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George Müller: Founder of the Bristol Orphan Houses

George Muller The life and work of George Müller for the last sixty-five years or more afford one of the most irrefragable proofs of the reality of the religion that is inspired by a simple faith in the Word of God, and the revelation of His grace through Jesus Christ—a proof infinitely more convincing than tomes of literature.

Mr. Müller is, by nativity, a German; having been born at Kroppenstadt, Prussia, in September, 1805. After a somewhat reckless youth, he was soundly converted to God at a prayer-meeting in Halle, at the age of twenty. Says Mrs. Müller, "He entered the house unconverted, far from God, and miserable; he left it a rejoicing Christian." With the new heart there came speedily a new and active life. He strongly desired to become a missionary: a wish that was not gratified, however, till late in life, when, at the age of seventy, he commenced those preaching tours in different parts of the world which have been the means of spiritual reviving to multitudes. With the view of undertaking Gospel work among the Jews, Mr. Müller came to London in 1829,and pursued his studies. But God had another sphere of work in store for him.

Through Christian associations formed in Devonshire, whither he had gone to seek bodily health, he became pastor of a church in Teignmouth. He appears at this time to have formed conscientious objections to the receipt of any stated salary; thinking that the true attitude of the faithful servant was a simple dependence on God alone to supply temporal needs, without any human guarantee. "Since that time, now fifty-six years ago, though possessing no property whatever of his own, he has never received any salary, either as pastor of a large church in Bristol, or as Director of the great Institution which he was permitted afterwards to found; nor does he, under any circumstances that may arise, ever take money from the funds of the Institution to supply his own temporal wants, nor even to defray his travelling expenses in the Lord's service, as some suppose; but, whether in England or in other countries, is as wholly dependent upon the Lord now, for everything he needs, as when he first entered on this path of faith."

After two and a half years' work at Teignmouth Mr. Müller was led of God to remove to Bristol, where he began the ministry of the word, in conjunction with a godly Scotchman, Mr. Henry Craik, whose acquaintance he had made at the former place. He and Mr. Craik laboured together in the Gospel happily and successfully, till the latter was called to his rest in 1866.

Mr. Muller did not confine his exertions to the field of pastoral service. In 1834 he founded the "Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad," which has since then accomplished a marvellous amount of work in the establishment of Christian schools; the circulation of religious literature; and the furthering of missionary operations.

In the following year was begun the work among orphans with which the name of George Müller is—and, in coming generations, will be—chiefly associated. From very small beginnings this Institution has steadily grown to its present gigantic proportions, involving an expenditure for buildings and for the support of the orphans of several hundred thousand pounds. All this money has been contributed to the Institution without one solitary direct appeal having been made to any human being. The founder laid it down at the beginning, as an axiomatic principle not to be departed from, that the tale of the needs of his work should be told into the ear of God only, as those needs arose. It is true that Mr. Müller has regularly published annual reports of the Orphan Houses, and the other branches of his many-sided work; but he rightly says that these are but simple statements of past experience and accounts of stewardship rendered, and not in any sense appeals for help. Without at all reflecting on other methods, or even seeming to assume that Mr. Müller's plan is the only one that ought to be followed,in connection with the support of Christian Institutions, it is very manifest that God has clearly set the seal of His approbation on this method, and honoured the simple, child-like, trust and confidence of His servant. That trust has many a time been tried to the last degree; but it has never ultimately been put to shame. We believe we are stating the truth when we say that the thousands of children under Mr. Müller's care, these many years, have never lacked a meal; though it is equally true that there have been times not a few when, as one meal was being prepared, no one knew whence the next was to come.

One of the cardinal doctrines of the work has been that no debt should, under any circumstances, be incurred; and this principle, we understand, has been religiously adhered to. In short, the story of the Ashley Down Orphan Houses is far more truly wonderful than any romantic web of fiction that the brain of mortal man or woman has ever spun. It may be interesting to know that ample provision has been made by Mr. Müller—so far as is practicable—for the future continuance of the Orphan Houses. The whole of the property is vested in the hands of Trustees, and enrolled in Chancery. The deed contains, we believe, minute directions as to what course should be followed by the Trustees in the event of Mr. Müller's decease. It is well known that Herman Franké's Institution for Orphans at Halle, in Germany, was carried on, after his death, by his pious son-in-law; and has been continued to the present day—a period of more than a century and a half. Why may we not hope for a similar history to attend the Institution on Ashley Down?

Space would more than fail us to speak of the preaching tours and missionary labours of the veteran servant of God that have chiefly filled up his time since the year 1875. They are, however, recorded with much circumstantiality and simple grace of diction, by Mrs. Müller in the volume already mentioned (Life and Labours of George Müller). An exceedingly interesting detailed account of the history of "The Bristol Orphan Houses," by Mr. W. Elfe Tayler is published. It records the rise of the work from the first donation of One Shilling on December 7th, 1835, down to the commencement of the year 1870, at which time the total receipts had amounted to £319,404 10S. 6½d.; a period of five-and-thirty years.

We pray that the bow of our much-esteemed and venerated brother may still abide in strength; and that he may be spared to show to the world that the best way of lengthening out a useful life is to believe implicitly in a heavenly Father's love, and trust in His unceasing care. As conveying a good idea of the simplicity and directness of Mr. Müller's preaching—which has a distinct character of its own—the following Address given at one of the Clifton Conferences is here presented:—

A Message to the Church
by George Müller

"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil...and hast borne, and hast patience; and for My Name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee."—Rev.2:1-7.

It is now nearly eighteen hundred years since this short Epistle was sent to the Angel of the Church at Ephesus; yet we are all individually interested in what was written to that Church: "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." Therefore I am called to hear, because I have ears; and you are called to hear, because you have ears.

In the first place, when we read the Epistle addressed to the Angel of the Church at Ephesus, I consider that by "angel" we have to understand that he was a servant of the Most High, particularly caring for the spiritual well-being of the Church at Ephesus. The word translated "angel" both in Greek and Hebrew, means "messenger"; and this individual is called a messenger, because he had to convey God's message to the Church. But while this is the literal meaning, with great comfort it applies also to those who serve generally the Lord Jesus Christ. He says with regard to the Angel of the Church at Ephesus, that he is in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be watched over, to be upheld, to be cared for, to be in safety; and this we should particularly apply to ourselves, if in any little measure we seek to serve the Lord. He is our helper; He is our keeper; and we are in safety only in His hands. Let us see to it, therefore, that we do not practically say: I can do without the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the sign of danger, when we seek to get away from Him.

We have further to notice that the Lord Jesus Christ walked among the candlesticks; and, though churches are no more to be found with the same measure of Gospel light as eighteen hundred years ago, nevertheless we may still say, for our hearts' encouragement, that the Lord Jesus lives. How is it with us? What are our trials? what are our difficulties? for the Lord Jesus is looking on to see how it is with us, and how we behave ourselves. Yes, He is in the midst of His people. We do not deserve it. Our sins have been so many; our departures from the truth have been so great—that the Church deserves no longer that the Lord Jesus should be in her midst to care for her. The Israelites sinned frequently, and provoked the Most High many times; yet the cloud and the fiery pillar were not taken away during the whole forty years. So it is now; the Holy Spirit is still in our midst; the blessed Jesus, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, is ready to do us good. If we find that we need anything, let us come to Him; only let us see that we walk under the eye of the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees everything that goes on, and hears everything that takes place in our midst. How important, then, when we meet for worship—for meditation on the Scriptures—to see to it that there is no formality; and that we do not grieve the heart of the precious Lord Jesus Christ, who has come among us that He may refresh us, and that we may have joy, and not sorrow.

With regard to the message to the Angel, we have to notice this—of deep practical importance. Before a single word of reproof is spoken, all that which is good and right in the man of God is first noticed. And this shows us how the Lord Jesus Christ acts with regard to His saints. He does not despise all that they do, because this is wrong or because that is not quite right; but He sees what is right as to the spirit in which they act. He takes notice of all. He commends to the utmost what He can commend; but, at the same time, He does not connive at evil, and He does not pass it by. And so it is with you and me. Any little thing that He can approve He delights to approve; but at the same time let us keep this before us—that the Lord Jesus is not the minister of sin; cannot call good that which is evil; cannot approve of that which is contrary to His mind. And, therefore, after that He has approved of this thing, and that thing, and the other thing, He brings out this—"I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love." It pains His heart to say it; but it must be said, though it grieves His heart to the utmost.

This is the practical point for every one of us individually. How is it with regard to the three years, the seven years, the twenty years, the forty years, the sixty years, since we were first brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? How is it with us in comparison with that day when first, by God's grace, our eyes were opened to see our lost and ruined condition; and, for the first time, we were able to rejoice in Christ Jesus, and by faith in Him had obtained forgiveness, and stood before Him as just ones—that is, were justified before God, though vile, guilty, hell-deserving sinners in ourselves? How is it with us in comparison with that day? Is Christ to us what He was then? Is the word of His grace as precious as it was then? Do we love Him as we did then? Do the affections go out towards Him as was the case then? Or are we cold, heartless, formal? Oh, let us ask ourselves these questions! They are practical questions. We are here assembled together to obtain blessing for our souls; and it is well that there should be searching of heart among us with regard to this. And should any of us have to say— My love is not what it was then; I do not care for the salvation of my fellow-sinners as I did then; I am not so prayerful; I do not delight in the Scriptures, or in meditation, as I once did. If so, let us deeply humble ourselves; let us make confession: for here, in the case we are considering, the man of God is called to "repent"; he has to come back to his first state.

And for our comfort let us remember that there is a possibility of this being done; for, if not, our precious Lord Jesus Christ would not have called upon the Angel to humble himself, and turn from his ways back into the state in which he was before. And, therefore, let us honestly confess before the Lord our sins, and cry to Him for help; and that He will give us strength to turn from our evil ways, and to come back to the state in which we were at first. The possibility remains; and Jesus is ready to lend the helping hand. Let us expect great things from Him, remembering His word: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." In our spiritual hunger and thirst let us come to Him; and we shall find how ready that Blessed One is to do us good. If we were all to act in this manner, there would be joy in heaven, as there would be joy if sinners were converted.

And are there any who know nothing of this "first love"? Then let me tell you, You know nothing of real joy, real peace. Wherever you may have been seeking it, amid the vanities and pleasures of this evil world, you have not found joy, and never will. All you will meet with, is—disappointment, and a guilty conscience. Therefore, come to Jesus! Pass sentence on yourselves; and accept what God so readily gives for Christ's sake!

Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Christian Portrait Gallery containing over one hundred life-like illustrations with biographic sketches. London: Morgan and Scott, [1900?].

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