By Rev. Arthur T. Pierson, D.D.
In Psalm 68:4, we are bidden to "extol Him who rideth upon the heavens by His name, JAH, and to rejoice before Him;" and in the next verse [Psalm 68:5], He is declared to be "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, in His holy habitation."
The name, "Jah," here only found, is not simply an abbreviation of "Jehovah;" but the present tense of the Hebrew verb to be; and expresses the idea that this Jehovah is the Living, Present God; and, as the heavens are always over our heads, He is always a present Helper, especially to those who, like the widow and the orphan, lack other providers and protectors.
George Müller, of Bristol, undertook to demonstrate to the unbelieving world that God is such a living, present God, and that He proves it by answering prayer; and that the test of this fact might be definite and conclusive, he undertook to gather, feed, house, clothe, and also to teach and train, all available orphans, who were legitimate children, but deprived of both parents by death and destitute.
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS OF PROOF
This work, which he began in 1833, in a very small and humble way, by giving to a few children, gathered out of the streets, a bit of bread for breakfast, and then teaching them for about an hour and a half to read the Scriptures, he carried on for sixty-five years, with growing numbers until there were under his care, and in the orphan houses which he built, twenty two hundred orphans with their helpers; and yet, during all that time, Mr. Müller's sole dependence was Jah, the Living, Present God. He appealed to no man for help; and did not even allow any need to be known before it had been supplied, even his intimate co-workers being forbidden to mention any existing want, outside the walls of the institution. His aim and purpose were to effectually apply the test of prayer to the unseen God, in such a way as to leave no doubt that, in these very days in which we live it is perfectly safe to cut loose from every human dependence and cast ourselves in faith upon the promises of a faithful Jehovah. To make the demonstration more absolutely convincing, for some years he withheld even the annual report of the work from the public, although it covered only work already done,lest some should think such a report an indirect appeal for future aid.
A human life thus filled with the presence and power of God is one of God's choicest gifts to His church and to the world.
DEMONSTRATION AND ILLUSTRATION
Things unseen and eternal are, to the average man, distant and indistinct, while what is seen and temporal is vivid and real. Practically, any object in nature that can be seen or felt is thus more actual to most men than the Living God. Every man who walks with God, and finds Him a present Help in every time of need, who puts His promises to the practical proof and verifies them in actual experience; every believer, who, with the key of faith, unlocks God's mysteries and with the key of prayer unlocks God's treasuries, thus furnishes to the race demonstration and illustration of the fact that "He is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." [Hebrews 11:6].
George Müller was such an argument and example—a man of like passions, and tempted in all points, as we are, but who believed God and was established by believing; who prayed earnestly that he might live a life and do a work, which should be a convincing proof that God hears prayer, and that it is safe to trust Him at all times; and who furnished just such a witness as he desired. Like Enoch, he truly walked with God, and had abundant testimony borne to him that he pleased God. And, when on the tenth day of March, 1898, it was told us of George Müller, that "he was not," we knew that "God had taken him": it seemed more like a translation than like death.
THE MAN HIMSELF
To those familiar with his long life story, or who intimately knew him and felt the power of personal contact, he was one of God's ripest saints, and himself a living proof that a life of faith is possible; that God may be known, communed with, found, and become a conscious companion in the daily life. He proved for himself and for all others who will receive his witness, that to those who are willing to take God at His word and to yield self to His will, He is "the same yesterday and today and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]; that the days of divine intervention and deliverance are past only so far as the days of faith and obedience are past; that believing prayer works still the wonders of which our fathers told in the days of old.
All we can do in the limited space now at our disposal, is to present a brief summary of George Müller's work, the details of which are spread through the five volumes of his carefully written "Journal," and the facts of which have never been denied or doubted, being embodied in five massive stone buildings on Ashley Down, and incarnated in thousands of living orphans who have been, or still are, the beneficiaries upon the bounty of the Lord, as administered by this great intercessor.
HIS LIFE PURPOSE
One sentence from Mr. Müller's pen marks the purpose which was the very pivot of his whole being: "I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith." This prepared both for the development of the character of him who had such singleness of aim and for the development of the work in which that aim found action. Mr. Müller's oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman, of Barnstaple, beautifully says that "when a man's chief business is to serve and please the Lord, all his circumstances becomes his servants;" a maxim verified in Mr. Müller's life work.
NO VISIBLE SUPPORT
Mr. James Wright, Mr. Müller's son-in-law and successor, said, in reviewing the sixty-five years of work, "It is written (Job 26:7) 'He hangeth the earth upon nothing'—that is, no visible support. And so we exult in the fact that 'The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad' hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement, 'upon nothing,' that is, upon no visible support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God."
Blessed lesson to learn: that to depend upon the invisible God is not to hang "upon nothing," though it be upon nothing visible.The power and permanence of the invisible forces that hold up the earth after sixty centuries of human history are sufficiently shown by the fact that this great globe still swings securely in space and is whirled through its vast orbit, and without variation of a second still moves with divine exactness in its appointed path. Mr. Müller therefore trusted the same invisible God to sustain with His unseen power all the work which faith suspended upon His truth and love and unfailing word of promise, though to the natural eye all these may seem as nothing.
SUMMARY OF WORK DONE
In the comprehensive summary contained in the fifty-ninth report, remarkable growth is apparent during the sixty-four years since the outset of the work in 1834.
During the year ending May 26, 1898, the number of day schools was seven and of pupils 354; the number of children in attendance from the beginning 81,501. The number of home Sunday Schools, twelve, and of children in them 1,341; but, from the beginning, 32,944.
The number of Sunday Schools aided in England and Wales, twenty-five. The amount expended in connection with home schools, 1736. 13s. 10d.; from the outset, £109,992. 19s. 10d.
The Bibles and parts thereof circulated, 15,411; from the beginning 1,989,266. Money expended for this purpose the past year £439; from the first, £41,090. 13s. 3d.
Missionary laborers aided, 115. Money expended £2,082. 9s. 6d.; from the outset, £261,859. 7s. 4d.
Circulation of books and tracts, 3,101,338; money spent £1,100. 1s. 3d.; and from the first, £47,188. 11s. 10d.
The number of orphans on Ashley Down 1,620, and from the first 10,024.
Money spent that year, £22,523. 13s. 1d., and from the beginning £988,829.
To carry conviction into action sometimes requires a costly sacrifice; but, whatever Mr. Müller's fidelity to conviction cost in one way, he had stupendous results of his life work to contemplate even while he lived.
GIVING WITH PRAYING
Let any one look at these figures and facts, and remember that one poor man who had been solely dependent on the help of God and only in answer to prayer, could look back, over more than three score years and see how he had built five large orphan houses, and taken under his care over ten thousand orphans, expending for them within twelve thousand pounds of a round million! This same man had given aid to day schools and Sunday Schools, in Britain and other lands where nearly one hundred and fifty thousand children have been taught, at a cost of over one hundred and ten thousand pounds more. He had also circulated nearly two million Bibles and parts thereof, at cost of over forty thousand pounds; and over three million books and tracts, at a cost of nearly fifty thousand pounds more. Besides all this, he had spent over two hundred and sixty thousand pounds to aid missionary laborers in various lands. The sum total of the money thus expended during sixty years thus reached very nearly the astonishing aggregate of one and a half million of pounds sterling ($7,500,000). Mr. Müller's own gifts to the service of the Lord found, only after his death, full record and recognition. In the annual reports, an entry recurring with strange frequency, suggested a giver that must have reached a very ripe age: "from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven." If that entry be carefully followed throughout and there be added the personal gifts made by Mr. Müller to various benevolent objects, the aggregate sum from this "servant" reaches, up to March 1, 1898, a total of eighty-one thousand, four hundred and ninety British pounds, eighteen shillings and eight pence.After his death, it first became known that this "servant of the Lord Jesus" was no other than George Müller himself who thus donated, from money given to him or left to him for his own use by legacies, an amount equal to more than one-fifteenth of the entire sum expended from the beginning upon all five departments of the work (1,448,959 British pounds). This is a record of personal giving to which we know no parallel.
Mr. Müller had received increasingly large sums from the Lord which he invested well and most profitably, so that for over sixty years he never lost a penny through a bad speculation! But his investments were not in lands, or banks, or railways, but in the work of God. He made "friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," and, when he failed, they received him into everlasting habitations. He continued year after year to make provision for himself, his beloved wife and daughter only by laying up treasure in heaven. Such a giver had a right to exhort others to systematic beneficence. He gave as not one in a million gives—not a tithe, not any fixed proportion of annual income, but all that was left after the simplest and most necessary supply of actual wants. While most disciples regard themselves as doing their duty if, after they have given a portion to the Lord, they spend all the rest on themselves, God led George Müller to reverse this rule and reserve only the most frugal sum for personal needs that the entire remainder might be given to him that needeth. An utter revolution in our habits of giving would be necessary were such a rule adopted. Mr. Müller's own words are: "My aim never was, how much I could obtain, but rather how much I could give." Yet this was not done in the spirit of an ascetic, for he had no such spirit.
He kept continually before him his stewardship of God's property; and sought to make the most of the one brief life on earth and to use for the best and largest good the property held by him in trust. The things of God were deep realities, and, projecting every action and decision and motive into the light of the judgment seat of Christ, he asked himself how it would appear to him in the light of that tribunal. Thus he sought prayerfully and conscientiously so to live and labor, so to deny himself, and, by love; serve his Master, and his fellowmen that he should not be "ashamed before Him at His coming" [1 John 2:28]. But not in a spirit of fear; for if any man of his generation knew the perfect love that casts out fear it was he. He felt that God is love and love is of God. He saw that love manifested in the greatest of gifts His only begotten Son; at Calvary he knew and believed the love that God hath to us; he received it into his own heart; it became an abiding presence manifested in obedience and benevolence; and, subduing him more and more, it became perfected so as to expel all tormenting fear and impart a holy confidence and delight in God.
Among the texts which strongly impressed and moulded Mr. Müller's habits of giving was Luke 6:38: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." He believed this promise and he verified it. His testimony is, "I had given, and God had caused to be given to me again, and bountifully." Again he read, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. He says that he believed what he found in the word of God and by His grace sought to act accordingly, and thus again records that he was blessed abundantly and his peace and joy in the Holy Spirit increased more and more.
It will not be a surprise, therefore, that, as has been already noted, Mr. Müller's entire personal estate at his death, as sworn to, when the will was admitted to probate, was only 169 British pounds, 9 shillings, 4 pence, of which books, household furniture, etc., were reckoned at over 100 pounds, the only money in his possession being a trifle over sixty pounds, and even this only awaiting disbursement as God's steward.
THE SECRET OF IT ALL
To summarize Mr. Müller's service we must understand his great secret. Such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else daily and frequent communion with God. He was unwearied in supplications and intercessions. In every new need and crisis, the one resort was the prayer of faith. He first satisfied himself that he was in the way of duty, then he fixed his mind on the unchanging word of promise; then, in the boldness of a suppliant who comes to a throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ, and pleads the assurance of the immutable Promiser, he presented every petition. He was an unwearied intercessor. No delay discouraged him. This is seen particularly in the case of individuals for whose conversion or special guidance into the paths of full obedience he prayed. On his prayer list were the names of some for whom he had besought God daily by name, for from one to ten years before the answer was given. There were two parties, for whose reconciliation to God he prayed, day by day, for over sixty years, and who had not at the time of his death, turned unto God; but he said, "I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven; for my Heavenly Father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over three score years, if He had not concerning them purposes of mercy."
This is a sufficient example of his almost unparalleled perseverance and importunity in intercession. However long the delay, he held on, as with both hands clasping the very horns of the altar; and his childlike spirit reasoned simply but confidently that the very fact of his own spirit being so long drawn out in prayer for one object, and of the Lord's enabling him so to continue patiently and believingly to wait on Him for the blessing, was a promise and prophecy of the answer; and so he waited on, so assured of the ultimate result that he praised God in advance, as having already received that for which he asked.
One of the parties for whom for so many years he had unceasingly prayed, shortly after his departure, died in faith, having received the promises and embraced them and confessed Jesus as his Lord.
THE PRIVILEGE OF ALL
Mr. Müller frequently in his Journal and reports warned his fellow disciples not to regard him as a miracle worker, or his experience as so exceptional as to have little application to the ordinary spheres of life and service. With patient repetition he affirms that, in all essentials, such an experience is the privilege of all believers. God calls disciples to various forms of work, but all alike to the same faith. To say, therefore, "I am not called to build orphan houses, etc., and have no right to expect answers to my prayers as Mr. Müller did," is wrong and unbelieving. Every child of God is first to get into the sphere appointed of God, and therein to exercise full trust, and live by faith upon God's sure word of promise.
Throughout all the thousands of pages written by his pen, he teaches that this experience of God's faithfulness is both the reward of past faith and prayer and the preparation of the servant of God for larger work, more efficient service, and more convincing witness to his Lord.
No one can understand this work who does not see in it the supernatural power of God;without that, it is an enigma, defying solution; with that, all the mystery is an open mystery. He himself felt, from first to last, that this supernatural factor was the whole key to the work, and without that it would have been to himself a problem inexplicable. How pathetically he often compared himself and his work for God to the "burning bush in the wilderness," which always aflame and always threatened with apparent destruction, was not consumed, so that not a few turned aside, wondering to see this great sight. And why was it not burnt? Because Jehovah of Hosts who was in the bush dwelt in the man and in his work; or, as Wesley said with almost his last breath, "Best of all God is with us."
This simile of the burning bush is the more apt, when we consider the rapid growth of the work. At first so very small as to seem almost insignificant, and conducted in one small rented house, accommodating thirty orphans; then enlarged until other rented premises became necessary; then one, two, three, four and even five immense structures being built until three hundred, seven hundred, eleven hundred and fifty, and finally two thousand and fifty inmates could find shelter within them; seldom has the world seen any such vast and rapid enlargement. Then look at the outlay! At first a trifling expenditure of perhaps four hundred pounds for the first year of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and of five hundred pounds for the first twelve months of the orphan work, and in the last year of Mr. Müller's life a grand total of over twenty-six thousand pounds for all the purposes of the work.
The cost of the houses built on Ashley Down might have staggered even a man of large capital, but this poor man only cried and the Lord helped him. The first house cost fifteen thousand pounds, the second over twenty-one thousand, the third over twenty-three thousand, and the fourth and fifth from fifty thousand to sixty thousand more so that the total cost reached about one hundred and fifteen thousand pounds. Besides all this there was a yearly expenditure which rose as high as twenty-five thousand for the orphans alone, irrespective of those occasional outlays made needful for emergencies, such as improved sanitary precautions.
Here is a burning bush indeed, always in seeming danger of being consumed, yet still standing on Ashley Down, and still preserved because the same presence of Jehovah burns in it. Not a branch of this many sided work has utterly perished, while the whole work still challenges unbelievers to turn aside and see the great sight, and take off their shoes from their feet; for is not all ground holy where God abides and manifests Himself?
ABUNDANT IN LABORS
In attempting a survey of this great life work we must not forget how much of it was wholly outside of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; namely, all that service which Mr. Müller was permitted to render to the church of Christ and the world at large, as preacher, pastor, witness for truth and author of books and tracts.
His preaching period covered the whole time from 1826 to 1898, the year of his departure—over seventy years; and with an average through the whole period of probably three sermons a week, or over ten thousand for his lifetime, which is probably a low estimate, for, during his missionary tours, which covered over two hundred thousand miles and were spread through seventeen years, he spoke on an average once a day, even at his already advanced age.
Probably those brought to the knowledge of Christ by his preaching would reach into the thousands, exclusive of orphans converted at Ashley Down. Then when we take into account the vast numbers addressed and impressed by his addresses given in all parts of the United Kingdom, on the Continent of Europe, and in America, Asia and Australia, and the still vaster numbers who have read his narrative, his books and tracts, or who have in various other ways felt the quickening power of his example and life, we shall get some inadequate conception of the range and scope of the influence wielded by his tongue and pen, his labors and his life. Much of the best influence defies all tabulated statistics and evades all mathematical estimate—it is like the fragrance of the alabaster flask which fills all the house, but escapes our grosser senses of sight, hearing and touch. This part of George Müller's work belongs to a realm where we cannot penetrate. But God sees, knows and rewards it.
A DOUBTER'S DOUBTS
Yet there are those who doubt or deny the sufficiency of even this proof, though so full and convincing. In a prominent daily newspaper, a correspondent, discussing the efficacy of prayer, thus referred to the experience of George Müller:
"I resided in that country during most of the seventies, when he was often described as the best-advertised man in the Three Kingdoms. By a large number of religious people he was more spoken of than were Gladstone and Disraeli, and accordingly it is not miraculous that, although he said he had never once solicited aid on behalf of his charitable enterprise, money in a continuous stream flowed into his treasury. Even to non-religious persons in Great Britain his name was quite as familiar as that of Moody."
"Doubtless Müller was quite sincere in his convictions, but, by the very peculiarity of his method, his wants were advertised throughout the world most conspicuously, thus receiving the benefit of a far larger publicity than would otherwise have obtained, and it being known that he was praying for money, money, of course, came in to him."
"But were Müller's prayers answered invariably? According to a memoir by a personal friend, which has lately been published, this was far from having been the case, and he often felt aggrieved at what he considered a slight on the part of the Almighty, one of whose 'pets' (to quote Mr. Savage) he evidently imagined himself to be. For example, he prayed for two of his 'unconverted' friends for nearly fifty years without avail. There was absolutely nothing in his career which could not be accounted for as the result of purely natural causes."
"If it was possible to admit that what he looked upon as answers to his prayers were due to special interventions of Providence in his behalf (in other words, to favoritism), the question would inevitably arise, Why have the prayers of thousands of other Christian people, whose faith is quite as strong as Müller's, been disregarded? What are we to think of the little band of enthusiasts who left this country for Jerusalem a few months ago to see Christ 'appear in the clouds,' and who, at last accounts, were reported to be starving, with no immediate prospect of a return to their homes?"
"Lector" takes an easy way to evade the force of Mr. Müller's life witness. He contends that "the peculiarity" of his method, and the great "publicity" thus obtained, made him the "best advertised man in the Three Kingdoms," and so money poured in upon him from all quarters. Thus the most conspicuous testimony to a prayer-hearing God, furnished by any one individual in the century, is dismissed with one sweep of the pen, affirming that "there was absolutely nothing in his career which could not be accounted for as the result of purely natural causes."
THE DOUBTER ANSWERED
In answer I beg to submit twelve facts, all abundantly attested:
Mr. Müller's life purpose was to furnish to the world and the Church a simple example of the fact that a man can not only live, but work on a large scale, by faith in the living God; that he has only to trust and pray and obey and God will prove his own faithfulness. The reports were published with sole reference to the work already done, and because donors were entitled to such knowledge of the way in which their money was expended. He never used his reports as appeals for help in work yet to be begun or carried on. Nor was his personal presence or influence necessary, for he traveled for eighteen years in forty-two countries, mentioning his work only at urgent request; and during all this time the work went on just as when at home.
A CHALLENGE TO UNBELIEF
One thing is obvious—there is a wide field still open for experiment. Let those who honestly believe that so great a life work may be entirely accounted for on a natural basis give us a practical proof. Let an institution be founded in some of our great cities similar to that in Bristol. Let there be no direct appeal made to anyone beyond the circulation of annual reports; or let there be the widest advertising of the fact that such a work is carried on, and that dependence is on public aid without direct solicitation. Of course, there must be no prayer, and no acknowledgment of God, lest someone think it to be religious and unscientific, and pious people should be moved to respond! Unbelievers outnumber Christian disciples five to one and the constituency is therefore very large. Let us have the experiment conducted, not on the faith basis, but in strictly scientific method! When we see an infidel carrying on such a work, building five great orphan houses and sustaining over 2,000 orphans from day to day without any direct appeal to human help, yet finding all supplies coming in without even a failure in sixty years, we shall be ready to reconsider our present conviction that it was because the living God heard and helped George Müller, that he who began with a capital of one shilling, took care of more than ten thousand orphans, aided hundreds of missionaries, scattered millions of Bibles and tracts, and in the course of his long life expended about $7,500,000 for God and humanity; and then died with all his possessions valued at less than eight hundred dollars.
MR. BENJAMIN PERRY gives an account of the circumstances under which the land was purchased, prior to the erection of the orphan houses on Ashley Down, as he heard it from Mr. Müller's own mouth, showing how directly the Lord worked on the mind of the owner.
Mr. Müller had been making inquiries respecting the purchase of land much nearer Bristol, the prices asked being not less than £1000 per acre, when he heard that the land upon which the Orphan Houses Nos. 1 and 2 stand, was for sale, the price being £200 per acre. He therefore called at the house of the owner, and was informed that he was not at home, but that he could be seen at his place of business in the city. Mr. Müller went there, and was informed that he had left a few minutes before, and that he would find him at home. Most men would have gone off to the owner's house at once; but Mr. Müller stopped and reflected,
" Peradventure the Lord, having allowed me to miss the owner twice in so short a time, has a purpose that I should not see him to-day; and lest I should be going before the Lord in the matter, I will wait till the morning."
And accordingly he waited and went the next morning, when he found the owner at home; and on being ushered into his sitting-room, he said:
"Ah, Mr. Müller, I know what you have come to see me about. You want to buy my land on Ashley Down. I had a dream last night, and I saw you come in to purchase the land, for which I have been asking £200 per acre; but the Lord told me not to charge you more than £120 per acre, and therefore if you are willing to buy at that price the matter is settled."
And within ten minutes the contract was signed.
"Thus," Mr. Müller pointed out, "by being careful to follow the Lord, instead of going before His leading, I was permitted to purchase the land for £80 per acre less than I should have paid if I had gone to the owner the evening before."
THE arguments which I plead with God are:1. That I set about the work for the glory of God, i.e., that there might be a visible proof, by God supplying, in answer to prayer only, the necessities of the orphans, that He is the living God, and most willing, even in our day, to answer prayer: and that, therefore, He would be pleased to send supplies.
2. That God is the "Father of the fatherless," and that He, therefore, as their Father, would be pleased to provide. (Psalm lxviii.5.)
3. That I have received the children in the name of Jesus, and that, therefore, He, in these children, has been received, and is fed, and is clothed; and that, therefore, He would be pleased to consider this. (Mark ix.36,37.)
4. That the faith of many of the children of God has been strengthened by this work hitherto, and that, if God were to withhold the means for the future, those who are weak in faith would be staggered; whilst, by a continuance of means, their faith might still further be strengthened.
5. That many enemies would laugh, were the Lord to withhold supplies, and say, "Did we not foretell that this enthusiasm would come to nothing?"
6. That many of the children of God, who are uninstructed, or in a carnal state, would feel themselves justified to continue their alliance with the world in the work of God, and to go on as heretofore, in their unscriptural proceedings respecting similar instituions, so far as the obtaining of means is concerned, if He were not to help me.
7. That the Lord would remember that I am His child and that He would graciously pity me, and remember that I cannot provide for these children, and that therefore He would not allow this burden to lie upon me long without sending help.
8. That He would remember likewise my fellow labourers in the work, who trust in Him, but who would be tried were He to withhold supplies.
9. That He would remember that I should have to dismiss the children from under our Scriptural Institution to their former companions.
10. That He would show that those were mistaken who said that, at the first, supplies might be expected while the thing was new, but not afterwards.
11. That I should not know, were He to withhold means, what construction I should put upon all the many most remarkable answers to prayer which He has given me heretofore in connection with this work, and who most fully have shown to me that it is of God.
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."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE eleventh chapter of Hebrews-- that "Westminster Abbey" where Old Testament saints have a memorial before God-- gives a hint of a peculiar reward which faith enjoys, even in this life, as an earnest and foretaste of its final recompense.
"the elders obtained a good report,"
that is, they had witness borne to them by God in return for witness borne to Him. All the marked examples of faith here recorded show this twofold testimony. Abel testified to his faith in God's Atoning Lamb, and God testified to his gifts. Enoch witnessed to the unseen God by his holy walk with Him, and He testified to Enoch, by his translation, and even before it, that he pleased God. Noah's faith bore witness to God's word, by building the ark and preaching righteousness, and God bore witness to him by bringing a flood upon a world of the ungodly and saving him and his family in the ark.
George Müller's life was one long witness to the prayer-hearing God; and, throughout, God bore him witness that his prayers were heard and his work accepted. The pages of his journal are full of striking examples of this witness-- the earnest or foretaste of the fuller recompense of reward reserved for the Lord's coming.
Compensations for renunciations, and rewards for service, do not all wait for the judgment-seat of Christ, but, as some men's sins are "open beforehand," going before to judgment, so the seed sown for God yields a harvest that is open beforehand to joyful recognition. Divine love graciously and richly acknowledged these many years of self-forgetful devotion to Him and His needy ones, by large and unexpected tokens of blessing. Toils and trials, tears and prayers, were not in vain even this side of the Hereafter.
For illustrations of this we naturally turn first of all to the orphan work. Ten thousand motherless and fatherless children had found a home and tender parental care in the institution founded by George Müller, and were there fed, clad, and taught, before he was called up higher. His efforts to improve their state physically, morally, and spiritually were so manifestly owned of God that he felt his compensation to be both constant and abundant, and his journal, from time to time, glows with his fervent thanksgivings.
This orphan work would amply repay all its cost during two thirds of a century, should only its temporal benefits be reckoned. Experience proved that, with God's blessing, one half of the lives sacrificed among the children of poverty would be saved by better conditions of body-- such as regularity and cleanliness of habits, good food, pure air, proper clothing, and wholesome exercise. At least two thirds, if not three fourths, of the parents whose offspring have found a shelter on Ashley Down had died of consumption and kindred diseases; and hence the children had been largely tainted with a like tendency. And yet, all through the history of this orphan work, there has been such care of proper sanitary conditions that there has been singular freedom from all sorts of ailments, and especially epidemic diseases; and when scarlet fever, measles, and such diseases have found entrance, the cases of sickness have been comparatively few and mild, and the usual percentage of deaths exceedingly small.
This is not the only department of training in which the recompense has been abundant. Ignorance is everywhere the usual handmaid of poverty, and there has been very careful effort to secure proper mental culture. With what success the education of these orphans has been looked after will sufficiently appear from the reports of the school inspector. From year to year these pupils have been examined in reading, writing, arithmetic, Scripture, dictation, geography, history, grammar, composition, and singing; and Mr. Horne reported in 1885 an average per cent of all marks as high as 91.1, and even this was surpassed the next year when it was 94, and, two years later, when it was 96.1.
But in the moral and spiritual welfare of these orphans which has been primarily sought, the richest recompense has been enjoyed. The one main aim of Mr. Müller and his whole staff of helpers, from first to last, has been to save these children-- to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The hindrances were many and formidable. If the hereditary taint of disease is to be dreaded, what of the awful legacy of sin and crime! Many of these little ones had no proper bringing up till they entered the orphan houses; and not a few had been trained indeed, but only in Satan's schools of drink and lust. And yet, notwithstanding all these drawbacks, Mr. Müller records, with devout thankfulness, that
"the Lord had constrained them, on the whole, to behave exceedingly well, so much so as to attract the attention of observers."
Better still, large numbers have, throughout the whole history of this work, given signs of a really regenerate state, and have afterwards maintained a consistent character and conduct, and in some cases have borne singular witness to the grace of God, both by their complete transformation and by their influence for good.
In August, 1858, an orphan girl, Martha Pinnell, who had been for over twelve years under Mr. Müller's care, and for more than five years ill with consumption, fell asleep in Jesus. Before her death, she had, for two and a half years, known the Lord, and the change in her character and conduct had been remarkable. From an exceedingly disobedient and troublesome child with a pernicious influence, she had become both very docile and humble and most influential for good. In her unregenerate days she had declared that, if she should ever be converted, she would be "a thorough Christian," and so it proved, her happiness in God, her study of His word, her deep knowledge of the Lord Jesus, her earnest passion for souls, seemed almost incredible in one so young and so recently turned to God. And Mr. Müller has preserved in the pages of his Journal four of the precious letters written by her to other inmates of the orphan houses.*
*Narrative, III. 258-267.
At times, and frequently, extensive revivals have been known among them when scores and hundreds have found the Lord. The year ending May 26, 1858 was especially notable for the unprecedented greatness and rapidity of the work which the Spirit of God had wrought, in such conversions. Within a few days and without any special apparent cause except the very peaceful death of a Christian orphan, Caroline Bailey, more than fifty of the one hundred and forty girls in Orphan House No. 1 were under conviction of sin, and the work spread into the other departments, till about sixty were shortly exercising faith. In July, 1859, again, in a school of one hundred and twenty girls more than half brought under deep spiritual concern; and, after a year had passed, shewed the grace of continuance in a new life. In January and February, 1860, another mighty wave of Holy Spirit power swept over the institution. It began among little girls from six to nine years old, then extended to the older girls, and then to the boys, until, inside of ten days, above two hundred were inquiring and in many instances found immediate peace. The young converts at once asked to hold prayer meetings among themselves, and were permitted; and not only so, but many began to labour and pray for others, and, out of the seven hundred orphans then in charge, some two hundred and sixty were shortly regarded as either converted or in a most hopeful state.
Again, in 1872, on the first day of the week of prayer, the Holy Spirit so moved that, without any unusual occasion for deep seriousness, hundreds were, during that season hopefully converted. Constant prayer for their souls made the orphan homes a hallowed place, and by August 1st, it was believed, after careful investigation, that seven hundred and twenty-nine might be safely counted as being disciples of Christ, the number of believing orphans being thus far in excess of any previous period. A series of such blessings have, down to this date, crowned the sincere endeavours of all who have charge of these children, to lead them to seek
"first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."
By far the majority of orphans sent out for service or apprenticeship, had for some time before known the Lord; and even of those who left the Institution unconverted, the after-history of many showed that the training there received had made impossible continuance in a life of sin.
Thus, precious harvests of this seed-sowing, gathered in subsequent years, have shown that God was not unrighteous to forget this work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope.
In April, 1874, a letter from a former inmate of the orphanage enclosed a thank offering for the excellent Bible teaching there received which had borne fruit years after. So carefully had she been instructed in the way of salvation that, while yet herself unrenewed, she had been God's instrument of leading to Christ a fellow servant who had long been seeking peace, and so, became like a sign-board on the road, the means of directing another to the true path, by simply telling her what she had been taught, though not then following the path herself.
Another orphan wrote, in 1876, that often, when tempted to indulge the sin of unbelief, the thought of that six years' sojourn in Ashley Down came across the mind like a gleam of sunshine. It was remembered how the clothes there worn, the food eaten, the bed slept on, and the very walls around, were the visible answers to believing prayer, and the recollection of all these things proved a potent prescription and remedy for the doubts and waverings of the child of God, a shield against the fiery darts of satanic suggestion.
During the thirty years between 1865 and 1895, two thousand five hundred and sixty-six orphans were known to have left the institution as believers, an average of eighty-five every year; and, at the close of this thirty years, nearly six hundred were yet in the homes on Ashley Down who had given credible evidence of a regenerate state.
Mr. Müller was permitted to know that not only had these orphans been blessed in health, educated in mind, converted to God, and made useful Christian citizens, but many of them had become fathers or mothers of Christian households. One representative instance may be cited. A man and a woman who had formerly been among these orphans became husband and wife, and they have had eight children, all earnest disciples, one of whom went as a foreign missionary to Africa.
From the first, God set His seal upon this religious training in the orphan houses. The first two children received into No. 1 both became true believers and zealous workers: one, a Congregational deacon, who, in a benighted neighbourhood, acted the part of a lay preacher; and the other, a laborious and successful clergyman in the Church of England, and both largely used of God in soul-winning. Could the full history be written of who have gone forth from these orphan homes, what volume of testimony would be furnished, since these are but a few scattered examples of the conspicuously useful service to which God has called those whose after-career can be traced!
In his long and extensive missionary tours, Mr. Müller was permitted to see, gather, and partake of many widely scattered fruits of his work on Ashley Down. While preaching in Brooklyn, N. Y., in September, 1877, he learned that in Philadelphia a legacy of a thousand pounds was waiting for him, the proceeds of a life-insurance which the testator had willed to the work, and in city after city he had the joy of meeting scores of orphans brought up under his care.
He minutely records the remarkable usefulness of a Mr. Wilkinson, who, up to the age of fourteen and a half years had been taught at the orphanage. Twenty years had elapsed since Mr. Müller had seen him, when, in 1878, he met him in Calvary Church, San Francisco, six thousand five hundred miles from Bristol. He found him holding fast his faith in the Lord Jesus, a happy and consistent Christian. He further heard most inspiring accounts of this man's singular service during the Civil War in America. Being on the gunboat Louisiana, he had there been the leading spirit and recognized head of a little Bethel church among his fellow seamen, who were by him led to engage in the service of Christ as to exhibit a devotion that, without a trace of fanatical enthusiasm, was full of holy zeal and joy. Their whole conversation was of God. It further transpired that, months previous, when the cloud of impending battle overhung the ship's company, he and one of his comrades had met for prayer in the "chain-locker"; and thus began a series of most remarkable meetings which, without one night's interruption, lasted for some twenty months. Wilkinson alone among the whole company had any previous knowledge of the word of God, and he became not only the leader of the movement, but the chief interpreter of the Scriptures as they met to read the book of God and exchange views upon it. Nor was he satisfied to do thus much with his comrades daily, but at another stated hour he, with some chosen helpers, gathered the coloured sailors of the ship to teach them reading, writing, etc.
A member of the Christian Commission, Mr. J. R. Hammond, who gave these facts publicity, and who was intimately acquainted with Mr. Wilkinson and his work on shipboard, said that he seemed to be a direct
"product of Mr. Müller's faith, his calm confidence in God, the method in his whole manner of life, the persistence of purpose, and the quiet spiritual power,"
which so characterized the founder of the Bristol orphanage, being eminently reproduced in this young man who had been trained under his influence. When in a sail-loft ashore, he was compelled for two weeks to listen to the lewd and profane talk of two associates detailed with him for a certain work. For the most part he took refuge in silence; but his manner of conduct, and one sentence which dropped from his lips, brought both those rough and wicked sailors to the Saviour he loved, one of whom in three months read the word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
Mr. Müller went nowhere without meeting converted orphans or hearing of their work, even in the far-corners of the earth. Sometimes in great cities ten or fifteen would be waiting at the close of an address to shake the hand of their "father," and tell him of their debt of gratitude and love. He found them in every conceivable sphere of service, many of them having strong holds in which the principles taught in the orphan house were dominant, and engaged in the learned professions as well as humbler walks of life.
God gave His servant also the sweet compensation seeing great blessing attending the day-schools supported by the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
The master of the school at Clayhidon, for instance, wrote of a poor lad, a pupil in the day-school, prostrate with rheumatic fever, in a wretched home and surrounded by bitter opposers of the truth. Wasted to a skeleton, and in deep anxiety about his own soul, he was pointed to Him who says,
"Come unto Me, and I will give you rest."
While yet this conversation was going on, as though suddenly he had entered into a new world, this emaciated boy began to repeat texts such as
"Suffer the little children to come unto me,"
and burst out singing:
"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so."
He seemed transported with ecstasy, and recited text after text and hymn after hymn, learned at that school. No marvel is it if that schoolmaster felt a joy, akin to the angels, in this one proof that his labour in the Lord was not in vain. Such examples might be indefinitely multiplied, but this handful of first-fruits of a harvest may indicate the character of the whole crop.
Letters were constantly received from missionary labourers in various parts of the world who were helped by the gifts of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The testimony from this source alone would fill a good-sized volume, and therefore its incorporation into this memoir would be impracticable. Those who would see what grand encouragement came to Mr. Müller from fields of labour where he was only represented by others, whom his gifts aided, should read the annual reports. A few examples may be given of the blessed results of such wide scattering of the seed of the kingdom, as specimens of thousands.
Mr. Albert Fenn, who was labouring in Madrid, wrote of a civil guard who, because of his bold witness for Christ and renunciation of the Romish confessional, was sent from place to place and most cruelly treated, and threatened with banishment to a penal settlement. Again he writes of a convert from Rome who, for trying to establish a small meeting, was summoned before the governor.
"Who pays you for this? "
"What do you gain by it?"
"How do you live?"
"I work with my hands in a mine."
"Why do you hold meetings?"
"Because God has blessed my soul, and I wish others to be blessed."
"You? you were made a miserable day-labourer; I prohibit the meetings."
"I yield to force," was the calm reply, "but as long as I have a mouth to speak I shall speak for Christ."
How like those primitive disciples who boldly faced the rulers at Jerusalem, and, being forbidden to speak in Jesus' name, firmly answered:
"We ought to obey God rather than man
whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God judge ye:
for we cannot but speak the things
which we have seen and heard."
A missionary labourer writes from India, of three Brahman priests and scores of Santhals and Hindus, sitting down with four Europeans to keep the supper of the Lord-- all fruits of his ministry. Within a twelvemonth, sixty-two men and women, including head men of villages; four Brahman women, wives of priests and of head men, were baptized, representing twenty-three villages in which the gospel had been preached. At one time more than one hundred persons were awakened in one mission in Spain; and such harvests as these were not infrequent in various fields to which the founder of the orphan work had the joy of sending aid.
In 1885, a scholar of one of the schools at Carrara, Italy, was confronted by a priest.
"In the Bible," said he, "you do not find the commandments of the church."
"No, sir," said the child, "for it is not for the church of God to command, but to obey."
"Tell me, then," said the priest, "these commandments of God,"
"Yes, sir," replied child;
"'I am the Lord thy God.
Thou shalt have no other God before me.
Neither shalt thou make any graven image.'"
"Stop! stop!" cried the priest, "I do not understand it so."
"But so," quietly replied the child, "it is written in God's word."
This simple incident may illustrate both the character of the teaching given in the schools, and the character often developed in those who were taught.
Out of the many pages of Mr. Müller's journal, probably about one-fifth are occupied wholly with extracts from letters like these from missionaries, teachers, and helpers which kept him informed of the progress of the Lord's work at home and in many lands where the labourers were by him enabled to continue their service. Bible-carriages, open-air services, Christian schools, tract distribution, and various other forms of holy labour for the benighted souls near and far, formed part of the many-branching tree of life that was planted on Ashley Down.
Another of the main encouragements and rewards which Mr. Müller enjoyed in this life was the knowledge that his example had emboldened other believers to attempt like work for God, on like principles. This he himself regarded as the greatest blessing resulting from his life-work, that hundreds of thousands of children of God had been led in various parts of the world to trust in God in all simplicity; and when such trust found expression in similar service to orphans, it seemed the consummation of his hopes, for the work was thus proven to have its seed in itself after its kind, a self-propagating life, which doubly demonstrated it to be a tree of the Lord's own planting, that He might be glorified.
In December, 1876, Mr. Müller learned, for instance, that a Christian evangelist, simply through reading about the orphan work in Bristol, had it laid on his heart to care about orphans, and encouraged by Mr. Müller's example, solely in dependence on the Lord, had begun in 1863 with three orphans at Nimwegen in Holland, and had at that date, only fourteen years after, over four hundred and fifty in the institution. It pleased the Lord that he and Mrs. Müller should, with their own eyes, see this institution, and he says that in "almost numberless instances" the Lord permitted him to know of similar fruits of his work.
At his first visit to Tokyo, Japan, he gave an account of it, and as the result, Mr. Ishii, a native Christian Japanese, started an orphanage upon a similar basis of prayer, faith, and dependence upon the Living God, and at Mr. Müller's second visit to the Island Empire he found this orphan work prosperously in progress.
How generally fruitful the example thus furnished on Ashley Down has been in good to the church and the work will never be known on earth. A man living at Horfield, in sight of the orphan buildings, has said that, whenever he felt doubts of the Living God creeping into his mind, he used to get up and look through the night at the many windows lit up on Ashley Down, and they gleamed out through the darkness as stars in the sky.
It was the witness of Mr. Müller to a prayer-hearing God which encouraged Rev. J. Hudson Taylor in 1863, thirty years after Mr. Müller's great step was taken, to venture wholly on the Lord, in founding the China Inland Mission. It has been said that to the example of A. H. Francké, in Halle, or George Müller in Bristol, may be more or less directly traced every form of "faith work," prevalent since.
The Scriptural Knowledge Institution was made in all its departments a means of blessing. Already in the year ending May 26, 1860, a hundred servants of Christ had been more or less aided, and far more souls had been hopefully brought to God through their labours than during any year previous. About six hundred letters, received from them, had cheered Mr. Müller's heart during twelvemonth, and this source of joy overflowed during all his life. In countless cases children of God were lifted to a higher level of faith and life, and unconverted souls were turned to God through the witness borne to God by the institutions on Ashley Down. Mr. Müller has summed up this long history of blessing by two statements which are worth pondering.
First, that the Lord, was pleased to give him far beyond all he at first expected to accomplish or receive;
And secondly, that he was fully persuaded that all he had seen and known would not equal the thousandth part of what he should see and know when The Lord should come, His reward with Him, to give every man according that his work shall be.
The circulation of Mr. Müller's Narrative was a most conspicuous means of untold good.
In November, 1856, Mr. James McQuilkin, a young Irishman, was converted, and early in the next year, read the first two volumes of that Narrative. He said to himself:
"Mr. Müller obtains all this simply by prayer; so may I be blessed by the same means,"
and he began to pray. First of all he received from the Lord, in answer, a spiritual companion, and then two more of like mind; and they four began stated seasons of prayer in a small schoolhouse near Kells, Antrim, Ireland, every Friday evening. On the first day of the new year, 1858, a farm-servant was remarkably brought to the Lord in answer to their prayers, and these five gave themselves anew to united supplication. Shortly a sixth young man was added to their number by conversion, and so the little company of praying souls slowly grew, only believers being admitted to these simple meetings for fellowship in reading of the Scriptures, prayer, and mutual exhortation.
About Christmas, that year, Mr. McQuilkin, with the two brethren who had first joined him-- one of whom was Mr. Jeremiah Meneely, who is still at work for God-- held meeting by request at Ahoghill. Some believed and some mocked, while others thought these three converts presumptuous; but two weeks later another meeting was held, at which God's Spirit began to work most mightily and conversions now rapidly multiplied. Some converts bore the sacred coals and kindled the fire elsewhere, and in many places revival flames began to burn; and in Ballymena, Belfast, and at other points the Spirit's gracious work was manifest.
Such was the starting-point, in fact, of one of the most widespread and memorable revivals ever known in our century, and which spread the next year in England, Wales, and Scotland. Thousands found Christ, and walked in newness of life; and the results are still manifest after more than forty years.
As early as 1868 it was found that one who had thankfully read this Narrative had issued a compendium of it in Swedish. We have seen how widely useful it has been in Germany; and in many other languages its substance at least has been made available to native readers.
Knowledge came to Mr. Müller of a boy of ten years who got hold of one of these Reports, and, although belonging to a family of unbelievers, began to pray:
"God, teach me to pray like George Müller, and hear me as Thou dost hear George Müller."
He further declared his wish to be a preacher, which his widowed mother very strongly opposed, objecting that the boy did not know enough to get into the grammar-school, which is the first step towards such a high calling. The lad, however, rejoined:
"I learn and pray, and God will help me through as He has done George Müller."
And soon, to the surprise of everybody, the boy had successfully passed his examination and was received at the school.
A donor writes, September 20, 1879, that the reading of the Narrative totally changed his inner life to one of perfect trust and confidence in God. It led to the devoting of at least a tenth of his earnings to the Lord's purposes, and showed him how much more blessed it is to give than to receive; and it led him also to place a copy of that Narrative on the shelves of a Town Institute library where three thousand members and subscribers might have access to it.
Another donor suggests that it might be well if Prof. Huxley and his sympathizers, who had been proposing some new arbitrary "prayer-gauge," would, instead of treating prayer as so much waste of breath, try how long they could keep five orphan houses running, with over two thousand orphans, and without asking any one for help,-- either "GOD or MAN."
In September, 1882, another donor describes himself as
"simply astounded at the blessed results of prayer and faith,"
and many others have found this brief narrative
"the most wonderful and complete refutation of skepticism it had ever been their lot to meet with"--
an array of facts constituting the most undeniable
"evidences of Christianity."
There are abundant instances of the power exerted by Mr. Müller's testimony, as when a woman who had been an infidel, writes him that he was
"the first person by whose example she learned that there are some men who live by faith,"
and that for this reason she had willed to him all that she possessed.
Another reader found these Reports
"more faith-strengthening and soul-refreshing than many a sermon,"
particularly so after just wading through the mire of a speech of a French infidel who boldly affirmed that of all of the millions of prayers uttered every day, not one is answered. We should like to have any candid skeptic confronted with Mr. Müller's unvarnished story of a life of faith, and see how he would on any principle of "compound probability" and "accidental coincidences," account for the tens of thousands of answers to believing prayer! The fact is that one half of the infidelity in the world is dishonest, and the other half is ignorant of the daily proofs that God is, and is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
From almost the first publication of his Narrative, Mr. Müller had felt a conviction that it was thus to be greatly owned of God as a witness to His faithfulness; and, as early as 1842, it was laid on his heart to send a copy of the Annual Report gratuitously to every Christian minister of the land, which the Lord helped him to do, his aim being not to get money or even awaken interest in the work, but rather to stimulate faith and quicken prayer.
Twenty-two years later, in 1868, it was already so apparent that the published accounts of the Lord's dealing was used so largely to sanctify and edify saints and even to convert sinners and convince infidels, that he records this as the greatest of all the spiritual blessings hitherto resulting from his work for God. Since then thirty years more have fled, and, during this whole period, letters from a thousand sources have borne increasing witness that the example he set has led others to fuller faith and firm confidence in God's word, power, and love; to a deep persuasion that, though Elijah has been taken up, God, the God of Elijah, is still working His wonders.
And so, in all departments of his work for God, the Lord to whom he witnessed bore witness to him in return and anticipated his final reward in a recompense of present and overflowing joy. This was especially true in the long tours undertaken, when, past threescore and ten, to sow in lands afar the seeds of the Kingdom! As the sower went forth to sow he found not fallow fields only, but harvest fields also, from which his arms were filled with sheaves. Thus, in a new sense the reaper overtook the ploughman, and the harvester, him that scattered the seed. In every city of the United Kingdom and in the "sixty-eight cities" where, up to 1877, he had preached on the continents of Europe and America, he had found converted orphans, and believers to whom abundant blessing had come through reading his reports. After this date, twenty-one years more yet remained crowded with experiences of good.
Thus, before the Lord called George Müller higher, He had given him a foretaste of his reward, in the physical, intellectual and spiritual profit of the orphans; in the fruits of his wide seed-sowing in other lands as well as Britain; in the scattering of God's word and Christian literature; in the Christian education of thousands of children in the schools he aided; in the assistance afforded to hundreds of devoted missionaries; in the large blessing imparted by his published narrative, and in his personal privilege of bearing witness throughout the world to the gospel of grace.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THERE is One who still sits over against the Treasury, watching the gifts cast into it, and impartially weighing their worth, estimating the rich man's millions and the widow's mites, not by the amount given, but by the motives which impel and the measure of self-sacrifice accepted for the Lord's sake.
The ample supplies poured into Mr. Müller's hands came alike from those who had abundance of wealth and from those whose only abundance was that of deep poverty, but the rills as well as the rivers were from God. It is one of the charms of this life-story to observe the variety of persons and places, sums of money and forms of help, connected with the donations made to the Lord's work; and the exact adaptation between the need and the supply, both as to time and amount. Some instances of this have been given in the historic order; but to get a more complete view of the lessons which they suggest it is helpful to classify some of the striking and impressive examples, which are so abundant, and which afford such valuable hints as to the science and the art of giving.
Valuable lessons may be drawn from the beautiful spirit shown by givers and from the secret history of their gifts.
In some cases the facts were not known till long after, even by Mr. Müller himself; and when known, could not be disclosed to the public while the parties were yet alive. But when it became possible and proper to unveil these hidden things they were revealed for the glory of God and the good of others, and shine on the pages of this record like stars in the sky. Paul rejoiced in the free-will offerings of Philippian disciples, not because he desired a gift, but fruit that might abound to their account; not because their offerings ministered to his necessity, but because they became a sacrifice of a sweet smell acceptable, well pleasing to God. Such joy constantly filled Mr. Müller's heart. He was daily refreshed and reinvigorated by the many proofs that the gifts received had been first sanctified by prayer and self-denial. He lived and breathed amid the fragrance of sweet-savour offerings, permitted for more than threescore years to participate in the joy of the Lord Himself over the cheerful though often costly gifts of His people. By reason of identification with his Master, the servant caught the sweet scent of these sacrifices as their incense rose from His altars toward heaven. Even on earth the self-denials of his own life found compensation in thus acting in the Lord's behalf in receiving and disbursing these gifts; and, he says,
"the Lord thus impressed on me from the beginning that the orphan houses and work were HIS, not MINE."
Many a flask of spikenard, very precious, broken upon the feet of the Saviour, for the sake of the orphans, or the feeding of starving souls with the Bread of Life, filled the house with the odour of the ointment, so that to dwell there was to breathe a hallowed atmosphere of devotion.
Among the first givers to the work was a poor needle-woman, who, to Mr. Müller's surprise, brought one hundred pounds. She earned by her work only an average, per week, of three shillings and sixpence, and was moreover weak in body. A small legacy of less than five hundred pounds from her grandmother's estate had come to her at her father's death by the conditions of her grandmother's will. But that father had died a drunkard and a bankrupt, and her brothers and sisters had settled with his creditors by paying them five shillings to the pound. To her conscience, this seemed robbing the creditors of three fourths of their claim, and, though they had no legal hold upon her, she privately paid them the other fifteen shillings to the pound, of the unpaid debts of her father. Moreover when her unconverted brother and two sisters gave each fifty pounds to the widowed mother, she as a child of God felt that she should give double that amount. By this time her own share of the legacy was reduced to a small remainder, and it was out of this that she gave the one hundred pounds for the orphan work!
As Mr. Müller's settled principle was never to grasp eagerly at any gift whatever the need or the amount of the gift, before accepting this money he had a long conversation with this woman, seeking to prevent her from giving either from an unsanctified motive or in unhallowed haste, without counting the cost. He would in such a case dishonour his Master by accepting the gift, as though God were in need of our offerings. Careful scrutiny, however, revealed no motives not pure and Christlike; this woman had calmly and deliberately reached her decision.
"The Lord Jesus," she said, "has given His last drop of blood for me, and should I not give Him this hundred pounds!"
He who comes into contact with such givers in his work for God finds therein a means of grace.
This striking incident lends a pathetic interest to the beginnings of the orphan work, and still further trace the story of this humble needlewoman. She had been a habitual giver, but so unobtrusively that, while she lived, not half a dozen people knew of either the legacy or of this donation. Afterward, however, it came to the light that in many cases she had quietly and most unostentatiously given food, clothing, and like comforts to the deserving poor. Her gifts were so disproportionate to her means that her little capital rapidly diminished. Mr. Müller was naturally very reluctant to accept what she brought, until he saw that the love of Christ constrained her. He could then do no less than to receive her offering, in his Master's name, while like the Master he exclaimed,
"O woman, great is thy faith!"
Five features made her benevolence praiseworthy.
First, all these deeds of charity were done in secret and without any show;
and she therefore was kept humble, not puffed up with pride through human applause;
her personal habits of dress and diet remained as simple after her legacy as before,
and to the last she worked with her needle for her own support;
and, finally, while her earnings were counted in shillings and pence, her givings were counted in sovereigns or five-pound notes, and in one case by the hundred pounds.
Her money was entirely gone, years before she was called higher, but the faithful God never forgot His promise:
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
Never left to want, even after bodily weakness forbade her longer to ply her needle, she asked no human being for help, but in whatever straits made her appeal to God, and was not only left to suffer no lack, but, in the midst of much bodily suffering, her mouth was filled with holy song.
Mr. Müller records the first bequest as from a dear lad who died in the faith. During his last illness, he had received a gift of some new silver coins; and he asked that this, his only treasure in money, might be sent for the orphans. With pathetic tenderness Mr. Müller adds that this precious little legacy of six shillings sixpence halfpenny, received September 15, 1837, was the first they ever had. Those who estimate all donations by money-worth can little understand how welcome such a bequest was; but to such a man this small donation, bequeathed by one of Christ's little ones, and representing all he possessed, was of inestimable worth.
In May, 1842, a gold watch and chain were accompanied by a brief note, the contents of which suggest the possibilities of service, open to us through the voluntary limitation of artificial or imaginary wants. The note read thus:
"A pilgrim does not want such a watch as this to make him happy; one of an inferior kind will do to show him how swiftly time flies, and how fast he is hastening on to that Canaan where time will be no more: so that it is for you to do with this what it seemeth good to you. It is the last relic of earthly vanity, and, while I am in the body, may I be kept from all idolatry!"
In March, 1884, a contribution reached Mr. Müller from one who had been enabled in a like spirit to increase the amount over all previous gifts by the sale of some jewelry which had been put away in accordance with 1 Peter iii.3. How much superfluous ornament, worn by disciples, might be blessedly sacrificed for the Lord's sake! The one ornament which is in His sight of great price would shine with far more lustre if it were the only one worn.
["But let it be the hidden man of the heart,
in that which is not corruptible,
even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,
which is in the sight of God of great price"
(1Peter 3:4). --WStS Scripture annotation.]
Another instance of turning all things to account was seen in the case of a giver who sent a box containing four old crown pieces which had a curious history. They were the wedding-day present of a bridegroom to his bride, who reluctant to spend her husband's first gift, kept them until she passed them over, as heirlooms, to her four grandchildren. They were thus at last put out to usury, after many years of gathering "rust" in hoarded idleness and uselessness. Little did bridegroom or bride foresee how these coins, after more than a hundred years, would come forth from their hiding-place to be put to the Lord's uses. Few people have ever calculated how much is lost to every good cause by the simple withdrawal of money from circulation. Those four crown pieces had they been carefully invested, so as to double in value, by compound interest, every ten years, would have increased to one thousand pounds during the years they had lain idle!
One gift was sent in, as an offering to the Lord, instead of being used to purchase an "engagement-ring," by two believers who desired their lives to be united by that highest bond, the mutual love of the Lord who spared not His own blood for them.
At another time, a box came containing a new satin jacket, newly bought, but sacrificed as a snare to pride. Its surrender marked an epoch, for henceforth the owner determined to spend in dress only what is needful, and not to waste the Lord's money on costly apparel. Enlightened believers look on all things as inalienably God's, and, even in the voluntary diversion of money into sacred rather than selfish channels, still remember that they give to Him only what is His own!
"The little child feels proud that he can drop the money into the box after the parent has supplied the means, and told him to do so; and so God's children are sometimes tempted to think that they are giving of their own, and to be proud over their gifts, forgetting the divine Father who both gives us all we have and bids us give all back to Him."
A gift of two thousand pounds on January 29, 1872, was accompanied by a letter confessing that the possession of property had given the writer much trouble of mind, and it had been disposed of from a conviction that the Lord "saw it not good" for him to hold so much and therefor allowed its possession to be a curse rather than a blessing. Fondness for possessions always entails [a] curse, and external riches thus become a source of internal poverty. It is doubtful whether any child of God ever yet hoarded wealth without losing in spiritual attainment and enjoyment. Greed is one of the lowest and most destructive of vices and turns a man into the likeness of the coin he worships, making him hard, cold, metallic, and unsympathetic, so that, as has been quaintly said, he drops into his coffin "with a chink."
God estimates what we give by what we keep, for it is possible to bestow large sums and yet reserve so much larger amounts that no self-denial is possible. Such giving to the Lord costs us nothing.
In 1853, a brother in the Lord took out of his pocket a roll of bank-notes, amounting to one hundred and ten pounds, and put it into Mr. Müller's hand, it being more than one half of his entire worldly estate. Such giving is an illustration of self-sacrifice on a large scale, and brings corresponding blessing.
The motives prompting gifts were often unusually suggestive. In October, 1857, a donation came from a Christian merchant who, having sustained a heavy pecuniary loss, wished to sanctify his loss by a gift to the Lord's work. Shortly after, another offering was handed in by a young man in thankful remembrance that twenty-five years before Mr. Müller had prayed over him, as a child, that God would convert him. Yet another gift, of thirty-five hundred pounds, came to him in 1858, with a letter stating that the giver had further purposed to give to the orphan work the chief preference in his will, but had now seen it to be far better to act as his own executor and give the whole amount while he lived. Immense advantage would accrue, both to givers and to the causes they purpose to promote, were this principle generally adopted! There is "many a slip betwixt the cup" of the legator and "the lip" of the legatee. Even a wrong wording of a will has often forfeited or defeated the intent of a legacy. Mr. Müller had to warn intending donors that nothing that was reckoned as real estate was available for legacies for charitable institutions, nor even money lent on real estate or in any other way derived therefrom. These conditions no longer exist, but they illustrate the ease with which a will may often be made void, and the design of a bequest be defeated.
Many donors were led to send thank-offerings for avoided or averted calamities: as for example, for a sick horse, given up by the veterinary surgeon as lost, but which recovered in answer to prayer. Another donor, who broke his left arm, sends grateful acknowledgment to God that it was not theright arm, or some more vital part like the head or neck.
The offerings were doubly precious because of the unwearied faithfulness of God who manifestly prompted them, and who kept speaking to the hearts of thousands, leading them to give so abundantly and constantly that no want was unsupplied. In 1859, so great were the outlays, for the work that if day by day, during the whole three hundred and sixty-five, fifty pounds had been received, the income would not have been more than enough. Yet a surprising variety and number of ways, and from persons and places no less numerous and various, donations came in. Not one of twenty givers was personally known to Mr. Müller, and no one of all contributors had ever been asked for a gift, and yet, up to November, 1858, over six hundred thousand pounds had already been received, and in amounts varying from eighty-one hundred pounds down to a single farthing.
Unique circumstances connected with some donations made them remarkable. While resting at Ilfracombe, in September, 1865, a gentleman gave to Mr. Müller a sum of money, at the same time narrating the facts which led to the gift. He was a hard-working business man, wont to doubt the reality of spiritual things, and strongly questioned the truth of the narrative of answered prayers which he had read from Mr. Müller's pen. But, in view of the simple straightforward story, he could not rest in his doubts, and at last proposed to himself a test as to whether or not God was indeed with Mr. Müller, as he declared. He wished to buy a certain property if rated at a reasonable valuation; and he determined, if he should secure it at the low price which he set for himself, he would give to him one hundred pounds. He authorized a bid to be put in, in his behalf, but, curious to get the earlier information as to the success of his venture, he went himself to the place of sale, and was surprised to find the property actually knocked off to him at his own price. Astonished at what he regarded as a proof that God was really working with Mr. Müller and for him, he made up his mind to go in person and pay over the sum of money to him, and so make his acquaintance and see the man whose prayers God answered. Not finding him at Bristol, he had followed him to Ilfracombe.
Having heard his story, and having learned that he was from a certain locality, Mr. Müller remarked upon the frequent proofs of God's strange way of working on the minds of parties wholly unknown to him and leading them to send in gifts; and he added:
"I had a letter from a lawyer in your very neighbourhood, shortly since, asking for the proper form for a bequest, as a client of his, not named, wished to leave one thousand pounds to the orphan work."
It proved that the man with whom he was then talking was this nameless client, who, being convinced that his doubts were wrong, had decided to provide for this legacy.
In August, 1884, a Christian brother from the United States called to see Mr. Müller. He informed him how greatly he had been blessed of God through reading his published testimony to God's faithfulness; and that having, through his sister's death, come into the possession of some property, he had come across the sea, that he might see the orphan houses and know their founder, for himself, and hand over to him for the Lord's work the entire bequest of about seven hundred pounds.
Only seventeen days later, a letter accompanying a donation gave further joy to Mr. Müller's heart. It was from the husband of one of the orphans who, in her seventeenth year, had left the institution, and to whom Mr. Müller himself, on her departure, had given the first two volumes of the Reports. Her husband had read them with more spiritual profit than any volume except the Book of books, and had found his faith much strengthened. Being a lay preacher in the Methodist Free Church, the blessed impulses thus imparted to himself were used of God to inspire a like self-surrender in the class under his care.
These are a few examples of the countless encouragements that led Mr. Müller, as he reviewed them, to praise God unceasingly.
A Christian physician enclosed ten pounds in a letter, telling how first he tried a religion of mere duty and failed; then, after a severe illness, learned a religion of love, apprehending the love of God to himself in Christ and so learning how to love others. In his days of darkness he had been a great lover of flowers and had put up several plant-houses; flower-culture was his hobby, and a fine collection of rare plants, his pride. He took down and sold one of these conservatories and sent the proceeds as
"the price of an idol, cast down by God's power."
Another giver enclosed a like amount from the sale of unnecessary books and pictures; and a poor man his half crown,
"the fruit of a little tree in his garden."
A poor woman, who had devoted the progeny of a pet rabbit to the orphan work, when the young became fit for sale changed her mind and "kept back a part of the price"; that part, however, two rabbits, she found dead on the day when they were to be sold.
In July, 1877, ten pounds from an anonymous source were accompanied by a letter which conveys another instructive lesson. Years before, the writer had resolved before God to discontinue a doubtful habit, and send the cost of his indulgence to the Institution. The vow, made in time of trouble, was unpaid until God brought the sin to remembrance by a new trouble, and by a special message from the Word:
"Grieve not the Spirit of God."
The victory was then given over the habit, and, the practice having annually cost about twenty-six shillings, the full amount was sent to cover the period during which the solemn covenant had not been kept, with the promise of further gifts in redemption of the same promise to the Lord. This instance conveys more than one lesson. It reminds us of the costliness of much of our self-indulgence. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, in submitting the Budget for 1897, remarked that what is annually wasted in the unsmoked remnants of cigars and cigarettes in Britain is estimated at a million and a quarterpounds-- the equivalent of all that is annually spent on foreign missions by British Christians. And many forms of self-gratification, in no way contributing to either health or profit, would, if what they cost were dedicated to the Lord, make His treasuries overflow. Again, this incident reminds us of the many vows, made in times of trouble, which have no payment in time of relief. Many sorrows come back, like clouds that return after the rain, to remind of broken pledges and unfulfilled obligations, whereby have grieved the Holy Spirit of God.
"Pay that which thou last vowed; for God hath no pleasure in fools."
And again we are here taught how a sensitive and enlightened conscience will make restitution to God as well as to man; and that past unfaithfulness to a solemn covenant cannot be made good merely by keeping to its terms for the future. No honest man dishonours a past debt, or compromises with his integrity by simply beginning anew and paying as he goes. Reformation takes a retrospective glance and begins in restitution and reparation for all previous wrongs and unfaithfulness. It is one of the worst evils of our day that even disciples are so ready to usury the financial and moral debts of their past life in the grave of a too-easy oblivion.
One donor, formerly living in Tunbridge Wells, followed a principle of giving, the reverse of the worldly way. As his own family increased, instead of decreasing his gifts, he gave, for each child given to him of God, the average cost of maintaining one orphan, until, having seven children, he was supporting seven orphans.
An anonymous giver wrote:
"It was my idea that when man had sufficient for his own wants, he ought then to supply the wants of others, and consequently I never had sufficient. I now clearly see that God expects us to give of what we have and not of what we have not, and to save the rest to Him. I therefore give in faith and love, knowing that if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things will be added unto me."
Another sends five pounds in fulfilment of seen promise that, if he succeeded in passing competitive examination for civil service, he would make a thank-offering; And he adds that Satan had repeatedly tried to persuade him that he could not afford it yet, and could send it better in a little while. Many others have heard the same subtle suggestion from the same master of wiles and father of lies. Postponement in giving is usually its practical abandonment, for the habit of procrastination grows with insensibly rapid development.
Habitual givers generally witnessed to the continual blessedness of systematic giving. Many who began by giving a tenth, and perhaps in a legal spirit, felt constrained by the growing joy of imparting, to increase, not the amount only, but the proportion, to a fifth, a fourth, third, and even a half of their profits. Some wholly reversed the law of appropriation with which they began; for at first they gave a tithe to the Lord's uses, reserving nine tenths, whereas later on they appropriated nine tenths to the Lord's uses, and reserved for themselves only a tithe. Those who learn the deep meaning of our Lord words,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive,"
find such joy in holding all things at His disposal that even personal expenditures are subjected to the scrutiny of conscience and love, lest anything be wasted in extravagance or careless self-indulgence. Frances Ridley Havergal in her later years felt herself and all she possessed to be fully and joyfully given up to God, that she never went into a shop to spend a shilling without asking herself whether it would be for God's glory.
Gifts were valued by Mr. Müller only so far as they were the Lord's money, procured by lawful means given in the Lord's own way. To the last his course was therefore most conscientious in the caution with which he accepted offerings even in times of sorest extremity.
In October, 1842, he felt led to offer aid to a sister who seemed in great distress and destitution, offering to share with her, if need be, even his house and purse.
This offer drew out the acknowledgment that she had some five hundred pounds of her own; and her conversation revealed that this money was held as a provision against possible future want, and that she was leaning upon that instead of upon God. Mr. Müller said but little to her, but after her withdrawal he besought the Lord to make it real to her the exhaustless riches she possessed in Christ, and her own heavenly calling, that she might be constrained to lay down at His feet the whole sum which was thus a snare to her faith and an idol to her love. Not a word spoken or written passed between him and her on the subject, nor did he ever see her; his express desire being that if any such step were to be taken by her, it might result from no human influence or persuasion, lest her subsequent regret might prove both a damage to herself and a dishonour to her Master.
For nearly four weeks, however, he poured out his heart to God for her deliverance from greed. Then she again sought an interview and told him how she had been day by day seeking to learn the will of God as to this hoarded sum, and had been led to a clear conviction that it should be laid entire upon His altar. Thus the goodly sum off five hundred pounds was within so easy reach, at a time of very great need, that a word from Mr. Müller would secure it. Instead of saying that word, he exhorted her to make no such disposition of the money at that time, but to count the cost; to do nothing rashly lest she should repent it, but wait at least a fortnight more before reaching a final decision. His correspondence with this sister may be found fully spread out in his journal,* and is a model of devout carefulness lest he should snatch at a gift that might be prompted by wrong motives or given with an unprepared heart. When finally given, unexpected hindrances arose affecting her actual possession and transfer, so that more than a third of a year elapsed before it was received; but meanwhile there was on his part neither impatience nor distrust, nor did he even communicate further with her. To the glory of God let it be added that she afterward bore cheerful witness that never for a moment did she regret giving the whole sum to His service, and thus transferring her trust from the money to the Master.
*Narrative, I. 487 et seq.
In August, 1853, a poor widow of sixty, who had sold the little house which constituted her whole property, put into an orphan-house box elsewhere, for Mr. Müller, the entire proceeds, ninety pounds. Those who conveyed it to Mr. Müller, knowing the circumstances, urged her to retain at least a part of this sum, and prevailed on her to keep five pounds and sent on the other eighty-five. Mr. Müller learning the facts, and, fearing lest the gift might result from a sudden impulse to be afterward regretted, offered to pay her travelling expenses that he might have an interview with her. He found her mind had been quite made up for ten years before the house was sold that such disposition should be made of the proceeds. But he was the more reluctant to accept the gift lest, as she had already been prevailed on to take back five pounds of the original donation, she might wish she had reserved more; and only after much urgency had failed to persuade her to reconsider the step would he accept it. Even then, however, lest he should be evil spoken of in the matter, he declined to receive any part of the gift for personal uses.
In October, 1867, a small sum was sent in by one who had years before taken it from another, and who desired thus to make restitution, believing that the Christian believer from whom it was taken would approve of this method of restoring it. Mr. Müller promptly returned it, irrespective of amount, that restitution might be made directly to the party who had been robbed or wronged, claiming that such party should first receive it and then dispose of it as might seem fit. As it did not belong to him who took it, it was not his to give even in another's behalf.
During a season of great straits Mr. Müller received a sealed parcel containing money. He knew from whom it came, and that the donor was a woman not only involved in debt, but frequently asked by creditors for their lawful dues in vain. It was therefore clear that it was not her money, and therefore not hers to give; and without even opening the paper wrapper he returned it to the sender-- and this at a time when there was not in hand enough to meet the expenses of that very day. In June, 1838, a stranger, who confessed to an act of fraud, wished through Mr. Müller to make restitution, with interest; and, instead of sending the money by post, Mr. Müller took pains to transmit it by bank orders, which thus enabled him, in case of need, to prove his fidelity in acting as a medium of transmission-- an instance of the often-quoted maxim that it is the honest man who is most careful to provide things honest in the sight of all men.
Money sent as proceeds of a musical entertainment held for the benefit of the orphans in the south of Devon was politely returned. Mr. Müller had no doubt of the kind intention of those who set this scheme on foot, but he felt that money for the work of God should not be obtained in this manner, and he desired only money provided in God's way.
Friends who asked that they might know whether the gifts had come at a particularly opportune time were referred to the next Report for answer. To acknowledge that the help came very seasonably would be an indirect revelation of need, and might be construed into an indirect appeal for more aid-- as help that was peculiarly timed would soon be exhausted. And so this man of God consistently avoided any such disclosure of an exigency, lest his chief object should be hindered, namely,
"to show how blessed it is to deal with God alone, and to trust Him in the darkest moments."
And though the need was continual, and one demand was no sooner met than another arose, he did not find this a trying life nor did he ever tire of it.
As early as May, 1846, a letter from a brother contained the following paragraph:
"With regard to property, I do not see my way clearly. I trust it is all indeed at the disposal of the Lord; and if you would let me know of any need of it in His service, any sum under two hundred pounds shall be at your disposal at about a week's notice."
The need at that time was great. How easy and natural to write back that the orphan work was then in want of help, and that, as Mr. Müller was just going away from Bristol for rest, it would be a special comfort if his correspondent would send on, say a hundred and ninety pounds or so! But to deal with the Lord alone in the whole matter seemed so indispensable, both for the strengthening of his own faith and for the effectiveness of his testimony to the church and the world, that at once this temptation was seen to be a snare, and he replied that only to the Lord could the need of any part of the work be confided.
Money to be laid up as a fund for his old age or possible seasons of illness or family emergencies was always declined. Such a donation of one hundred pounds was received October 12, 1856, with a note so considerate and Christian that the subtle temptation to lay up for himself treasures on earth would have triumphed but for a heart fixed immovably in the determination that there should be no dependence upon any such human provision. He had settled the matter beyond raising the question again, that he would live from day to day upon the Lord's bounty, and would make but one investment, namely, using whatever means God gave, to supply the necessities of the poor, depending on God richly to repay him in the hour of his own need, according to the promise:
"He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord,
And that which he hath given will He pay him again."
God so owned, at once, this disposition on Mr. Müller's part that his courteous letter, declining the gift for himself, led the donor not only to ask him to use the hundred pounds for the orphan work, but to add to this sum a further gift of two hundred pounds more.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THROUGHOUT Mr. Müller's journal we meet scattered and fragmentary suggestions as to the true conception of Christian teaching and practice, the nature and office of the Christian ministry, the principles which should prevail in church conduct, the mutual relations of believers, and the Spirit's relation to the Body of Christ, to pure worship, service, and testimony. These hints will be of more value if they are crystallized into unity so as to be seen in their connection with each other.
The founder of the orphan houses began and ended his public career as a preacher, and, for over sixty years, was so closely related to one body of believers that no review of his life can be complete without a somewhat extended reference to the church in Bristol of which he was one of the earliest leaders, and, of all who ministered to it, the longest in service.
His church-work in Bristol began with his advent to that city and ended only with his departure from it for the continuing city and the Father's House. The joint ministry of himself and Mr. Henry Craik has been traced already in the due order of events; but the development of church-life, under this apostolic ministry, furnishes instructive lessons which yield their full teaching only when gathered up and grouped together so as to secure unity, continuity, and completeness of impression.
When Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik began joint work in Bristol, foundations needed to be relaid. The church-life as they found it, was not on a sufficiently scriptural basis and they waited on God for wisdom to adjust it more completely to His word and will. This was the work of time, for it required the instruction of fellow believers so that they might be prepared to cooperate, by recognizing scriptural and spiritual teaching; it required also the creation of that bond of sympathy which inclines the flock to hear and heed the shepherd's voice, and follow a true pastoral leadership. By the outset of their ministry, these brethren carefully laid down some principles on which their ministry was to be based. On May 23, 1832, they frankly stated, at Gideon Chapel, certain terms on which alone they could take charge of the church: they must be regarded as simply God's servants to labour among them so long as, and in such way as might be His will, and under no bondage of fixed rules; they desired pew-rents to be done away with, and voluntary offerings substituted, etc.
There was already, however, a strong conviction that a new start was in some respects indispensable if the existing church-life was to be thoroughly modelled on a scriptural pattern. These brethren determined to stamp upon the church certain important features such as these: Apostolic simplicity of worship, evangelical teaching, evangelistic work, separation from the world, systematic giving and dependence on prayer. They desired to give great prominence to the simple testimony of the Word, to support every department of the work by free-will offerings, to recognize the Holy Spirit as the one presiding and governing Power in all church assemblies, and to secure liberty for all believers in the exercise of spiritual gifts as distributed by that Spirit to all members of the Body of Christ for service. They believed it scriptural to break bread every Lord's day, and to baptize by immersion; and, although this latter has not for many years been a term of communion or of fellowship, believers have always been carefully taught that this is the duty of all disciples.
It has been already seen that in August, 1832, even persons in all, including these two pastors, met at Bethesda Chapel to unite in fellowship, without any formal basis or bond except that of loyalty to the Word and Spirit of God. This step was taken in order to start anew, without the hindrance of customs already prevailing, which were felt to be unscriptural and yet were difficult to abolish without discordant feeling; and, from that date on, Bethesda Chapel has been the home of an assembly of believers who have sought steadfastly to hold fast the New Testament basis of church-life.
Such blessed results are largely due to these beloved colleagues in labour who never withheld their testimony, but were intrepidly courageous and conscientiously faithful in witnessing against whatever they deemed opposed to the Word. Love ruled, but was not confounded with laxity in matters of right and wrong; and, as they saw more clearly what was taught in the Word, they sought to be wholly obedient to the Lord's teaching and leading, and to mould and model every matter, however minute, in every department of duty, private or public, according to the expressed will of God.
In January, 1834, all teachers who were not believers were dismissed from the Sunday-school; and, in the Dorcas Society, only believing sisters were accepted to make clothes for the destitute. The reason was that it had been found unwise and unwholesome to mix up or yoke together believers and unbelievers.*
*2 Cor. vi.14-18.
Such association proved a barrier to spiritual converse and injurious to both classes, fostering in the unbelievers a false security, ensnaring them in a delusive hope that to help in Christian work might somehow atone for rejection of Jesus Christ as a Saviour, or secure favour from God and an open door into heaven. No doubt all this indiscriminate association of children of God with children of the world in a "mixed multitude" is unscriptural. Unregenerate persons are tempted to think there is some merit at least in mingling with worshippers and workers, and especially in giving to the support of the gospel and its institutions. The devil seeks to persuade such that it is acceptable to God to conform externally to religious rites and forms, and take part in outward acts of service and sacrifice, and that He will deal leniently with them, despite their unbelief and disobedience. Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik felt keenly that this danger existed and that even in minor matters there must be a line of separation, for the sake of all involved.
When, in 1837, in connection with the congregation at Bethesda, the question was raised-- commonly known as that of close communion-- whether believers who had not been baptized as such should be received into fellowship, it was submitted likewise to the one test of clear scripture teaching. Some believers were conscientiously opposed to such reception, but the matter was finally and harmoniously settled by "receiving all who love our Lord Jesus into full communion, irrespective of baptism," and Mr. Müller, looking back forty-four years later upon this action, bears witness that the decision never became a source of dissention.*[†]
[† WStS Note: We respectfully disagree with Mr. Müller's honest position, believing that Baptism is commanded of all believers. "19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19,20).]
In all other church matters, prayer and searching the Word, asking counsel of the Holy Oracles and wisdom from above, were the one resort, and the resolution of all difficulties. When, in the spring of 1838, sundry questions arose somewhat delicate and difficult to adjust, Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik quietly withdrew from Bristol for two weeks, to give themselves to prayer and meditation, seeking of God definite direction.
The matters then at issue concerned the scriptural conception, mode of selection and appointment, scope of authority and responsibility, of the Eldership; the proper mode of observance of the Lord's Supper, its frequency, proper subjects, etc. Nothing is ever settled finally until settled rightly, nor settled rightly until settled scripturally. A serious peril confronted the church-- not of controversy only, but of separation and schism; and in such circumstances mere discussion often only fans the embers of strife and ends in hopeless alienation. These spiritually minded pastors followed the apostolic method, referring all matters to the Scriptures as the one rule of faith and practice, and to the Holy Spirit as the presiding Presence in the church of God; and they purposely retired into seclusion from the strife of tongues and of conflicting human opinion, that they might know the mind of the Lord and act accordingly. The results, as might be foreseen, were clear light from above for themselves, and a united judgment among the brethren; but more than this, God gave them wisdom so to act, combining the courage of conviction with the meekness and gentleness of Christ, as that all clouds were dispelled and peace restored.*
For about eight years, services had been held in both Gideon and Bethesda chapels; but on April 19, 1840, the last of the services conducted by Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik was held at Gideon,-- Bethesda, from this time on, becoming the central place of assembly. The reasons for this step were somewhat as follows:
These joint pastors strongly felt, with some others, that not a few of the believers who assembled at Gideon Chapel were a hindrance to the clear, positive, and united testimony which should be given both to the church and world; and it was on this account that, after many meetings for prayer and conference, seeking to know God's mind, it was determined to relinquish Gideon as a place of worship. The questions involved affected the preservation of the purity and simplicity of apostolic worship, and so the conformity of church-life to the New Testament pattern. These well-yoked pastors were very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, that, among the saints to whom they ministered, nothing should find a lodgment which was not in entire accord with scriptural principles, precept, and practices.
Perhaps it is well here to put on record, even at risk of repetition, the principles which Mr. Müller and his colleague were wont to enforce as guards or landmarks which should be set up and kept up, in order to exclude those innovations which always bring spiritual declension.
1. Believers should meet, simply as such, without reference to denominational lines, names, or distinctions, as a corrective and preventive of sectarianism.
2. They should steadfastly maintain the Holy Scriptures as the divine rule and standard of doctrine, deportment, and discipline.
3. They should encourage freedom for the exercise of whatever spiritual gifts the Lord might be pleased by His Spirit to bestow for general edification.
4. Assemblies on the Lord's day should be primarily for believers, for the breaking of bread, and for worship, unbelievers sitting promiscuously among saints would either hinder the appearance of meeting for such purposes, or compel a pause between other parts of the service and the Lord's Supper.
5. The pew-rent system should be abolished, as promoting the caste spirit, or at least the outward appearance of a false distinction between the poorer and richer classes, especially as pew-holders commonly look on their sittings as private property.
6. All money contributed for pastoral support, church work, and missionary enterprises at home and abroad should be by free-will offerings.
It was because some of these and other like scriptural, principles were thought to be endangered or compromised by practices prevailing at Gideon Chapel before Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik took charge, that it seemed best on the whole to relinquish that chapel as a place of worship. As certain customs there obtaining had existed previously, it seemed to these godly-minded brethren that it would be likely to cause needless offence and become a root of bitterness should they require what they deemed unscriptural to be renounced; and it seemed the way of love to give up Gideon Chapel after these eight years of labour there, and to invite such as felt called on to separate from every sectarian system, and meet for worship where free exercise would be afforded for every spiritual gift, and where New Testament methods might be more fully followed, to assemble with other believers at Bethesda, where previous hindering conditions had not existed.
Mr. Müller remained very intimately connected with Bethesda and its various outgrowths, for many years, as the senior pastor, or elder,-- though onlyprimus inter pares, i.e., leader among equals. His opinions about the work of the ministry and the conduct of church-life, which did so much to shape the history of these churches, therefore form a necessary part of this sketch of the development of church-life.
It was laid upon his heart frequently to address his brethren in the ministry of the Word and the curacy of souls. Everywhere, throughout the world, he welcomed opportunities for interviews, whether with many or few upon whom he could impress his own deep conviction to the vital secrets of elective service in the pulpit and pastorate. Such meetings with brethren in the midst numbered hundreds and perhaps thousands in the course of his long life, and as his testimony was essentially the same on all occasions, a single utterance may be taken as the type of all. During his American tours, he gave an hour's address which was reported and published, and the substance of which may therefore be given.
First of all he laid great stress upon the need of conversion. Until a man is both truly turned unto God and sure of this change in himself he is not fitted to convert others. The ministry is not a human profession, but divine vocation. The true preacher is both a herald and awitness, and hence must back up his message by his personal testimony from experience.
But even conversion is not enough: there must be an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus. One must know the Lord as coming near to himself, and know the joy and strength found in hourly access. However it be done, and at any cost, the minister of Christ must reach this close relationship. It is an absolute necessity to peace and power.
Growth in happiness and love was next made very prominent. It is impossible to set limits to the experience any believer who casts himself wholly on God, surrenders himself wholly to God, and cherishes deep love for His word and holy intimacy with Himself. The first business of every morning should be to secure happiness in God.
He who is to nourish others must carefully feed his own soul. Daily reading and study of the Scriptures, with such prayer, especially in the early morning hours, was tenuously urged. Quietness before God should be habitually cultivated, calming the mind and freeing it from preoccupation. Continuous reading of the Word, in course, will throw light upon the general teaching of the Word, and reveal God's thoughts in their variety and connection, and go far to correct erroneous views.
Holiness must be the supreme aim: prompt obedience to all known truth, a single eye in serving God, and zeal for His glory. Many a life has been more or less a failure because habits of heart well pleasing to God have been neglected. Nothing is more the crowning grace than the unconscious grace of humility. All praise of man robs God of His own honour. Let us therefore be humble and turn all eyes unto God.
The message must be gotten from God, if it is to be with power.
"Ask God for it," said Mr. Müller, "and, be not satisfied until the heart is at rest. When the text is obtained ask further guidance in meditating upon it, and keep in constant communion so as to get God's mind in the matter and His help in delivery. Then, after the work is done, pray much for blessing, as well as in advance."
He then told some startling facts as to seed sown many years before, but even now yielding fruit in answer to prayer.
He laid also special emphasis upon expounding the Scripture. The word of God is the staple of all preaching; Christ and nothing else the centre of all true ministry of the Word. Whoever faithfully and constantly preaches Christ will find God's word not returning to him void. Preach simply. Luther's rule was to speak so that an ignorant maid-servant could understand; if she does, the learned professor certainly will; but it does not hold true that the simple understand all that the wise do.
Mr. Müller seldom addressed his brethren in the ministry without giving more or less counsel as to the condition of church-life, giving plain witness against such hindrances as unconverted singers and choirs, secular methods of raising money, pew-rents and caste distinctions in the house of prayer, etc.; and urging such helps as inquire meetings, pastoral visits, and, above all else, believing prayer. He urged definite praying and importunate praying, and remarked that Satan will not mind how we labour in prayer for a few days, weeks, or even months, if he can at last discourage us so that we cease praying, as though it were of no use.
As to prayers for past seed-sowing he told the writer of this memoir how in all supplication to God he looked not only forward but backward. He was wont to ask that the Lord would be pleased to bless seed long since sown and yet apparently unfruitful; and he said that, in answer to these prayers, he had up to that day evidence of God leaving remembrance of his work of faith and labour love in years long gone by. He was permitted to know that messages delivered for God, tracts scattered, and other means of service had, after five, ten, twenty, and even sixty years, at last brought forth a harvest. Hence an urgency in advising fellow labourers to pray unceasing that God would work mightily in the hearts of those who had once been under their care, bringing to their remembrance the truth which had been set before them.
The humility Mr. Müller enjoined he practised. He was ever only the servant of the Lord. Mr. Spurgeon, in one of his sermons, describes the startling effect on London Bridge when he saw one lamp after another lit up with flame, though in the darkness he could not see the lamplighter; and George Müller set many a light burning when he was himself content to be unseen, unnoticed, and unknown. He honestly sought not his own glory, but had the meek and quiet spirit so becoming a minister of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Henry Craik's death in 1866, after thirty-four years of co-labour in the Lord, left Mr. Müller comparatively alone with a double burden of responsibility, but his faith was equal to the crisis and his peace remained unbroken. A beloved brother, then visiting Bristol, after crowded services conducted by him at Bethesda, was about leaving the city; and he asked Mr. Müller,
"What are you going to do, now that Mr. Craik is dead, to hold the people and prevent their scattering?"
"My beloved brother," was the calm reply, "we shall do what we have always done, look only to the Lord."
This God has been the perpetual helper. Mr. Müller almost totally withdrew from the work, during the seventeen years of his missionary tours, between 1875 and 1892, when he was in Bristol but a few weeks or months at a time, in the intervals between his long journeys and voyages. This left the assembly of believers still more dependent upon the great Shepherd and Bishop of of souls. But Bethesda has never, in a sense, been limited to any one or two men, as the only acknowledged leaders; from the time when those seven believers gathered about the Lord's table in 1832, the New Testament conception of the equality of believers in privilege and duty has been maintained. The one supreme Leader is the Holy Ghost, and under Him those whom He calls and qualifies.
One of the fundamental principles espoused by these brethren is that the Spirit of God controls in the assemblies of the saints; that He sets the members, every one of them, in the Body as it pleaseth Him, and divides unto them, severally as He will, gifts for service in the Body; that the only true ordination is His ordination, and that the manifestation of His gifts is the sufficient basis for the recognition of brethren qualified for the exercise of an office or function, the possession of spiritual gifts being sufficient authority for the exercise.
It is with the Body of Christ as with the human body: the eye is manifestly made for seeing and the ear for hearing, the hand and foot for handling and walking; and this adaptation both shows the design of God and their place in the organism. And so for more than threescore years the Holy Spirit has been safely trusted to supply and qualify all needed teachers, helpers, and leaders in the assembly. There has always been considerable number of brethren and sisters fitted and disposed to take up the various departments of service to which they were obviously called of the Spirit, so that no one person has been indispensable. Various brethren have been able to give more or less time and strength preaching, visiting, and ruling in the church; while scores of others, who, like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, the tent makers, have their various business callings and seek therein to "abide with God," are ready to aid as the Lord may guide in such other forms of service as may consist with their ordinary vocations. The prosperity of the congregation, its growth, conduct, and edification, have therefore been dependent only on God, who, as He has withdrawn one worker after another, has supplied others in their stead, and so continues to do.
To have any adequate conception of the fruits of such teaching and such living in church-life, it is needful to go at least into one of the Monday-night prayer meetings at Bethesda. It is primitive and apostolic in simplicity. No one presides but the unseen Spirit of God. A hymn is suggested by some brother, and then requests for prayer are read, usually with definite mention of the names of those by and for whom supplication is asked. Then prayer, Scripture reading, singing, and exhortation follow, without any prearrangement as to subject, order in which or persons by whom, the exercises are participated in. The fullest liberty is encouraged to act under the Spirit's guidance; and the fact of such guidance is often strikingly apparent in the singular unity of prayer and song, scripture reading and remarks, as well as in the harmonious fellowship apparent. After more than half a century these Monday-night prayer services are still a hallowed centre of attraction, a rallying-point for supplication, and a radiating-point for service, and remain unchanged in the method of their conduct.
The original congregation has proved a tree whose seed is in itself after its kind. At the time of Mr. Müller's increase it was nearly sixty-six years since that memorable evening in 1832 when those seven believers met to form a church; and the original body of disciples meeting in Bethesda had increased to ten, six of which are now independent of the mother church, and four of which still remain in close affiliation and really constitute one church, though meeting in Bethesda, Alma Road, Stokes Croft, and Totterdown chapels. The names of the other churches which have been in a sense offshoots from Bethesda are as follows: Unity, Bishopston, Cumberland Hall, Charleton Hall, Nicholas Road, and Bedminster.
At the date of Mr. Müller's decease the total membership of the four affiliated congregations was upwards of twelve hundred.
In this brief compass no complete outline could be given of the church life and work so dear to him, and over which he so long watched and prayed. This church has been and is a missionary church. When on March 1, 1836, Mr. and Mrs. Groves, with ten helpers, left Bristol to carry on mission work in the East Indies, Mr. Müller felt deeply moved to pray that the body of disciples to whom he ministered might send out from their own members labourers for the wide world-field. That prayer was not forgotten before God, and has already been answered exceeding abundantly above all he then asked or thought. Since that time some sixty have gone forth to lands afar to labour in the gospel, and at the period of Mr. Müller's death there were at work, in various parts of the world at least twenty, who are aided by the free-will offerings of their Bristol brethren.
When, in 1874, Mr. Müller closed the third volume of his Narrative, he recorded the interesting fact that, the many nonconformist ministers of the gospel resident in Bristol when he took up work there more than forty-two years before, not one remained, all having been removed elsewhere or having died; and that, of all the evangelical clergy of the establishment, only one survived. Yet he himself, with very rare hindrance through illness, was permitted to preach and labour with health and vigor both of mind and body; over a thousand believers were already under his pastoral oversight, meeting in three different chapels, and over three thousand had been admitted into fellowship.
It was the writer's privilege to hear Mr. Müller preach on the morning of March 22, 1896, in Bethesda Chapel. He was in his ninety-first year, but there was a freshness, vigour, 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.
His theme was the seventy-seventh psalm, and it afforded him abundant scope for his favourite subject-- prayer. He expounded the psalm verse by verse, clearly, sympathetically, effectively, and the outline of his treatment strongly engraved itself on my memory and is here reproduced.
"I cried unto God with my voice." Prayer seeks a voice-- to utter itself in words: the effort to clothe our desires in language gives definiteness to our desires and keeps the attention on the objects of prayer.
"In the day of my trouble." The Psalmist was in trouble; some distress was upon him, perhaps physical as well as mental, and it was an unceasing burden night and day.
"My soul refused to be comforted." The words, "my sore ran in the night," may be rendered, "my hand reached out"-- that is in prayer. But unbelief triumphed, and his soul refused all comfort even the comfort of God's promises. His trouble overshadowed his faith and shut out the vision of God.
"I remembered, or thought of God, and was troubled." Even the thought of God, instead of bringing peace, brought distress; instead of silencing his complaint, it increased it, and his spirit was overwhelmed-- the sure sign, again, of unbelief. If in trouble God's promises and the thought of God brings no relief, they will only become an additional burden.
"Thou holdest mine eyes waking." There was no sleep because there was no rest or peace. Care makes wakeful. Anxiety is the foe of repose. His spirit was unbelieving and therefore rebellious. He would not take God at His word.
"I have considered the days of old." Memory now is at work. He calls to remembrance former experiences of trouble and of deliverance. He had often sought God and been heard and helped, and why not now? As he made diligent search among the records of his experience and recollected all God's manifest and manifold inter-positions, he began to ask whether God could be fickle and capricious, whether His mercy was exhausted and His promise withdrawn, whether He had forgotten His covenant of grace, and shut up His fountains of love.
Thus we follow the Psalmist through six stages of unbelief:
1. The thought of God is a burden instead of a blessing.
2. The complaining spirit increases toward God.
3. His spirit is agitated instead of soothed and calmed.
4. Sleep departs, and anxiety forbids repose of heart.
5. Trouble only deepens and God seems far off.
6. Memory recalls God's mercies, but only to awaken distrust.
At last we reach the turning-point in the psalm:
he asks as he reviews former experiences, WHERE IS THE DIFFERENCE? IS THE CHANGE IN GOD OR IN ME? "Selah"-- the pause marks this turning-point in the argument or experience.
"And I said, This is my infirmity." In other words, "I HAVE BEEN A FOOL!" God is faithful. He never casts off. His children are always dear to Him. His grace is exhaustless and His promise unfailing. Instead of fixing his eyes on his trouble he now fixes his whole mind on God. He remembers His work, and meditates upon it; instead of rehearsing his own trials, he talks of His doings. He gets overwhelmed now, not with the greatness of his trouble but the greatness of his Helper. He recalls His miracles of power and love, and remembers the mystery of His mighty deeds-- His way in the sea, His strange dealings and leadings and their gracious results-- and so faith once more triumphs.
What is the conclusion, the practical lesson?
Unbelief is folly. It charges God foolishly. Man's are the weakness and failure, but never God's. My faith may be lacking but not His power. Memory and meditation, when rightly directed, correct unbelief. God has shown Himself great. He has always done wonders. He led even an unbelieving and murmuring people out of Egypt and for forty years through the wilderness, and His miracles of power and love were marvellous.
The psalm contains a great lesson. Affliction is inevitable. But our business is never to lose sight of the Father who will not leave His children. We are to roll all burdens on Him and wait patiently, and deliverance is sure. Behind the curtain He carries on His plan of love, never forgetting us, always caring for His own. His ways of dealing we cannot trace, for His footsteps are in the trackless sea, and unknown to us. But HE IS SURELY LEADING, and CONSTANTLY LOVING. Let us not be fools, but pray in faith to a faithful God.
This is the substance of that morning exposition, and is given very inadequately, it is true, yet it serves not only to illustrate Mr. Müller's mode of expounding and applying the Word, but the exposition of this psalm is a sort of exponent also of his life. It reveals his habits of prayer, the conflicts with unbelief, and how out of temptations to distrust God he found deliverance; and thus is doubly valuable to us as an experimental commentary upon the life-history we are studying.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
DEATH shuts the door upon earthly service, whatever door it may open to other forms and spheres of activity. There are many intimations that service beyond the grave is both unceasing and untiring: the blessed dead "rest indeed from their labours"-- toilsome and painful tasks-- "but their work's" activities for God-- "do follow them," where exertion is without exhaustion.
This is therefore a fit point for summing up the results of the work over which, from its beginning, one man had specially had charge. One sentence from Mr. Müller's pen marks the purpose which was the very pivot of his whole being:
"I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith."
This prepared both for the development of the character of him who had such singleness of aim, and for the development of the work in which that aim found action. Mr. Müller's oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman of Barnstaple, beautifully says that
"when a man's chief business is to serve and please the Lord, all his circumstances become his servants";
and we shall find this maxim true in Mr. Müller's life-work.
The Fifty-ninth Report, issued May 26, 1898, was the last up to the date of the publication of this volume, and the first after Mr. Müller's death. In this, Mr. Wright gives the brief but valuable summary not only of the whole work of the year preceding, but of the whole work from its beginning, and thus helps us to a comprehensive survey.
This report is doubly precious as it contains also the last contribution of Mr. Müller's own pen to the record of the Lord's dealings. It is probable that on the afternoon of March 9th he laid down his pen, for the last time, all unconscious that he was never again to take it up. He had made, in a twofold sense, his closing entry in life's solemn journal! In the evening of that day he took his customary part in the prayer service in the orphan house-- then went to sleep for the last time on earth; there came a waking hour, when he was alone with God, and suddenly departed, leaving his body to its long sleep that knows no waking until the day of the Lord's coming, while his spirit returned unto God who gave it.
The afternoon of that day of death, and of "birth" into the heavenly life-- as the catacomb saints called it-- found the helpers again assembled in the same prayer room to commit the work to him "who only hath immortality," and who, amid all changes of human administration, ever remains the divine Master Workman, never at a loss for His own chosen instruments.
Mr. Wright, in this report, shows himself God's chosen in the work, evidently like-minded with the departed director. The first paragraph, after the brief and touching reference to his father-in-law, serves to convey to all friends of this work the assurance that he to whom Mr. Müller left its conduct has also learned the one secret of all success in coworking with God. It sounds, as the significant keynote for the future, the same old keynote of the past, carrying on the melody and harmony, without change, into the new measures. It is the same oratorio, without alteration of theme, time, or even key: the leading performer is indeed no more but another hand takes up his instrument and , trembling with emotion, continues the unfinished strain so that there is no interruption. Mr. Wright says:
"It is written (Job xxvi.7):
'He hangeth the earth upon nothing'--
that is, no visible support. And so we exult in the fact that 'the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad' hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement, now more than sixty-four years ago, 'upon nothing,' that is, upon no VISIBLE support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God."
Blessed lesson to learn! that to hang upon the invisible God is not to hang "upon nothing," though it be upon nothing visible. The power and permanence of the invisible forces that hold up the earth after sixty centuries of human history are sufficiently shown by the fact that this great globe still swings securely in space and is whirled through its vast orbit, and that, without variation of a second, it still moves with divine exactness in its appointed path. We can therefore trust the same invisible God to sustain with His unseen power all the work which faith depends upon His truth and love and unfailing word of promise, though to the natural eye all these may seem as nothing.
Mr. Wright records also a very striking answer to long-continued prayer, and a most impressive instance of the tender care of the Lord, in the providing of an associate, every way like-minded, and well fitted to share the responsibility falling upon his shoulders at the decease of his father-in-law.
Feeling the burden too great for him, his one resource was to cast his burden on the Lord. He and Mr. Müller had asked of God such a companion in labour for three years before his departure, and Mr. Wright and his dear wife had, for twenty-five years before that-- from the time when Mr. Müller's long missionary tours began to withdraw him from Bristol-- besought of the Lord the same favour. But to none of them had any name been suggested, or, if so, it had never been mentioned.
After that day of death, Mr. Wright felt that a gracious Father would not long leave him to sustain this great burden alone, and about a fortnight later he felt assured that it was the will of God that he should ask Mr. George Frederic Bergin to join him in the work, who seemed to him a "true yoke-fellow." He had known him well for a quarter-century; he had worked by his side in the church; and though they were diverse in temperament, there had never been a break in unity or sympathy. Mr. Bergin was seventeen years his junior, and so likely to survive and succeed him; he was very fond of children, and had been much blessed in training his own in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and hence was fitted to take charge of this larger family of orphans. Confident of being led of God, he put the matter before Mr. Bergin, delighted but not surprised to find that the same God had moved on his mind also, and in the same direction; for not only was he ready to respond to Mr. Wright's appeal, but he had been led of God to feel that he should, after a certain time, go to Mr. Wright and offer himself. The Spirit who guided Philip to the Eunuch and at the same time had made the Eunuch to inquire after guidance; who sent men from Cornelius and, while they were knocking at Simon's house, was bidding Peter go with them, still moves in a mysterious way, and simultaneously, on those whom He would bring together for cooperation in loving service. And thus Mr. Wright found the Living God the same Helper and Supplier of every need, after his beloved father-in-law had gone up higher; and felt constrained to feel that the God of Elijah was still at the crossing of the Jordan and could work the same wonders as before, supplying the need of the hour when the need came.
Mr. Müller's own gifts to the service of the Lord find in this posthumous report their first full record and recognition. Readers of the Annual Reports must have noticed an entry, recurring with strange frequency during all these thirty or forty years, and therefore suggesting a giver that must have reached a very ripe age:
"from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven."
If that entry be carefully followed throughout and there be added the personal gifts made by Mr. Müller to various benevolent objects, it will be found that the aggregate sum from this "servant" reaches, up to March 1, 1898, a total of eighty-one thousand four hundred and ninety pounds eighteen shillings and eightpence. Mr. Wright, now that this "servant of the Lord Jesus" is with his Master, who promised,
"Where I am there shall also My servant be,"
feels free to make known that this donor was no other than George Müller himself who thus gave out of his own money-- money given to him for his own use or left to him by legacies-- the total sum of about sixty-four thousand five hundred pounds to the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and, in other directions, seventeen thousand more.
This is a record of personal gifts to which we know no parallel. It reminds us of the career of John Wesley, whose simplicity and frugality of habits enabled him not only to limit his own expenditure to a very small sum, but whose Christian liberality and unselfishness prompted him to give all that he could thus save to purely benevolent objects. While he had but thirty pounds a year, he lived on twenty-eight and gave away forty shillings. Receiving twice as much the next year, he still kept his living expenses down to the twenty-eight pounds and had thirty-two to bestow on the needy; and when the third year his income rose to ninety pounds, he spent no more than before and gave away sixty-two. The fourth year brought one hundred and twenty, and he disbursed still but the same sum for his own needs, having ninety-two to spare. It is calculated that in the course of his life he thus gave away at least thirty thousand pounds, and four silver spoons comprised all the silver plate that he possessed when the collectors of taxes called upon him. Such economy on the one hand and such generosity on the other have seldom been known in human history.
But George Müller's record will compare favourably with this or any other of modern days. His frugality, simplicity, and economy were equal to Wesley's, and his gifts aggregated eighty-one thousand pounds. Mr. Müller had received increasingly large sums from the Lord which he invested well and most profitably, so that for over sixty years he never lost a penny through a bad speculation! But his investments were not in lands or banks or railways, but in the work of God. He made friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness that when he failed received him into everlasting habitations.
He continued, year after year, to make provision for himself, his beloved wife and daughter, by laying up treasure-- in heaven. Such a man had certainly a right to exhort others to systematic beneficence. He gave-- as not one in a million gives-- not a tithe, not any fixed proportion of annual income, but all that was left after the simplest and most necessary supply of actual wants. While most Christians regard themselves as doing their duty if, after they have given a portion to the Lord, they spend all the rest on themselves, God led George Müller to reverse this rule and reserve only the most frugal sum for personal needs, that the entire remainder might be given to him that needeth. The utter revolution implied in our habits of giving which would be necessary were such a rule adopted is but too obvious. Mr. Müller's own words are:
"My aim never was, how much I could obtain, but rather how much I could give."
He kept continually before him his stewardship of God's property; and sought to make the most of the one brief life on earth, and to use for the best and largest good the property held by him in trust. The things of God were deep realities, and, projecting every action and decision and motive into the light of the judgment-seat of Christ, he asked himself how it would appear to him in the light of that tribunal. Thus he sought prayerfully and conscientiously so to live and labor, so to deny himself, and, by love, serve God and man, as that he should not be ashamed before Him at His coming. But not in a spirit of fear was this done; for if any man of his generation knew the perfect love that casts out fear, it was George Müller. He felt that God is love, and love is of God. He saw that love manifested in the greatest of gifts-- His only-begotten Son at Calvary-- he knew and believed the Love that God hath to us; he received it into his own heart; it became an abiding presence, manifested in obedience and benevolence, and, subduing him more and more, it became perfected so as to expel tormenting fear and impart a holy confidence and delight in God.
Among the texts which strongly impressed and moulded Mr. Müller's habits of giving was Luke vi.38:
"Give and it shall be given unto you.
Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over
shall men give into your bosom."
He believed this promise and he verified it. His testimony is:
"I had GIVEN, and God had caused to be GIVEN TO ME AGAIN, and bountifully."
Again he read:
"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
He says that he BELIEVED what he found in the word of God, and by His grace sought to ACT ACCORDINGLY, and thus again records that he was blessed abundantly and his peace and joy in the Holy Ghost increased more and more.
It will not be a surprise, therefore, that, as has been already noted, Mr. Müller's entire personal estate at his death, as sworn to, when the will was admitted to probate, was only £169 9s. 4d., of which books, household furniture, etc., were reckoned at over one hundred pounds, the only money in his possession being a trifle over sixty pounds, and even this only awaiting disbursement as God's steward.
The will of Mr. Müller contains a pregnant clause which should not be forgotten in this memorial. It closes with a paragraph which is deeply significant as meant to be his posthumous word of testimony "a last testament":
"I cannot help admiring God's wondrous grace in bringing me to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus when I was an entirely careless and thoughtless young man, and that He has kept me in His fear and truth, allowing me the great honour, for so long a time, of serving Him."
In the comprehensive summary contained in this Fifty-ninth Report, remarkable growth is apparent during the sixty-four years since the outset of the work in 1834.
During the year ending May 26, 1898,
the number of day-schools was 7, and of pupils, 354; the number of children in attendance from the beginning, 81,501.
The number of home Sunday-schools, 12, and of children in them, 1,341; but from the beginning, 32,944.
The number of Sunday-schools aided in England and Wales, 25.
The amount expended in connection with home schools, £736 13s. 10d.; from the outset, £109,992 19s. 10d.
The Bibles and parts thereof circulated, 15,411; from the beginning, 1,989,266. Money expended for this purpose the past year, £439; from the first, £41,090 13s. 3d.
Missionary labourers aided, 115. Money expended, £2082 9s. 6d.; from the outset, £261,859 7s. 4d.
Circulation of books and tracts, 3,101,338. Money spent, £1001 3s.; and from the first, £47,188 11s. 10d.
The number of orphans on Ashley Down,1620; and from the first, 10,024. Money spent in orphan houses, last year £22,523 13s. 1d.; and from the beginning, £988,829.
To carry out conviction into action is sometimes a costly sacrifice; but whatever Mr. Müller's fidelity to conviction cost in one way, he had stupendous results of his life-work to contemplate, even while he lived. Let any one look at the above figures and facts, and remember that here was one poor man who, dependent on the help of God only in answer to prayer, could look back over threescore years and see how he had built five large orphan houses and taken into his family over ten thousand orphans, expending, for their good, within twelve thousand pounds of a round million. He had given aid to day-schools and Sunday-schools, in this and other lands, where nearly one hundred and fifty thousand children have been taught, at a cost of over one hundred and ten thousand pounds more. He had circulated nearly two million Bibles and parts thereof at the cost of over forty thousand pounds; and over three million books and tracts, at a cost of nearly fifty thousand pounds more. And besides all this he had spent over two hundred and sixty thousand pounds to aid missionary labourers in various lands. The sum total of the money thus spent during sixty years has thus reached very nearly the astonishing aggregate of one and a half million of pounds sterling ($7,500,000).
To summarize Mr. Müller's service we must understand his great secret. Such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else,-- daily and frequent communion with God. Unwearied in supplications and intercessions, we have seen how, in every new need and crisis, prayer was the one resort, the prayer of faith.
He first satisfied himself that he was in the way of duty;
then he fixed his mind upon the unchanging word of promise;
then, in the boldness of a suppliant who comes to a throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ and pleads the assurance of the immutable Promiser, he presented every petition.
He was an unwearied intercessor. No delay discouraged him. This is seen particularly in the case of individuals for whose conversion or special guidance into the paths of full obedience he prayed. On his prayer list were the names of some for whom he had besought God, daily, by name, for one, two, three, four, six, ten years before the answer was given. The year just before his death, he told the writer of two parties for whose reconciliation to God he had prayed, day by day, for over sixty years, and who had not as yet to his knowledge turned unto God: and he significantly added,
"I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven; for my Heavenly Father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over threescore years, if He had not concerning them purposes of mercy."
This is a sufficient example of his almost unparalleled perseverance and importunity in intercession. However long the delay, he held on, as with both hands clasping the very horns of the altar; and his childlike spirit reasoned simply but confidently, that the very fact of his own spirit being so long drawn out in prayer for one object, and of the Lord's enabling him so to continue patiently and believingly to wait on Him for the blessing, was a promise and prophecy of the answer; and so he waited on, so assured of the ultimate result that he praised God in advance, believing that he had practically received that for which he asked.
It is most helpful here to add that one of the parties for whom for so many years he unceasingly prayed had recently died in faith, having received the promises and embraced them and confessed Jesus as his Lord. Just before leaving Bristol with this completed manuscript of Mr. Müller's life, I met a lady, a niece of the man referred to, through whom I received a knowledge of these facts. He had, before his departure, given most unequivocal testimony to his faith and hope in the Saviour of sinners.
If George Müller could still speak to us, he would again repeat the warning so frequently found in his journal and reports, that his fellow disciples must not regard him as a miracle-worker, as though his experience were to be accounted so exceptional as to have little application in our ordinary spheres of life and service. With patient repetition he affirms that in all essentials such an experience is the privilege of all believers. God calls disciples to various forms of work, but all alike to the same faith. To say, therefore,
"I am not called to build orphan houses, etc., and have no right to expect answers to my prayers as Mr. Müller did,"
is wrong and unbelieving. Every child of God, he maintained, is first to get into the sphere appointed of God, and therein to exercise full trust, and live by faith upon God's sure word of promise.
Throughout all these thousands of pages written by his pen, he teaches that every experience of God's faithfulness is both the reward of past faith and prayer, and the preparation of the servant of God for larger work and more efficient service and more convincing witness to his Lord.
No man can understand such a work who does not see in it the supernatural power of God. Without that the enigma defies solution; with that all the mystery is at least an open mystery. He himself felt from first to last that this supernatural factor was the key to the whole work, and without that it would have been even to himself a problem inexplicable. How pathetically we find him often comparing himself and his work for God to "the Burning Bush in the Wilderness" which, always aflame and always threatened with apparent destruction, was not consumed, so that not a few turned aside wondering to see this great sight. And why was it not burnt? Because Jehovah of hosts, who was in the Bush, dwelt in the man and in his work: or, as Wesley said with almost his last breath,
"Best of all, God is with us."
This simile of the Burning Bush is the more apt when we consider the rapid growth of the work. At first so very small as to seem almost insignificant, and conducted in one small rented house, accommodating thirty orphans, then enlarged until other rented premises became necessary; then one, two, three, four, and even five immense structures being built, until three hundred, seven hundred, eleven hundred and fifty, and finally two thousand and fifty inmates could find shelter within them,-- how seldom has the world seen such vast and, at the same time, rapid enlargement! Then look at the outlay! At first a trifling expenditure of perhaps five hundred pounds for the first year of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and of five hundred pounds for the first twelve month of the orphan work, and in the last year of Mr. Müller's life a grand total of over twenty-seven thousand five hundred, for all the purposes of the Institution.
The cost of the houses built on Ashley Down might have staggered a man of large capital, but this poor men only cried and the Lord helped him. The first house cost fifteen thousand pounds; the second, over twenty-one thousand; the third, over twenty-three thousand; and the fourth and fifth, from fifty thousand to sixty thousand more-- so that the total cost reached about one hundred and fifteen thousand. Besides all this, there was a yearly expenditure which rose as high as twenty-five thousand for the orphans alone, irrespective of those occasional outlays made needful for emergencies, such as improved sanitary precautions, which in one case cost over two thousand pounds.
Here is a burning bush indeed, always in seeming danger of being consumed, yet still standing on Ashley Down, and still preserved because the same presence of Jehovah burns in it. Not a branch of this many-sided work has utterly perished, while the whole bush still challenges unbelievers to turn aside and see the great sight, and take off the shoes from their feet as on holy ground where God manifests Himself.
Any complete survey of this great life-work must include much that was wholly outside of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; such as that service which Mr. Müller was permitted to render to the church of Christ and the world at large as a preacher, pastor, witness for truth, and author of books and tracts.
His preaching period covered the whole time from 1826 to 1898, the year of his departure, over seventy years; and from 1830, when he went to Teignmouth, his preaching continued, without interruption except from ill health until his life closed, with an average through the whole period of probably three sermons a week, or over ten thousand, for his lifetime. This is probably a low estimate, for during his missionary tours, which covered over two hundred thousand miles and were spread through seventeen years, he spoke on an average about once a day notwithstanding already advanced age.
His church life was much blessed even in visible and tangible results. During the first two and a half years of work in Bristol, two hundred and twenty-seven members were added, about half of whom were new converts, and it is probable that, if the whole number brought to the knowledge of Christ by his preaching could now be ascertained, it would be found to aggregate full as many as the average of those years, and would thus reach into the thousands, exclusive of orphans converted on Ashley Down. Then when we take into account the vast numbers addressed and impressed by his addresses, given in all parts of the United Kingdom, on the Continent of Europe, and in America, Asia, and Australia, and the still vaster numbers who have read his Narrative, his books and tracts, or who have in various other ways felt the quickening power of his example and life, we shall get some conception-- still, at best, inadequate-- of the range and scope of the influence he wielded by his tongue and pen, his labours, and his life. Much of the best influence defies all tabulated statistics and evades all mathematical estimates; it is like the fragrance of the alabaster flask which fills all the house but escapes our grosser senses of sight, hearing, and touch. This part of George Müller's work we cannot summarize: it belongs to a realm where we cannot penetrate. But God sees, knows, and rewards it.