15 February 1809 Founding of CMJ, Oldest Protestant Mission to the Jewish people
It was resolved on February 15th, 1809, “That in future this Society shall be denominated the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity amongst the Jews,” subsequently modified into “for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews.” The title is indeed a lengthy one, and has often been felt to be unwieldy, although it exactly formulates the objects of the society, as being for the extension and diffusion of Christianity amongst this ancient people and not the conversion of the entire race — a consummation not to be expected during this dispensation.
It is doubtful, however, if the founders restricted the title to this sense. For, whilst noting that there were “not less than thirty converted Jews and Jewesses in His Majesty’s Dominions,” they added, “these we consider as the earnest of that great harvest of Israel which the prophets have predicted.” And they asked, referring to Missions to the Heathen, “Should not similar efforts be made that all Israel may be saved?”
It was, however, fully recognized that the duty of supporting Missions to the Jews was altogether a thing apart from the necessity of holding any special views on prophecy.
The Second Report contained these words : “A charge of enthusiasm has been made by some persons concerning the views of the Society; and it has been asserted that your Committee are influenced by foolish and Utopian expectations. Your Committee have already expressed their sentiments in respect of the present circumstances and events of the world. They certainly consider the occurrences of a few years past as peculiarly awful and surprising, and are roused to exertion by the signs of the times.
Nevertheless, they are not determined to any measures which they adopt by visionary and uncertain calculations. They wish to distinguish between the restoration of Israel to their own country, and the conversion of Israel to Christianity. If nothing peculiar appeared in the aspect of the times — if neither Jews nor Christians believed the future restoration of Israel — if no exposition of prophecy had awakened attention or excited expectation in men’s [sic] minds — if it were possible to place things as they stood many centuries ago — still your Committee would urge the importance and propriety of establishing a Jewish Mission. They cannot conceive any just reason why the Jews should be wholly neglected, and no means employed for their conversion!”
Prayer: Lord, we thank you for the faith and vision of the founders of CMJ. Thank you for its influence, legacy and continuing ministry. Thank you for the Messianic congregations that were founded by its pioneers, and others who served within it over the last 200 years. Please continue to bless its ministry, and all who serve within it to share the Good News of the Messiah with his people. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
W.T. Gidney, History of the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews from 1809 to 1908 (London: LSPCJ, 1908)
The work of CMJ began among the poor Jewish immigrants in the East End of London and soon spread to Europe, South America, Africa and Israel. CMJ became one of the biggest mission organisations in the world with over 250 missionaries.
CMJ has its foundations in the establishment of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1795. Like other missionary societies founded in the late 1790s, LMS was concerned about reaching all nations with the message of salvation though Jesus, the Messiah, and the ‘imminent’ restoration of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their land. The vision (and heart) of LMS can be seen in the early writings of their periodical, the Evangelical Magazine. In 1796, the magazine reported the following:
‘The deplorable state in which the Jewish nation is now found, has a loud claim upon Christian philanthropy… The Jews were, however, the natural branches of the spiritual vine; and notwithstanding, in consequence of their being broken off, the Gentiles were grafted in, yet there will arrive a time, in which all Israel shall be saved; in which there shall be one fold of Jew and gentile, and Christ, the great head of the Church, become the shepherd of the people… But, amongst all the benevolent plans which have been formed to secure the salvation of sinners, how little attention has been paid to the state of the Jews! They have lived and traded with us, and we have scarcely reflected on their melancholy state, as outcasts of God.’
(Excerpts taken from Evangelical Magazine, 1796, pp. 403-5)
Palestine Place in London
Purchased by CMJ, extended and used for ministering to the Jewish people as: School, House of Industry, Hospital, Congregational meeting place
Providentially, in 1795, a, a young Jewish man, Joseph Levi, from Maynstocheim in Germany had a divine appointment with a pietist Christian and heard clearly about the promise of a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31). A few short years later in 1798, he came to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah and took a new name, Joseph Samuel Christian Frederick Frey, a well-known name in CMJ history.
In time, differences in the approach of supporting new Jewish believers resulted in Frey founding a separate society in 1809, The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. The name was later shortened to London Jews Society (LJS) and has evolved since that time to become Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CMJ). Many others came alongside Joseph Frey, including such prominent members of British society as William Wilberforce, Thomas Babbington MP, theologian Charles Simeon, and minister and philanthropist Lewis Way. Still other influential and distinguished members from all ranks of society joined CMJ including the Duke of Devonshire, the Earls of Bessborough, Crawford, and Lindsay, and several other lords and bishops.
The efforts and generosity of CMJ’s early members laid a strong foundation which continues to uphold the society’s mission to encourage the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people.