FRANKE'S WORKS FOLLOW HIM--GREAT UNDERTAKING CONCEIVED--REASONS FOR ESTABLISHING AN ORPHAN HOUSE--PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE--TREASURE LAID UP IN HEAVEN--IN PRAYER AND IN FAITH, THE WORK IS BEGUN.
November 20. This evening I took tea at a sister's house, where I found Franke's life. I have frequently, for a long time, thought of laboring in a similar way, on a much smaller scale; not to imitate Franke, but in reliance upon the Lord. May God make it plain! November 21. To-day I have had it very much impressed on my heart, no longer merely to think about the establishment of an orphan house, but actually to set about it, and I have been very much in prayer respecting it, in order to ascertain the Lord's mind. November 23. To-day I had ten pounds sent from Ireland, for our Institution. The Lord, in answer to prayer, has given me, in a few days, about fifty pounds. I had asked only for forty pounds. This has been a great encouragement to me, and has still more stirred me up to think and pray about the establishment of an orphan house. Nov. 25. I have been again much in prayer yesterday and to-day about the orphan house, and am more and more convinced that it is of God. May he in mercy guide me!
It may be well to enter somewhat minutely upon the reasons which led me to establish an orphan house. Through my pastoral labors, through my correspondence, and through brethren who visited Bristol, I had constantly cases brought before me, which proved that one of the especial things which the children of God needed in our day, was, to have their faith strengthened. I might visit a brother who worked fourteen or even sixteen hours a day at his trade, the necessary result of which was, that not only his body suffered, but his soul was lean, and he had no enjoyment in God. I might point out to him that he ought to work less, in order that his bodily health might not suffer, and that he might gather strength for his inner man, by reading the word of God, by meditation over it, and by prayer. The reply, however, I generally found to be something like this: "But if I work less, I do not earn enough for the support of my family. Even now, whilst I work so much, I have scarcely enough." There was no trust in God, 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." I might reply something like this: "My dear brother, it is not your work which supports your family, but the Lord; and he who has fed you and your family when you could not work at all, on account of illness, would surely provide for you and yours; if, for the sake of obtaining food for your inner man, you were to work only for so many hours a day as would allow you proper time for retirement. And is it not the case now that you begin the work of the day after having had only a few hurried moments for prayer; and when you leave off your work in the evening, and mean then to read a little of the word of God, are you not too much worn out in body and mind to enjoy it, and do you not often fall asleep whilst reading the Scriptures, or whilst on your knees in prayer?" The brother would allow it was so; he would allow that my advice was good; but still I read in his countenance, even if he should not have actually said so, "How should I get on, if I were to carry out your advice?" I longed, therefore, to have something to point the brother to, as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God that he ever was,--as willing as ever to prove himself the living God, in our day as formerly, to all who put their trust in him.
Again, sometimes I found children of God tried in mind by the prospect of old age, when they might be unable to work any longer, and therefore were harassed by the fear of having to go into the poorhouse. If in such a case I pointed 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 yet it was evident enough that God was not looked upon by them as the living God. I longed to set something before the children of God whereby they might see that he does not forsake, even in our day, those who rely upon him.
Another class of persons were brethren in business, who suffered in their souls, and brought guilt on their consciences, by carrying on their business almost in the same way as unconverted persons do. The competition in trade, the bad times, the over-peopled country, were given as reasons why, if the business were carried on simply according to the word of God, it could not be expected to do well. Such a brother, perhaps, would express the wish that he might be differently situated, but very rarely did I see that there was a stand made for God, that there was the holy determination to trust in the living God, and to depend on him, in order that a good conscience might be maintained. To this class, likewise, I desired to show by a visible proof that God is unchangeably the same.
Then there was another class of persons, individuals who were in professions in which they could not continue with a good conscience, or persons who were in an unscriptural position with reference to spiritual things; but both classes feared, on account of the consequences, to give up the profession in which they could not abide with God, or to leave their position, lest they should be thrown out of employment. My spirit longed to be instrumental in strengthening their faith, by giving them not only instances from the word of God of his willingness and ability to help all those who rely upon him, but to show them by proofs that he is the same in our day. I well knew that the word of God ought to be enough; but I considered that I ought to lend a helping hand to my brethren, if by any means, by this visible proof to the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord, I might strengthen their hands in God; for I remembered what a great blessing my own soul had received through the Lord's dealings with his servant A. H. Franke, who, in dependence upon the living God alone, established an immense orphan house, which I had seen many times with my own eyes. I therefore judged myself bound to be the servant of the church of Christ in the particular point on which I had obtained mercy; namely, in being able to take God by his word, and to rely upon it.
All these exercises of my soul, which resulted from the fact that so many believers with whom I became acquainted were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences on account of not trusting in the Lord, were used by God to awaken in my heart the desire of setting before the church at large, and before the world, a proof that he has not in the least changed; and this seemed to me best done by the establishing of an orphan house. It needed to be something which could be seen, even by the natural eye. Now, if I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, there would be something which, with the Lord's blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God, besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted of the reality of the things of God.
This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children, bereaved of both parents, and seek in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life. I also particularly longed to be used by God in getting the dear orphans trained up in the fear of God; but still, the first and primary object of the work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still. That I was not mistaken, has been abundantly proved since November, 1835, both by the conversion of many sinners who have read the accounts which have been published in connection with this work, and also by the abundance of fruit that has followed in the hearts of the saints, for which, from my inmost soul, I desire to be grateful to God, and the honor and glory of which not only is due to him alone, but which I, by his help, am enabled to ascribe to him.
November 28. I have been, every day this week, very much in prayer concerning the orphan house, chiefly entreating the Lord to take away every thought concerning it out of my mind if the matter be not of him; and have also repeatedly examined my heart concerning my motives in the matter. But I have been more and more confirmed that it is of God.
December 2. I have again these last days prayed much about the orphan house, and have frequently examined my heart, that if it were at all my desire to establish it for the sake of gratifying myself I might find it out. To that end I have also conversed with brother Craik about it, that he might be instrumental in showing me any hidden corruption of my heart concerning the matter, or any other scriptural reason against my engaging in it. The one only reason which ever made me at all doubt as to its being of God that I should engage in this work, is the multiplicity of engagements which I have already. But if the matter be of God, he will in due time send suitable individuals, so that comparatively little of my time will be taken up in this service.
This morning I asked the Lord especially that he would be pleased to teach me through the instrumentality of brother C.; and I went to him, that he might have an opportunity of probing my heart. For as I desire only the Lord's glory, I should be glad to be instructed through the instrumentality of any brother, if the matter be not of him. But brother C., on the contrary, greatly encouraged me in it. Therefore, I have this day taken the first actual step in the matter, in having ordered bills to be printed, announcing a public meeting on December 9, at which I intend to lay before the brethren my thoughts concerning the orphan house, as a means of ascertaining more clearly the Lord's mind concerning the matter. December 5. This evening I was struck, in reading the Scriptures, with these words: "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." I was led to apply this Scripture to the orphan house, and asked the Lord for premises, one thousand pounds, and suitable individuals to take care of the children. December 7. To-day I received the first shilling for the orphan house.
December 9. This afternoon the first piece of furniture was given,--a large wardrobe. This afternoon and evening I was low in spirit as it regards the orphan house, but as soon as I began to speak at the meeting I received peculiar assistance from God. After the meeting, ten shillings was given to me. There was purposely no collection, nor did any one speak besides myself; for it was not in the least intended to work upon the feelings, for I sought to be quite sure concerning the mind of God. 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, though but ten shillings has been given. December 10. I have sent to the press a statement, which contains the substance of what I said at the meeting last evening. I have received a letter, in which a brother and sister wrote thus: "We propose ourselves for the service of the intended orphan house, if you think us qualified for it; also to give up all the furniture, etc., which the Lord has given us, for its use; and to do this without receiving any salary whatever, believing that if it be the will of the Lord to employ us, he will supply all our need," etc. In the evening a brother brought, from several individuals, three dishes, twenty-eight plates, three basins, one jug, four mugs, three salt-stands, one grater, four knives, and five forks.
December 12. While I was praying this morning that the Lord would give us a fresh token of his favor concerning the orphan house, a brother brought three dishes, twelve plates, one basin, and one blanket. After this had been given, I thanked God, and asked him to give even this day another encouragement. Shortly after, fifty pounds was given, and that by an individual from whom, for several reasons, I could not have expected this sum. Thus the hand of God appeared so much the more clearly. Even then I was led to pray that this day the Lord would give still more. In the evening, accordingly, there was sent, by a sister, twenty-nine yards of print. Also a sister offered herself for the work. December 13. A brother was influenced this day to give four shillings per week, as long as the Lord gives the means: eight shillings was given by him as two weeks' subscription. To-day a brother and sister offered themselves, with all their furniture, and all their provisions which they have in the house, if they can be usefully employed in the concerns of the orphan house.
December 14. To-day a sister offered her services for the work. In the evening another sister offered herself for the institution. December 15. A sister brought, from several friends, ten basins, eight mugs, one plate, five dessert spoons, six teaspoons, one skimmer, one toasting-fork, one flour-dredge, three knives and forks, one sheet, one pillow-case, one table-cloth; also one pound. In the afternoon were sent fifty-five yards of sheeting, and twelve yards of calico. December 16. I took out of the box in my room one shilling. December 17. I was rather cast down last evening and this morning about the matter; questioning whether I ought to be engaged in this way, and was led to ask the Lord to give me some further encouragement. Soon after were sent by a brother two pieces of print, the one seven and the other twenty-three and three fourths yards, six and three fourths yards of calico, four pieces of lining, about four yards altogether, a sheet, and a yard measure. This evening another brother brought a quantity of household articles, and told me that it had been put into the heart of an individual to send to-morrow one hundred pounds.
December 18. This afternoon the same brother brought, from a sister, a counterpane, a flatiron-stand, eight cups and saucers, a sugar-basin, a milk jug, a teacup, sixteen thimbles, five knives and forks, six dessert-spoons, twelve teaspoons, four combs, and two little graters; from another friend a flatiron, and a cup and saucer. At the same time he brought the hundred pounds above referred to. Since the publication of the second edition, it has pleased the Lord to take to himself the donor of this hundred pounds, and I therefore give, in this present edition, some further account of the donation and the donor.
A. L. was known to me almost from the beginning of my coming to Bristol, in 1832. She earned her bread by needle-work, by which she gained from two shillings to five shillings per week; the average, I suppose, was not more than three shillings sixpence, as she was weak in body. But I do not remember ever to have heard her utter a word of complaint on account of earning so little. Some time before I had been led to establish an orphan house, her father had died, through which event she had come in possession of four hundred and eighty pounds, which sum had been left to her (and the same amount to her brother and two sisters) by her grandmother, but of which her father had had the interest during his lifetime. The father, who had been much given to drinking, died in debt, which debts the children wished to pay; but the rest, besides A. L., did not like to pay in full, and offered to the creditors twenty-five per cent, which they gladly accepted, as they had not the least legal claim upon the children. After the debts had been paid according to this agreement, sister A. L. said to herself, "However sinful my father may have been, yet he was my father, and as I have the means of paying his debts to the full amount, I ought, as a believing child, to do so, seeing that my brother and sisters will not do it." She then went to all the creditors secretly, and paid the full amount of the debts, which took forty pounds more of her money, besides her share, which she had given before: Her brother and two sisters now gave fifty pounds each of their property to their mother; but A. L. said to herself, "I am a child of God; surely I ought to give my mother twice as much as my brothers and sisters." She therefore gave her mother one hundred pounds. Shortly after this she sent me the hundred pounds towards the orphan house. I was not a little surprised when I received this money from her, for I had always known her as a poor girl, and I had never heard anything about her having come into the possession of this money, and her dress had never given me the least indication of an alteration in her circumstances. Before, however, accepting this money from her, I had a long conversation with her, in which I sought to probe her as to her motives, and in which I sought to ascertain whether, as I had feared, she might have given this money in the feeling of the moment, without having counted the cost. But I had not conversed long with this beloved sister, before I found that she was, in this particular, a quiet, calm, considerate follower of the Lord Jesus, and one who desired, in spite of what human reason might say, to act according to the words of our Lord, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth." "Sell that ye have, and give alms." When I remonstrated with her, in order that I might see whether she had counted the cost, she said to me, "The Lord Jesus has given his last drop of blood for me, and should I not give him this hundred pounds?" She would also have me take five pounds for the poor saints in communion with us. I mention here particularly that this dear sister kept all these things to herself, and did them as much as possible in secret; and during her lifetime, I suppose, not six brethren and sisters among us knew that she had ever possessed four hundred and eighty pounds, or that she had given one hundred pounds towards the orphan house.
I relate one instance more. August 4, 1836, seven months and a half after she had given the hundred pounds, she came one morning to me, and said: "Last evening I felt myself particularly stirred up to pray about the funds of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution; but whilst praying, I thought, what good is it for me to pray for means, if I do not give when I have the means, and I have therefore brought you this five pounds." As I had reason to believe that, by this time, by far the greater part of her money was gone, I again had a good deal of conversation with her, to see whether she really did count the cost, and whether this donation also was given unto the Lord, or from momentary excitement, in which case it was better not to give the money. However, she was at this time also steadfast, grounded upon the word of God; and evidently constrained by the love of Christ; and all the effect my conversation had upon her was, that she said, "You must take five shillings in addition to the five pounds, as a proof that I give the five pounds cheerfully." And thus she constrained me to take the five pounds and five shillings.--Four things are especially to be noticed about this beloved sister, with reference to all this period of her earthly pilgrimage: 1. She did all these things in secret, avoiding to the utmost all show about them, and thus proved that she did not desire the praise of man. 2. She remained, as before, of an humble and lowly mind, and she proved thus that she had done what she did unto the Lord, and not unto man. 3. Her dress remained, during all the time that she had this comparative abundance, the same as before. It was clean, yet as simple and as inexpensive as it was at the time when all her income consisted of three shillings and sixpence, or at most five shillings per week. There was not the least difference as to her lodging, dress, manner of life, etc. She remained in every way the poor handmaid of the Lord, as to all outward appearance. 4. But that which is as lovely as the rest, she continued working at her needle all this time. She earned her two shillings-sixpence, or three shillings, or a little more, a week, by her work, as before; whilst she gave away the money in sovereigns or five-pound notes. At last all her money was gone, and that some years before she fell asleep; and as her bodily health never had been good as long as I had known her, and was now much worse, she found herself peculiarly dependent upon the Lord, who never forsook her, up to the last moments of her earthly course. Her body became weaker and weaker, in consequence of which she was able to work very little, for many months before she died; but the Lord supplied her with all she needed, though she never asked for anything. For instance, a sister in communion With us sent her, for many months, all the bread she used. Her mouth was full of thanksgiving, even in the midst of the greatest bodily sufferings.
December 20. A sister gave five pounds. December 21. A friend sent one pound. Weekly subscription of four shillings. December 22. A sister gave me one pound, and a friend sent two shillings and sixpence. December 23. A brother gave, this evening, a piece of blind line and a dozen of blind tassels. About ten in the evening, a gentleman brought me from an individual, whose name he was not to mention, four pounds, of which I was allowed to take two pounds for the orphan house, and to give the other two pounds to poor believers. December 31. This evening we had a special meeting for prayer and praise. There have been received into the church, during the past year, 59. There are men in communion with us, 95. I have received for my temporal wants, in freewill offerings, presents, etc., £285 1s. 1¼d.
During January to May of 1836, numerous donations were made of furniture, provisions, half-worn clothing, and money (varying from one hundred pounds to a halfpenny). Encouraged by these unsolicited offerings, Mr. Müller determined to open the Orphan House.
April, 21. This day was set apart for prayer and thanksgiving concerning the Orphan House, as it is now opened. In the morning, several brethren prayed, and brother Craik spoke on the last verses of Psalm xx. In the afternoon, I addressed our day and Sunday school children, the orphans, and other children present. In the evening we had another prayer meeting. There are now seventeen children in the Orphan House.
May 6. I have now been for some years, and especially these last few months, more or less thinking and praying respecting publishing a short account of the Lord's dealings with me. To-day I have at last settled to do so, and have begun to write.
May 16. For these several weeks our income has been little; and though I had prayed many times that the Lord would enable us to put by the taxes, yet the prayer remained unanswered. In the midst of it all, my comfort was, that the Lord would send help by the time it would be needed. One thing particularly has been a trial to us of late, far more than our own temporal circumstances, which is, that we have scarcely, in any measure, been able to relieve the distress among the poor saints. To-day, the Lord, at last, after I had many times prayed to him for these weeks past, answered my prayers, there being seven pounds twelve shillings and one farthing given to me as my part of the freewill offerings through the boxes,--two five-pound notes having been put in yesterday, one for brother Craik and one for me. Thus the Lord has again delivered us, and answered our prayers, and that not one single hour too late; for the taxes have not as yet been called for. May he fill my heart with gratitude for this fresh deliverance, and may he be pleased to enable me more and more to trust in him, and to wait patiently for his help?