November 21. Today it has been impressed on my heart no longer merely to think about establishing an orphan house but actually to begin making plans. I spent much time in prayer to find the Lord's will in this situation.
November 23. The Lord, in answer to prayer, has given me about fifty pounds. I had asked only for forty pounds. This has been a great encouragement to me and has stirred me to think and pray even more about establishing an orphan house.
November 25. I again spent much time in prayer yesterday and today about the orphan house. I am convinced that it is of God. May He in mercy guide me!
There are several reasons why I desire to establish an orphan house. One of the things the children of God need most is to have their faith strengthened. I visited a brother who worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day at his trade. His body ached, his soul was lean, and he had no joy in God.
I pointed out to him that he should work less in order that his health might not suffer. He could gather strength for his inner man by reading the Word of God, by meditation on it, and by prayer.
He replied, "But if I work less, I do not earn enough for the support of my family. Even now, while I work so much, I have scarcely enough."
He had no trust in God and no real belief in the truth of that word, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
I explained to him, "My dear brother, it is not your work which supports your family, but the Lord. He has fed you and your family when you could not work at all because of illness. He would surely provide for you and yours, if, for the sake of obtaining food for your inner man, you worked fewer hours a day to give you proper time for rest. You begin to work after only a few hurried moments for prayer. You leave your work in the evening and intend to read a little of the Word of God, but by then you are too worn out in body and mind to enjoy it. You often fall asleep while reading the Scriptures or while on your knees in prayer."
The brother admitted this was true. He agreed that my advice was good, but I read in his countenance, even if he did not actually say so, "How could I make ends meet if I were to carry out your advice?" I longed to have something to give the brother as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God that He ever was. He is willing as ever to prove Himself the living God to all who put their trust in Him.
Sometimes children of God are fearful of growing old and being unable to work any longer. If I point out to them how their heavenly Father has always helped those who put their trust in Him, they might not say that times have changed. But it is evident that they do not see God as the living God. I longed to set something before the children of God that they might see that He does not forsake, even in hard times, those who rely on Him.
Christian businessmen suffer in their spiritual lives and bring guilt on their consciences by carrying on their business in the same way that unconverted people do. The competition in trade, bad times, and overpopulation are given as reasons why a business carried on according to the Word of God could not be expected to prosper. Few people have the holy determination to trust in the living God and depend on Him in order that a good conscience might be maintained. I want to show these people that God is faithful and can be trusted without reservation.
Some individuals are in professions which they cannot continue with a good conscience. But they fear leaving their profession lest they become unemployed. I long to strengthen their faith by proving that the promises from the Word of God of His willingness and ability to help all those who rely on Him are true.
I know that the Word of God ought to be enough. But by giving my brothers visible proof of the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord, I might strengthen their faith. I want to be the servant of the Church in the particular point on which I had obtained mercy-in being able to take God at His Word and to rely on it.
This seems to me best done by establishing an orphan house-something which could be seen by the natural eye. If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith obtained, without asking any individual, the finances for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, this might strengthen the faith of the children of God. It would also be a testimony to the unconverted of the reality of the things of God.
This is the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly desire to be used by God to help the poor children and train them in the ways of God. But the primary object of the work is that God would be magnified because the orphans under my care will be provided with all they need through prayer and faith. Everyone will see that God is faithful and hears prayer.
November 28. I have been praying every day this week concerning the orphan house, entreating the Lord to take away every thought of it if the matter is not of Him. After repeatedly examining the motives of my heart, I am convinced that it is of God.
December 2. Brother Craik and I have talked about the orphan house. I wanted him to show me any hidden corruption of my heart or any other scriptural reason against engaging in it. The only reason I could doubt that it is of God for me to begin this work is the numerous responsibilities which I have already. But if the matter is of God, He will, in due time, send suitable individuals so that comparatively little of my time will be taken up in this service.
Brother Craik greatly encouraged me in the work. Today I took the first step in the matter and announced a public meeting on December 9. The brethren want to hear my thoughts concerning the orphan house, and I want to know the Lord's will more clearly.
December 5. This Scripture came alive to me today: "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psa. 81:10). I was led to apply it to the' orphan house and asked the Lord for a building, one thousand pounds, and suitable individuals to take care of the children.
December 7. Today I received the first shilling for the orphan house.
December 9. This afternoon the first piece of furniture was given-a large wardrobe. I felt low in spirit about the orphan house, but as soon as I began to speak at the evening meeting, I received assistance from God. After the meeting, ten shillings were given to me. There was no collection taken, nor did anyone speak besides myself. The meeting was not in the least intended to work upon people's emotions, to gain support. After the meeting, a sister offered herself for the work. I went home happy in the Lord and full of confidence that the matter will come to pass, although only ten shillings have been given.
December 10. I received a letter from a brother and sister who wrote, "We offer ourselves for the service of the intended orphan house, if you think we are qualified for it. Also we will give up all the furniture and household items which the Lord has given us, for its use. We do this without expecting any salary, believing that if it is the will of the Lord to employ us, He will supply all our need."
During the next several weeks, God answered our prayers concerning the orphan house. We were given furniture, fabric, kitchen utensils, blankets, plates, and cups, in addition to financial support. Some days very little came in, and I would begin to feel discouraged. But the Lord strengthened me during those times and touched the hearts of others to abundantly supply our needs. Several other people offered their services to work among the orphans, completely trusting God for their support.
One sister in particular was a great source of blessing to me as she gave generously although she had little. She earned only a few shillings a week as a seamstress. When her father died, he left her four hundred pounds. She paid off the substantial debts he had contracted, gave one hundred pounds to her mother, and brought another hundred pounds to me for the work of the orphan house.
Before accepting the money, I had a long conversation with her. I needed to know her motives, and whether she might have given this money emotionally, without having counted the cost. But I had not conversed long with this beloved sister before I found that she was a quiet, calm, considerate follower of the Lord Jesus. She desired, in spite of what human reasoning might say, to act according to the words of our Lord, "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth" (Matt. 6:19). "Sell that ye have, and give alms" (Luke 12:33).
When I continued questioning her in order that I might see whether she had counted the cost, she said to me, "The Lord Jesus gave His last drop of blood for me. Should I not give Him the hundred pounds?"
Four things must be noticed about this beloved sister. 1. She did all these things in secret and thus proved that she did not desire the praise of man. 2. She remained, as before, of an humble and lowly mind. She gave her money for the Lord and not to impress-man. 3. During all the time that she had this comparative abundance, she did not change her lodging, dress, or manner of life. She remained in every way the poor handmaiden of the Lord to all outward appearance. 4. She continued to work at her sewing all this time, earning three shillings or a little more a week while she gave away the money in five-pound notes.
At last all her money was gone several years before her death. She found herself completely dependent upon the Lord, who never forsook her, up to the last moments of her earthly life. Her body grew weaker, and she was able to work very little. But the Lord supplied her with all she needed, although she never asked for anything. For instance, a sister in our fellowship sent her all the bread she needed. She was full of thanksgiving, always praising the Lord.
April 2, 1836. This day was set apart for prayer and thanksgiving for the opening of the Orphan House. In the morning, several brethren prayed, and brother Craik spoke on the last verses of Psa. 20. I addressed our day and Sunday school children and the orphans; and in the evening, we had another prayer meeting. Seventeen children are living in the Orphan House.
May 16 For several weeks our income has been low. Although I prayed many times that the Lord would enable us to pay our taxes, the prayer remained unanswered. The Lord will send help by the time it is needed.
One thing particularly has been a trial to us lately, far more than our temporal circumstances. We have scarcely been able to relieve the poverty among the poor saints. Seven pounds twelve shillings were given to me as my part of the freewill offerings through the boxes, and two five-pound notes were put in yesterday-one for brother Craik and one for me. Thus the Lord has again delivered us and answered our prayers, not one single boar too late. The taxes are not yet due. May He fill my heart with gratitude for this fresh deliverance. May He enable me to trust more in Him and to wait patiently for His help!