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