Into His Life's Work at Last
GRADUALLY GOD’S providence led Mr. Muller to the sphere of his life’s work. Now at Bristol, after the young minister’s soul had been strengthened by eighteen months of trust for the success of the Institution, God was ready to thrust him forth into his real mission. Other activities were but preparatory to the orphanage work. God had at length through the devious paths of providence faith-energized a man to whom He could trust this important activity.
For months Mr. Muller had been thinking about founding an orphanage. He had prayed about it often, and his classes for destitute children and older folks gradually led him to the decision that God’s time had finally arrived.
On November 20, 1835, he found at a sister’s house a life of Franke which touched the wellsprings of his ambition. He wrote, “I have frequently, for a long time, thought of laboring in a similar way.” The following day he entered in his Journal, “Today I have had it very much impressed on my heart no longer merely to think about the establishment of an orphan house, but actually to set about it. I have been very much in prayer regarding it...to ascertain the Lord’s mind.”
These were the soul-beginnings of the ambitious plan. On December 2 he was to take the first outward and formal step toward bringing into reality this prayer dream. He says, “Therefore, I have this day taken the first actual step in the matter, in having ordered bills to be printed, announcing a public meeting on December 9, at which I intend to lay before the brethren my thoughts concerning the orphan house...”
Mr. Muller was not to wait for the brethren’s opinion, advice or first-fruits of meager gifts. For on December 5 while reading the Bible at
his evening prayer season, the Scriptures blazed forth in a text which inspired his faith to immediate action.
“This evening,” he affirms, “I was struck in reading the Scriptures with these words, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ I was led to apply this scripture to the orphan house, and ask the Lord for premises, one thousand pounds and suitable individuals to take care of the children.” His faith flamed forth when God spoke.
From that moment this text formed one of his life mottoes, and the promise became a power in molding his future work. The text was his check on heaven’s bank, and cashable for any needed amount, so Muller’s faith attested.
God’s seal on the work was not long in coming, for his faith obtained the substance in the form of a gift, the first of many thousands. Muller’s diary entry is short, but meaningful, “Today I received the first shilling for the orphan house.” This was only two days after his memorable outreach of faith for the orphanage.
On the afternoon of the meeting, December 9, came the first gift of furniture in form of a large wardrobe. Concerning that night meeting, more or less a form since God had put his sanction upon the work and gifts had already been coming in through Muller’s faith, the faith-venturing preacher says, “As soon as I began to speak at the meeting I received peculiar assistance from God. After the meeting ten shillings were given me. There was purposely no collection.... After the meeting a sister offered herself for the work. I went home, happy in the Lord and full of confidence that the matter would come to pass.”
The following morning a statement of the meeting was given to the press. Immediate response burst forth following the news article, and gifts began to come in, as well as offers of life services of the givers themselves.
On December 10 Muller received a letter, one of the many scores which were to follow during his long orphanage career, “We propose ourselves for the service of the intended orphan house, if you think us qualified for
it, also to give up all the furniture, etc., which the Lord has given us, for its use; and to do this without receiving any salary whatever; believing that if it be the will of the Lord to employ us, He will supply all our needs.”
Since that day there has never been a lack of competent, cheerful and devoted helpers, though the work rapidly extended beyond Muller’s strongest dreams.
In the evening of the same day, as tokens from the Lord, individuals sent in “three dishes, twenty-eight plates, three basins, one jug, four mugs, three saltstands, one grater, four knives and five forks.” On December 12 came more dishes and fifty pounds for the work. On the thirteenth came twenty-nine yards of print, “also a sister offered herself for the work.” Mr. Muller reported one gift with the same calm and equipoise as the other.
On the next day came eight shillings and “a brother and sister offered themselves.” Still there were no surprise remarks from the apostle of trust, for he had believed that God would fill his open mouth, and in this filling all came as from God. Similar gifts continued daily.
Came basins and mugs and dessert spoons, a skimmer, a toasting fork and a dredge, also pillow cases and table cloths, as well as “fifty-five yards of sheeting, and twelve yards of calico.”
The orphanage was on its way...for the bounteous hand of God was overflowing with gifts.
On December 17 Mr. Muller turned down the gift of $500 from a poor woman, thinking that she was unable to give so much. She was weak in body and her weekly earnings were less than a dollar.
“But,” she replied in triumphant faith, “the Lord Jesus has given His last drop for me, and should I not give Him this hundred pounds?”
The gift Mr. Muller discovered had come through the death of the girl’s grandmother, and he accepted it with gratitude to God for using “this
poor, sickly sister as an instrument in so considerable gift, for helping at its very commencement the work.”
At last Mr. Muller was able to set a definite date for opening an orphans’ house for girls. As funds came in he secured a large house, No. 6 North Wilson Street, where he had been living for some time, by renting it for one year. April 1, 1836, was set as the formal opening day. He informed the public that he would receive applications for entrance, and shortly after he intimated that a second house would be opened to receive small children, both boys and girls.
During the weeks that Mr. Muller had prayed in the materials for the house, the funds for the rent and its equipment, the laborers to carry on the work, he had forgotten to pray for orphans. And on the opening day not one applicant was received!
He had taken it for granted that the children would come. He spent two hours at the house waiting for applicants, and then dejectedly walked home. On his way this thought rushed to his mind, “I have prayed about everything connected with this work — for money, for a house, for helpers, about the various articles of furniture, etc., but I have never asked the Lord to send me orphans.’’
That night he laid low in prayer, prevailing with God to send children for the home. Faith once more gained a divine audience, for the very next day he received the first application for entrance. Within a month forty-two children were seeking admission, with twenty-six already in the home and more arriving daily.
Throughout the year there were to be testings of personal faith, but God never failed him. As a sample of such trials on November 30 he writes, “Being in great need, I was led, yesterday morning, earnestly to ask the Lord; and in answer to this petition a brother gave me, last evening, ten pounds.” Morning prayer was answered by the evening gift.
Mr. Muller testifies that in his lifetime fifty thousand such specific prayers were answered. Years before he died, about the middle of his
career, he affirmed that up to that time five thousand of his definite prayers had been answered on the day of asking.
He made it a habit to keep a notebook with two page entries. On one page he gave the petition and the date, and on the opposite page he entered the date of the answer. In this manner he was able to keep record of definite petitions, and their specific answers. He recommended this form to believers who desired specific results to their prayers. Thus there is no guesswork as to when God answers prayers.
At the beginning of 1836 Mr. Muller had asked for a thousand pounds and an orphanage house along with its equipment. In reviewing that year’s work, he found that God had given him his first orphanage house on Wilson Street, and seven months after the opening of the first house he obtained another one located at No. 1 Wilson Street. This received its first children on November 18. A review of his financial returns showed gifts for the orphanages of seven hundred and seventy pounds, and he himself had received for his personal needs two hundred and thirty-two pounds.
During that year, God furnished more than the $5,000 asked as the initial starter of the work. Closing the first orphanage year, he relates, “On December 31, we had this evening a prayer meeting to praise the Lord for His goodness during the past year, and to ask Him for a continuance of His favors.”
The blessings of God were so numerous that by April 8, 1837, there were thirty orphans in each house, No. 6 Wilson Street caring for older girls and No. 1 giving a home to young boys and girls.
The founder of this work, asking at first for a hundred pounds, affirms that in his own mind the thing was as good as done, and he often thanked God for the sum as though already in hand. When about to print his “Narrative of the Lord’s Dealings,” he took it in mind to ask God for the total sum, not counting what had come in for his own needs, before the book issued from the press.
“He therefore gave himself anew to prayer; and on June 15th the whole sum was complete...” writes Mr. Pierson. No appeal was made to the public, God alone receiving his petitions daily for eighteen months and ten days.
It was in the year 1837 that Mr. Muller, then thirty-two, felt a deep conviction that his own growth in grace and power for service were indispensable for the promotion of the work. He sought two things; first more retirement for secret prayer and communion with God and provision for the spiritual oversight of the church, the total number of communicants being at this time nearly four hundred. He found himself too busy to pray as he ought.
After learning the lesson of being busy in the work of the Lord, too busy in fact to pray, he told his brethren that four hours of work after an hour of prayer would accomplish more than five hours without prayer. This rule henceforth he faithfully kept.
Considering the fact that there were now two distinct churches to be looked after, and also two orphanage houses, there was a meeting in October of that year where the two congregations decided to unite into one, to lessen the separate meetings conducted each week.
On October 21 another house was secured in Wilson Street which was opened to receive orphan boys. Mr. Muller now had under his care ninety-six orphans. His prayer for premises, suitable helpers and the thousand pounds were abundantly answered.
He remarks, “When I was asking the petition I was fully aware what I was doing, i.e. asking for something that I had no natural prospect of getting from the brethren I knew, but which was not too much for the Lord to grant.”
In reviewing the year 1837, Muller states, “Ninety, therefore, daily sit down to table. Lord, look on the necessities of thy servant” — a prayer which God abundantly answered. Not once during the year was a single meal unsupplied. Throughout all his experience in conducting the
orphanages this servant of God testifies that no meal, even when he was feeding two thousand orphans daily by faith, was more than thirty minutes late.
At the opening of the boys’ house Mr. Muller received his first legacy, which was from a little boy who saved some funds during his fatal illness. Knowing that he was soon to die, the lad asked that his savings, amounting to a little more than $1.50, be sent to Mr. Muller. The minister took it as his first legacy, and though small in amount, he believed that God was peculiarly placing his approval upon the new venture of the boys’ house.
Many asked Mr. Muller how he sought to know the will of God, in that nothing was undertaken, not even the smallest expenditure, without feeling certain he was in God’s will. In the following words he gave his answer:
And did this plan work? one asks. Let Mr. Muller’s testimony answer.
“I never remember,” he wrote three years before his death, “in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY AND PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes.” (Italics his.)
When asked why he undertook the work of the Institution, Mr. Muller replied, “The first and primary object of the Institution was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the Orphans under my care were, and are, provided with all they need only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it might be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL AND HEARS PRAYER STILL.”