THE SUM total of Mr. Muller’s life was giving. He gave himself in prayer that in return God might give the necessary supplies, not only for his own family, but also for the large family of orphans. Basing his life upon receiving from God, in return he practiced the art of liberality. Since God gave to him through faith he must also be among those who were faithful givers.
Even the texts that influenced him most were those on giving and receiving. Throughout his “Narrative” you will find these passages boldly across the pages. Early he and his wife were led to that scripture, “Sell that ye have and give alms” (Luke 12:33). This was to be the course of their lives. They were to be sellers and givers.
The Lord, speaking through His Word, said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do...” (John 14:13). And Mr. Muller based his work upon this promise, asking largely that the Father might be glorified.
Since God had told him to open his mouth Mr. Muller never feared to ask for whatever his work must have. To him this promise was the foundation of all spiritual and temporal success. Like a bird, he opened his mouth and the Lord filled it with the supply of all financial needs.
In Genesis he loved the name Jehovah Jirah, for it meant the Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14). Grandly did God give the provisions for the Institution and his Orphan Houses.
From the first records of Mr. Muller’s donations, we find him giving on a large scale. During the first year of his life of trust (1831) he received £151 in answer to prayer; but he gave away £50 of that sum. During the second year he gave £70 out of an income of £195. His income for 1833 was £267 brought in through faith, and his gifts amounted to £110.
This giving and receiving kept pace with each other during the long years of his career. For the ten years from 1836 to 1845 his income from all sources was approximately £3,400 and through faith he placed back into the Lord’s work about £1,280. During the following decade his yearly income was about £500 and for the same time he gave over half of this sum away. His gifts for that decade amounted to £2,660.
From 1856 to 1865 his income amounted to £10,670, over $50,000 total, and out of this he devoted £8,250, or a total sum of $41,250, to God’s work. Out of £20,500, received from 1866 to 1875, he turned back to Christian endeavors, nearly an average of £1,800 a year. During the next ten years, the last of which a direct record is available, he gave away £22,330 from an income of £26,000, which left him the sum of £3,670 to live on for a period of ten years, or a little over $1,800 a year. And it must be remembered that this decade — 1876 to 1885 — was devoted to extensive missionary travels, which constituted a heavy drain on his personal finances.
These donations came to him through faith alone, and he recognized that he must be the channel through which God’s gifts should flow out to others in need. He looked upon himself as the Lord’s steward. What money he received he believed should be given rather than hoarded.
A crippled woman, who through the years was a constant though a small giver to the orphanage work, expressed Mr. Muller’s philosophy of living and giving. She began giving a penny a week out of her earnings toward the care of the orphans, and the Lord blessed her so much that she was able to raise her weekly gift to six shillings, or a dollar and a half. One gift she wrapped in a piece of paper, on which she had written: “Give; give; give — be ever giving. If you are living, you will be giving. Those who are not giving are not living.”
The total amount Mr. Muller gave away out of his private funds amounted to approximately $180,000 from the year 1831 to November,
1877. This it must be recalled came out of a poor trustful man’s penury. He had only what he prayed in from day to day.
The Fifty-ninth Report of the Institution, issued May 26, 1898, immediately after Mr. Muller’s death, reveals a very interesting item concerning this servant’s method of giving. Year by year in the annual Reports there were frequent entries of gifts “from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven.”
Mr. Wright, who succeeded Mr. Muller as head of the Institution, checked those entries, and found that this servant had given up to March 1, 1898, the aggregate sum of eighty-one thousand four hundred and ninety pounds, eighteen shillings and eight pence.
“That servant was none other than Mr. Muller himself, who gave out of his own money more than sixty-four thousand five hundred pounds to the Scriptural Knowledge Institution alone, and to other individuals and organizations seventeen thousand more. It seems inconceivable that a poor man should thus give more than $407,450 to the work of God.
There is no other case on record of such magnificent gifts coming from a humbled servant of the Lord. It is estimated that John Wesley gave away nearly $150,000 to spread the cause of Christianity. When Wesley died he left behind him a well-worn frock coat, two silver teaspoons — and the Methodist Church.
When Mr. Muller died his entire personal estate amounted to £169 9s. 4d., approximately $850, of which his household effects, books, furniture, etc., amounted to well over $500. The only money in his possession was actually about $350. He died a poor man, though the Lord had entrusted to his hands well over a half-million dollars.
George Muller looked upon himself as God’s steward. One of the texts which influenced him was, “Give and it shall be given unto you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give unto your bosom.”
He believed and saw this promise bountifully verified. “I had given,” he testified, “and God caused to be given to me again and bountifully.”
He affirms that he believed what he read in the Bible, and acted accordingly. Though acting on God’s promises, and rejecting the offer of a stated salary of £55 a year, God literally gave him a fortune...a fortune which he shared with those in need.
Out of this overflow of experience in giving, Mr. Muller had very definite thoughts on giving. Giving to him was the heart of the Christian life...give self in full surrender to God, and out of what God gives return to Him liberal gifts. This was his giving philosophy. Let us read and heed some of his advice on this subject.
“Many of the children of God,” he affirms, “lose in a great measure the privilege, and also the blessing to their own souls, of communicating to the Lord s work to the necessities of the poor, for want of a regular habit of giving.”
When asked, “How shall I give?” Mr. Muller responded:
On the score of the method of giving, Mr. Muller was often asked, “How shall I put aside my gifts? Must I actually separate this money from my other money?”
“That is the simplest,” he answered, “and in many respects the best way...A memorandum book may be kept, in which on one side is entered what is put aside for the Lord, to be expended on the poor, or for other benevolent and religious purposes, and on the other side may be put down what has been expended, and from time to time a balance may be struck. The amount thus put aside for the Lord is of course faithfully to be used for Him, else it would be mocking God; and therefore, instead of obtaining a blessing, it would rather be a curse.”
“Am I to give with the idea of being repaid by the Lord?” a friend asked this man of prayer.
“Though we should never give,” he responded, “for the sake of being repaid by the Lord, still, this will be the case, if we give from right motives. It is God’s own declaration that it will be so. This is plainly to be gathered from the following passages...‘Give, and it shall be given unto you.’...‘He that hath pity on the poor, lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will He pay him again.’“
This giving, Mr. Muller was careful to explain, must be to the Lord and not unto man. Man may be the recipient, but with a humble heart gifts must be scattered abroad, not for the praise of man, but for the blessings of God upon the giver’s body and soul.
From his own experience and through the many letters he received he was well able to give testimony as to the blessing which comes from systematic giving.
“I enclose a Post Office Order for £5,” writes an Irish manufacturer, “which by the blessing of Almighty God, I am enabled to send you this year. You will no doubt remember that the first sum I sent to you was 5s., I think now four years ago; and, indeed at that time it was a large sum for me to send...
“For some years previous to the time I sent you the first amount I was at times much perplexed over the subject of giving; and the end of my reasoning was always that a person so straitened in circumstances as I was then, was not called upon to give. I kept this opinion until one of your Reports fell into my hands, and from the accounts contained therein, was encouraged to send you the first amount of 5s. Soon after I thought my circumstances got somewhat easier...I have proved that just as I give the Lord gives in return...I sometimes withheld when I ought not, and just as I withheld, the Lord in His infinite mercy withheld also...But above all, I have to thank God that my spiritual condition is much improved since I began to give.”
“Since I began to devote a regular proportion of my earnings to the cause of God,” wrote a donor from Orkney, whose gift amounted to $15, “He has, I rejoice to say, greatly increased both my ability and desire to do so.”
One man sent Mr. Muller a Paisley shawl, worth about $25, and with the gift enclosed a note, saying, “It is now about ten years since I first adopted the principle of proportionate giving...Prior to that I used to wonder, with every sovereign I gave, whether I was not doing more than was prudent, and the result was I had little pleasure in giving. Now, however, having been greatly prospered in business, I find myself able to give fourfold what I did, and can understand better what is meant by the blessedness of giving...The adoption of the principle of proportionate giving has enabled me on the one hand to guide my affairs with discretion, and on the other to refrain from ‘robbing God.’ ”
“Mr. Muller was a stickler for obtaining gifts in God’s way. “It is not enough,’ he says, “to obtain means for the work of God, but that these means should be obtained in God’s way. To ask unbelievers for means is not God’s way, to press even believers to give is not God’s way; but the duty and the privilege of being allowed to contribute to the work of God should be pointed out, and this should be followed up with earnest prayer, believing prayer, and will result in the desired end.”
This is a plan which he practiced throughout his life. Not once, even when asked to do so, did he ever tell anyone how pressing or how great were the needs. He always told this to the Lord, and expected God to move upon someone to supply those needs.
He often thought that giving in adversity would prove a greater blessing than giving in prosperity. Giving in adversity, when needs were pressing, shows that one truly trusts in God for supplying his daily needs, while giving in prosperity places upon the giver no particular hardship.
He never hoarded, for when one hoards, he affirms, God would send him to his laid-up treasures rather than to his knees in the time of need. “I have every reason to believe,” he testifies, “that, had I begun to lay up, the Lord would have stopped the supplies...Let no one profess to trust in God, and yet lay up for the future wants, otherwise the Lord will first send him to the hoard he has amassed, before he can answer the prayer for more.”
Even to the smallest items, Mr. Muller believed that he was God’s steward. He did not think that he owned, or possessed anything only as they came as gifts from the Lord to be used for God’s service.
“It is the Lord’s order,” he observes, “that, in whatever way He is pleased to make us His stewards, whether as to temporal or spiritual things, if we are indeed acting as stewards and not as owners, he will make us stewards over more...
“Even in this life, as to temporal things, the Lord is pleased to repay those who act for Him as stewards...But how much greater is the spiritual blessing we receive, both in this life and in the life to come, if constrained by the love of Christ, we act as God’s stewards, respecting that with which He is pleased to intrust us.”
God richly supplied Mr. Muller with donations of all kinds and descriptions. Money was sent in from practically every possible source and of all types. Some gifts were large, running into the thousands of dollars, and others were for a penny. Some sent bread, others shoes. Some felt constrained of the Lord to sell articles of furniture and give the money to Mr. Muller for his orphans. Jewelry by the thousands of dollars worth was sent to be sold for the work.
Autographs were given to be sold, as that of William IV, and Sir Robert Peel. One man sent a silver medal which he had won in helping take Java in battle. Another delivered a horsecar to be disposed of, and a lady sent some of her original hymns to be published for the benefit of the orphans.
When needs were pressing, Mr. Muller would call the staff together for prayer, and often on getting off their knees, dray wagons would be seen backing up to the kitchen door, loaded with buns, bread, apples, cakes, potatoes, boxes of soap, sacks of peas, haunches of venison, rabbits and pheasants, and every other conceivable edible article.
“During the last year of Mr. Muller’s life among the gifts recorded were 7,203 quarterns of bread; 5,222 buns, 306 cakes; 44,669 pounds of apples; 40 sacks of potatoes; 20 boxes of soap; 9 tons of coal; 26 haunches of venison; 112 rabbits; 312 pheasants; 5 bags of oatmeal; 26 cases of oranges; 5 boxes of dates; and 4,013 pounds of meat, along with hundreds of other items.
From the time when Mr. Muller received the first gift of a shilling from a poor missionary to start the orphanage until he made one of his last entries in his Journal on March 1, 1898, God sent from all types of persons gifts small and great to carry on the work.
On March 1, 1898, he wrote, “For about 21 months with scarcely the least intermission the trial of our faith and patience has continued. Now, today, the Lord has refreshed our heart. This afternoon came in, for the Lord’s work, £1,427 1s. 7d., as part payment of a legacy of the late Mrs. E. C. S. For 3 years and 10 months this money had been in the Irish Chancery Court. Hundreds of petitions had been brought before the Lord regarding it, and now at last, this portion of the total legacy has been received.”
His first legacy, from a sick lad who died shortly afterwards, was for the sum of six shillings, sixpence, halfpenny, received on September 15, 1837. In between these two legacies were thousands of gifts.
In May, 1842, a gold watch was sent to the orphanage, with a note, saying, “A pilgrim does not want such a watch as this to make him happy; one of an inferior kind will do to show how swiftly time flies, and how fast he is hastening on to that Canaan where time will be no more.”
A hotel proprietor sent 15s. 10d., representing a penny a night per bed for each visitor during the quarter. One person sent £2 16s., as a tenth of the rent received “as promised to God.” A commercial traveler wrote Mr. Muller enclosing £4 16s. which he had saved by traveling third class. One man about to be married sent $10 in thanks to God for His mercies while being single.
A man lost half of his property, and was led to send Mr. Muller $500 as a thank offering because God had spared the other half of his property. A friend sold pickles and made $3 which immediately he sent to Mr. Muller as a gift for the care of the orphans.
One person, after cutting down a tree and selling it, sent the Home £5 17s., from the sale of the wood. A little boy found a ring and on delivering it to its rightful owner, he received a shilling, which he took to Mr. Muller as his gift. A miner lay dying one day, and all he had left was a little gold dust which he at once caused to be dispatched to the orphanage.
A lady, being condemned for wearing earrings, sold them and gave the Institution the proceeds, amounting to $5. A poor widow died, and when her possessions were carefully gone through, a shilling was found in an envelope addressed to Mr. Muller as her last gift. A friend of the Home gave up smoking one year, and at the end of that time sent Mr. Muller $100, “a gift representing what I have saved by not smoking during this year.”
God gave a fisherman a good herring catch one night and immediately he sent Mr. Muller $15 to be used for the Home, as a token of heaven’s blessings. A hunter one season decided to forego his usual hunting trip, the license for which amounted to $15, and instead he sent the money to the Home. “This way of spending it is more pleasing to the Master,” he wrote.
A commercial traveler decided not to insure against railway accidents and sent the same premium money amounting to £2 to the Institution.
One day Muller received a letter enclosing $15 saying, “I have never lost an article, although my premises are so situated that they might be easily entered at night, thus showing how the Lord watches over those who trust in Him.” The gift represented the money which a watch dog would have cost. Another person sent $25 “instead of keeping a dog, in the hope that some poor heathen may be brought to the knowledge of the Savior.”
Many gifts came as thank offerings for calamities which were averted. A veterinary surgeon, while attending a sick horse, had given it up for dead, but after he had prayed the animal recovered, so he sent Mr. Muller a gift. Another person, who broke his left arm, sent a small gift in thanks to God that he had not broken his right arm, or some more vital part such as his neck.
One father made it a practice of giving to the Home the exact amount it would require to care for an orphan each time a child was born in his family. This continued until the man was supporting seven children at home and seven children at Ashley Down.
A farmer sent a note to Mr. Muller with a gift of $5 saying, “Our heavenly Father has given us 34 chickens, and not one of them has been taken by the fox, although our neighbors have lost many.”
The gifts were too many to enumerate them all, but they were prompted by every possible circumstance. Many restored thefts committed years earlier. Some thanked God for His blessings upon their married life. Not a few manufacturers gave a small gift for each article sold during a specified period. Others gave thank offerings for stolen or lost property recovered.
In 1851 Mr. Muller received a gift of $1.25, with the text, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” That evening he entered in his Journal, “My mouth has been filled, according to that portion of the Holy Scriptures sent me this morning. I have received this evening the sum of £3,000, being the largest donation I have had as yet.”
Thus from year to year did God supply the needs out of thousands of bountiful storehouses which were consecrated to his work. Then a need existed Mr. Muller would pray diligently for it, and shortly nearby or thousands of miles distant, God would put it in the heart of some person to supply it. For more than sixty-three years God matched every petition of Mr. Muller with its appropriate gift.