The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Twelfth
Steward. Good morning to you, Shepherd! You are welcome to the Palace-royal.
Shepherd. I believe so, otherwise you would not have invited me; nor should I have found my heart inclined to come. A subject who is truly loyal may approach the palace without shame, fear, or a fallen countenance; which a hypocrite cannot do.
Steward. True. I have been almost impatient for your coming, Shepherd. It is now six weeks since I left you at the hut. I was looking out at one of the upper windows when you came over the hill Mizar: I knew it was you by your garb, your step, and your crook; and I thought of the ancient saying of Zion, "How beautiful, upon the mountains, are the feet of him that publisheth peace!"-and so are the feet of them that know peace.
Shepherd. If there is any thing beautiful, comely, or amiable, about me, it is all derived from the Perfection of Beauty; for, by nature, I was altogether unsightly, deformed, and loathsome: therefore, by sovereign clemency, I am what I am.
Steward. I am glad to find you so tender of the Chief Shepherd's honour: he has promised to turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon his name, and serve him with one consent; and that language is very perceptible in you. Pray, which way did you come in?
Shepherd. I came in, as usual, by the porter's lodge. Every one employed by the Chief Shepherd has a right to come in by the door: hirelings, thieves, and robbers, climb up another way. But all those presumptuous tracks are "the paths of the destroyer," Psalm, xvii. 4; and "whoso breaketh an hedge [the old] Serpent shall bite him," Eccles. x. 8.
Steward. I fancy you have been perusing the mother of all good books again, for you seem to be very ready with her proverbs and dark sayings. Pray, did the porter speak to you when he let you in?
Shepherd. Yes: he looked through the window, to see who was coming; and, when I knocked, he opened the door, gave me a smile, and said, "Who is there?" I replied, "A shepherd." He answered, "What, the Chief Shepherd?" I replied, "No; but, if you let me in, you will let him in, for we are one." And he said, "To him the porter openeth," John, x. 3.
Steward. And what reply did you make him?
Shepherd. When he said, "To him the porter openeth," I answered. "And the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." He replied, "Have you such command over your flock?" I said, "Yes; and I shall have such command over them as long as the Chief Shepherd speaks or calls by me but no longer." Then said he, "You are nothing but an echo at most." I replied, "The less I am, the better; for I am always most when I am nothing at all." He then asked me what constructions the foolish shepherds put upon me, and upon my conversation. I answered, "Just such as they put upon the King's forerunner, when he told them that he was 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness.'"
Steward. And what answer did he give you?
Shepherd. He told me that there were none really wise but fools, 1 Cor. iii. 18, and that none were well known but those who were unknown, 2 Cor. vi. 9. And added, "You will find your old companion in the Steward's room." Pray, where is Little Faith? Is he sick of love still?
Steward. No: Little Faith has been out of that some time; but he says all is not right with him yet.
Shepherd. Poor Little Faith has always something out of joint, or off the hooks. Pray, what is the matter with him now?
Steward. Why, he says he is delivered, but he doth not like the way of his deliverance: for his poor brother Doubtful has had a private fall, on which account he has been shut out of the presence-chamber for upwards of a fortnight. Which dreadful case he committed to Little Faith, and to none else; and begged that, as he was the instrument of his first enlargement, that he would now use his interest with the King for his restoration to his Majesty's favour; which Little Faith readily consented to, and the King turned his captivity while he prayed for his brother, Job, xlii. 10.
Shepherd. Then, I think, he ought to be grateful to the King; and with thankfulness acknowledge his happy deliverance, to the glory of him.
Steward. But what puzzles Little Faith is, that he should find his own heart leap for joy as soon as his brother began to bewail the King's absence, and to unbosom the grief of his soul "It appears to me," said he, "as if my comfort springs from my brother's misery: and is like the consolation that arose in the heart of Saul, when, at the new moon feast, the seat of the son of Jesse was empty; who said, he is not clean; surely he is not clean! I Sam. xx. 24, 25, 26. I am like those who eat up the sin of the King's children. He that is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished, and those that watch for iniquity shall be cut off."
Shepherd. Saul hated David without a cause: Little Faith loved his brother in his heart, not only in word, but in deed and in truth: which he shewed when he nursed him. Saul hated David because he obtained more human applause than himself; Little Faith is afraid that his brother stands highest in the favour of the great King. Saul wanted honour from the people; Little Faith wants the honour that cometh from God only. Saul wanted to be established as an earthly prince; Little Faith wants the King of Grace to reign in and over him. Saul warred after the flesh, Little Faith after the Spirit. Saul wanted the love of the people, Little Faith wants the love of his Father. Saul wanted a temporal state, Little Faith an heavenly inheritance.
Steward. Their motives widely differ; for Little Faith is a partaker of the sure mercies of David, which the other never had; and is of the house and lineage of David, which Saul never was. And these things I have in a measure transferred to Little Faith, which, under the testimony of the King, have rather established him: so that he walks pretty steady; his understanding opens; and his thoughts seem to extend themselves, so as to bring things that seem to clash together; and, by tracing them up to the King, and resolving them into his mercy and judgment, he is enabled to see the son and the servant, the promises and privileges of the one, and the commands and tasks of the other. However, Little Faith will not enjoy his present frame of mind long; for there is a deep-laid scheme for him; there is a snare set for him in the ground, and a trap in the way.
Shepherd. What is it? Is there any new rebellious tenet advanced against the laws of the realm, or any new scheme of perverting the records of Zion?
Steward. I trust Little Faith has seen and felt enough of these things to cure his itching ears. The trap that is now set for him is of a different nature from these; and one that, I think, is sure to take him, and will be worse than all the calamities that ever befell him; and it may with great propriety be called the devil's master-piece.
Shepherd. What, is there any private combination to take away his life?
Steward. No, it is worse than that: sudden death is sudden glory to the King's seed; but this trap will bring a lingering death upon all his peace and comfort, the heavy frowns of the best of Fathers upon his soul, and a daily plague and trouble to all his flesh.
Shepherd. Pray, have any mischievous persons enticed him to the sin of excess? Because the Wise Man says, "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek mixed wine." Prov. xiii. 29, 30.
Steward. No, it is not excess; but, if this snare takes Little Faith-as I think it will-it will be worse than the sin of Noah.
Shepherd. Well, I am quite impatient to know what this dreadful bait is.
Steward. Well, if you must know, it is this-Little Faith IS IN LOVE!
Shepherd. Well, Sir, but that is not such a desperate crime. Jacob was in love with Rachel. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled." Besides, the King himself says, "It is not good that man should be alone."
Steward. All this is true: but Little Faith's sin is like the sin of Solomon; which brought the wrath of God upon his inheritance; a revolution in the state; beggary upon the nation; a civil war among the tribes; and paved the way for abominable idolatry, both in Bethel and Dan; which ended in a final dispersion of the ten tribes, and in a seventy years captivity of Judah and Benjamin. The sin of Solomon was, that he loved many STRANGE WIVES; and Little Faith's sin will be like unto it, for he is in love with a HAGARENE. Solomon's example was followed by Judah: "Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he [ought to love;] and hath MARRIED THE DAUGHTER OF A STRANGE GOD. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this; the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob." Mal. ii. 11, 12.
Shepherd. This is worse than the excess of Noah, indeed! for Noah was saved in the ark, and died in faith, (Heb. xi. 13:) but the [professing] sons of God, who took them wives of the daughters of [Cain] so provoked the Lord, that he said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man." And, when once the Spirit ceased to strive by the ministry of Noah, "God saw that their wickedness was great in the earth," Gen. vi. 9, 3, 4, 5, 6; and therefore he either cut them off by death, or drowned them all together; and saved none but the preacher of righteousness (and his family), who had long strove with them in opposing their unlawful connexions. Thus God saved the reprover; "and those who were hardened by repeated reproofs were destroyed, and that without remedy."
Steward. And no wonder; for, if a child of God marries a child of the Devil, he aims at an affinity between God and Satan. "Judah hath married the daughter of a strange god. This strange God is the God of this world: as it is written, "They sacrificed unto devils, not to God, to gods whom they KNEW NOT (to strange gods), to new gods, that came newly up," Deut. xxxii. 17.
Shepherd. Marriage is an ordinance of God, who himself joined the first couple together in Paradise: but, to use this ordinance in coupling the temple of God with the palace of the strong man armed, and make them one flesh, must be a most God-provoking sin; as bad as the sin of Israel, of which God speaks thus-"And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone A WHORING," Lev. xvii. 7. God has forbidden fellowship with devils, and by the same word hath he forbidden matrimonial union with believers and infidels. Pray, what is the name of Little Faith's intended? and how came he acquainted with her at first?
Steward. Her name is Mara Duplicity. Little Faith saw her the last time that he went to Hagar's Castle, to hear that pompous herald's harangue that drew him from his first love, as was mentioned to you soon after. She came then, and sat down by him; and, when they sung, she held her hymn-book before him. When prayers were made, she fell on her face, sighed and sobbed, as if like Hannah, she was one of a sorrowful spirit; and, at every sentence of the inconsistent harangue, she groaned till her hands sprang from the seat, and dropped again with their own weight. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and her very eye-balls floated in devotion. The zealous Papist, when he pommels his ribs, never discovered more energy than she did. Little Faith eyed her, and left a fourth part of his heart with her that night.
Shepherd. Did Little Faith speak to her after the human service was performed at the Castle?
Steward. When the service was performed, she shook him by the hand, spoke to him, asked him how he liked the discourse, and if it had not been a word in due season, and a precious opportunity to his soul. "For my own part," said she, "it has been a time of love to me. The whole discourse suited my case, and was powerfully applied, for I could see eye to eye with the preacher, and my experience tallied exactly with all that he delivered." And, upon his telling her that he generally attended the Chapel-royal, she replied, she thought that she had seen him there, for she also often attended the Chapel-royal herself; and extolled the King's chaplains to the very skies. This quite charmed Little Faith; and she has come constantly to the Chapel-royal ever since.
Shepherd. Well, perhaps, she has seen her errors, and such have a promise-"Those that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and those that murmured shall learn doctrine."
Steward. True: but I believe that she is a hypocrite in grain, in warp, and in woof, and as deep as nine times dyed flannel; a double refined and treble distilled Hagarene. She is as keen as the mistress of witchcrafts, and as profound in the depths of artifice and deception as Cleopatra. However, Little Faith came home delighted with her company; and told one of the young princesses that he had found an excellent young woman, a most precious soul! "In knowledge and experience," said he, "she is a mother in Israel; in simplicity, like Jephtha's daughter: in contrition, like Mary; in devotion, like Hannah; in modesty, like Tamar; in beauty, like Rachel; and for plainness of dress, like Sarah, the mother of the faithful."
Shepherd. Then Miss Duplicity has acted like the whore in the Proverbs: she has charmed Little Faith with her religion, as she did the young man, when "she caught him and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have PEACE-OFFERINGS with me: this day have I PAID MY VOWS." Who brought him at last like "an ox to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks," Prov. vii. 13, 14, 22. Pray, did Little Faith ever speak to you about her?
Steward. Once he did, but never but once; and then he asked me if I had seen the young lady who had lately come to the Chapel-royal? "She is," said he, "a second Ruth: she has left her own people, her gods, and her mother's house; and is come to put her trust under the shadow of the King's wings." I told him, that I believed the King's wings were quite out of her thoughts; and that she would never imitate Ruth but in one thing, namely, in getting under the skirt of Boaz. "She wants," said I, "the lappet of Little Faith's coat, not the King's wings. For my own part, I believe Orpah, who took her leave of Naomi, was ten times more honest than Miss Duplicity; for she went back to her own people, and to her own gods: she neither compassed her Maker about with lies, nor mocked him, to get a husband by deceit." At this he knit his brows, turned upon his heel, and off he went; nor has he ever mentioned the matter to me since.
Shepherd. You told me, at a former interview, that Little Faith, though near-sighted, was very discerning and penetrating into persons and things, if they came near to him.
Steward. So he is: but Love, as well as Justice, ought to be pictured blind; for sure I am it has awfully blinded the eyes of Little Faith; for he is as much deceived in that woman as ever David was in Ahithophel, or Jehonadab in Jehu; both of whom were masked with religion, but possessed by Satan. She is constantly at our chapel now; and I am informed that she never goes to hear any of Hagar's heralds, nor will not so much as put her foot over the threshold of the workhouse; and that she suffers a deal of persecution from her friends on the account; and, the more they oppose her, the more earnest she is. This Little Faith admires. She tells him all her sufferings, and he sympathizes with her; she opens her heart to him, and he pours all his affections into it; she steals his love from God, and he wants to marry the thief. Little Faith begs her as a present from the King, but never asks Him to discover to him what she really is; for he is sure of her covenant interest, and rejoices in hopes of espousing his own convert.
Shepherd. If she has forsaken the castle, and turned her back upon their errors, it looks well; and the Work may be of the King, who can tell? There is nothing impossible with him. Besides, it is his prerogative, and his alone, to search the heart, and try the reins.
Steward. All this is true: but this is not the case here; I wish it was. I have watched her narrowly when at the Chapel, and she sits as if she heard with attention, but every minute or two gives Little Faith a glance; and, if his eye catches hers, they are immediately turned up to heaven; and, if the King's herald is in a rapturous frame, every now and then a smile is sent to Little Faith. So that it is the magnetism of his charms that gives life and spring to all Mara's devotion.
Steward. Holy ground is not a proper place for the daughters of Belial to shoot their amorous glances on. Haughtiness, stretched-forth necks, and wanton eyes, shall not go unpunished in the daughters of Zion, much less in the daughters of Hagar. And as for Little Faith, by his inordinate affection for a strange woman he is making a rod for himself: Conscience and he will have bloody work of it another day, when the King comes to visit his sin with a rod, and his iniquity with scourges. Inordinate affection is a member of Little Faith's strange man; but, as there is an intoxicating pleasure in it, he will not complain of it till the frowns and rebukes of the King bring him to his senses: then he may go out (like Sampson) and shake himself, and bewail both the loss of his God, and his folly that procured it.
Steward. This will be the end, and I wish he would consider it in time: but he is too completely entangled to escape the snare of the fowler, Little Faith never knew what it was to be in love with the creature till now: he is in his first love.
Shepherd. And do you think that Mara has any love for him?
Steward. Yes; I believe she loves him with that sort of love that is made violent by opposition, damped by gratification, and freezed by the constancy of an affectionate husband. I dare say Mara has been smitten with love by a hundred objects, and the last is always the winner. Mara is not the magnet, but the needle, soon drawn; but, if not held fast, is sure to fall off, like Michal or Delilah: and no wonder, when the Nazarite, and the Psalmist, became the willing captives of such, without consulting the Giver of every good and every perfect gift.
Shepherd. A prudent wife is from the Lord, but this sort are none of his gifts. Little Faith has forgot the proverb that speaketh to him as to a son-"And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings," Prov. v. 20, 21.
Steward. Little Faith doth not believe her to be a strange woman, for he is as much taken with her mask of religion as he is with her person. The kings of the earth were never more drunk with Jezebel's fornication, than Little Faith is with Mara's deception.
Shepherd. Pray, what sort of woman is she in person?
Steward. She is beautiful, has a pretty face, a good complexion, is well-shaped, genteel, and of good address; affects to appear very modest and devout; is remarkably plain in her apparel, and as neat as wax-work; is a complete mistress of herself, and of all the artifice she is possessed of; and one who can soon find out the company she is in, and can shape her conversation to suit it. In short, there is every thing in her person that makes a woman desirable or admirable; and every thing in her feigned mask of religion that is attracting to a young Israelite who walks in his simplicity, and who is unacquainted with these depths of Satan. Notwithstanding, she is a Hagarene, a strange woman; unhumbled, unrenewed, dead in sin, enveloped in delusion, and hardened in hypocrisy; destitute of the truth, and destitute of the grace of God, and of the ornaments of a meek and quiet spirit, in which, and in only which, real beauty consists. "A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised; but Miss Duplicity is not one of them.
Shepherd. Then the Wise Man's experience will go nigh to fit Little Faith in his future calamity: "I applied my heart," saith he, "to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom; and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness; and I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands, Eccles. vii. 19, 20.
Steward. The Wise Man was right in endeavouring to know, to search, and to seek out wisdom: and, had he left off there, he might have escaped those snares, bands, and nets, that brought all his bitterness upon him; but "he loved many strange wives," and therefore God gave him not one good one in all the thousand. "One man among a thousand have I found, but a woman, among all those [that I kept] have I not found. Lo! this only have I found, that God made man upright;" [but the woman pulled him aside] and, since that, "they have sought out many inventions," Eccl vii. 28, 29; as the Wise Man himself did, whose "strange wives turned away his heart," 1 Kings, xi. 3; and led him to comply with the inventions of the heathens.
Shepherd. And, pray, how goes Little Faith on in the best things? Is he effectually cured of the heart-burn and the belly-ache? Have the hornets all forsook him? Is the strange man dead? And has Miss Duplicity healed all his infirmities, and cured all his diseases?
Steward. So it seems; for I hear of no complaints; nor does he so much as come near the Steward's room, nor even look at me, or speak to me if he meets me, for he knows that Mara is no favourite of mine: therefore, in the matter of his courtship, he views me as his enemy; and he will take care to ask counsel of none but of those who either hate me, or that differ from me in judgment touching Mara's religion. Nor do I expect to be acquainted with any of Little Faith's affairs till the wedding is over; then, perhaps, my service may come into fashion again.
Shepherd. If the King frowns upon this conduct of Little Faith, he will be so crossed, that he will not be able to perform his enterprise, notwithstanding his intentions.
Steward. I do not believe that the King will hinder him, because I have reproved him for it: but he hardens his neck against reproof, and still revolts; therefore" the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own way." When Rehoboam rejected the good counsel of the aged, and took that of his flatterers, he lost the presence of the God of his fathers, and ten parts of his kingdom: and I know that Little Faith is going on now without the King's presence, and without his approbation. The King is returned to his place; and Little Faith must seek him early, and earnestly too, before he finds him again.
Shepherd. Then I should think that he would be miserable in his mind, and a burden to himself; for a glimpse of the King's face used to raise him to heaven; but, if the King frowned, he was like a dead man.
Steward. And I wish it was with Little Faith now as it was in months past, but it is not. He is as lively and as cheerful as a bird in appearance, but it comes not from above: it is lightness and levity; his sweetness and simplicity are greatly vanished; and some of the children tell me, that his conversation is dry and empty. Nevertheless, he is not comfortless: the lusts of the flesh afford him most pleasing sensations. His thoughts and affections are hovering about Mara, not God; his delight is in her person, not in the Divine favour; and his comforts lie in his interviews with her, instead of communion with his Royal Father his present hopes of a wife overtop his hopes of heaven; and his mind is more employed about his intended (though unlawful) marriage than about the future "marriage of the Lamb." These things "turned away the heart" of Solomon, and brought that magnificent and highly-favoured prince to renounce the royal name, which appears by his telling us what he was before he was a preacher-"I, the preacher, was king over Israel, in Jerusalem"
Shepherd. But, pray, who encourages Little Faith in paying his addresses to Mara? I dare say that he is not without his backers, nor without his helpers-on.
Steward. Indeed he is not: for there is not a court-flatterer, a feigned loyalist, a pensioner, a placeman, an unfaithful servant, or an hypocrite, in all the court, or that hangs about the palace, but what approves of Little Faith's choice. Old Uzzah, the man that you saw weeding the gravel-walk the first time you came to the palace, who told you that the "Steward. and his room were just as narrow as yourself," is very forward for the match, and praises Miss Duplicity up to the skies; and I am informed, that she has lately been admitted as a member of the Royal Society by some of the partial rulers of the Household. But notwithstanding all their art and artifice, the religion of Mara Duplicity, and that of Little Faith, shall no more cleave together than iron can mix with miry clay.
Shepherd. Well, you have put in your caveat: you have reproved him, and shewed your disapprobation; and, by so doing, you have forbid the banns. But all hath hitherto been ineffectual; and, therefore, Little Faith must take the consequences. It is watering time, and I must be gone; and when I shall be able to spend another hour with you, I know not: for the sheep are going upon the common fields, some part of which is ploughed, some sown, and some is left for perpetual sheep-walks. When the sheep are there, constant attendance is required to keep them within bounds.
Steward. The commons lie at too great a distance for me; nor, shall I care to go upon them, if they lay nearer home. But, whenever you come into the inclosures again, let me know by a line, and I will call at your little hut.
Shepherd. If health be spared, and business permit, you shall receive a line from me at my return. Till then, be faithful, be constant, be vigilant; and, as far as truth requires it in this degenerate age, be singular. Say not, "A confederacy," to them that say, "A confederacy;" nor fear ye their fear, nor be afraid; but sanctify the King himself in your heart, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary to you, when they shall find him to be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. Farewell.
Steward. Fare you well: and I thank you for your counsel; and have only to crave that, when it is well with the Shepherd, he would remember the Steward.
TO MR. FIDELITY, Steward. OF HIS MAJESTY'S HOUSEHOLD
True Yoke-Fellow, Lowland Palace, Salem.
NEGLECTING all compliments of the season, and wishing grace, mercy, and peace, this comes to acquaint you that I am once more returned with the little flock to the fat valleys; where the cooling streams are refreshing, the rural shades delightful, and where the flocks can rest at noon.
During my stay on the upland commons, I was exercised with perpetual labours: the wells were unfathomably deep, the springs low, the weather violently hot, and the herbage very scarce; insomuch that I had hard work to keep the sheep from straying. Nevertheless, some of the flocks, especially the weaklings, flourished; while I wasted several ounces a day, till I began to cry-"My leanness! my leanness! Woe unto me!"
Jacob's well is deep indeed! A thirsty flock, and a low spring, will try the patience of the meekest Shepherd. I have at times thought that the Gibeonites' yoke of bond-service in the plains of Jericho, or under the springs of Pisgah, was not more galling than mine: but this part of the burden and heat of the day are borne; and we are safely arrived in the highly-favoured plains, and by the still waters, where all past toil is out of sight, and almost out of mind. The flock is well in the general, and at present feeds sweetly. The sheep-bells are ringing all the day long: and, while the sheep feed and rest quiet, we shall continue here but, as soon as they begin to trample the pasture, and break the fences, we shall be ordered upon the commons again.
I need not inform you that a visit is desirable, or that your company and conversation are acceptable: this you are assured of; which I now confirm, by subscribing myself, inviolably and eternally,
In the uniting Bonds of the Brotherly Covenant.
Dated from the Hut, THE SHEPHERD.
Aug. 10, 1789.