January 1, 1841. During this week we have met daily for prayer, asking the Lord for the means to have last year's report printed. It is three weeks since it should have been sent to the press. If the report is not printed soon, people will know that it is because we lack money.
By the donations which came in during these last days for the orphans, and by ten pounds which was given today, we can pay for about two thirds of the printing. Therefore, we sent a part of the manuscript, trusting that the Lord would send in more money. But if not, we will wait until more comes in.
January 11. During the last week, the Lord not only supplied us richly with all we needed for the orphans, but He enabled us to put several pounds aside for printing the report. On Saturday evening only three shillings were left. I was expecting an answer to my prayers for funds, and the Lord did not disappoint me. More money came yesterday, and we now have enough to print the last part of the report.
January 12. Today I received a letter from a brother who gave me the right to draw upon his bank account during this year, up to one thousand pounds. It may be used for any brother or sister who have it in their hearts to serve as missionaries in the East Indies and whom I consider called for this service, as far as I am able to judge.
[This power lasted only for that year, but no suitable people offered themselves for this service. Finances can be obtained much more easily than suitable individuals. Indeed, in all my experience, I have found that if I could only settle that a certain thing to be done was according to the will of God, the money was soon obtained to carry it into effect.]
March 4. 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.
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.
October 1. When I had not one penny in hand-for the needs of this day, ten shillings were brought to me for the orphans. The enclosed note read: "Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things. Trust in the Lord." This word of our Lord is to me more valuable than many bank notes.
November 2. At the time of our great poverty, one pound was sent by a lady from Birmingham. About half an hour later, I received ten pounds from a brother who had saved up one hundred and fifty pounds. He put it into a savings bank, but he now sees that to devote this money to the work of God glorifies the name of Jesus more than to keep it in the savings bank for a time of sickness or old age. If such times come, the same Lord who has cared for him in health and strength will also care for him then.
In Matt. 6:19-21, it is written: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
The Lord Jesus, our Lord and Master, knows what is best for our true welfare and happiness. His disciples are strangers and pilgrims on earth-we neither belong to the earth nor expect to remain in it. Therefore, we should not seek to increase our earthly possessions.
This is a word for poor believers as well as for rich believers. It may be said; "But every prudent person seeks to increase his wealth that he may have plenty to leave his children or to have something for old age or for the time of sickness." This is the custom of the world. But we disciples of the Lord Jesus have been promised "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4). If we seek, like the people of the world, to increase our possessions, those who are not believers may question whether we believe what we say about our inheritance and our heavenly calling.
Our Lord says that the earth is a place "where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." All that is of the earth, and in any way connected with it, is subject to corruption, change, and dissolution. No reality or substance exists in anything but heavenly things. Often the careful amassing of earthly possessions ends in losing them in a moment by fire, robbery, or a change in the world markets. Furthermore, in a little while, we all must leave this earth, or the Lord Jesus will return. What use will earthly possessions be then?
Our Lord, however, does not merely tell us not to lay up treasure on earth. If He had said no more, people may abuse this commandment and use it to encourage extravagant habits, spending everything they have or can obtain upon themselves. Jesus does not mean that we should live up to our income. He adds, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Every penny given for the Lord's sake to poor brethren or to the work of God is a treasure laid up in the bank of heaven. When we go to heaven, we go to the place where our treasures are, and we shall find them there.
The Lord concludes: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Where should the heart of the disciple of the Lord Jesus be, but in heaven? Our calling is a heavenly calling, our inheritance is a heavenly inheritance, and our citizenship is in heaven. But if we believers in the Lord Jesus lay up treasures on earth, then our hearts will be on earth. laying up treasures in heaven will draw the heart heavenward. It brings along with it, even in this life, precious spiritual blessings as a reward of obedience to the commandment of our Lord.
November 13. I took one shilling out of the box in my house. This shilling was all our money for today. More than a hundred people must be provided for, and this is not the case once in a while, but very frequently. It is infinitely precious to have the living God as a Father to go to for help. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus may claim His help since we are all children of God. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). Although all believers in the Lord Jesus are not called upon to establish orphan houses and schools for poor children and to trust in God for means, all believers should cast all their care upon Him who cares for them. We need not be anxiously concerned about anything. (See 1 Peter 5:7, Phil. 4:6, and Matt. 6:25-34.)
Under these circumstances of need, a silver watch, which had become the property of the orphan fund yesterday afternoon, was sold to help us through the expenses of today.
The coal is almost gone in each of the houses, and every article of provision is greatly reduced. Truly, we are exceedingly poor. Nevertheless, we have the necessary provisions until Monday morning, and thus we are brought to the close of another week. This afternoon, all the workers met for prayer.
November 14. When we met again this afternoon for prayer, we had reason to praise, for the Lord had sent financial help.
November 15. Last Friday, brother Craik and I had a meeting for inquirers into the faith and new fellowship members. We spoke wish eight of them and had to send away ten since our strength was gone. This evening we saw seven and had to send away three.
December 9. We are now at the close of the sixth year of this part of the work. We are left with only the money which has been put aside for the rent. But throughout the year, we have been supplied with all that was needed.
During the last three years, we had closed the accounts on this day and held public meetings stating how the Lord had dealt with us during the year. The substance of those meetings was later printed for the benefit of the Church at large. This time, however, it appeared better to delay both the public meetings and the publishing of the report. Through grace we had learned to lean on the Lord only. If we never spoke or wrote one single word about this work, we would be supplied with means as long as we depended on Him. What better proof could we give of our dependence on the living God alone and not on public meetings or printed reports than that, in the midst of our deep poverty, we still went on working quietly without saying anything. Naturally, we would have been glad to expose our poverty. But spiritually we were able to delight in the prospect of the increased blessing that might be derived by the Church as we continue to express our needs to God alone.
December 23. In reading over my journal this year, I found that the Lord has given me many precious answers to prayer. On May 23 I began to ask the Lord to deliver a certain sister from the great spiritual depression she was suffering. After three days, the Lord granted my request.
During this year one of the greatest sinners I had ever known in all my service for the Lord was converted. Repeatedly, I prayed with ills wife for him. She came to me in deep distress on account of the cruel treatment she received from him because she wanted to live for the Lord. Her refusal to respond to his anger only infuriated him more.
At the time when the situation was at its worst, I pleaded the promise in Matt. 18:19: "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." And now this awful persecutor has been converted!
On May 25 I began to ask the Lord for greater spiritual prosperity among the saints in Bristol than ever. Praise the Lord, He truly has answered this request. At no period has there been more manifestation of grace, truth, and spiritual power among us than there is now.
The undeniable reality of God’s provision was evident to everyone familiar with the work. Samuel Chadwick in his book, The Path of Prayer, relates an occasion when Dr. A. T. Pierson was the guest of George Müller at his orphanage:
One night when all the household had retired he [Müller] asked Pierson to join him in prayer. He told him that there was absolutely nothing in the house for next morning’s breakfast. My friend tried to remonstrate with him and to remind him that all the stores were closed. Müller knew all that. He had prayed as he always prayed, and he never told anyone of his needs but God. They prayed—at least Müller did—and Pierson tried to.
They went to bed and slept, and breakfast for two thousand children was there in abundance at the usual breakfast hour. Neither Müller nor Pierson ever knew how the answer came. The story was told next morning to Simon Short of Bristol, under pledge of secrecy until the benefactor died. The details of it are thrilling, but all that need be told here is that the Lord called him out of bed in the middle of the night to send breakfast to Müller’s orphanage, and knowing nothing of the need, or of the two men at prayer, he sent provisions that would feed them a month.
January 1, 1840. About one o'clock this morning, I received a sealed envelope with some money in it for the orphans. The individual who gave it was deeply in debt, and I was aware that she had been repeatedly asked by her creditors for payment. I resolved to return the envelope without opening it because no one has a right to give while in debt. I did this although I knew there was not enough on hand to meet the expenses of the day. About eight o'clock this morning a brother brought five pounds which he had just received from his mother. The brother was led to bring it at once!
January 25. I have prayed much this week about going to Germany to see certain brothers who plan to go as missionaries to the East Indies and to see my father once more. I am led to go just now, instead of delaying the trip, because my health is again failing. This way, I will continue to serve in the work of the Lord and benefit my health at the same time. Lord, keep me from making a mistake in this matter!
February 2. Today and yesterday nearly nine pounds have come in for the orphans. How kind of the Lord to send this money on the eve of my leaving home!
March 9. During my absence from Bristol, the Lord not only supplied all the needs of the orphans, but when I returned, He supplied even more than there was when I left.
March 26. On the 17th of this month I received the following letter from a brother who had been used by the Lord several times to supply our need.
"I have received a little money. Do you have any present need for the institution under your care? I know you do not ask, except of Him whose work you are doing; but to answer when asked seems to be a right thing to do. I have a reason for desiring to know the present state of your finances. If you do not need the money, other areas of the Lord's work or other people of the Lord may need help. Kindly inform me the amount you need at this present time."
When this letter came, we were in need. Nevertheless, I answered it as follows: "While I thank you for your love, and while I agree with you that there is a difference between asking for money and answering when asked, nevertheless, I do not feel at liberty to speak about the state of our funds. The primary object of this ministry is to lead those who are weak in faith to see that there is reality in dealing with God alone."
After I sent off the answer, I prayed, "Lord, You know that for Your sake I did not tell this brother about our need. Now, Lord, show afresh that there is reality in speaking to You only about our need. Speak to this brother, so that he may help us."
Today, in answer to my request, this brother sent one hundred pounds. I now have money for establishing the infant school and for ordering more Bibles. Also, the orphans are again supplied for a week.
April 7. This evening I received information that my dear father died on March 30. During no period did I pray more frequently or more earnestly for his conversion than during the last year of his' life. But I did not see the answer to my prayers.
May 2. Nothing has come in for five days, and we are penniless again. In answer to prayer, five shillings sixpence came in, and some trinkets were sent. Thus we were helped through this day. The Lord allowed five days to pass away without influencing the hearts of any to send us supplies, but the moment there is real need, the stream runs again.
May 3. Last evening a brother was baptized, who on the first Sunday of this year came with his fiancee to Bethesda Chapel. Neither were believers at the time. Since April 1, forty-one people have come to us to speak about their souls.
May 10. Today five of the orphans were baptized. There are now fourteen of them in fellowship.
May 26. Nothing had come in. My other work kept me from going to the Orphan Houses until seven in the evening when the workers met together for prayer. One of them had given seventeen shillings which had been divided between the three houses. With this we purchased all necessary articles. We are now very poor.
May 27. We met for prayer at eleven this morning. No money had come in, but there was enough for dinner in all the houses. This morning the last of the coal was used in the Infant Orphan House. In the Boys': Orphan House was enough coal for today but no money to buy more. In our time of need, a brother sent a load of coal. We plan to meet this afternoon for more prayer. May the Lord graciously send help in the meantime!
Evening. The Lord has had mercy! Several days ago a person gave us several articles to be sold for the benefit of the orphans. He owed us six pounds fifteen shillings. This morning I asked the Lord to incline his heart to bring the money, or at least a part of it, since we were in such need. Just as I was going to meet for prayer with my fellow-laborers this afternoon, he brought four pounds.
But our kind Father showed us further that He had withheld supplies for a season only to test our faith. Enough has come in to supply us for several days. Thus the day, which had begun with prayer, ended in praise. But I must mention one more thing which is even more precious: the Lord has begun to work in the hearts of several of the boys. They want to learn more about Jesus.
August 1. A few days ago a brother was staying with me. He was on his way to visit his father whom he had not seen for more than two years. His father was greatly opposed to the decided steps his son had taken to serve the Lord. Before this brother left, that precious promise of our Lord was brought to my mind: "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 18:19). Accordingly, I went to the brother's room, and we prayed together for a kind reception from his father and the conversion of both parents.
Today this brother returned. The Lord has already answered one part of the prayer-he was kindly received, contrary to all natural expectation. May the Lord now help us both to look for an answer to the other part of our prayer! Nothing is too hard for the Lord!
[The father of this brother lived ten more years after August 1, 1840, until he was about eighty-six years of age. He continued in a life of much sin and opposition to the truth, and the prospect of his conversion became darker and darker. But at last the Lord answered prayer. This aged sinner was entirely changed, trusted in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of his soul, and became as much attached to his believing son as before he had been opposed to him. He wanted his son near him as much as possible to read the Holy Scriptures to him and pray with him.]
August 8. This evening I was meditating on the fourth Psalm. The words in verse three, "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him," spoke to my heart and led me to pray for spiritual blessings. While in prayer, the needs of the orphans were brought to my mind, and I prayed about this, too.
About five minutes later, I was informed that a sister wished to see me. She brought one pound ten shillings for the orphans. Thus the Lord has Already kindly sent a little to begin the week with.
August 23. As we have often found it to be the case, so it is again now. After the Lord has tried our faith, He, in the love of His heart, gives us an abundance. For the glory of His name and for the trial of our faith, He allows us to be poor and then graciously supplies our needs.
August 29. Very little has come in for the other funds. The chief supply of our needs has been by the sale of Bibles. Last Saturday I was not able to pay all of the weekly salaries of the teachers in the day schools. However, I am not a debtor to them because it is understood that they must not look to me for payment, but to the Lord. It appeared now to be the will of the Lord that the brothers and sisters who labor in the day schools would also share the trials and joys of living by faith with us. We all met, and after I had laid on their hearts the importance of keeping the state of funds to themselves, we prayed together.
September 5. Because so little has come in during the last days, at least- three pounds was required to supply the needs of today. Not one penny, however, was in hand when the day began. In the afternoon, all of us met for prayer. A few teachers gave some of their own money, but it was not enough. Dinner has not been provided for tomorrow and there is no money to buy milk.
Now observe how our kind Father helped us! This evening a sister who sells some things for us brought two pounds ten shillings sixpence. Though she did not feel well, she said she had come because it was on her heart, and she could not stay away.
September 8. Our prayer meetings have been a blessing to us and united us more than ever in the work. We have them now every morning at seven; and we will continue them, the Lord helping us, until we see His hand stretched forth. We need a stove in one of the schoolrooms and a supply of Bibles and New Testaments. We also want to help missionary brethren who labor in dependence upon the Lord for the supply of their temporal necessities.
September 21. A brother from London gave me ten pounds to be used where it was needed most. This brother knew nothing about our work, when he came to. Bristol three days ago. The Lord shows us His continual care over us by raising up new helpers.
Those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed. Some who helped us for a while may fall asleep in Jesus, some may grow cold in the service of the Lord, some may be as desirous as ever to help but no longer have the means, and some may have both a willing heart to help and the means but may see it to be the Lord's will to give in another way. If we were to lean upon man, we would surely be disappointed; but in leaning upon the living God alone, we are beyond disappointment and beyond being forsaken for any reason.
October 7. It is now five weeks since we met daily for prayer. In addition to temporal needs, we ask for grace and wisdom for ourselves in the work, for the conversion of the children under our care, for grace for those children who have already accepted the Lord, for a blessing upon the distribution of the Scriptures, and for a blessing upon the work of the Church at large.
Never since the work began have we had to continue so long in prayer for funds without obtaining the answer. The Lord, however, gave us grace to continue in prayer, and He kept our hearts in the assurance that He would help. Now, in His own time, He made it manifest that He had not only heard our prayers, but that He had answered them even before we called. Today we received from the East Indies a bank order for one hundred pounds, which had been sent two months ago-several days before we even began to pray.
November 8. I planned to go to Trowbridge yesterday and had made the arrangements on Friday evening. But no sooner had I decided to do so, than I felt no peace about going. After praying about it on Friday evening and yesterday morning, I decided not to go. I began to look for blessings for this day, believing that the Lord had kept me here for a good reason.
This evening I was led to share the truth of the gospel with some who had not yet accepted Jesus as their Lord. I immediately saw fruit from the Word. I talked with one man until about ten o'clock, as long as I had any strength left. The Lord, in His mercy toward them, kept me from going to Trowbridge.
December 9. Although our trials of faith during this year have been more than during any previous year, and although we have been often reduced to the greatest extremity, yet the orphans have lacked nothing. They always have had good nourishing food and the necessary articles of clothing.
If anyone thinks that on account of our trials of faith during this year we have been disappointed in our expectations or discouraged in the work, my answer is that the very opposite is true. Such days were expected from the beginning. The chief end for which the institution was established is that the Church would see the hand of God stretched out on our behalf in answer to prayer.
Our desire, therefore, is not that we may be without trials of faith, but that the Lord would graciously support us in the trial and that we may not dishonor Him by distrust.
This way of living brings the Lord remarkably near. Morning by morning, He inspects our supplies that He may send help as it is needed. I have never had a greater awareness of the Lord's presence than when after breakfast nothing was left for dinner, and then the Lord provided the dinner for more than one hundred people; or when, after dinner, there was nothing for the tea, and yet the Lord provided the tea-all this without one single human being having been informed about our need. One thing is certain-we are not tired of doing the Lord's work in this way.
Many people have commented that such a way of living must cause the mind to continually think of how to obtain food and clothes, and thus become unfit for spiritual work. I answer that our minds are seldom concerned about the necessities of life because the care for them is laid upon our Father. Because we are His children, He not only allows us to do so but wants us to do so.
Do not think that these answers to prayer are only for us and cannot be enjoyed by all the saints. Every child of God is not called by the Lord to establish schools and orphan houses and to trust in the Lord for means for them. Yet, there is no reason why you may not experience, far more abundantly than we do now, His willingness to answer the prayers of His children.
Prove the faithfulness of God by carrying your every want to Him. Only maintain an upright heart. But if you live in sin and if you willfully and habitually do things which you know are contrary to the will of God, then you cannot expect Him to hear you. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer" (Psa. 66:18-19).
A few more interesting points are: During this year, six day schools for poor children have been entirely supported by the funds of our institution. The number of all the children that have had schooling in the day schools through the institution, since its formation, amounts to 2,216. The number of those at present in the six day schools is 303.
These day schools have been assisted by the children paying about - one-sixth of their own expenses.
One Sunday school has been entirely supported by the funds of the institution.
Since the formation of the institution, one adult school has been connected with it. On Sunday afternoons since it began, about 150 adults have been instructed.
We have given out many Bibles and Testaments and supported missionary work.
During the last fourteen months, we have held Bible studies especially for the children. They have shown great interest in these meetings, and I thankfully ascribe this to the Lord. I believe it is a forerunner of greater blessing.
6. During the last year, three of the Sunday school children have been received into fellowship. At the end of last year, eight orphans received communion; and during the present year, fourteen more were received.
In last year's report we stated that we were looking for fruit In the conversion of the children. We have prayed earnestly for them, and the Lord has dealt with us according to our expectations. But I expect far more than what we have seen. The chief object of our work is to demonstrate the reality of power with God in prayer. As we hoped and as it has been our prayer, the Lord gives us the joy of seeing one child after another brought to Him.
It appears to me that believers generally have expected far too little present fruit from their labors among children. They hope that the Lord will some day confirm their instruction and -answer the prayers which they offer up on the children's behalf. The Bible assures us that in everything we do for the Lord, including bringing up children in the fear of the Lord, our labor is not in vain. We have to guard against thinking that it does not matter whether we see present fruit or not. On the contrary, we should give the Lord no rest until we see fruit. Therefore, in persevering yet submissive prayer, we should make our requests own to God. I am now looking for many more children to be converted.
Yet I will Rejoice in the Lord.
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening; June 13th, 1897.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.-Habakkuk iii., 17, 18, 19.
IN the first verse under notice we have brought before us not merely the loss of one thing, or of another thing, or of anything, but the loss on the part of the Jew of everything, for they were in an agricultural country generally speaking; and the prophet Habakkuk says regarding himself, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Now, this is the great and deeply important question, What is it that brought this man of God to the decision that though he should lose everything, though he should be reduced to a state of the greatest poverty and difficulty and affliction, yet he would rejoice in Jehovah? What was it that brought him to this? Because the Living God has given Himself to everyone of His children as their portion! He has given Himself to everyone of His children, so that whatever they may lose, in regard to the things connected with this life, God remains to them; in other words, their ALL remains to them. They are not, and they never really and truly can be, losers of anything that is worth anything, for God remains.
He gives Himself to everyone of His children, to the weakest, the feeblest, the least instructed among them, as their portion; therefore, having Him, they have everything they could wish. God remains to them; He gives Himself to His children, once for all; they have, once for all, blessing to make them happy; they have, once for all, kindness, mercy, and grace, bestowed on them, sufficient for their whole earthly pilgrimage, and for the whole of eternity. 0 beloved in Christ, and O beloved ones who are not yet believers in Christ, let us all really and truly seek to enter into what it is to have God, and what it means that God gives Himself to us. Two verses of the 73rd Psalm and many similar portions might be brought to bear, but I think these two verses will do, "Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth." The Psalmist supposes himself to be brought to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, brought to the point of death. "My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." God had been his portion in life, and now he was going out of time into eternity, God remains his portion Not only for a few years, or for a few hundred years, but for ever God remains true to His people. If this were entered into what happy persons we should be! 0, if only held on to by faith and realised, what peace and joy in the Holy Ghost we should have--not merely now and then, not merely frequently, but habitually! 0, how exceedingly precious! God gives Himself, and with all He is and has to the weakest, the feeblest of His children. 0, how precious! How exceedingly precious!
And the prophet Habakkuk entered into it, and it was just this that made him so happy. Though he should lose everything that this world could give, yet would he rejoice in Jehovah. "Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord"-it means Jehovah-"I will joy in the God of my salvation." Now, let us just for a little while ponder somewhat more minutely what we have here, what we receive from God as poor sinners, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ; and what other poor sinners might have if they were only willing to know what God is prepared to give to those who come to Him through Jesus Christ. First of all, He opens our eyes and shows to us the lost and ruined condition in which we are by nature; makes manifest our complete spiritual darkness and ignorance. He further shows to us that we cannot save ourselves, that salvation entirely depends on Himself, through the gift of His Only Begotten Son, Whose perfect obedience unto death He accepts in our room and stead. Now, all this is in the first place to be seen, to be apprehended, to be laid hold on by faith, in order that our eyes, being opened, we may have the beginning of peace and joy. Further, so far even as this present life is concerned, we at once, through faith in the Lord Jesus, obtain full forgiveness for all our numberless transgressions. We are accepted in the beloved, in Jesus Christ, and treated as righteous ones, as just ones, though in ourselves unjust ones and unrighteous ones. So accepted in the beloved, and treated as justified ones, accepted in the beloved and treated as forgiven ones, not one single transgression shall be mentioned against us any more. All, all is forgiven! Entering into it oh, what peace it gives to the soul, entering into it more and more it brings joy in God; the heart is filled with gratitude to Him for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.
But what I have mentioned is not all. We thus being born again, regenerated, obtain spiritual life; while before we were dead in trespasses and sins. Now, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we obtain spiritual life; that life is everlasting. The beginning of this everlasting life is made when we are brought to believe in Jesus, and this spiritual life is continued, this spiritual life lasts, when the natural life is come to an end, when we pass out of time into Eternity. This is another blessing. Then we are now, through this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the children of God not merely in name, but in reality. We have obtained spiritual life. We are born again by the power of God's Holy Spirit. We are really and truly the children of God, and as such we are really and truly heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ; and thus we have everything that we could possibly wish. We are infinitely rich as the children of God, as the heirs of God, as the joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus, for we partake of all the things which the Father gives to Him, as a recompense for His mediatorial work on earth. Thus we not only become infinitely rich, but we are infinitely honoured, for we share the honour which the Father bestows upon His only begotten Son as the reward for His great work. Oh, what an abounding reason, therefore, we have to rejoice in the Lord, in Jehovah!
Being in this state, whatever may be our difficulties, our trials, our necessities, we can obtain help from God, because we are the children whom He loves with an eternal, unchangeable love-the children who are so dear to His heart that they are precious in His sight, and loved by Him even as He loves His only begotten Son, for they belong to Christ, they are members of that mystical body of which He is the Head. What, therefore, can they possibly want that they cannot receive? Their God and Father in Christ Jesus is willing to impart to everyone of them, even the feeblest and weakest among them, every blessing that really would be a blessing to them, everything that really would be for their good and profit, and, therefore, to the glory of God. In the midst of trials and temptations, sore temptations, great attacks of Satan, we may come to Him, in our utter weakness and helplessness, and nothingness, and ask Him to fight our battles for us, to help us, to stand at our side, to rebuke the wicked one, and to drive him from us. All this our Heavenly Father delights to do, because He loves us so dearly and tenderly. He loves us with an eternal unchangeable love. He loves us as He loves His only begotten Son. Oh, how precious is all this!
Now notice further the title that is given to God. He is called in the 18th verse, "The God of my salvation." He is the God of salvation; but the preciousness of the statement lies in this, that we have proved Him to ourselves thus, and are able to say, "The God of my salvation." That is just the language of my heart! Now, how many of us are able to say this? I say, "He is the God of my salvation." I glory in it, I rejoice in it, for, by the grace of God, I am as certain that I shall go to Heaven as if I were there already! Therefore, I say, "He is the God of my salvation." And there are many scores here present who, like myself, can say and sing, "He is the God of my salvation." But if there are any here who are not yet able to say this, give yourselves no rest till you can. First of all, you must come to see that you are sinners needing salvation. If you do not see it, ask God to show it to you, and, as a means to come to the knowledge of it, read carefully three or four times the first three chapters of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, and the second chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Read these portions with application to yourselves, and if still you do not see that you are sinners needing a Saviour, read yet again these very portions, and ask God to open your eyes. Then, when you see what is contained therein, ask God to help you to put your trust in Jesus for salvation, for He in our room fulfilled the law of God, and, therefore, sets us free, and He in our room and stead bore the punishment due to us.
When able to apprehend this, we no longer dread God; we are no longer afraid of God, but look on Him as our Father, as our Friend, as our Helper Who has loved us in Christ Jesus. But if yet we have no peace in our souls, let us go on asking God that we may, by the power of His Holy Spirit, apprehend more feelingly and truly the work of Christ, and to enter into it that we may have that full peace and joy, which God delights to give to everyone of His children. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet, I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Oh, if any of you know this, how greatly are you blessed! Oh, if everyone here knew this what an encouragement it would be to sinners who have not yet obtained this peace and joy in God!
Now we come to the last verse, "The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places." "The Lord God," that is Jehovah-for you know that whenever we have the word "Lord" printed in large characters, it invariably means this, "Jehovah"- "is my strength." Was he weak physically? God would be able to strengthen him, for He was his strength! Was he weak spiritually, amid temptations, great and varied and many, and of a lasting character? Jehovah was his strength; therefore, what could he lack? Was he poor in any way? Did he require anything for the life that now is? Or, for himself, or for his family, or under any circumstances, did he require anything which would be for the glory of God? God was able and willing to communicate it to him! Now that is just what we have to lay hold of, that Jehovah is the strength of His children physically, mentally, spiritually; and this not now and then, but at all times and under all circumstances, however great the power of our spiritual adversaries may be, and however fearfully they may attack us in order to overcome us, " God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places." The feet like a roe, a wild animal running. For what? To act according to the mind of God! That, I judge, is particularly meant here by the words, "He will make my feet like hinds' feet" Not to accomplish our own purposes, not to enjoy ourselves, but to act according to the mind of God! The will of God presented to us, and instantaneously and with the greatest alacrity acted upon; therefore, the words, "hinds' feet," means that no delay is made, but immediately the will of God is carried out.
Then one other point. "He will make me to walk upon mine high places." The heart of the prophet Habakkuk was in Heaven, and he looked down on the things here below, and the state in which he was. 0 to enter into it, though we are poor sinners, that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places! That, therefore, we should treat all human affairs as those who are seated in Heaven in Christ Jesus, and look down from Heaven, so to speak, on the poor, weak, feeble, earthly affairs here below, and judge about them as those who are already in glory, who are already in Heaven.
Now, if one or the other says, "But I am yet in the body; I find a difficulty thus to think, to judge, and to act," my reply is, "So do I, but the grace of God can bring us to this state."
"He will make me to walk upon mine high places." These high places are those in which his heart is fixed, and this is just what we individually should have-the heart in Heaven. While in the body, we must attend to the affairs of this life; God would not have us give up our earthly occupations because of the difficulties connected with these things. But we must yet remain in the position to which God has brought us, entering into the spiritual life which has been given to us, remembering that this spiritual life is eternal, that more and more it will be developed, and that at last it will come to the full fruition and we shall be holy, as our Lord Jesus Christ was holy while on earth and as He ever has been since He ascended to Heaven, and that we shall at the same time have a glorified body, as the Lord Jesus Christ had when He was raised from the dead. These are the blessed prospects of the weakest and feeblest child of God!
Oh, what a precious blessing has God bestowed on us in Christ Jesus! Oh, what are we poor miserable sinners come to by faith in Him! Our great business, therefore, must be in child-like simplicity to ponder all the wondrous blessings God has bestowed on us through His Son, and, in child-like simplicity, to believe everything that He has declared regarding us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in joyful anticipation look forward to the day when all this will have its complete accomplishment, when we shall no longer walk by faith, but by sight, having everyone of these blessings in actual possession. Now, one word more. Are there any here present who up to this time have been thoughtlessly and carelessly unconcerned about the things of God? If so, I now entreat and beseech you no longer to be thus-for the salvation of your souls, your happiness here, and throughout Eternity, depend upon your receiving Christ. Salvation is also to be had by faith in Jesus Christ, and God is willing to bestow the blessing on every and anyone, however great and many their transgressions may be. Only let them own that they are sinners, deserving nothing but punishment, and only let them put their trust in Jesus, and the blessing is their's for ever.
January 1, 2, and 3, 1839. We have had three special prayer meetings these three days. The year began with blessings. In the first hour of the year, two pounds seven shillings came in for the orphans. The money was given after our usual prayer meeting on December 31, which lasted from seven in the evening until after midnight.
January 20. "Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good" (Mark 14:7). The Lord spoke these words to His disciples, who were themselves very poor, implying that the children of God have power with God to bring temporal blessings upon poor saints or poor unbelievers through prayer. Accordingly, I have been led to ask the Lord for means to assist poor saints, and He has stirred His children to trust me with money for that purpose.
Therefore, I had been praying again for means to more extensively assist the poor saints in communion with us. Many of them are not merely tried by the usual temporal difficulties arising from winter, but especially from the high price of bread. This evening the Lord has given me the answer to my prayer. When I came home from the meeting, found a brother at my house who offered to give me ten pounds a week for twelve weeks to provide the poor saints with coal, clothing, and bread.
February 7. This day has been one of the most remarkable days concerning the funds. There was no money on hand, and I was waiting on God. I asked Him repeatedly, but no supplies came. The headmaster called to tell me that one pound two shilling was needed to buy bread for the three houses and to meet the other expenses. He then left for Clifton to make arrangements to receive the three orphans of a sister who passed away on the 4th. Although we have no funds on hand, the work goes on, and our confidence is not diminished. I requested him to call, on his way back from Clifton, to see whether the Lord had sent any money in the meantime. When he returned, I had received nothing, but one of the laborers gave five shillings of his own.
At four o'clock I wondered how the sisters had gotten through the day. I went to the Girls' Orphan House to meet for prayer and found that a box had come for me from Barnstable. The delivery fee was paid, otherwise there would have been no money to pay for it. See how the Lord's hand is in the smallest matters! The box was opened, and it contained more than fourteen pounds for the orphans and for the Bible Fund. Besides this, there were four yards of cloth, three pairs of new shoes, two pairs of new socks, six books for sale, a gold pencil-case, two gold rings, two gold earrings, a necklace, and a silver pencil-case.
March 5. Several pounds were needed again. Besides the daily provisions, the coal was low, the medical supplies in two houses were exhausted, and there were only five shillings in hand. While I was in prayer this morning, I received a check for seven pounds ten shillings.
March 23. By means of several donations I am able both to meet the remaining expenses of this week and also to pay fifteen pounds which still remain due for the salaries. My fellow-laborers never ask me for anything and are willing to part with money or anything else in the hour of need. Nevertheless, I asked the Lord about this frequently, and He has now granted my request.
April 13. I conversed with another of the orphans who has walked consistently with the Lord for many months. Tomorrow she will be united with the saints in communion.
April 14. A poor brother with a large family and small wages saved the money given to him by his boss for beer. This brother, who was converted about five years ago, used to be a notorious drunkard. When the money accumulated to one pound, he donated it to the orphans.
July 15. Two pounds seven shillings was needed for the orphans, but we had nothing. I had no idea how to obtain the means for dinner and for our other needs. My heart was perfectly at peace and sure of help. That afternoon I received a letter from India, written in May, with fifty pounds for the orphans. I had said last Saturday that we could use fifty pounds because the salaries of all my fellow-laborers are due, medical supplies are gone, provisions are exhausted, articles of clothing are needed, and wool yarn is needed for the boys to go on with their knitting.
August 22. In my morning walk, when I was reminding the Lord of our need, I felt assured that He would send help this day. My assurance sprang from our need, for there seemed no way to get through the day without help being sent. After breakfast I considered what might be sold for money for the dear children. But all seemed not nearly enough to meet the requirements of the day.
In our deep poverty, after I had gathered together a few things for sale, a sister who earns her living by the labor of her hands brought eighty-two pounds. This sister was convinced that believers in our Lord Jesus should act out His commandments: "Sell that ye have, and give alms" (Luke 12:33); "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth" (Matt. 6:19). Accordingly, she drew her money out of the bank and stocks, two hundred and fifty pounds, and brought it to me at three different times for the benefit of the orphans, the Bible, missionary, and school funds, and the poor saints.
About two months ago she brought me one hundred pounds more after she had sold some other possessions. The eighty-two pounds she brought today is from the sale of her last earthly possession. She never expressed the least regret for the step she took, but went on quietly laboring with her hands to earn her daily living.
September 4. I have been led to pray whether it is the Lord's will that I leave Bristol for a season. For the last two weeks I have suffered from severe indigestion, and my whole system is weakened. Two hindrances stand in the way-lack of money for the orphans and for my own personal expenses. Today I received a check for seven pounds ten shillings for the orphans, which came at an excellent time. Also four pounds have come in since the day before yesterday.
September 5. Today a sister sent me five pounds for myself, to be used for the benefit of my health which she had heard is again failing. I do not put aside money for such purposes; but whenever I really need means, whether for myself or others, the Lord sends it in answer to prayer.
September 7. I arrived in Trowbridge. This has been a very good day. I had much communion with the Lord. How kind He is to take me from the work in Bristol for a season and give me more communion with Himself. I remembered the Lord's special blessing on me in this place at the beginning of last year. How kind He has been since! I prayed much for myself, for the Church at large, for the saints here and in Bristol, for my unconverted relatives, for my dear wife, and that the Lord would supply my own temporal necessities and those of the orphans. I know that He has heard me.
I am surrounded with kind friends, and I feel quite at home. My room is far better than I need, but an easy chair to kneel before in prayer would add to my comfort since my body is so weak. In the afternoon, without me making a hint about it, I found that someone- had placed an easy chair into my room. I was amazed by the special kindness of my heavenly Father. He is mindful of the smallest wants and comforts of His child.
September 9. I returned to Bristol and to my old habit of rising early in the morning to commune with God. I was led to it by the example of the brother in whose house I was staying. He remarked when speaking on the sacrifices in Leviticus that, just as only the best animals were to be offered up, the best part of our time should be given to communion with the Lord.
I had been an early riser in the past. But since my nerves became so weak, I thought it best for me to have more rest. For this reason I rose between six and seven, and sometimes after seven. I purposely got into the habit of sleeping a quarter of an hour or half an hour after dinner.
I thought I found benefit from the much-needed relaxation. In this way, however, my soul had suffered considerably. Unavoidable work often came upon me before I had sufficient time for prayer and reading the Word.
I finally decided that, whatever my body might suffer, I would no longer let the most precious part of the day pass away while I was in bed. By the grace of God I was able to begin the very next day to rise earlier and have continued to rise early since that time. I allow myself now-about seven hours of sleep. Although I am far from being strong and have much to tire me mentally, I find this is quite sufficient to refresh me. In addition, I gave up sleeping after dinner. The result has been that I can have long and precious times for prayer and meditation before breakfast.
Concerning my body and the state of my nerves, I have been much better since. The worst thing I could have done for my weak nerves was to have lain an hour or more in bed than I used to before my illness because it actually weakened my body.
I want to encourage all believers to get into the habit of rising early to meet with God. How much time should be allowed for rest? No rule of universal application can be given because all persons do not require the same amount of sleep. Also the same persons, at different times, according to the strength or weakness of their body, may require more or less. Most doctors agree that healthy men do not require more than between six or seven hours of sleep, and females need no more than seven or eight hours.
Children of God should be careful not to allow themselves too little sleep since few men can do with less than six hours of sleep and still be well in body and mind. As a young man, before I went to the university, I went to bed regularly at ten and rose at four, studied hard, and was in good health. Since I have allowed myself only about seven hours, I have been much better in body and in nerves than when I spent eight or eight and a half hours in bed.
Someone may ask, "But why should I rise early?" To remain too long in bed is a waste of time. Wasting-time is unbecoming a saint who is bought by the precious blood of Jesus. His time and all he has is to be used for the Lord. If we sleep more than is necessary for the refreshment of the body, it is wasting the time the Lord has entrusted us to be used for His glory, for our own benefit, and for the benefit of the aims and unbelievers around us.
Just as too much food injures the body, the same is true regarding sleep. Medical persons would readily agree that lying longer in bed than is necessary to strengthen the body actually weakens it.
It also injures the soul. Lying too long in bed not merely keeps us from giving the most precious part of the day to prayer and meditation, but this sloth leads also to many other evils. Anyone who spends one, two, or three hours in prayer and meditation before breakfast will soon discover the beneficial effect early rising has on the outward and inward man.
It may be said, "But how shall I set about rising early?" My advice is: Do not delay. Begin tomorrow. But do not depend on your own strength. You may have begun to rise early in the past but have given it up. If you depend on your own strength in this matter, it will come to nothing. In every good work, we must depend on the Lord. If anyone rises so that he may give the time which he takes from sleep to prayer and meditation, let him be sure that Satan will try to put obstacles in the way.
Trust in the Lord for help. You will honor Him if you expect help from Him in this matter. Pray for help, expect help, and you will have it. In addition to this, go to bed early. If you stay up late, you cannot rise early. Let no pressure of engagements keep you from going habitually early to bed. If you fail in this, you neither can nor should get up early because your body requires rest.
Rise at once when you are awake. Remain not a minute longer in bed or else you are likely to fall asleep again. Do not be discouraged by feeling drowsy and tired from rising early. This will soon wear off. After a few days you will feel stronger and fresher than when you used to lie an hour or two longer than you needed. Always allow yourself the same hours for sleep. Make no change except on account of sickness.
On December 10, 11, and 12 we had public meetings at which the account of the Lord's dealings with us in the Orphan Houses and the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was given. It is now five years and nine months since the Scriptural Knowledge Institution has been in operation. We have been able to continue to provide for all the necessary expenses connected with the six day schools. The number of children in them is 286. The number of all the children that have had schooling in the day schools amounts to 1,795.
There are 226 children in the Sunday school. Fourteen are being taught to read in the adult school, and there have been about 130 adults instructed in that school since the formation of the Institution.
We have circulated, during the last year, 514 copies of the Scriptures and 5,592 since March 5, 1834. Missionary work has also been supported.
There are now 96 orphans in the three houses. The number of all the orphans who have been under our care from April 11, 1836, to December 9, 1839, amounts to 126. Everything has been given to us entirely as the result of prayer to God.
The Prayer-Hearing God
A Sermon By George Müller of Bristol
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matt. vii. 7, 8.
Our Heavenly Father loves all His children with infinite love; that is, He loves every one, even the feeblest and weakest of his children, with the self-same love with which He loves His only begotten Son. On account of this infinite love – knowing how great, how many, how varied, nay how numberless would be their trials, their difficulties, their afflictions, their temptations, while passing through this vale of tears – He, in His grace, made abundant provision in giving most precious and encouraging promises concerning prayer; so that if they would take their trials, difficulties, afflictions and temptations to their Heavenly Father, seeking His strength, His counsel, and His guidance, and acting according to the loving counsel and advice given in the Scriptures – “Casting all your care upon Him” – the position of most of the children of God would be very different from what it is.
Then again, our precious Lord Jesus Christ loves us with the self-same love with which the Father loves Him. Do we all believe it?
The former statement, that the Father loves His children with the self-same love with which He loves His only begotten Son, and what I now state, that the Lord Jesus Christ loves us with the self- same love – that is, with infinite love – and that with this love He loves the feeblest and weakest of His children, possibly may appear strange to some of you. Yet this is the statement of Holy writ as found in the 9th verse of the 15th of John, and the 23rd verse of the 17th of John. Our precious Lord Jesus Christ who loves us with such love, passed through difficulties, trials, and temptations, like unto ours, while He was in this world. He was looked down upon; He was despised; that Blessed One “had not where to lay His head”; and was, while in this world, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Knowing the position of His disciples in this world, He has given the precious promise which I have read on the subject of prayer, and if it is made good use of, we may have Him as the burden-bearer, ever ready to help in time of sorrow, weakness and affliction - in a word, in all the variety of position and circumstances in which we are found here in the body.
Had it been left to us to make promises regarding prayer, I do not know that you or I could have done more than say, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Yet, while the promise is so full, so deep, so broad, so precious in every way, we have here – as becomes us with other parts of the Word of God – to compare Scripture, with Scripture, because in other parts additions are made, or conditions given, which, if we neglect, will hinder our getting the full benefit of prayer. I judge we have not to lose sight of the passage in 1 John, 5th chapter, 14th to 15th verses – “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”
Here is the first point specially to be noticed regarding prayer – “If we ask anything according to His will He heareth us, and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” If, therefore, we pray, and desire to have our petitions granted, it becomes us first to see to it that we ask for things according to his mind and will; for our blessing and happiness are intimately connected with the holiness of God. Suppose there were living in Bristol a person who had long carried on a business, who was known by those intimately acquainted with him to be an idle person, one who shrinks from work; or, whenever he can, gets out of it, and seeks to have an easy time of it. Suppose such a person had heard of the promises about prayer, and should say – “Now I will try if these things are true, and I will ask God to give me £100,000 sterling, and then I can give myself easy days, I can travel about and enjoy myself.” Suppose he prays every day for this large sum of money, will he obtain it? Assuredly not! Why not? He does not ask for it that he may help the poor abundantly; that he may contribute to the work of God more liberally, but he asks that he may spend his life in idleness, and in enjoying the pleasures of the world. He is not asking for things according to the mind of God, and therefore, however long or earnestly he may pray, he will not get the answer. We are only warranted in expecting our prayers to be answered when we ask for things according to the mind of God.
The second point we should notice is, that we do not ask on account of our own goodness or merit, but, as the Scripture expresses it – “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I refer you to John xiv.
13, 14, - “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it.” The statement is given twice, in order to show the great importance of this truth; for whenever a saying is given twice in the Word of God, we may be sure a weighty and important subject is brought before us. What does this statement, given twice by the Lord Jesus Christ, mean? If we desire to go to Heaven, how shall we get there? On the ground of our own goodness, merit or worthiness? Because we are not so bad as others? Because we go regularly to a place of worship? Because we give a little to the poor? In this way assuredly no one will get to Heaven. It is quite right to go to a place of worship. It is quite right that of the abundance God gives we should contribute to the poor. It is quite right that we should act according to morality. But in this way a poor sinner cannot get to Heaven. We must see our lost and ruined condition by nature, and that we deserve nothing but punishment. The best person in this congregation, in this city, in the United Kingdom, or in the whole world, is a sinner deserving punishment. Never since the fall of Adam has a single person, by his own goodness, obtained Heaven.
Under the old dispensation there was need to look forward to the Messiah, and since the old covenant dispensation has ceased there is need to look back upon the Messiah, Who, in our stead, suffered the punishment due to us, while hanging on the cross and shedding His blood. All our guilt was transferred to Him, that His righteousness might be transferred to us. And now a sinner – thought the oldest and the vilest wretch, under Heaven, as assuredly as he puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be forgiven, shall be cleansed, shall be justified – that is, shall be reckoned righteous and just through this his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul. In this way the sinner gets to heaven – by faith in Jesus for the salvation of his soul.
As by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we shall stand before God at the last, so it is now in approaching unto God in prayer. If we desire to have our petitions answered, we must come to Him, not in our own name, but as sinners who trust in Jesus, who by faith in His name are united to the blessed risen Lord; who have become, through trusting in Him, members of that body of which He is the Head. Let none suppose they are good enough in themselves. I deserve nothing but hell. For fifty- four years and nine months, by God’s grace, I have walked in the fear of God, and by His grace have lived such a life that no one can point to me and say I am a hypocrite, or charge me with living in any sin. Yet if I have what I deserve, I could expect nothing but hell. I deserve nothing but hell. So precisely with all of you, and the very best and holiest persons that can be found. Therefore on the ground of our goodness we cannot expect to have our prayers answered. But Jesus is worthy, and for His sake we may have our prayers answered. There is nothing too choice, too costly, or too great for God to give to Him. He is worthy. He is the spotless, holy child, Who under all circumstances acted according to the mind of God. And if we trust in Him, if we hide in Him, if we put Him forward, and ourselves in the background, depend on Him and plead His name, we may expect to have our prayers answered. Some one may say “I have prayed through long years for my unconverted children, but they have not yet been converted. I feel I shall not have my prayers answered. I am so unworthy.” This is a mistake. The promises are particularly for such – for the weak, for the feeblest, for the ignorant, for the needy; and all such who ask for Christ’s sake are warranted to expect their prayers to be answered.
But if it means “I live in sin, I go on habitually in an evil course,” the prayer cannot be answered, for in the sixty-sixth Psalm we read, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” That is, if I live in sin, and go on in a course hateful to God, I may not expect my prayers to be answered.
A third condition is, that we exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to answer our prayers. This is deeply important. In Mark xi. 24, we read, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” “What things soever ye desire” – of whatever kind – “believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” I have found invariably, in the fifty-four years and nine months during which I have been a believer, that if I only believed I was sure to get, in God’s time, the thing I asked for. I would especially lay this on your heart that you exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to answer your requests. We must believe that God is able and willing. To see that He is able, you have only to look at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; for having raised Him from the dead, He must have almighty power. As to the love of God, you have only to look to the cross of Christ, and see His love in not sparing His Son, in not withholding His only begotten Son from death. With these proofs of the power and love of God, assuredly, if we believe, we shall receive – we shall obtain.
Suppose now we ask, firstly, for such things as are according to the mind of God, and only such things can be good for us; secondly that we expect answers on the ground of the merit and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, asking in His name; and thirdly, that we exercise faith in the power and willingness of our Heavenly Father to grant our requests; then fourthly, we have to continue patiently waiting on God till the blessing we seek is granted. For observe, nothing is said in the text as to the time in which, or the circumstances under which, the prayer is to be answered. “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” There is a positive promise, but nothing as to the time. “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” We have, therefore, patiently and quietly to continue waiting on God till the blessing is granted. Some one may say, “Is it necessary I should bring a matter before God two, three, five, or even twenty times; is it not enough I tell Him once?” We might as well say there is no need to tell Him once, for He knows beforehand what our need is. He wants us to prove that we have confidence in Him, that we take our place as creatures towards the Creator.
Moreover, we are never to lose sight of the fact that there may be particular reasons why prayer may not at once be answered. One reason may be the need for the exercise of our faith, for by exercise faith is strengthened. We all know that if our faith were not exercised it would remain as it was at first. By the trial it is strengthened. Another reason may be that we may glorify God by the manifestation of patience. This is a grace by which God is greatly magnified. Our manifestation of patience glorifies God. There may be another reason. Our heart may not yet be prepared for the answer to our prayer. I will give an illustration. Suppose that three weeks ago a lad of sixteen years of age had been brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that with his heart full of love to the Lord he wanted to do something for the Lord. And suppose he goes to the Superintendent of the Sunday School, and says – “Will you have the kindness to give me a class to teach?” A class of nine children is given him. Now this dear lad, whose heart is full of love to the Lord begins to pray that God would convert these nine children. He prays in private and before them, and also exhorts them to seek the Lord. After going home from his class he gives himself earnestly to prayer that God would convert these nine children. On Monday he repeats his request before God, and so day by day during the week and on Sunday again particularly; and then he goes to his class and expects that these nine children will be converted. He finds, however, they are not, but that they are just in the same state as before. He again sets the Gospel before them; he exhorts, beseeches, and weeps before them. During the second week his prayers are most earnest; but on the following Sunday he finds that none of the nine children are yet converted. Does it mean that God will not answer these prayers? It cannot be that this dear lad will have to go on praying, and God will not regard it. But the reason is that the heart of this lad is not prepared for the blessing. If these children had been converted the first week, he would take credit to himself; he would think what he had been able to do, and would attribute the conversions to his entreaties, instead of to the power of the Holy Ghost. He would take a goodly measure of credit to himself, though he might not be aware of it. But let him patiently go on, and when his heart is prepared for the blessing, God will give it. Thus it is that the child of God has to wait; but when the heart is prepared for the blessing, most assuredly it will be given. Many of the dear children of God stagger, because prayer is not at once answered. And because for weeks, months, and years prayer remains unanswered, they cease to ask God, and thus lose the blessing which, had they persevered, they would assuredly have obtained.
It should be especially noticed that all the children of God, who walk in His ways and wait on Him in prayer, have, more or less frequently, answers to prayer. I will illustrate this. All who in any measure walk before God, at the close of the day thank Him for his mercies, and commend themselves to Him for protection during the night. In the morning they find no fire has happened and no wicked hands have molested them. Here is an answer to prayer, and we have to thank God for it. The more we observe these matters, the more we shall find how we get prayer answered.
Many that have suffered from sleeplessness have often, in answer to prayer, had sound refreshing sleep, and have had in the morning to thank God for it.
Now all, on the other hand, have sometimes long to wait for answers to prayer. Many of the dear children of God have long to wait for the conversion of their children. While some receive the blessing very soon, others have to wait for many years. I have had immediate answers to prayer, so many that I could reckon them by tens of thousands. If I say that during the fifty-four years and nine months that I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I have had thirty thousand answers to prayer, either in the same hour or the same day that the requests were made, I should not go a particle too far. Often, before leaving my bedroom in the morning, have I had prayer answered that was offered that morning, and in the course of the day I have had five or six more answers to prayer; so that at least thirty thousand prayers have been answered the self-same hour or the self- same day that they were offered. But one or the other might suppose all my prayers have been thus promptly answered. No; not all of them. Sometimes I have had to wait weeks, months, or years; sometimes many years. The man speaking at the present time, whom God has delighted to honour by giving thirty thousand answers to prayer in the same hour or day on which they were offered, this self-same man has had to wait many years for answers to many of his prayers. During the first six weeks of the year 1866 I heard of the conversion of six persons for whom I had been praying for a long time. For one I had been praying between two and three years; for another between three and four years; for the fifth about fifteen years; and for the sixth above twenty years. I asked once a thing of God, which I knew to be according to His mind, and though I brought it day by day and generally many times a day before Him, in such assurance as to be able to thank Him hundreds of times for the answer before it was received, yet I had to wait three years and ten months before the blessing was given to me. At another time I had to wait six years; and at another time eleven and a half years. In the last case I brought the matter about twenty thousand times before God, and invariably in the fullest assurance of faith, and yet eleven and a half years passed before the answer was given.
In one instance my faith has been tried even more than this. In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be.
Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God, and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second one was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them and six years more passed before the third was converted. I thanks God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remain unconverted. The man to whom God in the riches of His grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer, in the self-same hour or day on which they were offered, has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these two individuals, and yet they remain unconverted; for next November it will be thirty-six years since I began to pray for their conversion. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer.*
*One of these persons was converted before Mr Müller’s death, and the other only gave clear evidence of conversion after Mr Müller had passed away.
Therefore, beloved brethren and sisters, go on waiting upon God, go on praying; only be sure you ask for things which are according to the mind of God. The conversion of sinners is according to the mind of God, for He does not desire the death of the sinner. This is the revelation God has made of Himself – “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Go on, therefore, praying; expect an answer, look for it, and in the end you will have to praise God for it.
There is one point I would especially lay on the hearts of my beloved brethren and sisters, and that is united prayer. In Matthew xviii 19, the Lord Jesus says – “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in Heaven.” If, therefore, there are brethren and sisters in Christ who have unconverted relatives, and if they could unite with two or more persons, and unitedly ask God to convert their children, oh, what blessing might not come in this way? They should plead this promise before the Lord, read it out when they meet, and put their finger – so to speak – upon it. If they meet once a week for half an hour, or once a fortnight, or as often as they conveniently could, to plead this promise before the Lord, after awhile a father would have to say, “My son, who almost broke my heart, has been converted;” and a mother, “I have a letter from my daughter, who fifteen years ago left my home, and has been living in sin, telling me she has found the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How their faith would be strengthened by such united prayer and such testimonies! After awhile, as their faith got strengthened, they would unitedly pray for their Pastor, that God would more abundantly bless his labours in the conversion of sinners, and in blessing on the Church; and as they got further enlarged their prayers would extend to Missions, the circulation of the Scriptures and tracts. They would know the power and blessedness of prayer more and more abundantly, and would wait earnestly upon God, asking Him yet once more, in these days, to grant a mighty revival in the Church of Christ at large.
If this were generally so, with what power ministers would set forth the truth of the Gospel, what blessings would come on our Sunday Schools, on the circulation of the Scriptures, on open-air preaching, and other Christian work. God grant we may more earnestly give ourselves to prayer!
I have found it a great blessing to treasure up in the memory the answers God graciously gives me. I have always kept a record to strengthen the memory. I advise the keeping of a little memorandum book. On one side - say the left hand side – put down the petition and the date when you began to offer it. Let the opposite page be left blank to put down the answer in each case, and you will soon find how many answers you get, and thus you will be strengthened; and especially you will see what a lovely, bountiful, and gracious Being God is; your heart will go out more and more in love to God, and you will say, “It is my Heavenly Father Who has been so kind, I will trust in Him, I will confide in Him.”
With regard to any who do not yet know Him, let the first prayer be offered tonight, before you leave this place – “Show me I am a sinner.” When you see this, ask the Lord – “Help me to put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and you will find how ready God is to give blessing. May we all who are the people of God receive a blessing, and our dear friends and fellow-sinners be stirred up to seek Him while He is to be found!” God grant it for Jesus’ sake.
The Twenty-third Psalm.
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, June 20th,1897-Jubilee Sunday.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restored my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me: Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.-Psalm xxiii.
OUR meditation this evening, as the Lord may help us, will be on the short but precious 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." This was spoken and written by King David. Now, naturally, we should be inclined to say, "No wonder that he said, ‘I shall not want,' because he, who had once been a poor shepherd boy, looking after a few sheep, was now a king." And not merely a king, but an exceedingly mighty king, for he had it in his power, if it had been necessary, to send many thousands of soldiers into the battle. And not merely a very mighty king, but an exceedingly rich king. Therefore, we are inclined, naturally, to say, "That was the reason why he said, 'I shall not want.'" He was, indeed, exceedingly rich, for he had gathered together for the building of the Temple such an enormous sum that it would amount to more than 900 millions of pounds sterling of our money! So vast a sum that all the enormous national debt of Great Britain could be cleared off at once by it! And out of his own privy purse alone he had given for the building of the Temple more than 18 million pounds sterling, a thing that has never been since heard of in history.
Yet these were not reasons why he said, "I shall not want," but because Jehovah was his Shepherd! He looked after him. He cared for him. He fed him. He nourished him. And thus the great point regarding ourselves is, that the Lord Jesus is our Shepherd, that we are His sheep; and this we know if we are heeding His voice. Let us ask ourselves, Do we hear the voice of the Lord Jesus? Do we attend to what He says? Are we mindful of seeking to please Him, and to carry out His Word in Our life and deportment? And, above all, do we trust in Him Who laid down His life for the sheep, Who made an atonement for poor sinners, whereby all who trust in Him for salvation might be saved? These are deeply important questions, which we should aim to be able to answer in the affirmative Thus it is with me. Then, even though we may be amongst the poorest, the most ignorant, the most tried persons on earth, we, too, shall be warranted by the fact that we are the sheep of Christ to say, "I shall no want."
And here particularly notice this. "I shall not want" does not simply refer to bodily necessities, nor merely to mental necessities, but to everything that we can possibly need while here on earth. If we find the spiritual conflict is great, and we seek more and more to enter into our weakness, and helplessness, and nothingness, and entire dependence on God for assistance, here is a word for our comfort which does not belong to David only, but to us also, individually, if we have Jehovah-Jesus for our Shepherd. In whatever want, of whatever kind, we possibly can be while on the road to Heaven, it is our precious, glorious privilege, with David, to say to ourselves, "I shall not want, because my Heavenly Father is my Shepherd, my precious adorable Lord Jesus Christ is my Helper, my Friend, my Elder Brother, my Saviour. He will never leave me, nor forsake me!" 0, how unspeakably blessed is the position of the weakest, the feeblest, the least instructed child of God! Therefore the great, the deeply important question once more is this, "Do we belong, individually, to the sheep of Christ?" My heart's desire and prayer is that everyone here present may with earnestness seek to get into such a Scriptural state of heart, as to be warranted to say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
In the second verse, the figure of the shepherd and the sheep is kept up. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." Not "driveth me to a few dry blades of grass." But green pastures, tender grass. Then, the sheep are not driven to these; but they are at leisure to partake of the green grass, the tender grass, the "green pastures," and to lie down and to rise again, as sheep. Now, the figures here used bring before us the blessedness of a child of God! The world knows nothing of our happiness in the Lord, and cannot, therefore, in the least degree enter into the blessedness of our position as God's children.
Our eyes have been opened to see the awful state in which we are by nature; that is, led captive by the devil, at his will, to do the things which are hateful to God and perfectly contrary to His mind. Further, it has pleased the Lord not merely to show to us this lost and ruined condition, but to enable us to own it before Him, to confess that we are undone, lost, and ruined, and that we cannot save ourselves. Even this is not all. But God has helped us by the power of His Holy Spirit to put our trust simply, solely, and entirely in what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for sinners, even fulfilling the whole law of God in our room and stead, and bearing the punishment which we have deserved on account of our numberless transgressions, so that we stand before God as just ones. That means we are reckoned on the part of God as just and righteous--unjust and unrighteous though we are in ourselves. We, through this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely become children of God, and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; but already, while yet in the body, all our numberless transgressions are forgiven.
We have not to wait till we die, or till the Lord Jesus Christ comes, in order to obtain forgiveness from all our sins; but the moment we put our trust alone in Jesus for salvation, that moment everyone of our numberless transgressions is forgiven, and shall be remembered no more throughout eternity. 0, how unspeakably blessed is this position, and the result of it is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! We, without dread and fear, now think about God-so to speak, look Him in the face, guilty sinners though we are naturally-without being in the least afraid of an eternally Holy God. 0, how precious! How unspeakably precious this is!
And then, when at last it pleases God to take us home to Himself, after He has helped us during the whole of our earthly pilgrimage, in all our variety of difficulties, and trials, and perplexing circumstances, and amid the manifestations of our weakness and helplessness-when at last He takes us to Himself, either by passing through death, or, if found alive at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, being taken to Him, then we enter upon our inheritance. And that inheritance is nothing less than what our Heavenly Father gives to His Only Begotten Son, as the reward of His mediatorial service, for all He did on earth, for all He suffered on earth, for the passing through the hour of darkness, in order that the innumerable company of poor sinners which no man is able to count might be saved.
What our Heavenly Father gives to Him in the way of glory and reward for all this, we who put our trust in Him shall share with Him. We can say to ourselves, as believers in the Lord Jesus, "Though I deserve nothing but hell, I shall not only have Heaven, I shall not only partake of the rivers of pleasure at the right hand of God, but I shall share with my precious adorable Lord Jesus Christ all the glory which the Father gives to Him for His mediatorial work!" 0, what is contained in this! If the world only knew what the sinner who believes in Christ obtains through faith in Him, all the world would joyfully seek Him; but it is because it is not apprehended, it is not known, that with carelessness and indifference the world passes on, and often and often till it is too late to awake it.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The figure here used regarding the sheep brings before us the exceeding great blessings and happiness which are the result of putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. What, therefore, we have to do is to seek more and more to ponder it, and more and more to enter into it, with reference to ourselves. Then, not merely "green pastures" are mentioned, but "still waters." "He leadeth me beside the still waters;" the waters of quietness, on account of the timid nature of the sheep. This is especially referred to. Not a mountain torrent, which might frighten away the sheep, are they led to for drinking; but to the quiet still waters, in character with the sheep. They are not frightened away. "He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His Name's sake." I will mention here (what I have mentioned, I think, before) that this has nothing to do with bringing backsliders to Himself again. In the Hebrew, the words mean, "He refresheth my soul," or "He invigorates my soul; " just as by means of a very good night's rest we are invigorated and refreshed, or as a cooling draught of water given at the time of harvest on a hot summer's day to the labourer would refresh him, so, spiritually, we, who are the children of God, are refreshed by our Precious Shepherd.
It is the very joy and delight of the heart of our precious Lord Jesus Christ to refresh us spiritually. If at any time we are cast down, through trials and difficulties, or through sore temptations, which we have to encounter, and we find that we are not being refreshed, what we should do is to remind the Lord Jesus Christ that to Him "hath been given the tongue of the learned, that He might know how to speak a word in season to them that are weary," to them who have need to be refreshed, to comfort them; to encourage them, to strengthen their hands in God. This precious word we have brought before us regarding the Lord Jesus Christ in the 4th verse of the 50th chapter of Isaiah, and I advise all my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ to make much more use than they have yet done of this blessed word.
"He refresheth my soul." O let us make use of this! O let us, in childlike simplicity, trust our precious, precious Lord Jesus Christ! Whenever you are cast down, whenever you are greatly tried spiritually, open your heart to the precious Jesus, as your Friend. I have done it for many a long year, and it is just this which upholds me, which comforts me, which makes me a happy man. I deal with my precious Lord Jesus as a bosom Friend. I pour out my whole heart to Him, and tell Him all, everything; and beg and intreat Him, whenever I need it, to speak to me a word in season, that the weariness may pass away, and that I may be refreshed spiritually. And I find Him ever ready to help me. "He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His Name's sake." The Lord brings us into the right road, into "the paths of righteousness," and we are depending on Him to be led along in the same road, for we should soon wander away from Him and go back again to our own foolish, sinful desires. This second part of the verse shows what is meant by "He restoreth my soul;" that is, "He refresheth my soul, He leads me along in the right road."
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." Here we find the Psalmist supposing himself to be brought to meet the greatest trial, the greatest affliction; nay, to be brought to the very close of life, to pass through the ordeal of death. Yet his language is, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." How comes this? Is it because we have so much medical power? Surely not! When we are brought to the very brink of the grave, is it because we have so much physical power and strength? No! But quite the reverse. The reason is this: because we have the Lord Jesus with us! "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." O how precious! The Lord caring for us, by His passing with us through the Vale of Tears.
When we are brought to the condition that more than ever we need Him, as a Friend, as a Helper, as a Support, there He is, never leaving us, nor forsaking us! What we have to say individually to ourselves when the heaviest and greatest trials come, and when we are brought even to the very brink of the grave, and when heart and flesh fail, is, "Thou art with me; Thou, my precious Lord Jesus, art with me; Thou hast not forsaken me, Thou art now with me, in my utter weakness and helplessness; I have Thee as my Almighty Friend and Upholder, and Comforter and Strength." O how precious! "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Some of the dear children of God, the real, true children of God, have fear regarding the hour of death. "How will it be when I come to die?" they think. O say to yourself, "I will fear no evil!" Not because we are anything in ourselves, or can do anything by ourselves; but simply because it is written, "Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
Now the last two verses place before us the intimate connection between God and His children, under another figure-under the figure of a host inviting guests. "Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." Taking this verse, what is the meaning? It consists in two things. Trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, the one on whom we have to feed; seeking to enter into what God has given us in Jesus Christ, as the Law Fulfiller, as the Atoner for our sins, and on Whom we have to feed spiritually. That is the table which God has prepared for us. Secondly, the Word of God, the revealed Will of God, as we have it in the Holy Scriptures, that is what God gives to us for our food; and this notwithstanding all the hatred of Satan, notwithstanding all the opposition of our enemies. "Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of mine enemies."
But now comes the practical question, "Do we feed practically on Christ? Do we seek at large to ponder what the Lord Jesus Christ is to us, as our Redeemer, as our Great High Priest, as the one who is coming again to take us to Himself, that where He is we may be also? What the Lord Jesus Christ is to us as our Friend, as our Counsellor, as our Strength? Now do we seek in Him an interest, and do we day by day put on (to use the figure that is used in Scripture) the helmet of our salvation; that is, seek to enter into what is connected with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we comfort ourselves day by day with all this?" O how deeply important to attend to it that we may have peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, that the world may see what a blessed thing it is to be a child of God-that thus we may not only glorify Him, but strengthen the hands of our fellow-men.
"Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." In the east, when a great one invited anyone of his friends to take a meal with him, to spend a day with him, one of the first things was not only that the servants should hand him water to wash his feet, but oil to anoint his head. As a mark of respect and reverence this was done. That was the welcome, so to speak, given to the guest who came to the house of the great one. Now, we have no such thing done to us, but something infinitely more precious. The Holy Spirit is given to us-the Holy Spirit again and again represented under the figure of oil. And as assuredly as we have the Holy Ghost given to us, so surely shall we get to Heaven, so surely shall we share the glory of Christ, so surely shall we become like Christ and have our glorified bodies. These are the things which are implied in the gift of the Holy Spirit! O how precious these things are!
If the heart habitually were given to these things, it would be full of joy! We should be exceedingly happy; and therefore my affectionate counsel and advice to my beloved fellow-believers is, seek more and more to ponder all this, with application to your own hearts, in order that your joy may increase more abundantly. And what will come of it at last? You will be able to say with the Psalmist, "My cup runneth over"-"I am so happy a man that I can scarcely bear it; I not only have something in my cup, and a good deal in my cup, and have my cup full; but my cup runneth over." O the blessed position of a child of God, not as to pounds, shillings, and pence, not as to the possession of many houses, not as to the possession of a great many hundreds of acres of land, not because he has an enormous sum in the Funds-not on these accounts. There may be little, or nothing at all, of all this found in his possession. But as to peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, as to the blessedness of having this brought down into his heart. O, my friends, how precious this!
Now comes the last verse, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." The poor one has been invited as a guest by the Rich One. He goes, and finds it very pleasant there, and is happy. All that is just what he desires naturally. Now, what conclusion does he come to? "I find it so very pleasant to be here, I will remain here, I will not go away any more." This brings before us what the child of God finds, in acquaintance with Christ. Not merely entering into what God has given him in Christ Jesus; not merely having to say, "My cup runneth over; I am brimful of happiness." But, "I have almost more than I can bear. I find it so pleasant, so exceedingly pleasant, this way of going on, I can never get into another position any more. I will remain in the house of my Heavenly Father for ever."
That is the position into which we are brought as believers in Christ! And as assuredly as we are honestly walking in the ways of the Lord, and truly surrendering the heart to God, this is the result to which we come. We find it so pleasant, so precious, even for this life, that we have no desire to depart from the ways of the Lord. In our natural, worldly condition, we seek after happiness; but we do not get it. Nothing but disappointment is the result, for after a few hours all this worldly happiness is gone. But the position in which we are brought by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ not only insures us happiness for a few days, or a few months, or a few years, but for ever and ever. So that our heart says, "I will remain in this way; I am so happy in this way; I will never forsake this way."
Not merely so. But "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.' I shall now be for ever and ever a happy man, and I will remain in the presence of my Father; I will not leave His House any more, because I have found it so very, very precious to be a child of God." Now, this has been my own happy experience for seventy-one years and a half, and therefore I commend this plan, which is according to the Holy Scriptures, to any and everyone who has not yet had it. It is not merely for this one, or another one; but God is willing to bestow the blessing upon any and everyone who is desirous of having it. All we have to do is, just like mere beggars, to open our hands and to receive what God is willing to give to us. We have to own that we deserve nothing but punishment; we have to own that we are sinners who, on account of our natural sinfulness, are entirely unworthy of all the blessings which God is willing to bestow upon us; and owning to this, and then putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, ensures to us these gifts.
Will you not accept them if you have not accepted them yet? Will you all who have not yet put your trust in Jesus, do so now? O what unspeakable blessedness is here! I remember well the very first evening after my conversion lying peacefully on my bed, knowing that my sins were forgiven, that Heaven was my Home, that I was now regenerated, brought on the road to Heaven, and my heart was ready to leap for joy. And ever since matters have gone on in the same way, and this is the blessedness I desire for everyone who is yet without it. God give the blessing, and abundant blessing, for Christ's sake.
THE WILL OF GOD. How important it is to ascertain the will of God, before we undertake anything, because we are then not only blessed in our own souls, but also the work of our hands will prosper. Just in as many points as we are acting according to the mind of God, in so many are we blessed and made a blessing. Our manner of living is according to the mind of the Lord, for He delights in seeing His children thus come to Him (Matt. 6); and therefore, though I am weak and erring in many points, yet He blesses me in this particular.
First of all, to see well to it, that the work in which he desires to be engaged is God’s work;
secondly, that he is the person to be engaged in this work;
thirdly, that God’s time is come, when he should do this work;
and then to be assured, that, if he seeks God’s help in His own appointed way, He will not fail him. We have ever found it thus, and expect to ﬁnd it thus, on the ground of the promises of God, to the end of our course.
1. Be slow to take new steps in the Lord’s service, or in your business, or in your families. Weigh everything well; weigh all in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and in the fear of God. 2. Seek to have no will of your own, in order to ascertain the mind of God, regarding any steps you propose to take, so that you can honestly say, you are willing to do the will of God, if He will only please to instruct you. 3. But when you have found out what the will of God is, seek for His help, and seek it earnestly, perseveringly, patiently, believingly, and expectingly: and you will surely, in His own time and way, obtain it. We have not to rush forward in self-will and say, I will do the work, and I will trust the Lord for means, this cannot be real trust, it is the counterfeit of faith, it is presumption; and though God, in great pity and mercy, may even help us ﬁnally out of debt; yet does this, on no account, prove that we were right in going forward before His time was come. We ought, rather, under such circumstances to say to ourselves: “Am I indeed doing the work of God?” And if so, I may not be the person to do it; or if I am the person, His time may not yet be come for me to go forward; it may be His good pleasure to exercise my faith and patience. I ought, therefore, quietly to wait His time; for when it is come, God will help. Acting on this principle brings blessing. To ascertain the Lord’s will we ought to use scriptural means. Prayer, the word of God, and His Spirit should be united together. We should go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer, and ask Him to teach us by His Spirit through His word. I say by His Spirit through His word. For if we should think that His Spirit led us to do so and so, because certain facts are so and so, and yet His word is opposed to the step which we are going to take, we should be deceiving ourselves. No situation, no business will be given to me by God, in which I have not time enough to care about my soul. Therefore, however outward circumstances may appear, it can only be considered as permitted of God, to prove the genuineness of my love, faith, and obedience, but by no means as the leading of His providence to induce me to act contrary to His revealed will.”-George Müller, quoted in, A.T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol, p. 231,232.
George Müller On Being Assured of God’s Guidance
I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY and PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the word of the living God, I made great mistakes.”-George Müller, quoted in, A.T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol
George Müller on Waiting on God Guidance
Another fact that grows more conspicuous with the perusal of every new page in his journal is that in things common and small, as well as uncommon and great, he took no step without ﬁrst asking counsel of the oracles of God and seeking guidance from Him in believing prayer. It was his life-motto to learn the will of God before undertaking anything, and to wait till it is clear, because only so can one either be blessed in his own soul or prospered in the work of his hands. [Vol. I.74]. Many disciples who are comparatively bold to seek God’s help in great crises, fail to come to Him with like boldness in matters that seem too trivial to occupy the thought of God or invite the interposition of Him who numbers the very hairs of our heads and suffers not one hair to perish. The writer of this journal escaped this great snare and carried even the smallest matter to the Lord.”-George Müller, quoted in, A.T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol, p. 40.
George Müller and Knowing God’s will
“I seek at the beginning to get my heart in such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine tenths of the difﬁculties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Spirit guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
This calmness of mind, this having no will of my own in the matter, this only wishing to please my Heavenly Father in it, this only seeking His and not my honor in it, this state of heart, I say is the fullest assurance to me that my heart is not under a ﬂeshly excitement, and that, if helped thus to go on, I shall know the will of God to the full.”-Roger Steer, The Spiritual Secrets of George Müller (OMF Books: Robesonia, PA, 1987), pp 40,42 (www.omf.org)
George Müller on Weighing Matters
This work of translation she partially accomplished, though somewhat imperfectly; and the whole occurrence impressed Mr. Mueller as an indication that God was once more leading him in the direction of Germany, for another season of labour in his native land. Much prayer deepened his persuasion that he had not misread God’s signal, and that His time had now fully come.
He records some of the motives which led to this conclusion.
1. First, he yearned to encourage believing brethren who for conscience’ sake had felt constrained to separate themselves from the state churches, and meet for worship in such conditions as would more accord with New Testament principles, and secure greater ediﬁcation.
2. Being a German himself, and therefore familiar with their language, customs, and habits of thought, he saw that he was ﬁtted to wield a larger inﬂuence among his fellow countrymen than otherwise.
3. He was minded to publish his Narrative in his own tongue wherein he was born, not so much in the form of a mere translation, as of an independent record of his life’s experiences such as would be specially suited to its new mission.
4. An effectual door was opened before him, and more widely than ever, especially at Stuttgart; and although there were many adversaries, they only made his help the more needful to those whose spiritual welfare was in peril.
5. A distinct burden was laid on his heart, as from the Lord, which prayer, instead of relieving, increased - a burden which he felt without being able to explain - so that the determination to visit his native land gave him a certain peace which he did not have when he thought of remaining at home.
To avoid mistake, with equal care he records the counter-arguments.
1. The new orphan house, No. 4, was about to be opened, and his presence was desirable if not needful.
2. A few hundred pounds were needed, to be left with his helpers, for current expenses in his absence.
3. Money was also required for traveling expenses of himself and his wife, whose health called for a change.
4. Funds would be needful to publish four thousand copies of his Narrative and avoid too high a market price.
5. A matron for the new orphan house was not yet found, suitable for the position.
In this careful weighing of matters many sincere disciples fail, prone to be impatient of delay in making decisions. Impulse too often sways, and self-willed plans betray into false and even disastrous mistakes. Life is too precious to risk one such failure. There is given us a promise of deep meaning: “The meek will He guide in judgment; And the meek will He teach His way.”(Psalm 25:9.) Here is a double emphasis upon meekness as a condition of such guidance and teaching. Meekness is a real preference for God’s will. Where this holy habit of mind exists, the whole being becomes so open to impression that, without any outward sign or token, there is an inward recognition and choice of the will of God. God guides, not by a visible sign, but by swaying the judgment. To wait before Him, weighing candidly in the scales every consideration for or against a proposed course, and in readiness to see which way the preponderance lies, is a frame of mind and heart in which one is ﬁtted to be guided; and God touches the scales and makes the balance to sway as He will. But our hands must be off the scales, otherwise we need expect no interposition of His in our favour.
One sure sign of this spirit of meekness is the entire restfulness with which apparent obstacles to any proposed plan or course are regarded. Then waiting and wishing only to know and do God’s will, hindrances will give no anxiety, but a sort of pleasure, as affording a new opportunity for divine interposition. If it is the Pillar of God we are following, the Red Sea will not dismay us, for it will furnish but another scene for the display of the power of Him who can make the waters to stand up as an heap, and to become a wall about us as we go through the sea on dry ground.
Mr. Mueller had learned this rare lesson, and in this case he says: “I had a secret satisfaction in the greatness of the difﬁculties which were in the way. So far from being cast down on account of them, they delighted my soul; for I only desired to do the will of the Lord in this matter.” Here is revealed another secret of holy serving. To him who sets the Lord always before him, and to whom the will of God is his delight, there pertains a habit of soul, which in advance settles a thousand difﬁcult and perplexing questions.-A. T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol, p. 91,92
George Müller on God’s Guidance in Marriage
“Let me here add a word of Christian counsel. To enter upon the marriage union is one of the most deeply important events of life. It cannot be too prayerfully treated. Our happiness, our usefulness, our living for God or for ourselves afterwards, are often most intimately connected with our choice. Therefore, in the most prayerful manner, this choice should be made. Neither beauty, nor age, nor money, nor mental powers, should be that which prompt the decision; but 1st, Much waiting upon God for guidance should be used; 2nd, A hearty purpose, to be willing to be guided by Him should be aimed after; 3rd, True godliness without a shadow of doubt, should be the ﬁrst and absolutely needful qualiﬁcation, to a Christian, with regard to a companion for life. In addition to this, however, it ought to be, at the same time, calmly and patiently weighed, whether, in other respects, there is a suitableness. For instance, for an educated man to choose an entirely uneducated woman, is unwise; for however much on his part love might be willing to cover the defect, it will work very unhappily with regard to the children.”-George Müller, Narratives, Vol. 3
George Müller on God’s Guidance through Chance Methods
George Müller used the lots three times to make decisions. Each time was a disaster. Speaking of the last two times: “George Mueller resorted to the lot only two more times: once at a literal parting of the ways when he was led by it to take the wrong fork of the road, and afterward in a far more important matter, but with a like result: in both cases he found he had been misled, and henceforth abandoned all such chance methods of determining the mind of God. He learned two lessons, which new dealings of God more and more deeply impressed:
First, that the safe guide in every crisis is believing prayer in connection with the word of God;
Secondly, that continued uncertainty as to one’s course is a reason for continued waiting.
These lessons should not be lightly passed over, for they are too valuable. The ﬂesh is impatient of all delay, both in decision and action; hence all carnal choices are immature and premature, and all carnal courses are mistaken and unspiritual. God is often moved to delay that we may be led to pray, and even the answers to prayer are deferred that the natural and carnal spirit may be kept in check and self-will may bow before the will of God.”
Chapter 3 - The Naked Trust of Faith
by Addresses from the Leominster Conference
Mr. Muller read Gen. 1. 24-26, and spoke on Faith-its naked trust, and its triumph in darkest hours:
In these verses we have a most precious illustration of what we are to understand by faith. The God of heaven had made promise to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob that He would give them the land of Canaan; and it was added that the descendants of Abraham were to sojourn long in a strange land. Now this man of God, Joseph, believed that God would be as good as His word. Although there was not the shadow of a natural appearance that that word would be fulfilled, yet he stayed his mind upon God-he took God at His word, and made the elders of Israel swear that they would take his bones with them to Canaan. "God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence."
Now just in the proportion in which we are enabled to believe that God will do just what He has said is our faith strong or weak. Faith has nothing to do with feelings or with impressions; it has nothing whatever to do with probabilities or with outward appearances. If we desire to couple them with faith, then we no longer are resting on the word of God, because faith needs nothing of the kind.
"Oh, if I could only feel so-and-so!" "If I only had the impression that God would do so-and-so;" "If I saw the least probability of it," are words often used. But, I repeat, faith needs no feelings, no impressions, no probabilities, but rests on the naked word of God, and has to do only with the revelation which we have in our hands. As in these days of darkness in which we live men will become more and more daring in their departure from the revealed will of God, let us see to it that we are satisfied with "It is written." As the disciples of Christ, the word of God is enough for us; and if we want more, we practically say that His revealed will is not enough, and thereby we dishonour Him.
We have also particularly to keep before us, that faith has not to do with this part of truth or that part merely, with this or that promise, but with all the revelation that God has been pleased to make of Himself, as much in the Old Testament as in the New. Whether it be prophetical books or historical books, the gospels or epistles, we take God at His word in every part. We only know God by the revelation that He has made of Himself, and faith has to do with revelation. When we take Him at His word the heart is at peace.
Now, beloved brethren, I will give you a few hints with regard to the increase of our faith. I have sought to explain what we are to understand by faith. Now let us see how it can be increased. God will do His part to increase our faith, but the means which He uses we oftentimes do not like. Trials, difficulties, disappointments, losses, bereavements, sickness-all these things are employed by our heavenly Father for the exercise and the increase of our faith. If an infant never used his limbs, they would always remain weak; but they are strengthened and invigorated by exercise. So it is with faith, and God delights to exercise our faith-first for blessing in. our own souls, then for blessing in the Church at large, and also for those without.
But this exercise we shrink from instead of welcoming. When trials come we should say, My heavenly Father puts this cup of trial into my hands, that I may have something sweet afterwards. Trial is the very food of faith. Oh, let us leave ourselves in the hands of our heavenly Father! It is the joy of His heart to do good to all His children. He is an infinitely wise Father who knows what suits His children, and He orders all for blessing to us, as well as glory to His own name. And it is for this very reason that trials and afflictions come, and thus He shows how true is that word, "that all things work together for good to them that love God." Through our trials there is not only the exercise of patience, but the development and strengthening of faith in the degree in which all the other graces grow. You remember when Peter asked the question, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?" The Lord's answer is, "I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven." And what was the result of such an answer? We should have thought and said, "Lord, increase our love, our patience, our readiness to forgive the offending brother." But no, the answer is, "Lord, increase our faith;" Because if faith be in exercise, and we lay hold on the truth that we are ourselves forgiven, we shall always be ready to forgive one another.
But trials and difficulties are not the only means by which faith is exercised, and thereby increased. There is the reading of the Holy Scriptures, that we by them may acquaint ourselves with God as He has revealed Himself in His word. And what shall we find? That He not only is God Almighty, and a righteous God, but we shall find how gracious He is, how gentle, how kind, how bountiful He is; in a word, what a lovely Being God is.
Are you able to say from the acquaintance you have made with God that He is a lovely Being? If you are not able to say so, let me affectionately entreat you to ask God to bring you to this, that you may admire His gentleness and His kindness, that you may be able to say how good He is, and what a delight it is to the heart of God to do good to His children. Now the nearer we come to this in our inmost soul the more ready are we to leave ourselves in His hands, satisfied with all His dealings with us. And when trial comes we shall say, "I will wait to see what good God will do me by it, assured that He will do it." Thus shall we bear an honourable testimony before the world, and thus shall we strengthen the hands of others. But if we faint under the trial we shall weaken their hands.
In order to trust in God we must acquaint ourselves with Him, as He has in the Scriptures revealed Himself. You know Psalm ix. 10, "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee." It is not said that those who preach about God, or those who write about God, will put their trust in Him; but those who know His name-those who have learned from His word what He is.
Now, by way of illustration, I will refer to myself. The promises we have in Matt. vi. as to food and raiment, and all the affairs of this life, are given that we may have no anxious care for the morrow, knowing that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. All this I have for fifty-four years found to be literally true in my own happy experience. I have found during all these years that God has always acted according to His word. Therefore if any are tried let them remember the word of promise, and let them stay themselves upon it; and they shall find that God most assuredly will act according to His word. This I have found in my own experience; so I stay my heart upon God, trusting Him to help me through every difficulty; and I have never been allowed to sink, because I rested myself on the Word. He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;" "As thy days, so shall thy strength be;" so that I am able to say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Difficulties have vanished away, or if they did not vanish away, God did so help and strengthen me that they did not trouble me. These precious promises are given to every child of God; and we have to take them and to say, They belong to me, poor, wicked, hell-deserving though I am. And so I say, these promises belong to George Muller, this poor sinner who never deserved anything but hell; and I have found that God is as good as His word. This I have found for the last fifty years, during which time I have required hundreds of helpers in my work, and these God has given me. For you are unable to make helpers, and there is no society that can provide them for you; but God by His Spirit can fit and qualify them for the work; therefore I have given myself to prayer, and have not sought to obtain them by advertisements, and God has shown me how He delights to answer, and has provided me with suitable helpers.
Then in all the little things connected with this life I have found what a blessed thing it is to have the heart stayed on God. I do not carry the little trials myself; and you know that life is made up of little things. If we do not take them to God we are not happy, the mind is ruffled, and we are in danger of becoming irritable. But if the little things are taken back to God we shall find how ready He is to help us with them. And all this has to do with the revealed will of God.
One point more. Simply in answer to prayer I have received more than a million pounds sterling, simply by looking to the Lord; but far more than this: in like manner I have trusted Him for spiritual blessings, and in answer to prayer I have received tens of thousands. Many thousands of souls have been given me from the Orphan-houses and various schools, who are now walking in the ways of the Lord, and thousands have gone before. All this also was obtained by trusting in God; for He gives souls also, not only money. We have to trust God for everything. Let me say to you then, Learn more and more, more and more to trust in God.
Now it may be said, "But you have the gift of faith, and we have not." The reply is, "I have no gift of faith; my faith is precisely the same as yours; only while it is the same it may have been more exercised, and therefore having been more exercised is a little stronger; but it is the self-same faith which we all have who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Oh, seek, beloved in Christ, to have your faith developed arid strengthened! Be satisfied with all God's dealings with you, and be sure that He intends them for blessings to your souls.
Chapter 2 - Hints on Prayer
by Addresses from the Leominster Conference
Mr. Muller prayed, and then spoke on Prayer from Matt. vii. 7, 8:-
I have it laid on my heart to throw out some hints with reference to prayer. The first thing that I would observe is this: our heavenly Father knows how we are situated. All the trials, difficulties, perplexing circumstances, and temptations to which we are exposed, He is intimately acquainted with; and for that very reason His word is full of promises, so that we should be encouraged to roll our burdens on Him. For it is not His will that we should carry them in our own strength; but that we should speak to Him about everything, walk with Him continually, and so roll all our burdens on Him that we may find ease and comfort in our trials and difficulties. And it is because we do not make a good use of the help of our God that we find things so trying in this world. Were we habitually to roll our burdens on the Lord, our position would be a hundred times better than it is.
Are you in the habit of rolling all your burdens on the Lord? As trials come, do you bring them back to your heavenly Father? This is the reason why He lays them on you. And if you make the attempt to carry them in your own strength you will oblige your heavenly Father to increase the trial and burden, so that by the very weight you may be at last forced to come to Him, and leave all with Him.
Then again, our precious Lord Jesus Christ has passed through this vale of tears, and "was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." All His temptations were from without, none from within, because He was the spotless One. Nevertheless Christ was abundantly tried, difficulties befalling Him without number or measure. And He knew how it would fare with us who would be left in this world, and thus His love led Him to make this provision for us, that by prayer we should bring the burden back to Him.
Now let me affectionately ask you, my beloved brethren and sisters, Do you take the advice of our precious Lord Jesus Christ? And do you believe what He says when He speaks, as in these verses, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He means us to understand literally what these words convey. "For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
But wide, and broad, and deep though these promises be, they must be taken in connection with other portions of Scripture. We must compare Scripture with Scripture, because again and again we find that one part supplies what is wanting in another.
(1) Let us commence with 1 John v. 13-15. Here is the first condition to be attended to. If we desire our petitions to be answered, we have to ask God for the things which are according to His will. And should we be little acquainted with the will of God about any matter, we must first ask Him to teach and instruct us. We may also ask the help of our brethren. But this point must be attended to, that we ask for things according to the will of God; for He loves us with an infinitely wise love, and not like foolish parents who give their children all they ask for. He desires true happiness and blessing for His children, and therefore only gives what would be for their blessing and profit to receive.
(2) But while this is one condition, it is not the only one. The Lord Jesus said we should ask in His name if we wish our petitions granted. (John xiv. 13, 14.)
Beloved elder brethren here all know what it means to ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, but, for the sake of young believers present, I will say that it means this-we have to ask in union with Christ, as members of the body of which He is the Head. We stand before God in His righteousness; we are justified by faith in His name, and therefore we come before God as those who are one with Christ. We - so to speak - put Christ forward, and ourselves we put in the background. We are in ourselves entirely unworthy of receiving one blessing from the hand of God. Ask God to show you that all you deserve is hell and eternal torment. Nothing else do we deserve; and therefore all we receive (out of hell) must come in the name of Christ. And this is very precious, that we are not only permitted, but commanded, to come in the name of Christ. I have been made clean by the power of the blood of Christ. I myself deserve nothing but punishment; but the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy to receive the choicest blessings which God has to give. Therefore, if I put myself in the background, and put Christ forward, and in His name ask the choicest of God's blessings, they are granted to me. Do we habitually plead the worthiness of Christ when we come before God with our petitions?
(3) But these are not the only conditions that we need to remember in order that our petitions may be granted. There is another point, and that is, that we exercise faith in the power of God and in His willingness to hear us. (Mark xi. 24.) We must be looking out for the answer. There are few children of God who doubt His ability to give, but many doubt His willingness, forgetting that large word of the apostle "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" It was in the way of grace that He gave His Son for me; so is He, in the way of grace, willing to give me with Him, everything that will be for my good. What more can we have than this?
(4) Now suppose those three things are found in us with regard to prayer, there is another in Ps. lxvi. 18, which is an important one, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
(5) Then, if we habitually walk in the fear of God, and we do not allow anything in us contrary to His holy will, there remains one thing more-that we continue to wait on God till the answer comes. Here we frequently break down. We begin well, but we do not go on. If month after month, and year after year, we have been praying, and if our petitions have not been granted, the thought comes, Will God answer? Many break down because the petition is not granted so quickly as they expected. Parents pray for their children. They begin to do so; but we should never forget that we have to continue, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until the answer comes. For God knows the best time for us, and He will in His own time give us our requests. It may be for the trial of our faith, or of our patience, or to see if we are in earnest, that He waits. For these and other reasons the petitions may not be answered so quickly as we desire.
Young evangelists ask God for the conversion of many souls. They go on praying and preaching, but do not get the answers. It may be that they are not prepared for the blessing. If their petitions were granted, it might be an injury to their souls. Therefore He waits till they are prepared to receive the blessing. So with Sunday-school teachers. They ask God for good things for their children, yet do not receive the answer. Now let us go on, and patiently, quietly wait on the Lord. The blessing most assuredly will come.
Now are we all in the habit of thus going on patiently, perseveringly, month after month, and year after year, waiting on God? Then let us set out afresh with renewed earnestness and faith. To all our petitions, if they have been according to the will of God, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, and with faith in the willingness of God to give what we have asked, the answers must come. I have myself had to wait for a long time to get certain blessings. In many instances the answer has come instantaneously, or in the same hour, or the same day; yet in other things I have had to wait years-ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, and upwards-yet invariably at the last the answer has come. And I say it to encourage my brethren and sisters in Christ, Go on waiting, waiting, waiting. Begin afresh to bring your petitions before God. He will hear you. For one thing I have been praying for thirty-nine years and nine months, and the answer has not yet come. Last evening I prayed for it, and the evening before last I prayed again. When travelling in India and in America, year after year I have been praying, and I am sure that in the end the answer will come. I have received tens of thousands of answers to prayer; but in this particular I have to wait. Many of you remember our departed brother R--. For his parents I prayed that they might be converted. At last the answer came, when the father was between eighty and ninety years old. This very individual had cast off his son entirely; for years he did not allow him to come into his presence. At last he sent for him, and then would scarcely allow him to go out of his sight; yet for twenty years I had to pray for his conversion. So with the mother. She had lived a very moral life outwardly, very pharisaically; but at last she saw that nothing but Christ would do for her, and she was saved.
Therefore, beloved younger brethren and sisters, begin afresh with greater earnestness than ever, and you will receive the answers at the last. The Lord delights to bless His children, to give them everything that is for their blessing and comfort; and especially does He delight to bless parents in praying for their children. But if we have set them a bad example, and have let them go on in a self-willed course, then the first thing is to make honest confession of our sin and to own that we deserve all that may have come upon us; and let us humble ourselves in the dust before God, yet pleading the merits of Jesus, and we shall find that God is ever ready in His pity and compassion to forgive us. Then with renewed earnestness let us begin to pray.
My universal remedy for every difficulty, for every trial, is prayer and faith. And in this way for fifty-five years I have been going on. For three and a half years after my conversion I did not do so, but for fifty-five years I have been walking in this way, and I desire on this very ground to encourage my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ who have not tried this universal remedy, and they will find, as I have, that it suits every difficulty and trial.