The obituary of David Baron:
BY JOHN ROTTENBERG
It is our painful duty to inform the readers of THE SCATTERED NATION of the death of our beloved Director, Mr. David Baron, which took place at Northwood, on Thursday afternoon, the 28th of October, I926.
In almost every century in the history of the Christian Church there have been Jewish followers of Christ, whose lives and works have stimulated Christian faith and piety, leaving a blessing to future generations, and a sure pledge of the fulfilment of the promise that Israel shall yet be life from the dead to the whole human race. Of none can this be more truly said than of the faithful servant of Christ just taken from us – Mr. David Baron.
He was a devoted missionary to the Jews, his brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh. I cannot do better than quote here his own words of the great joy which preaching the Gospel to his Jewish brethren gave him. He says: “I reckon it a privilege to preach the Word of God to thousands of English, Scotch and Irish people, as I do· in my journeyings to and fro in the United Kingdom, but this privilege, highly as I esteem it, cannot compare at all with the delight of unfolding God’s word to my own people. It is a joy unspeakable to lead these poor Jews, often sunk into such lamentable ignorance of the precious Book of God, which is the foundation of all our blessedness in Christ, into the light of the word of Truth.” To him it was second nature to give himself, with all his power and strength, to the cause of Christ among Israel. He was one who walked daily with God, and by word and example helped many a lost sheep of the House of Israel on the way to salvation.
Mr. Baron was born in Poland in 1855, the youngest of seven children. At four years of age he went to the Jewish School (Cheder), and could read Hebrew well in six months. After two and a half years in the local school, where he had acquired all the religion and Hebrew to be had there, his father took him to an uncle in a neighbouring town, where he could be instructed in the Talmud. A year later he returned to his home dangerously ill of an illness which lasted two months. On his recovery his father placed him under the care of a local Rabbi, who was a very severe man. A little later a very serious accident occurred, when he was knocked down by some horses drawing a cart which had taken fright, and the wheels of the cart passed over him. He was carried home unconscious, and the doctor gave no hope of his recovery. He himself, however, as soon as he could speak, comforted his weeping mother, telling her that he was confident that God would raise him up, and that he should not die, and in four weeks’ time his words were verified. His father now engaged a private tutor, who instructed him in the Polish and Russian languages.
At ten years of age he entered a Rabbinical College and became one of the most proficient students, obtaining the first prize – a volume of Commentary on the Talmud by a distinguished Rabbi, only eighteen months after entering the school. On his becoming Bar Mitzvah, three years later, he delivered a discourse on “The necessity of putting away leaven,” which was greatly applauded by all present.
A few years later one of his brothers-in-law made up his mind to emigrate to America. It was decided that David should accompany him, though his father had great reluctance to let him go. On their journey, when they were no farther on their way than Berlin, the brother-in-law found that he had been robbed of his money. David gave him his own and saw him start for America, intending to follow him later if this should become possible. He remained in Hull, alone and friendless, and bravely faced the difficulties of his position. His father sent him money and wished him to return home, but he decided rather to remain ani make a way for himself. Through all the trials of this time God was leading him by a way that he knew not and choosing his future path of service for him.
Soon after his arrival in Hull, Mr. Koenig, a Hebrew Christian, invited him· to· attend his Saturday Gospel meetings. He went, but only with the object of perplexing the missionary with questions and arguments. From Mr. Koenig he had received a copy of the New Testament. Although not convinced of the new doctrines – heard for the first time – he was compelled to inquire into them and study their sources. The Rev. John Wilkinson and Mr. Adler shortly after came to the city and were introduced to him by Mr. Koenig. He could not accept what they maintained that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, yet the need of one who could deliver from the condemnation of the law became an alarming necessity to him. For six months he passed through a period of deep soul anxiety, during which he made full examination of the Scriptures. He then came to London; where he renewed acquaintance with the Rev. J. Wilkinson and Mr. James Adler and within a month he had found rest for his soul and complete salvation in Jesus His all-sufficient Saviour. Since that time he has written, “The Name of Jesus has been more precious to me than anything else in the world.”
Shortly after this he received· a letter from his father, addressed to” My lost son David.” The poor man by this time had learned that his son was an apostate who had forsaken the God of Israel, for so he would interpret the letters which reached him, and for seven days he had been mourning, as for the dead, over this lost son. This almost broke his son’s heart, tides of anguish broke over it; the evil one tempted him sorely, but he poured out his heart to God and was strengthened and comforted. To the dear old father he wrote, and in his letters he gradually transcribed the whole of the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistle to the Hebrews. At first the old man would let no one see these letters, but gradually, as his sight grew weaker, his other son had them to read, and professed himself a believer. He came to England, but soon passed on to America, and so out of sight, ceasing to write to his brother.
A few years later the dear old father came across the frontier of Russian Poland to meet his youngest son David for one night. The meeting was very touching, and the precious time was well used in proving to his father that he was still a devout worshipper of the Covenant God of Israel, who had revealed Himself in the Messiah, of whom His Word is full. Greatly comforted, the old man said, on parting next day: “My son, it has added years to my life to know that you are still a worshipper of our God.”
Mr. Baron spent two years at Harley House to prepare for missionary work, meanwhile helping week by week in the evangelising work of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. On his leaving Harley House he identified himself fully with the Mildmay Mission, and the same month he started with Mr. James Adler for Scotland to preach Christ to the Jews of Edinburgh, Leith, Glasgow and Dundee. Mr. Baron was astonished that in Scotland, which was so warmly interested in the Jews, and gave so much for Jewish Missions, there were Jews perishing and no one systematically working to open the way of salvation to them. One gentleman sent £20 for such work, and offered another £30 if another missionary visit should be arranged. In the autumn Mr. Baron was again in Glasgow. All classes of Jews attended his Bible Readings and other meetings, and many who at first were bitter opposers became quiet and earnest listeners of the Gospel. Dr. Andrew Bonar wrote at this time to Mr. Wilkinson that “the ·stagnant waters had been stirred by Mr. Baron’s visit.” Scotch friends became eager that their populous city should become a permanent station for faithful evangelistic work among its 500 resident Jewish families and the many Jewish emigrants on passage. Set apart by prayer for this work, Mr. Baron was appointed by the Mildmay Mission to settle in Glasgow and continue the work so hopefully begun. In some two years he returned to London and the Scotch work went on in other hands.
Partly in London, and often on mission journeys abroad, his work was continued in connection with the Mildmay Mission to the Jews during some twelve years. He never identified himself with any particular branch of the Christian Church, knowing well how these divisions are so many stumbling-blocks for the Jews. His one aim was to make their own Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, glorious in their eyes; to open up the Scriptures concerning Him, proving Him to be the Way, the Truth, the Life, to Jew and Gentile alike – surely the better way.
In the year 1893, Mr. Baron, in connection with the late Rev. C. A. Schonberger – both Hebrew Christians – founded the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, with the hope of making it a testimony purely of devoted Hebrew Christians to their own kinsmen according to the flesh as far and wide in the earth as the Lord should open the way, and most wonderfully has He done this. Much prayer and constant has been the manner of Mr. Baron’s life, and from the time of the founding of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, he has laboured intensely for its purity. He was not content merely to follow in a path already trodden by predecessors, but sought to be alone influenced by the principles of the Word of God. “The idea of the founders was not to add another Mission to those which already existed,” he wrote, “but to do a work which, by the help and blessing of God, would be supplementary and a very needful element in the whole Jewish work.
The character of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel was to be entirely biblical and spiritual.” This is what was striven after, and deficiencies and failures were subjects of grief and renewed earnest prayer. The Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel was conceived by faith, born of faith, bred in faith, and cradled in faith. Two years after its foundation Mr. Baron wrote and said: “To carry on the work of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel efficiently in this and other lands we need between eight hundred and a thousand pounds a year. Wherever one penny of it will come from we know not for certain, so that we cannot look to north or to south, east or west, or lean on any arm of flesh; but we look above to the Father of Lights, to the God who has made the heavens; and if we do His will He will not fail us.” That this faith has often been tested and tried is well known to all who have taken an interest in this work, but Mr. Baron and all his associates resolved that they “would rather suffer need than make personal appeals, or advertise, or use other methods derogatory to the glory of the great Master whom we serve.”
It was not, however, to his own people alone that Mr. Baron confined his attention; he devoted a large share of his time and effort to the Church of Christ. Travelling to and fro in the United Kingdom and abroad, and coming into contact with all kinds of Christians belonging to all denominations, he found that the characteristic weakness of present-day Christianity is· superficiality and shallowness. He searched to discover the main cause of this, and came to the conclusion “that it is chiefly to the almost exclusively fragmentary, vague, disjointed, textual manner in which the Bible is being dealt with, that the lamentable lack of depth and backbone in the Christianity of the present day is due. It is also owing chiefly to this cause, and to the neglect, or misinterpretation of typology and prophecy, and the ignoring of the position of Israel in relation to the purpose of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, that the Old Testament has become ‘as the words of a book that is sealed’ to the majority of professing Christians.” He therefore decided “to unfold connectedly whole Scriptures, and thus let the sacred oracles speak for themselves.”
Mr. Baron found full scope for his Scriptural unfoldings in THE SCATTERED NATION, the quarterly record of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, to which he devoted himself with a holy devotion. His masterful and instructive expositions, contributed regularly to THE SCATTERED NATION, will now be missed, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over the world. The world circulation of the magazine may not have been very large, but has been very influential. Editors of all kinds of Christian papers have welcomed his expositions and interpretations of Jewish events and occurrences as a most valued fountain of enlightenment and inspiration. For thirty-three years he edited THE SCATTERED NATION with exceptional ability, and it has become exceedingly appreciated and developed into one of the most authoritative organs of Hebrew Christian and Jewish Mission opinion. He was always illuminating and instructive in his comments on Jewish topics of the day, and his arguments were often reproduced by other journals here and abroad.
Apart from his work as director, expositor and editor, Mr. Baron was also author of a number of scholarly books. Several of his works have been translated into quite a number of languages, and have reached many editions.
Perhaps his best known works are:
“The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew ” ;
“Types, Psalms and Prophecies”;
“The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah”;
“The History of Israel: Its Spiritual Significance,” and
“The Servant of Jehovah: The Sufferings of the Messiah and the Glory that should Follow.”
It may not be known that Mr. Baron regarded this last book as the best of all his works. Probably the reason may be found in the following expressions in the Preface to the book: (I) “It has confirmed his faith in the supernatural character of prophecy, and made him feel as never before that Holy Scripture has upon it ‘the stamp of its Divine Author – the mark of heaven – the impress of eternity.’” (2) ” It has, if possible, wrought deeper conviction in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, the promised Redeemer of Israel – He ‘of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.'” And (3) “It has also strengthened his hope for the future blessing of the nation from which he had sprung, and for which he has not ceased to yearn with the yearnings of Him who wept over Jerusalem, and even on the Cross prayed for them: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'” To us all his writings reveal him as a great scholar, expositor, and painstaking student, and reflect his own personality.
When preparing for the meetings in the Mission House, as well as elsewhere, Mr. Baron spared no pains. He usually chose his subjects for the Saturday meetings either from the Pentateuchal or Prophetical portions which were read in the synagogues on the same day. His manner on the platform was very solemn; he looked like one of those old-time prophets and apostles. Mr. Baron was so much and for so many years occupied with the prophets and apostles, that he appeared to be truly one of them. In his preaching he was fettered by no shackles of system. The truths which try the reins and search the heart, and insist upon full surrender of the whole human being, under all conditions and circumstances, were always pressed upon his Jewish hearers. Knowing, as he did, the terrible ignorance of Bible truths among the Jewish masses, he framed his expositions for them to meet their mental state, always avoiding terms of which they have no clear conception.
It is needless to tell our readers that Mr. Baron was a man of prayer. His prayers were fervent and constant. He may be said to have done all that he did in prayer. His prayers in public were a real spiritual treat. We always found them remarkable for their simplicity and absence of vain repetitions. He brought before God whatever was laid upon his heart, giving utterance also to the thoughts in the hearts of those who prayed with him. He prayed for the Church, for Israel, for the heathen, for the work among the Jews, and for the work among the Gentiles, and he also pleaded for individuals and special cases. God gave to him a wonderful gift in ordinary conversation of shedding light on passages of Scripture; from the store of the true riches into which he had dug so deeply he distributed with joy the heart of truths such as no trivial superficial reader discovers, but which strengthen faith and comfort the soul. How many will there not be who recall this to be true in their own experience.
He was truly paternal for the welfare of all he had to do with, and his anxiety for the temporal as well as the eternal good of those connected with the Hebrew Christian Testimony was intense. Every Monday he conducted a special prayer meeting for the Mission family, at which he expounded the Word of God and entered deeply into Divine truth. His heart rejoiced in these family meetings on Monday, and we all felt the presence of God with us. He watched over the members of the Hebrew Christian Testimony with a holy jealousy. When he saw any one of the missionaries depart from the fundamental principles of the Mission, and the individual could not be brought to a change of mind, he suffered nothing to influence his judgment – the purity of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel was dearer to him than any other consideration.
I cannot refrain from referring to yet other things in the life and character of this great Hebrew Christian witness for Christ. Mr. Baron was one of the most self-forgetful of men – indeed the whole of his ministry is marked with this great seal of Christian virtue. Leaving all things, and forgetful of every personal wish, he followed his Master. There is no place in the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, not a department of its manifold work, which does not show traces of his great orderliness of mind, and of his love for Scriptural method. One of his frequently quoted texts was: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Mr. Baron made friends very easily, and gave his confidence unreservedly and unquestionably to those whom he loved and trusted. Of him it may truly be said that he never failed a friend, that he loved his friends with an extraordinary fidelity, that he redoubled their joys and halved their sorrows. But perhaps the distinguishing feature in his Christian character was humility.
In the last few years ill-health prevented him from taking the same active share which he had hitherto done in the work of the Mission, and to those who were in his confidence he was wont to admit that one of the greatest sorrows he endured was his frequent absences from the Mission House. This caused him much mental suffering. The spirit of fortitude and resignation with which he bore all his sufferings was in keeping with the piety of his character. As a matter of fact, Mr. Baron has been in ailing health for some time, but his love for his people and for the Hebrew Christian Testimony was such that even contrary to the advice of his doctor, he persevered to the end.
Mr. Baron’s last visit to the Mission House was on Saturday, October 16th, when he remained there for the week-end, in order to visit the children in the Sunday School, and to attend the open-air meeting on Sunday evening; both of which he greatly enjoyed. His last public appearance was on Monday, October 18th, at the Aldersgate Street Y.M.C.A. On the Friday after this he became severely ill and pneumonia developed. Within a week he passed away, and was with the Lord he loved. What the death of this man of God means to the cause of Christ generally, and among Israel in particular, is almost impossible to gauge. It is too soon for us to appreciate his loss. Many an active worker, snatched from his or her work, has left a gap not easy to fill; but, as one who was associated with Mr. Baron for a little over two years, I would say that the gap he leaves is one that can only be filled by an act of faith, and we are assured that the God of Abraham will teach and empower His servants, and will still bless Israel by their faithful testimony. Surely it would be very selfish and unfair of us to regard our Director’s death solely from our own point of view. We must consider that our loss is his gain. He is now in his Father’s house, the Paradise of the Redeemed. He has met his adorable Lord, how blessed he is already while we are still praying and hoping! While we grieve for ourselves and our great loss, we ought also to rejoice in the exceeding great reward which awaits the faithful servant of God. Our aim in writing this paper has not been to eulogise Mr. Baron, but to bring glory to Him who made him what he was, and at the same time to show that God has not cast away His people which He foreknew.
The funeral of the Rev. David Baron, who died on October 28th, took place at Northwood, Middlesex, on Tuesday afternoon, 2nd November, 1926.
See the whole article: The Scattered Nation, No. 129, JANUAR, 1927., p. 267-280