THE NAME of George Muller has predominately been connected with orphanage work. This phase of his life’s investment has so greatly overshadowed his other fields of Christian endeavor that they are often forgotten. His seventeen missionary tours were made famous because he was looked upon as the world’s leading friend of orphans, and while he spoke of faith and trust, his illustrations were mainly drawn from many years of daily experience in feeding thousands of children through prayer alone.
There was, however, another phase of his life’s work which depended solely upon his prayers as much as the caring for his orphan houses at Ashley Down. This was his promulgation of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. When he was led to found the Institution on February 20, 1834, he entered in his Journal, “I trust this matter is of God.”
Surely God’s blessings were upon this element of the stewardship of Mr. Muller’s personality. It was unostentatiously started upon its mission without fanfare. Quietly a few people gathered to consider the merits of the idea of starting a work that at heart should be missionary, assist Sunday schools as well as day schools where the teachers were Christian, distribute Bibles and religious tracts, and care for orphans.
At first the orphanage work was least in the thought of the founder, but it grew to be practically all encompassing of his spiritual interest and prayer energy, so largely did it overshadow the other endeavors undertaken by the Institution.
The Institution was started solely with God as its Patron and never once did it veer from this original plan. Muller felt that God meant what he said when affirming “the silver and gold are mine.” If the work was centered in the divine will, there would be plenty of God’s silver and gold to promote its Christian interests.
“The Lord was the Banker of the Institution,” writes Frederick Warne in his biography of Mr. Muller. “He knew all would be well. Slowly but surely the little institution grew. Faith and its heavenly response went hand in hand, and being weighted and borne down by no anxiety as to debt, as many religious agencies are, the trustful founder was able to give himself wholly to prayer for the means and grace to carry the work on.
The first report of the Institution covered the initial fifteen months. It was not a flourishing report, but was the spring from which a mighty river of influence was to go forth to water the parched harvest fields of the earth.
“It is now fifteen months,” writes Mr. Muller in that report, “since, in dependence upon the Lord for the supply of means, we have been enabled to supply poor children with schooling, circulate the Holy Scriptures, and aid missionary labors. During this time, though the field of labor has been continually enlarged, and though we have...been brought low in funds, the Lord has never allowed us to be obliged to stop the work. We have been enabled during this time to establish three day schools, and to connect with the Institution two other charity day schools...
“In addition to this the expenses connected with a Sunday school and an Adult school have been likewise defrayed, making seven schools altogether.
“The number of children that have thus been provided with school, in the day schools alone amounts to 439. The number of copies of the Holy Scriptures which have been circulated is 795 Bibles and 753 New Testaments.
“We have also sent, in aid of Missionary labors in Canada, in the East Indies and on the Continent of Europe, £117 11s.”
Year by year the blessing of the Lord was upon the Institution and in response to Muller’s prayers every need was supplied. In the report of 1855, Mr. Muller said that more than £7,204 was given for the support of schools during the twenty-one years of its existence; another £16,115, for missions. There had been a total of 13,949 Bibles, 9,047 New Testaments distributed at a cost of £3,389 10s. 1d.
“Without anyone having been personally applied to for anything by me the sum of £74,132 6s. was given to me for the orphans as a result of prayer to God from the commencement of the work up to May 26, 1855,” Mr. Muller reports for that year.
Through the long years God richly supplied the needs. In the Fifty-fourth Report of the Institution for the year 1893, which was the fifty-ninth year of the work, he says, “The readers of the last report will remember under what particular trials we entered upon the last financial year of the Institution...but we trusted in God; and with unshaken confidence in Him, and we expected that we should somehow or the other be helped...
“While thus we went on my heart at peace habitually, being assured that all this was permitted by God, to prepare a blessing for thousands, who would afterward read the record of His dealings with us from May 26, 1892 to May 26, 1893.”
During that year of trial on August 30, while reading Psalm 81:10, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,” Mr. Muller said, “Remembering the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart when reading this verse on December 5, 1835, and the effect which this had in leading me to found the greatest Orphan Institution in the world...putting the Bible aside I fell on my knees and asked God that He would graciously be pleased to repeat His former kindness, and to supply me again more abundantly with means. Accordingly in less than half an hour, I received £50 from a Bristol donor...By the last delivery, at 9 p. m.,...I had...£152 in all, this day, as the result of prayer.”
In the last Report of the Institution which Mr. Muller ever gave, (for the year 1896-97) he goes into a detailed summary of the blessings of God upon the work since its founding. “This is the last record,” writes Fred Warne in his biography, “which Mr. Muller penned of his stewardship, and he was fully assured that the fruit which he had been enabled to see was but little in comparison with what he should behold in the day of Christ’s appearing.”
We give this report in full that the reader might realize how greatly God had filled Mr. Muller’s mouth since December 5, 1835, when God first gave him this wonderful promise in Psalms.
“In our various schools we have had from the beginning 121,683 pupils. In all these schools was more or less blessing; but in some very great blessing, so that the Christian teachers sometimes had to record the conversion of 50 or 60 pupils in one school during one half-year. Never have been other than truly converted teachers engaged, and constantly the blessing of God has been sought in their labors. Mr. Wright and I seek habitually the blessing of God on the schools, as well as on the other branches of the Institution.
“Also, when we meet with our fellow laborers for prayer, the schools of the Institution are habitually remembered in prayer. On the ground of the information which we received from the school inspectors of the Institution, and from the Christian masters and mistresses of the many schools founded and supported during the past 63 years, and also from the letters received from the pupils, after they have left the schools, we have reason to believe that, when the harvest of this world will be reaped at the last in full, we shall, out of these 121,683 pupils, meet tens of thousands in glory.
“During the past 63 years there have been circulated by means of this Institution, in almost all parts of the world, and in many different languages, 281,652 Bibles, 1,448,662 New Testaments, 21,343 copies of the Book of Psalms, and 222,196 other portions of the Holy Scriptures. On this branch of the Institution the Lord’s blessing has been asked day by day for sixty-three years; and the Lord has blessed this work most abundantly. In connection with very many Bible Carriages in England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Australia and other countries, where the cheap Testaments are sold to the workers of these carriages at half-price, and Bibles at three-fourths of the price, God has granted most abundant blessing.
“In this way to the obscure villages has the Word of God been carried and made a blessing to multitudes. This has been especially the case among the Papists in Ireland. When it pleased God to open Spain, in the year 1868, I sought at once with thousands, yea, many thousands of copies, of the Holy Scriptures to enter into Spain; and it pleased God most abundantly to bless the simple reading of the Holy Scriptures in Spanish (which they had never seen in their whole life) to multitudes. And this has been going on in Spain ever since, more or less, viz., the Holy Scriptures have been circulated, and the Lord has caused His blessing to rest upon it.
“When Italy was opened for the preaching of the Truth and the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, it pleased the Lord to grant to me the great privilege to enter immediately into Italy with the Italian Bible and New Testament, in thousands of copies, and they were spread in all directions; and, in answer to our prayers, most abundantly were they blessed. It was not long after this that the Papal State, yea, even Rome itself, was opened for the circulation of the Holy Scriptures; yea, Rome, into which the Pope and the Popish Priests had not allowed a trunk, or portmanteau, or bag to be introduced without searching every package, to see whether there might be a Bible.
“Often even the pockets of visitors were searched, so that God’s Holy Word might not enter the seat of the Papacy. These Bibles, New Testaments and portions of the Holy Scriptures were most abundantly blessed, and God allowed us abundantly to reap, and showed by the answers to prayer that we did not wait on Him in vain. Even recently we sent 2,600 New Testaments in Italian to Rome, and 550 Bibles.
“But the circulation of the Holy Scriptures has not been confined by us to the countries referred to, but in China, in the Straits of Malacca, particularly in Demerara and Essequibo, in Nova Scotia, and in France, we have sought to labor in this way; and in all these various countries it has pleased God most abundantly to answer our prayers and to allow us to see most abundant fruit as the result of our prayers.
“Our hearts are filled with gratitude when we remember the thousands of precious souls in Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, the Colonies of Australia, China, and in many hundreds of the spiritually dark villages of Great Britain that thus have been benefited. We have also been allowed, within the past sixty-three years, to gladden the hearts of thousands of aged poor persons in supplying them with a copy of the Holy Scriptures printed in large type, as the Bible they possessed was too small for their sight.
“During the past sixty-three years the Lord has also allowed us to seek to aid missionary operations in China, India, the Straits of Malacca, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, South Africa, Central Africa, Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, South America, the United States of America, Nova Scotia, Canada, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Armenia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and in all the various spiritually-dark places of England. Several hundred missionaries have been, to a greater or less degree, aided with pecuniary supplies or otherwise. (On this subject and on the Mission schools, £259,776 17s. 10d. had been expanded up to May, 1897.)
“God has been besought on behalf of these, His servants, day by day, these sixty-three years, and it has pleased Him to allow us to reap and have most abundant answers to our prayers. When we received letters from these beloved servants of Christ, of which we have very many thousands, we again and again found not only that scores of persons had been converted, but even hundreds.
“This glorious work of winning these souls for our precious Lord Jesus, in connection with this Institution, has been more or less going on during the past sixty-three years, through the labor of these several hundred servants of Christ, and we do not hesitate to state that we have the fullest reason to believe that tens of thousands of souls have been brought to the knowledge of our Lord Jesus.
“I state also that from our own midst, as a church, sixty-three brethren and sisters have gone forth to foreign fields of labor, some of whom have finished their labor on earth; but there are forty-two yet engaged in this precious service. In China, in the East Indies, in the Straits, in British Guiana, in South Africa, in Central Africa, in North Africa, in Nova Scotia, Canada, the United States, in Egypt, in Spain, in Italy, in France, in Germany, in Ireland and England, the labors of these missionary brethren have been abundantly blessed.
“There have likewise been circulated in connection with this Institution more than 111 millions (minutely 111,489,067) of Scriptural books, pamphlets, and tracts. Notice, esteemed reader, not tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands, merely, but above a hundred and eleven millions.
“We adore and praise God for the honor and privilege bestowed on us, thus to scatter the truth in many countries and in many different languages; but the most precious part is that in this way also thousands of precious souls have been blessed. Many hundred godly brethren and sisters in Christ have helped us in this precious service, to spread the truth everywhere; and, in many thousands of letters received, when fresh supplies of tracts or books were asked to be sent, the statements also were made how greatly those tracts and books, which had been sent to them gratuitously, had been owned of God.
SPIRITUAL BLESSING ON THE ORPHAN WORK
“I come now, lastly, to the Orphan work, which likewise, during the sixty-one years of its existence, has been abundantly blessed. In all, during the thirty-one years, 2,813 orphans left the Institution as believers. In addition to this, we had information by letter or personal intercourse that many hundreds were brought to the knowledge of the Lord after they had left the Institution; and there are 609 orphans in the five houses, regarding whom the matrons, masters, and female teachers are united in judgment that they are regenerated. The reader will see by this how abundantly it has pleased the Lord to bless our labors to the orphans. One or other of the readers may be inclined to say, will these orphans who now profess to be believers continue in the ways of God? My reply is, 50 or 60 years ago a number of young orphans professed faith in the Lord Jesus, and, with a few exceptions, they walked in the fear of God, 20, 30, 40 years, till the Lord took them to Himself. There is still one of those living who has now walked in the ways of God as a constant believer 58 years.
“The total amount of money received, by prayer and faith, for the various objects of the Institution since March 5th, 1834, is one million four hundred and twenty-four thousand six hundred and forty-six pounds, six shillings and ninepence halfpenny (£1,424,646 6s. 9 l/2d.)!’’
Mr. Muller’s faith was thus grandly rewarded, for God furnished in response to his prayers approximately seven and a half million dollars. From a most insignificant beginning the work grew until it became a leading supporter of missions, distributor of Bibles and religious literature, as well as the outstanding “father of the orphans.” Had Mr. Muller done nothing but promote the Scriptural Knowledge Institution it would have been a work worthy of any life.
Orphans were so largely his passion that these other things were relegated to the background...a background of magnificent proportions. His was a life of dual service...sire of the Institution and of the orphanage.
Taken from "George Muller - The Man of Faith" by Basil Miller