The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Fourteenth.
Shepherd. Here comes the Steward. of his Majesty's Household! a Steward. of the mysteries, and of the manifold grace of the King! Walk in your honour.
Steward. The Shepherd is very polite and complimental today. Pray, what makes him so humorous? Are the upland commons quite out of sight, and out of mind with him?
Shepherd. "In the day of prosperity, be joyful; in the day of adversity, consider." Pray, how come Little Faith and his wife on? Does the matrimonial yoke gall his neck as bad as ever? or, does it sit more easy than usual?
Steward. Worse and worse! I believe I told you, at our last interview, that Mara had left the Chapel-royal, and she has never been near it since. She hath shewn herself in her true colours, indeed! She ridicules the doctrines of the Palace, and all the service of the Sanctuary; and, as for the King's Seed, she hates them with perfect hatred.
Shepherd. And does Little Faith follow her to the workhouse still?
Steward. No; he has been constantly at the chapel for these three weeks. The first time that he came, I was delivering to the family one of the King's most gracious speeches; in which was this clause-Return, ye backsliding children, for I am married unto you. While I was delivering the speech, I perceived a strange bustle, looking, and whispering, among the young princes and princesses; and I was obliged to call them to order, not knowing what was the matter: but, as soon as I had done, I saw them gathering all together in a huddle again; and presently I perceived Little Faith among them, but so altered, that I hardly knew him. I went into the Palace; and soon after, he followed me, and came into the Steward's room.
Shepherd. And what did you say to him?
Steward. Nothing harsh, for I perceived that his heart was ready to burst. I took him by the hand; told him I was glad to see him; led him into the pantry, and bade him sit down: and there I left him till he had given a little vent to his grief by weeping; and, after that, I went in, and communed with him: and such an account did he give me of Mara, as I never heard.
Shepherd. Pray, did the King give testimony to his gracious speech, because it seemed so very applicable to Little Faith's case?
Steward. He did: and Little Faith told me, that it was the more cordially received by him, as coming immediately from the King, and that on purpose for him; for not a soul knew of his coming to the Chapel-royal, nor did he enter the door till part of the speech was delivered.
Shepherd. The King's speeches are mighty; and, if they mightily grow and prevail, the bands of Little Faith's inordinate affection will snap like Samson's cords.
Steward. This, he says, is what he longs for: for such a woman he never saw; nor could he have ever thought that there had been such a one in existence, if he had not been married to Mara. He declared that, at times, he could not persuade himself that she really was one of the children of men, or one of the human species; but rather a machine, in which the Devil lived, reigned, and ruled; and in which he displayed all the art, craft, subtlety, mischief, deceit, hypocrisy, cruelty, and malice, that could be hatched in hell. He told me that she never would consent to bow her knees with him since he mentioned to her his suspicions of Doeg; nor did he believe that she ever bowed them in private from year's end to year's end; and yet was as confident of her portion in the celestial regions as Mount Zion herself, that can never be moved: yea, he says she will lie, cheat, peep, mutter, curse and swear, like a Lapland witch; and then go the workhouse to hear Hagar's heralds; and there sit, and sigh, and sob, hear, and weep, and put on such a garb of sanctity, that he would defy all the fiends in the gloomy regions, let them all transform themselves into the likeness of the angels of light, ever to equal her deception.
Shepherd. Pray, did Little Faith never mention the conduct of Mara, and his troubles, to old Uzzah, to the pensioners, place-men, and other tools of the court, who were so forward for the match?
Steward. He told me he had; and that they counselled him to cast a mantle of love over her infirmities, and to consider that she was not as yet, a member of the select, nor of the perfect band: and, upon Little Faith's telling them, that he thought she was-"For if there be," said he, "any mortals on the terraqueous globe that are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity, Mara is, most certainly, complete and perfect in that bond:"-they rebuked him; enforced candour and moderation; and told him to judge charitably, lest, for judging others, himself should be judged.
Shepherd. Such candour and moderation have sent legions, blind, benumbed, seared, and swaddled in carnal security, to lift up their eyes in hell. To judge charitably of persons manifestly wicked and hypocritical, is acting a most base, uncharitable, unmerciful, and cruel part, with their souls; and those blind watchmen entail the blood of such sinners upon their own head. I have sometimes thought that the rich man in hell had been dealt with in this candid way; of which he appeared to be conscious, when he said, "Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they come also into this place of torment." Luke, xvi. 28. Pray, are Little Faith's affections as violent as ever?
Steward. He says that, now and then, he has felt such a flood of godly sorrow flow into his heart, as he never felt before. At such times, he says, he is as light as a bird; and his affections are so weaned from the creature, that neither Doeg nor Mara can move him. "But these," said he, "are but of short duration; and then that cruel spirit of jealousy comes on me again; the very thought of which makes me tremble, for it drives me, for a while, lure out of my mind; but I trust that, as soon as this godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, that I shall be saved and delivered out of this dreadful, this unutterable labyrinth of woe!" And I believe he will: and therefore told him to come to the Steward's room three times a week, and that we would spread the case before the King together. And I advised him to do the same three times a day constantly, and mentioned the particular hours; at which times, I told him, though I could not join him yet I would meet him at the throne at those times; and I bid him watch, and told him that he should soon see what united faith and prayer can do.
Shepherd. That is the only way to prevail. "If two on earth shall agree touching any thing that shall be asked, it shall be done of our Father which is in heaven."
Steward. It shall; and Little Faith seems as sure of it as if it was already accomplished; and you know that" faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen"
Shepherd. The new sheep are coming: I must be off. Tender my kind love to Little Faith; and tell him, that my poor petitions shall be mingled with his in his present calamity.
Steward. I thank you, my dear friend, for your offer; for, indeed, your assistance is much needed. I know that two shall withstand an enemy, but a threefold cord is stronger still. Mercy and peace be with thee!
Shepherd. Grace and truth go with thee!