The History of Little Faith

Dialogue the Sixth.

Steward. "Come in, thou blessed of the Lord! Why standest thou without?" Thou art welcome to the Steward's room, and to any repast or refreshment in it.

Shepherd. I believe it, otherwise I should not have come. Wisdom relates of the hypocrite, "that he says, 'Eat and drink,' but his heart is not with thee." Therefore, when I am invited by an acquaintance, I generally try his heart by my own; for if my heart be not with him, I cannot expect his to be with me.

Steward. True: "As, in water, face answers to face, so doth the heart of man to man." Pray, how did you get in?

Shepherd. I came in by the porter's lodge.

Steward. Did the porter speak to you?

Shepherd. Yes, he looked at the crook in my hand, and asked me if I was a shepherd. When I told him I was, he asked me if I knew sheep from goats. I replied, I hoped he did. He said, there were many that called themselves shepherds who did not. I told him I believed there were; but I had been so much occupied among cattle, that I thought, if my hands were cut off, and I were blind in both eyes, that I could distinguish a goat from a sheep by my nose.

Steward. What reply did he make?

Shepherd. He told me, he wondered at that, as I took so much snuff. I answered, I have more noses than one, otherwise I should never have known (as I now do) that "all the garments [of his Royal Master] smelled of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces," Psalm, xlv. 8.

Steward. What said he to that?

Shepherd. He asked me, with a smile, who I wanted? I answered, the clerk of the kitchen. He replied, he thought so! and directed me to your door; but, as I came along, I perceived two doors pretty close together, and knew not which to knock at. So I went up to an old man who was weeding the gravel-walk, and asked him which of those two doors led to the Steward's room? lie told me, he did not know that there was any particular room for the Steward., any more than for any body else. The lower apartments were free for any who chose to make use of them. "But if your heart," said he, "is set upon a single room, you may go to the right-hand door, and there you will find a Steward., and a room too, just as narrow as yourself."

Steward. The porter is a loyalist, every inch of him: but that old man is highly influenced by the Hagarenes, and a wonderful advocate for universal charity; though, I believe, he would get as much comfort to his heart, if I was dead, as ever Esau got by his determination to kill his brother. However, I never say any thing to him: he goes on in his own way. He has been seven years, to my certain knowledge, at weeding that walk, and it is just as much over-run with weeds now as it was when he first began, and, I think, more so.

Shepherd. There is no ploughing to purpose upon a rock; and His who never erred hath told us that all labour is spent in vain that is spent upon stony ground.

Steward. And so that poor old soul will find it at last, for it is but eye service at best. He always gets in sight of the windows; and now and then looks up, to see if any of the family observe his industry: not considering that the King looks at the goodness of the work, and the bent of the heart, not at the motion of the body. However, he vainly dreams of meriting the King's favour by that fruitless toil; whereas the King takes no pleasure but in the work of his own hands, in the hearts of his children, and in the loyalty and affections of his domestic servants. I was thinking, last night, that I never remembered to have seen a dog with you. It is a rare thing to see a shepherd without his dog.

Shepherd. It is a plain proof that your eyes were not much about you: for I think that I am seldom without him long together, though full sore against my will; for I hate him with a perfect hatred; and, I believe, he hates me as much as I do him.

Steward. Cannot you shut him up, then?

Shepherd. No, nor you neither. I have threatened him, rebuked him, stoned him, tried to starve him, and often driven him, but he still skulks at my heels; and skulk he will in spite of me, as long as I have a sheep to feed, or strength to carry the crook.

Steward. I suppose he now and then comes in for a dead morsel, in wet seasons, when the rot gets among the flock; otherwise one would think he would hardly follow you so closely, if he got nothing but such usage for his pains.

Shepherd. He does not follow for nought. If a sheep strays away, he is sure to suck some of its blood before it comes back: and if any of the ewes gender with any other kind, the monstrous produce falls to Smut; the "wolf in sheep's clothing" is sure to fall a Prey to his teeth; all the mule, mongrel, or monstrous productions, are Smut's dainty meat; and he is sure to break all their bones ere they come to the bottom of his kennel. It is a true saying - " Dogs will eat dogs." Many a dog which has barked at the shepherd, left the sheep, and returned to his vomit, has been devoured by Smut.

Steward. It is a pity that such a voracious creature should be permitted to range at large; "for, if he riseth up, no man is sure of his life," Job, xxiv. 22.

Shepherd. He is chained; but the chain is so long, that he can range all over the farm: yea, sheep in the King's pastures, near to the utmost bounds of the King's husbandry (but not beyond their limits), have perceived him come within a few feet of them, and that with such violence, that when he had run out the last link of his chain, he has bounded back the full distance of a bow-shot, only by the cheek of his chain; and has left the poor sheep affrighted, bewildered, and trembling, so that they could neither eat nor drink at quiet for many days together.

Steward. Why don't you petition the King to confine him?

Shepherd. Many have wished it, and longed for it; and the King says he will "shut him up," by and by, confine him for "a thousand years, and set a seal upon him," Rev. xx. 2, 3; but not yet.

Steward. It is, doubtless, to answer some wise purpose, that he Is permitted to range as he does; for certain it is the King doth nothing in vain.

Shepherd. I have sometimes thought that, if it were not for Smut, the sheep would prowl and stray away more than they do. But, when they have heard his terrible roaring bark, and felt the force of his teeth, they are sure to "remember the battle," Job, xli. 8.

Steward. I suppose there is no fear of him, or of danger from him, while the sheep keep upon the King's walks; but, if they creep through the hedge, the serpent will bite them, Eccles. x. 8; if Smut don't. A hedge-creeper cannot stand before Smut, much less before the CHIEF SHEPHERD. "None is so fierce that dare stir him up: Who, then, is able to stand before Me? Job, xli. I0.

Shepherd. They are sure to prize the King's clemency who have had a conspicuous deliverance from Smut, and who have escaped with the" skin of their teeth," Job, xix. 20. Some have been so twisted in their bowels, cramped in their muscles, strangled in their throat, and confused in their brain, that their heads have appeared for a while to spin like a top. Smut can gripe them, Luke, ix. 42; cramp them, Luke, xiii. 16; throttle them, Job, vii. 19; and distract them, Psalm, lxxxviii. 15. Such, when properly "clothed, and in their right mind," are sure to cleave close to the Chief Shepherd's feet. Pray, how does Little Faith do? Is he like the pig? Is he still hung in the gate?

Steward. No; Little Faith hath been permitted lately to have an interview, and a comfortable sight of the King's face. The last time that he was pressed at the gate, he was so bad with the belly-ache and the heart-burning, that he could not perform his usual tasks; and so confused and confounded, that his highly-favoured ceremonies became both loathsome and useless to him; insomuch, that he threw the whole of them to the moles and to the bats; and ventured to petition without his papers, and to walk without his crutches, crying out - "My hope is perished from the King! I am cut off for my part! O that I could but see the King's face."

Shepherd. That is the best step that ever Little Faith took yet. They never hang long in the gate who go that way to work. The King "lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, and sets him among princes," I Sam. ii. 8; and none beg with fervour but those who are pierced with the evil arrow of famine; nor do any plead with more eloquence than those who are driven to it by the heart-burn. In this sense, "the heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips," Prov. xvi. 23. In desperate cases, Little Faith's human rules and legal rolls, stated modes and carnal compositions, ancient court-forms and threadbare ceremonies, get out of favour, out of use, and out of fashion.

Steward. True; there is no getting into the King's presence till these spiders' webs are brushed off. And so Little Faith found it; for, as soon as his petition was heard, his straight-waistcoat dropped off, and the gate that led from the place of confinement "opened to him of his own accord," Acts, xii. 10.

Shepherd. He must have cut a strange figure in the levee-room, supposing he could have got in with his fig-leaved apron, and his head covered with dust (like the head of a dusty miller), by tossing and tumbling about so long in the sand-bank!

Steward. A strange figure, indeed! - but such figures shall never appear in the King's presence. They who appear there must awake, awake, out of their pleasing dreams, "put on their beautiful garments, shake themselves from the DUST, loose the BANDS of their neck, and come forth from captivity," Isa. lii. 2, 3; before they can see the King's face with joy.

Shepherd. And did Little Faith find admittance to the levee-room? Did the usher of the black rod conduct him so as to find nearness of access to the King's presence?

Steward. Yes; and never was one of the seed-royal favoured with a more delightful interview; nor with a more cordial reception by his Majesty; nor with more endearing embraces of affection, tenderness, and love; than poor halting, hobbling, wavering, doubting and fearing, Little Faith - Saying," Is Little Faith my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? Is he the son of my love, and the son of my vows? Give not thy STRENGTH unto women, [my son] nor thy ways to THAT which destroyeth KINGS," Prov. xxi. 3. Which was a gentle reproof for his adherence to Hagar, and to the demure intrigues of the Hagarene ladies: and a plain intimation of his delegated right to the throne of celestial Majesty; which may be easily gathered from the latter part of the King's most gracious speech - "Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to THAT which destroyeth KINGS." It is plain that the way of the Hagarenes is sure to destroy: but, if Little Faith had not been an heir-apparent, though it might have destroyed him as a man, yet it could not have destroyed him as a king.

Shepherd. True. But, are there no statutes, or ancient records of the realm, read at such levee-times, to convince an ignorant subject a disaffected child, or a misled loyalist, of his errors, in order to caution, undeceive, or direct him in his future conduct?

Steward. There are. An ancient record was proclaimed aloud at the interview of Little Faith, and that by one of the kings at arms, sufficient to convince him of his error: as it is written, "They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and have consulted against thy hidden ones. The have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance: for they have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against thee: the tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the HAGARENES: Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines, with the inhabitants of Tyre. Assur also is joined with them; the have holpen the children of Lot. Do unto them as unto the Midianites, as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison, which perished at En-dor. They became as dung for the earth. Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes like Zebah, and as Zalmunna; who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of the King in possession. O my King! make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm," Psalm, lxxxiii.

Shepherd. This must be a cutting recital to Little Faith: it must plough deep into his former folly, and lay open the border of "his two furrows," Hos. x. 10.

Steward. It did: but the King's countenance was so conspicuous in his favour, and his pathetic language so affecting and endearing to Little Faith, that it was impossible to sully or cast down the brilliant lustre of his face, which so visibly appeared at this court-visit.

Shepherd. The propitious looks of his celestial Majesty are wonderfully endearing, transporting, enlivening, and renewing; this I know by blessed and happy experience; but reflections upon past acts of disloyalty often counterbalance them.

Steward. They do so. But this was not the ease with Little Faith: the wrinkles and deep entrenchments of Sinai, which had ploughed deep on his visage, were effaced; his cheeks became plump and round; his countenance raised; a liveliness, quickness, and sprightliness, appeared visible on his face; his hobbling, or limping step, became imperceptible; activity appeared in his arms, and in all his limbs; his gait was wholly altered; his speech changed; his deportment became pleasing, his conversation savoury, and his company admirably engaging. In short, we hardly knew whether to call him "Little Faith in the sand-bank," or the "beauty of Israel upon his high places."

Shepherd. The ancient prediction was verified in poor Little Faith, "His flesh shall be fresher than a child's; he shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray unto the King, and he will be favourable unto him; and he sail see his face with joy." Job, xxxiii. 25, 26.

Steward. He did; and a more joyful interview, a more kind reception, few ever met with, than poor Little Faith did.

Shepherd. What says Little Faith now about the clothes of Jack, Tom, and Charles? Does he think his prison-garments fit for such court-visits? or to stand in, as a court-robe, before his celestial Majesty?

Steward. He has got his robes on him now, however; and highly delighted he seems to be with them. The first night he slept in the state-bed with the King and Queen; and had threescore valiant men about it. The next day he went into the banqueting-house, and was seated under the King's banner. The day following he was handed into the royal gardens, and placed under the apple-tree.

Shepherd. These are halcyon days indeed, with Little Faith; and, if any thing beneath the sun would put the sand-bank and the Hagarene castle out of his heart and head, one would think these things would do it.

Steward. False haunts and refuges of lies generally appear in their true colour, and get out of favour, when realities come to be discovered and enjoyed. I shall hear what he says by and by: but, at this time he is deeply engaged; for the King ordered one of his servants, Mr. Illumination by name, to take one of the King's telescopes in his hand, and ascend the height of Zion with Little Faith, and give him a prospect from the eminence thereof, in order to shew him his Majesty's empire in the Lowlands, his own principality also, and the nethermost frontiers of the celestial realm.

Shepherd. This will cure his squinting. It is ten to one if ever he looks two ways at once after this; for his eyes must be anointed with the King's eye-salve before he can see invisible things, Rev. iii. 18.

Steward. Squinting eyes, and purblind eyes, have both been cured this way; but they never were, nor ever will be cured any other way. And I believe Little Faith feels something of it already; for I saw him clambering up the mount as nimble as a bird, with his diadem upon his head, and robed down to his feet. The servant had got him by the hand; and numbers of the royal family were looking after him, and rejoicing in his present prosperity.

Shepherd. What is the servant to shew Little Faith?

Steward. I cannot justly tell. The seed-royal generally have a view of Sinai, and Hagar's Castle: for these things never can be seen in their true light but on the mount. They are shewn Mount Zion on all the four sides; the beauty of her situation; her foundations, munitions, forts, towers, bulwarks, and pavilions; the King's palace, and the ivory throne; the valley of Baca, and the river of life; Jacob's ladder, and Israel's travels; the brazen Serpent, and that which was signified by it. They have also a view of the dark mountains, and a glimpse of the upper regions.

Shepherd. Do you think that he will have a perspective view of Paradise?

Steward. All the King's children are not favoured alike in this particular. Some have perceived the higher canopy to open, and the second veil to divide; while, in a divine blaze of immortal light, unutterable things have been seen and felt. This has been granted to some, in order to fortify and embolden them in future fight or trial, that they might see and feel beforehand the mansion they fought for, and for the enjoyment of which they were to be made meet by fiery trials.

Shepherd. True, Sir; and such, generally, are tried sharply afterwards, in order to poise their minds; otherwise their rapturous souls would pine with such intense desire after the celestial empire, that it would render them incapable of militant affairs. My time is expired, and I must be gone; for I would not give an enemy just cause to speak evil of me, if I could help it.

Steward. Shall you be busy all the remaining part of the week?

Shepherd. Rather so, as clipping-time is coming on, and I must have the shears ground, and get the pens ready.

Steward. How often do you clip them in a year?

Shepherd. Our stated times of clipping are four times in the year.

Steward. I thought shepherds had observed the same rule with their sheep that gardeners do with their clothes-hedges - clip them but once a year.

Shepherd. Short wool is best for this sort of sheep. Besides, I am obliged to clip them, in order to clothe myself. If I was to use the shears but once a year, they would be burdened with wool, and I should be without covering.

Steward. Pray, does all the wool fall to your share?

Steward. O no; only the clippings, which is a sort of offerings. The first fleece of the flock, at shearing, belonged to the Levite, Deut. xviii. 4. "He that feedeth the flock shall eat of the milk of the flock," 1 Cor. ix. 7; and he that keeps the flock has a right to some of the wool. The complaint brought in against the false shepherds is, that" they eat the fat, clothed themselves with the wool, killed those that [others] fed, but fed not the flock," Ezek. xxxiv. 3.

Steward. I suppose the Chief Shepherd sets great store by the wool; for it is said of Mesha, the great sheep-master, that he rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool, 2 Kings, iii. 4.

Shepherd. My great Sheepmaster sets least store by the wool of any thing belonging to the flock: for it has been often known that, in hot weather, when the flies are busy, and any one of the sheep has got maggoty and whimsical, that he hath taken the shears, and stripped it of its whole fleece, and in the following winter it hath had little or "no covering in the cold," Job, xxiv. 7. Besides, no farmer who keeps a middling flock thinks himself badly off, if the wool of the sheep defray the expenses of the shepherd: for the manure that he obtains by folding sends forth plentiful crops; so that he finds his account in the crops of the ground, and in the lambs of the flock.

Steward. I understand you. The Sheep, the lambs, and the manure which is for the King's husbandry, all belong to the great Sheep-master: and the wool also, which he gives and takes away at his pleasure: but the offerings, and the clippings of the wool, they belong to you. But then, why does Wisdom, after she has enjoined the shepherd to be "diligent to know the state of his flock, and to look well to his herds," tell him that" the lambs are for his clothing?" Prov. xxvii. 2.3, 26. I suppose she means the wool of the lambs.

Shepherd. She does. Wisdom knows that the lambs are the most forward with their offerings, and the most willing to be clipped, of any: for the Chief Shepherd "carries the lambs in his bosom.' Isa. xl. 11; so that they are sure to be warm; consequently, they neither trust in, nor cleave to, the wool. But, when once they quit the bosom, they fly to the wool; and then the Shepherd may go all the year round, and stand all sorts of weather, hail, rain, blow, or snow, without a fear-nothing (or what is commonly called a twilly) coat to his back. You read of one of the best Shepherds that ever carried a crook suffering hunger, cold, and nakedness, 2 Cor. xi. 27.

Steward. Most people who have sheep mark them at shearing times. Do you mark them when you clip them?

Shepherd. Some yield no wool at all, and others profitable clippings. We set our private marks upon both these, so as to know them again; and the great SHEEPMASTER sets his mark upon them also.

Steward. What is the right Owner's mark? Tell me, I pray thee, that I may be enabled to know it, if I should see a creature that bears it.

Shepherd. The Chief Shepherd's mark is mental leanness, or what is called starving at heart. Such never fat inwardly. The great Shepherd is as sparing of his herbage as they are of their wool, and gives them no more at feeding times than they give him at clipping times. No wool, no grass. "I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; naked, and ye clothed me not." And his declaration to such is, "I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off," Zech. xi. 9. But he says, "he will feed the flock of slaughter, even the poor of the flock," Zech. xi. 7.

Steward. I know it is written, "He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully." 2 Cor. ix. 6. Wisdom's words are verified (the liberal, are blessed, and the miser is starved). "There is that scattereth: and yet increaseth; and there is that with-holdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty," Prov. xi. 24. However, don't cut too close; nor act at your clipping-feast like churlish Nabal, who kept a feast like a king, and yet refused (on that good day) to relieve David, who was the king's son-in-law.

Shepherd. The disinterestedness of the shepherd, as well as the faithfulness of the Steward, shall surely be brought to light.<P{

Steward. Shall you be at leisure on Friday next?

Shepherd. I always endeavour to settle accounts, and pay my debts, after clipping-time is over; so that I shall not be able to go far from the tent, but should be very glad to see you there.

Steward. I shall have plenty of time upon my hands while Little Faith's banqueting lasts, for all the young princes and princesses will invite him while his joys abound. Some will entertain him till their own cupboards are empty, and he will feast others till he has not one penny left, and then my work will come on again - so that you may be sure of my giving you a meeting at the tent. Till then, farewell. The Chief Shepherd of Israel be your guide and guard!

Shepherd. The Lord of the Household be with the Steward! and then he will act with discretion, give to each a portion of meat in due season, and rule in righteousness.