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
Transcribed from a spoken message given by invitation to a special meeting.
As one who for fifty years has known the Lord, and has labored in word and doctrine, I ought to be able in some little measure to lend a helping hand to these younger believers. And if God will only condescend to use the acknowledgment of my own failures to which I refer, and of my experience, as a help to others in walking on the road to heaven, I trust that your coming here will not be in vain. This was the very purpose of my leaving home—that I might help these dear young brethren.
Reading the Word
One of the most deeply important points is that of attending to the careful, prayerful reading of the Word of God, and meditation thereon. I would therefore ask your particular attention to one verse in the Epistle of Peter, where we are especially exhorted by the Holy Ghost through the apostle, regarding this subject. For the sake of the connection, let us read the first verse:
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1Pe 2:2).
The particular point to which I refer is contained in the second verse, “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.” As growth in the natural life is attained by proper food, so in the spiritual life; if we desire to grow, this growth is only to be attained through the instrumentality of the Word of God. It is not stated here, as some might be very willing to say, that “the reading of the Word may be of importance under some circumstances.” Nor is it stated that you may gain profit by reading the statement which is made here. It is of the Word and of the Word alone that the apostle speaks, and nothing else.
You say that the reading of this tract or of that book often does you good. I do not question it. Nevertheless, the instrumentality which God has been specially pleased to appoint and to use is that of the Word itself. Just in the measure in which the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ attend to this, they will become strong in the Lord; and in so far as it is neglected, so far will they be weak.
There is such a thing as babes being neglected, and what is the consequence? They never become healthy men or women, because of that early neglect. Perhaps—and it is one of the most hurtful forms of this neglect—they obtain improper food, and therefore do not attain the full vigor of maturity. So with regard to the divine life. It is a most deeply important point that we obtain right spiritual food at the very beginning of that life. What is that food? It is “the sincere milk of the word” that is the proper nourishment for the strengthening of the new life. Listen, then, my dear brethren and sisters, to some advice with regard to the Word.
First of all, it is of the utmost moment that we read regularly through the Scripture. We ought not to turn over the Bible, and pick out chapters as we please here and there, but we should read it carefully and regularly through. I speak advisedly, and as one who has known the blessedness of thus reading the Word for the last forty-six years.
I say forty-six years, because for the first four years of my Christian life I did not carefully read the Word of God. I used to read a tract or an interesting book, but I knew nothing of the power of the Word. I read very little of it, and the result was that, although a preacher then, yet I made no progress in the divine life. And why?—just for this reason: I neglected the Word of God. But it pleased God, through the instrumentality of a beloved Christian brother, to rouse in me an earnestness about the Word, and ever since then I have been a lover of it.
Let me, then, press upon you my first point, that of attending regularly to reading through the Scriptures. I do not suppose that you all need the exhortation. Many, I believe, have already done so, but I speak for the benefit of those who have not. To those I say, My dear friends, begin at once. Begin with the Old Testament, and when you have read a chapter or two, and are about to leave off, put a mark that you may know where you have left off. I speak in all simplicity for the benefit of those who may be young in the divine life. The next time you read, begin the New Testament, and again put a mark where you leave off.
And thus go on, always reading alternately the Old and the New Testaments. Thus, by little and little, you will read through the whole Bible; and when you have finished, begin again at the beginning.
Why is this so deeply important?—simply that we may see the connection between one book and another of the Bible, and between one chapter and another. If we do not read in this consecutive way, we lose a great part of what God has given to instruct us. Moreover, if we are children of God, we should be well acquainted with the whole revealed will of God, the whole of the Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable” (2 Ti 3:16).
And much may be gained by thus carefully reading through the whole of the revealed will of God. Suppose a rich relative were to die and leave us, perhaps, some land, houses, or money; should we be content with reading only the clauses that affected us particularly? No, we would be careful to read the whole will right through. How much more then with regard to the revealed will of God ought we to be careful to read it through, and not merely one and another of the chapters or books.
And this careful reading of the Word of God has this advantage: that it keeps us from making a system of doctrine of our own, and from having our own particular favorite views, which is very pernicious. We often are apt to lay too much stress on certain views of the truth which affect us particularly. The will of the Lord is that we should know His whole revealed mind. Again, variety in the things of God is of great moment; and God has been pleased to give us this variety in the highest degree. The child of God, who follows out this plan, will be able to take an interest in every part of the Word.
Suppose one says, “Let us read in Leviticus.” Very well, my brother. Suppose another says, “Let us read in the prophecy of Isaiah.” Very well, my brother. And another will say, “Let us read in the Gospel according to Matthew.” Very well, my brother, I can enjoy them all; and whether it be in the Old Testament or the New Testament, whether in the Prophets, the Gospels, the Acts, or the Epistles, I should welcome it, and be delighted to welcome the reading and study of any part of the divine Word.
And this will be of particular advantage to us, in case we should become laborers in Christ’s vineyard, because in expounding the Word we shall be able to refer to every part of it. We shall equally enjoy the reading of the Word whether of the Old or the New Testament, and shall never get tired of it. I have, as before stated, known the blessedness of this plan for forty-six years, and though I am now nearly seventy years of age and though I have been converted for nearly fifty years, I can say by the grace of God that I more than ever love the Word of God, and have greater delight than ever in reading it.
And though I have read the Word nearly a hundred times right through, I have never got tired of reading it, and this is more especially through reading it regularly, consecutively, day by day—and not merely reading a chapter here and there, as my own thoughts might have led me to do.
Reading the Word Prayerfully
Again, we should read the Scripture prayerfully, never supposing that we are clever enough or wise enough to understand God’s Word by our own wisdom. In all our reading of the Scriptures let us seek carefully to have the help of the Holy Spirit; let us ask, for Jesus’ sake, that He will enlighten us. He is willing to do it.
I will tell you how it fared with me at the very first; it may be for your encouragement. It was in the year 1829 when I was living in Hackney. My attention had been called to the teaching of the Spirit by a dear brother of experience. “Well,” I said, “I will try this plan, and will give myself, after prayer, to the careful reading of the Word of God and to meditation, and I will see how much the Spirit is willing to teach me in this way.”
I went accordingly to my room and locked my door, and putting the Bible on a chair, I went down on my knees at the chair. There I remained for several hours in prayer and meditation over the Word of God; and I can tell you that I learned more in those three hours which I spent in this way, than I had learned for many months previously. I thus obtained the teaching of the divine Spirit, and I cannot tell you the blessedness which it was to my own soul. I was praying in the Spirit, and putting my trust in the power of the Spirit, as I had never done before.
You cannot, therefore, be surprised at my earnestness in pressing this upon you, when you have heard how precious to my heart it was, and how much it helped me.
Meditate on the Word
But again, it is not enough to have prayerful reading only, but we must also meditate on the Word. As in the instance I have just referred to, kneeling before the chair, I meditated on the Word. It was not simply reading it, not simply praying over it. It was all that, but in addition it was pondering over what I had read. This is deeply important. If you merely read the Bible and no more, it is just like water running in at one side and out at the other. In order to be really benefited by it, we must meditate on it. We cannot all of us, of course, spend many hours, or even one or two hours, each day in this manner. Our business demands our attention. Yet, however short the time you can afford, give it regularly to reading, prayer, and meditation over the Word, and you will find it will well repay you.
In connection with this, we should always read and meditate over the Word of God with reference to ourselves and our own heart. This is deeply important, and I cannot press it too earnestly upon you. We are apt often to read the Word with reference to others. Parents read it in reference to their children, children for their parents; evangelists read it for their congregations, Sunday school teachers for their classes. Oh! This is a poor way of reading the Word; if read in this way, it will not profit. I say it deliberately and advisedly: the sooner it is given up, the better for your own souls. Read the Word of God always with reference to your own heart, and when you have received the blessing in your own heart, you will be able to communicate it to others.
Whether you labor as evangelists, as pastors, or as visitors, superintendents of Sunday schools, teachers, tract distributors, or in whatever other capacity you may seek to labor for the Lord, be careful to let the reading of the Word be with distinct reference to your own heart. Ask yourselves, “How does this suit me, either for instruction, for correction, for exhortation, or for rebuke (2Ti 3:16)? How does this affect me?” If you thus read and get the blessing in your own soul, how soon it will flow out to others!
Read in Faith
Another point. It is of the utmost moment in reading the Word of God that the reading should be accompanied with faith. “The word preached did not profit them; not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb 4:2). As with the preaching, so with the reading; it must be mixed with faith.
Not simply reading it as you would read a story, which you may receive or not; not simply as a statement, which you may credit or not; or as an exhortation, to which you may listen or not—but as the revealed will of the Lord, that is, receiving it with faith. Received thus it will nourish us, and we shall reap benefit. Only in this way will it benefit us; we shall gain from it health and strength in proportion as we receive it with real faith.
Be Doers of the Word
Lastly, if God does bless us in reading His Word, He expects that we should be obedient children and that we should accept the Word as His will, and carry it into practice. If this be neglected, you will find that the reading of the Word, even if accompanied by prayer, meditation, and faith, will do you little good. God does expect us to be obedient children, and will have us practice what He has taught us. The Lord Jesus Christ says: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (Joh 13:17). In the measure in which we carry out what our Lord Jesus taught, so much in measure are we happy children. In such measure only can we honestly look for help from our Father, even as we seek to carry out His will.
If there is one single point I would wish to have spread all over this country and over the whole world, it is just this: that we should seek, beloved Christian friends, not to be hearers of the Word only, but “doers of the Word” (Jam 1:22). I doubt not that many of you have sought to do this already, but I speak particularly to those younger brethren and sisters who have not yet learned the full force of this. Oh! seek to attend earnestly to this; it is of vast importance.
Satan will seek with much earnestness to put aside the Word of God; but let us seek to carry it out and to act upon it. The Word must be received as a legacy from God, which has been communicated to us by the Holy Ghost,
The Fullness of the Revelation Given in the Word
And remember that, to the faithful reader of this blessed Word, it reveals all that we need to know about the Father, all that we need to know about the Lord Jesus Christ, all about the power of the Spirit, all about the world that lieth in the wicked one, all about the road to heaven and the blessedness of the world to come. In this blessed book we have the whole gospel and all rules necessary for our Christian life and warfare. Let us see then that we study it with our whole heart and with prayer, meditation, faith, and obedience.
The next point on which I will speak for a few moments has been more or less referred to already; it is that of prayer. You might read the Word and seem to understand it very fully, yet if you are not in the habit of waiting continually upon God, you will make little progress in the divine life. We have not naturally in us any good thing, and cannot expect, save by the help of God, to please Him. Therefore it is the will of the Lord that we should always own our dependence upon Him in prayer.
The blessed Lord Jesus Christ gave us an example in this particular. He gave whole nights to prayer. We find Him on the lonely mountain engaged by night in prayer. And as in every way He is to be an example to us, so in particular on this point. He is an example to us. The old evil corrupt nature is still in us though we are born again; therefore we have to come in prayer to God for help. We have to cling to the power of the Mighty One. Concerning everything, we have to pray. Not simply when great troubles come, when the house is on fire, or a beloved wife is on the point of death, or dear children are laid down in sickness—not simply at such times, but also in little things. From the very early morning, let us make everything a matter of prayer, and let it be so throughout the day and throughout our whole life. A Christian lady said lately that thirty-five years ago she heard me speak on this subject in Devonshire, and that then I referred to praying about little things. I had said that suppose a parcel came to us, and it should prove difficult to untie the knot, and you cannot cut it; then you should ask God to help you, even to untie the knot.
I myself had forgotten the words but she has remembered them, and the remembrance of them, she said, had been a great help to her again and again. So I would say to you, my beloved friends, there is nothing too little to pray about. In the simplest things connected with our daily life and walk, we should give ourselves to prayer; and we shall have the living, loving Lord Jesus to help us. Even in the most trifling matters I give myself to prayer; and often in the morning, even ere I leave my room, I have two or three answers to prayer in this way. Young believers, in the very outset of the divine life in your souls, learn in childlike simplicity to wait upon God for everything! Treat the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Friend, able and willing to help you in everything. How blessed it is to be carried in His loving arms all the day long! I would say that the divine life of the believer is made up of a vast number of little circumstances and little things. Every day there comes before us a variety of little trials; and if we seek to put them aside in our own strength and wisdom, we shall quickly find that we are confounded. But if, on the contrary, we take everything to God, we shall be helped and our way shall be made plain. Thus our life will be a happy life!
A Word to the Unconverted
I am here tonight addressing believers, those who have felt the burden of their sins and have accepted Christ as their Savior, and who now through Him have peace with God and seek to glorify Him. But if there be any here who are still in their sins, in a state of alienation from God, let me say: if they die in this state, the terrible punishment of sin must fall upon them. Unless their sins are pardoned and they are made fit for the divine presence, they can never enter heaven. But, dear friends, Christ came to save the lost, and as sinners, you are lost; you have no power of your own to save yourselves. The world talks of turning over a new leaf, but that will not satisfy divine justice. Sin must be punished, or God’s righteousness would be set aside. Jesus came into the world to bear that punishment. He has borne it in our room and stead. He has suffered for us. Now, what God looks for from us is that we accept Jesus as our Savior and put our trust in Him for the salvation of our souls. Whosoever looks really and entirely to Him shall assuredly be saved. Let his sins be ever so many, he shall have the forgiveness of them all. Nay, more, he will be accepted by God as His child. He will become an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Oh, what a great and glorious salvation so freely given! May it be as thankfully accepted!
And may we who rejoice in Him stand boldly out and confess Christ—and work for Him. May we not be half-hearted, but be valiant soldiers of Christ. Let us be decided for Christ. Let us walk as in God’s sight, in holy, peaceful, happy fellowship with Him, in the enjoyment of that nearness into which we are brought in Christ. Oh, the blessedness of this privilege of living near to God in this life! May we then seek His guidance in everything, so that we may be a blessing to others, and thus we shall be greatly blessed in our own souls.
For the encouragement of believers who are tried by having unconverted relatives and friends, I will relate the following circumstance which I know is true. Baron von Kamp, who lived in Prussia, had been a disciple of the Lord Jesus for many years. In the year 1806, great financial distress came upon many thousands of weavers in the area. They had no employment because the whole continent was in an unsettled state from the war. The baron believed that it was the will of the Lord to use his wealth to furnish these poor weavers with work in order to save them from complete ruin. There was not only no prospect of personal gain, but rather the certain prospect of immense loss. Nevertheless, he found employment for about six-thousand weavers.
But the baron was not content with this. He also wanted to minister to the souls of these weavers. He set believers as overseers over his immense weaving concern. The weavers were instructed in spiritual things, and he personally shared the truth of the gospel with them. The work went on for a good while until at last, on account of the loss of most of his property, he was obliged to think about giving it up. But by this time, his precious act of mercy had proven its worth to the government. It was taken up by them and carried on until the times changed. Baron von Kamp was appointed director of the whole concern as long as it existed.
This dear man of God was not content with this. He traveled through many countries to visit the prisons for the sake of improving the physical and spiritual condition of the prisoners. He also assisted poor students at the University of Berlin, especially those who studied theology, in order to win them for the Lord. One day a talented young man heard of the aged baron’s kindness to students. He wrote to the baron requesting his assistance, because his own father could not afford to support him any longer. A short time afterward, young Thomas received a kind reply from the baron inviting him to come to Berlin. But before this letter arrived, the young student had heard that Baron von Kamp was a “Pietist” or “mystic,” as true believers were contemptuously called in Germany. Young Thomas was deeply involved in philosophy, reasoning about everything, questioning the truth of revelation, questioning even the existence of God. He disliked the prospect of going to the old baron for help. Still, he thought he could try, and if he did not like it he was not obligated to remain in connection with him. Thomas arrived in Berlin on a day when the baron was out of town on business. He began to speak about his philosophies to the steward of the baron. The steward, however, was a believer, and he turned the conversation to spiritual things. At last the baron arrived. He received Thomas in the most affectionate and familiar manner.
The baron offered him a room in his house and a place at his table while Thomas studied in Berlin. Thomas accepted the offer. The baron now sought in every way to treat the young student in the most kind and affectionate way, to serve him as much as possible, and to show him the power of the gospel in his own life. He did all this without arguing with him or even speaking to him directly about his soul. Thomas obviously had a skeptical mind, and the baron avoided getting into any argument with him. The student often said to himself, “I wish I could get into an argument with this old fool. I would show him how irrational his beliefs are.” But the baron avoided it. When the baron heard the young student come home in the evening, he would go to meet him and serve him in any way he could, even helping him to take off his boots. Thus this lowly, aged disciple went on for some time.
While Thomas still sought an opportunity for arguing with him, he wondered how the baron could continue to serve him. One evening when Thomas returned to the baron’s house, the baron was making himself his servant as usual. The student could restrain himself no longer and burst out, “Baron, how can you do all this? You see I do not care about you. How are you able to continue to be so kind to me and serve me like this?” The baron replied, “My dear young friend, I have learned it from the Lord Jesus. I wish you would read through the Gospel of John. Good night.” The student now for the first time in his life sat down and read the Word of God with an open heart and a willingness to learn. Up to that time, he had never read the Holy Scriptures unless he wanted to find out arguments against them. God blessed him; from that time he became a follower of the Lord Jesus and has continued in the faith ever since.
The time was now come when God would have mercy upon me. His love had been set upon such a wretch as I was before the world was made. His love had sent His Son to bear the punishment due to me on account of my sins, and to fulfill the law which I had broken times without number. And now 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 in it 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, up to the beginning of November 1825. 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, except in degree.
One Saturday afternoon, about the middle of November 1825, I had taken a walk with my friend Beta. On our return he said to me, that he was in the habit of going on Saturday evenings to the house of a Christian, where there was a meeting. On further enquiry he told me that they read the Bible, sang, prayed, and read 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. I immediately wished to go with my friend, who was not at once willing to take me; for knowing me as a gay young man, he thought I should not like this meeting. At last, however, he said he would call for me.-I would here mention, that Beta seems to have had conviction of sin, and probably also a degree of acquaintance with the Lord, when about fifteen years old. Afterwards, being in a cold and worldly state, he joined me in this sinful Journey to Switzerland. On his return, however, being extremely miserable, and convinced of his guilt, he made a full confession of his sin to his father; and whilst with him, sought the acquaintance of a Christian brother, named Richter. This Dr. Richter, who himself had studied a few years before at Halle, gave him, on his return to the university, a letter of introduction to a believing tradesman, of the name of Wagner. It was this brother, concerning whom Beta spoke to me, and in whose house the meeting was held.
We went together in the evening. As I did not know the manners of believers, and the joy they have in seeing poor sinners, even in any measure caring about the things of God, I made an apology for coming. The kind answer of this dear brother I shall never forget. He said: "Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you." We sat down and sang a hymn. Then brother Kayser, now a missionary in Africa, in connection with the London Missionary Society, who was then living at Halle, fell on his knees, and asked a blessing on our meeting. This kneeling down made a deep impression upon me; for I had never either seen any one on his knees, nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees. He then read a chapter and a printed sermon; for no regular meetings for expounding the Scriptures were allowed in Prussia, except an ordained clergyman was present. At the close we sang another hymn, and then the master of the house prayed. Whilst he prayed, my feeling was something like this: "I could not pray as well, though I am much more learned than this illiterate man." The whole made a deep impression on me. I was happy; though, if I had been asked, why I was happy, I could not have clearly explained it.
When we walked home, I said to Beta, "All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening." Whether I fell on my knees when I returned home, I do not remember; but this I know, that I lay peaceful and happy in my bed. This shows that the Lord may begin His work in different ways. For I have not the least doubt, that on that evening, He began a work of grace in me, though I obtained joy without any deep sorrow of heart, and with scarcely any knowledge. That evening was the turning point in my life.-The next day, and Monday, and once or twice besides, I went again to the house of this brother, where I read the Scriptures with him and another brother; for it was too long for me to wait till Saturday came again.
Now my life became very different, though not so, that all sins were given up at once. My wicked companions were given up; the going to taverns was entirely discontinued; the habitual practice of telling falsehoods was no longer indulged in, but still a few times after this I spoke an untruth.-At the time when this change took place, I was engaged in translating a novel out of French into German, for the press, in order to obtain the means of gratifying my desire to see Paris, &c. This plan about the journey was now given up, though I had not light enough to give up the work in which I was engaged, but finished it. The Lord, however, most remarkably put various obstacles in the way and did not allow me to sell the manuscript. At last, seeing that the whole was wrong, I determined never to sell it, and was enabled to abide by this determination. The manuscript was burnt.
I now no longer lived habitually in sin, though I was still often overcome, and sometimes even by open sins, though far less frequently than before, and not without sorrow of heart. I read the Scriptures, prayed often, loved the brethren, went to church from right motives, and stood on the side of Christ; though laughed at by my fellow-students.
It had pleased God to teach me something of the meaning of that precious truth: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I understood something of the reason why the Lord Jesus died on the cross, and suffered such agonies in the Garden of Gethsemane: even that thus, bearing the punishment due to us, we might not have to bear it ourselves. And, therefore, apprehending in some measure the love of Jesus for my soul, I was constrained to love Him in return. What all the exhortations and precepts of my father and others could not effect; what all my own resolutions could not bring about, even to renounce a life of sin and profligacy: I was enabled to do, constrained by the love of Jesus. The individual who desires to have his sins forgiven, must seek for it through the blood of Jesus. The individual who desires to get power over sin, must likewise seek it through the blood of Jesus.