Louis Meyer 1862-1913
A Christian Prince in Israel
(Excerpts from the memorial speech by Mrs. T. C. Rounds; fromwww.lcje.net – the online Jewish Missions History Project.)
“Know ye not that there is a Prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel”—2 Sam 3:38.
Louis Meyer was born in the small town of Crivitz in the Dukedom of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, in Northern Germany, on August 30, 1862. His parents, who were well-to-do Hebrews, determined to give him a good secular education, and at an early age he was sent to the Gymnasium in Parchim, Mecklenburg (an institution between an American College and a university), from which he was graduated in 1882.
He was reared as a German Jew, but was well acquainted with Christianity and its doctrines, having read the New Testament in Greek in school. As a student he became a Rationalist, and was sometimes even ashamed of his Jewish birth.
His uncle, the celebrated, missionary of the Presbyterian Church of England in London, Rev. Theodore Meyer, visited frequently at the home of his brother, Mr. Meyer’s father, but, having promised not to discuss religion during these visits, was faithful to his promise and never spoke of Christ to his nephew. He prayed, however, according to his later testimony, especially for this nephew, who visited him frequently in London.
Louis Meyer’s own inclination drew him to the study of history and literature, but the fact that a Jew had, at that time, no hope of gaining any official position in Germany, caused him to begin the study of medicine in the universities of Berlin, 1882-1883; Marburg, 1883-1884; Wurzburg, 1884-1885; and Halle, 1885-1887. He became especially interested in surgery and served as “volunteer” in the Royal Surgical Hospital at Halle. There he contracted blood poisoning at a post mortem section in 1887, and the physicians thought only a long sojourn upon the ocean could restore the weakened nervous system. Thus he laid aside the practice of surgery for a time and went upon the sea for almost four years. He served first as steward, then as chief purser upon the Delcomyn, Dunedin, Bedford and other steamers, thus seeing almost every part of the world. His health having been fully restored, he came to the United States, and soon went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to again take up the practice of surgery, which he laid aside almost five years before. God ordered otherwise.
In Cincinnati, Mr. Meyer selected the Covenanter Church for his study of the English language, because the Psalms were sung and the worship was very simple. The sermons which led him to Christ, step by step, were a course of lectures by Rev. J. C. Smith, on “Christ in the Book of Leviticus.”The unbelieving Jew was converted and joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. He was baptized in 1892, by Rev. J. C. Smith, of the Clinton Street Reformed Presbyterian Church, whose oldest daughter became the wife of the young Hebrew Christian in 1898 .
At the urgent request of his Christian friends, Mr. Meyer gave up his medical career and became a missionary to the Jews in Cincinnati. Though he met with much encouragement, he was conscious of the need of better training for the preaching of the Gospel and went to the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Allegheny, Pa., from which he was graduated in 1897. A call from the Lake Reno congregation, near Glenwood, Minn., before his graduation, was accepted, and Louis Meyer was ordained and installed in January, 1898. He was the first Hebrew Christian minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. In May, 1900, he accepted the call to the larger congregation at Hopkinton, Ia., to which he ministered until February 20, 1906. During his pastorate a fine large church of brick and stone was erected and opened, practically free of debt. Four young men of that congregation consecrated themselves to the service of the Lord in the Gospel ministry. In 1901 the Presbyterian Synod of Iowa made Mr. Meyer a trustee of Lenox College of Hopkinton, in which capacity he served until 1906. He taught also the History of Missions, which formed a part of the curriculum in Lenox College, from 1902 till 1905, inclusive.
During the years in Hopkinton Mr. Meyer continued in larger measure to study Jewish Missions, a subject which he had commenced to investigate in 1896, when the Presbytery assigned that subject to him for his historical essay for licensure. He searched the libraries of Harvard, Yale, Boston and New York, making American Jews and American Jewish Missions his special study. Jews and Christians soon began to come to him for information, and the Missionary Review of the World, The Jewish Era and other German and English magazines published many of his articles. In 1901 he was invited to be one of the speakers at the Messianic Conference in Park Street Church, Boston. In 1902 he was one of the speakers at the Jewish section of the Student Volunteer Convention of Toronto, Canada. In 1903 he was the organizing secretary of the International Hebrew Christian Conference at Mountain Lake Park, Indiana. In 1902 he furnished the tables of the Jewish Missions for the Atlas of Missions by H. P. Beach, which he revised in 1904 for the New Encyclopedia of Missions, and again in 1910 for the “World Atlas of Christian Missions.” In 1905 he wrote the article on Judaism for the text-book of the Student Volunteers’ “Religions of the Missionfield.”
In February, 1906, Mr. Meyer accepted the offer of the Chicago Hebrew Mission to become their Field Secretary.
Mr. Meyer was also editor of the Missionary department of The Jewish Era, the quarterly magazine of The Chicago Hebrew Mission, and was a regular contributor to the Christian Nation. In 1900 he began to be a frequent contributor to the Missionary Review of the World, and in 1909 became one of the associate editors. In this capacity he rendered very valuable service as translator for the General Missionary Intelligence department, as editor of the Jewish Missionary News and as compiler of missionary statistics. Dr. Meyer was also a frequent contributor to the Glory of Israel, Pittsburgh, and Zion’s Freund, Hamburg, Germany.
For four years Mr. Meyer traveled as field secretary of the Chicago Hebrew Mission, visiting all parts of the country, from Maine to California, not as a collector of funds, but as a lecturer, to create an interest in Jewish work in general. His labors resulted in stimulating much personal work in the organization of local missions, and in strengthening the heart and hands of those engaged in missions already established….
Dr. Meyer, a man of marvelous linguistic power, possessed an unusually clear head, a very retentive memory, a logical mind. His brain was a storehouse of facts and figures on the Jewish problems of the day and on general missionary intelligence, which he could quote at a moment’s notice. He was a statistician of acknowledged authority in the United States and abroad, and was exceedingly accurate and careful in collecting his material. Dr. Meyer’s wife used to rally him in their early married life for spending so much time over statistical tables, but he replied: “These are my capital.” One gentleman used to refer to him as “a walking thesaurus.” Especially was he noted for the methodical arrangements of his papers. He never was at a loss to find a letter or paper of any kind, so accurately were they filed and indexed. It was a rare thing to find a converted Hebrew of whom he could not tell all about his birth, his conversion, his baptism, his occupation and his ministry.
Dr. Meyer was also a devout and intelligent student of the Word and a man of prayer, as all his sermons and lectures clearly evidenced. His writings showed a very clear and forceful style, so that no one had ever to guess at his meaning.
In 1912, Meyer was stricken down by hemorrhages of the lungs. …
A few days before death he said something in Latin. When asked what he meant, he smiled and replied: “Tell Mrs. —— `The battle is over, the victory is won’.”
Though for three weeks he had been blind, with great self-control he concealed the fact from his wife, who was constantly by his bedside, lest it should distress her.
As he neared the heavenly shore his face lit up as with a beautific vision. His blinded eyes, now open, evidently caught the face of his Saviour, for he whispered “Christ”—then later, “Pa.” (This was his father-in-law, who had led him to Christ.)