Methodist Musings
Peter Bohler

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Biographical Sketch of Peter Bohler

    (This sketch is written as if Peter were standing in front of the class today.)
     Here I stand before polity students at a university far into my future. My name is Pete Bohler, and what power it is that has put me in front of you, I do not know; and what cruel power that has only given me three to five minutes to tell you my story is even more cruel. However, I shall endeavor to do my best.
     Ever since I was a young man in Frankfurt, Germany my father wanted me to study medicine. Yet, with all of its promise, I have always been drawn to theology. During my student years I was strongly influenced by Count von Zinzendorf and Professor Johann George Walch. Both of these men were keen to show me the ways of Pietism.
     I will tell you, my years of missionary work in the New World were incredibly exciting to me. I was able to found many Moravian settlements. I was most concerned about the education and the souls of the black slaves there and spent a lot of my time in those endeavors. We undertook many long and hard journeys to preach to the slaves. I also felt called to preach to the native peoples there as well. I was also very involved in the early years of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and worked with others to found Nazareth, Pennsylvania which was nearby.
     Times were very difficult in Bethlehem, and many of our Moravian colonies were detroyed during the wars in America. It is said, and I say with the greatest humility, that many turned to me for home in these dark times. It is also said that I was greatly loved by these communities. I don't know about that, but I do know that I was able to give them the home that comes from Jesus Christ.
     I vividly recall one service I preached at. I had just returned from Europe and I was leading a Christmas Eve service. Once again, it seemed apt that I remind those that the most wonderful gift the Savior ever gave was the gift of Himself. Each child was given a lighted candle, and when all the candles were given, there were 250 glittering in the chapel. It was a beautiful service.
     But, I suppose most of  you in this class are Methodists, and what you really want to hear about are my experiences with John and Charles Wesley. I met John in 1738 at the house of a Mr. Weinatz, a Dutch merchant who was in London at the time. I really did not know many people in England at the time, and John offered to procure lodging for me. I also put myself under John's care to learn English.
     On Friday, February 17, 1738 we set off for Oxford together. We had many conversations, but it seemed that John had difficulty understanding the things I was trying to explain to him.
     "My brother, my brother," I cried out to him, "that philosphy of yours must be purged away!" John was a good-natured man, and he knew he did not properly believe in the Savior. He was, however, willing to be taught. John and Charles seemed to think that because the did good deeds and tried to please God, they would be saved. The had difficulty seeing that it was by faith alone one is saved. Eventually they did come to understand that faith is the most important componant. 
     "I have always believed," I told John, "that the nature of faith is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he (is) reconciled to the favour of God." I went on to tell John that faith can, I believe, be given in a moment. A man can be thus turned from the darkness to light and from sin and misery to rightousness and joy in the Holy Ghost. John really had a hard time with this.
     From that day, I had several talks with John and Charles. John was always a little insecure as to whether he was good enough (morally) to preach, and asked me if he should refrain from preaching. 
     "No," I told him, "do not hide in the earth the talent God hath given you." This seemed to give him some confidence. I often told John that he should not stop short of the Grace of God, for it is by Grace we are all saved.
     John finally got it...somewhat. In his journal he wrote: "I was now thoroughly convinced; and, by the grace of God, I resolved to seek it unto the end: (1) By absolutely renouncing all dependence, in whole or in part, upon my own works or rightousness; on which I had really grounded my hope of salvation, though I knew it not, from my youth up. (2) By adding to the donstant use of all the other means of Grace continual prayer for this very thing, justifying, saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed for me; a trust in Himas my Christ, as my sole justification, sanctification,and redemption." I guess I really influenced him.
     Alas, John and Charles did separate from me due to what you would call "doctrinal differences." Yet, I had always remained friends with Joh, until my death at age 62 in 1775.
     Well, I must now go back to my own time. It has been an honor speaking with you today, and it has been humbling to see my influence on what you now call United Methodism.
     Always remember: "Preach faith until you have it, then, you will preach faith."

Copyright (c) 2004 by Stephen Berg