Pohlman, William John

Pohlman, William John a missionary of the Reformed (Dutch) Church, was born at Albany, N. Y., in 1812, of pious parents who belonged to the Lutheran Church. His father was of German descent. Converted at the age of sixteen, he united with the First Reformed Church of Albany, under the care of Dr. John Ludlow. Devoting himself to the Christian ministry, Pohlman studied three years at the Albany Academy, entered Rutgers College in 1832, graduated in 1834, and then entered the theological seminary at New Brunswick. While a student in this institution he consecrated himself to the foreign missionary work. In August, 1836, he offered himself to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in a memorable letter, which concluded with these sentences: "I wish to enlist for life. If in your view I can be of any service, I lay my all at your feet. 'Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.' Send me abroad to publish glad tidings to the idol-serving nations. Send me to the most desert part of all the howling wildernesses of heathenism, to the most barbarous climes, or to more civilized regions. Send me to the millions of pagans, to the followers of the false prophet to the Jews or the Gentiles, to Catholics or Protestants. Send me, in fine, wherever God opens an effectual door. Send me— for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel' to the perishing heathen." In this spirit he was sent to Borneo. He was ordained as an evangelist in April 1838, by the Classis of Albany, and with his wife, a sister of the late Dr. John Scudder, the famous missionary to India, sailed for his field May 25. They arrived at the island of Java Sept. 10, and after a brief sojourn at Singapore went to Batavia, where they were compelled to remain a whole year before the Dutch government would permit them to go to Borneo. Meanwhile he studied the Malay language, which prepared him to hold intercourse with the people to whom he was sent. After the year expired he settled at Pontianak, in Borneo, and immediately began his missionary labors. Mrs. Pohlman died in 1845. She was a woman of like spirit with himself and with her brother-a devoted, intelligent, and laborious missionary's wife and sister. After six years of unremitting toils on this island, Mr. Pohlman was transferred to China in 1844, with the Rev. Elihu Doty, to establish the Amoy Mission, in connection with David Abeel, D.D. He had studied the Chinese language during his residence in Borneo, and so was the better prepared to do efficient work at once in his new field. For five years more he gave himself up unreservedly to this noble service. Dr. Abeel's feeble health compelled his return to America in 1845, and he died in 1846. SEE ABEEL, DAVID. But the mission was planted under the most encouraging auspices. A church building was erected in Amoy, with funds from America, when there were but three communicant members of the mission. Three other distinct missionary churches, all of which are now self-sustaining, have swarmed out of this hive. Native preachers and helpers have been raised up, and the mission has been long regarded as a model of evangelizing work in China. The strictly missionary work in Amoy is now at an end; and the churches there would doubtless live and grow and propagate Christianity, like those of ancient times, even if all American missionaries were withdrawn from them. Such is the fruit of the labors of Mr. Pohlman and his associates and successors. His valuable life and labors were suddenly ended at Breaker's Point by shipwreck of the vessel on which he was bound from Hong Kong to Amoy, Jan. 5, 1849. Pirates attacked the sinking ship, but "Mr. Pohlman sprang from the ship and was drowned." The ruling principle of Mr. Pohlman's life was his consecration to God. He gave himself and his all to Christ, and to the world for Christ's sake. He spared nothing. He was "totus in illis." He was amiable, buoyant, frank, earnest, enthusiastic, and tenacious to the last degree in prosecuting his good purposes. His disposition was very cheerful. He had no crotchets. But with practical common sense and intense energy and zeal, he lived and labored for the kingdom of Christ. His preaching, correspondence, and public services glowed with this one spirit, which has left its permanent impress upon the mission and Church of which he was so conspicuous a servant. (W.J.R.T.)

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