UNSCRIPTURAL CHARACTER OF THE EXISTING RELIGIOUS AND BENEVOLENT SOCIETIES--A NEW INSTITUTION PROPOSED--GOD'S WORD THE ONLY RULE, AND GOD'S PROMISE THE ONLY DEPENDENCE--"IN EVERYTHING, LET YOUR REQUEST BE MADE KNOWN UNTO GOD"--EARNEST OF THE DIVINE BLESSING ON THE INSTITUTION--BEREAVEMENT--HELPER SEASONABLY SENT--REWARD OF SEEKING GOD'S FACE.
Feb. 21. I was led this morning to form a plan for establishing, upon scriptural principles, an institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. I trust this matter is of God. Feb. 25. I was led again this day to pray about the forming of a new Missionary Institution, and felt still more confirmed that we should do so.
[Some readers may ask why we formed a new Institution for the spread of the gospel, and why we did not unite with some of the religious societies, already in existence, seeing that there are several missionary, Bible, tract, and school societies. I give, therefore, our reasons, in order to show that nothing but the desire to maintain a good conscience led us to act as we have done. For as, by the grace of God, we acknowledged the word of God as the only rule of action for the disciples of the Lord Jesus, we found, in comparing the then existing religious societies with the word of God, that they departed so far from it, that we could not be united with them, and yet maintain a good conscience. I only mention here the following points.
1. The end which these religious societies propose to themselves, and which is constantly put before their members, is, that the world will gradually become better and better, and that at last the whole world will be converted. To this end, there is constantly reference made to the passage in Habakkuk ii. 14: "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea;" or the one in Isaiah xi. 9: "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." But that these passages can have no reference to the present dispensation, but to the one which will commence with the return of the Lord,--that in the present dispensation things will not become spiritually better, but rather worse,--and that in the present dispensation it is not the whole world that will be converted, but only a people gathered out from among the Gentiles for the Lord,--is clear from many passages of the divine testimony, of which I only refer to the following: Matt. xiii. 24-30, and verses 36-43, 2 Tim. iii. 1-13, Acts xv. 14.
A hearty desire for the conversion of sinners, and earnest prayer for it to the Lord, is quite scriptural; but it is unscriptural to expect the conversion of the whole world. Such an end we could not propose to ourselves in the service of the Lord.
2. But that which is worse, is, the connection of those religious societies with the world, which is completely contrary to the word of God (2 Cor. vi. 14-18). In temporal things the children of God need, whilst they remain here on earth, to make use of the world; but when the work to be done requires that those who attend to it should be possessed of spiritual life (of which unbelievers are utterly destitute), the children of God are bound, by their loyalty to their Lord, entirely to refrain from association with the unregenerate. But, alas! the connection with the world is but too marked in these religious societies; for every one who pays a guinea, or, in some societies, half-a-guinea, is considered as a member. Although such an individual may live in sin; although he may manifest to every one that he does not know the Lord Jesus; if only the guinea or the half-guinea be paid, he is considered a member, and has a right as such to vote. Moreover, whoever pays a larger sum, for instance, ten pounds or twenty pounds, can be, in many societies, a member for life, however openly sinful his life should be for the time, or should become afterwards. Surely such things ought not to be.
3. The means which are made use of in these religious societies to obtain money for the work of the Lord are also in other respects unscriptural; for it is a most common case to ask the unconverted for money, which even Abraham would not have done (Genesis xiv. 21-24); and how much less should we do it, who are not only forbidden to have fellowship with unbelievers in all such matters (2 Cor. vi. 14-18), but who are also in fellowship with the Father and the Son, and can therefore obtain everything from the Lord which we possibly can need in his service, without being obliged to go to the unconverted world! How altogether differently the first disciples acted, in this respect, we learn from 3 John 7.
4. Not merely, however, in these particulars is there a connection with the world in these religious societies; but it is not a rare thing for even committee members (the individuals who manage the affairs of the societies) to be manifestly unconverted persons, if not open enemies to the truth; and this is suffered because they are rich, or of influence, as it is called.
5. It is a most common thing to endeavor to obtain for patrons and presidents of these societies and for chairmen at the public meetings, persons of rank or wealth, to attract the public. Never once have I known a case of a poor, but very devoted, wise, and experienced servant of Christ being invited to fill the chair at such public meetings. Surely, the Galilean fishermen, who were apostles, or our Lord himself, who was called the carpenter, would not have been called to this office, according to these principles. These things ought not so to be among the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who should not judge with reference to a person's fitness for service in the church of Christ by the position he fills in the world, or by the wealth he possesses.
6. Almost all these societies contract debts, so that it is a comparatively rare case to read a report of any of them without finding that they have expended more than they have received, which, however, is contrary both to the spirit and to the letter of the New Testament. (Rom. xiii. 8.)
Now, although brother Craik and I were ready, by the grace of God, heartily to acknowledge that there are not only many true children of God connected with these religious societies, but that the Lord has also blessed their efforts in many respects, notwithstanding the existence of these and other principles and practices which we judged to be unscriptural; yet it appeared to us to be his will that we should be entirely separate from these societies, (though we should be considered as singular persons, or though it should even appear that we despised other persons, or would elevate ourselves above them,) in order that, by the blessing of God, we might direct the attention of the children of God in those societies to their unscriptural practices; and we would rather be entirely unconnected with these societies than act contrary to the Holy Scriptures. We therefore separated entirely from them, although we remained united in brotherly love with individual believers belonging to them, and would by no means judge them for remaining in connection with them, if they do not see that such things are contrary to Scripture. But seeing them to be so ourselves, we could not with a clear conscience remain. After we had thus gone on for some time, we considered that it would have an injurious tendency upon the brethren among whom we labored, and also be at variance with the spirit of the gospel of Christ, if we did nothing at all for missionary objects, the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, tracts, etc., and we were therefore led, for these and other reasons, to do something for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad, however small the beginning might be.]
March 5. This evening, at a public meeting, brother Craik and I stated the principles on which we intend to carry on the institution which we propose to establish for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. There was nothing outwardly influential either in the number of people present or in our speeches. May the Lord graciously be pleased to grant his blessing upon the institution, which will be called "The Scriptural Knowledge Institution, for Home and Abroad."
I. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE INSTITUTION.
1. We consider every believer bound, in one way or other, to help the cause of Christ, and we have scriptural warrant for expecting the Lord's blessing upon our work of faith and labor of love; and although, according to Matt. xiii. 24-43, 2 Tim. iii. 1-13, and many other passages, the world will not be converted before the coming of our Lord Jesus, still, while he tarries, all scriptural means ought to be employed for the ingathering of the elect of God.
2. The Lord helping us, we do not mean to seek the patronage of the world; i. e. we never intend to ask unconverted persons of rank or wealth to countenance this Institution, because this, we consider, would be dishonorable to the Lord. In the name of our God we set up our banners, Ps. xx. 5; he alone shall be our patron, and if he helps us we shall prosper, and if he is not on our side we shall not succeed.
3. We do not mean to ask unbelievers for money (2 Cor. vi. 14-18); though we do not feel ourselves warranted to refuse their contributions, if they of their own accord should offer them. Acts xxviii. 2-10.
4. We reject altogether the help of unbelievers in managing or carrying on the affairs of the Institution. 2 Cor. vi. 14-18.
5. We intend never to enlarge the field of labor by contracting debts (Rom. xiii. 8), and afterwards appealing to the Church of Christ for help, because this we consider to be opposed both to the letter and the spirit of the New Testament; but in secret prayer, God helping us, we shall carry the wants of the Institution to the Lord, and act according to the means that God shall give.
6. We do not mean to reckon the success of the Institution by the amount of money given, or the number of Bibles distributed, etc., but by the Lord's blessing upon the work (Zech. iv. 6); and we expect this in the proportion in which he shall help us to wait upon him in prayer.
7. While we would avoid aiming after needless singularity, we desire to go on simply according to Scripture, without compromising the truth; at the same time thankfully receiving any instruction which experienced believers, after prayer, upon scriptural ground, may have to give us concerning the Institution.
II. THE OBJECTS OF THE INSTITUTION.
1. To assist day schools, Sunday schools, and adult schools, in which instruction is given upon scriptural principles, and as far as the Lord may give the means, and supply us with suitable teachers, and in other respects make our path plain, to establish schools of this kind. With this we also combine the putting of poor children to such day schools.
a. By day schools upon scriptural principles, we understand day schools in which the teachers are godly persons,--in which the way of salvation is scripturally pointed out,--and in which no instruction is given opposed to the principles of the gospel.
b. Sunday schools, in which all the teachers are believers, and in which the Holy Scriptures are alone the foundation of instruction, are such only as the Institution assists with the supply of Bibles, Testaments, etc.; for we consider it unscriptural that any persons who do not profess to know the Lord themselves should be allowed to give religious instruction.
c. The Institution does not assist any adult school with the supply of Bibles, Testaments, spelling-books, etc., except the teachers are believers.
2. To circulate the Holy Scriptures.
3. The third object of this Institution is to aid missionary efforts.
We desire to assist those missionaries whose proceedings appear to be most according to the Scriptures.
March 7. To-day we have only one shilling left. This evening, when we came home from our work, we found a brother, our tailor, waiting for us, who brought a new suit of clothes both for brother Craik and me, which a brother, whose name was not to be mentioned, had ordered for us.
April 23. Yesterday and to-day I had asked the Lord to send us twenty pounds, that we might be able to procure a larger stock of Bibles and Testaments than our small funds of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution would allow us to purchase; and this evening a sister, unasked, promised to give us that sum, adding that she felt a particular pleasure in circulating the Holy Scriptures, as the simple reading of them had been the means of bringing her to the knowledge of the Lord.
June 8. Lord's day. I obtained no text yesterday, notwithstanding repeated prayer and reading of the word. This morning I awoke with these words: "My grace is sufficient for thee." As soon as I had dressed myself, I turned to 2 Cor. xii. to consider this passage; but in doing so, after prayer, I was led to think that I had not been directed to this portion for the sake of speaking on it, as I at first thought, and I therefore followed my usual practice in such cases, i. e. to read on in the Scriptures where I left off last evening. In doing so, when I came to Heb. xi. 13-16, I felt that this was the text. Having prayed, I was confirmed in it, and the Lord was pleased to open this passage to me. I preached on it with great enjoyment. It pleased God greatly to bless what I said on that passage, and at least one soul was brought through it to the Lord.
June 25. These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.
June 26. I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I feel now this morning more comfortable.
July 11. I have prayed much about a master for boys' school, to be established in connection with our little Institution. Eight have applied for the situation, but none seemed to be suitable. Now, at last, the Lord has given us a brother, who will commence the work.
October 9. Our little Institution, established in dependence upon the Lord, and supplied by him with means, has now been seven months in operation, and through it have been benefited with instruction,--1. In the Sunday school, about 120 children. 2. In the adult school, about 40 adults. 3. In the two day schools for boys and the two days schools for girls, 209 children, of whom 54 have been entirely free; the others pay about one third of the expense. There have been also circulated 482 Bibles and 520 New Testaments. Lastly, fifty-seven pounds has been spent to aid missionary exertion. The means which the Lord has sent us, as the fruit of many prayers, during these seven months, amount to one hundred and sixty-seven pounds ten shillings and halfpenny.
October 28. We heard a most affecting account of a poor little orphan boy who for some time attended one of our schools, and who seems there, as far as we can judge, to have been brought to a real concern about his soul, through what I said concerning the torments of hell, and who some time ago was taken to the poorhouse, some miles out of Bristol. He has expressed great sorrow that he can no longer attend our school and ministry. May this, if it be the Lord's will, lead me to do something also for the supply of the temporal wants of poor children, the pressure of which has caused this poor boy to be taken away from our school!
November 4. I spent the greater part of the morning in reading the word and in prayer, and asked also for our daily bread, for we have scarcely any money left. November 5. I spent almost the whole of the day in prayer and reading the word. I prayed also again for the supply of our temporal wants, but the Lord has not as yet appeared. November 8. Saturday. The Lord has graciously again supplied our temporal wants during this week, though at the commencement of it we had but little left. I have prayed much this week, for money, more than any other week, as far as I remember, since we have been in Bristol. The Lord has supplied us through our selling what we did not need, or by our being paid what was owed to us.
December 10. To-day we found that a departed brother had left both to brother Craik and me twelve pounds.
December 31, 1834. 1. Since brother Craik and I have been laboring in Bristol, 227 brethren and sisters have been added to us in fellowship. Out of the 227 who have been added to us, 103 have been converted through our instrumentality, and many have been brought into the liberty of the gospel, or reclaimed from backsliding. Forty-seven young converts are at Gideon, and fifty-six at Bethesda. 2. The income which the Lord has given me during this year is:--
1. My part of the freewill offerings through the boxes,
2. Money given to me by saints in and out of Bristol
3. Besides this, many articles in provisions, clothing, and furniture, worth to us about
January 1, 1835. We had last evening an especial prayer meeting, for the sake of praising the Lord for all his many mercies, which we have received during the past year, and to ask him to continue to us his favor. January 13. I visited from house to house the people living in Orange Street, and saw in this way the families living in nine houses, to ascertain whether any individuals wanted Bibles, whether they could read, whether they wished their children put to our day schools or Sunday school, with the view of helping them accordingly. This afforded opportunities to converse with them about their souls.
January 15. This morning I went again from house to house in Orange Street. I should greatly delight in being frequently engaged in such work, for it is a most important one; but our hands are so full with other work that we can do but little in this way. January 21. Received, in answer to prayer, from an unexpected quarter, five pounds, for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The Lord pours in, whilst we seek to pour out. For during the past week, merely among the poor, in going from house to house, fifty-eight copies of the Scriptures were sold at reduced prices, the going on with which is most important, but will require much means.
January 28. I have, for these several days, prayed much to ascertain whether the Lord will have me to go as a missionary to the East Indies, and I am most willing to go, if he will condescend to use me in this way. January 29. I have been greatly stirred up to pray about going to Calcutta as a missionary. May the Lord guide me in this matter! (After all my repeated and earnest prayer in the commencement of 1835, and willingness on my part to go, if it were the Lord's will, still, he did not send me.)
February 25. In the name of the Lord, and in dependence upon him alone for support, we have established a fifth day school for poor children, which to-day has been opened. We have now two boys' schools and three girls' schools.
Mr. Müller having determined to visit Germany, chiefly on missionary business, reached London February 27, and writes:--
This morning I went to the Alien Office for my passport. On entering the office, I saw a printed paper, in which it is stated that every alien neglecting to renew every six months his certificate of residence, which he receives on depositing his passport, subjects himself to a penalty of fifty pounds, or imprisonment. This law I have ignorantly broken ever since I left London, in 1829. It appeared to me much better to confess at once that I had ignorantly done so than now wilfully break it; trusting in the Lord as it regarded the consequences of the step. I did so, and the Lord inclined the heart of the officer with whom I had to do to pass over my non-compliance with the law, on account of my having broken it ignorantly. Having obtained my passport, I found an unexpected difficulty in the Prussian ambassador refusing to sign it, as it did not contain a description of my person, and therefore I needed to prove that I was the individual spoken of in the passport. This difficulty was not removed for three days, when, after earnest prayer, through a paper signed by some citizens of London, to whom I am known, the ambassador was satisfied. This very difficulty, when once the Lord had removed it, afforded me cause for thanksgiving; for I now obtained a new passport, worded in a way that, should I ever need it again, will prevent similar difficulties.
Mr. Müller was absent for five weeks, during which time he experienced many answers to prayer and encouragements to faith.
April 15. Bristol. Yesterday, at one, we landed in London. In answer to prayer, I soon obtained my things from the custom-house, and reached my friends in Chancery Lane a little before two.
June 3. To-day we had a public meeting on account of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. It is now fifteen months since, in dependence upon the Lord for the supply of means, we have been enabled to provide poor children with schooling, circulate the Holy Scriptures, and aid missionary labors. During this time, though the field of labor has been continually enlarging, and though we have now and then 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, which, humanly speaking, otherwise would have been closed for want of means. The number of the children that have been thus provided with schooling, in the day schools only, 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, one hundred and seventeen pounds, eleven shillings. The whole amount of the free-will offerings put into our hands for carrying on this work from March 5, 1834, to May 19, 1835, is £363 12s. 0¾d.
June 22. This morning at two my father-in-law died. June 25. Our little boy is so ill that I have no hope of his recovery. The Lord's holy will be done concerning the dear little one. June 26. My prayer, last evening, was, that God would be pleased to support my dear wife under the trial, should he remove the little one; and to take him soon to himself, thus sparing him from suffering. I did not pray for the child's recovery. It was but two hours after that the dear little one went home. I am so fully enabled to realize that the dear infant is so much better off with the Lord Jesus than with us, that I scarcely feel the loss at all, and when I weep I weep for joy.
July 18. I have felt for several days weak in my chest. This weakness has been increasing, and to-day I have felt it more than ever. I have thought it well to refrain next week from all public speaking. May the Lord grant that I may be brought nearer to him through this, for I am not at all in the state in which I ought to be, and I think sometimes that our late afflictions have been lost upon me, and that the Lord will need to chastise me severely.
July 31. To-day brother C----r, formerly a minister in the establishment, who came to us a few days since, began, in connection with the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, to go from house to house to spread the truth as a city missionary. [This was a remarkable interposition of God. Brother Craik had before this, for some months, been unable, on account of bodily infirmity, to labor in the work of the schools, the circulation of the Scriptures, etc., and my own weakness, shortly after brother C----r's arrival, increased so that I was obliged to give up the work entirely. How gracious, therefore, of the Lord to send brother C----r, that thus the work might go on! Up to July, 1837, this beloved brother was enabled to continue in his work, and thus this little Institution was in a most important way enlarged as it regards the field of labor.]
August 24. I feel very weak, and suffer more than before from the disease. I am in doubt whether to leave Bristol entirely for a time. I have no money to go away for a change of air. I have had an invitation to stay for a week with a sister in the country, and I think of accepting the invitation, and going to-morrow. August 26. To-day I had five pounds given to me for the express purpose of using change of air. August 29. To-day I received another five pounds for the same purpose.
August 30. To-day, for the first Lord's day since our arrival in Bristol, I have been kept from preaching through illness. How mercifully has the Lord dealt in giving me so much strength for these years! I had another five pounds sent to aid me in procuring change of air. How kind is the Lord in thus providing me with the means for leaving Bristol! September 2. Went with my family to Portishead.
September 15. As I clearly understood that the person who lets me his horse has no license, I saw that, being bound as a believer to act according to the laws of the country, I could use it no longer; and as horse exercise seems most important, humanly speaking, for my restoration, and as this is the only horse which is to be had in the place, we came to the conclusion to leave Portishead to-morrow. Immediately after, I received a kind letter from a brother and two sisters in the Lord, who live in the Isle of Wight, which contained a fourth invitation, more pressing than ever, to come and stay with them for some time. In addition to this, they wrote that they had repeatedly prayed about the matter, and were persuaded that I ought to come. This matter has been to-day a subject for prayer.
September 16. We came this morning to the conclusion that I should go to the Isle of Wight; but we saw not how my wife and child and our servant could accompany me, as we had not sufficient money for travelling expenses; and yet this seemed of importance. The Lord graciously removed the difficulty this evening; for we received, most unexpectedly and unasked for, five pounds and thirteen shillings, which was owed to us, and also, when we had already retired to rest, a letter was brought, containing a present of two pounds. How very, very kind and tender is the Lord!
September 19. This evening we arrived at our friends' in the Isle of Wight, by whom we were most kindly received.
September 29. Last evening, when I retired from the family, I had a desire to go to rest at once, for I had prayed a short while before; and feeling weak in body, the coldness of the night was a temptation to me to pray no further. However, the Lord did help me to fall upon my knees; and no sooner had I commenced praying than he shone into my soul, and gave me such a spirit of prayer as I had not enjoyed for many weeks. He graciously once more revived his work in my heart. I enjoyed that nearness to God and fervency in prayer, for more than an hour, for which my soul had been panting for many weeks past. For the first time, during this illness, I had now also a spirit of prayer as regards my health. I could ask the Lord earnestly to restore me again, which had not been the case before. I now long to go back again to the work in Bristol, yet without impatience, and feel assured that the Lord will strengthen me to return to it. I went to bed especially happy, and awoke this morning in great peace, rose sooner than usual, and had again, for more than an hour, real communion with the Lord, before breakfast. May he in mercy continue this state of heart to his most unworthy child!
October 9. I have many times had thoughts of giving in print some account of the Lord's goodness to me, for the instruction, comfort, and encouragement of the children of God. I have considered to-day all the reasons for and against, and find that there are scarcely any against, and many for it.
November 15. Bristol. Brother C----r and I have been praying together, the last five days, that the Lord would be pleased to send us means for carrying on the work of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. This evening, a brother gave me six shillings and one penny, being money which he formerly used to pay towards the support of a trade club, which he has lately given up for the Lord's sake. November 18. This evening thirty pounds were given to me; twenty-five pounds for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and five pounds for myself. This is a most remarkable answer to prayer. Brother C----r and I have prayed repeatedly together during the last week concerning the work, and especially that the Lord would be pleased to give us the means to continue, and even enlarge the field. In addition to this, I have several times asked for a supply for myself, and he has kindly granted both these requests. O that I may have grace to trust him more and more!