GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE mountain-climber, at the sunset hour, naturally takes a last lingering look backward at the prospect visible from the lofty height, before he begins his descent to the valley. And, before we close this volume, we as naturally cast one more glance backward over this singularly holy and useful life, that we may catch further inspiration from its beauty and learn some new lessons in holy living and unselfish serving.
George Müller was divinely fitted for, fitted into his work, as a mortise fits the tenon, or a ball of bone its socket in the joint. He had adaptations, both natural and gracious, to the life of service to which he was called and these adaptations made possible a career of exceptional sanctity and service, because of his complete self-surrender to the will of God and his childlike faith in His word.
Three qualities or characteristics stand out very conspicuous in him truth, faith, and love. Our Lord frequently taught His disciples that the childlike spirit is the soul of discipleship, and in the ideal child these three traits are central.
Truth is one centre, about which revolve childlike frankness and sincerity, genuineness and simplicity.
Faith is another, about which revolve confidence and trust, docility and humility.
Love is another centre, around which gather unselfishness and generosity, gentleness and restfulness of spirit.
In the typical or perfect child, therefore, all these beautiful qualities would coexist, and, in proportion as they are found in a disciple, is he worthy to be called a child of God.
In Mr. Müller these traits were all found and conjoined, and this fact sufficiently accounts for his remarkable likeness to Christ and fruitfulness in serving God and man. No pen-portrait of him which fails to make these features very prominent can either be accurate in delineation or warm in colouring. It is difficult to overestimate their importance in their relation to what George Müller was and did.
Truth is the corner-stone of all excellence, for without it nothing else is true, genuine, or real. From the hour of his conversion his truthfulness was increasingly dominant and apparent. In fact, there was about him a scrupulous erectness which sometimes seemed unnecessary. One smiles at the mathematical precision with which he states facts, giving the years, days, and hours since he was brought to the knowledge of God, or since he began to pray for some given object; and the pounds, shillings, pence, halfpence, and even farthings that form the total sum expended for any given purpose. We see the same conscientious exactness in the repetitions of statements, whether of principles or of occurrences, which we meet in his journal, and in which oftentimes there is not even a change of a word. But all this has a significance. It inspires absolute confidence in the record of the Lord's dealings.
First, because it shows that the writer has disciplined himself to accuracy of statement. Many a falsehood is not an intentional lie, but an undesigned inaccuracy. Three of our human faculties powerfully affect our veracity:
one is memory,
another is imagination, and
another is conscience.
Memory takes note of facts,
imagination colours facts with fancies, and
conscience brings the moral sense to bear in sifting the real from the unreal.
Where conscience is not sensitive and dominant, memory and imagination will become so confused that facts and fancies will fail to be separated. The imagination will be so allowed to invest events and experiences with either a halo of glory or a cloud of prejudice that the narrator will constantly tell, not what he clearly sees written in the book of his remembrance, but what he beholds painted upon the canvas of his own imagination. Accuracy will be, half unconsciously perhaps, sacrificed to his own imaginings, he will exaggerate or depreciate-- as his own impulses lead him; and a man who would not deliberately lie may thus be habitually untrustworthy: you cannot tell, and often he cannot tell, what the exact truth would be when all the unreality with which it has thus been invested is dissipated like the purple and golden cloud about a mountain, leaving the bare crag of naked rock to be seen, just as it is; in itself.
George Müller felt the immense importance of exact statement. Hence he disciplined himself to accuracy. Conscience presided over his narrative, and demanded that everything else should be scrupulously sacrificed to verse. But, more than this, God made him, in a sense, a man without imagination-- comparatively free from the temptations of an enthusiastic temperament. He was a mathematician rather than a poet, an artisan rather than an artist, and he did not see things invested with a false halo. He was deliberate, not impulsive; calm and not excitable. He naturally weighed every word before he spoke and scrutinized every statement before he gave it form with pen or tongue. And therefore the vary quality that, to some people, may make his narrative bare of charm, and even repulsively prosaic, add to its value as a plain, conscientious, unimaginative, unvarnished, and trustworthy statement of facts. Had any man of a more poetic mind written that journal, the reader would have found himself constantly and unconsciously making allowance for the writer's own enthusiasm, discounting the facts, because of the imaginative colouring. The narrative might have been more readable, but it would not have been so reliable; and, in this story of the Lord's dealings, nothing was so indispensable as exact truth. It would be comparatively worthless, were it not undeniable. The Lord fitted the man who lived that life of faith and prayer, and wrote that life-story, to inspire confidence, so that even skeptics and doubters felt that they were reading, not a novel or a poem, but a history.
Faith was the second of these central traits in George Müller, and it was purely the product of grace. We are told, in that first great lesson on faith in the Scripture, that (Genesis xv.6) Abram believed in Jehovah-- literally, Amened Jehovah. The word "Amen" means not "Let it be so," but rather, "it shall be so." The Lord's word came to Abram, saying this "shall not be," but something else "shall be"; and Abram simply said with all his heart, "Amen"--
"it shall be as God hath said."
And Paul seems to be imitating Abram's faith when, in the shipwreck off Malta, he said,
"I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."
That is faith in its simplest exercise and it was George Müller's faith. He found the word of the Lord in His blessed Book, a new word of promise for each new crisis of trial or need; he put his finger upon the very text and then looked up to God and said:
"Thou hast spoken. I believe."
Persuaded of God's unfailing truth, he rested in His word with unwavering faith, and consequently he was at peace.
Nothing is more noticeable, in the entire career of this man of God, reaching through sixty-five years, than the steadiness of his faith and the steadfastness it gave to his whole character. To have a word of God was enough. He built upon it, and, when floods came and beat again that house, how could it fall! He was never confounded nor obliged to flee. Even the earthquake may shake earth and heaven, but it leaves the true believer the inheritor of a kingdom which cannot be moved; for an object of all such shaking is to remove what can be shaken that what cannot be shaken may remain.
If Mr. Müller had any great mission, it was not to found a world-wide institution of any sort, however useful scattering Bibles and books and tracts, or housing and feeding thousands of orphans, or setting up Christian schools and aiding missionary workers. His main mission was to teach men that it is safe to trust God's word, to rest implicitly upon whatever He hath said, and obey explicitly whatever He has bidden; that prayer offered in faith trusting His promise and the intercession of His dear Son, is never offered in vain; and that the life lived by faith is a walk with God, just outside the very gates heaven.
Love, the third of that, trinity of graces, was the other great secret and lesson of this life. And what is love? Not merely a complacent affection for what is lovable, which is often only a half-selfish taking of pleasure in society and fellowship of those who love us. Love is the principle of unselfishness: love
"seeketh not her own"
it is the preference of another's pleasure and profit over our own, and hence is exercised toward the unthankful and unloving, that it may lift them to a higher level. Such love is benevolence rather than complacence, and so it is "of God," for He loveth the unthankful and the evil: and he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. Such love is obedience to a principle of unselfishness, and makes self-sacrifice habitual and even natural. While Satan's motto is,
Christ's motto is,
The sharpest rebuke ever administered by our Lord was that to Peter when he became a Satan by counselling his Master to adopt Satan's maxim.* We are bidden by Paul,
"Remember Jesus Christ,"†
and by Peter,
"Follow His steps."‡
† 2 Tim. ii. (Greek).
‡1 Pet. ii.21.
If we seek the inmost meaning of these two brief mottoes, we shall find that, about Jesus Christ's character, nothing was more conspicuous than the obedience of faith and self-surrender to God, and in His career, which we are bidden to follow, the self-oblivion of love, or self-sacrifice for man. The taunt was sublimely true:
"He saved others, Himself He cannot save";
it was because he saved others that He could not save Himself. The seed must give up its own life for the sake of the crop; and he who will be life to others must, like his Lord, consent to die.
Here is the real meaning of that command,
"Let him deny himself and take up his cross."
Self-denial is not cutting off an indulgence here and there, but laying the axe at the root of the tree of self, of which all indulgences are only greater or smaller branches. Self-righteousness and self-trust, self-seeking and self-pleasing, self-will, self-defence, self-glory-- these are a few of the myriad branches of that deeply rooted tree. And what if one or more of these be cut off, if such lopping off of some few branches only throws back into others the self-life to develop more vigorously in them?
And what is cross-bearing? We speak of our "crosses"-- but the word of God never uses that word in the plural, for there is but one cross-- the cross on which the self-life is crucified, the cross of voluntary self-renunciation.
How did Christ come to the cross? We read in Philippians the seven steps of his descent from heaven to Calvary. He had everything that even the Son of God could hold precious, even to the actual equal sharing of the glory of God. Yet for man's sake what did he do? He did not hold fast even His equality with God, He emptied Himself, took on Him the form of a servant, was made in the likeness of fallen humanity; even more than this, He humbled Himself even as a man, identifying Himself with our poverty and misery and sin; He accepted death for our sakes, and that, the death of shame on the tree of curse. Every step was downward until He who had been worshipped by angels was reviled by thieves, and the crown of glory was displaced by the crown of thorns! That is what the cross meant to Him. And He says:
"If a man will come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up the cross and follow Me."
This cross is not forced upon us as are many of the little vexations and trials which we call "our crosses"; it is taken up by us, in voluntary self-sacrifice for His sake. We choose self-abnegation, to lose our life in sacrifice that we may find it again in service.
That is the self-oblivion of love. And Mr. Müller illustrated it. From the hour when he began to serve the Crucified One he entered more and more fully into the fellowship of His sufferings, seeking to be
"made conformable unto His death."
He gave up fortune-seeking and fame-seeking; he cut loose from the world with its snares and joys; he separated himself from even its doubtful practices, he tested even churchly traditions and customs by the word of God, and step by step conformed to the pattern show in that word. Every such step was a new self-denial, it was following Him. He chose voluntary poverty that others might be rich, and voluntary loss that others might have gain. His life was one long endeavour to bless others, to be the channel for conveying God's truth and love and grace to them. Like Paul he rejoiced in such sufferings for others, because thus he filled up
"that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ"
in his flesh
"for His body's sake which is the church."*
And unless Love's voluntary sacrifice be taken into account, George Müller's life will still remain an enigma. Loyalty to truth, the obedience of faith, the sacrifice of love-- these form the threefold key that unlocks to us all the closed chambers of that life, and these will, in another sense, unlock any other life to the entrance of God, and present to Him an open door into all departments of one's being. George Müller had no monopoly of holy living and holy serving. He followed his Lord, both in self-surrender to the will of God and in self-sacrifice for the welfare of man, and herein lay his whole secret.
To one who asked him the secret of his service he said:
"There was a day when I died, utterly died;"
and, as he spoke, he bent lower and lower until he almost touched the floor--
"died to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will-- died to the world, its approval or censure-- died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends-- and since then I have studied only to show myself 'approved unto God.'"
When George Müller trusted the blood for salvation, he took Abel's position; when he undertook a consecrated walk he took Enoch's; when he came into fellowship with God for his life-work he stood beside Noah; when he rested only on God's word, he was one with Abraham; and when he died to self and the world, he reached the self-surrender of Moses.
The godlike qualities of this great and good man made him none the less a man. His separation unto God implied no unnatural isolation from his fellow mortals. Like Terence, he could say:
"I am a man, and nothing common to man is foreign to me."
To be well known, Mr. Müller needed to be known in his daily, simple, home life. It was my privilege to meet him often, and in his own apartment at Orphan House No. 3. His room was of medium size, neatly but plainly furnished, with table and chairs, lounge and writing-desk, etc. His Bible almost always lay open, as a book to which he continually resorted.
His form was tall and slim, always neatly attired, and very erect, and his step firm and strong. His countenance in repose, might have been thought stern, but for the smile which so habitually lit up his eyes and played over his features that it left its impress on the lines of his face. His manner was one of simple courtesy and unstudied dignity: no one would in his presence, have felt like vain trifling, and there was about him a certain indescribable air of authority and majesty that reminded one of a born prince; and yet there was mingled with all this a simplicity so childlike that even children felt themselves at home with him. In his speech, he never quite lost that peculiar foreign quality, known as accent, and he always spoke with slow and measured articulation, as though a double watch were set at the door of his lips. With him that unruly member, the tongue, was tamed by the Holy Spirit, and he had that mark of what James calls a
"perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body."
Those who knew but little of him and saw him only in his serious moods might have thought him lacking in that peculiarly human quality, humour. But neither was he an ascetic nor devoid of that element of innocent appreciation of the ludicrous and that keen enjoyment of a good story which seem essential to a complete man. His habit was sobriety, but he relished a joke that was free of all taint of uncleanness and that had about it no sting for others. To those whom he best knew and loved he showed his true self, in his playful moods,-- as when at Ilfracombe, climbing with his wife and others the heights that overlook the sea, he walked on a little in advance, seated himself till the rest came up with him, and then, when they were barely seated, rose and quietly said,
"Well now, we have had a good rest, let us go on."
This one instance may suffice to show that his sympathy with his divine Master did not lessen or hinder his complete fellow feeling with man. That must be a defective piety which puts a barrier between a saintly soul and whatsoever pertains to humanity. He who chose us out of the world sent us back into it, there to find our sphere of service; and in order to such service we must keep in close and vital touch with human beings as did our divine Lord Himself.
Service to God was with George Müller a passion. In the month of May, 1897, he was persuaded to take at Huntly a little rest from his constant daily work at the orphan houses. The evening that he arrived he said,
"What opportunity is there here for services for the Lord?"
When it was suggested to him that he had just come from continuous work, and that it was a time for rest, he replied that, being now free from his usual labours, he felt he must be occupied in some other way in serving the Lord, to glorify whom was his object in life. Meetings were accordingly arranged and he preached both at Huntly and at Teignmouth.
As we cast this last glance backward over this life of peculiar sanctity and service, one lesson seems written across it in unmistakable letters: PREVAILING PRAYER. If a consecrated human life is an example used by God to teach us the philosophy of holy living, then this man was meant to show us how prayer, offered in simple faith, has power with God.
One paragraph of Scripture conspicuously presents the truth which George Müller's living epistle enforces and illustrates; it is found in James v.16-18:
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,"
is the sentence which opens the paragraph. No translation has done it justice. Rotherham renders it:
"Much avails a righteous man's supplication working inwardly."
The Revised Version translates
"avails much in its working."
The difficulty of translating lies not in the obscurity but in the fulness of the meaning of the original. There is a Greek middle participle here (energoumene) [Greek transliteration], which may indicate
"either the cause or the time of the effectiveness of the prayer,"
and may mean, through its working, or while it is actively working. The idea is that such prayer has about it supernatural energy. Perhaps the best key to the meaning of these ten words is to interpret them in the light of the whole paragraph:
"Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are,
and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain;
and it rained not on the earth by the space of
three years and six months.
And he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain
and the earth brought forth her fruit."
Two things are here plainly put before us:
first, that Elijah was but a man, of like nature with other men and subject to all human frailties and infirmities; and
secondly, that this man was such a power because he was a man of prayer: he prayed earnestly; literally "he prayed with prayer"; prayed habitually and importunately.
No man can read Elijah's short history as given in the word of God, without seeing that he was a man like ourselves. Under the juniper-tree of doubt and despondency, he complained of his state and wished he might die. In the cave of a morbid despair, he had to be met and subdued by the vision of God and by the still, small voice. He was just like other men. It was not, therefore, because he was above human follies and frailties, but because he was subject to them, that he is held up to us as an encouraging example of power that prevails in prayer. He laid hold of the Almighty Arm because he was weak, and he kept hold because to lose hold was to let weakness prevail. Nevertheless, this man, by prayer alone, shut up heaven's flood-gates for three years and a half, and then by the same key unlocked them. Yes, this man tested the meaning of those wonderful words:
"concerning the work of My hands command ye Me."
God put the forces of nature for the time under the sway of this one man's prayer-- one frail, feeble mortal locked and unlocked the springs of waters, because he held God's key.
George Müller was simply another Elijah. Like him, a man subject to all human infirmities, he had his fits of despondency and murmuring, of distrust and waywardness; but he prayed and kept praying. He denied that he was a miracle-worker, in any sense that implies elevation of character and endowment above other fellow disciples, as though he were a specially privileged saint; but in a sense he was a miracle-worker, if by that is meant that he wrought wonders impossible to the natural and carnal man.
"With God all things are possible,"
and so are they declared to be to him that believeth. God meant that George Müller, wherever his work was witnessed or his story is read, should be a standing rebuke, to the practical impotence of the average disciple. While men are asking George Müller whether prayer can accomplish similar wonders as of old here is a man who answers the question by the indisputable logic of facts. Powerlessness always means prayerlessness. It is not necessary for us to be raised to a special dignity of privilege and endowment, in order to wield this wondrous weapon of power with God; but it is necessary that we be men and women of prayer-- habitual, believing, importunate prayer.
George Müller considered nothing too small to be a subject of prayer, because nothing is too small to be the subject of God's care. If He numbers our hairs, and notes a sparrow's fall, and clothes the grass in the field, nothing about His children is beneath His tender thought. In every emergency, his one resort was to carry his want to his Father. When, in 1858, a legacy of five hundred pounds was, after fourteen months in chancery, still unpaid, the Lord was besought to cause this money soon to be placed in his hands; and he prayed that legacy out of the bonds of chancery as prayer, long before, brought Peter out of prison. The money paid contrary to all human likelihood, and with interest at four per cent.
When large gifts were proffered, prayer was offered for grace to know whether to accept or decline, that no money might be greedily grasped at for its own sake; and he prayed that, if it could not be accepted without submitting to conditions which were dishonouring to God, it might be declined so graciously, lovingly, humbly, and yet firmly that the manner of its refusal and return might show that he was acting, not in his own behalf, but as a servant under the authority of a higher Master.
These are graver matters and might well be carried to God for guidance and help. But George Müller did not stop here. In the lesser affairs, even down to the least, he sought and received like aid. His oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman of Barnstaple, gave the writer the following simple incident:
In the early days of his love to Christ, visiting a friend, and seeing him mending a quill pen, he said:
"Brother H-- , do you pray to God when you mend your pen?"
The answer was:
"It would be well to do so, but I cannot say that I do pray when mending my pen."
Brother Müller replied:
"I always do, and so I mend my pen much better."
As we cast this last backward glance at this man of God, seven conspicuous qualities stand out in him, the combination of which made him what he was: Stainless uprightness, child-like simplicity, business-like precision, tenacity of purpose, boldness of faith, habitual prayer, and cheerful self-surrender. His holy living was a necessary condition of his abundant serving, as seems so beautifully hinted in the seventeenth verse of the ninetieth Psalm:
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us."
How can the work of our hands be truly established by the blessing of our Lord, unless His beauty also is upon us-- the beauty of His holiness transforming our lives and witnessing to His work in us?
So much for the backward look. We must not close without a forward look also. There are two remarkable sayings of our Lord which are complements to each other and should be put side by side:
"If any man will come after Me,
let him deny himself
and take up his cross
and follow Me."
"If any man will serve Me,
let him follow Me;
and where I am,
there shall also my servant be.
If any man serve Me,
him will My Father honour."
One of these presents the cross, the other the crown, one the renunciation, the other the compensation. In both cases it is, "Let him follow Me"; but in the second of these passages the following of Christ goes further than the cross of Calvary; it reaches through the sepulcher to the Resurrection Life, the Forty Days' Holy Walk in the Spirit, the Ascension to the Heavenlies, the session at the Right Hand of God, the Reappearing at His Second Coming, and the fellowship of His Final Reign in Glory. And two compensations are especially made prominent:
first the Eternal Home with Christ; and,
second the Exalted Honour from the Father.
We too often look only at the cross and the crucifixion, and so see our life in Christ only in its oneness with Him in suffering and serving; we need to look beyond and see our oneness with Him in recompense and reward, if we are to get a complete view of His promise and our prospect. Self-denial is not so much an impoverishment as a postponement: we make a sacrifice of a present good for the sake of a future and greater good. Even our Lord Himself was strengthened to endure the cross and despise the shame by the joy that was set before Him and the glory of His final victory. If there were seven steps downward in humiliation, there are seven upward in exaltation, until beneath His feet every knee shall bow in homage, and every tongue confess His universal Lordship. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.
George Müller counted all as loss that men count gain, but it was for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, his Lord. He suffered the loss of all things and counted then as dung, but it was that he might win Christ and be found in Him; that he might know Him, and not only the fellowship of His sufferings and conformity to His death, but the power of His resurrection, conformity to His life, and fellowship in His glory. He left all behind that the world values, but he reached forth and pressed forward toward the goal, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
"Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded."
When the Lord Jesus was upon earth, there was one disciple whom He loved, who also leaned on His breast, having the favoured place which only one could occupy. But now that He is in heaven, every disciple may be the loved one, and fill the favoured place, and lean on His bosom. There is no exclusive monopoly of privilege and blessing. He that follows closely and abides in Him knows the peculiar closeness of contact, the honour of intimacy, that are reserved for such as are called and chosen and faithful, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. God's self-denying servants are on their way to the final sevenfold perfection, at home with Him, and crowned with honour:
"And there shall be no more curse;
But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it;
And His servants shall serve Him;
And they shall see His face;
And His name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there,
And they shall reign for ever and ever."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE eleventh chapter of Hebrews-- that "Westminster Abbey" where Old Testament saints have a memorial before God-- gives a hint of a peculiar reward which faith enjoys, even in this life, as an earnest and foretaste of its final recompense.
"the elders obtained a good report,"
that is, they had witness borne to them by God in return for witness borne to Him. All the marked examples of faith here recorded show this twofold testimony. Abel testified to his faith in God's Atoning Lamb, and God testified to his gifts. Enoch witnessed to the unseen God by his holy walk with Him, and He testified to Enoch, by his translation, and even before it, that he pleased God. Noah's faith bore witness to God's word, by building the ark and preaching righteousness, and God bore witness to him by bringing a flood upon a world of the ungodly and saving him and his family in the ark.
George Müller's life was one long witness to the prayer-hearing God; and, throughout, God bore him witness that his prayers were heard and his work accepted. The pages of his journal are full of striking examples of this witness-- the earnest or foretaste of the fuller recompense of reward reserved for the Lord's coming.
Compensations for renunciations, and rewards for service, do not all wait for the judgment-seat of Christ, but, as some men's sins are "open beforehand," going before to judgment, so the seed sown for God yields a harvest that is open beforehand to joyful recognition. Divine love graciously and richly acknowledged these many years of self-forgetful devotion to Him and His needy ones, by large and unexpected tokens of blessing. Toils and trials, tears and prayers, were not in vain even this side of the Hereafter.
For illustrations of this we naturally turn first of all to the orphan work. Ten thousand motherless and fatherless children had found a home and tender parental care in the institution founded by George Müller, and were there fed, clad, and taught, before he was called up higher. His efforts to improve their state physically, morally, and spiritually were so manifestly owned of God that he felt his compensation to be both constant and abundant, and his journal, from time to time, glows with his fervent thanksgivings.
This orphan work would amply repay all its cost during two thirds of a century, should only its temporal benefits be reckoned. Experience proved that, with God's blessing, one half of the lives sacrificed among the children of poverty would be saved by better conditions of body-- such as regularity and cleanliness of habits, good food, pure air, proper clothing, and wholesome exercise. At least two thirds, if not three fourths, of the parents whose offspring have found a shelter on Ashley Down had died of consumption and kindred diseases; and hence the children had been largely tainted with a like tendency. And yet, all through the history of this orphan work, there has been such care of proper sanitary conditions that there has been singular freedom from all sorts of ailments, and especially epidemic diseases; and when scarlet fever, measles, and such diseases have found entrance, the cases of sickness have been comparatively few and mild, and the usual percentage of deaths exceedingly small.
This is not the only department of training in which the recompense has been abundant. Ignorance is everywhere the usual handmaid of poverty, and there has been very careful effort to secure proper mental culture. With what success the education of these orphans has been looked after will sufficiently appear from the reports of the school inspector. From year to year these pupils have been examined in reading, writing, arithmetic, Scripture, dictation, geography, history, grammar, composition, and singing; and Mr. Horne reported in 1885 an average per cent of all marks as high as 91.1, and even this was surpassed the next year when it was 94, and, two years later, when it was 96.1.
But in the moral and spiritual welfare of these orphans which has been primarily sought, the richest recompense has been enjoyed. The one main aim of Mr. Müller and his whole staff of helpers, from first to last, has been to save these children-- to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The hindrances were many and formidable. If the hereditary taint of disease is to be dreaded, what of the awful legacy of sin and crime! Many of these little ones had no proper bringing up till they entered the orphan houses; and not a few had been trained indeed, but only in Satan's schools of drink and lust. And yet, notwithstanding all these drawbacks, Mr. Müller records, with devout thankfulness, that
"the Lord had constrained them, on the whole, to behave exceedingly well, so much so as to attract the attention of observers."
Better still, large numbers have, throughout the whole history of this work, given signs of a really regenerate state, and have afterwards maintained a consistent character and conduct, and in some cases have borne singular witness to the grace of God, both by their complete transformation and by their influence for good.
In August, 1858, an orphan girl, Martha Pinnell, who had been for over twelve years under Mr. Müller's care, and for more than five years ill with consumption, fell asleep in Jesus. Before her death, she had, for two and a half years, known the Lord, and the change in her character and conduct had been remarkable. From an exceedingly disobedient and troublesome child with a pernicious influence, she had become both very docile and humble and most influential for good. In her unregenerate days she had declared that, if she should ever be converted, she would be "a thorough Christian," and so it proved, her happiness in God, her study of His word, her deep knowledge of the Lord Jesus, her earnest passion for souls, seemed almost incredible in one so young and so recently turned to God. And Mr. Müller has preserved in the pages of his Journal four of the precious letters written by her to other inmates of the orphan houses.*
*Narrative, III. 258-267.
At times, and frequently, extensive revivals have been known among them when scores and hundreds have found the Lord. The year ending May 26, 1858 was especially notable for the unprecedented greatness and rapidity of the work which the Spirit of God had wrought, in such conversions. Within a few days and without any special apparent cause except the very peaceful death of a Christian orphan, Caroline Bailey, more than fifty of the one hundred and forty girls in Orphan House No. 1 were under conviction of sin, and the work spread into the other departments, till about sixty were shortly exercising faith. In July, 1859, again, in a school of one hundred and twenty girls more than half brought under deep spiritual concern; and, after a year had passed, shewed the grace of continuance in a new life. In January and February, 1860, another mighty wave of Holy Spirit power swept over the institution. It began among little girls from six to nine years old, then extended to the older girls, and then to the boys, until, inside of ten days, above two hundred were inquiring and in many instances found immediate peace. The young converts at once asked to hold prayer meetings among themselves, and were permitted; and not only so, but many began to labour and pray for others, and, out of the seven hundred orphans then in charge, some two hundred and sixty were shortly regarded as either converted or in a most hopeful state.
Again, in 1872, on the first day of the week of prayer, the Holy Spirit so moved that, without any unusual occasion for deep seriousness, hundreds were, during that season hopefully converted. Constant prayer for their souls made the orphan homes a hallowed place, and by August 1st, it was believed, after careful investigation, that seven hundred and twenty-nine might be safely counted as being disciples of Christ, the number of believing orphans being thus far in excess of any previous period. A series of such blessings have, down to this date, crowned the sincere endeavours of all who have charge of these children, to lead them to seek
"first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness."
By far the majority of orphans sent out for service or apprenticeship, had for some time before known the Lord; and even of those who left the Institution unconverted, the after-history of many showed that the training there received had made impossible continuance in a life of sin.
Thus, precious harvests of this seed-sowing, gathered in subsequent years, have shown that God was not unrighteous to forget this work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope.
In April, 1874, a letter from a former inmate of the orphanage enclosed a thank offering for the excellent Bible teaching there received which had borne fruit years after. So carefully had she been instructed in the way of salvation that, while yet herself unrenewed, she had been God's instrument of leading to Christ a fellow servant who had long been seeking peace, and so, became like a sign-board on the road, the means of directing another to the true path, by simply telling her what she had been taught, though not then following the path herself.
Another orphan wrote, in 1876, that often, when tempted to indulge the sin of unbelief, the thought of that six years' sojourn in Ashley Down came across the mind like a gleam of sunshine. It was remembered how the clothes there worn, the food eaten, the bed slept on, and the very walls around, were the visible answers to believing prayer, and the recollection of all these things proved a potent prescription and remedy for the doubts and waverings of the child of God, a shield against the fiery darts of satanic suggestion.
During the thirty years between 1865 and 1895, two thousand five hundred and sixty-six orphans were known to have left the institution as believers, an average of eighty-five every year; and, at the close of this thirty years, nearly six hundred were yet in the homes on Ashley Down who had given credible evidence of a regenerate state.
Mr. Müller was permitted to know that not only had these orphans been blessed in health, educated in mind, converted to God, and made useful Christian citizens, but many of them had become fathers or mothers of Christian households. One representative instance may be cited. A man and a woman who had formerly been among these orphans became husband and wife, and they have had eight children, all earnest disciples, one of whom went as a foreign missionary to Africa.
From the first, God set His seal upon this religious training in the orphan houses. The first two children received into No. 1 both became true believers and zealous workers: one, a Congregational deacon, who, in a benighted neighbourhood, acted the part of a lay preacher; and the other, a laborious and successful clergyman in the Church of England, and both largely used of God in soul-winning. Could the full history be written of who have gone forth from these orphan homes, what volume of testimony would be furnished, since these are but a few scattered examples of the conspicuously useful service to which God has called those whose after-career can be traced!
In his long and extensive missionary tours, Mr. Müller was permitted to see, gather, and partake of many widely scattered fruits of his work on Ashley Down. While preaching in Brooklyn, N. Y., in September, 1877, he learned that in Philadelphia a legacy of a thousand pounds was waiting for him, the proceeds of a life-insurance which the testator had willed to the work, and in city after city he had the joy of meeting scores of orphans brought up under his care.
He minutely records the remarkable usefulness of a Mr. Wilkinson, who, up to the age of fourteen and a half years had been taught at the orphanage. Twenty years had elapsed since Mr. Müller had seen him, when, in 1878, he met him in Calvary Church, San Francisco, six thousand five hundred miles from Bristol. He found him holding fast his faith in the Lord Jesus, a happy and consistent Christian. He further heard most inspiring accounts of this man's singular service during the Civil War in America. Being on the gunboat Louisiana, he had there been the leading spirit and recognized head of a little Bethel church among his fellow seamen, who were by him led to engage in the service of Christ as to exhibit a devotion that, without a trace of fanatical enthusiasm, was full of holy zeal and joy. Their whole conversation was of God. It further transpired that, months previous, when the cloud of impending battle overhung the ship's company, he and one of his comrades had met for prayer in the "chain-locker"; and thus began a series of most remarkable meetings which, without one night's interruption, lasted for some twenty months. Wilkinson alone among the whole company had any previous knowledge of the word of God, and he became not only the leader of the movement, but the chief interpreter of the Scriptures as they met to read the book of God and exchange views upon it. Nor was he satisfied to do thus much with his comrades daily, but at another stated hour he, with some chosen helpers, gathered the coloured sailors of the ship to teach them reading, writing, etc.
A member of the Christian Commission, Mr. J. R. Hammond, who gave these facts publicity, and who was intimately acquainted with Mr. Wilkinson and his work on shipboard, said that he seemed to be a direct
"product of Mr. Müller's faith, his calm confidence in God, the method in his whole manner of life, the persistence of purpose, and the quiet spiritual power,"
which so characterized the founder of the Bristol orphanage, being eminently reproduced in this young man who had been trained under his influence. When in a sail-loft ashore, he was compelled for two weeks to listen to the lewd and profane talk of two associates detailed with him for a certain work. For the most part he took refuge in silence; but his manner of conduct, and one sentence which dropped from his lips, brought both those rough and wicked sailors to the Saviour he loved, one of whom in three months read the word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
Mr. Müller went nowhere without meeting converted orphans or hearing of their work, even in the far-corners of the earth. Sometimes in great cities ten or fifteen would be waiting at the close of an address to shake the hand of their "father," and tell him of their debt of gratitude and love. He found them in every conceivable sphere of service, many of them having strong holds in which the principles taught in the orphan house were dominant, and engaged in the learned professions as well as humbler walks of life.
God gave His servant also the sweet compensation seeing great blessing attending the day-schools supported by the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
The master of the school at Clayhidon, for instance, wrote of a poor lad, a pupil in the day-school, prostrate with rheumatic fever, in a wretched home and surrounded by bitter opposers of the truth. Wasted to a skeleton, and in deep anxiety about his own soul, he was pointed to Him who says,
"Come unto Me, and I will give you rest."
While yet this conversation was going on, as though suddenly he had entered into a new world, this emaciated boy began to repeat texts such as
"Suffer the little children to come unto me,"
and burst out singing:
"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so."
He seemed transported with ecstasy, and recited text after text and hymn after hymn, learned at that school. No marvel is it if that schoolmaster felt a joy, akin to the angels, in this one proof that his labour in the Lord was not in vain. Such examples might be indefinitely multiplied, but this handful of first-fruits of a harvest may indicate the character of the whole crop.
Letters were constantly received from missionary labourers in various parts of the world who were helped by the gifts of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The testimony from this source alone would fill a good-sized volume, and therefore its incorporation into this memoir would be impracticable. Those who would see what grand encouragement came to Mr. Müller from fields of labour where he was only represented by others, whom his gifts aided, should read the annual reports. A few examples may be given of the blessed results of such wide scattering of the seed of the kingdom, as specimens of thousands.
Mr. Albert Fenn, who was labouring in Madrid, wrote of a civil guard who, because of his bold witness for Christ and renunciation of the Romish confessional, was sent from place to place and most cruelly treated, and threatened with banishment to a penal settlement. Again he writes of a convert from Rome who, for trying to establish a small meeting, was summoned before the governor.
"Who pays you for this? "
"What do you gain by it?"
"How do you live?"
"I work with my hands in a mine."
"Why do you hold meetings?"
"Because God has blessed my soul, and I wish others to be blessed."
"You? you were made a miserable day-labourer; I prohibit the meetings."
"I yield to force," was the calm reply, "but as long as I have a mouth to speak I shall speak for Christ."
How like those primitive disciples who boldly faced the rulers at Jerusalem, and, being forbidden to speak in Jesus' name, firmly answered:
"We ought to obey God rather than man
whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
more than unto God judge ye:
for we cannot but speak the things
which we have seen and heard."
A missionary labourer writes from India, of three Brahman priests and scores of Santhals and Hindus, sitting down with four Europeans to keep the supper of the Lord-- all fruits of his ministry. Within a twelvemonth, sixty-two men and women, including head men of villages; four Brahman women, wives of priests and of head men, were baptized, representing twenty-three villages in which the gospel had been preached. At one time more than one hundred persons were awakened in one mission in Spain; and such harvests as these were not infrequent in various fields to which the founder of the orphan work had the joy of sending aid.
In 1885, a scholar of one of the schools at Carrara, Italy, was confronted by a priest.
"In the Bible," said he, "you do not find the commandments of the church."
"No, sir," said the child, "for it is not for the church of God to command, but to obey."
"Tell me, then," said the priest, "these commandments of God,"
"Yes, sir," replied child;
"'I am the Lord thy God.
Thou shalt have no other God before me.
Neither shalt thou make any graven image.'"
"Stop! stop!" cried the priest, "I do not understand it so."
"But so," quietly replied the child, "it is written in God's word."
This simple incident may illustrate both the character of the teaching given in the schools, and the character often developed in those who were taught.
Out of the many pages of Mr. Müller's journal, probably about one-fifth are occupied wholly with extracts from letters like these from missionaries, teachers, and helpers which kept him informed of the progress of the Lord's work at home and in many lands where the labourers were by him enabled to continue their service. Bible-carriages, open-air services, Christian schools, tract distribution, and various other forms of holy labour for the benighted souls near and far, formed part of the many-branching tree of life that was planted on Ashley Down.
Another of the main encouragements and rewards which Mr. Müller enjoyed in this life was the knowledge that his example had emboldened other believers to attempt like work for God, on like principles. This he himself regarded as the greatest blessing resulting from his life-work, that hundreds of thousands of children of God had been led in various parts of the world to trust in God in all simplicity; and when such trust found expression in similar service to orphans, it seemed the consummation of his hopes, for the work was thus proven to have its seed in itself after its kind, a self-propagating life, which doubly demonstrated it to be a tree of the Lord's own planting, that He might be glorified.
In December, 1876, Mr. Müller learned, for instance, that a Christian evangelist, simply through reading about the orphan work in Bristol, had it laid on his heart to care about orphans, and encouraged by Mr. Müller's example, solely in dependence on the Lord, had begun in 1863 with three orphans at Nimwegen in Holland, and had at that date, only fourteen years after, over four hundred and fifty in the institution. It pleased the Lord that he and Mrs. Müller should, with their own eyes, see this institution, and he says that in "almost numberless instances" the Lord permitted him to know of similar fruits of his work.
At his first visit to Tokyo, Japan, he gave an account of it, and as the result, Mr. Ishii, a native Christian Japanese, started an orphanage upon a similar basis of prayer, faith, and dependence upon the Living God, and at Mr. Müller's second visit to the Island Empire he found this orphan work prosperously in progress.
How generally fruitful the example thus furnished on Ashley Down has been in good to the church and the work will never be known on earth. A man living at Horfield, in sight of the orphan buildings, has said that, whenever he felt doubts of the Living God creeping into his mind, he used to get up and look through the night at the many windows lit up on Ashley Down, and they gleamed out through the darkness as stars in the sky.
It was the witness of Mr. Müller to a prayer-hearing God which encouraged Rev. J. Hudson Taylor in 1863, thirty years after Mr. Müller's great step was taken, to venture wholly on the Lord, in founding the China Inland Mission. It has been said that to the example of A. H. Francké, in Halle, or George Müller in Bristol, may be more or less directly traced every form of "faith work," prevalent since.
The Scriptural Knowledge Institution was made in all its departments a means of blessing. Already in the year ending May 26, 1860, a hundred servants of Christ had been more or less aided, and far more souls had been hopefully brought to God through their labours than during any year previous. About six hundred letters, received from them, had cheered Mr. Müller's heart during twelvemonth, and this source of joy overflowed during all his life. In countless cases children of God were lifted to a higher level of faith and life, and unconverted souls were turned to God through the witness borne to God by the institutions on Ashley Down. Mr. Müller has summed up this long history of blessing by two statements which are worth pondering.
First, that the Lord, was pleased to give him far beyond all he at first expected to accomplish or receive;
And secondly, that he was fully persuaded that all he had seen and known would not equal the thousandth part of what he should see and know when The Lord should come, His reward with Him, to give every man according that his work shall be.
The circulation of Mr. Müller's Narrative was a most conspicuous means of untold good.
In November, 1856, Mr. James McQuilkin, a young Irishman, was converted, and early in the next year, read the first two volumes of that Narrative. He said to himself:
"Mr. Müller obtains all this simply by prayer; so may I be blessed by the same means,"
and he began to pray. First of all he received from the Lord, in answer, a spiritual companion, and then two more of like mind; and they four began stated seasons of prayer in a small schoolhouse near Kells, Antrim, Ireland, every Friday evening. On the first day of the new year, 1858, a farm-servant was remarkably brought to the Lord in answer to their prayers, and these five gave themselves anew to united supplication. Shortly a sixth young man was added to their number by conversion, and so the little company of praying souls slowly grew, only believers being admitted to these simple meetings for fellowship in reading of the Scriptures, prayer, and mutual exhortation.
About Christmas, that year, Mr. McQuilkin, with the two brethren who had first joined him-- one of whom was Mr. Jeremiah Meneely, who is still at work for God-- held meeting by request at Ahoghill. Some believed and some mocked, while others thought these three converts presumptuous; but two weeks later another meeting was held, at which God's Spirit began to work most mightily and conversions now rapidly multiplied. Some converts bore the sacred coals and kindled the fire elsewhere, and in many places revival flames began to burn; and in Ballymena, Belfast, and at other points the Spirit's gracious work was manifest.
Such was the starting-point, in fact, of one of the most widespread and memorable revivals ever known in our century, and which spread the next year in England, Wales, and Scotland. Thousands found Christ, and walked in newness of life; and the results are still manifest after more than forty years.
As early as 1868 it was found that one who had thankfully read this Narrative had issued a compendium of it in Swedish. We have seen how widely useful it has been in Germany; and in many other languages its substance at least has been made available to native readers.
Knowledge came to Mr. Müller of a boy of ten years who got hold of one of these Reports, and, although belonging to a family of unbelievers, began to pray:
"God, teach me to pray like George Müller, and hear me as Thou dost hear George Müller."
He further declared his wish to be a preacher, which his widowed mother very strongly opposed, objecting that the boy did not know enough to get into the grammar-school, which is the first step towards such a high calling. The lad, however, rejoined:
"I learn and pray, and God will help me through as He has done George Müller."
And soon, to the surprise of everybody, the boy had successfully passed his examination and was received at the school.
A donor writes, September 20, 1879, that the reading of the Narrative totally changed his inner life to one of perfect trust and confidence in God. It led to the devoting of at least a tenth of his earnings to the Lord's purposes, and showed him how much more blessed it is to give than to receive; and it led him also to place a copy of that Narrative on the shelves of a Town Institute library where three thousand members and subscribers might have access to it.
Another donor suggests that it might be well if Prof. Huxley and his sympathizers, who had been proposing some new arbitrary "prayer-gauge," would, instead of treating prayer as so much waste of breath, try how long they could keep five orphan houses running, with over two thousand orphans, and without asking any one for help,-- either "GOD or MAN."
In September, 1882, another donor describes himself as
"simply astounded at the blessed results of prayer and faith,"
and many others have found this brief narrative
"the most wonderful and complete refutation of skepticism it had ever been their lot to meet with"--
an array of facts constituting the most undeniable
"evidences of Christianity."
There are abundant instances of the power exerted by Mr. Müller's testimony, as when a woman who had been an infidel, writes him that he was
"the first person by whose example she learned that there are some men who live by faith,"
and that for this reason she had willed to him all that she possessed.
Another reader found these Reports
"more faith-strengthening and soul-refreshing than many a sermon,"
particularly so after just wading through the mire of a speech of a French infidel who boldly affirmed that of all of the millions of prayers uttered every day, not one is answered. We should like to have any candid skeptic confronted with Mr. Müller's unvarnished story of a life of faith, and see how he would on any principle of "compound probability" and "accidental coincidences," account for the tens of thousands of answers to believing prayer! The fact is that one half of the infidelity in the world is dishonest, and the other half is ignorant of the daily proofs that God is, and is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
From almost the first publication of his Narrative, Mr. Müller had felt a conviction that it was thus to be greatly owned of God as a witness to His faithfulness; and, as early as 1842, it was laid on his heart to send a copy of the Annual Report gratuitously to every Christian minister of the land, which the Lord helped him to do, his aim being not to get money or even awaken interest in the work, but rather to stimulate faith and quicken prayer.
Twenty-two years later, in 1868, it was already so apparent that the published accounts of the Lord's dealing was used so largely to sanctify and edify saints and even to convert sinners and convince infidels, that he records this as the greatest of all the spiritual blessings hitherto resulting from his work for God. Since then thirty years more have fled, and, during this whole period, letters from a thousand sources have borne increasing witness that the example he set has led others to fuller faith and firm confidence in God's word, power, and love; to a deep persuasion that, though Elijah has been taken up, God, the God of Elijah, is still working His wonders.
And so, in all departments of his work for God, the Lord to whom he witnessed bore witness to him in return and anticipated his final reward in a recompense of present and overflowing joy. This was especially true in the long tours undertaken, when, past threescore and ten, to sow in lands afar the seeds of the Kingdom! As the sower went forth to sow he found not fallow fields only, but harvest fields also, from which his arms were filled with sheaves. Thus, in a new sense the reaper overtook the ploughman, and the harvester, him that scattered the seed. In every city of the United Kingdom and in the "sixty-eight cities" where, up to 1877, he had preached on the continents of Europe and America, he had found converted orphans, and believers to whom abundant blessing had come through reading his reports. After this date, twenty-one years more yet remained crowded with experiences of good.
Thus, before the Lord called George Müller higher, He had given him a foretaste of his reward, in the physical, intellectual and spiritual profit of the orphans; in the fruits of his wide seed-sowing in other lands as well as Britain; in the scattering of God's word and Christian literature; in the Christian education of thousands of children in the schools he aided; in the assistance afforded to hundreds of devoted missionaries; in the large blessing imparted by his published narrative, and in his personal privilege of bearing witness throughout the world to the gospel of grace.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THERE is One who still sits over against the Treasury, watching the gifts cast into it, and impartially weighing their worth, estimating the rich man's millions and the widow's mites, not by the amount given, but by the motives which impel and the measure of self-sacrifice accepted for the Lord's sake.
The ample supplies poured into Mr. Müller's hands came alike from those who had abundance of wealth and from those whose only abundance was that of deep poverty, but the rills as well as the rivers were from God. It is one of the charms of this life-story to observe the variety of persons and places, sums of money and forms of help, connected with the donations made to the Lord's work; and the exact adaptation between the need and the supply, both as to time and amount. Some instances of this have been given in the historic order; but to get a more complete view of the lessons which they suggest it is helpful to classify some of the striking and impressive examples, which are so abundant, and which afford such valuable hints as to the science and the art of giving.
Valuable lessons may be drawn from the beautiful spirit shown by givers and from the secret history of their gifts.
In some cases the facts were not known till long after, even by Mr. Müller himself; and when known, could not be disclosed to the public while the parties were yet alive. But when it became possible and proper to unveil these hidden things they were revealed for the glory of God and the good of others, and shine on the pages of this record like stars in the sky. Paul rejoiced in the free-will offerings of Philippian disciples, not because he desired a gift, but fruit that might abound to their account; not because their offerings ministered to his necessity, but because they became a sacrifice of a sweet smell acceptable, well pleasing to God. Such joy constantly filled Mr. Müller's heart. He was daily refreshed and reinvigorated by the many proofs that the gifts received had been first sanctified by prayer and self-denial. He lived and breathed amid the fragrance of sweet-savour offerings, permitted for more than threescore years to participate in the joy of the Lord Himself over the cheerful though often costly gifts of His people. By reason of identification with his Master, the servant caught the sweet scent of these sacrifices as their incense rose from His altars toward heaven. Even on earth the self-denials of his own life found compensation in thus acting in the Lord's behalf in receiving and disbursing these gifts; and, he says,
"the Lord thus impressed on me from the beginning that the orphan houses and work were HIS, not MINE."
Many a flask of spikenard, very precious, broken upon the feet of the Saviour, for the sake of the orphans, or the feeding of starving souls with the Bread of Life, filled the house with the odour of the ointment, so that to dwell there was to breathe a hallowed atmosphere of devotion.
Among the first givers to the work was a poor needle-woman, who, to Mr. Müller's surprise, brought one hundred pounds. She earned by her work only an average, per week, of three shillings and sixpence, and was moreover weak in body. A small legacy of less than five hundred pounds from her grandmother's estate had come to her at her father's death by the conditions of her grandmother's will. But that father had died a drunkard and a bankrupt, and her brothers and sisters had settled with his creditors by paying them five shillings to the pound. To her conscience, this seemed robbing the creditors of three fourths of their claim, and, though they had no legal hold upon her, she privately paid them the other fifteen shillings to the pound, of the unpaid debts of her father. Moreover when her unconverted brother and two sisters gave each fifty pounds to the widowed mother, she as a child of God felt that she should give double that amount. By this time her own share of the legacy was reduced to a small remainder, and it was out of this that she gave the one hundred pounds for the orphan work!
As Mr. Müller's settled principle was never to grasp eagerly at any gift whatever the need or the amount of the gift, before accepting this money he had a long conversation with this woman, seeking to prevent her from giving either from an unsanctified motive or in unhallowed haste, without counting the cost. He would in such a case dishonour his Master by accepting the gift, as though God were in need of our offerings. Careful scrutiny, however, revealed no motives not pure and Christlike; this woman had calmly and deliberately reached her decision.
"The Lord Jesus," she said, "has given His last drop of blood for me, and should I not give Him this hundred pounds!"
He who comes into contact with such givers in his work for God finds therein a means of grace.
This striking incident lends a pathetic interest to the beginnings of the orphan work, and still further trace the story of this humble needlewoman. She had been a habitual giver, but so unobtrusively that, while she lived, not half a dozen people knew of either the legacy or of this donation. Afterward, however, it came to the light that in many cases she had quietly and most unostentatiously given food, clothing, and like comforts to the deserving poor. Her gifts were so disproportionate to her means that her little capital rapidly diminished. Mr. Müller was naturally very reluctant to accept what she brought, until he saw that the love of Christ constrained her. He could then do no less than to receive her offering, in his Master's name, while like the Master he exclaimed,
"O woman, great is thy faith!"
Five features made her benevolence praiseworthy.
First, all these deeds of charity were done in secret and without any show;
and she therefore was kept humble, not puffed up with pride through human applause;
her personal habits of dress and diet remained as simple after her legacy as before,
and to the last she worked with her needle for her own support;
and, finally, while her earnings were counted in shillings and pence, her givings were counted in sovereigns or five-pound notes, and in one case by the hundred pounds.
Her money was entirely gone, years before she was called higher, but the faithful God never forgot His promise:
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
Never left to want, even after bodily weakness forbade her longer to ply her needle, she asked no human being for help, but in whatever straits made her appeal to God, and was not only left to suffer no lack, but, in the midst of much bodily suffering, her mouth was filled with holy song.
Mr. Müller records the first bequest as from a dear lad who died in the faith. During his last illness, he had received a gift of some new silver coins; and he asked that this, his only treasure in money, might be sent for the orphans. With pathetic tenderness Mr. Müller adds that this precious little legacy of six shillings sixpence halfpenny, received September 15, 1837, was the first they ever had. Those who estimate all donations by money-worth can little understand how welcome such a bequest was; but to such a man this small donation, bequeathed by one of Christ's little ones, and representing all he possessed, was of inestimable worth.
In May, 1842, a gold watch and chain were accompanied by a brief note, the contents of which suggest the possibilities of service, open to us through the voluntary limitation of artificial or imaginary wants. The note read thus:
"A pilgrim does not want such a watch as this to make him happy; one of an inferior kind will do to show him how swiftly time flies, and how fast he is hastening on to that Canaan where time will be no more: so that it is for you to do with this what it seemeth good to you. It is the last relic of earthly vanity, and, while I am in the body, may I be kept from all idolatry!"
In March, 1884, a contribution reached Mr. Müller from one who had been enabled in a like spirit to increase the amount over all previous gifts by the sale of some jewelry which had been put away in accordance with 1 Peter iii.3. How much superfluous ornament, worn by disciples, might be blessedly sacrificed for the Lord's sake! The one ornament which is in His sight of great price would shine with far more lustre if it were the only one worn.
["But let it be the hidden man of the heart,
in that which is not corruptible,
even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,
which is in the sight of God of great price"
(1Peter 3:4). --WStS Scripture annotation.]
Another instance of turning all things to account was seen in the case of a giver who sent a box containing four old crown pieces which had a curious history. They were the wedding-day present of a bridegroom to his bride, who reluctant to spend her husband's first gift, kept them until she passed them over, as heirlooms, to her four grandchildren. They were thus at last put out to usury, after many years of gathering "rust" in hoarded idleness and uselessness. Little did bridegroom or bride foresee how these coins, after more than a hundred years, would come forth from their hiding-place to be put to the Lord's uses. Few people have ever calculated how much is lost to every good cause by the simple withdrawal of money from circulation. Those four crown pieces had they been carefully invested, so as to double in value, by compound interest, every ten years, would have increased to one thousand pounds during the years they had lain idle!
One gift was sent in, as an offering to the Lord, instead of being used to purchase an "engagement-ring," by two believers who desired their lives to be united by that highest bond, the mutual love of the Lord who spared not His own blood for them.
At another time, a box came containing a new satin jacket, newly bought, but sacrificed as a snare to pride. Its surrender marked an epoch, for henceforth the owner determined to spend in dress only what is needful, and not to waste the Lord's money on costly apparel. Enlightened believers look on all things as inalienably God's, and, even in the voluntary diversion of money into sacred rather than selfish channels, still remember that they give to Him only what is His own!
"The little child feels proud that he can drop the money into the box after the parent has supplied the means, and told him to do so; and so God's children are sometimes tempted to think that they are giving of their own, and to be proud over their gifts, forgetting the divine Father who both gives us all we have and bids us give all back to Him."
A gift of two thousand pounds on January 29, 1872, was accompanied by a letter confessing that the possession of property had given the writer much trouble of mind, and it had been disposed of from a conviction that the Lord "saw it not good" for him to hold so much and therefor allowed its possession to be a curse rather than a blessing. Fondness for possessions always entails [a] curse, and external riches thus become a source of internal poverty. It is doubtful whether any child of God ever yet hoarded wealth without losing in spiritual attainment and enjoyment. Greed is one of the lowest and most destructive of vices and turns a man into the likeness of the coin he worships, making him hard, cold, metallic, and unsympathetic, so that, as has been quaintly said, he drops into his coffin "with a chink."
God estimates what we give by what we keep, for it is possible to bestow large sums and yet reserve so much larger amounts that no self-denial is possible. Such giving to the Lord costs us nothing.
In 1853, a brother in the Lord took out of his pocket a roll of bank-notes, amounting to one hundred and ten pounds, and put it into Mr. Müller's hand, it being more than one half of his entire worldly estate. Such giving is an illustration of self-sacrifice on a large scale, and brings corresponding blessing.
The motives prompting gifts were often unusually suggestive. In October, 1857, a donation came from a Christian merchant who, having sustained a heavy pecuniary loss, wished to sanctify his loss by a gift to the Lord's work. Shortly after, another offering was handed in by a young man in thankful remembrance that twenty-five years before Mr. Müller had prayed over him, as a child, that God would convert him. Yet another gift, of thirty-five hundred pounds, came to him in 1858, with a letter stating that the giver had further purposed to give to the orphan work the chief preference in his will, but had now seen it to be far better to act as his own executor and give the whole amount while he lived. Immense advantage would accrue, both to givers and to the causes they purpose to promote, were this principle generally adopted! There is "many a slip betwixt the cup" of the legator and "the lip" of the legatee. Even a wrong wording of a will has often forfeited or defeated the intent of a legacy. Mr. Müller had to warn intending donors that nothing that was reckoned as real estate was available for legacies for charitable institutions, nor even money lent on real estate or in any other way derived therefrom. These conditions no longer exist, but they illustrate the ease with which a will may often be made void, and the design of a bequest be defeated.
Many donors were led to send thank-offerings for avoided or averted calamities: as for example, for a sick horse, given up by the veterinary surgeon as lost, but which recovered in answer to prayer. Another donor, who broke his left arm, sends grateful acknowledgment to God that it was not theright arm, or some more vital part like the head or neck.
The offerings were doubly precious because of the unwearied faithfulness of God who manifestly prompted them, and who kept speaking to the hearts of thousands, leading them to give so abundantly and constantly that no want was unsupplied. In 1859, so great were the outlays, for the work that if day by day, during the whole three hundred and sixty-five, fifty pounds had been received, the income would not have been more than enough. Yet a surprising variety and number of ways, and from persons and places no less numerous and various, donations came in. Not one of twenty givers was personally known to Mr. Müller, and no one of all contributors had ever been asked for a gift, and yet, up to November, 1858, over six hundred thousand pounds had already been received, and in amounts varying from eighty-one hundred pounds down to a single farthing.
Unique circumstances connected with some donations made them remarkable. While resting at Ilfracombe, in September, 1865, a gentleman gave to Mr. Müller a sum of money, at the same time narrating the facts which led to the gift. He was a hard-working business man, wont to doubt the reality of spiritual things, and strongly questioned the truth of the narrative of answered prayers which he had read from Mr. Müller's pen. But, in view of the simple straightforward story, he could not rest in his doubts, and at last proposed to himself a test as to whether or not God was indeed with Mr. Müller, as he declared. He wished to buy a certain property if rated at a reasonable valuation; and he determined, if he should secure it at the low price which he set for himself, he would give to him one hundred pounds. He authorized a bid to be put in, in his behalf, but, curious to get the earlier information as to the success of his venture, he went himself to the place of sale, and was surprised to find the property actually knocked off to him at his own price. Astonished at what he regarded as a proof that God was really working with Mr. Müller and for him, he made up his mind to go in person and pay over the sum of money to him, and so make his acquaintance and see the man whose prayers God answered. Not finding him at Bristol, he had followed him to Ilfracombe.
Having heard his story, and having learned that he was from a certain locality, Mr. Müller remarked upon the frequent proofs of God's strange way of working on the minds of parties wholly unknown to him and leading them to send in gifts; and he added:
"I had a letter from a lawyer in your very neighbourhood, shortly since, asking for the proper form for a bequest, as a client of his, not named, wished to leave one thousand pounds to the orphan work."
It proved that the man with whom he was then talking was this nameless client, who, being convinced that his doubts were wrong, had decided to provide for this legacy.
In August, 1884, a Christian brother from the United States called to see Mr. Müller. He informed him how greatly he had been blessed of God through reading his published testimony to God's faithfulness; and that having, through his sister's death, come into the possession of some property, he had come across the sea, that he might see the orphan houses and know their founder, for himself, and hand over to him for the Lord's work the entire bequest of about seven hundred pounds.
Only seventeen days later, a letter accompanying a donation gave further joy to Mr. Müller's heart. It was from the husband of one of the orphans who, in her seventeenth year, had left the institution, and to whom Mr. Müller himself, on her departure, had given the first two volumes of the Reports. Her husband had read them with more spiritual profit than any volume except the Book of books, and had found his faith much strengthened. Being a lay preacher in the Methodist Free Church, the blessed impulses thus imparted to himself were used of God to inspire a like self-surrender in the class under his care.
These are a few examples of the countless encouragements that led Mr. Müller, as he reviewed them, to praise God unceasingly.
A Christian physician enclosed ten pounds in a letter, telling how first he tried a religion of mere duty and failed; then, after a severe illness, learned a religion of love, apprehending the love of God to himself in Christ and so learning how to love others. In his days of darkness he had been a great lover of flowers and had put up several plant-houses; flower-culture was his hobby, and a fine collection of rare plants, his pride. He took down and sold one of these conservatories and sent the proceeds as
"the price of an idol, cast down by God's power."
Another giver enclosed a like amount from the sale of unnecessary books and pictures; and a poor man his half crown,
"the fruit of a little tree in his garden."
A poor woman, who had devoted the progeny of a pet rabbit to the orphan work, when the young became fit for sale changed her mind and "kept back a part of the price"; that part, however, two rabbits, she found dead on the day when they were to be sold.
In July, 1877, ten pounds from an anonymous source were accompanied by a letter which conveys another instructive lesson. Years before, the writer had resolved before God to discontinue a doubtful habit, and send the cost of his indulgence to the Institution. The vow, made in time of trouble, was unpaid until God brought the sin to remembrance by a new trouble, and by a special message from the Word:
"Grieve not the Spirit of God."
The victory was then given over the habit, and, the practice having annually cost about twenty-six shillings, the full amount was sent to cover the period during which the solemn covenant had not been kept, with the promise of further gifts in redemption of the same promise to the Lord. This instance conveys more than one lesson. It reminds us of the costliness of much of our self-indulgence. Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, in submitting the Budget for 1897, remarked that what is annually wasted in the unsmoked remnants of cigars and cigarettes in Britain is estimated at a million and a quarterpounds-- the equivalent of all that is annually spent on foreign missions by British Christians. And many forms of self-gratification, in no way contributing to either health or profit, would, if what they cost were dedicated to the Lord, make His treasuries overflow. Again, this incident reminds us of the many vows, made in times of trouble, which have no payment in time of relief. Many sorrows come back, like clouds that return after the rain, to remind of broken pledges and unfulfilled obligations, whereby have grieved the Holy Spirit of God.
"Pay that which thou last vowed; for God hath no pleasure in fools."
And again we are here taught how a sensitive and enlightened conscience will make restitution to God as well as to man; and that past unfaithfulness to a solemn covenant cannot be made good merely by keeping to its terms for the future. No honest man dishonours a past debt, or compromises with his integrity by simply beginning anew and paying as he goes. Reformation takes a retrospective glance and begins in restitution and reparation for all previous wrongs and unfaithfulness. It is one of the worst evils of our day that even disciples are so ready to usury the financial and moral debts of their past life in the grave of a too-easy oblivion.
One donor, formerly living in Tunbridge Wells, followed a principle of giving, the reverse of the worldly way. As his own family increased, instead of decreasing his gifts, he gave, for each child given to him of God, the average cost of maintaining one orphan, until, having seven children, he was supporting seven orphans.
An anonymous giver wrote:
"It was my idea that when man had sufficient for his own wants, he ought then to supply the wants of others, and consequently I never had sufficient. I now clearly see that God expects us to give of what we have and not of what we have not, and to save the rest to Him. I therefore give in faith and love, knowing that if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things will be added unto me."
Another sends five pounds in fulfilment of seen promise that, if he succeeded in passing competitive examination for civil service, he would make a thank-offering; And he adds that Satan had repeatedly tried to persuade him that he could not afford it yet, and could send it better in a little while. Many others have heard the same subtle suggestion from the same master of wiles and father of lies. Postponement in giving is usually its practical abandonment, for the habit of procrastination grows with insensibly rapid development.
Habitual givers generally witnessed to the continual blessedness of systematic giving. Many who began by giving a tenth, and perhaps in a legal spirit, felt constrained by the growing joy of imparting, to increase, not the amount only, but the proportion, to a fifth, a fourth, third, and even a half of their profits. Some wholly reversed the law of appropriation with which they began; for at first they gave a tithe to the Lord's uses, reserving nine tenths, whereas later on they appropriated nine tenths to the Lord's uses, and reserved for themselves only a tithe. Those who learn the deep meaning of our Lord words,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive,"
find such joy in holding all things at His disposal that even personal expenditures are subjected to the scrutiny of conscience and love, lest anything be wasted in extravagance or careless self-indulgence. Frances Ridley Havergal in her later years felt herself and all she possessed to be fully and joyfully given up to God, that she never went into a shop to spend a shilling without asking herself whether it would be for God's glory.
Gifts were valued by Mr. Müller only so far as they were the Lord's money, procured by lawful means given in the Lord's own way. To the last his course was therefore most conscientious in the caution with which he accepted offerings even in times of sorest extremity.
In October, 1842, he felt led to offer aid to a sister who seemed in great distress and destitution, offering to share with her, if need be, even his house and purse.
This offer drew out the acknowledgment that she had some five hundred pounds of her own; and her conversation revealed that this money was held as a provision against possible future want, and that she was leaning upon that instead of upon God. Mr. Müller said but little to her, but after her withdrawal he besought the Lord to make it real to her the exhaustless riches she possessed in Christ, and her own heavenly calling, that she might be constrained to lay down at His feet the whole sum which was thus a snare to her faith and an idol to her love. Not a word spoken or written passed between him and her on the subject, nor did he ever see her; his express desire being that if any such step were to be taken by her, it might result from no human influence or persuasion, lest her subsequent regret might prove both a damage to herself and a dishonour to her Master.
For nearly four weeks, however, he poured out his heart to God for her deliverance from greed. Then she again sought an interview and told him how she had been day by day seeking to learn the will of God as to this hoarded sum, and had been led to a clear conviction that it should be laid entire upon His altar. Thus the goodly sum off five hundred pounds was within so easy reach, at a time of very great need, that a word from Mr. Müller would secure it. Instead of saying that word, he exhorted her to make no such disposition of the money at that time, but to count the cost; to do nothing rashly lest she should repent it, but wait at least a fortnight more before reaching a final decision. His correspondence with this sister may be found fully spread out in his journal,* and is a model of devout carefulness lest he should snatch at a gift that might be prompted by wrong motives or given with an unprepared heart. When finally given, unexpected hindrances arose affecting her actual possession and transfer, so that more than a third of a year elapsed before it was received; but meanwhile there was on his part neither impatience nor distrust, nor did he even communicate further with her. To the glory of God let it be added that she afterward bore cheerful witness that never for a moment did she regret giving the whole sum to His service, and thus transferring her trust from the money to the Master.
*Narrative, I. 487 et seq.
In August, 1853, a poor widow of sixty, who had sold the little house which constituted her whole property, put into an orphan-house box elsewhere, for Mr. Müller, the entire proceeds, ninety pounds. Those who conveyed it to Mr. Müller, knowing the circumstances, urged her to retain at least a part of this sum, and prevailed on her to keep five pounds and sent on the other eighty-five. Mr. Müller learning the facts, and, fearing lest the gift might result from a sudden impulse to be afterward regretted, offered to pay her travelling expenses that he might have an interview with her. He found her mind had been quite made up for ten years before the house was sold that such disposition should be made of the proceeds. But he was the more reluctant to accept the gift lest, as she had already been prevailed on to take back five pounds of the original donation, she might wish she had reserved more; and only after much urgency had failed to persuade her to reconsider the step would he accept it. Even then, however, lest he should be evil spoken of in the matter, he declined to receive any part of the gift for personal uses.
In October, 1867, a small sum was sent in by one who had years before taken it from another, and who desired thus to make restitution, believing that the Christian believer from whom it was taken would approve of this method of restoring it. Mr. Müller promptly returned it, irrespective of amount, that restitution might be made directly to the party who had been robbed or wronged, claiming that such party should first receive it and then dispose of it as might seem fit. As it did not belong to him who took it, it was not his to give even in another's behalf.
During a season of great straits Mr. Müller received a sealed parcel containing money. He knew from whom it came, and that the donor was a woman not only involved in debt, but frequently asked by creditors for their lawful dues in vain. It was therefore clear that it was not her money, and therefore not hers to give; and without even opening the paper wrapper he returned it to the sender-- and this at a time when there was not in hand enough to meet the expenses of that very day. In June, 1838, a stranger, who confessed to an act of fraud, wished through Mr. Müller to make restitution, with interest; and, instead of sending the money by post, Mr. Müller took pains to transmit it by bank orders, which thus enabled him, in case of need, to prove his fidelity in acting as a medium of transmission-- an instance of the often-quoted maxim that it is the honest man who is most careful to provide things honest in the sight of all men.
Money sent as proceeds of a musical entertainment held for the benefit of the orphans in the south of Devon was politely returned. Mr. Müller had no doubt of the kind intention of those who set this scheme on foot, but he felt that money for the work of God should not be obtained in this manner, and he desired only money provided in God's way.
Friends who asked that they might know whether the gifts had come at a particularly opportune time were referred to the next Report for answer. To acknowledge that the help came very seasonably would be an indirect revelation of need, and might be construed into an indirect appeal for more aid-- as help that was peculiarly timed would soon be exhausted. And so this man of God consistently avoided any such disclosure of an exigency, lest his chief object should be hindered, namely,
"to show how blessed it is to deal with God alone, and to trust Him in the darkest moments."
And though the need was continual, and one demand was no sooner met than another arose, he did not find this a trying life nor did he ever tire of it.
As early as May, 1846, a letter from a brother contained the following paragraph:
"With regard to property, I do not see my way clearly. I trust it is all indeed at the disposal of the Lord; and if you would let me know of any need of it in His service, any sum under two hundred pounds shall be at your disposal at about a week's notice."
The need at that time was great. How easy and natural to write back that the orphan work was then in want of help, and that, as Mr. Müller was just going away from Bristol for rest, it would be a special comfort if his correspondent would send on, say a hundred and ninety pounds or so! But to deal with the Lord alone in the whole matter seemed so indispensable, both for the strengthening of his own faith and for the effectiveness of his testimony to the church and the world, that at once this temptation was seen to be a snare, and he replied that only to the Lord could the need of any part of the work be confided.
Money to be laid up as a fund for his old age or possible seasons of illness or family emergencies was always declined. Such a donation of one hundred pounds was received October 12, 1856, with a note so considerate and Christian that the subtle temptation to lay up for himself treasures on earth would have triumphed but for a heart fixed immovably in the determination that there should be no dependence upon any such human provision. He had settled the matter beyond raising the question again, that he would live from day to day upon the Lord's bounty, and would make but one investment, namely, using whatever means God gave, to supply the necessities of the poor, depending on God richly to repay him in the hour of his own need, according to the promise:
"He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord,
And that which he hath given will He pay him again."
God so owned, at once, this disposition on Mr. Müller's part that his courteous letter, declining the gift for himself, led the donor not only to ask him to use the hundred pounds for the orphan work, but to add to this sum a further gift of two hundred pounds more.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THROUGHOUT Mr. Müller's journal we meet scattered and fragmentary suggestions as to the true conception of Christian teaching and practice, the nature and office of the Christian ministry, the principles which should prevail in church conduct, the mutual relations of believers, and the Spirit's relation to the Body of Christ, to pure worship, service, and testimony. These hints will be of more value if they are crystallized into unity so as to be seen in their connection with each other.
The founder of the orphan houses began and ended his public career as a preacher, and, for over sixty years, was so closely related to one body of believers that no review of his life can be complete without a somewhat extended reference to the church in Bristol of which he was one of the earliest leaders, and, of all who ministered to it, the longest in service.
His church-work in Bristol began with his advent to that city and ended only with his departure from it for the continuing city and the Father's House. The joint ministry of himself and Mr. Henry Craik has been traced already in the due order of events; but the development of church-life, under this apostolic ministry, furnishes instructive lessons which yield their full teaching only when gathered up and grouped together so as to secure unity, continuity, and completeness of impression.
When Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik began joint work in Bristol, foundations needed to be relaid. The church-life as they found it, was not on a sufficiently scriptural basis and they waited on God for wisdom to adjust it more completely to His word and will. This was the work of time, for it required the instruction of fellow believers so that they might be prepared to cooperate, by recognizing scriptural and spiritual teaching; it required also the creation of that bond of sympathy which inclines the flock to hear and heed the shepherd's voice, and follow a true pastoral leadership. By the outset of their ministry, these brethren carefully laid down some principles on which their ministry was to be based. On May 23, 1832, they frankly stated, at Gideon Chapel, certain terms on which alone they could take charge of the church: they must be regarded as simply God's servants to labour among them so long as, and in such way as might be His will, and under no bondage of fixed rules; they desired pew-rents to be done away with, and voluntary offerings substituted, etc.
There was already, however, a strong conviction that a new start was in some respects indispensable if the existing church-life was to be thoroughly modelled on a scriptural pattern. These brethren determined to stamp upon the church certain important features such as these: Apostolic simplicity of worship, evangelical teaching, evangelistic work, separation from the world, systematic giving and dependence on prayer. They desired to give great prominence to the simple testimony of the Word, to support every department of the work by free-will offerings, to recognize the Holy Spirit as the one presiding and governing Power in all church assemblies, and to secure liberty for all believers in the exercise of spiritual gifts as distributed by that Spirit to all members of the Body of Christ for service. They believed it scriptural to break bread every Lord's day, and to baptize by immersion; and, although this latter has not for many years been a term of communion or of fellowship, believers have always been carefully taught that this is the duty of all disciples.
It has been already seen that in August, 1832, even persons in all, including these two pastors, met at Bethesda Chapel to unite in fellowship, without any formal basis or bond except that of loyalty to the Word and Spirit of God. This step was taken in order to start anew, without the hindrance of customs already prevailing, which were felt to be unscriptural and yet were difficult to abolish without discordant feeling; and, from that date on, Bethesda Chapel has been the home of an assembly of believers who have sought steadfastly to hold fast the New Testament basis of church-life.
Such blessed results are largely due to these beloved colleagues in labour who never withheld their testimony, but were intrepidly courageous and conscientiously faithful in witnessing against whatever they deemed opposed to the Word. Love ruled, but was not confounded with laxity in matters of right and wrong; and, as they saw more clearly what was taught in the Word, they sought to be wholly obedient to the Lord's teaching and leading, and to mould and model every matter, however minute, in every department of duty, private or public, according to the expressed will of God.
In January, 1834, all teachers who were not believers were dismissed from the Sunday-school; and, in the Dorcas Society, only believing sisters were accepted to make clothes for the destitute. The reason was that it had been found unwise and unwholesome to mix up or yoke together believers and unbelievers.*
*2 Cor. vi.14-18.
Such association proved a barrier to spiritual converse and injurious to both classes, fostering in the unbelievers a false security, ensnaring them in a delusive hope that to help in Christian work might somehow atone for rejection of Jesus Christ as a Saviour, or secure favour from God and an open door into heaven. No doubt all this indiscriminate association of children of God with children of the world in a "mixed multitude" is unscriptural. Unregenerate persons are tempted to think there is some merit at least in mingling with worshippers and workers, and especially in giving to the support of the gospel and its institutions. The devil seeks to persuade such that it is acceptable to God to conform externally to religious rites and forms, and take part in outward acts of service and sacrifice, and that He will deal leniently with them, despite their unbelief and disobedience. Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik felt keenly that this danger existed and that even in minor matters there must be a line of separation, for the sake of all involved.
When, in 1837, in connection with the congregation at Bethesda, the question was raised-- commonly known as that of close communion-- whether believers who had not been baptized as such should be received into fellowship, it was submitted likewise to the one test of clear scripture teaching. Some believers were conscientiously opposed to such reception, but the matter was finally and harmoniously settled by "receiving all who love our Lord Jesus into full communion, irrespective of baptism," and Mr. Müller, looking back forty-four years later upon this action, bears witness that the decision never became a source of dissention.*[†]
[† WStS Note: We respectfully disagree with Mr. Müller's honest position, believing that Baptism is commanded of all believers. "19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19,20).]
In all other church matters, prayer and searching the Word, asking counsel of the Holy Oracles and wisdom from above, were the one resort, and the resolution of all difficulties. When, in the spring of 1838, sundry questions arose somewhat delicate and difficult to adjust, Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik quietly withdrew from Bristol for two weeks, to give themselves to prayer and meditation, seeking of God definite direction.
The matters then at issue concerned the scriptural conception, mode of selection and appointment, scope of authority and responsibility, of the Eldership; the proper mode of observance of the Lord's Supper, its frequency, proper subjects, etc. Nothing is ever settled finally until settled rightly, nor settled rightly until settled scripturally. A serious peril confronted the church-- not of controversy only, but of separation and schism; and in such circumstances mere discussion often only fans the embers of strife and ends in hopeless alienation. These spiritually minded pastors followed the apostolic method, referring all matters to the Scriptures as the one rule of faith and practice, and to the Holy Spirit as the presiding Presence in the church of God; and they purposely retired into seclusion from the strife of tongues and of conflicting human opinion, that they might know the mind of the Lord and act accordingly. The results, as might be foreseen, were clear light from above for themselves, and a united judgment among the brethren; but more than this, God gave them wisdom so to act, combining the courage of conviction with the meekness and gentleness of Christ, as that all clouds were dispelled and peace restored.*
For about eight years, services had been held in both Gideon and Bethesda chapels; but on April 19, 1840, the last of the services conducted by Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik was held at Gideon,-- Bethesda, from this time on, becoming the central place of assembly. The reasons for this step were somewhat as follows:
These joint pastors strongly felt, with some others, that not a few of the believers who assembled at Gideon Chapel were a hindrance to the clear, positive, and united testimony which should be given both to the church and world; and it was on this account that, after many meetings for prayer and conference, seeking to know God's mind, it was determined to relinquish Gideon as a place of worship. The questions involved affected the preservation of the purity and simplicity of apostolic worship, and so the conformity of church-life to the New Testament pattern. These well-yoked pastors were very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, that, among the saints to whom they ministered, nothing should find a lodgment which was not in entire accord with scriptural principles, precept, and practices.
Perhaps it is well here to put on record, even at risk of repetition, the principles which Mr. Müller and his colleague were wont to enforce as guards or landmarks which should be set up and kept up, in order to exclude those innovations which always bring spiritual declension.
1. Believers should meet, simply as such, without reference to denominational lines, names, or distinctions, as a corrective and preventive of sectarianism.
2. They should steadfastly maintain the Holy Scriptures as the divine rule and standard of doctrine, deportment, and discipline.
3. They should encourage freedom for the exercise of whatever spiritual gifts the Lord might be pleased by His Spirit to bestow for general edification.
4. Assemblies on the Lord's day should be primarily for believers, for the breaking of bread, and for worship, unbelievers sitting promiscuously among saints would either hinder the appearance of meeting for such purposes, or compel a pause between other parts of the service and the Lord's Supper.
5. The pew-rent system should be abolished, as promoting the caste spirit, or at least the outward appearance of a false distinction between the poorer and richer classes, especially as pew-holders commonly look on their sittings as private property.
6. All money contributed for pastoral support, church work, and missionary enterprises at home and abroad should be by free-will offerings.
It was because some of these and other like scriptural, principles were thought to be endangered or compromised by practices prevailing at Gideon Chapel before Mr. Müller and Mr. Craik took charge, that it seemed best on the whole to relinquish that chapel as a place of worship. As certain customs there obtaining had existed previously, it seemed to these godly-minded brethren that it would be likely to cause needless offence and become a root of bitterness should they require what they deemed unscriptural to be renounced; and it seemed the way of love to give up Gideon Chapel after these eight years of labour there, and to invite such as felt called on to separate from every sectarian system, and meet for worship where free exercise would be afforded for every spiritual gift, and where New Testament methods might be more fully followed, to assemble with other believers at Bethesda, where previous hindering conditions had not existed.
Mr. Müller remained very intimately connected with Bethesda and its various outgrowths, for many years, as the senior pastor, or elder,-- though onlyprimus inter pares, i.e., leader among equals. His opinions about the work of the ministry and the conduct of church-life, which did so much to shape the history of these churches, therefore form a necessary part of this sketch of the development of church-life.
It was laid upon his heart frequently to address his brethren in the ministry of the Word and the curacy of souls. Everywhere, throughout the world, he welcomed opportunities for interviews, whether with many or few upon whom he could impress his own deep conviction to the vital secrets of elective service in the pulpit and pastorate. Such meetings with brethren in the midst numbered hundreds and perhaps thousands in the course of his long life, and as his testimony was essentially the same on all occasions, a single utterance may be taken as the type of all. During his American tours, he gave an hour's address which was reported and published, and the substance of which may therefore be given.
First of all he laid great stress upon the need of conversion. Until a man is both truly turned unto God and sure of this change in himself he is not fitted to convert others. The ministry is not a human profession, but divine vocation. The true preacher is both a herald and awitness, and hence must back up his message by his personal testimony from experience.
But even conversion is not enough: there must be an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus. One must know the Lord as coming near to himself, and know the joy and strength found in hourly access. However it be done, and at any cost, the minister of Christ must reach this close relationship. It is an absolute necessity to peace and power.
Growth in happiness and love was next made very prominent. It is impossible to set limits to the experience any believer who casts himself wholly on God, surrenders himself wholly to God, and cherishes deep love for His word and holy intimacy with Himself. The first business of every morning should be to secure happiness in God.
He who is to nourish others must carefully feed his own soul. Daily reading and study of the Scriptures, with such prayer, especially in the early morning hours, was tenuously urged. Quietness before God should be habitually cultivated, calming the mind and freeing it from preoccupation. Continuous reading of the Word, in course, will throw light upon the general teaching of the Word, and reveal God's thoughts in their variety and connection, and go far to correct erroneous views.
Holiness must be the supreme aim: prompt obedience to all known truth, a single eye in serving God, and zeal for His glory. Many a life has been more or less a failure because habits of heart well pleasing to God have been neglected. Nothing is more the crowning grace than the unconscious grace of humility. All praise of man robs God of His own honour. Let us therefore be humble and turn all eyes unto God.
The message must be gotten from God, if it is to be with power.
"Ask God for it," said Mr. Müller, "and, be not satisfied until the heart is at rest. When the text is obtained ask further guidance in meditating upon it, and keep in constant communion so as to get God's mind in the matter and His help in delivery. Then, after the work is done, pray much for blessing, as well as in advance."
He then told some startling facts as to seed sown many years before, but even now yielding fruit in answer to prayer.
He laid also special emphasis upon expounding the Scripture. The word of God is the staple of all preaching; Christ and nothing else the centre of all true ministry of the Word. Whoever faithfully and constantly preaches Christ will find God's word not returning to him void. Preach simply. Luther's rule was to speak so that an ignorant maid-servant could understand; if she does, the learned professor certainly will; but it does not hold true that the simple understand all that the wise do.
Mr. Müller seldom addressed his brethren in the ministry without giving more or less counsel as to the condition of church-life, giving plain witness against such hindrances as unconverted singers and choirs, secular methods of raising money, pew-rents and caste distinctions in the house of prayer, etc.; and urging such helps as inquire meetings, pastoral visits, and, above all else, believing prayer. He urged definite praying and importunate praying, and remarked that Satan will not mind how we labour in prayer for a few days, weeks, or even months, if he can at last discourage us so that we cease praying, as though it were of no use.
As to prayers for past seed-sowing he told the writer of this memoir how in all supplication to God he looked not only forward but backward. He was wont to ask that the Lord would be pleased to bless seed long since sown and yet apparently unfruitful; and he said that, in answer to these prayers, he had up to that day evidence of God leaving remembrance of his work of faith and labour love in years long gone by. He was permitted to know that messages delivered for God, tracts scattered, and other means of service had, after five, ten, twenty, and even sixty years, at last brought forth a harvest. Hence an urgency in advising fellow labourers to pray unceasing that God would work mightily in the hearts of those who had once been under their care, bringing to their remembrance the truth which had been set before them.
The humility Mr. Müller enjoined he practised. He was ever only the servant of the Lord. Mr. Spurgeon, in one of his sermons, describes the startling effect on London Bridge when he saw one lamp after another lit up with flame, though in the darkness he could not see the lamplighter; and George Müller set many a light burning when he was himself content to be unseen, unnoticed, and unknown. He honestly sought not his own glory, but had the meek and quiet spirit so becoming a minister of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Henry Craik's death in 1866, after thirty-four years of co-labour in the Lord, left Mr. Müller comparatively alone with a double burden of responsibility, but his faith was equal to the crisis and his peace remained unbroken. A beloved brother, then visiting Bristol, after crowded services conducted by him at Bethesda, was about leaving the city; and he asked Mr. Müller,
"What are you going to do, now that Mr. Craik is dead, to hold the people and prevent their scattering?"
"My beloved brother," was the calm reply, "we shall do what we have always done, look only to the Lord."
This God has been the perpetual helper. Mr. Müller almost totally withdrew from the work, during the seventeen years of his missionary tours, between 1875 and 1892, when he was in Bristol but a few weeks or months at a time, in the intervals between his long journeys and voyages. This left the assembly of believers still more dependent upon the great Shepherd and Bishop of of souls. But Bethesda has never, in a sense, been limited to any one or two men, as the only acknowledged leaders; from the time when those seven believers gathered about the Lord's table in 1832, the New Testament conception of the equality of believers in privilege and duty has been maintained. The one supreme Leader is the Holy Ghost, and under Him those whom He calls and qualifies.
One of the fundamental principles espoused by these brethren is that the Spirit of God controls in the assemblies of the saints; that He sets the members, every one of them, in the Body as it pleaseth Him, and divides unto them, severally as He will, gifts for service in the Body; that the only true ordination is His ordination, and that the manifestation of His gifts is the sufficient basis for the recognition of brethren qualified for the exercise of an office or function, the possession of spiritual gifts being sufficient authority for the exercise.
It is with the Body of Christ as with the human body: the eye is manifestly made for seeing and the ear for hearing, the hand and foot for handling and walking; and this adaptation both shows the design of God and their place in the organism. And so for more than threescore years the Holy Spirit has been safely trusted to supply and qualify all needed teachers, helpers, and leaders in the assembly. There has always been considerable number of brethren and sisters fitted and disposed to take up the various departments of service to which they were obviously called of the Spirit, so that no one person has been indispensable. Various brethren have been able to give more or less time and strength preaching, visiting, and ruling in the church; while scores of others, who, like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, the tent makers, have their various business callings and seek therein to "abide with God," are ready to aid as the Lord may guide in such other forms of service as may consist with their ordinary vocations. The prosperity of the congregation, its growth, conduct, and edification, have therefore been dependent only on God, who, as He has withdrawn one worker after another, has supplied others in their stead, and so continues to do.
To have any adequate conception of the fruits of such teaching and such living in church-life, it is needful to go at least into one of the Monday-night prayer meetings at Bethesda. It is primitive and apostolic in simplicity. No one presides but the unseen Spirit of God. A hymn is suggested by some brother, and then requests for prayer are read, usually with definite mention of the names of those by and for whom supplication is asked. Then prayer, Scripture reading, singing, and exhortation follow, without any prearrangement as to subject, order in which or persons by whom, the exercises are participated in. The fullest liberty is encouraged to act under the Spirit's guidance; and the fact of such guidance is often strikingly apparent in the singular unity of prayer and song, scripture reading and remarks, as well as in the harmonious fellowship apparent. After more than half a century these Monday-night prayer services are still a hallowed centre of attraction, a rallying-point for supplication, and a radiating-point for service, and remain unchanged in the method of their conduct.
The original congregation has proved a tree whose seed is in itself after its kind. At the time of Mr. Müller's increase it was nearly sixty-six years since that memorable evening in 1832 when those seven believers met to form a church; and the original body of disciples meeting in Bethesda had increased to ten, six of which are now independent of the mother church, and four of which still remain in close affiliation and really constitute one church, though meeting in Bethesda, Alma Road, Stokes Croft, and Totterdown chapels. The names of the other churches which have been in a sense offshoots from Bethesda are as follows: Unity, Bishopston, Cumberland Hall, Charleton Hall, Nicholas Road, and Bedminster.
At the date of Mr. Müller's decease the total membership of the four affiliated congregations was upwards of twelve hundred.
In this brief compass no complete outline could be given of the church life and work so dear to him, and over which he so long watched and prayed. This church has been and is a missionary church. When on March 1, 1836, Mr. and Mrs. Groves, with ten helpers, left Bristol to carry on mission work in the East Indies, Mr. Müller felt deeply moved to pray that the body of disciples to whom he ministered might send out from their own members labourers for the wide world-field. That prayer was not forgotten before God, and has already been answered exceeding abundantly above all he then asked or thought. Since that time some sixty have gone forth to lands afar to labour in the gospel, and at the period of Mr. Müller's death there were at work, in various parts of the world at least twenty, who are aided by the free-will offerings of their Bristol brethren.
When, in 1874, Mr. Müller closed the third volume of his Narrative, he recorded the interesting fact that, the many nonconformist ministers of the gospel resident in Bristol when he took up work there more than forty-two years before, not one remained, all having been removed elsewhere or having died; and that, of all the evangelical clergy of the establishment, only one survived. Yet he himself, with very rare hindrance through illness, was permitted to preach and labour with health and vigor both of mind and body; over a thousand believers were already under his pastoral oversight, meeting in three different chapels, and over three thousand had been admitted into fellowship.
It was the writer's privilege to hear Mr. Müller preach on the morning of March 22, 1896, in Bethesda Chapel. He was in his ninety-first year, but there was a freshness, vigour, and terseness in his preaching that gave no indication of failing powers; in fact, he had never seemed more fitted to express and impress the thoughts of God.
His theme was the seventy-seventh psalm, and it afforded him abundant scope for his favourite subject-- prayer. He expounded the psalm verse by verse, clearly, sympathetically, effectively, and the outline of his treatment strongly engraved itself on my memory and is here reproduced.
"I cried unto God with my voice." Prayer seeks a voice-- to utter itself in words: the effort to clothe our desires in language gives definiteness to our desires and keeps the attention on the objects of prayer.
"In the day of my trouble." The Psalmist was in trouble; some distress was upon him, perhaps physical as well as mental, and it was an unceasing burden night and day.
"My soul refused to be comforted." The words, "my sore ran in the night," may be rendered, "my hand reached out"-- that is in prayer. But unbelief triumphed, and his soul refused all comfort even the comfort of God's promises. His trouble overshadowed his faith and shut out the vision of God.
"I remembered, or thought of God, and was troubled." Even the thought of God, instead of bringing peace, brought distress; instead of silencing his complaint, it increased it, and his spirit was overwhelmed-- the sure sign, again, of unbelief. If in trouble God's promises and the thought of God brings no relief, they will only become an additional burden.
"Thou holdest mine eyes waking." There was no sleep because there was no rest or peace. Care makes wakeful. Anxiety is the foe of repose. His spirit was unbelieving and therefore rebellious. He would not take God at His word.
"I have considered the days of old." Memory now is at work. He calls to remembrance former experiences of trouble and of deliverance. He had often sought God and been heard and helped, and why not now? As he made diligent search among the records of his experience and recollected all God's manifest and manifold inter-positions, he began to ask whether God could be fickle and capricious, whether His mercy was exhausted and His promise withdrawn, whether He had forgotten His covenant of grace, and shut up His fountains of love.
Thus we follow the Psalmist through six stages of unbelief:
1. The thought of God is a burden instead of a blessing.
2. The complaining spirit increases toward God.
3. His spirit is agitated instead of soothed and calmed.
4. Sleep departs, and anxiety forbids repose of heart.
5. Trouble only deepens and God seems far off.
6. Memory recalls God's mercies, but only to awaken distrust.
At last we reach the turning-point in the psalm:
he asks as he reviews former experiences, WHERE IS THE DIFFERENCE? IS THE CHANGE IN GOD OR IN ME? "Selah"-- the pause marks this turning-point in the argument or experience.
"And I said, This is my infirmity." In other words, "I HAVE BEEN A FOOL!" God is faithful. He never casts off. His children are always dear to Him. His grace is exhaustless and His promise unfailing. Instead of fixing his eyes on his trouble he now fixes his whole mind on God. He remembers His work, and meditates upon it; instead of rehearsing his own trials, he talks of His doings. He gets overwhelmed now, not with the greatness of his trouble but the greatness of his Helper. He recalls His miracles of power and love, and remembers the mystery of His mighty deeds-- His way in the sea, His strange dealings and leadings and their gracious results-- and so faith once more triumphs.
What is the conclusion, the practical lesson?
Unbelief is folly. It charges God foolishly. Man's are the weakness and failure, but never God's. My faith may be lacking but not His power. Memory and meditation, when rightly directed, correct unbelief. God has shown Himself great. He has always done wonders. He led even an unbelieving and murmuring people out of Egypt and for forty years through the wilderness, and His miracles of power and love were marvellous.
The psalm contains a great lesson. Affliction is inevitable. But our business is never to lose sight of the Father who will not leave His children. We are to roll all burdens on Him and wait patiently, and deliverance is sure. Behind the curtain He carries on His plan of love, never forgetting us, always caring for His own. His ways of dealing we cannot trace, for His footsteps are in the trackless sea, and unknown to us. But HE IS SURELY LEADING, and CONSTANTLY LOVING. Let us not be fools, but pray in faith to a faithful God.
This is the substance of that morning exposition, and is given very inadequately, it is true, yet it serves not only to illustrate Mr. Müller's mode of expounding and applying the Word, but the exposition of this psalm is a sort of exponent also of his life. It reveals his habits of prayer, the conflicts with unbelief, and how out of temptations to distrust God he found deliverance; and thus is doubly valuable to us as an experimental commentary upon the life-history we are studying.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
DEATH shuts the door upon earthly service, whatever door it may open to other forms and spheres of activity. There are many intimations that service beyond the grave is both unceasing and untiring: the blessed dead "rest indeed from their labours"-- toilsome and painful tasks-- "but their work's" activities for God-- "do follow them," where exertion is without exhaustion.
This is therefore a fit point for summing up the results of the work over which, from its beginning, one man had specially had charge. One sentence from Mr. Müller's pen marks the purpose which was the very pivot of his whole being:
"I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith."
This prepared both for the development of the character of him who had such singleness of aim, and for the development of the work in which that aim found action. Mr. Müller's oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman of Barnstaple, beautifully says that
"when a man's chief business is to serve and please the Lord, all his circumstances become his servants";
and we shall find this maxim true in Mr. Müller's life-work.
The Fifty-ninth Report, issued May 26, 1898, was the last up to the date of the publication of this volume, and the first after Mr. Müller's death. In this, Mr. Wright gives the brief but valuable summary not only of the whole work of the year preceding, but of the whole work from its beginning, and thus helps us to a comprehensive survey.
This report is doubly precious as it contains also the last contribution of Mr. Müller's own pen to the record of the Lord's dealings. It is probable that on the afternoon of March 9th he laid down his pen, for the last time, all unconscious that he was never again to take it up. He had made, in a twofold sense, his closing entry in life's solemn journal! In the evening of that day he took his customary part in the prayer service in the orphan house-- then went to sleep for the last time on earth; there came a waking hour, when he was alone with God, and suddenly departed, leaving his body to its long sleep that knows no waking until the day of the Lord's coming, while his spirit returned unto God who gave it.
The afternoon of that day of death, and of "birth" into the heavenly life-- as the catacomb saints called it-- found the helpers again assembled in the same prayer room to commit the work to him "who only hath immortality," and who, amid all changes of human administration, ever remains the divine Master Workman, never at a loss for His own chosen instruments.
Mr. Wright, in this report, shows himself God's chosen in the work, evidently like-minded with the departed director. The first paragraph, after the brief and touching reference to his father-in-law, serves to convey to all friends of this work the assurance that he to whom Mr. Müller left its conduct has also learned the one secret of all success in coworking with God. It sounds, as the significant keynote for the future, the same old keynote of the past, carrying on the melody and harmony, without change, into the new measures. It is the same oratorio, without alteration of theme, time, or even key: the leading performer is indeed no more but another hand takes up his instrument and , trembling with emotion, continues the unfinished strain so that there is no interruption. Mr. Wright says:
"It is written (Job xxvi.7):
'He hangeth the earth upon nothing'--
that is, no visible support. And so we exult in the fact that 'the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad' hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement, now more than sixty-four years ago, 'upon nothing,' that is, upon no VISIBLE support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God."
Blessed lesson to learn! that to hang upon the invisible God is not to hang "upon nothing," though it be upon nothing visible. The power and permanence of the invisible forces that hold up the earth after sixty centuries of human history are sufficiently shown by the fact that this great globe still swings securely in space and is whirled through its vast orbit, and that, without variation of a second, it still moves with divine exactness in its appointed path. We can therefore trust the same invisible God to sustain with His unseen power all the work which faith depends upon His truth and love and unfailing word of promise, though to the natural eye all these may seem as nothing.
Mr. Wright records also a very striking answer to long-continued prayer, and a most impressive instance of the tender care of the Lord, in the providing of an associate, every way like-minded, and well fitted to share the responsibility falling upon his shoulders at the decease of his father-in-law.
Feeling the burden too great for him, his one resource was to cast his burden on the Lord. He and Mr. Müller had asked of God such a companion in labour for three years before his departure, and Mr. Wright and his dear wife had, for twenty-five years before that-- from the time when Mr. Müller's long missionary tours began to withdraw him from Bristol-- besought of the Lord the same favour. But to none of them had any name been suggested, or, if so, it had never been mentioned.
After that day of death, Mr. Wright felt that a gracious Father would not long leave him to sustain this great burden alone, and about a fortnight later he felt assured that it was the will of God that he should ask Mr. George Frederic Bergin to join him in the work, who seemed to him a "true yoke-fellow." He had known him well for a quarter-century; he had worked by his side in the church; and though they were diverse in temperament, there had never been a break in unity or sympathy. Mr. Bergin was seventeen years his junior, and so likely to survive and succeed him; he was very fond of children, and had been much blessed in training his own in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and hence was fitted to take charge of this larger family of orphans. Confident of being led of God, he put the matter before Mr. Bergin, delighted but not surprised to find that the same God had moved on his mind also, and in the same direction; for not only was he ready to respond to Mr. Wright's appeal, but he had been led of God to feel that he should, after a certain time, go to Mr. Wright and offer himself. The Spirit who guided Philip to the Eunuch and at the same time had made the Eunuch to inquire after guidance; who sent men from Cornelius and, while they were knocking at Simon's house, was bidding Peter go with them, still moves in a mysterious way, and simultaneously, on those whom He would bring together for cooperation in loving service. And thus Mr. Wright found the Living God the same Helper and Supplier of every need, after his beloved father-in-law had gone up higher; and felt constrained to feel that the God of Elijah was still at the crossing of the Jordan and could work the same wonders as before, supplying the need of the hour when the need came.
Mr. Müller's own gifts to the service of the Lord find in this posthumous report their first full record and recognition. Readers of the Annual Reports must have noticed an entry, recurring with strange frequency during all these thirty or forty years, and therefore suggesting a giver that must have reached a very ripe age:
"from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven."
If that entry be carefully followed throughout and there be added the personal gifts made by Mr. Müller to various benevolent objects, it will be found that the aggregate sum from this "servant" reaches, up to March 1, 1898, a total of eighty-one thousand four hundred and ninety pounds eighteen shillings and eightpence. Mr. Wright, now that this "servant of the Lord Jesus" is with his Master, who promised,
"Where I am there shall also My servant be,"
feels free to make known that this donor was no other than George Müller himself who thus gave out of his own money-- money given to him for his own use or left to him by legacies-- the total sum of about sixty-four thousand five hundred pounds to the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and, in other directions, seventeen thousand more.
This is a record of personal gifts to which we know no parallel. It reminds us of the career of John Wesley, whose simplicity and frugality of habits enabled him not only to limit his own expenditure to a very small sum, but whose Christian liberality and unselfishness prompted him to give all that he could thus save to purely benevolent objects. While he had but thirty pounds a year, he lived on twenty-eight and gave away forty shillings. Receiving twice as much the next year, he still kept his living expenses down to the twenty-eight pounds and had thirty-two to bestow on the needy; and when the third year his income rose to ninety pounds, he spent no more than before and gave away sixty-two. The fourth year brought one hundred and twenty, and he disbursed still but the same sum for his own needs, having ninety-two to spare. It is calculated that in the course of his life he thus gave away at least thirty thousand pounds, and four silver spoons comprised all the silver plate that he possessed when the collectors of taxes called upon him. Such economy on the one hand and such generosity on the other have seldom been known in human history.
But George Müller's record will compare favourably with this or any other of modern days. His frugality, simplicity, and economy were equal to Wesley's, and his gifts aggregated eighty-one thousand pounds. Mr. Müller had received increasingly large sums from the Lord which he invested well and most profitably, so that for over sixty years he never lost a penny through a bad speculation! But his investments were not in lands or banks or railways, but in the work of God. He made friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness that when he failed received him into everlasting habitations.
He continued, year after year, to make provision for himself, his beloved wife and daughter, by laying up treasure-- in heaven. Such a man had certainly a right to exhort others to systematic beneficence. He gave-- as not one in a million gives-- not a tithe, not any fixed proportion of annual income, but all that was left after the simplest and most necessary supply of actual wants. While most Christians regard themselves as doing their duty if, after they have given a portion to the Lord, they spend all the rest on themselves, God led George Müller to reverse this rule and reserve only the most frugal sum for personal needs, that the entire remainder might be given to him that needeth. The utter revolution implied in our habits of giving which would be necessary were such a rule adopted is but too obvious. Mr. Müller's own words are:
"My aim never was, how much I could obtain, but rather how much I could give."
He kept continually before him his stewardship of God's property; and sought to make the most of the one brief life on earth, and to use for the best and largest good the property held by him in trust. The things of God were deep realities, and, projecting every action and decision and motive into the light of the judgment-seat of Christ, he asked himself how it would appear to him in the light of that tribunal. Thus he sought prayerfully and conscientiously so to live and labor, so to deny himself, and, by love, serve God and man, as that he should not be ashamed before Him at His coming. But not in a spirit of fear was this done; for if any man of his generation knew the perfect love that casts out fear, it was George Müller. He felt that God is love, and love is of God. He saw that love manifested in the greatest of gifts-- His only-begotten Son at Calvary-- he knew and believed the Love that God hath to us; he received it into his own heart; it became an abiding presence, manifested in obedience and benevolence, and, subduing him more and more, it became perfected so as to expel tormenting fear and impart a holy confidence and delight in God.
Among the texts which strongly impressed and moulded Mr. Müller's habits of giving was Luke vi.38:
"Give and it shall be given unto you.
Good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over
shall men give into your bosom."
He believed this promise and he verified it. His testimony is:
"I had GIVEN, and God had caused to be GIVEN TO ME AGAIN, and bountifully."
Again he read:
"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
He says that he BELIEVED what he found in the word of God, and by His grace sought to ACT ACCORDINGLY, and thus again records that he was blessed abundantly and his peace and joy in the Holy Ghost increased more and more.
It will not be a surprise, therefore, that, as has been already noted, Mr. Müller's entire personal estate at his death, as sworn to, when the will was admitted to probate, was only £169 9s. 4d., of which books, household furniture, etc., were reckoned at over one hundred pounds, the only money in his possession being a trifle over sixty pounds, and even this only awaiting disbursement as God's steward.
The will of Mr. Müller contains a pregnant clause which should not be forgotten in this memorial. It closes with a paragraph which is deeply significant as meant to be his posthumous word of testimony "a last testament":
"I cannot help admiring God's wondrous grace in bringing me to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus when I was an entirely careless and thoughtless young man, and that He has kept me in His fear and truth, allowing me the great honour, for so long a time, of serving Him."
In the comprehensive summary contained in this Fifty-ninth Report, remarkable growth is apparent during the sixty-four years since the outset of the work in 1834.
During the year ending May 26, 1898,
the number of day-schools was 7, and of pupils, 354; the number of children in attendance from the beginning, 81,501.
The number of home Sunday-schools, 12, and of children in them, 1,341; but from the beginning, 32,944.
The number of Sunday-schools aided in England and Wales, 25.
The amount expended in connection with home schools, £736 13s. 10d.; from the outset, £109,992 19s. 10d.
The Bibles and parts thereof circulated, 15,411; from the beginning, 1,989,266. Money expended for this purpose the past year, £439; from the first, £41,090 13s. 3d.
Missionary labourers aided, 115. Money expended, £2082 9s. 6d.; from the outset, £261,859 7s. 4d.
Circulation of books and tracts, 3,101,338. Money spent, £1001 3s.; and from the first, £47,188 11s. 10d.
The number of orphans on Ashley Down,1620; and from the first, 10,024. Money spent in orphan houses, last year £22,523 13s. 1d.; and from the beginning, £988,829.
To carry out conviction into action is sometimes a costly sacrifice; but whatever Mr. Müller's fidelity to conviction cost in one way, he had stupendous results of his life-work to contemplate, even while he lived. Let any one look at the above figures and facts, and remember that here was one poor man who, dependent on the help of God only in answer to prayer, could look back over threescore years and see how he had built five large orphan houses and taken into his family over ten thousand orphans, expending, for their good, within twelve thousand pounds of a round million. He had given aid to day-schools and Sunday-schools, in this and other lands, where nearly one hundred and fifty thousand children have been taught, at a cost of over one hundred and ten thousand pounds more. He had circulated nearly two million Bibles and parts thereof at the cost of over forty thousand pounds; and over three million books and tracts, at a cost of nearly fifty thousand pounds more. And besides all this he had spent over two hundred and sixty thousand pounds to aid missionary labourers in various lands. The sum total of the money thus spent during sixty years has thus reached very nearly the astonishing aggregate of one and a half million of pounds sterling ($7,500,000).
To summarize Mr. Müller's service we must understand his great secret. Such a life and such a work are the result of one habit more than all else,-- daily and frequent communion with God. Unwearied in supplications and intercessions, we have seen how, in every new need and crisis, prayer was the one resort, the prayer of faith.
He first satisfied himself that he was in the way of duty;
then he fixed his mind upon the unchanging word of promise;
then, in the boldness of a suppliant who comes to a throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ and pleads the assurance of the immutable Promiser, he presented every petition.
He was an unwearied intercessor. No delay discouraged him. This is seen particularly in the case of individuals for whose conversion or special guidance into the paths of full obedience he prayed. On his prayer list were the names of some for whom he had besought God, daily, by name, for one, two, three, four, six, ten years before the answer was given. The year just before his death, he told the writer of two parties for whose reconciliation to God he had prayed, day by day, for over sixty years, and who had not as yet to his knowledge turned unto God: and he significantly added,
"I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven; for my Heavenly Father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over threescore years, if He had not concerning them purposes of mercy."
This is a sufficient example of his almost unparalleled perseverance and importunity in intercession. However long the delay, he held on, as with both hands clasping the very horns of the altar; and his childlike spirit reasoned simply but confidently, that the very fact of his own spirit being so long drawn out in prayer for one object, and of the Lord's enabling him so to continue patiently and believingly to wait on Him for the blessing, was a promise and prophecy of the answer; and so he waited on, so assured of the ultimate result that he praised God in advance, believing that he had practically received that for which he asked.
It is most helpful here to add that one of the parties for whom for so many years he unceasingly prayed had recently died in faith, having received the promises and embraced them and confessed Jesus as his Lord. Just before leaving Bristol with this completed manuscript of Mr. Müller's life, I met a lady, a niece of the man referred to, through whom I received a knowledge of these facts. He had, before his departure, given most unequivocal testimony to his faith and hope in the Saviour of sinners.
If George Müller could still speak to us, he would again repeat the warning so frequently found in his journal and reports, that his fellow disciples must not regard him as a miracle-worker, as though his experience were to be accounted so exceptional as to have little application in our ordinary spheres of life and service. With patient repetition he affirms that in all essentials such an experience is the privilege of all believers. God calls disciples to various forms of work, but all alike to the same faith. To say, therefore,
"I am not called to build orphan houses, etc., and have no right to expect answers to my prayers as Mr. Müller did,"
is wrong and unbelieving. Every child of God, he maintained, is first to get into the sphere appointed of God, and therein to exercise full trust, and live by faith upon God's sure word of promise.
Throughout all these thousands of pages written by his pen, he teaches that every experience of God's faithfulness is both the reward of past faith and prayer, and the preparation of the servant of God for larger work and more efficient service and more convincing witness to his Lord.
No man can understand such a work who does not see in it the supernatural power of God. Without that the enigma defies solution; with that all the mystery is at least an open mystery. He himself felt from first to last that this supernatural factor was the key to the whole work, and without that it would have been even to himself a problem inexplicable. How pathetically we find him often comparing himself and his work for God to "the Burning Bush in the Wilderness" which, always aflame and always threatened with apparent destruction, was not consumed, so that not a few turned aside wondering to see this great sight. And why was it not burnt? Because Jehovah of hosts, who was in the Bush, dwelt in the man and in his work: or, as Wesley said with almost his last breath,
"Best of all, God is with us."
This simile of the Burning Bush is the more apt when we consider the rapid growth of the work. At first so very small as to seem almost insignificant, and conducted in one small rented house, accommodating thirty orphans, then enlarged until other rented premises became necessary; then one, two, three, four, and even five immense structures being built, until three hundred, seven hundred, eleven hundred and fifty, and finally two thousand and fifty inmates could find shelter within them,-- how seldom has the world seen such vast and, at the same time, rapid enlargement! Then look at the outlay! At first a trifling expenditure of perhaps five hundred pounds for the first year of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and of five hundred pounds for the first twelve month of the orphan work, and in the last year of Mr. Müller's life a grand total of over twenty-seven thousand five hundred, for all the purposes of the Institution.
The cost of the houses built on Ashley Down might have staggered a man of large capital, but this poor men only cried and the Lord helped him. The first house cost fifteen thousand pounds; the second, over twenty-one thousand; the third, over twenty-three thousand; and the fourth and fifth, from fifty thousand to sixty thousand more-- so that the total cost reached about one hundred and fifteen thousand. Besides all this, there was a yearly expenditure which rose as high as twenty-five thousand for the orphans alone, irrespective of those occasional outlays made needful for emergencies, such as improved sanitary precautions, which in one case cost over two thousand pounds.
Here is a burning bush indeed, always in seeming danger of being consumed, yet still standing on Ashley Down, and still preserved because the same presence of Jehovah burns in it. Not a branch of this many-sided work has utterly perished, while the whole bush still challenges unbelievers to turn aside and see the great sight, and take off the shoes from their feet as on holy ground where God manifests Himself.
Any complete survey of this great life-work must include much that was wholly outside of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; such as that service which Mr. Müller was permitted to render to the church of Christ and the world at large as a preacher, pastor, witness for truth, and author of books and tracts.
His preaching period covered the whole time from 1826 to 1898, the year of his departure, over seventy years; and from 1830, when he went to Teignmouth, his preaching continued, without interruption except from ill health until his life closed, with an average through the whole period of probably three sermons a week, or over ten thousand, for his lifetime. This is probably a low estimate, for during his missionary tours, which covered over two hundred thousand miles and were spread through seventeen years, he spoke on an average about once a day notwithstanding already advanced age.
His church life was much blessed even in visible and tangible results. During the first two and a half years of work in Bristol, two hundred and twenty-seven members were added, about half of whom were new converts, and it is probable that, if the whole number brought to the knowledge of Christ by his preaching could now be ascertained, it would be found to aggregate full as many as the average of those years, and would thus reach into the thousands, exclusive of orphans converted on Ashley Down. Then when we take into account the vast numbers addressed and impressed by his addresses, given in all parts of the United Kingdom, on the Continent of Europe, and in America, Asia, and Australia, and the still vaster numbers who have read his Narrative, his books and tracts, or who have in various other ways felt the quickening power of his example and life, we shall get some conception-- still, at best, inadequate-- of the range and scope of the influence he wielded by his tongue and pen, his labours, and his life. Much of the best influence defies all tabulated statistics and evades all mathematical estimates; it is like the fragrance of the alabaster flask which fills all the house but escapes our grosser senses of sight, hearing, and touch. This part of George Müller's work we cannot summarize: it belongs to a realm where we cannot penetrate. But God sees, knows, and rewards it.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
THE closing scene of this beautiful and eventful life history has an interest not altogether pathetic. Müller seems like an elevated mountain, on whose summit the evening sun shines in lingering splendour, and whose golden peak rises far above the ordinary level and belongs to heaven more than earth, in the clear, cloudless calm of God.
From May, 1892, when the last mission tour closed, he devoted himself mainly to the work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and to preaching at Bethesda and elsewhere as God seemed to appoint. His health was marvellous, especially considering how, when yet a young man, frequent and serious illnesses and general debility had apparently disqualified him from all military duty, and to many prophesied early death or hopeless succumbing to disease. He had been in tropic heat and arctic cold, in gales and typhoons at sea, and on journeys by rail, sometimes as continuously long as a sea-voyage. He had borne the pest of fleas, mosquitoes, and even rats. He had endured changes of climate, diet, habits of life, and the strain of almost daily services, and come out of all unscathed. This man, whose health was never robust, had gone through labours that would try the mettle of an iron constitution; this man, who had many times been laid aside by illness and sometimes for months and who in 1837 had feared that a persistent head trouble might unhinge his mind, could say, in his ninety-second year:
"I have been able, every day and all the day, to work, and that with ease, as seventy years since."
When the writer was holding meetings in Bristol in 1896, on an anniversary very sacred to himself, he asked his beloved father Müller to speak at the closing meeting of the series, in the Y. M. C. A. Hall; and he did so, delivering a powerful address of forty-five minutes, on Prayer in connection with Missions, and giving his own life-story in part, with a vigour of voice and manner that seemed a denial of his advanced age.*
The marvellous preservation of such a man at such an age reminds one of Caleb, who at eighty-five could boast in God that he was as strong even for war as in the day that he was sent into the land as one of the spies; and Mr. Müller himself attributed this preservation to three causes:
first, the exercising of himself to have always a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward men ;
secondly to the love he felt for the Scriptures, and the constant recuperative power they exercised upon his whole being;
and third, to that happiness he felt in God and His work, which relieved him of all anxiety and needless wear and tear in his labours.
The great fundamental truth that this heroic man stamped on his generation was that the Living God is the same to day and forever as yesterday and in all ages past, and that, with equal confidence with the most trustful souls of any age, we may believe His word, and to every promise add, like Abraham, our "Amen"-- IT SHALL BE SO!*
*Gen. xv.6. (Hebrew.)
When, a few days after his death, Mr. E. H. Glenny, who is known to many as the beloved and self-sacrificing friend of the North African Mission, passed through Barcelona, he found written in an album over his signature the words:
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and for ever."
And, like the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, quoting from the 102d Psalm, we may say of Jehovah, while all else changes and perishes:
"THOU ART THE SAME."
Toward the close of life Mr. Müller, acting under medical advice, abated somewhat of his active labours, preaching commonly but once a Sunday. It was my privilege to hear him on the morning of the Lord's day, March 22, 1896. He spoke on the 77th Psalm; of course he found here his favourite theme-- prayer; and, taking that as a fair specimen of his average preaching, he was certainly a remarkable expositor of Scripture even at ninety-one years of age. Later on the outline of this discourse will be found.
On Sunday morning, March 6, 1898, he spoke at Alma Road Chapel, and on the Monday evening following was at the prayer service at Bethesda, on both occasions in his usual health. On Wednesday evening following, he took his wonted place at the Orphan House prayer meeting and gave out the hymns:
"The countless multitude on high."
"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died."
When he bade his beloved son-in-law "good-night," there was outward sign of declining strength. He seemed to the last the vigorous old man, and retired to rest as usual. It had been felt that one so advanced in years should have some night-attendant, especially as indications of heart-weakness had been noticed of late, and he had yielded to the pressure of love and consented to such an arrangement after that night. But the consent came too late. He was never more to need human attendance or attention. On Thursday morning, March 10th, at about seven o'clock, the usual cup of tea was taken to his room. To the knock at the door there was no response save an ominous silence. The attendant opened the door, only to find that the venerable patriarch lay dead, on the floor beside the bed. He had probably risen to take some nourishment-- a glass of milk and a biscuit being always put within reach-- and, while eating the biscuit, he had felt faint, and fallen, clutching at the table-cloth as he fell, for it was dragged off, with certain things that had lain on the table. His medical adviser, who was promptly summoned, gave as his opinion that he had died of heart-failure some hour or two before he had been found by his attendant.
Such a departure, even at such an age, produced a world-wide sensation. That man's moral and spiritual forces reached and touched the earth's ends. Not in Bristol, or in Britain alone, but across the mighty waters toward the sunrise and sunset was felt the responsive pulse-beat of a deep sympathy. Hearts bled all over the globe when it was announced, by telegraph wire and ocean cable, that George Müller was dead. It was said of a great Englishman that his influence could be measured only by "parallels of latitude"; of George Müller we may add, and by meridians of longitude. He belonged to the whole church and the whole world, in a unique sense; and the whole race of man sustained a loss when he died.
The funeral, which took place on the Monday following, was a popular tribute of affection, such as is seldom seen. Tens of thousands of people reverently stood along the route of the simple procession; men left their workshops and offices, women left their elegant homes or humble kitchens, all seeking to pay a last token of respect. Bristol had never before witnessed any such scene.
A brief service was held at Orphan House No. 3, where over a thousand children met, who had for a second time lost a "father"; in front of the reading-desk in the great dining-room, a coffin of elm, studiously plain, and by request without floral offerings, contained all that was mortal of George Müller, and on a brass plate was a simple inscription, giving the date of his death, and his age.
Mr. James Wright gave the address, reminding those who were gathered that, to all of us, even those who have lived nearest God, death comes while the Lord tarries; that it is blessed to die in the Lord; and that for believers in Christ there is a glorious resurrection waiting. The tears that ran down those young cheeks were more eloquent than any words, as a token of affection for the dead.
The procession silently formed. Among those who followed the bier were four who had been occupants of that first orphan home in Wilson Street. The children's grief melted the hearts of spectators, and eyes unused to weeping were moistened that day. The various carriages bore the medical attendants, the relatives and connections of Mr. Müller, the elders and deacons of the churches with which he was associated, and his staff of helpers in the work on Ashley Down. Then followed forty or fifty other vehicles with deputations from various religious bodies, etc.
At Bethesda, every foot of space was crowded, and hundreds sought in vain for admission. The hymn was sung which Mr. Müller had given out at that last prayer meeting the night before his departure. Dr. Maclean of Bath offered prayer, mingled with praise for such a long life of service and witness, of prayer and faith, and Mr. Wright spoke from Hebrews xiii.7,8.
"Remember them which have the rule over you,
Who have spoken unto you the word of God:
Whose faith follow,
Considering the end of their conversation:
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and forever."
He spoke of those spiritual rulers and guides whom God sets over his people; and of the privilege of imitating their faith, calling attention to the two characteristics of his beloved father-in-law's faith:
first, that it was based on that immovable Rock of ages, God's written word;
and secondly, that it translated the precepts and promises of that word into daily life.
Mr. Wright made very emphatic Mr. Müller's acceptance of the whole Scriptures, as divinely inspired. He had been wont to say to young believers,
"Put your finger on the passage on which your faith rests,"
and had himself read the Bible from end to end nearly two hundred times. He fed on the Word and therefore was strong. He found the centre of that Word in the living Person it enshrines, and his one ground of confidence was His atoning work. Always in his own eyes weak, wretched, and vile, unworthy of the smallest blessing, he rested solely on the merit and mediation of His great High Priest.
George Müller cultivated faith. He used to say to his helpers in prayer and service,
"Never let enter your minds a shadow of doubt as to the love of the Father's heart or the power of the Father's arm."
And he projected his whole life forward, and looked at it in the light of the Judgment Day.
Mr. Wright's address made prominent one or two other most important lessons, as, for example, that the Spirit bids us imitate, not the idiosyncrasies or philanthropy of others, but their faith. And he took occasion to remind his hearers that philanthropy was not the foremost aim or leading feature of Mr. Müller's life, but above all else to magnify and glorify God, as "still the living God who, now as well as thousands of years ago, hears the prayers of His children and helps those who trust Him." He touchingly referred to the humility that led Mr. Müller to do the mightiest thing for God without self-consciousness, and showed that God can take up and use those who are willing to be only instruments.
Mr. Wright further remarked:
"I have been asked again and again lately as to whether the orphan work would go on. It is going on. Since the commencement of the year we have received between forty and fifty fresh orphans, and this week expect to receive more. The other four objects of the institution, according to the ability God gives us, are still being carried on. We believe that whatever God would do with regard to the future will be worthy of Him. We do not know much more, and do not want to. He knows what He will do. I cannot think, however, that the God who has so blessed the work for so long will leave our prayers as to the future unanswered."
Mr. Benjamin Perry then spoke briefly, characterizing Mr. Müller as the greatest personality Bristol had known as a citizen. He referred to his power as an expounder of Scripture, and to the fact that he brought to others for their comfort and support what had first been food to his own soul. He gave some personal reminiscences, referring, for instance, to his ability at an extreme old age still to work without hindrance either mental or physical, free from rheumatism, ache, or pain, and seldom suffering from exhaustion. He briefly described him as one who, in response to the infinite love of God, which called him from a life of sin to a life of salvation and service, wholly loved God above everybody and everything, so that his highest pleasure was to please and serve Him. As an illustration of his humility, he gave an incident. When of late a friend had said,
"When God calls you home, it will be like a ship going into harbour, full sail"--
"Oh no!" said Mr. Müller, "it is poor George Müller who needs daily to pray, 'Hold Thou me up in my goings, that my footsteps slip not.'"
The close of such lives as those of Asa and Solomon were to Mr. Müller a perpetual warning, leading him to pray that he might never thus depart from the Lord in his old age.
After prayer by Mr. J. L. Stanley, Col. Molesworth gave out the hymn,
"Tis sweet to think of those at rest."
And after another prayer by Mr. Stanley Arnot, the body was borne to its resting-place in Arno's Vale Cemetery, and buried beside the bodies of Mr. Müller's first and second wives, some eighty carriages joining in the procession to the grave. Everything from first to last was as simple and unostentatious as he himself would have wished. At the graveside Col. Molesworth prayed, and Mr. George F. Bergin read from 1 Cor. xv. and spoke a few words upon the tenth verse, which so magnifies the grace of God both in what we are and what we do.
["But by the Grace of God
I am what I am:
and His Grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain;
but I laboured more abundantly than they all:
yet not I,
but the Grace of God which was with me"
(1 Corinthians 15:10). --WStS Scripture annotation.]
Mr. E. K. Groves, nephew of Mr. Müller, announced as the closing hymn the second given out by him at that last prayer meeting at the orphanage.
"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died."
Mr. E. T. Davies then offered prayer, and the body was left to its undisturbed repose, until the Lord shall come.
Other memorial services were held at the Y. M. C. A. Hall, and very naturally at Bethesda Chapel, which brought to a fitting close this series of loving tributes to the departed. On the Lord's day preceding the burial, in nearly all the city pulpits, more or less extended reference has been made to the life, the character, and the career of the beloved saint who had for so many years lived his irreproachable life in Bristol. Also the daily and weekly press teemed with obituary notices, and tributes to his piety, worth, and work.
It was touchingly remarked at his funeral that he first confessed to feeling weak and weary in his work that last night of his earthly sojourn; and it seemed specially tender of the Lord not to allow that sense of exhaustion to come upon him until just as He was about to send His chariot to bear him to His presence. Mr. Müller's last sermon at Bethesda Chapel, after a ministry of sixty-six years, had been from 2 Cor. v.1:
"For we know that,
if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
we have a building of God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens."
It was as though he had some foretokens of his being about shortly to put off this his tabernacle. Evidently he was not taken by surprise. He had foreseen that his days were fast completing their number. Seven months before his departure, he had remarked to his medical attendant, in connection with the irregularity of his pulse:
"It means death."
Many of the dear orphans-- as when the first Mrs. Müller died-- wrote, asking that they might contribute toward the erection of a monument to the memory of their beloved benefactor. Already one dear young servant had gathered, for the purpose, over twenty pounds. In conformity with the known wishes of his father-in-law that only the simplest headstone be placed over his remains, Mr. Wright thought necessary to check the inflow of such gifts, the sum in hand being quite sufficient.
Further urgent appeals were made both from British and American friends, for the erection of some statue or other large visible monument or memorial, and in these appeals the local newspapers united. At length private letters led Mr. Wright to communicate with the public press, as the best way at once to silence these appeals and express the ground of rejecting such proposals. He wrote as follows:
"You ask me, as one long and closely associated with the late Mr. George Müller, to say what I think would be most in accordance with his own wishes as a fitting memorial of himself. Will not the best way of replying to this question be to let him speak for himself?
"Ist. When he erected Orphan House No. 1, and the question came what is the building to be called, he deliberately avoided associating his own name with it, and named it 'The New Orphan House, Ashley Down.' N.B.-- To the end of his life he disliked hearing or reading the words 'Müller's Orphanage.' In keeping with this, for years, in every Annual Report, when referring to the Orphanage he reiterated the statement, 'The New Orphan Houses on Ashley Down, Bristol, are not my Orphan Houses,... they are God's Orphan Houses.' (See, for example, the Report for 1897, p. 69.)
"2d. For years, in fact until he was nearly eighty years old, he steadily refused to allow any portrait of himself to be published; and only most reluctantly (for reasons which he gives with characteristic minuteness in the preface to 'Preaching Tours') did he at length give way on this point.
"3d. In the last published Report, at page 66, he states:
'The primary object I had in view in carrying on this work,' viz., 'that it might be seen that now, in the nineteenth century, God is still the Living God, and that now, as well as thousands of years ago, He listens to the prayers of His children and helps those who trust in Him.'
"From these words and ways of acting, is it not evident, that the only 'memorial' that George Müller cared about was that which consists in the effect of his example, Godward, upon his fellow men? Every soul converted to God (instrumentally) through his words or example constitutes a permanent memorial to him as the father in Christ of such an one. Every believer strengthened in faith (instrumentally) through his words or example constitutes a similar memorial to his spiritual teacher.
"He knew that God had, already, in the riches of His grace, given him many such memorials; and he departed this life, as I well know, cherishing the most lively hope that he should greet above thousands more to whom it had pleased God to make him a channel of rich spiritual blessing.
"He used often to say to me, when he opened a letter in which the writer poured out a tale of sore pecuniary need, and besought his help to an extent twice or three or ten times exceeding the sum total of his (Mr. Müller's) earthly possessions at the moment,
'Ah! these dear people entirely miss the lesson I am trying to teach them, for they come to me, instead of going to God.'
"And if he could come back to us for an hour, and listen to all account of what his sincerely admiring, but mistaken, friends are proposing to do to perpetuate his memory, I can hear him, with a sigh, exclaiming,
'Ah! these dear friends are entirely missing the lesson that I tried for seventy years to teach them,' viz., 'That a man can receive nothing except it be given him from above,'
"and that, therefore, it is the Blessed Giver, and not the poor receiver, that is to be glorified.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
QUANTITY of service is of far less importance than quality. To do well, rather than to do much, will be the motto of him whose main purpose is to please God. Our Lord bade His disciples tarry until endued with power from on high, because it is such enduement that gives to all witness and work the celestial savour and flavour of the Spirit.
Before we come to the closing scenes, we may well look back over the life-work of George Müller, which happily illustrates both quantity and quality of service. It may be doubted whether any other one man of this century accomplished as much for God and man, and yet all the abundant offerings which he brought to his Master was characterized by a heavenly fragrance.
The orphan work was but one branch of that tree-- the Scriptural Knowledge Institution-- which owed its existence to the fact that its founder devised large and liberal things for the Lord's cause. He sought to establish or at least to aid Christian schools wherever needful, to scatter Bibles and Testaments, Christian books and trade; to aid missionaries who were witnessing to the truth and working on a scriptural basis in destitute parts; and though each of these objects might well have engrossed his mind, they were all combined in the many-sided work which his love for souls suggested.
An aggressive spirit is never content with what has been done, but is prompt to enter any new door that is providentially opened. When the Paris Exposition of 1867 offered such rare opportunities, both for preaching to the crowds passing through the French capital, and for circuIating among them the Holy Scriptures, he gladly availed himself of the services of two brethren whom God had sent to labour there, one of whom spoke three, and the other, eight, modern languages; and through them were circulated, chiefly at the Exposition, and in thirteen different languages, nearly twelve thousand copies of the word of God, or portions of the same. It has been estimated that at this International Exhibition there were distributed in all over one and a quarter million Bibles, in sixteen tongues, which were gratefully accepted, even by Romish priests. Within six months those who thus entered God's open door scattered more copies of the Book of God than in ordinary circumstances would have been done by ten thousand colporteurs in twenty times that number of months, and thousands of souls are known to have found salvation by the simple reading of the New Testament. Of this glorious work, George Müller was permitted to be so largely a promoter.
At the Havre Exhibition of the following year, 1868, a similar work was done; and in like manner, when a providential door was unexpectedly opened into the Land of the Inquisition, Mr. Müller promptly took measures to promote the circulation of the Word in Spain. In the streets of Madrid the open Bible was seen for the first time, and copies were sold at the rate of two hundred and fifty in an hour, so that the supply was not equal to the demand. The facts substantially repeated when free Italy furnished a field for sowing the seed of the Kingdom. This wide-awake servant of God watched the signs of the times and, while others slept, followed the Lord's signals of advance.
One of the most fascinating features of the Narrative is found in the letters from his Bible distributors. It is interesting also to trace the story of the growth of the tract enterprise, until, in 1874, the circulation exceeded three and three-quarter millions, God in His faithfulness supplying abundant means.*
*Narrative, IV. 244.
The good thus effected by the distributors of evangelical literature must not be overlooked in this survey of the many useful agencies employed or assisted by Mr. Müller. To him the world was a field to be sown with the seed of the Kingdom, and opportunities were eagerly embraced for widely disseminating the truth. Tracts were liberally used, given away in large quantities at open-air services, fairs, races and steeplechases, and among spectators at public executions, or among passengers on board ships and railway trains, and by the way. Sometimes, at a single gathering of the multitudes, fifteen thousand were distributed judiciously and prayerfully, and this branch of the work has, during all these years, continued with undiminished fruitfulness to yield its harvest of good.
All this was, from first to last, and of necessity, a work of faith. How far faith must have been kept in constant and vigorous exercise can be appreciated only by putting one's self in Mr. Müller's place. In the year 1874, for instance, about forty-four thousand pounds were needed, and he was compelled to count the cost and face the situation. Two thousand and one hundred hungry mouths were daily to be fed, and as many bodies to be clad and cared for. One hundred and eighty-nine missionaries were needing assistance; one hundred schools, with about nine thousand pupils, to be supported; four million pages of tracts and tens of thousands of copies of the Scriptures to be yearly provided for distribution; and beside all these ordinary expenses, inevitable crises or emergencies, always liable to arise in connection with the conduct of such extensive enterprises, would from time to time call for extraordinary outlay. The man who was at the head of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution had to look at this array of unavoidable expenses, and at the same time face the human possibility and probability of an empty treasury whence the last shilling had been drawn.
Let him tell us how he met such a prospect:
"God, our infinitely rich Treasurer, remains to us. It is this which gives me peace... Invariably, with this probability before me, I have said to myself: 'God who has raised up this work through me; God who has led me generally year after year to enlarge it; God, who has supported this work now for more than forty years, will still help and will not suffer me to be confounded, because I rely upon Him. I commit the whole work to Him, and He will provide me with what I need, in future also, though I know not whence the means are to come.'"*
*Narrative, IV. 886, 887.
Thus he wrote in his journal, on July 28, 1874. Since then twenty-four years have passed, and to this day the work goes on, though he who then had the guidance of it sleeps in Jesus. Whoever has had any such dealings with God, on however small a scale, cannot even think of the Lord as failing to honour a faith so simple, genuine, and childlike, a faith which leads a helpless believer thus to cast himself and all his cares upon God with utter abandonment of all anxiety. This man put God to proof, and proved to himself and to all who receive his testimony that it is blessed to wait only upon Him. The particular point which he had in view, in making these entries in his journal, is the object also of embodying them in these pages, namely, to show that, while the annual expenses of this Institution were so exceedingly large and the income so apparently uncertain, the soul of this believer was, to use his words,
"THROUGHOUT, without the least wavering, stayed upon Gold, believing that He who had through him begun the Institution, enlarged it almost year after year, and upheld it for forty years in answer to prayer by faith, would do this still and not suffer this servant of His to be confounded."*
Believing that God would still help, and supply the means, George Müller was willing, and THOROUGHLY in heart prepared, if necessary, to pass again through similar severe and prolonged seasons of trial as he had already endured.
*Narrative, IV. 389.
The Living God had kept him calm and restful, amid all the ups and downs of his long experience as the superintendent and director of this many-sided work, though the tests of faith had not been light or short of duration. For more than ten years at a time-- as from August, 1838, to April, 1849, day by day, and for months together from meal to meal it was necessary to look to God, almost without cessation, for daily supplies. When, later on, the Institution was twentyfold larger and the needs proportionately greater, for months at a time the Lord likewise constrained His servant to lean from hour to hour, in the dependence, upon Him. All along through these periods of unceasing want, the Eternal God was his refuge and underneath were the Everlasting Arms. He reflected that God was aware of all this enlargement of the work and its needs; he comforted himself with the consoling thought that he was seeking his Master's glory; and that if in this way the greater glory would accrue to Him for the good of His people and of those who were still unbelievers, it was no concern of the servant; nay, more than this, it behooved the servant to be willing to go on in this path of trial, even unto the end of his course, if so it should please his Master, who guides His affairs with divine discretion.
The trials of faith did not cease even until the end. July 28, 1881, finds the following entry in Mr. Müller's journal:
"The income has been for some time past only about a third part of the expenses. Consequently all we have for the support of the orphans is nearly gone; and for the first four objects of the Institution we have nothing at all in hand. The natural appearance now is that the work cannot be carried on. But I BELIEVE that the Lord will help, both with means for the orphans and also for other objects of the Institution, and that we shall not be confounded; also that the work shall not need to be given up. I am fully expecting help, and have written this to the glory of God, that it may be recorded hereafter for the encouragement of His children. The result will be seen. I expect that we shall not be confounded, though for some years we have not been so poor."
While faith thus leaned on God, prayer took more vigorous hold. Six, seven, eight times a day, he and his dear wife were praying for means, looking for answers, and firmly persuaded that their expectations would not be disappointed. Since that entry was made, seventeen more years have borne their witness that this trust was not put to shame. Not a branch of this tree of holy enterprise has been cut off by the sharp blade of a stern necessity.
Though faith had thus tenaciously held fast to the promises, the pressure was, not at once relieved. When, a fortnight after these confident records of trust in God had been spread on the pages of the journal, the balance for the orphans was less than it had been for twenty-five years, it would have seemed to human sight as though God had forgotten to be gracious. But, on August 22d, over one thousand pounds came in for the support of the orphans and thus relief was afforded for a time.
Again, let us bear in mind how in the most unprecedented straits God alone was made the confidant, even the best friends of the Institution, alike the poor and the rich, being left in ignorance of the pressure of want. It would have been no sin to have made known the circumstances, or even to have made an appeal for aid to the many believers who would gladly have come to the relief of the work. But the testimony to the Lord was to be jealously guarded, and the main object of this work of faith would have been imperiled just so far as by any appeal to men this witness to God was weakened.
In this crisis, and in every other, faith triumphed, and so the testimony to a prayer-hearing God grew in volume and power as the years went on. It was while as yet this period of testing was not ended, and no permanent relief was yet supplied, that Mr. Müller, with his wife, left Bristol on August 23d, for the Continent, on his eighth long preaching tour. Thus, at a time when, to the natural eye, his own presence would have seemed well-nigh indispensable, he calmly departed for other spheres of duty, leaving the work at home in the hands of Mr. Wright and his helpers. The tour had been already arranged for under God's leading and it was undertaken, with the supporting power of a deep conviction that God is as near to those who in prayer wait on Him in distant lands, as on Ashley Down, and needs not the personal presence of any man in any one place, or at any time, in order to carry on His word.
In an American city, a half-idiotic boy who was bearing a heavy burden asked a drayman, who was driving an empty cart, for a ride. Being permitted, he mounted the cart with his basket, but thinking he might so relieve the horse a little, while still himself riding, lifted his load and carried it. We laugh at the simplicity of the idiotic lad, and yet how often we are guilty of similar folly! We profess to cast ourselves and our cares upon the Lord, and then persist in bearing our own burdens, as if we felt that He would be unequal to the task of sustaining us and our loads. It is a most wholesome lesson for Christian workers to learn that all true work is primarily the Lord's, and only secondarily ours, and that therefore all "carefulness" on our part is distrust of Him, implying a sinful self-conceit which overlooks the fact that He is the one Worker and all others are only His instruments.
As to our trials, difficulties, losses, and disappointments, we are prone to hesitate about committing them to the Lord, trustfully and calmly. We think we have done well if we take refuge in the Lord's promise to his reluctant disciple Peter,
"What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter,"
referring this "hereafter" the future state where we look for the solution of all problems. In Peter's case the hereafter appears to have come when the feet-washing was done and Christ explained its meaning; and it is very helpful to our faith to observe Mr. Müller's witness concerning all these trying and disappointing experiences of his life, that, without one exception, he had found already in this life that they worked together for his good; so that he had reason to praise God for them all. In the ninetieth psalm we read:
"Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us
And the years wherein we have seen evil."
This is an inspired prayer, and such prayer is a prophecy. Not a few saints have found, this side of heaven, a divine gladness for every year and day of sadness, when their afflictions and adversities have been patiently borne.
Faith is the secret of both peace and steadfastness, amid all tendencies to discouragement and discontinuance in well-doing. James was led by the Spirit of God to write that the unstable and unbelieving man is like the "wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." There are two motions of the waves-- one up and down, which we call undulation, the other to and fro, which we call fluctuation. How appropriately both are referred to-- "tossed" up and down, "driven" to and fro! The double-minded man lacks steadiness in both respects: his faith has no uniformity of experience, for he is now at the crest of the wave and now in the trough of the sea; it has no uniformity of progress, for whatever he gains to-day he loses to-morrow.
Fluctuations in income and apparent prosperity did not take George Müller by surprise. He expected them, for if there were no crises and critical emergencies how could there be critical deliverances? His trust was in God, not in donors or human friends or worldly circumstances: and because he trusted in the Living God who says of Himself,
"I am the Lord, I change not,"
amid all other changes, his feet were upon the one Rock of Ages that no earthquake shock can move from its eternal foundations.
Two facts Mr. Müller gratefully records at this period of his life: (Narrative, IV. 411, 418.)
First. "For above fifty years I have now walked, by His grace, in a path of complete reliance upon Him who is the faithful one, for everything I have needed; and yet I am increasingly convinced that it is by His help alone I am enabled to continue in this course; for, if left to myself, even after the precious enjoyment so long experienced of walking thus in fellowship with God, I should yet be tempted to abandon this path of entire dependence upon Him. To His praise, however, I am able to state that for more than half a century I have never had the least desire to do so."
Second. From May, 1880, to May 1881, a gracious work of the Spirit had visited the orphans on Ashley Down and in many of the schools. During the three months spent by Mr. Müller at home before sailing for America in September, 1880, he had been singularly drawn out in prayer for such a visitation of grace, and had often urged it on the prayers of his helpers. The Lord is faithful, and He cheered the heart of His servant in his absence by abundant answers to his intercessions. Before he had fairly entered on his work in America, news came from home of a blessed work of conversion already in progress, and which went on for nearly a year, until there was good ground for believing that in the five houses five hundred and twelve orphans had found God their Father in Christ, and nearly half as many more were in a hopeful state.
The Lord did not forget His promise, and He did keep the plant He had permitted His servant to set in His name in the soil on Ashley Down. Faith that was tried, triumphed. On June 7, 1884, a legacy of over eleven thousand pounds reached him, the largest single gift ever yet received, the largest donations which had preceded being respectively one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, five thousand, eight thousand one hundred, and nine thousand and ninety-one pounds.
This last amount, eleven thousand, had been due for over six years from an estate, but had been kept back by the delays of the Chancery Court. Prayer had been made day by day that the bequest might be set free for its uses, and now the full answer had come; and God had singularly timed the supply to the need, for there was at that time only forty-one pounds ten shillings in hand, not one half of the average daily expenses, and certain sanitary improvements were just about to be carried out which would require an outlay of over two thousand pounds.
As Mr. Müller closed the solemn and blessed records of 1884, he wrote:
"Thus ended the year 1884, during which we had been tried, greatly tried, in various ways, no doubt for the exercise of our faith, and to make us know God more fully; but during which we had also been helped and blessed, and greatly helped and blessed. Peacefully, then, we were able to enter upon the year 1885, fully assured that, as we had God FOR US and WITH US, ALL, ALL would be well."
John Wesley had in the same spirit said a century before,
"Best of all, God is with us."
Of late years the orphanage at Ashley Down has not had as many inmates as formerly, and some four or five hundred more might now be received. Mr. Müller felt constrained, for some years previous to his death, to make these vacancies known to the public, in hopes that some destitute orphans might find there a home. But it must be remembered that the provision for such children has been greatly enlarged since this orphan work was begun. In 1834 the total accommodation for all orphans, in England, reached thirty-six hundred, while the prisons contained nearly twice as many children under eight years of age. This state of things led to the rapid enlargement of the work until over two thousand were housed on Ashley Down alone; and this colossal enterprise stimulated others to open similar institutions until, fifty years after Mr. Müller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone. Thus God used Mr. Müller to give such an impetus to this form of philanthropy, that destitute children became the object of a widely organized charity both on the part of individuals and of societies, and orphanages now exist for various classes.
In all this manifold work which Mr. Müller did he was, to the last, self-oblivious. From the time when, in October, 1830, he had given up all stated salary, as pastor and minister of the gospel, he had never received any salary, stipend nor fixed income, of any sort, whether as a pastor or as a director of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. Both principle and preference led him to wait only upon God for all personal needs, as also for all the wants of his work. Nevertheless God put into the hearts of His believing children in all parts of the world, not only to send gifts in aid of the various branches of the work which Mr. Müller superintended, but to forward to him money for his own uses, as well as clothes, food, and other temporal supplies. He never appropriated one penny which was not in some way indicated or designated as for his own personal needs, and subject to his personal judgment. No straits of individual or family want ever led him to use, even for a time, what was sent to him for other ends. Generally gifts intended for himself were wrapped up in paper with his name written thereon, or in other equally distinct ways designated as meant for him. Thus as early as 1874 his year's income reached upwards of twenty-one hundred pounds. Few nonconformist ministers, and not one in twenty of the clergy of the establishment, have any such income, which averages about six pounds for every day in the year-- and all this came from the Lord, simply in answer to prayer, and without appeal of any sort to man or even the revelation of personal needs. If we add legacies paid at the end of the year 1873, Mr. Müller's entire income in about thirteen months exceeded thirty-one hundred pounds. Of this he gave, out and out to the needy, and to the work of God, the whole amount save about two hundred and fifty, expended on personal and family wants; and thus started the year 1875 as poor as he had begun forty-five years before; and if his personal expenses were scrutinized it would be found that even what he ate and drank and wore was with equal conscientiousness expended for the glory of God, so that in a true sense we may say he spent nothing on himself.
In another connection it has already been recorded that, when at Jubbulpore in 1890, Mr. Müller received tidings of his daughter's death. To any man of less faith that shock might have proved, at his advanced age, not only a stunning but a fatal blow. His only daughter and only child, Lydia, the devoted wife of James Wright, had been called home, in her fifty-eighth year, and after nearly thirty years of labour at the orphan houses. What this death meant to Mr. Müller, at the age of eighty-four, no one can know who has not witnessed the mutual devotion of that daughter and that father: and what that loss was to Mr. Wright, the pen alike fails to portray. If the daughter seemed to her father humanly indispensable, she was to her husband a sort of inseparable part of his being; and over such experiences as these it is the part of delicacy to draw the curtain of silence. But it should be recorded that no trait in Mrs. Wright was more pathetically attractive than her humility. Few disciples ever felt their own nothingness as she did, and it was this ornament to a meek and quiet spirit-- the only ornament she wore-- that made her seem so beautiful to all who knew her well enough for this hidden man of the heart to be disclosed to their vision. Did not that ornament in the Lord's sight appear as of great price? Truly
"the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her."
James Wright had lived with his beloved Lydia for more than eighteen years, in "unmarred and unbroken felicity." They had together shared in prayers and tears before God, bearing all life's burdens in common. Weak as she was physically, he always leaned upon her and found her a tower of spiritual strength in time of heavy responsibility. While, in her lowly-mindedness, she thought of herself as a "little useless thing," he found her both a capable and cheerful supervisor of many most important domestic arrangements where a competent woman's hand was needful: and, with rare tact and fidelity, she kept watch of the wants of the orphans as her dear mother had done before her. After her decease, her husband found among her personal effects a precious treasure-- a verse written with her own hand:
"I have seen the face of Jesus,
Tell me not of aught beside;
I have heard the voice of Jesus,
All my soul is satisfied."
This invaluable little fragment, like that other writing found by this beloved daughter among her mother's effects, became to Mr. Wright what that had been to Mr. Müller, a sort of last legacy from his departed and beloved wife. Her desires were fulfilled; she had seen the face and heard the voice of Him who alone could satisfy her soul.
In the Fifty-third Report, which extends to May 26, 1892, it is stated that the expenses exceeded the income for the orphans by a total of over thirty-six hundred pounds, so that many dear fellow labourers, without the least complaint, were in arrears as to salaries. This was the second time only, in fifty-eight years, that the income thus fell short of the expenses. Ten years previous, the expenses had been in excess of the income by four hundred and eighty-eight pounds, but, within one month after the new financial year had begun, by the payment of legacies three times as much as the deficiency was paid in; and, adding donations, six times as much. And now the question arose whether God would not have Mr. Müller contract rather than expand the work.
"The Lord's dealings with us during the last year indicate that it is His will we should contract our operations, and we are waiting upon Him for directions as to how and to what extent this should be done; for we have but single object-- the glory of God. When I founded this Institution, one of the principles stated was,
'that there would be no enlargement of the work by going into debt':
and in like manner we cannot go on with that which already exists if we have not sufficient coming in to meet the current expenses."
Thus the godly man who loved to expand his service for God was humble enough to bow to the will of God if its contraction seemed needful.
Prayer was much increased, and faith did not fail under the trial, which continued for weeks and months, but was abundantly sustained by the promises of an unfailing Helper. This distress was relieved in March by the sale of ten acres of land, at one thousand pounds an acre, and at the close of the year there was in hand a balance of over twenty-three hundred pounds.
The exigency, however, continued more or less severe until again, in 1893-4, after several years of trial, the Lord once more bountifully supplied means. And Mr. Müller is careful to add that though the appearance during the years of trial was many times as if God had forgotten or forsaken them and would never care any more about the Institution, it was only in appearance, for he was as mindful of it as ever, and he records how by this discipline faith was still further strengthened, God was glorified in the patience and meekness whereby He enabled them to endure the testing, and tens of thousands of believers were blessed in afterward reading about these experiences of divine faithfulness.*
*Fifty-fifth Report, p. 82.
Five years after Mrs. Wright's death, Mr. Müller was left again a widower. His last great mission tour had come to an end in 1892, and in 1895, on the 13th of January, the beloved wife who in all these long journeys had been his constant companion and helper, passed to her rest, and once more left him peculiarly alone, since his devoted Lydia had been called up higher. Yet by the same grace of God which had always before sustained him he was now upheld, and not only kept in unbroken peace, but enabled to
"kiss the Hand which administered the stroke."
At the funeral of his second wife, as at that of the first, he made the address, and the scene was unique in interest. Seldom does a man of ninety conduct such a service. The faith that sustained him in every other trial held him up in this. He lived in such habitual communion with the unseen world, and walked in such uninterrupted fellowship with the unseen God, that the exchange of worlds became too real for him to mourn for those who had made it, or to murmur at the infinite Love that numbers our days. It moved men more deeply than any spoken word of witness to see him manifestly borne up as on everlasting Arms.
I remember Mr. Müller remarking that he waited eight years before he understood at all the purpose of God in removing his first wife, who seemed so indispensable to him and his work. His own journal explains more fully this remark. When it pleased God to take from him his second wife, after twenty-three years of married life, again he rested on the promise that
"All things work together for good to them that love God"
and reflected his past experiences of its truth. When he lost his first wife after over thirty-nine years of happy wedlock, while he bowed to the Father's will, how that sorrow and bereavement could work good had been wholly a matter of faith, for no compensating good was apparent to sight; yet he believed God's word and waited to see how it would be fulfilled. That loss seemed one that could not be made up. Only a little before, two orphan houses had been opened for nine hundred more orphans, so that there were total accommodations for over two thousand; she, who by nature, culture, gifts, and graces, was so wonderfully fitted to be her husband's helper, and who had with motherly love cared for these children, was suddenly removed from his side. Four years after Mr. Müller married his second wife, he saw it plainly to be God's will that he should spend life's evening-time in giving witness to the nations. These mission tours could not be otherwise than very trying to the physical powers of endurance, since they covered over two hundred thousand miles and obliged the travellers to spend a week at a time in a train, and sometimes from four to six weeks on board a vessel. Mrs. Müller, though never taking part in public, was severely taxed, by all this travel, and always busy, writing letters, circulating books and tracts, and in various wars helping and relieving her husband. All at once, while in the midst of these fatiguing journeys and exposures to varying climates, it flashed upon Mr. Müller that his first wife, who had died in her seventy-third year, could never have undertaken these tours, and that the Lord had thus, in taking her, left him free to make these extensive journeys. She would have been over fourscore years old when these tours began, and, apart from age, could not have borne the exhaustion, because of her frail health; whereas the second Mrs. Müller, who, at the time, was not yet fifty-seven, was both by her age and strength fully equal to the strain thus put upon her.
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
GOD'S real answers to prayer are often seeming denials. Beneath the outward request He hears the voice of the inward desire, and He responds to the mind of the Spirit rather than to the imperfect and perhaps mistaken words in which the yearning seeks expression. Moreover, His infinite wisdom sees that a larger blessing may be ours only by the withholding of the lesser good which we seek; and so all true prayer trusts His to give His own answer, not in our way or time, or even to our own expressed desire, but rather to His own unutterable groaning within us which He can interpret better than we.
Monica, mother of Augustine, pleaded with God that her dissolute son might not go to Rome, that sink of iniquity; but he was permitted to go, and thus came into contact with Ambrose, bishop of Milan, through whom he was converted. God fulfilled the mother's desire while denying her request.
When George Müller, five times within the first eight years after conversion, had offered himself as a missionary. God had blocked his way; now, at sixty-five, He was about to permit him, in a sense he had never dreamed of, to be a missionary to the world. From the beginning of his ministry he had been more or less an itinerant, spending no little time in wanderings about in Britain and on the Continent; but now he was to go to the regions beyond and spend the major part of seventeen years in witnessing to the prayer-hearing God.
These extensive missionary tours occupied the evening of Mr. Müller's useful life, from 1875 to 1892. They reached, more or less, over Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia; and would of themselves have sufficed for the work of an ordinary life.
They had a singular suggestion. While, in 1874, compelled by Mrs. Müller's health to seek a change of air, he was preaching in the Isle of Wight, and a beloved Christian brother for whom he had spoken, himself a man of much experience in preaching, told him how
"that day had been the happiest of his whole life";
and this remark, with others like it previously made, so impressed him that the Lord was about to use him to help on believers outside of Bristol, that he determined no longer to confine his labours in the Word and doctrine to any one place, but to go wherever a door might open for his testimony.
In weighing this question he was impressed with seven reasons or motives, which led to these tours:
1. To preach the gospel in its simplicity, and especially to show how salvation is based, not upon feelings or even upon faith, but upon the finished work of Christ; that justification is ours the moment we believe, and we are to accept and claim our place as accepted in the Beloved without regard to our inward states of feeling or emotion.
2. To lead believers to know their saved state, and to realize their standing in Christ, great numbers not only of disciples, but even preachers and pastors, being themselves destitute of any real peace and joy in the Lord, and hence unable to lead others into joy and peace.
3. To bring believers back to the Scriptures, to search the Word and find its hidden treasures; to test everything by this divine touchstone and hold fast only what will stand this test; to make it the daily subject of meditative and prayerful examination in order to translate it into daily obedience.
4. To promote among all true believers, brotherly love; to lead them to make less of those non-essentials in which disciples differ, and to make more of those great essential and foundation truths in which all true believers are united; to help all who love and trust one Lord to rise above narrow sectarian prejudices, and barriers to fellowship.
5. To strengthen the faith of believers, encouraging a simpler trust, and a more real and unwavering confidence in God, and particularly in the sure answers to believing prayer, based upon His definite promises.
6. To promote separation from the world and deadness to it, and so to increase heavenly-mindedness in children of God; at the time warning against fanatical extremes and extravagances.
7. And finally to fix the hope of disciples on the blessed coming of our Lord Jesus; and, in connection therewith, to instruct them as to the true character and object of the present dispensation, and the relation of the church to the world in this period of the outgathering of the Bride of Christ.
These seven objects may be briefly epitomized thus: Mr. Müller's aim was to lead sinners to believe on the name of the Son of God, and so to have eternal life; to help those who have thus believed, to know that they have this life; to teach them so to build up themselves on their most holy faith, by diligent searching into the word of God, and praying in the Holy Ghost, as that this life shall be more and more a real possession and a conscious possession; to promote among all disciples the unity of the Spirit and the charity which is the bond of perfectness, and to help them to exhibit that life before the world; to incite them to cultivate an unworldly and spiritual type of character such as conforms to the life of God in them; to lead them to the prayer of faith which is both the expression and the expansion of the life of faith; and to direct their hope to the final appearing of the Lord, so that they should purify themselves even as He is pure, and occupy till He comes. Mr. Müller was thus giving himself to the double work of evangelization and edification, on a scale commensurate with his love for a dying world, as opportunity afforded doing good unto all men, and especially to them who are of the household of faith.
Of these long and busy missionary journeys, it is needful to give only the outline, or general survey. March 26, 1875, is an important date, for it marks the starting-point He himself calls this "the beginning of his missionary tour."
From Bristol he went to Brighton, Lewes, and Sunderland-- on the way to Sunderland preaching to a great audience in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, at Mr. Spurgeon's request-- then to Newcastle-on-Tyne, and back to London, where he spoke at the Mildmay Park Conference, Talbot Road Tabernacle, and "Edinburgh Castle." This tour closed, June 5th, after seventy addresses in public, during about ten weeks.
Less than six weeks passed, when, on August 14th, the second tour began, in which case the special impulse that moved him was a desire to follow up the revival work of Mr. Moody and Mr. Sankey. Their short stay in each place made them unable to lead on new converts to higher attainments in knowledge and grace, and there seemed to be a call for some instruction fitted to confirm these new believers in the life of obedience. Mr. Müller accordingly followed these evangelists in England, Ireland, and Scotland, staying in each place from one week to six, and seeking to educate and edify those who had been led to Christ. Among the places visited on this errand in 1875, were London; then Kilmarnock, Saltwater, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow, Kirkentilloch in Scotland, and Dublin in Ireland; then, returning to England, he went to Leamington, Warwick, Kenilworth, Coventry, Rugby, etc. In some cases, notably at Mildmay Park, Dundee and Glasgow, Liverpool and Dublin, the audiences numbered from two thousand to six thousand, but everywhere rich blessing came from above. This second tour extended into the new year, 1876, and took in Liverpool, York, Kendal, Carlisle, Annan, Edinburgh, Arbroath, Montrose, Aberdeen, and other places; and when it closed in July, having lasted nearly eleven months, Mr. Müller had preached at least three hundred and six times, an average of about one sermon a day, exclusive of days spent in travel. So acceptable and profitable were these labours that there were over one hundred invitations urged upon him which he was unable to accept.
The third tour was on the Continent. It occupied most of the year closing May 26, 1877, and embraced Paris, various places in Switzerland, Prussia and Holland, Alsace, Wurtemberg, Baden, Hesse Darmstadt, etc. Altogether over three hundred addresses were given in about seventy cities and villages to all of which he had been invited by letter. When this tour closed more than sixty written invitations remained unaccepted, and Mr. Müller found that, through his work and his writings, he was as well known in the continental countries visited, as in England.
Turning now toward America, the fourth tour extended from August, 1877, to June of the next year. For many years invitations had been coming with growing frequency, from the United States and Canada; and of late their urgency led him to recognize in them the call of God, especially as he thought of the many thousands of Germans across the Atlantic, who as they heard him speak in their own native tongue would keep the more silence. (Acts xxii.2.)
Mr. and Mrs. Müller, landing at Quebec, thence went to the United States, where, during ten months, his labours stretched over a vast area, including the States of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri. Thus having swept round the Atlantic sea-border, he crossed to the Pacific coast, and returning visited Salt Lake City in Utah-- the very centre and stronghold of Mormonism-- Illinois, Ohio, etc. He spoke frequently to large congregations of Germans, and, in the Southern States, to the coloured population; but he regarded no opportunity for service afforded him on this tour as so inspiring as the repeated meetings with and for ministers, evangelists, pastors, and Christian workers; and, next to them in importance, his interviews with large bodies of students and professors in the universities, colleges, theological seminaries, and other higher schools of education. To cast the salt of the gospel into the very springs of social influence, the sources whence power flows, was to him a most sacred privilege. His singular charity, and humility drew to him even those who differed with him, and all denominations of Christians united in giving him access to the people. During this tour he spoke three hundred times, and travelled nearly ten thousand miles; over one hundred invitations being declined, for simple lack of time and strength.
After a stay in Bristol of about two months, on September 5, 1878, he and his wife began the fifth of these missionary tours. In this case, it was on the Continent, where he ministered in English, German, and French; and in Spain and Italy, when these tongues were not available, his addresses were through an interpreter. Many open doors the Lord set before him, not only to the poorer and humbler classes, but to those in the middle and higher ranks. In the Riviera, he had access to many of the nobility and aristocracy, who from different countries sought health and rest in the equable climate of the Mediterranean, and at Mentone he and Mr. Spurgeon held sweet converse. In Spain Mr. Müller was greatly gladdened by seeing for himself the schools, entirely supported by the funds of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and by finding that, in hundreds of cases, even popish parents so greatly valued these schools that they continued to send their children, despite both the threats and persuasions of the Romish priests. He found, moreover, that the pupils frequently at their homes read to their parents the word of God and sang to them the gospel hymns learned at these schools, so that the influence exerted was not bounded by its apparent horizon, as diffused or refracted sunlight reaches with its illumining rays far beyond the visible track of the orb of day.
The work had to contend with governmental opposition. When a place was first opened at Madrid for gospel services, a sign placed outside, announcing the fact. Official orders were issued that the sign should be painted over, so as to obliterate the inscription. The painter of the sign, unwilling both to undo his own work and to hinder the work of God, painted the sign over with watercolours, which would leave the original announcement half visible, and would soon be washed off by the rains; whereupon the government sent its own workman to daub the sign over with thick oil-colour.
Mr. Müller, ready to preach the gospel to those at Rome also, felt his spirit saddened and stirred within him, as he saw that city wholly given to idolatry-- not pagan but papal idolatry-- the Rome not of the Caesars, but of the popes. While at Naples he ascended Vesuvius. Those masses of lava, which seemed greater in bulk than the mountain itself, more impressed him with the power of God than anything else he had ever seen. As he looked upon that smoking cone, and thought of the liquid death it had vomited forth, he said within himself,
"What cannot God do!"
He had before felt somewhat of His Almightiness in love and grace, but he now saw its manifestation in judgment and wrath. His visit to the Vaudois valleys, where so many martyrs had suffered banishment and imprisonment, loss of goods and loss of life for Jesus' sake, moved him to the depths of his being and stimulated in him the martyr spirit.
When he arrived again in Bristol, June 18, 1879, he had been absent nine months and twelve days, and preached two hundred and eighty-six times and in forty-six towns and cities. After another ten weeks in Bristol, he and his wife sailed again for America, the last week of August, 1879, landing at New York the first week in September. This visit took in the States lying between the Atlantic Ocean and the valley of the Mississippi-- New York and New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota-- and, from London and Hamilton to Quebec, Canada also shared the blessing. This visit covered only two hundred and seventy-two days, but he preached three hundred times, and in over forty cities. Over one hundred and fifty written invitations still remained without response, and the number increased the longer his stay. Mr. Müller therefore assuredly gathered that the Lord called him to return to America after another brief stay at Bristol, where he felt it needful to spend a season annually, to keep in close touch with the work at home and relieve Mr. and Mrs. Wright of their heavy responsibilities, for a time.
Accordingly on September 15, 1880, again turning from Bristol, these travellers embarked the next day on their seventh mission tour, landing, ten days later, at Quebec. Mr. Müller had a natural antipathy to the sea, in his earlier crossing to the Continent having suffered much from sea-sickness; but he had undertaken these long voyages, not for his own pleasure or profit, but wholly on God's errand; and he felt it to be a peculiar mark of the lovingkindness of the Lord that, while he was ready to endure any discomfort, or risk his life for His sake, he had not in his six crossings of the Atlantic suffered in the least, and on this particular voyage was wholly free from any indisposition.
From Quebec he went to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Among other places of special interest were Boston, Plymouth-- the landing-place of the Pilgrims,-- Wellesley and South Hadley colleges-- the great schools for woman's higher education,-- and the centres farther westward, where he had such wide access to Germans. This tour extended over a smaller area than before, and lasted but eight months; but the impression on the people was deep and permanent. He had spoken about two hundred and fifty times in all; and Mrs. Müller had availed herself of many opportunities of personal dealing with inquirers, and of distributing books and tracts among both believers and unbelievers. She had also written for her husband more than seven hundred letters,-- this of itself being no light task, inasmuch as it reaches an average of about three a day. On May 30, 1881, they were again on British shores.
The eighth long preaching tour, from August 23, 1881, to May 30, 1882, was given to the Continent of Europe, here again Mr. Müller felt led by the low state of religious life in Switzerland and Germany.
This visit was extended to the Holy Land in a way strikingly providential. After speaking at Alexandria, Cairo, and Port Said, he went to Jaffa, and thence to Jerusalem, on November 28. With reverent feet he touched the soil once trodden by the feet of the Son of God, visiting, with pathetic interest, Gethsemane and Golgotha, and crossing the Mount of Olives to Bethany, thence to Bethlehem and back to Jaffa, and so to Haipha, Mt. Carmel, and Beyrût, Smyrna, Ephesus, Constantinople, Athens, Brindisi, Rome, and Florence. Again were months crowded with services of all sorts whose fruit will appear only in the Day of the Lord Jesus, addresses being made in English, German, and French, or by translation into Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, and modern Greek. Sightseeing was always but incidental to the higher service of the Master. During this eighth tour, covering some eight months, Mr. Müller spoke hundreds of times, with all the former tokens of God's blessing on his seed-sowing.
The ninth tour, from August 8, 1882, to June 1, 1883, was occupied with labours in Germany, Austria, and Russia, including Bavaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony, and Poland. His special joy it was to bear witness in Kroppenstädt, his birthplace, after an absence of about sixty-four years. At St. Petersburg, while the guest of Princess Lieven, at her mansion he met and ministered to many of high rank; he also began to hold meetings in the house of Colonel Paschkoff, who had suffered not only persecution but exile for the Lord's sake. While the Scriptures were being read one day in Russ, with seven poor Russians, a policeman summarily broke up the meeting and dispersed the little company. At Lodz in Poland, a letter was received, in behalf of "almost the whole population," begging him to remain longer; and so signs seemed to multiply, as he went forward, that he was in the path of duty and that God was with him.
On September 26, 1883, the tenth tour began, this time his face being turned toward the Orient. Nearly sixty years before he had desired to go to the East Indies as a missionary; now the Lord permitted him to carry out the desire in a new and strange way, and India was the twenty-third country visited in his tours. He travelled over 1,000 miles, and spoke over two hundred times, to missionaries and Christian workers, European residents, Eurasians, Hindus, Moslems, educated natives, native boys and girls in the orphanage at Colar, etc. Thus, in his seventy-ninth year, this servant of God was still in labours abundant, and in all his work conspicuously blessed of God.
After some months of preaching in England, Scotland, and Wales, on November 19, 1885, he and his wife set out on their fourth visit to the United States, and their eleventh longer mission tour. Crossing to the Pacific, they went to Sydney, New South Wales, and, after seven months in Australia, sailed for Java, and thence to China, arriving at Hong Kong, September 12th; Japan and the Straits of Malacca were also included in this visit to the Orient. The return to England was by way of Nice; and, after travelling nearly 38,000 miles, in good health Mr. and Mrs. Müller reached home on June 14, 1887, having been absent more than one year and seven months, during which Mr. Müller had preached whenever and wherever opportunity was afforded.
Less than two months later, on August 12, 1887, he sailed for South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Ceylon, and India. This twelfth long tour closed in March, 1890, having covered thousands of miles. The intense heat at one time compelled Mr. Müller to leave Calcutta, and on the railway journey to Darjeeling his wife feared he would die. But he was mercifully spared.
It was on this tour and in the month of January, 1890, while at Jubbulpore, preaching with great help from the Lord, that a letter was put into Mr. Müller's hands from a missionary at Agra, to whom Mr. Wright had sent a telegram, informing his father-in-law of his dear Lydia's death. For nearly thirty years she had laboured gratuitously at the orphan houses and it would be difficult to fill that vacancy; but for fourteen years she had been her husband's almost ideal companion, and for nearly fifty-eight years her father's unspeakable treasure-- and here were two other voids which could never be filled. But Mr. Müller's heart, as also Mr. Wright's, was kept at rest by the strong confidence that, however mysterious God's ways, all His dealings belong to one harmonious spiritual mechanism in which every part is perfect and all things work together for good. (Romans viii.28.)
This sudden bereavement led Mr. Müller to bring his mission tour in the East to a close and depart for Bristol, that he might both comfort Mr. Wright and relieve him of undue pressure of work.
After a lapse of two months, once more Mr. and Mrs. Müller left home for other extensive missionary journeys. They went to the Continent and were absent from July, 1890, to May, 1892. A twelvemonth was spent in Germany and Holland, Austria and Italy. This absence in fact included two tours, with no interval between them, and concluded the series of extensive journeys reaching through seventeen years.
This man-- from his seventieth to his eighty-seventh year-- when most men are withdrawing from all activities, had travelled in forty-two countries and over two hundred thousand miles, a distance equivalent to nearly eight journeys round the globe. He estimated that during these seventeen years he had addressed over three million people; and from all that can be gathered from the records of these tours, we estimate that he must have spoken, outside of Bristol, between five thousand and six thousand times. What sort of teaching and testimony occupied these tours, those who have known the preacher and teacher need not be told. While at Berlin in 1891, he gave an address that serves as an example of the vital truths which he was wont to press on the attention of fellow disciples. We give a brief outline:
He first urged that believers should never, even under the greatest difficulties, be discouraged, and gave for his position sound scriptural reasons.
Then he pointed out to them that the chief business of every day is first of all to seek to be truly at rest and happy in God.
Then he showed how, from the word of God, all saved believers may know their true standing in Christ, and how in circumstances of particular perplexity they might ascertain the will of God.
He then urged disciples to seek with intense earnestness to become acquainted with God Himself as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and carefully to form and maintain godly habits of systematic Bible study and prayer, holy living and consecrated giving.
He taught that God alone is the one all-satisfying portion of the soul, and that we must determine to possess and enjoy Him as such.
He closed by emphasizing it as the one, single, all-absorbing, daily aim to glorify God in a complete surrender to His will and service.
In all these mission tours, again, the faithfulness of God was conspicuously seen, in the bounteous supply of every need. Steamer fares and long railway journeys; hotel accommodations, ordinarily preferred to private hospitality, which seriously interfered with private habits of devotion, public work, and proper rest-- such expenses demanded a heavy outlay; the new mode of life, now adopted for the Lord's sake, was at least three times as costly as the former frugal housekeeping; and yet, in answer to prayer and without any appeal to human help, the Lord furnished all that was required.
Accustomed to look, step by step, for such tokens of divine approval, as emboldened him to go forward, Mr. Müller records how, when one hundred pounds was sent to him for personal uses, this was recognized as a foretoken from his great Provider, "by which," he writes,
"God meant to say to my own heart, 'I am pleased with thy work and service in going about on these long missionary tours. I will pay the expenses thereof, and I give thee here a specimen of what I am yet willing to do for thee.' "
Two other facts Mr. Müller specially records in connection with these tours:
first, God's gracious guiding and guarding of the work at Bristol so that it suffered nothing from his absence; and
secondly, the fact that these journeys had no connection with collecting of money for the work or even informing the public of it. No reference was made to the Institution at Bristol, except when urgently requested, and not always even then; nor were collections ever made for it. Statements found their way into the press that in America large sums were gathered, but their falsity is sufficiently shown by the fact that in his first tour in America, for example, the sum total of all such gifts was less than sixty pounds, not more than two thirds of the outlay of every day at the orphan houses.
These missionary tours were not always approved even by the friends and advisers of Mr. Müller. In 1882, while experiencing no little difficulty and trial, especially as to funds, there were not a few who felt a deep interest in the Institution on Ashley Down, who would have had God's servant discontinue his long absences, as to them it appeared that these were the main reason for the falling off in funds. He was always open to counsel, but he always reserved to himself an independent decision; and, on weighing the matter well, these were some of the reasons that led him to think that the work of God at home did not demand his personal presence:
1. He had observed year after year that, under the godly and efficient supervision of Mr. Wright and his large staff of helpers, every branch of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution had been found as healthy and fruitful during these absences as when Mr. Müller was in Bristol.
2. The Lord's approval of this work of wider witness had been in manner conclusive and in measure abundant, as in the ample supply of funds for these tours, in the wide doors of access opened, and in the large fruit already evident in blessing to thousands of souls.
3. The strong impression upon his mind that this was the work which was to occupy the "evening of his life," grew in depth, and was confirmed by so many signs of God's leading that he could not doubt that he was led both of God's providence and Spirit.
4. Even while absent, he was never out of communication with the helpers at home. Generally he heard at least weekly from Mr. Wright, and any matters needing his counsel were thus submitted to him by letter; prayer to God was as effectual at a distance from Bristol as on the spot; and his periodical returns to that city for some weeks or months between these tours kept him in close touch with every department of the work.
5. The supreme consideration, however, was this: To suppose it necessary for Mr. Müller himself to be at home in order that sufficient means should be supplied, was a direct contradiction of the very principles upon which, and to maintain which, the whole work had been begun. Real trust in God is above circumstances and appearances. And this had been proven; for, during the third year after these tours began, the income for the various departments of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution was larger than ever during the preceding forty-four years of its existence; and therefore, notwithstanding the loving counsel of a few donors and friends who advised that Mr. Müller should stay at home, he kept to his purpose and his principles, partly to demonstrate that no man's presence is indispensable to the work of the Lord. "Them that honour Me I will honour." (1 Samuel ii.39.) He regarded it the greatest honour of his life to bear this wide witness to God, and God correspondingly honoured His servant in bearing this testimony,
It was during the first and second of these American tours that the writer had the privilege of coming into personal contact with Mr. Müller. While I was at San Francisco, in 1878, he was to speak on Sabbath afternoon, May 12th, at Oakland, just across the bay, but conscientious objections to needless Sunday travel caused me voluntarily to lose what then seemed the only chance of seeing and hearing a man whose career had been watched by me for over twenty years, as he was to leave for the East a few days earlier than myself and was likely to be always a little in advance. On reaching Ogden, however, where the branch road from Salt Lake City joins the main line, Mr. and Mrs. Müller boarded my train and we travelled to Chicago together. I introduced myself, and held with him daily converse about divine things, and, while tarrying at Chicago, had numerous opportunities for hearing him speak there.
The results of this close and frequent contact singularly blessed to me, and at my invitation he came to Detroit, Michigan, on his next tour, and spoke in the Fort Street Presbyterian Church, of which I was pastor, on Sundays, January 18 and 25, 1880, and on Monday and Friday evenings, in the interval.
In addition to these numerous and favourable opportunities thus providentially afforded for hearing and conversing with Mr. Müller, he kindly met me for several days in my study, for an hour at a time, for conference upon those deeper truths of the word of God and deeper experiences of the Christian life, upon which I was then very desirous of more light. For example, I desired to understand more clearly the Bible teaching about the Lord's coming. I had opposed with much persistency what is known as the premillennial view, and brought out my objections, to all of which he made one reply:
"My beloved brother, I have heard all your arguments and objections against this view, but they have one fatal defect: not one of them is based upon the word of God. You will never get at the truth upon any matter of divine revelation unless you lay aside your prejudices and like a little child ask simply what is the testimony of Scripture."
With patience and wisdom he unravelled the tangled skein of my perplexity and difficulty, and helped me to settle upon biblical principles all matters of so-called expediency. As he left me, about to visit other cities, his words fixed themselves in my memory. I had expressed to him my growing conviction that the worship in the churches had lost its primitive simplicity; that the pew rent system was pernicious; that fixed salaries for ministers of the gospel were unscriptural; that the church of God should be administered only by men full of the Holy Ghost, and that the duty of Christians to the non-churchgoing masses was grossly neglected, etc. He solemnly said to me:
"My beloved brother, the Lord has given you much light upon these matters, and will hold you correspondingly responsible for its use. If you obey Him and walk in the light, you will have more; if not, the light will be withdrawn."
It is a singular lesson on the importance of an anointed tongue, that forty simple words, spoken over twenty years ago, have had a daily influence on the life of him to whom they were spoken. Amid subtle temptations to compromise the claims of duty and hush the voice of conscience, or of the Spirit of God, and to follow the traditions of men rather than the word of God, those words of that venerated servant of God have recurred to mind with ever fresh force. We risk the forfeiture of privileges which are not employed for God, and of obscuring convictions which are not carried into action. God's word to us is "use or lose."
"To him that hath shall be given: from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have."
It is the hope and the prayer of him who writes this memoir that the reading of these pages may prove to be an interview with the man whose memorial they are, and that the witness borne by George Müller may be to many readers a source of untold and life-long blessing.
It need not be said that to carry out conviction into action is a costly sacrifice. It may make necessary renunciations and separations which leave one to feel a strange sense both of deprivation and loneliness. But he who will fly as an eagle does into the higher levels where cloudless day abides, and live in the sunshine of God, must consent to live a comparatively lonely life. No bird is so solitary as the eagle. Eagles never fly in flocks: one, or at most two, and the two, mates, being ever seen at once. But the life that is lived unto God, however it forfeits human companionship, knows divine fellowship, and the child of God who like his Master undertakes to "do always the things that please Him," can like his Master say, "The Father hath not left me alone."
"I am alone; yet not alone, for the Father is with me."
Whosoever will promptly follow whatever light God gives, without regard to human opinion, custom, tradition, or approbation, will learn the deep meaning of these words:
"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
"WITH clouds He covereth the light." No human life is without some experience of clouded skies and stormy days, and sometimes "the clouds return after the rain." It is a blessed experience to recognize the silver lining on the darkest storm-cloud, and, better still, to be sure of the shining of God's light behind a sky that seems wholly and hopelessly overcast.
The year 1870 was made forever pathetically memorable by the decease of Mrs. Müller, who lived just long enough to see the last of the New Orphan Houses opened. From the outset of the work in November, 1835, for more than thirty-four years, this beloved, devoted wife had been also a sympathetic helper.
This wedded life had approached very near to the ideal of connubial bliss, by reason of mutual fitness, common faith in God and love for His work, and long association in prayer and service. In their case, the days of courtship were never passed; indeed the tender and delicate mutual attentions of those early days rather increased than decreased as the years went on; and the great maxim was both proven and illustrated, that the secret of willing love is the secret of keeping it. More than that, such affection grows and becomes more and more a fountain of mutual delight. Never had his beloved "Mary" been so precious to her husband as during the very year of her departure.
This marriage union was so happy that Mr. Müller could not withhold his loving witness that he never saw her at any time after she became his wife, without a new feeling of delight. And day by day they were wont to find at least a few moments of rest together, sitting after dinner, hand in hand, in loving intercourse of mind and heart, made the more complete by this touch of physical contact, and, whether in speech or silence, communing in the Lord. Their happiness in God and in each other was perennial, perpetual, growing as the years fled by.
Mr. Müller's solemn conviction was that all this wedded bliss was due to the fact that she was not only a devoted Christian, but that their one united object was to live only and wholly for God; that they had always abundance of work for God, in which they were heartily united; that this work was never allowed to interfere with the care of their own souls, or their seasons of private prayer and study of the Scriptures; and that they were wont daily, and often thrice a day, to secure a time of united prayer and praise when they brought before the Lord the matters which at the time called for thanksgiving and supplication.
Mrs. Müller had never been a very vigorous woman, and more than once had been brought nigh unto death. In October, 1859, after twenty-nine years of wedded life and love, she had been laid aside by rheumatism and had continued in great suffering for about nine months, quite helpless and unable to work; but it was felt to be a special mark of God's love and faithfulness that this very affliction was used by Him to reestablish her in health and strength, the compulsory rest made necessary for the greater part of a year being in Mr. Müller's judgment a means of prolonging her life and period of service for the ten years following. Thus a severe trial met by them both in faith had issued in much blessing both to soul and body.
The closing scenes of this beautiful life are almost too sacred to be unveiled to common eyes. For some few years before her departure, it was plain that her health and vitality were declining. With difficulty could she be prevailed on, however, to abate her activity, or, even when a distressing cough attacked her, to allow a physician to be called. Her husband carefully guarded and nursed her, and by careful attention to diet and rest, by avoidance of needless exposure, and by constant resort to prayer, She was kept alive through much weakness and sometimes much pain. But, on Saturday night, February 5th, she found that she had not the use of one of her limbs, and it was obvious that the end was nigh. Her own mind was clear and her own heart at peace. She herself remarked, "He will soon come." And a few minutes after four in the afternoon of the Lord's day, February 6, 1870, she sweetly passed from human toils and trials, to be forever with the Lord.
Under the weight of such a sorrow, most men would have sunk into depths of almost hopeless despair. But this man of God, sustained by a divine love, at once sought for occasions of thanksgiving; and, instead of repining over his loss, gratefully remembered and recorded the goodness of God intaking such a wife, releasing her saintly spirit from the bondage of weakness, sickness, and pain, rather than leaving her to a protracted suffering and the mute agony of helplessness; and, above all, introducing her to her heart's desire, the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus, and the higher service of a celestial sphere. Is not that grief akin to selfishness which dwells so much on our own deprivations as to be oblivious of the ecstatic gain of the departed saints who, withdrawn from us and absent from the body, are at home with the Lord?
It is only in those circumstances of extreme trial which prove to ordinary men a crushing weight, that implicit faith in the Father's unfailing wisdom and love proves its full power to sustain. Where self-will is truly lost in the will of God, the life that is hidden in Him is most radiantly exhibited in the darkest hour.
The death of this beloved wife afforded an illustration of this. Within a few hours after this withdrawal of her who had shared with him the planning and working of these long years of service, Mr. Müller went to the Monday-evening prayer meeting, then held in Salem Chapel, to mingle his prayers and praises as usual with those of his brethren. With a literally shining countenance, he rose and said:
"Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I ask you to join with me in hearty praise and thanksgiving to my precious Lord for His loving kindness in having taken my darling, beloved wife out of the pain and suffering which she has endured, into His own presence; and as I rejoice in everything that is for her happiness, so I now rejoice as I realize how far happier she is, in beholding her Lord whom she loved so well, than in any joy she has known or could know here. I ask you also to pray that the Lord will so enable me to have fellowship in her joy that my bereaved heart may be occupied with her blessedness instead of my unspeakable loss."
These remarkable words are supplied by one who was himself present and on whose memory they made an indelible impression.
This occurrence had a marked effect upon all who were at that meeting. Mrs. Müller was known by all as a most valuable, lovely, and holy woman and wife. After nearly forty years of wedded life and love, she had left the earthly home for the heavenly. To her husband she had been a blessing beyond description, and to her daughter Lydia, at once a wise and tender mother and a sympathetic companion. The loss to them both could never be made up on earth. Yet in these circumstances this man of God had grace given to forget his own and his daughter's irreparable loss, and to praise God for the unspeakable gain to the departed wife and mother.
The body was laid to rest on February 11th, many thousands of sorrowing friends evincing the deepest sympathy. Twelve hundred orphans mingled in the funeral procession, and the whole staff of helpers so far as they could be spared from the houses. The bereaved husband strangely upheld by the arm of the Almighty Friend in whom he trusted, took upon himself the funeral service both at chapel and cemetery. He was taken seriously ill afterward, but, as soon as his returning strength allowed, he preached his wife's funeral sermon-- another memorable occasion. It was the supernatural serenity of his peace in the presence of such a bereavement that led his attending physician to say to a friend,
"I have never before seen so unhuman a man."
Yes, unhuman indeed, though far from inhuman, lifted above the weakness of mere humanity by a power not of man.
That funeral sermon was a noble tribute to the goodness of the Lord even in the great affliction of his life. The text was:
"Thou art good and doest good."
Its three divisions were:
"The Lord was good and did good:
first, in giving her to me;
second in so long leaving her to me; and
third, in taking her from me."
It is happily presented in Mr. Müller's journal, and must be read to be appreciated.*
*Narrative, III. 575-594.
This union, begun in prayer, was in prayer sanctified to the end. Mrs. Müller's chief excellence lay in her devoted piety. She wore that one ornament which is in the sight of God of great price-- the meek and quiet spirit; the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her. She had sympathetically shared her husband's prayers and tears during all the long trial-time of faith and patience, and partaken of all the joys and rewards of the triumph hours. Mr. Müller's own witness to her leaves nothing more to be added, for it is the tribute of him who knew her longest and best. He writes:
"She was God's own gift, exquisitely suited to me even in natural temperament. Thousands of times I said to her, 'My darling, God Himself singled you out for me, as the most suitable wife I could possibly wish to have had.'"
As to culture, she had a basis of sensible practical education, surmounted and adorned by ladylike accomplishments which she had neither time nor inclination to indulge in her married life. Not only was she skilled in the languages and in such higher studies as astronomy, but in mathematics also; and this last qualification made her for thirty-four years an invaluable help to her husband, as month by month she examined all the account-books, and the hundreds of bills of the matrons of the orphan houses, and with the eye of an expert detected the least mistake.
All her training and natural fitness indicated a providential adaptation to her work, like "the round peg in the round hole." Her practical education in needlework, and her knowledge of the material most serviceable for various household uses, made her competent to direct both in the purchase and manufacture of cloths and other fabrics for garments, bed-linen, etc. She moved about those orphan houses like an angel of Love, taking unselfish delight in such humble ministries as preparing neat, clean, beds to rest the little ones, and covering them with warm blankets in cold weather. For the sake of Him who took little children in His arms, she became to these thousands of destitute orphans a nursing mother.
Shortly after her death, a letter was received from a believing orphan some seventeen years before sent out to service, asking, in behalf also of others formerly in the houses, permission to erect a stone over Mrs. Müller's grave as an expression of love and grateful remembrance. Consent being given, hundreds of little offerings came in from orphans who during the twenty-five years previous had been under her motherly oversight-- a beautiful tribute to her worth and a touching offering from those who had been to her as her larger family.
The dear daughter Lydia had, two years before Mrs. Müller's departure, found in one of her mother's pocketbooks a sacred memorandum in her own writing, which she brought to her bereaved father's notice two days after his wife had departed. It belongs among the precious relics of her history. It reads as follows:
"Should it please the Lord to remove Mrs. Mary Müller by a sudden dismissal, let none of the beloved survivors consider that it is in the way of judgment, either to her or to them. She has so often, when enjoying conscious nearness to the Lord, felt 'How sweet it would be now to depart and to be forever with Jesus,' that nothing but the shock it would be to her beloved husband and child, etc., has checked in her the longing desire that thus her happy spirit might take its flight. Precious Jesus! Thy will in this as in everything else, and not hers, be done!"
These words were to Mr. Müller her last legacy; and with the comfort they gave him, the loving sympathy of his precious Lydia who did all that a daughter could do to fill a mother's place, and with the remembrance of Him who hath said,
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,"
he went on his lonely pilgrim way, rejoicing in the Lord, feeling nevertheless a wound in his heart, that seemed rather to deepen than to heal.
Sixteen months passed, when Mr. James Wright, who like Mr. Müller had been bereft of his companion, asked of him the hand of the beloved Lydia in marriage. The request took Mr. Müller wholly by surprise, but he felt that, to no man living, could he with more joyful confidence commit and intrust his choicest remaining earthly treasure; and, ever solicitous for others' happiness rather than his own, he encouraged his daughter to accept Mr. Wright's proffered love, when she naturally hesitated on her father's account. On November 16, 1871, they were married, and began a life of mutual prayer and sympathy which, like that of her father and mother, proved supremely and almost ideally happy, helpful, and useful.
While as yet this event was only in prospect, Mr. Müller felt his own lonely condition keenly, and much more in view of his daughter's expected departure to her husband's home. He felt the need of some one to share intimately his toils and prayers, and help him in the Lord's work, and the persuasion grew upon him that it was God's will that he should marry again. After much prayer, he determined to ask Miss Susannah Grace Sangar to become his wife, having known her for more than twenty-five years as a consistent disciple, and believing her to be well fitted to be his helper in the Lord. Accordingly, fourteen days after his daughter's marriage to Mr. Wright, he entered into similar relations with Miss Sangar, who for years after joined him in prayer, unselfish giving, and labours for souls.
The second Mrs. Müller was of one mind with her husband as to the stewardship of the Lord's property. He found her poor, for what she had once possessed she had lost; and had she been rich he would have regarded her wealth as an obstacle to marriage, unfitting her to be his companion in a self-denial based on scriptural principle. Riches or hoarded wealth would have been to both of them a snare, and so she also felt; so that, having still, before her marriage, a remnant of two hundred pounds, she at once put it at the Lord's disposal, thus joining her husband in a life of voluntary poverty; and although subsequent legacies were paid to her, she continued to the day of her death to be poor for the Lord's sake.
The question had often been asked Mr. Müller what would become of the work when he, the master workman, should be removed. Men find it hard to get their eyes off the instrument, and remember that there is only, strictly speaking, one AGENT, for an agent is one who works, and an instrument is what the agent works with. Though provision might be made, in a board of trustees, for carrying on the orphan work, where would be found the man to take the direction of it, a man whose spirit was so akin to that of the founder that he would trust in God and depend on Him just as Mr. Müller had done before him? Such the inquiries of the somewhat doubtful or fearful observers of the great and many-branched work carried on under Mr. Müller's supervision.
To all such questions he had always one answer ready-- his one uniform solution of all cares and perplexities: the Living God. He who had built the orphan houses could maintain them; He who had raised up one humble man to oversee the work in His name, could provide for a worthy successor, like Joshua who not only followed but succeeded Moses. Jehovah of hosts is not limited in resources.
Nevertheless much prayer was offered that the Lord would provide such a successor, and, in Mr. James Wright, the prayer was answered. He was not chosen, as Mr. Müller's son-in-law, for the choice was made before his marriage to Lydia Müller was even thought of by him. For more than thirty years, even from his boyhood, Mr. Wright had been well known to Mr. Müller, and his growth in the things of God had been watched by him. For thirteen years he had already been his "right hand" in all most important matters; and, for nearly all of that time, had been held up before God as his successor, in the prayers of Mr. and Mrs. Müller, both of whom felt divinely assured that God would fit him more and more to take the entire burden of responsibility.
When, in 1870, the wife fell asleep in Jesus, and Mr. Müller was himself ill, he opened his heart to Mr. Wright as to the succession. Humility led him to shrink from such a post, and his then wife feared it would prove too burdensome for him; but all objections were overborne when it was seen and felt to be God's call. It was twenty-one months after this, when, in November, 1871, Mr. Wright was married to Mr. Müller's only daughter and child, so that it is quite apparent that he had neither sought the position he now occupies, nor was he appointed to it because he was Mr. Müller's son-in-law, for, at that time, his first wife was living and in health. From May, 1872, therefore, Mr. Wright shared with his father-in-law the responsibilities of the Institution, and gave him great joy as a partner and successor in full sympathy with all the great principles on which his work had been based.
A little over three years after Mr. Müller's second marriage, in March, 1874, Mrs. Müller was taken ill, and became, two days later, feverish and restless, and after about two weeks was attacked with hemorrhage which brought her also very near to the gates of death. She rallied; but fever and delirium followed and obstinate sleeplessness, till, for a second time, she seemed at the point of death. Indeed so low was her vitality that, as late as April 17th, a most experienced London physician said that he had never known any patient to recover from such an illness; and thus a third time all human hope of restoration seemed gone. And yet, in answer to prayer, Mrs. Müller was raised up, and in the end of May, was taken to the seaside for change of air, and grew rapidly stronger until she was entirely restored. Thus the Lord spared her to be the companion of her husband in those years of missionary touring which enabled him to bear such world-wide witness. Out of the shadow of his griefs this beloved man of God ever came to find that divine refreshment which is as the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
GEORGE Müller OF BRISTOL
SOME one has quaintly said, in commenting upon the Twenty-third Psalm, that "the coach in which the Lord's saints ride has not only a driver, but two footmen"--
"goodness and mercy shall follow me."
Surely these two footmen of the Lord, in their celestial livery of grace, followed George Müller all the days of his life. Wonderful as is the story of the building of those five orphan houses on Ashley Down, many other events and experiences no less showed the goodness and mercy of God, and must not be unrecorded in these pages, if we are to trace, however imperfectly, His gracious dealings; and having, by one comprehensive view, taken in the story of the orphan homes, we may retrace our steps to the years when the first of these houses was planned, and, following another path, look at Mr. Müller's personal and domestic life.
He himself loved to trace the Lord's goodness and mercy, and he saw abundant proofs that they had followed him. A few instances may be given, from different departments of experience, as representative examples.
The Lord's tender care was manifest as to his beloved daughter Lydia. It became clear in the year 1843, that, both for the relief of the mother and the profit of the daughter, it would be better that Lydia should be taught elsewhere than at home; and in answer to prayer, her father was divinely directed to a Christian sister, whose special gifts in the way of instructing and training children were manifestly from the Spirit, who divides unto all believers severally as He will. She seemed to be marked of God, as the woman to whom was to be intrusted the responsible task of superintending the education of Lydia. Mr. Müller both expected and desired to pay for such training, and asked for the account, which in the first instance he paid, but the exact sum was returned to him anonymously; and, for the six remaining years of his daughter's stay, he could get no further bills for her schooling. Thus God provided for the board and education of this only child, not only without cost to her parents, but to their intense satisfaction as being under the true "nurture and admonition of the Lord;" for while at this school, in April, 1846, Lydia found peace in believing, and began that beautiful life in the Lord Jesus Christ, that, for forty-four years afterward, so singularly exhibited His image.
Many Christian parents have made the fatal mistake of intrusting their children's education to those whose gifts were wholly intellectual and not spiritual, and who have misled the young pupils entrusted to their care, into an irreligious or infidel life, or, at best, a career of mere intellectualism and worldly ambition. In not a few instances, all the influences of a pious home have been counteracted by the atmosphere of a school which, if not godless, has been without that fragrance of spiritual devoutness and consecration which is indispensable to the true training off impressible children during the plastic years when character is forming for eternity!
Goodness and mercy followed Mr. and Mrs. Müller conspicuously in their sojourn in Germany in 1845, which covered about three months, from July 19th to October 11th.
God plainly led to Stuttgart, where brethren had fallen into grievous errors and needed again a helping hand. When the strong impression laid hold of Mr. Müller, more than two months before his departure for the Continent, that he was to return there for a season, he began definitely to pray for means to go with, on May 3rd, and, within a quarter hour after, five hundred pounds were received, the donor specifying that the money was given for all expenses needful, "preparatory to, and attendant upon" this proposed journey. The same goodness and mercy followed all his steps while abroad. Provision was made, in God's own strange way, for suitable lodgings in Stuttgart, at a time when the city was exceptionally crowded, a wealthy retired surgeon, who had never before rented apartments, being led to offer them. All Mr. Müller's labours were attended with blessing: during part of the time he held as many as eight meetings a week; and he was enabled to publish eleven tracts in German, and judiciously to scatter over two hundred and twenty thousand of them, as well as nearly four thousand of his Narrative, and yet evade interference from the police.
One experience of this sojourn abroad should have special mention for the lesson it suggests, both in charity for others' views and loving adaptation to circumstances. A providential opening occurred to address meetings of about one hundred and fifty members of the state church. In his view the character of such assemblies was not wholly conformed to the Scripture pattern, and hence did not altogether meet his approval; but such opportunity was afforded to bear testimony for the truth's sake, and to exhibit Christian unity upon essentials, for love's sake, that he judged it of the Lord that he should enter this open door. Those who knew Mr. Müller but little, but knew his positive convictions and uncompromising loyalty to them, might suspect that he would have little forbearance with even minor errors, and would not bend himself from his stern attitude of inflexibility to accommodate himself to those who were ensnared by them. But those who knew him better, saw that he held fast the form of sound words with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Like Paul, ever ready to be made all things to all men that by all means he might save some, in his whole character and conduct nothing shone, more radiantly beautiful, than Love. He felt that he who would lift up others must bow himself to lay hold on them; that to help brethren we must bear with them, not insisting upon matters of minor importance as though they were essential and fundamental. Hence his course, instead of being needlessly repellant, was tenderly conciliatory; and it was a conspicuous sign of grace that, while holding his own views of truth and duty so positively and tenaciously, the intolerance of bigotry was so displaced by the forbearance of charity that, when the Lord so led and circumstances so required, he could conform for a time to customs whose propriety he doubted, without abating either the earnestness of his conviction or the integrity of his testimony.
God's goodness and mercy were seen in the fact that, whenever more liberal things were devised for Him, He responded in providing liberally means to carry out such desires. This was abundantly illustrated not only in the orphan work, but in the history of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; when, for years together, the various branches of this work grew so rapidly, until the point of full development was reached. The time indeed came when, in some departments, it pleased God that contraction should succeed expansion, but even here goodness ruled, for it was afterward seen that it was because other brethren had been led to take up such branches of the Lord's work, in all of which developments Mr. Müller as truly rejoiced as though it had been his work alone that was honoured of God.
The aiding of brethren in the mission fields grew more and more dear to his heart, and the means to indulge his unselfish desires were so multiplied that, in 1846, he found, on reviewing the history of the Lord's dealings, that he had been enabled to expend about seven times as much of late years as previously. It may here be added, again by way of anticipation, that when, nineteen years later, in 1865, he sat down to apportion to such labourers in the Lord as he was wont to assist, the sums he felt it desirable to send to each, he found before him the names of one hundred and twenty-two such! Goodness and mercy indeed! Here was but one branch of his work, and yet to what proportions and fruitfulness it had grown! He needed four hundred and sixty-six pounds to send them to fill out his appropriations, and he lacked ninety-two of this amount. He carried the lack to the Lord, and that evening received five pounds, and the next morning a hundred more, and a further "birthday memorial" of fifty, so that he had in all thirty-seven more than he had asked.
What goodness and mercy followed him in the strength he ever had to bear the heavy loads of care incident to his work! The Lord's coach bore him and his burdens together. Day by day his gracious Master preserved his peace unbroken, though disease found its way into this large family, though fit homes and work must be found for outgoing orphans, and fit care and training for incoming orphans; though crises were constantly arising and new needs constantly recurring, grave matters daily demanded prayer and watching, and perpetual diligence and vigilance were needful; for the Lord was his Helper, and carried all his loads.
During the winter of 1846-7 there was a peculiar season of dearth. Would God's goodness and mercy fail? There were those who looked on, more than half incredulous, saying to themselves if not to others,
"I wonder how it is now with Mr. Müller and his orphans! If he is able to provide for them now as he has been, we will say nothing." But all through this time of widespread want his witness was,
"We lack nothing: God helps us."
Faith led when the way was too dark for sight; in fact the darker the road the more was the Hand felt that leads the blind by a way they know not. They went through that winter as easily as through any other from the beginning of the work!
Was it no sign that God's "footmen" followed George Müller that the work never ceased to be both a work of faith and of prayer? that no difficulties or discouragements, no successes or triumphs, ever caused for an hour a departure from the sublime essential principles on which the work was based, or a diversion from the purpose for which it had been built up?
We have heard it said of a brother, much honoured of God in beginning a work of faith, that, when it had grown to greater proportions, he seemed to change its base to that of a business scheme. How it glorifies God that the holy enterprise, planted in Bristol in 1834, has known no such alteration in its essential features during all these years. Though the work grew, and its needs with it, until the expenses were twofold, threefold, fourfold, and, at last, seventyfold what they were when that first Orphan House was opened in Wilson Street, there has been no change of base, never any looking to man for patronage or support, never any dependence upon a regular income or fixed endowment. God has been, all through these years, as at first, the sole Patron and Dependence. The Scriptural Knowledge Institution has not been wrecked on the rocks of financial failure, nor has it even drifted away from its original moorings in the safe anchorage-ground of the Promises of Jehovah.
Was it not goodness and mercy that kept George Müller ever grateful as well as faithful! He did not more constantly feel his need of faith and prayer than his duty and privilege of abounding joy and praise. Some might think that, after such experiences of answered prayer, one would be less and less moved by them, as the novelty was lost in the uniformity of such interpositions. But no. When, in June, 1853, at a time of sore need, the Lord sent, in one sum, three hundred pounds, he could scarcely contain his triumphant joy in God. He walked up and down his room for a long time, his heart overflowing and his eyes too, his mouth filled with laughter and his voice with song, while he gave himself afresh to the faithful Master he served. God's blessings were to him always new and fresh. Answered prayers never lost the charm of novelty; like flowers plucked fresh every hour from the gardens of God, they never got stale, losing none of their beauty or celestial fragrance.
And what goodness and mercy was it that never suffered prayerfulness and patience to relax their hold, either when answers seemed to come fast and thick like snowflakes, or when the heavens seemed locked up and faith had to wait patiently and long! Every day brought new demands for continuance in prayer. In fact, as Mr. Müller testifies, the only difference between latter and former days was that the difficulties were greater in proportion as the work was larger. But he adds that this was to be expected, for the Lord gives faith for the very purpose of trying it for the glory of His own name and the good of him who has the faith, and it is by these very trials that trust learns the secret of its triumphs.
Goodness and mercy not only guided but also guarded this servant of God. God's footmen bore a protecting shield which was always over him. Amid thousands of unseen perils, occasionally some danger was known, though generally after it was passed. While at Keswick labouring in 1847, for example, a man, taken deranged while lodging in the same house, shot himself. It afterward transpired that he had an impression that Mr. Müller had designs on his life, and had he met Mr. Müller during this insane attack he would probably have shot him with the loaded pistol he carried about on his person.
The pathway of this man of God sometimes led through deep waters of affliction, but goodness and mercy still followed, and held him up. In the autumn of 1852, his beloved brother-in-law, Mr. A. N. Groves, came back from the East lndies, very ill; and in May of the next year, after a blessed witness for God, he fell asleep at Mr. Müller's house. To him Mr. Müller owed much through grace at the outset of his labours in 1829. By his example his faith had been stimulated and helped when, with no visible support or connection with any missionary society, Mr. Groves had gone to Bagdad with wife and children, for the sake of mission work in this far-off field, resigning a lucrative practice of about fifteen hundred pounds a year. The tie between these men was very close and tender and the loss of this brother-in-law gave keen sorrow.
In July following, Mr. and Mrs. Müller went through a yet severer trial. Lydia, the beloved daughter and only child,-- born in 1832 and new-born in 1846, and at this time twenty years old and a treasure without price,-- was taken ill in the latter part of June, and the ailment developed into a malignant typhoid which, two weeks later, brought her to the gates of death. These parents had to face the prospect of being left childless. But faith triumphed and prayer prevailed. Their darling Lydia was spared to be, for many years to come, a blessing beyond words, not only to them and to her future husband, but to many others in a wider circle of influence. Mr. Müller found, in this trial, a special proof of God's goodness and mercy, which he gratefully records, in the growth in grace, evidenced in his entire and joyful acquiescence in the Father's will, when, with such a loss apparently before him, his confidence was undisturbed that all things would work together for good. He could not but contrast with this experience of serenity, that broken peace and complaining spirit with which he had met a like trial in August, 1831, twenty-one years before. How, like a magnet among steel filings, the thankful heart finds the mercies and picks them out of the black dust of sorrow and suffering!
The second volume of Mr. Müller's Narrative closes with a paragraph in which he formally disclaims as impudent presumption and pretension all high rank as a miracle-worker, and records his regret that any work, based on scriptural promises and built on the simple lines of faith and prayer, should be accounted either phenomenal or fanatical.
The common ways of accounting for its success would be absurdly ridiculous and amusing were they not so sadly unbelieving. Those who knew little or nothing, either of the exercise of faith or the experience of God's faithfulness, resorted to the most God-dishonouring explanations of the work. Some said:
"Mr. Müller is a foreigner; his methods are so novel as to attract attention."
Others that the
"Annual Reports brought in the money,"
or suggested that he had
"a secret treasure."
His quiet reply was,
that his being a foreigner would be more likely to repel than to attract confidence;
that the novelty would scarcely avail him after more than a score of years;
that other institutions which issued reports did not always escape want and debt;
but, as to the secret treasure to which he was supposed to have access, he felt constrained to confess that there was more in that supposition than the objectors were aware of. He had indeed a Treasury, inexhaustible-- in the promises of a God unchangeably faithful-- from which he admits that he had already in 1856 drawn for twenty-two years, and in all over one hundred and thirteen thousand pounds.
As to the Reports, it may be worth while to notice that he never but once in his life advertised the public of any need, and that was the need of more orphans-- more to care for in the name of the Lord-- a single and singular case of advertising, by which he sought not to increase his income, but his expenditure-- not asking the public to aid him in supporting the needy, but to increase the occasion of his outlay!
So far was he from depending upon any such sources of supply as the unbelieving world might think, that it was in the drying up of all such channels that he found the opportunity of his faith and of God's power. The visible treasure was often so small that it was reduced to nothing, but the invisible Treasure was God's Riches in glory, and could be drawn from without limit. This it was to which he looked alone, and in which he felt that he had a river of supply that can never run dry.*
The orphan work had, to Mr. Müller, many charms which grew on him as he entered more fully into it. While his main hope was to be the means of spiritual health to these children, he had the joy of seeing how God used these homes for the promotion of their physical welfare also, and, in cases not a few, for the entire renovation of their weak and diseased bodies. It must be remembered that most of them owed their orphan condition to that great destroyer, Consumption. Children were often brought to the orphan houses thoroughly permeated by the poison of bad blood, with diseased tendencies, and sometimes emaciated and half-starved, having had neither proper food nor medical care.
For example, in the spring of 1855, four children from five to nine years old, and of one family, were admitted to the orphanage, all in a deplorable state from lack of both nursing and nutrition. It was a serious question whether they should be admitted at all, as such tended to turn the institution into a hospital and absorb undue care and time. But to dismiss them seemed almost inhuman, certainly inhumane. So, trusting in God, they were taken in and cared for with parental love. A few weeks later these children were physically unrecognizable, so rapid had been the improvement in health, and probably there were with God's blessing four graves less to be dug.
The trials incident to the moral and spiritual condition of the orphans were even greater, however, than those caused by ill health and weakness. When children proved incorrigibly bad, they were expelled, lest they should corrupt others, for the institution was not a reformatory, as it was not a hospital. In 1849, a boy, of less than eight years, had to be sent away as a confirmed liar and thief, having twice run off with the belongings of other children and gloried in his juvenile crimes. Yet the forbearance exercised even in his case was marvelously godlike, for, during over five years, he had been the subject of private admonitions and prayers and all other methods of reclamation; and, when expulsion became the last resort, he was solemnly and with prayer, before all the others, sent away from the orphan house, that if possible such course might prove a double blessing, a remedy to him and a warning to others; and even then this young practised sinner was followed, in his expulsion, by loving supplication.
Towards the end of November, 1857, it was found that a serious leak in the boiler of the heating apparatus of house No. 1 would make repairs at once necessary, and as the boilers were encased in bricks and a new boiler might be required, such repairs must consume time. Meanwhile how could three hundred children, some of them very young and tender, be kept warm? Even if gas-stoves could be temporarily set up, chimneys would be needful to carry off the impure air; and no way of heating was available during repairs, even if a hundred pounds were expended to prevent risk of cold. Again Mr. Müller turned to the Living God, and, trusting in Him, decided to have the repairs begun. A day or so before the fires had to be put out, a bleak north wind set in. The work could no longer be delayed; yet weather, prematurely cold for the season, threatened these hundreds of children with hurtful exposure. The Lord was boldly appealed to.
"Lord, these are Thy orphans: be pleased to change this north wind into a south wind, and give the workmen a mind to work that the job may be speedily done."
The evening before the repairs actually began, the cold blast was still blowing; but on that day a south wind blew, and the weather was so mild that no fire was needful! Not only so, but, as Mr. Müller went into the cellar with the overseer of the work, to see whether the repairs could in no way be expedited, he heard him say, in the hearing of the men,
"They will work late this evening, and come very early again to-morrow."
"We would rather, sir," was the reply, "work all night."
And so, within about thirty hours, the fire was again burning to heat the water in the boiler; and, until the apparatus was again in order, that merciful soft south wind had continued to blow. Goodness and mercy were following the Lord's humble servant, made the more conspicuous by the crises of special trial and trouble.
Every new exigency provoked new prayer and evoked new faith. Then, in 1862, several boys were ready to be apprenticed, and there were no applications such as were desired, prayer was the one resort, as advertising would tend to bring applications from masters who sought apprentices for the sake of the premium. But every one of the eighteen boys was properly bound over to a Christian master, whose business was suitable and who would receive the lad into his own family.
About the same time one of the drains was obstructed which runs about eleven feet underground. Then three holes had been dug and as many places in the drain tapped in vain, prayer was offered that in the fourth case the workmen might be guided to the very spot where the stoppage existed-- and the request was literally answered.
Three instances of marked deliverance, in answer to prayer, are specially recorded for the year between May 26, 1864, and the same date in 1865, which should not be passed by without at least a mention.
First, in the great drought of the summer of 1864, when the fifteen large cisterns in the three orphan houses were empty, and the nine deep wells, and even the good spring which had never before failed, were almost all dry. Two or three thousand gallons of water were daily required, and daily prayer was made to the God of the rain. See how God provided, while pleased to withhold the supply from above! A farmer, near by, supplied, from his larger wells, about half the water needful, the rest being furnished by the half-exhausted wells on Ashley Down; and, when he could no longer spare water, without a day's interval, another farmer offered a supply from a brook which ran through his fields, and thus there was abundance until the rains replenished cisterns and wells."*
*About twenty years later the Bristol Water Works Co. introduced pipes and thus a permanent and unfailing supply.
Second, when, for three years, scarlet and typhus fevers and smallpox, being prevalent in Bristol and the vicinity, threatened the orphans, prayer was again made to Him who is the God of health as well as of rain. There was no case of scarlet or typhus fever during the whole time, though smallpox was permitted to find an entrance into the smallest of the orphan houses. Prayer was still the one resort. The disease spread to the other houses, until at one time fifteen were ill with it. The cases, however, were mercifully light, and the Lord was besought to allow the epidemic to spread no further. Not another child was taken; and when, after nine months, the disease altogether disappeared, not one child had died of it, and only one teacher or adult had had an attack, and that was very mild. What ravages the disease might have made among the twelve hundred inmates of these orphan houses, had it then prevailed as later, in 1872!
Third, tremendous gales visited Bristol and neighbourhood in January, 1865. The roofs of the orphan houses were so injured as to be laid open in at least twenty places, and large panes of glass were broken. The day was Saturday, and no glazier and slater could be had before Monday. So the Lord of wind and weather was besought to protect the exposed property during the interval. The wind calmed down, and the rain was restrained until midday of Wednesday, when the repairs were about furnished, but heavy rainfalls drove the slaters from the roof. One exposed opening remained and much damage threatened; but, in answer to prayer, the rain was stayed, and the work resumed. No damage had been done while the last opening was unrepaired for it had exposed the building from the south, while the rain came from the north.
Mr. Müller records these circumstances with his usual particularity, as part of his witness to the Living God, and to the goodness and mercy that closely and continually followed him.
During the next year, 1865-6, scarlet fever broke out in the orphanage. In all thirty-nine children were ill, but Whooping-cough also made its appearance; but though, during that season, it was not only very prevalent but very malignant in Bristol, in all the three houses there were but seventeen cases, and the only fatal one was that of a little girl with constitutionally weak lungs.
During this same year, however, the Spirit of God wrought mightily among the girls, as in the previous year among the boys, so that over one hundred became deeply earnest seekers after salvation; and so, even in tribulation, consolation abounded in Christ. Mr. Müller and his wife and helpers now implored God to deepen and broaden this work of His Spirit. Toward the end of the year closing in May, 1866, Emma Bunn, an orphan girl of seventeen, was struck with consumption. Though, for fourteen years, she had been under Mr. Müller's care, she was, in this dangerous illness, still careless and indifferent; and, as she drew near to death, her case continued as hopeless as ever. Prayer was unceasing for her; and it pleased God suddenly to reveal Christ to her as her Saviour. Great self-loathing now at once took the place of former indifference; confession of sins of previous callousness of conscience; and unspeakable joy in the Lord, of former apathy and coldness. It was a spiritual miracle -- this girl's sudden transformation into a witness for God, manifesting deepest conviction for past sin and earnest concern for others. Her thoughtless and heedless state had been so well known that her conversion and dying messages were now the Lord's means of the most extensive and God-glorifying work ever wrought up to that time among the orphans. In one house alone three hundred and fifty were led to seek peace in believing.
What lessons lie hidden-- nay, lie on the very surface-- to be read of every willing observer of these events! Prayer can break even a hard heart; a memory, stored with biblical truth and pious teaching, will prove, when once God's grace softens the heart and unlooses the tongue, a source of both personal growth in grace and of capacity for wide service to others. We are all practically too careless of the training of children, and too distrustful of young converts. Mr. Müller was more and more impressed by the triumphs of the grace of God as seen in children converted at the tender age of nine or ten and holding the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end.
These facts and experiences, gleaned, like handfuls of grain, from a wide field, show the character both of the seed sown and the harvest reaped, from the sowing.
Again, when, in 1866, cholera developed in England, in answer to special prayer not one case of this disease was known in the orphan houses; and when, in the autumn, whooping-cough and measles broke out, though eight children had the former and two hundred and sixty-two, the latter, not one child died, or was afterward debilitated by the attack. From May, 1866, to May, 1867, out of over thirteen hundred children under care, only eleven died, considerably less than one per cent.
That severe and epidemic disease should find its way into the orphanages at all may seem strange to those who judge God's faithfulness by appearances, but many were the compensations for such trials. By them not only were the hearts of the children often turned to God, but the hearts of helpers in the Institution were made more sympathetic and tender, and the hearts of God's people at large were stirred up to practical and systematic help. God uses such seeming calamities as "advertisements" of His work; many who would not have heard of the Institution, or on whom what they did hear would have made little impression, were led to take a deep interest in an orphanage where thousands of little ones were exposed to the ravages of some malignant and dangerous epidemic.
Looking back, in 1865, after thirty-one years, upon the work thus far done for the Lord, Mr. Müller gratefully records that, during the entire time, he had been enabled to hold fast the original principles on which the work was based on March 5, 1834. He had never once gone into debt; he had sought for the Institution no patron but the Living God; and he had kept to the line of demarkation between believers and unbelievers, in all his seeking for active helpers in the work.
His grand purpose, in all his labours, having been, from the beginning, the glory of God, in showing what could be done through prayer and faith, without any leaning upon man, his unequivocal testimony is:
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Though for about five years they had, almost daily, been in the constant trial of faith, they were as constantly proving His faithfulness. The work had rapidly grown, till it assumed gigantic proportions, but so did the help of God keep pace with all the needs and demands of its growth.
In January, 1866, Mr. Henry Craik, who had for thirty-six years been Mr. Müller's valued friend, and, since 1832, his coworker in Bristol, fell asleep after an illness of seven months. In Devonshire these two brethren had first known each other, and the acquaintance had subsequently ripened, through years of common labour and trial, into an affection seldom found among men. They were nearly of an age, both being a little past sixty when Mr. Craik died. The loss was too heavy to have been patiently and serenely borne, had not the survivor known and felt beneath him the Everlasting Arms. And even this bereavement, which in one aspect was an irreparable loss, was seen to be only another proof of God's love. The look ahead might be a dark one, the way desolate and even dangerous, but goodness and mercy were still following very close behind, and would in every new place of danger or difficulty be at hand to help over hard places and give comfort and cheer in the night season.