The Exceeding Greatness of the Power of God in the Soul of Sarah Wight - 1
About the year 1643, and since, there lived in London one Sarah Wight, daughter to one Thomas Wight, some time of the Auditors' Office, and of the Exchequer Office, who was the son of Mr. Wight, some time minister of Daintry. Her mother was Mrs. Mary Wight, widow, who lived in Lawrence-Poultney Lane, by Canning-Street, London, whose father was Edward Persel, Esq., of Ansloo, near Shrewsbury. Her former husband was Edward Vaughan, Esq., the King's Receiver and Surveyor for Northampton and Rutland shires, by whom she had Mr. Jonathan Vaughan, some time of All Soul's, Oxford.
This Mrs. Mary Wight fell into some deep affliction of spirit, and was vexed with sundry temptations; at which time, this, her daughter Sarah was piously educated by her grandmother, Mrs. Wight, of Daintry. And when it pleased God to speak peace to her mother's soul, and to dispel her darkness, she took home her daughter Sarah, who was now about nine years old, and employed her much in reading the Holy Scriptures; and though, for the present, she understood little of them, yet, afterwards, they proved of singular use to her, as will appear by what ensued.
This Sarah, from her childhood, was of a tender heart, and oft afflicted in spirit; yet her temptations were not very great till she was about twelve years old; after which they continued with more violence till April the 6th, 1647 (it being about four years). The beginning of her temptations was on this account:—The mother bade her do a small thing which she judged to be lawful and meet. The daughter did it doubtingly, fearing that it was unlawful; whereupon a great trembling fell upon her, both in her hands and body, being self-condemned. Also, about a month after, being abroad, she lost her hood. At her return, her mother asked her for it. She suddenly said that her grandmother had it. Satan, taking advantage of it, presently suggested to her that she was both a thief and a liar, which sins would shut her out of heaven; and that there was no remedy; but that she must be damned.
During these four years, she was oft in great extremity, and could not apprehend anything to be her portion but hell and wrath. At other times, she was tempted to believe that there was neither heaven nor hell, but what was in her own conscience; and, therefore, if she could but dispatch herself out of this life, there would be an end of all her sorrows. And hereupon she oft attempted to destroy herself by drowning, by stabbing, by strangling, by beating out her own brains, and so bruised and wounded herself as occasioned much weakness and many distempers for a long time after. But the Lord, in mercy, prevented her destruction; sometimes by one or other that came in time to hinder her from accomplishing it; sometimes stopping her in the very instant, nobody being near; sometimes by bringing to her mind such opposite texts of Scripture as laid a restraint upon her, and prevented the intended mischief: Many able ministers and many private Christians came to her, being acquainted with her sad condition, and tried all that they could to comfort her; and she would gladly have received comfort, but, as yet, it was hid from her eyes; and if, at any time, any glimmering of light appeared, it was soon eclipsed again. And thus she continued in grievous horror, both day and night, concluding that she was a castaway, a reprobate, walking continually in the midst of fire and brimstone, as one already in hell.
About a month before her deliverance, Satan's time of tormenting her being but short, her storms and tumults were greatest of all. She was so grievously hurried with temptations, and so terrified thereby, that she could find no rest for many days and nights together.
Whilst she was able to go abroad, her mother used to take her with her to church on the Lord's Days and lecture days. One lecture day, she was gone out before her mother, who, missing her, went to church; but, not finding her there, she immediately went and sent towards the Thames, to seek her; where, indeed, she had been with a purpose to have cast herself into the river, but was stayed by the power and goodness of God. Being found, she went with her mother to the lecture. In the sermon, something was spoken concerning God grafting the Jews into their olive again; after which, she said that she would not, for all the world, have missed hearing that sermon; and being asked why, she answered, "Because God will show mercy to the Jews; and they are the basest people on earth, and hate the very name of Christian, and much more Christ himself; and yet God will call them." This supported her at that time; but it stayed not with her; for she was again assaulted with horrible temptations to believe that there was no God, no heaven, and no hell but what she felt within herself.
One day, being violently assaulted with the temptation to believe that there was no hell but here in her conscience, and having a little white earthen cup in her hand, (as Mrs. Honywood dealt with the Venice glass,) she said that she was as sure to be damned as that was to break, and therewithal threw it from her to break it; but it broke not. Again she said, "As sure as this cup will break, there is no hell," and threw it more violently against the farther side of the chamber; and yet it broke not. Her mother took it up, and said, "See, child, it is not broken." She got it again, and said and did the like four or five times; only the fifth time a little snip broke out. After her recovery, she still desired to drink out of' that cup, to remind her of God's goodness to her in her despairing fits.
She often turned to Job iii. and Jer. xx. 14, where Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth. "Job," said she, "cursed the day of his birth, saying, Wherefore hast thou brought me forth of the womb? O that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me?' and Jeremiah cursed the man that brought tidings of his birth with bitter curses, because his mother's womb was not his grave; and said, 'Wherefore came I out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?' But," said she, "have not I much more cause to say so? for they were in a blessed condition; but I am cursed, and must be a firebrand of hell for ever." These, and many such like desperate expressions, she frequently used, but especially in the last month of her sorrows; at which time they increased daily upon her; so that she was weary of life, of herself, and of everything; she was, as it were, shattered all to pieces. Her tender mother watched her day and night, to prevent her from destroying herself, yet still hoping that the Lord, in his du& time, would come in with comfort; and when this extremity had continued long, and that her mother was even tired out with continual watchings, she spoke to a friend, desiring that her daughter might, for a little time, be with her, which she willingly assented
to; but the Lord, in his mercy, prevented it; for, when her friend Cane for her, she was taken with such an exceeding trembling and weakness, that she was not able to go with her. Hereupon, her mother procured a good maid to help to look to her, who, at her coming, found her weeping most bitterly, and wringing her hands, saying, " I am a reprobate, a castaway. I never had a good thought in all my life. I have been under the power of sin ever since I can remember, even when I was but a child." This night was the darkest of all, when the joyful day of deliverance was nearest at hand; and as, about four years ago, in the beginning of her deep troubles and despair, she fell into a great trembling, so did she now again; and, weeping and wringing her hands, she said, "My earthly tabernacle is broken all to pieces; and what will the Lord do with me? If I should hang on gibbets, if I should be cut to pieces, if I should die the cruellest death that ever any did, I have deserved it, and would still justify God, yea, though he should cast me into hell." At this time, her hands and her feet were so clutched that she could not stand. She was also tempted to blaspheme God and die; and, when she was urged to speak, her tongue was so smitten that, for the time, she could not. A while after, being laid down, she said to her mother, "I will lie still, and hear what God will say to me. He will speak peace. If God will speak a word of peace at the last moment, I would be contented."
She lay still, as in a trance, from Tuesday, April the 6th, till the Saturday night after; only, now and then, she called for a little water; but took no other sustenance during all that period.
On Saturday night, April 10th, 1647, about midnight, she began to use the first expressions of comfort, even now, when all human help failed, and when all former means could not give it, yea, when she was made utterly incapable of receiving it that way; for now she was stricken both blind and deaf, her eyes being fast closed up. Her first speeches were, "My soul thirsts for the water of life; and I shall have it." This, in the ardency of her spirit, she repeated four times. She then called for a little water, whereof she drank three or four small cups; after which, she sat up, and, with a lowly, cheerful countenance, and with much brokenness of heart, tears trickling down her cheeks, she spoke with a low voice, and said, "Ah! that Jesus should come from the bosom of his Father, and take the nature of man upon him, and come in such a low estate, and lie in a manger. There are three sorts of people in the world, a higher, a middle, and a lower sort. Christ came to the lowest sort. He lay in a manger in a contemptible place. Do you not see an excellency in Him who came here to die for, even for sinners, yea, for the greatest sinners, for the chiefest sinners? A dying Christ for a denying Peter!" This she repeated three times. "Peter denied him; and yet he died for him. Go and tell Peter. Ah! Peter' - Here she paused and admired. " For a Peter, for a Mary Magdalene, for a thief on the cross, that none should despair. A crucified Christ for a crucified thief; a crucified Christ for a crucified thief! A persecuting Saul becomes a beloved Paul. For the chiefest sinners! not the proud pharisee, but the poor publican. And this is faith, to believe a full Christ to a nothing creature, to me, the chiefest of sinners. Yet I obtained mercy. Christ came not to find faith, but to give faith. Christ came to me when I was in unbelief. There is a fountain opened for Judah and Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness; a fountain, not streams, but an open fountain. It is open for Judah. Judah had played the harlot; yet God said to Judah, 'Return, though thou hast played the harlot with many lovers: return; for I am married unto thee.' For Judah and for Jerusalem! And what was Jerusalem? Her skirts were full of blood; her streets were full of blood. Yet the fountain is open for Judah and Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness, for all sins, for the greatest sins, for the chiefest sins and sinners. Who is this fountain? Jesus Christ; he is this fountain, a filling fountain, and never dry. Who is a God like unto thee? Pardoning sin, all sin, past, present, and to come; and not only pardoning sin, but passing by the transgressions of his heritage; passing by daily sins and frailties, he retains not his anger for ever; he is slow to wrath, but delights in mercy; he is slow to nothing but to wrath, but he is swift to mercy; his wrath is but a little; with everlasting kindness will he show mercy; and his mercy and his kindness are for ever. Christ was first crucified before he was glorified. Before you receive a Christ glorified, you must receive a Christ crucified."
With such and like gracious expressions, she continued till April the 10th, and then ceased, and lay, continuing blind and deaf, till April the 17th; and from April the 10th to April the 13th, she did neither speak nor eat, nor drink anything but the water aforementioned. Her mother laying her hand upon her, she said, "Why do you hinder my communion with God?"
On Tuesday, April the 13th, starting up suddenly, she said, "The devil fights with me as he did with Michael and his angels; but the angel shall prevail; the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath overcome him; the accuser of the brethren is cast out. Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil; he took our nature upon him that he might be a partaker of our sufferings. Come, Lord Jesus, come! But why do I say, Come?' He is come; he hath dispossessed the strong man, and hath taken possession of my soul, and will dwell with me for ever. Flow near are the saints to Christ! they are his jewels; nay, they are the signet on his right hand, and the seal of his heart; they lie in his bosom." Laying her hand upon her breast, she said, "That which I most admire is, that Christ took our nature. Men and angels admire it, yea, and devils too, if they can. When the Lord doth any great thing, he puts his I to it: I, even I, am he;' I will make a new covenant;" 'I will write my laws in their hearts;' 'I will pardon your sins; 'I change not.' Ah, what a foolish creature was I! I could not endure to hear any one speak of the devil; and I was as bad as he in distrusting the God who died for me. O that the world knew Jesus Christ! sure they would not distrust him, they would not despite nor persecute him. Christ taught Simon how to bear the cross; and he bore it first himself. He drank of the cup which his Father gave him to drink; he drank the dregs, the very dregs of it; yet had he no sin. And shall we think much to drink of it, when he drank of it before us? O love him, love him!"