Page 10 - History of UB Church by A. Funkhouser Ver 1
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loophole for well-aimed criticism, he was considered to be a model Christian. But such educational
religion had no spirituality, because it was not founded on the new birth. The appeal was to the
head and not to the heart. It was all very well, so far as it went, but it did not go far enough.

One morning Otterbein preached with more than his usual fervor and several of his hearers
were deeply moved. At the close of the sermon one of them came forward to ask counsel. Yet the
minister could only reply that "advice was scarce with him to-day." He awoke to the discovery that
he had been preaching truths he had studied in a formal manner, but had not adequately

experienced. Almost at once he went to his closest to pray until he possessed a more perfect
consciousness of personal salvation. This does not necessarily mean that up to this point he was an
unconverted man. It does mean that he was not satisfied with the ground on which he had been
standing. This explains the answer he gave, many years afterward, to a question by Bishop Asbury:
"By degrees was I brought to a knowledge of the truth, while I was at Lancaster." From this time
forward, Otterbein insisted on a true spiritual experience as both the privilege and the duty of
every member of any Christian church. It was the beginning of a new and more effective epoch in
his ministry. Hitherto he had used manuscript in his pulpit. Henceforward he discarded the practice
and preached extempore.

Leaving Lancaster in 1758, Otterbein preached two years on Tulpehocken Creek, near Reading.
He now introduced the week-day evening prayer meeting. To see the preacher and his flock
kneeling at such a time was a novelty to the people and some of them thought it improper. Even
the pastors of that age sometimes persecuted those who attended such meetings.

The next pastorate was at Frederick, Maryland, and continued five years. It was very
successful, although the formalists in the congregation chafed under his denial that an observance
of conventional worship has power in itself to save the unconverted man. At one time a majority
decided upon his abrupt dismissal. Finding the church door locked, the minister went into the burial
ground and preached from a tombstone. Another service was announced for the same place the
following Sunday. But this time the door was opened. At Frederick, as at Lancaster, one result of
his efforts was a substantial house of worship built of stone.

The fourth American pastorate was at York, Pennsylvania, and lasted from 1765 to 1774,
excepting an absence of about one year, during which he visited the old home in Germany. He
sailed for Europe in April, 1770, having now been eighteen years in America. His mother and all his
brothers were still living.

The fifth pastorate, which was not only the last but the longest, took Otterbein to Baltimore,
then a city of 6,000 people. His congregation was small, and did not acknowledge the authority of
the German Reformed organization. This independent attitude had much to do with the formation
of the United Brethren Church, as will be explained in a later chapter.

Otterbein came to America as a missionary, and carried the missionary spirit with him during all
his pastorates, making long journeys in order to reach people who were without the gospel. His
traveling work began while he was on the Tulpehocken. He visited all the German counties of
Pennsylvania and Maryland, and went up the Valley of Virginia as far as Strasburg. He was entirely
evangelical, cared little for creeds, and less for church names. In early youth he was deeply
impressed by the teachings of the Pietists, who were to Germany what the Wesleyan societies were
to England. To him and those agreeing with him religion was almost wholly an inner work, personal
and individual, within the soul, and was effective and of value only when the personal experience
was conscious of the mystic union of the divine spirit with the human, witnessing the conscious
forgiveness of sins, and producing a peace of mind which the world could not give. Right living was
to follow as a matter of course, but was a necessary product of a right heart.

Bishop Otterbein was recognized as one of the scholars of his age. He was familiar with the
Greek and Hebrew languages, and was so much at home in the Latin that he sometimes wrote the
original draft of his sermons in that tongue. Asbury speaks of him as "one of the best scholars and
the greatest divines in America." But in the line of authorship he left no evidence of his learning
except what may be gleaned from a few personal letters and the records of his church work. His
industry found expression in other lines. As a preacher he was argumentative and eloquent, and an
exceptionally clear expounder of the Scriptures.

Throughout his long life Otterbein enjoyed the affectionate esteem of great numbers of people,
both in his own and other churches. In his last years he was too infirm to attend the annual

10 William Otterbein & German Reformed Church
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