Mr. Muller's Chair
"Some of us at once recall to mind George Müller’s wonderful prayer-life. On one occasion, when crossing from Quebec to Liverpool, he had prayed very definitely that a chair he had written to New York for should arrive in time to catch the steamer, and he was quite confident that God had granted his petition. About half an hour before the tender was timed to take the passengers to the ship, the agents informed him that no chair had arrived, and that it could not possibly come in time for the steamer. Now, Mrs. Muller suffered much from sea-sickness, and it was absolutely essential that she should have the chair. Yet nothing would induce Mr. Muller to buy another one from a shop near by. “We have made special prayer that our Heavenly Father would be pleased to provide it for us, and we will trust Him to do so,” was his reply; and he went on board absolutely sure that his trust was not misplaced, and would not miscarry. Just before the tender left, a van drove up, and on the top of the load it carried was Mr. Muller’s chair. It was hurried on board and placed into the hands of the very man who had urged George Müller to buy another one! When he handed it to Mr. Muller, the latter expressed no surprise, but quietly removed his hat and thanked his Heavenly Father. To this man of God such an answer to prayer was not wonderful, but natural. And do you not think that God allowed the chair to be held back till the very last minute as a lesson to Mr. Muller’s friends-and to us? We should never have heard of that incident but for that delay." ~ Kneeling Christian
His Lengthening Shadow
WHEN MR. MULLER died his work was not at an end, but slowly with the passing years the shadow of his life lengthened. The setting sun struck his spiritual stature and cast the broad outlines of his noble existence upon the coming decades. Today, Mr. Muller, though dead, still lives through the monumental work he left behind.
That question, What of the future? held no terrors for Mr. Muller’s successors so long as they remained true to the foundation principles. James Wright declared in his funeral oration, It is going on! And today, these many years since its founder’s death, it still triumphs through faith. God buried His workers, several of them since that time, but His work carries on.
“I am no prophet,” Mr. Wright said in that funeral oration, “but when I remember the prayers which my beloved mother-in-law and father-in-law offered for years for the future of this work...that He in His way would raise up some help or helpers to share the responsibility of the work, and when I remember that that has been the theme of our united supplications, I cannot believe that the blessed God, Who has so illustrated His faithfulness in this work for sixty-four years, is going to leave those prayers unanswered.
“But, as I say, what He does will be worthy of Himself. I would only ask the prayers of all believers on behalf of the little group of workers up at the Orphan Houses...for prayer is the appointed means to get the blessing.”
God did raise up that first worker in the form of Mr. Wright, who entered upon the responsibilities with no fear of the future. For two or more years before Mr. Muller’s death there was a great trial of faith. Some of those months were seasons of dire need. It is recorded that on two mornings the mailman did not bring a single donation...the only experience of its kind in fifty years. Nine days before Mr. Muller’s home-going the flood gates of blessings were opened and a sum of £1,427 was received. “How gracious,” Mr. Wright said, “it was of the Lord to order that these hundreds of petitions should be answered nine days before his home-call.”
While Mr. Muller’s death brought no financial legacy, it did leave a more valuable gift in the form of unanswered prayers, which petitions were soon to be heartily answered by the Lord. For within the next few months thousands of pounds came in as donations, which Mr. Wright felt his deceased father-in-law had prayed in before his death.
Mr. Wright was burdened about a fellow workman, with whom he could share the responsibilities of the Houses, so he gave himself to much prayer. God seemed to indicate that George Frederick Bergin, with whom he had been intimately acquainted for twenty-five years should take this position.
When he presented the matter to Mr. Bergin, he found that this person was on his way to offer his services in such a capacity. The Spirit had put it on his heart that here was to be his sphere of labor.
In 1899 a letter came from a total stranger who wanted to know how the finances of the Institution stood, but Mr. Wright answered that it was against the principles of the work to divulge the financial status to any one. These matters were in the hands of God. By return mail a check for $5,250 arrived from the same person.
The year after Mr. Muller’s death the total income was £29,670, and the following year it mounted to £43,985, showing thus that the blessings of God were still upon the work and those who bore its burdens. During the years from 1900-1904 there was always a substantial balance on hand for the work, and at one time this balance ran to more than $57,000.
On January 29, 1905, after a long illness, Mr. Wright died in his seventy-ninth year and was buried near the spot where his father-in-law rested. During his life it was often supposed that he had a private source of income, so great were his gifts. But Mr. Bergin found the secret of his liberality.
“On examining his cash books,” Mr. Bergin wrote, “I discovered it was his regular habit to lay aside, of every gift he received...not a tenth, not a fifth, not a quarter, but a half. This large proportion did not satisfy him, for I found that out of what I may call his own half, he gave liberally, in addition to giving all the Lord’s portion.”
His total estate, counting personal effects and cash, amounted to $230. And his doctrine, “Owe no man anything,” was fulfilled, for all he owed were his doctor, the undertaker and the lawyer’s fee for proving his will.
Thus seven years after Mr. Muller’s death the active control of the Orphan Houses along with all the other labors of the Institution fell upon the shoulders of one who had not been connected with its founder. The public often wondered how the work would progress, and whether or not God would abundantly supply the needs as he had done heretofore.
It required $3,500 a week to operate the home alone, and during those first weeks often only half that amount came in, but when the 1905 books were balanced, they showed a surplus of $175, with a total income of £25,980.
Mr. Bergin knew but one way to proceed and that was the Muller-way of clinging to the Lord. “Put yourself if you can...in our position — over 1,900 orphan children to feed, clothe, and educate...and see how truly we had to look to, yea, cling to, our God, as the ivy clings to the oak tree, and is by it supported in the storm.”
Many were the miraculous answers to his prayers, as they had been to the prayers of the founder. On September 27, 1905, the Centenary of Mr. Muller’s birth was celebrated, and Mr. Bergin asked the Lord to supply 2,000 bananas for the children’s cakes. He sent to town to find out the price, and while the messenger was gone 4,000 bananas arrived. “So through God’s bounty, our children had two bananas each on the 27th, whereas I had only thought of one each — ‘exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think!’ ”
At the beginning of 1907 Mr. Bergin and his son, a physician, were riding in a Bristol street car when they saw a request for $12,500 for local medical charity. “I pointed it out to my son remarking that this was about what we needed and that the Lord could give us that sum without any public appeal.”
So in private and public prayer they asked God to send in these funds, and “It is worthy to note that during the fortnight ending yesterday (9th), while these appeals were facing us, He gave us £2,570 7s. 5 1/2d.” (or $350 more than they had asked for).
Large balances were at hand at the close of 1908 and 1909. The first year this balance was practically $24,000 and the second year it was $13,580. Since the institution was founded in 1834, until May, 1910, £1,820,675 were contributed for the various objects which Mr. Muller wrote into the first statement of the purpose of the work. In the twelve years since Mr. Muller’s death £363,522 came in as donations.
Some said that when George Muller passed to his heavenly reward the work would dwindle and finally die. But as long as faith remains the work will continue. Shortly again God was to bury a worker, but faith and the work were to carry on, proving as Mr. Muller often affirmed that the living God is living still.
Mr. Frederick Bergin had two sons, both of them doctors. His older son, Dr. G. F. Bergin, was associated with his father for several years, and in 1910 he passed to his reward. The blow was heavy to the father, so on June 1, 1910 he sent to London for his second son, Dr. William M. Bergin, to assist him.
This proved to be a happy partnership, which lasted, however only two years. For in 1912 the elder Bergin died, and left the work to his son. “The blow that fell upon the Institution on October 8, 1912,” writes Dr. Bergin, “was the heaviest it had ever sustained. When Mr. Muller was called Home, Mr. Wright had been his helper for over thirty-eight years. When Mr. Wright passed away to be with the Lord, Mr. Bergin had been seven years his colleague. But when my beloved father fell asleep, I had only been two years and four months assisting him...And I saw that if it should please God still to continue the work, it would evidently be a greater proof than ever that ‘God is still the living God, and today, as thousands of years ago, he answers the prayers of His believing children.’”
Dr. Bergin had assumed the active leadership only a few months when he took seriously ill, and felt that it would please the Lord to select someone to assist him in carrying the burdens of the Home. He sought God’s guidance in the matter, and the decision came that God’s choice was Alfred E. Green, a missionary for twenty years in the Straits Settlements, who then was waiting upon the Lord for guidance to return to his former labors.
When Dr. Bergin presented the thought to Mr. Green, he asked for time in which to seek the mind of the Spirit. Duly he came to the decision that this was to be God’s work henceforth for him. The association proved to be a happy one, for many years, until Dr. Bergin’s death on March 31, 1930. It was greatly crowned with God’s benedictions, for through those years every need was supplied.
“As ever, our appeals are made to God alone,” writes Mr. Green. “Very grave have been the circumstances of this country and of the world during these past years; but the resources of God are boundless, and he had maintained these Homes to witness...to his power and his willingness to answer believing prayer in every time of need.”
During the first World War when everything seemed darkest, God always arrived in time with a bounteous supply of the needs. While the banks closed, God sent in sufficient funds to purchase what might be necessary to feed the children.
On August 14, 1914, this entry is found in the Report: “These are the things which faced us this morning on one side, and on the other was our responsibility in caring for the 1,677 children today in these Homes, with also the 200 workers employed...But seeing that for three days (when the banks were closed) we shall not be able to draw any money from the bank, how shall we do? This is soon answered by the Lord, for one of the first letters to be opened contained a £100 Bank of England note, with the simple wording, ‘£100 for the Orphanage, from Bath.’...Altogether today we have nearly fifty gifts...and the total amounted to £172 13s. 7d. So indeed we thanked God and took courage.”
In the Report for 1916-15 Dr. Bergin made this statement, “So graciously has the Lord supplied our needs during the year that we conclude it with a balance of £12,016 7s. 6 1/2d.” During the year following the Lord graciously supplied all current needs so that this surplus was not touched, and Dr. Bergin states, “It seems to us as if He has been saying, ‘You see, my children, that though I did leave you a large balance, it was just as easy for Me to continue to supply all your needs as to allow you to draw upon your balance.’”
In January, 1917, it became necessary for the Home to buy their annual supply of oatmeal, which amounted to ten tons. They discovered the price was four times the pre-war price, and there was little money on hand for this purchase. After praying about the matter Dr. Bergin and Mr. Green decided it was God’s will for them to contract for the oatmeal.
“Almost the first letter opened at Ashley Down,” states Mr. Green, in recalling the incident, “contained a banker’s draft for £156 from Australia...Thus the Lord confirmed our faith by showing His ability to send us help in this time of need from the other end of the world.”
These wonderful provisions continued from God’s hand and even in the smallest details the Home was not overlooked however dark the conditions might have been. Once the government commandeered a $1,750 consignment of oatmeal from America, just at the time when the Home greatly needed the supply. The group of workers went to their knees in prayer, and soon God answered by the ringing of the telephone and a word from a government agent saying that shortly another supply would arrive, which they were to receive free of charge.
When the Armistice was signed, Dr. Bergin records that during those stressful years of war God did not suffer them to want. They finished the war years with a surplus of more than $17,500 in their treasury. “Well may we rejoice to ‘talk of all his wondrous works,’ and show how practical a thing it is to trust in the ‘Living God,’ ” says Dr. Bergin.
On March 18, 1922, God sent the largest single gift ever to be received in the long history of the work in the form of a donation from the United States of $45,000. A simple statement accompanied the money, saying, “Please accept this slight token in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yours by grace only.”
On the 29th of the same month another check for $6,135.67 arrived. About this Dr. Bergin writes, “Surely we are proving that our God is able to open the windows of heaven for us.” During the four days of April 24-27, God sent in a total of more than $50,000, or £12,296.
The happy relation of Mr. Green and Dr. Bergin was broken by the doctor’s death on March 31, 1930. His last days had been times of severe suffering, but through the pain his faith triumphed. In this distressful time Mr. Green selected his brother-in-law, Thomas Tilsley, to be his colleague in carrying on the work.
The latest Report of the Institution was issued in 1939, giving the income for the year 1938-39. This showed a total income for the Orphanage fund of £34,322 8s. 9d. There was also a balance on hand of £7 124s. 9 1/2d. Thus God, the Living God, has been able to supply all the needs of the Home. The Report concludes:
“Without anyone having been personally applied to by us for a donation, £2,369,747 12s. 8 3/4d. has been received for the Orphans, as a result of prayer to God, since the commencement of the work, which sum includes the amount received for the Building Fund for the five Houses. Besides this, articles of clothing, furniture, etc., and of food have been given in great variety for the use of the Orphans.”
To this must be added another £507,499 which has been donated for other phases of the work. From the sale of Bibles came £35,341, and of tracts and books an additional £68,963, and by payment of children in the day schools the sum of £25,377. For the free distribution of the Autobiography of Mr. Muller there has been received £539 7s.
“Thus it will be seen that up to the present time the Report continues, “the Living God has sent in answer to prayer £3,007,469 12s. 3d.”
The present director of the Houses, Mr. Alfred Green, comments on this figure, “Think quietly over that large figure. And consider whether Mr. Muller has not been fully justified in his setting out, in a path of utter dependence upon God alone, to give a visible proof that God would show Himself to be still the Living God.”
Humanly speaking it is utterly impossible to think of this amount of money being received without asking anyone for a contribution. The total money thus received during 105 years since Mr. Muller founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution is the staggering sum of $15,037,348.
Looking into the future Mr. Green and Mr. Tilsley asked the Lord to raise up another assistant to help in carrying the heavy load of the Institution and the Lord made clear his choice in the person of John McCready. A lengthy career in banking combined with the necessary spiritual qualifications of a love for the Bible as well as sincere faith mark him as God’s man for this hour of stress.
The selection of workers to carry on the Institution is most important, for as one falls by the wayside a younger one must assume the responsibility for the Houses and other objects of the Institution. Since the chain of prayer must remain unbroken, it would be a calamity to appoint one not evidently called of God and set apart for the work of being a successor to Mr. Muller, the man of trust.
These war days, once again upon England, will prove hard for the Orphanage. But the living God is living still as He was during the fateful period of 1914-18, at which time each Report showed God had not only sent the necessary funds for the work, but had also provided a yearly surplus.
The shadow of Mr. Muller lengthens into the future. The work he founded continues to carry Gospel truth to the ends of the earth. Though present with the Lord his influence increases with the passing days. This man of trust stands as an example of what God will do with one who is fully consecrated to Him.
Taken from "George Muller - The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller
The Evening of His Life
AFTER THE missionary tours closed in May, 1892, Mr. Muller devoted himself mainly to caring for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. He assumed as large a burden for the work as ever, though the heavy end rested mainly upon Mr. Wright’s shoulders. As an old man, he was an active servant in his Master’s vineyard.
There was his congregation at Bethesda to be looked after. This congregation had grown from the original seven Christians, who met on a memorable evening in 1832 to form a church, to ten churches now with a membership of more than 1,200. Out of the original church had sprung ten others, six of which were independent of the mother church, and four being affiliated with it.
Mr. Muller took turns with others in preaching on Sunday mornings to the several congregations, but Sunday evenings he preached mainly at Bethesda, where he usually addressed large audiences. He was also faithful in attending the various prayer meetings as time afforded. Occasionally he was invited to speak outside of Bristol, though he did not make these into extended preaching tours as formerly.
He was an active, happy old man, whose pleasure was found in caring for the work of the Lord. More and more he gave himself to his chief delight, that of reading the Bible and while meditating upon it, bringing his petitions to the Lord. During the latter years of his life he read the Bible through four times yearly.
In his sermons he spoke with the vigor of a younger man. A. T. Pierson heard him speak on Sunday morning March 22, 1896, in the Bethesda Chapel. This was in his ninety-first year, “but there was a freshness, vigor and terseness in his preaching that gave no indication of failing powers; in fact, he had never seemed more fitted to express and impress the thoughts of God,” writes Mr. Pierson.
In his younger years he was often ill, but these spells seemed to leave him as he advanced in age. In 1837 he feared he should go insane, so great was the pressure in his head, and often his stomach gave him severe trouble. In his ninety-second year he wrote in his Report, “I have been able every day, and all the day, to work, and that with ease as seventy years since.”
When called upon to speak to the largest audiences during his missionary tours and on returning home to the Bethesda congregation he had no difficulty whatsoever.
On his ninetieth birthday, when he spoke to the Bethesda congregation, he remarked that his voice and chest were stronger than when he commenced preaching sixty-nine years earlier.
“His mental powers too were as clear as when he passed his examinations,” writes Fred Warne. “For sixty-nine years and ten months he had been a happy man. That he attributed to two things. Firstly, he had maintained a good conscience, not willfully going on a course he knew to be contrary to the mind of God...Secondly, to his love of the Holy Scriptures.”
He was a greater lover of the Bible at ninety than at thirty. It grew upon him with age. In it he found his supreme pleasure and daily he waited upon the Lord as the Word spoke to him.
During these last years, as he had been throughout his long life, he was a hard worker. He always arose at an early hour, spending several hours with the Bible, and at eight he went through his correspondence. After this he received his assistants and laid out much of their work.
In 1892 a reporter from the Christian Commonwealth, who had called upon Mr. Muller, wrote, “I was prepared to see a venerable-looking gentleman, bent beneath the weight of years, and physically feeble. To my surprise I found Mr. Muller in appearance a man of considerable bodily vigor. His tall, stately form was, as far as I observed, not in the least bowed by age, and when he afterwards accompanied me along the corridor his step was firm and his stride lengthy and rapid. His face wears an expression of austerity, and his strongly-marked features show that he is...a man of iron. Yet he knows how to smile, and when he does this, you see quite another aspect of his nature...His manners are those of a prince. He speaks with great deliberation, with a noticeable German accent.
“Here is a man 87 years of age still carrying on with his own hand certainly one of the most remarkable organizations in the history of the world. An idea of the extent of his work may be gathered from the fact that he has, so he told me, seven assistants for correspondence alone.”
Nor were those last years easy. There were heavy burdens to be borne. The trials of faith were as great as ever. On March 1, 1893, as an example of his difficulties, he entered in his Journal, “The income during this week was £92 8s. 8d., for the Orphans, and £9 11s. 2d. for the other objects; being about the sixth part of our weekly expenses; but now the great trial of our faith was nearly brought to a close, as will presently be seen.”
Three days later, he wrote, “This very day God begins to answer our prayers, as we have received a very good offer for the land we have to sell, even £1,000 an acre. The beginning of the day was darker as to outward appearances than ever: but we trusted in God for help.”
Mr. Muller received a heavy blow when his wife died on January 13, 1895. While he was to miss her, there was no evidence of loneliness to be displayed; for he found comfort in his daily communing with God for the needs of the Institution. The heavenly Father stood by his side through this great trial.
He preached the funeral of his second wife, as he had of his first. Seldom does a man of ninety conduct such a service. The faith that sustained him in other trials upheld him in this one also.
“I had an opportunity on last Friday,” writes one who attended the funeral, “of attending the funeral services of Mrs. Muller...and witnessing a simple ceremony, which, perhaps was unique in the history of the world. Here the venerable and venerated patriarch conducted the whole service, and at the age of ninety seemed full of grand faith which has enabled him to accomplish so much and support him in all vicissitudes, trials and labors of a long life...
“His faith seemed unmoved by trial, undimmed by age, and proof against the keenest bereavement...He seemed independent of all the outside means which so many now deem essential to worship. Here we have an object lesson on faith by a man who has erected on Ashley Down such splendid monuments of his belief.”
The following year when Mr. A. T. Pierson was holding meetings in Bristol, he asked Father Muller, as he called him, to speak at the closing meeting of the series, “and he did so, delivering a powerful address of forty-five minutes on Prayer in connection with Missions, and giving his own life-story in part, with a vigor of voice and manner that seemed a denial of his advanced age.”
Toward the close of his life, doctors advised Mr. Muller to preach only once on Sunday, so accordingly he spoke usually in the morning services at Bethesda Chapel. Mr. Pierson, who heard him preach on March 22, 1896, at the Chapel, said, “He spoke on the 77th Psalm; of course he found here his favorite theme — prayer; and, taking that as a fair specimen of his average preaching, he was certainly a remarkable expositor of the Scripture even at ninety-one years of age.”
In the autumn of 1897 he was invited to attend the Birmingham meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Due to an indisposition, he asked to be excused from attending, saying, “Will you have the kindness to read to the meeting that I have been for 68 years and 3 months, viz., since July, 1829, a lover of the Word of God, and that uninterruptedly. During that time I have read considerably more than 100 times through the whole of the Old and New Testaments, with prayer and meditation, four times every year.”
It is estimated that he read the Bible through more than two hundred times, one hundred of these times being, as he here suggests, on his knees.
“My great love for the Word of God,” the letter continues, “and my deep conviction of the need of its being spread far and wide, have led me to pray to God to use me as an instrument to do this, and to supply me with means for it; and He has condescended to enable me to circulate the Scriptures in all parts of the earth, and in various languages; and has been pleased thus, simply through reading of the Holy Scriptures, to bring thousands of persons to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.”
But to all lives there must come an end, and this grand old man of faith was nearing that time. For him it was literally light at eventide. His days were to end simply and graciously. Like Enoch he walked with God, and “he was not, for God took him.”
In the summer of 1897, the heat was trying, and he was set aside from labors through a short illness. His condition, thought to be critical, soon improved and he was able to be about his usual duties, preaching once a Sunday, attending a few prayer meetings, and overseeing with Mr. Wright the needs of the Home.
On Sunday morning prior to his death, he preached at the Alma Road Chapel. Then at evening he preached again at his beloved home church, the Bethesda Chapel, at which he had ministered for 66 years. His text was from 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
This proved to be a gracious service, attended with the usual quiet of the Lord’s leadership, and the text was rightly selected and fittingly so to close a long life of Christian labors.
On the following Monday evening, March 7, 1898, he attended the weekly prayer meeting at Bethesda Chapel, and greeted all of his friends with his customary geniality. On Wednesday he received at Orphan House No. 3 two friends from the National Free Church Conference then in session at Bristol.
Mr. Muller would never allow anyone personally to attend him during the night. Only when a doctor was needed would he permit such medical care. But on this Wednesday morning in speaking with Mr. Wright, he told him that he felt a weakness, saying when he arose that morning he had to rest several times while dressing.
Mr. Wright suggested that he ought to have someone in constant attendance on him and God’s grand old man replied that possibly this would be a good suggestion.
An hour or so later, when Mr. Wright saw him again, Muller said, “The weakness has passed away; I feel quite myself again.”
“You ought to take a longer rest in the morning,” suggested Mr. Wright. But Mr. Muller pointed out how heavy the correspondence was, and thought that this would be impossible, for he always looked after the correspondence himself.
Mr. Wright proposed that he himself arrive at the Orphan Homes earlier to meet any emergencies that might arise. He added, “Suppose I begin tomorrow morning.”
“We will say nothing about tomorrow,” Mr. Muller replied with a deprecatory gesture.
That evening he conducted prayer meeting at the Institution as his custom was. He gave out the hymn, beginning:
The countless multitude on High
Who tune their Songs to Jesus’ name, All merit of their own deny,
And Jesus, worth alone proclaim.
The last hymn he ever sang, as far as any one knows, was this, sung as a benediction to the service,
We’ll sing of the Shepherd that died, That died for the sake of the flock;
His Love to the utmost was tried, And immovable stood as a rock.
When he bade his son-in-law good-night there was no sign of declining strength. He seemed to the last the vigorous old man he had always been and retired to rest as usual. Mr. Wright suggested that he have a night-attendant and Mr. Muller consented to such an arrangement “after tonight.” He was never more to need human attention.
The following morning, March 10, a servant went to his room with a cup of tea, as was the custom. On knocking at the door there was no response, so she opened the door and found Mr. Muller lying on the floor. For some time as body strength began to wane, Mr. Muller asked for a glass of milk and a biscuit to be placed on his dressing table. “Whilst eating the biscuit, he was, it is surmised, seized with a fainting fit, from which he never recovered, and in falling he must have clutched at the table, for the cloth was disarranged and various articles were found scattered upon the floor,” says Fred Warne in his biography.
His doctor was summoned, who thought possibly that Mr. Muller had been dead an hour or so.
“Dear old Mr. Muller,” exclaimed a friend when the news reached him. “He just slipped quietly off Home as the gentle Master opened the door and whispered, ‘Come.’ ”
His death even at such an old age produced a worldwide sensation. The spiritual forces created by his godly life of trust had reached the earth’s ends. From across the waters toward the sunrise and the sunset came a responsive heartbeat of sympathy. People were stirred when the news went forth by telegraph and cable from land to land that George Muller was dead. He was measured by no denominational bonds for he belonged to the whole Church and the entire world. The race sustained a loss in his death.
The golden chain of prayer that Mr. Muller’s life of trust had woven finally was snapped. God, he estimated, had answered over fifty thousand of his prayers, many thousands of which were answered on the day he made them and often before he arose from his knees. Some of his petitions, however, lingered across the decades. Here is a sample of such asking...
“In November, 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a 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 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 passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remained 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 in which they were offered has been praying day by day for nearly thirty-six years for the conversion of these individuals, and yet they remain unconverted. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.”
This was the faith that carried him through every straitened place. He met emergencies by asking and in due time God supplied whatever the need might be.
Those prayers? you ask. In 1897, those two men, sons of a friend of Mr. Muller’s youth, were not converted, after he had entreated God in their behalf for fifty-two years daily. But after his death God brought them into the fold! Such was this man’s triumphant faith, whatever the difficulty. If God answered his prayer immediately, he thanked him. If not, he kept on importuning the Lord until the response came. That voice of prayer was now stilled.
The funeral took place on Monday, March 14, and was a popular tribute of affection. A brief service was held at Orphan House No. 3, where over a thousand children met, for the last time to look into the face of the father they had lost. The casket of plain elm, without drapery of flowers, stood before a desk in the spacious dining room, and Mr. Wright conducted the service, speaking on Mr. Muller’s life and labors.
Among those attending was an old lady who called to see the man who in her youth had befriended her. She was one of the first orphans to be received in the Girls’ Home on Wilson Street, sixty years before. There were four present who walked from Wilson Street to the new Ashley Down house on moving day in June, 1849 with the other inmates of the Institution.
Slowly the procession formed in front of Ashley Down and thousands entered it to walk or drive in carriages to the Bethesda Chapel. His staff of workers, the elders and deacons in his churches, deputations from forty or fifty religious bodies, and thousands of friends marched in stately file to perform the last rights to this man to whom they owed a valuable lesson in faith.
At the chapel every available space was taken and scores were forced to remain outside. The hymns were sung which Mr. Muller had given out in his last prayer meeting and Mr. Wright spoke on the text, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”
“He was wont to say to the young believers,” Mr. Wright declared, “ ‘Put your finger on the passage on which your faith rests’ and he himself had read the Bible from end to end nearly two hundred times. He fed on the Word and was therefore strong...
“I have been asked again and again lately as to whether the orphan work would go on. It is going on! Since the commencement of the year we have received between forty and fifty fresh orphans...The other four objects of the Institution, according to the ability God gives, are still being carried on...I cannot think, however, that the God Who has so blessed the work for so long will leave our prayers as to the future unanswered.”
After the service, the procession re-formed and went to the Arno Vale Cemetery, where another crowd had collected. The grave where Mr. Muller’s body was buried was an ordinary one on the slope of a hill, under the shade of a yew tree, and was by the side of his first and second wives. Mr. G. F. Bergin spoke from the words, “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
The crowd gathered around to view for the last time the coffin on which was inscribed, “George Muller, fell asleep 10th March, 1898, in his 93rd year.”
In every pulpit in Bristol and in thousands across the world on the Sunday before the burial, memorial services were conducted and loving tributes were offered in memory of this man of trust. Friends wanted to erect an expensive monument over his grave but this Mr. Wright would not permit. Later gifts from many orphans flowed in and a simple marker was erected therefore, on which was a tribute of love to this man who through faith had cared for about ten thousand orphans.
His monument was not to be in marble, but in the hearts of loving followers, many of whom had preceded him to Heaven — the thousands of orphans he had fed and clothed — the multitudes who had been taught in Sunday schools due to his prayer diligence — those brought to the Master on mission fields through workers who had been supported by his prayer generosity — and the millions who had read the Scriptures and tracts which his faith provided.
This is a monument more lasting than granite, a monument eternal in the heavens.
Gifts and Giving
THE SUM total of Mr. Muller’s life was giving. He gave himself in prayer that in return God might give the necessary supplies, not only for his own family, but also for the large family of orphans. Basing his life upon receiving from God, in return he practiced the art of liberality. Since God gave to him through faith he must also be among those who were faithful givers.
Even the texts that influenced him most were those on giving and receiving. Throughout his “Narrative” you will find these passages boldly across the pages. Early he and his wife were led to that scripture, “Sell that ye have and give alms” (Luke 12:33). This was to be the course of their lives. They were to be sellers and givers.
The Lord, speaking through His Word, said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do...” (John 14:13). And Mr. Muller based his work upon this promise, asking largely that the Father might be glorified.
Since God had told him to open his mouth Mr. Muller never feared to ask for whatever his work must have. To him this promise was the foundation of all spiritual and temporal success. Like a bird, he opened his mouth and the Lord filled it with the supply of all financial needs.
In Genesis he loved the name Jehovah Jirah, for it meant the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14). Grandly did God give the provisions for the Institution and his Orphan Houses.
From the first records of Mr. Muller’s donations, we find him giving on a large scale. During the first year of his life of trust (1831) he received £151 in answer to prayer; but he gave away £50 of that sum. During the second year he gave £70 out of an income of £195. His income for 1833 was £267 brought in through faith, and his gifts amounted to £110.
This giving and receiving kept pace with each other during the long years of his career. For the ten years from 1836 to 1845 his income from all sources was approximately £3,400 and through faith he placed back into the Lord’s work about £1,280. During the following decade his yearly income was about £500 and for the same time he gave over half of this sum away. His gifts for that decade amounted to £2,660.
From 1856 to 1865 his income amounted to £10,670, over $50,000 total, and out of this he devoted £8,250, or a total sum of $41,250, to God’s work. Out of £20,500, received from 1866 to 1875, he turned back to Christian endeavors, nearly an average of £1,800 a year. During the next ten years, the last of which a direct record is available, he gave away £22,330 from an income of £26,000, which left him the sum of £3,670 to live on for a period of ten years, or a little over $1,800 a year. And it must be remembered that this decade — 1876 to 1885 — was devoted to extensive missionary travels, which constituted a heavy drain on his personal finances.
These donations came to him through faith alone, and he recognized that he must be the channel through which God’s gifts should flow out to others in need. He looked upon himself as the Lord’s steward. What money he received he believed should be given rather than hoarded.
A crippled woman, who through the years was a constant though a small giver to the orphanage work, expressed Mr. Muller’s philosophy of living and giving. She began giving a penny a week out of her earnings toward the care of the orphans, and the Lord blessed her so much that she was able to raise her weekly gift to six shillings, or a dollar and a half. One gift she wrapped in a piece of paper, on which she had written: “Give; give; give — be ever giving. If you are living, you will be giving. Those who are not giving are not living.”
The total amount Mr. Muller gave away out of his private funds amounted to approximately $180,000 from the year 1831 to November,
1877. This it must be recalled came out of a poor trustful man’s penury. He had only what he prayed in from day to day.
The Fifty-ninth Report of the Institution, issued May 26, 1898, immediately after Mr. Muller’s death, reveals a very interesting item concerning this servant’s method of giving. Year by year in the annual Reports there were frequent entries of gifts “from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven.”
Mr. Wright, who succeeded Mr. Muller as head of the Institution, checked those entries, and found that this servant had given up to March 1, 1898, the aggregate sum of eighty-one thousand four hundred and ninety pounds, eighteen shillings and eight pence.
“That servant was none other than Mr. Muller himself, who gave out of his own money more than sixty-four thousand five hundred pounds to the Scriptural Knowledge Institution alone, and to other individuals and organizations seventeen thousand more. It seems inconceivable that a poor man should thus give more than $407,450 to the work of God.
There is no other case on record of such magnificent gifts coming from a humbled servant of the Lord. It is estimated that John Wesley gave away nearly $150,000 to spread the cause of Christianity. When Wesley died he left behind him a well-worn frock coat, two silver teaspoons — and the Methodist Church.
When Mr. Muller died his entire personal estate amounted to £169 9s. 4d., approximately $850, of which his household effects, books, furniture, etc., amounted to well over $500. The only money in his possession was actually about $350. He died a poor man, though the Lord had entrusted to his hands well over a half-million dollars.
George Muller looked upon himself as God’s steward. One of the texts which influenced him was, “Give and it shall be given unto you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give unto your bosom.”
He believed and saw this promise bountifully verified. “I had given,” he testified, “and God caused to be given to me again and bountifully.”
He affirms that he believed what he read in the Bible, and acted accordingly. Though acting on God’s promises, and rejecting the offer of a stated salary of £55 a year, God literally gave him a fortune...a fortune which he shared with those in need.
Out of this overflow of experience in giving, Mr. Muller had very definite thoughts on giving. Giving to him was the heart of the Christian life...give self in full surrender to God, and out of what God gives return to Him liberal gifts. This was his giving philosophy. Let us read and heed some of his advice on this subject.
“Many of the children of God,” he affirms, “lose in a great measure the privilege, and also the blessing to their own souls, of communicating to the Lord s work to the necessities of the poor, for want of a regular habit of giving.”
When asked, “How shall I give?” Mr. Muller responded:
On the score of the method of giving, Mr. Muller was often asked, “How shall I put aside my gifts? Must I actually separate this money from my other money?”
“That is the simplest,” he answered, “and in many respects the best way...A memorandum book may be kept, in which on one side is entered what is put aside for the Lord, to be expended on the poor, or for other benevolent and religious purposes, and on the other side may be put down what has been expended, and from time to time a balance may be struck. The amount thus put aside for the Lord is of course faithfully to be used for Him, else it would be mocking God; and therefore, instead of obtaining a blessing, it would rather be a curse.”
“Am I to give with the idea of being repaid by the Lord?” a friend asked this man of prayer.
“Though we should never give,” he responded, “for the sake of being repaid by the Lord, still, this will be the case, if we give from right motives. It is God’s own declaration that it will be so. This is plainly to be gathered from the following passages...‘Give, and it shall be given unto you.’...‘He that hath pity on the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will He pay him again.’“
This giving, Mr. Muller was careful to explain, must be to the Lord and not unto man. Man may be the recipient, but with a humble heart gifts must be scattered abroad, not for the praise of man, but for the blessings of God upon the giver’s body and soul.
From his own experience and through the many letters he received he was well able to give testimony as to the blessing which comes from systematic giving.
“I enclose a Post Office Order for £5,” writes an Irish manufacturer, “which by the blessing of Almighty God, I am enabled to send you this year. You will no doubt remember that the first sum I sent to you was 5s., I think now four years ago; and, indeed at that time it was a large sum for me to send...
“For some years previous to the time I sent you the first amount I was at times much perplexed over the subject of giving; and the end of my reasoning was always that a person so straitened in circumstances as I was then, was not called upon to give. I kept this opinion until one of your Reports fell into my hands, and from the accounts contained therein, was encouraged to send you the first amount of 5s. Soon after I thought my circumstances got somewhat easier...I have proved that just as I give the Lord gives in return...I sometimes withheld when I ought not, and just as I withheld, the Lord in His infinite mercy withheld also...But above all, I have to thank God that my spiritual condition is much improved since I began to give.”
“Since I began to devote a regular proportion of my earnings to the cause of God,” wrote a donor from Orkney, whose gift amounted to $15, “He has, I rejoice to say, greatly increased both my ability and desire to do so.”
One man sent Mr. Muller a Paisley shawl, worth about $25, and with the gift enclosed a note, saying, “It is now about ten years since I first adopted the principle of proportionate giving...Prior to that I used to wonder, with every sovereign I gave, whether I was not doing more than was prudent, and the result was I had little pleasure in giving. Now, however, having been greatly prospered in business, I find myself able to give fourfold what I did, and can understand better what is meant by the blessedness of giving...The adoption of the principle of proportionate giving has enabled me on the one hand to guide my affairs with discretion, and on the other to refrain from ‘robbing God.’ ”
“Mr. Muller was a stickler for obtaining gifts in God’s way. “It is not enough,’ he says, “to obtain means for the work of God, but that these means should be obtained in God’s way. To ask unbelievers for means is not God’s way, to press even believers to give is not God’s way; but the duty and the privilege of being allowed to contribute to the work of God should be pointed out, and this should be followed up with earnest prayer, believing prayer, and will result in the desired end.”
This is a plan which he practiced throughout his life. Not once, even when asked to do so, did he ever tell anyone how pressing or how great were the needs. He always told this to the Lord, and expected God to move upon someone to supply those needs.
He often thought that giving in adversity would prove a greater blessing than giving in prosperity. Giving in adversity, when needs were pressing, shows that one truly trusts in God for supplying his daily needs, while giving in prosperity places upon the giver no particular hardship.
He never hoarded, for when one hoards, he affirms, God would send him to his laid-up treasures rather than to his knees in the time of need. “I have every reason to believe,” he testifies, “that, had I begun to lay up, the Lord would have stopped the supplies...Let no one profess to trust in God, and yet lay up for the future wants, otherwise the Lord will first send him to the hoard he has amassed, before he can answer the prayer for more.”
Even to the smallest items, Mr. Muller believed that he was God’s steward. He did not think that he owned, or possessed anything only as they came as gifts from the Lord to be used for God’s service.
“It is the Lord’s order,” he observes, “that, in whatever way He is pleased to make us His stewards, whether as to temporal or spiritual things, if we are indeed acting as stewards and not as owners, he will make us stewards over more...
“Even in this life, as to temporal things, the Lord is pleased to repay those who act for Him as stewards...But how much greater is the spiritual blessing we receive, both in this life and in the life to come, if constrained by the love of Christ, we act as God’s stewards, respecting that with which He is pleased to intrust us.”
God richly supplied Mr. Muller with donations of all kinds and descriptions. Money was sent in from practically every possible source and of all types. Some gifts were large, running into the thousands of dollars, and others were for a penny. Some sent bread, others shoes. Some felt constrained of the Lord to sell articles of furniture and give the money to Mr. Muller for his orphans. Jewelry by the thousands of dollars worth was sent to be sold for the work.
Autographs were given to be sold, as that of William IV, and Sir Robert Peel. One man sent a silver medal which he had won in helping take Java in battle. Another delivered a horsecar to be disposed of, and a lady sent some of her original hymns to be published for the benefit of the orphans.
When needs were pressing, Mr. Muller would call the staff together for prayer, and often on getting off their knees, dray wagons would be seen backing up to the kitchen door, loaded with buns, bread, apples, cakes, potatoes, boxes of soap, sacks of peas, haunches of venison, rabbits and pheasants, and every other conceivable edible article.
“During the last year of Mr. Muller’s life among the gifts recorded were 7,203 quarterns of bread; 5,222 buns, 306 cakes; 44,669 pounds of apples; 40 sacks of potatoes; 20 boxes of soap; 9 tons of coal; 26 haunches of venison; 112 rabbits; 312 pheasants; 5 bags of oatmeal; 26 cases of oranges; 5 boxes of dates; and 4,013 pounds of meat, along with hundreds of other items.
From the time when Mr. Muller received the first gift of a shilling from a poor missionary to start the orphanage until he made one of his last entries in his Journal on March 1, 1898, God sent from all types of persons gifts small and great to carry on the work.
On March 1, 1898, he wrote, “For about 21 months with scarcely the least intermission the trial of our faith and patience has continued. Now, today, the Lord has refreshed our heart. This afternoon came in, for the Lord’s work, £1,427 1s. 7d., as part payment of a legacy of the late Mrs. E. C. S. For 3 years and 10 months this money had been in the Irish Chancery Court. Hundreds of petitions had been brought before the Lord regarding it, and now at last, this portion of the total legacy has been received.”
His first legacy, from a sick lad who died shortly afterwards, was for the sum of six shillings, sixpence, halfpenny, received on September 15, 1837. In between these two legacies were thousands of gifts.
In May, 1842, a gold watch was sent to the orphanage, with a note, saying, “A pilgrim does not want such a watch as this to make him happy; one of an inferior kind will do to show how swiftly time flies, and how fast he is hastening on to that Canaan where time will be no more.”
A hotel proprietor sent 15s. 10d., representing a penny a night per bed for each visitor during the quarter. One person sent £2 16s., as a tenth of the rent received “as promised to God.” A commercial traveler wrote Mr. Muller enclosing £4 16s. which he had saved by traveling third class. One man about to be married sent $10 in thanks to God for His mercies while being single.
A man lost half of his property, and was led to send Mr. Muller $500 as a thank offering because God had spared the other half of his property. A friend sold pickles and made $3 which immediately he sent to Mr. Muller as a gift for the care of the orphans.
One person, after cutting down a tree and selling it, sent the Home £5 17s., from the sale of the wood. A little boy found a ring and on delivering it to its rightful owner, he received a shilling, which he took to Mr. Muller as his gift. A miner lay dying one day, and all he had left was a little gold dust which he at once caused to be dispatched to the orphanage.
A lady, being condemned for wearing earrings, sold them and gave the Institution the proceeds, amounting to $5. A poor widow died, and when her possessions were carefully gone through, a shilling was found in an envelope addressed to Mr. Muller as her last gift. A friend of the Home gave up smoking one year, and at the end of that time sent Mr. Muller $100, “a gift representing what I have saved by not smoking during this year.”
God gave a fisherman a good herring catch one night and immediately he sent Mr. Muller $15 to be used for the Home, as a token of heaven’s blessings. A hunter one season decided to forego his usual hunting trip, the license for which amounted to $15, and instead he sent the money to the Home. “This way of spending it is more pleasing to the Master,” he wrote.
A commercial traveler decided not to insure against railway accidents and sent the same premium money amounting to £2 to the Institution.
One day Muller received a letter enclosing $15 saying, “I have never lost an article, although my premises are so situated that they might be easily entered at night, thus showing how the Lord watches over those who trust in Him.” The gift represented the money which a watch dog would have cost. Another person sent $25 “instead of keeping a dog, in the hope that some poor heathen may be brought to the knowledge of the Savior.”
Many gifts came as thank offerings for calamities which were averted. A veterinary surgeon, while attending a sick horse, had given it up for dead, but after he had prayed the animal recovered, so he sent Mr. Muller a gift. Another person, who broke his left arm, sent a small gift in thanks to God that he had not broken his right arm, or some more vital part such as his neck.
One father made it a practice of giving to the Home the exact amount it would require to care for an orphan each time a child was born in his family. This continued until the man was supporting seven children at home and seven children at Ashley Down.
A farmer sent a note to Mr. Muller with a gift of $5 saying, “Our heavenly Father has given us 34 chickens, and not one of them has been taken by the fox, although our neighbors have lost many.”
The gifts were too many to enumerate them all, but they were prompted by every possible circumstance. Many restored thefts committed years earlier. Some thanked God for His blessings upon their married life. Not a few manufacturers gave a small gift for each article sold during a specified period. Others gave thank offerings for stolen or lost property recovered.
In 1851 Mr. Muller received a gift of $1.25, with the text, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” That evening he entered in his Journal, “My mouth has been filled, according to that portion of the Holy Scriptures sent me this morning. I have received this evening the sum of £3,000, being the largest donation I have had as yet.”
Thus from year to year did God supply the needs out of thousands of bountiful storehouses which were consecrated to his work. Then a need existed Mr. Muller would pray diligently for it, and shortly nearby or thousands of miles distant, God would put it in the heart of some person to supply it. For more than sixty-three years God matched every petition of Mr. Muller with its appropriate gift.
Trials of Faith
THE BUILDING of Mr. Muller’s spiritual life was a constant conflict. While outwardly he displayed a calm attitude toward circumstances, inwardly he battled to obtain this seeming peace. During the earlier years of his faith pilgrimage his battles were more severe and came more often upon him to block that upward climb toward spiritual serenity. He laid the foundation for his prayer life by facing the obstacles in the way of communion with God.
A lack of prayer is more evident during the first years following his conversion than later, since the habit had to be built by diligence. It was by no means an immediate acquisition with him. For instance, while yet a student at Halle, following his spiritual awakening, he decided to leave for the University of Berlin. At once the Spirit checked him for making up his mind with such a burst of speed and not seasoning it with prayer. He says, “When the morning came on which I had to apply to the university for testimonials, the Lord graciously stirred me up prayerfully to consider the matter.”
After prayer he discovered that it was not God’s will for him to make the change. While this was an insignificant incident, still it taught him that his decisions must not be made without carefully considering them in the light of partnership with God. Later in his work there were to be many incidents where he was to be checked by the Lord in setting out on a certain course without first laying it before God.
His assurance that a course was right was founded upon this necessity, which he learned at Halle, of not undertaking an action without seasons of waiting upon God for His sanction.
At about this time, early in 1826, he learned another lesson which was to be used in toughening the fiber of his soul. That concerned itself with Bible reading. Being converted, he did not read his Bible, though he read about the Bible extensively. He was to master this lesson in faith’s curriculum before God trusted him with many answers to his prayers.
“My difficulty in understanding it (the Bible), and the little enjoyment I had in reading it, made me careless in reading it...”
This was in 1826, but when sixteen years of his spiritual warfare had passed, he discovered that a radical change in the method of conducting the spiritual ministrations with his own soul brought added victories. His conflicts within and without were great. He writes, “Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to prayer after having dressed myself in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, that my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved.”
Those prayer sessions, when he bared his soul to God, were times of confession. “The result is,” he states, “that there is always a good deal of confession...”
When the London Society accepted him as a missionary, one of the conditions was that he would study with them for six months. This brought him great disappointment. In 1828, he assures us, “For a few moments, therefore, I was greatly disappointed and tried.” These trials and discouragements, which circumstances and conditions brought him, were to be a constant companion of his entire Christian endeavor.
So great were his victories of faith that we are prone to believe that Mr. Muller was ever tried, and so many his answers to prayer that he was ever disappointed when the reply did not come shortly from God. Such is far from the truth.
On March 7, 1831, he says, “I was again tempted to disbelieve the faithfulness of the Lord, and though I was not miserable, still, I was not so fully resting upon the Lord that I could triumph with joy.” He was in dire need and it seemed that God had forgotten him. Shortly however he assures us that joy returned with the answer to his cry in the form of a gift of five sovereigns.
Seven years later this same trial overwhelmed him. On September 17, 1838, he writes, “This evening I was rather tried respecting the long delay of larger sums coming...” When he closed the following year he refers to “the trials of faith during the year,” but adds, “Should it be supposed...by anyone in reading the details of our trials of faith during the year...that we have been disappointed in our expectations or discouraged in the work, my answer is...such days were expected from the commencement...Our desire is not that we may be without trials of faith, but that the Lord graciously be pleased to support us in the trial.”
He also refers to “the deeper trials of his faith,” those things that really disturbed him and kept his mind wandering during seasons of meditation. This was a constant battle with him.
From these occasions of conflict he found release in going to his knees in prayer. “When other trials, still greater,” he states, “but which I cannot mention, have befallen me...I poured out my soul before God, and arose from my knees in peace.” This was his method of breaking Satan’s hold upon his life in the hours of battle.
There were occasions when everything was dark in outlook. Not all was light, nor were all of his days free from those harassing conditions which Christians face. “When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark...judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair had I looked at things after the outward appearances...I have sought to encourage myself by laying hold in faith on God’s almighty power, His unchangeable love, and His infinite wisdom.”
A few years later he received a great disappointment when a letter arrived from a sister saying she was unable to send the large sums she had promised. Muller realized shortly that he had placed his trust in the promise of the lady and not in the promise of God. God spoke to him softly, he says, through the passage, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Immediately peace was restored to his troubled soul.
Mr. Muller was anxious that none who read his “Narrative” or came into contact with God’s dealings with him would think that he were not in spiritual need all the time. He refers to this being in constant need more than twenty years after he first began to trust God for his daily supplies. And these needs were not merely of a financial nature — in fact, he had more immediate freedom from financial worries, or present victory over his heavy financial burdens than over his other more personal “needs.”
He was subject to constant temptation along lines of appearing insincere, or of being proud over what God had done through him.
He writes, under the stress of such spiritual problems often arising in his soul, “I am in continual need...If left to myself I should fall a prey to Satan. Pride, unbelief or other sins would be my ruin. I cannot stand for a moment if left to myself. Oh, that none of my readers might think that I could not be puffed up by pride, and think of me as being beyond unbelief...No, I am as weak as ever.” In 1848 he added, “I need as much as ever to be upheld as to faith and every other grace. I am therefore in ‘need,’ in great ‘need,’ and therefore, dear Christian readers, help me with your prayers.”
To assure us that he was not beyond trial, he said, “Straits and difficulties I expected from the beginning...Therefore the longer I go on in this service, the greater the trials of one kind or another become.”
He faced his weak moments as everyone does. Though strong in faith still he felt the constant urge to keep in instant touch with God, for otherwise, his inner weaknesses would overcome him.
On May 13, 1837, he affirmed, “Today I have had again much reason to mourn over my corrupt nature, particularly on account of want of gratitude for the many temporal mercies by which I am surrounded. I was so sinful as to be dissatisfied on account of the dinner, because I thought it would not agree with me, instead of thanking God for rich provisions and asking heartily the Lord’s rich blessing upon it...I rejoice in the prospect of that day, when, seeing Jesus as He is, I shall be like Him.”
He was often troubled by the many spiritual voids that marked his work. On October 7, 1833, he checked the results of his personal ministry by that of Mr. Craik. He said, “Many more were convinced of sin through brother Craik’s preaching than my own.
This led Mr. Muller to an instant study of his lack of concern for the sinner’s welfare, and once he found the cause, he remedied it through special seasons of prayer in which he asked God for a deepened sense of the tragedy that dogs his path.
When he felt led to build Ashley Down as was his custom he weighed the arguments for and against such a course. Among the arguments against the action was the thought that his constant battle against pride might overwhelm him in the new undertaking. “I should be in danger of being lifted up,” he wrote. “I should be in danger of it indeed...I cannot say that hitherto the Lord has kept me humble. But I can say that hitherto He has given me a hearty desire to give Him all the glory...I have to beseech the Lord that He be pleased to give me a lowly mind.”
This prayer which moved him in 1851 was the result of constantly facing the many praises, which came from friends, because of the daily miracles his faith seemed to bring to pass.
Through the years he worried not a little about a tendency to become irritable because of his physical condition. During the first decade after his conversion he fought to overcome any slight indication that he was not pleased with how he felt, or how the weather might be, or whatever the soul-upheaving circumstances he was going through. An instance of this is found in his Journal under the entry of January 16, 1838.
“The weather has been cold,” he says, ‘for several days, but today I suffered much, either because it was colder than before or because I felt it more owing to the weakness of my body..I arose from my knees and stirred the fire; but I still remained very cold...I was a little irritated by this. At last, having prayed for some time, I was obliged to rise and take a walk...I now entreated the Lord that this circumstance might not be permitted to rob me of the precious communion which I had with Him the last three days, for this was the object at which Satan aimed. I confessed also my sin of irritability on account of the cold and sought to have my conscience cleansed through the blood of Jesus. He had mercy upon me, my peace was restored...and I had uninterrupted communion with Him.”
In 1844 he wrote,”I desired more power over my besetting sins.” When one reads the few times in which Mr. Muller tells the story of his battle over irritability, he is led to wonder if this was not one of those troublesome sins which constantly nagged at his soul.
His entire life was checkered with afflictions, irritations, trials and the victory of peace and spiritual repose. When his daughter took typhus fever in 1854, this checkering appears in his Journal, where he writes:
“Now was the trial of faith. But faith triumphed...While I was in this affliction, this great affliction, besides being at peace as far as the Lord’s dispensation was concerned, I also felt perfectly at peace with regard to the cause of the affliction...It was the Father’s rod, applied in infinite wisdom and love for the restoration of my soul from a state of lukewarmness.
“Conscious as I was of my manifold weaknesses, failings and shortcomings, so that I too would be ready to say with the Apostle Paul, ‘O wretched man that I am!’ yet I was assured that this affliction was...for the trial of my faith.”
He found this route of peace through affliction early in his Christian life. As far back as in 1829 he writes, “The weaker I became in body, the happier I was in my spirit.” This was during a severe illness on May 15 when he despaired of living.
“Never in my whole life,” he continues, “had I seen myself so vile, so guilty, so altogether what I ought not to have been as at this time. It was as if every sin of which I had been guilty was brought to my remembrance; but at the same time I could realize that all my sins have been completely forgiven...The result of this was great peace.”
One of the last entries he made in his Journal shows this same checking of the divine will in his life. On March 1, 1898, shortly before his death, he wrote, “For about 21 months with scarcely the least intermission the trial of our faith and patience has continued. Now, today, the Lord has refreshed my heart.” The occasion of this blessing was receiving a legacy for approximately $7,500.
Mr. Muller had learned the simple lesson that however great the affliction, God in His kind providence would not forsake him — provided he remained steadfast in faith and relied greatly upon secret prayer.
The key to his spiritual victories, whatever the nature of the soul depression, is found in an entry on June 25, 1835. He says, “These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.” The following day he wrote, “I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I now feel this morning more comfortable.”
It was prayer that swept his soul free of doubt, distemper and the aftereffects of a trial by the incoming tide of peace. For this reason he could make such remarks as this entry on March 9, 1847, “The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith.” And a later one, “The greater the trial, the sweeter the victory.”
Mr. Muller decried any evidence of having the gift of faith. He had faith, as any Christian may have it, but not that peculiar gift of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12:9.
“Think not, dear reader,” he writes, “that I have the gift of faith...which is mentioned along with ‘the gifts of healing,’ ‘the working of miracles’...and that on that account I am able to trust in God...If I were only one moment left by myself my faith would utterly fail...It is not true that my faith is that gift of faith...It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer...for little by little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years.”
In charting the results of this marvelous life of trust, the speed with which he obtained multiplied thousands of answers to his prayers, we must be careful not to remove Mr. Muller from the realm of the thoroughly human. He is anxious to have his readers think of him in the same light as they do of themselves. He possessed no character traits nor divine possessions, not within the reach of every believer.
The trials which blocked his spiritual advancement were those common to every Christian. The human tempers, the frailties of his body, mind and spirit were those which mark true members of God’s kingdom. His victories came through prayer, trust in the Lord’s unfailing promises and faith that God’s truth could not fail; and if he thus achieved, he would have us also see that similar faith victories are within our reach.
There is only one route to soul repose...and that is the highway that leads to God’s throne, prayer.
“It is not enough to begin to pray,” he advises us, “nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly continue in prayer, until we obtain an answer; and further, we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing.”
Taken from "George Muller - The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller