Otterbein, Philip William

Otterbein, Philip William, a noted divine, was born June 4, 1726, at Dillenburg, Germany, and is commonly acknowledged as the founder of the United Brethren in Christ (q.v.). His father was rector of a classical school at Herborn, and gave his son a thorough classical and theological education. He early felt a .strong desire to labor in some foreign land. This wish was gratified in 1752, when, at the instance of Rev. Michael Schlatter (q.v.), he received a call as minister of the German Reformed Church in America. Having, with five other young ministers, been ordained at the Hague, he sailed with them to New York, where they arrived July 27 of the same. year. Otterbein was first settled at Lancaster, Pa., in August, 1752. At the urgent solicitation of the Church he remained until the close of 1758, although lie was much dissatisfied with the lack of discipline which prevailed: From 1758 to 1760 he labored at Tulpehocken, Pa.; from 1760 to 1765, at Frederick, Md.; from 1765 to 1770, at York, Pa. He visited Germany in 1770, and returning to York in 1771, remained there until 1774. In that year he accepted a call from the new congregation in Baltimore, which, in 1770, had separated from the old Church. There he remained for the rest of his days. He died Nov. 17, 1813. A man of ardent piety and apostolical spirit, endowed with extraordinary power as a preacher, he exerted a: great influence among his brethren, and extended his work beyond the limits of his own Church. He proclaimed the necessity of regeneration and of a holy life with great force and directness. He took part in. union meetings, held often in the woods and kept up for several days. He instituted prayer- meetings, and trained pious laymen to lead them; and he maintained' a close fellowship with men of like mind in other religious denominations, especially with Martin Bohm, a Mennonite, and with Asbury and Wright, whom Johns Wesley sent to labor in America. In 1784 he assisted Dr. Coke in ordaining Asbury as the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. On Sept. 25, 1800, in conjunction with Bohm, he convened a conference at Baltimore. It was attended by thirteen ministers, and resulted in the organization of the society of the United Brethren in Christ. Otterbein is said to have been elected their first bishop or superintendent. This, however, is denied by Dr. Harbaugh, in his Fathers of the German Reformed Church (2:53-76), who says that no bishop was elected until 1813, and proves by substantial evidence that Otterbein never left. the communion of the German Reformed Church. Otterbein. worked for a revival in the Church, and not for an organization out of it. When he saw that the movements was tending to this result, "he held on to it, not to organize it, but to prevent its organization; not to carry it forward, but to restrain and control it. Only when the case became hopeless did he withdraw. In the quietude of old age, he silently mourned over the evil"' (Fath. of the Ger. Ref. Church, 2:71). It would therefore appear that while Otterbein was practically the founder of the United Brethren in Christ, he did not intend to establish a new religious denomination; and, like John Wesley, never really severed his connection with his own Church. See, besides Harbaugh, Corwin, Manual of the Ref. Church in Amer. p. 173 sq.; Drake, Dict. of Amer. Biog. s.v. (E. de S.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.