I HAD constantly cases brought before me which proved that one of the especial things which the children of God needed in our day was to have their faith strengthened. For instance: I might visit a brother who worked fourteen or even sixteen hours a day at his trade, the necessary result of which was that not only his body suffered, but his soul was lean, and he had no enjoyment in the things of God. Under such circumstances I might point out to him that he ought to work less, in order that his bodily health might not suffer, and that he might gather strength for his inner man by reading the word of God, or by meditation over it, and by prayer. The reply, however, I generally found to be something like this:
"But if I work less, I do not earn enough for the support of my family. Even now, whilst I work so much, I have scarcely enough. The wages are so low, that I must work hard in order to obtain what I need."
There was no trust in God. No real belief in the truth of that word:
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness:
and all these things shall be added unto you."
I might reply something like this:
"My dear brother, it is not your work which supports your family, but the Lord; and He who has fed you and your family when you could not work at all, on account of illness, would surely provide for you and yours if, for the sake of obtaining food for your inner man, you were to work only for so many hours a day as would allow you proper time for retirement. And is it not the case now, that you begin the work of the day after having had only a few hurried moments for prayer and when you leave off your work in the evening, and mean then to read a little of the word of God, are you not too much worn out in body and mind to enjoy it, and do you not often fall asleep whilst reading the Scriptures or whilst on your knees in prayer?"
The brother would allow it was so; he would allow that my advice was good but still I read in his countenance, even if he should not have actually said so,
"How should I get on if I were to carry out your advice?"
I longed, therefore, to have something to point the brother to, as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God as ever He was; as willing as ever to PROVE Himself to be the LIVING GOD, in our day as formerly, to all who put their trust in Him.--
Again, sometimes I found children of God tried in mind by the prospect of old age, when they might be unable to work any longer, and therefore were harassed by the fear of having to go into the poor-house. If in such a case I pointed out to them how their Heavenly Father has always helped those who put their trust in Him, they might not, perhaps, always say that times have changed; but yet it was evident enough that God was not looked upon by them as the LIVING God. My spirit was oft times bowed down by this, and I longed to see something before the children of God whereby they might see that He does not forsake, even in our day those who rely upon Him.--
Another class of persons were brethren in business, who suffered in their soul and brought guilt on their consciences, by carrying on their business almost in the same way as unconverted persons do. The competition in trade, the bad times, the over-peopled country, were given as reasons why, if the business were carried on simply according to the word of God it could not be expected to do well. Such a brother, perhaps, would express the wish that he might be differently situated; but very rarely did I see that there was a stand made for God, that there was the holy determination to trust in the living God, and to depend on Him, in order that a good conscience might be maintained. To this class likewise I desired to show, by a visible proof, that God is unchangeably the same.--
Then there was another class of persons, individuals who were in professions in which they could not continue with a good conscience, or persons who were in an unscriptural position with reference to spiritual things; but both classes feared, on account of the consequences, to give up the profession in which they could not abide with God, or to leave their position, lest they should be thrown out of employment. My spirit longed to be instrumental in giving them not only instances from the word of God of His willingness and ability to help all those who rely upon Him, but to show them by proofs that He is the same in our day. I well knew that the word of God ought to be enough, and it was, by grace, enough to me; but still, I considered that I ought to lend a helping hand to my brethren, if by any means, by this visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord I might strengthen their hands in God; for I remembered what a great blessing my own soul had received through the Lord's dealings with His servant, A. H. Francké, who, in dependence upon the living God alone, established an immense orphan house, which I had seen many times with my own eyes. I, therefore, judged myself bound to be the servant of the Church of God, in the particular point on which I had obtained mercy namely, in being able to take God by His word and to rely upon it. All these exercises of my soul, which resulted from the fact that so many believers, with whom I became acquainted were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of not trusting in the Lord; were used by God to awaken in my heart the desire of setting before the church at large, and before the world, a proof that He has not in the least changed and this seemed to me best done by the establishing of an orphan house. It needed to be something which could be seen, even by the natural eye. Now if I, a poor man simply by prayer and faith, obtained, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, there would be something which, with the Lord's blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God, besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted of the reality of the things of God. This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children bereaved of both parents, and seek, in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life--
I also particularly longed to be used by God in getting the dear orphans trained up in the fear of God;-- but still, the first and primary object of the work was (and still is:) that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all the need only by prayer and faith,without any one being asked by me or my fellow labourers, whereby it may be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL, AND HEARS PRAYER STILL,
The three chief reasons for establishing an orphan house are:
1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened.
2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children.
3. Their temporal welfare.
That to which my mind has been particularly directed is to establish an orphan house in which destitute fatherless and motherless children may be provided with food and raiment, and scriptural education. Concerning this intended orphan house I would say:
1. It is intended to be in connection with the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, in so far as respects the reports, accounts, superintendence, and the principles on which it is conducted, so that, in one sense, it may be considered as a new object of the Institution, yet with this difference, that only those funds shall be applied to the orphan house which are expressly given for it. If, therefore, any believer should prefer to support either those objects which have been hitherto assisted by the funds of this Institution, or the intended orphan house, it need only be mentioned, in order that the money may be applied accordingly.
2. It will only be established if the Lord should provide both the means for it and suitable persons to conduct it. As to the means, I would make the following remarks:
the reason for proposing to enlarge the field is not because we have of late particularly abounded in means; we have been rather straitened. The many gracious answers, however, which the Lord had given concerning this Institution led brother C--- r and me to give ourselves to prayer, asking Him to supply us with means to carry on the work, as we consider it unscriptural to contract debts. During five days, we prayed several times, both unitedly and separately. After that time, the Lord began to answer our prayers, so that, within a few days, about 50l. was given to us. I would further say that the very gracious and tender dealings of God with me, in having supplied, in answer to prayer, for the last five years, my own temporal wants without any certain income, so that money, provisions, and clothes have been sent to me at times when I was greatly straitened, and that not only in small but large quantities and not merely from individuals living in the same place with me, but at a considerable distance; and that not merely from intimate friends, but from individuals whom I have never seen: all this, I say, has often led me to think, even as long as four years ago, that the Lord has not given me this simple reliance on Him merely for myself, but also for others. Often, when I saw poor neglected children running about the streets at Teignmouth, I said to myself:
"May it not be the will of God that I should establish schools for these children, asking Him to give me the means?"
However, it remained only a thought in my mind for two or three years. About two years and six months since I was particularly stirred up afresh to do something for destitute children, by seeing so many of them begging in the streets of Bristol, and coming to our door. It was not, then, left undone on account of want of trust in the Lord, but through an abundance of other things calling for all the time and strength of my brother Craik and myself; for the Lord had both given faith, and had also shown by the following instance, in addition to very many others, both what He can and what He will do. One morning, while sitting in my room, I thought about the distress of certain brethren, and said thus to myself:
"Oh, that it might please the Lord to give me the means to help these poor brethren!"
In about an hour afterwards I had 601. sent as a present for myself from a brother whom up to this day I have never seen, and who was then, and is still, residing several thousand miles from this. Should not such an experience, together with promises like that one in John xiv.13,14, encourage us to ask with all boldness, for ourselves and others, both temporal and spiritual blessings? The Lord, for I cannot but think it was He, again and again brought the thought about these poor children to my mind, till at last it ended in the establishment of "The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad"; since the establishment of which, I have had it in a similar way brought to my mind, first about fourteen months ago, and repeatedly since, but especially during these last weeks, to establish an orphan house. My frequent prayer of late has been, that if it be of God, He would let it come to pass; if not, that He would take from me all thoughts about it.
The latter has not been the case, but I have been led more and more to think that the matter may be of Him. Now, if so, He can influence His people in any part of the world (for I do not look to Bristol, nor even to England, but to the living God, whose is the gold and the silver), to intrust me and brother C---r, whom the Lord has made willing to help me in this work with the means. Till we have them, we can do nothing in the way of renting a house, furnishing it, etc. Yet, when once as much as is needed for this has been sent us, as also proper persons to engage in the work, we do not think it needful to wait till we have the orphan house endowed, or a number of yearly subscribers for it; but we trust to be enabled by the Lord, who has taught us to ask for our daily bread, to look to Him for the supply of the daily wants of those children whom He may be pleased to put under our care. Any donations will be received at my house. Should any believers have tables, chairs, bedsteads, bedding, earthenware, or any kind of household furniture to spare, for the furnishing of the house; or remnants, or pieces of calico, linen, flannel, cloth, or any materials useful for wearing apparel; or clothes already worn, they will be thankfully received.
Respecting the persons who are needed for carrying on the work, a matter of no less importance than the procuring of funds, I would observe that we look for them to God himself, as well as for the funds; and that all who may be engaged as masters, matrons, and assistants, according to the smallness or largeness of the Institution; must be known to us as true believers; and moreover, as far as we may be able to judge, must likewise be qualified for the work.
3. At present nothing can be said as to the time when the operations are likely to commence; nor whether the Institution will embrace children of both sexes, or be restricted either to boys or girls exclusively; nor of what age they will be received, and how long they may continue in it; for though we have thought about these things, yet we would rather be guided in these particulars by the amount of the means which the Lord may put into our hands, and by the number of the individuals whom He may provide for conducting the Institution. Should the Lord condescend to use us as instruments, a short printed statement will be issued as soon as something more definite can be said.
4. It has appeared well to us to receive only such destitute children as have been bereaved of both parents.
5. The children are intended, if girls, to be brought up for service; if boys, for a trade; and therefore they will be employed, according to their ability and bodily strength in useful occupations, and thus help to maintain themselves; besides this, they are intended to receive a plain education; but the chief and the special end of the Institution will be to seek, with God's blessing, to bring them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ by instructing them in the Scriptures.
FURTHER ACCOUNT RESPECTING THE ORPHAN HOUSE, ETC
When, of late, the thoughts of establishing an orphan house, in dependence upon the Lord, revived in my mind, during the first two weeks I only prayed that if it were of the Lord He would bring it about; but if not, that He graciously would be pleased to take all thoughts about it out of my mind. My uncertainty about knowing the Lord's mind did not arise from questioning whether it would be pleasing in His sight that there should be an abode and scriptural education provided for destitute fatherless and motherless children; but whether it were His will that I should be the instrument of setting such an object on foot, as my hands were already more than filled. My comfort, however, was, that, if it were His will, He would provide not merely the means, but also suitable individuals to take care of the children, so that my part of the work would take only such a portion of my time as, considering the importance of the matter, I might give, notwithstanding my many other engagements. The whole of those two weeks I never asked the Lord for money or for persons to engage in the work. On December 5th, however, the subject of my prayer all at once became different. I was reading Psalm Ixxxi., and was particularly struck, more than at any time before, with verse 10:
"Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it."
I thought a few moments about these words, and then was led to apply them to the case of the orphan house. It struck me that I had never asked the Lord for anything concerning it, except to know His will respecting its being established or not; and I then fell on my knees, opened my mouth wide, asking him for much. I asked in submission to His will, and without fixing a time when He should answer my petition. I prayed that He would give me a house, i.e., either as a loan, or that someone might be led to pay the rent for one, or that one might be given permanently for this object; further, I asked Him for £1000; and likewise for suitable individuals to take care of the children. Besides this, I have been since led to ask the Lord to put into the hearts of His people to send me articles of furniture for the house, and for clothes for the children. When I was asking the petition I was fully aware what I was doing, i.e., that I was asking for something which I had no natural prospect of obtaining from the brethren whom I know, but which was not too much for the Lord to grant.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
SOME points which God began to show Mr. Müller while at Teignmouth in 1829.
1. That the word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of His people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time. Indeed, of the office of each of the blessed persons, in what is commonly called the Trinity, I had no experimental apprehension.
I had not before seen from the Scriptures that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world; that in Him that wonderful plan of our redemption originated, and that He also appointed all the means by which it was to be brought about.
Further that the Son, to save us, had fulfilled the law, to satisfy its demands, and with it also the holiness of God; that He had borne the punishment due to our sins, and had thus satisfied the justice of God.
And further, that the Holy Spirit alone can teach us about our state by nature, show us the need of a Saviour, enable us to believe in Christ, explain to us the Scriptures, help us in preaching, etc.
It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular, which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously. But the particular difference was, that I received real strength for my soul in doing so. I now began to try by the test of the Scriptures the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those principles which stood the test were really of value.
2. Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace; so much so that, a few days after my arrival at Teignmouth I called election a devilish doctrine. I did not believe that I had brought myself to the Lord, for that was too manifestly false; but yet I held, that I might have resisted finally.
And further, I knew nothing about the choice of God's people, and did not believe that the child of God, when once made so, was safe for ever. In my fleshly mind I had repeatedly said,
"If once I could prove that I am a child of God for ever, I might go back into the world for a year or two, and then return to the Lord, and at last be saved."
But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely as an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said; I went to the Lord, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.
As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state, for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period. My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before. And for this have I been strengthened by the Lord, in a great measure, through the instrumentality of these truths. For in the time of temptation, I have been repeatedly led to say:
"Should I thus sin? I should only bring misery into my soul for a time, and dishonour God; for, being a son of God for ever, I should have to be brought back again, though it might be in the way of severe chastisement."
Thus, I say, the electing love of God in Christ (when I have been able to realize it) has often been the means of producing holiness, instead of leading me into sin. It is only the notional apprehension of such truths, the want of having them in the heart, whilst they are in the head, which is dangerous.
3. Another truth, into which, in a measure, I was led, respected the Lord's coming. My views concerning this point, up to that time, had been completely vague and unscriptural. I had believed what others told me, without trying it by the Word. I thought that things were getting better and better, and that soon the whole world would be converted. But now I found in the Word that we have not the least Scriptural warrant to look for the conversion of the world before the return of our Lord. I found in the Scriptures that that which will usher in the glory of the church, and uninterrupted joy to the saints, is the return of the Lord Jesus, and that, till then, things will be more or less in confusion.
I found in the Word, that the return of Jesus, and not death, was the hope of the apostolic Christians; and that it became me, therefore, to look for His appearing. And this truth entered so into my heart that, though I went into Devonshire exceedingly weak, scarcely expecting that I should return again to London, yet I was immediately, on seeing this truth, brought off from looking for death, and was made to look for the return of the Lord. Having seen this truth, the Lord also graciously enabled me to apply it, in some measure at least, to my own heart, and to put the solemn question to myself--
"What may I do for the Lord, before He returns, as He may soon come?"
4. In, addition to these truths, it pleased the Lord to lead me to see a higher standard of devotedness than I had seen before. He led me, in a measure, to see what is my true glory in this world, even to be despised, and to be poor and mean with Christ. I saw then, in a measure, though I have seen it more fully since, that it ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honoured in that world where his Lord was poor, and mean, and despised.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE mountain-climber, at the sunset hour, naturally takes a last lingering look backward at the prospect visible from the lofty height, before he begins his descent to the valley. And, before we close this volume, we as naturally cast one more glance backward over this singularly holy and useful life, that we may catch further inspiration from its beauty and learn some new lessons in holy living and unselfish serving.
George Müller was divinely fitted for, fitted into his work, as a mortise fits the tenon, or a ball of bone its socket in the joint. He had adaptations, both natural and gracious, to the life of service to which he was called and these adaptations made possible a career of exceptional sanctity and service, because of his complete self-surrender to the will of God and his childlike faith in His word.
Three qualities or characteristics stand out very conspicuous in him truth, faith, and love. Our Lord frequently taught His disciples that the childlike spirit is the soul of discipleship, and in the ideal child these three traits are central.
Truth is one centre, about which revolve childlike frankness and sincerity, genuineness and simplicity.
Faith is another, about which revolve confidence and trust, docility and humility.
Love is another centre, around which gather unselfishness and generosity, gentleness and restfulness of spirit.
In the typical or perfect child, therefore, all these beautiful qualities would coexist, and, in proportion as they are found in a disciple, is he worthy to be called a child of God.
In Mr. Müller these traits were all found and conjoined, and this fact sufficiently accounts for his remarkable likeness to Christ and fruitfulness in serving God and man. No pen-portrait of him which fails to make these features very prominent can either be accurate in delineation or warm in colouring. It is difficult to overestimate their importance in their relation to what George Müller was and did.
Truth is the corner-stone of all excellence, for without it nothing else is true, genuine, or real. From the hour of his conversion his truthfulness was increasingly dominant and apparent. In fact, there was about him a scrupulous erectness which sometimes seemed unnecessary. One smiles at the mathematical precision with which he states facts, giving the years, days, and hours since he was brought to the knowledge of God, or since he began to pray for some given object; and the pounds, shillings, pence, halfpence, and even farthings that form the total sum expended for any given purpose. We see the same conscientious exactness in the repetitions of statements, whether of principles or of occurrences, which we meet in his journal, and in which oftentimes there is not even a change of a word. But all this has a significance. It inspires absolute confidence in the record of the Lord's dealings.
First, because it shows that the writer has disciplined himself to accuracy of statement. Many a falsehood is not an intentional lie, but an undesigned inaccuracy. Three of our human faculties powerfully affect our veracity:
one is memory,
another is imagination, and
another is conscience.
Memory takes note of facts,
imagination colours facts with fancies, and
conscience brings the moral sense to bear in sifting the real from the unreal.
Where conscience is not sensitive and dominant, memory and imagination will become so confused that facts and fancies will fail to be separated. The imagination will be so allowed to invest events and experiences with either a halo of glory or a cloud of prejudice that the narrator will constantly tell, not what he clearly sees written in the book of his remembrance, but what he beholds painted upon the canvas of his own imagination. Accuracy will be, half unconsciously perhaps, sacrificed to his own imaginings, he will exaggerate or depreciate-- as his own impulses lead him; and a man who would not deliberately lie may thus be habitually untrustworthy: you cannot tell, and often he cannot tell, what the exact truth would be when all the unreality with which it has thus been invested is dissipated like the purple and golden cloud about a mountain, leaving the bare crag of naked rock to be seen, just as it is; in itself.
George Müller felt the immense importance of exact statement. Hence he disciplined himself to accuracy. Conscience presided over his narrative, and demanded that everything else should be scrupulously sacrificed to verse. But, more than this, God made him, in a sense, a man without imagination-- comparatively free from the temptations of an enthusiastic temperament. He was a mathematician rather than a poet, an artisan rather than an artist, and he did not see things invested with a false halo. He was deliberate, not impulsive; calm and not excitable. He naturally weighed every word before he spoke and scrutinized every statement before he gave it form with pen or tongue. And therefore the vary quality that, to some people, may make his narrative bare of charm, and even repulsively prosaic, add to its value as a plain, conscientious, unimaginative, unvarnished, and trustworthy statement of facts. Had any man of a more poetic mind written that journal, the reader would have found himself constantly and unconsciously making allowance for the writer's own enthusiasm, discounting the facts, because of the imaginative colouring. The narrative might have been more readable, but it would not have been so reliable; and, in this story of the Lord's dealings, nothing was so indispensable as exact truth. It would be comparatively worthless, were it not undeniable. The Lord fitted the man who lived that life of faith and prayer, and wrote that life-story, to inspire confidence, so that even skeptics and doubters felt that they were reading, not a novel or a poem, but a history.
Faith was the second of these central traits in George Müller, and it was purely the product of grace. We are told, in that first great lesson on faith in the Scripture, that (Genesis xv.6) Abram believed in Jehovah-- literally, Amened Jehovah. The word "Amen" means not "Let it be so," but rather, "it shall be so." The Lord's word came to Abram, saying this "shall not be," but something else "shall be"; and Abram simply said with all his heart, "Amen"--
"it shall be as God hath said."
And Paul seems to be imitating Abram's faith when, in the shipwreck off Malta, he said,
"I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."
That is faith in its simplest exercise and it was George Müller's faith. He found the word of the Lord in His blessed Book, a new word of promise for each new crisis of trial or need; he put his finger upon the very text and then looked up to God and said:
"Thou hast spoken. I believe."
Persuaded of God's unfailing truth, he rested in His word with unwavering faith, and consequently he was at peace.
Nothing is more noticeable, in the entire career of this man of God, reaching through sixty-five years, than the steadiness of his faith and the steadfastness it gave to his whole character. To have a word of God was enough. He built upon it, and, when floods came and beat again that house, how could it fall! He was never confounded nor obliged to flee. Even the earthquake may shake earth and heaven, but it leaves the true believer the inheritor of a kingdom which cannot be moved; for an object of all such shaking is to remove what can be shaken that what cannot be shaken may remain.
If Mr. Müller had any great mission, it was not to found a world-wide institution of any sort, however useful scattering Bibles and books and tracts, or housing and feeding thousands of orphans, or setting up Christian schools and aiding missionary workers. His main mission was to teach men that it is safe to trust God's word, to rest implicitly upon whatever He hath said, and obey explicitly whatever He has bidden; that prayer offered in faith trusting His promise and the intercession of His dear Son, is never offered in vain; and that the life lived by faith is a walk with God, just outside the very gates heaven.
Love, the third of that, trinity of graces, was the other great secret and lesson of this life. And what is love? Not merely a complacent affection for what is lovable, which is often only a half-selfish taking of pleasure in society and fellowship of those who love us. Love is the principle of unselfishness: love
"seeketh not her own"
it is the preference of another's pleasure and profit over our own, and hence is exercised toward the unthankful and unloving, that it may lift them to a higher level. Such love is benevolence rather than complacence, and so it is "of God," for He loveth the unthankful and the evil: and he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. Such love is obedience to a principle of unselfishness, and makes self-sacrifice habitual and even natural. While Satan's motto is,
Christ's motto is,
The sharpest rebuke ever administered by our Lord was that to Peter when he became a Satan by counselling his Master to adopt Satan's maxim.* We are bidden by Paul,
"Remember Jesus Christ,"†
and by Peter,
"Follow His steps."‡
† 2 Tim. ii. (Greek).
‡1 Pet. ii.21.
If we seek the inmost meaning of these two brief mottoes, we shall find that, about Jesus Christ's character, nothing was more conspicuous than the obedience of faith and self-surrender to God, and in His career, which we are bidden to follow, the self-oblivion of love, or self-sacrifice for man. The taunt was sublimely true:
"He saved others, Himself He cannot save";
it was because he saved others that He could not save Himself. The seed must give up its own life for the sake of the crop; and he who will be life to others must, like his Lord, consent to die.
Here is the real meaning of that command,
"Let him deny himself and take up his cross."
Self-denial is not cutting off an indulgence here and there, but laying the axe at the root of the tree of self, of which all indulgences are only greater or smaller branches. Self-righteousness and self-trust, self-seeking and self-pleasing, self-will, self-defence, self-glory-- these are a few of the myriad branches of that deeply rooted tree. And what if one or more of these be cut off, if such lopping off of some few branches only throws back into others the self-life to develop more vigorously in them?
And what is cross-bearing? We speak of our "crosses"-- but the word of God never uses that word in the plural, for there is but one cross-- the cross on which the self-life is crucified, the cross of voluntary self-renunciation.
How did Christ come to the cross? We read in Philippians the seven steps of his descent from heaven to Calvary. He had everything that even the Son of God could hold precious, even to the actual equal sharing of the glory of God. Yet for man's sake what did he do? He did not hold fast even His equality with God, He emptied Himself, took on Him the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of fallen humanity; even more than this, He humbled Himself even as a man, identifying Himself with our poverty and misery and sin; He accepted death for our sakes, and that, the death of shame on the tree of curse. Every step was downward until He who had been worshipped by angels was reviled by thieves, and the crown of glory was displaced by the crown of thorns! That is what the cross meant to Him. And He says:
"If a man will come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up the cross and follow Me."
This cross is not forced upon us as are many of the little vexations and trials which we call "our crosses"; it is taken up by us, in voluntary self-sacrifice for His sake. We choose self-abnegation, to lose our life in sacrifice that we may find it again in service.
That is the self-oblivion of love. And Mr. Müller illustrated it. From the hour when he began to serve the Crucified One he entered more and more fully into the fellowship of His sufferings, seeking to be
"made conformable unto His death."
He gave up fortune-seeking and fame-seeking; he cut loose from the world with its snares and joys; he separated himself from even its doubtful practices, he tested even churchly traditions and customs by the word of God, and step by step conformed to the pattern show in that word. Every such step was a new self-denial, it was following Him. He chose voluntary poverty that others might be rich, and voluntary loss that others might have gain. His life was one long endeavour to bless others, to be the channel for conveying God's truth and love and grace to them. Like Paul he rejoiced in such sufferings for others, because thus he filled up
"that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ"
in his flesh
"for His body's sake which is the church."*
And unless Love's voluntary sacrifice be taken into account, George Müller's life will still remain an enigma. Loyalty to truth, the obedience of faith, the sacrifice of love-- these form the threefold key that unlocks to us all the closed chambers of that life, and these will, in another sense, unlock any other life to the entrance of God, and present to Him an open door into all departments of one's being. George Müller had no monopoly of holy living and holy serving. He followed his Lord, both in self-surrender to the will of God and in self-sacrifice for the welfare of man, and herein lay his whole secret.
To one who asked him the secret of his service he said:
"There was a day when I died, utterly died;"
and, as he spoke, he bent lower and lower until he almost touched the floor--
"died to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will-- died to the world, its approval or censure-- died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends-- and since then I have studied only to show myself 'approved unto God.'"
When George Müller trusted the blood for salvation, he took Abel's position; when he undertook a consecrated walk he took Enoch's; when he came into fellowship with God for his life-work he stood beside Noah; when he rested only on God's word, he was one with Abraham; and when he died to self and the world, he reached the self-surrender of Moses.
The godlike qualities of this great and good man made him none the less a man. His separation unto God implied no unnatural isolation from his fellow mortals. Like Terence, he could say:
"I am a man, and nothing common to man is foreign to me."
To be well known, Mr. Müller needed to be known in his daily, simple, home life. It was my privilege to meet him often, and in his own apartment at Orphan House No. 3. His room was of medium size, neatly but plainly furnished, with table and chairs, lounge and writing-desk, etc. His Bible almost always lay open, as a book to which he continually resorted.
His form was tall and slim, always neatly attired, and very erect, and his step firm and strong. His countenance in repose, might have been thought stern, but for the smile which so habitually lit up his eyes and played over his features that it left its impress on the lines of his face. His manner was one of simple courtesy and unstudied dignity: no one would in his presence, have felt like vain trifling, and there was about him a certain indescribable air of authority and majesty that reminded one of a born prince; and yet there was mingled with all this a simplicity so childlike that even children felt themselves at home with him. In his speech, he never quite lost that peculiar foreign quality, known as accent, and he always spoke with slow and measured articulation, as though a double watch were set at the door of his lips. With him that unruly member, the tongue, was tamed by the Holy Spirit, and he had that mark of what James calls a
"perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body."
Those who knew but little of him and saw him only in his serious moods might have thought him lacking in that peculiarly human quality, humour. But neither was he an ascetic nor devoid of that element of innocent appreciation of the ludicrous and that keen enjoyment of a good story which seem essential to a complete man. His habit was sobriety, but he relished a joke that was free of all taint of uncleanness and that had about it no sting for others. To those whom he best knew and loved he showed his true self, in his playful moods,-- as when at Ilfracombe, climbing with his wife and others the heights that overlook the sea, he walked on a little in advance, seated himself till the rest came up with him, and then, when they were barely seated, rose and quietly said,
"Well now, we have had a good rest, let us go on."
This one instance may suffice to show that his sympathy with his divine Master did not lessen or hinder his complete fellow feeling with man. That must be a defective piety which puts a barrier between a saintly soul and whatsoever pertains to humanity. He who chose us out of the world sent us back into it, there to find our sphere of service; and in order to such service we must keep in close and vital touch with human beings as did our divine Lord Himself.
Service to God was with George Müller a passion. In the month of May, 1897, he was persuaded to take at Huntly a little rest from his constant daily work at the orphan houses. The evening that he arrived he said,
"What opportunity is there here for services for the Lord?"
When it was suggested to him that he had just come from continuous work, and that it was a time for rest, he replied that, being now free from his usual labours, he felt he must be occupied in some other way in serving the Lord, to glorify whom was his object in life. Meetings were accordingly arranged and he preached both at Huntly and at Teignmouth.
As we cast this last glance backward over this life of peculiar sanctity and service, one lesson seems written across it in unmistakable letters: PREVAILING PRAYER. If a consecrated human life is an example used by God to teach us the philosophy of holy living, then this man was meant to show us how prayer, offered in simple faith, has power with God.
One paragraph of Scripture conspicuously presents the truth which George Müller's living epistle enforces and illustrates; it is found in James v.16-18:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,"
is the sentence which opens the paragraph. No translation has done it justice. Rotherham renders it:
"Much avails a righteous man's supplication working inwardly."
The Revised Version translates
"avails much in its working."
The difficulty of translating lies not in the obscurity but in the fulness of the meaning of the original. There is a Greek middle participle here (energoumene) [Greek transliteration], which may indicate
"either the cause or the time of the effectiveness of the prayer,"
and may mean, through its working, or while it is actively working. The idea is that such prayer has about it supernatural energy. Perhaps the best key to the meaning of these ten words is to interpret them in the light of the whole paragraph:
"Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are,
and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain;
and it rained not on the earth by the space of
three years and six months.
And he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain
and the earth brought forth her fruit."
Two things are here plainly put before us:
first, that Elijah was but a man, of like nature with other men and subject to all human frailties and infirmities; and
secondly, that this man was such a power because he was a man of prayer: he prayed earnestly; literally "he prayed with prayer"; prayed habitually and importunately.
No man can read Elijah's short history as given in the word of God, without seeing that he was a man like ourselves. Under the juniper-tree of doubt and despondency, he complained of his state and wished he might die. In the cave of a morbid despair, he had to be met and subdued by the vision of God and by the still, small voice. He was just like other men. It was not, therefore, because he was above human follies and frailties, but because he was subject to them, that he is held up to us as an encouraging example of power that prevails in prayer. He laid hold of the Almighty Arm because he was weak, and he kept hold because to lose hold was to let weakness prevail. Nevertheless, this man, by prayer alone, shut up heaven's flood-gates for three years and a half, and then by the same key unlocked them. Yes, this man tested the meaning of those wonderful words:
"concerning the work of My hands command ye Me."
God put the forces of nature for the time under the sway of this one man's prayer-- one frail, feeble mortal locked and unlocked the springs of waters, because he held God's key.
George Müller was simply another Elijah. Like him, a man subject to all human infirmities, he had his fits of despondency and murmuring, of distrust and waywardness; but he prayed and kept praying. He denied that he was a miracle-worker, in any sense that implies elevation of character and endowment above other fellow disciples, as though he were a specially privileged saint; but in a sense he was a miracle-worker, if by that is meant that he wrought wonders impossible to the natural and carnal man.
"With God all things are possible,"
and so are they declared to be to him that believeth. God meant that George Müller, wherever his work was witnessed or his story is read, should be a standing rebuke, to the practical impotence of the average disciple. While men are asking George Müller whether prayer can accomplish similar wonders as of old here is a man who answers the question by the indisputable logic of facts. Powerlessness always means prayerlessness. It is not necessary for us to be raised to a special dignity of privilege and endowment, in order to wield this wondrous weapon of power with God; but it is necessary that we be men and women of prayer-- habitual, believing, importunate prayer.
George Müller considered nothing too small to be a subject of prayer, because nothing is too small to be the subject of God's care. If He numbers our hairs, and notes a sparrow's fall, and clothes the grass in the field, nothing about His children is beneath His tender thought. In every emergency, his one resort was to carry his want to his Father. When, in 1858, a legacy of five hundred pounds was, after fourteen months in chancery, still unpaid, the Lord was besought to cause this money soon to be placed in his hands; and he prayed that legacy out of the bonds of chancery as prayer, long before, brought Peter out of prison. The money paid contrary to all human likelihood, and with interest at four per cent.
When large gifts were proffered, prayer was offered for grace to know whether to accept or decline, that no money might be greedily grasped at for its own sake; and he prayed that, if it could not be accepted without submitting to conditions which were dishonouring to God, it might be declined so graciously, lovingly, humbly, and yet firmly that the manner of its refusal and return might show that he was acting, not in his own behalf, but as a servant under the authority of a higher Master.
These are graver matters and might well be carried to God for guidance and help. But George Müller did not stop here. In the lesser affairs, even down to the least, he sought and received like aid. His oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman of Barnstaple, gave the writer the following simple incident:
In the early days of his love to Christ, visiting a friend, and seeing him mending a quill pen, he said:
"Brother H-- , do you pray to God when you mend your pen?"
The answer was:
"It would be well to do so, but I cannot say that I do pray when mending my pen."
Brother Müller replied:
"I always do, and so I mend my pen much better."
As we cast this last backward glance at this man of God, seven conspicuous qualities stand out in him, the combination of which made him what he was: Stainless uprightness, child-like simplicity, business-like precision, tenacity of purpose, boldness of faith, habitual prayer, and cheerful self-surrender. His holy living was a necessary condition of his abundant serving, as seems so beautifully hinted in the seventeenth verse of the ninetieth Psalm:
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us."
How can the work of our hands be truly established by the blessing of our Lord, unless His beauty also is upon us-- the beauty of His holiness transforming our lives and witnessing to His work in us?
So much for the backward look. We must not close without a forward look also. There are two remarkable sayings of our Lord which are complements to each other and should be put side by side:
"If any man will come after Me,
let him deny himself
and take up his cross
and follow Me."
"If any man will serve Me,
let him follow Me;
and where I am,
there shall also my servant be.
If any man serve Me,
him will My Father honour."
One of these presents the cross, the other the crown, one the renunciation, the other the compensation. In both cases it is, "Let him follow Me"; but in the second of these passages the following of Christ goes further than the cross of Calvary; it reaches through the sepulcher to the Resurrection Life, the Forty Days' Holy Walk in the Spirit, the Ascension to the Heavenlies, the session at the Right Hand of God, the Reappearing at His Second Coming, and the fellowship of His Final Reign in Glory. And two compensations are especially made prominent:
first the Eternal Home with Christ; and,
second the Exalted Honour from the Father.
We too often look only at the cross and the crucifixion, and so see our life in Christ only in its oneness with Him in suffering and serving; we need to look beyond and see our oneness with Him in recompense and reward, if we are to get a complete view of His promise and our prospect. Self-denial is not so much an impoverishment as a postponement: we make a sacrifice of a present good for the sake of a future and greater good. Even our Lord Himself was strengthened to endure the cross and despise the shame by the joy that was set before Him and the glory of His final victory. If there were seven steps downward in humiliation, there are seven upward in exaltation, until beneath His feet every knee shall bow in homage, and every tongue confess His universal Lordship. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.
George Müller counted all as loss that men count gain, but it was for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, his Lord. He suffered the loss of all things and counted then as dung, but it was that he might win Christ and be found in Him; that he might know Him, and not only the fellowship of His sufferings and conformity to His death, but the power of His resurrection, conformity to His life, and fellowship in His glory. He left all behind that the world values, but he reached forth and pressed forward toward the goal, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
"Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded."
When the Lord Jesus was upon earth, there was one disciple whom He loved, who also leaned on His breast, having the favoured place which only one could occupy. But now that He is in heaven, every disciple may be the loved one, and fill the favoured place, and lean on His bosom. There is no exclusive monopoly of privilege and blessing. He that follows closely and abides in Him knows the peculiar closeness of contact, the honour of intimacy, that are reserved for such as are called and chosen and faithful, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. God's self-denying servants are on their way to the final sevenfold perfection, at home with Him, and crowned with honour:
"And there shall be no more curse;
But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it;
And His servants shall serve Him;
And they shall see His face;
And His name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there,
And they shall reign for ever and ever."