Mission of Inquiry
To Israel in 1839 and its Consequences
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), 2021 (ISBN: 0781667193397, 40pp)
The preservation of the Jewish people as a distinct group through thousands of years of history is a great evidence of the truth of the gospel. This group remains as much in need as any other of that very gospel of grace, yet there has often been a special priority allotted to their particular mission. This short booklet by a minister of the publishing church highlights an episode of such prioritisation.
Lead by pioneers such as William Carey, John Eyre, and Charles Simeon, the modern missionary movement took a great leap forward from the 1790s. A generation later, the Church of Scotland reached a point of investigating the feasibility of a mission to the Jews living in the then Ottoman Empire.
Three points respecting the commission of ministers sent to undertake this survey are profoundly evident from Keddie’s account; their remarkable dexterity in languages, their readiness to undergo multiple and extreme hardships, and their high commitment to the spread of the gospel and the honour of Christ. Respecting the second of these, Keddie recounts oriental disease, rodent infestations, friskings, confiscations, and detentions by customs officials, religious persecution both by Islamic and Papist authorities, fevers, robberies, and even enforced quarantine. The six-month expedition which was beset by such trials stands in stark contrast to the astonishing ease with which it is now possible to travel almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
As well as their unwavering zeal for the Lord, the Scottish ministers were buoyed by varied remarkable kindnesses granted them on the way; providential meetings with Jewish communities in unexpected cities; a sympathetic and supportive aristocratic patroness; and of course the delight of seeing and of standing within the walls of Jerusalem (medieval rather than original though the present walls may be). Though the focus of the booklet is on the deputation of investigation, edifying comments are made on the long-term fruits of the work, not least in identifying mission stations on the continent and in blazing a trail for many fellow Scots seeking to reach the descendants of Israel that they might truly belong to Israel.
Review of this sort into great pioneering moments in the history of the church are much to be welcomed and commended.
Edward Keene, Little Shelford