Ethan Osborn [1758-1858]

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

No Parallel in the Annals of the American Pulpit

So it was thought by the pulpiteers of the late nineteenth century, that is, our unique title today.  The description fit the Rev. Ethan Osborn, the pastor of the Fairfield Presbyterian Church, in Fairton, New Jersey.

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1758, Ethan Osborn was born with religious parents and a religious education in a family of nine children.  When the Sabbath came in the week as the first day, he was in public worship.  Like many covenant children, it was simply to obey his parents.  But as the boy became older, the Sabbath became a most welcome day.  He began to practice secret prayer and by the time he entered college, he had received the Savior by faith alone.

College for Ethan was Dartmouth at age seventeen.  The American Revolution was at full tilt during his college years so that in the middle of it, he became a soldier at age eighteen.  It was a very hard year to do so as the Continental Army was being pushed around all over the eastern seaboard in 1776.  Ethan felt the providence of the Lord in that, becoming sick one month, he missed a battle in which his regiment was captured with the result that only four soldiers would make it through the brutal imprisonment.  He returned to the collegiate life soon after it, graduating in 1784.

With no theological school around (Princeton not beginning  until 1812), he studied for three years under experienced pastors.  Called to one church, he was led to delay it until December 3, 1789, when he was called to the Old Stone Church, as it was known then as their pastor.  For the next fifty-five years, he with warm biblical expositions and faithful shepherding the people of God, became known as “Father Osborn.”

Even though he would retire when he turned eighty-six years of age, he continued his ministry, preaching once when he was ninety-seven years of age.  He went to be with his Lord in 1858 at age ninety-nine years, eight months, and ten days.

The church today is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the oldest Presbyterian Church of that denomination.

At right, the old former building of the continuing PCA congregation, Fairton, NJ.

Words to live by:  We might add many others to the title of this historical devotional, but for that time and place, for longevity itself, it was true of Ethan Osborn.  It was said that he was THE pastor of the Old Stone Church which had been established so early before our American Revolution.  And to think that it was able to join the Presbyterian Church in America without losing its building, as is usually the case, is providential indeed.  But more remarkable than a physical structure is the continuance in the faith of the gospel by the pastors, faithful elders, and families,  for three plus centuries of this church.  It is well to place them in a historical devotional.  The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

Through the Scriptures: Romans 12 – 16

Through the Standards:  Similarities between baptism and the Lord’s supper

WLC 176 — “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.”