May 18, 1836. The Lord has crowned the prayers of His servant concerning the establishment of an Orphan House with great success. My prayer was that He would graciously provide a house, either as a loan or as a gift, or that someone might be led to pay the rent for one. Furthermore, I asked that He would give me one thousand pounds for the work and suitable individuals to take care of the children. A day or two later, I asked that He would put it into the hearts of His people to send me articles of furniture and some clothes for the children.
In answer to these petitions, many articles of furniture, clothing, and food were sent. A conditional offer of a house, as a gift, was made, and several individuals offered to take care of the children. Various sums of money were also given, varying from one hundred pounds to a halfpenny. The above results have come in answer to prayer, without me asking anyone for one single thing. I did not keep silent about our needs on account of lack of confidence in the brethren or because I doubted their love for the Lord, but I wanted to see the hand of God much more clearly.
I brought even the most minute circumstances concerning the Orphan House before the Lord, being conscious of my own weakness and ignorance. One point I had never prayed about, however, was for the Lord to send more children. I took it for granted that there would be plenty of applications.
The appointed time came, and no applications were being made. This circumstance led me to bow low before my God in prayer and to examine the motives of my heart once more. I could still say that His glory was my chief aim-that others might see it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God.
Continuing in prayer, I was at last able to say from my heart that I would rejoice in God being glorified in this matter, even if it meant bringing the whole plan to nothing. But it still seemed more glorifying to God to establish and prosper the Orphan House. I then asked Him heartily to send applications.
I now enjoyed a peaceful state of heart concerning the subject and was also more assured than ever that God would establish the work. The very next day the first application was made, and within a short time forty-three more were received. I rented a house, which because of its cheapness and size, was very suitable.
We intended to take in children from seven to twelve years of age. But after six applications had been made for children between four and six years, it became a subject of solemn and prayerful consideration whether to accept these children as long as there were vacancies. I came at last to the conclusion to take in the little girls under seven years of age.
An Orphan House was needed for male children under seven years old also. Clothing was even sent for little boys. Since the Lord has done far above what I could have expected, I. decided to establish an Infant Orphan House.
February 16, 1842. We had enough for breakfast, but nothing more came in during the morning. In the afternoon I again asked the Lord to send us help. I then sat down to meditate over the Word. I did not know whether there was a morsel of bread or tea in any of the houses, but I felt assured that the Lord would provide.
Through grace, my mind is fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord. In the midst of the greatest need, I am enabled to go about my other work in peace. Indeed, if the Lord did not give me this trust in Him, I would scarcely be able to work at all.
Soon after I sat down to meditate, a note was sent to me from the master of the orphan boys. He wrote, "When I visited the sisters in the Infant and Girls' Orphan Houses, I found them in the greatest need. There was no bread in one of the houses or tea this evening, and the six shillings sixpence was scarcely enough to supply what was needed for the dinner. I opened the offering box in the Boys' Orphan House and unexpectedly found one pound. Thus, through the kindness of the Lord, we were again abundantly supplied."
In the evening the Lord, in His love and faithfulness, blessed us again. I had preached at the meeting from the gospel of John. The last words on which I spoke were, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40). When the meeting was over, as a fresh proof of the truth of this Word, a note was given to me with five pounds for the orphans.
January 25, 1847. The season is approaching when the building may begin. I have prayed with increased earnestness that the Lord would speedily send the remainder of the required amount. I believe the time is drawing near when the Lord will give me all I need to begin to build. I rose from my knees this morning in full confidence not only that God could but also would send the money soon.
About an hour after I had prayed, the sum of two thousand pounds was given to me for the building fund. I cannot describe the joy I had in God when I received this donation. I have waited four hundred and forty-seven days upon God for the amount we needed. How great is the blessing the soul obtains by trusting in God and by waiting patiently. From December 10, 1845 to January 25, 1847, I have received, solely in answer to prayer, nine thousand two hundred and eighty-five pounds. The Lord is willing to give what will be needed once the new Orphan House is built, although the expenses will be about two thousand five hundred pounds a year more than they were before.
From the opening of this institution it had been my desire to use part of the funds to aid missionaries who are not supported by regular salary. During the last two years, the Lord has allowed me to do so in a far greater degree than before. I know that many who preach the Word do not have any salary to live on and are in need.
Some may say that these people should trust in God. If they preach Jesus as the only hope for the salvation of sinners, they should set a good example by trusting God for the supply of their temporal necessities. This would encourage unconverted people to trust in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls. But I also felt that I, as their brother, should try to help them as much as I could. My own money would go only a little way, so I began to pray more earnestly than ever for missionaries. The Lord answered my daily supplications, and I was honored to send nearly three times my usual amount of support to them.
I have asked God to direct me especially to send support to those who might be in particular need. I also tried to share with them an encouraging word to strengthen their hearts in God. These dear brethren have been helped not only by the money in a temporal way but also in the help that has refreshed and strengthened their hearts to trust in God even more.
January 20. "Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good" (Mark 14:7). The Lord spoke these words to His disciples, who were themselves very poor, implying that the children of God have power with God to bring temporal blessings upon poor saints or poor unbelievers through prayer. Accordingly, I have been led to ask the Lord for means to assist poor saints, and He has stirred His children to trust me with money for that purpose.
Therefore, I had been praying again for means to more extensively assist the poor saints in communion with us. Many of them are not merely tried by the usual temporal difficulties arising from winter, but especially from the high price of bread. This evening the Lord has given me the answer to my prayer. When I came home from the meeting, found a brother at my house who offered to give me ten pounds a week for twelve weeks to provide the poor saints with coal, clothing, and bread.
January 17, 1849. Further steps are to be taken to furnish the new Orphan House. More than two-thirds of the rooms are almost ready. I have prayed earnestly every day that the Lord would give me the money we still need. This evening I received six hundred pounds which will take care of the heavy expenses connected with furnishing the new Orphan House.
January 16. How very good is the Lord! Fervency of spirit, through His grace, is continued to me, although this morning, if not for the help of God, I would have lost it again. The weather has been very cold for several days, but today I felt it more, due to the weakness of my body.
I arose from my knees and stirred the fire, but I still felt very cold. I moved to another part of the room but felt even colder. At last, having prayed for some time, I decided to walk to help my circulation.
I entreated the Lord that this circumstance might not rob me of the precious communion I have had with Him the last three days-for this was the object at which Satan aimed. I also confessed my sin of irritability on account of the cold and sought to have my conscience cleansed through the blood of Jesus. He had mercy on me, and my peace was restored. When I returned, I sought the Lord again in prayer and had uninterrupted communion with Him.
January 15. My headache has become less severe since yesterday afternoon. But I am still far from being well. God is purifying me for His blessed service, and I will soon be restored to the work. Also, He has restored a fervency of spirit which I have now enjoyed for the past three days. He has drawn my soul into real communion with Himself and into a holy desire to be more conformed to His dear Son.
When God gives a spirit of prayer, it is easy to pray! I spent about three hours in prayer over Psalms 64 and 65. In reference to that precious word, "O thou that hearest prayer" (Psa. 65:2), I asked the Lord the following petitions and entreated Him to record them in heaven and to answer them: That He would give me grace to glorify Him by a submissive and patient spirit under my affliction.
That the work of conversion through Brother Craik and myself might not cease but go on as much now as when we first came to Bristol, and even more abundantly than then.
That He would give more spiritual prosperity to the church under our care than we have as yet enjoyed.
That His rich blessing would rest on this little work so that many may be converted through it and many benefited by it.
That He would bring salvation to all the children under our care.
That He would supply the means to carry on these institutions and to enlarge them.
I believe God has heard my prayers. He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me. I have recorded my petitions that when God has answered them, His name will be glorified.
January 14. I have set apart this evening for prayer, asking the Lord once more not to allow me to be mistaken in this thing. I have considered all the reasons against building another Orphan House. For the sake of clarity, I wrote them down.
Reasons against establishing another Orphan House for seven hundred Orphans: Would I be going beyond my spiritual capabilities? "For I say, through the grace giving unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God bath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).
If the Lord left me to myself, one tenth of the difficulties and trials I face would be enough to overwhelm me. But as long as He sustains me, I am carried through one difficulty after another. By God's help I would be able to bear other difficulties and trials. I expect an increase of faith with every fresh difficulty the Lord helps me through.
Would I be going beyond my physical and mental strength? Of all the objections against establishing another Orphan House, this is the only real difficulty. The whole management, direction, and vast correspondence of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution has depended on me alone these sixteen years and ten months. By hiring an efficient secretary, clerk, and an inspector of the schools, I might with God's help accomplish even more as the director.
If I felt sure that the present state of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution were to be the limit to my work, I would lay aside this thing at once. But I am not sure that I have reached God's limit. The Lord has helped me through all the difficulties in the past. Seeing this vast field of usefulness before me, and since I have many applications for the admission of orphans, I long to be used still further.
Is it like "tempting God" to think of building another Orphan House for seven hundred more orphans? "Tempting God" means, according to the Bible, to limit Him in any of His attributes. I do not wish to limit His power or His willingness to give me all the means I need to build another large Orphan House.
How will I get the money for building this large Orphan House? Even if I did, how will I, at the same time, get the money for carrying on the work that already exists? Looking at the matter naturally, this is indeed a weighty objection. But while I have no hope of succeeding on my own, I am not in the least discouraged spiritually. God has the power to give me the thirty-five thousand pounds I will need and much more. Moreover, I delight in the greatness of the difficulty. I want to be fully assured from the very outset that I go forward in this matter according to the Lord's will. If so, He will give me the means; if not, I will not have them. I do not intend to ask anyone personally for help, but I will give myself to prayer as I have in the past.
Suppose I succeed in getting this large Orphan House built. How will I be able to provide for seven hundred more orphans? I am too much a businessman not to realize the seriousness of this question. If I only looked at the thing naturally, I would admit that I am going too far. But spiritually, I see no difficulty at all. If I am able to build this second Orphan House, God will surely provide as He enables me to trust in Him for supplies.
Suppose I was able to obtain this large sum for building a house for seven hundred other orphans. Suppose I was able to provide for them during my lifetime. What would become of this institution after my death? My business is to serve my own generation with all my might. In this way I will best serve the next generation if the Lord Jesus tarries. He may come again soon. But if He tarries and I pass on before His return, my work will benefit the generation to come.
If this objection was a sound one, I should never have begun the orphan work at all for fear of what might become of it after my death. Thus all the hundreds of destitute children whom the Lord has allowed me to care for during the last fifteen years would not have been helped by me.
Would building another Orphan House cause me to be lifted up in pride? There is danger of this, even if I was not called to increase this ministry. One tenth of the honor the Lord has bestowed on me, and one tenth of service with which He has entrusted me, would be enough to puff me up with pride.
I cannot say that the Lord has kept me humble. But I can say that He has given me a hearty desire to give to Him all the glory and to consider it a great mercy on His part that He has used me in His service. I do not see, therefore, that fear of pride should keep me from going forward in this work. Rather, I ask the Lord to give me a humble attitude and never permit me to rob Him of the glory which is due to Him alone.
Reasons for establishing another Orphan House: Many applications for admission continue to come in. I consider it a call from God for me to do everything in my power to provide a home and scriptural education for a greater number of orphans. I cannot refuse to help as long as I see a door opened by God.
The moral state of the poorhouses greatly influences me to-go forward. I have heard from good authority that the children placed in these houses are corrupted by the immoral people who live there.
I am further encouraged by the great help which the Lord has given me in this blessed service. When I look at the small beginning and consider how the Lord has helped me for more than fifteen years in the orphan work, I am confident about going forward.
My experience and capabilities have grown with the wilt. As director of the work, under God, from Its smallest beginnings, I am responsible to Him to use the abilities He has given me. These things, in connection with the former reasons, seem to be a call from God to go forward in a greater degree than ever.
5. The spiritual benefit of more orphans is another reason why I feel called to go forward. I desire more for them than mere decency and morality. I want them to become useful members of society. We teach them to work and instruct them in useful skills for this life.
I cannot be satisfied with anything less than the orphans' souls being won for the Lord. Since this is the primary aim concerning the dear orphans, I long to be more extensively used than ever, even that I may have a thousand of them under my care.
My greatest desire is to show forth the glory of God and His readiness to hear prayer.
I am peaceful and happy in the prospect of enlarging the work. This perfect peace that I feel after all the heart-searching daily prayer and studying the Word of God would not be the case if the Lord had not intended to use me more.
Therefore, on the ground of the objections answered and these eight reasons for enlarging the work, I have come to the conclusion that it is the will of God that I should serve Him by enlarging this work.
January 12. Today I received a letter from a brother who gave me the right to draw upon his bank account during this year, up to one thousand pounds. It may be used for any brother or sister who have it in their hearts to serve as missionaries in the East Indies and whom I consider called for this service, as far as I am able to judge.
[This power lasted only for that year, but no suitable people offered themselves for this service. Finances can be obtained much more easily than suitable individuals. Indeed, in all my experience, I have found that if I could only settle that a certain thing to be done was according to the will of God, the money was soon obtained to carry it into effect.]
January 11. During the last week, the Lord not only supplied us richly with all we needed for the orphans, but He enabled us to put several pounds aside for printing the report. On Saturday evening only three shillings were left. I was expecting an answer to my prayers for funds, and the Lord did not disappoint me. More money came yesterday, and we now have enough to print the last part of the report.