The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Eleventh.
Steward. So, I have found you in your little rural hut. You have been perusing the MOTHER of all good books, I perceive.
Shepherd. I have: and a blessed mother she is! for she hath afforded me many a choice dish of meat, many a sweet morsel of bread, many a drop of honey, many a flagon of wine, and many a draught of milk. Indeed, I have often got entertainment there, when I could get it no where else.
Steward. But that choice mother has got a mysterious way of concealing her rich dainties at times.
Shepherd. True. The Master keeps the seal of all her secrets, and the key of all her stores. Nor are any admitted to her cellar, breasts, springs, or stores, but real friends: "Eat, O friends! drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" Cant. v. 1.
Steward. No: "The servant knows not what his Lord doth. But I have called you friends, [saith the King] for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you," John, xv. 15. Hence it appears, that none but friends are in the secret, and they that are in the secret are sure to be friends.
Shepherd. I have sometimes thought, that a nation must be truly blessed, if it were governed by no other laws than those of that blessed book. It is so complete a system, that nothing can be added to it or taken from it. It contains every thing needful to be known and done. It affords a copy for a king, Deut. xvii. 18, and a rule for a subject. It gives instruction and counsel to a senate, authority and direction for a magistrate. It cautions a witness, requires an impartial verdict of a jury, and furnishes the judge with his sentence. It sets the husband as lord of the household, and the wife as mistress of the table: tells him how to rule, and her how to manage. It entails honour to parents, and enjoins obedience to children. It prescribes and limits the sway of the sovereign, the rule of the ruler, and the authority of the master, commands the subject to honour, and the servant to obey; and promises the blessing and protection of its Author to all who walk by its rules. It gives directions for weddings, and for burials; regulates feasts and fasts, mournings and rejoicings; and orders labour for the day, and rest for the night. It promises food and raiment, and limits the use of both. It points out a faithful and an eternal Guardian to the departing husband and father; tells him with whom to leave his fatherless children, and in whom his widow is to trust, Jer. xlix. ii; and promises a father to the former, and a husband to the latter. It teaches a man how to set his house in order, and how to make his will. It appoints a dowry for the wife, entails the right of the first-born, and shews how the younger branches shall be left: it defends the rights of all; and reveals vengeance to every defrauder, over-reacher, or oppressor. It is the first book, the best book, and the oldest book in all the world. It contains the choicest matter, gives the best instruction, and affords the greatest pleasure and satisfaction, that ever was revealed. It contains the best laws and profoundest mysteries that ever were penned. It brings the best of tidings, and affords the best of comfort, to the inquiring and disconsolate. It exhibits life and immortality from everlasting, and shews the way to eternal glory. It is a brief recital of all that is passed, and a certain prediction of all that is to come. It settles all matters in debate, resolves all doubts, and eases the mind and conscience of all their scruples. It reveals the only living and true God, and shews the way to him: it sets aside all other gods, and describes the vanity of them, and of all that trust in them. In short, it is a book of law, to shew right and wrong; a book of wisdom, that condemns all folly, and makes the foolish wise: a book of truth, that detects all lies, and confutes all errors; and a book of life, that gives life, and shews the way from everlasting death. It is the most compendious book in all the world; the most ancient, authentic, and the most entertaining history, that ever was published. It contains the most ancient antiquities, strange events, wonderful occurrences, heroic deeds, and unparalleled wars. It describes the celestial, terrestrial, and infernal worlds; and the origin of the angelic myriads, human tribes, and devilish legions. It will instruct the most accomplished mechanic, and the profoundest artist; it will teach the best rhetorician, and exercise every power of the most skilful arithmetician, Rev. xiii. 18; puzzle the wisest anatomist, and exercise the nicest critic. It corrects the vain philosopher, and confutes the wise astronomer; it exposes the subtle sophist, and makes diviners mad. It is a complete code of laws, a perfect body of divinity, an unequalled narrative, a book of lives, a book of travels, and a book of voyages. It is the best covenant that ever was agreed on, the best deed that ever was sealed, the best evidence that ever was produced, the best will that ever was made, and the best testament that ever was signed to understand it, is to be wise indeed; to be ignorant of it, is to be destitute of wisdom. It is the King's best copy, the magistrate's best rule, the housewife's best guide, the servant's best directory, and the young man's best companion. It is the schoolboy's spelling-book, and the learned man's masterpiece. It contains a choice grammar for a novice, and a profound mystery for a sage. It is the ignorant man's dictionary, and the wise man's directory. It affords knowledge of witty inventions for the humorous, and dark sayings for the grave; and is its own interpreter. It encourages the wise, the warrior the swift, and the overcomer; and promises an eternal reward to the excellent, the conqueror, the winner, and the prevalent. And that which crowns all is, that the Author is without partiality, and without hypocrisy; in whom is no variableness, or shadow of turning.
Steward. It is plain that you have got choice entertainment from it, otherwise you would never have dived so deeply into the mysteries of it as you have; and, consequently, would not have been able to give so good a description of it. I have, at times, perused it till I have thought myself in company with all the inhabitants of Paradise. It is Little Faith's choice breast, and the strong man's substantial dish. It is the lady's best looking-glass, 2 Cor. iii. 18, in which she may see both her heart and her face, and the face and heart of every body else. It is an exact balance, in which a man may weigh both his spirit and his actions; and tell the exact weight of himself, and of all mankind, Psalm, lxii. 9 It is the astronomer's best telescope, 1 Cor. xiii. 12; in which he may see the sun, Mal. iv. 2; moon, Cant. vi. 10; and seven stars, Rev. ii. 1; and an awful eclipse to the damned; and it reveals a world of which no geographer could ever give a map; and a way to it which no lion hath ever trod, and which the vulture's eye hath never seen.
Shepherd. True: and the best of all is, that it promises freedom indeed to all who embrace the truths of it; freedom from the reign of Sin, of Satan, and of Death: and, except a man receive the truth, the real truth, and that in the love of it, he never shall be able to govern himself, or to bridle his temper, his passions, his tongue, or his sin! Pray, how comes poor Little Faith on now? Is his old man dead and motionless still? or, is he come to life again?
Steward. Little Faith is now in a worse predicament (according to his own account) than ever he has been in since he was pressed in the gate.
Shepherd. Worse and worse! Pray, what dreadful disaster hath befallen poor Little Faith now? Is he free among the dead, or bound among the damned?
Steward. Neither; nor is he under any legal sentence, either of death or banishment, but what comes from himself. If he has one hornet about him (he says) he believes he has a thousand: and, as for the King he turns a deaf ear to all his petitions; nor does he deign, in Little Faith's worst perils, even to shew his face. His strange man is more violent than ever: he resists him in every good work, contradicts every good word, and mingles his baseness with every good thought. He labours to make him proud, light, and vain, in his days of prosperity; and to make him despair, or despond, in days of adversity. In short, he breaks his purposes, mars his counsels, and shakes his best resolutions: he interferes with all his motives, tries to pervert his best aims, and to make him fail of the best of ends; and, in brief, he doth really believe, that the same ugly figure that animated the corpse that the good man carried on the King's highway (as exhibited to him in the dream), has now left that man, and brought the same dead man, together with all his infernal assistants to him. This is his present state: and he declared to me, that he only wished that this might be the worst; but he believed that the worst was yet to come, and that his state would never be better.
Shepherd. Then the destiny of Little Faith is to be as dreadful as the fate of Cain, and his conflicts more durable than the siege of Troy!
Steward. He wall tell you so, if you can believe all that he says upon this head. For my own part, I do not believe a word of it; nor does he believe it himself, either in heart or in conscience, for they both give him the lie to his face: yea, they give the lie to every outcry of his infidelity; insomuch, that Little Faith cannot mutter his dreadful complaint before any of the Seed-royal without the assistance of him who is hardened from all fear, and desperate in every enterprise.
Shepherd. Little Faith, among the King's seed, is like a sheep that has got the foot-rot. You may pare the hoof, poultice it, supple it, bind it, or do what you will to it; the disease will puzzle your best skill; and, at times, the poor creature will limp in its walk after you have done your utmost.
Steward. That may be; but Little Faith has got one circumstance that renders his case desperate beyond description (according to his own account) which is this. There is one of the King's seed whose name is Doubtful: and indeed he is rightly named; for, at times, he doubts of every thing-Even whether there be a King or no? Whether he has a Father or not? Whether himself be a creature of a day, or one that had a being from eternity? Whether the records of Zion be true or false? Whether it be the word of God or the fables of men? Whether his feelings be real or delusive? And, whether the Seed-royal will end in eternal bliss, or in annihilation? This feeble one Little Faith took upon himself to nurse, instruct, and establish; and he hath been so assiduous in the work, that he has brought his brother on so far, that he is in the same dilemma as the hedge-sparrow, which being deprived of its own eggs by the cuckoo, and left to batch one of hers instead of its own, which it brought forth and fostered, till becoming too ravenous for the step-dame to provide for it, dragged its foster-mother into the nest, and made its last meal of its benefactor.
Shepherd. It is common for a mechanic to instruct an apprentice till he becomes the best workman, and sinks his master's credit, if not his name.
Steward. True: but that which added to the trouble of Little Faith was, that poor Doubtful had been rather delirious for several days together; during which time Little Faith had paid all possible attention to him, and indeed began to despair of his brother's recovery. And at this time Little Faith himself was sadly pestered with his strange man: the hornets also were very busy with him; which was no small grief of mind to him, as he could not attend upon his brother without a sad countenance. However, Little Faith opened his mind freely to Doubtful, in order, if possible, to keep him from sinking. The last night that he attended him, he laboured hard to comfort him, and wrestled mightily with the King for him: and the next morning, when Little Faith went to see him, he found him setting up in the bed, with the high praises of God in his mouth, making such melody as Little Faith never had heard, and he appeared in such raptures as he had never seen. He declared that he had been with the King all night; that he had seen things which he could never describe, and heard such things as he could not relate.
Shepherd. Then, I suppose, Little Faith warmed his heart by his brother's fire, and partook of his banquet; for, whenever the King restores, or raises up, a sick child, he generally requites those who have nursed and sympathized with him in his illness: "I will restore comforts unto HIM, and to his MOURNERS," Isa. lvii. 18.
Steward. Whether it was for the trial of Little Faith, or for some other purpose, I cannot tell: however, it was not so here, but quite the reverse; for, as soon as Little Faith saw the heavenly countenance of his brother, and heard his holy triumph, his heart sunk within him, his countenance appeared ghastly, and he became as a dumb man in whose mouth were no triumphs, his brother called upon him to rejoice with him, and bless the King in his behalf; but, the more he urged him, the more he confounded him; till he was obliged to withdraw in the bitterness of his soul. His sensation he said, at that time, were such as influenced Haman, when he covered his head, and hastened to his house, mourning, after the honour done to Mordecai; or such as influenced Saul, when he pursued David to Ramah. To be short, he told me that he did believe he was possessed.
Shepherd. The operations of a spirit of jealousy, and the sensations produced by it, are not much unlike those that will be felt by the damned at the day of doom, when they will see the Lamb's Wife (the object of their eternal hate) in all their glory; and themselves in all their guilt and filth, exposed to "everlasting shame and contempt," Dan. xii. 12. Jealousy is a spirit that swallows up all peace and comfort, and the flame of it is as fierce as coals of juniper. "Jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." Cant. viii. 6.
Steward. The wise man was well acquainted with the great heat of that strange fire; for, when he provoked the MOST HIGH to jealousy, by building a temple for Chemosh and Molech, and went after Ashtoreth and Milcom, 1 Kings, xi. 5, 7, JEHOVAH sent Ahijah to Jeroboam, saying-"I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee," verse 31. "Because they have forsaken me, and worshipped Ashtoroth, Chemosh, and Milcom," verse 33. And I will take thee, [Jeroboam] and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel," verse 37, "And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David; and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, BUT NOT FOR EVER," ver. 38, 89. "Solomon sought therefore to KILL Jeroboam; and Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak, King of Egypt; and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon," ver. 40. Jealousy burned with a vehement flame, indeed, in the wise man!-and no marvel; for he had provoked the Lord to jealousy by that which was not God, and the Lord provoked him to jealousy by one that was no king. However, the seed of David shall not be afflicted for ever.
Shepherd. It is a terrible thing to provoke the King to jealousy with strange gods, or with any thing else. He cannot endure the provoking of his sons and daughters, Deut. xxxii. 16, 19; nor will he pass by such carriage without resenting it.
Steward. Little Faith had provoked the King by his warm attachment to the Hagarenes; and he is now provoked to jealousy by the King's tender affection to his brother Doubtful, who is allowed on all hands to be the weakest and most ricketty of all the King's seed. And to be overtopped and outstripped by such an one is very mortifying to Little Faith; and to be kept straitened and bound in the spirit to such a degree, as to look and tremble like a criminal before his rapturous brother, hath given his mind such a wound, that he doubts whether it will ever he healed. Yea, he declared, that he wished he had never nursed him at all; but said, that he thought he was got far enough before him, and wished to tole him along after him; but never once thought that he would have been delivered in such a wonderful manner as that; and that himself should have been struck with horror at the sight thereof.
Shepherd. It is a fiery trial, and one of the strange things that happen to the King's seed. The children of the King take after their royal Father, one of whose names is Jealous, Exod. xxxiv. 14. And, for my own part, I should not have wondered if Little Faith had gone sick to bed. His mother once got a company of young damsels about her; before whom she set off the incomparable beauty and excellency of her Husband to such a degree, Cant. v. ver. 10, and downward, that they sought him, and found him. And, when he wooed and espoused them, she fainted, and went love-sick to bed: "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem! that, if ye find my Beloved, ye tell him I am sick of love!" Cant. v. 8. When the Lord smote Uzzah for staying the ark with an arm of flesh, David was displeased; and would not remove the ark into his own city, but carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom: but, when tidings came to David that God had blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that appertained unto him, for the ark's sake, David fetched it away, and carried it into his own city, 2 Sam. vi. 8, 9, i0, 11, 12. The young princes and princesses are tender over their little brethren and sisters, and very fond of nursing them, and helping them in the King's presence; but, when their nurslings appear to be more indulged than themselves; if these are permitted to dwell in the presence-chamber, while themselves are shut out, then it is terrible!
Steward. So Little Faith finds it. He said, he could have found in his heart to have scolded with his brother, till he had offended him, put him out of temper, and stripped him of all his comforts: yea, he thought that he found a hatred to him, and was secretly displeased at his happiness; yea, and entertained mean thoughts even of the King's faithfulness and truth, because himself was deserted, while Doubtful was thus indulged. "And is not this," said he, "the unpardonable sin? Is it not sinning against knowledge, conviction, light, and love? Is it not doing despite to the Spirit of grace, and resisting the King's will? I have nursed others, and I myself shall become a castaway!"
Shepherd. A sincere lover, captured, and lying at the mercy of the captor, cannot endure a forbidding frown from him. Little Faith loves the King, and therefore cannot bear to hear the triumphs of Doubtful while himself is dumb: and no wonder; for, according to your account, the King's name is Jealous; the Queen is noted for jealousy; and, therefore, the children take alter them both.
Steward. That is true enough: there is not only a family likeness on children with respect to features, but the children inherit a good deal of the parents' spirit, temper, and disposition. And sure I am that Little Faith has his share, at present, of raging jealousy; for he declared to me that Cain never envied his brother Abel more than he envied the happiness of his brother Doubtful.-"And where this will end," says he, "I know not."
Shepherd. There is a deal of difference between the envy of Cain and that of Little Faith. Little Faith bas enjoyed the King's presence, and a sense of his love; which Cain never did. Cain expected the approbation of the King, and acceptance with him, on the footing of merit; while Little Faith loathes himself in his own sight for his misdemeanours. Cain was an infidel, Little Faith is a believer. Cain was a servant, Little Faith is a son. Cain's envy sprang from pride, self-will, and perverseness; Little Faith's envy springs from love-sickness, having lost the enjoyment of the King's face, and left his first love. Cain was enraged because he could not find acceptance by his supposed worth, Little Faith's raging jealousy springs from loss of what he never deserved. Cain hated the King, Little Faith loves him. Cain wanted to bow the King to his humour; Little Faith to lie passive, and to enjoy his Sovereign. Cain's rage is common to an irreconcilable enemy; Little Faith's is common to an unfeigned lover.
Steward. The loyalty and affection of Little Faith are obvious enough to every person of discernment, though they may not appear so to himself; for a person confused and bewildered in a fiery trial cannot make a proper judgment of any thing. And never was Little Faith more puzzled and perplexed than he is at present: he declares that his feelings have been more distressing, under this envying his brother's happiness, than ever they were in the sand-bank, or when pursued by the hornets, or even in the jaws of Lion.
Shepherd. I must withdraw. I am going to fold a fresh piece of land, which lies in ridges, Psalm, lxv. 10, and therefore the harrow must be run over it before I can pitch the fold there. otherwise I shall have many of the sheep in the furrows before morning.
Steward. In the furrows! What do you mean by that?
Shepherd. When we fold a piece that is ploughed in ridges, we run the harrow over it, in order to till the furrows, and level it a little: and, when the sheep be in a piece of stubble that lies in ridges, I am obliged to attend closely; for if a sheep lies down near to a furrow, and happens to roll on its back into it, it cannot get up again, but would lie and perish if the shepherd did not lift it up: "Woe be to him that is alone when he falleth, for there is not another to lift him up."
Steward. And, pray, did you ever find any fallen in that manner?
Shepherd. O yes, often. It is very common for sheep to get in the furrows. But, it is worse for the ewes great with young: they frequently get into them; and, if they get furrow-laid, they are the most helpless of any, for they have little power to struggle; and, if they do, they only hurt themselves, for they are sure never to get up unless they are lifted up; nor can they go, when up, without the hand of him who "gently leads those that are with young." On which accounts I never care to be absent from the flock long together, unless they are upon plain ground.
Steward. You are the best judge of your own business. Let not my regard for your company and conversation bring your mind into bondage. When opportunity offers, be so kind as to call on me at the Palace-royal, and let it be when it is most convenient to you. Farewell: and I hope you will find the flock under the tender care of the Chief Shepherd, who hath promised that they shall feed in green pastures, and lie down in safety.
Shepherd. I thank you for your good wishes: and hope you will find the royal fraternity in prosperity also; and Little Faith recovered from his flaming jealousy, according to the ancient promise-"I will bring the third part through the fire; and I will refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried. They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them: and I will say, 'It is my people;' and they shall say, 'The Lord is my God.'" Zech xiii. 9.