By George Mueller
AN UNEXPECTED OBSTACLE--IMPLICIT SUBMISSION--A SECOND ORPHAN HOUSE PROPOSED--AN ENCOURAGING TEXT--THE NEW ORPHAN HOUSE OPENED--COMPLETED ANSWER TO PRAYER--PROGRESS OF THE LORD'S WORK--THE OVERSIGHT OF THE FLOCK.
Under date of May 18, 1836, Mr. M. says:--
In the foregoing pages, a statement has been given of the success with which the Lord has been pleased to crown the prayers of his servant respecting the establishment of an Orphan House in this city. The subject of my prayer was, that he would graciously provide a house, either as a loan or as a gift, or that some one might be led to pay the rent for one; further, that he would give me one thousand pounds for the object, and likewise suitable individuals to take care of the children. A day or two after, I was led to ask, in addition to the above, that he would put it into the hearts of his people to send me articles of furniture, and some clothes for the children. In answer to these petitions, many articles of furniture, clothing, and food were sent, a conditional offer of a house, as a gift, was made, individuals proposed themselves to take care of the children, and various sums of money were given, varying from one hundred pounds to a halfpenny.
It may be well to state that the above results have followed in answer to prayer, without any one having been asked by me for one single thing; from which I have refrained, not on account of want of confidence in the brethren, or because I doubted their love to the Lord, but that I might see the hand of God so much the more clearly.
So far as I remember, I brought even the most minute circumstances concerning the Orphan House before the Lord in my petitions, being conscious of my own weakness and ignorance. There was, however, one point I never had prayed about, namely, that the Lord would send children; for I naturally took it for granted that there would be plenty of applications. The appointed time came, and not even one application was made. This circumstance now led me to lie low before my God in prayer, and to examine my heart once more as to all the motives concerning it; and being able, as formerly, to say, that his glory was my chief aim, i. e. that it might be seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God, and still continuing in prayer, I was at last brought to this state, that I could say from my heart that I should rejoice in God being glorified in this matter, though it were by bringing the whole to nothing. But as still, after all, it seemed to me more tending to the glory of God to establish and prosper the Orphan House, I could then ask him heartily to send applications. I enjoyed now a peaceful state of heart concerning the subject, and was also more assured than ever that God would establish it. The very next day the first application was made, and within a short time forty-three applied. I rented the house No. 6, Wilson Street, as being, on account of its cheapness and largeness, very suitable.
I have mentioned that we intended to take in the children from the seventh to the twelfth year. But after six applications had been made for children between four and six years of age, it became a subject of solemn and prayerful consideration, whether, as long as there were vacancies, such children should not be received, though so young. I came at last to the conclusion to take in the little girls under seven years of age, for whom application had been made. Further, it has been repeatedly brought before me, how desirable it would be to establish also, in this city, an Orphan House for male children, and there were even articles sent for little orphan boys. Partly, then, on account of these reasons; and partly because the Institution already opened was quite filled in a few days; and partly because the Lord has done hitherto far above what I could have expected; I have at last, after repeated prayer, come to the conclusion, in the name of the Lord, and in dependence upon him alone for support, to propose the establishment of an Infant Orphan House.
June 3. From May 16 up to this day I have been confined to the house, and a part of the time to my bed, on account of a local inflammation, which keeps me from walking. Almost every day during this time I have been able to continue writing a narrative of the Lord's dealings with me, which had been again laid aside after May 7, on account of a number of pressing engagements. It is very remarkable that the greatest objection against writing it for the press was want of time. Now, through this affliction, which leaves my mind free, and gives me time, on account of confinement to the house, I have been able to write about a hundred quarto pages.
June 14. This morning brother C----r and I prayed unitedly, chiefly about the schools and the circulation of the Scriptures. Besides asking for blessings upon the work, we have also asked the Lord for the means which are needed; for on July 1, seventeen pounds ten shillings will be due for the rent of school-rooms, and, besides this, we want at least forty pounds more to go on with the circulation of the Scriptures, to pay the salaries of the masters, etc. Towards all this we have only about seven pounds. I also prayed for the remainder of the thousand pounds for the Orphan House.
June 21. This evening brother C----r and I found that the Lord has not only been pleased to send us, through the offerings which have come in during the last week, in answer to our prayers, the seventeen pounds ten shillings which will be due for the rent of two school-rooms on July 1, but that we have five pounds more than is needed. Thus the Lord once more has answered our prayers.
July 28. For some weeks past we have not been able to pay the salary of the masters and governesses a month in advance, but have been obliged to pay it weekly. Brother C----r and I have lately prayed repeatedly together respecting the funds, but we were now brought so low, that we should not have been able to pay even this weekly salary of the teachers, had not the Lord most remarkably helped us again to-day. For, besides one pound, which was given to us, this evening a brother gave eight pounds, which sum had been made up by a number of his workmen paying weekly one penny each, of their own accord, towards our funds. The money had been collecting for many months, and, in this our necessity, it had been put into the heart of this brother to bring it.
July 29. This evening, from six to half past nine, we had a meeting for inquirers. There came twelve fresh cases before us.
October 1. To-day, in dependence upon the Lord alone for means, we engaged a brother as a master for a sixth day school. On account of the many deliverances which we have had of late, we have not hesitated to enlarge the field, as another boys' school was greatly needed.
October 5. This evening twenty-five pounds was given to me for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. Thus the Lord has already given the means of defraying the expenses of the new boys' school for some months to come.
October 19. To-day, after having many times prayed respecting the matter, I have at last engaged a sister as matron for the Infant Orphan House, never having been able, up to this day, to meet with an individual who seemed suitable, though there has been money enough in hand, for some time past, for commencing this work, and there have been applications made for several infant orphans.
October 25. To-day we obtained, without any trouble, through the kind hand of God, very suitable premises for the Infant Orphan House.
November 5. There was given by a brother one hundred pounds, fifty pounds of which was previously promised, to insure the rent for premises. It is a remarkable fact, concerning this donation, that I had, in December of last year, repeatedly asked the Lord to incline the heart of this brother to give this hundred pounds, and I made a memorandum of this prayer in my journal of December 12, 1835. On January 25, 1836, fifty pounds was promised by him, and on November 5, fifty pounds besides that sum was given; but it was not till some days after, that I remembered that the very sum for which I had asked the Lord had been given. When it came to my mind that this prayer had been noted down in my journal, and I showed it to the donor, we rejoiced together; he, to have been the instrument in giving, and I to have had the request granted.
November 30. On account of many pressing engagements, I had not been led, for some time past, to pray respecting the funds. But being in great need, I was led, yesterday morning, earnestly to ask the Lord; and in answer to this petition a brother gave me, last evening, ten pounds. He had had it in his heart, for several months past, to give this sum, but had been hitherto kept from it, not having the means. Just now, in this our great necessity, the Lord furnished him with the means, and we were helped in this way. In addition to this ten pounds, I received last evening a letter with five pounds, from a sister whom I never saw, and who has been several times used by God as an instrument to supply our wants. She writes thus: "It has been so much on my mind lately to send you some money, that I feel as if there must be some need, which the Lord purposes to honor me by making me the instrument of supplying. I therefore enclose you five pounds, all I have in the house at this moment."
December 9. One pound, with Mark ix. 36-7: "And taking a little child, he set him in the midst of them," etc., a most encouraging passage for this work, the force of which I had never felt before.
December 15. This day was set apart for prayer and thanksgiving respecting the Infant Orphan House, which was opened on November 28. In the morning we had a prayer meeting. In the afternoon, besides prayer and thanksgiving, I addressed the children of our day schools and the orphans, about 350, on Ecclesiastes xii. 1.
In addition to the items mentioned above, donations were received during the year, of money, food, clothes, books, boxes, coal-hods, ornaments (to be sold), etc.; also, the offer of gratuitous medical attendance, and medicine. Up to the close of 1836, seven hundred and seventy pounds and ninepence halfpenny had been given, and forty pounds promised.
December 31. We had this evening a prayer meeting to praise the Lord for his goodness during the past year, and to ask him for a continuance of his favors.
During the past year there have been received into the church, 52; and the Lord has been pleased to give me, as it regards my temporal supplies, £232 11s. 9d.
January 2, 1837. This evening the two churches had again an especial prayer meeting.
January 5. To-day a sister called and told me about the conversion of her father, who, in his eightieth year, after having for many years lived openly in sin, is at last brought to the knowledge of the Lord. This sister had long prayed for the conversion of her father, and at last, though only after twenty years, the Lord gave her the desire of her heart.
May 18. There are now sixty-four children in the two Orphan Houses, and two more are expected, which will fill the two houses.
May 28. The narrative of some of the Lord's dealings with me is now near being published, which has led me again most earnestly this day week, and repeatedly since, to ask the Lord that he would be pleased to give me what is wanting of the one thousand pounds, for which sum I have asked him on behalf of the orphans; for though, in my own mind, the thing is as good as done, so much so that I have repeatedly been able to thank God that he will surely give me every shilling of that sum, yet to others this would not be enough. As the whole matter, then, about the Orphan House had been commenced for the glory of God, that in this way before the world and the church there might be another visible proof that the Lord delights in answering prayer; and as there was yet a part of the thousand pounds wanting; and as I earnestly desired the book might not leave the press before every shilling of that sum had been given in answer to prayer, without one single individual having been asked by me for anything, that thus I might have the sweet privilege of bearing my testimony for God in this book;--for these reasons, I say, I have given myself earnestly to prayer about this matter since May 21. On May 22 came in seven pounds and ten shillings, and on May 23, three pounds. On May 24, a lady, whom I never saw before, called on me, and gave me forty pounds. This circumstance has greatly encouraged me; for the Lord showed me thereby, afresh, his willingness to continue to send us large sums, and that they can even come from individuals whom we have never seen before. On May 25, three pounds and six shillings were sent, from two unexpected quarters. On May 27 was sent, anonymously, a parcel of worn clothes, from London, and a sovereign. To-day (May 28) I received again four pounds three shillings and sixpence; and also a parcel was sent from a considerable distance, containing seven pairs of socks, and the following trinkets, to be sold for the support of the orphans: one gold pin with an Irish pearl, fifteen Irish pearls, two pins, two brooches, two lockets, one seal, two studs, eleven rings, one chain, and one bracelet, all of gold.
June 15. To-day I gave myself once more earnestly to prayer respecting the remainder of the thousand pounds. This evening five pounds were given, so that now the whole sum is made up. During eighteen months and ten days this petition has been brought before God almost daily. From the moment I asked till the Lord granted it fully, I had never been allowed to doubt that he would give every shilling of that sum. Often have I praised him beforehand, in the assurance that he would grant my request. The thing after which we have especially to seek in prayer is, that we believe that we receive, according to Mark xi. 24: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
As the Lord has so greatly condescended to listen to my prayers, and as I consider it one of the particular talents which he has intrusted to me to exercise faith upon his promises, as it regards my own temporal wants and those of others; and as an Orphan House for boys above seven years of age seems greatly needed in this city; and as also without it we know not how to provide for the little boys in the Infant Orphan House, when they are above seven years of age, I purpose to establish an Orphan House for about forty boys above seven years of age.
July 12. The same friend who gave me on May 24, 1837, forty pounds for the orphans, and whom, up to that time, I had never seen, gave four hundred and sixty pounds more, being altogether five hundred pounds.
It is now three years and four months since brother Craik and I began, in dependence upon the Lord for funds, to seek to help the spread of the gospel through the instrumentality of schools, the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, and by aiding missionary exertions. Since then there have been circulated, through our instrumentality, 4,030 copies of the Scriptures; four day schools, for poor children, have been established by us; 1,119 children have been instructed in the six day schools, and 353 children are now in those six day schools. Besides this, a Sunday school and an adult school have been supplied with all they needed, and missionary exertions in the East Indies, in Upper Canada, and on the continent of Europe, have been aided. In addition to this, the word of God has been preached from house to house among the poor, in connection with the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, by brother C----r, within the last two years.
On the 15th of August, 1837, the preceding portion of this narrative was published.
Aug. 17. To-day two more children were received into the Infant Orphan House, which makes up our full number, sixty-six in the Girls' and Infant Orphan Houses.
September 2. I have been looking about for a house for the orphan boys, these last three days. Everything else has been provided. The Lord has given suitable individuals to take care of the children, money, etc. In his own time he will give a house also.
September 19. It was to-day particularly impressed upon my heart that I ought to seek for more retirement, though the work should apparently suffer ever so much; and that arrangements should be made whereby I may be able to visit the brethren more, as an unvisited church will sooner or later become an unhealthy church. Pastors, as fellow-laborers, are greatly needed among us.
September 28. I have for a long time been too much outwardly engaged. Yesterday morning I spent about three hours in the vestry of Gideon, to be able to have more time for retirement. I meant to do the same in the afternoon, but before I could leave the house I was called on, and thus one person after the other came, till I had to go out. Thus it has been again to-day.
October 16. For a long time past brother Craik and I have felt the importance of more pastoral visiting, and it has been one of our greatest trials that we have been unable to give more time to it. This evening we had purposely a meeting of the two churches, at which brother Craik and I, and a brother from Devonshire, spoke on: I. The importance of pastoral visiting. II. The particular obstacles which hindered us in attending to it. III. The question whether there was any way of removing some of the obstacles.
I. As to the importance of pastoral visiting, the following points were mentioned: 1. Watching over the saints, by means of visiting them, to prevent coldness, or to recover them from backsliding. 2. To counsel and advise them in family affairs, in their business, and in spiritual matters. 3. To keep up that loving and familiar intercourse which is so desirable between saints and those who have the oversight of them. These visits should be, if possible, frequent; but in our case there have been several obstacles in the way.
II. The particular obstacles in our case are: 1. The largeness of the number who are in communion with us. One hundred would be quite as many as we have strength to visit regularly, and as often as would be desirable; but there are nearly four hundred in fellowship with us. 2. The distance of the houses of the saints from our own dwellings, as many live more than two miles off. 3. The Lord's blessing upon our labors. Not one year has passed away, since we have been in Bristol, without more than fifty having been added to our number, each of whom, in general, needed several times to be conversed with before being admitted into fellowship. 4. That brother Craik and I have each of us the care of two churches. At the first sight it appears as if the work is thus divided, but the double number of meetings, etc., nearly double the work. 5. The mere ruling, and taking care, in general, of a large body of believers, irrespective of the other work, takes much more time, and requires much more strength, than the taking care of a small body of believers, as we, by grace, desire not to allow known sin among us. 6. The position which we have in the church at large brings many brethren to us who travel through Bristol, who call on us, or lodge with us, and to whom, according to the Lord's will, we have to give some time. 7. In my own case, an extensive needful correspondence. 8. The weakness of body on the part of both of us. When the preaching is done,--when strangers who lodge with us are gone,--when the calls at our house are over,--when the needful letters, however briefly, are written,--when the necessary church business is settled,--our minds are often so worn out that we are glad to be quiet. 9. But suppose we have bodily strength remaining, after the above things have been attended to, yet the frame of mind is not always so as that one could visit. After having been particularly tried by church matters, which in so large a body does not rarely occur, or being cast down in one's own soul, one may be fit for the closet, but not for visiting the saints. 10. Lastly, in my own case, no small part of my time is taken up by attending to the affairs of the Orphan Houses, schools, the circulation of the Scriptures, the aiding missionary efforts, and other work connected with the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
III. What is to be done under these circumstances? 1. In the days of the apostles there would have been more brethren to take the oversight of so large a body as we are. The Lord has not laid upon us a burden which is too heavy for us; he is not a hard master. It is evident that he does not mean us even to attempt to visit all the saints as much as is evidently needful, and much less as frequently as it would be desirable. We mention this, to prevent uncomfortable feelings on the part of the dear saints under our pastoral care, who find themselves not as much visited as they used to be when we came to Bristol, when the number of them was not seventy, and now it is about four hundred, and when in many other respects the work in our hands was not half so much as it is now, and when we had much more bodily strength. 2. It is therefore evident that there are other pastors needed; not nominal pastors, but such as the Lord has called, to whom he has given a pastor's heart and pastoral gifts. 3. Such may be raised up by the Lord from our own number, or the Lord may send them from elsewhere. 4. But in the mean time we should at least see whether there are not helpers among us. 5. As to the work itself, in order that time may be saved, it appears desirable that the two churches, Bethesda and Gideon, should be united into one, that the breaking of bread should be alternately, and that the number of weekly meetings should be reduced.
October 21. To-day the Lord has given me a house for the Orphan Boys, in the same street in which the other two Orphan Houses are.
Mr. Müller's health having suffered from his cares, money was sent him from unexpected sources, to be used in travelling and recreation.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR 1837.
1. There are now eighty-one children in the three Orphan Houses, and nine brethren and sisters, who have the care of them. Ninety, therefore, daily sit down to table. Lord, look on the necessities of thy servant!
2. The schools require as much help as before; nay, more, particularly the Sunday school, in which there are at present about 320 children, and in the day schools about 350. Lord, thy servant is a poor man; but he has trusted in thee, and made his boast in thee, before the sons of men; therefore let him not be confounded! Let it not be said all this was enthusiasm, and therefore it is come to naught!
3. My temporal supplies have been £307 2s. 6½d.