The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Sixteenth.
Steward. So, I have found you again in the hut! You put me in mind of Job, who said he should die in his nest; for I have often thought that you will die in your hut.
Shepherd. The Chief Shepherd is a little sanctuary in all places where he deigns to come. It is his presence that consecrates a place, and makes it holy ground: his presence has often been enjoyed here; which makes me love the spot, for he is our dwelling-place in all generations. Pray, how did you find poor Little Faith?
Steward. Little Faith is better, both in body and soul. His need is not exercised with such sudden changes as formerly; a sense of divine love, and godly sorrow arising therefrom, sometimes abide with him a whole day and a night together; and, when these abate, he says his soul doth not sink into such horrid glooms as heretofore: and I told him, he would soon find that the gates of destruction would be so closed against him, that he would never more be able to send one thought within them; nor would his infidelity itself ever be able to fetch any matter for terrible meditation from those gloomy regions again.
Shepherd. Good news, indeed! But so it is, of a truth: for when once Little Faith is perfectly restored to the joys of the King's salvation, and upheld by his free Spirit, his lively hope will be so vigorous, and the Well-spring of life and comfort will swell his joys so high, that the abyss of destruction and perdition will sink and vanish from his mind for ever. Looking into the perfect law of liberty will effect this. My very heart glows with love to the King for his superabounding clemency to poor Little Faith, who has been an unstable man all his days: but the King changes not, therefore he shall never be consumed.
Steward. He never shall. The King has visited his sin with the rod, and his iniquity with scourges, but his love is sure; and these heavy chastisements, when followed with renewing grace, will make his sonship appear as clear as the sun at noon-day.
Shepherd. Pray, who is his nurse?
Steward. She is one of my own procuring. Her name is Deborah: a godly young woman, one that knows the plague of her own heart, and the balm of the Physician, well. And, indeed, none are so proper to nurse others, as those who have been inured to afflictions. Wounded spirits are capable of melting and mingling together.
Shepherd. Little Faith's nurse is of the same name with her who nursed Rebekah: and, I believe, was a very great favourite in Jacob's family; for, when she died, they buried her beneath Bethel, under an oak; and the name of it was called "Allon- bachuth, or the oak of weeping," from that day, Gen. xxxv. 8. Which gives me reason to hope that she was a good woman. Besides, her death happened just after Jacob had built the altar, offered his sacrifice, and called the name of the place El-beth-el.
Steward. If she had not been a favourite of Jacob's mother, he would hardly have taken her into his family; and, if she had not been a favourer of the religion of the family, it is not likely that there would have been so much weeping at her death
Shepherd. True. I suppose Little Faith is very well pleased with his nurse?
Steward. Very; and she is as much delighted as he is. She told me that he sometimes lay, and blessed and praised the King all night long; and, even in his sleep, he would talk about the things of the celestial realm with such sensibility, wisdom, eloquence, and power, as she never heard nor felt from the lips of any in all her life. She declared that she had lately enjoyed a heaven upon earth. And Little Faith seems as happy with her: for she has been greatly exercised in soul trouble; and was once, in her carnal state, crossed in love herself, so that she is capable of sympathy; and, when Little Faith is in one of his low fits, they compare notes together.
Shepherd. That is a singular blessing. Nothing can be more disagreeable to an affectionate prince, when sick, than to have an alien from the commonwealth, and a rebel to the throne about him.
Steward. It is disagreeable. But this is not the case here: Deborah is an honourable young woman, sound in the faith, a woman of wisdom and prudence: and it may with propriety be said of her, as was of Ruth, that she "followeth not young men, whether poor or rich; and that all the city of our people do know that she is a virtuous woman," Ruth, iii. 10, 11.
Shepherd. I suppose Mara is glad enough that Little Faith is out of the way. Doeg and she can attend all the love-feasts in the neighbourhood: "They may take their fill of' love until the morning; yea, they may solace themselves with loves-for the GOOD MAN is not at home, nor is there any day appointed for his return," Prov. vii. 18, 19. So that the bad woman has not got the good man to watch over her.
Steward. Yes, she has. The King watches over her, and has turned the heart of Doeg to hate her. His affections are gone over to Joan Clamorous: and Mara follows and watches Doeg as much as ever Little Faith watched Mara; yea, she follows him till she has exposed herself to every body; insomuch, that Doeg is become the jest of the town, and is ashamed to shew his head; and his conscience is so honest, that he cannot stand before the scorn. Therefore he hates her with perfect hatred.
Shepherd. Those that despise the King shall be lightly esteemed. Lovers and friends shall despise them when the King begins to requite them.
Steward. Little Faith was never more crossed, provoked, and despised, by Mara, than Mara is now by Doeg. She shall know what jealousy is as well as Little Faith. But their motives widely differ: she is provoked, because she cannot pursue sin. Little Faith was provoked at sin.
Shepherd. Pray, has Mara never been to see her husband?
Steward. Yes, she has been three times. The first time she went, she asked Deborah how her husband did. Deborah replied, "Which of them, Madam?" She bid her go and tell her patient, that his wife is come. Deborah told her, that there was no call to disturb him; for she had received strict orders from her patient, and the physician also, not to admit her on any account. When she heard this, she withdrew, and went home.
Shepherd. Deborah was very smart upon her.
Steward. She is a very sensible woman; a personable woman; and, which exceeds all, she is a woman of grace, and of good understanding. When she came the second time, she brought Deborah a small present in her hand; but she refused it, saying, "I am of my father Abraham's mind; I will never take any part of the portion of the children of this world, even from a thread to a shoe-latchet." She asked how Little Faith did? She told her, "Never better in soul, though very weak in body." She then asked if her husband ever inquired after her? Deborah replied, "No." She added, "Did you tell him that I called to see him? "Deborah answered," I did not; nor shall I, except he asks me." I must withdraw: I am going to market, to buy those things that we have need of against the feast. The feast of tabernacles is coming on, and then I shall be busy enough.
Shepherd. I expect every day to be ordered upon the upland commons. The sheep seem to be too full fed; too great a plenty of the good old pastures makes them dainty; they are every now and then prowling away, to get a bite of something new.
Steward. It is just the same with the King's Household. I have known some of the children go three miles from the Palace, to get a little wine mixed with water, Isa. i. 22; when they have left wine on the lees well refined at home, Isa. xxv. 6; which they have been welcome to without money and without price. But when these curious jaunts procure sensible barrenness to them, which is often attended with a long fast, it brings them both to their palate and their appetite; and, when they come to know the real value of the old wine, they do not straightway desire new, for they say," The old is better," Luke, v. 39.
Shepherd. Clipping-time is coming on, and I hope that will be over, before we go upon the upland commons; for, when once the sheep get among the heath and thorns, the clippings amount to but little. Mr. Steward., adieu. The Lord entertain thee with the fatness of his house, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob.
Steward. If you should be gone before I come again, leave a few lines, wrapped up, and buried in the ground close to this root of the sycamore tree, and lay a stone upon it.
Shepherd. I will.
Steward. Peace be with thee, whether in the uplands or lowlands. You may open your mouth wide to the great Shepherd, and he will give you a blessing: "The south land shall go with the springs of water; yea, the upper and the nether springs, Josh. xv. 19. And what would you have more, but the kingdom?
Shepherd. The kingdom and all.
Steward. BELIEVE! and all shall be thine!
FOR MR. FIDELITY, Steward. OF HIS MAJESTY'S HOUSEHOLD.
Lowland Palace, Salem .
ALAS! my brother! My highly-favoured hut you now behold and the adjacent valleys, my soul's delight; where footsteps divine have oft been traced; and where immortal Majesty mortals has deigned to visit, and with worms conversed! The Shepherd's gone; the flocks and bells, are gone; the verdant vales are left! while I, reluctantly, must range the dreary, desert waste!
When love divine shall burn, and Heaven shall smile; and thou the Throne besiege, with supplications armed; equipped; remember me-while mine with thine shall mix.
So prays thy Brother, and thy faithful Friend.