July 21: Ebenezer Prime

Used of God to Transform the Church

Our post today comes from Richard Webster’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America. (1857):


WAS born at Milford, Connecticut, July 21, 1700, and graduated at Yale in 1718. He was ordained by a council, as colleague to the Rev. Eliphalet Jones, at Huntingdon, Long Island, June 5, 1723. “A diligent student, extremely exact and systematic, he kept a register of the texts, places, and times of preaching, without a single omission, for more than fifty years.” In the Great Awakening, his labours were much blessed; “the power of God was marvelous.” Convictions of long continuance then issued in joy and peace. There was a great and general awakening at Huntingdon in 1748, and it was still prospering in the next year. This was immediately after the formation of Suffolk Presbytery: so wisely and so prayerfully did they seek to stay the progress of disorder, and so graciously did the Lord smile on their attempt to build up the broken churches.

In the summer of 1758, he expressed to the presbytery his doubts of the Scripture warrant for licensing probationers for the ministry, it being his judgment that investiture with the office of the gospel ministry was necessary before one could preach; “preaching being office-work, to be performed not without, but in consequence of, solemn ordination.” His brethren yielded so far as to ordain in every instance where the candidates professed that they could not in conscience receive license. Such a course conflicting with all Presbyterian usage and with the order of the synod in 1764, he opened his views to the synod in 1771, and they, not being convinced of their soundness, could not repeat the act, yet, having full confidence that he would never consent to ordination in any case except after making the necessary trials, left him to pursue his own course. The year 1763 was a year of disquiet at Huntingdon, and, according to the ancient custom in such junctures, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not administered for twelve months. Happily, in May, 1764, “the greatest part of the people seemed solemn and thoughtful, not a few wounded deeply, and groaning under burdens insupportable; some under shuddering horror and fearful apprehensions of Divine wrath. God’s glorious work of grace goes on here;” and, in September, he said, “God has poured out his Spirit in a surprising manner upon this people.”

The disquiet was owing to the desire of the people to settle a colleague, and Kirkpatrick, of Amwell, was their choice: they had leave from the presbytery to prosecute the call, October 25, 1763, but he could not be obtained. Prime refused to have a licentiate occupy the pulpit as a candidate for settlement; and on the 4th of June, 1764, the presbytery, having heard both sides, decided that when the congregation resolved to admit a licentiate to preach to them, the pastoral relation should be, ipso facto, dissolved. Soon after, George Gilmour, a licentiate of the Eastern Association of Fairfield, who had previously preached in the Presbyterian congregation in Blandford, Massachusetts, was invited in an irregular manner, and greatly to the dissatisfaction of many in the town, and of the presbytery. In December, 1765, they asked to leave to hear John Close, a licentiate of Dutchess Presbytery: he was soon called, but was not ordained till October 30, 1766, and his short stay was full of trouble. Many felt that the pastoral relation had been rudely rent, so that, although two hundred and thirty persons opposed Close’s removal, he resigned, and was dismissed April 4, 1773. They then called Matthias Burnet, also a licentiate; but he declined; and, in March, 1775, they sought for Ebenezer Bradford, also not ordained; but, after much hesitation, he also refused. In the war, Huntingdon was held by the British, and much wanton and malignant injury was done to the dwelling, library, and other property of the aged, patriotic minister. He died on September 25, 1779, in his 79th year.

Information on Ebenezer Prime’s gravesite can be found here.
And the one work of his which I could find in digital format, can be viewed here:
Records of the First church in Huntington, Long island, 1723-1779. Being the record kept by the Rev. Ebenezer Prime, the pastor during those years. [published in 1899]

Words to Live By:
A long, faithful pastorate in the same church is unusual enough. What the long-term effects of that pastorate on the congregation and on succeeding generations, might be, is perhaps impossible to tell. But that God did bless the pastor with such tenure, is it then too much to hope, or even expect that the Lord will also bless that congregation commensurately? Someone has said that a people get the pastor they deserve. What greater motivation to pray for your pastor, to encourage and assist him where you can, and to yourself live as a Christian, walking humbly and faithfully each day before your Lord.

To read the whole of Records of the First Church in Huntington, Long Island, 1723-1779, by Rev. Ebenezer Prime, click here.



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