GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE closing scene of this beautiful and eventful life history has an interest not altogether pathetic. Müller seems like an elevated mountain, on whose summit the evening sun shines in lingering splendour, and whose golden peak rises far above the ordinary level and belongs to heaven more than earth, in the clear, cloudless calm of God.
From May, 1892, when the last mission tour closed, he devoted himself mainly to the work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and to preaching at Bethesda and elsewhere as God seemed to appoint. His health was marvellous, especially considering how, when yet a young man, frequent and serious illnesses and general debility had apparently disqualified him from all military duty, and to many prophesied early death or hopeless succumbing to disease. He had been in tropic heat and arctic cold, in gales and typhoons at sea, and on journeys by rail, sometimes as continuously long as a sea-voyage. He had borne the pest of fleas, mosquitoes, and even rats. He had endured changes of climate, diet, habits of life, and the strain of almost daily services, and come out of all unscathed. This man, whose health was never robust, had gone through labours that would try the mettle of an iron constitution; this man, who had many times been laid aside by illness and sometimes for months and who in 1837 had feared that a persistent head trouble might unhinge his mind, could say, in his ninety-second year:
"I have been able, every day and all the day, to work, and that with ease, as seventy years since."
When the writer was holding meetings in Bristol in 1896, on an anniversary very sacred to himself, he asked his beloved father Müller to speak at the closing meeting of the series, in the Y. M. C. A. Hall; and he did so, delivering a powerful address of forty-five minutes, on Prayer in connection with Missions, and giving his own life-story in part, with a vigour of voice and manner that seemed a denial of his advanced age.*
The marvellous preservation of such a man at such an age reminds one of Caleb, who at eighty-five could boast in God that he was as strong even for war as in the day that he was sent into the land as one of the spies; and Mr. Müller himself attributed this preservation to three causes:
first, the exercising of himself to have always a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward men ;
secondly to the love he felt for the Scriptures, and the constant recuperative power they exercised upon his whole being;
and third, to that happiness he felt in God and His work, which relieved him of all anxiety and needless wear and tear in his labours.
The great fundamental truth that this heroic man stamped on his generation was that the Living God is the same to day and forever as yesterday and in all ages past, and that, with equal confidence with the most trustful souls of any age, we may believe His word, and to every promise add, like Abraham, our "Amen"-- IT SHALL BE SO!*
*Gen. xv.6. (Hebrew.)
When, a few days after his death, Mr. E. H. Glenny, who is known to many as the beloved and self-sacrificing friend of the North African Mission, passed through Barcelona, he found written in an album over his signature the words:
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and for ever."
And, like the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting from the 102d Psalm, we may say of Jehovah, while all else changes and perishes:
"THOU ART THE SAME."
Toward the close of life Mr. Müller, acting under medical advice, abated somewhat of his active labours, preaching commonly but once a Sunday. It was my privilege to hear him on the morning of the Lord's day, March 22, 1896. He spoke on the 77th Psalm; of course he found here his favourite theme-- prayer; and, taking that as a fair specimen of his average preaching, he was certainly a remarkable expositor of Scripture even at ninety-one years of age. Later on the outline of this discourse will be found.
On Sunday morning, March 6, 1898, he spoke at Alma Road Chapel, and on the Monday evening following was at the prayer service at Bethesda, on both occasions in his usual health. On Wednesday evening following, he took his wonted place at the Orphan House prayer meeting and gave out the hymns:
"The countless multitude on high."
"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died."
When he bade his beloved son-in-law "good-night," there was outward sign of declining strength. He seemed to the last the vigorous old man, and retired to rest as usual. It had been felt that one so advanced in years should have some night-attendant, especially as indications of heart-weakness had been noticed of late, and he had yielded to the pressure of love and consented to such an arrangement after that night. But the consent came too late. He was never more to need human attendance or attention. On Thursday morning, March 10th, at about seven o'clock, the usual cup of tea was taken to his room. To the knock at the door there was no response save an ominous silence. The attendant opened the door, only to find that the venerable patriarch lay dead, on the floor beside the bed. He had probably risen to take some nourishment-- a glass of milk and a biscuit being always put within reach-- and, while eating the biscuit, he had felt faint, and fallen, clutching at the table-cloth as he fell, for it was dragged off, with certain things that had lain on the table. His medical adviser, who was promptly summoned, gave as his opinion that he had died of heart-failure some hour or two before he had been found by his attendant.
Such a departure, even at such an age, produced a world-wide sensation. That man's moral and spiritual forces reached and touched the earth's ends. Not in Bristol, or in Britain alone, but across the mighty waters toward the sunrise and sunset was felt the responsive pulse-beat of a deep sympathy. Hearts bled all over the globe when it was announced, by telegraph wire and ocean cable, that George Müller was dead. It was said of a great Englishman that his influence could be measured only by "parallels of latitude"; of George Müller we may add, and by meridians of longitude. He belonged to the whole church and the whole world, in a unique sense; and the whole race of man sustained a loss when he died.
The funeral, which took place on the Monday following, was a popular tribute of affection, such as is seldom seen. Tens of thousands of people reverently stood along the route of the simple procession; men left their workshops and offices, women left their elegant homes or humble kitchens, all seeking to pay a last token of respect. Bristol had never before witnessed any such scene.
A brief service was held at Orphan House No. 3, where over a thousand children met, who had for a second time lost a "father"; in front of the reading-desk in the great dining-room, a coffin of elm, studiously plain, and by request without floral offerings, contained all that was mortal of George Müller, and on a brass plate was a simple inscription, giving the date of his death, and his age.
Mr. James Wright gave the address, reminding those who were gathered that, to all of us, even those who have lived nearest God, death comes while the Lord tarries; that it is blessed to die in the Lord; and that for believers in Christ there is a glorious resurrection waiting. The tears that ran down those young cheeks were more eloquent than any words, as a token of affection for the dead.
The procession silently formed. Among those who followed the bier were four who had been occupants of that first orphan home in Wilson Street. The children's grief melted the hearts of spectators, and eyes unused to weeping were moistened that day. The various carriages bore the medical attendants, the relatives and connections of Mr. Müller, the elders and deacons of the churches with which he was associated, and his staff of helpers in the work on Ashley Down. Then followed forty or fifty other vehicles with deputations from various religious bodies, etc.
At Bethesda, every foot of space was crowded, and hundreds sought in vain for admission. The hymn was sung which Mr. Müller had given out at that last prayer meeting the night before his departure. Dr. Maclean of Bath offered prayer, mingled with praise for such a long life of service and witness, of prayer and faith, and Mr. Wright spoke from Hebrews xiii.7,8.
"Remember them which have the rule over you,
Who have spoken unto you the word of God:
Whose faith follow,
Considering the end of their conversation:
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and forever."
He spoke of those spiritual rulers and guides whom God sets over his people; and of the privilege of imitating their faith, calling attention to the two characteristics of his beloved father-in-law's faith:
first, that it was based on that immovable Rock of ages, God's written word;
and secondly, that it translated the precepts and promises of that word into daily life.
Mr. Wright made very emphatic Mr. Müller's acceptance of the whole Scriptures, as divinely inspired. He had been wont to say to young believers,
"Put your finger on the passage on which your faith rests,"
and had himself read the Bible from end to end nearly two hundred times. He fed on the Word and therefore was strong. He found the centre of that Word in the living Person it enshrines, and his one ground of confidence was His atoning work. Always in his own eyes weak, wretched, and vile, unworthy of the smallest blessing, he rested solely on the merit and mediation of His great High Priest.
George Müller cultivated faith. He used to say to his helpers in prayer and service,
"Never let enter your minds a shadow of doubt as to the love of the Father's heart or the power of the Father's arm."
And he projected his whole life forward, and looked at it in the light of the Judgment Day.
Mr. Wright's address made prominent one or two other most important lessons, as, for example, that the Spirit bids us imitate, not the idiosyncrasies or philanthropy of others, but their faith. And he took occasion to remind his hearers that philanthropy was not the foremost aim or leading feature of Mr. Müller's life, but above all else to magnify and glorify God, as "still the living God who, now as well as thousands of years ago, hears the prayers of His children and helps those who trust Him." He touchingly referred to the humility that led Mr. Müller to do the mightiest thing for God without self-consciousness, and showed that God can take up and use those who are willing to be only instruments.
Mr. Wright further remarked:
"I have been asked again and again lately as to whether the orphan work would go on. It is going on. Since the commencement of the year we have received between forty and fifty fresh orphans, and this week expect to receive more. The other four objects of the institution, according to the ability God gives us, are still being carried on. We believe that whatever God would do with regard to the future will be worthy of Him. We do not know much more, and do not want to. He knows what He will do. I cannot think, however, that the God who has so blessed the work for so long will leave our prayers as to the future unanswered."
Mr. Benjamin Perry then spoke briefly, characterizing Mr. Müller as the greatest personality Bristol had known as a citizen. He referred to his power as an expounder of Scripture, and to the fact that he brought to others for their comfort and support what had first been food to his own soul. He gave some personal reminiscences, referring, for instance, to his ability at an extreme old age still to work without hindrance either mental or physical, free from rheumatism, ache, or pain, and seldom suffering from exhaustion. He briefly described him as one who, in response to the infinite love of God, which called him from a life of sin to a life of salvation and service, wholly loved God above everybody and everything, so that his highest pleasure was to please and serve Him. As an illustration of his humility, he gave an incident. When of late a friend had said,
"When God calls you home, it will be like a ship going into harbour, full sail"--
"Oh no!" said Mr. Müller, "it is poor George Müller who needs daily to pray, 'Hold Thou me up in my goings, that my footsteps slip not.'"
The close of such lives as those of Asa and Solomon were to Mr. Müller a perpetual warning, leading him to pray that he might never thus depart from the Lord in his old age.
After prayer by Mr. J. L. Stanley, Col. Molesworth gave out the hymn,
"Tis sweet to think of those at rest."
And after another prayer by Mr. Stanley Arnot, the body was borne to its resting-place in Arno's Vale Cemetery, and buried beside the bodies of Mr. Müller's first and second wives, some eighty carriages joining in the procession to the grave. Everything from first to last was as simple and unostentatious as he himself would have wished. At the graveside Col. Molesworth prayed, and Mr. George F. Bergin read from 1 Cor. xv. and spoke a few words upon the tenth verse, which so magnifies the grace of God both in what we are and what we do.
["But by the Grace of God
I am what I am:
and His Grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain;
but I laboured more abundantly than they all:
yet not I,
but the Grace of God which was with me"
(1 Corinthians 15:10). --WStS Scripture annotation.]
Mr. E. K. Groves, nephew of Mr. Müller, announced as the closing hymn the second given out by him at that last prayer meeting at the orphanage.
"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died."
Mr. E. T. Davies then offered prayer, and the body was left to its undisturbed repose, until the Lord shall come.
Other memorial services were held at the Y. M. C. A. Hall, and very naturally at Bethesda Chapel, which brought to a fitting close this series of loving tributes to the departed. On the Lord's day preceding the burial, in nearly all the city pulpits, more or less extended reference has been made to the life, the character, and the career of the beloved saint who had for so many years lived his irreproachable life in Bristol. Also the daily and weekly press teemed with obituary notices, and tributes to his piety, worth, and work.
It was touchingly remarked at his funeral that he first confessed to feeling weak and weary in his work that last night of his earthly sojourn; and it seemed specially tender of the Lord not to allow that sense of exhaustion to come upon him until just as He was about to send His chariot to bear him to His presence. Mr. Müller's last sermon at Bethesda Chapel, after a ministry of sixty-six years, had been from 2 Cor. v.1:
"For we know that,
if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
we have a building of God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens."
It was as though he had some foretokens of his being about shortly to put off this his tabernacle. Evidently he was not taken by surprise. He had foreseen that his days were fast completing their number. Seven months before his departure, he had remarked to his medical attendant, in connection with the irregularity of his pulse:
"It means death."
Many of the dear orphans-- as when the first Mrs. Müller died-- wrote, asking that they might contribute toward the erection of a monument to the memory of their beloved benefactor. Already one dear young servant had gathered, for the purpose, over twenty pounds. In conformity with the known wishes of his father-in-law that only the simplest headstone be placed over his remains, Mr. Wright thought necessary to check the inflow of such gifts, the sum in hand being quite sufficient.
Further urgent appeals were made both from British and American friends, for the erection of some statue or other large visible monument or memorial, and in these appeals the local newspapers united. At length private letters led Mr. Wright to communicate with the public press, as the best way at once to silence these appeals and express the ground of rejecting such proposals. He wrote as follows:
"You ask me, as one long and closely associated with the late Mr. George Müller, to say what I think would be most in accordance with his own wishes as a fitting memorial of himself. Will not the best way of replying to this question be to let him speak for himself?
"Ist. When he erected Orphan House No. 1, and the question came what is the building to be called, he deliberately avoided associating his own name with it, and named it 'The New Orphan House, Ashley Down.' N.B.-- To the end of his life he disliked hearing or reading the words 'Müller's Orphanage.' In keeping with this, for years, in every Annual Report, when referring to the Orphanage he reiterated the statement, 'The New Orphan Houses on Ashley Down, Bristol, are not my Orphan Houses,... they are God's Orphan Houses.' (See, for example, the Report for 1897, p. 69.)
"2d. For years, in fact until he was nearly eighty years old, he steadily refused to allow any portrait of himself to be published; and only most reluctantly (for reasons which he gives with characteristic minuteness in the preface to 'Preaching Tours') did he at length give way on this point.
"3d. In the last published Report, at page 66, he states:
'The primary object I had in view in carrying on this work,' viz., 'that it might be seen that now, in the nineteenth century, God is still the Living God, and that now, as well as thousands of years ago, He listens to the prayers of His children and helps those who trust in Him.'
"From these words and ways of acting, is it not evident, that the only 'memorial' that George Müller cared about was that which consists in the effect of his example, Godward, upon his fellow men? Every soul converted to God (instrumentally) through his words or example constitutes a permanent memorial to him as the father in Christ of such an one. Every believer strengthened in faith (instrumentally) through his words or example constitutes a similar memorial to his spiritual teacher.
"He knew that God had, already, in the riches of His grace, given him many such memorials; and he departed this life, as I well know, cherishing the most lively hope that he should greet above thousands more to whom it had pleased God to make him a channel of rich spiritual blessing.
"He used often to say to me, when he opened a letter in which the writer poured out a tale of sore pecuniary need, and besought his help to an extent twice or three or ten times exceeding the sum total of his (Mr. Müller's) earthly possessions at the moment,
'Ah! these dear people entirely miss the lesson I am trying to teach them, for they come to me, instead of going to God.'
"And if he could come back to us for an hour, and listen to all account of what his sincerely admiring, but mistaken, friends are proposing to do to perpetuate his memory, I can hear him, with a sigh, exclaiming,
'Ah! these dear friends are entirely missing the lesson that I tried for seventy years to teach them,' viz., 'That a man can receive nothing except it be given him from above,'
"and that, therefore, it is the Blessed Giver, and not the poor receiver, that is to be glorified.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
QUANTITY of service is of far less importance than quality. To do well, rather than to do much, will be the motto of him whose main purpose is to please God. Our Lord bade His disciples tarry until endued with power from on high, because it is such enduement that gives to all witness and work the celestial savour and flavour of the Spirit.
Before we come to the closing scenes, we may well look back over the life-work of George Müller, which happily illustrates both quantity and quality of service. It may be doubted whether any other one man of this century accomplished as much for God and man, and yet all the abundant offerings which he brought to his Master was characterized by a heavenly fragrance.
The orphan work was but one branch of that tree-- the Scriptural Knowledge Institution-- which owed its existence to the fact that its founder devised large and liberal things for the Lord's cause. He sought to establish or at least to aid Christian schools wherever needful, to scatter Bibles and Testaments, Christian books and trade; to aid missionaries who were witnessing to the truth and working on a scriptural basis in destitute parts; and though each of these objects might well have engrossed his mind, they were all combined in the many-sided work which his love for souls suggested.
An aggressive spirit is never content with what has been done, but is prompt to enter any new door that is providentially opened. When the Paris Exposition of 1867 offered such rare opportunities, both for preaching to the crowds passing through the French capital, and for circuIating among them the Holy Scriptures, he gladly availed himself of the services of two brethren whom God had sent to labour there, one of whom spoke three, and the other, eight, modern languages; and through them were circulated, chiefly at the Exposition, and in thirteen different languages, nearly twelve thousand copies of the word of God, or portions of the same. It has been estimated that at this International Exhibition there were distributed in all over one and a quarter million Bibles, in sixteen tongues, which were gratefully accepted, even by Romish priests. Within six months those who thus entered God's open door scattered more copies of the Book of God than in ordinary circumstances would have been done by ten thousand colporteurs in twenty times that number of months, and thousands of souls are known to have found salvation by the simple reading of the New Testament. Of this glorious work, George Müller was permitted to be so largely a promoter.
At the Havre Exhibition of the following year, 1868, a similar work was done; and in like manner, when a providential door was unexpectedly opened into the Land of the Inquisition, Mr. Müller promptly took measures to promote the circulation of the Word in Spain. In the streets of Madrid the open Bible was seen for the first time, and copies were sold at the rate of two hundred and fifty in an hour, so that the supply was not equal to the demand. The facts substantially repeated when free Italy furnished a field for sowing the seed of the Kingdom. This wide-awake servant of God watched the signs of the times and, while others slept, followed the Lord's signals of advance.
One of the most fascinating features of the Narrative is found in the letters from his Bible distributors. It is interesting also to trace the story of the growth of the tract enterprise, until, in 1874, the circulation exceeded three and three-quarter millions, God in His faithfulness supplying abundant means.*
*Narrative, IV. 244.
The good thus effected by the distributors of evangelical literature must not be overlooked in this survey of the many useful agencies employed or assisted by Mr. Müller. To him the world was a field to be sown with the seed of the Kingdom, and opportunities were eagerly embraced for widely disseminating the truth. Tracts were liberally used, given away in large quantities at open-air services, fairs, races and steeplechases, and among spectators at public executions, or among passengers on board ships and railway trains, and by the way. Sometimes, at a single gathering of the multitudes, fifteen thousand were distributed judiciously and prayerfully, and this branch of the work has, during all these years, continued with undiminished fruitfulness to yield its harvest of good.
All this was, from first to last, and of necessity, a work of faith. How far faith must have been kept in constant and vigorous exercise can be appreciated only by putting one's self in Mr. Müller's place. In the year 1874, for instance, about forty-four thousand pounds were needed, and he was compelled to count the cost and face the situation. Two thousand and one hundred hungry mouths were daily to be fed, and as many bodies to be clad and cared for. One hundred and eighty-nine missionaries were needing assistance; one hundred schools, with about nine thousand pupils, to be supported; four million pages of tracts and tens of thousands of copies of the Scriptures to be yearly provided for distribution; and beside all these ordinary expenses, inevitable crises or emergencies, always liable to arise in connection with the conduct of such extensive enterprises, would from time to time call for extraordinary outlay. The man who was at the head of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution had to look at this array of unavoidable expenses, and at the same time face the human possibility and probability of an empty treasury whence the last shilling had been drawn.
Let him tell us how he met such a prospect:
"God, our infinitely rich Treasurer, remains to us. It is this which gives me peace... Invariably, with this probability before me, I have said to myself: 'God who has raised up this work through me; God who has led me generally year after year to enlarge it; God, who has supported this work now for more than forty years, will still help and will not suffer me to be confounded, because I rely upon Him. I commit the whole work to Him, and He will provide me with what I need, in future also, though I know not whence the means are to come.'"*
*Narrative, IV. 886, 887.
Thus he wrote in his journal, on July 28, 1874. Since then twenty-four years have passed, and to this day the work goes on, though he who then had the guidance of it sleeps in Jesus. Whoever has had any such dealings with God, on however small a scale, cannot even think of the Lord as failing to honour a faith so simple, genuine, and childlike, a faith which leads a helpless believer thus to cast himself and all his cares upon God with utter abandonment of all anxiety. This man put God to proof, and proved to himself and to all who receive his testimony that it is blessed to wait only upon Him. The particular point which he had in view, in making these entries in his journal, is the object also of embodying them in these pages, namely, to show that, while the annual expenses of this Institution were so exceedingly large and the income so apparently uncertain, the soul of this believer was, to use his words,
"THROUGHOUT, without the least wavering, stayed upon Gold, believing that He who had through him begun the Institution, enlarged it almost year after year, and upheld it for forty years in answer to prayer by faith, would do this still and not suffer this servant of His to be confounded."*
Believing that God would still help, and supply the means, George Müller was willing, and THOROUGHLY in heart prepared, if necessary, to pass again through similar severe and prolonged seasons of trial as he had already endured.
*Narrative, IV. 389.
The Living God had kept him calm and restful, amid all the ups and downs of his long experience as the superintendent and director of this many-sided work, though the tests of faith had not been light or short of duration. For more than ten years at a time-- as from August, 1838, to April, 1849, day by day, and for months together from meal to meal it was necessary to look to God, almost without cessation, for daily supplies. When, later on, the Institution was twentyfold larger and the needs proportionately greater, for months at a time the Lord likewise constrained His servant to lean from hour to hour, in the dependence, upon Him. All along through these periods of unceasing want, the Eternal God was his refuge and underneath were the Everlasting Arms. He reflected that God was aware of all this enlargement of the work and its needs; he comforted himself with the consoling thought that he was seeking his Master's glory; and that if in this way the greater glory would accrue to Him for the good of His people and of those who were still unbelievers, it was no concern of the servant; nay, more than this, it behooved the servant to be willing to go on in this path of trial, even unto the end of his course, if so it should please his Master, who guides His affairs with divine discretion.
The trials of faith did not cease even until the end. July 28, 1881, finds the following entry in Mr. Müller's journal:
"The income has been for some time past only about a third part of the expenses. Consequently all we have for the support of the orphans is nearly gone; and for the first four objects of the Institution we have nothing at all in hand. The natural appearance now is that the work cannot be carried on. But I BELIEVE that the Lord will help, both with means for the orphans and also for other objects of the Institution, and that we shall not be confounded; also that the work shall not need to be given up. I am fully expecting help, and have written this to the glory of God, that it may be recorded hereafter for the encouragement of His children. The result will be seen. I expect that we shall not be confounded, though for some years we have not been so poor."
While faith thus leaned on God, prayer took more vigorous hold. Six, seven, eight times a day, he and his dear wife were praying for means, looking for answers, and firmly persuaded that their expectations would not be disappointed. Since that entry was made, seventeen more years have borne their witness that this trust was not put to shame. Not a branch of this tree of holy enterprise has been cut off by the sharp blade of a stern necessity.
Though faith had thus tenaciously held fast to the promises, the pressure was, not at once relieved. When, a fortnight after these confident records of trust in God had been spread on the pages of the journal, the balance for the orphans was less than it had been for twenty-five years, it would have seemed to human sight as though God had forgotten to be gracious. But, on August 22d, over one thousand pounds came in for the support of the orphans and thus relief was afforded for a time.
Again, let us bear in mind how in the most unprecedented straits God alone was made the confidant, even the best friends of the Institution, alike the poor and the rich, being left in ignorance of the pressure of want. It would have been no sin to have made known the circumstances, or even to have made an appeal for aid to the many believers who would gladly have come to the relief of the work. But the testimony to the Lord was to be jealously guarded, and the main object of this work of faith would have been imperiled just so far as by any appeal to men this witness to God was weakened.
In this crisis, and in every other, faith triumphed, and so the testimony to a prayer-hearing God grew in volume and power as the years went on. It was while as yet this period of testing was not ended, and no permanent relief was yet supplied, that Mr. Müller, with his wife, left Bristol on August 23d, for the Continent, on his eighth long preaching tour. Thus, at a time when, to the natural eye, his own presence would have seemed well-nigh indispensable, he calmly departed for other spheres of duty, leaving the work at home in the hands of Mr. Wright and his helpers. The tour had been already arranged for under God's leading and it was undertaken, with the supporting power of a deep conviction that God is as near to those who in prayer wait on Him in distant lands, as on Ashley Down, and needs not the personal presence of any man in any one place, or at any time, in order to carry on His word.
In an American city, a half-idiotic boy who was bearing a heavy burden asked a drayman, who was driving an empty cart, for a ride. Being permitted, he mounted the cart with his basket, but thinking he might so relieve the horse a little, while still himself riding, lifted his load and carried it. We laugh at the simplicity of the idiotic lad, and yet how often we are guilty of similar folly! We profess to cast ourselves and our cares upon the Lord, and then persist in bearing our own burdens, as if we felt that He would be unequal to the task of sustaining us and our loads. It is a most wholesome lesson for Christian workers to learn that all true work is primarily the Lord's, and only secondarily ours, and that therefore all "carefulness" on our part is distrust of Him, implying a sinful self-conceit which overlooks the fact that He is the one Worker and all others are only His instruments.
As to our trials, difficulties, losses, and disappointments, we are prone to hesitate about committing them to the Lord, trustfully and calmly. We think we have done well if we take refuge in the Lord's promise to his reluctant disciple Peter,
"What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter,"
referring this "hereafter" the future state where we look for the solution of all problems. In Peter's case the hereafter appears to have come when the feet-washing was done and Christ explained its meaning; and it is very helpful to our faith to observe Mr. Müller's witness concerning all these trying and disappointing experiences of his life, that, without one exception, he had found already in this life that they worked together for his good; so that he had reason to praise God for them all. In the ninetieth psalm we read:
"Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us
And the years wherein we have seen evil."
This is an inspired prayer, and such prayer is a prophecy. Not a few saints have found, this side of heaven, a divine gladness for every year and day of sadness, when their afflictions and adversities have been patiently borne.
Faith is the secret of both peace and steadfastness, amid all tendencies to discouragement and discontinuance in well-doing. James was led by the Spirit of God to write that the unstable and unbelieving man is like the "wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." There are two motions of the waves-- one up and down, which we call undulation, the other to and fro, which we call fluctuation. How appropriately both are referred to-- "tossed" up and down, "driven" to and fro! The double-minded man lacks steadiness in both respects: his faith has no uniformity of experience, for he is now at the crest of the wave and now in the trough of the sea; it has no uniformity of progress, for whatever he gains to-day he loses to-morrow.
Fluctuations in income and apparent prosperity did not take George Müller by surprise. He expected them, for if there were no crises and critical emergencies how could there be critical deliverances? His trust was in God, not in donors or human friends or worldly circumstances: and because he trusted in the Living God who says of Himself,
"I am the Lord, I change not,"
amid all other changes, his feet were upon the one Rock of Ages that no earthquake shock can move from its eternal foundations.
Two facts Mr. Müller gratefully records at this period of his life: (Narrative, IV. 411, 418.)
First. "For above fifty years I have now walked, by His grace, in a path of complete reliance upon Him who is the faithful one, for everything I have needed; and yet I am increasingly convinced that it is by His help alone I am enabled to continue in this course; for, if left to myself, even after the precious enjoyment so long experienced of walking thus in fellowship with God, I should yet be tempted to abandon this path of entire dependence upon Him. To His praise, however, I am able to state that for more than half a century I have never had the least desire to do so."
Second. From May, 1880, to May 1881, a gracious work of the Spirit had visited the orphans on Ashley Down and in many of the schools. During the three months spent by Mr. Müller at home before sailing for America in September, 1880, he had been singularly drawn out in prayer for such a visitation of grace, and had often urged it on the prayers of his helpers. The Lord is faithful, and He cheered the heart of His servant in his absence by abundant answers to his intercessions. Before he had fairly entered on his work in America, news came from home of a blessed work of conversion already in progress, and which went on for nearly a year, until there was good ground for believing that in the five houses five hundred and twelve orphans had found God their Father in Christ, and nearly half as many more were in a hopeful state.
The Lord did not forget His promise, and He did keep the plant He had permitted His servant to set in His name in the soil on Ashley Down. Faith that was tried, triumphed. On June 7, 1884, a legacy of over eleven thousand pounds reached him, the largest single gift ever yet received, the largest donations which had preceded being respectively one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, five thousand, eight thousand one hundred, and nine thousand and ninety-one pounds.
This last amount, eleven thousand, had been due for over six years from an estate, but had been kept back by the delays of the Chancery Court. Prayer had been made day by day that the bequest might be set free for its uses, and now the full answer had come; and God had singularly timed the supply to the need, for there was at that time only forty-one pounds ten shillings in hand, not one half of the average daily expenses, and certain sanitary improvements were just about to be carried out which would require an outlay of over two thousand pounds.
As Mr. Müller closed the solemn and blessed records of 1884, he wrote:
"Thus ended the year 1884, during which we had been tried, greatly tried, in various ways, no doubt for the exercise of our faith, and to make us know God more fully; but during which we had also been helped and blessed, and greatly helped and blessed. Peacefully, then, we were able to enter upon the year 1885, fully assured that, as we had God FOR US and WITH US, ALL, ALL would be well."
John Wesley had in the same spirit said a century before,
"Best of all, God is with us."
Of late years the orphanage at Ashley Down has not had as many inmates as formerly, and some four or five hundred more might now be received. Mr. Müller felt constrained, for some years previous to his death, to make these vacancies known to the public, in hopes that some destitute orphans might find there a home. But it must be remembered that the provision for such children has been greatly enlarged since this orphan work was begun. In 1834 the total accommodation for all orphans, in England, reached thirty-six hundred, while the prisons contained nearly twice as many children under eight years of age. This state of things led to the rapid enlargement of the work until over two thousand were housed on Ashley Down alone; and this colossal enterprise stimulated others to open similar institutions until, fifty years after Mr. Müller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone. Thus God used Mr. Müller to give such an impetus to this form of philanthropy, that destitute children became the object of a widely organized charity both on the part of individuals and of societies, and orphanages now exist for various classes.
In all this manifold work which Mr. Müller did he was, to the last, self-oblivious. From the time when, in October, 1830, he had given up all stated salary, as pastor and minister of the gospel, he had never received any salary, stipend nor fixed income, of any sort, whether as a pastor or as a director of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. Both principle and preference led him to wait only upon God for all personal needs, as also for all the wants of his work. Nevertheless God put into the hearts of His believing children in all parts of the world, not only to send gifts in aid of the various branches of the work which Mr. Müller superintended, but to forward to him money for his own uses, as well as clothes, food, and other temporal supplies. He never appropriated one penny which was not in some way indicated or designated as for his own personal needs, and subject to his personal judgment. No straits of individual or family want ever led him to use, even for a time, what was sent to him for other ends. Generally gifts intended for himself were wrapped up in paper with his name written thereon, or in other equally distinct ways designated as meant for him. Thus as early as 1874 his year's income reached upwards of twenty-one hundred pounds. Few nonconformist ministers, and not one in twenty of the clergy of the establishment, have any such income, which averages about six pounds for every day in the year-- and all this came from the Lord, simply in answer to prayer, and without appeal of any sort to man or even the revelation of personal needs. If we add legacies paid at the end of the year 1873, Mr. Müller's entire income in about thirteen months exceeded thirty-one hundred pounds. Of this he gave, out and out to the needy, and to the work of God, the whole amount save about two hundred and fifty, expended on personal and family wants; and thus started the year 1875 as poor as he had begun forty-five years before; and if his personal expenses were scrutinized it would be found that even what he ate and drank and wore was with equal conscientiousness expended for the glory of God, so that in a true sense we may say he spent nothing on himself.
In another connection it has already been recorded that, when at Jubbulpore in 1890, Mr. Müller received tidings of his daughter's death. To any man of less faith that shock might have proved, at his advanced age, not only a stunning but a fatal blow. His only daughter and only child, Lydia, the devoted wife of James Wright, had been called home, in her fifty-eighth year, and after nearly thirty years of labour at the orphan houses. What this death meant to Mr. Müller, at the age of eighty-four, no one can know who has not witnessed the mutual devotion of that daughter and that father: and what that loss was to Mr. Wright, the pen alike fails to portray. If the daughter seemed to her father humanly indispensable, she was to her husband a sort of inseparable part of his being; and over such experiences as these it is the part of delicacy to draw the curtain of silence. But it should be recorded that no trait in Mrs. Wright was more pathetically attractive than her humility. Few disciples ever felt their own nothingness as she did, and it was this ornament to a meek and quiet spirit-- the only ornament she wore-- that made her seem so beautiful to all who knew her well enough for this hidden man of the heart to be disclosed to their vision. Did not that ornament in the Lord's sight appear as of great price? Truly
"the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her."
James Wright had lived with his beloved Lydia for more than eighteen years, in "unmarred and unbroken felicity." They had together shared in prayers and tears before God, bearing all life's burdens in common. Weak as she was physically, he always leaned upon her and found her a tower of spiritual strength in time of heavy responsibility. While, in her lowly-mindedness, she thought of herself as a "little useless thing," he found her both a capable and cheerful supervisor of many most important domestic arrangements where a competent woman's hand was needful: and, with rare tact and fidelity, she kept watch of the wants of the orphans as her dear mother had done before her. After her decease, her husband found among her personal effects a precious treasure-- a verse written with her own hand:
"I have seen the face of Jesus,
Tell me not of aught beside;
I have heard the voice of Jesus,
All my soul is satisfied."
This invaluable little fragment, like that other writing found by this beloved daughter among her mother's effects, became to Mr. Wright what that had been to Mr. Müller, a sort of last legacy from his departed and beloved wife. Her desires were fulfilled; she had seen the face and heard the voice of Him who alone could satisfy her soul.
In the Fifty-third Report, which extends to May 26, 1892, it is stated that the expenses exceeded the income for the orphans by a total of over thirty-six hundred pounds, so that many dear fellow labourers, without the least complaint, were in arrears as to salaries. This was the second time only, in fifty-eight years, that the income thus fell short of the expenses. Ten years previous, the expenses had been in excess of the income by four hundred and eighty-eight pounds, but, within one month after the new financial year had begun, by the payment of legacies three times as much as the deficiency was paid in; and, adding donations, six times as much. And now the question arose whether God would not have Mr. Müller contract rather than expand the work.
"The Lord's dealings with us during the last year indicate that it is His will we should contract our operations, and we are waiting upon Him for directions as to how and to what extent this should be done; for we have but single object-- the glory of God. When I founded this Institution, one of the principles stated was,
'that there would be no enlargement of the work by going into debt':
and in like manner we cannot go on with that which already exists if we have not sufficient coming in to meet the current expenses."
Thus the godly man who loved to expand his service for God was humble enough to bow to the will of God if its contraction seemed needful.
Prayer was much increased, and faith did not fail under the trial, which continued for weeks and months, but was abundantly sustained by the promises of an unfailing Helper. This distress was relieved in March by the sale of ten acres of land, at one thousand pounds an acre, and at the close of the year there was in hand a balance of over twenty-three hundred pounds.
The exigency, however, continued more or less severe until again, in 1893-4, after several years of trial, the Lord once more bountifully supplied means. And Mr. Müller is careful to add that though the appearance during the years of trial was many times as if God had forgotten or forsaken them and would never care any more about the Institution, it was only in appearance, for he was as mindful of it as ever, and he records how by this discipline faith was still further strengthened, God was glorified in the patience and meekness whereby He enabled them to endure the testing, and tens of thousands of believers were blessed in afterward reading about these experiences of divine faithfulness.*
*Fifty-fifth Report, p. 82.
Five years after Mrs. Wright's death, Mr. Müller was left again a widower. His last great mission tour had come to an end in 1892, and in 1895, on the 13th of January, the beloved wife who in all these long journeys had been his constant companion and helper, passed to her rest, and once more left him peculiarly alone, since his devoted Lydia had been called up higher. Yet by the same grace of God which had always before sustained him he was now upheld, and not only kept in unbroken peace, but enabled to
"kiss the Hand which administered the stroke."
At the funeral of his second wife, as at that of the first, he made the address, and the scene was unique in interest. Seldom does a man of ninety conduct such a service. The faith that sustained him in every other trial held him up in this. He lived in such habitual communion with the unseen world, and walked in such uninterrupted fellowship with the unseen God, that the exchange of worlds became too real for him to mourn for those who had made it, or to murmur at the infinite Love that numbers our days. It moved men more deeply than any spoken word of witness to see him manifestly borne up as on everlasting Arms.
I remember Mr. Müller remarking that he waited eight years before he understood at all the purpose of God in removing his first wife, who seemed so indispensable to him and his work. His own journal explains more fully this remark. When it pleased God to take from him his second wife, after twenty-three years of married life, again he rested on the promise that
"All things work together for good to them that love God"
and reflected his past experiences of its truth. When he lost his first wife after over thirty-nine years of happy wedlock, while he bowed to the Father's will, how that sorrow and bereavement could work good had been wholly a matter of faith, for no compensating good was apparent to sight; yet he believed God's word and waited to see how it would be fulfilled. That loss seemed one that could not be made up. Only a little before, two orphan houses had been opened for nine hundred more orphans, so that there were total accommodations for over two thousand; she, who by nature, culture, gifts, and graces, was so wonderfully fitted to be her husband's helper, and who had with motherly love cared for these children, was suddenly removed from his side. Four years after Mr. Müller married his second wife, he saw it plainly to be God's will that he should spend life's evening-time in giving witness to the nations. These mission tours could not be otherwise than very trying to the physical powers of endurance, since they covered over two hundred thousand miles and obliged the travellers to spend a week at a time in a train, and sometimes from four to six weeks on board a vessel. Mrs. Müller, though never taking part in public, was severely taxed, by all this travel, and always busy, writing letters, circulating books and tracts, and in various wars helping and relieving her husband. All at once, while in the midst of these fatiguing journeys and exposures to varying climates, it flashed upon Mr. Müller that his first wife, who had died in her seventy-third year, could never have undertaken these tours, and that the Lord had thus, in taking her, left him free to make these extensive journeys. She would have been over fourscore years old when these tours began, and, apart from age, could not have borne the exhaustion, because of her frail health; whereas the second Mrs. Müller, who, at the time, was not yet fifty-seven, was both by her age and strength fully equal to the strain thus put upon her.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
GOD'S real answers to prayer are often seeming denials. Beneath the outward request He hears the voice of the inward desire, and He responds to the mind of the Spirit rather than to the imperfect and perhaps mistaken words in which the yearning seeks expression. Moreover, His infinite wisdom sees that a larger blessing may be ours only by the withholding of the lesser good which we seek; and so all true prayer trusts His to give His own answer, not in our way or time, or even to our own expressed desire, but rather to His own unutterable groaning within us which He can interpret better than we.
Monica, mother of Augustine, pleaded with God that her dissolute son might not go to Rome, that sink of iniquity; but he was permitted to go, and thus came into contact with Ambrose, bishop of Milan, through whom he was converted. God fulfilled the mother's desire while denying her request.
When George Müller, five times within the first eight years after conversion, had offered himself as a missionary. God had blocked his way; now, at sixty-five, He was about to permit him, in a sense he had never dreamed of, to be a missionary to the world. From the beginning of his ministry he had been more or less an itinerant, spending no little time in wanderings about in Britain and on the Continent; but now he was to go to the regions beyond and spend the major part of seventeen years in witnessing to the prayer-hearing God.
These extensive missionary tours occupied the evening of Mr. Müller's useful life, from 1875 to 1892. They reached, more or less, over Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia; and would of themselves have sufficed for the work of an ordinary life.
They had a singular suggestion. While, in 1874, compelled by Mrs. Müller's health to seek a change of air, he was preaching in the Isle of Wight, and a beloved Christian brother for whom he had spoken, himself a man of much experience in preaching, told him how
"that day had been the happiest of his whole life";
and this remark, with others like it previously made, so impressed him that the Lord was about to use him to help on believers outside of Bristol, that he determined no longer to confine his labours in the Word and doctrine to any one place, but to go wherever a door might open for his testimony.
In weighing this question he was impressed with seven reasons or motives, which led to these tours:
1. To preach the gospel in its simplicity, and especially to show how salvation is based, not upon feelings or even upon faith, but upon the finished work of Christ; that justification is ours the moment we believe, and we are to accept and claim our place as accepted in the Beloved without regard to our inward states of feeling or emotion.
2. To lead believers to know their saved state, and to realize their standing in Christ, great numbers not only of disciples, but even preachers and pastors, being themselves destitute of any real peace and joy in the Lord, and hence unable to lead others into joy and peace.
3. To bring believers back to the Scriptures, to search the Word and find its hidden treasures; to test everything by this divine touchstone and hold fast only what will stand this test; to make it the daily subject of meditative and prayerful examination in order to translate it into daily obedience.
4. To promote among all true believers, brotherly love; to lead them to make less of those non-essentials in which disciples differ, and to make more of those great essential and foundation truths in which all true believers are united; to help all who love and trust one Lord to rise above narrow sectarian prejudices, and barriers to fellowship.
5. To strengthen the faith of believers, encouraging a simpler trust, and a more real and unwavering confidence in God, and particularly in the sure answers to believing prayer, based upon His definite promises.
6. To promote separation from the world and deadness to it, and so to increase heavenly-mindedness in children of God; at the time warning against fanatical extremes and extravagances.
7. And finally to fix the hope of disciples on the blessed coming of our Lord Jesus; and, in connection therewith, to instruct them as to the true character and object of the present dispensation, and the relation of the church to the world in this period of the outgathering of the Bride of Christ.
These seven objects may be briefly epitomized thus: Mr. Müller's aim was to lead sinners to believe on the name of the Son of God, and so to have eternal life; to help those who have thus believed, to know that they have this life; to teach them so to build up themselves on their most holy faith, by diligent searching into the word of God, and praying in the Holy Ghost, as that this life shall be more and more a real possession and a conscious possession; to promote among all disciples the unity of the Spirit and the charity which is the bond of perfectness, and to help them to exhibit that life before the world; to incite them to cultivate an unworldly and spiritual type of character such as conforms to the life of God in them; to lead them to the prayer of faith which is both the expression and the expansion of the life of faith; and to direct their hope to the final appearing of the Lord, so that they should purify themselves even as He is pure, and occupy till He comes. Mr. Müller was thus giving himself to the double work of evangelization and edification, on a scale commensurate with his love for a dying world, as opportunity afforded doing good unto all men, and especially to them who are of the household of faith.
Of these long and busy missionary journeys, it is needful to give only the outline, or general survey. March 26, 1875, is an important date, for it marks the starting-point He himself calls this "the beginning of his missionary tour."
From Bristol he went to Brighton, Lewes, and Sunderland-- on the way to Sunderland preaching to a great audience in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, at Mr. Spurgeon's request-- then to Newcastle-on-Tyne, and back to London, where he spoke at the Mildmay Park Conference, Talbot Road Tabernacle, and "Edinburgh Castle." This tour closed, June 5th, after seventy addresses in public, during about ten weeks.
Less than six weeks passed, when, on August 14th, the second tour began, in which case the special impulse that moved him was a desire to follow up the revival work of Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey. Their short stay in each place made them unable to lead on new converts to higher attainments in knowledge and grace, and there seemed to be a call for some instruction fitted to confirm these new believers in the life of obedience. Mr. Müller accordingly followed these evangelists in England, Ireland, and Scotland, staying in each place from one week to six, and seeking to educate and edify those who had been led to Christ. Among the places visited on this errand in 1875, were London; then Kilmarnock, Saltwater, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow, Kirkentilloch in Scotland, and Dublin in Ireland; then, returning to England, he went to Leamington, Warwick, Kenilworth, Coventry, Rugby, etc. In some cases, notably at Mildmay Park, Dundee and Glasgow, Liverpool and Dublin, the audiences numbered from two thousand to six thousand, but everywhere rich blessing came from above. This second tour extended into the new year, 1876, and took in Liverpool, York, Kendal, Carlisle, Annan, Edinburgh, Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, and other places; and when it closed in July, having lasted nearly eleven months, Mr. Müller had preached at least three hundred and six times, an average of about one sermon a day, exclusive of days spent in travel. So acceptable and profitable were these labours that there were over one hundred invitations urged upon him which he was unable to accept.
The third tour was on the Continent. It occupied most of the year closing May 26, 1877, and embraced Paris, various places in Switzerland, Prussia and Holland, Alsace, Wurtemberg, Baden, Hesse Darmstadt, etc. Altogether over three hundred addresses were given in about seventy cities and villages to all of which he had been invited by letter. When this tour closed more than sixty written invitations remained unaccepted, and Mr. Müller found that, through his work and his writings, he was as well known in the continental countries visited, as in England.
Turning now toward America, the fourth tour extended from August, 1877, to June of the next year. For many years invitations had been coming with growing frequency, from the United States and Canada; and of late their urgency led him to recognize in them the call of God, especially as he thought of the many thousands of Germans across the Atlantic, who as they heard him speak in their own native tongue would keep the more silence. (Acts xxii.2.)
Mr. and Mrs. Müller, landing at Quebec, thence went to the United States, where, during ten months, his labours stretched over a vast area, including the States of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri. Thus having swept round the Atlantic sea-border, he crossed to the Pacific coast, and returning visited Salt Lake City in Utah-- the very centre and stronghold of Mormonism-- Illinois, Ohio, etc. He spoke frequently to large congregations of Germans, and, in the Southern States, to the coloured population; but he regarded no opportunity for service afforded him on this tour as so inspiring as the repeated meetings with and for ministers, evangelists, pastors, and Christian workers; and, next to them in importance, his interviews with large bodies of students and professors in the universities, colleges, theological seminaries, and other higher schools of education. To cast the salt of the gospel into the very springs of social influence, the sources whence power flows, was to him a most sacred privilege. His singular charity, and humility drew to him even those who differed with him, and all denominations of Christians united in giving him access to the people. During this tour he spoke three hundred times, and travelled nearly ten thousand miles; over one hundred invitations being declined, for simple lack of time and strength.
After a stay in Bristol of about two months, on September 5, 1878, he and his wife began the fifth of these missionary tours. In this case, it was on the Continent, where he ministered in English, German, and French; and in Spain and Italy, when these tongues were not available, his addresses were through an interpreter. Many open doors the Lord set before him, not only to the poorer and humbler classes, but to those in the middle and higher ranks. In the Riviera, he had access to many of the nobility and aristocracy, who from different countries sought health and rest in the equable climate of the Mediterranean, and at Mentone he and Mr. Spurgeon held sweet converse. In Spain Mr. Müller was greatly gladdened by seeing for himself the schools, entirely supported by the funds of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and by finding that, in hundreds of cases, even popish parents so greatly valued these schools that they continued to send their children, despite both the threats and persuasions of the Romish priests. He found, moreover, that the pupils frequently at their homes read to their parents the word of God and sang to them the gospel hymns learned at these schools, so that the influence exerted was not bounded by its apparent horizon, as diffused or refracted sunlight reaches with its illumining rays far beyond the visible track of the orb of day.
The work had to contend with governmental opposition. When a place was first opened at Madrid for gospel services, a sign placed outside, announcing the fact. Official orders were issued that the sign should be painted over, so as to obliterate the inscription. The painter of the sign, unwilling both to undo his own work and to hinder the work of God, painted the sign over with watercolours, which would leave the original announcement half visible, and would soon be washed off by the rains; whereupon the government sent its own workman to daub the sign over with thick oil-colour.
Mr. Müller, ready to preach the gospel to those at Rome also, felt his spirit saddened and stirred within him, as he saw that city wholly given to idolatry-- not pagan but papal idolatry-- the Rome not of the Caesars, but of the popes. While at Naples he ascended Vesuvius. Those masses of lava, which seemed greater in bulk than the mountain itself, more impressed him with the power of God than anything else he had ever seen. As he looked upon that smoking cone, and thought of the liquid death it had vomited forth, he said within himself,
"What cannot God do!"
He had before felt somewhat of His Almightiness in love and grace, but he now saw its manifestation in judgment and wrath. His visit to the Vaudois valleys, where so many martyrs had suffered banishment and imprisonment, loss of goods and loss of life for Jesus' sake, moved him to the depths of his being and stimulated in him the martyr spirit.
When he arrived again in Bristol, June 18, 1879, he had been absent nine months and twelve days, and preached two hundred and eighty-six times and in forty-six towns and cities. After another ten weeks in Bristol, he and his wife sailed again for America, the last week of August, 1879, landing at New York the first week in September. This visit took in the States lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the valley of the Mississippi-- New York and New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota-- and, from London and Hamilton to Quebec, Canada also shared the blessing. This visit covered only two hundred and seventy-two days, but he preached three hundred times, and in over forty cities. Over one hundred and fifty written invitations still remained without response, and the number increased the longer his stay. Mr. Müller therefore assuredly gathered that the Lord called him to return to America after another brief stay at Bristol, where he felt it needful to spend a season annually, to keep in close touch with the work at home and relieve Mr. and Mrs. Wright of their heavy responsibilities, for a time.
Accordingly on September 15, 1880, again turning from Bristol, these travellers embarked the next day on their seventh mission tour, landing, ten days later, at Quebec. Mr. Müller had a natural antipathy to the sea, in his earlier crossing to the Continent having suffered much from sea-sickness; but he had undertaken these long voyages, not for his own pleasure or profit, but wholly on God's errand; and he felt it to be a peculiar mark of the lovingkindness of the Lord that, while he was ready to endure any discomfort, or risk his life for His sake, he had not in his six crossings of the Atlantic suffered in the least, and on this particular voyage was wholly free from any indisposition.
From Quebec he went to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Among other places of special interest were Boston, Plymouth-- the landing-place of the Pilgrims,-- Wellesley and South Hadley colleges-- the great schools for woman's higher education,-- and the centres farther westward, where he had such wide access to Germans. This tour extended over a smaller area than before, and lasted but eight months; but the impression on the people was deep and permanent. He had spoken about two hundred and fifty times in all; and Mrs. Müller had availed herself of many opportunities of personal dealing with inquirers, and of distributing books and tracts among both believers and unbelievers. She had also written for her husband more than seven hundred letters,-- this of itself being no light task, inasmuch as it reaches an average of about three a day. On May 30, 1881, they were again on British shores.
The eighth long preaching tour, from August 23, 1881, to May 30, 1882, was given to the Continent of Europe, here again Mr. Müller felt led by the low state of religious life in Switzerland and Germany.
This visit was extended to the Holy Land in a way strikingly providential. After speaking at Alexandria, Cairo, and Port Said, he went to Jaffa, and thence to Jerusalem, on November 28. With reverent feet he touched the soil once trodden by the feet of the Son of God, visiting, with pathetic interest, Gethsemane and Golgotha, and crossing the Mount of Olives to Bethany, thence to Bethlehem and back to Jaffa, and so to Haipha, Mt. Carmel, and Beyrût, Smyrna, Ephesus, Constantinople, Athens, Brindisi, Rome, and Florence. Again were months crowded with services of all sorts whose fruit will appear only in the Day of the Lord Jesus, addresses being made in English, German, and French, or by translation into Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, and modern Greek. Sightseeing was always but incidental to the higher service of the Master. During this eighth tour, covering some eight months, Mr. Müller spoke hundreds of times, with all the former tokens of God's blessing on his seed-sowing.
The ninth tour, from August 8, 1882, to June 1, 1883, was occupied with labours in Germany, Austria, and Russia, including Bavaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony, and Poland. His special joy it was to bear witness in Kroppenstädt, his birthplace, after an absence of about sixty-four years. At St. Petersburg, while the guest of Princess Lieven, at her mansion he met and ministered to many of high rank; he also began to hold meetings in the house of Colonel Paschkoff, who had suffered not only persecution but exile for the Lord's sake. While the Scriptures were being read one day in Russ, with seven poor Russians, a policeman summarily broke up the meeting and dispersed the little company. At Lodz in Poland, a letter was received, in behalf of "almost the whole population," begging him to remain longer; and so signs seemed to multiply, as he went forward, that he was in the path of duty and that God was with him.
On September 26, 1883, the tenth tour began, this time his face being turned toward the Orient. Nearly sixty years before he had desired to go to the East Indies as a missionary; now the Lord permitted him to carry out the desire in a new and strange way, and India was the twenty-third country visited in his tours. He travelled over 1,000 miles, and spoke over two hundred times, to missionaries and Christian workers, European residents, Eurasians, Hindus, Moslems, educated natives, native boys and girls in the orphanage at Colar, etc. Thus, in his seventy-ninth year, this servant of God was still in labours abundant, and in all his work conspicuously blessed of God.
After some months of preaching in England, Scotland, and Wales, on November 19, 1885, he and his wife set out on their fourth visit to the United States, and their eleventh longer mission tour. Crossing to the Pacific, they went to Sydney, New South Wales, and, after seven months in Australia, sailed for Java, and thence to China, arriving at Hong Kong, September 12th; Japan and the Straits of Malacca were also included in this visit to the Orient. The return to England was by way of Nice; and, after travelling nearly 38,000 miles, in good health Mr. and Mrs. Müller reached home on June 14, 1887, having been absent more than one year and seven months, during which Mr. Müller had preached whenever and wherever opportunity was afforded.
Less than two months later, on August 12, 1887, he sailed for South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Ceylon, and India. This twelfth long tour closed in March, 1890, having covered thousands of miles. The intense heat at one time compelled Mr. Müller to leave Calcutta, and on the railway journey to Darjeeling his wife feared he would die. But he was mercifully spared.
It was on this tour and in the month of January, 1890, while at Jubbulpore, preaching with great help from the Lord, that a letter was put into Mr. Müller's hands from a missionary at Agra, to whom Mr. Wright had sent a telegram, informing his father-in-law of his dear Lydia's death. For nearly thirty years she had laboured gratuitously at the orphan houses and it would be difficult to fill that vacancy; but for fourteen years she had been her husband's almost ideal companion, and for nearly fifty-eight years her father's unspeakable treasure-- and here were two other voids which could never be filled. But Mr. Müller's heart, as also Mr. Wright's, was kept at rest by the strong confidence that, however mysterious God's ways, all His dealings belong to one harmonious spiritual mechanism in which every part is perfect and all things work together for good. (Romans viii.28.)
This sudden bereavement led Mr. Müller to bring his mission tour in the East to a close and depart for Bristol, that he might both comfort Mr. Wright and relieve him of undue pressure of work.
After a lapse of two months, once more Mr. and Mrs. Müller left home for other extensive missionary journeys. They went to the Continent and were absent from July, 1890, to May, 1892. A twelvemonth was spent in Germany and Holland, Austria and Italy. This absence in fact included two tours, with no interval between them, and concluded the series of extensive journeys reaching through seventeen years.
This man-- from his seventieth to his eighty-seventh year-- when most men are withdrawing from all activities, had travelled in forty-two countries and over two hundred thousand miles, a distance equivalent to nearly eight journeys round the globe. He estimated that during these seventeen years he had addressed over three million people; and from all that can be gathered from the records of these tours, we estimate that he must have spoken, outside of Bristol, between five thousand and six thousand times. What sort of teaching and testimony occupied these tours, those who have known the preacher and teacher need not be told. While at Berlin in 1891, he gave an address that serves as an example of the vital truths which he was wont to press on the attention of fellow disciples. We give a brief outline:
He first urged that believers should never, even under the greatest difficulties, be discouraged, and gave for his position sound scriptural reasons.
Then he pointed out to them that the chief business of every day is first of all to seek to be truly at rest and happy in God.
Then he showed how, from the word of God, all saved believers may know their true standing in Christ, and how in circumstances of particular perplexity they might ascertain the will of God.
He then urged disciples to seek with intense earnestness to become acquainted with God Himself as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and carefully to form and maintain godly habits of systematic Bible study and prayer, holy living and consecrated giving.
He taught that God alone is the one all-satisfying portion of the soul, and that we must determine to possess and enjoy Him as such.
He closed by emphasizing it as the one, single, all-absorbing, daily aim to glorify God in a complete surrender to His will and service.
In all these mission tours, again, the faithfulness of God was conspicuously seen, in the bounteous supply of every need. Steamer fares and long railway journeys; hotel accommodations, ordinarily preferred to private hospitality, which seriously interfered with private habits of devotion, public work, and proper rest-- such expenses demanded a heavy outlay; the new mode of life, now adopted for the Lord's sake, was at least three times as costly as the former frugal housekeeping; and yet, in answer to prayer and without any appeal to human help, the Lord furnished all that was required.
Accustomed to look, step by step, for such tokens of divine approval, as emboldened him to go forward, Mr. Müller records how, when one hundred pounds was sent to him for personal uses, this was recognized as a foretoken from his great Provider, "by which," he writes,
"God meant to say to my own heart, 'I am pleased with thy work and service in going about on these long missionary tours. I will pay the expenses thereof, and I give thee here a specimen of what I am yet willing to do for thee.' "
Two other facts Mr. Müller specially records in connection with these tours:
first, God's gracious guiding and guarding of the work at Bristol so that it suffered nothing from his absence; and
secondly, the fact that these journeys had no connection with collecting of money for the work or even informing the public of it. No reference was made to the Institution at Bristol, except when urgently requested, and not always even then; nor were collections ever made for it. Statements found their way into the press that in America large sums were gathered, but their falsity is sufficiently shown by the fact that in his first tour in America, for example, the sum total of all such gifts was less than sixty pounds, not more than two thirds of the outlay of every day at the orphan houses.
These missionary tours were not always approved even by the friends and advisers of Mr. Müller. In 1882, while experiencing no little difficulty and trial, especially as to funds, there were not a few who felt a deep interest in the Institution on Ashley Down, who would have had God's servant discontinue his long absences, as to them it appeared that these were the main reason for the falling off in funds. He was always open to counsel, but he always reserved to himself an independent decision; and, on weighing the matter well, these were some of the reasons that led him to think that the work of God at home did not demand his personal presence:
1. He had observed year after year that, under the godly and efficient supervision of Mr. Wright and his large staff of helpers, every branch of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution had been found as healthy and fruitful during these absences as when Mr. Müller was in Bristol.
2. The Lord's approval of this work of wider witness had been in manner conclusive and in measure abundant, as in the ample supply of funds for these tours, in the wide doors of access opened, and in the large fruit already evident in blessing to thousands of souls.
3. The strong impression upon his mind that this was the work which was to occupy the "evening of his life," grew in depth, and was confirmed by so many signs of God's leading that he could not doubt that he was led both of God's providence and Spirit.
4. Even while absent, he was never out of communication with the helpers at home. Generally he heard at least weekly from Mr. Wright, and any matters needing his counsel were thus submitted to him by letter; prayer to God was as effectual at a distance from Bristol as on the spot; and his periodical returns to that city for some weeks or months between these tours kept him in close touch with every department of the work.
5. The supreme consideration, however, was this: To suppose it necessary for Mr. Müller himself to be at home in order that sufficient means should be supplied, was a direct contradiction of the very principles upon which, and to maintain which, the whole work had been begun. Real trust in God is above circumstances and appearances. And this had been proven; for, during the third year after these tours began, the income for the various departments of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was larger than ever during the preceding forty-four years of its existence; and therefore, notwithstanding the loving counsel of a few donors and friends who advised that Mr. Müller should stay at home, he kept to his purpose and his principles, partly to demonstrate that no man's presence is indispensable to the work of the Lord. "Them that honour Me I will honour." (1 Samuel ii.39.) He regarded it the greatest honour of his life to bear this wide witness to God, and God correspondingly honoured His servant in bearing this testimony,
It was during the first and second of these American tours that the writer had the privilege of coming into personal contact with Mr. Müller. While I was at San Francisco, in 1878, he was to speak on Sabbath afternoon, May 12th, at Oakland, just across the bay, but conscientious objections to needless Sunday travel caused me voluntarily to lose what then seemed the only chance of seeing and hearing a man whose career had been watched by me for over twenty years, as he was to leave for the East a few days earlier than myself and was likely to be always a little in advance. On reaching Ogden, however, where the branch road from Salt Lake City joins the main line, Mr. and Mrs. Müller boarded my train and we travelled to Chicago together. I introduced myself, and held with him daily converse about divine things, and, while tarrying at Chicago, had numerous opportunities for hearing him speak there.
The results of this close and frequent contact singularly blessed to me, and at my invitation he came to Detroit, Michigan, on his next tour, and spoke in the Fort Street Presbyterian Church, of which I was pastor, on Sundays, January 18 and 25, 1880, and on Monday and Friday evenings, in the interval.
In addition to these numerous and favourable opportunities thus providentially afforded for hearing and conversing with Mr. Müller, he kindly met me for several days in my study, for an hour at a time, for conference upon those deeper truths of the word of God and deeper experiences of the Christian life, upon which I was then very desirous of more light. For example, I desired to understand more clearly the Bible teaching about the Lord's coming. I had opposed with much persistency what is known as the premillennial view, and brought out my objections, to all of which he made one reply:
"My beloved brother, I have heard all your arguments and objections against this view, but they have one fatal defect: not one of them is based upon the word of God. You will never get at the truth upon any matter of divine revelation unless you lay aside your prejudices and like a little child ask simply what is the testimony of Scripture."
With patience and wisdom he unravelled the tangled skein of my perplexity and difficulty, and helped me to settle upon biblical principles all matters of so-called expediency. As he left me, about to visit other cities, his words fixed themselves in my memory. I had expressed to him my growing conviction that the worship in the churches had lost its primitive simplicity; that the pew rent system was pernicious; that fixed salaries for ministers of the gospel were unscriptural; that the church of God should be administered only by men full of the Holy Ghost, and that the duty of Christians to the non-churchgoing masses was grossly neglected, etc. He solemnly said to me:
"My beloved brother, the Lord has given you much light upon these matters, and will hold you correspondingly responsible for its use. If you obey Him and walk in the light, you will have more; if not, the light will be withdrawn."
It is a singular lesson on the importance of an anointed tongue, that forty simple words, spoken over twenty years ago, have had a daily influence on the life of him to whom they were spoken. Amid subtle temptations to compromise the claims of duty and hush the voice of conscience, or of the Spirit of God, and to follow the traditions of men rather than the word of God, those words of that venerated servant of God have recurred to mind with ever fresh force. We risk the forfeiture of privileges which are not employed for God, and of obscuring convictions which are not carried into action. God's word to us is "use or lose."
"To him that hath shall be given: from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have."
It is the hope and the prayer of him who writes this memoir that the reading of these pages may prove to be an interview with the man whose memorial they are, and that the witness borne by George Müller may be to many readers a source of untold and life-long blessing.
It need not be said that to carry out conviction into action is a costly sacrifice. It may make necessary renunciations and separations which leave one to feel a strange sense both of deprivation and loneliness. But he who will fly as an eagle does into the higher levels where cloudless day abides, and live in the sunshine of God, must consent to live a comparatively lonely life. No bird is so solitary as the eagle. Eagles never fly in flocks: one, or at most two, and the two, mates, being ever seen at once. But the life that is lived unto God, however it forfeits human companionship, knows divine fellowship, and the child of God who like his Master undertakes to "do always the things that please Him," can like his Master say, "The Father hath not left me alone."
"I am alone; yet not alone, for the Father is with me."
Whosoever will promptly follow whatever light God gives, without regard to human opinion, custom, tradition, or approbation, will learn the deep meaning of these words:
"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
"WITH clouds He covereth the light." No human life is without some experience of clouded skies and stormy days, and sometimes "the clouds return after the rain." It is a blessed experience to recognize the silver lining on the darkest storm-cloud, and, better still, to be sure of the shining of God's light behind a sky that seems wholly and hopelessly overcast.
The year 1870 was made forever pathetically memorable by the decease of Mrs. Müller, who lived just long enough to see the last of the New Orphan Houses opened. From the outset of the work in November, 1835, for more than thirty-four years, this beloved, devoted wife had been also a sympathetic helper.
This wedded life had approached very near to the ideal of connubial bliss, by reason of mutual fitness, common faith in God and love for His work, and long association in prayer and service. In their case, the days of courtship were never passed; indeed the tender and delicate mutual attentions of those early days rather increased than decreased as the years went on; and the great maxim was both proven and illustrated, that the secret of willing love is the secret of keeping it. More than that, such affection grows and becomes more and more a fountain of mutual delight. Never had his beloved "Mary" been so precious to her husband as during the very year of her departure.
This marriage union was so happy that Mr. Müller could not withhold his loving witness that he never saw her at any time after she became his wife, without a new feeling of delight. And day by day they were wont to find at least a few moments of rest together, sitting after dinner, hand in hand, in loving intercourse of mind and heart, made the more complete by this touch of physical contact, and, whether in speech or silence, communing in the Lord. Their happiness in God and in each other was perennial, perpetual, growing as the years fled by.
Mr. Müller's solemn conviction was that all this wedded bliss was due to the fact that she was not only a devoted Christian, but that their one united object was to live only and wholly for God; that they had always abundance of work for God, in which they were heartily united; that this work was never allowed to interfere with the care of their own souls, or their seasons of private prayer and study of the Scriptures; and that they were wont daily, and often thrice a day, to secure a time of united prayer and praise when they brought before the Lord the matters which at the time called for thanksgiving and supplication.
Mrs. Müller had never been a very vigorous woman, and more than once had been brought nigh unto death. In October, 1859, after twenty-nine years of wedded life and love, she had been laid aside by rheumatism and had continued in great suffering for about nine months, quite helpless and unable to work; but it was felt to be a special mark of God's love and faithfulness that this very affliction was used by Him to reestablish her in health and strength, the compulsory rest made necessary for the greater part of a year being in Mr. Müller's judgment a means of prolonging her life and period of service for the ten years following. Thus a severe trial met by them both in faith had issued in much blessing both to soul and body.
The closing scenes of this beautiful life are almost too sacred to be unveiled to common eyes. For some few years before her departure, it was plain that her health and vitality were declining. With difficulty could she be prevailed on, however, to abate her activity, or, even when a distressing cough attacked her, to allow a physician to be called. Her husband carefully guarded and nursed her, and by careful attention to diet and rest, by avoidance of needless exposure, and by constant resort to prayer, She was kept alive through much weakness and sometimes much pain. But, on Saturday night, February 5th, she found that she had not the use of one of her limbs, and it was obvious that the end was nigh. Her own mind was clear and her own heart at peace. She herself remarked, "He will soon come." And a few minutes after four in the afternoon of the Lord's day, February 6, 1870, she sweetly passed from human toils and trials, to be forever with the Lord.
Under the weight of such a sorrow, most men would have sunk into depths of almost hopeless despair. But this man of God, sustained by a divine love, at once sought for occasions of thanksgiving; and, instead of repining over his loss, gratefully remembered and recorded the goodness of God intaking such a wife, releasing her saintly spirit from the bondage of weakness, sickness, and pain, rather than leaving her to a protracted suffering and the mute agony of helplessness; and, above all, introducing her to her heart's desire, the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus, and the higher service of a celestial sphere. Is not that grief akin to selfishness which dwells so much on our own deprivations as to be oblivious of the ecstatic gain of the departed saints who, withdrawn from us and absent from the body, are at home with the Lord?
It is only in those circumstances of extreme trial which prove to ordinary men a crushing weight, that implicit faith in the Father's unfailing wisdom and love proves its full power to sustain. Where self-will is truly lost in the will of God, the life that is hidden in Him is most radiantly exhibited in the darkest hour.
The death of this beloved wife afforded an illustration of this. Within a few hours after this withdrawal of her who had shared with him the planning and working of these long years of service, Mr. Müller went to the Monday-evening prayer meeting, then held in Salem Chapel, to mingle his prayers and praises as usual with those of his brethren. With a literally shining countenance, he rose and said:
"Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I ask you to join with me in hearty praise and thanksgiving to my precious Lord for His loving kindness in having taken my darling, beloved wife out of the pain and suffering which she has endured, into His own presence; and as I rejoice in everything that is for her happiness, so I now rejoice as I realize how far happier she is, in beholding her Lord whom she loved so well, than in any joy she has known or could know here. I ask you also to pray that the Lord will so enable me to have fellowship in her joy that my bereaved heart may be occupied with her blessedness instead of my unspeakable loss."
These remarkable words are supplied by one who was himself present and on whose memory they made an indelible impression.
This occurrence had a marked effect upon all who were at that meeting. Mrs. Müller was known by all as a most valuable, lovely, and holy woman and wife. After nearly forty years of wedded life and love, she had left the earthly home for the heavenly. To her husband she had been a blessing beyond description, and to her daughter Lydia, at once a wise and tender mother and a sympathetic companion. The loss to them both could never be made up on earth. Yet in these circumstances this man of God had grace given to forget his own and his daughter's irreparable loss, and to praise God for the unspeakable gain to the departed wife and mother.
The body was laid to rest on February 11th, many thousands of sorrowing friends evincing the deepest sympathy. Twelve hundred orphans mingled in the funeral procession, and the whole staff of helpers so far as they could be spared from the houses. The bereaved husband strangely upheld by the arm of the Almighty Friend in whom he trusted, took upon himself the funeral service both at chapel and cemetery. He was taken seriously ill afterward, but, as soon as his returning strength allowed, he preached his wife's funeral sermon-- another memorable occasion. It was the supernatural serenity of his peace in the presence of such a bereavement that led his attending physician to say to a friend,
"I have never before seen so unhuman a man."
Yes, unhuman indeed, though far from inhuman, lifted above the weakness of mere humanity by a power not of man.
That funeral sermon was a noble tribute to the goodness of the Lord even in the great affliction of his life. The text was:
"Thou art good and doest good."
Its three divisions were:
"The Lord was good and did good:
first, in giving her to me;
second in so long leaving her to me; and
third, in taking her from me."
It is happily presented in Mr. Müller's journal, and must be read to be appreciated.*
*Narrative, III. 575-594.
This union, begun in prayer, was in prayer sanctified to the end. Mrs. Müller's chief excellence lay in her devoted piety. She wore that one ornament which is in the sight of God of great price-- the meek and quiet spirit; the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her. She had sympathetically shared her husband's prayers and tears during all the long trial-time of faith and patience, and partaken of all the joys and rewards of the triumph hours. Mr. Müller's own witness to her leaves nothing more to be added, for it is the tribute of him who knew her longest and best. He writes:
"She was God's own gift, exquisitely suited to me even in natural temperament. Thousands of times I said to her, 'My darling, God Himself singled you out for me, as the most suitable wife I could possibly wish to have had.'"
As to culture, she had a basis of sensible practical education, surmounted and adorned by ladylike accomplishments which she had neither time nor inclination to indulge in her married life. Not only was she skilled in the languages and in such higher studies as astronomy, but in mathematics also; and this last qualification made her for thirty-four years an invaluable help to her husband, as month by month she examined all the account-books, and the hundreds of bills of the matrons of the orphan houses, and with the eye of an expert detected the least mistake.
All her training and natural fitness indicated a providential adaptation to her work, like "the round peg in the round hole." Her practical education in needlework, and her knowledge of the material most serviceable for various household uses, made her competent to direct both in the purchase and manufacture of cloths and other fabrics for garments, bed-linen, etc. She moved about those orphan houses like an angel of Love, taking unselfish delight in such humble ministries as preparing neat, clean, beds to rest the little ones, and covering them with warm blankets in cold weather. For the sake of Him who took little children in His arms, she became to these thousands of destitute orphans a nursing mother.
Shortly after her death, a letter was received from a believing orphan some seventeen years before sent out to service, asking, in behalf also of others formerly in the houses, permission to erect a stone over Mrs. Müller's grave as an expression of love and grateful remembrance. Consent being given, hundreds of little offerings came in from orphans who during the twenty-five years previous had been under her motherly oversight-- a beautiful tribute to her worth and a touching offering from those who had been to her as her larger family.
The dear daughter Lydia had, two years before Mrs. Müller's departure, found in one of her mother's pocketbooks a sacred memorandum in her own writing, which she brought to her bereaved father's notice two days after his wife had departed. It belongs among the precious relics of her history. It reads as follows:
"Should it please the Lord to remove Mrs. Mary Müller by a sudden dismissal, let none of the beloved survivors consider that it is in the way of judgment, either to her or to them. She has so often, when enjoying conscious nearness to the Lord, felt 'How sweet it would be now to depart and to be forever with Jesus,' that nothing but the shock it would be to her beloved husband and child, etc., has checked in her the longing desire that thus her happy spirit might take its flight. Precious Jesus! Thy will in this as in everything else, and not hers, be done!"
These words were to Mr. Müller her last legacy; and with the comfort they gave him, the loving sympathy of his precious Lydia who did all that a daughter could do to fill a mother's place, and with the remembrance of Him who hath said,
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,"
he went on his lonely pilgrim way, rejoicing in the Lord, feeling nevertheless a wound in his heart, that seemed rather to deepen than to heal.
Sixteen months passed, when Mr. James Wright, who like Mr. Müller had been bereft of his companion, asked of him the hand of the beloved Lydia in marriage. The request took Mr. Müller wholly by surprise, but he felt that, to no man living, could he with more joyful confidence commit and intrust his choicest remaining earthly treasure; and, ever solicitous for others' happiness rather than his own, he encouraged his daughter to accept Mr. Wright's proffered love, when she naturally hesitated on her father's account. On November 16, 1871, they were married, and began a life of mutual prayer and sympathy which, like that of her father and mother, proved supremely and almost ideally happy, helpful, and useful.
While as yet this event was only in prospect, Mr. Müller felt his own lonely condition keenly, and much more in view of his daughter's expected departure to her husband's home. He felt the need of some one to share intimately his toils and prayers, and help him in the Lord's work, and the persuasion grew upon him that it was God's will that he should marry again. After much prayer, he determined to ask Miss Susannah Grace Sangar to become his wife, having known her for more than twenty-five years as a consistent disciple, and believing her to be well fitted to be his helper in the Lord. Accordingly, fourteen days after his daughter's marriage to Mr. Wright, he entered into similar relations with Miss Sangar, who for years after joined him in prayer, unselfish giving, and labours for souls.
The second Mrs. Müller was of one mind with her husband as to the stewardship of the Lord's property. He found her poor, for what she had once possessed she had lost; and had she been rich he would have regarded her wealth as an obstacle to marriage, unfitting her to be his companion in a self-denial based on scriptural principle. Riches or hoarded wealth would have been to both of them a snare, and so she also felt; so that, having still, before her marriage, a remnant of two hundred pounds, she at once put it at the Lord's disposal, thus joining her husband in a life of voluntary poverty; and although subsequent legacies were paid to her, she continued to the day of her death to be poor for the Lord's sake.
The question had often been asked Mr. Müller what would become of the work when he, the master workman, should be removed. Men find it hard to get their eyes off the instrument, and remember that there is only, strictly speaking, one AGENT, for an agent is one who works, and an instrument is what the agent works with. Though provision might be made, in a board of trustees, for carrying on the orphan work, where would be found the man to take the direction of it, a man whose spirit was so akin to that of the founder that he would trust in God and depend on Him just as Mr. Müller had done before him? Such the inquiries of the somewhat doubtful or fearful observers of the great and many-branched work carried on under Mr. Müller's supervision.
To all such questions he had always one answer ready-- his one uniform solution of all cares and perplexities: the Living God. He who had built the orphan houses could maintain them; He who had raised up one humble man to oversee the work in His name, could provide for a worthy successor, like Joshua who not only followed but succeeded Moses. Jehovah of hosts is not limited in resources.
Nevertheless much prayer was offered that the Lord would provide such a successor, and, in Mr. James Wright, the prayer was answered. He was not chosen, as Mr. Müller's son-in-law, for the choice was made before his marriage to Lydia Müller was even thought of by him. For more than thirty years, even from his boyhood, Mr. Wright had been well known to Mr. Müller, and his growth in the things of God had been watched by him. For thirteen years he had already been his "right hand" in all most important matters; and, for nearly all of that time, had been held up before God as his successor, in the prayers of Mr. and Mrs. Müller, both of whom felt divinely assured that God would fit him more and more to take the entire burden of responsibility.
When, in 1870, the wife fell asleep in Jesus, and Mr. Müller was himself ill, he opened his heart to Mr. Wright as to the succession. Humility led him to shrink from such a post, and his then wife feared it would prove too burdensome for him; but all objections were overborne when it was seen and felt to be God's call. It was twenty-one months after this, when, in November, 1871, Mr. Wright was married to Mr. Müller's only daughter and child, so that it is quite apparent that he had neither sought the position he now occupies, nor was he appointed to it because he was Mr. Müller's son-in-law, for, at that time, his first wife was living and in health. From May, 1872, therefore, Mr. Wright shared with his father-in-law the responsibilities of the Institution, and gave him great joy as a partner and successor in full sympathy with all the great principles on which his work had been based.
A little over three years after Mr. Müller's second marriage, in March, 1874, Mrs. Müller was taken ill, and became, two days later, feverish and restless, and after about two weeks was attacked with hemorrhage which brought her also very near to the gates of death. She rallied; but fever and delirium followed and obstinate sleeplessness, till, for a second time, she seemed at the point of death. Indeed so low was her vitality that, as late as April 17th, a most experienced London physician said that he had never known any patient to recover from such an illness; and thus a third time all human hope of restoration seemed gone. And yet, in answer to prayer, Mrs. Müller was raised up, and in the end of May, was taken to the seaside for change of air, and grew rapidly stronger until she was entirely restored. Thus the Lord spared her to be the companion of her husband in those years of missionary touring which enabled him to bear such world-wide witness. Out of the shadow of his griefs this beloved man of God ever came to find that divine refreshment which is as the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
SOME one has quaintly said, in commenting upon the Twenty-third Psalm, that "the coach in which the Lord's saints ride has not only a driver, but two footmen"--
"goodness and mercy shall follow me."
Surely these two footmen of the Lord, in their celestial livery of grace, followed George Müller all the days of his life. Wonderful as is the story of the building of those five orphan houses on Ashley Down, many other events and experiences no less showed the goodness and mercy of God, and must not be unrecorded in these pages, if we are to trace, however imperfectly, His gracious dealings; and having, by one comprehensive view, taken in the story of the orphan homes, we may retrace our steps to the years when the first of these houses was planned, and, following another path, look at Mr. Müller's personal and domestic life.
He himself loved to trace the Lord's goodness and mercy, and he saw abundant proofs that they had followed him. A few instances may be given, from different departments of experience, as representative examples.
The Lord's tender care was manifest as to his beloved daughter Lydia. It became clear in the year 1843, that, both for the relief of the mother and the profit of the daughter, it would be better that Lydia should be taught elsewhere than at home; and in answer to prayer, her father was divinely directed to a Christian sister, whose special gifts in the way of instructing and training children were manifestly from the Spirit, who divides unto all believers severally as He will. She seemed to be marked of God, as the woman to whom was to be intrusted the responsible task of superintending the education of Lydia. Mr. Müller both expected and desired to pay for such training, and asked for the account, which in the first instance he paid, but the exact sum was returned to him anonymously; and, for the six remaining years of his daughter's stay, he could get no further bills for her schooling. Thus God provided for the board and education of this only child, not only without cost to her parents, but to their intense satisfaction as being under the true "nurture and admonition of the Lord;" for while at this school, in April, 1846, Lydia found peace in believing, and began that beautiful life in the Lord Jesus Christ, that, for forty-four years afterward, so singularly exhibited His image.
Many Christian parents have made the fatal mistake of intrusting their children's education to those whose gifts were wholly intellectual and not spiritual, and who have misled the young pupils entrusted to their care, into an irreligious or infidel life, or, at best, a career of mere intellectualism and worldly ambition. In not a few instances, all the influences of a pious home have been counteracted by the atmosphere of a school which, if not godless, has been without that fragrance of spiritual devoutness and consecration which is indispensable to the true training off impressible children during the plastic years when character is forming for eternity!
Goodness and mercy followed Mr. and Mrs. Müller conspicuously in their sojourn in Germany in 1845, which covered about three months, from July 19th to October 11th.
God plainly led to Stuttgart, where brethren had fallen into grievous errors and needed again a helping hand. When the strong impression laid hold of Mr. Müller, more than two months before his departure for the Continent, that he was to return there for a season, he began definitely to pray for means to go with, on May 3rd, and, within a quarter hour after, five hundred pounds were received, the donor specifying that the money was given for all expenses needful, "preparatory to, and attendant upon" this proposed journey. The same goodness and mercy followed all his steps while abroad. Provision was made, in God's own strange way, for suitable lodgings in Stuttgart, at a time when the city was exceptionally crowded, a wealthy retired surgeon, who had never before rented apartments, being led to offer them. All Mr. Müller's labours were attended with blessing: during part of the time he held as many as eight meetings a week; and he was enabled to publish eleven tracts in German, and judiciously to scatter over two hundred and twenty thousand of them, as well as nearly four thousand of his Narrative, and yet evade interference from the police.
One experience of this sojourn abroad should have special mention for the lesson it suggests, both in charity for others' views and loving adaptation to circumstances. A providential opening occurred to address meetings of about one hundred and fifty members of the state church. In his view the character of such assemblies was not wholly conformed to the Scripture pattern, and hence did not altogether meet his approval; but such opportunity was afforded to bear testimony for the truth's sake, and to exhibit Christian unity upon essentials, for love's sake, that he judged it of the Lord that he should enter this open door. Those who knew Mr. Müller but little, but knew his positive convictions and uncompromising loyalty to them, might suspect that he would have little forbearance with even minor errors, and would not bend himself from his stern attitude of inflexibility to accommodate himself to those who were ensnared by them. But those who knew him better, saw that he held fast the form of sound words with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Like Paul, ever ready to be made all things to all men that by all means he might save some, in his whole character and conduct nothing shone, more radiantly beautiful, than Love. He felt that he who would lift up others must bow himself to lay hold on them; that to help brethren we must bear with them, not insisting upon matters of minor importance as though they were essential and fundamental. Hence his course, instead of being needlessly repellant, was tenderly conciliatory; and it was a conspicuous sign of grace that, while holding his own views of truth and duty so positively and tenaciously, the intolerance of bigotry was so displaced by the forbearance of charity that, when the Lord so led and circumstances so required, he could conform for a time to customs whose propriety he doubted, without abating either the earnestness of his conviction or the integrity of his testimony.
God's goodness and mercy were seen in the fact that, whenever more liberal things were devised for Him, He responded in providing liberally means to carry out such desires. This was abundantly illustrated not only in the orphan work, but in the history of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; when, for years together, the various branches of this work grew so rapidly, until the point of full development was reached. The time indeed came when, in some departments, it pleased God that contraction should succeed expansion, but even here goodness ruled, for it was afterward seen that it was because other brethren had been led to take up such branches of the Lord's work, in all of which developments Mr. Müller as truly rejoiced as though it had been his work alone that was honoured of God.
The aiding of brethren in the mission fields grew more and more dear to his heart, and the means to indulge his unselfish desires were so multiplied that, in 1846, he found, on reviewing the history of the Lord's dealings, that he had been enabled to expend about seven times as much of late years as previously. It may here be added, again by way of anticipation, that when, nineteen years later, in 1865, he sat down to apportion to such labourers in the Lord as he was wont to assist, the sums he felt it desirable to send to each, he found before him the names of one hundred and twenty-two such! Goodness and mercy indeed! Here was but one branch of his work, and yet to what proportions and fruitfulness it had grown! He needed four hundred and sixty-six pounds to send them to fill out his appropriations, and he lacked ninety-two of this amount. He carried the lack to the Lord, and that evening received five pounds, and the next morning a hundred more, and a further "birthday memorial" of fifty, so that he had in all thirty-seven more than he had asked.
What goodness and mercy followed him in the strength he ever had to bear the heavy loads of care incident to his work! The Lord's coach bore him and his burdens together. Day by day his gracious Master preserved his peace unbroken, though disease found its way into this large family, though fit homes and work must be found for outgoing orphans, and fit care and training for incoming orphans; though crises were constantly arising and new needs constantly recurring, grave matters daily demanded prayer and watching, and perpetual diligence and vigilance were needful; for the Lord was his Helper, and carried all his loads.
During the winter of 1846-7 there was a peculiar season of dearth. Would God's goodness and mercy fail? There were those who looked on, more than half incredulous, saying to themselves if not to others,
"I wonder how it is now with Mr. Müller and his orphans! If he is able to provide for them now as he has been, we will say nothing." But all through this time of widespread want his witness was,
"We lack nothing: God helps us."
Faith led when the way was too dark for sight; in fact the darker the road the more was the Hand felt that leads the blind by a way they know not. They went through that winter as easily as through any other from the beginning of the work!
Was it no sign that God's "footmen" followed George Müller that the work never ceased to be both a work of faith and of prayer? that no difficulties or discouragements, no successes or triumphs, ever caused for an hour a departure from the sublime essential principles on which the work was based, or a diversion from the purpose for which it had been built up?
We have heard it said of a brother, much honoured of God in beginning a work of faith, that, when it had grown to greater proportions, he seemed to change its base to that of a business scheme. How it glorifies God that the holy enterprise, planted in Bristol in 1834, has known no such alteration in its essential features during all these years. Though the work grew, and its needs with it, until the expenses were twofold, threefold, fourfold, and, at last, seventyfold what they were when that first Orphan House was opened in Wilson Street, there has been no change of base, never any looking to man for patronage or support, never any dependence upon a regular income or fixed endowment. God has been, all through these years, as at first, the sole Patron and Dependence. The Scriptural Knowledge Institution has not been wrecked on the rocks of financial failure, nor has it even drifted away from its original moorings in the safe anchorage-ground of the Promises of Jehovah.
Was it not goodness and mercy that kept George Müller ever grateful as well as faithful! He did not more constantly feel his need of faith and prayer than his duty and privilege of abounding joy and praise. Some might think that, after such experiences of answered prayer, one would be less and less moved by them, as the novelty was lost in the uniformity of such interpositions. But no. When, in June, 1853, at a time of sore need, the Lord sent, in one sum, three hundred pounds, he could scarcely contain his triumphant joy in God. He walked up and down his room for a long time, his heart overflowing and his eyes too, his mouth filled with laughter and his voice with song, while he gave himself afresh to the faithful Master he served. God's blessings were to him always new and fresh. Answered prayers never lost the charm of novelty; like flowers plucked fresh every hour from the gardens of God, they never got stale, losing none of their beauty or celestial fragrance.
And what goodness and mercy was it that never suffered prayerfulness and patience to relax their hold, either when answers seemed to come fast and thick like snowflakes, or when the heavens seemed locked up and faith had to wait patiently and long! Every day brought new demands for continuance in prayer. In fact, as Mr. Müller testifies, the only difference between latter and former days was that the difficulties were greater in proportion as the work was larger. But he adds that this was to be expected, for the Lord gives faith for the very purpose of trying it for the glory of His own name and the good of him who has the faith, and it is by these very trials that trust learns the secret of its triumphs.
Goodness and mercy not only guided but also guarded this servant of God. God's footmen bore a protecting shield which was always over him. Amid thousands of unseen perils, occasionally some danger was known, though generally after it was passed. While at Keswick labouring in 1847, for example, a man, taken deranged while lodging in the same house, shot himself. It afterward transpired that he had an impression that Mr. Müller had designs on his life, and had he met Mr. Müller during this insane attack he would probably have shot him with the loaded pistol he carried about on his person.
The pathway of this man of God sometimes led through deep waters of affliction, but goodness and mercy still followed, and held him up. In the autumn of 1852, his beloved brother-in-law, Mr. A. N. Groves, came back from the East lndies, very ill; and in May of the next year, after a blessed witness for God, he fell asleep at Mr. Müller's house. To him Mr. Müller owed much through grace at the outset of his labours in 1829. By his example his faith had been stimulated and helped when, with no visible support or connection with any missionary society, Mr. Groves had gone to Bagdad with wife and children, for the sake of mission work in this far-off field, resigning a lucrative practice of about fifteen hundred pounds a year. The tie between these men was very close and tender and the loss of this brother-in-law gave keen sorrow.
In July following, Mr. and Mrs. Müller went through a yet severer trial. Lydia, the beloved daughter and only child,-- born in 1832 and new-born in 1846, and at this time twenty years old and a treasure without price,-- was taken ill in the latter part of June, and the ailment developed into a malignant typhoid which, two weeks later, brought her to the gates of death. These parents had to face the prospect of being left childless. But faith triumphed and prayer prevailed. Their darling Lydia was spared to be, for many years to come, a blessing beyond words, not only to them and to her future husband, but to many others in a wider circle of influence. Mr. Müller found, in this trial, a special proof of God's goodness and mercy, which he gratefully records, in the growth in grace, evidenced in his entire and joyful acquiescence in the Father's will, when, with such a loss apparently before him, his confidence was undisturbed that all things would work together for good. He could not but contrast with this experience of serenity, that broken peace and complaining spirit with which he had met a like trial in August, 1831, twenty-one years before. How, like a magnet among steel filings, the thankful heart finds the mercies and picks them out of the black dust of sorrow and suffering!
The second volume of Mr. Müller's Narrative closes with a paragraph in which he formally disclaims as impudent presumption and pretension all high rank as a miracle-worker, and records his regret that any work, based on scriptural promises and built on the simple lines of faith and prayer, should be accounted either phenomenal or fanatical.
The common ways of accounting for its success would be absurdly ridiculous and amusing were they not so sadly unbelieving. Those who knew little or nothing, either of the exercise of faith or the experience of God's faithfulness, resorted to the most God-dishonouring explanations of the work. Some said:
"Mr. Müller is a foreigner; his methods are so novel as to attract attention."
Others that the
"Annual Reports brought in the money,"
or suggested that he had
"a secret treasure."
His quiet reply was,
that his being a foreigner would be more likely to repel than to attract confidence;
that the novelty would scarcely avail him after more than a score of years;
that other institutions which issued reports did not always escape want and debt;
but, as to the secret treasure to which he was supposed to have access, he felt constrained to confess that there was more in that supposition than the objectors were aware of. He had indeed a Treasury, inexhaustible-- in the promises of a God unchangeably faithful-- from which he admits that he had already in 1856 drawn for twenty-two years, and in all over one hundred and thirteen thousand pounds.
As to the Reports, it may be worth while to notice that he never but once in his life advertised the public of any need, and that was the need of more orphans-- more to care for in the name of the Lord-- a single and singular case of advertising, by which he sought not to increase his income, but his expenditure-- not asking the public to aid him in supporting the needy, but to increase the occasion of his outlay!
So far was he from depending upon any such sources of supply as the unbelieving world might think, that it was in the drying up of all such channels that he found the opportunity of his faith and of God's power. The visible treasure was often so small that it was reduced to nothing, but the invisible Treasure was God's Riches in glory, and could be drawn from without limit. This it was to which he looked alone, and in which he felt that he had a river of supply that can never run dry.*
The orphan work had, to Mr. Müller, many charms which grew on him as he entered more fully into it. While his main hope was to be the means of spiritual health to these children, he had the joy of seeing how God used these homes for the promotion of their physical welfare also, and, in cases not a few, for the entire renovation of their weak and diseased bodies. It must be remembered that most of them owed their orphan condition to that great destroyer, Consumption. Children were often brought to the orphan houses thoroughly permeated by the poison of bad blood, with diseased tendencies, and sometimes emaciated and half-starved, having had neither proper food nor medical care.
For example, in the spring of 1855, four children from five to nine years old, and of one family, were admitted to the orphanage, all in a deplorable state from lack of both nursing and nutrition. It was a serious question whether they should be admitted at all, as such tended to turn the institution into a hospital and absorb undue care and time. But to dismiss them seemed almost inhuman, certainly inhumane. So, trusting in God, they were taken in and cared for with parental love. A few weeks later these children were physically unrecognizable, so rapid had been the improvement in health, and probably there were with God's blessing four graves less to be dug.
The trials incident to the moral and spiritual condition of the orphans were even greater, however, than those caused by ill health and weakness. When children proved incorrigibly bad, they were expelled, lest they should corrupt others, for the institution was not a reformatory, as it was not a hospital. In 1849, a boy, of less than eight years, had to be sent away as a confirmed liar and thief, having twice run off with the belongings of other children and gloried in his juvenile crimes. Yet the forbearance exercised even in his case was marvelously godlike, for, during over five years, he had been the subject of private admonitions and prayers and all other methods of reclamation; and, when expulsion became the last resort, he was solemnly and with prayer, before all the others, sent away from the orphan house, that if possible such course might prove a double blessing, a remedy to him and a warning to others; and even then this young practised sinner was followed, in his expulsion, by loving supplication.
Towards the end of November, 1857, it was found that a serious leak in the boiler of the heating apparatus of house No. 1 would make repairs at once necessary, and as the boilers were encased in bricks and a new boiler might be required, such repairs must consume time. Meanwhile how could three hundred children, some of them very young and tender, be kept warm? Even if gas-stoves could be temporarily set up, chimneys would be needful to carry off the impure air; and no way of heating was available during repairs, even if a hundred pounds were expended to prevent risk of cold. Again Mr. Müller turned to the Living God, and, trusting in Him, decided to have the repairs begun. A day or so before the fires had to be put out, a bleak north wind set in. The work could no longer be delayed; yet weather, prematurely cold for the season, threatened these hundreds of children with hurtful exposure. The Lord was boldly appealed to.
"Lord, these are Thy orphans: be pleased to change this north wind into a south wind, and give the workmen a mind to work that the job may be speedily done."
The evening before the repairs actually began, the cold blast was still blowing; but on that day a south wind blew, and the weather was so mild that no fire was needful! Not only so, but, as Mr. Müller went into the cellar with the overseer of the work, to see whether the repairs could in no way be expedited, he heard him say, in the hearing of the men,
"They will work late this evening, and come very early again to-morrow."
"We would rather, sir," was the reply, "work all night."
And so, within about thirty hours, the fire was again burning to heat the water in the boiler; and, until the apparatus was again in order, that merciful soft south wind had continued to blow. Goodness and mercy were following the Lord's humble servant, made the more conspicuous by the crises of special trial and trouble.
Every new exigency provoked new prayer and evoked new faith. Then, in 1862, several boys were ready to be apprenticed, and there were no applications such as were desired, prayer was the one resort, as advertising would tend to bring applications from masters who sought apprentices for the sake of the premium. But every one of the eighteen boys was properly bound over to a Christian master, whose business was suitable and who would receive the lad into his own family.
About the same time one of the drains was obstructed which runs about eleven feet underground. Then three holes had been dug and as many places in the drain tapped in vain, prayer was offered that in the fourth case the workmen might be guided to the very spot where the stoppage existed-- and the request was literally answered.
Three instances of marked deliverance, in answer to prayer, are specially recorded for the year between May 26, 1864, and the same date in 1865, which should not be passed by without at least a mention.
First, in the great drought of the summer of 1864, when the fifteen large cisterns in the three orphan houses were empty, and the nine deep wells, and even the good spring which had never before failed, were almost all dry. Two or three thousand gallons of water were daily required, and daily prayer was made to the God of the rain. See how God provided, while pleased to withhold the supply from above! A farmer, near by, supplied, from his larger wells, about half the water needful, the rest being furnished by the half-exhausted wells on Ashley Down; and, when he could no longer spare water, without a day's interval, another farmer offered a supply from a brook which ran through his fields, and thus there was abundance until the rains replenished cisterns and wells."*
*About twenty years later the Bristol Water Works Co. introduced pipes and thus a permanent and unfailing supply.
Second, when, for three years, scarlet and typhus fevers and smallpox, being prevalent in Bristol and the vicinity, threatened the orphans, prayer was again made to Him who is the God of health as well as of rain. There was no case of scarlet or typhus fever during the whole time, though smallpox was permitted to find an entrance into the smallest of the orphan houses. Prayer was still the one resort. The disease spread to the other houses, until at one time fifteen were ill with it. The cases, however, were mercifully light, and the Lord was besought to allow the epidemic to spread no further. Not another child was taken; and when, after nine months, the disease altogether disappeared, not one child had died of it, and only one teacher or adult had had an attack, and that was very mild. What ravages the disease might have made among the twelve hundred inmates of these orphan houses, had it then prevailed as later, in 1872!
Third, tremendous gales visited Bristol and neighbourhood in January, 1865. The roofs of the orphan houses were so injured as to be laid open in at least twenty places, and large panes of glass were broken. The day was Saturday, and no glazier and slater could be had before Monday. So the Lord of wind and weather was besought to protect the exposed property during the interval. The wind calmed down, and the rain was restrained until midday of Wednesday, when the repairs were about furnished, but heavy rainfalls drove the slaters from the roof. One exposed opening remained and much damage threatened; but, in answer to prayer, the rain was stayed, and the work resumed. No damage had been done while the last opening was unrepaired for it had exposed the building from the south, while the rain came from the north.
Mr. Müller records these circumstances with his usual particularity, as part of his witness to the Living God, and to the goodness and mercy that closely and continually followed him.
During the next year, 1865-6, scarlet fever broke out in the orphanage. In all thirty-nine children were ill, but Whooping-cough also made its appearance; but though, during that season, it was not only very prevalent but very malignant in Bristol, in all the three houses there were but seventeen cases, and the only fatal one was that of a little girl with constitutionally weak lungs.
During this same year, however, the Spirit of God wrought mightily among the girls, as in the previous year among the boys, so that over one hundred became deeply earnest seekers after salvation; and so, even in tribulation, consolation abounded in Christ. Mr. Müller and his wife and helpers now implored God to deepen and broaden this work of His Spirit. Toward the end of the year closing in May, 1866, Emma Bunn, an orphan girl of seventeen, was struck with consumption. Though, for fourteen years, she had been under Mr. Müller's care, she was, in this dangerous illness, still careless and indifferent; and, as she drew near to death, her case continued as hopeless as ever. Prayer was unceasing for her; and it pleased God suddenly to reveal Christ to her as her Saviour. Great self-loathing now at once took the place of former indifference; confession of sins of previous callousness of conscience; and unspeakable joy in the Lord, of former apathy and coldness. It was a spiritual miracle -- this girl's sudden transformation into a witness for God, manifesting deepest conviction for past sin and earnest concern for others. Her thoughtless and heedless state had been so well known that her conversion and dying messages were now the Lord's means of the most extensive and God-glorifying work ever wrought up to that time among the orphans. In one house alone three hundred and fifty were led to seek peace in believing.
What lessons lie hidden-- nay, lie on the very surface-- to be read of every willing observer of these events! Prayer can break even a hard heart; a memory, stored with biblical truth and pious teaching, will prove, when once God's grace softens the heart and unlooses the tongue, a source of both personal growth in grace and of capacity for wide service to others. We are all practically too careless of the training of children, and too distrustful of young converts. Mr. Müller was more and more impressed by the triumphs of the grace of God as seen in children converted at the tender age of nine or ten and holding the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end.
These facts and experiences, gleaned, like handfuls of grain, from a wide field, show the character both of the seed sown and the harvest reaped, from the sowing.
Again, when, in 1866, cholera developed in England, in answer to special prayer not one case of this disease was known in the orphan houses; and when, in the autumn, whooping-cough and measles broke out, though eight children had the former and two hundred and sixty-two, the latter, not one child died, or was afterward debilitated by the attack. From May, 1866, to May, 1867, out of over thirteen hundred children under care, only eleven died, considerably less than one per cent.
That severe and epidemic disease should find its way into the orphanages at all may seem strange to those who judge God's faithfulness by appearances, but many were the compensations for such trials. By them not only were the hearts of the children often turned to God, but the hearts of helpers in the Institution were made more sympathetic and tender, and the hearts of God's people at large were stirred up to practical and systematic help. God uses such seeming calamities as "advertisements" of His work; many who would not have heard of the Institution, or on whom what they did hear would have made little impression, were led to take a deep interest in an orphanage where thousands of little ones were exposed to the ravages of some malignant and dangerous epidemic.
Looking back, in 1865, after thirty-one years, upon the work thus far done for the Lord, Mr. Müller gratefully records that, during the entire time, he had been enabled to hold fast the original principles on which the work was based on March 5, 1834. He had never once gone into debt; he had sought for the Institution no patron but the Living God; and he had kept to the line of demarkation between believers and unbelievers, in all his seeking for active helpers in the work.
His grand purpose, in all his labours, having been, from the beginning, the glory of God, in showing what could be done through prayer and faith, without any leaning upon man, his unequivocal testimony is:
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Though for about five years they had, almost daily, been in the constant trial of faith, they were as constantly proving His faithfulness. The work had rapidly grown, till it assumed gigantic proportions, but so did the help of God keep pace with all the needs and demands of its growth.
In January, 1866, Mr. Henry Craik, who had for thirty-six years been Mr. Müller's valued friend, and, since 1832, his coworker in Bristol, fell asleep after an illness of seven months. In Devonshire these two brethren had first known each other, and the acquaintance had subsequently ripened, through years of common labour and trial, into an affection seldom found among men. They were nearly of an age, both being a little past sixty when Mr. Craik died. The loss was too heavy to have been patiently and serenely borne, had not the survivor known and felt beneath him the Everlasting Arms. And even this bereavement, which in one aspect was an irreparable loss, was seen to be only another proof of God's love. The look ahead might be a dark one, the way desolate and even dangerous, but goodness and mercy were still following very close behind, and would in every new place of danger or difficulty be at hand to help over hard places and give comfort and cheer in the night season.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
How complex are the movements of God's providence? Some events are themselves eventful. Like the wheels in Ezekiel's vision-- a wheel in the middle of a wheel,-- they involve other issues within their mysterious mechanism, and constitute epochs of history. Such an epochal event was the building of the first of the New Orphan Houses on Ashley Down.
After October, 1845, it became clear to Mr. Müller that the Lord was leading in this direction. Residents on Wilson Street had raised objections to the noise made by the children, especially in play hours; the playgrounds were no longer large enough for so many orphans; the drainage was not adequate, nor was the situation of the rented houses favourable, for proper sanitary conditions; it was also desirable to secure ground for cultivation, and thus supply outdoor work for the boys, etc. Such were some of the reasons which seemed to demand the building of a new orphan house; and the conviction steadily gained ground that the highest well-being of all concerned would be largely promoted if a suitable site could be found on which to erect a building adapted to the purpose.
There were objections to building which were carefully weighed: money in large sums would be needed; planning and constructing would severely tax time and strength; wisdom and oversight would be in demand at every stage of the work; and the question arose whether such permanent structures befit God's pilgrim people, who have here no continuing city and believe that the end of all things is at hand.
Continuance in prayer, however, brought a sense of quiet and restful conviction that all objections were overbalanced by other and favourable considerations. One argument seemed particularly weighty:
Should God provide large amounts of money for this purpose,it would still further illustrate the power of prayer, offered in faith, to command help from on high. A lot of ground, spacious enough, would, at the outset, cost thousands of pounds; but why should this daunt a true child of God whose Father was infinitely rich?
Mr. Müller and his helpers sought day by day to be guided of God, and, as faith fed on this daily bread of contact with Him, the assurance grew strong that help would come. Shortly Mr. Müller was as sure of this as though the building already stood before his eyes,though for five weeks not one penny had been sent in for this purpose. Meanwhile there went on that searching scrutiny of his own heart by which he sought to know whether any hidden motive of a selfish sort was swaying his will; but as strict self-examination brought to light no conscious purpose but to glorify God, in promoting the good of the orphans, and provoking to larger trust in God all who witnessed the work, it was judged to be God's will that he should go forward.
In November of this year, he was much encouraged by a visit from a believing brother* who bade him go on in the work, but wisely impressed on him the need of asking for wisdom from above, at every step, seeking God's help in showing him the plan for the building, that all details might accord with the divine mind.
*Robert C. Chapman, of Barnstaple, yet living-- and whom Mr. Müller cherished as his "oldest friend."
On the thirty-sixth day after specific prayer had first been offered about this new house, on December 10, 1845, Mr. Müller received one thousand pounds for this purpose, the largest sum yet received in one donation since the work had begun, March 5, 1834. Yet he was as calm and composed as though the gift had been only a shilling; having full faith in God, as both guiding and providing, he records that he would not have been surprised had the amount been five or ten times greater.
Three days later, a Christian architect in London voluntarily offered not only to draught the plans, but gratuitously to superintend the building! This offer had been brought about in a manner so strange as to be naturally regarded as a new sign and proof of God's approval and a fresh pledge of His sure help. Mr. Müller's sister-in-law, visiting the metropolis, had met this architect; and, finding him much interested to know more of the work of which he had read in the narrative, she had told him of the purpose to build; whereupon, without either solicitation or expectation on her part, this cheerful offer was made. Not only was this architect not urged by her, but he pressed his proposal, himself, urged on by his deep interest in the orphan work. Thus, within forty days, the first thousand pounds had been given in answer to prayer, and a pious man, as yet unseen and unknown by Mr. Müller, had been led to offer his services in providing plans for the new building and superintending its erection. Surely God was moving before His servant.
For a man, personally penniless, to attempt to erect such a house, on such a scale, without appeal to man and in sole dependence on God was no small venture of faith. The full risk involved in such an undertaking, and the full force of the testimony which it has since afforded to a prayer-hearing God, can be felt only as the full weight of the responsibility is appreciated and all the circumstances are duly considered.
First of all, ground must be bought, and it must comprise six or seven acres, and the site must be in or near Bristol; for Mr. Müller's general sphere of work was in the city, the orphans and their helpers should be within reasonable reach of their customary meeting-place, and on many other accounts such nearness to the city was desirable. But such a site would cost from two thousand to three thousand pounds.
Next the building must be constructed, fitted up, and furnished, with accommodations for three hundred orphans and their overseers, teachers, and various helpers. However plain the building and its furnishings, the total cost would reach from three to four times the price of the site.
Then, the annual cost of keeping such house open and of maintaining such a large body of inmates would be four or five thousand pounds more.
Here, then, was a prospective outlay of somewhere between ten thousand and fifteen thousand pounds, for site and building, with a further expense of one third as much more every year.
No man so poor as George Müller, if at the same time sane, would ever have thought of such a gigantic scheme, much less have undertaken to work it out, if his faith and hope were not fixed on God.
Mr. Müller himself confesses that here lay his whole secret. He was not driven onward by any self-seeking, but drawn onward by a conviction that he was doing the will of God. When Constantine was laying out on a vast scale the new capital on the Bosphorus, he met the misgivings of those about him who wondered at his audacity, by simply saying, "I am following One who is leading me." George Müller's scheme was not self-originated. He followed One who was leading him; and, because confident and conscious of such guidance, he had only to follow, trust, and wait.
In proportion as the undertaking was great, he desired God's hand to be very clearly seen. Hence he forbore even to seem prominent: he issued no circular, announcing his purpose, and spoke of it only to the few who were in his councils, and even then only as conversation led in that direction. He remembered the promise,
"I will guide thee with Mine eye,"
and looking up to God, he took no step unless the divine glance or beck made duty "clear as daylight." As he saw the matter, his whole business was to wait on God in prayer with faith and patience.
The assurance became doubly sure that God would build for Himself a large orphan house near Bristol, to show to all, near and far, what a blessed privilege it is to trust in Him. He desired God Himself so manifestly to act as that he should be seen by all men to be nothing but His instrument, passive in His hands. Meanwhile he went on with his daily search into the Word, where he found instruction so rich, and encouragement so timely, that the Scriptures seemed written for his special use-- to convey messages to him from above. For example, in the opening of the Book of Ezra, he saw how God, when His time had fully come for the return of His exiled people to their own land and for the rebuilding of His Temple used Cyrus, an idolatrous king, to issue an edict, and to provide means for carrying out His own unknown purpose. He saw also how God stirred up the people to help the returning exiles in their work; and he said to himself, this same God can and will, in His own way, supply the money and all the needed help of man, stirring up the hearts of His own children to aid as He may please.
The first donations toward the work themselves embody a suggestive lesson. On December 10th, one thousand pounds had been given in one sum; twenty days later, fifty pounds more; and the next day, three and sixpence, followed, the same evening, by a second gift of a thousand pounds. Shortly after, a little bag, made of foreign seeds, and a flower wrought of shells, were sent to be sold for the fund; and, in connection with these last gifts, of very little inherent value, a promise was quoted, which had been prominently before the giver's mind, and which brought more encouragement to Mr. Müller than any mere sum of money:
"Who art thou, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain!
Gifts, however large, were never estimated by intrinsic worth, but as tokens of God's working in the minds of is people, and of His gracious working with and through His servant; and, for this reason, a thousand pounds caused no more sincere praise to God and no more excitement of mind than the fourpence given subsequently by a poor orphan.
Specially asking the Lord to go before him, Mr. Müller now began to seek a suitable site. About four weeks passed in seemingly fruitless search, when he was strongly impressed that very soon the Lord would give the ground, and he so told his helpers on the evening of Saturday, January 31, 1846. Within two days, his mind was drawn to Ashley Down, where he found lots singularly suited for his needs. Shortly after, he called twice on the owner, once at his house and again at his office; but on both occasions failing to find him, he only left a message. He judged that God's hand was to be seeneven in his not finding the man he sought, and that, having twice failed the same day, he was not to push the matter as though self-willed, but patiently wait till the morrow.
When he did find the owner, his patience was unexpectedly rewarded. He [the owner] confessed that he had spent two wakeful hours in bed, thinking about his land, and about what reply he should make to Mr. Müller's inquiry as to its sale for an orphan house; and that he had determined, if it were applied for, to ask but one hundred and twenty pounds an acre, instead of two hundred, his previous price.
The bargain was promptly completed; and thus the Lord's servant, by not being in a hurry, saved, in the purchase of the site of seven acres, five hundred and sixty pounds! Mr. Müller had asked the Lord to go before him, and He had done so in a sense he had not thought of, first speaking about the matter to the owner, holding his eyes waking till He had made clear to him, as His servant and steward, what He would have him do in the sale of that property.*
Six days after, came the formal offer from the London architect of his services in surveying, in draughting plans, elevations, sections, and specifications, and in overseeing the work of construction; and a week later he came to Bristol, saw the site, and pronounced it in all respects well fitted for its purpose.
Up to June 4, 1846, the total sum in hand for the building was a little more than twenty-seven hundred pounds, a small part only of the sum needful; but Mr. Müller felt no doubt that in God's own time all that was required would be given. Two hundred and twelve days he had been waiting on God for the way to be opened for building, and he resolved to wait still further until the whole sum was in hand, using for the purpose only such gifts as were specified or left free for that end. He also wisely decided that others must henceforth share the burden, and that he would look out ten brethren of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom, to act as trustees to hold and administer this property in God's name. He felt that, as this work was now so enlarging, and the foundations of a permanent Institution were to be laid, the Christian public, who would aid in its erection and support, would be entitled to a representation in its conduct. At such a point as this many others have made a serious mistake, forfeiting confidence by administering public benefactions in a private manner and an autocratic spirit-- their own head being the office, and their pocket the treasury, of a public and benevolent institution.
Satan again acted as a hinderer. After the ground for the new orphan house had been found, bought and paid for, unforeseen obstacles prevented prompt possession; but Mr. Müller's peace was not disturbed, knowing even hindrances to be under God's control. If the Lord should allow one piece of land to be taken from him, it would only be because He was about to give him one still better; and so the delay only proved his faith and perfected his patience.
On July 6th,two thousand pounds were given-- twice as large a gift as had yet come in one donation; and, on January 25, 1847, another like offering, so that, on July 5th following, the work of building began. Six months later, after four hundred days of waiting upon God for this new orphan house, nine thousand pounds had been given in answer to believing prayer.
As the new building approached completion, with its three hundred large windows, and requiring full preparation for the accommodation of about three hundred and thirty inmates, although above eleven thousand pounds had been provided, several thousand more were necessary. But Mr. Müller was not only helped, but far beyond his largest expectations. Up to May 26, 1848, these latter needs existed, and, had but one serious difficulty remained unremoved, the result must have been failure. But all the necessary money was obtained, and even more, and all the helpers were provided for the oversight of the orphans.
On June 18, 1849, more than twelve years after the beginning of the work, the orphans began to be transferred from the four rented houses on Wilson Street to the new orphan house on Ashley Down. Five weeks passed before fresh applicants were received, that everything about the new institution might first be brought into complete order by some experience in its conduct. By May 26, 1850, however, there were in the house two hundred and seventy-five children, and the whole number of inmates was three hundred and eight.
The name-- "The New Orphan House," rather than "Asylum"- was chosen to distinguish it from another institution, near by; and particularly was it requested that it might never be known as "Mr. Müller's Orphan House," lest undue prominence be given to one who had been merely God's instrument in its erection. He esteemed it a sin to appropriate even indirectly, or allow others to attribute to him, any part of the glory which belonged solely to Him who had led in the work, given faith and means for it, and helped in it from first to last.
The property was placed in the hands of eleven trustees, chosen by Mr. Müller, and the deeds were enrolled in chancery. Arrangements were made that the house should be open to visitors only on Wednesday afternoons, as about one hour and a half were necessary to see the whole building.
Scarcely were the orphans thus housed on Ashley Down, before Mr. Müller's heart felt enlarged desire that one thousand, instead of three hundred, might enjoy such privileges of temporal provision and spiritual instruction; and, before the new year, 1851, had dawned, this yearning had matured into a purpose. With his uniform carefulness and prayerfulness, he sought to be assured that he was not following self-will, but the will of God; and again in the scales of a pious judgment the reasons for and against were conscientiously weighed. Would he be going "beyond his measure," spiritually, or naturally? Was not the work, with its vast correspondence and responsibility, already sufficiently great? Would not a new orphan house for three hundred orphans cost another fifteen thousand pounds, or, if built for seven hundred, with the necessary ground, thirty-five thousand? And, even when built and fitted and filled, would there not be the providing for daily wants, which is a perpetual care, and cannot be paid for at once like a site and a building? It would demand eight thousand pounds annual outlay to provide for another seven hundred little ones. To all objections the one all-sufficient answer was the all-sufficient God; and, because Mr. Müller's eye was on His power, wisdom, and riches, his own weakness, folly, and poverty were forgotten.
Another objection was suggested: What if he should succeed in thus housing and feeding a thousand poor waifs, what would become of the institution after his death? The reply is memorable:
"My business is, with all my might, to serve my own generation by the will of God: in so doing I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord Jesus tarry."
Were such objection valid, it were as valid against beginning any work likely to outlive the worker. And Mr. Müller remembered how Francké at Halle had to meet the same objection when, now over two hundred years ago, he founded the largest charitable establishment which, up to 1851, existed in the world. But when, after about thirty years of personal superintendence, Francké was taken away, his son-in-law, as we have seen, became the director. That fellow countryman who had spoken to Mr. Müller's soul in 1826, thus twenty-five years later encouraged him to go forward, to do his own duty and leave the future to the Eternal God.
Several reasons are recorded by Mr. Müller as specially influencing still further advance:
the many applications that could not, for want of room, be accepted;
the low moral state of the poorhouses to which these children of poverty were liable to be sent;
the large number of distressing cases of orphanhood, known to be deserving of help;
the previous experiences of the Lord's gracious leading and of the work itself;
his calmness in view of the proposed expansion;
and the spiritual blessing possible to a larger number of homeless children.
But one reason overtopped all others: an enlarged service to man, attempted and achieved solely in dependence upon God, would afford a correspondingly weightier witness to the Hearer of prayer.
These reasons, here recorded, will need no repetition in connection with subsequent expansions of the work, for, at every new stage of advance, they were what influenced this servant of God.
On January 4, 1851, another offering was received, of three thousand pounds-- the largest single donation up to that date-- which, being left entirely to his own disposal, encouraged him to go forward.
Again, he kept his own counsel. Up to January 25th, he had not mentioned, even to his own wife, his thought of a further forward movement, feeling that, to avoid all mistakes, he must first of all get clear light from God, and not darken it by misleading human counsel. Not until the Twelfth Report of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was issued, was the public apprised of his purpose, with God's help to provide for seven hundred more needy orphans.
Up to October 2, 1851, only about eleven hundred pounds had been given directly toward the second proposed orphan house, and, up to May 26th following, a total of some thirty-five hundred pounds. But George Müller remembered one who, "after he had patiently endured, obtained the promise." He had waited over two years before all means needful for the first house had been supplied, and could wait still longer, if so God willed it, for the answers to present prayers for means to build a second.
After waiting upwards of nineteen months for the building fund for the second house, and receiving, almost daily, something in answer to prayer, on January 4, 1853, he had intimation that there were about to be paid him, as the joint donation of several Christians, eighty-one hundred pounds, of which he appropriated six thousand for the building fund. Again he was not surprised nor excited, though exceeding joyful and triumphant in God. Just two years previous, when recording the largest donation yet received,three thousand pounds,-- he had recorded also his expectation of still greater things; and now a donation between two and three times as large was about to come into his hands. It was not the amount of money, however, that gave him his overflowing delight, but the fact that not in vain had he made his boast in God.
As now some four hundred and eighty-three orphans were waiting for admission, he was moved to pray that soon the way might be opened for the new building to be begun. James i.4 was deeply impressed upon him as the injunction now to be kept before him:
"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
On May 26, 1853, the total sum available for the new building was about twelve thousand five hundred pounds, and over five hundred orphans had applied. Twice this sum would be needed, however, before the new house could be begun without risk of debt.
On January 8, 1855, several Christian friends united in the promise that fifty-seven hundred pounds should be paid to him for the work of God, and of this, thirty-four hundred was by him set apart for the building fund. As there were now between seven hundred and eight hundred applicants, it seemed of God that, at least, a site should be secured for another new orphan house; and a few weeks later Mr. Müller applied for the purchase of two fields adjoining the site of the first house. As they could not, however, be sold at that time, the only resource was to believe that the Lord had other purposes, or would give better ground than that on which His servant had set his mind.
Further thought and prayer suggested to him that two houses could be built instead of one, and located on each side of the existing building, upon the ground already owned. Accordingly it was determined to begin, on the south side, the erection of a house to accommodate four hundred orphans, there being money in the bank, or soon to be available, sufficient to build, fit up, and furnish it.
On May 26, 1856, nearly thirty thousand pounds there in hand for the new Orphan House No. 2; and on November 12, 1857, this house opened for four hundred additional orphans, and there was a balance of nearly twenty-three hundred pounds. The God who provided the building furnished the helpers, without either difficulty or advertising.
With the beginning of the new year, Mr. Müller began to lay aside six hundred pounds as the first of the appropriations for the third orphan house, and the steps which led to the accomplishment of this work, also, were identical with those taken hitherto. A purchase was made of additional ground, adjoining the two buildings; and, as there were so many applicants and the cost of providing for a larger number would be but little more, it was determined to build so as to receive four hundred and fifty instead of three hundred, rejoicing that, in every enIargement of the work, it would be more apparent how much one poor man, simply trusting in God, can bring about by prayer; and that thus other children of God might be led to carry on the work of God in dependence solely on Him, and generally to trust Him more in all circumstances and positions.
Orphan House No. 3 was opened March 12, 1862, and with over ten thousand pounds in hand for current expenses. All the helpers needed had not then been supplied, but this delay was only a new incentive to believing prayer: and, instead of once, thrice, a day, God was besought to provide suitable persons. One after another was thus added, and in no case too late, so that the reception of children was not hindered nor was the work embarrassed.
Still further enlargement seemed needful, for the same reasons as previously. There was an increasing demand for accommodation of applicants, and past experience of God's wondrous dealings urged him both to attempt and to expect greater things. Orphan Houses Nos. 4 and 5 began to loom up above his horizon of faith. By May 26, 1862, he had over sixty-six hundred pounds to apply on their erection. In November, 1864, a large donation of five thousand pounds was received from a donor who would let neither his name nor residence be known, and by this time about twenty-seven thousand pounds had thus accumulated toward the fifty thousand required.
As more than half the requisite sum was thus in hand, the purchase of a site might safely be made and the foundations for the buildings be laid. Mr. Müller's eyes had, for years, been upon land adjoining the three houses already built, separated from them only by the turnpike road. He called to see the agent, and found that the property was subject to a lease that had yet two years to run. This obstacle only incited to new prayer, but difficulties seemed to increase: the price asked was too high, and the Bristol Water-works Company was negotiating for this same piece of land for reservoir purposes. Nevertheless God successively removed all hindrances, so that the ground was bought and conveyed to the trustees in March, 1865; and, after the purchase-money was paid, about twenty-five thousand pounds yet remained for the structures. Both the cost and the inconvenience of building would be greatly lessened by erecting both houses at the same time; and God was therefore asked for ample means speedily to complete the whole work.
In May, 1866, over thirty-four thousand pounds being at Mr. Müller's disposal, No. 4 was commenced; and in January following, No. 5 also. Up to the end of March, 1867, over fifty thousand pounds had been supplied, leaving but six thousand more needful to fit and furnish the two buildings for occupancy. By the opening of February, 1868, fifty-eight thousand pounds in all had been donated; so that, on November 5, 1868, new Orphan House No. 4, and on January 6, 1870, No. 5, were thrown open, a balance of several thousand pounds remaining for general purposes. Thus, early in 1870, the orphan work had reached its complete outfit, in five large buildings on Ashley Down with accommodations for two thousand orphans and for all needed teachers and assistants.
Thus have been gathered, into one chapter, the facts about the erection of this great monument to a prayer-hearing God on Ashley Down, though the work of building covered so many years. Between the first decision to build, in 1845, and the opening of the third house, in 1862, nearly seventeen years had elapsed, and before No. 5 was opened, in 1870, twenty-five years. The work was one in its plan and purpose. At each new stage it supplies only a wider application and illustration of the same laws of life and principles of conduct, as, from the outset of the work in Bristol, had with growing power controlled George Müller. His one supreme aim was the glory of God; his one sole resort, believing prayer; his one trusted oracle, the inspired Word; and his one divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit. One step taken in faith and prayer had prepared for another; one act of trust had made him bolder to venture upon another, implying a greater apparent risk and therefore demanding more implicit trust. But answered prayer was rewarded faith, and every new risk only showed that there was no risk in confidently leaning upon the truth and faithfulness of God.
One cannot but be impressed, in visiting the orphan houses, with several prominent features, and first of all their magnitude. They are very spacious, with about seventeen hundred large windows, and accommodations for over two thousand inmates. They are also very substantial, being built of stone and made to last. They are scrupulously plain; utility rather than beauty seems conspicuously stamped upon them, within and without. Economy has been manifestly a ruling law in their construction; the furniture is equally unpretentious and unostentatious; and, as to garniture, there is absolutely none. To some few, they are almost too destitute of embellishment, and Mr. Müller has been blamed for not introducing some aesthetic features which might relieve this bald utilitarianism and serve to educate the taste of these orphans.
To all such criticisms, there are two or three adequate answers.
First, Mr. Müller subordinated everything to his one great purpose, the demonstration of the fact that the Living God is the Hearer of prayer.
Second, he felt himself to be the steward of God's property, and he hesitated to spend one penny on what was not necessary to the frugal carrying on of the work of God. He felt that all that could be spared without injury to health, a proper mental training, and a thorough scriptural and spiritual education, should be reserved for the relief of the necessities of the poor and destitute elsewhere.
And again, he felt that, as these orphans were likely to be put at service in plain homes, and compelled to live frugally, any surroundings which would accustom them to indulge refined tastes, might by contrast make them discontented with their future lot. And so he studied to promote simply their health and comfort, and to school them to contentment when the necessities of life were supplied.
But, more than this, a moment's serious thought will show that, had he surrounded them with those elegancies which elaborate architecture and the other fine arts furnish, he might have been even more severely criticised. He would have been spending the gifts of the poor who often sorely denied themselves for the sake of these orphans, to purchase embellishments or secure decorations which, if they had adorned the humble homes of thousands of donors, would have made their gifts impossible. When we remember how many offerings, numbering tens of thousands, were, like the widow's mites, very small in themselves, yet, relatively to ability, very large, it will be seen how incongruous it would have been to use the gifts, saved only by limiting even the wants of the givers, to buy for the orphans what the donors could not and would not afford for themselves.
Cleanness, neatness, method, and order, however, everywhere reign, and honest labour has always had, at the orphan houses, a certain dignity. The tracts of land, adjoining the buildings, are set apart as vegetable-gardens, where wholesome exercise is provided for the orphan boys, and, at the same time, work that helps to provide daily food, and thus train them in part to self-support.
Throughout these houses studious care is exhibited, as to methodical arrangement. Each child has a square and a numbered compartment for clothes, six orphans being told off, at a time, in each section, to take charge. The boys have each three suits, and the girls, five dresses each, the girls being taught to make and mend their own garments. In the nursery, the infant children have books and playthings to occupy and amuse them, and are the objects of tender maternal care. Several children are often admitted to the orphanage from one family, in order to avoid needless breaking of household ties by separation. The average term of residence is about ten years, though some orphans have been there for seventeen.
The daily life is laid out with regularity and goes on like clockwork in punctuality. The children rise at six and are expected to be ready at seven, the girls for knitting and the boys for reading, until eight o'clock, when breakfast is served. Half an hour later there is a brief morning service, and the school begins at ten. Half an hour of recreation on the playground prepares for the one-o'clock dinner, and school is resumed, until four; then comes an hour and a half of play or outdoor exercise, a half-hour service preceding the six-o'clock meal. Then the girls ply the needle, and the boys are in school, until bedtime, the younger children going to rest at eight, and the older, at nine. The food is simple, ample, and nutritious, consisting of bread, oatmeal, milk, soups, meat, rice, and vegetables. Everything is adjusted to one ultimate end; to use Mr. Müller's own words:
"We aim at this: that, if any of them do not turn out well, temporally or spiritually, and do not become useful members of society, it shall not at least be our fault."
The most thorough and careful examination of the whole methods of the institution will only satisfy the visitor that it will not be the fault of those who superintend this work, if the orphans are not well fitted, body and soul, for the work of life, and are not prepared for a blessed immortality.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
"THE steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." (Psalm xxxvii.23.) Some one quaintly adds, "Yes, and the stops, too!" The pillar of cloud and fire is a symbol of that divine leadership which guides both as to forward steps and intervals of rest. Mr. Müller found it blessed to follow, one step at a time, as God ordered his way, and to stand still and wait when He seemed to call for a halt.
At the end of May, 1843, a crisis was reached, which was a new example of the experiences to which faith is liable in the walk with God; and a new illustration of the duty and delight of depending upon Him in everything and for everything, habitually waiting upon Him, and trusting in Him to remove all hindrances in the way of service.
Some eighteen months previously, a German lady from Würtemberg had called to consult him as to her own plans, and, finding her a comparative stranger to God, he spoke to her about her spiritual state, and gave her the first two parts of his Narrative. The perusal of these pages was so blest to her that she was converted to God, and felt moved to translate the Narrative into her own tongue as a channel of similar blessing to other hearts.
This work of translation she partially accomplished, though somewhat imperfectly; and the whole occurrence impressed Mr. Müller as an indication that God was once more leading him in the direction of Germany, for another season of labour in his native land. Much prayer deepened his persuasion that he had not misread God's signal, and that His time had now fully come. He records some of the motives which led to this conclusion.
1. First, he yearned to encourage believing brethren who for conscience' sake had felt constrained to separate themselves from the state churches, and meet for worship in such conditions as would more accord with New Testament principles, and secure greater edification.
2. Being a German himself, and therefore familiar with their language, customs, and habits of thought, he saw that he was fitted to wield a larger influence among his fellow countrymen than otherwise.
3. He was minded to publish his Narrative in his own tongue wherein he was born, not so much in the form of a mere translation, as of an independent record of his life's experiences such as would be specially suited to its new mission.
4. An effectual door was opened before him, and more widely than ever, especially at Stuttgart; and although there were many adversaries, they only made his help the more needful to those whose spiritual welfare was in peril.
5. A distinct burden was laid on his heart, as from the Lord, which prayer, instead of relieving, increased-- a burden which he felt without being able to explain-- so that the determination to visit his native land gave him a certain peace which he did not have when he thought of remaining at home.
To avoid mistake, with equal care he records the counter-arguments.
1. The new orphan house, No. 4, was about to be opened, and his presence was desirable if not needful.
2. A few hundred pounds were needed, to be left with his helpers, for current expenses in his absence.
3. Money was also required for travelling expenses of himself and his wife, whose health called for a change.
4. Funds would be needful to publish four thousand copies of his Narrative and avoid too high a market-price.
5. A matron for the new orphan house was not yet found, suitable for the position.
In this careful weighing of matters many sincere disciples fail, prone to be impatient of delay in making decisions. Impulse too often sways, and self-willed plans betray into false and even disastrous mistakes. Life is too precious to risk one such failure. There is given us a promise of deep meaning:
"The meek will He guide in judgment;
And the meek will He teach His way."
Here is a double emphasis upon meekness as a condition of such guidance and teaching. Meekness is a real preference for God's will. Where this holy habit of mind exists, the whole being becomes so open to impression that, without any outward sign or token, there is an inward recognition and choice of the will of God. God guides, not by a visible sign, but by swaying the judgment. To wait before Him, weighing candidly in the scales every consideration for or against a proposed course, and in readiness to see which way the preponderance lies, is a frame of mind and heart in which one is fitted to be guided; and God touches the scales and makes the balance to sway as He will. But our hands must be off the scales, otherwise we need expect no interposition of His in our favour. To return to the figure with which this chapter starts, the meek soul simply and humbly waits, and watches the moving of the Pillar.
One sure sign of this spirit of meekness is the entire restfulness with which apparent obstacles to any proposed plan or course are regarded. Then waiting and wishing only to know and do God's will, hindrances will give no anxiety, but a sort of pleasure, as affording a new opportunity for divine interposition. If it is the Pillar of God we are following, the Red Sea will not dismay us, for it will furnish but another scene for the display of the power of Him who can make the waters to stand up as an heap, and to become a wall about us as we go through the sea on dry ground.
Mr. Müller had learned this rare lesson, and in this case he says:
"I had a secret satisfaction in the greatness of the difficulties which were in the way. So far from being cast down on account of them, they delighted my soul; for I only desired to do the will of the Lord in this matter."
Here is revealed another secret of holy serving. To him who sets the Lord always before him, and to whom the will of God is his delight, there pertains a habit of soul which, in advance settles a thousand difficult and perplexing questions.
The case in hand is an illustration of the blessing found in such meek preference for God's pleasure. If it were the will of the Lord that this Continental tour should be undertaken at that time, difficulties need not cast him down; for the difficulties could not be of God; and, if not of God, they should give him no unrest, for, in answer to prayer, they would all be removed. If, on the other hand, this proposed visit to the Continent were not God's plan at all, but only the fruit of self-will; if some secret, selfish, and perhaps subtle motive were controlling, then indeed hindrances might well be interferences of God, designed to stay his steps. In the latter case, Mr. Müller rightly judged that difficulties in the way would naturally vex and annoy him; that he would not like to look at them, and would seek to remove them by his own efforts. Instead of giving him an inward satisfaction as affording God an opportunity to intervene in his behalf, they would arouse impatience and vexation, preventing self-will from carrying out its own purposes.
Such discriminations have only to be stated to any spiritual mind, to have their wisdom at once apparent. Any believing child of God may safely gauge the measure of his surrender to the will of God, in any matter, by the measure of impatience he feels at the obstacles in the way; for, in proportion as self-will sways him, whatever seems to oppose or hinder his plans will disturb or annoy; and, instead of quietly leaving all such hindrances and obstacles to the Lord, to deal with them as He pleases, in His own way and time, the wilful disciple will, impatiently and in the energy of the flesh, set himself to remove them by his own scheming and struggling, and he will brook no delay.
Whenever Satan acts as a hinderer (1 Thess. ii.18) the obstacles which he puts in our way need not dismay us; God permits them to delay or deter us for the time, only as a test of patience and faith, and the satanic hinderer will be met by a divine Helper who will sweep away all his obstacles, as with the breath of His mouth.
Mr. Müller felt this, and he waited on God for light and help. But, after forty days' writing, the hindrances, instead of decreasing, seemed rather to increase. Much more money spent than was sent in; instead of finding another suitable matron, a sister, already at work, was probably about to withdraw, so that two vacancies would need to be filled instead of one. Yet his rest and peace of mind were unbroken. Being persuaded that he was yielded up to the will of God, faith not only held him to his purpose, but saw the obstacles already surmounted, so that he gave thanks in advance. Because Caleb "followed the Lord fully," even the giant sons of Anak with their walled cities and chariots of iron had for him no terrors. Their defence was departed from them, but the Lord was with His believing follower, and made him strong to drive them out and take possession of their very stronghold as his own inheritance.
During this period of patient waiting, Mr. Müller remarked to a believing sister:
"Well, my soul is at peace. The Lord's time is not yet come; but, when it is come, He will blow away all these obstacles, as chaff is blown away before the wind."
A quarter of an hour later, a gift of seven hundred pounds became available for the ends in view, so that three of the five hindrances to this Continental tour were at once removed. All travelling expenses for himself and wife, all necessary funds for the home work for two months in advance, and all costs of publishing the Narrative in German, were now provided. This was on July 12th; and so soon afterward were the remaining impediments out of the way that, by August 9th, Mr. and Mrs. Müller were off for Germany.
The trip covered but seven months; and on March 6, 1844, they were once more in Bristol. During this sojourn abroad no journal was kept, but Mr. Müller's letters serve the purpose of a record. Rotterdam, Weinheim, Cologne, Mayence, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, etc., were visited, and Mr. Müller distributed tracts and conversed with individuals by the way; but his main work was to expound the Word in little assemblies of believers, who had separated themselves from the state church on account of what they deemed errors in teaching, practice, modes of worship, etc.
The first hour of his stay at Stuttgart brought to him one of the sharpest trials of faith he had ever thus far experienced. The nature of it he does not reveal in his journal, but it now transpires that it was due to the recalling of the seven hundred pounds, the gift of which had led to his going to Germany. This fact could not at the time be recorded because the party would feel it a reproach. Nor was this the only test of faith during his sojourn abroad; in fact so many, so great, so varied, and so prolonged were some of these trials, as to call into full exercise all the wisdom and grace which he had received from God, and whatever lessons he had previously learned in the school of experience became now of use. Yet not only was his peace undisturbed, but he bears witness that the conviction so rooted itself in his inmost being that in all this God's goodness was being shown, that he would have had nothing different. The greatest trials bore fruit in the fullest blessings and sometimes in clusters of blessings. It particularly moved him to adoring wonder and praise to see God's wisdom in having delayed his visit until the very time when it occurred. Had he gone any earlier he would have gone too soon, lacking the full experience necessary to confront the perplexities of his work. When darkness seemed to obscure his way, faith kept him expectant of light, or at least of guidance in the darkness; and he found that promise to be literally fulfilled:
" As thou goest, step by step, the way shall open up before thee."
(See the Hebrew, of Prov. iv.12.)
At Stuttgart he found and felt, like Jude, that it was " needful earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints." Even among believers, errors had found far too deep root. Especially was undue stress laid upon baptism, which was made to occupy a prominence and importance out of all due proportion of faith. One brother had been teaching that, without it, there is no new birth, and that, consequently, no one could, before baptism, claim the forgiveness of sins; that the apostles were not born from above until the day of Pentecost, and that our Lord Himself had not been new-born until His own baptism, and had thence, for the rest of His mortal life, ceased to be under the law! Many other fanciful notions were found to prevail, such as that baptism is the actual death of the old man by drowning, and that it is a covenant with the believer into which God enters; that it is a sin to break bread with unbaptized believers or with members of the state church; and that the bread and the cup used in the Lord's Supper not only mean but are the very body and blood of the Lord, etc.
A more serious and dangerous doctrine which it was needful to confront and confute was what Mr. Müller calls that "awful error," spread almost universally among believers in that land, that at last "all will be saved," not sinful men only, but "even the devils themselves."
Calmly and courteously, but firmly and courageously, these and kindred errors were met with the plain witness of the Word. Refutation of false teaching aroused a spirit of bitterness in opposers of the truth, and, as is too often the case, faithful testimony was the occasion of acrimony; but the Lord stood by His servant and so strengthened him that he was kept both faithful and peaceful.
One grave practical lack which Mr. Müller sought to remedy was ignorance of those deeper truths of the Word, which relate to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit of God in the church, and to the ministry of saints, one to another, as fellow members in the body of Christ, and as those to whom that same Spirit divides severally, as He will, spiritual gifts for service. As a natural result of being untaught in these important practical matters, believers' meetings had proved rather opportunities for unprofitable talk than godly edifying which is in faith. The only hope of meeting such errors and supplying such lack lay in faithful scripture teaching, and he undertook for a time to act as the sole teacher in these gatherings, that the word of God might have free course and be glorified. Afterward, when there seemed to be among the brethren proper apprehension of vital spiritual truths, with his usual consistency and humility he resumed his place as simply a brother among fellow believers, all of whom had liberty to teach as the Spirit might lead and guide. There was, however, no shrinking from any duty or responsibility laid upon him by larger, clearer acquaintance with truth, or more complete experience of its power. When called by the voice of his brethren to expound the Word in public assemblies, he gladly embraced all opportunities for further instruction out of Holy Scripture and of witness to God. With strong emphasis he dwelt upon the presiding presence of the Blessed Spirit in all assemblies of saints, and upon the duty and privilege of leaving the whole conduct of such assemblies to His divine ordering; and in perfect accord with such teaching he showed that the Holy Spirit, if left free to administer all things, would lead such brethren to speak, at such times and on such themes as He might please; and that, whenever their desires and preferences were spiritual and not carnal, such choice of the Spirit would always be in harmony with their own.
These views of the Spirit's administration in the assemblies of believers, and of His manifestation in all believers for common profit, fully accord with scripture teaching. (1 Cor. xii., Romans xii., Ephes. iv., etc.) Were such views practically held in the church of this day, a radical revolution would be wrought and a revival of apostolic faith and primitive church life would inevitably follow. No one subject is perhaps more misunderstood, or less understood, even among professed believers, than the person, offices, and functions of the Spirit of God. John Owen, long since, suggested that the practical test of soundness in the faith, during the present gospel age, is the attitude of the church toward the Holy Spirit. If so, the great apostasy cannot be far off, if indeed it is not already upon us, for there is a shameful ignorance and indifference prevalent, as to the whole matter of His claim to holy reverence and obedience.
In connection with this visit to Germany, a curious misapprehension existed, to which a religious periodical had given currency, that Mr. Müller was deputed by the English Baptists to labour among German Baptists to bring them back to the state church. This rumour was of course utterly unfounded, but he had no chance to correct it until just before his return to Britain, as he had not until then heard of it. The Lord had allowed this false report to spread and had used it to serve His own ends, for it was due in part to this wrong impression of Mr. Müller's mission that he was not molested or interfered with by the officers of the government. Though for months openly and undisguisedly teaching vital gospel truths among believers who had separated from the established church, he had suffered no restraint, for, so long as it was thought that his mission in Germany was to reclaim to the fold of the state church those who had wandered away, he would of course be liable to no interference from state officials.
The Lord went before His servant also in preparing the way for the publishing of his Narrative, guiding him to a bookseller who undertook its sale on commission, enabling the author to retain two thousand copies to give away, while the rest were left to be sold.
Mr. Müller, about this time, makes special mention of his joy and comfort in the spiritual blessing attending his work, and the present and visible good, wrought through the publication of his Narrative. Many believers had been led to put more faith in the promises of the great Provider, and unbelievers had been converted by their perusal of the simple story of the Lord's dealings; and these tidings came from every quarter where the Narrative had as yet found its way.
The name of Henry Craik, hitherto affixed to every report together with George Müller's, appears for the last time in the Report of 1844. This withdrawal of his name resulted, not from any division of feeling or diminution of sympathy, but solely from Mr. Craik's conviction that the honour of being used of God as His instrument in forwarding the great work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution belonged solely to George MueIler.
The trials of faith ceased not although the occasions of praise were so multiplied. On September 4, 1844, at day-dawn, but one farthing was left on hand, and one hundred and forty mouths were to be fed at breakfast!
The lack of money and such supplies was, however, only one form of these tests of faith and incentives to prayer. Indeed he accounted these the lightest of his burdens for there were other cares and anxieties that called for greater exercise of faith resolutely to cast them on Him who, in exchange for solicitude, gives His own perfect peace. What these trials were, any thoughtful mind must at once see who remembers how these many orphans were needing, not only daily supplies of food and clothing, but education, in mind and in morals; preparation for, and location in, suitable homes; careful guards about their health and every possible precaution and provision to prevent disease; also the character of all helpers must be carefully investigated before they were admitted, and their conduct carefully watched afterward lest any unworthy or unqualified party should find a place, or be retained, in the conduct of the work.
These and other matters, too many to be individually mentioned, had to be borne daily to the great Helper, without whose Everlasting Arms they could not have been carried. and Mr. Müller seeks constantly to impress on all who read his pages or heard his voice, the perfect trustworthiness of God. For any and all needs of the work help was always given, and it never once came too late. However poor, and however long the suppliant believer waits on God, he never fails to get help, if he trusts the promises and is in the path of duty. Even the delay in answered prayer serves a purpose. God permits us to call on Him while He answers not a word, both to test our faith and importunity, and to encourage others who hears of His dealings with us.
And so it was that, whether there were on hand much or little, by God's grace the founder of these institutions remained untroubled, confident that deliverance would surely come in the best way and time, not only with reference to temporal wants, but in all things needful.
During the history of the Institution thus far, encouragement had been its law. Mr. Müller's heart grew in capacity for larger service, and his faith in capacity for firmer confidence, so that while he was led to attempt greater things for God, he was led also to expect greater things from God. Those suggestive words of Christ to Nathanael have often prompted like larger expectations:
"Believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these."
(John i. 50.)
In the year 1846, the wants of the mission field took far deeper hold of him than ever before. He had already been giving aid to brethren abroad, in British Guiana and elsewhere, as well as in fields nearer at home. But he felt a strong yearning to be used of God more largely in sending to their fields and supporting in their labours, the chosen servants of the Lord who were working on a scriptural basis and were in need of help. He had observed that whenever God had put into his heart to devise liberal things, He had put into his hand the means to carry out such liberal purposes; and from this time forth he determined, as far as God should enable him, to aid brethren of good report, labouring in word and doctrine, throughout the United Kingdom, who were faithful witnesses to God and were receiving no regular salary. The special object he had in view was to give a helping hand to such as for the sake of conscience and of Christ had relinquished former stipends or worldly emoluments.
Whatever enlargement took place in the work, however, it was no sign of surplus funds. Every department of service or new call of duty had separate and prayerful consideration. Advance steps were taken only when and where and so fast as the Pillar moved, and fresh work was often undertaken at a time when there was a lack rather than an abundance of money.
Some who heard of Mr. Müller's absence in Germany inferred plenty of funds on hand-- a conclusion that was neither true nor legitimate. At times when poverty was most pressing, additional expenditure was not avoided nor new responsibility evaded if, after much prayer, the Lord seemed plainly leading in that direction. And it was beautiful to see how He did not permit any existing work to be embarrassed because at His bidding new work was undertaken.
One great law for all who would be truly led by God's Pillar of cloud and fire, is to take no step at the bidding of self-will or without the clear moving of the heavenly Guide. Though the direction be new and the way seem beset with difficulty, there is never any risk, provided we are only led of God. Each new advance needs separate and special authority from Him, and yesterday's guidance is not sufficient for to-day.
It is important also to observe that, if one branch of the work is in straits, it is not necessarily a reason for abandoning another form of service. The work of God depends on Him alone. If the whole tree is His planting, we need not cut off one limb to save another. The whole body is His, and, if one member is weak, it is not necessary to cut off another to make it strong, for the strength of the whole body is the dependence of every part. In our many-branching service each must get vitality and vigour from the same source in God. Nevertheless let us not forget that the stops, as well as the steps, of a good man are ordered of the Lord. If the work is His work, let Him control it, and, whether we expand or contract, let it be at His bidding, and a matter of equal satisfaction to His servant.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
A teacher must also be a learner, and therefore only he who continues to learn is competent to continue to teach. Nothing but new lessons, daily mastered, can keep testimony fresh and vitalizing and enable us to give advance lessons. Instead of being always engaged in a sort of review, our teaching and testimony will thus be drawn each day from a new and higher level.
George Müller's experiences of prevailing prayer went on constantly accumulating, and so qualified him to speak to others, not as on a matter of speculation, theory, or doctrinal belief, but of long, varied, and successful personal experiment. Patiently, carefully and frequently, he is to impress on others the conditions of effective supplication. From time to time he met those to whom his courageous, childlike trust in God was a mystery; and, occasionally unbelief's secret misgivings found a voice in the question, what he would do if God did not send help! what, if a meal-time actually came with no food, and no money to procure it; or if clothing were worn out, and nothing to replace it?
To all such questions there was always ready this one answer: that such a failure on God's part is inconceivable, and must therefore be put among the impossibilities. There are, however, conditions necessary on man's part: the suppliant soul must come to God in in the right spirit and attitude. For the sake of such readers as might need further guidance as to the proper and acceptable manner of approach to God, he was wont to make very plain the scripture teaching upon this point.
Five grand conditions of prevailing prayer were ever before his mind:
1. Entire dependence upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only ground of any claim for blessing. (See John xiv.13,14; xv.16, etc.)
2. Separation from all known sin. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us, for it would be sanctioning sin. (Psalm Ixvi.18.)
3. Faith in God's word of promise as confirmed by His oath. Not to believe Him is to make Him both a liar and a perjurer. (Hebrews xi.6; vi.13-20.)
4. Asking in accordance with His will. Our motives must be godly: we must not seek any gift of God to consume it upon our own lusts. (1 John v.13; James iv.3.)
5. Importunity in supplication. There must be waiting on God and waiting for God, as the husbandman has long patience to wait for the harvest. (James v.7; Luke xviii.1-10.)
The importance of firmly fixing in mind principles such as these cannot be overstated.
The first lays the basis of all prayer, in our oneness with the great High Priest.
The second states a condition of prayer, found in abandonment of sin.
The third reminds us of the need honouring God by faith that He is, and is the Rewarder of the diligent seeker.
The fourth reveals the sympathy with God that helps us to ask what is for our good and His glory.
The last teaches us that, having laid hold of God in prayer, we are to keep hold until His arm is outstretched in blessing.
Where these conditions do not exist, for God to answer prayer would be both a dishonour to Himself and a damage to the suppliant. To encourage those who come to Him in their own name, or in a self-righteous, self-seeking, and disobedient spirit, would be to set a premium upon continuance in sin. To answer the requests of the unbelieving would be to disregard the double insult put upon a word of promise and His oath of confirmation, by consistent doubt of His truthfulness and distrust of His thoughtfulness. Indeed not one condition of prevailing prayer exists which is not such in the very nature of things. These are not arbitrary limitations affixed to prayer by a despotic will; they are necessary alike to God's character and man's good.
All the lessons learned in God's school of prayer made Müller's feelings and convictions about this matter more profound and subduing. He saw the vital relation of prayer to holiness, and perpetually sought to impress it upon both his hearers and readers; and, remembering that for the purpose of persuasion the most effective figure of speech is repetition, he hesitated at no frequency of restatement by which such truths might find root in the minds and hearts of others.
There has never been a saint, from Abel's day to our own, who has not been taught the same essential lessons. All prayer which has ever brought down blessing has prevailed by the same law of success-- the inward impulse of God's Holy Spirit. If, therefore, that Spirit's teachings disregarded or disobeyed, or His inward movings be hindered, in just such measure will prayer become formal or be altogether abandoned. Sin, consciously indulged, or duty, knowingly neglected, makes supplication an offence to God.
Again, all prayer prevails only in the measure of our real, even if not conscious, unity with the Lord Jesus Christ as the ground of our approach, and in the degree of our dependence on Him as the medium of our access to God.
Yet again, all prayer prevails only as it is offered in faith; and the answer to such prayer can be recognized and received only on the plane of faith; that is, we must maintain the believing frame, expecting the blessing, and being ready to receive it in God's way and time and form, and not our own.
The faith that thus expects cannot be surprised at answers to prayer. When, in November, 1840, a sister gave ten pounds for the orphans, and at a time specially opportune, Mr. Müller records his triumphant joy in God as exceeding and defying all expression. Yet he was free from excitement and not in the least surprised, because by grace he had been trustfully waiting on God for deliverance. Help had been so long delayed that in one of the houses there was no bread, and in none of them any milk or any money to buy either. It was only a few minutes before the milkman's cart was due, that this money came.
However faithful and trustful in prayer, it behooves us to be none the less careful and diligent in the use of all proper means. Here again Mr. Müller's whole life is a lesson to other believers. For example, when travelling in other lands, or helping other brethren on their way, he besought the Lord's constant guardianship over the conveyances used, and even over the luggage so liable to go astray. But he himself looked carefully to the seaworthiness of the vessel he was to sail in, and to every other condition of safe and speedy transportation for himself and others. In one case where certain German brethren and sisters were departing for foreign shores, he noticed the manner in which the cabman stored away the small luggage in the fly; and observed that several carpetbags were hastily thrust into a hind boot. He also carefully counted the pieces of luggage and took note of the fact that there were seventeen in all. On arriving at the wharf, where there is generally much hurry and flurry, the dishonest cabman would have driven off with a large part of the property belonging to the party, but for this man of God who not only prayed but watched. He who trusted God implicitly, no less faithfully looked to the cabman's fidelity, who, after he pretended to have delivered all the luggage to the porters, was compelled to open that hind boot and, greatly to his own confusion, deliver up the five or six bags hidden away there. Mr. Müller adds in his Narrative that "such a circumstance should teach one to make the very smallest affairs a subject of prayer, as, for instance, that all the luggage might be safely taken out of a fly." May we not add that such a circumstance teaches us that companion lesson, quite as important in its way, that we are to be watchful as well as prayerful, and see that a dishonest cabdriver does not run off with another's goods!
This praying saint, who watched man, most of all watched God. Even in the lesser details of his work, his eye was ever looking for God's unfailing supplies, and taking notice of the divine leadings and dealings; and, afterward, there always followed the fruit of the lips, giving thanks to His name. Here is another secret revealed: prayerfulness and thankfulness-- those two handmaidens of God-- always go together, each helping the other. "Pray without ceasing: in everything give thanks." (1 Thess. v.17,18.) These two precepts stand side by side where they belong, and he who neglects one will find himself disobeying the other. This man who prayed so much and so well, offered the sacrifice of praise to God continually.
For example, on September 8, 1840, a specific entry was made in the Narrative, so simple, childlike, and in every way characteristic, that every word of it is precious.
"The Lord, to show His continued care over us, raises up new helpers. They that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded. Some who helped for a while may fall asleep in Jesus; others grow cold in the service of the Lord; others be as desirous as ever to help, but no longer able; or, having means, feel it to be His will to lay them out in another way. But in leaning upon God, the Living God alone, we are BEYOND DISAPPOINTMENT and BEYOND being forsaken because of death, or want of means, or want of love, or because of the claims of other work. How precious to have learned, in any measure, to be content to stand with God alone in the world, and to know that surely no good thing shall be withheld from us, whilst we walk uprightly!"
Among the gifts received during this long life of stewardship for God some deserve individual mention.
To an offering received in March, 1839, a peculiar history attaches. The circumstances attending its reception made upon him a deep impression. He had given a copy of the Annual Report to a believing brother who had been greatly stirred up to prayer by reading it; and knowing his own sister, who was also a disciple, to possess sundry costly ornaments and jewels, such as a heavy gold chain, a pair of gold bracelets, and a superb ring set with fine brilliants, this brother besought the Lord so to show her the uselessness of such trinkets that she should be led to lay them all upon His altar as an offering for the orphan work. This prayer was literally answered. Her sacrifice of jewels proved of service to the work at a time of such pressing need that Mr. Müller's heart specially rejoiced in God. By the proceeds of the sale of these ornaments he was helped to meet the expenses of a whole week, and besides to pay the salaries due to the helpers. But, before disposing of the diamond ring, he wrote with it upon the winlow-pane of his own room that precious name and title of the Lord-- "JEHOVAH JIREH"-- and henceforth whenever, in deep poverty, he cast his eyes upon those two words, imperishably written with the point of a diamond upon that pane, he thankfully remembered that "THE LORD WILL PROVIDE."
How many of his fellow believers might find unfailing refreshment and inspiration in dwelling upon the divine promises! Ancient believers were bidden to write God's words on the palms of their hands, the doorposts of their houses, and on their gates, so that the employments of their hands, their goings out and comings in, their personal and home life, might be constant reminders of Jehovah's everlasting faithfulness. He who inscribed this chosen name of God upon the window-pane of his dwelling, found that every ray of sunlight that shone into his room lit up his Lord's promise.
He thus sums up the experiences of the year 1840:
1. Notwithstanding multiplied trials of faith, the orphans have lacked nothing.
2. Instead off being disappointed in his expectations or work, the reverse had been true, such trials being seen to be needful to demonstrate that the Lord was their Helper in times of need.
3. Such a way of living brings the Lord very near, as one who daily inspects the need that He may send the more timely aid.
4. Such constant, instant reliance upon divine help does not so absorb the mind in temporal things as to unfit for spiritual employments and enjoyments; but rather prompts to habitual communion with the Lord and His Word.
5. Other children of God may not be called to a similar work, but are called to a like faith, and may experience similar interposition if they live according to His will and seek His help.
6. The incurring of debt, being unscriptural, is a sin needing confession and abandonment if we desire unhindered fellowship with God, and experience of His interposition.
It was in this year 1840, also, that a further object was embraced in the work of the Scripture Knowledge Institution, namely, the circulation of Christian books and tracts. But, as the continuance and enlargement of these benevolent activities made the needs greater, so,in answer to prayer, the Hand of the great Provider bestowed larger supplies.
Divine interposition will never be doubted by one who, like George Müller, gives himself to prayer, for the coincidences will prove too exact and frequent between demand and supply, times and seasons of asking and answering, to allow of doubt that God has helped.
The "ethics of language" embody many lessons. For example, the term "poetic retribution" describes a visitation of judgment where the penalty peculiarly befits the crime. As poetic lines harmonize, rhyme and rhythm showing the work of a designing hand, so there is often harmony between an offense and its retribution as when Adonibezek, who had afflicted a like injury upon three score and five captive kings, had his own thumbs and great toes cut off, or as when Haman was himself hung on the gallows that he built for Mordecai. We read in Psalm ix.16:
"The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth:
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands."
The inspired thought is that the punishment of evil-doers is in such exact correspondence with the character of their evil doings as to show that it is the Lord executing vengeance-- the penalty shows a designing hand. He who watches the peculiar retributive judgments of God, how He causes those who set snares and pitfalls for others to fall into them themselves, will not doubt that behind such "poetic retribution" there is an intelligent Judge.
Somewhat so the poetic harmony between prayer and its answer silences all question as to a discriminating Hearer of the suppliant soul. A single case of such answered prayer might be accounted accidental; but, ever since men began to call upon the name of the Lord, there have been such repeated, striking, and marvelous correspondences between the requests of man and the replies of God, that the inference is perfectly safe, the induction has too broad a basis and too large a body of particulars to allow mistake. The coincidences are both too many and too exact to admit the doctrine of chance. We are compelled, not to say justified, to conclude that the only sufficient and reasonable explanation must be found in a God who hears and answers prayer.
Mr. Müller was not the only party to these transactions, nor the only person thus convinced that God was in the whole matter of the work and its support. The donors as well as the receiver were conscious of divine leading.
Frequent were the instances also when those who gave most timely help conveyed to Mr. Müller the knowledge of the experiences that accompanied or preceded their offerings; as, for example, when, without any intimation being given them from man that there was special need, the heart was impressed in prayer to God that there was an emergency requiring prompt assistance.
For example, in June, 1841, fifty pounds were received with these words:
"I am not concerned at my having been prevented for so many days from sending this money; I am confident it has not been needed."
"This last sentence is remarkable," says Mr. Müller. "It is now nearly three years since our funds were for the first time exhausted, and only at this period, since then, could it have been said in truth, so far as I remember, that a donation of fifty pounds was not needed. From the beginning in July, 1838, till now, there never had been a period when we so abounded as when this donation nation came; for there were then, in the orphan fund and the other funds, between two and three hundred pounds! The words of one brother are so much the more remarkable as, on four former occasions, when he likewise gave considerable donations we were always in need, yea, great need, which he afterwards knew from the printed accounts."
Prevailing prayer is largely conditioned on constant obedience.
"Whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things which are well pleasing in His sight."
(1 John iii. 22.)
There is no way of keeping in close touch with God unless a new step is taken in advance whenever new light is given. Here is another of the life-secrets of George Müller. Without unduly counting the cost, he followed every leading of God.
In July, 1841, both Mr. Craik and Mr. Müller were impressed that the existing mode of receiving free-will offerings from those among whom they laboured was inexpedient. These contributions were deposited in boxes, over which their names were placed with an explanation of the purpose to which such offerings were applied. But it was felt that this might have the appearance of unduly elevating them above others, as though they were assuming official importance, or excluding others from full and equal recognition as labourers in word and doctrine. They therefore decided to discontinue this mode of receiving such offerings.
Such an act of obedience may seem to some, overscrupulous, but it cost some inward struggles, for it threatened a possible and probable decrease in supplies for their own needs, and the question naturally arose how such lack should be supplied. Happily Mr. Müller had long ago settled the question that to follow a clear sense of duty is always safe. He could say, in every such crisis,
"O God my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed, trusting in Thee."
Once for all having made such a decision, such apparent risks did not for a moment disturb his peace. Somehow or other the Lord would provide, and all he had to do was to serve and trust Him and leave the rest to His Fatherhood.
In the autumn of 1841 it pleased God that, beyond any previous period, there should be a severe test of faith. For months the supplies had been comparatively abundant, but now, from day to day and from meal to meal, the eye of faith had to be turned to the Lord, and, notwithstanding continuance in prayer, help seemed at times to fail, so much so that it was a special sign of God's grace that, during this long trial of delay, the confidence of Mr. Müller and his helpers did not altogether give way. But he and they were held up, and he unwaveringly rested on the fatherly pity of God.
On one occasion a poor woman gave two pence, adding, "It is but a trifle, but I must give it to you." Yet so opportune was the gift of these "two mites" that one of these two pence was just what was at that time needed to make up the sum required to buy bread for immediate use. At another time eight pence more being necessary to provide for the next meal, but seven pence were in hand; but on opening one of the boxes, one penny only was found deposited, and thus a single penny was traced to the Father's care.
It was in December of this same year, 1841, that, in order to show how solely dependence was placed on a heavenly Provider, it was determined todelay for a while both the holding of any public meeting and the printing of the Annual Report. Mr. Müller was confident that, though no word should be either spoken or printed about the work and its needs, the means would still be supplied. As a matter of fact the report of 1841-2 was thus postponed for five months; and so, in the midst of deep poverty and partly because of the very pressure of such need, another bold step was taken, which, like the cutting away of the ropes that held the life-boat, in that Mediterranean shipwreck, threw Mr. Müller, and all that were with him in the work, more completely on the promise and the providence of God.
It might be inferred that, where such a decision was made, the Lord would make haste to reward at once such courageous confidence. And yet, so mysterious are His ways, that never, up to that time, had Mr. Müller's faith been tried so sharply as between December 12, 1841, and April 12, 1842. During these four months, again, it was as though God were saying
"I will now see whether indeed you truly lean on Me and look to Me."
At any time during this trial, Mr. Müller might have changed his course, holding the public meeting and publishing the report, for outside the few who were in his councils, no one knew of the determination, and in fact many children of God looking for the usual year's journal of "The Lord's Dealings," were surprised at the delay. But the conclusion conscientiously reached was, for the glory of the Lord, as steadfastly pursued, and again Jehovah Jireh revealed His faithfulness.
During this four months, on March 9, 1842, the need was so extreme that, had no help come, the work could not have gone on. But, on that day, from a brother living near Dublin, ten pounds came: and the hand of the Lord clearly appeared in this gift, for when the post had already come and no letter had come with it, there was a strong confidence suggested to Mr. Müller's mind that deliverance was at hand; and so it proved, for presently the letter was brought to him, having been delivered at one of the other houses. During this same month, it was necessary once to delay dinner for about a half-hour, because of a lack of supplies. Such a postponement had scarcely ever been known before, and very rarely was it repeated in the entire after-history of the work, though thousands of mouths had to be daily fed.
In the spring of 1843 Mr. Müller felt led to open a fourth orphan house, the third having been opened nearly six years before. This step was taken with his uniform conscientiousness, deliberation, and prayerfulness. He had seen many reasons for such enlargement of the work, but he had said nothing about the matter even to his beloved wife. Day by day he waited on God in prayer, preferring to take counsel only of Him, lest he might do something in haste, move in advance of clear leading, or be biassed unduly by human judgment.
Unexpected obstacles interfered with his securing the premises which had already been offered and found suitable; but he was in no way "discomforted." The burden of his prayer was, "Lord, if Thou hast no need of another orphan house, I have none"; and he rightly judged that the calm deliberation with which he had set about the whole matter, and the unbroken peace with which he met new hindrances, were proofs that he was following the guidance of God and not the motions of self-will.
As the public meeting and the publication of the Annual Report had been purposely postponed to show that no undue dependence was placed even on indirect appeals to man, much special prayer went up to God, that, before July 15, 1844, when the public meeting was to be held, He would so richly supply all need that it might clearly appear that, notwithstanding these lawful means of informing His servants concerning the work had for a time not been used, the prayer of faith had drawn down help from above. As the financial year had closed in May, it would be more than two yearssince the previous report had been made to the public.
George Müller was jealous for the Lord God of hosts. He desired that "even the shadow of ground might be cut off for persons to say, 'They cannot get any more money; and therefore they now publish another report.'" Hence, while, during the whole progress of the work, he desired to stand with his Master, without heeding either the favourable or unfavourable judgments of men, he felt strongly that God would be much honoured and glorified as the prayer-hearing God if, before the public had been at all apprised of the situation, an ample supply might be given. In such case, instead of appearing to ask aid of men, he and his associates would be able to witness to the church and the world, God's faithfulness, and offer Him the praise of joyful and thankful hearts. As he had asked, so was it done unto him. Money and other supplies came in, and, on the day before the accounts were closed, such liberal gifts, that there was a surplus of over twenty pounds for the whole work.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
God has His own mathematics: witness that miracle of the loaves and fishes. Our Lord said to His disciples: "Give ye them to eat," and as they divided, He multiplied, the scanty provision; as they subtracted from it He added to it; as they decreased it by distributing, He increased it for distributing. And it has been beautifully said of all holy partnerships, that griefs shared are divided, and joys shared are multiplied.
We have already seen how the prayer circle had been enlarged. The founder of the orphan work, at the first, had only God for his partner, telling Him alone his own wants or the needs of his work. Later on, a very few, including his own wife, Mr. Craik, and one or two helpers, were permitted to know the condition of the funds and supplies. Later still, in the autumn of 1838, he began to feel that he ought more fully to open the doors of his confidence to his associates in the Lord's business. Those who shared in the toils should also share in the prayers, and therefore in the knowledge of the needs which prayer was to supply; else how could they fully be partakers of the faith, the work, and the reward? Or, again, how could they feel the full proof of the presence and power of God in the answers to prayer, know the joy of the Lord which such answers inspire, or praise Him for the deliverance which such answers exhibit? It seemed plain that, to the highest glory of God, they must know the depths of need, the extremities of want out of which God had lifted them, and ascribe all honour and praise to His name.
Accordingly Mr. Müller called together all the beloved brothers and sisters linked with him in the conduct of the work, and fully stated the case, keeping nothing back. He showed them the distress they were in, while he bade them be of good courage, assuring them of his own confidence that help was nigh at hand, and then united them with himself and the smaller praying circle which had previously existed, in supplication to Jehovah Jireh.
The step thus taken was of no small importance to all concerned. A considerable number of praying believers henceforth added to the band of intercessors that gave God no rest day nor night. While Mr. Müller withheld no facts as to the straits to which the work was reduced, he laid down certain principles which from time to time were reiterated as unchanging laws for the conduct of the Lord's business. For example, nothing must be bought, whatever the extremity, for which there was not money in hand to pay: and yet it must be equally a settled principle that the children must not be left to lack anything needful; for better that the work cease, and the orphans be sent away, than that they be kept in a nominal home where they were really left to suffer from hunger or nakedness.
Again, nothing was ever to be revealed to outsiders of existing need, lest it should be construed into an appeal for help; but the only resort must be to the living God. The helpers were often reminded that the supreme object of the institutions, founded in Bristol, was to prove God's fulness and the perfect safety of trusting solely to His promises; jealousy for Him must therefore restrain all tendency to look to man for help. Moreover, they were earnestly besought to live in such daily and hourly fellowship with God as that their own unbelief and disobedience might not risk either their own power in prayer, or the agreement, needful among them, in order to common supplication. One discordant note may prevent the harmonious symphony of united prayer, and so far hinder the acceptableness of such prayer with God.
Thus informed and instructed, these devoted coworkers, with the beloved founder of the orphan work, met the crisis intelligently. If, when there were no funds, there must be no leaning upon man, no debt incurred, and yet no lack allowed, clearly the only resort or resource must be waiting upon the unseen God; and so, in these straits and in every succeeding crisis, they went to Him alone. The orphans themselves were never told of any existing need; in every case their wants were met, though they knew not how. The barrel of meal might be empty, yet there was always a handful when needed, and the cruse of oil was never so exhausted that a few drops were not left to moisten the handful of meal. Famine and drought never reached the Bristol orphanage: the supplies might come slowly and only for one day at a time, but somehow, when the need was urgent and could no longer wait, there was enough-- though it might be barely enough to meet the want.
It should be added here, as completing this part of the Narrative, that, in August, 1840, this circle of prayer was still further enlarged by admitting to its intimacies of fellowship and supplication the brethren and sisters who laboured in the day-schools, the same solemn injunctions being repeated in their case against any betrayal to outsiders of the crises that might arise.
To impart the knowledge of affairs to so much larger a band of helpers brought in every way a greater blessing, and especially so to the helpers themselves. Their earnest, believing, importunate prayers were thus called forth, and God only knows how much the consequent progress of the work was due to their faith, supplication, and self-denial. The practical knowledge of the exigencies of their common experience begat an unselfishness of spirit which prompted these acts of heroic sacrifice that have no human record or written history, and can be known only when the pages of the Lord's own journal are read by an assembled universe in the day when the secret things are brought to light. It has, since Mr. Müller's departure, transpired how large a share of the donations received are to be traced to him; but there is no means of ascertaining as to the aggregate amount of the secret gifts of his coworkers in this sacred circle of prayer.
We do know, however, that Mr. Müller was not the only self-denying giver, though he may lead the host. His true yoke-fellows often turned the crisis by their own offerings, which though small were costly! Instrumentally they were used of God to relieve existing want by their gifts, for out of the abundance of their deep poverty abounded the riches of their liberality. The money they gave was sometimes like the widow's two mites-- all their living; and not only the last penny, but ornaments, jewels, heirlooms, long kept and cherished treasures, like the alabaster flask of ointment which was broken upon the feet of Jesus, were laid down on God's altar as a willing sacrifice. They gave all they could spare and often what could ill spare, so that there might be meat in God's house and no lack of bread or other needed supplies for His orphans. In a sublime sense this work was not Mr. Müller's only but theirs also, who with him took part in prayers and tears, in cares and toils, in self-denials and self-offerings, whereby God chose to carry forward His plans for these homeless waifs! It was in thus giving that all the helpers found also new power, assurance, and blessing in praying; for, as one of them said, he felt that it would scarcely be "upright to pray, except he were to give what he had."*
The helpers, thus admitted into Mr. Müller's confidence came into more active sympathy with him and the work and partook increasingly of the same spirit. Of this some few instances and examples have found their way into his journal.
A gentleman and some ladies visiting the orphan house saw the large number of little ones to be cared for. One of the ladies said to the matron of the Boys' House: "Of course you cannot carry on these institutions without a good stock of funds"; and the gentleman added, "Have you a good stock?" The quiet answer was, "Our funds are deposited in a bank which cannot break." The reply drew tears from the eyes of the lady, and a gift of five pounds from the pocket of the gentleman-- a donation most opportune, as there was not one penny then in hand.
Fellow labourers such as these, who asked nothing for themselves, but cheerfully looked to the Lord for their own supplies, and willingly parted with their own money of goods in the hour of need, filled Mr. Müller's heart with praise to God, and held up his hands, as Aaron and Hur sustained those of Moses, till the sun of his life went down. During all the years of his superintendence these were the main human support of his faith and courage. They met with him in daily prayer, faithfully kept among themselves the secrets of the Lord's work in the great trials of faith; and, when the hour of triumph came, they felt it both duty and privilege in the annual report to publish their deliverance, to make their boast in God, that all men might know His love and faithfulness and ascribe Him glory.
From time to time, in connection with the administration of the work, various questions arose which have a bearing on all departments of Christian service, for their solution enters into what may be called the ethics and economics of the Lord's work. At a few of these we may glance.
As the Lord was dealing with them by the day, it seemed clear that they were to live by the day. No dues should be allowed to accumulate, even such as would naturally accrue from ordinary weekly supplies of bread, milk, etc. From the middle of September, 1838, it was therefore determined that every article bought was to be paid for at the time.
Again, rent became due in stated amounts and at stated times. This want was therefore not unforeseen, and, looked at in one aspect, rent was due daily or weekly, though collected at longer intervals. The principle having been laid that no debt should be incurred, it was considered as implying that the amount due for rent should be put asidedaily, or at least weekly, even though not then payable. This rule was henceforth adopted, with this understanding, that money thus laid aside was sacred to that end, and not to be drawn upon, even temporarily, for any other.
Notwithstanding such conscientiousness and consistency the trial of faith and patience continued. Money came in only in small sums, and barely enough with rigid economy to meet each day's wants. The outlook was often most dark and the prospect most threatening; but no real need ever failed to be supplied: and so praise was continually mingled with prayer, the incense of thanksgiving making fragrant the flame of supplication. God's interposing power and love could not be doubted, and in fact made the more impression as unquestionable facts, because help came so frequently at the hour of extremity, and in the exact form or amount needed. Before the provision was entirely exhausted, there came new supplies or the money wherewith to buy, so that these many mouths were always fed and these many bodies always clad.
To live up to such principles as had been laid down was not possible without faith, kept in constant and lively exercise. For example, in the closing months of 1838 God seemed purposely putting them to a severe test whether or not they did trust Him alone. The orphan work was in continual straits: at times not one half-penny was in the hands of the matrons in the three houses. But not only was no knowledge of such facts ever allowed to leak out, or any hint of the extreme need ever given to outsiders,but even those who inquired, with intent to aid, were not informed.
One evening a brother ventured to ask how the balance would stand when the next accounts were made up, and whether it would be as great in favour of the orphans when the previous balance-sheet had been prepared. Mr. Müller's calm but evasive answer was:
"It will be as great as the Lord pleases."
This was no intentional rudeness. To have said more would have been turning from the one Helper to make at least an indirect appeal to man for help; and every such snare was carefully avoided lest the one great aim should be lost sight of:
to prove to all men that it is safe to trust only in the Living God.
While admitting the severity of the straits to which the whole work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was often brought, Mr. Müller takes pains to assure his readers that these straits were never a surprise to him, and that expectations in the matter of funds were not disappointed, but rather the reverse. He had looked for great emergencies as essential to his full witness to a prayer-hearing God. The almighty Hand can never be clearly seen while any human help is sought for or is in sight. We must turn absolutely away from all else if we to turn fully unto the living God. The deliverance is signal, only in proportion as the danger is serious, and is significant when, without God, we face absolute despair. Hence the exact end for which the whole work mainly begun could be attained only through such conditions of extremity and such experiences of interposition in extremity.
Some who have known but little of the interior history of the orphan work have very naturally accounted for the regularity of supplies by supposing that the public statements, made about it by word of mouth, and especially by pen in the printed annual reports, have constituted appeals for aid. Unbelief would interpret all God's working however wonderful, by "natural laws," and the carnal mind, refusing to see in any of the manifestations of God's power any supernatural force at work, persists in thus explaining away all the "miracles of prayer."
No doubt humane and sympathetic hearts have been strongly moved by the remarkable ways in which God has day by day provided for all these orphans, as well as the branches of work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; and believing souls have been drawn into loving and hearty sympathy with work so conducted, and been led to become its helpers. It is a well-known fact that God has used these annual reports to accomplish much results. Yet it remains true that these reports were never intended or issued as appeals for aid, and no dependence has been placed upon them for securing timely help. It is also undeniable that, however frequent their issue, wide their circulation, or great their influence, the regularity and abundance of the supplies of all needs must in some other way be accounted for.
Only a few days after public meetings were held or printed reports issued, funds often fell to their lowest ebb. Mr. Müller and his helpers were singularly kept from all undue leaning upon any such indirect appeals, and frequently and definitely asked God that they might never be left to look for any inflow of means through such channels. For many reasons the Lord's dealings with them were made known, the main object of such publicity always being a testimony to the faithfulness of God. This great object Mr. Müller always kept foremost, hoping and praying that, by such records and revelations of God's fidelity to His promises, and of the manner in which He met each new need, his servant might awaken, quicken, and stimulate faith in Him as the Living God. One has only to read these reports to see the conspicuous absence of any appeal for human aid, or of any attempt to excite pity, sympathy and compassion toward the orphans. The burden of every report is to induce the reader to venture wholly upon God, to taste and see that the Lord is good, and find for himself how blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. Only in the light of this supreme purpose can these records of a life of faith be read intelligently and intelligibly.
Weakness of body again, in the autumn of 1839, compelled, for a time, rest from active labour, and Mr. Müller went to Trowbridge and Exeter, Teignmouth and Plymouth. God had precious lessons for him which He could best teach in the school of affliction.
While at Plymouth Mr. Müller felt anew the impulse to early rising for purposes of devotional communion. At Halle he had been an early riser, influenced by zeal for excellence in study. Afterwards, when his weak head and feeble nerves made more sleep seem needful, he judged that, even when he rose late, the day would be long enough to exhaust his little fund of strength; and so often he lay in bed till six or even seven o'clock, instead of rising at four; and after dinner took a nap for a quarter-hour. It grew upon him, however, that he was losing in spiritual vigour, and that his soul's health was declining under this new regimen. The work now so pressed upon him as to prevent proper reading of the Word and rob him of leisure for secret prayer.
A "chance remark"-- there is no chance in a believer's life!-- made by the brother at whose house he was abiding at Plymouth, much impressed him. Referring to the sacrifices in Leviticus, he said that, as the refuse of the animals was never offered up on the altar, but only the best parts and the fat, so the choicest of our time and strength, the best parts of our day, should be especially given to the Lord in worship and communion. George Müller meditated much on this; and determined, even at the risk of damage to bodily health, that he would no longer spend his hours in bed. Henceforth he allowed himself but seven hours' sleep and gave up his after-dinner rest. This resumption of early rising secured long seasons of uninterrupted interviews with God, in prayer and meditation on the Scriptures, before breakfast and the various inevitable interruptions that followed. He found himself not worse but better, physically, and became convinced that to have lain longer in bed as before would have kept his nerves weak; and, as to spiritual life, such new vitality and vigour accrued from thus waiting upon God while others slept, that it continued to be the habit of his after-life.
In November, I839, when the needs were again great and the supplies very small, he was kept in peace: "I was not," he says, looking at the little in hand, but at the fulness of God."
It was his rule to empty himself of all that he had in order to greater boldness in appealing for help from above. All needless articles were sold if a market could be found. But what was useful in the Lord's work he did not reckon as needless, nor regard it right to sell, since the Father knew the need. One of his fellow labourers had put forward his valuable watch as a security for the return of money laid by for rent, but drawn upon for the time; yet even this plan was not felt to be scriptural, as the watch might be reckoned among articles needful and useful in the Lord's service, and, if such expedients were quite abandoned, the deliverance would be more manifest of the Lord. And so, one by one, all resorts were laid aside that might imperil full trust and sole dependence upon the one and only Helper.
When the poverty of their resources seemed most pinching, Mr. Müller still comforted himself with the daily proof that God had not forgotten, and would day by day feed them with "the bread of their convenience." Often he said to himself,
"If it is even a proverb of the world that 'Man's necessity is God's opportunity,' how much more may God's own dear children in their great need look to Him to make their extremity the fit moment to display His love and power!"
In February, 1840, another attack of ill health combined with a mission to Germany to lead Mr. Müller for five weeks to the Continent. At Heimersleben, where he found his father weakened by a serious cough, the two rooms in which he spent most time in prayer and reading the Word, and confession of the Lord, were the same which, nearly twenty years before, he had passed most time as an unreconciled sinner against God and man. Later on, at Wolfenbüttel, he saw the inn whence in 1821 he away in debt. In taking leave once more of his father he was pierced by a keen anguish, fearing it was his last farewell, and an unusual tenderness and affection were now exhibited by his father, whom he yearned more and more to know as safe in the Lord Jesus, and depending no longer on outward and formal religiousness, or substituting the reading of prayers and of Scripture for an inward conformity to Christ. This proved the last interview, for the father died on March 30th of the same year.
The main purpose of this journey to Germany was to send forth more missionaries to the East. At Sandersleben Mr. Müller met his friend, Mr. Stahlschmidt, and found a little band of disciples meeting in secret to evade police. Those who have always breathed the atmosphere of religious liberty know little of such intolerance as, in that nominally Christian land, stifled all freedom of worship. Eleven years before, when Mr. Stahlschmidt's servant had come to this place, he had found scarce one true disciple beside his master. The first meetings had been literally of but two or three, and, when they had grown a little larger, Mr. Kroll was summoned before the magistrates and, like the apostles in the first days of the church, forbidden to speak in His name. But again, like those same primitive disciples, believing that they were to obey God rather than men, the believing band had continued to meet, notwithstanding police raids which were so disturbing, and government fines which were so exact. So secret, however, were their assemblies, as to have neither stated place nor regular time.
George Müller found these persecuted believers, meeting in the room of a humble weaver where there was but one chair. The twenty-five or thirty who were present found such places to sit or stand as they might, in and about the loom, which itself filled half the space.
In Halberstadt Mr. Müller found seven large Protestant churches without clergyman who gave evidence of true conversion, and the few genuine disciples there were likewise forbidden to meet together.
A few days after returning to Bristol from his few weeks in Germany, and at a time of great financial distress in the work, a letter reached him from a brother who had often before given money, as follows:
"Have you any present need for the Institution under your care? I know you do not ask, except indeed of Him whose work you are doing; but to answer when asked seems another thing, and a right thing. I have a reason for desiring to know the present state of your means towards the objects you are labouring to serve: viz.., should you not have need, other departments of the Lord's work, or other people of the Lord, may have need. Kindly then inform me, and to what amount, i.e. what amount you at this present time need or can profitably lay out."
To most men, even those who carry on a work of faith and prayer, such a letter would have been at least a temptation. But Mr. Müller did not waver. To announce even to an inquirer the exact needs of the work would, in his opinion, involve two serious risks:
1. It would turn his own eyes away from God to man;
2. It would turn the minds of saints away from dependence solely upon Him.
This man of God had staked everything upon one great experiment-- he had set himself to prove that the prayer which resorts to God only will bring help in every crisis, even when the crisis is unknown to His people whom He uses as the means of relief and help.
At this time there remained in hand but twenty-seven pence ha'penny, in all, to meet the needs of hundreds of orphans. Nevertheless this was the reply to the letter:
"Whilst I thank you for your love, and whilst I agree with you that, in general, there is a difference between asking for money and answering when asked,nevertheless, in our case, I feel not at liberty to speak about the state of our funds, as the primary object of the work in my hands is to lead those who are weak in faith to see that there is reality in dealing with God alone."
Consistently with his position, however, no sooner was the answer posted than the appeal went up to the Living God:
"Lord, thou knowest that, for Thy sake, I did not tell this brother about our need. Now, Lord, show afresh that there is reality in speaking to Thee only, about our need, and speak therefore to this brother so that he may help us."
In answer, God moved this inquiring brother to donate one hundred pounds, which came when not one penny was in hand.
The confidence of faith, long tried, had its increasing reward and was strengthened, by experience. In July, 1845, Mr. Müller gave this testimony reviewing these very years of trial:
"Though for about seven years, our funds have been so exhausted that it has been comparatively a rare case that there have been means in hand to meet the necessities of the orphans for three days together, yet I have been only once tried in spirit, and that was on September 18, 1838, when the first time the Lord seemed not to regard our prayer. But when He did send help at that time, and I saw that it was only for the trial of our faith, and not because He had forsaken the work, that we were brought so low, my soul was so strengthened and encouraged that I have not only not been allowed to distrust the Lord since that time, but I have not even been cast down when in the deepest poverty."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
HABIT both shows and makes the man, for it is at once historic and prophetic, the mirror of the man as he is and the mould of the man as he is to be. At this point, therefore, special attention may properly be given to the two marked habits which had principally to do with the man we are studying.
Early in the year 1838, he began reading that third biography which, with those of Francké and John Newton, had such a singular influence on his own life-- Philip's Life of George Whitefield. The life-story of the orphan's friend had given the primary impulse to his work; the life-story of the converted blasphemer had suggested his narrative of the Lord's dealings; and now the life-story of the great evangelist was blessed of God to shape his general character and give new power to his preaching and his wider ministry to souls. These three biographies together probably affected the whole inward and outward life of George Müller more than any other volumes but the Book of God, and they were wisely fitted of God to co-work toward such a blessed result. The example of Francké incited to faith in prayer and to a work whose sole dependence was on God. Newton's witness to grace led to a testimony to the same sovereign love and mercy as seen in his own case. Whitefield's experience inspired to greater fidelity and earnestness in preaching the Word, and to greater confidence in the power of the anointing Spirit.
Particularly was this impression deeply made on Mr. Müller's mind and heart: that Whitefield's unparalleled success in evangelistic labours was plainly traceable to two causes and could not be separated from them as direct effects; namely, his unusual prayerfulness, and his habit of reading the Bible on his knees.
The great evangelist of the last century had learned that first lesson in service, his own utter nothingness and helplessness: that he was nothing, and could do nothing, without God. He could neither understand the Word for himself, nor translate it into his own life, nor apply it to others with power, unless the Holy Spirit became to him both insight and unction. Hence his success; he was filled with the Spirit: and this alone accounts both for the quality and the quantity of his labours. He died in 1770, in the fifty-sixth year of his age, having preached his first sermon in Gloucester in 1736. During this thirty-four years his labours had been both unceasing and untiring. While on his journeyings in America, he preached one hundred and seventy-five times in seventy-five days, besides travelling, in the slow vehicles of those days, upwards of eight hundred miles. Then health declined, and he was put on "short allowance," even that was one sermon each week-day and three on Sunday. There was about his preaching, moreover, a nameless charm which held thirty thousand hearers half-breathless on Boston Common and made tears pour down the sooty faces of the colliers at Kingswood.
The passion of George Müller's soul was to know fully the secrets of prevailing with God and with man. George Whitefield's life drove home the truth that God alone could create in him a holy earnestness to win souls and qualify him for such divine work by imparting a compassion for the lost that should become an absorbing passion for their salvation. And let this be carefully marked as another secret of this life of service-- he now began himself to read the word of God upon his knees, and often found for hours great blessing in such meditation and prayer over a single psalm or chapter.
Here we stop and ask what profit there can be in thus prayerfully reading and searching the Scriptures in the very attitude of prayer. Having tried it for ourselves, we may add our humble witness to its value.
First of all, this habit is a constant reminder and recognition of the need of spiritual teaching in order to the understanding of the holy Oracles. No reader of God's word can thus bow before God and His open book, without a feeling of new reverence for the Scriptures, and dependence on their Author for insight into their mysteries. The attitude of worship naturally suggests sober-mindedness and deep seriousness, and banishes frivolity. To treat that Book with lightness or irreverence would be doubly profane when one is in the posture of prayer.
Again, such a habit naturally leads to self-searching and comparison of the actual life with the example and pattern shown in the Word. The precept compels the practice to be seen in the light of its teaching; the command challenges the conduct to appear for examination. The prayer, whether spoken or unspoken, will inevitably be:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Try me, and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting!"
(Psalm cxxxix. 23,24.)
The words thus reverently read will be translated into the life and mould the character into the image of God.
"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit."*
But perhaps the greatest advantage will be that the Holy Scriptures will thus suggest the very words which become the dialect of prayer. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought"-- neither what nor how to pray. But here is the Spirit's own inspired utterance, and, if the praying be moulded on the model of His teaching, how can we go astray? Here is our God-given liturgy and litany-- a divine prayer-book. We have here God's promises, precepts, warnings, and counsels, not to speak of all the Spirit-inspired literal prayers therein contained; and, as we reflect upon these, our prayers take their cast in this matrix. We turn precept and promise, warning and counsel into supplication, with the assurance that we cannot be asking anything that is not according to His will;† for are we not turning His own word into prayer?
So Mr. Müller found it to be. In meditating over Hebrews xiii.8: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and to-day and for ever," translating it into prayer, he besought God, with the confidence that the prayer was already granted, that, as Jesus had already in His love and power supplied all that was needful, in the same unchangeable love and power He would so continue to provide. And so a promise was not only turned into a prayer, but into a prophecy-- an assurance of blessing-- and a river of joy at once poured into and flowed through his soul.
*2 Cor. iii.18.
†I John v.18.
The prayer habit, on the knees, with the Word open before the disciple, has thus an advantage which it is difficult to put into words: It provides a sacred channel of approach to God. The inspired Scriptures form the vehicle of the Spirit in communicating to us the knowledge of the will of God. If we think of God on the one side and man on the other, the word of God is the mode of conveyance from God to man, of His own mind and heart. It therefore becomes a channel of God's approach to us, a channel prepared by the Spirit for the purpose, and unspeakably sacred as such. When therefore the believer uses the word of God as the guide to determine both the spirit and the dialect of his prayer, he is inverting the process of divine revelation and using the channel of God's approach to him as the channel of his approach to God. How can such use of God's word fail to help and strengthen spiritual life? What medium or channel of reproach could so insure in the praying soul both an acceptable frame and language taught of the Holy Spirit? The first thing is not to pray but to hearken, this surely is hearkening for God to speak to us that we may know to speak to Him.
It was habits of life such as these, and not impulsive feelings and transient frames, that made this man of God what he was and strengthened him to lift up his hands in God's name, and follow hard after Him and in Him rejoice.* Even his sore affliction, seen in the light of such prayer-- prayer itself illuminated by the word of God-- and radiant; and his soul was brought into that state where he so delighted in the will of God as to be able in his heart to say that he would not have his disease removed until through it God had wrought the blessing He meant to convey. And when his acquiescence in will of God had become thus complete he instinctively felt that he would speedily be restored to health.
*Psalm lxiii. 4,8,11.
Subsequently, in reading Proverbs iii. 5-12 he was struck with the words, "Neither be weary of His correction." He felt that, though he had not been permitted to "despise the chastening of the Lord," he had at times been somewhat "weary of His correction," and he lifted up the prayer that he might so patiently bear it as neither to faint nor be weary under it, till its full purpose was wrought.
Frequent were the instances of the habit of translating promises into prayers, immediately applying the truth thus unveiled to him. For example, after prolonged meditation over the first verse of Psalm Ixv, "O Thou that hearest prayer," he at once asked and recorded certain definite petitions. This writing down specific requests for permanent reference has a blessed influence upon the prayer habit. It assures practical and exact form for our supplications, impresses the mind and memory with what he thus asked of God, and leads naturally to the record of the answers when given, so that we accumulate evidences in our own experience that God is to us personally a prayer-hearing God, whereby unbelief is rebuked and importunity encouraged.
On this occasion eight specific requests are put on record, together with the solemn conviction that, having asked in conformity with the word and will of God, and in the name of Jesus, he has confidence in Him that He heareth and that he has the petitions thus asked of Him.*
*1 John v.13.
"I believe He has heard me. I believe He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me; and I have recorded these my petitions this fourteenth day of January, 1838, that when God has answered them He may get, through this, glory to His name."
The thoughtful reader must see in all this a man of faith, feeding and nourishing his trust in God that his faith may grow strong. He uses the promise of a prayer-hearing God as a staff to stay his conscious feebleness, that he may lean hard upon the strong Word which not fail. He records the day when he thus takes this staff in hand, and the very petitions which are the burdens which he seeks to lay on God, so that his act of committal be the more complete and final. Could God ever dishonour such trust?
It was in this devout reading on his knees that his whole soul was first deeply moved by that phrase
"A FATHER OF THE FATHERLESS."
He saw this to be one of those "names" of Jehovah which He reveals to His people to lead them to trust in Him, as it is written in Psalm ix.10:
"They that know Thy name
Will put their trust in Thee."
These five words from the sixty-eighth psalm became another of his life-texts, one of the foundation stones of all his work for the fatherless. These are his own words:
"By the help of God, this shall be my argument before Him, respecting the orphans, in the hour of need. He is a Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children in order to have it supplied."
This is translating the promises of God's word, not only into praying, but into living, doing, serving. Blessed was the hour when Mr. Müller learned that one of God's chosen names is "the Father of the fatherless"!
To sustain such burdens would have been quite impossible but for faith in such a God. In reply to oft-repeated remarks of visitors and observers who could not understand the secret of his peace, or how any man who had so many children to clothe and feed could carry such prostrating loads of care, he had one uniform reply:
"By the grace of God, this is no cause of anxiety to me. These children I have years ago cast upon the Lord. The whole work is His, and it becomes me to be without carefulness. In whatever points I am lacking, in this point I am able by the grace of God to roll the burden upon my heavenly Father."*
In tens of thousands of cases this peculiar title of God, chosen by Himself and by Himself declared, became to Mr. Müller a peculiar revelation of God, suited to his special need. The natural inferences drawn from such a title became powerful arguments in prayer, and rebukes to all unbelief. Thus, at the outset of his work for the orphans, the word of God put beneath his feet a rock basis of confidence that he could trust the almighty Father to support the work. And, as the solicitudes of the work came more and more heavily upon him, he cast the loads he could not carry upon Him who, before George Müller was born, was the Father of the fatherless.
About this time we meet other signs of the conflict going on in Mr. Müller's own soul. He could not shut his eyes to the lack of earnestness in prayer and fervency of spirit which at times seemed to rob him of both peace and power. And we notice his experience, in common with so many saints, of the paradox of spiritual life. He saw that "such fervency of spirit is altogether the gift of God," and yet he adds,"I have to ascribe to myself the loss of it." He did not run divine sovereignty into blank fatalism as so many do. He saw that God must be sovereign in His gifts, and yet man must be free in his reception and rejection of them. He admitted the mystery without attempting to reconcile the apparent contradiction. He confesses also that the same book, Philip's Life of Whitefield, which had been used of God to kindle such new fires on the altar of his heart, had been also used of Satan to tempt him to neglect for its sake the systematic study of the greatest of books.
Thus, at every step, George Müller's life is full of both encouragement and admonition to fellow disciples. While away from Bristol he wrote in February, 1838, a tender letter to the saints there, which is another revelation of the man's heart. He makes grateful mention of the mercies of God, to him, particularly His gentleness, long-suffering, and faithfulness and the lessons taught him through affliction. The letter makes plain that much sweetness is mixed in the cup of suffering, and that our privileges are not properly prized until for a time we are deprived of them. He particularly mentions how secret prayer, even when reading, conversation, or prayer with others was a burden, always brought relief to his head. Converse with the Father was an indispensable source of refreshment and blessing at all times. As J. Hudson Taylor says,"Satan, the Hinderer, may build a barrier about us, but he can never roof us in, so that we cannot look up." Mr. Müller also gives a valuable hint that has already been of value to many afflicted saints, that he found he could help by prayer to fight the battles of the Lord even when he could not by preaching.
After a short visit to Germany, partly in quest of health and partly for missionary objects, and after more than twenty-two weeks of retirement from ordinary public duties, his head was much better, but his mental health allowed only about three hours of daily work. While in Germany he had again seen his father and elder brother, and spoken with them about their salvation. To his father his words brought apparent blessing, for he seemed at least to feel his lack of the one thing needful. The separation from him was the more painful as there was so little hope that they should meet again on earth.
In May he once more took part in public services in Bristol, a period of six months having elapsed since he had previously done so. His head was still weak, but there seemed no loss of mental power.
About three months after he had been in Germany part of the fruits of his visit were gathered, for twelve brothers and three sisters sailed for the East Indies.
On June 13, 1838, Mrs. Müller gave birth to a stillborn babe,-- another parental disappointment,-- and for more than a fortnight her life hung in the balance. But once more prayer prevailed for her and her days were prolonged.
One month later another trial of faith confronted them in the orphan work. A twelvemonth previous there were in hand seven hundred and eighty pounds; now that sum was reduced to one thirty-ninth of the amount-- twenty pounds. Mr. and Mrs. Müller, with Mr. Craik and one other brother, connected with the Boys' Orphan House, were the only four persons who were permitted to know of the low state of funds; and they gave themselves to united prayer. And let it be carefully observed that Mr. Müller testifies that his own faith was kept even stronger than when the larger sum was on hand a year before; and this faith was no mere fancy, for, although the supply was so low and shortly thirty pounds would be needed, notice was given for seven more children to enter, and it was further proposed to announce readiness to receive five others!
The trial-hour had come, but was not past. Less than two months later the money-supply ran so low that it was needful that the Lord should give by the day and almost the hour if the needs were to be met. In answer to prayer for help God seemed to say, "Mine hour is not yet come." Many pounds would shortly be required, toward which there was not one penny in hand. Then, one day, four pounds came in, the thought occurred to Mr. Müller, "Why not lay aside three pounds against the coming need?" But immediately he remembered that it is written:
"SUFFICIENT UNTO THE DAY IS THE EVIL THEREOF."*
He unhesitatingly cast himself upon God, and paid out the whole amount for salary then due, leaving himself again penniless.
At this time Mr. Craik was led to preach a sermon on Abraham, from Genesis xii, making prominent two facts: first, that so long as he acted in faith and walked in the Light of God, all went on well; but that, secondly, so far as he distrusted the Lord and disobeyed Him, all ended in failure. Mr. Müller heard this sermon and conscientiously plied it to himself. He drew two most practical conclusions which he had abundant opportunity to put into practice:
First, that he must go into no byways or paths of his own for deliverance out of a crisis;
And, secondly, that in proportion as he had been permitted to honour God and bring some glory to His name trusting Him, he was in danger of dishonouring Him.
Having taught him these blessed truths, the Lord tested him as to how far he would venture upon them. While in such sore need of money for the orphan work, he had in the bank some two hundred and twenty pounds, intrusted to him for other purposes. He might use their money for the time at least, and so relieve the present distress. The temptation was the stronger so to do, because he knew the donors and knew them to be liberal supporters of the orphans; and he had only to explain to them the straits he was in and they would gladly consent to any appropriation of their gift that he might see best! Most men would have cut that Gordian knot of perplexity without hesitation.
Not so George Müller. He saw at once that this would be finding a way of his own out of difficulty, instead of waiting on the Lord for deliverance. Moreover, he also saw that it would be forming a habit of trusting to such expedients of his own, which in other trials would lead to a similar course and so hinder the growth of faith. We use italics here because here is revealed one of the tests by which this man of faith was proven; and we see how he kept consistently and persistently to the one great purpose of his life-- to demonstrate to all men that to rest solely on the promise of a faithful God is the only way to know for one's self and prove to others, His faithfulness.
At this time of need-- the type of many others-- this man who had determined to risk everything upon God's word of promise, turned from doubtful devices and questionable methods of relief to pleading with God. And it may be well to mark his manner of pleading. He used argument in prayer, and at this time he piles up eleven reasons why God should and would send help.
This method of holy argument-- ordering our cause before God, as an advocate would plead before a judge-- is not only almost a lost art, but to many it actually seems almost puerile. And yet it is abundantly taught and exemplified in Scripture. Abraham in his plea for Sodom is the first great example of it. Moses excelled in this art, in many crises interceding in behalf of the people with consummate skill, marshalling arguments as a general-in-chief marshals battalions. Elijah on Carmel is a striking example of power in this special pleading. What a zeal and jealousy for God! It is probable that if we had fuller records we should find that all pleaders with God, like Noah, Job, Samuel, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Paul, and James, have used the same method.
Of course God does not need to be convinced: no arguments can make any plainer to Him the claims of trusting souls to His intervention, claims based upon His own word, confirmed by His oath. And yet He will be inquired of and argued with. That is His way of blessing. He loves to have us set before Him our cause and His own promises: delights in the well-ordered plea, where argument is piled upon argument. See how the Lord Jesus Christ commended the persistent argument of the woman of Canaan, who with the wit of importunity actually turned his own objection into a reason. He said, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the little dogs."*
*Cf. Matt. vii.6, xv. 26,27. Not kusin [Greek transliteration], but kunariois [Greek transliteration], the diminutive for little pet dogs.
"Truth, Lord," she answered, "yet the little dogs under the master's tables eat of the crumbs which fall from the children's mouths!" What a triumph of argument! Catching the Master Himself in His words, as He meant she should, and turning His apparent reason for not granting into a reason for granting her request! "O woman," said He, "great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt"-- thus, as Luther said, "flinging the reins on her neck."
This case stands unique in the word of God, and it is this use of argument in prayer that makes it thus solitary in grandeur. But one other case is at all parallel,-- that of the centurion of Capernaum,* who, when our Lord promised to go and heal his servant, argued that such coming was not needful, since He had only to speak the healing word. And notice the basis of his argument: if he, a commander exercising authority and yielding himself to higher authority, both obeyed the word of his superior and exacted obedience of his subordinate, how much more could the Great Healer, in his absence, by a word of command, wield the healing Power that in His presence was obedient to His will! Of him likewise our Lord said: "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel!"
We are to argue our case with God, not indeed to convince Him, but to convince ourselves. In proving to Him that, by His own word and oath and character, He has bound Himself to interpose, we demonstrate to our own faith that He has given us the right to ask and claim, and that He will answer our plea because He cannot deny Himself.
There are two singularly beautiful touches of the Holy Spirit in which the right thus to order argument before God is set forth to the reflective reader. In Micah. vii.20 we read:
"Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob,
The mercy to Abraham,
Which thou hast sworn unto our fathers,
From the days of old."
Mark the progress of the thought. What was mercy to Abraham was truth to Jacob. God was under no obligation to extend covenant blessings; hence it was to Abraham a simple act of pure mercy; but, having so put Himself under voluntary bonds, Jacob could claim as truth what to Abraham had been mercy. So in 1 John i.9:
"If we confess our sins
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Plainly, forgiveness and cleansing are not originally matters of faithfulness and justice, but of mercy and grace. But, after God had pledged Himself thus to forgive and answer the penitent sinner who confesses and forsakes his sins,* what was originally grace and mercy becomes faithfulness and justice; for God owes it to Himself and to His nature to stand by His own pledge, and fulfill the lawful expectation which His own gracious assurance has created.
Thus we have not only examples of argument in prayer, but concessions of the living God Himself, that when we have His word to plead we may claim the fulfillment of His promise, on the ground not of His mercy only, but of His truth, faithfulness, and justice. Hence the holy boldness with which we are bidden to present our plea at the throne of grace. God owes to His faithfulness to do what He has promised, and to His justice not to exact from the sinner a penalty already borne in his behalf by His own Son.
No man of his generation, perhaps, has been more wont to plead thus with God, after the manner of holy argument, than he whose memoir we are now writing. He was of the elect few to whom it has been given to revive and restore this lost art of pleading with God. And if all disciples could learn the blessed lesson, what a period ofrenaissance of faith would come to the church of God!
George Müller stored up reasons for God's intervention. As he came upon promises, authorized declarations of God concerning Himself, names and titles He had chosen to express and reveal His true nature and will, injunctions and invitations which gave to the believer a right to pray and boldness in supplication-- as he saw all these, fortified and exemplified by the instances of prevailing prayer, he laid these arguments up in memory, and then on occasions of great need brought them out and spread them before a prayer-hearing God. It is pathetically beautiful to follow this humble man of God into the secret place, and there hear him pouring out his soul in these argumentative pleadings, as though he would so order his cause before God as to convince Him that He must interpose to save His own name and word from dishonour!
These were His orphans, for had He not declared Himself the Father of the fatherless? This was His work, for had He not called His servant to do His bidding, and what was that servant but an instrument that could neither fit itself nor use itself? Can the rod lift itself, or the saw move itself, or the hammer deal its own blow, or the sword make its own thrust? And if this were God's work, was He not bound to care for His own work? And was not all this deliberately planned and carried on for His own glory? And would He suffer His own glory to be dimmed? Had not His own word been given and confirmed by His oath, and could God allow His promise, thus sworn to, to be dishonoured even in the least particular? Were not the half-believing church and the unbelieving world looking on, to see how the Living God would stand by His own unchanging assurance, and would He supply an argument for the skeptic and the scoffer? Would He not, must He not, rather put new proofs of His faithfulness in the mouth of His saints, and furnish increasing arguments wherewith to silence the cavilling tongue and put to shame the hesitating disciple?*
In some such fashion as this did this lowly-minded saint in Bristol plead with God for more than threescore years, and prevail-- as every true believer may who with a like boldness comes to the throne of grace to obtain mercy find grace to help in every time of need. How few of us can sincerely sing:
I believe God answers prayer,
Answers always, everywhere;
I may cast my anxious care,
Burdens I could never bear,
On the God who heareth prayer.
Never need my soul despair
Since He bids me boldly dare
To the secret place repair,
There to prove He answers prayer.
*Mr. Müller himself tells how he argued his case before the Lord at this time. (Appendix F. Narrative, vol. 1, 243, 244)