GRADUALLY GOD’S providence led Mr. Muller to the sphere of his life’s work. Now at Bristol, after the young minister’s soul had been strengthened by eighteen months of trust for the success of the Institution, God was ready to thrust him forth into his real mission. Other activities were but preparatory to the orphanage work. God had at length through the devious paths of providence faith-energized a man to whom He could trust this important activity.
For months Mr. Muller had been thinking about founding an orphanage. He had prayed about it often, and his classes for destitute children and older folks gradually led him to the decision that God’s time had finally arrived.
On November 20, 1835, he found at a sister’s house a life of Franke which touched the wellsprings of his ambition. He wrote, “I have frequently, for a long time, thought of laboring in a similar way.” The following day he entered in his Journal, “Today I have had it very much impressed on my heart no longer merely to think about the establishment of an orphan house, but actually to set about it. I have been very much in prayer regarding it...to ascertain the Lord’s mind.”
These were the soul-beginnings of the ambitious plan. On December 2 he was to take the first outward and formal step toward bringing into reality this prayer dream. He says, “Therefore, I have this day taken the first actual step in the matter, in having ordered bills to be printed, announcing a public meeting on December 9, at which I intend to lay before the brethren my thoughts concerning the orphan house...”
Mr. Muller was not to wait for the brethren’s opinion, advice or first-fruits of meager gifts. For on December 5 while reading the Bible at
his evening prayer season, the Scriptures blazed forth in a text which inspired his faith to immediate action.
“This evening,” he affirms, “I was struck in reading the Scriptures with these words, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ I was led to apply this scripture to the orphan house, and ask the Lord for premises, one thousand pounds and suitable individuals to take care of the children.” His faith flamed forth when God spoke.
From that moment this text formed one of his life mottoes, and the promise became a power in molding his future work. The text was his check on heaven’s bank, and cashable for any needed amount, so Muller’s faith attested.
God’s seal on the work was not long in coming, for his faith obtained the substance in the form of a gift, the first of many thousands. Muller’s diary entry is short, but meaningful, “Today I received the first shilling for the orphan house.” This was only two days after his memorable outreach of faith for the orphanage.
On the afternoon of the meeting, December 9, came the first gift of furniture in form of a large wardrobe. Concerning that night meeting, more or less a form since God had put his sanction upon the work and gifts had already been coming in through Muller’s faith, the faith-venturing preacher says, “As soon as I began to speak at the meeting I received peculiar assistance from God. After the meeting ten shillings were given me. There was purposely no collection.... After the meeting a sister offered herself for the work. I went home, happy in the Lord and full of confidence that the matter would come to pass.”
The following morning a statement of the meeting was given to the press. Immediate response burst forth following the news article, and gifts began to come in, as well as offers of life services of the givers themselves.
On December 10 Muller received a letter, one of the many scores which were to follow during his long orphanage career, “We propose ourselves for the service of the intended orphan house, if you think us qualified for
it, also to give up all the furniture, etc., which the Lord has given us, for its use; and to do this without receiving any salary whatever; believing that if it be the will of the Lord to employ us, He will supply all our needs.”
Since that day there has never been a lack of competent, cheerful and devoted helpers, though the work rapidly extended beyond Muller’s strongest dreams.
In the evening of the same day, as tokens from the Lord, individuals sent in “three dishes, twenty-eight plates, three basins, one jug, four mugs, three saltstands, one grater, four knives and five forks.” On December 12 came more dishes and fifty pounds for the work. On the thirteenth came twenty-nine yards of print, “also a sister offered herself for the work.” Mr. Muller reported one gift with the same calm and equipoise as the other.
On the next day came eight shillings and “a brother and sister offered themselves.” Still there were no surprise remarks from the apostle of trust, for he had believed that God would fill his open mouth, and in this filling all came as from God. Similar gifts continued daily.
Came basins and mugs and dessert spoons, a skimmer, a toasting fork and a dredge, also pillow cases and table cloths, as well as “fifty-five yards of sheeting, and twelve yards of calico.”
The orphanage was on its way...for the bounteous hand of God was overflowing with gifts.
On December 17 Mr. Muller turned down the gift of $500 from a poor woman, thinking that she was unable to give so much. She was weak in body and her weekly earnings were less than a dollar.
“But,” she replied in triumphant faith, “the Lord Jesus has given His last drop for me, and should I not give Him this hundred pounds?”
The gift Mr. Muller discovered had come through the death of the girl’s grandmother, and he accepted it with gratitude to God for using “this
poor, sickly sister as an instrument in so considerable gift, for helping at its very commencement the work.”
At last Mr. Muller was able to set a definite date for opening an orphans’ house for girls. As funds came in he secured a large house, No. 6 North Wilson Street, where he had been living for some time, by renting it for one year. April 1, 1836, was set as the formal opening day. He informed the public that he would receive applications for entrance, and shortly after he intimated that a second house would be opened to receive small children, both boys and girls.
During the weeks that Mr. Muller had prayed in the materials for the house, the funds for the rent and its equipment, the laborers to carry on the work, he had forgotten to pray for orphans. And on the opening day not one applicant was received!
He had taken it for granted that the children would come. He spent two hours at the house waiting for applicants, and then dejectedly walked home. On his way this thought rushed to his mind, “I have prayed about everything connected with this work — for money, for a house, for helpers, about the various articles of furniture, etc., but I have never asked the Lord to send me orphans.’’
That night he laid low in prayer, prevailing with God to send children for the home. Faith once more gained a divine audience, for the very next day he received the first application for entrance. Within a month forty-two children were seeking admission, with twenty-six already in the home and more arriving daily.
Throughout the year there were to be testings of personal faith, but God never failed him. As a sample of such trials on November 30 he writes, “Being in great need, I was led, yesterday morning, earnestly to ask the Lord; and in answer to this petition a brother gave me, last evening, ten pounds.” Morning prayer was answered by the evening gift.
Mr. Muller testifies that in his lifetime fifty thousand such specific prayers were answered. Years before he died, about the middle of his
career, he affirmed that up to that time five thousand of his definite prayers had been answered on the day of asking.
He made it a habit to keep a notebook with two page entries. On one page he gave the petition and the date, and on the opposite page he entered the date of the answer. In this manner he was able to keep record of definite petitions, and their specific answers. He recommended this form to believers who desired specific results to their prayers. Thus there is no guesswork as to when God answers prayers.
At the beginning of 1836 Mr. Muller had asked for a thousand pounds and an orphanage house along with its equipment. In reviewing that year’s work, he found that God had given him his first orphanage house on Wilson Street, and seven months after the opening of the first house he obtained another one located at No. 1 Wilson Street. This received its first children on November 18. A review of his financial returns showed gifts for the orphanages of seven hundred and seventy pounds, and he himself had received for his personal needs two hundred and thirty-two pounds.
During that year, God furnished more than the $5,000 asked as the initial starter of the work. Closing the first orphanage year, he relates, “On December 31, we had this evening a prayer meeting to praise the Lord for His goodness during the past year, and to ask Him for a continuance of His favors.”
The blessings of God were so numerous that by April 8, 1837, there were thirty orphans in each house, No. 6 Wilson Street caring for older girls and No. 1 giving a home to young boys and girls.
The founder of this work, asking at first for a hundred pounds, affirms that in his own mind the thing was as good as done, and he often thanked God for the sum as though already in hand. When about to print his “Narrative of the Lord’s Dealings,” he took it in mind to ask God for the total sum, not counting what had come in for his own needs, before the book issued from the press.
“He therefore gave himself anew to prayer; and on June 15th the whole sum was complete...” writes Mr. Pierson. No appeal was made to the public, God alone receiving his petitions daily for eighteen months and ten days.
It was in the year 1837 that Mr. Muller, then thirty-two, felt a deep conviction that his own growth in grace and power for service were indispensable for the promotion of the work. He sought two things; first more retirement for secret prayer and communion with God and provision for the spiritual oversight of the church, the total number of communicants being at this time nearly four hundred. He found himself too busy to pray as he ought.
After learning the lesson of being busy in the work of the Lord, too busy in fact to pray, he told his brethren that four hours of work after an hour of prayer would accomplish more than five hours without prayer. This rule henceforth he faithfully kept.
Considering the fact that there were now two distinct churches to be looked after, and also two orphanage houses, there was a meeting in October of that year where the two congregations decided to unite into one, to lessen the separate meetings conducted each week.
On October 21 another house was secured in Wilson Street which was opened to receive orphan boys. Mr. Muller now had under his care ninety-six orphans. His prayer for premises, suitable helpers and the thousand pounds were abundantly answered.
He remarks, “When I was asking the petition I was fully aware what I was doing, i.e. asking for something that I had no natural prospect of getting from the brethren I knew, but which was not too much for the Lord to grant.”
In reviewing the year 1837, Muller states, “Ninety, therefore, daily sit down to table. Lord, look on the necessities of thy servant” — a prayer which God abundantly answered. Not once during the year was a single meal unsupplied. Throughout all his experience in conducting the
orphanages this servant of God testifies that no meal, even when he was feeding two thousand orphans daily by faith, was more than thirty minutes late.
At the opening of the boys’ house Mr. Muller received his first legacy, which was from a little boy who saved some funds during his fatal illness. Knowing that he was soon to die, the lad asked that his savings, amounting to a little more than $1.50, be sent to Mr. Muller. The minister took it as his first legacy, and though small in amount, he believed that God was peculiarly placing his approval upon the new venture of the boys’ house.
Many asked Mr. Muller how he sought to know the will of God, in that nothing was undertaken, not even the smallest expenditure, without feeling certain he was in God’s will. In the following words he gave his answer:
And did this plan work? one asks. Let Mr. Muller’s testimony answer.
“I never remember,” he wrote three years before his death, “in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY AND PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes.” (Italics his.)
When asked why he undertook the work of the Institution, Mr. Muller replied, “The first and primary object of the Institution was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the Orphans under my care were, and are, provided with all they need only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it might be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL AND HEARS PRAYER STILL.”
MULLER was ready at length for his life’s work. God had brought him from Prussia to England and had taught him lessons in trust. Every leaning post had been removed. This apostle of faith had laid down those principles of trust by which his future was to be marked. He looked entirely to God for spiritual direction as well as for physical supplies. For what telling he had to do, henceforth he was to seek only the ear of God.
One thing was lacking, which God in a devious manner was about to furnish, and that was a location for his faith idea to germinate into a living reality. Muller was at Teignmouth where for two and a half years God gently taught him lessons in trust. Now God was ready for him to begin work in Bristol.
Muller tells the turning events in a few sentences in his “Life of Trust.” “April 13. Found a letter from Brother Craik, from Bristol...He invites me to come and help him...It seems to me as if I should shortly go, if the Lord permit.”
These were short sentences, brief words, yet mean meaningful in the light of God’s plan for Muller’s future. On the following day he wrote, “Wrote to Brother Craik, in which I said I should come, if I clearly saw it to be the Lord’s will.
“This was the bend in his life’s road, and the proviso was written into the letter as well as designed into Muller’s experience...if the Lord will. Always the minister made his plans only when God plainly indicated that human plans and the divine will coincided.
In 1829 Mr. Muller had met a kindred spirit in Henry Craik, both being university-trained men, who had been spiritually awakened at their
respective universities, Craik in Scotland and Muller in Halle. Shortly before Muller had begun preaching on the second coming of Christ as being in accordance with the Scriptures, and Craik held to similar views. This drew the two men together as kindred souls.
Due to the death of Craik’s wife, he had met a friend from Bristol who had invited him to accept work in the city, serving as pastor of the Gideon Chapel
A month after he had located in Bristol he wrote to his old friend George Muller to come and help him. For some time the young minister had felt that his work was done at Teignmouth, though God had signally prospered him in his parish with an increase in membership from eighteen to fifty-one. When Craik’s letter arrived he told his congregation of the invitation.
“I reminded them,” he says, “of what I had told them when they requested me to take the oversight of them, that I could make no certain engagement, but stay only so long with them as I should see it to be the Lord’s will to do so.”
After a visit to Bristol on April 21, 1832, where he preached at the Gideon Chapel and later at the Pithay Chapel, Mr. Muller decided it was God’s will to leave his Teignmouth congregation. Accordingly he and Mr. Craik laid down conditions for the new congregation to accept before they would become pastors of the work.
On May 15 two letters arrived from Bristol in which the Gideon folk accepted the terms, which were, “to consider us only as ministering among them, but not in any fixed pastoral relationship, so that we may preach as we consider it to be according to the mind of God, without reference to any rules among them; that the pew rents should be done away with, and that we should go on, respecting the supply of our temporal wants, as in Devonshire.”
In less than ten days Muller and his wife moved to Bristol. At last he was in the setting for God’s plan to be carried out through the simple expedient
of Muller’s faith. Within a month after arriving in the city God opened another station to these two preachers, Craik and Muller. The Bethesda Chapel was engaged for them, thus giving each a pulpit.
The two spiritual leaders of the congregations diligently entered upon their duties, preaching faithfully the word of redemption. When the cholera broke out that summer they visited the sick and risked their lives to care for the dying. “Who may be next, God alone knows,” wrote Mr. Muller, displaying the dreadful tension which existed as the scourge raged. “I have never realized so much the nearness of death...Just now, ten in the evening, the funeral bell is ringing, and has been ringing the greater part of the evening. It rings almost all the day. Into thine hands, O Lord, I commend myself.”
Through that dreadful summer the blessings of God were signally upon the two chapel groups. On January 4, 1833, the congregations were slightly disturbed at the thought of losing their pastors. For on that day Muller and Craik received a letter from Bagdad inviting them to go there as missionaries. Enclosed in the letter of invitation was a draft for $1,000 to cover their traveling expenses. But the glory of the Lord had been so blessed upon their chapel services that the pastors decided to remain at their Bristol posts of duty.
“The meetings for inquirers were so largely attended that, though they sometimes lasted for more than four hours, it was frequently the case that many...had to be sent away for lack of time and strength on the part of the two workers,” declares Mr. Muller.
For eight years the Gideon Chapel, jointly with the Bethesda Chapel, was the scene of their spiritual ministrations.
At the close of 1833 Muller took stock of God’s dealings with him since he had begun to live by faith alone in the promises of God. He found that his income for this time was approximately $3,700, whereas his stated salary for the same length of time would have been only about $900.
“During the last three years,” he affirms in reviewing his income through faith, “I never have asked anyone for anything; but, by the help of the Lord, I have been enabled at all times to bring my wants to Him, and He graciously supplied them all.”
The previous year Mr. Muller had been given a copy of August H. Franke’s life, and as time permitted he read it through. The inspiration of Franke proved a great boon to Muller’s faith, for it showed him that God for thirty years during Franke’s life had been able to supply all the needs for nearly 2,000 orphans, and that for a hundred years the noble work had been continued through faith.
Muller was touched by the condition of the orphans and street gamins round about him, and he decided as inspired by Franke’s work to gather them around him for instruction. At eight o’clock in the morning he gathered the children from the street to his home, fed them a little breakfast, and then for an hour and a half taught them out of the Scriptures. The work increased on his hands until it included older folk as well.
He found himself feeding from thirty to forty such persons, and as the number increased the Lord’s provisions also increased. One kept pace with the other.
“God had planted a seed in the soil of Mr. Muller’s heart, presently to spring up in the orphan work,” writes A. T. Pierson. While the plan was not then carried to fruition, still the central thought was not lost sight of. “This thought ultimately,” declares the apostle of faith, “issued in the formation of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution and in the establishment of the Orphan Houses.”
Doubtless February 21, 1834, was the crowning day up to that time of God’s dealings with George Muller. “I was led this morning to form a plan for the establishing, upon Scriptural principles, of an institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. I trust this matter is of God...”
Several reasons prompted this action. Other societies, he held, were formed on the assumption that the world would gradually become better and better, “and at last the whole world will be converted.” This belief he held to be contrary to the Bible and hence could not endorse it.
The worldly connection of other societies was contrary to God’s Word. “The connection with the world is too marked in these religious societies, for every one who pays a guinea...is considered a member...and has a right to vote.”
Other societies asked the unconverted for money, which was contrary to Mr. Muller’s principles. The leaders in such societies were oftentimes wealthy, but unregenerate, individuals without a true knowledge of God. A final reason for not believing in existing organizations was that they contracted debts, which long ago God had taught him to be unworthy of a trustful life.
“It appeared to us to be his will,” Muller explains, “that we should be entirely separate from these societies...”
Accordingly on the evening of March 5, 1834, a public meeting was held where “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad” was formed. The founding of the Institution was accompanied by a statement of principles and objects, which in substance are as follows:
The principles were stated thus:
The objects of the Institution were:
1. To assist day schools, Sunday schools. “We consider it unscriptural that any person who does not profess to know the Lord themselves should be allowed to give religious instruction.” “The Institution does not assist any adult school...except the teachers are believers.”
2 To circulate the Holy Scriptures.
3. To aid missionary efforts. “We desire to assist those missionaries whose proceedings appear to be most according to the Scriptures.”
This indeed is a large order for an institution whose founder wrote two days later, “Today we have only one shilling left” — only one shilling between two preachers and their families. There were no patrons, no committees, and no membership. There was to be no asking for funds, and the responsibility rested solely upon the frail efforts of two ministers, both of whom were decidedly poor!
The worldly outlook was small indeed. But Muller had mastered the lesson on outlooks — for he lived by the heavenly uplook, and not the earthly outlook!
Whatever might have been thought of the Institution in its beginning, and its principles of organization, it has continued operation upon the same plan for more than a hundred years with God as its sole patron and prayer as its only appeal. Its worldwide work has been signally blessed and prospered.
God had found a man he could trust and used him as His instrument in giving birth to this work. Muller was missionary spirited, for during his earlier years he had tried to become officially connected with some missionary endeavor. He had learned to take counsel and direction entirely from God. He had discovered the power for spiritual endowment which
lies in Bible reading, and had filled his soul with God’s Word so that he might test his daily walk by these principles which God had inspired.
Another source of his spiritual strength was found in cutting loose from worldly attachments. He would not even as much as give money to a school or a Sunday school where the teachers were not believers, nor would he ask for money from anyone, let alone the fact that he would not list wealthy patrons as promoters of his work. He had renounced self, the world and its attachments, that he might give himself to secret prayer. Out of such endeavors flowed the stream of his power with God.
With God as its Patron, prayer as its appeal, believing workers at its head, the Institution could but flourish.
During the first seven months money began to flow in so that active work was undertaken. Almost a hundred and sixty-eight pounds were contributed by various persons, which was carefully expended to promote the objects of the work. During this time in the Sunday school 120 children received instruction; 40 in the Adult school; 209 children were taught in the four Day schools, two for boys and two for girls, 54 of this number being free pupils and the others paying part of their expenses.
The work of Bible distribution, always a large object for promotion, began at once. During the initial seven months 482 Bibles and 520 New Testaments were circulated while $285 was given to aid missionary activities.
On January 21, 1835, Mr. Muller entered in his Journal these words, “Received in answer to prayer from an unexpected quarter, five pounds for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The Lord pours in, whilst we seek to pour out.” This was always his plan of operation. He sought God to pour in the supplies, and he diligently furnished sources through which they might be distributed. As long as Muller saw to the careful distribution of money and supplies, God never failed in pouring in the needed materials.
He had struck a partnership with God, and had promised to dispense whatever the Almighty provided. The partnership remained constant to the end.
Working so diligently in promoting the Institution whose object was to reach the unconverted abroad as well as at home, Mr. Muller often in those early years felt a pull on his heart toward foreign missionary service. On January 28, he entered in his Journal, “I have...prayed much to ascertain whether the Lord will have me to go as a missionary to the East Indies, and I am most willing to go...” The following day he wrote, “I have been greatly stirred up to pray about going to Calcutta as a missionary. May the Lord guide me in this matter.”
Forty-two years later he said about those early missionary longings, “After all my repeated and earnest prayer in the commencement of 1835, and willingness on my part to go, if it were the Lord’s will, still He did not send me.”
During those forty-two years and the subsequent twenty-one years until his death, Mr. Muller accomplished more for missions by remaining in England and by praying in funds than had he gone to one of the many mission fields to which his heart was drawn. God knew he would do more by praying than going, so He kept him in Bristol, from which emanated streams of influence and spiritual power felt around the world.
From the birth of this idea — the founding of the Institution — during Muller’s lifetime more than seven and a half million dollars were to be poured into the coffers of the work, through this man’s prayer.
And never from the beginning until the present day, now more than forty-two years after Mr. Muller’s death, has a single person been asked to contribute. God still remains the Institution’s sole Patron, as He was during the years of the apostle of faith’s earthly ministry.
There were greater things ahead in this thirty-year-old minister’s life, which should branch from the work already started. Muller was to be God’s friend of the homeless waifs, and God was but seasoning him for
his enlarged battle of faith. The idea was already at work in George’s soul; he was but waiting the full knowledge that now is God’s time.
For when God’s moment arrived, Muller was never a moment late.
From George Muller: The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
THE REST at Devonshire acted as a tonic to Muller’s worn body, but the greatest blessing came to his soul. His prayer had been that God would bless the journey to the benefit of body and soul. “In the beginning of September (1829) I returned to London, much better in body, and as to my soul, the change was so great that it was like a second conversion.”
At once he must find something to do for the Master. He decided to start a prayer meeting for the seminary students, by calling them together for devotions from six until eight each morning. His soul became so enrapt with the joy of prayer after these services that throughout the day he lingered long before God’s throne. Often in the evening at family devotions he would continue until midnight praying, in the morning to awake and call the students to the six o’clock meeting again.
Becoming impatient at his missionary inactivity, he asked the Society to allot him work to do among the Jews, but when the letter brought no response he started his labors, whether officially appointed or not. He distributed tracts, taught a Sunday school class of Jewish boys with about fifty in attendance, and read the Bible to them.
While waiting to be sent out into God’s work by man, Mr. Muller was led by the Spirit to feel that this waiting for appointment was wrong; that instead he should receive orders only from the Holy Spirit as Paul and Barnabas were sent forth. He wrote the Society while spending the Christmas vacation with some friends at Devon, and frankly stated his views.
He offered to labor without salary, with the proviso that they permit him to work wherever the Lord might direct.
His faith began to look beyond man to God for spiritual direction as well as for physical needs. This was a forward step in his soul pilgrimage. It was a lesson in trust that the young disciple must experience before God was ready to use him. He had previously been convinced though a stranger in England he need have no anxiety for his temporal needs — “as long as I really sought to serve the Lord...as long as I sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness, these my temporal wants would be added unto me.”
Through reading the Bible promises had been emblazoned on his memory, and these promises he believed to be sources of divine supply. In making this life altering decision he found the following verses of special import:
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, they will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
(John 14:13, 14.
“Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not...yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6: 25 – 26)
Strengthened by these gracious words his faith leaped forth — he need trust no longer in man when God had bid him come and receive.
The answer from the Society arrived late in January of 1830, stating that his connection with them was at an end. While this door of being a missionary to the Jews was closed, God was opening another into which he was to step. In his twenty-fifth year he looked out upon the world as a field of service and was willing to be led — as well as fed — by the Spirit. He remained in the South of Devon preaching wherever an opportunity came. The Ebenezer Chapel was among the places he visited. On New Year’s day, 1831, he attended services at the chapel where he spoke on the difference between a Christian and a happy Christian, “and showed them whence it generally comes that we rejoice so little in the Lord.”
He was requested to bring an afternoon message, and at its close it was suggested that he begin a series of ten o’clock morning messages on the book of Romans. During these morning meetings the Ebenezer congregation asked that he become their pastor. The group on this point was not unanimous. “Some of them left and never returned; some left, but returned after a while; others came to the chapel who had not been in the habit of attending previous to my coming,” Mr. Muller affirms.
There was no little stir in the congregation because of the services “of this foreigner,” as some of them expressed it. Some delighted in the food for their souls, caring little about the form, but others bitterly opposed the work of Christ. “There was,” Muller writes, “in addition to this, a great stir, a spirit of inquiry, and a searching of the Scriptures...And what is more than all, God set his seal upon the work in converting sinners. Twelve weeks I stood in this position, whilst the Lord graciously supplied my temporal wants, through two brethren, unasked for.”
After this the whole little church, eighteen in number, extended a call for him to become their permanent pastor. The brethren were generous in their financial offer, stating the salary to be £55, or $275 a year. 1
[(1)An English pound in this connection represents approximately $5.00, and in this book is used on such a basis]
While waiting on the Lord to give His answer to the call, for he had desired to travel from place to place preaching the gospel, Muller received a new light on baptism. He was preaching at Sidmouth in April, when three ladies asked his opinion on the subject.
“I do not think that I need to be baptized again,” he replied. “But have you been baptized?” one asked.
“Yes, when I was a child.”
“Have you ever read the Scriptures and prayed with reference to the subject?”
Mr. Muller had to admit that he had not.
“Then,” one of them said, “I entreat you never to speak any more about it till you have done so.”
This searcher after light took these remarks to heart and when he had diligently read such passages as Acts 8:36 – 38 and Romans 6:3–6, he said, “I saw that believers only are the proper subjects for baptism, and that immersion is the only true Scriptural mode in which it ought to be attended to.” Accordingly he was immersed.
It was during the same summer that on reading the Bible it seemed Scriptural “and according to the example of the Apostles (Acts 20:7) to break bread every Lord’s day, though there is no commandment given to do so either by the Lord, or by the Holy Ghost through the apostles.” From reading Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 he also reached the conclusion that there should be given a place in their meetings for brethren to speak freely, either to testify, exhort, or teach, as the Holy Spirit led them.
God was gradually leading Mr. Muller to trust the Scriptures for guidance in matters of conscience. By yielding in minor things, he found it not difficult to yield and obey in the realm of trusting God for all his supplies...a decision which was soon to be made.
He was about to take an important step in his life, the selection of a companion. The guidance of God in this action was sought diligently through prayer and Bible reading. Friends had told him when he first landed in England of Mr. Groves, the Exeter dentist, who had given up an excellent salary to be a missionary. In the course of his preaching he met Mary Groves, the missionary’s sister, and after a short courtship, much prayer and meditation upon the matter, they were married on October 7 in a simple ceremony at the home of a friend. And for more than forty years God blessed this union.
“She was a rare woman and her price was above rubies,” writes A. T. Pierson. “The heart of her husband trusted in her and the great family of orphans who were to her as children rise up even to this day to call her blessed.”
Shortly before his marriage the thought of a stated salary worried Mr. Muller, for he felt that his should be a life of trust in God and not in the promise of the brethren. He found three reasons why he should give up a fixed remuneration.
1. A salary implies a fixed sum, generally made up of pew rents. But according to James 2:1 – 6, “pew rents are against the mind of the Lord.”
2. A fixed pew rent may at times become a burden to the follower of Christ and Mr. Muller did not wish to lay the smallest straw in the way of the church’s spiritual progress.
3. The whole system of pew rents and salary are liable to become a snare to the minister, in that he works for hire rather than for spiritual reasons.
At the end of October, within a month after his marriage, he announced to the Teignmouth congregation that henceforth he would receive no regular salary, and would trust wholly in the Lord for his needs. He asked that a box be placed in the chapel where whoever desired to help him might leave his offering. Henceforth he was to ask no one, “not even my beloved brethren and sisters, to help me...For unconsciously I had been led to trust in an arm of flesh, going to man instead of going to the Lord at once.”
Shortly afterward he and his wife were impressed with the text, “Sell that ye have and give alms,” and literally were led to obey the command. “Our staff and support in this matter,” he affirms when the great test came, “were Matthew 6:19 – 34 and John 14:13,14. We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus.”
From that time on never once did Mr. Muller and his wife regret taking this step. Tests of faith were soon to come, as they came throughout Muller’s long Christian career-trek; but he leaned heavily on the Master’s strong arm, knowing full Ëwell that if God clothed the sparrows, fed and housed them, He would not forsake him. This was to be a walk of faith
and not of sight, and the servant was to learn the lesson of trust through the school of experience.
During the first year the Lord dealt gently with his followers. Mr. Muller exults in saying, “He did not try our faith much at the commencement, but gave us first encouragement, and allowed us to see His willingness to help us before He was pleased to try it more fully.” When the year closed the young minister was able to affirm that the Lord had “richly supplied all our temporal wants, though at the commencement we had no certain human prospect of a single shilling, so that..,we have not been in the smallest degree a loser in acting according to the dictates of conscience. The Lord dealt bountifully with me, and has condescended to use me as an instrument in doing His work.”
The year 1831 was to be one of testing Muller’s faith, for many times there was not a single shilling left in the house, though at the proper moment faith’s reward came in the form of money and supplies.
One morning when their money had been reduced to eight shillings (about
$2.00, a shilling equaling approximately 25c), Muller asked the Lord for money. For four hours the preacher waited but still no reply. Then a lady came to the house.
“Do you want any money?” she asked.
Faith was tested, yet remained triumphant, and the minister replied, “I told the brethren, dear sister, when I gave up my salary, that I would for the future tell the Lord only about my wants.”
“But,” she replied, reaching for her purse, “He has told me to give you some money,” laying in his hand two guineas.
For three days in the first of January, on the 6th, 7th and 8th, real testings came when their money was exhausted. Muller prayed faithfully, and one day the devil assaulted him severely, causing the minister almost to decide that he had gone too far in this way of trust. Then came faith’s victory and the devil fled. As he returned to his room he found that a sister in the Lord had brought in about eleven dollars. “So the Lord triumphed and our faith was strengthened.”
Once the minister’s faith was anxious when he saw a brother open the chapel box, for he was in dire need of money. He would not ask the brother for what came in, since he often stated in the pulpit, “I desire to look neither to man nor the box, but to the living God.” Muller resorted to prayer, asking the Lord to incline the man’s heart to bring the money. Shortly the box money was given him, amounting to one pound, eight shillings and sixpence.
God was gradually leading the young minister to test His promises and see whether they were true. On February 14 there was very little money in the parsonage purse, when Muller resorted to prayer, asking God to supply. “The instant,” Muller testifies, “I got up from my knees a brother gave me one pound...”
Late in the year rent day came and there was no money to pay it. After prayer the money was sent in to cover the obligation. Concerning this incident Muller lays down a principle to which he always remained constant. “I would just observe that we never contract debts, which we believe to be unscriptural (according to Romans 13:8), and therefore we have no bills...but all we buy we pay for in ready money. Thus we always know how much we have and how much we have a right to give away.”
This was one principle upon which he was to conduct his orphanage work, and never once did he break over from the rule of not going into debt.
God led this disciple of faith along paths of trust. Many times there was not even bread in the parsonage for the next meal, but in sufficient time bread arrived. He tells of one such incident thus, “Our bread was hardly enough for the day...After dinner, when I returned thanks, I asked him to give us our daily bread, meaning literally that he would send us bread for the evening. Whilst I was praying there was a knock at the door of the room. After I had concluded a poor sister came in and brought us some of her dinner, and from another poor sister five shillings. In the afternoon she also brought us a large loaf. Thus the Lord not only gave us bread but also money.”
Mr. Muller held that to lay up stores or hoard money was inconsistent with a life of faith. In such cases he thought God would send them to their hoardings before answering their prayers. Experience confirmed them in the conviction that a life of trust forbids laying up treasures against unforeseen needs, since with God “no emergency is unforeseen and no want unprovided for.” Hence his trust was in God and not in his hoardings.
A third rule was greatly blessed throughout Muller’s career of trust. When money was given him for a specific need, or purpose, he regarded it as sacred to that trust, and would not use or borrow it even temporarily for any other purpose. Though reduced to dire needs, he would not use any money set aside for other purposes except for that specific thing. Thousands of times in later life occasions came where such diversion of funds would have provided a way out of an emergency or tided them through a strait.
And how, you ask, did God supply his needs for that first year of trust? Let the twenty-six-year-old minister answer, “Now the truth is whilse...we have not had even as much as a single penny left, or so as to have the last bread on the table, and not as much money as was needed to buy another loaf, yet never have we had to sit down to a meal without our good Lord having provided nourishing food for us. I am bound to state this, and I do it with pleasure...If I had to choose this day again as to the way of living, the Lord giving me grace, I would not choose differently.”
At the end of 1831 when George summed up what he had received in answer to prayer it amounted to more than one hundred and thirty-one pounds, three fourths of which came from friends not connected with his church. The congregation had promised their minister $275, and through a life of trust he had received approximately $660 for the year.
“In this my freedom, I am,” Mr. Muller states, “at least able to say to myself...My Lord is not limited, He can supply...And thus this way of living, so far from leading to anxiety, as regards possible future want, is rather the means of keeping from it...This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart...and a fresh answer to prayer obtained in this way has been the means of quickening my soul and filling me with much joy.”
From George Muller: The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
May 7. The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished. I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed; or I may, in other ways, seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened- in my inner man day by day, may - result in this work being done in a wrong spirit.
The most important thing I had to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed.
Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible. But I often spent a quarter of an hour to an hour on my knees struggling to pray while my mind wandered. Now I rarely have this problem. As my heart is nourished by the truth of the Word, I am brought into true fellowship with God. I speak to my Father and to my Friend (although I am unworthy) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
It often astonishes me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God-not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.
When we pray, we speak to God. This exercise of the soul can be best performed after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God. Through His Word, our Father speaks to us, encourages us, comforts us, -instructs us, humbles us, and reproves us. We may profitably meditate, with God's blessing, although we are spiritually weak. The weaker we are, the more meditation we need to strengthen our inner man. Meditation on God's Word has given me the help and strength to pass peacefully through deep trials. What a difference there is when the soul is refreshed in fellowship with God early in the morning! Without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day can be overwhelming.
I HAD never either seen anyone on his knees, nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees,” confesses Mr. Muller. Up till this time his life had been one with little prayer in it. He had not learned the glory that comes from asking God for life’s blessings. When he saw a man on his knees, the entire course of his career was changed. He found at last the things for which sinful youth, when driven by religious impulses, had quested.
One Saturday afternoon about the middle of November, 1825, when George was twenty, he and Beta took a walk in the open fields. On returning Beta asked George to attend a cottage meeting with him, which he had been in the habit of attending each Saturday evening at the home of a Christian.
“And what do they do at this meeting?” asked George.
‘They read the Bible, sing a few hymns, pray and someone reads a printed sermon.”
“No sooner had I heard this than it was to me as if I had found something after which I had been seeking all my life long,” says our hero. “We went together in the evening. As I did not know the manners of believers, and the joy they had in seeing poor sinners...caring about the things of God, I made an apology for coming.”
“Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you,” returned Mr. Wagner, a Christian tradesman, in whose house the meeting was held.
The group sat down and sang a hymn, which was followed by a prayer offered by one of the brothers present, named Kayser — later becoming a
missionary to Africa under the London Missionary Society — who called upon God for His blessings to fall on the meeting.
That kneeling in prayer made a lasting impression upon Muller.
Off their knees, Kayser read to the company a chapter from the Bible, and then a printed sermon, since it was not lawful for a layman to expound the Scriptures in Prussia. When the benidictory hymn had been sung, the believers again went to their knees, to be led this time in prayer by Wagner.
“I could not pray as well,” thought George, as he listened to the tradesman’s eloquent pleas, “though I am much more learned than this illiterate man.”
He was truly happy for the first time in his life. “If I had been asked why I was happy, I could not have clearly explained it,” Muller notes long after he had learned the joy of praying.
Homeward bound George said to his friend Beta, “All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening.”
At home again the young man fell upon his knees. When it came time to sleep, George says, “I lay peaceful and happy in my bed.”
He had little doubt that God began a work of grace in his heart, a deep sense of joy springing up with scarcely any sorrow or with but little knowledge. The work of divine grace had been done and henceforth the young man is to walk the path of the just which shines with ever-increasing brightness until it ends in the perfect day.
His was a changed life. He read the Scriptures and not the classics as formerly, praying often, and attended church as prompted by divine love within. At the university he stood on the side of Christ, and gladly paid the price of being laughed at by his fellow students for his religious fervor.
In January of 1826 he was moved by spiritual ardor to become a missionary, through reading missionary papers, and by meeting Hermann Ball, a learned and wealthy young man, who worked in Poland among the Jews as a missionary.
“I truly began to enjoy,” says Mr. Muller, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” And off went a letter to Father and Mother Muller entreating them to seek the Lord, for they too could be as happy as he. But an angry letter was their answer, for his father desired that he should stop all his nonsense and get to work making out of himself an accepted minister...a clergyman with a good living, who would be able to support his parents in their old age.
At the same time the famous Dr. Tholuck took the chair of divinity at the University, and this godly man drew pious students to him. From the professor George received a strengthening influence. At once he determined to be free from his parents, to receive no more money from them, and to trust solely in the Lord for his needs.
God was not long in supplying the temporal needs of this trusting student, for Tholuck shortly recommended him to a group of American professors who did not understand German, to teach them the language. “Thus did the Lord richly make up to me the little which I had relinquished for His sake,” says Mr. Muller.
Though a divinity student, he had not yet preached. His first sermon was a severe trial, for he attempted to carry it through on his own strength. A schoolmaster arranged for him to speak in the parish of an aged clergyman, and on August 27, 1826, he went out and spoke at the morning service, having written and memorized his message. The delivery brought no unusual blessing from the Lord. In the afternoon there was another service at which he could speak more freely than in the morning.
“It came to my mind to read the fifth chapter of Matthew, and to make such remarks as I was able...Immediately upon beginning to expound ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ I felt myself greatly assisted; and whereas in the morning my sermon had not been simple enough for the people to
understand it, I now was listened to with the greatest attention...My own peace and joy were great.” This endeavor launched him on a preaching career, which henceforth was to be a simple exposition of the Scriptures. From this course he never deviated throughout his many years as a public servant of the Master.
As a divinity student he fell into the common error of reading books about the Bible but not reading the Bible itself. “I practically preferred for the first four years of my divine life the works of uninspired men,” he confesses. “The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.”
Since the ministers were themselves unenlightened spiritually there was little in the sermons to feed his soul. Though he regularly went to church, when not preaching, yet he scarcely ever heard the truth, he affirms, “for there was no enlightened clergyman in the town.” He often walked ten or fifteen miles to hear a godly minister expound the Word.
The one bright spot in the week was the meeting in Johann Wagner’s home, where he had been spiritually awakened. George also attended a Sunday meeting of religious students, which increased from six to twenty during the time he was at Halle.
He soon took another significant step, which brought him into contact with an orphanage work, later to be the model of his own orphanages. For two months he lived in the free lodgings furnished for divinity students in the famous Orphan Houses built by A. H. Franke. More than a hundred years earlier Franke had been led to establish an orphanage in entire dependence upon God. Though Franke had died in 1727, the work continued through faith. This became an inspiration to Muller and often he records how much he was indebted to the example of trust and prayer which Franke exhibited.
In August of the same year (1827) when George was twenty-two, he heard that the Continental Society in England planned to send a missionary to Bucharest, to assist an aged missionary in his work. After
much prayer Mr. Muller offered himself to Dr. Tholuck, who had been requested to find a suited minister for his service.
“Most unexpectedly,” writes this fervent soul, “my father gave his consent...I prayed with a degree of earnestness concerning my future work.” But God intervened, for this was not the divine will for Muller. The war between the Turks and the Russians caused the society to abandon the idea.
With the outreaching of his soul, the young minister was seeking the field for his life’s investment. While there was a ringing challenge to be a missionary, he was never permitted to serve in this capacity, since God had other plans for his life. He had become interested in the Hebrew language to which he was devoting much study.
On November 17, he called upon Dr. Tholuck, who learning of this interest in the youth’s life, asked, “Would you like to serve as a missionary to the Jews?” The professor went on to say that he was connected with the London Missionary Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.
“I was struck with the question,” declares Mr. Muller, “and told him what had passed in my mind.
A divine miracle with far-reaching results was about to occur in Muller’s experience from which directly sprang his life’s work. Oftentimes God indirectly leads one to the fields of his service, which was to be the case with George. God wanted this youth in England where his sphere of influence was to be centered.
When Tholuck learned that his young student was interested in the Jews, he at once wrote to the London Society suggesting Muller’s name as a candidate. In March, 1828, the Society answered asking the candidate a number of questions, and on June 13 a letter came saying that they would take George as a missionary student for six months on probation.
There was one proviso, meaningful and life determining. He must come to London...for God wanted George Muller’s fame to spread throughout the world from this English-speaking nation. Germany had her Franke and England must also have her Muller, apostle of faith.
There was a formidable obstacle. Every Prussian man must serve three years in the army; and classical students who had passed the university examinations were forced to serve only one year. Muller had not yet received his army training, and without an exemption he could not obtain a passport to leave the country. His application for exemption was denied, and Muller felt much depressed because of the denial. But God had plans for this exemption.
While in Leipsic with an American professor for whom he was serving as tutor in German, between acts at the opera George took some iced refreshments which caused him to become sick. This resulted in a broken blood vessel in his stomach. Being advised by friends to go to Berlin, he found an open door for preaching to wards in the poorhouse and in the prisons.
On February 3, 1829, he was re-examined for the army, and because of his stomach trouble was declared physically unfit for service, and hence exempted. Immediately he received his passport and set sail for London where he arrived on March 19.
While waiting for his missionary appointment in London, he heard friends speak of a dentist, a Mr. Groves, who gave up a salary of $7,500 a year to be a missionary to Persia, simply trusting in God for temporal supplies. “This made an impression on me,” Muller affirms, “that I not only marked it down in my journal, but also wrote about it to my German friends.”
Again God was gently leading Muller into a life of trust. His old trouble struck again and for weeks he despaired of his life. “I longed exceedingly to depart and be with Christ,” he says.
“O Lord,” he prayed while on his sick bed, “do with me as seemeth best”
— a prayer which was slowly answered. For God permitted his servant to linger in sickness that his soul might learn a new lesson in trust.
A few days later he went to Tiegnmouth to recuperate. Here the Ebenezer chapel was reopened and Mr. Muller had the privilege of living for ten days with the preacher. It was during this brief stay that God taught him the true meaning of the Bible. “God began to show me,” he writes, “that His Word alone is our standard of judgment; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of the people.”
These few days seemed unmeaningful in building Muller’s life career until this lesson appears. For the Bible became, from then on, the true source of his inspiration, and the one book to which he was solely devoted, which proved to be a pivot in the upward climb of George’s soul.
He delineates how he tested the Bible truth by experience. “The Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was that the first evening I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously.” He goes on to add, “But the particular difference was that I received real strength for my soul in doing so.”
This brief stay in the country worked the design of God into his spiritual pilgrimage, for henceforth through meditation upon the Bible and prayer he was to commit his ways unto the Lord. Near the end of his life he affirmed that he had read the Bible through approximately two hundred times, one hundred of which were on his knees. This is the keynote of that marvelous life of trust. He found God’s promises in the Bible and experienced the truth of them in his everyday life. He learned to believe what he read and to act accordingly. He mined religious truth, not from books of human fabrication, but from God through divine inspiration, and what he read he lived.
God is now ready to thrust Muller forth into his vineyard a full-fledged apostle of trust. Yet there is another lesson he is to experience before God can use him to the fullest extent. He must learn to tell not man but God his needs and to believe God will supply them. Around the bend in his career this lesson is next in God’s book of life for Muller to master.
From George Muller - The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
GEORGE MULLER is literally the "man God made." In his youth there was no religious background. He lived without thought of God or righteousness until suddenly awakened to his need of God’s transforming fellowship. He tasted sin’s bitter dregs in youth, only to know in manhood that God was “able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all” he thought or asked.
The miracle of his life comes not from a heritage rich in religious values. The key is to be found in the fact that George in his youth opened all avenues of his being to the divine infilling. Henceforth he was a man who lived with eternity in view. He looked, after the shadow of God’s glory rested upon him, beyond time and saw God. Henceforth he was never again to ask man for body or soul needs. He realized that God alone was able, and in that realization the puny supplies of man dwarfed beside the reservoirs of God’s grace which he tapped by faith.
He learned the secret of getting things from God, the simple expedient of boldly coming to the throne to receive. He practiced this daily for seventy-three years, and in coming he never found the throne vacant nor the supplies exhausted. He learned not to bind God by the limits of his own faith. He asked, knowing that God, Who heard, was able. He has been called the apostle of faith. The narrative of God’s dealings with him has been termed the life of trust. But I think of him as the man God made. He portrays to the highest degree God in life making. Viewed in light of his sinful youth this becomes God in remaking life.
Let us trace the hand of God through this long career of ninety-three years, eight months and five days, seventy-three years and almost two months of which were walked hand in hand with God. George was a native of Prussia, born at Kroppenstaedt, on September 27, 1805. Little is known of his first five years, but in 1810 the family moved four miles away where his father became collector of the excise, a form of tax placed upon business houses and individuals for certain privileges. For the next eleven years the Mullers lived at Heimersleben. “My father,” writes George Muller, “who educated his children on worldly principles, gave us much money, considering our age. The result was that it led my brother and me into many sins. Before I was ten years old I repeatedly took of the government money which was entrusted to my father...till one day...he detected my theft, by depositing a counted sum in the room where I was, and leaving me to myself for awhile. I took some of the money and hid it under my foot in my shoe.”
But his father was not to be outdone, for he soon detected the loss, and on searching George found the money. But punishment did not change George’s tactics, for repeatedly he stole the government money. “Though I was punished on this and other occasions, yet I did not remember that anytime...it made any other impression upon me than to make me think how I might do the thing the next time more cleverly.” When George was between ten and eleven he was sent to Halberstadt to prepare for the university. His father desired that he should train for the Lutheran ministry. “Not that thus I might serve God, but that I might have a comfortable living,” says Mr. Muller writing many years later. Instead of studying as he should, he spent his time reading low class novels and indulging in sinful practices. When fourteen years of age a tragedy marked his life in the form of his mother’s death. The night she was dying, George, being unaware of her illness, was playing cards, and the next day, which was Sunday, went to a tavern with some of his sinful companions. On the following day he received his first religious instruction previous to being confirmed. Thus you see his was an early life devoid of any religious training. Even this first religious instruction was received in a careless manner. He was a light-hearted sinful youth who drank of worldly pleasures to satiation. His mother’s death made no lasting impression upon him. Three or four days before his confirmation, which admitted him to partake of the Lord’s Supper, he committed a gross immorality. So deceitful had he become that he could not play square with the minister who confirmed him. “I handed over to him only the twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him,” he remarks, delineating the downward course of his sins. “In this state of heart, without prayer, without repentance, without faith, without knowledge of the plan of salvation, I was confirmed, and took the Lord’s Supper, on the Sunday after Easter, 1820...Yet I was not without some feeling...I made resolutions to turn from those vices in which I was living and to study more. But as I had no regard for God, and attempted the thing in my own strength, all soon came to nothing, and I still grew worse.”
The following year when his father was transferred to Schoenebeck, George asked to attend the cathedral school at Magdeburg, which was close by. Before attending school in November, he stayed at the home place, superintending some alterations in it and reading the classics with a clergyman named Dr. Nagel. While left thus alone, he collected the money owed his father and spent it upon his sinful pleasures. In November of 1821, he took a trip to Magdeburg, where for six days he spent his time in “much sin.” Taking all the money he could obtain by various ruses he traveled to Brunswick, and lived for a week at an expensive hotel. Money gone, he tried the same trick at a nearby village hotel, where the owner suspecting that he had no money asked him to leave his best clothes as security. This time he walked about six miles to Wolfenbuttel and at an inn began to live as though he had much money. But this proved to be the sixteen-year-old boy’s undoing, for when he sought to escape from a high window he was caught. Confessing the truth, he expected mercy, but there was none.
Immediately he was arrested and taken to a police officer, and later to jail as a vagabond or thief. “I now found myself, at the age of sixteen, an inmate of the same dwelling with thieves and murderers, and treated accordingly.... On the second day I asked the keeper for a Bible, not to consider its blessed contents, but to pass away the time,” George relates. For twenty-four days — from December 18 to January 12 — he was confined to the prison. His father obtained his release by paying the inn debt and his maintenance at the jail, also furnishing enough money for the lad to return home.
In October, 1822, he entered a school at Nordhausen, where he remained for two and a half years studying with diligence the Latin classics, French history, German literature, as well as a little Hebrew, Greek and mathematics. “I used to rise regularly at four, winter and summer, and generally studied all the day, with little exception, till ten at night.” His serious life caused him to be held up as an example to the class. “I did not,” he writes, “care in the least about God, but lived secretly in much sin, in consequence of which I was taken ill, and for thirteen weeks confined to my room. During my illness I had no real sorrow of heart...I cared nothing about the Word of God. I had about three hundred books of my own, but no Bible.”
His was a student life which found pleasure in the classics, but one devoid of love for the higher things of religion. “I practically,” he affirms plumbing the depths of his youthful irreligion, “set a far higher value upon the writings of Horace and Cicero, Voltaire and Moliere, than upon the volume of inspiration.” Now and then tinges of conscience would prick his soul and he would determine to be better, “particularly when I went to the Lord’s Supper...The day previous to attending that ordinance I used to refrain from certain things; and on the day itself I was serious...But after one or two days were over, all was forgotten, and I was as bad as ever.”
George was a dissipated youth who spent the money his father furnished, as the other prodigals did, in riotous living. Once when his funds were exhausted, he pretended his money had been stolen, and forcing the lock on his trunk and guitar case, he went to the director’s room half dressed, telling the story of the supposed theft. This trick aroused sympathy for him, for as an actor his tale seemed to ring true. When twenty he became a member of the University of Halle with excellent testimonials, and was granted the privilege of preaching in the Lutheran Establishment. Here he began to realize that unless he reformed, no church would have him as its clergyman and his rating in this profession would be handicapped. He looked upon the clergy as a means of gaining a livelihood, and not as a service.
“I thought,” he says, “no parish would choose me as their pastor...and without a considerable knowledge of divinity I should never get a good living. But the moment I entered Halle...all my resolutions came to nothing...I renewed my profligate life afresh, though now a student of divinity...I had no sorrow of heart on account of offending God.” One day in his evil career he met a fellow student by the name of Beta, who formerly had tried to live a Christian life, but whose efforts caused Muller to despise him. “It now appeared well to me to choose him as my friend, thinking that, if I could but have better companions, I should by that means improve my own conduct.”
George guessed wrong this time — for Beta was a backslider! And Beta sought out George’s friendship believing that he would thus be introduced to the pleasures which his wilder companion seemed to enjoy. God was at work, for it was through Beta that George’s redemption was to take place. It was a friendship that the studious, though profligate, youth needed, but it was the transforming friendship of God, and not of a young man who walked far behind his religious privileges.
“My foolish heart was again deceived,” declares Mr. Muller. “And yet God in His abundant mercy made him...the instrument of doing me good, not merely for time, but for eternity.” Debauchery demanded its pay and George took seriously ill. His “conduct was outwardly rather better.” But this betterment, he avows, came about not because of religious but financial reasons. His money was too limited to meet the toll demanded by an evil life. In August of 1825, he and Beta, along with two other students, borrowed enough money on their belongings to travel through Prussia for a few days, which resulted in a desire to see nature’s grander moods in Switzerland.
The lads were confronted by a lack of money and no passports. But the ingenious George soon eliminated these obstacles by borrowing on their books and other possessions, and through false and forged letters from their parents he obtained the passports. Wickedness was so ingrained in George’s system that even on this trip he was a common thief. “I was on this journey like Judas,” George confesses, “for having the common purse, I was a thief. I managed so that the journey cost me but two-thirds of what it cost my friends...” On returning to Prussia the youth visited home, where his old determination to alter his mode of living sprang up again. But when vacation days were over, and new students came to the university, and with money in his pockets once more, he drifted back into his foreboding ways.
But those sin-darkened days were near an end. God in His inscrutable manner had planned a meeting where the divine hand should begin remaking the life that sin had marred. The same friend Beta with whom he had sinned was to be God’s instrument in bringing George into the glorious light of the Gospel. Sin’s night was almost over and the daydawn of grace was about to burst with transforming beauty over the youth’s soul. “The divine Hand in this history is doubly plain,” writes A. T. Pierson in
his biography of George Muller, “when we see that this was also the period of preparation for his lifework...During the next ten years we shall watch the divine Potter, to Whom George Muller was a chosen vessel for service, molding and fitting the vessel for His use. Every step is one of preparation...”
“The time was now come when God would have mercy upon me,” says Mr. Muller reviewing his soul-blighting course of iniquity. “At a time when I was as careless about Him as ever, He sent His Spirit into my heart. I had no Bible and had not read one for years. I went to church but seldom; but, from custom, I took the Lord’s Supper twice a year. I had never heard the gospel preached. I had never met with a person who told me that he meant, by the help of God, to live according to the Holy Scriptures. In short, I had not the least idea that there were any persons really different from myself.”
Mr. Muller had come to the parting of the ways No more was the prodigal to wander after life’s dried and sinful husks, but was to walk the backward trail to Father’s home, where as a son most blessed he was henceforth to live for God’s glory. This is our last look at the sinful youth, for sin and he no longer had a common set of values.
From "George Muller, The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller