Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Christian Lady's Magazine

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna edited The Christian Lady's Magazine (TCLM) from 1834 until her death in 1846. This periodical contained a variety of theological and contemporary topics, as is described in Monica Fryckstedt's article in the Victorian Periodicals Review (Summer 1981). One recurring theme was the Jews, conversion, and Palestine, especially beginning around 1840.

"The destinies of the earth are wrapped up in that of Israel, and the Gentile who doubts it had better re-peruse his Bible," wrote Charlotte Elizabeth in the March 1843 issue of TCLM.

Charlotte Elizabeth included many poems and articles about Jews and Israel (usually called the Holy Land or Palestine) in this periodical, such as "Jewish Prospects of 1843." She also included an obituary of the (Jewish Christian) Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Michael Alexander, as well as a review of a Hebrew grammar, etc. In addition, she serialized her book Judah's Lion in the magazine.

In Sept. 1843, in an article entitled "Jewish Literature," Tonna writes:

"Few things would afford us more gratification thatn to remove a little of the gross darkness that prevails among Christians in reference to the actual state, feeling, and attainments of the Jewish community located among ourselves. ... "on this we really are, generally speaking, absurdly and disgracefully ignorant" (p. 221).

In this article she denies that she is Jewish or married to a Jew (which apparently was a widespread rumor). She also debunks various theories ("falsehoods") among Christians, such as that Jews are not permitted to read the Scriptures (whether Jewish or Christian scriptures); that Jews cannot mingle with Gentiles; and that they frequently "deny their race." She lauds Grace Aguilar (a contemporary Jewish author) and her writings, specifically the book published in Philadelphia (probably referring to Aguilar's Women of Israel) under the "direction of the Rev. Isaac Lesser," a Jewish rabbi. While Tonna notes that she and Miss Aguilar disagree on many things, she still praises Aguilar on several points and tries to be gracious toward Aguilar's writings. "We are all, both Jew and Gentile, sadly entangled among human authorities we have each our Talmud, our Mishna, our Rabbis, coming between us and the pure Scripture. Our Rabbi Matthew Henry, and Rabbi Thomas Scott, and Rabbi Adam Clarke, and others, have led us into many an error" (p. 226). She goes on to print a short poem by Grace Aguilar (and I have to say that I'm surprised that Aguilar gave permission for this poem to be published in TCLM).

In July 1844 Tonna wrote a short review of two pamphlets written by prominent Jews in England, which gave her the chance to again praise the British Jewish community and to extol Zionism. She writes "... the body of English Jews appears among us as a real , united , tangible, moving body.... These dry bones of Israel... are dry and bare no longer" (p. 83).

From the Oct. 1845 issue, in a column entitled "A Jewish Sermon," Tonna writes:

"To those, and we hope they are very many, who regard with watchful interest the multiplying signs of a general turning of the Jewish mind to the land which God has given to Abraham and his seed for ever, it must be a matter of thankfulness to observe, how strong is the disposition of the newly-elected Chief Rabbi to foster that feeling. It is true that in all the synagogue-services this hope forms the burden of their general supplications, but the Jews themselves are ready to acknowledge that with the greater number of them it had become rather a mechanical repetition than the expression of a deep and lively expectation" (p. 401).

She goes on to laud "Dr. Adler" (apparently the new Chief Rabbi of England) and to remark that it is exciting that he is a Levite and an Aaronite [Cohen], and that he recently preached a sermon from Isaiah 40 that Tonna decided to reprint in its entirety in the TCLM. She also lauds "Mr. Franklin," who apparently is the retiring editor of the Voice of Jacob, a Jewish periodical (even though "he has occasionally taken a harsh and an erroneous view of the motives and actions of some among us who heartily desire the salvation of Israel, and has spoken hard things under that impression, but this is not much to be wondered at under all the circumstances of a very difficult case" (p. 403).

In May 1845, Tonna wrote a column entitled "The Jews":

"Jesus wept, prayed, and grieved for these his chosen race. Sleep not, then, ye that are the Lord's seeing ye have been in the same condemnation.... May the Spirit kindle a flame in your bosoms, that you may love these people, and be led to be zealous towards them. That ye may approach God often through his beloved Son, that he may smile again on these people also whom Jesus died to save" (p. 461).

In March 1845, in an article by the editor entitled "Mogador and the Jews," she writes that she has cancer and will soon die of this disease (p. 257). She also answers her critics who say that she and the magazine are too cozy with the Jewish community. Tonna's answer is that she would never "compromise the faithfulness of the Gospel" (p. 257). But she does defend her attachment to "The Voice of Jacob" [a popular Jewish magazine] and lauds it. It is true, Charlotte Elizabeth says, that the Voice of Jacob decried "conversion tactics" from Christians, but never did this magazine say anything against Christianity itself. She goes on:

"We pray those who regard with resentment the harsh remarks that occasionally issue from the Jewish Editor's pen on the subject of conversions, to place themselves for a moment in his position, and then to decide whether great allowances ought not to be made for him." (p. 261). ... "Again, we solemnly ask, is there no warrant for the offensive term "apostacy" so often used by the Jewish editor in reference to the converted Jews among us? there is very high authority for it, we think. Any one who turns to the Greek Testament will find the word ... in [Acts 21:21] ... apostatize." (p. 263). ... Whatever Christians may think on thse points, we demand that they enter for a moment into the feelings of a strict Jew, before they condemn their elder brother;... and every day deepens our conviction that if the gospel now presented to the Jews is the same, still the manner of presenting it is deplorably unlike what we meet with in the inspired record of the Acts of the Apostles.... Oh, that we would permit the Lord God to speak to our souls, through the medium of His own dear word without thrusting the mystifying notions of other men, between us and our Teacher! Until this is done, we shall but stumble in dark places, and the Jew will reject our testimony, because it militates against that with which God has made it to harmonize. Till then, we shall never, except in a few solitary instances, scripturally convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ" (p. 264).

Also in the March 1845 issue, in a column entitled "Jewish Prospects" (which is mostly quoting a letter from Colonel George Gawler, a Christian Zionist, to the "Voice of Jacob" magazine, in which he sets forth a plan for Jews to colonize Palestine), Tonna writes the following:

"Anxious, deeply and prayerfully anxious as we are that every child of Abraham should see and acknowledge in the crucified, the buried and the risen Jesus of Nazareth, their promised Messiah, their Redeemer, their Deliverer, and their King, we yet lament and wonder that amid all their laudable zeal for individual conversions, the great bulk of Gentile Christians should so far overlook the immensely-important fact, that throughout the whole Scriptures, national restoration is so linked with national conversion, and to our apprehension so clearly shown as preceding it, that it becomes most bindingly obligatory on us as believers in the sure word of Prophecy, to watch every sign of the times, and seize every possible opportunity for commencing that stupendous work...." (p. 241).

In July 1846 Tonna excerpts a letter from Sir Moses Montefiore which earlier appeared in the Voice of Jacob on the condition of Russian Jewry. Also in this issue was a discussion of the Haftarah portions and the reasons why Isaiah 53 was left out of these readings. Some Christians [says the editor] use this absence as an argument for the "desperate state of blindness, hardness of heart, and active hostility against the truth, which are supposed to form the leading features in the character of a Jew" (p. 79). But Tonna defends the rabbis choices for the Haftarah readings and proclaims that Jews are not being dishonest when they leave out Isaiah 53 from the Haftarah readings because the structure and content was set 180 years before Christ.

In October 1846, after her death, an article was written by the new editor (I'm not sure who this was) called "The Christian Lady's Magazine, and the People of Israel." This person writes:

"We believe that, restored to their own land, they shall become the first among the nations.... We look on them also with sympathy, for we believe that great trials are before them, even the day of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be delivered out of it. The deliverer, we believe, shall be no other than Jesus of Nazareth, in whom their eyes shall then be opened to behold their own Messiah. Believing truths like these, we can only look upon the Jew with real and affectionate interest; if it be ever in the power of our Magazine to serve their cause, it will afford us real pleasure; but we dare not conceal our conviction, that whilst they are still denying their Messiah , imminent peril hangs over them. A great gulf divides us, to meet half-way is impossible; we dare not, unless they can prove to us that truth is on their side, go over to them. What then remains but to entreat them to come over to us, and exchange that hope deferred which has made their hearts sick, for a joyful confidence in the salvation which God has wrought, and a humble anticipation of the eventful times opening for their nation" (p. 461).

What is interesting about this is that one can notice a subtle change in tone with this editorial from those written by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna. Tonna seems to be more diplomatic and subtle, while this editorial is more direct and confrontational.

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