Emilia Aronson Baeyertz 1842-1926
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.’
Emilia Aronson was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Bangor, North Wales, in 1842. Her constitution as a child was not strong, and she suffered for many years from chronic ill-health. As a result, her family withdrew her from school when she was 13. As a young lady, Emilia was engaged to a promising young man who had all the qualifications her family could wish for her. Tragedy struck during their period of engagement, when he was diagnosed with advanced consumption. He died shortly before the intended marriage date. The trauma and strain caused young Emilia to suffer an emotional breakdown. In an effort to restore her to health and strength and in the hopes that a change of scene would benefit her, the concerned family sent her with an elder brother to pay an extended visit to a married sister in Melbourne, Australia. They had no way of knowing what a twist her life would take in the near future!
Her biographer, Watson writes:
“From almost the moment of her landing at Melbourne she was engulfed in a whirlpool of gaiety. Her sister lived in great style, moving in the most fashionable society; keeping her carriages and horses, and in every way living just the gay life, that at that time, was so dear to Emilia. She knew no satiety. She never tired of the gay and endless round of social festivity….
One of her brothers, speaking of her at this time, has often said, “There was nothing that the heart of a worldly girl could desire that Emilia had not. She had youth, beauty—more than a common share of beauty—for the ugly duckling had developed into a lovely girl (as ugly ducklings have a knack of doing). She had heaps of admirers, an endless round of balls, operas, card parties, etc.”
Emilia lived for pleasure only at this time, yet the eye of the loving Lord was upon her, and He waited that His voice and claims might be heard by her.
One day, amid the ordinary whirl of society life, she met Mr. Baeyertz.”
Charles Baeyertz was a committed disciple of the Lord Jesus, and a serious man. Emilia captured his heart, and he hers; they were engaged secretly. Her family, of course, would oppose such a marriage. And his own father had threatened to disinherit him if he dared marry a Jewess. But their love was strong, and despite all the very serious obstacles to their love, they determined to elope. Emilia made only one stiputlation to her beloved Charles: “He would never use any arguments to make me believe, as I was determined to live and die a Jewess.” Emilia’s marriage to a Christian was deeply painful to her family. Grieving, they cut her off. Although her mother did continue to correspond with her now and then, unable to forget her own child, it was many long years before her loving family restored relations with her and her children.
Without a doubt the two lovers had a difficult start, but despite it all their marriage was very happy. Emilia had determined to distance herself from Charles’ religion but could not help but be influenced by his life and faith. Out of love for him she determined to raise her children in his faith and with time became active in his church, even being christened and confirmed. Her private belief, however, was that Yeshua was just a man.
Tragedy struck the young family when the two children were still very small – Charles was killed in a hunting accident, and Emilia was left alone, bereft. His premature and traumatic death left Emilia in traumatic despair. She prayed incessantly, deeply troubled by her own false profession, asking God how to find and know Him. Her own words describe this time in her life:
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.
‘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.’
From that moment she was dedicated to serving Christ. She began witnessing to people in jail and in the hospitals. She went house-to-house, telling the good news, and taught a Sunday School class to boys aged fifteen to twenty. Soon she was asked to pray at a prayer meeting. She wrote out a prayer, but found she could not read her notes in the dim lighting. She had no choice but to turn her face up to God and pray directly and fervently to Him from her heart.
Asked to go to Melbourne as a missionary to the Jews, she hesitantly agreed. Once her fellow Jews found out who she was, doors closed in anger. While there, her little girl almost died from scarlet fever, and the young mother was almost drowned in fear and despair. After a struggle with her Lord, she yielded her child and her life completely to Christ. Peace overwhelmed her. The child recovered and Emilia’s faith was refined.
Undeterred by the rejection of her people, she invited factory workers, men and girls, to hear the good news; she was well received. Nearly an entire class of 300 factory girls received Christ. Her reputation grew, and she began to receive invitations to preach at churches. At first she hesitated, never having addressed a mixed audience before. But after praying and seeking the Lord’s will she became convinced that this is what He would have her do. This was the beginning of a life of ministry as one of the world’s greatest women Evangelists. Her travels took her to New Zeland, America, Canada and Great Britain. It was Christ’s jubilant mission, and God opened the doors before her for ongoing ministry, until the time of her death in England
Baeyertz, Emilia. Six New Addresses Delivered by Mrs. Baeyertz. Perth: City Publishing Co., 1904
Dickey, Brian (ed). Australian Dictionary of Evengelical Biography. Sydney: Evangelical History Association, 1994.
Evans, Robert. Emilia Baeyertz, Evangelist: Her Career in Australia and Great Britain: An Historical Study and a Compilation of Sources Hazelbrook, NSW: Research in Evangelical Revival, Hazelbrook, NSW, 2007.
Hilliard, David, Popular Revivalism in South Australia, Uniting Church Historical Society, Adelaide, 1982.
Watson, Sydney. From Darkness to Light: The Life and Work of Mrs Baeyertz, Guy and Co. Ltd., 70 Patrick Street, Cork.
Walker, J. B. The Baptists in South Australia, 1863 to 1914 B.Th. Flinders University, 1990.
* ‘Cartoon of a woman preaching’, in SA Memory: South Australia Past and Present, For the Future, State Library of South Australia, Government of South Australia, 2006, http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?c=462.
The Australian Women’s Register, Australian Women’s Archives Project
Kai Kjaer-Hansen, The Lady Evangelist from Melbourne