7 April 1807 Birth of Ridley Haim Herschel #otdimjh

Ridley Haim Herschell was founder of the British Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Jews (now CWI) and the Evangelical Alliance .

Ridley Herschell

Ridley Herschell

Ridley Herschell and his family were distinguished Hebrew Christians of the 19th century. His son, Farrer Herschell, 1st Baron Herschell, became Lord Chancellor of Great Britain in 1886, and again from 1892 to 1895.

Farrer Herscell

Farrer Herscell

Bernstein gives 10 references to Herschell, and a lengthy excerpt from his autobiography:

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Herschell, Rev. Ridley Hayim, born at Stozelno (Posen), April 7, 1807, was strictly brought up, together [267] with his four brothers, in Jewish orthodoxy. When quite young he had a desire to become a rabbi, and left home seeking to enter some rabbinical school. In his wanderings he was overtaken by robbers, but escaped. At the age of fourteen, he came to Rabbi Aron in the town where his grandfather Hillel resided; there he remained two years among the Chassidim, seeking, after their manner, in vain to become perfectly righteous before God. How he came to the knowledge of Him who is the Lord our Righteousness, he has himself recorded in the following pages:

“Having been favoured by God with pious parents, their great care was to impress my mind from childhood with a profound reverence for God, and for the Holy Scriptures. I was taught to repeat the morning and evening prayers with great solemnity; and on the feast days my attention was particularly drawn to the impressive confession in our Liturgy, ‘It is because of our sins we are driven away from our land,’ &c. On the Day of Atonement I used to see my devout parents weep when they repeated the pathetic confession that follows the enumeration of the sacrifices which were appointed by God to be offered up for the sins of omission; and many a time I shed sympathetic tears as I joined them in saying, that we have now no temple, no high priest, no altar, and no sacrifices. As I advanced in years and understanding, my religious impressions became stronger; fear and trembling often took hold upon me; and what was then my refuge,—what the balm for my wounded spirit? Repeating more prayers, and asking God to accept [268] the calves of my lips. This satisfied my mind at the time; but the satisfaction arose from ignorance of the character of God as a holy and a just Being, and of my own state as a guilty sinner, whose prayers proceeding from unclean lips, could not be accepted as a sweet savour by the thrice holy Lord God of Sabaoth.

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“I continued in this state of mind until I was about sixteen years of age. During this period of my life, I often spent three sleepless nights in the week, studying the Talmud, and other Hebrew works. I also committed to memory several chapters of the prophets every week, in order that I might become sufficiently familiar with the Hebrew language to correspond in it. At this period I became acquainted with a Polish Jew, who had studied several years at the University of Berlin, and consequently had become acquainted with Gentile literature. He strongly advised me to give up the study of the Talmud, and devote myself to the study of German and secular literature. After a hard struggle of mind, I resolved to follow his advice, and accordingly went to ——. Here there was not only a change in the character of my studies, but an entire change in my habits and mode of life. Many things that I formerly regarded as essential parts of my religion, were considered by my fellow-students alt modisch (old fashioned), quite unfit for theaufgeklärten (enlightened). At first my conscience was much disturbed, and I was often very unhappy; but, after a time, these feelings wore off; I conformed to the manners of my fellow-students, and [269] I also ‘lived like a Christian,’ as the Jews in those parts are wont to say of such of their brethren as have no fear of God before their eyes. I formed acquaintance with many young Gentiles; and this I could now do with impunity, as neither they nor I troubled ourselves about each other’s religion; neither of us, in reality, having any, although they called themselves Christians, and I was a Jew. The only thing that reminded me what people I belonged to, was the look of contempt I received now and then from Christians; and the little children in the streets calling after me, ‘Jew, Jew.’ Then, indeed, I realized that I belonged to the people who have become a proverb and a by-word among the Gentiles.


“I well remember the first time I ever heard of one of my brethren becoming a convert to Christianity. It was a young Jew, who was apprenticed to a tradesman in the town where I studied. My idea of Jewish converts to Christianity was, that they renounced their national privileges and obligations; that they separated themselves from the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and publicly joined themselves to the ungodly Gentiles, who live without God, and without hope in the world. Although at this time I had laid aside many of the outward observances of the Jewish religion, I had still a strong attachment to the fundamental doctrines of the Jewish faith, because I believed them to be of Divine origin. The idea of any Jew becoming a Christian, therefore, seemed to me a dreadful apostasy; and I regarded the youth above-mentioned with mingled pity and[270] contempt, as one who had forsaken God, and given up all hope of eternal life.


Dictionary of National Biography

“I pass over in silence several years of my life, which were devoted to the world, and the things of the world; during which time I kept up such a measure of conformity to the customs of my religion as I considered respectable and consistent; but my early convictions and impressions were faded and forgotten; and I belonged to that class whom the Psalmist designates ‘men of the world, which have their portion in this life.’

“In process of time the Lord laid His afflicting hand upon me. The death of my beloved mother, whose tenderness to me I remember to this day with the deepest gratitude and affection, was a heavy stroke to me, and plunged me into the utmost grief. I was then visited with sickness, and my conscience became much disturbed. What I then endured can only be expressed in the language of the sixth Psalm. I solemnly vowed to become very religious; I resolved to fast one day in every week, to repeat many prayers, and show kindness and charity to the poor. But this could not pacify my guilty conscience, as the study of German literature had weakened my confidence in religious observances,—had driven me from my own religion, and given me nothing in its place. One day I was in acute distress of mind, feeling, as David expresses it, that I had sunk ‘in deep mire, where there is no standing’; that all my own efforts to free myself were of no avail, my struggles only made me sink deeper and deeper. For the first time in my life [271] I prayed extempore. I cried out, ‘O God! I have no one to help me, and I dare not approach Thee, for I am guilty; help, O help me, for the sake of my father Abraham, who was willing to offer up his son Isaac, have mercy upon me, and impute his righteousness unto me.’ But there was no answer from God,—no peace to my wounded spirit. I felt as if God had forsaken me; as if the Lord had cast me off for ever, and would be favourable no more. I fully understood the words of the Psalmist, ‘Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me’ (Psalm xl. 12); and I felt that all my devotional exercises were what the prophet Isaiah was instructed to declare the sacrifices and offerings of the Jews in his days to be,—vain oblations, an abomination in the sight of God.

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“I was far from my home and relatives; and my gay companions, seeing I was depressed in spirits, though ignorant of the real cause of this depression, earnestly urged me to frequent the theatres, and other public amusements, to cheer my mind. At first this partially succeeded; but the merciful kindness of God left me not thus to my own devices, but graciously interposed, and again roused me to seek after more solid happiness.

“God, in his tender mercy, had again disturbed and disquieted my conscience so much, that I fully realised the words of the Psalmist, ‘I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long, for my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore [272] broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart’ (Psalm xxxviii. 6-8). I had no peace nor rest; but wherever I went, or however I was employed, I carried about with me a sense of misery that was intolerable. I could say with Job, ‘The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit’ (Job vi. 4).


“One morning I went to purchase an article in a shop, little knowing that God had there stored up for me the ‘pearl of great price,’ which He was about to give me ‘without money and without price.’ The article I purchased was wrapped up in a leaf of the Bible, which contained a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. The shopkeeper was, probably, an infidel, who thought the Bible merely waste paper; but God over-ruled the evil for good. As I was walking home my eyes glanced on the words: ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ This arrested my attention, and I read the whole passage with deep interest.

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.’ (St. Matthew v. 3-10.) [273]


“I was much struck with the sentiments contained in this passage, and felt very desirous to see the book of which it was a portion; I had no idea what book it was, never having seen a New Testament. A few days after, God directed my footsteps to the house of an acquaintance, on whose table lay a copy of the New Testament. Impelled by curiosity I took it up, and in turning over the leaves beheld the very passage that had interested me so much. I immediately borrowed it, and began to read it with great avidity. At first I felt quite bewildered, and was so shocked by the constant recurrence of the name of Jesus, that I repeatedly cast the book away. At length I determined to read it through. When I came to the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, I was astonished at the full disclosure of the nature of Pharisaism, contained in it; and Christ’s lamentation over Jerusalem, in the concluding part: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ affected me even to tears. In reading the account of the crucifixion, the meekness and love of Jesus of Nazareth astonished me; and the cruel hatred manifested against Him by the priests and rulers in Israel, excited within me a feeling of compassion for Him, and of indignation against His murderers. But I did not as yet see any connexion between the sufferings of Jesus and my sins.”


In 1828 he entered the Operative Jewish Converts’ [274] Institution, which was under the superintendence of Erasmus Simon, and was baptized April 14, 1830, when he took the name of his godfather, Rev. Henry Calbone Ridley. Owing to some scruples, he preferred to enter the nonconformist ministry, in which he also zealously laboured for the spiritual welfare of his brethren. He was one of the founders of the British Society. Among his converts was Dr. A. Fürst, a very able missionary of that Society. Ridley Herschell edited a periodical under the title, “Voice of Israel.” He wrote also an account of his journey to his home, “A Visit to my Fatherland”; “Reasons why I am not a Roman Catholic.” With the assistance of Sir Culling Eardley he built Trinity Chapel, Regent Street, where he was, one might say, a father to the converts in London in 1845-6, and they reciprocated his love by sixty of them presenting him with a polyglot Bible, in eight languages, in 1845.


Herschell’s Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for these Hebrew Christian pioneers and giants of the past. We pray that their legacy may endure and flourish amongst our people Israel and the church today. Help us to follow in their footsteps of faith, learn from their mistakes, and contribute to the next generation of Jewish believers in Yeshua, as they have to ours. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen

Herschell, Rev. David Abraham, a brother of the above, a very saintly man, baptized in Basel, 1845, was first his assistant at Trinity Chapel and afterwards, nearly all his life, minister of the Congregational Church, Loughborough Park, Brixton.

Herschell, Rev. Louis, another brother, laboured for many years as missionary and deputation of the British Society, and was a minister at Ware, and later at Peckham Rye, London. He died in 1890.

Herschell, Rev. Victor, another brother, emigrated to the United States, was baptized in the Seventh Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and was ordained to the ministry there. [275]

The son of the fourth brother, who remained in Judaism till late in life, embraced Christianity in Germany.




(4.) “Jewish Witnesses that Jesus is the Christ,” by the Rev. Ridley Herschell (father of Lord Chancellor Herschell), who gives his autobiography and the lives of several personal friends.

In A Visit to My Fatherland (1845), the British nonconformist minister Ridley Haim Herschell, who was a native of Prussian Poland, described his 1843 visit to the “Place of Wailing” on a Friday as “one of the most striking” scenes that he beheld in that city. Herschell, whose account was later quoted by Adler, wrote that “about 30 men and half as many women were assembled together, all without shoes, the ground whereon they trod being in their estimation holy.” He too gives no indication of any separation between men and women at the Western Wall.

Ridley Haim Herschell (7 April 1807 – 14 April 1864) was an Anglo-Polish minister who converted fromJudaism to evangelical Christianity. He was a founder of the British Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Jews (1842) and of the Evangelical Alliance (1845),[1]


Missionary to the Jews; born at Strzelno, Prussian Poland, April 7, 1807; died at Brighton, England, April 14, 1864. The son of Jewish parents, he was educated at Berlin University (1822), and was baptized in England by the Bishop of London in 1830. He became a missionary among the Jews, and was in charge of schools and missionary work at Leigh, Essex, and Brampton, Suffolk, from 1835 to 1838. In the last-named year he opened an unsectarian chapel in London, and in 1846 removed to Trinity Chapel, Edgeware road. He was a founder of the British Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Jews and of the Evangelical Alliance (1845).

Herschell was the author of: “A Brief Sketch of the State and Expectations of the Jews,” 1834; “Plain Reasons Why I, a Jew, Have Become a Catholic and Not a Roman Catholic,” 1842; and “A Visit to My Fatherland: Notes of a Journey to Syria and Palestine, 1844.”

He also edited “The Voice of Israel,” a conversionist journal (vols. i., ii., 1845-47), and produced other works.


  • Boase, Modern English Biography, 1892;
  • Dunlop, Memories of Gospel Triumphs Among the Jews, 1894.



(4.) “Jewish Witnesses that Jesus is the Christ,” by the Rev. Ridley Herschell (father of Lord Chancellor Herschell), who gives his autobiography and the lives of several personal friends.

Farrer Herschell, 1st Baron Herschell GCB, PC, QC (2 November 1837 – 1 March 1899) was Lord Chancellor of Great Britain in 1886, and again from 1892 to 1895.

Dictionary of National Biography article

  1. M. C.

HERSCHELL, RIDLEY HAIM (1807–1864), dissenting minister, was born on 7 April 1807 at Strzelno, a small town in Prussian Poland about thirty miles from Thorn. The town was in French occupation at the time, and just before the child’s birth a cannon-ball entered the room where the mother lay. The incident suggested the name ‘Haim’ (i.e. ‘life’) for her newborn son. His parents were devout Jews. His grandfather, Rabbi Hillel, who lived with them, exercised a great influence on the character of his grandson. He was a man of simple and intense faith, but gentle and considerate to those who differed from him.

When the boy was eleven years old he left home to seek instruction at a noted rabbinical school, and from that time he was never wholly dependent upon his parents. After a few years he returned home with a view to entering his father’s business. Finding the life uncongenial he went to the university of Berlin about 1822, and while studying supported himself by teaching. In 1825 he paid a short visit to England, travelling mostly on foot, and occupied himself during his sojourn in learning English. After completing his studies at Berlin, and visiting England a second time, he went to Paris. The writings of English freethinkers had increased an alienation from his early beliefs already begun at Berlin. He yielded to the seductions of Paris, but in consequence, apparently, of the death of his mother, his religious feelings revived. He was powerfully impressed by reading a part of the Sermon on the Mount which had been used to wrap up a parcel. He studied the New Testament, but his Jewish instincts set him against the Roman catholic ritual. He is said to have thrown into the Seine a crucifix given him by a priest. Shortly after he came again to England, and was eventually (in 1830) baptised by the Bishop of London, one of his sponsors being the Rev. Henry Colborne Ridley, whose surname he assumed. He shrank from taking orders, and for some years occupied himself almost exclusively in mission work among the Jews. In 1835 Lady Olivia Sparrow induced him to undertake the direction of schools and mission-work established by her, first in the fishing village of Leigh in Essex, and subsequently in Brampton, Huntingdonshire. In both places he laboured with great success. By the aid of friends he opened a chapel in London in 1838, where he soon collected a congregation, and organised a ‘church.’ He did not associate himself with any of the nonconformist societies, although his religious belief was distinctly of the same type. Among his hearers were many members of the church of England, as well as of various denominations of dissenters. He was distinguished by the breadth of his views and catholic sympathies. He made many continental journeys, and his personal influence was felt far beyond the limits of his London congregation.

In 1846 Herschell removed to Trinity Chapel, John Street, Edgware Road. He had taken a principal part in founding the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews. He now established a home for Jews who were inquiring into Christianity, and was always untiring in endeavouring to find occupation for Jewish converts. He was one of the first to organise school excursions. He joined heartily with Sir Culling Eardley and others in establishing the Evangelical Alliance, the spirit of which animated his life. He died after a lingering illness on 14 April 1864. Herschell was twice married, first to Helen Skirving Mowbray, and secondly to Esther Fuller-Maitland. Three children survived him, a son, the present Lord Herschell, and two daughters. Herschell’s books include:


  1. sent State and Future Expectations of the Jews,’ 3rd edition, 1834, 12mo.
  2. ‘A Visit to my Fatherland,’ London, 1844, 12mo.
  3. ‘Psalms and Hymns for Congregational Use,’ 1846, 32mo.
  4. ‘Jewish Witnesses; that Jesus is the Christ,’ 1848, 12mo.
  5. ‘The Mystery of the Gentile Dispensation, and the Work of the Messiah,’ 1848, 12mo.
  6. ‘Far above Rubies,’ a memoir of his first wife, 1854, 8vo.
  7. ‘The Golden Lamp, an Exposition of the Tabernacle and its Services,’ 1858, 8vo.
  8. ‘Strength in Weakness; Meditations on some of the Psalms,’ 1860, 16mo. He edited for a time the ‘Voice of Israel.’

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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