The History of Little Faith
Dialogue the Eighteenth.
Shepherd. Good morning to you, my friend! You look a little like a person in high trust now: you have got your keys in your hand, I see.
Steward. They are not always perceptible, either to me or to you; though I believe I am never without them: but the virtue and power lie with HIM who entrusted me with them. I ran away in a great hurry, for I have good news to tell thee; therefore I hardly took notice of what was in my hand.
Shepherd. Pray, how does Little Faith do? Is he delivered?
Steward. Indeed he is; and such a deliverance I never saw before: he has been led into a strange wilderness of woe and sorrow, and is now returned in the power of the Spirit.
Shepherd. Pray, how was his deliverance wrought?
Steward. He told me, that the King had manifested himself to him as a propitious Father; that he was pacified toward him, and reconciled to him; and, to assure him of it, he had given him such a sense of his everlasting love as he could scarcely sustain: yea, he made a visible appearance to his renewed mind; the eye of his faith really saw him, and the glory of him, and he told Little Faith, that he never more would be wroth with him, nor rebuke him.
Shepherd. What encouragement is this for the weakest in credence to trust in the unparalleled clemency of the best of sovereigns! Pray, has Mara been to see him?
Steward. Yes, continually; and she came while I was there; and Deborah told me, that she had frequently insisted upon going into Little Faith's room, but that she had kept the stair-foot door constantly locked, and would not admit her; for which Mara had given her some very abusive language. And, as she happened to come while I was there, I told Little Faith of it, of her frequent visits, and of her abusing Deborah for refusing her admittance; and that I would advise him to see her, if he thought the sight of her would not flurry him. He replied, "I have no objection to seeing her; for I am sure that neither her presence, nor death itself, will either flurry or move me; the King, in his great goodness, hath made my hill so strong."
Shepherd. And did you introduce her to him while you was there?
Steward. Yes: and when she came to the door, she bade me withdraw; which Little Faith heard, and desired me not to leave the room. She ran up to him, fell upon his neck, and kissed him. He looked up at her with a smile, and said, "Friend, wherefore art thou come? Betrayest thou Little Faith with a kiss?" O how she did look! She trembled, and would have dropped, if I had not put a chair under her! The most rebellious Israelite never was more abashed at the rays of Moses's face, nor the unrighteous council at the face of St. Stephen, than she was at the heavenly countenance of Little Faith.
Shepherd. "The wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." If the work of a gracious God upon a fellow-worm be so terrible to a guilty sinner, what must the wrath of an angry Judge be?
Steward. A perfect knowledge of that is not attainable in this life; it must be learnt beyond the grave.
Shepherd. Pray, what conversation had Little Faith with his wife?
Steward. Such a meeting I never saw! After she had recovered herself a little, she begged forgiveness of all that she had done amiss. He told her, that he was not in the least offended with her; nor had he, now, any cause so to be: she had been a terrible weapon in the hand of a just GOD to mortify and humble him, who will be gracious to his own elect; but he will take vengeance of their inventions: and then "arise, disappoint the ungodly, and cast them down; and deliver the souls of his saints from the wicked, which are God's sword," Psalm, xvii. 13. He added, "It was inordinate affection, and nothing else, that induced me to marry you: but it was your religious mask of profound deception, which I mistook for the King's image, that first entangled my affections; which, in time, rendered me blind to all your hypocrisy, and deaf to all wholesome counsel and caution. My folly being compounded with the sin of ignorance, I have obtained mercy through the great propitiatory Sacrifice; but where shall such deceivers, such presumptuous sinners as you, find a sacrifice for sin?"
Shepherd. "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites." Well may they cry-" Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Isa. xxxiii. 14, for an obstinate sinner, or an arch hypocrite in ZION, is the blackest character drawn or recorded in the eternal annals.
Steward. The case of such deceivers is singularly desperate, and their state perilous; for they are used by the devil as machines, in and by whom he beguiles and deceives the weak and simple of the King's Seed. And so Little Faith told his wife; and that, from the first, she could intend nothing but evil against him, though God meant it unto good, Gen. 1. 20. And, though he had repented in dust and ashes for his folly, yet he was raised up to admire the wisdom and goodness of God in his happy deliverance; a blessing unmerited by him. She then begged it as a favour, that he would go to prayer with her. He replied, "I cannot, you have so quenched the Spirit of prayer in me, that I could not up a petition in faith for you, might I gain heaven by so doing: for, 'There is,' says God, 'a sin unto death; I do not say he shall pray for it.' Nor will the Almighty ever permit me to indulge one affection, even of nature, or of grace, for you again, either in this world or in the next. Discriminating love hath made such a breach in time, as will end in an everlasting separation between you and me." At this she fell into fits, and continued in them for three hours. She was afterwards carried home, and watched with all night. The next day she appeared raving mad: and the third day died, with such oaths and imprecations in her mouth, as could be dictated by none but him who desired to have Peter, that he might sift him as wheat.
Shepherd. "Is not destruction to the wicked, and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?" Job, xxxi. 3. I suppose Little Faith knows nothing of her awful departure; and, I think, it is better not to inform him of it, lest the surprise should hurt him, as he is so very weak.
Steward. He knows it all; the report came to Tabor while I was there. Deborah came up into the room, and beckoned with her hand for me to come out into the passage; and, while we were whispering together, whether we should tell him of it or not, he cried out, "You need not whisper about it; I knew the whole of the matter before either of you heard of it." I said, "Do you know that Mara is dead?" He replied, "Yes." I asked if he knew how she died? He told me, "Yes; she died mad: she departed on Wednesday morning," said he," at nine o'clock."
Shepherd. And did he seem at all concerned at it?
Steward. Not in the least: he was as becalmed and composed in mind as if nothing had happened: he enjoys uninterrupted peace and quietude; nothing seems to move him.
Shepherd. Did you ask him how he knew of her departure?
Steward. I did; and he told me, flint it was revealed to him in a dream. He saw her lying on a bed, raving mad, and belching out perpetual blasphemies against God. "There were three men (who were a part of our wedding-guests) holding her down on the bed: but she seemed to be too strong for them all, and was likely to get out of their hands; and would have done, had not the nurse got up behind her, pulled her head back, and held it fast in her lap. The nurse had no sooner clasped both her hands under her chin, and fixed her head beneath her knees, than I saw her soul breathed forth from between her teeth. And what surprised me was, that the officer, Matt. v. 25, did not stand at her right hand, Psalm, clx. 6, expecting the prey, Isa. xlix. 24, as soon as the impulsive sentence came. Nor did the devouring lion, 1 Peter, v. 8, like a constant watch, appear, in order to make a violent seizure of the soul as soon as it should pass through the door of her lips, Psalm, cxli. 3, as is generally the case: but he came forth with the soul; the ghost was in his arms, for Providence was fled, Hos. ix. 12, and the officer had obtained a full possession of body and soul three days before." I then asked him, whether he saw them afterward? He said he did. He saw the officer fly as quick as thought, with the ghost in his arms, through the airy regions, even to the gates of Paradise. "The spirit returned unto God who gave it," Eccl. xii. 7, but found no admittance there. "I looked till a gloomy canopy divided, and instantly all was light: and, behold! an awful scene was exhibited; for the Judge appeared on a throne like a fiery flame, Dan. vii. 9. Over his head was a crown suspended under the portals, just as I had seen it in a dream before. On each side of the Judge stood a cherubim. Millions of the bright inhabitants attended behind the throne, but came not without the gates. In the hand of the Judge was a flaming sword, with two edges; and I heard a voice more terrible, more loud, than thunder, saying, 'DEPART!' and a flame, as quick as lightning, shot forth, and attended the awful denunciation; which, like a stream of brimstone, kindled, Isa. xxx. 33, in the affrighted ghost. The flaming scene vanished, and all was closed; when, lo! a thick darkness succeeded, and a pillar of smoke belched forth from the dismal gloom. Away went the ghost, all on fire, like a flaming torch, and shot down through the dimensionless, boundless, bottomless regions: while the flame burnt in it, and fury smoked after it, to the lowest hell, Deut. xxxii. 22; when, behold! all on a sudden, a tremendous gulf opened; millions appeared within the expanded vault, and horrid shrieks issued and resounded from the dismal cavern. In went the ghost, the gulf was closed, and all was silent; and I heard a voice saying, These are the spirits in prison, 1 Pet. i. 19. And immediately this text occurred to my mind, And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and, after many days, shall they be visited, Isa. xxiv. 22. And an awful visit it will be, when they are brought forth to the day of wrath" Job. xxi. 30.
Shepherd. O dreadful state. "All darkness is hid in their secret places; 'a fire not blown consumes them,' Job. xx. 26; while 'brimstone shall be scattered upon their habitation,' Job, xviii. 15. 'Surely such are the DWELLINGS of the wicked, and this is the PLACE of HIM that KNOWETH NOT GOD,'" Job, xviii. 21. Pray, was not Little Faith terrified at the sight?
Steward. He told me that he was not. He said, he beheld it with astonishment; but was so filled with unutterable gratitude to God for his grace to him, that his admiration of mercy counterbalanced his astonishment at wrath; so that his mind was kept composed, and in a sweet frame, throughout the whole scene: and, when he awoke, he said, that he found his pillow wet with tears.
Shepherd. Pray, how is Little Faith in bodily health? Does he appear to mend at all?
Steward. He is very weak, indeed. He says, he never expects. nor does he in the least desire, to be restored, but had much rather depart: however, he is afraid to indulge, much less mention a wish, either one way or the other, for fear of offending; for his Royal Father has made his heart so soft, and brought his spirit into such tender love with himself, that even a thought counter to the sovereign will of his King is no less to him than a breach in the spirit, Prov. xv. 4.
Shepherd. A tender conscience, armed with filial fear and unfeigned faith, and furnished with a divine testimony is a blessing peculiar to the King's Seed. "The brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this," Psalm, xcii. 6; for heart-work always was enthusiasm to a bond-child. "I will work a work in your days," saith the King, "a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you," Acts, xiii. 41. They cannot believe the testimony of heart-work, for want of a divine work on their own heart.
Steward. I must take my leave of my dear friend, in order to get in provisions for the Household, as I intend to be at Tabor again to-morrow, if possible.
Shepherd. I wish thee a pleasant journey; and blessed with the Well-spring of life in thy heart, and the law of kindness in thy tongue, that thou mayest strengthen Little Faith upon the bed of languishing. Tender my kind love to him.
Steward. I will; and let us both have an interest in your prayers, the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Adieu.