|Vol. II, No. 5
Ab 5604, August 1844
London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews.
We have before us the thirty-sixth anniversary proceedings and abstract of the report of the above institution, which has taken the lead and maintains a prominent rank among all those whose object it is to deprive the Jews of their religion. It will not be expected of us to give a full analysis of its transactions, as it is not easy under the mass of words employed to come to a correct conclusion with respect to the actual conversions, and then, we say it with due respect, we should have some hesitation to put full faith in the reported success of hired missionaries, many of whom are converted Jews, who evidently must make some show of progress, in order to entitle them to their reward, without which nothing is done. The Society has had, in its last fiscal year, missionaries and agents in twenty-five stations, the most numerous companies of course at London, the seat of the Society, and at Jerusalem, the seat of its apostate bishop; at Warsaw, the capital of Poland; and at Posen, the chief town of the province of the same name in Prussia. Its stations in England are at London, Liverpool, and Bristol, in which place are employed four original Christians and seven apostates; in Asia,—Jerusalem, Safed, Beyrout, Smyrna, Bagdad, and Bussorah, occupied by twelve Christians, and ten apostates, exclusive of the wives of the latter, and the bishop; in Poland,—Warsaw, Lublin, Kalisch and Cracow, occupied by six Christians and seven apostates; in Prussia,—Posen, Frankfort-on-the-Oder, Königsberg, Dantzic, Berlin, Breslau, and Stettin, occupied by ten Christians and eight apostates; in Germany,—Creuznach, and Frankfort-on-the-Maine, occupied by two Christians and one apostate; in Sweden,—Gothenburg, with one apostate; in Holland,—Amsterdam, with one apostate; in France,—Strasburg, with two apostates; and one in Spain,—Gibraltar and Cadiz, with one apostate.
Our readers will see from the above that the apostates, in the character of preachers, tract-distributors, translators, and interpreters, &c., enjoy a tolerably large share or the patronage of this flourishing institution, and they will agree with us that this cannot be a small sum when we present them with the following schedule of the receipts and expenditures:
At $4.84 per pound this would yield the enormous sum of $122, 574. 93.
The expenditures were, we should judge, fully equal to, if not exceeding, the large receipts, which we deduct from the fact that last year there was a balance invested in Exchequer bills of 9500l., and in treasurer’s hands 2076l. 6s. 7d., besides 380l. 17s. 9d. on account of the Temporal Relief Fund, whereas, this year, the investments are 7000l, in Exchequer bills, and 2528l. 15s. 5d. in treasurer’s hands, and nothing said about the Temporal Relief Fund; or 9528l. 15s. 5d. against 11,857l. 4s. 4d., equal to a deficit of 2428l. 13s. 11d., or about $11,753; from which it would appear that, though the receipts (as per report) of this year, exceed those of last year by 259l. 5s. 6d., the expenditures have deprived the invested fund of the large sum just mentioned.
As usual, there is a great deal of mystification about the statements, and it is only by a somewhat careful analysis that we are enabled to arrive at some just conclusion with regard to the monetary affairs of this favourite corporation, and its labours, which are extended over so vast a field. One of its principal operations is printing, which is stated to be as follows:
Scriptures and Tracts.—Distribution of Scriptures, Tracts, &c. from April 1st, 1843, to March 30th, 1844:
We really cannot imagine that the distribution of the Bibles, &c., can be an unprofitable business to sundry converts engaged therein; and as the society does not offer a direct bounty, this indirect mode of rewarding must be a happy thought for those whose conversion needs some other incentive, besides the pure love for the gospel. We agree with the Society’s committee, that it would be a good thing to provide the Jews with copies of the Scriptures in Hebrew, which it will be seen embrace a large portion of the printing done by the Society. But the missionaries are deceived if they suppose that the reception of a Bible by a Jew, as a sign of his conversion. He takes the Bible which the missionary offers, printed on beautiful white paper, with clear and distinct type, and substantially bound, and is glad to obtain the Word of God at so cheap a rate as gratis distribution, or a nominal price, and he would with pleasure take as many more as the kind messenger may be willing to give him to distribute among Israelites, or perhaps to sell them, to those who desire the same, for a little profit. But to presume that there is any evidence that the recipient of the Scriptures means thereby to barter his faith, we must pronounce an utterly futile hope. No such idea is connected with the reading of the Scriptures, and no one knows this better than the managers of the Society themselves, as their report so clearly demonstrates. Would our limits allow us we would publish the whole abstract before us, which occupies twenty-eight pages of the Jewish Intelligence, each page containing about one-fourth more than ours; for in so doing we would prove to demonstration that the distribution of the Scriptures, gospels, tracts, prayer books, Old Paths, &c., has wrought but very little, aided as it was by an army of missionaries, preachers, and agents, backed by the expenditure of twenty-seven thousand pounds sterling, collected from all sorts of people, in all parts of England, by all sorts of means, and all sorts of pretences.
But as the ceremony of baptism is in Europe as well as in America the conclusive sign of conversion or apostacy, we will give the Society the full benefit of extracting all the cases which we can gather. Of the Episcopal chapel, it is said: “There have been during the year twenty-three baptisms, making a total of 375 on the baptismal register of the chapel.” But here again, no less than in the financial report, is some ambiguity. One not acquainted with the modus operandi would suppose that during the year twenty-three have become converted, and during the thirty-six years’ existence of the society, the other and larger number, when the fact is, that many of the baptized are the children of the old apostates and infants that fall into the hands of the agents in some way or the other; and for all we know to the contrary, there may not have been a single conversion among the adults since the commencement of the year. But we rather incline to believe that there were a few converts, say from four to ten, as there are always some in England, at times natives, but generally foreigners, who can be induced, either from conviction (which is rare indeed), or some tangible advantage (which is more frequent), or from some indefinite hope (which is the most frequent of all the causes), to enlist under the banner of the London Society.—Nothing is said of the baptisms of Jews at Liverpool and Bristol; there probably were none to record.
Let us now turn to Jerusalem; here the missionaries have done a great deal,—they have baptized eleven Israelites. But how many are natives and how many imported from other parts the report does not state. It was to be expected at at the headquarters of the Society something extra should be done, to pay for a bishop, chaplain, several doctors, hospital, missionaries, workshops, &c. and therefore eleven converts is but a moderate result, when all the East and all Europe were pouring their quota of emigrants, some of whom are needy enough, into the ruined streets or our once Holy City. No conversions, on the other hand, are reported at Hebron, Tiberias, Safet, Beyrout, Baghdad, Bussorah, and Smyrna. At the latter city, we are told that the missionary “has used every effort to establish a school for Jewish children, but hitherto in vain, as, although some parents had promised to send their children, they never did;” rather a sorry reason for so great a disappointment.
At Gibraltar and Cadiz, nothing has as yet been done. But in Poland, we learn, that during the year 1843, fifteen Israelites have been baptized; we cannot determine whether all through the efforts of the Society's missionaries or not.—In Cracow, it is said, that “although more than twenty persons applied for and received instruction from the missionaries during the past year, yet only three of them have been baptized.”
In the province of Prussia, (East Prussia, or East and West Prussia, Pomerania and Posen? The wording is again indefinite, as there is no province of Prussia so called,) the number of Jews baptized in 1843, is said to be twenty, seven of whom were Russians.
In Berlin, (the chief resort of those who wish to gain by their conversion,) sixteen Jews have forsaken the Synagogue, although above sixty have been under instruction. In the other stations we see nothing of conversions; we must therefore suppose that the missionaries met with no success, at which result we certainly must rejoice. We wish to remark in this connexion, that the letters of the missionaries are so framed as to lead the uninitiated to suppose that they had met with success. Still we greatly grieve that so many have left us, worthless as no doubt many of them are; whilst every one must acknowledge, that allowing five for England, eleven for Jerusalem, fifteen for Poland, three for Cracow, twenty for Prussia, and sixteen for Berlin, or seventy in all, is rather too small a number for the amount of twenty-seven thousand pounds, say 134,000 dollars, expended during one year. Surely the sum of near two thousand dollars for each convert, (for at last Christianity can only advance absolutely by the numbers who join it, not by those who become indifferent Jews,) is too large to pay for the progress of the gospel, especially as if the same amount be directed into a different channel, the success of the missionaries would be much greater. We sincerely protest against this waste of means, whilst London contains so many unbelievers in the highest and lowest ranks, whilst hundreds of the poor never enter a church, or know how to read, and consequently are in the most abject state of mental degradation.
Now we think if the reverend prelates and honourable gentlemen were truly wise, they would commence with their Christian fellow-subjects, and we are certain, that instead of seventy doubtful converts, from a people at all events given to some religion,—though these benevolent enthusiasts think them sunk in error and darkness, which converts are picked up at home and abroad in every manner of way, and by all manner of means,—they could obtain as many hundreds among those who live within call of their palaces and country mansions, from the midst of their own kindred and countrymen, who, to say the least, deserve as much sympathy for their mental destitution as do the Jews of Tiberias and Bussorah. But there is the charm of a long mystical report to be spread abroad every year! This indeed is something, especially as a little army of retainers lives by this means; still even on this score, unless the value of a Jew’s soul is really so great, the expense and labour are quite disproportionate to the success obtained.
But we are warned that we have said enough for this once. So we take leave this month of the London Society and its little sister in New York, with the assurance that if we have space, and do not feel too much disgust against the whole of their proceedings, we may recur to them hereafter. But in parting we assure these associations that it is neither fear nor prudence which prevents us from speaking of them oftener, but only because we can fill our pages much better than with entering into a controversy which can lead to no result; since no matter how wrong we prove them in their mischievous course, they will still persevere in their folly; as the prophet says: “Many will be purified, and made white and tried; but the wicked will do wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand; but the wise will understand.”