Louis Meyer: A heart for Jewish missions

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Born on August 30, 1862, in Crivitz, Germany, to Jewish parents, Louis Meyer would eventually become a minister of the gospel in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). Before his conversion to Christ, he studied medicine and became a surgeon, but an infection lead him to put that profession on hiatus while he spent four years traveling on the seas in the interests of his own health.

After his recovery, he immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where, in the providence of God, though he intended to resume his medical practice, he was deeply affected by a sermon series on “Christ in the Book of Leviticus” given by the Rev. J.C. Smith of the RPCNA. Not only was Meyer enabled to behold Christ in the Old Testament, and by faith, Meyer also came to be married to J.C. Smith’s daughter.

As Franz Delitzsch has aptly stated, “We are all Japhethites dwelling in the tents of Shem” (a reference to Gen. 9:27). J.G. Vos has expounded upon the Jewish roots of Christian worship in his tract “Ashamed of the Tents of Shem? The Semitic Roots of Christian Worship.” The Psalms sung in the worship of J.C. Smith’s congregation were influential in the conversion of Louis Meyer. He would go on to study theology at the RPCNA seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and then minister to predominately Gentile RPCNA congregations in Minnesota and Iowa, but he always had a heart — like the Apostle Paul (Rom. 10:1) — for the salvation of the Jews.

He was also appointed, in 1900, to serve the Board of Home Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He lectured nationally and internationally on Jewish missions, and contributed often to periodicals, such as The Jewish Era, The Chicago Hebrew Mission, Christian Nation, Glory of Israel, Zion’s Freund, and The Missionary Review of the World (he became an associate editor of the latter).

Meyer once gave a series of lectures at McCosh Hall, Princeton in February 1911. A portion of his account of that event is given here to offer the reader a sense of the man and his mission.

None of us had any idea whether any of the students would attend. We counted upon a number of those from the Theological Seminary, who know me, and upon some of the people of Princeton, but all of us agreed that McCosh Hall, which seats 600 people, would prove rather large for the occasion. Thus the hour for the meeting came, and lo, there were less than fifty chairs vacant in the hall, and a large crowd of students had appeared. Our harpist and our singer, two good Christian ladies, proved a success, and their earnest music was well received. Then I was introduced. I commenced with a broad history of the Jews, past and present, speaking about twenty minutes without revealing my real purpose, and the audience followed me with interest. Suddenly I closed my narrative, and I went on somewhat like this: ‘Jewish History is true. It is recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was closed at least 2,500 years ago. Whence did its writers get the knowledge of such history which is peculiar and extraordinary? By divine inspiration. Then the Old Testament is the Voice of God. ’ While I was developing these thoughts, some of the students who had been lolling in their seats, sat up and leaning forward, began to show signs of special interest.

Then once more I turned to Jewish history and asked the question, ‘What does it teach us?’ My answer was, ‘It teaches us that the master sin of men is the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ It began to grow very still as I was thus appealing to every one present. Just as I closed the appeal and was ready to finish, the great bell of the university struck nine, and every one of the strokes was clearly heard amid the stillness. It was like the call of the Lord. It was of His ordering, for I had not known of the existence of the clock. Deeply stirred myself, I was silent while the clock was striking. When it had ceased, I simply said, Amen. For a little all was silence. Then two students arose, and, as their fashion is, showed their approval by applause, and in a moment the hall resounded with the clapping of hands, the Christian men and women, the professors and the preachers present joining in it. But I sat down, not even acknowledging the applause, because the praise belonged unto the Lord.

His contributions to the causes of educating Gentiles and calling the Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament were many. At the time of his death in 1913 at the age of 50, he was working on a project to highlight the lives of notable Jewish Christians during the previous century. Twenty-one such biographical sketches by him were published in 1983 under the title Louis Meyer's Eminent Hebrew Christians of the Nineteenth Century: Brief Biographical Sketches. A German-born Jewish Covenanter minister of the gospel is not a juxtaposition of words that one sees every day, but such is the Christian gentleman highlighted at Log College Press today. Check out his page to explore a sample of his published writings.