Emmanuel Schweitzer 1809-1844
The following account of Emmanuel Schweitzer is printed verbatim from the “Voice of Israel,” it appearing to me unnecessary to alter the style from the third, to the first person. I may simply mention that he was a regular attendant on my ministry from the time of his being first seriously awakened, until his death; and that I was one of those who received his dying testimony of the all-sufficiency of Christ and His salvation.
By the common consent of mankind, the memory of the philosopher, of the patriot, and of the poet, is accounted worthy of all honor; while God says, “The memory of the just is blessed.” We, therefore, who profess to weigh all things in the balance of the sanctuary, are not called upon to make any apology to our readers for introducing to their notice a departed saint of God, who in this life was poor and unknown, but is now one of the glorious company who sing the ever new song of the redeemed.
Did any of our readers ever encounter in one of the steamers on the Thames, a man of modest deportment, and rather diminutive size, plying his vocation as a cutter of profiles? We can imagine the look of good-humoured contempt with which his diffident request for employment was often complied with. It is indeed characteristic of vain man, that he “looketh on the outward appearance;” and considers not that the faded garment may cover a heart more noble than his own; that the mind which dwells within that mean exterior, is not only a partaker of the joys and sorrows common to humanity, but may have traversed a range of mental experience far higher than his own; it may have encountered struggles he has never known, and achieved victories of which he has not even an idea.
Emmanuel Schweitzer was born at Breslau, of Jewish parents, in the year 1809. Being of a delicate constitution, his early education was much interrupted; but he had a great thirst for knowledge, and very soon displayed a mechanical turn. He was first apprenticed to a draughtsman and engraver; but it was afterwards thought better to teach him a mechanical trade. During the term of his apprenticeship, he suffered, as every Jew does, much annoyance from his Gentile fellow-workmen; but his conduct was such as to gain him the approbation of his master.
In 1835 he came to England, which was the native country of his mother. Here he obtained employment at his trade; but an internal ailment, from which he suffered, rendered bodily labour painful and difficult; and he at length abandoned it for the profession of an artist.
He had been brought up by his parents as a strict Jew; but when he entered on the business of the world, he became lax in his practice and opinions. He continued to pursue the downward road of infidelity, until he landed in complete Atheism. In this dark and hopeless state he continued until January, 1842, when it pleased the Lord to visit him with sickness, that messenger of mercy which is so often sent to recall the wandering sons of men to their Father’s house, During- his illness he was visited by a Jewish brother, who had long known him, and who had been for some years a convert to Christianity. The counsels which Schweitzer had rejected with scorn in the time of health, were again offered him in this time of affliction. In the prospect of death infidelity has no consolation to offer; the only hope she can hold out is annihilation, a fate from which humanity instinctively shrinks. The message of a full and free salvation was a more welcome sound ; and the sufferer listened patiently at least, if not with approbation. No immediate change in his views appeared: but the arrow of conviction had been fixed in his heart; and soon after his recovery, he told his friend that he felt himself a great sinner. He could not see Jesus as the promised Redeemer; and therefore saw no way of escape from the just anger of a holy God. He had been exhorted to pray earnestly for light and guidance; he said he did not dare to pray in his own words, but that his daily prayer to God was in the words of Psalm xxv. 4, 5: “Shew me thy ways, O Lord, teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”
His conscience was now so awakened that he could no longer pursue his worldly calling on the Lord’s day; although the profits of that day had hitherto been his chief support during the week. He found much benefit from reading “Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted;” and told his friend he was almost convinced that Christ was the promised Messiah; but before fully making up his mind on the subject, he would like to hear the objections of some learned Jew. A meeting was arranged with a clever and able disputant; but his arguments only more fully convinced Schweitzer of the truth of Christianity.
During all this time he regularly attended the preaching of the word, sometimes at one place of worship, and sometimes at another; and was often powerfully affected by the tender invitations of the gospel, as well as by the danger and guilt of a state of impenitence. To the instructions thus received, to that ordinance of preaching whereby it pleases God “to save them that believe,” (I Cor. i. 21.) he attributed his conversion to the faith of Christ. On the 13th of May, 1842, he was baptized at John Street Chapel; it being his own wish to be baptized by immersion.
From that time, until it pleased the Lord to remove him hence, Schweitzer walked as a sincere, humble, consistent, follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, He continued to prosecute his calling during six days of the week; and on the Lord’s day joyfully joined the assembly of Christians to whose fellowship he was admitted soon after his baptism. The happy hours he spent in the house of God, compensated for the labour, the disappointments, the precarious support, by which he was tried during the week. In the winter season, when the steamers afforded no customers, he often found great difficulty in getting employment; yet he was never forsaken by his Heavenly Father — help came at the moment it was needed. “Often have I gone out in the morning,” said he to a friend, ”with a heavy vet a confiding heart; and before evening: I have been helped in a way that I knew not of.” His was indeed a life of faith, and his faith was often severely tried. We have seen, that, at a very early period of his enquiry after Christianity, he gave up following his calling on the Lord’s day; this was a sacrifice he was often afterwards called to make. On one occasion, when he was much in want of a sum of money to pay what was due, he received an offer of the exact amount required, if he would attend on that day at a house in the west end of London, to cut profiles ; which offer he at once rejected. Another very lucrative opening presented itself, that of attending in the refreshment-room connected with one of the places of public amusement. He did this for one evening, and gained as much in a few hours as he ordinarily did in as many days; but though there was nothing positively sinful in any thing he saw, or heard there, he yet felt that attendance at such a place might bring a stain on his religious profession, and life at once abandoned it. When we say of any one — ” He left all and followed Christ,” the world asks, “What did he leave? Had he great possessions?” In these days it does not often fall to the lot of the rich to leave all for Christ’s sake; it is the poor alone who enjoy this honor. Many a poor saint is obliged for conscience-sake to give up “all he had, even all his living.” But their Father knoweth what things they have need of; and he forsakes none of them that put their trust in him.
The internal ailments under which Schweitzer laboured, increased much daring the two last years of his life ; and often caused him such excruciating pain, that he told a friend, had he not been a Christian, and enjoyed the consolations and bright hopes of the gospel, he would have committed suicide. In the beginning of September, 1844, he found himself so ill, that he wished to go into an hospital. His Christian friends objected to this, and offered to procure him whatever attendance he might require, at his own lodgings; but he expressed his decided preference for the airy apartments, and entire freedom from outward cares, that those asylums afford. He was therefore admitted into University College Hospital. There, the friends who visited him, were for more than three weeks privileged to witness his patience, his faith, and his hope; the serenity with which he looked forward to death, not only as a happy release from suffering, but as an entrance into life everlasting-; a departure to be with Christ — with that Saviour whom ho loved, and who had loved him. He fell asleep in the Lord on the 25th of September, and the following week was interred in New Bunhill Fields, Islington.
Though a stranger in a strange land, and forsaken, (with one honourable exception) by all his kindred according to the flesh, he was followed to the grave by many sincere mourners. Several of his converted brethren, and other Christian friends who knew and loved him, committed his body to the tomb, “in the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection.” “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.” *’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians, xv. 56, 57.
Dear brethren of the house of Israel! we affectionately ask you, if you can thus triumph over death ?
Can you say — “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” You know you cannot.
Herschell, Haim Ridley (ed.) Jewish Witnesses that Jesus is the Christ. Aylott & Jones, London, 1848.