The Jewish Lady Evangelist from Melbourne
By Kai Kjær-Hansen
When you leaf through A. Bernstein’s book Some Jewish Witnesses for Christ (London 1909), not a lot of space is devoted to female Jewish Witnesses for Christ down through history. Few are mentioned and some of these seem to be mentioned for the one reason that they belonged to a famous family, e.g. Mendelssohn. If they have been forgotten because the majority of the history was written by men is not for me to say. But they were there and they deserve to be remembered.
One of them was Emilia Baeyertz (1842-1926). The story of how she has been remembered is in itself worth noting. It is a story of networking.
Betty Baruch and Emilia Baeyertz
Betty Baruch (1927-2000) was one of the 18 persons in Pattaya, Thailand, in 1980, who played a part in the establishment of LCJE. Right up to the LCJE’s Fifth International Conference in Jerusalem 1995, she was LCJE Coordinator for Australia/New Zealand. In the LCJE Bulletin no. 35/1994 Betty Baruch calls for persons who would help to re-publish the book From Darkness to Light: The Life and Work of Mrs. Baeyertz. In the LCJE Bulletin no. 37/1994 she tells that her good friend David Perry has put her on the track of Emilia Baeyertz and she has here a short article about “the Jewish Lady Evangelist from Melbourne” with the title The Memory of Them Is Forgotten.
In January 2007 I received a sizeable book from David Perry, who is a member of LCJE; it is written by Robert Evans and is entitled Emilia Baeyertz – Evangelist. Her Career in Australia and Great Britain. From this it appears that Betty Baruch left behind a manuscript entitled This is My Beloved, which Robert Evans describes as “a semi-fictional biography about the life of Mrs. Baeyertz”. Robert Evans’ book about Baeyertz was planned to be published after Betty Baruch’s book. The order has now been reversed, but Betty Baruch’s book will soon be published, it is announced.
It is on this background Robert Evans writes: “Consequently, this book is not presented as a biography, but as a historical study of her [Baeyertz’] life and work, and as a source-book of documents about her which almost all of my readers would have much difficulty in finding for themselves. Naturally, a fairly brief biography is included, for those who do not have access to Betty’s book. But the purpose of this present book is not biographical. All of my readers are encouraged to purchase, or borrow, and read a copy of Betty’s book,
when it is published.”
Robert Evans’ printed book (416 pages) from January 2007 is freely available on the Internet. A Google search on Emilia Baeyertz gives an immediate result. The printed version can be obtained from Robert Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Briefly about Emilia Baeyertz
Robert Evans sums up Mrs. Baeyertz’ life in this way:
“Born in North Wales in April, 1842, into a wealthy, orthodox Jewish home, she came to Australia for her health in February, 1864, expecting to stay in Melbourne only for a few years. By a series of strange circumstances, she married a Christian man, had two children, was widowed, and was converted to Christ, by 1872.
Her public career as an evangelist began about 1877. It developed and continued in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, until 1890, when she left for short periods in New Zealand, the United States of America and Canada. It was in her Australian period, therefore, that she was converted to Christ, developed her message and craft as an evangelist, and gained many experiences upon which her more mature years of preaching were based.
She arrived in Great Britain in 1892, and spent the rest of her life in the British Isles, apart from nearly two years, from mid-1904 until early 1906, when she was again in Australia. She died in her south-west London home in 1926.”
According to Robert Evans Betty Baruch had planned to write a book “of biographies of famous Christian women”.
Who will take up the challenge to write a book about women in Jewish ministries?
And: For Emilia Baeyertz the doctrine of holiness was fundamentally important in her personal life, and in her ministry. She took, in Robert Evans’ words “a strong negative line against worldly amusement ... So this tended to give Christianity a more legalistic flavour, as if being a Christian meant adopting a new law instead of the Old Testament one.” In this way she does not differ from contemporary pious men. I have noted this because in the present debate about Jewish believers and their attitude to the law we are maybe making it too easy for ourselves if we do not come to grips with a legalistic view of life as a believer, which is (still?) very much alive even in certain evangelical circles. I think.
Below is given a short sketch of her life, told by herself in the book From Darkness to Light (1875), and an appeal to Israel – both are taken from Roberts Evans’ book (pp. 190-193) – with a few omissions. The headings are mine.
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Emilia Baeyertz about herself
I have been asked by one of my friends to write a brief sketch of my experience, and I do it believing that the precious Saviour whose I am and whom I serve, will bless this simple testimony to His grace and power to save.
Nine years ago I came to Australia with the intention of staying a short while with my friends here as I had been through some very bitter trials in the old country, and my dear parents thought that a change of scene might help me to forget the past.
Before proceeding, I must tell you that I and my family for ages back were strict Jews, and I had been brought up by good, religious parents. How the memory of the old days comes over me as I write! Never shall I forget my father's earnest prayer the last hour I spent under his roof he gave me up to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and prayed that the angel that redeemed them from all evil might bless me.
I landed in Australia upon a Sunday evening, and when I arrived at my destination I found a party assembled, and joined with all my heart in the mirth around me. For twelve months I went into every kind of gaiety Melbourne afforded – dress, balls, the opera in fact, pleasure of every kind seemed my one thought. About this time I met a gentleman to whom I became deeply attached; but though our affection was mutual, the thought of marriage I could not entertain, as he, being a Christian, and I, heart and soul a Jewess, it seemed out of the question. However, time wore on, and I at last consented to marry him, though I knew it would involve leaving all who were dear to me, and that it would bring a stigma upon my family. Before we were married I exacted a promise from my husband that he would never use any arguments to make me believe, as I was determined to live and die a Jewess. I will not dwell upon my married life my husband was all in all to me – I wanted nothing more. God blessed us with two dear little children, and He who gave them me only knows the agony of mind I endured in the thought, 'How shall I teach these little ones what I do not believe myself?' for I had made up my mind, simply out of love for my husband, that they should be brought up in their father's faith.
Although I attended God's house regularly, my heart was in no way changed, and I never thought of Jesus as my Saviour. After my second child was born, I became earnestly impressed with a desire to become a Christian. My prayer at that time always was – 'O God! if it be right, let me believe.' I could not see that it was honoring the Father to honor the Son; and although I really wanted to be a Christian, I did not seek God with my whole heart; my husband and my children
were all that I desired.
And now there came a time of trial that I must pass over as quickly as possible. By an accident my beloved husband was taken from me in a few days. So terribly sudden was the blow that I could hardly realize that he had gone for ever; and, oh, what a gulf separated us! – it seemed to me impossible. I knew he had died in the faith of Jesus, and I – I was as far off being a Christian as the first day I met him. I was very bitter and hard in my grief, and felt that God had dealt cruelly in crushing me so, taking all the youth and brightness out of my life. It seemed impossible to live, and I felt nothing but the desire to be with my loved one again. Many a day I have laid on his grave in the damp, and prayed that God would take me; but God 'while I was yet a long way off,' took compassion, and raised up dear friends who showed me that only in one way could I ever hope to see my husband again. The desire to be a Christian became so intense as to become a part of my life. No half-heartedness about it. I began to seek the Lord with all my might. 'When ye seek me with your whole heart, ye shall find me,' is a promise I have proved.
One day I was reading the old, old story, when something whispered to my soul, 'He suffered all this for you,' and the truth seemed to burst upon me like a flash of lightning. I had found the Saviour my Saviour, and such a flood of love as came into my heart for Him I cannot describe. I went onto my room and on my knees I sobbed aloud, not for sorrow this time, but for joy. Words fail me in attempting to tell you half my Saviour is to me. He is indeed my all; and I can say – 'The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.' It is now some years since I found my precious Saviour, and although my trials have seemed sometimes as though they would overwhelm me, I have never doubted from the moment that I first believed in Jesus, but have thanked God on my dear husband's grave, for taking him (oh, it is only for a short time), and giving me the rich gift of His Son. My Jesus is no far-away God to me, but a very near and present help I trust Him for all thing and He never fails me. Should there be some who read this who have not as yet known the precious saviour, I do most earnestly and prayerfully implore you to seek Him with your whole heart. In looking back I see I never knew what real happiness was there was always a want the Saviour alone can fill. And, dear unsaved reader, down deep in your heart there is the same aching want. Oh, I beseech you, receive that One who is able to satisfy and fill up your life. He the ‘I am’ who heard the groanings and knew the sorrows of the Israelites, has come and died upon Calvary’s cross for you. He offers to save you; then pause and think what must be the eternity that awaits you if you reject Him. You will be lost – lost – LOST! not because of your sins, but because you deliberately put from you God's Christ. (John iii. 19.) You cannot be saved, you cannot be made fit for the presence of God in any other way than by taking Jesus as your Substitute. By reason of sin you are'condemned already.' As you enter on the duties of the day; as you go to your worldly amusements; as you lay on your pillow to rest; as you read this, remember you are ‘condemned already.’ God has said so. Oh! That He may awaken you to a knowledge of this. Oh listen to God's Word – ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ Do not then harden your heart against such love as His; take this precious Saviour, and the moment you do so His glorious, beautiful life is yours, and He will be henceforth the strength of your life, and your heart will be tuned to sing –
'I've found the Pearl of Greatest Price
My heart doth sing for joy –
And sing I must for Christ is mine
Christ shall my song employ.’
Emilia Baeyertz and Israel
Should this fall into the hands of any of Israel, whom I love, oh, let me ask you, have you ever seriously thought whether that despised Nazarene may not after all be your looked-for Messiah? Have you ever honestly asked the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to show you whether that lowly, humble Son of Mary is really to One of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said – 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bare a Son, and shall call Him Immanuel'? If you will only read the Books of Moses you will see there in what character our Messiah was to come. All those slain lambs, those burnt offerings, those morning and evening sacrifices, the blood shed and sprinkled, and the scapegoat, all pointed to one who was to come to bear the sins of His people and make atonement for them by giving up His own life. You need a saviour – a Substitute – for you have sinned against God, and 'the soul that sinneth it shall die.' Jesus was God's Son all the miracles He did proved His divinity. Accept that crucified King of the Jews, and you will say with joy, 'I have found the Messiah, the hope of Israel.'