For nearly ten years I never had any desire to build an Orphan House. On the contrary, I preferred spending the funds which came in for present needs, enlarging the work according to the means the Lord gave.
But at the end of October, 1845, I was led to consider this matter in a way I had never done before. I received a letter from a gentleman who lived on the street where the, four Orphan Houses were. He courteously informed me that the residents in the nearby houses were inconvenienced by the Orphan Houses on Wilson Street. He asked me to do what seemed best to me about the matter.
I was very busy that week, and I had scarcely any time to consider it further. On Monday morning, however, I set apart- some hours for prayerful consideration of the subject. I wrote down the reasons which appeared desirable that the Orphan Houses should be moved from Wilson Street, and the reasons against moving.
Reasons For Moving From Wilson Street The neighbors feel inconvenienced by the noise of the children during playtime. This complaint is neither without foundation nor unjust, although one could not find fault with the dear children on account of it. It would probably give me a headache if I lived next door to the Orphan Houses. I therefore should do to others as I want them to do for me. This point had never before appeared to me in so serious a light.
The greatness of the number of the residents in the houses has prevented the drains from working properly, and it has often affected the water in one or two of the neighbor's houses. These words, "Let not then your good be evil spoken of (Rom. 14:16), and "Let your moderation [willingness to yield] be known unto all men" (Philippians 4:5), seemed to be two important portions of the Word of God to be acted upon in this matter.
We have no proper playgrounds on Wilson Street. Our playground is only large enough for the children of one house at a time, but children in four houses should have the benefit of it. We cannot arrange for all the children to use the playground because meals, school hours, weather, and other hindrances interfere.
No ground is available for a garden near the Orphan Houses. By moving from Wilson Street and obtaining premises surrounded by farmland, we would be able to benefit the children. They would have a better opportunity for practical labor, and it would give the boys an occupation more suitable for them than knitting.
The country air would be much better for the health of the orphans than the polluted air in the City.
In times of sickness we are too confined in the houses on Wilson Street. We do not have a single spare room in any of the houses. Although the Lord has mercifully helped us through such times in the past, yet it has not been without inconvenience. We sometimes have more children in one room than is desirable for good health. Even when there is no sickness, it would be desirable to have more room.
The more I have considered the matter, the more I am persuaded that no ordinary large house, built only to accommodate ten people at most, will be suitable for a charitable institution of any considerable size. There seemed to me, therefore, no other choice but to build.
Reasons For Remaining On Wilson Street 1. God has plainly given us this location. As we have grown in size, God has opened up other houses on this street to be available for our use.
Until now God has pointed out Wilson Street as being the spot where this work should be carried on. Could the time have come for moving?
Perhaps we should rent more houses on Wilson Street. We could use two houses for Orphan Houses and one of them for an infirmary in case of sickness. (But then the objection of the neighbors would remain on account of the noise of the children. The drains would be more unsuitable since they are not constructed for so many residents. To alter them would be a heavy expense. The playground would be even less sufficient. Lastly, there is no reason to think that we could rent any additional houses.)
Three great objections exist against building. A considerable sum is required which could be spent for the orphans' present needs. The pilgrim character of the Christian seems to be lost in building a permanent structure. Finally, it will take a great deal of time to make the necessary arrangements for it.
But all these objections only hold good if I needlessly set about building. If I could rent premises which are in every way suitable for the work, and I still preferred to build, then those objections would apply to this case. But we could not be accused of needlessly spending money in building instead of renting. Neither would time be wasted. Therefore, these three objections just mentioned were removed once I saw plainly that no other choice remained but to build.
After I had spent a few hours in prayer and consideration over the subject, I began to see that the Lord was leading me to build. His intentions were to benefit the orphans and better order of the whole work. Furthermore, He wanted to show that He could and would provide large sums for those who need them and trust in Him for them. During no period had the number of the applications for the admission of orphans been greater than just before I was led to think about building.
That same afternoon, I laid the matter before my fellow-laborers in the church to get their opinion. They were all in agreement that they saw no reason not to build. The next day, my dear wife and I began to meet for prayer about this matter and planned to do so every morning. We asked God for clearer light concerning the details of the project. Being assured that it was His will that I should build, I began asking the Lord for money.
Sufficiently large premises to accommodate three hundred children would be needed, together with a large piece of ground near Bristol for the building and a small farm. This would cost at least ten thousand pounds. I was not discouraged by this but trusted in God.
We continued meeting for prayer every morning for fifteen days, but not a single donation came in. But my heart was not discouraged. The more I prayed, the more assured I was that the Lord would provide. It is as if I had already seen the new premises actually before me. Since the beginning of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, God has led me forward and enlarged the work without my seeking after it. My only motives are the honor and glory of God, the welfare of the Church, the physical and spiritual welfare of destitute orphans, and the welfare of all those who would take care of them. After praying again and again about the matter, I still remained in perfect peace. I therefore decided it was assuredly God's will that I should go forward.
On November 15 a brother arrived to work for a little while in Bristol. I told him about having to move the orphans from Wilson Street. He felt that it was God's will that I build. This dear brother's judgment greatly encouraged me. He also suggested that I seek God's direction for the design of the building. He said, "You must ask help from God to show you the plan, so that all you do may be according to the mind of God."
I waited daily upon God for finances for this work, and not a single penny had been given to me. Nevertheless, this did not discourage me. My assurance increased more and more that God, in His own time and in His own way, would give the means.
More than at any period in my life, I was struck by these verses: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing"
Games 1:2-4). These words spoke to my heart about building the Orphan House. I asked the Lord to increase my faith and sustain my patience. I knew that I needed patience as well as faith.
On the thirty-sixth day after I began to pray, I received one thousand pounds for building the Orphan House. It was the largest single donation I had ever received. But I was as calm and quiet as if I had only received one shilling because I was expecting to receive an answer to my prayers. Even if five thousand pounds or ten thousand pounds had been given to me, it would not have surprised me.
December 13. My sister-in-law told me that she met a gentleman in London who read the story of the Lord's dealings with me. She told him that I planned to build an Orphan House, and. he, an architect, offered to make the plan and supervise the building gratuitously. He is also a Christian. The fact that this offer comes unsolicited and from a Christian architect especially shows the hand of God.
December 23. This is now the fiftieth day since I have come to the conclusion to build. Not even one penny has come in since December 10. This morning I have been particularly encouraged because the Lord sent me the one thousand pounds and the promise from that Christian architect whose name I don't even know yet.
I have begun to be more specific in my prayers. We should have a large piece of ground, at least six or seven acres, in the vicinity of Bristol. This will, of course, be very expensive, but my hope is in God. I have not sought after this thing, nor has it begun with me. God has unexpectedly led me to it. The day before I received my neighbor's letter making me aware of the inconveniences caused by the orphans, I had no thought about building a house for the orphans. My prayer is that God will continue to give me faith and patience. If He helps me to wait on Him, help will surely come.
December 24. No further donations have come in, but my hope in God is unshaken. He most assuredly will help. I have purposely not printed any information in connection with this matter, in order that the hand of God may be clearly seen. I spoke to a few people about my intention of building, when the conversation led to it. Through this, the Lord can make it known to others and thus send money for the building fund. Or He can send in such an abundance for the work which is already in existence that there might be a rich surplus for the building fund. No doubt, we will face many trials connected with this enlargement of the field of labor. Therefore, I desire to see clearly that God Himself is leading me onward.
December 29. This evening I received fifty pounds. This donation is exceedingly precious to me not only because it was cheerfully given; nor even because of its size, but because it is another precious proof that God will provide for the building. My assurance has been increasing that God will build for Himself a large Orphan House in this city to show what a blessed thing it is to trust in Him. I can only say, "Lord, here is Your servant, if You want to use me."
December 30. This morning I came, in the course of my reading, to the book of Ezra 1 was particularly refreshed by the two following points in the first chapter, and I applied them to the building of the Orphan House.
Cyrus, an idolatrous king, was used by God to provide the means for building the temple at Jerusalem. How easy it would be for God to provide ten thousand pounds for the Orphan House or even twenty or thirty thousand pounds if needed.
The people were stirred up by God to help those who went up to Jerusalem. It is a small matter for Him to put it into the hearts of His children to help me.
January 3, 1846. One of the orphans gave sixpence for the building fund. This morning I asked the Lord to go before me, and I went out to look for a piece of ground. The armory had been mentioned to me several times as a suitable place. I did not think so, yet I thought I should at least look at it. After I saw it, my judgment about its unsuitableness was confirmed. On my way back to the city, I saw some fields near the armory. This evening I have been led to write to the owner, asking whether he wants to sell them. I am now quietly waiting for the Lord's further direction. If His time has come to answer our requests for a suitable piece of land, I will be glad. If not, I desire that patience may have her perfect work.
January 8. I received a reply to my letter. The owner of the fields writes that the land is too expensive for me to afford.
January 9. I went to see those fields again, and they seem very suitable. I met a land agent there who told me that they would be nearly a thousand pounds per acre and therefore, too expensive. I asked the agent to inform me if he heard of any suitable land for sale.
January 31. It is now eighty-nine days since I have been daily waiting upon God about the building of an Orphan House. The Lord will soon give us a piece of ground, and I told the brothers and sisters so this evening.
February 2. Today I heard of suitable and inexpensive land on Ashley Down.
February 3. The land on Ashley Down is the best of all I have seen.
February 4. This evening I called on the owner of the land on Ashley Down, but he was not at home. I was told that I could find him at his business. I went there, but he had left a few minutes earlier. I could have gone back to his house, but I did not do so, judging that it was God's will that I did not find him at either place. I decided not to force the matter but to "let patience have her perfect work."
February 5. This morning I saw the owner of the land. He told me that he awoke at three o'clock this morning and could not sleep again until five. While he was lying awake, he kept thinking about the piece of land he had heard I wanted for the Orphan House. He decided that if I want to buy it, he would let me have it for one hundred and twenty pounds per acre, instead of two hundred pounds, the price which he had previously asked. How good the Lord is! The agreement was made this morning, and I purchased a field of nearly seven acres.
February 8. I wrote to the architect who has offered his help.
February 11. I received a reply to my letter to the architect. He was happy to offer his abilities as an architect and surveyor, free of charge, to help us build the new Orphan House.
The total amount given for the building fund, as of June 4, 1846, is a little over two thousand seven hundred pounds. This is only a small part of what will be needed; but God, in His own time, will send the whole sum. Two hundred and twelve days have passed since I first began to pray about this work. I am more than ever assured that God will condescend to use me to build' this house. If I had made this decision based on mere enthusiasm, I would have been overwhelmed by the difficulties. But God has led me to this work. He has helped me in the past and will continue to help me until the end.
July 4. My faith and patience have been exceedingly tried. Great difficulties arose about my possessing the land after all. But, by God's grace, my heart was kept in peace, being fully assured that if the Lord took this piece of land from me, it would only be for the purpose of giving me a still better one. Our heavenly Father never takes anything from His children unless He means to give them something better.
In the midst of this great trial of faith, I could not help thinking that the difficulties were only allowed for the trial of my faith and patience. Last evening I received a letter stating that all the difficulties were removed. In a few days, the deed will be transferred.
July 6. The reason why so little came in for the building fund during the last several months seems to be that we did not need the money at that time. When it was needed, and when my faith and patience had been sufficiently tried, the Lord sent more. Today two thousand and fifty pounds were given to me-two thousand pounds for the building fund and fifty pounds for present expenses.
It is impossible to describe my joy in God when I received this donation. I expect answers to my prayers, and I believe that God hears me. Yet my heart was so full of joy that I could only sit before God and praise Him. At last I fell on my knees and burst forth in thanksgiving to God. I surrendered my heart afresh to Him for His blessed service.
November 19. This morning between five and six o'clock I prayed, among other things, about the building fund. I then had a long time for reading the Word of God. I came to Mark 11:24: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." I have often spoken about the importance of the truth contained in this verse. Applying it to the new Orphan House, I said to the Lord, "Lord, I believe that You will give me all I need for this work. I am sure that I will have all, because I believe that I receive in answer to my prayer."
This evening a registered letter came for me containing a check for three hundred pounds. Two hundred and eighty pounds are for the building fund, ten pounds for my own personal expenses, and ten pounds for brother Craik. The Lord's holy name be praised for this precious encouragement! The building fund is now increased to more than six thousand pounds.
December 9. It is now four hundred days since I have been waiting upon God for help to build the Orphan House. But as yet He keeps me in the trial of faith and patience. He seems to be saying, "My hour is not yet come." Yet He does sustain me in continuing to wait upon Him. By His grace my faith is not in the least shaken. I am quite sure that He, in His own time, will give me everything I need concerning this work. How and when I will be supplied, I do not know. But I am sure that God will help me in His own time and way.
In the meantime I have abundant reason to praise God that I am not waiting on Him in vain. During this past year He has given me, in answer to prayer, a suitable piece of ground, and six thousand three hundred and four pounds for the building fund. Surely, I am not waiting upon the lord in vain! By His help, then, I am resolved to continue this course to the end.