At “Liberty to Preach in the Chambers”: Sarah Wight, Henry Jessey, and the New-Modeled Community of Saints

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Sarah Wight’s prophetic utterances were transcribed by the Baptist minister Henry Jessey from April to July 1647, in the midst of the violence of the Civil Wars, and published later that year as The Exceeding Riches of Grace. Wight prophesied from her bedroom in a trance, and the transformation of this household space into a public theater recalls Leigh’s fluid movement out of the domestic into the public, prophesy transforming private residence into public spectacle/publication. However, in Wight and Jessey’s book, it is not the family but the conventicle or private religious meeting that forms the basis and model for counterpublic debate. The years 1646–47 saw what one historian has labeled the “counter-revolution,” when London Presbyterians gathered forces to impose uniformity of worship, take over Parliament, and disband the New Model Army.1 In opposition to this religious and political backlash, Jessey and Wight present a millenarian ideal of democratic conference, evoking truth not as a product of state-imposed uniformity but as a process of repeated dialogue and revision. Wight’s prone but articulate presence draws together a diverse group of sectarians, from Baptist ministers to New Model Army chaplains, and helps extend this group’s influence beyond one book to related publications in England, Ireland, and the Netherlands. From within the autonomy of the sectarian conventicle, Jessey and Wight rewrite traditional narratives of affliction and conversion to create a female speaking position that emerges out of and vindicates an expansive new-modeled community of saints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
Number of pages37
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameEarly Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700
ISSN (Print)2634-5897
ISSN (Electronic)2634-5900


  • Private Dialogue
  • Private Letter
  • Spiritual Trial
  • State Church
  • Woman Writer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Linguistics and Language


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