DURING THE next seven years Mr. Muller’s problem was one of trusting for daily supplies. There were three houses to be maintained, and about a hundred orphans to be clothed and fed. The daily expenditure was heavy, the rent considerable, and the personal needs of his helpers were great. In addition to this, the work of the Institution, assisting schools, paying teachers, running Sunday schools and helping missionaries demanded a constant stream of money flowing in.
Early in 1838 sickness fell heavily upon the leader, and as his custom he went to his knees in the midst of his affliction. While reading the Bible his eyes fell upon the 68th Psalm and in the course of his meditation, the words “A father of the fatherless” stood out in mighty letters as a divine promise in this stressful hour.
“This word, ‘A father of the fatherless’,” he affirms, “contains enough encouragement to cast thousands of orphans, with all their needs, upon the loving heart of God.”
From then on the burdens were not his but the Lord’s. He cast them from his shoulders through loving trust upon the broad arms of the Master. During June God tested his faith by suddenly shutting off the gifts which had so abundantly flowed in. Muller took the matter to the Lord.
He enters in his Journal under date of July 22 (1838), “This evening I was walking in our little garden... meditating on Hebrews 13:8, ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.’...All at once the present need of the Orphan-House was brought to my mind. Immediately I was led to say to myself, Jesus in His love and power has hitherto supplied me with what I have needed for the Orphans, and in the same unchangeable love
and power He will provide with what I may need for the future. A flow of joy came into my soul...”
This soul joy was the fore announcer of a coming blessing. “About one minute later a letter was brought to me, enclosing a bill for twenty pounds,” he writes.
In this case God’s timing was perfect, for when the need existed, and Muller had prayed, the next moment the supply was forthcoming.
Throughout that turbulent year Mr. Muller’s faith was sorely tried, for often there was not a single penny in the houses; but God was leading him forth, proving and testing him in the smaller things, so that later he might be able to feed as many as two thousand children daily through the instrument of prayer.
On September 18 the funds were exhausted, and Mr. Muller thought of selling the things that could be done without in the homes. “This morning,” he writes, “I had asked the Lord, if it might be, to prevent the necessity of our doing so.”
That afternoon a lady from London, who had been staying in Bristol, brought a package with money in it from her daughter who had sent it several days before. “That the money had been so near,” declares Mr. Muller, “for several days without being given, is a plain proof that it was in the heart of God to help us; but because He delights in the prayers of His children, He had allowed us to pray so long...to try our faith and to make the answer so much the sweeter.”
During this time Mr. Muller’s health was not good and his friends asked him to go away for a rest, but he refused, saying, “I must remain to pass with my dear Orphans through the trial, though these dear ones know nothing about it, because their tables are as well supplied as when there was eight hundred pounds in the bank; and they have lack of nothing.”
Many times he was forced to say, “The funds are exhausted.” But not once did these words hold true overnight. Funds might have been depleted during the day, at times all day, again for hours, but when nightfall came there was something on hand for the next day. With this faith apostle, this meant daily trusting for today’s needs.
It was during these direful days that Muller declared, “Long before the trials came, I had more than once stated publicly that answers to prayer in the time of need — the manifestation of the hand of God stretched out for our help — were just the very ends for which the Institution was established.”
Sometimes in plenty, but oftener in poverty, his faith carried the orphanages on. Many times in dire straits the money would arrive at the very moment of prayer, or as he was reading the list of needs for the day. His trust in “the father of the fatherless” was so confident that not once did he turn a child away.
Under date of August 8, 1839, he affirms, “Though there is no money in hand, yet are we so little discouraged that we have received today one orphan boy, and have given notice for the admission of six other children, which will bring the number up to 98 altogether.”
Often gifts came in at the very instant of prayer. On March 5, 1839, he writes, “Whilst I was in prayer, Q. Q. sent a check for seven pounds...”
Closing the report for the year 1839, he sums up the bounteous blessing of God, saying, “For the Orphan Houses, without anyone having been asked by us, the sum of £3,067 8s. 9 1/4d. has been given entirely as the result of prayer to God, from the commencement of the work to December 9, 1839.”
The following year was started without enough money to carry through the first day. A peculiar incident occurred that day which showed Mr. Muller’s character. After the usual Watch night service, about an hour past midnight, a friend, whom Mr. Muller knew to be in debt, handed him a sealed envelope with money in it. “I resolved, therefore, without opening the paper to return it....This was done when I knew there was not enough in hand to meet the expenses of the day.”
Seven hours later, “about eight this morning,” a brother brought five pounds for the orphans. “Observe, the brother is led to bring it at once.” God honored Mr. Muller’s faith in giving back the money he knew the lady needed to pay her debts more than the orphans needed it.
On January 12, 1841, after he had been forced to delay printing his yearly report because of a lack of funds, he notes that the Lord supplies this need and in addition $5,000 was received for missionary work in the East Indies. Here is his prayer testimony concerning this the largest gift he had thus far received, “In all my experience I have found...that if I could only settle a certain thing to be done was according to the will of God, that means were soon obtained to carry it into effect.”
God never failed His servant. Often he was led through the valley of great want, but always to the shining peak of supply. God’s dealings were generous. One day in 1841 when Mr. Muller had taken only a shilling from the house box, a lady came with twopence, saying, “It is but a trifle, but I must give it.” It so happened that one of the pennies was needed to make up the amount of money necessary to buy bread!
A week later a single penny was needed to fill out the dinner menu...but no penny was in hand. When the Girls’ box was opened out rolled one penny. “Even the gift of a penny,” states Muller, “was thus evidently under the ordering of our kind Father.”
At the close of the year, he affirmed, “We are now brought to the close of the sixth year of this...work (December 9), having in hand only the money which has been put by for the rent; but during the whole of this year we have been supplied with all that was needed.”
During the next three years Mr. Muller literally fed the orphans out of God’s hand. The supply was almost like that of the manna in that it was to be gathered each day afresh. There was scarcely anything left over from one day to another. Often money had to be prayed in before breakfast could be eaten or the evening meal finished.
But Mr. Muller’s faith was so dominant that however much they need, he rested calmly in the divine assurance that God’s hand would contain a bounteous supply when the moment arrived. He and worry parted forever. Though he was deeply concerned, he never fretted at delay in receiving answers to his requests.
On February 15, 1842, his attitude is typical. “I sat peacefully down to give myself to meditation over the Word, considering that was now my service, though I knew not whether there was a morsel of bread for tea in any one of the houses, but being assured that the Lord would provide. For through grace my mind is so fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord, that in the midst of the greatest need, I am enabled in peace to go about my other work. Indeed, did not the Lord give me this, which is the result of trusting in Him, I should be scarcely able to work at all.”
His mind was fixed in God and would not be moved, for he knew at the proper time the money or the food would arrive.
March 19 began in poverty and dire need, only seven shillings having come in during three days. ‘There was not one ray of light as far as natural prospects.” So Mr. Muller proposed to his workers that the day be set for prayer. When they met at ten-thirty, immediately by three separate people twenty-one shillings were brought in. They called a similar session of prayer for the evening, for there were yet three shillings lacking. Before the evening service was over the three shillings had arrived, plus an additional three.
Week by week God led Muller into deeper lessons of trust, always closing the day’s trust sessions with a speedy answer. On April 12, he affirms, “We were never in greater need than today, perhaps never in so much, when I received this morning one hundred pounds from the East Indies. My prayer had been again this morning particularly that our Father would pity us, and now at last send larger sums. I was not in the least surprised or excited when this donation came, for I took it as that which came in answer to prayer and had been long looked for.”
During these testing days Mr. Muller was often asked how he managed to build such a strong faith in God. He replied that he endeavored to keep his faith in God strong not only for daily supplies of food for the orphans and money for the missionary work but also for the spiritual concern of the world.
“Let not Satan deceive you,” writes Mr. Muller during those faith-wrenching days, “in making you think you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have an appointment does not come...I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer...Thus in all my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader?”
In giving advice gained through daily trials of his faith, this father of the orphans laid down rules for Christians to follow by which they might also strengthen their faith. These rules are:
1. Read the Bible and meditate upon it. God has become known to us through prayer and meditation upon His own Word.
2 Seek to maintain an upright heart and a good conscience.
3. If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and therefore, through trial, be strengthened.
“The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is that we let God work for us, when the hour of trial of our faith comes, and do not work a deliverance of our own.”
“Would the believer therefore have his faith strengthened, he must give God time to work,” he declares.
The year 1843, as the previous, was one of trials and triumphs of faith. In June there was no money, but before each day was over prayer supplied the lack. In December came mighty loads upon Mr. Muller’s heart. He exercised faith and proclaimed that the work undertaken was not particularly to feed the orphans, as great as this was, nor for their spiritual welfare as glorious and blessed as this is.
“The primary object of the work is,” he observed, “to show before the whole world...that even in these last evil days the living God is ready to prove Himself as the living God, by being ever willing to help...and answer the prayers of those who trust in Him.”
Attesting the glorious supply which he daily obtained from God’s hand, he says, “The narrative of the events of these days is imperfect. The way in which the Lord stretched out His hand day to day, and from meal to meal, cannot be accurately described.”
Even his own personal needs were supplied by the Lord on this “each day for itself” basis.
For one hundred and thirty-four days he daily asked the Lord to send a gift a lady had promised in 1842. The answer came on March 8, 1843. He affirms, “Day after day now has passed away and the money did not come...whilst day by day I brought my petition before the Lord that He would bless this sister...At last, on the one hundred and thirty-fourth day since I daily besought the Lord about this matter...I received a letter from the sister, informing me that the five hundred pounds had been paid into the hands of my bankers.”
This day by day experience of eating from God’s outstretched hand was slowly leading up to a turning point in Mr. Muller’s career. God had far grander accomplishments in store for him than merely feeding a hundred orphans. At first God wanted to know whether his servant would be faithful to his prayer trust in these smaller matters before leading him forth to the greater work.
This new turn in affairs began on March 31, 1843, when Muller called at the Houses to make arrangements for the day, and a worker told him that a Miss G, who occupied house No. 4 on Wilson Street, had informed her that they wished to give up their house, and if possible wanted Mr. Muller to take it for another orphan House.
“When I came home,” Mr. Muller informs us, “this matter greatly occupied my mind. I could not but ask the Lord again and again whether He would have me to open another Orphan House, and whether the time was now come that I should serve Him still more extensively in this matter.”
He reviewed the situation carefully, finding that there were more applications for admission than he had room to care for, and that fifteen of the children in the Infant House were old enough to be promoted to the Girls’ House. Until this time there had been no other house on Wilson Street, near the present places occupied, for rent. There were also two sisters who would take care of the new house if and when opened.
In the bank was three hundred pounds of the recent large gift which could be used to furnish the new house.
Surveying these conditions, he turned to the Spirit for leadings. “I therefore gave myself to prayer. I prayed day after day, without saying anything to any human being. I prayed two and twenty days without mentioning it to my dear wife. On that day on which I had come to the conclusion...to establish another Orphan House, I received fifty pounds from A.B. What a striking confirmation that the Lord would help though the necessities should increase more and more.”
He realized what this added burden would mean. For five years he had trusted each day for its supplies, and the new house would only increase this load on his faith life. In spite of this his belief in God commanded a forward march, for Muller never tired of “this precious way of depending upon the Lord from day to day.”
While he was praying about the new house, a lady from Germany, recently blessed by his work, asked him to visit that country. She felt his influence would be a benediction to his native land. But it seemed unwise for Mr. Muller to leave at the time, and besides, it would require many hundreds of pounds to leave with the overseers for the orphans, as well as to finance his trip. Moreover, he desired to publish a German edition of his life story, “A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with Mr. George Muller.”
The publication alone would take between a hundred and two hundred pounds. Yet he realized however great the obstacles, if it be the Lord’s will, he would go. “I could not but pray about it,” he informs us. “I could not but feel drawn to go to Germany in love of the Lord and in pity towards the poor Church of Christ in that country.” He remembered the few truly converted ministers to be found there and in Prussia when he was a young man. His faith began to prevail.
“I had a secret satisfaction,” he writes, “in the greatness of the difficulties...So far from being cast down on account of them, they delighted my soul...I did nothing but pray. Prayer and faith...helped me over the difficulties.”
From the human standpoint there was little prospect of receiving the necessary funds, but leaving the matter to the Lord, he was overwhelmed with a peaceful calm. “...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.”
Less than fifteen minutes after he had prayed on July 12, God sent in seven hundred and two pounds three shillings and seven pence. Early in August, after fifty days of waiting on the Lord, he and his wife were on their way to Germany.
While in Stuttgart, Mr. Muller labored to reform the Strict Baptist Church in the city, but met with severe opposition. While the visit seemed a failure, however, it was checkered with a blessing. For he was enabled while there to translate the “Narrative” into German and 4,000 copies came from the press before he sailed for Bristol in February, 1844.
After a second German trip, where he reestablished the work of faith begun in Stuttgart, he returned to England to begin anew his prayer quest for funds to open the fourth orphan house. When he was to take the house offered him on Wilson Street, a difficulty arose which caused him to examine carefully God’s will in the matter.
Before going on his first German trip he felt certain that God was opening the way for the house to be operated. For nearly ten years he had rented houses for his orphans, and “had never had any desire to build an Orphan House. On the contrary, I decidedly preferred spending the means which might come in for present necessities, and desired rather to enlarge the work according to the means the Lord might be pleased to give. Thus it was till the end of October, 1845, when I was led to consider this matter in a light in which I had never done before.”
God was preparing to thrust him forth in another faith adventure which would surpass even his most extended dreams. God had been carefully schooling him in trust lessons, and now that he had learned how to believe for daily supplies, and for months had literally been fed meal by meal from God’s hand, the Father of the fatherless was to open a new and untried door for him.
Mr. Muller was willing to step into any door the Master would set ajar.
The matter climaxed in a decidedly unusual manner on October 31, 1845. When he was about to rent the vacated house near his other properties, a man wrote stating that the orphan houses were a detriment to the neighboring house owners. He was courteous and kindly in his remarks, but firm nevertheless. The man felt that in various ways the neighbors were inconvenienced by the Orphan Houses on Wilson Street. He left the matter to Mr. Muller’s wise judgment.
This was a new item which Muller’s faith had not previously faced. He did, however, want to live peacefully with his neighbors, so he took the request to prayer. Carefully he weighed the pro and con arguments for moving from Wilson Street. To move, he knew, meant to build, and up until this time he had not thought it God’s will to take this step of faith. But God’s time was about to arrive and Mr. Muller had learned to step when God’s hour struck, however massive the problem or vexing the difficulty.
From "George Muller - the Man of Faith" by Basil Miller
GRADUALLY GOD’S providence led Mr. Muller to the sphere of his life’s work. Now at Bristol, after the young minister’s soul had been strengthened by eighteen months of trust for the success of the Institution, God was ready to thrust him forth into his real mission. Other activities were but preparatory to the orphanage work. God had at length through the devious paths of providence faith-energized a man to whom He could trust this important activity.
For months Mr. Muller had been thinking about founding an orphanage. He had prayed about it often, and his classes for destitute children and older folks gradually led him to the decision that God’s time had finally arrived.
On November 20, 1835, he found at a sister’s house a life of Franke which touched the wellsprings of his ambition. He wrote, “I have frequently, for a long time, thought of laboring in a similar way.” The following day he entered in his Journal, “Today I have had it very much impressed on my heart no longer merely to think about the establishment of an orphan house, but actually to set about it. I have been very much in prayer regarding it...to ascertain the Lord’s mind.”
These were the soul-beginnings of the ambitious plan. On December 2 he was to take the first outward and formal step toward bringing into reality this prayer dream. He says, “Therefore, I have this day taken the first actual step in the matter, in having ordered bills to be printed, announcing a public meeting on December 9, at which I intend to lay before the brethren my thoughts concerning the orphan house...”
Mr. Muller was not to wait for the brethren’s opinion, advice or first-fruits of meager gifts. For on December 5 while reading the Bible at
his evening prayer season, the Scriptures blazed forth in a text which inspired his faith to immediate action.
“This evening,” he affirms, “I was struck in reading the Scriptures with these words, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ I was led to apply this scripture to the orphan house, and ask the Lord for premises, one thousand pounds and suitable individuals to take care of the children.” His faith flamed forth when God spoke.
From that moment this text formed one of his life mottoes, and the promise became a power in molding his future work. The text was his check on heaven’s bank, and cashable for any needed amount, so Muller’s faith attested.
God’s seal on the work was not long in coming, for his faith obtained the substance in the form of a gift, the first of many thousands. Muller’s diary entry is short, but meaningful, “Today I received the first shilling for the orphan house.” This was only two days after his memorable outreach of faith for the orphanage.
On the afternoon of the meeting, December 9, came the first gift of furniture in form of a large wardrobe. Concerning that night meeting, more or less a form since God had put his sanction upon the work and gifts had already been coming in through Muller’s faith, the faith-venturing preacher says, “As soon as I began to speak at the meeting I received peculiar assistance from God. After the meeting ten shillings were given me. There was purposely no collection.... After the meeting a sister offered herself for the work. I went home, happy in the Lord and full of confidence that the matter would come to pass.”
The following morning a statement of the meeting was given to the press. Immediate response burst forth following the news article, and gifts began to come in, as well as offers of life services of the givers themselves.
On December 10 Muller received a letter, one of the many scores which were to follow during his long orphanage career, “We propose ourselves for the service of the intended orphan house, if you think us qualified for
it, also to give up all the furniture, etc., which the Lord has given us, for its use; and to do this without receiving any salary whatever; believing that if it be the will of the Lord to employ us, He will supply all our needs.”
Since that day there has never been a lack of competent, cheerful and devoted helpers, though the work rapidly extended beyond Muller’s strongest dreams.
In the evening of the same day, as tokens from the Lord, individuals sent in “three dishes, twenty-eight plates, three basins, one jug, four mugs, three saltstands, one grater, four knives and five forks.” On December 12 came more dishes and fifty pounds for the work. On the thirteenth came twenty-nine yards of print, “also a sister offered herself for the work.” Mr. Muller reported one gift with the same calm and equipoise as the other.
On the next day came eight shillings and “a brother and sister offered themselves.” Still there were no surprise remarks from the apostle of trust, for he had believed that God would fill his open mouth, and in this filling all came as from God. Similar gifts continued daily.
Came basins and mugs and dessert spoons, a skimmer, a toasting fork and a dredge, also pillow cases and table cloths, as well as “fifty-five yards of sheeting, and twelve yards of calico.”
The orphanage was on its way...for the bounteous hand of God was overflowing with gifts.
On December 17 Mr. Muller turned down the gift of $500 from a poor woman, thinking that she was unable to give so much. She was weak in body and her weekly earnings were less than a dollar.
“But,” she replied in triumphant faith, “the Lord Jesus has given His last drop for me, and should I not give Him this hundred pounds?”
The gift Mr. Muller discovered had come through the death of the girl’s grandmother, and he accepted it with gratitude to God for using “this
poor, sickly sister as an instrument in so considerable gift, for helping at its very commencement the work.”
At last Mr. Muller was able to set a definite date for opening an orphans’ house for girls. As funds came in he secured a large house, No. 6 North Wilson Street, where he had been living for some time, by renting it for one year. April 1, 1836, was set as the formal opening day. He informed the public that he would receive applications for entrance, and shortly after he intimated that a second house would be opened to receive small children, both boys and girls.
During the weeks that Mr. Muller had prayed in the materials for the house, the funds for the rent and its equipment, the laborers to carry on the work, he had forgotten to pray for orphans. And on the opening day not one applicant was received!
He had taken it for granted that the children would come. He spent two hours at the house waiting for applicants, and then dejectedly walked home. On his way this thought rushed to his mind, “I have prayed about everything connected with this work — for money, for a house, for helpers, about the various articles of furniture, etc., but I have never asked the Lord to send me orphans.’’
That night he laid low in prayer, prevailing with God to send children for the home. Faith once more gained a divine audience, for the very next day he received the first application for entrance. Within a month forty-two children were seeking admission, with twenty-six already in the home and more arriving daily.
Throughout the year there were to be testings of personal faith, but God never failed him. As a sample of such trials on November 30 he writes, “Being in great need, I was led, yesterday morning, earnestly to ask the Lord; and in answer to this petition a brother gave me, last evening, ten pounds.” Morning prayer was answered by the evening gift.
Mr. Muller testifies that in his lifetime fifty thousand such specific prayers were answered. Years before he died, about the middle of his
career, he affirmed that up to that time five thousand of his definite prayers had been answered on the day of asking.
He made it a habit to keep a notebook with two page entries. On one page he gave the petition and the date, and on the opposite page he entered the date of the answer. In this manner he was able to keep record of definite petitions, and their specific answers. He recommended this form to believers who desired specific results to their prayers. Thus there is no guesswork as to when God answers prayers.
At the beginning of 1836 Mr. Muller had asked for a thousand pounds and an orphanage house along with its equipment. In reviewing that year’s work, he found that God had given him his first orphanage house on Wilson Street, and seven months after the opening of the first house he obtained another one located at No. 1 Wilson Street. This received its first children on November 18. A review of his financial returns showed gifts for the orphanages of seven hundred and seventy pounds, and he himself had received for his personal needs two hundred and thirty-two pounds.
During that year, God furnished more than the $5,000 asked as the initial starter of the work. Closing the first orphanage year, he relates, “On December 31, we had this evening a prayer meeting to praise the Lord for His goodness during the past year, and to ask Him for a continuance of His favors.”
The blessings of God were so numerous that by April 8, 1837, there were thirty orphans in each house, No. 6 Wilson Street caring for older girls and No. 1 giving a home to young boys and girls.
The founder of this work, asking at first for a hundred pounds, affirms that in his own mind the thing was as good as done, and he often thanked God for the sum as though already in hand. When about to print his “Narrative of the Lord’s Dealings,” he took it in mind to ask God for the total sum, not counting what had come in for his own needs, before the book issued from the press.
“He therefore gave himself anew to prayer; and on June 15th the whole sum was complete...” writes Mr. Pierson. No appeal was made to the public, God alone receiving his petitions daily for eighteen months and ten days.
It was in the year 1837 that Mr. Muller, then thirty-two, felt a deep conviction that his own growth in grace and power for service were indispensable for the promotion of the work. He sought two things; first more retirement for secret prayer and communion with God and provision for the spiritual oversight of the church, the total number of communicants being at this time nearly four hundred. He found himself too busy to pray as he ought.
After learning the lesson of being busy in the work of the Lord, too busy in fact to pray, he told his brethren that four hours of work after an hour of prayer would accomplish more than five hours without prayer. This rule henceforth he faithfully kept.
Considering the fact that there were now two distinct churches to be looked after, and also two orphanage houses, there was a meeting in October of that year where the two congregations decided to unite into one, to lessen the separate meetings conducted each week.
On October 21 another house was secured in Wilson Street which was opened to receive orphan boys. Mr. Muller now had under his care ninety-six orphans. His prayer for premises, suitable helpers and the thousand pounds were abundantly answered.
He remarks, “When I was asking the petition I was fully aware what I was doing, i.e. asking for something that I had no natural prospect of getting from the brethren I knew, but which was not too much for the Lord to grant.”
In reviewing the year 1837, Muller states, “Ninety, therefore, daily sit down to table. Lord, look on the necessities of thy servant” — a prayer which God abundantly answered. Not once during the year was a single meal unsupplied. Throughout all his experience in conducting the
orphanages this servant of God testifies that no meal, even when he was feeding two thousand orphans daily by faith, was more than thirty minutes late.
At the opening of the boys’ house Mr. Muller received his first legacy, which was from a little boy who saved some funds during his fatal illness. Knowing that he was soon to die, the lad asked that his savings, amounting to a little more than $1.50, be sent to Mr. Muller. The minister took it as his first legacy, and though small in amount, he believed that God was peculiarly placing his approval upon the new venture of the boys’ house.
Many asked Mr. Muller how he sought to know the will of God, in that nothing was undertaken, not even the smallest expenditure, without feeling certain he was in God’s will. In the following words he gave his answer:
And did this plan work? one asks. Let Mr. Muller’s testimony answer.
“I never remember,” he wrote three years before his death, “in all my Christian course, a period now (in March, 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY AND PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the Word of the living God, I made great mistakes.” (Italics his.)
When asked why he undertook the work of the Institution, Mr. Muller replied, “The first and primary object of the Institution was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the Orphans under my care were, and are, provided with all they need only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it might be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL AND HEARS PRAYER STILL.”
MULLER was ready at length for his life’s work. God had brought him from Prussia to England and had taught him lessons in trust. Every leaning post had been removed. This apostle of faith had laid down those principles of trust by which his future was to be marked. He looked entirely to God for spiritual direction as well as for physical supplies. For what telling he had to do, henceforth he was to seek only the ear of God.
One thing was lacking, which God in a devious manner was about to furnish, and that was a location for his faith idea to germinate into a living reality. Muller was at Teignmouth where for two and a half years God gently taught him lessons in trust. Now God was ready for him to begin work in Bristol.
Muller tells the turning events in a few sentences in his “Life of Trust.” “April 13. Found a letter from Brother Craik, from Bristol...He invites me to come and help him...It seems to me as if I should shortly go, if the Lord permit.”
These were short sentences, brief words, yet mean meaningful in the light of God’s plan for Muller’s future. On the following day he wrote, “Wrote to Brother Craik, in which I said I should come, if I clearly saw it to be the Lord’s will.
“This was the bend in his life’s road, and the proviso was written into the letter as well as designed into Muller’s experience...if the Lord will. Always the minister made his plans only when God plainly indicated that human plans and the divine will coincided.
In 1829 Mr. Muller had met a kindred spirit in Henry Craik, both being university-trained men, who had been spiritually awakened at their
respective universities, Craik in Scotland and Muller in Halle. Shortly before Muller had begun preaching on the second coming of Christ as being in accordance with the Scriptures, and Craik held to similar views. This drew the two men together as kindred souls.
Due to the death of Craik’s wife, he had met a friend from Bristol who had invited him to accept work in the city, serving as pastor of the Gideon Chapel
A month after he had located in Bristol he wrote to his old friend George Muller to come and help him. For some time the young minister had felt that his work was done at Teignmouth, though God had signally prospered him in his parish with an increase in membership from eighteen to fifty-one. When Craik’s letter arrived he told his congregation of the invitation.
“I reminded them,” he says, “of what I had told them when they requested me to take the oversight of them, that I could make no certain engagement, but stay only so long with them as I should see it to be the Lord’s will to do so.”
After a visit to Bristol on April 21, 1832, where he preached at the Gideon Chapel and later at the Pithay Chapel, Mr. Muller decided it was God’s will to leave his Teignmouth congregation. Accordingly he and Mr. Craik laid down conditions for the new congregation to accept before they would become pastors of the work.
On May 15 two letters arrived from Bristol in which the Gideon folk accepted the terms, which were, “to consider us only as ministering among them, but not in any fixed pastoral relationship, so that we may preach as we consider it to be according to the mind of God, without reference to any rules among them; that the pew rents should be done away with, and that we should go on, respecting the supply of our temporal wants, as in Devonshire.”
In less than ten days Muller and his wife moved to Bristol. At last he was in the setting for God’s plan to be carried out through the simple expedient
of Muller’s faith. Within a month after arriving in the city God opened another station to these two preachers, Craik and Muller. The Bethesda Chapel was engaged for them, thus giving each a pulpit.
The two spiritual leaders of the congregations diligently entered upon their duties, preaching faithfully the word of redemption. When the cholera broke out that summer they visited the sick and risked their lives to care for the dying. “Who may be next, God alone knows,” wrote Mr. Muller, displaying the dreadful tension which existed as the scourge raged. “I have never realized so much the nearness of death...Just now, ten in the evening, the funeral bell is ringing, and has been ringing the greater part of the evening. It rings almost all the day. Into thine hands, O Lord, I commend myself.”
Through that dreadful summer the blessings of God were signally upon the two chapel groups. On January 4, 1833, the congregations were slightly disturbed at the thought of losing their pastors. For on that day Muller and Craik received a letter from Bagdad inviting them to go there as missionaries. Enclosed in the letter of invitation was a draft for $1,000 to cover their traveling expenses. But the glory of the Lord had been so blessed upon their chapel services that the pastors decided to remain at their Bristol posts of duty.
“The meetings for inquirers were so largely attended that, though they sometimes lasted for more than four hours, it was frequently the case that many...had to be sent away for lack of time and strength on the part of the two workers,” declares Mr. Muller.
For eight years the Gideon Chapel, jointly with the Bethesda Chapel, was the scene of their spiritual ministrations.
At the close of 1833 Muller took stock of God’s dealings with him since he had begun to live by faith alone in the promises of God. He found that his income for this time was approximately $3,700, whereas his stated salary for the same length of time would have been only about $900.
“During the last three years,” he affirms in reviewing his income through faith, “I never have asked anyone for anything; but, by the help of the Lord, I have been enabled at all times to bring my wants to Him, and He graciously supplied them all.”
The previous year Mr. Muller had been given a copy of August H. Franke’s life, and as time permitted he read it through. The inspiration of Franke proved a great boon to Muller’s faith, for it showed him that God for thirty years during Franke’s life had been able to supply all the needs for nearly 2,000 orphans, and that for a hundred years the noble work had been continued through faith.
Muller was touched by the condition of the orphans and street gamins round about him, and he decided as inspired by Franke’s work to gather them around him for instruction. At eight o’clock in the morning he gathered the children from the street to his home, fed them a little breakfast, and then for an hour and a half taught them out of the Scriptures. The work increased on his hands until it included older folk as well.
He found himself feeding from thirty to forty such persons, and as the number increased the Lord’s provisions also increased. One kept pace with the other.
“God had planted a seed in the soil of Mr. Muller’s heart, presently to spring up in the orphan work,” writes A. T. Pierson. While the plan was not then carried to fruition, still the central thought was not lost sight of. “This thought ultimately,” declares the apostle of faith, “issued in the formation of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution and in the establishment of the Orphan Houses.”
Doubtless February 21, 1834, was the crowning day up to that time of God’s dealings with George Muller. “I was led this morning to form a plan for the establishing, upon Scriptural principles, of an institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. I trust this matter is of God...”
Several reasons prompted this action. Other societies, he held, were formed on the assumption that the world would gradually become better and better, “and at last the whole world will be converted.” This belief he held to be contrary to the Bible and hence could not endorse it.
The worldly connection of other societies was contrary to God’s Word. “The connection with the world is too marked in these religious societies, for every one who pays a guinea...is considered a member...and has a right to vote.”
Other societies asked the unconverted for money, which was contrary to Mr. Muller’s principles. The leaders in such societies were oftentimes wealthy, but unregenerate, individuals without a true knowledge of God. A final reason for not believing in existing organizations was that they contracted debts, which long ago God had taught him to be unworthy of a trustful life.
“It appeared to us to be his will,” Muller explains, “that we should be entirely separate from these societies...”
Accordingly on the evening of March 5, 1834, a public meeting was held where “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad” was formed. The founding of the Institution was accompanied by a statement of principles and objects, which in substance are as follows:
The principles were stated thus:
The objects of the Institution were:
1. To assist day schools, Sunday schools. “We consider it unscriptural that any person who does not profess to know the Lord themselves should be allowed to give religious instruction.” “The Institution does not assist any adult school...except the teachers are believers.”
2 To circulate the Holy Scriptures.
3. To aid missionary efforts. “We desire to assist those missionaries whose proceedings appear to be most according to the Scriptures.”
This indeed is a large order for an institution whose founder wrote two days later, “Today we have only one shilling left” — only one shilling between two preachers and their families. There were no patrons, no committees, and no membership. There was to be no asking for funds, and the responsibility rested solely upon the frail efforts of two ministers, both of whom were decidedly poor!
The worldly outlook was small indeed. But Muller had mastered the lesson on outlooks — for he lived by the heavenly uplook, and not the earthly outlook!
Whatever might have been thought of the Institution in its beginning, and its principles of organization, it has continued operation upon the same plan for more than a hundred years with God as its sole patron and prayer as its only appeal. Its worldwide work has been signally blessed and prospered.
God had found a man he could trust and used him as His instrument in giving birth to this work. Muller was missionary spirited, for during his earlier years he had tried to become officially connected with some missionary endeavor. He had learned to take counsel and direction entirely from God. He had discovered the power for spiritual endowment which
lies in Bible reading, and had filled his soul with God’s Word so that he might test his daily walk by these principles which God had inspired.
Another source of his spiritual strength was found in cutting loose from worldly attachments. He would not even as much as give money to a school or a Sunday school where the teachers were not believers, nor would he ask for money from anyone, let alone the fact that he would not list wealthy patrons as promoters of his work. He had renounced self, the world and its attachments, that he might give himself to secret prayer. Out of such endeavors flowed the stream of his power with God.
With God as its Patron, prayer as its appeal, believing workers at its head, the Institution could but flourish.
During the first seven months money began to flow in so that active work was undertaken. Almost a hundred and sixty-eight pounds were contributed by various persons, which was carefully expended to promote the objects of the work. During this time in the Sunday school 120 children received instruction; 40 in the Adult school; 209 children were taught in the four Day schools, two for boys and two for girls, 54 of this number being free pupils and the others paying part of their expenses.
The work of Bible distribution, always a large object for promotion, began at once. During the initial seven months 482 Bibles and 520 New Testaments were circulated while $285 was given to aid missionary activities.
On January 21, 1835, Mr. Muller entered in his Journal these words, “Received in answer to prayer from an unexpected quarter, five pounds for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The Lord pours in, whilst we seek to pour out.” This was always his plan of operation. He sought God to pour in the supplies, and he diligently furnished sources through which they might be distributed. As long as Muller saw to the careful distribution of money and supplies, God never failed in pouring in the needed materials.
He had struck a partnership with God, and had promised to dispense whatever the Almighty provided. The partnership remained constant to the end.
Working so diligently in promoting the Institution whose object was to reach the unconverted abroad as well as at home, Mr. Muller often in those early years felt a pull on his heart toward foreign missionary service. On January 28, he entered in his Journal, “I have...prayed much to ascertain whether the Lord will have me to go as a missionary to the East Indies, and I am most willing to go...” The following day he wrote, “I have been greatly stirred up to pray about going to Calcutta as a missionary. May the Lord guide me in this matter.”
Forty-two years later he said about those early missionary longings, “After all my repeated and earnest prayer in the commencement of 1835, and willingness on my part to go, if it were the Lord’s will, still He did not send me.”
During those forty-two years and the subsequent twenty-one years until his death, Mr. Muller accomplished more for missions by remaining in England and by praying in funds than had he gone to one of the many mission fields to which his heart was drawn. God knew he would do more by praying than going, so He kept him in Bristol, from which emanated streams of influence and spiritual power felt around the world.
From the birth of this idea — the founding of the Institution — during Muller’s lifetime more than seven and a half million dollars were to be poured into the coffers of the work, through this man’s prayer.
And never from the beginning until the present day, now more than forty-two years after Mr. Muller’s death, has a single person been asked to contribute. God still remains the Institution’s sole Patron, as He was during the years of the apostle of faith’s earthly ministry.
There were greater things ahead in this thirty-year-old minister’s life, which should branch from the work already started. Muller was to be God’s friend of the homeless waifs, and God was but seasoning him for
his enlarged battle of faith. The idea was already at work in George’s soul; he was but waiting the full knowledge that now is God’s time.
For when God’s moment arrived, Muller was never a moment late.
From George Muller: The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
THE REST at Devonshire acted as a tonic to Muller’s worn body, but the greatest blessing came to his soul. His prayer had been that God would bless the journey to the benefit of body and soul. “In the beginning of September (1829) I returned to London, much better in body, and as to my soul, the change was so great that it was like a second conversion.”
At once he must find something to do for the Master. He decided to start a prayer meeting for the seminary students, by calling them together for devotions from six until eight each morning. His soul became so enrapt with the joy of prayer after these services that throughout the day he lingered long before God’s throne. Often in the evening at family devotions he would continue until midnight praying, in the morning to awake and call the students to the six o’clock meeting again.
Becoming impatient at his missionary inactivity, he asked the Society to allot him work to do among the Jews, but when the letter brought no response he started his labors, whether officially appointed or not. He distributed tracts, taught a Sunday school class of Jewish boys with about fifty in attendance, and read the Bible to them.
While waiting to be sent out into God’s work by man, Mr. Muller was led by the Spirit to feel that this waiting for appointment was wrong; that instead he should receive orders only from the Holy Spirit as Paul and Barnabas were sent forth. He wrote the Society while spending the Christmas vacation with some friends at Devon, and frankly stated his views.
He offered to labor without salary, with the proviso that they permit him to work wherever the Lord might direct.
His faith began to look beyond man to God for spiritual direction as well as for physical needs. This was a forward step in his soul pilgrimage. It was a lesson in trust that the young disciple must experience before God was ready to use him. He had previously been convinced though a stranger in England he need have no anxiety for his temporal needs — “as long as I really sought to serve the Lord...as long as I sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness, these my temporal wants would be added unto me.”
Through reading the Bible promises had been emblazoned on his memory, and these promises he believed to be sources of divine supply. In making this life altering decision he found the following verses of special import:
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, they will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
(John 14:13, 14.
“Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not...yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6: 25 – 26)
Strengthened by these gracious words his faith leaped forth — he need trust no longer in man when God had bid him come and receive.
The answer from the Society arrived late in January of 1830, stating that his connection with them was at an end. While this door of being a missionary to the Jews was closed, God was opening another into which he was to step. In his twenty-fifth year he looked out upon the world as a field of service and was willing to be led — as well as fed — by the Spirit. He remained in the South of Devon preaching wherever an opportunity came. The Ebenezer Chapel was among the places he visited. On New Year’s day, 1831, he attended services at the chapel where he spoke on the difference between a Christian and a happy Christian, “and showed them whence it generally comes that we rejoice so little in the Lord.”
He was requested to bring an afternoon message, and at its close it was suggested that he begin a series of ten o’clock morning messages on the book of Romans. During these morning meetings the Ebenezer congregation asked that he become their pastor. The group on this point was not unanimous. “Some of them left and never returned; some left, but returned after a while; others came to the chapel who had not been in the habit of attending previous to my coming,” Mr. Muller affirms.
There was no little stir in the congregation because of the services “of this foreigner,” as some of them expressed it. Some delighted in the food for their souls, caring little about the form, but others bitterly opposed the work of Christ. “There was,” Muller writes, “in addition to this, a great stir, a spirit of inquiry, and a searching of the Scriptures...And what is more than all, God set his seal upon the work in converting sinners. Twelve weeks I stood in this position, whilst the Lord graciously supplied my temporal wants, through two brethren, unasked for.”
After this the whole little church, eighteen in number, extended a call for him to become their permanent pastor. The brethren were generous in their financial offer, stating the salary to be £55, or $275 a year. 1
[(1)An English pound in this connection represents approximately $5.00, and in this book is used on such a basis]
While waiting on the Lord to give His answer to the call, for he had desired to travel from place to place preaching the gospel, Muller received a new light on baptism. He was preaching at Sidmouth in April, when three ladies asked his opinion on the subject.
“I do not think that I need to be baptized again,” he replied. “But have you been baptized?” one asked.
“Yes, when I was a child.”
“Have you ever read the Scriptures and prayed with reference to the subject?”
Mr. Muller had to admit that he had not.
“Then,” one of them said, “I entreat you never to speak any more about it till you have done so.”
This searcher after light took these remarks to heart and when he had diligently read such passages as Acts 8:36 – 38 and Romans 6:3–6, he said, “I saw that believers only are the proper subjects for baptism, and that immersion is the only true Scriptural mode in which it ought to be attended to.” Accordingly he was immersed.
It was during the same summer that on reading the Bible it seemed Scriptural “and according to the example of the Apostles (Acts 20:7) to break bread every Lord’s day, though there is no commandment given to do so either by the Lord, or by the Holy Ghost through the apostles.” From reading Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 he also reached the conclusion that there should be given a place in their meetings for brethren to speak freely, either to testify, exhort, or teach, as the Holy Spirit led them.
God was gradually leading Mr. Muller to trust the Scriptures for guidance in matters of conscience. By yielding in minor things, he found it not difficult to yield and obey in the realm of trusting God for all his supplies...a decision which was soon to be made.
He was about to take an important step in his life, the selection of a companion. The guidance of God in this action was sought diligently through prayer and Bible reading. Friends had told him when he first landed in England of Mr. Groves, the Exeter dentist, who had given up an excellent salary to be a missionary. In the course of his preaching he met Mary Groves, the missionary’s sister, and after a short courtship, much prayer and meditation upon the matter, they were married on October 7 in a simple ceremony at the home of a friend. And for more than forty years God blessed this union.
“She was a rare woman and her price was above rubies,” writes A. T. Pierson. “The heart of her husband trusted in her and the great family of orphans who were to her as children rise up even to this day to call her blessed.”
Shortly before his marriage the thought of a stated salary worried Mr. Muller, for he felt that his should be a life of trust in God and not in the promise of the brethren. He found three reasons why he should give up a fixed remuneration.
1. A salary implies a fixed sum, generally made up of pew rents. But according to James 2:1 – 6, “pew rents are against the mind of the Lord.”
2. A fixed pew rent may at times become a burden to the follower of Christ and Mr. Muller did not wish to lay the smallest straw in the way of the church’s spiritual progress.
3. The whole system of pew rents and salary are liable to become a snare to the minister, in that he works for hire rather than for spiritual reasons.
At the end of October, within a month after his marriage, he announced to the Teignmouth congregation that henceforth he would receive no regular salary, and would trust wholly in the Lord for his needs. He asked that a box be placed in the chapel where whoever desired to help him might leave his offering. Henceforth he was to ask no one, “not even my beloved brethren and sisters, to help me...For unconsciously I had been led to trust in an arm of flesh, going to man instead of going to the Lord at once.”
Shortly afterward he and his wife were impressed with the text, “Sell that ye have and give alms,” and literally were led to obey the command. “Our staff and support in this matter,” he affirms when the great test came, “were Matthew 6:19 – 34 and John 14:13,14. We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus.”
From that time on never once did Mr. Muller and his wife regret taking this step. Tests of faith were soon to come, as they came throughout Muller’s long Christian career-trek; but he leaned heavily on the Master’s strong arm, knowing full Ëwell that if God clothed the sparrows, fed and housed them, He would not forsake him. This was to be a walk of faith
and not of sight, and the servant was to learn the lesson of trust through the school of experience.
During the first year the Lord dealt gently with his followers. Mr. Muller exults in saying, “He did not try our faith much at the commencement, but gave us first encouragement, and allowed us to see His willingness to help us before He was pleased to try it more fully.” When the year closed the young minister was able to affirm that the Lord had “richly supplied all our temporal wants, though at the commencement we had no certain human prospect of a single shilling, so that..,we have not been in the smallest degree a loser in acting according to the dictates of conscience. The Lord dealt bountifully with me, and has condescended to use me as an instrument in doing His work.”
The year 1831 was to be one of testing Muller’s faith, for many times there was not a single shilling left in the house, though at the proper moment faith’s reward came in the form of money and supplies.
One morning when their money had been reduced to eight shillings (about
$2.00, a shilling equaling approximately 25c), Muller asked the Lord for money. For four hours the preacher waited but still no reply. Then a lady came to the house.
“Do you want any money?” she asked.
Faith was tested, yet remained triumphant, and the minister replied, “I told the brethren, dear sister, when I gave up my salary, that I would for the future tell the Lord only about my wants.”
“But,” she replied, reaching for her purse, “He has told me to give you some money,” laying in his hand two guineas.
For three days in the first of January, on the 6th, 7th and 8th, real testings came when their money was exhausted. Muller prayed faithfully, and one day the devil assaulted him severely, causing the minister almost to decide that he had gone too far in this way of trust. Then came faith’s victory and the devil fled. As he returned to his room he found that a sister in the Lord had brought in about eleven dollars. “So the Lord triumphed and our faith was strengthened.”
Once the minister’s faith was anxious when he saw a brother open the chapel box, for he was in dire need of money. He would not ask the brother for what came in, since he often stated in the pulpit, “I desire to look neither to man nor the box, but to the living God.” Muller resorted to prayer, asking the Lord to incline the man’s heart to bring the money. Shortly the box money was given him, amounting to one pound, eight shillings and sixpence.
God was gradually leading the young minister to test His promises and see whether they were true. On February 14 there was very little money in the parsonage purse, when Muller resorted to prayer, asking God to supply. “The instant,” Muller testifies, “I got up from my knees a brother gave me one pound...”
Late in the year rent day came and there was no money to pay it. After prayer the money was sent in to cover the obligation. Concerning this incident Muller lays down a principle to which he always remained constant. “I would just observe that we never contract debts, which we believe to be unscriptural (according to Romans 13:8), and therefore we have no bills...but all we buy we pay for in ready money. Thus we always know how much we have and how much we have a right to give away.”
This was one principle upon which he was to conduct his orphanage work, and never once did he break over from the rule of not going into debt.
God led this disciple of faith along paths of trust. Many times there was not even bread in the parsonage for the next meal, but in sufficient time bread arrived. He tells of one such incident thus, “Our bread was hardly enough for the day...After dinner, when I returned thanks, I asked him to give us our daily bread, meaning literally that he would send us bread for the evening. Whilst I was praying there was a knock at the door of the room. After I had concluded a poor sister came in and brought us some of her dinner, and from another poor sister five shillings. In the afternoon she also brought us a large loaf. Thus the Lord not only gave us bread but also money.”
Mr. Muller held that to lay up stores or hoard money was inconsistent with a life of faith. In such cases he thought God would send them to their hoardings before answering their prayers. Experience confirmed them in the conviction that a life of trust forbids laying up treasures against unforeseen needs, since with God “no emergency is unforeseen and no want unprovided for.” Hence his trust was in God and not in his hoardings.
A third rule was greatly blessed throughout Muller’s career of trust. When money was given him for a specific need, or purpose, he regarded it as sacred to that trust, and would not use or borrow it even temporarily for any other purpose. Though reduced to dire needs, he would not use any money set aside for other purposes except for that specific thing. Thousands of times in later life occasions came where such diversion of funds would have provided a way out of an emergency or tided them through a strait.
And how, you ask, did God supply his needs for that first year of trust? Let the twenty-six-year-old minister answer, “Now the truth is whilse...we have not had even as much as a single penny left, or so as to have the last bread on the table, and not as much money as was needed to buy another loaf, yet never have we had to sit down to a meal without our good Lord having provided nourishing food for us. I am bound to state this, and I do it with pleasure...If I had to choose this day again as to the way of living, the Lord giving me grace, I would not choose differently.”
At the end of 1831 when George summed up what he had received in answer to prayer it amounted to more than one hundred and thirty-one pounds, three fourths of which came from friends not connected with his church. The congregation had promised their minister $275, and through a life of trust he had received approximately $660 for the year.
“In this my freedom, I am,” Mr. Muller states, “at least able to say to myself...My Lord is not limited, He can supply...And thus this way of living, so far from leading to anxiety, as regards possible future want, is rather the means of keeping from it...This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart...and a fresh answer to prayer obtained in this way has been the means of quickening my soul and filling me with much joy.”
From George Muller: The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
I HAD never either seen anyone on his knees, nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees,” confesses Mr. Muller. Up till this time his life had been one with little prayer in it. He had not learned the glory that comes from asking God for life’s blessings. When he saw a man on his knees, the entire course of his career was changed. He found at last the things for which sinful youth, when driven by religious impulses, had quested.
One Saturday afternoon about the middle of November, 1825, when George was twenty, he and Beta took a walk in the open fields. On returning Beta asked George to attend a cottage meeting with him, which he had been in the habit of attending each Saturday evening at the home of a Christian.
“And what do they do at this meeting?” asked George.
‘They read the Bible, sing a few hymns, pray and someone reads a printed sermon.”
“No sooner had I heard this than it was to me as if I had found something after which I had been seeking all my life long,” says our hero. “We went together in the evening. As I did not know the manners of believers, and the joy they had in seeing poor sinners...caring about the things of God, I made an apology for coming.”
“Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you,” returned Mr. Wagner, a Christian tradesman, in whose house the meeting was held.
The group sat down and sang a hymn, which was followed by a prayer offered by one of the brothers present, named Kayser — later becoming a
missionary to Africa under the London Missionary Society — who called upon God for His blessings to fall on the meeting.
That kneeling in prayer made a lasting impression upon Muller.
Off their knees, Kayser read to the company a chapter from the Bible, and then a printed sermon, since it was not lawful for a layman to expound the Scriptures in Prussia. When the benidictory hymn had been sung, the believers again went to their knees, to be led this time in prayer by Wagner.
“I could not pray as well,” thought George, as he listened to the tradesman’s eloquent pleas, “though I am much more learned than this illiterate man.”
He was truly happy for the first time in his life. “If I had been asked why I was happy, I could not have clearly explained it,” Muller notes long after he had learned the joy of praying.
Homeward bound George said to his friend Beta, “All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening.”
At home again the young man fell upon his knees. When it came time to sleep, George says, “I lay peaceful and happy in my bed.”
He had little doubt that God began a work of grace in his heart, a deep sense of joy springing up with scarcely any sorrow or with but little knowledge. The work of divine grace had been done and henceforth the young man is to walk the path of the just which shines with ever-increasing brightness until it ends in the perfect day.
His was a changed life. He read the Scriptures and not the classics as formerly, praying often, and attended church as prompted by divine love within. At the university he stood on the side of Christ, and gladly paid the price of being laughed at by his fellow students for his religious fervor.
In January of 1826 he was moved by spiritual ardor to become a missionary, through reading missionary papers, and by meeting Hermann Ball, a learned and wealthy young man, who worked in Poland among the Jews as a missionary.
“I truly began to enjoy,” says Mr. Muller, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” And off went a letter to Father and Mother Muller entreating them to seek the Lord, for they too could be as happy as he. But an angry letter was their answer, for his father desired that he should stop all his nonsense and get to work making out of himself an accepted minister...a clergyman with a good living, who would be able to support his parents in their old age.
At the same time the famous Dr. Tholuck took the chair of divinity at the University, and this godly man drew pious students to him. From the professor George received a strengthening influence. At once he determined to be free from his parents, to receive no more money from them, and to trust solely in the Lord for his needs.
God was not long in supplying the temporal needs of this trusting student, for Tholuck shortly recommended him to a group of American professors who did not understand German, to teach them the language. “Thus did the Lord richly make up to me the little which I had relinquished for His sake,” says Mr. Muller.
Though a divinity student, he had not yet preached. His first sermon was a severe trial, for he attempted to carry it through on his own strength. A schoolmaster arranged for him to speak in the parish of an aged clergyman, and on August 27, 1826, he went out and spoke at the morning service, having written and memorized his message. The delivery brought no unusual blessing from the Lord. In the afternoon there was another service at which he could speak more freely than in the morning.
“It came to my mind to read the fifth chapter of Matthew, and to make such remarks as I was able...Immediately upon beginning to expound ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ I felt myself greatly assisted; and whereas in the morning my sermon had not been simple enough for the people to
understand it, I now was listened to with the greatest attention...My own peace and joy were great.” This endeavor launched him on a preaching career, which henceforth was to be a simple exposition of the Scriptures. From this course he never deviated throughout his many years as a public servant of the Master.
As a divinity student he fell into the common error of reading books about the Bible but not reading the Bible itself. “I practically preferred for the first four years of my divine life the works of uninspired men,” he confesses. “The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.”
Since the ministers were themselves unenlightened spiritually there was little in the sermons to feed his soul. Though he regularly went to church, when not preaching, yet he scarcely ever heard the truth, he affirms, “for there was no enlightened clergyman in the town.” He often walked ten or fifteen miles to hear a godly minister expound the Word.
The one bright spot in the week was the meeting in Johann Wagner’s home, where he had been spiritually awakened. George also attended a Sunday meeting of religious students, which increased from six to twenty during the time he was at Halle.
He soon took another significant step, which brought him into contact with an orphanage work, later to be the model of his own orphanages. For two months he lived in the free lodgings furnished for divinity students in the famous Orphan Houses built by A. H. Franke. More than a hundred years earlier Franke had been led to establish an orphanage in entire dependence upon God. Though Franke had died in 1727, the work continued through faith. This became an inspiration to Muller and often he records how much he was indebted to the example of trust and prayer which Franke exhibited.
In August of the same year (1827) when George was twenty-two, he heard that the Continental Society in England planned to send a missionary to Bucharest, to assist an aged missionary in his work. After
much prayer Mr. Muller offered himself to Dr. Tholuck, who had been requested to find a suited minister for his service.
“Most unexpectedly,” writes this fervent soul, “my father gave his consent...I prayed with a degree of earnestness concerning my future work.” But God intervened, for this was not the divine will for Muller. The war between the Turks and the Russians caused the society to abandon the idea.
With the outreaching of his soul, the young minister was seeking the field for his life’s investment. While there was a ringing challenge to be a missionary, he was never permitted to serve in this capacity, since God had other plans for his life. He had become interested in the Hebrew language to which he was devoting much study.
On November 17, he called upon Dr. Tholuck, who learning of this interest in the youth’s life, asked, “Would you like to serve as a missionary to the Jews?” The professor went on to say that he was connected with the London Missionary Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.
“I was struck with the question,” declares Mr. Muller, “and told him what had passed in my mind.
A divine miracle with far-reaching results was about to occur in Muller’s experience from which directly sprang his life’s work. Oftentimes God indirectly leads one to the fields of his service, which was to be the case with George. God wanted this youth in England where his sphere of influence was to be centered.
When Tholuck learned that his young student was interested in the Jews, he at once wrote to the London Society suggesting Muller’s name as a candidate. In March, 1828, the Society answered asking the candidate a number of questions, and on June 13 a letter came saying that they would take George as a missionary student for six months on probation.
There was one proviso, meaningful and life determining. He must come to London...for God wanted George Muller’s fame to spread throughout the world from this English-speaking nation. Germany had her Franke and England must also have her Muller, apostle of faith.
There was a formidable obstacle. Every Prussian man must serve three years in the army; and classical students who had passed the university examinations were forced to serve only one year. Muller had not yet received his army training, and without an exemption he could not obtain a passport to leave the country. His application for exemption was denied, and Muller felt much depressed because of the denial. But God had plans for this exemption.
While in Leipsic with an American professor for whom he was serving as tutor in German, between acts at the opera George took some iced refreshments which caused him to become sick. This resulted in a broken blood vessel in his stomach. Being advised by friends to go to Berlin, he found an open door for preaching to wards in the poorhouse and in the prisons.
On February 3, 1829, he was re-examined for the army, and because of his stomach trouble was declared physically unfit for service, and hence exempted. Immediately he received his passport and set sail for London where he arrived on March 19.
While waiting for his missionary appointment in London, he heard friends speak of a dentist, a Mr. Groves, who gave up a salary of $7,500 a year to be a missionary to Persia, simply trusting in God for temporal supplies. “This made an impression on me,” Muller affirms, “that I not only marked it down in my journal, but also wrote about it to my German friends.”
Again God was gently leading Muller into a life of trust. His old trouble struck again and for weeks he despaired of his life. “I longed exceedingly to depart and be with Christ,” he says.
“O Lord,” he prayed while on his sick bed, “do with me as seemeth best”
— a prayer which was slowly answered. For God permitted his servant to linger in sickness that his soul might learn a new lesson in trust.
A few days later he went to Tiegnmouth to recuperate. Here the Ebenezer chapel was reopened and Mr. Muller had the privilege of living for ten days with the preacher. It was during this brief stay that God taught him the true meaning of the Bible. “God began to show me,” he writes, “that His Word alone is our standard of judgment; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of the people.”
These few days seemed unmeaningful in building Muller’s life career until this lesson appears. For the Bible became, from then on, the true source of his inspiration, and the one book to which he was solely devoted, which proved to be a pivot in the upward climb of George’s soul.
He delineates how he tested the Bible truth by experience. “The Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was that the first evening I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously.” He goes on to add, “But the particular difference was that I received real strength for my soul in doing so.”
This brief stay in the country worked the design of God into his spiritual pilgrimage, for henceforth through meditation upon the Bible and prayer he was to commit his ways unto the Lord. Near the end of his life he affirmed that he had read the Bible through approximately two hundred times, one hundred of which were on his knees. This is the keynote of that marvelous life of trust. He found God’s promises in the Bible and experienced the truth of them in his everyday life. He learned to believe what he read and to act accordingly. He mined religious truth, not from books of human fabrication, but from God through divine inspiration, and what he read he lived.
God is now ready to thrust Muller forth into his vineyard a full-fledged apostle of trust. Yet there is another lesson he is to experience before God can use him to the fullest extent. He must learn to tell not man but God his needs and to believe God will supply them. Around the bend in his career this lesson is next in God’s book of life for Muller to master.
From George Muller - The Man of Faith by Basil Miller
GEORGE MULLER is literally the "man God made." In his youth there was no religious background. He lived without thought of God or righteousness until suddenly awakened to his need of God’s transforming fellowship. He tasted sin’s bitter dregs in youth, only to know in manhood that God was “able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all” he thought or asked.
The miracle of his life comes not from a heritage rich in religious values. The key is to be found in the fact that George in his youth opened all avenues of his being to the divine infilling. Henceforth he was a man who lived with eternity in view. He looked, after the shadow of God’s glory rested upon him, beyond time and saw God. Henceforth he was never again to ask man for body or soul needs. He realized that God alone was able, and in that realization the puny supplies of man dwarfed beside the reservoirs of God’s grace which he tapped by faith.
He learned the secret of getting things from God, the simple expedient of boldly coming to the throne to receive. He practiced this daily for seventy-three years, and in coming he never found the throne vacant nor the supplies exhausted. He learned not to bind God by the limits of his own faith. He asked, knowing that God, Who heard, was able. He has been called the apostle of faith. The narrative of God’s dealings with him has been termed the life of trust. But I think of him as the man God made. He portrays to the highest degree God in life making. Viewed in light of his sinful youth this becomes God in remaking life.
Let us trace the hand of God through this long career of ninety-three years, eight months and five days, seventy-three years and almost two months of which were walked hand in hand with God. George was a native of Prussia, born at Kroppenstaedt, on September 27, 1805. Little is known of his first five years, but in 1810 the family moved four miles away where his father became collector of the excise, a form of tax placed upon business houses and individuals for certain privileges. For the next eleven years the Mullers lived at Heimersleben. “My father,” writes George Muller, “who educated his children on worldly principles, gave us much money, considering our age. The result was that it led my brother and me into many sins. Before I was ten years old I repeatedly took of the government money which was entrusted to my father...till one day...he detected my theft, by depositing a counted sum in the room where I was, and leaving me to myself for awhile. I took some of the money and hid it under my foot in my shoe.”
But his father was not to be outdone, for he soon detected the loss, and on searching George found the money. But punishment did not change George’s tactics, for repeatedly he stole the government money. “Though I was punished on this and other occasions, yet I did not remember that anytime...it made any other impression upon me than to make me think how I might do the thing the next time more cleverly.” When George was between ten and eleven he was sent to Halberstadt to prepare for the university. His father desired that he should train for the Lutheran ministry. “Not that thus I might serve God, but that I might have a comfortable living,” says Mr. Muller writing many years later. Instead of studying as he should, he spent his time reading low class novels and indulging in sinful practices. When fourteen years of age a tragedy marked his life in the form of his mother’s death. The night she was dying, George, being unaware of her illness, was playing cards, and the next day, which was Sunday, went to a tavern with some of his sinful companions. On the following day he received his first religious instruction previous to being confirmed. Thus you see his was an early life devoid of any religious training. Even this first religious instruction was received in a careless manner. He was a light-hearted sinful youth who drank of worldly pleasures to satiation. His mother’s death made no lasting impression upon him. Three or four days before his confirmation, which admitted him to partake of the Lord’s Supper, he committed a gross immorality. So deceitful had he become that he could not play square with the minister who confirmed him. “I handed over to him only the twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him,” he remarks, delineating the downward course of his sins. “In this state of heart, without prayer, without repentance, without faith, without knowledge of the plan of salvation, I was confirmed, and took the Lord’s Supper, on the Sunday after Easter, 1820...Yet I was not without some feeling...I made resolutions to turn from those vices in which I was living and to study more. But as I had no regard for God, and attempted the thing in my own strength, all soon came to nothing, and I still grew worse.”
The following year when his father was transferred to Schoenebeck, George asked to attend the cathedral school at Magdeburg, which was close by. Before attending school in November, he stayed at the home place, superintending some alterations in it and reading the classics with a clergyman named Dr. Nagel. While left thus alone, he collected the money owed his father and spent it upon his sinful pleasures. In November of 1821, he took a trip to Magdeburg, where for six days he spent his time in “much sin.” Taking all the money he could obtain by various ruses he traveled to Brunswick, and lived for a week at an expensive hotel. Money gone, he tried the same trick at a nearby village hotel, where the owner suspecting that he had no money asked him to leave his best clothes as security. This time he walked about six miles to Wolfenbuttel and at an inn began to live as though he had much money. But this proved to be the sixteen-year-old boy’s undoing, for when he sought to escape from a high window he was caught. Confessing the truth, he expected mercy, but there was none.
Immediately he was arrested and taken to a police officer, and later to jail as a vagabond or thief. “I now found myself, at the age of sixteen, an inmate of the same dwelling with thieves and murderers, and treated accordingly.... On the second day I asked the keeper for a Bible, not to consider its blessed contents, but to pass away the time,” George relates. For twenty-four days — from December 18 to January 12 — he was confined to the prison. His father obtained his release by paying the inn debt and his maintenance at the jail, also furnishing enough money for the lad to return home.
In October, 1822, he entered a school at Nordhausen, where he remained for two and a half years studying with diligence the Latin classics, French history, German literature, as well as a little Hebrew, Greek and mathematics. “I used to rise regularly at four, winter and summer, and generally studied all the day, with little exception, till ten at night.” His serious life caused him to be held up as an example to the class. “I did not,” he writes, “care in the least about God, but lived secretly in much sin, in consequence of which I was taken ill, and for thirteen weeks confined to my room. During my illness I had no real sorrow of heart...I cared nothing about the Word of God. I had about three hundred books of my own, but no Bible.”
His was a student life which found pleasure in the classics, but one devoid of love for the higher things of religion. “I practically,” he affirms plumbing the depths of his youthful irreligion, “set a far higher value upon the writings of Horace and Cicero, Voltaire and Moliere, than upon the volume of inspiration.” Now and then tinges of conscience would prick his soul and he would determine to be better, “particularly when I went to the Lord’s Supper...The day previous to attending that ordinance I used to refrain from certain things; and on the day itself I was serious...But after one or two days were over, all was forgotten, and I was as bad as ever.”
George was a dissipated youth who spent the money his father furnished, as the other prodigals did, in riotous living. Once when his funds were exhausted, he pretended his money had been stolen, and forcing the lock on his trunk and guitar case, he went to the director’s room half dressed, telling the story of the supposed theft. This trick aroused sympathy for him, for as an actor his tale seemed to ring true. When twenty he became a member of the University of Halle with excellent testimonials, and was granted the privilege of preaching in the Lutheran Establishment. Here he began to realize that unless he reformed, no church would have him as its clergyman and his rating in this profession would be handicapped. He looked upon the clergy as a means of gaining a livelihood, and not as a service.
“I thought,” he says, “no parish would choose me as their pastor...and without a considerable knowledge of divinity I should never get a good living. But the moment I entered Halle...all my resolutions came to nothing...I renewed my profligate life afresh, though now a student of divinity...I had no sorrow of heart on account of offending God.” One day in his evil career he met a fellow student by the name of Beta, who formerly had tried to live a Christian life, but whose efforts caused Muller to despise him. “It now appeared well to me to choose him as my friend, thinking that, if I could but have better companions, I should by that means improve my own conduct.”
George guessed wrong this time — for Beta was a backslider! And Beta sought out George’s friendship believing that he would thus be introduced to the pleasures which his wilder companion seemed to enjoy. God was at work, for it was through Beta that George’s redemption was to take place. It was a friendship that the studious, though profligate, youth needed, but it was the transforming friendship of God, and not of a young man who walked far behind his religious privileges.
“My foolish heart was again deceived,” declares Mr. Muller. “And yet God in His abundant mercy made him...the instrument of doing me good, not merely for time, but for eternity.” Debauchery demanded its pay and George took seriously ill. His “conduct was outwardly rather better.” But this betterment, he avows, came about not because of religious but financial reasons. His money was too limited to meet the toll demanded by an evil life. In August of 1825, he and Beta, along with two other students, borrowed enough money on their belongings to travel through Prussia for a few days, which resulted in a desire to see nature’s grander moods in Switzerland.
The lads were confronted by a lack of money and no passports. But the ingenious George soon eliminated these obstacles by borrowing on their books and other possessions, and through false and forged letters from their parents he obtained the passports. Wickedness was so ingrained in George’s system that even on this trip he was a common thief. “I was on this journey like Judas,” George confesses, “for having the common purse, I was a thief. I managed so that the journey cost me but two-thirds of what it cost my friends...” On returning to Prussia the youth visited home, where his old determination to alter his mode of living sprang up again. But when vacation days were over, and new students came to the university, and with money in his pockets once more, he drifted back into his foreboding ways.
But those sin-darkened days were near an end. God in His inscrutable manner had planned a meeting where the divine hand should begin remaking the life that sin had marred. The same friend Beta with whom he had sinned was to be God’s instrument in bringing George into the glorious light of the Gospel. Sin’s night was almost over and the daydawn of grace was about to burst with transforming beauty over the youth’s soul. “The divine Hand in this history is doubly plain,” writes A. T. Pierson in
his biography of George Muller, “when we see that this was also the period of preparation for his lifework...During the next ten years we shall watch the divine Potter, to Whom George Muller was a chosen vessel for service, molding and fitting the vessel for His use. Every step is one of preparation...”
“The time was now come when God would have mercy upon me,” says Mr. Muller reviewing his soul-blighting course of iniquity. “At a time when I was as careless about Him as ever, He sent His Spirit into my heart. I had no Bible and had not read one for years. I went to church but seldom; but, from custom, I took the Lord’s Supper twice a year. I had never heard the gospel preached. I had never met with a person who told me that he meant, by the help of God, to live according to the Holy Scriptures. In short, I had not the least idea that there were any persons really different from myself.”
Mr. Muller had come to the parting of the ways No more was the prodigal to wander after life’s dried and sinful husks, but was to walk the backward trail to Father’s home, where as a son most blessed he was henceforth to live for God’s glory. This is our last look at the sinful youth, for sin and he no longer had a common set of values.
From "George Muller, The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller
By Rev. Arthur T. Pierson, D.D.
In Psalm 68:4, we are bidden to "extol Him who rideth upon the heavens by His name, JAH, and to rejoice before Him;" and in the next verse [Psalm 68:5], He is declared to be "a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, in His holy habitation."
The name, "Jah," here only found, is not simply an abbreviation of "Jehovah;" but the present tense of the Hebrew verb to be; and expresses the idea that this Jehovah is the Living, Present God; and, as the heavens are always over our heads, He is always a present Helper, especially to those who, like the widow and the orphan, lack other providers and protectors.
George Müller, of Bristol, undertook to demonstrate to the unbelieving world that God is such a living, present God, and that He proves it by answering prayer; and that the test of this fact might be definite and conclusive, he undertook to gather, feed, house, clothe, and also to teach and train, all available orphans, who were legitimate children, but deprived of both parents by death and destitute.
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS OF PROOF
This work, which he began in 1833, in a very small and humble way, by giving to a few children, gathered out of the streets, a bit of bread for breakfast, and then teaching them for about an hour and a half to read the Scriptures, he carried on for sixty-five years, with growing numbers until there were under his care, and in the orphan houses which he built, twenty two hundred orphans with their helpers; and yet, during all that time, Mr. Müller's sole dependence was Jah, the Living, Present God. He appealed to no man for help; and did not even allow any need to be known before it had been supplied, even his intimate co-workers being forbidden to mention any existing want, outside the walls of the institution. His aim and purpose were to effectually apply the test of prayer to the unseen God, in such a way as to leave no doubt that, in these very days in which we live it is perfectly safe to cut loose from every human dependence and cast ourselves in faith upon the promises of a faithful Jehovah. To make the demonstration more absolutely convincing, for some years he withheld even the annual report of the work from the public, although it covered only work already done,lest some should think such a report an indirect appeal for future aid.
A human life thus filled with the presence and power of God is one of God's choicest gifts to His church and to the world.
DEMONSTRATION AND ILLUSTRATION
Things unseen and eternal are, to the average man, distant and indistinct, while what is seen and temporal is vivid and real. Practically, any object in nature that can be seen or felt is thus more actual to most men than the Living God. Every man who walks with God, and finds Him a present Help in every time of need, who puts His promises to the practical proof and verifies them in actual experience; every believer, who, with the key of faith, unlocks God's mysteries and with the key of prayer unlocks God's treasuries, thus furnishes to the race demonstration and illustration of the fact that "He is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." [Hebrews 11:6].
George Müller was such an argument and example—a man of like passions, and tempted in all points, as we are, but who believed God and was established by believing; who prayed earnestly that he might live a life and do a work, which should be a convincing proof that God hears prayer, and that it is safe to trust Him at all times; and who furnished just such a witness as he desired. Like Enoch, he truly walked with God, and had abundant testimony borne to him that he pleased God. And, when on the tenth day of March, 1898, it was told us of George Müller, that "he was not," we knew that "God had taken him": it seemed more like a translation than like death.
THE MAN HIMSELF
To those familiar with his long life story, or who intimately knew him and felt the power of personal contact, he was one of God's ripest saints, and himself a living proof that a life of faith is possible; that God may be known, communed with, found, and become a conscious companion in the daily life. He proved for himself and for all others who will receive his witness, that to those who are willing to take God at His word and to yield self to His will, He is "the same yesterday and today and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]; that the days of divine intervention and deliverance are past only so far as the days of faith and obedience are past; that believing prayer works still the wonders of which our fathers told in the days of old.
All we can do in the limited space now at our disposal, is to present a brief summary of George Müller's work, the details of which are spread through the five volumes of his carefully written "Journal," and the facts of which have never been denied or doubted, being embodied in five massive stone buildings on Ashley Down, and incarnated in thousands of living orphans who have been, or still are, the beneficiaries upon the bounty of the Lord, as administered by this great intercessor.
HIS LIFE PURPOSE
One sentence from Mr. Müller's pen marks the purpose which was the very pivot of his whole being: "I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith." This prepared both for the development of the character of him who had such singleness of aim and for the development of the work in which that aim found action. Mr. Müller's oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman, of Barnstaple, beautifully says that "when a man's chief business is to serve and please the Lord, all his circumstances becomes his servants;" a maxim verified in Mr. Müller's life work.
NO VISIBLE SUPPORT
Mr. James Wright, Mr. Müller's son-in-law and successor, said, in reviewing the sixty-five years of work, "It is written (Job 26:7) 'He hangeth the earth upon nothing'—that is, no visible support. And so we exult in the fact that 'The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad' hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement, 'upon nothing,' that is, upon no visible support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God."
Blessed lesson to learn: that to depend upon the invisible God is not to hang "upon nothing," though it be upon nothing visible.The power and permanence of the invisible forces that hold up the earth after sixty centuries of human history are sufficiently shown by the fact that this great globe still swings securely in space and is whirled through its vast orbit, and without variation of a second still moves with divine exactness in its appointed path. Mr. Müller therefore trusted the same invisible God to sustain with His unseen power all the work which faith suspended upon His truth and love and unfailing word of promise, though to the natural eye all these may seem as nothing.
SUMMARY OF WORK DONE
In the comprehensive summary contained in the fifty-ninth report, remarkable growth is apparent during the sixty-four years since the outset of the work in 1834.
During the year ending May 26, 1898, the number of day schools was seven and of pupils 354; the number of children in attendance from the beginning 81,501. The number of home Sunday Schools, twelve, and of children in them 1,341; but, from the beginning, 32,944.
The number of Sunday Schools aided in England and Wales, twenty-five. The amount expended in connection with home schools, 1736. 13s. 10d.; from the outset, £109,992. 19s. 10d.
The Bibles and parts thereof circulated, 15,411; from the beginning 1,989,266. Money expended for this purpose the past year £439; from the first, £41,090. 13s. 3d.
Missionary laborers aided, 115. Money expended £2,082. 9s. 6d.; from the outset, £261,859. 7s. 4d.
Circulation of books and tracts, 3,101,338; money spent £1,100. 1s. 3d.; and from the first, £47,188. 11s. 10d.
The number of orphans on Ashley Down 1,620, and from the first 10,024.
Money spent that year, £22,523. 13s. 1d., and from the beginning £988,829.
To carry conviction into action sometimes requires a costly sacrifice; but, whatever Mr. Müller's fidelity to conviction cost in one way, he had stupendous results of his life work to contemplate even while he lived.
GIVING WITH PRAYING
Let any one look at these figures and facts, and remember that one poor man who had been solely dependent on the help of God and only in answer to prayer, could look back, over more than three score years and see how he had built five large orphan houses, and taken under his care over ten thousand orphans, expending for them within twelve thousand pounds of a round million! This same man had given aid to day schools and Sunday Schools, in Britain and other lands where nearly one hundred and fifty thousand children have been taught, at a cost of over one hundred and ten thousand pounds more. He had also circulated nearly two million Bibles and parts thereof, at cost of over forty thousand pounds; and over three million books and tracts, at a cost of nearly fifty thousand pounds more. Besides all this, he had spent over two hundred and sixty thousand pounds to aid missionary laborers in various lands. The sum total of the money thus expended during sixty years thus reached very nearly the astonishing aggregate of one and a half million of pounds sterling ($7,500,000). Mr. Müller's own gifts to the service of the Lord found, only after his death, full record and recognition. In the annual reports, an entry recurring with strange frequency, suggested a giver that must have reached a very ripe age: "from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven." If that entry be carefully followed throughout and there be added the personal gifts made by Mr. Müller to various benevolent objects, the aggregate sum from this "servant" reaches, up to March 1, 1898, a total of eighty-one thousand, four hundred and ninety British pounds, eighteen shillings and eight pence.After his death, it first became known that this "servant of the Lord Jesus" was no other than George Müller himself who thus donated, from money given to him or left to him for his own use by legacies, an amount equal to more than one-fifteenth of the entire sum expended from the beginning upon all five departments of the work (1,448,959 British pounds). This is a record of personal giving to which we know no parallel.
Mr. Müller had received increasingly large sums from the Lord which he invested well and most profitably, so that for over sixty years he never lost a penny through a bad speculation! But his investments were not in lands, or banks, or railways, but in the work of God. He made "friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," and, when he failed, they received him into everlasting habitations. He continued year after year to make provision for himself, his beloved wife and daughter only by laying up treasure in heaven. Such a giver had a right to exhort others to systematic beneficence. He gave as not one in a million gives—not a tithe, not any fixed proportion of annual income, but all that was left after the simplest and most necessary supply of actual wants. While most disciples regard themselves as doing their duty if, after they have given a portion to the Lord, they spend all the rest on themselves, God led George Müller to reverse this rule and reserve only the most frugal sum for personal needs that the entire remainder might be given to him that needeth. An utter revolution in our habits of giving would be necessary were such a rule adopted. Mr. Müller's own words are: "My aim never was, how much I could obtain, but rather how much I could give." Yet this was not done in the spirit of an ascetic, for he had no such spirit.
He kept continually before him his stewardship of God's property; and sought to make the most of the one brief life on earth and to use for the best and largest good the property held by him in trust. The things of God were deep realities, and, projecting every action and decision and motive into the light of the judgment seat of Christ, he asked himself how it would appear to him in the light of that tribunal. Thus he sought prayerfully and conscientiously so to live and labor, so to deny himself, and, by love; serve his Master, and his fellowmen that he should not be "ashamed before Him at His coming" [1 John 2:28]. But not in a spirit of fear; for if any man of his generation knew the perfect love that casts out fear it was he. He felt that God is love and love is of God. He saw that love manifested in the greatest of gifts His only begotten Son; at Calvary he knew and believed the love that God hath to us; he received it into his own heart; it became an abiding presence manifested in obedience and benevolence; and, subduing him more and more, it became perfected so as to expel all tormenting fear and impart a holy confidence and delight in God.
Among the texts which strongly impressed and moulded Mr. Müller's habits of giving was Luke 6:38: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom." He believed this promise and he verified it. His testimony is, "I had given, and God had caused to be given to me again, and bountifully." Again he read, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]. He says that he believed what he found in the word of God and by His grace sought to act accordingly, and thus again records that he was blessed abundantly and his peace and joy in the Holy Spirit increased more and more.
It will not be a surprise, therefore, that, as has been already noted, Mr. Müller's entire personal estate at his death, as sworn to, when the will was admitted to probate, was only 169 British pounds, 9 shillings, 4 pence, of which books, household furniture, etc., were reckoned at over 100 pounds, the only money in his possession being a trifle over sixty pounds, and even this only awaiting disbursement as God's steward.
THE SECRET OF IT ALL
To summarize Mr. Müller's service we must understand his great secret. Such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else daily and frequent communion with God. He was unwearied in supplications and intercessions. In every new need and crisis, the one resort was the prayer of faith. He first satisfied himself that he was in the way of duty, then he fixed his mind on the unchanging word of promise; then, in the boldness of a suppliant who comes to a throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ, and pleads the assurance of the immutable Promiser, he presented every petition. He was an unwearied intercessor. No delay discouraged him. This is seen particularly in the case of individuals for whose conversion or special guidance into the paths of full obedience he prayed. On his prayer list were the names of some for whom he had besought God daily by name, for from one to ten years before the answer was given. There were two parties, for whose reconciliation to God he prayed, day by day, for over sixty years, and who had not at the time of his death, turned unto God; but he said, "I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven; for my Heavenly Father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over three score years, if He had not concerning them purposes of mercy."
This is a sufficient example of his almost unparalleled perseverance and importunity in intercession. However long the delay, he held on, as with both hands clasping the very horns of the altar; and his childlike spirit reasoned simply but confidently that the very fact of his own spirit being so long drawn out in prayer for one object, and of the Lord's enabling him so to continue patiently and believingly to wait on Him for the blessing, was a promise and prophecy of the answer; and so he waited on, so assured of the ultimate result that he praised God in advance, as having already received that for which he asked.
One of the parties for whom for so many years he had unceasingly prayed, shortly after his departure, died in faith, having received the promises and embraced them and confessed Jesus as his Lord.
THE PRIVILEGE OF ALL
Mr. Müller frequently in his Journal and reports warned his fellow disciples not to regard him as a miracle worker, or his experience as so exceptional as to have little application to the ordinary spheres of life and service. With patient repetition he affirms that, in all essentials, such an experience is the privilege of all believers. God calls disciples to various forms of work, but all alike to the same faith. To say, therefore, "I am not called to build orphan houses, etc., and have no right to expect answers to my prayers as Mr. Müller did," is wrong and unbelieving. Every child of God is first to get into the sphere appointed of God, and therein to exercise full trust, and live by faith upon God's sure word of promise.
Throughout all the thousands of pages written by his pen, he teaches that this experience of God's faithfulness is both the reward of past faith and prayer and the preparation of the servant of God for larger work, more efficient service, and more convincing witness to his Lord.
No one can understand this work who does not see in it the supernatural power of God;without that, it is an enigma, defying solution; with that, all the mystery is an open mystery. He himself felt, from first to last, that this supernatural factor was the whole key to the work, and without that it would have been to himself a problem inexplicable. How pathetically he often compared himself and his work for God to the "burning bush in the wilderness," which always aflame and always threatened with apparent destruction, was not consumed, so that not a few turned aside, wondering to see this great sight. And why was it not burnt? Because Jehovah of Hosts who was in the bush dwelt in the man and in his work; or, as Wesley said with almost his last breath, "Best of all God is with us."
This simile of the burning bush is the more apt, when we consider the rapid growth of the work. At first so very small as to seem almost insignificant, and conducted in one small rented house, accommodating thirty orphans; then enlarged until other rented premises became necessary; then one, two, three, four and even five immense structures being built until three hundred, seven hundred, eleven hundred and fifty, and finally two thousand and fifty inmates could find shelter within them; seldom has the world seen any such vast and rapid enlargement. Then look at the outlay! At first a trifling expenditure of perhaps four hundred pounds for the first year of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and of five hundred pounds for the first twelve months of the orphan work, and in the last year of Mr. Müller's life a grand total of over twenty-six thousand pounds for all the purposes of the work.
The cost of the houses built on Ashley Down might have staggered even a man of large capital, but this poor man only cried and the Lord helped him. The first house cost fifteen thousand pounds, the second over twenty-one thousand, the third over twenty-three thousand, and the fourth and fifth from fifty thousand to sixty thousand more so that the total cost reached about one hundred and fifteen thousand pounds. Besides all this there was a yearly expenditure which rose as high as twenty-five thousand for the orphans alone, irrespective of those occasional outlays made needful for emergencies, such as improved sanitary precautions.
Here is a burning bush indeed, always in seeming danger of being consumed, yet still standing on Ashley Down, and still preserved because the same presence of Jehovah burns in it. Not a branch of this many sided work has utterly perished, while the whole work still challenges unbelievers to turn aside and see the great sight, and take off their shoes from their feet; for is not all ground holy where God abides and manifests Himself?
ABUNDANT IN LABORS
In attempting a survey of this great life work we must not forget how much of it was wholly outside of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; namely, all that service which Mr. Müller was permitted to render to the church of Christ and the world at large, as preacher, pastor, witness for truth and author of books and tracts.
His preaching period covered the whole time from 1826 to 1898, the year of his departure—over seventy years; and with an average through the whole period of probably three sermons a week, or over ten thousand for his lifetime, which is probably a low estimate, for, during his missionary tours, which covered over two hundred thousand miles and were spread through seventeen years, he spoke on an average once a day, even at his already advanced age.
Probably those brought to the knowledge of Christ by his preaching would reach into the thousands, exclusive of orphans converted at Ashley Down. Then when we take into account the vast numbers addressed and impressed by his addresses given in all parts of the United Kingdom, on the Continent of Europe, and in America, Asia and Australia, and the still vaster numbers who have read his narrative, his books and tracts, or who have in various other ways felt the quickening power of his example and life, we shall get some inadequate conception of the range and scope of the influence wielded by his tongue and pen, his labors and his life. Much of the best influence defies all tabulated statistics and evades all mathematical estimate—it is like the fragrance of the alabaster flask which fills all the house, but escapes our grosser senses of sight, hearing and touch. This part of George Müller's work belongs to a realm where we cannot penetrate. But God sees, knows and rewards it.
A DOUBTER'S DOUBTS
Yet there are those who doubt or deny the sufficiency of even this proof, though so full and convincing. In a prominent daily newspaper, a correspondent, discussing the efficacy of prayer, thus referred to the experience of George Müller:
"I resided in that country during most of the seventies, when he was often described as the best-advertised man in the Three Kingdoms. By a large number of religious people he was more spoken of than were Gladstone and Disraeli, and accordingly it is not miraculous that, although he said he had never once solicited aid on behalf of his charitable enterprise, money in a continuous stream flowed into his treasury. Even to non-religious persons in Great Britain his name was quite as familiar as that of Moody."
"Doubtless Müller was quite sincere in his convictions, but, by the very peculiarity of his method, his wants were advertised throughout the world most conspicuously, thus receiving the benefit of a far larger publicity than would otherwise have obtained, and it being known that he was praying for money, money, of course, came in to him."
"But were Müller's prayers answered invariably? According to a memoir by a personal friend, which has lately been published, this was far from having been the case, and he often felt aggrieved at what he considered a slight on the part of the Almighty, one of whose 'pets' (to quote Mr. Savage) he evidently imagined himself to be. For example, he prayed for two of his 'unconverted' friends for nearly fifty years without avail. There was absolutely nothing in his career which could not be accounted for as the result of purely natural causes."
"If it was possible to admit that what he looked upon as answers to his prayers were due to special interventions of Providence in his behalf (in other words, to favoritism), the question would inevitably arise, Why have the prayers of thousands of other Christian people, whose faith is quite as strong as Müller's, been disregarded? What are we to think of the little band of enthusiasts who left this country for Jerusalem a few months ago to see Christ 'appear in the clouds,' and who, at last accounts, were reported to be starving, with no immediate prospect of a return to their homes?"
"Lector" takes an easy way to evade the force of Mr. Müller's life witness. He contends that "the peculiarity" of his method, and the great "publicity" thus obtained, made him the "best advertised man in the Three Kingdoms," and so money poured in upon him from all quarters. Thus the most conspicuous testimony to a prayer-hearing God, furnished by any one individual in the century, is dismissed with one sweep of the pen, affirming that "there was absolutely nothing in his career which could not be accounted for as the result of purely natural causes."
THE DOUBTER ANSWERED
In answer I beg to submit twelve facts, all abundantly attested:
Mr. Müller's life purpose was to furnish to the world and the Church a simple example of the fact that a man can not only live, but work on a large scale, by faith in the living God; that he has only to trust and pray and obey and God will prove his own faithfulness. The reports were published with sole reference to the work already done, and because donors were entitled to such knowledge of the way in which their money was expended. He never used his reports as appeals for help in work yet to be begun or carried on. Nor was his personal presence or influence necessary, for he traveled for eighteen years in forty-two countries, mentioning his work only at urgent request; and during all this time the work went on just as when at home.
A CHALLENGE TO UNBELIEF
One thing is obvious—there is a wide field still open for experiment. Let those who honestly believe that so great a life work may be entirely accounted for on a natural basis give us a practical proof. Let an institution be founded in some of our great cities similar to that in Bristol. Let there be no direct appeal made to anyone beyond the circulation of annual reports; or let there be the widest advertising of the fact that such a work is carried on, and that dependence is on public aid without direct solicitation. Of course, there must be no prayer, and no acknowledgment of God, lest someone think it to be religious and unscientific, and pious people should be moved to respond! Unbelievers outnumber Christian disciples five to one and the constituency is therefore very large. Let us have the experiment conducted, not on the faith basis, but in strictly scientific method! When we see an infidel carrying on such a work, building five great orphan houses and sustaining over 2,000 orphans from day to day without any direct appeal to human help, yet finding all supplies coming in without even a failure in sixty years, we shall be ready to reconsider our present conviction that it was because the living God heard and helped George Müller, that he who began with a capital of one shilling, took care of more than ten thousand orphans, aided hundreds of missionaries, scattered millions of Bibles and tracts, and in the course of his long life expended about $7,500,000 for God and humanity; and then died with all his possessions valued at less than eight hundred dollars.
"One of the mightiest men of prayer of the last generation was George Mueller of Bristol, England, who in the last sixty years of his life (he lived to be ninety-two or ninety-three) obtained the English equivalent of $7,200,000.00 by prayer.
But George Mueller never prayed for a thing just because he wanted it, or even just because he felt it was greatly needed for God's work. When it was laid upon George Mueller's heart to pray for anything, he would search the Scriptures to find if there was some promise that covered the case.
Sometimes he would search the scriptures for days before he presented his petition to God. And then when he found the promise, with his open Bible before him, and his finger upon that promise, he would plead that promise, and so he received what he asked. He always prayed with an open Bible before him."
- R. A. Torrey on George Müller; "The Power of Prayer," 1924 (P. 81)
By Andrew Murray
WHEN God wishes anew to teach His Church a truth that is not being understood or practised, He mostly does so by raising some man to be in word and deed a living witness to its blessedness. And so God has raised up in this nineteenth century, among others, George Muller to be His witness that He is indeed the Hearer of prayer. I know of no way in which the principal truths of God's word in regard to prayer can be more effectually illustrated and established than a short review of his life and of what he tells of his prayer-experiences.
He was born in Prussia on 25th September 1805, and is thus now eighty years of age. His early life, even after having entered the University of Halle as a theological student, was wicked in the extreme. Led by a friend one evening, when just twenty years of age, to a prayer meeting, he was deeply impressed, and soon after brought to know the Saviour. Not long after he began reading missionary papers, and in course of time offered himself to the London Society for promoting Christianity to the Jews. He was accepted as a student, but soon found that he could not in all things submit to the rules of the Society, as leaving too little liberty for the leading of the Holy Spirit. The connection was dissolved in 1830 by mutual consent, and he became the pastor of a small congregation at Teignmouth. In 1832 he was led to Bristol, and it was as pastor of Bethesda Chapel that he was led to the Orphan Home and other work, in connection with which God has so remarkably led him to trust His word and to experience how God fulfils that word.
A few extracts in regard to his spiritual life will prepare the way for what we specially wish to quote of his experiences in reference to prayer.
In connection with this I would mention, that the Lord very graciously gave me, from the very commencement of my divine life, a measure of simplicity and of childlike disposition in spiritual things, so that whilst I was exceedingly ignorant of the Scriptures, and was still from time to time overcome even by outward sins, yet I was enabled to carry most minute matters to the Lord in prayer. And I have found "godliness profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Though very weak and ignorant, yet I had now, by the grace of God, some desire to benefit others, and he who so faithfully had once served Satan, sought now to win souls for Christ.'
It was at Teignmouth that he was led to know how to use God's word , and to trust the Holy Spirit as the Teacher given by God to make that word clear. He writes: --
God then began to show me that the word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times. He is the Teacher of His people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time.
It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular, which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book and simply reading the word of God and studying it.
The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously.
But the particular difference was that I received real strength for my soul in so doing. I now began to try by the test of the Scriptures the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those principles which stood the test were of real value.'
Of obedience to the word of God, he writes as follows, in connection with his being baptized: --
It had pleased God, in His abundant mercy, to bring my mind into such a state, that I was willing to carry out into my life whatever I should find in the Scriptures. I could say, "I will do His will," and it was on that account, I believe, that I saw which "doctrine is of God." -- And I would observe here, by the way, that the passage to which I have just alluded (John vii.17) has been a most remarkable comment to me on many doctrines and precepts of our most holy faith. For instance: "Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. v.39-44). "Sell that ye have, and give alms"(Luke xii.33). "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another"(Rom. xii.8). It may be said, "Surely these passages cannot be taken literally, for how then would the people of God be able to pass through the world?" The state of mind enjoined in John vii.17 will cause such objections to vanish. WHOSOEVER IS WILLING TO ACT OUT these commandments of the Lord LITERALLY, will, I believe, be led with me to see that to take them LITERALLY is the will of God. -- Those who do so take them will doubtless often be brought into difficulties, hard to the flesh to bear, but these will have a tendency to make them constantly feel that they are strangers and pilgrims here, that this world is not their home, and thus to throw them more upon God, who will assuredly help us through any difficulty into which we may be brought by seeking to act in obedience to His word.'
This implicit surrender to God's word led him to certain views and conduct in regard to money, which mightily influenced his future life. They had their root in the conviction that money was a Divine stewardship, and that all money had therefore to be received and dispensed in direct fellowship with God Himself. This led him to the adoption of the following four great rules: 1. Not to receive any fixed salary, both because in the collecting of it there was often much that was at variance with the freewill offering with which God's service is to be maintained, and in the receiving of it a danger of placing more dependence on human sources of income than in the living God Himself. 2. Never to ask any human being for help, however great the need might be, but to make his wants known to the God who has promised to care for His servants and to hear their prayer. 3. To take this command (Luke xii.33) literally, Sell that thou hast and give alms,' and never to save up money, but to spend all God entrusted to him on God's poor, on the work of His kingdom. 4. Also to take Rom. xiii.8, Owe no man anything,' literally, and never to buy on credit, or be in debt for anything, but to trust God to provide.
This mode of living was not easy at first. But Muller testifies it was most blessed in bringing the soul to rest in God, and drawing it into closer union with Himself when inclined to backslide. For it will not do, it is not possible, to live in sin, and at the same time, by communion with God, to draw down from heaven everything one needs for the life that now is.'
Not long after his settlement at Bristol, THE SCRIPTURAL KNOWLEDGE INSTITUTION FOR HOME AND ABROAD' was established for aiding in Day, Sunday School, Mission and Bible work. Of this Institution the Orphan Home work, by which Mr. Muller is best known, became a branch. It was in 1834 that his heart was touched by the case of an orphan brought to Christ in one of the schools, but who had to go to a poorhouse where its spiritual wants would not be cared for. Meeting shortly after with a life of Franke, he writes (Nov, 20, 1835): Today I have had it very much laid on my heart no longer merely to think about the establishment of an Orphan Home, but actually to set about it, and I have been very much in prayer respecting it, in order to ascertain the Lord's mind. May God make it plain.' And again, Nov.25: I have been again much in prayer yesterday and today about the Orphan Home, and am more and more convinced that it is of God. May He in mercy guide me. The three chief reasons are -- 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.'
After some months of prayer and waiting on God, a house was rented, with room for thirty children , and in course of time three more, containing in all 120 children. The work was carried on it this way for ten years, the supplies for the needs of the orphans being asked and received of God alone. It was often a time of sore need and much prayer, but a trial of faith more precious than of gold was found unto praise and honour and glory of God. The Lord was preparing His servant for greater things. By His providence and His Holy Spirit, Mr. Muller was led to desire, and to wait upon God till he received from Him, the sure promise of £15,000 for a Home to contain 300 children. This first Home was opened in 1849. In 1858, a second and third Home, for 950 more orphans, was opened, costing £35,000. And in 1869 and 1870, a fourth and a fifth Home, for 850 more, at an expense of £50,000, making the total number of the orphans 2100.
In addition to this work, God has given him almost as much as for the building of the Orphan Homes, and the maintenance of the orphans, for other work, the support of schools and missions, Bible and tract circulation. In all he has received from God, to be spent in His work, during these fifty years, more than one million pounds sterling. How little he knew, let us carefully notice, that when he gave up his little salary of £35 a year in obedience to the leading of God's word and the Holy Spirit, what God was preparing to give him as the reward of obedience and faith; and how wonderfully the word was to be fulfilled to him: Thou hast been faithful over few things; I will set thee over many things.'
And these things have happened for an ensample to us. God calls us to be followers of George Muller, even as he is of Christ. His God is our God; the same promises are for us; the same service of love and faith in which he laboured is calling for us on every side. Let us in connection with our lessons in the school of prayer study the way in which God gave George Muller such power as a man of prayer: we shall find in it the most remarkable illustration of some of the lessons which we have been studying with the blessed Master in the word. We shall specially have impressed upon us His first great lesson, that if we will come to Him in the way He has pointed out, with definite petitions, made known to us by the Spirit through the word as being according to the will of God, we may most confidently believe that whatsoever we ask it shall be done.
PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD.
We have more than once seen that God's listening to our voice depends upon our listening to His voice. (See Lessons 22 and 23.) We must not only have a special promise to plead, when we make a special request, but our whole life must be under the supremacy of the word: the word must be dwelling in us. The testimony of George Muller on this point is most instructive. He tells us how the discovery of the true place of the word of God, and the teaching of the Spirit with it, was the commencement of a new era in his spiritual life. Of it he writes: --
Now the scriptural way of reasoning would have been: God Himself has condescended to become an author, and I am ignorant about that precious book which His Holy Spirit has caused to be written through the instrumentality of His servants, and it contains that which I ought to know, and the knowledge of which will lead me to true happiness; therefore I ought to read again and again this most precious book, this book of books, most earnestly, most prayerfully, and with much meditation; and in this practice I ought to continue all the days of my life. For I was aware, though I read it but little, that I knew scarcely anything of it. But instead of acting thus and being led by my ignorance of the word of God to study it more, my difficulty in understanding it, and the little enjoyment I had in it, made me careless of reading it (for much prayerful reading of the word gives not merely more knowledge, but increases the delight we have in reading it); and thus, like many believers, I practically preferred, for the first four years of my divine life, the works of uninspired men to the oracles of the living God. The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace. In knowledge, I say; for all true knowledge must be derived, by the Spirit, from the word. And as I neglected the word, I was for nearly four years so ignorant, that I did not clearly know even the fundamental points of our holy faith. And this lack of knowledge most sadly kept me back from walking steadily in the ways of God. For when it pleased the Lord in August 1829 to bring me really to the Scriptures, my life and walk became very different. And though ever since that I have very much fallen short of what I might and ought to be, yet by the grace of God I have been enabled to live much nearer to Him than before. If any believers read this who practically prefer other books to the Holy Scriptures, and who enjoy the writings of men much more than the word of God, may they be warned by my loss. I shall consider this book to have been the means of doing much good, should it please the Lord, through its instrumentality, to lead some of His people no longer to neglect the Holy Scriptures, but to give them that preference which they have hitherto bestowed on the writings of men.
Before I leave this subject, I would only add: If the reader understands very little of the word of God, he ought to read it very much; for the Spirit explains the word by the word. And if he enjoys the reading of the word little, that is just the reason why he should read it much; for the frequent reading of the Scriptures creates a delight in them, so that the more we read them, the more we desire to do so.
Above all, he should seek to have it settled in his own mind that God alone by His Spirit can teach him, and that therefore, as God will be inquired of for blessings, it becomes him to seek God's blessing previous to reading, and also whilst reading.
He should have it, moreover, settled in his mind that although the Holy Spirit is the best and sufficient Teacher, yet that this Teacher does not always teach immediately when we desire it, and that therefore we may have to entreat Him again and again for the explanation of certain passages; but that He will surely teach us at last, if indeed we are seeking for light prayerfully, patiently, and with a view to the glory of God.'
We find in his journal frequent mention made of his spending two and three hours in prayer over the word for the feeding of his spiritual life. As the fruit of this, when he had need of strength and encouragement in prayer, the individual promises were not to him so many arguments from a book to be used with God, but living words which he had heard the Father's living voice speak to him, and which he could now bring to the Father in living faith.
PRAYER AND THE WILL OF GOD.
One of the greatest difficulties with young believers is to know how they can find out whether what they desire is according to God's will. I count it one of the most precious lessons God wants to teach through the experience of George Muller, that He is willing to make known, of things of which His word says nothing directly, that they are His will for us, and that we may ask them. The teaching of the Spirit, not without or against the word, but as something above and beyond it, in addition to it, without which we cannot see God's will, is the heritage of every believer. It is through THE WORD, AND THE WORD ALONE, that the Spirit teaches, applying the general principles or promises to our special need. And it is THE SPIRIT, AND THE SPIRIT ALONE, who can really make the word a light on our path, whether the path of duty in our daily walk, or the path of faith in our approach to God. Let us try and notice in what childlike simplicity and teachableness it was that the discovery of God's will was so surely and so clearly made known to His servant.
With regard to the building of the first Home and the assurance he had of its being God's will, he writes in May 1850, just after it had been opened, speaking of the great difficulties there were, and how little likely it appeared to nature that they would be removed: But while the prospect before me would have been overwhelming had I looked at it naturally, I was never even for once permitted to question how it would end. For as from the beginning I was sure it was the will of God that I should go to the work of building for Him this large Orphan Home, so also from the beginning I was as certain that the whole would be finished as if the Home had been already filled.'
The way in which he found out what was God's will, comes out with special clearness in his account of the building of the second Home; and I ask the reader to study with care the lesson the narrative conveys: --
Dec.5, 1850. -- Under these circumstances I can only pray that the Lord in His tender mercy would not allow Satan to gain an advantage over me. By the grace of God my heart says: Lord, if I could be sure that it is Thy will that I should go forward in this matter, I would do so cheerfully; and, on the other hand, if I could be sure that these are vain, foolish, proud thoughts, that they are not from Thee, I would, by Thy grace, hate them, and entirely put them aside.
My hope is in God: He will help and teach me. Judging, however, from His former dealings with me, it would not be a strange thing to me, nor surprising, if He called me to labour yet still more largely in this way.
The thoughts about enlarging the Orphan work have not yet arisen on account of an abundance of money having lately come in; for I have had of late to wait for about seven weeks upon God, whilst little, very little comparatively, came in, i.e. about four times as much was going out as came in; and, had not the Lord previously sent me large sums, we should have been distressed indeed.
Lord! how can Thy servant know Thy will in this matter? Wilt Thou be pleased to teach him!
December 11. -- During the last six days, since writing the above, I have been, day after day, waiting upon God concerning this matter. It has generally been more or less all the day on my heart. When I have been awake at night, it has not been far from my thoughts. Yet all this without the least excitement. I am perfectly calm and quiet respecting it. My soul would be rejoiced to go forward in this service, could I be sure that the Lord would have me to do so; for then, notwithstanding the numberless difficulties, all would be well; and His Name would be magnified.
On the other hand, were I assured that the Lord would have me to be satisfied with my present sphere of service, and that I should not pray about enlarging the work, by His grace I could, without an effort, cheerfully yield to it; for He has brought me into such a state of heart, that I only desire to please Him in this matter. Moreover, hitherto I have not spoken about this thing even to my beloved wife, the sharer of my joys, sorrows, and labours for more than twenty years; nor is it likely that I shall do so for some time to come: for I prefer quietly to wait on the Lord, without conversing on this subject, in order that thus I may be kept the more easily, by His blessing, from being influenced by things from without. The burden of my prayer concerning this matter is, that the Lord would not allow me to make a mistake, and that He would teach me to do His will.
December 26. -- Fifteen days have elapsed since I wrote the preceding paragraph. Every day since then I have continued to pray about this matter, and that with a goodly measure of earnestness, by the help of God. There has passed scarcely an hour during these days, in which, whilst awake, this matter has not been more or less before me. But all without even a shadow of excitement. I converse with no one about it. Hitherto have I not even done so with my dear wife. For this I refrain still, and deal with God alone about the matter, in order that no outward influence and no outward excitement may keep me from attaining unto a clear discovery of His will. I have the fullest and most peaceful assurance that He will clearly show me His will. This evening I have had again an especial solemn season for prayer, to seek to know the will of God. But whilst I continue to entreat and beseech the Lord, that He would not allow me to be deluded in this business, I may say I have scarcely any doubt remaining on my mind as to what will be the issue, even that I should go forward in this matter. As this, however, is one of the most momentous steps that I have ever taken, I judge that I cannot go about this matter with too much caution, prayerfulness, and deliberation. I am in no hurry about it. I could wait for years, by God's grace, were this His will, before even taking one single step toward this thing, or even speaking to anyone about it; and, on the other hand, I would set to work tomorrow, were the Lord to bid me do so. This calmness of mind, this having no will of my own in the matter, this only wishing to please my Heavenly Father in it, this only seeking His and not my honour in it; this state of heart, I say, is the fullest assurance to me that my heart is not under a fleshly excitement, and that, if I am helped thus to go on, I shall know the will of God to the full. But, while I write this, I cannot but add at the same time, that I do crave the honour and the glorious privilege to be more and more used by the Lord.
I desire to be allowed to provide scriptural instruction for a thousand orphans, instead of doing so for 300. I desire to expound the Holy Scriptures regularly to a thousand orphans, instead of doing so to 300. I desire that it may be yet more abundantly manifest that God is still the Hearer and Answerer of prayer, and that He is the living God now as He ever was and ever will be, when He shall simply, in answer to prayer, have condescended to provide me with a house for 700 orphans and with means to support them. This last consideration is the most important point in my mind. The Lord's honour is the principal point with me in this whole matter; and just because this is the case, if He would be more glorified by not going forward in this business, I should by His grace be perfectly content to give up all thoughts about another Orphan House. Surely in such a state of mind, obtained by the Holy Spirit, Thou, O my Heavenly Father, wilt not suffer Thy child to be mistaken, much less deluded. By the help of God I shall continue further day by day to wait upon Him in prayer, concerning this thing, till He shall bid me act.
Jan.2, 1851. -- A week ago I wrote the preceding paragraph. During this week I have still been helped day by day, and more than once every day, to seek the guidance of the Lord about another Orphan House. The burden of my prayer has still been, that He in His great mercy would keep me from making a mistake. During the last week the book of Proverbs has come in the course of my Scripture reading, and my heart has been refreshed in reference to this subject by the following passages: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Prov. iii.5, 6). By the grace of God I do acknowledge the Lord in all my ways, and in this thing in particular; I have therefore the comfortable assurance that He will direct my paths concerning this part of my service, as to whether I shall be occupied in it our not. Further: "The integrity of the upright shall preserve them" (Prov. xi.3). By the grace of God I am upright in this business. My honest purpose is to get glory to God. Therefore I expect to be guided aright. Further: "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (Prov. xvi.3). I do commit my works unto the Lord, and therefore expect that my thoughts will be established. My heart is more and more coming to a calm, quiet, and settled assurance, that the Lord will condescend to use me still further in the orphan work. Here Lord is Thy servant.'
When later he decided to build two additional houses, Nos.4 and 5, he writes thus again: --
Twelve days have passed away since I wrote the last paragraph. I have still day by day been enabled to wait upon the Lord with reference to enlarging the Orphan work, and have been during the whole of this period also in perfect peace, which is the result of seeking in this thing only the Lord's honour and the temporal and spiritual benefit of my fellow-men. Without an effort could I by His grace put aside all thoughts about this whole affair, if only assured that it is the will of God that I should do so; and, on the other hand, would at once go forward, if He would have it be so. I have still kept this matter entirely to myself. Though it be now about seven weeks, since day by day, more or less, my mind has been exercised about it, and since I have been daily praying about it, yet not one human being knows of it. As yet I have not even mentioned it to my dear wife in order that thus, by quietly waiting upon God, I might not be influenced by what might be said to me on the subject. This evening has been particularly set apart for prayer, beseeching the Lord once more not to allow me to be mistaken in this thing, and much less to be deluded by the devil. I have also sought to let all the reasons against building another Orphan House, and all the reasons for doing so pass before my mind: and now for the clearness and definiteness, write them down. . . .
Much, however, as the nine previous reasons weigh with me, yet they would not decide me were there not one more. It is this. After having for months pondered the matter, and having looked at it in all its bearings and with all its difficulties, and then having been finally led, after much prayer, to decide on this enlargement, my mind is at peace. The child who has again and again besought His Heavenly Father not to allow him to be deluded, nor even to make a mistake, is at peace, perfectly at peace concerning this decision; and has thus the assurance that the decision come to, after much prayer during weeks and months, is the leading of the Holy Spirit; and therefore purposes to go forward, assuredly believing that he will not be confounded, for he trusts in God. Many and great may be his difficulties; thousands and ten thousands of prayers may have ascended to God, before the full answer may be obtained; much exercise of faith and patience may be required; but in the end it will again be seen, that His servant, who trusts in Him, has not been confounded.'
PRAYER AND THE GLORY OF GOD.
We have sought more than once to enforce the truth, that while we ordinarily seek the reasons of our prayers not being heard in the thing we ask not being according to the will of God, Scripture warns us to find the cause in ourselves, in our not being in the right state or not asking in the right spirit. The thing may be in full accordance with His will, but the asking, the spirit of the supplicant, not; then we are not heard. As the great root of all sin is self and self-seeking, so there is nothing that even in our more spiritual desires so effectually hinders God in answering as this: we pray for our own pleasure or glory. Prayer to have power and prevail must ask for the glory of God; and he can only do this as he is living for God's glory.
In George Muller we have one of the most remarkable instances on record of God's Holy Spirit leading a man deliberately and systematically, at the outset of a course of prayer, to make the glorifying of God his first and only object. Let us ponder well what he says, and learn the lesson God would teach us through him: --
I had constantly cases brought before me, which proved that one of the especial things which the children of God needed in our day, was to have their faith strengthened.
I longed, therefore, to have something to point my brethren to, as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God as ever He was; as willing as ever to PROVE Himself to be the LIVING GOD in our day as formerly, to all who put their trust in Him.
My spirit longed to be instrumental in strengthening their faith, by giving them not only instances from the word of God, of His willingness and ability to help all who rely upon Him, but to show them by proofs that He is the same in our day. I knew that the word of God ought to be enough, and it was by grace enough for me; but still I considered I ought to lend a helping hand to my brethren.
I therefore judged myself bound to be the servant of the Church of Christ, in the particular point in which I had obtained mercy; namely, in being able to take God at His word and rely upon it. The first object of the work was, and is still: that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked; thereby it may be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL, AND HEARS PRAYER STILL.
I have again these last days prayed much about the Orphan House, and have frequently examined my heart; that if it were at all my desire to establish it for the sake of gratifying myself, I might find it out. For as I desire only the Lord's glory, I shall be glad to be instructed by the instrumentality of my brother, if the matter be not of Him.
When I began the Orphan work in 1835, my chief object was the glory of God, by giving a practical demonstration as to what could be accomplished simply through the instrumentality of prayer and faith, in order thus to benefit the Church at large, and to lead a careless world to see the reality of the things of God, by showing them in this work, that the living God is still, as 4000 years ago, the living God. This my aim has been abundantly honoured. Multitudes of sinners have been thus converted, multitudes of the children of God in all parts of the world have been benefited by this work, even as I had anticipated. But the larger the work as grown, the greater has been the blessing, bestowed in the very way in which I looked for blessing: for the attention of hundreds of thousands has been drawn to the work; and many tens of thousands have come to see it. All this leads me to desire further and further to labour on in this way, in order to bring yet greater glory to the Name of the Lord. That He may be looked at, magnified, admired, trusted in, relied on at all times, is my aim in this service; and so particularly in this intended enlargement. That it may be seen how much one poor man, simply by trusting in God, can bring about by prayer; and that thus other children of God may be led to carry on the work of God in dependence upon Him; and that children of God may be led increasingly to trust in Him in their individual positions and circumstances, therefore I am led to this further enlargement.'
PRAYER AND TRUST IN GOD.
There are other points on which I would be glad to point out what is to be found in Mr. Muller's narrative, but one more must suffice. It is the lesson of firm and unwavering trust in God's promise as the secret of persevering prayer. If once we have, in submission to the teaching of the Spirit in the word, taken hold of God's promise, and believed that the Father has heard us, we must not allow ourselves by any delay or unfavourable appearances be shaken in our faith.
The full answer to my daily prayers was far from being realized; yet there was abundant encouragement granted by the Lord, to continue in prayer. But suppose, even, that far less had come in than was received, still, after having come to the conclusion, upon scriptural grounds, after much prayer and self-examination, I ought to have gone on without wavering, in the exercise of faith and patience concerning this object; and thus all the children of God, when once satisfied that anything which they bring before God in prayer, is according to His will, ought to continue in believing, expecting, persevering prayer until the blessing is granted. Thus am I myself now waiting upon God for certain blessings, for which I have daily besought Him for ten years and six months without one day's intermission. Still the full answer is not yet given concerning the conversion of certain individuals, though in the meantime I have received many thousands of answers to prayer. I have also prayed daily without intermission for the conversion of other individuals about ten years, for others six or seven years, for others from three or two years; and still the answer is not yet granted concerning those persons, while in the meantime many thousands of my prayers have been answered, and also souls converted, for whom I had been praying. I lay particular stress on this for the benefit of those who may suppose that I need only to ask of God, and receive at once; or that I might pray concerning anything, and the answer would surely come. One can only expect to obtain answers to prayers which are according to the mind of God; and even then, patience and faith may be exercised for many years, even as mine are exercised, in the matter to which I have referred; and yet am I daily continuing in prayer, and expecting the answer, and so surely expecting the answer, that I have often thanked God that He will surely give it, though now for nineteen years faith and patience have thus been exercised. Be encouraged, dear Christians, with fresh earnestness to give yourselves to prayer, if you can only be sure that you ask things which are for the glory of God.
But the most remarkable point is this, that £6, 6s.6d. from Scotland supplied me, as far as can be known now, with all the means necessary for fitting up and promoting the New Orphan Houses. Six years and eight months I have been day by day, and generally several times daily, asking the Lord to give me the needed means for this enlargement of the Orphan work, which, according to calculations made in the spring of 1861, appeared to be about fifty thousand pounds: the total of this amount I had now received. I praise and magnify the Lord for putting this enlargement of the work into my heart, and for giving me courage and faith for it; and above all, for sustaining my faith day by day without wavering. When the last portion of the money was received, I was no more assured concerning the whole, that I was at the time I had not received one single donation towards this large sum. I was at the beginning, after once having ascertained His mind, through most patient and heart-searching waiting upon God, as fully assured that He would bring it about, as if the two houses, with their hundreds of orphans occupying them, had been already before me. I make a few remarks here for the sake of young believers in connection with this subject: 1. Be slow to take new steps in the Lord's service, or in your business, or in your families: weigh everything well; weigh all in the light of the Holy Scriptures and in the fear of God. 2. Seek to have no will of your own, in order to ascertain the mind of God, regarding any steps you propose taking, so that you can honestly say you are willing to do the will of God, if He will only please to instruct you. 3. But when you have found out what the will of God is, seek for His help, and seek it earnestly, perseveringly, patiently, believingly, expectantly; and you will surely in His own time and way obtain it.
To suppose that we have difficulty about money only would be a mistake: there occur hundreds of other wants and of other difficulties. It is a rare thing that a day occurs without some difficulty or some want; but often there are many difficulties and many wants to be met and overcome the same day. All these are met by prayer and faith, our universal remedy; and we have never been confounded. Patient, persevering, believing prayer, offered up to God, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, has always, sooner or later, brought the blessing. I do not despair, by God's grace, of obtaining any blessing, provided I can be sure it would be for any real good, and for the glory of God.