The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Fifteenth.
Shepherd. "Long looked for is come at last!" I have been expecting you every day for these six weeks. Pray, where have you hid yourself all this time?
Steward. Poor Little Faith is sick: he has a violent cough, and a fever; and it is thought that he is going into a decline. The Physician gave orders for a lodging to be procured for him in the valley of Esdralen, at the foot of Mount Tabor, for the benefit of the air. Little Faith sent for me, and begged it as a peculiar favour that I would ride in the chariot with him. And, as I was going to the house, I met Doeg the Edomite on the road. He knew me, and I was determined to have full look at him. He hung down his head, then tried to look up, looked this way and that way, then coloured up, then waxed pale, and seemed quite agitated. At last he gave a kind of an awkward wave with his hand, made a feeling for his hat, and darted by me, mumbling something of the compliments of the day, which I neither noticed nor returned.
Shepherd. Pray, did you see Mara when you was at the house?
Steward. Yes. As the two servants were bringing Little Faith down stairs, she came out of the parlour, and stood at the stair-foot, weeping, ready to take her leave of him. When he saw her, he bid the servants stop, seemed much flurried, ordered her into the parlour, and bid his servant lock the door. When the Physician saw how he was agitated, he ordered that she might not be admitted into his presence on any account, unless by his own desire.
Shepherd. And what conversation had you in the way with him?
Steward. He told me that his spirit was very unsettled. Sometimes he felt the sweetness of godly sorrow, and anon a kind of stupor seized him; frequently a joyful beam darted through his soul, and, soon after, a heavy gloom would overhang his mind; that he was full of tossing and changes. To be short, he told me that he repented of his folly in dust and ashes; that from his heart he justified his Majesty, and owned him just in all the heavy afflictions that he has laboured under-"for I procured them to myself" He added, "I have, through undeserved clemency, something in my heart, which tells me that I shall be delivered out of my present distress of soul, and be restored to the King's favour; and from the dreadful entanglement of that wretched woman." And, moreover, he said, he was greatly deceived if the King did not leave him to himself, as a just requital for his folly, to take that strictly forbidden, that rebellious step: that the report of her singular hypocrisy, and of my unparalleled sufferings through it, might deter others, lest they also come into union with such a tormentor; for there are four, if not five, of my dear brothers and sisters, that have had, if not now, a sneaking kindness for the Hagarenes, unless this disaster of mine has had the desired effect, which I shall pray for with my dying breath.
Shepherd. If this sickness ends in the death of Little Faith, or, if you survive him, you will not do justice to his memory, nor to the King's Seed, if you let the life of Little Faith be buried in oblivion. I would publish the whole narrative.
Steward. To tell you the truth, I have minuted down the greatest part of the circumstances, and of the conversation that has passed between us on the subject, and thought I would leave the manuscript for others to do as they pleased with after my decease.
Shepherd. I am not fond of that, lest, in revising or correcting, they alter the circumstances. You are a living witness of the whole matter and are able to defend the narrative, in case any of the Hagarenes should take up the pen, and attempt to disprove it.
Steward. But then there are several circumstances-such as, her now being a virgin when Little Faith took her, &c. &c.-that may give an offence, if made public.
Shepherd. Those very things are mentioned in the records of Zion, and Mara is condemned by the same for her deception. "Secret things belong to the King; but what is revealed belongs to us, and to our children." The whole counsel of the King is to be declared: if it gives offence to any, it will give it to them whom it may concern. Hypocrites, fortune-hunters, wanton professors, harlots, whoremongers, and all who are really guilty, will doubtless find fault with it, and call it the produce of a bad spirit; just as the pharisaical tribe derided the King, when he protested against covetousness, Luke, xvi. 14. But Israelites indeed, and the real daughters of Sara, will receive no damage by it, nor take offence at it. Pray, have you attended Little Faith constantly since his illness?
Steward. The night before I heard of his illness, I had the following dream. I saw a man on a sick-bed, who seemed to labour under much distress of soul; and, while I stood pitying the sick man, I heard a voice say to him, "My servant Job shall pray for you." Job, xlii. 8. Upon the hearing of which, I awoke; and, behold! it was a dream! But, while I was considering the matter, these words occurred to my mind with some degree of warmth-" Come over into Macedonia, and help us." Acts, xvi. 9. I immediately rose from my bed, dressed myself, and went down into the Steward's room; and, while I was pondering in my mind what the vision and the text should mean, behold! a man knocked at the door! I went and opened it; and said to him-"Pray, what wantest thou? or, whom seekest thou?" He replied with tears in his eyes-"I am servant to one of the Royal Family, namely, to Little Faith, who is now extremely ill, having kept his bed for many days. His recovery is doubtful; and the Physician has ordered him to a lodging at the foot of Tabor, for the benefit of the air; thinking that spot to be the most likely to be conducive to his health, as the air is as much the reverse of the air of Sinai, the place of my master's nativity, as can be. As for his native country, he has been too partial to that also; for it has never contributed either to his health, peace, or happiness. His Highness strictly charged me, by verbal message, to come to the Palace, and to inform the Steward. of his Majesty's Household of his illness, and intended removal." I then said to him-"I am the Steward." He then replied, that his Highness desired his unfeigned love and duty to his ROYAL FATHER; and begged as a favour, that the Steward. might accompany him in his present journey, and attend him during his illness.
Shepherd. I should have looked upon every circumstance, thus concurring, to be of Divine appointment, in the behalf of Little Faith: for, when we see the leadings or footsteps of Providence before us, we may gather assuredly that the King is gone forth, and therefore we may boldly venture to go after him. When the good Shepherd goes before, the sheep must follow after.
Steward. I informed his Majesty of the matter; and immediately went, and accompanied Little Faith in his journey; gathering assuredly that the King had called me to that work.
Shepherd. Pray, what sort of a lodging has Little Faith got?
Steward. A sweet place, and in a most delightful air: far enough from the desert, his old highly favoured spot; and therefore I am in hope that he will recover of this disease.
Shepherd. Have you visited him constantly during his illness?
Steward. Constantly; and I find great freedom of speech with him. My mouth is open to Little Faith, my heart is enlarged, and I have a comfortable persuasion that he will be delivered some way or other. Sometimes he appears to be very happy for a whole day together. The King seems to engross the whole of his affections; and then there seems to be such a bar between his heart and Mara, as he thinks will end in a gulf fixed, which will keep them apart to all eternity. But, when a sight and sense of his folly recoils on his mind, it sinks him again. And thus, he says, he shall rise and fall in the balance of the sanctuary, till the Atonement operate powerfully, and then he shall come to a settled state.
Shepherd. Sins against knowledge, light, and love, are attended with the most aggravating circumstances. The reflections of such souls return with the keenest sensations. Base ingratitude to the best of Benefactors covers the face with shame and confusion, and strikes the ungrateful child dumb.
Steward. Little Faith acknowledges this; and says that, it the King forgives him, he never shall forgive himself, his crimes are so complicated. Absenting himself from the Chapel-royal, and going to countenance the Hagarites, was in effect bidding them God speed, when he knew the damnable errors that they held had procured him so many stripes before. "Scraping acquaintance with such a set of desperate characters, and making my body," said he," which is a member of Christ, the member of an harlot-for sure I am that I am joined to an harlot-and such," says the King, "are one flesh," 1 Cor. vi. 15, 16.
Shepherd. My time is expired. The new sheep lately added to the flock will be looking about them for water
Steward. I thought, when the sheep were in the fat vallies, that they might go to the still waters, and drink when they would.
Shepherd. When they are first brought to the fold, they are very thirsty, and at those times the rivers and streams are generally accessible; but, in process of time, the keenness of their hunger and thirst abates, and then I am obliged to draw water for them. What little they can get for themselves, over and above what the Shepherd draws, will not suffice.
Steward. Our interviews, now, must be short; for I have purposed to visit Little Faith every day, or every other day, during his stay at Tabor, unless I should see a conspicuous change for the better, either in his bodily health or present state of mind. When you water the flock, remember Little Faith; and, as soon as convenient, I will call at the hut.
Shepherd. It is not in my power to forget him; and tell him that the Shepherd saluteth him.