this garb, this feigned conversation, and this apparent assent and consent, they deceive legions, by ingratiating themselves into their affections, and obtaining a charitable opinion of them; insomuch that the watchmen's alarms and warnings, the King's proclamations and declarations, together with all the counsel and advice of his Majesty's domestics, shall hardly gain credence, if they should sound an alarm, and testify against those arch deceivers.
Shepherd. This is the only way to set the King's seed on a level with the bastard race, indeed; for, when they have stripped the King's children of their ornaments, led them into a rebellious spirit, and dressed themselves up in their masquerade dress - in external appearance, the latter must cut the best figure. One would think it impossible, under the penetrating eye of the King, to counterfeit the garb, language, countenance, and ornaments of the Seed-royal, to such a degree as that.
Steward. It is done to the highest pitch of deception; and serves to shew us that there is an uncommon beauty in real religion, our enemies themselves being judges - or else the worst of men would never be at such pains, and run such perilous risks, only to appear in a counterfeit garb of it. Shepherds in rural life are strangers to the arts and artifices which are used in metropolitan cities. It is not impossible to meet, in the public streets, an engaging figure of a woman, that to all appearance should not exceed forty years of age - when, were you to be smitten with love, and espouse the object, you might be as much deceived in the morning as Jacob was, who espoused Rachel, and was beguiled with Leah. Her teeth might be manufactured by the dentist; her ornamental hair, taken from the crest of a horse, put on, and coloured, by the hair-dresser; her ruddy, or blooming face, be the art of the perfumer; her hips purchased at the milliner's; and her feet set off by the craft of Saint Crispin - insomuch that you might throw all that stuck you, and one half of the bulk that you espoused, into the rag bag; and what little remained might be found, upon proof, to be old enough to be your mother. Eyes, eyebrows, teeth, hair, arms, and hand, legs and feet, have been made in Fleet Street, as well as in Paradise.
Shepherd. If this be the case, it looks as if most people would wish to be their own makers-menders at least. And if all that you say be true, were I ever to be in any of these great cities, I should suspect every engaging person to be an automaton figure, instead of the work of Jehovah's hands.
Steward. Wiser men than you or I have been deceived; and you are a singular shepherd in success if you never had a wolf in sheep's clothing in your flock. All that I have said about external deception is not more artfully carried on than internal disguise is by the Hagarene ladies. I have often observed, when any of the young princesses have invited any of the more refined of them to the royal banquets, if any of the tutors have been mentioning any thing respecting his Majesty's sovereignty, his eternal and discriminating love, the royal law of liberty, his Majesty's will being his children's rule, the immutability of the King's counsel and clemency, the royal robes of the family, the certainty of all who are of the blood-royal coming to inherit the kingdom and the throne of glory, &c. it has been enough; off went the mask; the demure countenance hath visibly faded; the palpitations of the heart have beat uncommonly high; the sheep's clothing has given way; the ornaments, cauls, bracelets, and mufflers, have all fallen off together; and, "instead of well-set hair, there has been baldness; instead of a girdle, a rent; instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; and burning with rage instead of Zion's beauty." Isa. chap. iii.
Shepherd. Then such is the best conversation that can be brought forth in order to discover them and purge them out.
Steward. It is, for it either mends them or makes them worse. The King hates a feigned loyalist, or a lukewarm profession of his name and cause; and says, he would they were either cold or hot.
Shepherd. I know they must either be loyal to him or Mammon; they must hate one of the two, and hold to the other. Pray, did you ever see any of them there when the servants have been bringing forth the best robe for any of the children?
Steward. Yes: and have watched their countenances narrowly, and observed the contemptuous glances they have given at it; while their hearts have heaved with indignation, as bad as the heart of Haman, the Jews' enemy; who, notwithstanding all his prosperity, his increase in riches, in children, and in favour with the King, was not satisfied while Mordecai the Jew sat at the gate. It is the hammer of truth that breaks the egg, draws forth the viper, and sends them home, like Haman," mourning, and having their head covered," Esth. vi. 12.
Shepherd. It must; especially when they hear of the King's decree, and that "evil is determined against them by the King," Esth. vii. 7.
Steward. They will all act as Haman did at lasts - "stand up to make request for their life to the queen:" and beg oil of the Seed Royal too, when the King appears in person; for their lamps will go out as soon as the archangel's trump alarms their consciences, and proclaims the King at hand.
Shepherd. If the "righteousness of the King be the children's only brightness, and his salvation their only lamp that burneth," Isaiah, lxii. 1; no sparks of human kindling can blaze before divine radiance, or maintain their flame before divine salvation, which is an eternal lamp. Sun, moon, and stars, shall all withdraw when the Sun of Righteousness appears. And, can we expect strange fire to stand the conflagration of divine wrath, when the work of Jehovah's hands, the luminaries of heaven, fail! Nay, Behold (saith the King) "all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled: this shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow," Isa. 1. 11.
Steward. That is the fearful end predicted, and the awful doom appointed, into which they want to plunge even the heirs of promise; by raising rebellion in their minds which they can never quell; and in which they have so far succeeded, as to make them disaffected for a time; which has exposed them to various punishments; but never to banishment or disinheritance: confiscation of daily necessaries, and being prohibited the court, have been the sorest punishments that have ever been inflicted on the seed-royal. Israel hath never been forsaken of his Sovereign, nor have the heirs of promise ever lost their right.
Shepherd. It is well for such as poor Little Faith, that the King is infinitely wise, and therefore knows his own children; and that he is of one mind, therefore none can turn him.
Steward. Little Faith dwells in the bosom of Everlasting Love. They may strip him of his ornaments, peace, and happiness; and seduce him from the presence-chamber, and from the gates of the palace: but never from the King's favour, for that is eternal; nor from the promised inheritance, for that is sure to all the seed.
Shepherd. And they must be aware of this as well as you, for their fruitless toil must have apprised them of it: besides, if they can enshrine themselves in the heart and affections of them for a while, it is only like the unsettled affections of a nurse child, that calls all daddy and mammy who feed it; but, when brought home to its own parents, it is all forgot.
Steward. So it is with the King's seed: all who affect them are admired by them, and he that strives for their heart and affections is sure to gain them; but, as soon as the King smiles, the heart, soul, and all, go weeping back again to the King, saying - "O Lord, our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee ONLY will we make mention of thy name." Isa. xxvi. 13.
Shepherd. And it is but robbing the King himself of their love at best; for the very law that these Hagarenes contend for tells them that they shall love their King and Maker with "all their heart, and soul, and mind, and strength:" so that they are violators of the legal rule," and robbers of the King himself, all the while they contend for it.
Steward. They are thieves and robbers - and the King gives them no better names.
Shepherd. Nor do they deserve better: for I see clearly that the whole intent of these Hagarenes, in all their proceedings, is to deceive; and they seem to be as desperate, and as unwearied in it, as he that set them on, and keeps them at it.
Steward. It is so. And to move the bounds that sovereign Majesty has fixed, so as to lay all open, and set the families of heaven and hell on a level, is the end aimed at; else why are so many bastards disguised, and pushed into the family? and why are so many snares placed to entangle the Seed-royal, and draw them away to the castle?
Shepherd. And, when they get any of the weaklings of the King's seed away, what do they with them?
Steward. The first thing they attempt is to blind their eyes. The Hagarenes can do nothing with them, unless they can blind them. He that has got the seeing eye will look well to his own way. The blind are suffered to lead none but the blind. They often use astronomical lectures, which lead them to admire the wandering stars. And this shews who sends the lecturers - for "it is the god of this world that blinds the minds of them that believe not," whoever may have the honour of being the instruments.
Shepherd. And then, I suppose, they serve them as some shepherds have served a strolling sheep that has strayed from my flock and fold. They were sure to disfigure them: they have fleeced them, and clothed themselves with their wool; but they never fed then,; nor could they, for they were starving themselves.
Steward. I have seen Little Faith come home in the same shattered condition; pale and wan, with a fallen countenance and a hungry belly; his robe of humility half off and half on; his shoes slipped, and with sore heels, like a boy that has been after birds' nests, with large holes in his stockings: yea, they have "made bare his legs, and uncovered his thighs," Isa. xlvii.; insomuch that" he walked naked, and they saw his shame," Rev. xvi. 15.
Shepherd. And what did you do with him? Did you let him come into the palace in such a trim as that, with all his "filthiness in his skirts?" Lam. i. 9. What a figure must he cut among the rest of the children! They would get about him like a "shoal of birds; and he must appear like a speckled bird in the midst of them," Jer. xii. 9. Hence the King's complaint in the following verse: "Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, and trodden my portion under foot," Jer. xii. 10.
Steward. Indeed he would not come publicly into the company of the King's children: for he would creep up upon the stairs, and bob about upon the lobbies, or any where, to get out of sight; and, if he could but borrow or steal a needle, he would endeavour to draw the holes up, or stop them, "by putting a piece of new cloth to the old garment, which only made the rent worse," Matt. ix. 16. I have catched him cross-legged ere now. "What, said I, "are you turned tailor? You are got at your old grandfather and grandmother's employ, are you? You are sewing your fig-leaves together, Gen. iii. 7. Woe to him that cover's with such a covering, Isa. xxx. 1. The King will strip you, he will. Dost thou think to stand in the King's presence like a great girl in an apron? Gen. iii. 7. Robes! robes! Isa. lxi. 10; you shall never see the King's face without the best robes," Luke, xv, 22.
Shepherd. Why, you seem to be up to all his tricks. In his conscience he must justify you, but in his pride he must hate you: and yet, as a faithful servant, he must both fear and tremble before you; for there is majesty and power in faithfulness and honesty; for Wisdom declares that "a faithful ambassador is health," Prov. xiii. 17; and where there is health there must be power and efficacy.
Steward. I knew where he had been, and what he was then about as well as he himself did: for I had formerly been at the same fruitless toil and unprofitable labour myself. And, when I have detected him, he would colour up at me, and look like those who accused the adulteress before the King when he bid the innocent throw the first stone: yea, and when he has gone among the rest of the children, he would insist that some of them had told tales out of school, and that the Steward. could not have known it without information.
Shepherd. Poor Little Faith! He does not consider that, if the "watchmen do not find him," Cant. iii. 3; nor the Steward. discover him, that "sin is sure to find him out," Numb. xxxii. 23. And, when once the belly-ache seizes him, "the shew of his countenance will witness against him, Isa. iii. 9.
Steward. Yea; and the countenance of Little Faith is as sure a messenger as ever Noah's dove was, whether the tidings be peace or war, sickness or health, hope or despondency: for we know that he never gets such a countenance, nor appears naked, while he is looking to, and waiting on the King, "for gold tried in the fire, that he may be rich; and for white raiment, that he may be clothed; and that the shame of his nakedness should not appear," Rev. iii. 18.
Shepherd. My time is pretty well expired: the sheep will be looking about them, for they are all out upon the wild common today.
Steward. What! do you ever let the sheep run upon the common?
Shepherd. O yes, two or three days in a week; where they get little or nothing, unless they creep into some inclosure whose gate hath been left open, and so get a bite or two among any other of the King's flocks. This does them good: it gives them an appetite, and teaches them to bite close; and the closer they bite, the sweeter the herbage, and the better they fat.
Steward. Well, I thought they were never out of the meadows except at the time of the King's mowings, Amos, vii. 1; though they are often out of the fold. Besides, what does the lord of the manor say when he sees them there? for, you know, he is "the god of this world."
Shepherd. "The sheep of the King go in and out, and find pasture." Out as well as in. And they are not only turned out upon the common, but they run at times, "among the stubble also; and will, until it be all burnt up," Mal. iv. I. If the sheep were always to lie in fat pastures, they would be apt to act as bad shepherds do, namely," tread it with their feet," Ezek. xxxiv. 19. To prevent which, they are turned out upon the commons among the "briars and thorns," Heb. vi. 8; and into the corn stubble, among the thistles, Hos. x. 8. This produces such a hunger among them, that they are ready to gnaw the" bark of the fig-tree," Joel, i. 7. When their appetite is thus sharpened, you may see them, about folding-time, flocking together like doves to their windows. When they are turned into the fat pastures for about two hours, they fill themselves, and lie down to rest quietly; and, when thus fed with a good bite, "they always make a good fold," Ezek. xxxiv. 14; which enables them to "manure the King's husbandry," 1 Cor. iii. 9; and to enrich "the fallow ground," Jer. iv. 3.
Steward. I should think that you would hardly know them again.
Shepherd. If I don't know them, the King does, and so does the dog Smut: and, if they come not back to the fold, the King generally fetches them, or sends Smut after them; and, when he gets hold of them, they are sure to come back, though the dog never intends to bring them there. His terrible bark in their ears alarms them, a sense of their danger makes them look out for the fold, the King directs their way, and Smut makes them mend their pace.
Steward. But, I say, what does the lord paramount, the lord of this lower manor, say about the sheep being on the commons? I suppose he would wish that the goats should come in for all the common pastures, the spontaneous herbage at least.
Shepherd. He certainly would; but it is not to be so. Most graziers allow, that it is healthy for other cattle to have a few goats among them; and the King thinks so too, or else he would not suffer it. And certain it is that the sheep keep together, though on one and the same common, and often eat what the goats leave; and, having the stink of the herd all day long in their nostrils, it makes them hate the thought of herding together for nothing alive stinks worse in the nostrils of a sheep than an old ram-goat, Dan. viii. 21.
Steward. Notwithstanding the stink of the goats, you acknowledge that some do stray from the fold; and, consequently, from the good Shepherd and owner of the sheep. And where can they get to, but among the goats? which must provoke the owner to withdraw from them: and, I think, this is confirmed by the dog being sent among them.
Shepherd. True: and the proverb is verified, "When they leave the good master, they seldom find a better." But the sheep generally come faster back to the fold than they do when they stray from it. Smut is sure to make them run for it.
Steward. When he "possessed the poor Gadarene among the tombs, who was bound with chains and fetters, he brake them, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness," Luke, viii. 29. And, when he "entered into the swine, the whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake," Luke, viii. 33. Whether it be a man, a sleep, or a pig, "he must needs go when the devil drives."
Shepherd. Yea; and he will one day make the goats run with as much fury into the ante-typical lake Asphalites, Rev. xix. 20; as ever he made the swine run into the" lake of Genesareth."
Steward. It is said that the swine which the devil drove "all perished in the waters," Matt. viii. 32. And, if all the goats and swine that Satan drives should perish in the Lake of fire, and be drowned in destruction and perdition, the old proverb will have an awful accomplishment, and may be remembered without laughter, namely, that "The devil has brought his hogs to a fine market!"
Shepherd. I must be gone.
Steward. How often do you fold in the week?
Shepherd. Five, and frequently six times, in a week.
Steward. Will Friday be a leisure day?
Shepherd. As much so as any day in the week: for the sheep are sure to be on the common both Friday and Saturday; but the latter is a busy day with me, because of drawing the water to fill the troughs, and looking over the pastures.
Steward. Will you call at the palace on the Friday afternoon, if nothing unforeseen prevent? Ask any body for the clerk of the kitchen; and, whether friend or foe, he will direct you to the Steward's room, either with a sneer of contempt or a smile of approbation.
Shepherd. I will be sure to be there, if kind Providence direct my way. Till then may the Lord send his Angel before the Steward., and give him good speed in the business of his master Abraham!
Steward. And may the Fountain of all peace, who brought again from the dead the "great Shepherd of the sheep," through the blood of the everlasting covenant, be with you; and make you perfect in every branch of your pastoral work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight!