The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Thirteenth.
Steward. Shepherd, you are welcome home, I am glad to see you once more in your little hut.
Shepherd. I thank you, my dear friend: and I am as glad to see you; for, as iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Steward. I came twice to see your little hut during your absence; and I perceived that some mischievous persons had been tearing off the ornaments and covering, and pulling down a part of the materials, soon after you were gone; which convinced me that you were not much in favour among the generality of Shepherds, especially those of the tents of Kedar, who, most likely, are the culprits.
Shepherd. It is, doubtless, the handicraft of some of the Kedar gentlemen: they often spoil or plunder my hut, to furnish or ornament their own; and would long since have burnt it, and have triumphed over it, if they had not been afraid of hanging by their own necks.
Steward. By your letter, you have had a laborious time of it upon the uplands.
Shepherd. Indeed, I had. I never was more put to it for water and herbage in all my life than I have been this summer: and a great part of the flock began to be very restless; some prowled away to the fallow ground, some strayed to the backside of the desert, and got to Horeb; and others got into the fields of strangers, who sow their land with divers seeds; and most of them, except the weaklings, were tired out with the old walks. Because the bottles of heaven were stayed, and the clouds distilled no water, "the ridges must be watered, and the springing thereof must be blessed," Psalm lxv. 10, if there be any new pastures. This was the cause of their straying. However, to remedy this, I procured about twenty bell-sheep among them; so that, if I did not see them stray, I could hear which way they went by the bells, for the sound made by the bell-sheep always reported the matter. And, indeed, I was more wearied than the flock itself, and therefore glad enough to get into the fat valleys again. Pray does the courtship of Little Faith go on still? or, is it broke off?
Steward. Little Faith was married about four months ago, in less than a fortnight after you were at the Palace.
Steward. Yes, married!
Shepherd. Pray were you invited to the wedding?
Steward. O no; nor was the King there, and but two of the King's children: nor would the wedding-guests have got them, if they had not been suffered (for wise ends) to be prejudiced against me, by those who traduced me as taking too much upon me, being too bitter, using too much severity, and being too strict in my office. These things, you know, are pleasing to children, until the pride that their flatterers nurse in them brings them low, and then they begin to know better. So far from my being invited, I became the topic of their conversation, and the subject of their ridicule. "At their sitting down, and rising up, I was their music."
Shepherd. And did the bridegroom countenance this?
Steward. As the bride, the bride-maids, and the greatest part of the company, kept it up, Little Faith did not shew his disapprobation of it: but I was informed that his seat did not appear to be quite easy, nor was his countenance very open or cheerful; which the company perceiving they left off making sport of me, and turned their jests upon the bridegroom; which he sustained with all the fortitude that he could muster together; and which, in the end, sent the bride to bed highly entertained; and the bridegroom went after, with a wounded spirit, and a guilty conscience; which the bridal bed, no, nor all the charms of Miss Duplicity, shall never be able to cure.
Shepherd. Pray, who were the chief guests?
Steward. Old Uzzah was one of the chief. Coniah, the broken idol, was there, Jer. xxii. 28. Shebna, which is over the house, was among them, Isa. xxii. 15, 16, 17. Jannes and Jambres, and other old courtiers with them, were invited. Phygellus and Hermogenes, Hymeneus and Alexander the coppersmith, with others of the like occupation; Demetrius the silversmith, Saint Crispin, and several more of the craftsmen; together with Sceva the Jew, Sanballat, Tobiah the Ammonite, Geshem the Arabian, Doeg the Edomite, Tatnai the governor, Shethar-bozai and his companions, Rab-shakeh, Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Rabsaris, and Rab-mag, Jer. xxxix. 3, all men of note and character, of family and fortune. Delilah; Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim; Herodias's daughter, and the wise ladies of Sisera's mother, Judges, v. 29, were the bridesmaids: all precious souls, class-leaders of the perfect band, and, in the judgment of Charity, noted for candour. After Little Faith had wrought the conversion of Miss Duplicity, Miss herself converted all these.
Steward. A noble company, truly! dwellers of Mesopotamia, Jews and proselytes, Elamites, Cretes, and Arabians. Pray, where was Little Faith married?
At Cripple Gate Church, you may be sure; and I believe that he has been a cripple ever since he led his bride through that gate; and it is well if he doth not go halting to his grave.
Shepherd. I should like to have seen Little Faith the next day morning, to see how his countenance stood.
Steward. I was informed of the whole of their proceedings, just as much as if I had been present. The wedding-guests flocked in and out all the next day. The bride's mouth seemed to be here crammed with religious gibberish, fables, and cant, than ever; her tongue went like a watchman's rattle. But the bridegroom looked more like the father of mankind when he began to make his fig-leafed apron: pensiveness, watchfulness, and suspicion, seemed to sit upon his brow; the desire of his eyes was with him, and the rebukes of Heaven within him; a beautiful devil upon his knees, and barrenness in his soul. However, he bore up as well as he could, and seemed to wish to be rid of his wedding-guests. Two of the Royal Family that were at the wedding withdrew privately (being hurt at their company and conversation) even without taking leave either of the bride or of the bridegroom; nor have any of the Seed-royal been near their brother since. And what mortified Little Faith most of all was, they reported that the bride had discovered herself to be, what the Steward. declared she was, namely, a profound hypocrite; and that the guests did nothing but burlesque the King's servants; that his Majesty's name was not once mentioned with reverence; that their conversation was rude and indelicate; yea, that vulgarities were both received and returned, and that by the bride herself, as well as the rest: and that old Uzzah, the governor of the feast, was the worst among them; that no blessing was implored on the new-married couple; that no petitions were put up on the behalf of them; and that it was more like Belshazzar's feast than the marriage in Cana of Galilee; for neither the King, his presence, nor his disciples, were there.
Shepherd. It is not likely that the King should countenance with his presence what his righteous soul abhorreth, and what he has strictly forbidden. We have no need to "marry the daughters of a strange god," Mal. ii. ll. "The Lord God Almighty hath got daughters," 2 Cor. vi. 18, as well as the god of this world; and it was nothing but infernal intoxication that led Little Faith to make such a choice. We have got venerable mothers, honourable women, and amiable daughters in Israel; women of grace, sensibility, modesty, chastity, beauty, cleanliness, and industry; helps meet who have got the fear and blessing of God, and therefore fit persons for any man of Israel, let him be as particular as he may: so that Little Faith had no call to go to the uncircumcised; but, if he must have a wife from TIMNATH, let him grind in the prison, and make sport for the lords of the Philistines, till he is humbled for his folly.
Steward. My desire is that Little Faith may be tried: and tried he will be with a witness; for there was one man at the wedding, Doeg by name, of whom the bride took more notice than of all file rest of the guests, or even of the bridegroom himself; which was observed and reported in the Palace by those who were there. Little Faith heard of this, and it stirred up suspicion in him, which was rather confirmed by the constant visits of Doeg. Little Faith being rather uneasy about this matter, inquired into Doeg's private character; and found, upon inquiry, that he was one of "that sort who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women; such as are laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, who are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," 2 Tim. iii. 6, 7.
Shepherd. O poor Little Faith! It is a sure omen of perilous day when young princes despise the counsels of the aged. "In the multitude of counsellors is safety, but a child left to himself will fall." When Samson refused to hearken to the counsel of his parents, they complied with his own request, and a sea of afflictions followed.
Steward. And so they did here: for, before Little Faith had been married a week, "the spirit of jealousy came upon him, and be was jealous of his wife," Numb. v. 14. What to do he knew not: he was dotingly fond of her; yea, his very soul was wrapt up in her. The character of Doeg strengthened his suspicions, and the daily visits that he paid to the bride added fresh fuel to Little Faith's fire; and that which completed the scene of his misery was, that he knew that she was not a virgin when he married her, Deut. xxii. 14, 21. This was told me by one of the young princes to whom he unburdened his mind; and declared, that nothing but the pains of hell, or bitter throes of the damned, could equal his present sufferings. He loved her to excess, and was plagued by the constant visits of a suspected rival of vile character. While his soul was scorching in the flames of jealousy, his wife was entertaining Doeg with smiles and amorous stories. "And that," saith he, "which makes my case deplorable beyond conception is, that the King's face is hid; my mind is in bondage; my life hangs in doubt; and, with respect to my eternal state, I stand in jeopardy. But the charms of my wife, and the thoughts of a rival, swallow up all: so that, at times, I am regardless of what becomes of my soul. Pray I cannot; I dare not face his Majesty, nor even send a thought toward him: if I do, it recoils with the disapprobation of Heaven." He added, "Had I hearkened to the Steward., I had escaped this snare of the fowler. He cautioned me, and warned me; but others prejudiced my mind against him, accusing him of rancour, and of taking too much upon him. However, his words stuck to my heart, and my own conscience seconded his counsel; and, as soon as I turned my back upon him, the King turned his back upon me. I despised his reproof, and hardened my neck by it. "I am a backslider in heart, and shall be filled with my own ways; for it is written, 'He that wandereth out of the way of understanding shaft remain in the congregation of the dead.'"
Shepherd. Married people shall have trouble in the flesh; but, if believers match with infidels, they shall have trouble on all hands. Samson's match with the Philistine damsel; David's with Michal, Abigail's with Nabal; Solomon's with the Heathens; the Jews with the daughters of Ashdod; Ammon, and Moab, and the Antediluvian professors, with the daughters of Cain; with all their dreadful consequences; are left upon record to caution the child of God. Many are married before their adoption, and one may be taken by the King, and the other left; and the King's choice may set a household at variance: but, both being infidels when married, here is plenty of room for wishes, but none for such reflections as those of Little Faith, who sinned with his eyes open. Pray, had Little Faith any money with her?
Steward. I believe he had a little: but that was not an object with him; it was love to her person, not to her money, that entangled him in this snare.
Shepherd. Pray, how came Little Faith acquainted with those gentlemen that were at the wedding?
Steward. I never knew till a few days ago. One of the princes, to whom Little Faith opened his mind, told me, that he owned to him that he had privately frequented the love-feasts of the Hagarenes during the whole time of his courtship, in order to gain the consent, and get into the good graces, of Mara's parents and friends; and by those means he gained their consent, and passed among them for a man of candour and liberal sentiments. Here Little Faith acted with a double face, to gain a wife with a double heart.
Shepherd. Those love-feasts are rightly named, for young lovers are very fond of them. I am informed that many young wantons have begun to love at a love-feast who have never fasted from strife and debate all their days after. I suppose they are like the Moabitish festivals, to which the men of Israel were invited through the counsel of Balaam.
Steward. Some of them are-for all sorts are admitted-members of the Royal Society, and even members of the Hell-fire Club may get in. Babes in grace, and Bucks of the first head, are mixed together; mothers in Israel, and even mothers procurists. Some go to seek a word of exhortation; and, if report be true some have gone to seek provision for the brothel. All huddle together, all break a bun, and give the right-hand of fellowship. Mara and Doeg were remarkably fond of this branch of human religion: "These were Spots in their Feasts of Charity, feeding themselves without fear; clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, twice dead, plucked up by the roots," Jude, 12.
Shepherd. Well, as Little Faith went to their love-feasts, it is right that he should be left to long for a love-fast. He banqueted with them, and he must expect to pay the reckoning.
Steward. He now pays as he goes, poor soul! For I was informed that his flesh is wasted upon his bones: he is a mere shadow, and almost frightful to behold; while his soul is like a vessel in a storm, and the daily provocations that he meets with drive him to his wit's end.
Shepherd. Pray, did he ever open his mind to his wife about it?
Steward. About six weeks after the wedding, he did, as I was informed.
Shepherd. And what effect had it?
Steward. He told one of the young princes that, for about a month, he did nothing but weep over her; and that he could not endure her out of his sight, nor even that a person should look at her. She perceiving this, got more and more cold and indifferent to him; and grief of mind rendering him such a ghastly figure, she began to ridicule and despise his person and unsightliness: and he declared to his brother, that he could see the work of the devil on both sides; for he operated upon his inordinate affections, to chain his soul to her; and at the same time worked in her to despise both his affections and person. Being unable to hold in any longer, he opened his mind to his wife; told her the cause of all his grief; and begged that, as he could not get over it, not-withstanding all his efforts, she would feel a little for him, shew her disapprobation of Doeg's constant visits, and give him some information and satisfaction touching her chastity. At his request concerning Doeg she laughed; and for his asking information about her chastity, &c. &c. Mara shewed herself in her true colours, and abused him in such language as he did not think she had been mistress of: and, after breakfast, she put a cockade, made of yellow ribbon, in his hat.
Shepherd. It is well for Little Faith that it goes on so violently as it does; it will be the sooner over. Marriage is a Divine ordinance: the ordainer of it will vindicate it, and the rights of it; and execute vengeance on such abusers of it, by avenging the injured and the defrauded. When Little Faith's strength is all gone, the King will appear. Pray, what said Little Faith to his cockade?
Steward. He said that her cruel treatment gave his violent passions such a check as he never felt before; and his earnest expectation and hope is, that her cruelty will, some time or other, procure her the entire loss of his affections; which she, with all her artifice, will never be able to regain. However, Little Faith took courage, and warned Doeg the Edomite from his house, and threatened him with the sanction of the law in case lie refused his warning; and, ever since, Mara has left the Chapel-royal, and goes constantly to the workhouse at Hagar's Castle; while poet Little Faith is obliged to trudge after, in order to see whether his wife and Doeg look at one another. Little Faith goes out at one door, and his wife goes out at another; and among the crowd steals away (as he thinks to meet Doeg), while he goes mourning home alone, under a double wound-the jealousy and just suspicions of an injured husband; and wounded in his conscience for absenting himself from the sanctuary service, where he knows help and comfort are to be had.
Shepherd. This will go nigh to give poor Little Faith his bellyful of the sentiments and devotions of the Hagarites. He has not only heard, but he has seen and felt, the effects of Candour and Universal Charity. He knows, now, what Liberal Sentiments, and the Moderation of hypocrites, mean. He has seen the dress of Jack and Tom, his old favourites; and he has felt the heart of Mara Duplicity. Pray, has he never come with any of his complaints to you?
Steward. Not yet; but he has sent his love to me by one of his brothers, and begged that I would remember him: which he had no call to have done; for, ever since I heard of his cockade, I have wrestled hard for him; and I know that he will be delivered, "for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all;" and woe be to Mara whenever Little Faith is enlarged!
Shepherd. If I was you, I would call upon him.
Steward. When the King intends to chasten a child for his folly, he will make friends and acquaintances stand aloof, that they may not ward off the blows. He took umbrage at me for telling him the truth, and fled from faithful reproof; and the King says, "Let them return unto thee, but return thou not unto them," Jer. xv. 19. I love him dearly, but I will not nurse his pride, nor humour him in his folly. I hope the King will sanctify the affliction; and if he does, when he is tried, he shall come forth as gold.
Shepherd. A spirit of jealousy is dreadful in its operations, and poor Little Faith has been exercised with both kinds.
Steward. It is a dreadful disease, and Heaven has provided a singular remedy for it in the fifth chapter of Numbers. Whatever a spirit of jealousy be, it is God that sends it: and the ends for the which it is sent are four.
The First is, To bring iniquity forth that lies hid: "For it procures an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance," Numb. v. 15.
Secondly, It is to clear the character of a virtuous wife, belied, or wrongly suspected; and to remove from a suspicious husband all his groundless suspicions, that he may be satisfied with her chastity, and that his affections may not be alienated from her without cause: "And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean, then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed," Numb. v. 28.
Thirdly, The spirit of jealousy is sometimes sent to prevent evil. It comes upon a man as soon as the heart of his wife begins to wander. Iniquity is conceived; but this spirit stirs up the restless court of inquisition, till a confession be obtained, and the birth be stopped.
Fourthly, The spirit of jealousy is sometimes sent by way of retaliation. If one man has provoked another to jealousy, the Lord will requite; he shall be provoked to jealousy himself, that he may feel for his neighbour. If David takes Bathsheba, Absalom takes all David's concubines. As he metes, so it shall be measured to him again.
Shepherd. But the oath of the Lord, the bitter water, and the dust of the floor, are all out of date, and out of use, now: we have no priests to offer this sort of offerings.
Steward. Every husband, and every wife, upon whom the spirit of jealousy comes, will act the part of a priest in these matters. Ashes and bitter waters will be in use night and day; promises, and oaths too, will be demanded, before they will be satisfied. Jealousy is the rage of a man, and so it is of a woman; and, if they cannot settle the matter to their own satisfaction, they will not rest contented though thou give them many gifts, And, as for the curse that was to attend the culprit when these offerings had brought her in guilty, THAT is in the hand of the great HIGH PRIEST, who is the Judge of all the earth; and will, doubtless, be executed. "The whoremongers and the adulterers God shall judge."
Shepherd. I have had various trials of one sort or other, and they are all grievous to flesh and blood; but that which makes them completely so is, when the heart is at a distance from the King. He that walks humbly with Him has got an ALMIGHTY ARM to lean on, and on which he may cast his burdens and his cares, and find fresh strength communicated in every time of need. Such happy souls feel after him, and find him a present help, yea, a very present help, in time of trouble. But, if sin be committed, and guilt contracted, the King hides his face, and communion is not held, then every crises, yea, the least affliction, becomes an intolerable burden. Little Faith, in his profession, differs much from me. It is not a great while ago that he got through the strait gate, and was admitted into the presence-chamber. When I was there, I was so delighted, and my heart so ravished, with the King's person and clemency, that I had neither thought nor affection left for the creature. Little Faith must have got at a great distance from the King, otherwise Mara could never have taken him prisoner to her charms, let her religious garb be never so complete. My time is expired. We have got a few more sheep added to the flock, and it will be expected that I should be there.
Shepherd. What, has the Master lately bought in a new stock?
Shepherd. O no; they were all bought, and paid for, long ago; but he sends them in, a few at a time, as the old ones are drafted off, just to keep the stock and number up; and we generally examine them as well as we can, to see if they bear the Master's mark, that we may not admit wolves in sheep skins into the flock.
Steward. When shall you be at leisure again?
Shepherd. Almost any day while we tarry in the fat valleys; for herbage and water are so plenty, that the work of a shepherd becomes delightful recreation, instead of labour: yea, I would rather be employed in it than have the whole of my time on my own hands; for, at such seasons, you may draw water enough to refresh the whole flock, only by sending the vessel once to the WELL; and the herbage springs so fast, that it grows upon the sheep-the flock cannot eat fast enough to keep it under.
Steward. I, as a Steward., find it just the same at our entertainments. If his Majesty be at the feast, there is never any want of wine; and, if he tells us to draw out, and bear unto the governor, or to any body else, we may draw away, either from the flagon, the new bottle, or from the water-pots of stone: it is sure to give satisfaction; they will all praise the liquor, and declare that the best wine is kept till now. I have never much running up and down stairs; nor is it a difficult matter to please the company when his Majesty's presence is at the feast; nor am I obliged to fetch the wine out of the cellar, for it is banded forth to me as fast as called for. At such times I am as highly delighted at attending the table, as you are in attending the flock: the new bottle and the waiter are handled with as much dexterity as either the shears or the crook. I envy the happiness of no shepherd under heaven, nor do I envy the flock their fat pastures, at such banquets as these, when Wisdom takes the head of the table: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath killed her beasts, she hath mingled her wine, she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens, and given her invitations on the high places of the city. Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled," Prov. ix. 1, 2, 3, 5. When Wisdom furnishes the table, the sideboard is easily set off, and attendance becomes delightful. Her propitious looks, and the light of her countenance, are sufficient to satisfy and delight all the company, if it consists of five thousand in number. And, at these entertainments, we are never troubled with making orgeat, lemonade, nor cold tankard.
Shepherd. Well, Sir, let the Steward. of the Household rule well, and be counted worthy of double honour; and, as the King hath made him a ruler, let him give to each a portion of meat in due season. I wish thee the presence of Wisdom at her own table: and pray thou for me, that the Chief Shepherd may ever attend his own flock; and then the Shepherd will never envy the Steward., nor the Steward. vex the Shepherd. When an opportunity offers, come again to the hut: the country air, in all probability, will do you good.
Steward. I will. Till then, may the presence of Him who dwell with Moses in the tent, and spoke to Jonah in the booth, commune with the Shepherd in the hut!
Shepherd. Thank you. Farewell! Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces!