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.