Up to this point in the series, the women we have studied appeared to have been godly, humble women who were praised mightily by their husbands. This time, however, the history takes an unfortunate turn. In reading Michael Haykin’s Kiffin, Knollys and Keach: Rediscovering our English Baptist Heritage I came across this paragraph about Sarah Kiffin, William Kiffin’s wife after his first wife Hanna had died:
Kiffin’s second wife, Sarah, however, was cut of a different cloth. On March 2, 1698, she was charged with a number of misdeeds by Devonshire Square Church. Upon examination, she was found guilty of, among other things, defrauding her husband of two hundred pound and making false accusations about him. When she refused to appear before the congregation, Sarah was suspended from communion on April 24, 1698. -Haykin (p.52)
This is the only mention of Sarah Kiffin that I could find with my limited time and resources. It appears that Haykin learned this bit about Sarah from a thesis paper by Murdina D. Macdonald entitled “London Calvinistic Baptists 1689-1727: tensions within a Dissenting community under Toleration”. This paper has been cited in a number of other books, and seems like it would be a fascinating read, but a copy of this paper was not accessible to me. (According to WorldCat, The closest microfilm copy was 384 miles away.) This means as well that I do not know if MacDonald’s paper contains more information about Sarah. If anyone in academia is able to find out, please let me know.
Sadly we are left with many questions. How did Sarah and William Kiffin meet? When did they marry? What brought about these “misdeeds”? Did she have anything to say for herself? Why she refuse to appear before the congregation? How much longer was she married to William? Did she ever repent?
Perhaps you have been in a church where you have been spared from these types of controversies. There are many, though, who can attest to similar events occurring today. May this account of Sarah Kiffin serve as a reminder to “not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:27)
Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me. -Hebrews 3:15