Sarah Katterns

The Life And Testimony Of Sarah Katterns

Gospel Standard 1868:

Sarah Katterns was the daughter of the late Daniel Katterns, who formerly gave out the hymns for the late Mr. Hart, at Jewry Street Chapel, and at his death for the late Mr. Huntington, at Providence Chapel, Gray’s Inn Road, whose ministry she used to attend with her parents and sisters; but at that time she was unconcerned about her eternal state, and cared not for the glorious gospel of Christ. She would sometimes accompany her parents to chapel, then slip out with her sister and go to Hampstead, getting back in time for the conclusion, and ascertain the text from one of the hearers. This she often mentioned with shame and contrition.

It was not until after the death of that honoured servant of the Lord, Mr. Huntington, that divine life entered into her soul. She did not sink so low as many, nor experience those cutting convictions that some are led into. With her it was a gradual work. She was convinced that she was dead in trespasses and sins, and her cry now was for life. She would often go in secret and cry for life. She now desired to go and hear the preached gospel for herself, and was frequently obliged to remain silent during the singing, not being able to appropriate the words. Her heart being made honest, she could not conscientiously do so. She sat under the ministry of Mr. Lock, occasionally hearing Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Vinall during their visits to London. After the death of Mr. Lock, not profiting under the reading at Henry Street, she went hither and thither to hear the truth, but did not settle under any ministry until she heard Mr. Hobbs, at Staining Lane. Here she found the word a sweet savour and testimony of Christ to her soul, and there she abode (about 27 years) until within a few hours of her death. Her place was seldom vacant; nothing but illness or extreme pressure of business kept her away, which, was very seldom. She would sit up and work half the night rather than be absent. Her business was a gimp and tassel maker, in which occupation she was engaged until her age and failing health prevented her carrying it on. She experienced many trials in her calling, but was enabled from time to time to commit her way unto the Lord, who heareth the needy when he crieth, and who delivered her out of her distresses. She has often said, “I am obliged to ask him to enable me to design patterns, and then I have to cry unto him to give me favour in the eyes of my employers, and then beg of him for the means to make my payments.”

She was a woman much favoured of the Lord, and endued with much of the spirit of prayer and supplication. She was a burden-bearing friend, and many have felt, through the mercy of God, the sweetness of her prayers, which have been heard and. answered on their behalf.

She was of a cheerful, humble, and very liberal spirit, seldom, complaining, but generally spent the time, when in the company of others, in talking of the Lord’s mercies and favours to her. She dearly loved “Hart’s Hymns,” and could repeat nearly all of them correctly. To the young who were seeking the Lord she was a tender nursing mother, which a few extracts from her letters to some who held her very dear, and to whom she was much attached, will show. The following are extracts from letters written to two who were fellow-members with her at Mr. Hobbs’s, and contain in her own language her sweet experience of the grace, love, and faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ:

“Dearly-beloved in the Lord, Grace, mercy, and peace be with you. What a monument of the Lord’s mercy am I. How bountifully and mercifully has he dealt with me, both in providence and grace, raising me up customers, and favouring me with a portion of health and strength, and smiling upon my hand, labour; and now these are failing, he has laid me upon the hearts of his dear children. Moses says, ‘Thou shalt remember all the way the Lord thy God has led thee.’ O when I look back into my history, what great things the Lord has done for me, first discovering to me the state of death I was in, with the whole human race, then opening a door of hope with these words: ‘The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.’ ‘O,’ I thought, ‘here is a promise made even to the dead;’ and life was the main thing I wanted. Then he set me to seek his face with these words (by the mouth of Mr. Chamberlain): ‘Seek ye the Lord while he may he found.’ After this he was pleased to give me the first word of promise: ‘The Lord will perfect that which concerneth thee,’ which words came with such power that I replied, ‘Well, Lord, that is enough, and whether it be now, or in the last hour of my life, it will be worth waiting for.’ After that, when I had been entreating the Lord for what he did not see good to grant, he spoke these words to me: ‘I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit, and leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.’ Then the dear Redeemer was pleased to show me the great love he had for poor sinners to come into the world, and take our nature into union with his own divine Person, and wrought out a righteousness which divine justice was fully satisfied with, so that they who were interested in it were as holy as Adam was before he fell. I shall never forget that at the time I was passing through a heavy trial. O what an act of kindness, grace, love, and mercy in the dear Redeemer to make such a revelation of himself to me, and at such a time, too! These are parts of his ways. To tell of all the kind words, and rich displays of his grace, love, and mercy since that period, time will not allow. My base ingratitude, unbelief, and cold affections, are things I daily grieve and groan under. The above precious things are frequently seen by the eye of faith, but I want the hand of faith to bring them in, so as to enjoy them; but this is reserved for a future time, perhaps to support under some heavy trial, but the first fruit is a sweet pledge of the harvest.”

“I want the dear Saviour to come and fill my empty soul with himself, to favour me with a view of him by faith, and let me feel union with him, and permit me to hold communion with him. This would be heaven upon earth. I am not altogether a stranger to it; but it is more crying after him than enjoying these blessed realities; but he has promised to perfect that which concerneth us, and our mercy lies in his truth and faithfulness. He has also promised faith to trust in him, and patience to wait for him. I wish to cast my care and concern upon the Lord, who, I really believe, careth for me; and sometimes I do for a little while; but such is my folly that I take it up again, and bear it myself till it is too heavy for me, and I am obliged to cast it and myself upon him; and, bless his precious name, he bears with my ill manners. It is because he is the Lord and changes not that I am not consumed.”

‘ I believe the path I am now in is what he hath appointed for me, and as he has never done anything but good for me, I feel a hope that he designs it for my good. I want to be continually coming to the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. The blessed Spirit does sometimes help my infirmities, and favour me with some sweet discoveries of the Person of my adorahle Saviour. I say my Saviour, for if he were not such he would not have done these things for me. O, wonder of wonders, that the great and glorious Jehovah, in his Trinity of Persons, can stoop so low as to take an interest in, and manifest a regard for such a poor worthless worm of the earth; and yet, bless his precious name, he does. In myself I feel I get worse and worse; as dear Hart says:

‘Rich of mercy, poor of grace.’

I do want the Lord to come and look upon me with love, pity, .and compassion, and attract and draw my soul unto himself, for I have no power to go to him. How sweetly our dear pastor was led to speak of the ‘chosen generation’ as all of one family, born of one parent. God is their Father. ‘How may I know,’ say you, ‘whether God is my Father?’ Does he look to you? Does he help you in difficulties? Does he chastise you? (O, thought I, he does all this.) Then God is your Father.’ The words seemed to sink deep, and I felt the power and sweetness of them until I got into vain conversation, which stripped me of all my comfort. I read the chapter, and then went to my room as poor, low, and miserable as sin and Satan could make me. I was shut up without any liberty at a throne of grace till Tuesday evening; and then, after a little nice conversation, on my way home the Lord was pleased to break in upon my poor, dark, unbelieving soul again, shone away my darkness, dispelled my unbelief, and led me back to see how kindly and graciously he had been dealing with me; so that my mouth was rilled with his high praises all the way home. What a wonder of wonders that the great and glorious Jehovah should pass by so many wise and prudent, and fix his everlasting love upon such a worthless mortal as I! And bless his precious name, he did fix his love upon me; for I should never have sought after him, if he had not first sought me out. See how the Lord goes before me in every thing, as he has promised: ‘It shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer,’ &c. O! this is a blessed way of living. He sees good to afflict you, ‘but it is filling up a measure of his sufferings; and if we suffer with him we shall be also glorified together.”

“I feel myself deficient in everything that is good, and the more gracious the Lord is, the more deficient I am, or the deeper discoveries I have ofit, so then I abhor myself…I desire to sit still and wait, to know what the will of the Lord is. “When I get a little encouragement under the word, or in meditation, I long to depart and be with him; but I know my times are in his hand; and, bless his precious name, he has done so much for me that I am sure he will not leave me at last; therefore, I hope he will give me patience to wait his time. O how I have tried his patience in bearing with my evil manners these threescore years and nine. Had he been strict to mark iniquity, he would long ago have cut me down, and given me my portion with unbelievers; but O the riches of his grace in discovering to me the wretched state I was in, and then putting a desire in my heart after him; then bringing me into trouble, as it were chastening me with one hand and comforting and supporting me with the other.

“When I begin to tell of the Lord’s goodness to me, I do not know how to leave off. I got a nice lift last Wednesday evening. I have not lost the savour of it yet. I entreated the Lord going along to show me a token for good, and he was pleased to grant my request. O how valuable it is to have your case described by the standard of truth! What a debtor I am to sovereign grace and mercy! He can, and he will, too, clothe you with the garments of salvation, and cover you with the robe of righteousness, to walk with him in white. O my dear friend, what a prospect is before us.”

“It seems a long time since I saw or heard from you. The last account was not favourable. I hope you are better, my dear. You and I are learning the truth of what the apostle saith, ‘It is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.’ This is what the flesh is opposed to, and is continually contriving to get from; at least, so I find it. I am pleased to find you cannot rest upon a mere profession, but must search matters over to the bottom, as Mr. Huntington advises, to make straight paths for your feet, which is what no false professor wants to do. You must not look to me, my dear, for advice and counsel, for I am a perfect fool, and not able to guide myself; but I will direct you where to look, even to him, whose name is Counsellor, the Mighty God, and the Prince of Peace; and you shall not look there in vain; for he hath said, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am. God, and besides me there is no Saviour.’ I am glad to find you have life, and feel you are in a slippery place, and not able to stand unless the Lord holds you by his all-powerful hand.’ This is where no hypocrite in Zion ever came. The Lord is breaking up the fallow ground of your heart, and discovering to you what is within, and a dreadful sight it is indeed to an awakened sinner. As for that ‘ardent love and zeal’ that you may have heard others speak of, that is seldom if ever experienced when a soul is first convinced of sin; but afterwards, when pardon is sealed home upon the conscience; therefore be thankful for present, and then ask for more. Wait the Lord’s time. It is in his light that you see what a sinful and corrupt nature you have, and feel it is full of pride, the world, and every abomination; and that makes you mourn and grieve, and hate and abhor yourself.

“I have been thinking of late of what Moses told the children of Israel: ‘Thou shalt remember all the way the Lord thy God has led thee, to humble thee, and to prove thee, and to show thee what is in thy heart.’ And O! What a frightful sight it is I I never thought I was the subject of so much evil as I find resident in me. Pride, rebellion, ingratitude, and discontent, beside the long train that has been discovered and mourned over so many years. O, I hate and loathe myself, and

“‘Had I not his blood to plead

Each, sight would sink me to despair.’

“But it has been profitable. The dear Saviour casts down before he raises up, and wounds before he binds up. Bless his precious name, he favoured me with some sweet discoveries of himself in liis suffering circumstances; and O what love did the dear Redeemer manifest in giving up himself to divine justice to be dealt with, and shed his own precious blood to make an atonement for his people, and spent his whole life while here below upon earth to work out a righteousness; that divine justice is not only satisfied with, but is well pleased for his righteousness sake. He will magnify the law, and make it honourable, and is also well pleased with every poor sinner that hungers and thirsts after it, and promises they shall be filled. O what encourage- ment for a poor sinner to come to a throne of grace, pleading the precious blood of the dear Redeemer for our acceptance, and what a wonderful thing to have been made in any measure acquainted with it; that this dear Saviour should have been so revealed to our hearts as to make us long after and desire him.”

“A week has elapsed, and I have not been able to answer your very kind letter. I am sorry to hear you have been so poorly, but as the Lord makes all things to work together for good to them that love him, so he has brought good out of your afflicted, weak body, by giving you submission to his holy will, and by creating such an earnest desire after him that you cannot be satisfied until you have found him. This is worth ten thousand worlds. Do not be discouraged because these desires wear off. If they sprang from the flesh, you could exercise them whenever you pleased; but as they are the fruit and effect of divine inspiration, you must wait for the secret operation of the Holy and blessed Spirit. Look at the disciples after the Lord’s resurrection; they knew he was risen, for they had seen him twice, and knew him, and were glad when they saw the Lord. Yet when the Lord had withdrawn himself from them, they all agreed to return to their old trade of fishing, though they had left all to follow him, and he had told them that henceforth they should be fishers of men. Now, if these highly-favoured servants of the Lord, who had been with him through all his public ministry, were so deserted, it is no wonder that you and I have to experience the same; and this is profitable, for by this we are brought to know and feel our utterly lost, ruined, and undone state, and how utterly destitute we are, in and of ourselves, of all real good; so that if any good thing towards the Lord God of Israel be found in us, it must be his own production, I was sorely exercised last week, that I had only received the truth in the letter; I cried out in my soul, when Mr. Hobbs wag in prayer, ‘Lord, undo all that is not thy work; root up all that is not of thy production.’ This exercise lasted until Tuesday morning, when, as I was getting up, and pondering matters over, this thought sprang up: ‘I wonder whether those who only know the truth in the letter are constantly crying to God to be searched and tried!’ I had no particular word come, but a secret persuasion that that was not the case; my mind was then led to meditate upon the Person of our adorable Saviour, and I found secret entertainment and a little ray of light came with it. Mr. Hobbs has told us, when any doubt arises in the mind about the reality of our religion, to give it ail up into the Lord’s hands to be tested; and he has said, ‘Depend upon it, if he gives you any of it back again, it will be full weight and measure;’ and I believe it is so; for it was very comfortable while it lasted. What a mercy that our salvation does not depend upon our comfortable frames, but upon the truth and faithfulness of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who, having loved his own that are in the world, he loves them to the end.”

On the Sunday preceding her death, Miss Katterns spent the afternoon at the house of a friend, who says, “Her conversation was extremely savoury and instructive, and she related to us many of the dealings of God with her in years gone by. One thing may be worth recording. During a long and fatiguing walk in the streets of London many years ago, the Lord Jesus, manifested himself to her as he does not manifest himself to the world. She saw him hanging on the cross in a very distinct way, not indeed with her natural eyes, but with the eye of faith. This manifestation lasted some time, and she believed that his sufferings were for her, which caused her to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. During the afternoon she told us of many other of the Lord’s gracious dealings with her, both as a God of providence and grace; and this habit of hers of blending together in sweet harmony temporal and spiritual mercies often reminded me of many of the Bible saints, David conspicuously amongst the number. On the occasion referred to, her mind appeared to me as clear as ever, and although very feeble in body, I little thought when we parted on the Sunday evening, that our dear friend would in less than four days have changed this time state for that to which she had long been looking forward with hope, and I doubt not, at times, with desire.”

She often desired that the Lord would take her suddenly home, which was granted her. As she was returning from chapel on the Wednesday evening, she fell in a fit in the street, was taken to Bartholomew’s Hospital, and died before her friends reached her, in the 71st year of her age, Feb. 20th, 1867.

John Smith

Strand, London

Sarah Katterns (1796-1867) was sovereign grace believer. Although she grew up under the gospel ministries of Mr. Hart (Jewry Street Chapel) and Mr. Huntington (Providence Chapel), her father (Daniel Katterns) being the one to give out the hymns at both places of worship, it wasn’t until later in life she experienced the new birth. Thereafter she came under the gospel ministry of Mr. Hobbs (Staining Lane). She was a gimp and tassel maker, often telling her friends, "I am obliged to ask [the Lord] to enable me to design patterns, and then I have to cry unto him to give me favour in the eyes of my employers, and then beg of him for the means to make my payments."