The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Eighth.
Steward. Well, Shepherd, how do you do? I am glad to see you.
Shepherd. I am as glad to see you; for, in very deed, I suspected that you were either ill, or dead; and began to doubt whether I should ever see you again in these lower regions, for it is above three months since we had the last interview.
Steward. I know it is a good while; but I did not know that it was quite so long, for I have neither observed days nor months. I have had plenty of employ, and many ups and downs since I saw you last.
Shepherd. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." Pray, how comes Little Faith on? Is he on the mount, in the nursery, or is he feasting and making merry still?
Steward. Little Faith came home the next day after I parted with you last. I just saved my distance, for he and a number of the children were to dine and sup at the palace the next day: therefore you may easily guess how I was hurried in the morning!
Shepherd. Did he come into the Steward's room, to ask how you did?
Steward. No; but, when dinner went up, I saw where he was, and how he did. All sat mute: it was a silent meeting, not a cheerful countenance upon any of them; and as for Little Faith, he appeared the worst of all. When the dinner was served up, they sat and looked at one another, but could not fall to. Nothing of the first or second course seemed to suit: however, when the dessert came, some of them partook of that; but, as for Little Faith, he did very little more than taste of it.
Shepherd. Pray, what was the matter with Little Faith? How came he so dejected and bowed down?
Steward. Pride, pride, you may be sure: Pride always goes before the destruction [of a sinner] and a haughty spirit before the fall of a saint.
Shepherd. One would have thought that Little Faith had been exercised with troubles sufficient to have humbled him.
Steward. Pride often steals in by a way, and in a manner, by which it is least suspected. Every one of the Seed-royal is fond of nursing, cherishing, and dandling a young heir: for you must know that, in our family, every real child is an heir, and a joint-heir; an heir apparent to the throne, (Psalm, cxxxii. 12, 13, compare with Isa. lix. 21.) and in one sense a joint-heir with his Majesty, and that by propitious grant; as it is written, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne," Rev. iii. 21.
Shepherd. This is enough to lay a child under the strongest ties of filial affection, and to excite gratitude in the superlative degree; which the depraved powers of the human soul (though immortal) are incapable of, unless influenced by the sensible operations of Eternal Divinity
Steward. It is true: but, when once a young heir appears in the image of his Majesty, and begins to lisp out his warm expressions of love and tender affection to his Royal Father, and to appear in the garb of true royalty, all the young ones of the King's seed begin to admire and caress him; and, if any one is under the black rod, he is sure to he applied to as a mediator or intercessor: his garments are admired, his simplicity is extolled, his company is courted, and his conversation highly approved. And this was the case with Little Faith: his wisdom was deemed wonderful, his penetration singular, his discernment profound, his conversation savoury, and his brilliant appearance to exceed all that was ever born in the Palace-royal
Shepherd. I wonder that Little Faith had not concealed himself in a corner equally as secure as he formerly had thought himself when in the sand-bank: for he that is so dotingly fond of retirement in trouble, generally inclines that way when out of it. "The heart, knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy."
Steward. If this was a little more attended to, it would be better with many of the King's children than it really is. But, instead of watching the King's countenance, attending to his powerful arm made bare, and to the promises of his mouth, Little Faith fell to admiring every thing that others said of him. He was to lead the conversation in every meeting, to resolve all doubts, and settle all matters in debate. Hard questions were put to him, and infallible answers were expected from him. Nor was one petition put up to the King, during all those days of festivity, except by Little Faith, who was sure to he mouth for all. So that, instead of "his drinking so as to forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more," every one helped to empty his cruse, and drain him of every thing that he had. Poor Little Faith was not aware of this.
Shepherd. Then I think, Sir, that you ought to have taught him better; especially, as you are in some degree acquainted with these things.
Steward. No advice is accepted from a domestic servant at such times as these. A young prince in his first love, though in a go-cart or a back-string, "is wiser in his own eyes than seven men that can render a reason." Therefore you are obliged to keep your mouth as it were with a bridle, lest you should strip them of their felicity, damp their joys, or give them an unkind touch, or an unintentional wound. To deal with these exactly agreeable to the rules of Divine direction, is one of the hardest and most difficult branches of domestic servitude: but, what makes it still worse is, that there is not a child, Steward, butler, chariot-driver, cup-bearer, porter, baker, herdsman, bailiff, ploughman, or errand-boy, that ever appears about the palace, but what thinks himself capable of, and sufficiently accomplished for, this part of the work. Hence every one who sounds his own trumpet is attended to. At such seasons, nothing must be said by a faithful servant to the prejudice of those who zealously affect them. All that can be done is to pray, wait, and watch the event; and, if they are really heirs of promise, these generally strip them, and then send them home naked and wounded. And, when they themselves perceive that their favourites can strip and wound them, but neither clothe nor heal them, then they are apt to run to the contrary extreme, and to conclude that there are neither legitimate children, nor faithful domestic servants, in all the King's palace, except themselves-and those who thus judge, are sure to judged.
Shepherd. This must be difficult indeed! for a servant that is faithful, and knows something of his business, is not fond of being instructed by those who do not. Nor does it sit easy with one of long experience to be guided by every one that is capable of feeding swine.
Steward. This is often the ease with those who act in the capacity of Stewards; and this I found at the exaltation of Little Faith. He was suddenly taken from my care; nor was I allowed to have one single sight of him until he was shattered and torn: then I might have the pleasure of seeing him; and, if I could do any thing for him, I might then use my interest, but not till then.
Shepherd. I should think that, if Little Faith was used as a mouth for all the rest, and as an intercessor between the King and any of the princes or princesses who had offended his Majesty, that it must have a natural tendency to lift him up.
Steward. It has, and it did lift him up. Such should be swift to hear, and slow to speak. But they made Little Faith the keeper the vineyards, but his own vineyard was not kept. He took his eyes from the King's countenance, and fixed them on the countenances of the guests in company, to see if a look of approbation appeared upon them: and when any applauded, or lavished great encomiums on his prayers or conversation, it became food for spiritual pride; until the private meditations of Little Faith were not upon the King's clemency, but to furnish his head with notions, and his mouth with words, to gain applause.
Shepherd. When this is the case, the power, sweetness, simplicity, yea, all the fragrant perfumes of the royal garments, wear away, till nothing odoriferous is left.
Steward. You are right-and this was the true case with Little Faith: and, when once he found himself dry, lean, unsavoury, and unctionless, he began to counterfeit the joys and power of grace, by a feigned or affected speech, with a low, hollow voice; by which art he at times moved the passions of the others in company; but this never warms the heart. But, what struck Little Faith most was, that one night two or three of the Hagarenes were at their meeting; and, after Little Faith had put up one of these hypocritical petitions, (for I can call them no better) the Hagarenes were ready to fall to kissing of him; while some of the more discerning of the Seed-royal seemed abashed and confounded at his unsavoury, unsound, bad-worded, and lifeless address.
Shepherd. It is a bad sign when the Hagarenes approve; it is a plain proof that there must be a fleshly savour, otherwise they would not relish it. And I should think that the approbation of the bond children must have recoiled with a wound to the heart of Little Faith; for he must be effectually convinced that it was neither the spirit, the tenets, nor the false confidence of the Hagarenes, that procured his enlargement when he got through the strait gate.
Steward. It both wounded him and staggered him: his brilliant lustre vanished, he gradually sunk in the esteem of all the Seed-royal, his heart grew narrow, his spirit got into bondage, his mouth was stopped, his simplicity destroyed, and his nakedness appeared; so that his feigned garb could hide his shame no longer. Thus his pride was cut, and his countenance fell: so true are the words of Wisdom, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Shepherd. Nor does it rest there: for, when once the spiritual appetite is gone, pride is indulged, and applause is sought to feed it, the King's displeasure soon follows, he resisteth the proud. And, as they seek not his honour, he tramples theirs in the dust: "They that honour me, will I honour; but those that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." This raises rebellion in the heart even against the King himself: The foolishness of a man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the King.
Steward. You have described the case exactly. Rebel he did and the King left him in the hand of his old adversary, who came to him as an angel of light, and set Little Faith to cavilling at the sovereign acts of his Majesty: yea, he disputed, and resisted, his will in his heart, and fell to vindicating himself; went over, in heart and affections, to the Hagarenes; wholly lost sight of the mount, and the wonders exhibited thereon: and crept into the sand-bank again.
Shepherd. Into the sand-bank again?
Steward. Yes: infidelity prevailed; from the King's face he wandered, and into the flesh he crept. For, going over in heart to the Hagarenes, bondage laid hold of him; and the old veil so gathered over his mind, that he lost sight of the Rock; and such are sure to go to building upon the sand again, for they are said to build again that which they destroyed.
Shepherd. Pray, how long did he continue in his old retreat?
Steward. Upwards of two months.
Shepherd. And what drove him out at last?
Steward. I can hardly tell you for laughing! But, one day, as I was walking past his old haunt, I took no notice of hint as I passed: for I think it is best for such to bear the yoke in their youth; and likewise to let them alone, that they may try what hopes and expectations may be raised on the sand; and therefore I kept Little Faith at a distances and took little or no notice of him. But, as soon as I passed by he saw me; and out he ran, steaming with dust, like a fowl that shakes its feathers after it has rolled in an ash-heap, crying out "hornets, hornets!" and looked like a wild or distracted man.
Shepherd. What did he mean by-"Hornets! hornets!"
Steward. I know what he meant, and I was glad to hear his outcry; for, when once the hornet's nest is stirred up, it is sufficient, under the management of Divine Wisdom, to make a child sick of seeking rest in the sand-bank for ever.
Shepherd. The King promised in ancient records, saying, "And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee, Exod. xxiii. 28.
Steward. It is said also, "that the hornet should come among them, until they that were left, and those that had hid themselves from Israel, were destroyed," Deut. vii. 20. And I think that the old inhabitants of Canaan never fled with more precipitate haste before the hornets than Little Faith did from his old habitation; yea, Smut never made a sheep of your flock run with more violence than the hornets made Little Faith run.
Shepherd. But pray, Sir, what are these hornets? Are they of the same nature of the locusts? Have they stings in their tails? Rev. ix. 10. I readily suppose that Little Faith was stung, otherwise he would never have left his highly favoured retreat, Do inform me concerning this mystery.
Steward. Little Faith would tell you, if you were to ask him, that every hornet had his sting; and that there was not one of those insects in all the bank but what stung him, and that was enough to make him fly. A nest of hornets would put a troop of horse to flight sooner than any other army whatsoever. The best riders in the world would never be able to keep rank and file, if engaged by these; for they are armed by Jehovah, and pay no regard to the rattling of a spear nor the mouth of a cannon.
Shepherd. True, Sir. But, pray, what were those hornets that put Little Faith to flight?
Steward. It is common for the King's children, When they lose sight of his Majesty's face, to creep into Self. If they feel not his arm, they lean on their own; if the Rock be hid, the sandbank is sure to be in view; if the former appear far off, the latter is always at hand; and, if they are not building on the Rock, they are sure to build on the sand. And, when any of them have been admitted to the King's presence, and favoured with the glorious visions of the mount, they have then expected nothing less than perfection within, and jubilee days without. Therefore, if the King withdraws, into the old bank they go, suspecting no danger from that quarter; for they conclude that the visions of the mount and the King's face have dispersed and dispelled every adversary; never once dreaming of a nest of hornets in ambush. The King, seeing this, sends his flying roll into the bank, Zech, v.1. This occasions a surprising stir, Rom. vii. 8. Swarms of rebellious, unclean, lascivious, and desperately vile thoughts, rise within; and such legions of corruptions appear in motion, that no Canaanite ever had a greater swarm of hornets about his head, or could be more crawling alive with them, than Little Faith's old man of sin was with these corruptions and evil thoughts. And he, poor little fellow! not knowing what they were, never feeling the like before, and expecting nothing in future but purity of heart, cried out in his fright, "Hornets! hornets!" for he whist not what to call them.
Shepherd. Then the hornets are more terrible to the King's children than the flies are to the sheep. The former makes the heart appear nothing but corruption, and the latter makes the flock alive with maggots.
Steward. They are both bad enough; but poor Little Faith, running out into the palace-yard in the dead of the night, and uttering that lamentable cry, the dog Lion (1 Pet. i. 8,) seized him, and tore him sadly: which made him utter this earnest petition," Deliver me from the power of the dog, save me from the lion's mouth," Psalm, xxii. 20, 21.
Shepherd. And, pray, did the King hear his prayer?
Steward. The King is always sure to hear prayer, if it goes from the heart: but he doth not always answer prayer immediately; nor did Little Faith obtain an immediate answer to his.
Shepherd. It is a terrible thing to have such a dog loose about the yard.
Steward. He is not loose, but bound; but Little Faith, as well as many more, goes within reach of his chain. Had he fled to the Rock, or made the Most High his habitation, no evil had befallen him, Psalm, xci. 9, 10. But he made the sand-bank his retreat; and, when driven out of that, he fled within reach of Lion's chain. He that believes is not to make haste; but infidelity is always in a hurry.
Shepherd. I think Lion is as savage and as voracious as Smut, if possible.
Steward. They were both bred by one and the same bitch. Folly was the mother of them both, Job, iv. 18; and of legions more as well as they.
Shepherd. Did Little Faith go into one of his fits?
Steward. For a while he despaired of ever seeing the King's face with joy; and concluded that it was impossible for any of the Seed-royal to be beset with such evils; and uttered another dying speech-"As a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me," Isa. xxxviii. 13.
Shepherd. And, pray, where is the poor little fellow now? I suppose he hangs about the Steward's room, or the pantry; does he not? And no doubt but you have sympathized with him in his afflictions, as you seem to have a great regard for him: and, indeed, "the strong are expressly commanded to bear the infirmities of the weak."
Steward. I was glad at my heart when I heard the outcry, and that the hornets were upon him, because he is so fond of cleaving to self: this will cure him of that epidemical disease; he will never be able to build his nest, nor take ease in the bank again. These things will drive the word candour from his mouth; will cure him of his fleshly savour; and, under the influence of the King's clemency, will lead him to loathe depraved and rebellious nature, to vindicate the records of Zion, to see the feigned perfection of the Hagarenes, and to justify all the proceedings of his royal Father.
Shepherd. Then these things are of use to Little Faith; and, indeed, it is said that all things work together for good to them that love the King. Pray, where is little Faith now?
Steward. They do, and these among the rest. Little Faith is now in the pantry, very meek and low: and much afraid that these terrible evils, and his sensations under them, cannot consist with royal sonship! for he says that he feels unutterable rebellion, at times, even against the King himself, and such thoughts of him as none ever had; insomuch, that he cannot look up, much less look at the King; and, therefore, he must never expect to see the King's face again. "A loyalist," saith he, "with a rebellious heart! a dear son, Jer. xxxi. 20; with nothing but hard thoughts against his own Father; a holy seed, Isa. vi. 13; filled with blasphemy! Can I be said to be pure, I Tim. v. 22; while every sin takes occasion to work in me all manner of concupiscence! Rom. vii. 8; an Israelite indeed, John, i. 47; swarming alive with HORNETS! NO! NO! the hornets were sent to drive the Canaanites, not the Israelites; and I am a Canaanite, otherwise they would never drive me. O the hornets! the hornets! Cursed be Canaan! a servant of servants shall he be, Gen. ix. 25. And the hornets were sent as an effect of that curse, and in just judgment for sin: I sent the hornet before you, (O Israel! said the King) which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites-but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow, Josh. xxiv. 12. Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow, didst thou get the land. Nor shall I ever get into the better country while one hornet remains upon me: it is a land prepared for a perfect seed, not for Canaanites swarming with insects!"
Shepherd. Little Faith reasons like a nervous logician. And, indeed, it must be a very puzzling mystery for one of the Holy Seed to be perplexed with such unholy thoughts and workings, and, what makes it still worse, Belial suggests them so foul, that it is almost impossible to open the mouth about them, either to the King or to any of the servants; insomuch, that there is no speaking so as to be eased; and, I think, one main branch of the Serpent's wisdom lies in this. Such a poor buffeted child creeps about in solitude, pondering upon that which he cannot either mention or reveal; and considers himself as a companion for none but fiends.
Steward. True: and sometimes they are shaking their heads, and making motions with their hands, fearing lest one or other of these thoughts should creep through their lips, and amount to words; which, they expect, would at once deluge them in black despair, if not in irrecoverable ruin. And, as you justly observe, such are always creeping alone, as if, like the king of Babylon, a brute's heart was given to them, and they were destined to dwell with the beasts of the field till they imagine themselves as brutal in their appearance as they feel themselves brutish in their nature.
Shepherd. I have often observed among my flock, especially in hot weather, when the flies are very busy, that, as soon as the maggots begin to work upon them, they are in perpetual motion, shaking and biting themselves; but, as soon as ever they come to be very bad, they always leave the flock, shun the heat of the sun, and creep into any hedge, ditch, or thicket, that they can get into; and there they lie till the shepherd finds them out, shears the sore parts, and applies the juice of the fir tree to their wounds, and that cures them. I suppose Little Faith hardly ever casts a longing eye at the sand-bank now-a-days; does he?
Steward. No: if he does but even look that way, the old nest is stirred up, and every hornet seems to be armed with a fresh sting. Our passover feast is at hand, and both lamb and bitter herbs are always provided for those banquets. I am but an unskilful proficient in serving them up, and therefore require the more time for pre-consideration. My dear friend, I must be gone.
Shepherd. You are the best judge, Sir, of your own time. "Servants that are bound must obey." Nor would I ever wish to detain you one moment longer than while you are disengaged from the King's business. I shall be rather busy, at this season, for a few weeks, as we are going to draft off a few of the lambs, for they are too old to live upon milk, Heb. v. 13; and too old to ride in the bosom, Isa. xl. ll. At weaning times we generally look out for a tender bite for them, in order to prepare them for the rich and strong pastures.
Steward. Then be so kind as to call upon me at the palace when a fit opportunity offers, for I shall be glad at my heart to see you there. The Lord be with thee!
Shepherd. And with thy spirit.