Book Review: Leila Ada the Jewish Convert (Part 2)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One of Leila's first goals on returning to England was to meet with other Christians.  She didn't wish to displease her father, so she usually went to a chapel stealthily in the evenings, wearing a heavy veil.  Finally, she decided to confess the Lord publicly, and after meeting with the minister, she was baptized and partook of the Lord's supper.  

"My time is short;" she wrote, "the veil which separates me from eternity may soon be drawn aside.  Indeed, I am not able to repress a serious and solemn foreboding that my days on earth will not be prolonged.  How important that I should prepare...and not be caught unawares."

The Lord filled her with joy and peace, so that she was "happy beyond expression."  She was very nervous about telling her father about her faith in Jesus, because she had never done anything to displease him--and he had never spoken an unkind word to her.  Finally she gained enough strength to write him a long letter telling him in loving words about her new faith in Jesus and the many proofs which showed He is the Messiah.  She left the letter on his dressing table and spent the night in prayer.  

In the morning her father was very sad and told her she could not see him for a week.  After this time, if she persisted in "apostasy" she would be sent away.  When the week was over, she was sent to her uncle, who was a much more devout Jew than her father.  Her uncle was given instructions that she was to be allowed no Christian reading material, and that she could not be allowed out of the house without someone accompanying her to ensure she did not attend the chapel.  

Leila's uncle told her to be quiet about her Christianity, not mention it in his house to "corrupt" any of the family members, and not speak of it to others--as that would embarrass the family.  Leila's aunt had a busy social life and insisted on taking her beautiful niece with her to a myriad of parties and balls.  This was a trial to Leila because she had a very quiet nature.  Finally Leila became tired of her uncle and aunt's rules and resolved not to hide the light of Christ under a bushel.  She replied to an invitation to a ball, declining it and stating that she was a Christian.  This greatly angered her relatives and severely increased her trial.  

The family began to shun her, wouldn't permit her to eat with them, held their clothes back when they passed her in a hall to ensure she would not touch them, argued with her, and scorned her.  Even the servants began insulting her.  Her eldest cousin, Isaac, however, would have none of this.  He used his influence in her favor, was a very careful and thorough thinker, and had many intelligent discussions with her about the New Testament.  When he began to speak openly of his inclination to become a Christian, the family became even more enraged and blamed his "apostasy" on Leila.  

Finally, two rabbis and several Jewish elders were called in one last effort to save Leila from Christianity.  They argued with her for 7 hours, but she was never at a loss for words, giving reference to the scriptures and refusing to recant.  They became very angry, and one rabbi exclaimed, "Wilt thou then deny it, young incorrigible?  Wilt thou put all present to the lie?  Then on God's behalf I smite thee."  He struck her on the cheek and an elder spat in her face.  She was then excommunicated and all the curses of the law of Moses were pronounced against her.  Any Jew (including her father) who would come near her or allow her in their house would be under their anathema.  She was given 3 days to leave.

The next day, Leila left to stay with Christian friends.  She was in bad health, and sent a letter to her father telling of how she was treated and asking if she could come home.  Her father was very angry to hear how the relatives had treated her, and, holding the rabbis' curses in contempt, rode out in his carriage to take her home with him.  He treated her very kindly and let her go to the chapel whenever she wished.
She started regaining strength and could sing, work in the garden, and play the piano; but the revitalization of her frail frame was only temporary.  She knew that she would soon see her Savior, and spent her time writing to friends and relatives about Jesus.  A friend wrote that "It was plain that her thoughts had fled from earth, and joined the hymning circles of bright spirits in heaven." 

Her health again worsened, and she knew she was dying, or as she put it "Immortality is dawning upon me."  It was very painful for her loving father to watch her decline.  And the thought of leaving her father forever without any assurance that he would meet her in heaven was too dreadful for her to bear; her only desire in life was to see him saved; after that, she said, she could die without a single regret.  They had many conversations, and Leila urged him to read the New Testament and trust in Jesus so she could see him again in heaven.  

A Christian friend, Emily, came to stay with her.  Sometimes Leila was in severe pain, but she never complained.  She gave instructions that her Bibles be given to relatives with her dying wishes that they read them.  "Tell them," she said, "that with my latest breath, I testified, Christ is precious."  She said that He was with her in the valley of the shadow of death, and she was victorious through Christ.  The last words she wrote were "Christ is heaven."  

The morning of her death, she called for her father and told him not to grieve, "If you are faithful to God, you will soon be happy again with me in heaven."  "Then, my precious treasure, you are not deceived!  You feel that your religion fully supports you in death?" he asked.  "O yes! O yes!  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." she replied.  Her father told her he had begun to read the New Testament, and had never expected to see a death like hers.  He then confessed to all present that he too would believe in Jesus.  She gave him her Bible.  

"I hear the voice, the Master is come, and calleth for thee.  My whole soul responds, Even so come, Lord Jesus.  I am full of glory!" she said.  A little after 8 pm, she told her father, "Farewell, my dear papa, I am going to glory.  Serve Jesus--you will soon be there."  At 8:15 she died at the age of 20 years and 18 days.  Shortly less than a year later her father also died peacefully with an unshaken reliance upon Jesus.

The end of the book was very sad and touching--I couldn't keep from crying.  It doesn't seem like 20 year-olds should have ill health and die, but she accomplished more than some people who live to be 4 times her age accomplish in their lifetimes.  Her writings are filled with interesting insights.  She had a passionate desire that her people, the Jews, would acknowledge the Messiah, and a simple faith, joy, and loving trust in Jesus, her Lord.  The language with which these feelings are expressed is reminiscent of the woodwork in Victorian style houses, the ornate cathedrals of the old world, and the bubbling brook in the meadow.  Newer books, like modern houses,--though they serve their purpose--do not seem to similarly realize the innate elegance of the English language (or the delicate ornateness of architecture).

Reprints of the book are available on Amazon and Ebay, and I would definitely recommend it as a literary feast for all who wish to indulge in a beautifully written Christian life story.