By the eve of the American Revolution, Sarah Osborn’s health had declined so much that she was largely unable to write. Furthermore, the war severely disrupted Sarah’s ministry, as when the British first lay siege to the city of Newport in late 1775 and then finally occupied it for about three years, the city was emptied of over one-third of its inhabitants. This devastation combined with a hurricane and several harsh winters, and the loss of her husband Henry, brought Sarah once again to the brink of destitution. If it were not for the generosity of her Christian friends remaining in Newport, as practically an invalid she would have surely starved or froze to death. Continue reading
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As Sarah Osborn matured in age, so did her spiritual stature as a Christian leader in her Newport, Rhode Island community. But her spiritual influence grew out of the difficult trials she experienced in her life.
By the time Sarah Osborn hit her late 40’s, her health was so bad that she was simply unable to walk any long distances. She had to be carried to church by her friends. One would think that life for such a weak and physically disabled woman would be reduced to pure obscurity. However, this would not be the case for Sarah Osborn.
Over the next few years, Sarah Osborn would participate in an incredibly profound spiritual revival of people from all walks of life. What started out as simply an invitation to some neighbors to share in the nightly family devotional for one evening became an extensive, multi-year ministry. Night after night, people would cram inside her home to listen to Sarah share the message of the Bible. Hundreds of people from the town of Newport, Rhode Island and beyond would sit at the feet of this saintly woman who would pray for them.
Not too long after her young son died, Sarah Osborn was given the gift of a slave boy by friends. Sarah was too impoverished to afford her own slave. Our “tour guide” examining Sarah Osborn’s life, religious historian Catherine Brekus, surmises that Sarah’s friends hoped that having another young child to raise would assist Sarah in working through her grief. Furthermore, having a young slave might prove to be a sound investment for such a poor New England woman. In an era more than a hundred years before America was bitterly ripped apart by a Civil War, the evils of slavery were never thoroughly considered by Sarah, or her Christian friends, at that moment in time(p. 174). Continue reading
Within a few years after experiencing her conversion to Christ, Sarah Osborn completed her set of diary entries that would serve as the basis for her published work. Harvard Divinity School religious historian, Catherine A. Brekus, weaves these diary entries into her biography of this remarkable woman: in Sarah Osborn’s World. Sarah Osborn continued to write other letters and other diaries, that Brekus also highlights in her research, giving us insight into the life of this 18th century, American, evangelical Christian woman.
Sarah Osborn lived an exceedingly difficult life. One of those difficulties was having to bury her one and only son. When her son, Samuel, was only twelve years old, he had been sent off to learn a trade, serving as an apprentice to a tailor, which was a typical way of providing an education for young boys at the time. However, Samuel contracted what was most probably tuberculosis. In an age before the development of contemporary medicine, Sarah Osborn held the hand of her pale and dying son, for several days. Unfortunately for Sarah, who had only a few years previously come to faith in Christ, she agonized over the spiritual state of her son, as he had never given his own testimony as to having a faith in Jesus. Continue reading
In this second blog post reviewing Catherine A. Brekus study of the life and writings of Sarah Osborn, an early American who experienced the revivals of the 18th century Great Awakening, we dig a little more deeply into the life of this remarkable woman. Sarah Osborn tells us not just about herself, in the 18th century, but she also shows us a lot about what it means to be a Christian in America in the 21st century.
Sarah Osborn grew up exposed to Christian teaching, but she admitted that a rebellious attitude sought to dull her spiritual sensitivities. At times, Sarah would have experiences that would lead her to seriously consider growing in her faith, but these moments were often followed by extended times where her thoughts were redirected elsewhere. She enjoyed frivolous activities with friends, such as “card playing” and “dancing,” but these were often frowned upon by Puritan preaching. Nevertheless, her personal struggles also brought back times of sobriety where she was able to reconsider what it meant to have faith in God. Continue reading