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Educated in Rabbinical Schools
FOR MANY YEARS Poland was the main European reservoir of Jewish orthodoxy, and had one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. Until shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, it was also an area of great missionary activity. Warsaw was the chief center of Jewish population, and it was in Warsaw, on December 14, 1820, that Isaac Helmuth was born.
From his earliest years, Helmuth's education was most carefully planned, and he received thorough instruction in rabbinical schools, where he reached an advanced degree of learning in biblical and Talmudical subjects. In addition to his traditional Jewish training, Isaac acquired a comprehensive secular knowledge, and in his sixteenth year he was admitted as a student at the University of Breslau. Here he studied classical and Oriental literature.
At the university, he was brought into close contact with Dr. S. Neuman, a Hebrew Christian and missionary with the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. Through Dr. Neuman, Isaac was led to inquire into the tenets and teachings of the Christian faith. His inquiries led to the early conviction that Christ was the Savior of the world-of Jews and Gentiles alike.
In 1841, when he was only 21 years of age, Helmuth left for England, bearing letters of introduction to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Later he was baptized in All Soul's Church, Liverpool, by the Rev. H. S. Joseph, a missionary of the London Society and a Hebrew Christian. Isaac's conversion and confession of faith were not without severe and heartbreaking cost. His father, on hearing that he had become a Christian, disowned him completely (though after the father's death Isaac's two brothers generously divided the family inheritance with him).
After a three-year course of theological study, Isaac went to Canada. In 1846 Helmuth was ordained to the Christian ministry by Dr. Mountain, Bishop of Quebec, and thereafter devoted himself wholeheartedly to his duties as rector of Sherbrook, Quebec. He was also engaged in tutorial work as professor of Hebrew and rabbinical literature at Bishop's College, Lennoxville, and was later appointed to the principalship of the college. In 1853, the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him. In the same yea, he was awarded also the honorary degrees of D.C.L., from Trinity College, Toronto, and D.D., from the University of Lennoxville. After eight years as rector and tutor, Helmuth resigned both positions upon accepting appointment as general superintendent of the Colonial and Continental Church Society in British North America. When Huron College was opened in 1863, Dr. Helmuth was appointed president, and also became archdeacon of Huron. Huron College faithfully fulfilled its trust under his guidance, and became established as a center of sound teaching. Many devoted ministers of the gospel received their training at the college.
Dr. Helmuth manifested a keen interest in the instruction of youth, and he established a college for boys known as Helmuth Boys' College. He also established a similar institution for young women. Recognition of his ministry and achievements led to his appointment in 1867 as rector of St. Paul's Cathedral and Dean of Huron. Four years later he was elected coadjutor to the Bishop of Huron, and when the bishop died in 1872, Dr. Helmuth became bishop of the diocese. Despite the increased responsibilities and duties involved in his new appointment, he continued to give special attention to the development and advancement of education, and planned to establish a university in connection with Huron College. In 880, he visited England to encourage support of the project, and the university was opened on October 5, 1881.
During the twelve years of Dr. Helmuth's episcopate, great progress was made in every department of diocesan work. The number of churches rose from 149 to 207, and the number of clergy from 92 to 135; the number of Sunday Schools advanced from 110 to 166, and the number of communicants from 4,390 to 8,910.
Dr. Helmuth resigned the see of Huron on March 29, 1883, and returned to England, where he subsequently held various important posts in the church. Failing health compelled his retirement from active work in 1899-at the age of 79.
During the eighteen years he spent in England, Dr. Helmuth was a staunch supporter of Jewish mission work, and often presided over the meetings of the London Jews' Society. It was said of him:
His solid hearing, acquaintance with the languages and modes of though of his
own people, sound common sense, and prudent counsel, as well as his urbanity
and courtesy made him an ideal chairman. His sterling qualities of heart and
mind, his confiding nature, buoyant temperament, and his bright and happy
face always infused sunshine wherever he went.
While his labors as bishop in Canada were successful, his usefulness in England was even greater and more satisfactory to himself. He published several outstanding works, including, The Genuiness and Authenticity of the Pentateuch, and The Divine Dispensation, a critical commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. His Biblical Thesaurus was a literal translation and critical analysis of every word in the original language of the Old Testament, with explanatory notes and appendices. Among his minor contributions to literature were: The Everlasting Nation and The Spirit of Prophecy.
Even though his accomplishments were great, Helmuth's personality remained sweet:
To know him was indeed to love him, as well as to honor and to esteem him. His
Sweet and gentle nature, his amiable disposition, his beautiful character, his
Fatherly attitude, and his unfailing tenderness and sympathy, have indelibly
Associated him in our mind with the beloved disciple St. John, whose last words
Would have been natural indeed upon his lips: "Little Children, love one
There was a true and transparent saintliness about Dr. Hewlmuth in his attitude toward all men, but especially those of the household of faith.
Holy Scripture counsels, "Mark the perfect man...for the end of that man is peace" (Ps. 37:37). Dr. Helmuth passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord on May 28, 1901 at the age of eight.