Some Account of Sarah Clay. Arminian Magazine VI (1784): 528-530, 582-584, 641-643.
Some Account of SARAH CLAY, written by herself: in a Letter to the Rev. JOHN WESLEY.
IN the year 1739, I went one Sunday morning to Islington Church. There was a great stir among the people. I was very inquisitive to know the cause, and gave great attention; at last I heard them say, “One of the Wesleys is to preach.” When you went up into the pulpit I fixt my eyes on you, and thought you were more than man. Your text I have forgot; but you spoke so plain to the rich and great, that it delighted me. I went home and told my mother, I had heard a man at Islington Church that I would go ten miles to hear again. I felt myself strangely drawn after something,
but I could not tell what. The next Sunday I went again. Now I had nothing to do with others; for as Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. I found my soul greatly alarmed, so that I never omitted going to the Church till they turned you out. After I had lost you for some time, I grew very careless and indifferent again.
About this time I heard much talk of Mr. Whitefield; and one day seeing a great concourse of people going to Kennington Common to hear him; I thought I would go too. While Mr. Whitefield preached, you stood by his side, and when he had done you gave out this hymn,Angel of God whate’er betide, Thy summons I obey; I ever take thee for my guide. And walk in Thee my Way.
I found such a warmth come into my soul, that I thought I could have gone all over the world to hear you. I went home very much affected, and my soul was drawn out after the Lord. Now I began to search the Scriptures. Aforetime I never liked to read any but the historical part: all the Epistles I knew were written to believers; and I knew I was an unbeliever, and that, if I died as I was, must go to hell. For that text was brought to my mind, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.” I knew Christ was that stone, and that I was not broken; so I went up and down seeking rest but finding none. Wherever I went to hear, I was condemned. I felt the sinfulness of sin, and had a real desire to flee from the wrath to come. The 7th chapter to the Romans pointed out my state: I could have read it for ever. But I saw and felt, that if I had the sins of the whole world on my single soul, that would not keep me out of Christ if I could believe. Yet I could as well reach heaven with my hand as believe. The devil tempted me much,
telling me my day of grace was past, and that there was no mercy for me now, and therefore I knew not what to do.
One day as I was very sad, a person came to me in whom my heart had been greatly bound up. He said, “Sally, will you take a walk?” I was at a stand; for I had no mind to go any where. At last I consented. But before I went out, all on a sudden, there came such a peace into my soul, that I knew not where I was. My trouble was all gone. I stood like one confounded! Oh, how did I wish I had not been going out; but I thought I must go because I had promised. Accordingly I went; but all the day I did nothing but weep with a sense of the love of God. He was were with me said, “Sally, what makes you weep?” I said, “Not a sense of misery, but because I am happy.” I cannot express what the Lord gave me to tell all that day. By faith, I saw the Lord looking down upon me with complacency and love. Oh, I thought, if I could but hide myself under the earth before him! I now found that what was dear to me as a right hand, or a right eye, I had power to call them from me, with a resolution never to resume them again. Yet I could not say my sins were forgiven: I could not call Jesus, Lord, by the Holy Ghost.
AFTER the Foundry was taken, I came constantly to it, and could not rest night or day, till I had a clear sense of the pardoning love of God. One Sunday I went to St. Paul’s and sat down at the bottom of the isle; many of our people were there. I could compare myself to nothing but a dead dog before the Lord. When I came home I could neither eat nor drink; at night I went to the Foundry, and heard you preach on the 37th chapter of Ezekiel. When you came to those words, “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost, we are cut off for our parts.” I felt my soul as it were cut off from God,
and as if I was just dropping into hell; but as you repeated the 12th, 13th, and 14th verses, my soul was brought out of the grave of sin, and my feet set upon the Rock of Eternal Ages. Now I could say, Thou art my Lord and my God; and with St. Paul, Whether in the body or out of the body I could not tell. But if I had had a thousand lives, I could have laid them all down for the sake of Jesus. O what love had I now in my soul! I could have laid down my life for the worst sinner out of hell. I went home to my house justified. I was now exceeding happy. I walked upon the high places of the earth, and was fed with the heritage of Jacob my father! Before this, I had saved a little money; but now it all went; if I had had ever so much it would all have gone.
And now I thought I should see war no more, and that the work was done; but I soon found myself mistaken. Though I always retained a sense of the love of God, and never lost it from that time to this, the devil began to assault me, telling me it was all a delusion, and I was deceiving myself. And indeed I reasoned so much with him, that I was brought into great heaviness; but the Lord soon answered for himself, giving me the spirit of adoption, whereby I could continually cry, Abba, Father. And now I had put on Christ, I saw I must go and die with him; die to every thing here below, that I might rise with him, and sit with him in heavenly places.
But in a short time he began so to uncover my heart, that I saw there was nothing but pray or perish; for I felt pride, anger, and all the roots of bitterness to that degree, together with the temptations of the devil that I thought I should go out of my senses. I have been constrained to cry out on such occasions,What have I known since thee I knew, What trials hast thou brought me through,
584Hardly I yet can credit give; Surely my soul, ‘tis all a dream, Saved as by fire, if saved I seem, If still the life of grace I live. What have I felt, while from within, Full of the energy of sin, Horror to think, and death to tell; The prince of darkness ruled his hour, Suffered to shew forth all his power, And shake me o’er the mouth of hell.
But blessed be the Lord! he shewed me a fair prospect, by which I surmounted all my trouble.
Your preaching, Sir, was now greatly blessed to my soul, in building me up in my most holy Faith. And the Lord guided me by his blessed Spirit, and gave me a watchful heart. I was driven to many extremes, but the Lord kept me daily on the right side. I found such a hunger and thirst alter inward holiness, that it drank up my spirits. The Lord indeed gave me many of the bunches of grapes of the good land. I seldom came to the preaching, but I died away with the power of God: but still it was not the thing I desired. I wanted the bent of backsliding taken away. I wanted to love God with all my heart, and soul, and strength. I wanted my soul to be so united to God, as to become one spirit with him, and that nothing might stand between him and my soul, no not for a moment. For this I mourned in secret places; and one day as I was deeply mourning, the Lord Jesus shewed me the Father. I never knew the worth of Jesus as I did now: my soul was so let into the attributes of God, his love, his mercy, his holiness, his purity; but above all, his strict justice! And now I live every day as if it were my last; yet I thought I would live a thousand times more
strict if it were possible. O the love that I felt for the Lord Jesus. Now indeed I saw nothing would have done but that great atonement. For the space of three weeks, my very flesh seemed to crawl upon my bones, with the awfulness of God upon my soul. O how did I long to be lost in the fulness of his love. Indeed I was in sweet distress, I had none to speak to but God. But here I could not rest; I must go on; I had not got that which I had in view. I found no gift or grace could save me, but the Giver himself.\
I went on about three months after that, in close walking with God; and one day as I was at home at work, longing and looking for !that great salvation, all my natural strength was taken away from me; indeed I was brought to nothing. But, O Sir, where shall I begin, or what shall I say All words must fail: I mull be silent before the Lord. My soul was brought so nigh to God the Father, and so united to him, I could only say, It is finished. He has finished the transgression and made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. All the day I could do nothing but say to every one, God is Love, and whosoever dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. My soul was brought into the inner-court; it entered as it were within the vail. Now I knew what that meaneth, “I have written unto you fathers, because you know him that was from the beginning.” Now I knew indeed that my soul had cast anchor. I found that rest of lasting Joy and Peace, where all is calm within; I knew all was quietness and assurance for ever. I found the Lord did take away all my unbelief, all my bent to backsliding: I found it as natural to pray as it was to breathe.
This was about two years after I was justified: from that time I have found, that whatever comes from any quarter, whether from men or devils, it is always broad-day between God and my soul. At present, I find nothing stands between, no not for a moment; but still I am a beggar continually, and I must receive out of his bounty, grace upon grace. Methinks
I have yet every thing to learn, and I feel my soul every moment in the school of Christ, waiting to know, and do his will more perfectly. The Lord is continually opening fresh scenes of glory to my soul. I know that while I am in the body, he will enlarge my soul, and fill it with his fulness, and when I have done receiving, I shall cease to be.
I blessed the Lord from the first time I heard you and your Brother. I knew you were the true Ministers of Jesus Christ; and I never had a desire to hear any other but those in connection with you. I feel a love stronger than death to you all, for your work sake. I hope, Sir, you will not cease to pray for, your dutiful daughter,