The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Seventeenth.
Shepherd. Here comes the faithful Steward., one of the excellent of the earth, in whom is all my delight!
Steward. You have a much better opinion of me than I have of myself. If you knew as much of the Steward. as I do, you would change your voice, and often stand in doubt of him. I have been five times to visit the hut in your absence. Pray, what sort of a time have you had upon the commons? By the note that you left me, you went off with a heavy heart.
Shepherd. Indeed, I did. But these words came sweetly to my mind, and sent me off in good spirits-" Feed the flock which is among you, taking the oversight of them, not by constraint, but willingly," 1 Pet. v. 2. And I found the good Shepherd better to me than all my fears; for I expected nothing but labour and toil, and that the commons would have been so barren, that the sheep would have been scattered all over the country, whereas I never saw the sheep-walks better stored. The herbage is always very scarce there; but then, if the good Shepherd blesses it with dew, Hos. xiv. 5, and showers, the sheep are always satisfied, whether the pasture be much or little; and this they convince me of by their abiding on the walks, without shewing the least inclination to stray.
Steward. When servants can give satisfaction, it makes the yoke of servitude sit easy, whether it be on the Shepherd or on the Steward.
Shepherd. It does: and I have been convinced that the good Shepherd is not confined either to this hut, or to any other place; but he has confined himself to his flock, and his faithful servants. Pray, have you paid your constant visits to Little Faith!
Steward. Yes, I have visited him every day, or every other day, as opportunity offered, ever since you left the hut.
Shepherd. Pray, how does he do? Is he in "the injured lover's hell," yet?
Steward. No; nor do I believe that he will ever be put into that furnace again: he may go into another fire, but never more into that; for, when once a child has been burnt, he will ever after dread the fire; and he will be sure to defend himself from that quarter by all the force of prayer; and you know, all things are possible to them that believe, and Little Faith is a believer.
Shepherd. Nobody doubts that; and glad am I at my heart that the poor soul is delivered from those bands and nets. But, pray how goes the renewing work of grace on? Is his soul restored to the joys of divine salvation? And is he blessed with a free Spirit? for that will effectually cure creature-love, and all love sickness, at once.
Steward. He continued in the same state as he was when you left the hut, for about a month, in much meekness, contrition, and godly sorrow; and, at intervals, his past folly returned, with some degree of weight, on his mind: at which seasons self-loathing, self-abhorrence, and humble confessions, employed both his mind and his tongue. But, when these clouds were dispersed, unfeigned gratitude, grateful acknowledgments, thanksgivings, expressions of the warmest love, applauding the works and ways, admiring the conduct, and celebrating the high praises of the King, were his momentary employ throughout the noisy hours of the day and the silent watches of the night. Deborah told me, that she never saw such evident tokens of divine contrition, nor ever heard such pathetic language drop from the lips of mortals. She had privately listened to him, till she could not persuade herself but she was on the frontiers of the celestial regions; and transported, either with the mental eloquence of the disembodied spirits, or with the assembled myriads of cherubic worshippers.
Shepherd. It is often seen that; where the King uses much fatherly severity, there he exercises superabounding pity; and, where his displeasure waxes the hottest, there it abates the soonest. "His anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning," Psalm, xxx. 5. Pray, does he ever mention any desire to see his wife?
Steward. Never; nor can he endure her name to be mentioned The stripes which he has felt for his folly will leave a lasting impression upon him; and, when he is effectually humbled by evangelical repentance, and renewed in the spirit of his mind, his whole soul will cleave to the first Cause and last End: nor could Little Faith ever have been so easily ensnared as he was, if he had kept up communion, and walked humbly, with the higher Powers.
Shepherd. Pray, how is his bodily health?
Steward. He appears to be in a very weak and low way.
Shepherd. Pray, does his wife visit him?
Steward. Perpetually; and has been as much overwhelmed with a spirit of jealousy, and as much provoked by Deborah, Little Faith's nurse, as ever he was by Doeg, the Edomite. Excuse me, my dear brother, for I promised to be, this afternoon, at the foot of Tabor. The Heavens protect thee! In a few days I will call on thee again.
Shepherd. You know, now, where to find me any day.
Steward. Yea, and I am thankful that I do; for heart-felt union and communion are not known by every one that bears the name of Shepherd and Steward. in the world. May the perfect bond of them ever subsist between us! Farewell.
Shepherd. Amen. Fare you well.