Peter Bohler (1712-1775)

Moravian Bishop

While Peter Bohler was a beloved missionary in the Americas, he is perhaps most well-known for his ministry to the Wesley brothers on a ship sailing to America . It was Bohler who convinced John Wesley of the doctrine of justification by faith, thus freeing his troubled soul from trying to earn his salvation through righteousness. He was a longtime friend to both Wesleys.

Who was this man who was able to play such an important role in the history of the church?

Peter Bohler, a Pietist theology student from Frankfort, Germany, was the first man ordained by Count von Zinzendorf. Later he was appointed bishop in America where he founded many Moravian settlements in Pennsylvania. He was one of the first men in America to minister amongst the black slaves, teaching both theology and the basics of education that they would have otherwise been denied. He also served as a missionary among the Indians, and established a Moravian work in England.

Did Peter Bohler believe in ultimate reconciliation? Apparently so, since he said that "all the damned souls shall yet be brought out of hell."

George Whitfield in a letter to John Wesley:

"Peter Bohler, one of the Moravian brethren, in order to make out universal redemption, lately frankly confessed in a letter that all the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell. I cannot think Mr. Wesley is thus minded. And yet unless this can be proved, universal redemption, taken in a literal sense, falls entirely to the ground. For how can all be universally redeemed, if all are not finally saved?"

History records that there were some Moravians who had universalist leanings, though Peter Bohler might be the most famous. Included in the "Sixteen Discourses" of Moravian literature is the statement, "By His (Christ's) Name, all can and shall obtain life and salvation."


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