Having been requested to give you an address this morning, as I am not accustomed to speak at public meetings, it has appeared to me desirable to write out a very brief sketch of my husband's life and labours, which perhaps will interest you more than any other subject I could bring forward. This account I will now read; but, as the founding of the institution of which Mr. Müller is the director is intimately connected with his own early history, it will be necessary to dwell for a few moments upon that.
He is a native of Germany, and was born at Kroppenstüdt in the year 1805. His father wishing him to become a Lutheran clergyman, he was sent to school at Halberstadt at the age of ten years and a half, and he attended higher classical schools until Easter, 1825, when, having passed his examination, he went to the University of Halle, in the kingdom of Prussia.
Up to this time, as far as his studies allowed, he had lived an ungodly, sinful life; and the same course was pursued at Halle; but all that he obtained by freely indulging in the pleasures of the world was—a guilty conscience and an aching heart.
At last he thought, "How happy I should be if I could only travel a great deal;" and God allowed him to have this gratification also, in order to show him how impossible it is for a human being to find happiness in alienation from Himself.
He travelled forty-three days in succession, through Germany and Switzerland, but returned home more miserable than ever, and far from having obtained the delight and enjoyment for which he had so eagerly longed.
At length, however, the time came when God, in the riches of His grace, would have mercy upon him, and bring to an end his wild and reckless course.
In November, 1825, he heard through a university friend of a little meeting held every Saturday evening at the house of a Christian man, where there was singing, prayer, and the reading of the Scriptures, when it immediately appeared to him that he had discovered something for which unconsciously he had been looking all his life. At this meeting he found the Lord Jesus Christ, and became then and there a truly converted character, his sole desire being to live henceforth to the glory of Him who had called him out of darkness into His marvellous light.
I would take this opportunity of remarking that one reason why God has condescended so wonderfully to bless him since that time is unquestionably this—that at an early period in his Christian course he was enabled unreservedly to surrender himself to the Lord, to believe God, and to take Him at His word with the simplicity of a child, and honestly to carry out the light given to him; so that he who had once served Satan with all his might now sought from his inmost soul to serve and follow Jesus. It is important we should all remember this, because half-hearted Christians can never be either happy or useful ones.
His studies at the University of Halle were continued during the years 1825, 1826, 1827, and 1828, and in the year 1829 he went in the service of the Gospel to England.
At Teignmouth, Devonshire, at the beginning of 1830, he became the pastor of an English church; but finding that he could not conscientiously continue to receive a fixed salary, derived from pew rents, he called the church together, and told them that, though it was quite right for believers to supply the temporal necessities of those who ministered to them in word and doctrine, he would henceforth release them from any obligation to pay him a certain yearly sum, but would leave it to their love to give him just whatever at any time they might be able and willing to contribute; adding that in future, whenever he might be in need, his wants would be made known to God, and to Him only. But though led in this manner to abandon the only visible way of obtaining temporal supplies, the Lord has most richly recompensed His servant's faith; for, in answer to persevering and believing prayer, he has received far more for himself and for his family, there is reason to believe, than he ever would have obtained had he sought, with all his might, for a lucrative post in the Church or in the world.
In this way he has been going on now for more than fifty years, without any property of his own, with no settled income whatever, and no salary, either as the pastor of a church of 1,100 members, or as the founder and director of a very large institution.
But though his wants have always been supplied, it must not be supposed on that account that he has been altogether free from difficulties; for the path of faith is the path of trial, and when God gives faith He always tries it, in order that by trial it may be strengthened.
Again and again it came to this, that all his money, even to the smallest copper coin, was gone, and then he asked God for help, which was invariably given, and always at the right moment. Sometimes the last provisions, too, were on the table, whilst no money was in hand to purchase more; but believing, earnest prayer, in the name of Jesus, brought help before the hour for the next meal came round.
At length, after my husband had gone on thus for years, and had received numberless answers to his supplications, when he saw poor destitute children running about the streets, for whose souls no one cared, and whose appearance plainly told that in mind and body they were neglected, this thought pressed itself upon him—"Could I not do something to benefit these poor children, and might I not trust in God for them, as well as confide in Him for the supply of my own temporal necessities and those of my family?" After giving himself long and earnestly to prayer, he was led on the 5th of March, 1834, to found a little institution called "The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad," which had the following objects:—
1. To establish day schools, Sunday schools, and adult schools.
2. To circulate the Holy Scriptures among the very poorest of the poor.
3. To aid missionary operations.
4. To circulate religious books, pamphlets, and tracts for the benefit of believers and unbelievers; and
5. The orphan work was established.
Of the principles of the institution I will only mention two:
1. That debt should never be incurred, a decision which for forty-six
years and ten months has scrupulously been acted upon.
2. That no rich, great man—no English nobelman, for instance—should be its patron, but that the living God Himself should be the patron of the institution.
Now the word of the Lord is, "Them that honour me, I will honour," and as Mr. Müller sought thus, in the most public way, to honour God, the Lord ever since has honoured him. He began with one day school; now we have 75, of which fourteen are in Spain, attended by 1,000 Catholic children; one is in Italy, five are in the East Indies, six in Demerara and Essequibo, and the others are scattered throughout England and Wales.
He began with one Sunday School; now we have 36 connected with the institution. He began with one adult school; now we have six and 75 day schools; and on the 26th of May, 1880, in these 117 schools there were altogether 9,504 pupils. The total number attending these schools from the foundation of the institution, up to May 26th, 1880, is 76,766.
All of them have been established simply through the instrumentality of prayer and faith; and, though the annual expenditure connected with them is $50,000, no one has ever been applied to for anything towards their support, and every dollar continues to be obtained in the same manner.
But the most encouraging fact in connection with them is that thousands of the pupils attending these schools have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord, through the instruction there given to them.
The second object of the institution is the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, which began in a very small way; but God soon increased it greatly.
Last year we circulated 16,000 Bibles and 84,000 New Testaments; and from the commencement of the work more than 150,000 Bibles and 467,811 New Testaments, besides hundreds of thousands of smaller portions of the Word of God, have been circulated, and many of these in different languages. Through this part of the work multitudes of souls have been converted, particularly in Spain and Italy. The entire sum necessary for this object also has been obtained by prayer and faith only.
The third object of the institution is to aid missionary efforts.
From the commencement of the work missionaries have been assisted by its funds, and within the last thirty years great numbers of these brethren have had help afforded them. Through the blessing of God upon their labours, tens of thousands of souls have been converted. The vast sum required for this branch of the work has likewise been obtained solely by believing prayer.
The fourth object of the institution is the circulation of religious books, pamphlets, and tracts, to benefit both believers and unbelievers. From the commencement of this department of the work, up to May 26th, 1880, 70,363,000 books, pamphlets, and tracts, in various languages, have been circulated in different parts of the world, by means of which multitudes of souls have been won for our Lord Jesus. The large amount required for this object also has been obtained through the instrumentality of prayer and faith.
The fifth object of the institution is to board, clothe, and scripturally educate destitute children who have been bereaved of both parents by death.
That which led Mr. Müller to commence the orphan work was that in the course of his pastoral labours he discovered that nothing was so much needed in the Church of God as an increase of faith.
He judged, therefore, that if he should be able to supply everything needed for the support of orphans (whether many or few) by prayer and faith alone, plain proof would be given, both to the Church and to the world, that the Lord Himself is all-sufficient to supply the wants of those who really trust in Him, and in Him only.
Orphans were first received in rented houses in 1836, but after some years it became necessary to build; and we have now five large orphan houses, each house forming a block of buildings in itself.
In these five houses there are altogether 500 rooms, many of which are 60, 70, and 80 feet in length, their width being in proportion; and all the buildings contain more than 1,700 large windows. The five orphan houses are fitted up for the reception of 2,050 orphans and 110 helpers.
The girls are trained for domestic service; we always find situations for them in Christian families, and they usually leave us when they are about seventeen years of age. The boys are apprenticed to a trade or business; but when Christian boys and girls show particular aptitude for teaching we train them to become teachers, and in this way some of our own teachers are trained. "We generally have nearly 2,000 orphans at a time in these five houses, which are all situated in the same locality in a fine, open, healthy situation, called Ashley Down, at the top of Ashley Hill, just outside the city of Bristol, England.
You will be interested to hear that a remarkable work of the Holy Spirit is now going on amongst our orphan boys and girls, hundreds of whom have been awakened to an anxious concern about their souls, which has ended in many instances in real conversion and much joy in the Lord. They hold prayer meetings amongst themselves, and pray for the conversion of their companions who yet remain unawakened.
Since the commencement of the work there is the fullest reason to believe that thousands of the orphans have been converted.
The total amount needed every year for the five objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution is $220,000, all of which is obtained solely by believing prayer; and from 1834 to the present time $4,475,000 have been received. In the course of the year the milk alone for the orphans costs $10,000, and in other respects the expenditure for them is very large.
Of our work in England I have given a very brief, imperfect sketch, the barest outline only; and, did time permit, many interesting particulars might be added. I would therefore refer any who desire to see a more detailed account of it to "Müller's Life of Trust," published by Messrs. Sheldon, 8, Murray Street, New York, a book which has been wonderfully blessed of God to the many thousands who have read it.
During the last five years and ten months my husband has been led to make extensive preaching tours, in order to preach the Gospel, to stir up Christians, to unite them increasingly together, to lead them to value more the Holy Scriptures, and to benefit believers as much as possible by giving them some account of the Lord's dealings with him during the last fifty years.
During these seven tours Mr. Müller has preached more than 1,700 times, and in the course of them we have visited England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, Italy, Canada, and the United States, going as far west as California; and up to the present time have travelled about 50,000 miles.
As there are instructed brethren in Christ to assist in the work of the ministry in the church at Bristol of which for forty-eight years he has been the pastor, he is able to leave home for several months in the year; and during his absence the institution is under the godly and able direction of Mr. Wright, his son-in-law, who, with a devoted band of fellow-helpers, undertakes the entire management of the work.
And now, in conclusion, I would say, What a God have we who by faith are united to the Lord Jesus Christ! Let us seek more unreservedly to trust in Him about everything; to commit all our matters, great and small, into His keeping, and to live increasingly to the glory of Him who has redeemed us by His precious blood. You may not be called upon to establish schools or to build orphan houses, but we are all called upon to take God at His word, and should earnestly seek for grace to trust Him at all times and under all circumstances.
[Note.—Since the above address was given, Mr. Müller has visited Egypt, Palestine, Asia Minor, Turkey, and Greece, and is now absent on his ninth preaching tour, during which he has been labouring in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Russia. He is now at St. Petersburgh, where he preaches from eight to ten times a week, with much help from the Lord.—Editor, Footstep of Truth.]
From Footsteps of Truth edited by C. Russell Hurditch. London: J. F. Shaw & Co, ©1883.
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