Page 13 - History of UB Church by A. Funkhouser Ver 1
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influence of the Pietists. For this lapse into what was deemed a heresy, he was denounced by his
parents as well as his pastor, and was sentenced to jail. But he escaped to France, and in 1715
made his way to America, where he became a Mennonite, his wife being of the same faith.

The alert intellectuality of the son atoned in a great degree for his meager educational
opportunities. He had a clear and ready grasp of ideas, and was a fluent speaker in German,
learning also to express himself in English. His gift of expression caused him to be selected as a
preacher when thirty-three years old. Even then, however, he was diffident and tongue-tied in his
first attempts to exhort. Like Otterbein he now realized that he had no gospel message for the
people until he had been made a new man by the power of the Holy Spirit. This radical change
came as an answer to long continued prayer for light and guidance. Thenceforward he was
eloquent and effective. The necessity of the new birth was the keynote of his preaching. Some of
his Mennonite brethren accepted the doctrine, while others thought him a fanatic. Nevertheless, he
was advanced to the rank of bishop in the Mennonite Church in 1759.

But Otterbein and Boehm were not alone. Certain "New Light" preachers from the Valley of
Virginia were presenting the same gospel message to the German-speaking people. The New Lights
were the followers of George Whitefield, an English evangelist who traveled extensively in America.
The Mennonite settlers of the Valley listened to these disciples with interest. They had no ministers
of their own, neither were they yet organized into societies. They now sent for a minister and
Boehm responded to the call. His missionary labors in Virginia were very helpful to himself as well
as the people. After his return to Pennsylvania he thought it was no longer his duty to confine his
efforts to his own neighborhood. He preached wherever he felt impelled to go. As before, some of
the Mennonites listened to his teachings with approval and some with astonishment. The voice of
opposition proved itself the stronger force. Articles of indictment were drawn up and Boehm was
expelled from the Mennonite communion. Yet his Christian character was not questioned, and he
could now preach with more freedom than ever. At length he turned over the care of his farm to his
son so that he might now give his whole time to evangelistic work. After 1789 his ministerial career
is a part of the history of the United Brethren Church.

Bishop Boehm died March 12, 1812, at the advanced age of eighty-six years. He was hale and
strong almost to the very last, and could ride a horse until his final and very brief illness. His
longevity was inherited by his son Henry, who preached a sermon in the city of New York on his
one hundredth birthday. Doctor Drury speaks of Martin Boehm as "a short, stout man, with a
vigorous constitution, an intellectual countenance, and a fine flowing beard, which gave him in his
later years a patriarchal appearance." Boehm was always plain and simple in costume, and seems
never to have discarded the severely plain attire of the Mennonites. His estimable personal
qualities and his sincere Christian character made him deeply revered in the church he helped to
found and very much respected by other denominations.

13 Martin Boehm and the Mennonites
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