Abigail Saved

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
~ 2 Peter 2:3

O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.
~ Psalm 94:1

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.
~ Nahum 1:2

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
~ Romans 13:4

Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.
~ Jeremiah 6:21

Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
~ Isaiah 30:12-13

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
~ Luke 18:7-8

For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
~ 2 Corinthians 6:2

The Instance of Abigail Hutchinson – Now Deceased, by Jonathan Edwards. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “Narrative of Surprising Conversions”. 1736.

But to give a clearer idea of the nature and manner of the operations of God’s Spirit, in this wonderful effusion of it, I would give an account of two particular instances. The first is an adult person, a young woman whose name was Abigail Hutchinson. I focus on her especially, because she is now dead; and so it may be more fitting to speak freely of her than of living instances. However, I am under far greater disadvantages on other accounts, to give a full and clear narrative of her experiences than I might of some others. Nor can any account be given except what has been retained in the memories of her near friends and some others, of what they heard her express during her lifetime.

She was from a rational, understanding family. There could be nothing in her education that tended to enthusiasm, but rather to the contrary extreme. It is in no way the temper of the family to be ostentatious about their experiences, and it was far from being her temper. Before her conversion, as her neighbors observed, she was of a sober and inoffensive conduct, and was a still, quiet, and reserved person. She had long been infirm of body; but her infirmity had never been observed to incline her at all to be speculative or fanciful, or to produce anything of religious melancholy. She was under awakenings scarcely a week, before there seemed to be plain evidence of her being savingly converted.

She was first awakened in the winter season, on Monday, by something she heard her brother say about the necessity of being in good earnest in seeking regenerating grace, together with the news of the conversion of the young woman mentioned before, whose conversion so generally affected most of the young people here. This news worked much upon her, and stirred up a spirit of envy in her towards this young woman whom she thought very unworthy of being distinguished from others by such a mercy. But with that, it engaged her in a firm resolution to do her utmost to obtain the same blessing. And considering with herself what course she should take, she thought that she didn’t have a sufficient knowledge of the principles of religion to render her capable of conversion. Thereupon, she resolved to thoroughly search the Scriptures, and accordingly, she immediately began at the beginning of the Bible, intending to read it through. She continued this way till Thursday. And then there was a sudden alteration caused by a great increase of her concern, and an extraordinary sense of her own sinfulness — particularly the sinfulness of her nature, and the wickedness of her heart. This came upon her (as she expressed it) like a flash of lightning, and struck her into an exceeding terror. Upon which she set aside reading the Bible in the course she had begun, and turned to the New Testament, to see if she couldn’t find some relief there for her distressed soul.

Her great terror, she said, was that she had sinned against God. Her distress grew more and more for three days, until (as she said) she saw nothing but blackness of darkness before her, and her very flesh trembled for fear of God’s wrath. She wondered and was astonished at herself, that she had been so concerned for her body, and had applied so often to physicians to heal that, and yet had neglected her soul. Her sinfulness appeared with a very awful aspect to her, especially in three things: namely, her original sin; her sin in murmuring at God’s providence in the weakness and afflictions that she had been under; and in her lack of duty toward her parents, though others looked at her as excelling in dutifulness. On Saturday, she was so earnestly engaged in reading the Bible and other books, that she continued in it — searching for something to relieve her — till her eyes were so dim that she couldn’t read the letters. While she was thus engaged in reading, prayer, and other religious exercises, she thought of those words of Christ, in which he wants us not to be like the heathen, who think they will be heard for their speaking so much. This, she said, led her to see that she had trusted to her own prayers and religious performances. Now she was confounded, and didn’t know which way to turn, or where to seek relief.

While her mind was in this posture, her heart, she said, seemed to fly to the minister for refuge, hoping that he could give her some relief. She came the same day, to her brother, with the countenance of a person in distress, arguing with him as to why he hadn’t told her more about her sinfulness, and earnestly inquiring of him, what she should do. She seemed, that day, to feel in herself at enmity against the Bible, which greatly frightened her. Her sense of her own exceeding sinfulness continued increasing from Thursday till Monday. She gave this account of it: that it had been an opinion which she had entertained till now, that she was not guilty of Adam’s sin, nor in any way concerned in it, because she was not active in it. But now she saw that she was guilty of that sin, and completely defiled by it, and that the sin which she brought into the world with her, was sufficient by itself to condemn her.

On the Sabbath day, she was so ill that her friends thought it best that she not go to public worship, which she seemed very desirous to do. But when she went to bed on the Sabbath day night, she resolved that the next morning, she would go to the minister, hoping to find some relief there. As she awaked on Monday morning a little before daylight, she wondered within herself at the easiness and calmness she felt in her mind. It was of a kind that she never felt before. As she thought about this, words such as these were in her mind: the words of the Lord are pure words (Psa 12.6), health to the soul, and marrow to the bones (Pro 16.24). And then these words came to her mind: the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin (1Joh 1.7). These were accompanied with a lively sense of the excellency of Christ, and of His sufficiency to satisfy for the sins of the whole world. She then thought of that expression — it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun (Ecc 11.7). These words then seemed to her to be very applicable to Jesus Christ. By these things, her mind was led into such contemplations and views of Christ, that they filled her exceedingly full of joy. She told her brother in the morning that she had seen Christ last night (i.e., in realizing views of Him by faith), and that she really thought she didn’t have knowledge enough to be converted. But, she said, God can make it quite easy! On Monday she felt all day long a constant sweetness in her soul. She had a repetition of the same discoveries of Christ three mornings in a row, that she had on Monday morning, and in much the same manner — each time waking a little before daylight, but brighter and brighter every time.

The last time, on Wednesday morning, while in the enjoyment of a spiritual view of Christ’s glory and fulness, her soul was filled with distress for Christless people, to consider what a miserable condition they were in. She felt in herself a strong inclination to immediately go out to warn sinners, and the next day she proposed to her brother that he assist her in going from house to house. But her brother restrained her, telling her about the unsuitableness of such a method. She told one of her sisters that day, that she loved all mankind, but especially the people of God. Her sister asked her, Why do you love all mankind? She replied, Because God had made them. After this, there happened to come into the shop where she was at work, three people who were thought to have been recently converted. Her seeing them as they stepped in one after another through the doorway, so affected her, and so drew out her love for them, that it overcame her, and she almost fainted. And when they began to talk about the things of religion, it was more than she could bear — they were obliged to cease on that account. It was a very frequent thing with her to be overcome with a flow of affection towards those she thought godly, in conversation with them, and sometimes only at the sight of them.

She had many extraordinary revelations of the glory of God and Christ — sometimes in some particular attributes, and sometimes in many. She gave an account that once, as those four words passed through her mind — WISDOM, JUSTICE, GOODNESS, and TRUTH — her soul was filled with a sense of the glory of each of these divine attributes, but especially the last — Truth, she said, sunk the deepest! And therefore, as these words passed, this was repeated, TRUTH, TRUTH! Her mind was so swallowed up with a sense of the glory of God’s truth and other perfections, that she said it seemed as though her life was going, that she saw it was easy with God to take her life away by revelations of Himself. Soon after this, she went to a private religious meeting; her mind was full of a sense and view of the glory of God all the time. And when the exercise was ended, some asked her concerning what she experienced. She began to give them an account, but as she was relating it, it revived such a sense of the same things, that her strength failed, and they were obliged to take her and lay her on the bed. Afterwards she was greatly affected, and rejoiced with these words: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.

She had for several days in a row, a sweet sense of the excellency and loveliness of Christ in his meekness, which disposed her to continually repeat these words, which were sweet to her, MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART, MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART. She once expressed herself to one of her sisters to this purpose: that she had continued whole days and whole nights, in a constant ravishing view of the glory of God and Christ, having enjoyed as much as her life could bear. Once, as her brother was speaking of the dying love of Christ, she told him that she had such a sense of it, that the mere mention of it was ready to overcome her.

Once, when she came to me, she told me how at such and such a time, she thought she saw as much of God, and had as much joy and pleasure as was possible in this life. And yet afterwards God revealed himself still far more abundantly. She saw the same things that she had seen before, yet more clearly, and in another and far more excellent and delightful manner, and was filled with a more exceeding sweetness. She likewise gave me such an account of the sense she once had from day to day of the glory of Christ, and of God in his various attributes, that it seemed to me she dwelt for days together in a kind of beatific vision of God, and seemed to have, I thought, as immediate an intercourse with Him as a child does with a father. And at the same time, she appeared most remote from any high thought of herself, and of her own sufficiency, but was like a little child. She expressed a great desire to be instructed, telling me that she longed very often to come to me for instruction, and wanted to live at my house, that I might tell her, her duty.

She often expressed a sense of the glory of God appearing in the trees and growth of the fields, and in other works of God’s hands. She told her sister who lived near the heart of the town, that she once thought it a pleasant thing to live in the middle of the town. But now, she said, I think it much more pleasant to sit and see the wind blowing the trees, and to behold in the country what God has made. She sometimes had the powerful breathings of the Spirit of God on her soul, while reading the Scripture; and she would express a sense that she had of the certain truth and divinity of it. She would sometimes appear with a pleasant smile on her countenance; once, when her sister took notice of it and asked why she smiled, she replied, I am brimful of a sweet feeling within! She often used to express how good and sweet it was to lie low before God; And the lower, she said, the better! She said it was pleasant to think of lying in the dust all the days of her life, mourning for sin. She was prone to manifest a great sense of her own lowliness and dependence. She often expressed an exceeding compassion, and pitiful love, which she found in her heart towards people in a Christless condition. This was sometimes so strong that, as she was passing by such people in the streets, or those whom she feared were such, she would be overcome by the sight of them. She once said that she longed to have the whole world saved — she wanted, as it were, to pull them all to her — she couldn’t bear to have one lost.

She had great longings to die, so that she might be with Christ. This increased till she thought she didn’t know how to be patient to wait till God’s time should come. But once, when she felt those longings, she thought to herself, If I long to die, why do I go to physicians? — from this she concluded that her longings for death were not well-regulated. After this, she often put it to herself, which one she would choose, whether to live or die, to be sick or well, and she found that she couldn’t tell, till at last she found herself disposed to say these words: I am quite willing to live, and quite willing to die; quite willing to be sick, and quite willing to be well; quite willing for anything that God brings upon me! Then she said, I felt myself perfectly easy in full submission to the will of God. She then greatly lamented that she had been so eager in her longings for death, because it argued for a lack of such a resignation to God as there ought to be. She seemed from then on to continue in this resigned frame till death.

After this, her illness increased upon her. Once, after she had spent the greater part of the night before in extreme pain, she awakened out of a little sleep with these words in her heart and mouth. — I am willing to suffer for Christ’s sake. — I am willing to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake. — I am willing to spend my life, even my very life for Christ’s sake! And though she had an extraordinary resignation with respect to life or death, yet thoughts of dying were exceeding sweet to her. At a time when her brother was reading in Job, concerning worms feeding on the dead body, she appeared with a pleasant smile,. Being asked about it, she said it was sweet to her to think of her being in such circumstances. At another time, when her brother mentioned to her the danger there seemed to be that the illness she then labored under, might be the occasion of her death, it filled her with joy that almost overcame her. At another time, when she met a company following a corpse to the grave, she said it was sweet to her to think that in a little time, they would follow her in like manner.

Her illness, in the latter part of it, was seated much in her throat, and inward swelling filled up the pipe, so that she could swallow nothing but what was perfectly liquid, and only very little of that. With great and long struggling, and stranglings, whatever she took in, flew out her nostrils, till at last she could swallow nothing at all. She had a raging appetite for food, so that she told her sister, when talking with her about her circumstances, that the worst bit she threw to her swine would be sweet to her. Yet when she saw that she couldn’t swallow it, she seemed to be as perfectly contented without it, as if she had no appetite for it. Others were greatly moved to see what she underwent, and were filled with admiration at her unexampled patience. At a time, when she was striving in vain to get down a little food, something liquid, and was very much spent with it, she looked at her sister with a smile, saying, O sister, this is for my good! At another time, when her sister was speaking of what she underwent, she told her that she lived a heaven upon earth for all that. She used to sometimes say to her sister, under her extreme sufferings — It is good to be so! Her sister once asked her why she said so! Why, she says, because God would have it so. It is best that things should be as God would have them. — It looks best to me. After her confinement, as they were leading her from the bed to the door, she seemed overcome by the sight of things abroad, as displaying the glory of the Being who had made them. As she lay on her death-bed, she would often say these words — God is my friend! And once looking upon her sister with a smile, she said, O sister! How good it is! How sweet and comfortable it is to consider, and think of heavenly things! And used this argument to persuade her sister to be much in such meditations.

She expressed, on her deathbed, an exceeding longing, both for people in a natural state — that they might be converted — and for the godly, that they might see and know more of God. And when those came to see her, who looked at themselves as in a Christless state, she would be greatly moved with compassionate affection. One, in particular, who seemed to be in great distress about the state of her soul, and had come to see her from time to time, she desired her sister to persuade her not to come any more, because the sight of her so worked on her compassions, that it overcome her nature. — The same week that she died, when she was in distressing circumstances as to her body, some of the neighbors who came to see her, asked if she was willing to die? she replied that she was quite willing either to live or die. — She was willing to be in pain. — She was willing to be so always as she was then, if that was the will of God. She willed what God willed. They asked her whether she was willing to die that night? She answered, yes, if it is God’s will; and seemed to say it all with that perfect composure of spirit, and with such a cheerful and pleasant countenance, that it filled them with admiration.

She was very weak a considerable time before she died, having pined away with famine and thirst, so that her flesh seemed to be dried upon her bones. And therefore she could say but little, and made known her mind very much by signs. She said she had matter enough to fill up all her time with talk, if she only had strength. A few days before her death, some asked her whether she held her integrity still? Whether she wasn’t afraid of death? She answered to this purpose: that she didn’t have the least degree of fear of death. They asked her why she could be so confident? She answered, If I were to say otherwise, I would speak contrary to what I know. There is, she says, indeed a dark entry, that looks somewhat dark. But on the other side there appears such a bright shining light, that I cannot be afraid! She said, not long before she died, that she used to be afraid of how she would grapple with death. But, she says, God has showed me that He can make it easy in great pain. Several days before she died, she could scarcely say anything but yes or no to questions that were asked her, for she seemed to be dying for three days in a row. But she seemed to continue to the last in an admirable sweet composure of soul, without any interruption, and died like a person who went to sleep without any struggling, about noon, on Friday, June 27, 1735.

She had long been infirm, and had often been exercised with great pain. But she died chiefly of famine. Doubtless, it was partly owing to her bodily weakness that her nature was so often overcome, and ready to sink with gracious affection. Yet the truth was, she had more grace, and greater revelations of God and Christ, than consisted with her present frail state well. She wanted to be where strong grace might have more liberty, and be without the clog of a weak body. There she longed to be, and there she doubtless is now. She was looked upon among us, as a very eminent instance of Christian experience. This is but a very broken and imperfect account that I have given of her. Her eminency would be much more apparent, if her experiences were fully related as she was inclined to express and manifest them while living. I once read this account to some of her pious neighbors who were acquainted with her. They said to this purpose, that the picture fell far short of the life, and that it particularly failed to duly represent her humility, and that admirable lowliness of heart, that appeared in her at all times. But there are (blessed be God!) many living instances of much the same nature, and in some things, no less extraordinary.

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