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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible; please see detailed list of printing issues at the end of the text.
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THE LIFE OF TRUST:
NARRATIVE OF THE LORD'S DEALINGS
GEORGE MUeLLER, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.
EDITED AND CONDENSED BY REV. H. LINCOLN WAYLAND, PASTOR OF THE THIRD BAPTIST CHURCH, WORCESTER, MASS.
With an Introduction
BOSTON: GOULD AND LINCOLN, 59 WASHINGTON STREET. NEW YORK: SHELDON AND COMPANY. CINCINNATI: GEORGE S. BLANCHARD.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by GOULD AND LINCOLN,
In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BY GEO. C. RAND AND AVERY, 3 CORNHILL.
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Having been requested by MESSRS. GOULD AND LINCOLN to examine the work entitled "A NARRATIVE OF SOME OF THE LORD'S DEALINGS WITH GEORGE MUeLLER," the Editor was convinced that its republication in this country would greatly promote the piety of American Christians. But to reproduce the work in its original form was attended with difficulty. The "Narrative," in four parts, (published respectively in 1837, 1841, 1845, and 1856,) and the four "Annual Reports" issued in 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860, would occupy not less than eighteen hundred pages of the size of those contained in this volume. The cost of such a work would greatly limit its circulation and its usefulness, if indeed any publisher should undertake its issue. There seemed no alternative except to abandon the idea of an American edition altogether, or to present it to the public in a condensed form.
Such a condensation seemed, on examination, to be entirely practicable. Owing to the "Parts" of the "Narrative" having been published at four separate periods, it often happens that the same matter is several times repeated. A large portion of the space is occupied with the acknowledgment of donations received. These entries, although appropriate in a report made to the donors and to the British public, have not the same interest for American readers. The discussion of some points in church polity, and the account of the Author's journeys upon the Continent, though interesting and instructive, are not necessary to the continuity of the history. Although in some cases the portions which have been omitted cover a considerable period of time, yet it is believed that all which is essential has been retained. No pains have been spared on the part of the Editor to preserve the value of the work while reducing its compass, and to give, in a form universally accessible, a clear exhibition of the wonderful results of the life of George Mueller, as well as of the principles by which his life has been governed.
Believing that the book would be rendered more attractive to the reader, and more convenient for reference, the Editor has divided it into Chapters, and has prefixed to each a brief statement of some of the leading subjects introduced in the Chapter. For these "contents," as well as for the headings of the Chapters, and for the general title of the volume, the Editor alone is responsible.
The "Narrative" of George Mueller has been blessed in other lands to the awakening of spiritual life. It was the means, as will be observed by the reader, of greatly forwarding, if not of originating, the work of grace now advancing in Ireland. "THE LIFE OF TRUST" is submitted to the Christian public of America, in the hope that its still small voice may be heard even amid the clangor of political strife and the revulsion of commercial interests, and that it may be used by the Divine Spirit to promote and strengthen in the hearts of American Christians, FAITH IN THE LIVING GOD.
H. L. W.
WORCESTER, DEC. 12, 1860
It was only after the consideration of many months, and after much self-examination as to my motives, and after much earnest prayer, that I came to the conclusion to write this work. I have not taken one single step in the Lord's service concerning which I have prayed so much. My great dislike to increasing the number of religious books would, in itself, have been sufficient to have kept me forever from it, had I not cherished the hope of being instrumental in this way to lead some of my brethren to value the Holy Scriptures more, and to judge by the standard of the Word of God the principles on which they act. But that which weighed more with me than anything, was, that I have reason to believe, from what I have seen among the children of God, that many of their trials arise either from want of confidence in the Lord as it regards temporal things, or from carrying on their business in an unscriptural way. On account, therefore, of the remarkable way in which the Lord has dealt with me as to temporal things, I feel that I am a debtor to the church of Christ, and that I ought, for the benefit of my poorer brethren especially, to make known the way in which I have been led. In addition to this, I know that to many souls the Lord has blessed what I have told them about the way in which he has led me, and therefore it seemed a duty to use such means, whereby others also, with whom I could not possibly converse, might be benefited. That which induced me finally to determine to write this Narrative was, that if the Lord should permit the book to sell, I might, by the profits arising from the sale, be enabled in a greater degree to help the poor brethren and sisters among whom I labor;—a matter which, just at that time, weighed much on my mind. I therefore began to write. But after three days I was obliged to lay the work aside on account of my other pressing engagements. Subsequently, I was laid aside on account of an abscess; and being unable, for many weeks, to walk about as usual, though able to work at home, I had time for writing. When the manuscript was nearly completed I gave it to a brother to look over, that I might have his judgment; and the Lord so refreshed his spirit through it, that he offered to advance the means for having it printed, with the understanding that if the book should not sell he would never consider me his debtor. By this offer not a small obstacle was removed, as I have no means of my own to defray the expense of printing. These last two circumstances, connected with many other points, confirmed me that I had not been mistaken, when I came to the conclusion that it was the will of God that I should serve his church in this way.
The fact of my being a foreigner, and therefore but very imperfectly acquainted with the English language, I judged to be no sufficient reason for keeping me from writing. The Christian reader, being acquainted with this fact, will candidly excuse any inaccuracy of expression.
For the poor among the brethren this Narrative is especially intended, and to their prayers I commend it in particular.
Boyhood and Youth.
BIRTH—EARLY DISHONESTY—INSENSIBILITY—CONFIRMATION IN THE STATE CHURCH—DISSOLUTENESS OF LIFE—THE HARD WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS—THE GYMNASIUM AT NORDHAUSEN—THE UNIVERSITY AT HALLE—ROVINGS 31
The Prodigal's Return.
A TREASURE FOUND—DAWNING OF THE NEW LIFE—THE PEACE OF GOD—"I AM COME TO SET A MAN AT VARIANCE AGAINST HIS FATHER"—"LET HIM THAT HEARETH SAY, COME"—THE FIRST SERMON—DELIGHT IN THE LORD—A COMMON ERROR—THE FOUNTAIN NEGLECTED 38
DESIRE FOR MISSIONARY LABOR—PROVIDENTIAL RELEASE FROM MILITARY SERVICE—VISIT AT HOME—LED TO THE LAND OF HIS FUTURE LABORS—PROGRESS IN RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE—DESIRE FOR IMMEDIATE USEFULNESS 47
Leaning on Jesus.
A DOOR OPENED—TOKENS FOR GOOD—TRUST EXERCISED IN THE STUDY AND MINISTRY OF THE WORD—THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT—TRUSTING IN GOD FOR DAILY BREAD—BLESSEDNESS OF WAITING UPON THE LORD—"OWE NO MAN"—"ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH BE IT UNTO YOU"—THE GIFT OF FAITH AND THE GRACE OF FAITH 58
Ministry at Bristol Begun.
"HERE HAVE WE NO CONTINUING CITY"—CAUTION TO THE CHRISTIAN TRAVELLER—NEW TOKENS FOR GOOD—THE WAY MADE CLEAR—MEETINGS FOR INQUIRY—NO RESPECT OF PERSONS WITH GOD—FRANCKE, "BEING DEAD, YET SPEAKETH"—DAILY BREAD SUPPLIED—A PECULIAR PEOPLE 80
The Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
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 94
Home for Destitute Orphans.
FRANKE'S WORKS FOLLOW HIM—A 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 111
The Field Widening.
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 125
THE MINISTRY OF SICKNESS—PEACE OF MIND—JESUS A PRESENT HELP—DEEP POVERTY—PLEADING WITH GOD—UNITED PRAYER 138
"PERPLEXED BUT NOT IN DESPAIR"—FAITH JUSTIFIED—A LESSON OF OBEDIENCE—BOUNTIFUL SUPPLIES—SPIRITUAL INGATHERING—A DAY OF MERCIES—TIMELY AID—A SEASON OF PLENTY—OBEDIENCE REWARDED 151
Asking and Receiving.
HELP FOR THE POOR SAINTS—THE UNFAILING BANK—MEANS EXHAUSTED—LIBERALITY OF A LABORING SISTER—"HE KNOWETH OUR FRAME"—REDEEMING THE TIME—GODLINESS PROFITABLE UNTO ALL THINGS 167
Plenty and Want.
A PURE OFFERING REQUIRED—A JOURNEY PROPOSED—SEASONABLE PROVISION—LOOKING ONLY TO THE LORD—THE WRATH OF MAN PRAISING GOD—A PROMISE FULFILLED—BENEFIT OF TRIAL—NEW SPRINGS OPENED—BEFORE THEY CALL I WILL ANSWER—TRUST IN GOD COMMENDED—SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS 181
Faith Strengthened by Exercise.
A WANT SUPPLIED—RESOURCES EXCEEDING THE DEMAND—EVIL OF SURETYSHIP—POWER OF CHRISTIAN LOVE—GOD'S WORD THE FOOD OF THE SOUL—PREPARATION FOR THE HOUR OF TRIAL—POVERTY—DEPENDING ONLY ON THE LIVING GOD 200
Walking in Darkness.
"GOD'S WAY LEADS INTO TRIAL"—GROUNDS OF THANKFULNESS—PROTRACTED DARKNESS—CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED—TRUST IN GOD COMMENDED—THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT—REVIEW OF THE WORK 214
ABUNDANT SUPPLIES—RESTING ON THE WRITTEN WORD—"SEEKING AND FINDING"—ERRONEOUS IMPRESSIONS REMOVED—PERSEVERING AND PREVAILING PRAYER ANSWERED—"LENGTHENING THE CORDS AND STRENGTHENING THE STAKES"—A FOURTH ORPHAN HOUSE 241
EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY TREASURES—SEEKING THE KINGDOM OF GOD—FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER—THE CHRISTIAN MERCHANT—EXAMPLES—MISTAKES 259
AN UNEXPECTED REQUEST—DELIBERATION—A GREAT UNDERTAKING—RELIANCE ON THE RESOURCES OF THE LIVING GOD—AN ANSWER EXPECTED AND RECEIVED—PRAYER FOR FAITH AND PATIENCE—FURTHER PROOFS OF DIVINE FAVOR—THE BLESSEDNESS OF DEVISING LIBERAL THINGS 294
Faith Confirmed by Prosperity.
THE SPIRIT OF SUPPLICATION BESTOWED AND PRAYER ANSWERED—THE TIME OF MAN'S NEED AND OF GOD'S BOUNTY—FAITH NOT SHAKEN—DEALING ONLY WITH GOD—THE NEEDED AMOUNT FURNISHED—PERPETUAL "NEED"—NOT WEARY IN GOD'S WORK—JOY IN ANSWERED PRAYER—FOUR REQUESTS GRANTED—"CONTINUING INSTANT IN PRAYER"—THE BUILDING COMMENCED—PERSONAL HISTORY—A MARKED DELIVERANCE 319
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS—DEVISING LIBERAL THINGS—THE ORPHANS PROVIDED FOR—A MEMORABLE DAY—MONEY "AT INTEREST"—MEANS FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE—THE PROGRESS OF THE NEW ORPHAN HOUSE—MEANS PROVIDED FOR ITS COMPLETION—INEXPRESSIBLE DELIGHT IN GOD—REVIEW OF THE TWO YEARS PAST 347
A New Victory of Faith.
PAST MERCIES AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO NEW UNDERTAKINGS—A HOUSE FOR SEVEN HUNDRED ORPHANS PROPOSED—WALKING BY FAITH—COUNSEL SOUGHT FROM GOD—THE PURPOSE FORMED—DELIGHT IN THE MAGNITUDE AND DIFFICULTY OF THE DESIGN 364
DESIRES FOR MORE ENLARGED USEFULNESS GRATIFIED—A LARGE DONATION ANTICIPATED AND RECEIVED—REVIEW OF 1851—PERSONAL EXPERIENCE—BUILDING FUND FOR THE SECOND NEW ORPHAN HOUSE—DOUBT RESISTED—WAITING ON GOD NOT IN VAIN—REVIEW OF 1852 389
Reaping in Joy.
EXPECTING GREAT THINGS FROM GOD—MUNIFICENT DONATION—INCREASING USEFULNESS OF THE SCRIPTURAL KNOWLEDGE INSTITUTION—ACCESS TO GOD THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST—A VOICE FROM MOUNT LEBANON—BENEFIT OF WAITING GOD'S TIME—CAREFUL STEWARDSHIP—FAITH, THE ONLY RELIANCE—"THIS POOR WIDOW HATH CAST IN MORE THAN THEY ALL"—GREATER ACHIEVEMENTS OF FAITH ANTICIPATED—COUNSEL TO TRACT DISTRIBUTORS—A NEW AND SEVERE TRIAL OF FAITH 402
Three Years of Prosperity.
THE SITE SELECTED—SIX THOUSAND ORPHANS IN PRISON—HOW TO ASK FOR DAILY BREAD—REVIEW OF TWENTY-FOUR YEARS—"TAKE NO THOUGHT FOR THE MORROW"—INSURANCE AGAINST BAD DEBTS 426
THE HOUSE FOR FOUR HUNDRED OPENED—PRAYER MORE THAN ANSWERED—THE RESORT IN TROUBLE—AN OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT ON THE ORPHANS—LAND FOR A NEW BUILDING PURCHASED—"BUT ONE LIFE TO SPEND FOR GOD"—"SCATTERING, YET INCREASING"—A MEMORABLE YEAR—THE GERM OF THE IRISH REVIVAL—LETTER FROM AN ORPHAN—THE FRUIT OF SIX MONTHS' PRAYER—THE RESULTS OF THE WORK—REVIVAL AMONG THE ORPHANS 446
What is meant by the prayer of faith? is a question which is beginning to arrest, in an unusual degree, the attention of Christians. What is the significance of the passages both in the New Testament and the Old which refer to it? What is the limit within which they may be safely received as a ground of practical reliance? Were these promises limited to prophetical or apostolical times; or have they been left as a legacy to all believers until the end shall come?
Somehow or other, these questions are seldom discussed either from the pulpit or the press. I do not remember to have heard any of them distinctly treated of in a sermon. I do not know of any work in which this subject is either theoretically explained or practically enforced. It really seems as if this portion of Revelation was, by common consent, ignored in all our public teachings. Do not men believe that God means what he appears plainly to have asserted? or, if we believe that he means it, do we fear the charge of fanaticism if we openly avow that we take him at his word?
The public silence on this subject does not, however, prevent a very frequent private inquiry in respect to it. The thoughtful Christian, when in his daily reading of the Scriptures he meets with any of those wonderful promises made to believing prayer, often pauses to ask himself, What can these words mean? Can it be that God has made such promises as these to me, and to such men as I am? Have I really permission to commit all my little affairs to a God of infinite wisdom, believing that he will take charge of them and direct them according to the promptings of boundless love and absolute omniscience? Is prayer really a power with God, or is it merely an expedient by which our own piety may be cultivated? Is it not merely a power (that is, a stated antecedent accompanied by the idea of causation), but is it a transcendent power, accomplishing what no other power can, over-ruling all other agencies, and rendering them subservient to its own wonderful efficiency? I think there are few devout readers of the Bible to whom these questions are not frequently suggested. We ask them, but we do not often wait for an answer. These promises seem to us to be addressed either to a past or to a coming age, but not to us, at the present day. Yet with such views as these the devout soul is not at all satisfied. If an invaluable treasure is here reserved for the believer, he asks, why should I not receive my portion of it? He cannot doubt that God has in a remarkable manner, at various times, answered his prayers; why should he not always answer them? and why should not the believer always draw near to God in full confidence that he will do as he has said? He may remember that the prayer which has been manifestly answered was the offspring of deep humility, of conscious unworthiness, of utter self-negation, and of simple and earnest reliance on the promises of God through the mediation of Christ. Why should not his prayers be always of the same character? With the apostles of old he pours out his soul in the petition, "Lord, increase our faith."
And yet it can scarcely be denied that the will of God has been distinctly revealed on this subject. The promises made to believing prayer are explicit, numerous, and diversified. If we take them in their simple and literal meaning, or if in fact we give to them any reasonable interpretation whatever, they seem to be easily understood. Our difficulty seems to be this: the promise is so "exceeding great" that we cannot conceive God really to mean what he clearly appears to have revealed. The blessing seems too vast for our comprehension; we "stagger at the promises, through unbelief," and thus fail to secure the treasure which was purchased for us by Christ Jesus.
It may be appropriate for us to review some of the passages which refer most directly to this subject:—
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him."
[Footnote 1: Matthew vii. 7-11.]
In the Gospel of Luke the same words are repeated, with a single variation at the close. "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him."
[Footnote 2: Luke xi. 13.]
"I say unto you that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
[Footnote 3: Matthew xviii. 19, 20.]
"Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do that which is done to the fig-tree, but also ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and it shall be done. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
[Footnote 4: Matthew xxi. 21, 22.]
The same promise, slightly varied in form, is found in the Gospel of Mark. "Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you that whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he hath said shall come to pass, he shall have whatever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
[Footnote 5: Mark xi. 22-24.]
Now I do not pretend that we are obliged to receive these words literally. Unless, however, we believe the Saviour to have spoken repeatedly on the same subject, at random, and with no definite meaning, we must understand him to have asserted that things impossible by the ordinary laws of material causation are possible by faith in God. I do not perceive, if we allow these words to have any meaning whatever, that we can ascribe to them any other significance.
"Verily I say unto you, He that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it."
[Footnote 6: John xiv. 12-14.]
"Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
[Footnote 7: John xvi. 23, 24.]
"The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;" that is, it is a real power, a positive energy. The apostle illustrates what he means by availing prayer by the example of Elias, a man subject to like passions as we are: "He prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months; and he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."
[Footnote 8: James v. 16.]
[Footnote 9: James v. 17, 18.]
The conditions on which prayer will be heard are in various places specified, but particularly in John xv. 7: "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." That is, if I understand the passage, prevalence in prayer is conditioned by the conformity of our souls to the will of God; "if ye abide in me and my words abide in you." On this condition, and on this only, may we ask what we will, with the assurance that it will be done unto us. Faith, in its most simple meaning, is that temper of the mind in the creature which responds to every revealed perfection of the Creator. Just according to the degree in which this correspondence exists, is the promise made that we shall have whatsoever we ask.
It is evident, from the eleventh of Hebrews, that the views of the Apostle Paul concerning faith were entirely in harmony with the passages recited above. He reviews the lives of the most eminent saints, for the express purpose of showing that the impressive events in their history, whether physical or moral, were controlled entirely by faith. He sums up the whole in this remarkable language:—
"And what shall I say more? For the time would fail me to tell of those who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." We are, I think, taught by this passage that the apostle believed faith to be a power capable of transcending and modifying every other agency, by which changes became possible which to every other known power were impossible. We see that in this catalogue of the victories of faith he includes the subjection of almost every form of what we call natural laws. The whole passage seems an illustration of the meaning of our Lord, when he says, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this sycamine tree, Be thou removed and planted in the midst of the sea, and it shall obey you."
It seems then apparent that the doctrine of the peculiar and wonderful power of the prayer of faith is as clearly revealed in the Scriptures as any other doctrine. It would seem evident, at any rate, from the passages just quoted, that the Apostle Paul understood the teachings of our Saviour to mean what they say. From the general tenor of the Scriptures I think we may learn two important truths: First, that there is a certain state of mind in a devout soul to which God has promised all that it asks, subject, however, as to the manner of the answer, to the dictates of his infinite wisdom and goodness; and, second, that in granting such petitions he does not always limit his action within the ordinary or acknowledged laws of matter or of mind. I do not perceive how we can interpret the passages above cited, as well as many others, without giving them a meaning at least as extensive as this.
Why is it, then, that this whole range of revealed truth has so generally been looked upon as an unknown and unexplored region? Why should we limit either the goodness or the power of God by our own knowledge of what we call the laws of nature? Why should we not admit that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy"? In a universe governed by moral law, why should not moral laws take precedence of all others? Why should we deny that there is a power in prayer to which we have not commonly attained? We are straitened in ourselves, and suppose that we are straitened in God. We interpret the gracious promises of our most loving Father in heaven by the rule of our own imperfect and unbelieving piety. We ask for light from without, while the light can only come from a more elevated piety within. We ask for examples of the effects of faith at the present day, corresponding to those spoken of in the sacred Scriptures. Thoughtful men acknowledge that there must be a meaning in these promises, which they have not yet understood, and they see plainly that the kingdom of God can never come with power until this prevalence in prayer shall have become a matter of universal attainment; and yet they dare hardly believe that God is as good as he has revealed himself to be.
There have, nevertheless, from time to time, occurred, what plainly appear to be, remarkable instances of answers to prayer. Many of them have faded from recollection, with the generation in which they occurred; those which are remembered, however, seem to teach us that God is a living God now as truly as in times past. The history of persecutions is always filled with remarkable answers to prayer. The rescue of Peter from the power of the Sanhedrim in one case, and from the power of Herod in another, has been a thousand times repeated in the history of the church of Christ. The answer to prayer for divine direction as to the time and manner of performing some Christian service, to which an individual has felt himself specially called, has frequently been very remarkable. The biographies of the early and of many of the later Friends are replete with such instances. Any one who will read the edifying memoirs of George Fox, John Woolman, William Allen, and Stephen Grellet, will find what I have alluded to abundantly exemplified. The well-authenticated accounts of the late revivals in this country and in Ireland teach us that most remarkable instances of answers to prayer were of almost daily occurrence. In the last century a single instance deserves particular remembrance; it was the founding of Franke's Orphan House at Halle. It seemed to him to be a Christian duty to attempt something for the relief of orphans, and he commenced the undertaking. From time to time, as the number of applicants increased, the means for their support was provided, in answer, as he firmly believed, to fervent and unceasing prayer. Thus an extensive establishment was reared, which has continued to the present day, providing education and support for thousands of the poor and destitute, and it has been for a century and a half one of the most honored of the charitable institutions of the continent of Europe.
The most remarkable instance of the efficacy of prayer with which I am acquainted, is that recorded in the following pages. It seems, in fact, to be a practical illustration of the meaning of those passages of Scripture which I have already recited. A young German Christian, friendless and unknown, is conscious of what he believes to be a call from the Lord to attempt something for the benefit of the poor vagabond children of Bristol. He is at this time preaching the gospel to a small company of believers, from whom, at his own suggestion, he receives no salary, being supported day by day by the voluntary offerings of his brethren. Without the promise of aid from any being but God, he commences his work. In answer to prayer, funds are received as they are needed, and the attempt succeeds beyond his expectation. After a few years he is led to believe that God has called him to establish a house for the maintenance and education of orphans. He was impelled to this effort, not only from motives of benevolence, but from a desire to convince men that God was a LIVING GOD, as ready now as ever to answer prayer; and that, in the discharge of any duty to which he calls us, we may implicitly rely upon his all-sufficient aid in every emergency.
Mr. Mueller was led to undertake this work in such a manner that aid could not be expected from any being but God. He did not of course expect God to create gold and silver and put them into his hands. He knew, however, that God could incline the hearts of men to aid him, and he believed, if the thing that he attempted was of Him, that he would so incline them, in answer to prayer, as his necessities should require. Most men in making such an attempt would have spread the case before the public, employed agents to solicit in its behalf, and undertaken nothing until funds adequate to the success of the enterprise had been already secured. But Mr. Mueller, true to his principles, would do no such thing. From the first day to the present moment he has neither directly nor indirectly solicited either of the public or of an individual a single penny. As necessities arose he simply laid his case before God and asked of him all that he needed, and the supply has always been seasonable and unfailing.
The conductors of benevolent enterprises generally consider it important to publish the names of donors, appealing thus to what is considered an innocent desire in man to let our good deeds be known, and thus also to stimulate others to do likewise. Ignoring every motive of this kind, Mr. Mueller made it his rule to publish the name of no contributor. When the name was known to him, which, however, was not often the case, he made a private acknowledgment; while in his printed account he only made known the sum received, and the date of its reception. In this manner, forsaking every other reliance but God, and in childlike simplicity looking to him alone for the supply of every want, all that he needed was furnished as punctually as if, in possession of millions, he had drawn from time to time on his banker.
Thus has he continued from, I think, the year 1834. By degrees the establishment increased, and it was necessary to leave the hired houses in which the children had thus far been accommodated. Land was purchased, and a building was erected in the vicinity of Bristol. This was soon filled to overflowing, and another building was demanded. This was erected, and it also was very soon filled. These buildings were sufficient to accommodate seven hundred orphans. At the present moment, a third building, larger than either, is in the process of erection, and is to be finished in the course of the ensuing summer. When this shall be completed, accommodations will have been provided for eleven hundred and fifty orphans. These expensive buildings have been erected; the land has been purchased on which they stand; this multitude of children has been clothed and fed and educated; support and remuneration have been provided for all the necessary teachers and assistants, and all this has been done by a man who is not worth a dollar. He has never asked any one but God for whatever they needed, and from the beginning they have never wanted a meal, nor have they ever allowed themselves to be in debt. There seems in this to be something as remarkable as if Mr. Mueller had commanded a sycamine tree to be removed and planted in the sea, and it had obeyed him.
But this is not all. Mr. Mueller saw that there was a great demand for copies of the Holy Scriptures, both in Great Britain and on the Continent, and he commenced the work of Bible distribution. This so rapidly extended itself that he was soon obliged to open in Bristol a large Bible House. He believed that great good might be done by the circulation of religious tracts, and he has carried on this work extensively. He was moved to make an attempt to aid and even to support missionaries among the heathen, as well as other good men, of various denominations, who, with very inadequate means of living, were preaching the gospel to the poor and destitute at home. He began to aid them as their necessities came to his knowledge, and now one hundred such men are depending on him, wholly or in part, for support.
Here, then, we certainly behold a remarkable phenomenon. A single man, wholly destitute of funds, is supporting and educating seven hundred orphans, providing everything needful for their education, is in himself an extensive Bible and Tract and Missionary Society, the work is daily increasing in magnitude, and the means for carrying it on are abundantly supplied, while he is connected with no particular denomination, is aided by no voluntary association, and he has asked the assistance of not a single individual. He has asked no one but God, and all his wants have been regularly supplied. In these labors of love he has, up to the present time, expended nearly a million of dollars. It is thus that he has endeavored to show to an unbelieving world that God is a living God, and that he means what he has said in every one of his promises.
[Footnote 10: The following brief statistics will show the magnitude of the work already accomplished:—
The number of pupils hitherto instructed in all the day, evening, and Sunday schools, is 13,124. The whole number of orphans educated within the establishment is 1,153. Of the 700 now in the Institution, 260 are hopefully pious. Missionaries aided at the present time, 100. Since 1834 there have been circulated,—Bibles, 24,768; Testaments, 15,100; Psalms, 719; other portions of Scripture, 1,876; or, total, 42,463 Bibles or portions of Scripture. Tracts and books (not pages, but separate publications), 11,493,174.
Two large buildings have been erected, a third is in the process of erection; the land on which they stand has been purchased. The expense of the orphan work alone has amounted to L133,528 sterling, and the expenses are daily increasing.
The contributions by which these expenditures have been met have been sent from every quarter of the globe. The largest amounts have been, as might be expected, from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; but to these may be added the Cape of Good Hope, Mt. Lebanon, Demerara, Newport, R. I., New York, Philadelphia, California, France, Holland, Sardinia, Australia, etc., etc.]
I have referred to Mr. Mueller as if he were the sole agent in this work. This, however, is by no means true. His co-workers in the Institution are all of the same spirit as himself. Mr. Craik, a gentleman from Scotland, has been with him from the beginning, has shared in all the labors and responsibilities of these vast undertakings, and has been specially blessed as a preacher of the gospel. The remuneration of all the assistants is contingent on the means received in answer to prayer. When sacrifices are to be made, they are all prompt to make them, and they do not expect an answer to prayer until they have contributed, from their own scanty wages, whatever can be spared after providing for their actual necessities.
The last Report of Mr. Mueller's labors has just been received. From this we learn another interesting fact. It seems that the late revival in Ireland is indirectly connected with these labors in Bristol. A pious young Irishman read "The Dealings of the Lord with George Mueller," and received from it new views of the power of believing prayer. He felt the need of prayer for the perishing around him, and determined by prayer and conversation to labor for their salvation. First, however, he asked that God would give him an associate. This prayer was granted. These two then united in earnest prayer for some additions to their number. This prayer was granted. In this manner a small company was united in asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on their neighborhood. They devoted themselves to prayer and to labor among the people by whom they were surrounded. Their prayers were answered. The Spirit was poured out; twenty-five souls were converted. Multitudes united with them in supplication. They went from place to place, praying and laboring for the conversion of men; and thus the work extended, until the whole district of Ulster was visited with that remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
All these we suppose to be indisputable facts. If in any respect there has been a misstatement, or even an exaggeration, the means are abundant for detecting it. The whole work has been carried on in the presence and under the inspection of the whole city of Bristol. There stand those large and expensive buildings. There are seen the seven hundred orphans who are in every respect admirably cared for. Everything has been paid for, for Mr. Mueller is never in debt. His poverty is well known, and he will not accept of any money as a provision for his future necessities. His accounts have been annually audited by a competent committee. There is not the man living who can contradict his assertion, "I never asked aid from a single individual." Hundreds weekly visit the Institution, and no one has ever found in it anything at variance with Mr. Mueller's published statements. Last of all, the Rev. Dr. Sawtelle, a gentleman known to thousands in this country, has added his independent testimony to the truth of all that is here related. More conclusive evidence to the truth of facts cannot be desired.
To account for a fact is to refer it to some general law whose existence is already established. When it is therefore asked, How shall these facts be accounted for? we inquire, to what known law can they be referred? They cannot certainly be referred to any known law of human action. How would we decide if a similar case should occur in physics? Suppose a series of experiments should be made daily for twenty-five years in chemistry or mechanics, with the same invariable result, and this result could be referred to no previously established law,—to what conclusion should we arrive? There could be but one conclusion, in which all men of science would unite. They would all declare that a new law had been discovered, and would modify their systems accordingly. It seems to me that on all sound philosophical principles we are bound to come to the same conclusion in the present case. We can refer these facts to no other law than to that announced by the Saviour in his promise to answer the prayer of faith. There is no reason to suppose that in the case of Mr. Mueller and his associates there is anything exceptional or peculiar. What God has done for them we cannot doubt that, under the same conditions, he will do for every other believing disciple of Christ.
What, then, are the conditions of this remarkable experiment, if such we may call it? They are something like the following. A poor and unknown man is convinced that it is his duty, as a servant of Christ, to labor in several ways for the relief of the temporal and spiritual wants of the ignorant and destitute. He consecrates himself to the work by dedicating to it his time and labor, and whatever pecuniary means should come into his possession. He resolved that he would neither appeal to any of the ordinary motives which dispose men to humanity, nor even solicit aid from any human being, but simply make his wants known to God, believing that, if he was doing the work of God, the divine promise was pledged in his behalf. Not only did he trust in God that all the pecuniary aid which he needed would be furnished, but that, in answer to prayer, all needed wisdom would be given him in the conduct of his complicated and arduous undertakings. The result has met his most sanguine expectations. The institution has increased to a most magnificent charity, aside from its missionary, Bible, and tract operations; all its wants have been from time to time supplied; and it is at the present moment carried on upon precisely the same principles on which it commenced. We cannot resist the conclusion that if any one will undertake any other Christian work in a similar spirit, and on the same principles, his labor will be attended with a similar result.
While we believe this, however, we do not pretend to affirm that just such immediate results will always be seen. This would be to limit the omniscience of God by the short-sighted ignorance of man. It may best suit the purposes of infinite goodness to answer the prayer of faith by crosses and disappointments; but these in the end shall be found in the most signal manner to promote the object to be accomplished. While the disciples were praying and laboring for the extension of the kingdom of Christ in Jerusalem, it seemed a strange answer to prayer that they should be driven out of the city; but the meaning of it was evident when churches arose in Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch, and it became manifest that the gospel was designed not for Jews alone; but for the whole family of man. Paul devoted himself with unquenchable zeal to the salvation of men, and, with a fervid eloquence which has given him a place among the noblest orators of antiquity, delighted to spend his life in persuading men to be reconciled to God. He was a man whose confidence in God was as unshaken as any whose history has been recorded by the pen of inspiration. It doubtless was to the disciples of that age, as well as to himself, a most unaccountable dispensation that he should have been impeded in his great work by the necessity of composing dissensions and rectifying errors which were constantly arising in the churches which he had planted, and, most of all, that so many years of his life should have been spent in prison. Yet it is to these, at the time untoward circumstances, that we owe the writing of those epistles which occupy so large a portion of the volume of inspiration, and without which the message of God to man would not have been completed. In no other way could his prayer to be useful to the cause of Christ have been so fully answered.
With this understanding of the promise granted to the prayer of faith, I do not see why we should not take the case of Mr. Mueller as an example for our imitation. Whoever attains to this same simple desire in all things to do the will of God, and to the same childlike trust in his promises, may, I think, hope for a similar blessing. God is no respecter of persons. "If any man do his will, him he heareth." And all the teaching of the Scriptures confirms us in this belief. The passages which we have quoted at the commencement of this paper, with hundreds of others, all lead to the same conclusion. In the Scriptures every form of illustration is used to impress upon us the conviction that God is indeed our Father, and that he delights to grant our requests for anything that is for our benefit, and specially that he pledges himself to direct by his counsel, and aid by his providence, every one who honestly labors to promote the cause of true benevolence and real religion.
If this be so, how important is this subject in its bearing on individual effort. No Christian, though the poorest and humblest, ever need despair of doing a noble work for God. He need never wait until he can obtain the co-operation of the multitude or the wealthy. Let him undertake what he believes to be his duty, on ever so small a scale, and look directly to God for aid and direction. If it be a seed which God has planted, it will take root, grow, and bear fruit, "having seed within itself." "It is better to trust in God than to put confidence in man; it is better to trust in God than to put confidence in princes." A multitude of cases can be adduced to prove that this course is in harmony with the designs of God. It is abundantly shown in the case of Mr. Mueller. Take the case of Robert Raikes. Suppose that he had established no school until a powerful association, formed from ecclesiastical dignitaries, millionaires, and the multitude, had united in his support, his effort could hardly have escaped ridiculous failure. On the contrary, he simply established a school by himself. It was a seed which God had planted, and its fruit now shakes like Lebanon.
On the contrast which is seen between the plan of Mr. Mueller and the plans by which our missionary and other benevolent operations are conducted, it is unnecessary to enlarge. If Mr. Mueller is right, I think it is evident that we are all wrong. We cannot go into this subject in detail. We may, however, be permitted to remark, that the means which are frequently employed to secure the approbation and pecuniary aid of worldly men, in carrying forward the cause of Christ, are intensely humiliating. It would seem as though God was the last being to be relied on in carrying forward the work which he has given us to do.
But it is time to bring these remarks to a close. We commend this most unpretending of narratives to the thoughtful consideration of Christians of all denominations. We have greatly overrated the teaching of these facts, if they do not furnish strong incentives to A LIFE OF HOLY EXERTION, AND IMPART AN UNWONTED AND POWERFUL MOTIVE TO EARNEST AND BELIEVING PRAYER.
PROVIDENCE, December 17, 1860.
THE LIFE OF TRUST.
BOYHOOD AND YOUTH.
BIRTH—EARLY DISHONESTY—INSENSIBILITY—CONFIRMATION IN THE STATE CHURCH—DISSOLUTENESS OF LIFE—THE HARD WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS—THE GYMNASIUM AT NORDHAUSEN—THE UNIVERSITY AT HALLE—ROVINGS.
I was born at Kroppenstaedt, near Halberstadt, in the kingdom of Prussia, September 27, 1805. In January, 1810, my parents removed to Heimersleben, about four miles from Kroppenstaedt, where my father was appointed collector in the excise.
My father, who educated his children on worldly principles, gave us much money, considering our age. The result was, that it led me and my brother into many sins. Before I was ten years old, I repeatedly took of the government money which was intrusted to my father, and which he had to make up; till one day, as he had repeatedly missed money, he detected my theft, by depositing a counted sum in the room where I was, and leaving me to myself for a while. Being thus left alone, I took some of the money, and hid it under my foot in my shoe. When my father, after his return, had counted and missed the money, I was searched and my theft detected.
[Footnote 11: The opinion is often entertained that persons who become eminent for power in prayer and nearness of communion with God, owe their attainments to natural excellence of character, or to peculiarly favoring circumstances of early education. The narrative of the youth of Mueller exhibits the fallaciousness of this view, and shows that the attainments which he made are within the reach of any one who will "ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not."—ED.]
When I was between ten and eleven years of age I was sent to Halberstadt, there to be prepared for the university; for my father's desire was that I should become a clergyman; not, indeed, that thus I might serve God, but that I might have a comfortable living. My time was now spent in studying, reading novels, and indulging, though so young, in sinful practices. Thus it continued till I was fourteen years old, when my mother was suddenly removed. The night she was dying, I, not knowing of her illness, was playing at cards till two in the morning, and on the next day, being the Lord's day, I went with some of my companions in sin to a tavern, and then we went about the streets half intoxicated.
This bereavement made no lasting impression on my mind. I grew worse and worse. Three or four days before I was confirmed, and thus admitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, I was guilty of gross immorality; and the very day before my confirmation, when I was in the vestry with the clergyman to confess my sins, after a formal manner, I defrauded him; for I handed over to him only the twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him. In this state of heart, without prayer, without true repentance, without faith, without knowledge of the plan of salvation, I was confirmed, and took the Lord's Supper, on the Sunday after Easter, 1820. Yet I was not without some feeling about the solemnity of the thing, and stayed at home in the afternoon and evening, whilst the other boys and girls, who had been confirmed with me, walked about in the fields.
My time till midsummer, 1821, was spent partly in study, but in a great degree in playing the piano-forte and guitar, reading novels, frequenting taverns, forming resolutions to become different, yet breaking them almost as fast as they were made. My money was often spent on my sinful pleasures, through which I was now and then brought into trouble, so that once, to satisfy my hunger, I stole a piece of coarse bread, the allowance of a soldier who was quartered in the house where I lodged.
At midsummer, 1821, my father obtained an appointment at Schoenebeck, near Magdeburg, and I embraced the opportunity of entreating him to remove me to the cathedral classical school of Magdeburg; for I thought that if I could but leave my companions in sin, and get out of certain snares, and be placed under other tutors, I should then live a different life. My father consented, and I was allowed to leave Halberstadt, and to stay at Heimersleben till Michaelmas. Being thus quite my own master, I grew still more idle, and lived as much as before in all sorts of sin. When Michaelmas came, I persuaded my father to leave me at Heimersleben till Easter, and to let me read the classics with a clergyman living in the same place. I was now living on the premises belonging to my father, under little real control, and intrusted with a considerable sum of money, which I had to collect for my father, from persons who owed it to him. My habits soon led me to spend a considerable part of this money, giving receipts for different sums, yet leaving my father to suppose I had not received them.
In November, I went on a pleasure excursion to Magdeburg, where I spent six days in much sin, and though my absence from home had been found out by my father before I returned from thence, yet I took all the money I could obtain, and went to Brunswick, after I had, through a number of lies, obtained permission from my tutor. I spent a week at Brunswick, in an expensive hotel. At the end of the week my money was expended. I then went, without money, to another hotel, in a village near Brunswick, where I spent another week in an expensive way of living. At last, the owner of the hotel, suspecting that I had no money, asked for payment, and I was obliged to leave my best clothes as security. I then walked about six miles, to Wolfenbuttel, went to an inn, and began again to live as if I had plenty of money. On the second or third morning I went quietly out of the yard, and then ran off; but being suspected and observed, and therefore seen to go off, I was immediately called after, and so had to return. I was arrested, and being suspected to be a thief, was examined for about three hours, and then sent to jail. I now found myself, at the age of sixteen, an inmate of the same dwelling with thieves and murderers. I was locked up in this place day and night, without permission to leave my cell.
I was in prison from Dec. 18, 1821, till January 12, 1822, when the keeper told me to go with him to the police office. Here I found that the commissioner before whom I had been tried, had acquainted my father with my conduct; and thus I was kept in prison till my father sent the money which was needed for my travelling expenses, to pay my debt in the inn, and for my maintenance in the prison. So ungrateful was I now for certain little kindnesses shown to me by a fellow-prisoner, that, although I had promised to call on his sister, to deliver a message from him, I omitted to do so; and so little had I been benefited by this, my chastisement, that, though I was going home to meet an angry father, only two hours after I had left the town where I had been imprisoned, I chose an avowedly wicked person as my travelling companion for a great part of my journey.
My father, who arrived two days after I had reached Heimersleben, after having severely beaten me, took me home to Schoenebeck, intending, at Easter, to send me to a classical school at Halle, that I might be under strict discipline and the continual inspection of a tutor. Easter came, and I easily persuaded him to let me stay at home till Michaelmas. But after that period he would not consent to my remaining any longer with him, and I left home, pretending to go to Halle to be examined. But having a hearty dislike to the strict discipline of which I had heard, I went to Nordhausen, and had myself examined to be received into that school. I then went home, but never told my father a word of all this deception till the day before my departure, which obliged me to invent a whole chain of lies. He was then very angry; but at last, through my entreaties and persuasion, he gave way and allowed me to go. This was in October, 1822.
I continued at Nordhausen two years and six months. During this time I studied with considerable diligence the Latin classics, French, history, my own language, etc.; but did little in Hebrew, Greek, and the mathematics. I lived in the house of the director, and got, through my conduct, highly into his favor, so much so that I was held up by him in the first class as an example to the rest. I used now to rise regularly at four, winter and summer, and generally studied all the day, with little exception, till ten at night.
But whilst I was thus outwardly gaining the esteem of my fellow-creatures, I did not care in the least about God, but lived secretly in much sin, in consequence of which I was taken ill, and for thirteen weeks confined to my room. During my illness I had no real sorrow of heart, yet, being under certain natural impressions of religion, I read through Klopstock's works without weariness. I cared nothing about the word of God. I had about three hundred books of my own, but no Bible. Now and then I felt that I ought to become a different person, and I tried to amend my conduct, particularly when I went to the Lord's Supper, as I used to do twice every year, with the other young men. The day previous to attending that ordinance, I used to refrain from certain things; and on the day itself I was serious, and also swore once or twice to God, with the emblem of the broken body in my mouth, to become better, thinking that for the oath's sake I should be induced to reform. But after one or two days were over, all was forgotten, and I was as bad as before.
At Easter, 1825, I became a member of the University of Halle, and that with very honorable testimonials. I thus obtained permission to preach in the Lutheran Establishment; but I was as truly unhappy and as far from God as ever. I had made strong resolutions now at last to change my course of life, for two reasons: first, because, without it, I thought no parish would choose me as their pastor; and secondly, that without a considerable knowledge of divinity I should never get a good living. But the moment I entered Halle, the university town, all my resolutions came to nothing. Being now more than ever my own master, I renewed my profligate life afresh, though now a student of divinity. Yet in the midst of it all I had a desire to renounce this wretched life, for I had no enjoyment in it, and had sense enough left to see that the end, one day or other, would be miserable. But I had no sorrow of heart on account of offending God.
One day, when I was in a tavern with some of my wild fellow-students, I saw among them one of my former school-fellows, named Beta, whom I had known four years before at Halberstadt, but whom at that time I had despised, because he was so quiet and serious. It now appeared well to me to choose him as my friend, thinking that, if I could but have better companions, I should by that means improve my own conduct. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm."
This Beta was a backslider. When formerly he was so quiet at school, I have reason to believe it was because the Spirit of God was working on his heart; but now, having departed from the Lord, he tried to put off the ways of God more and more, and to enjoy the world of which he had known but little before. I sought his friendship, because I thought it would lead me to a steady life; and he gladly formed an acquaintance with me, as he told me afterwards, because he thought it would bring him into gay society.
At the commencement of August, Beta and I, with two other students, drove about the country for four days. When we returned, instead of being truly sorry on account of this sin, we thought of fresh pleasures; and as my love for travelling was stronger than ever, through what I had seen on this last journey, I proposed to my friends to set off for Switzerland. The obstacles in the way, the want of money, and the want of the passports, were removed by me. For, through forged letters from our parents, we procured passports, and through pledging all we could, particularly our books, we obtained as much money as we thought would be enough. Forty-three days we were day after day travelling, almost always on foot.
I had now obtained the desire of my heart. I had seen Switzerland. But still I was far from being happy. I was on this journey like Judas; for, having the common purse, I was a thief. I managed so that the journey cost me but two thirds of what it cost my friends. I had, by many lies, to satisfy my father concerning the travelling expenses. During the three weeks I stayed at home, I determined to live differently for the future. I was different for a few days; but when the vacation was over, and fresh students came, and, with them, fresh money, all was soon forgotten.
THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN.
A TREASURE FOUND—DAWNING OF THE NEW LIFE—THE PEACE OF GOD—"I AM COME TO SET A MAN AT VARIANCE AGAINST HIS FATHER"—"LET HIM THAT HEARETH SAY, COME"—THE FIRST SERMON—DELIGHT IN THE LORD—A COMMON ERROR—THE FOUNTAIN NEGLECTED.
The time was now come when God would have mercy upon me. At a time when I was as careless about him as ever, he sent his Spirit into my heart. I had no Bible, and had not read in it for years. I went to church but seldom; but, from custom, I took the Lord's Supper twice a year. I had never heard the gospel preached. I had never met with a person who told me that he meant, by the help of God, to live according to the Holy Scriptures. In short, I had not the least idea that there were any persons really different from myself, except in degree.
On Saturday afternoon, about the middle of November, 1825, I had taken a walk with my friend Beta. On our return he said to me that he was in the habit of going on Saturday evenings to the house of a Christian, where there was a meeting. On further inquiry, he told me that they read the Bible, sang, prayed, and read a printed sermon. No sooner had I heard this than it was to me as if I had found something after which I had been seeking all my life long. We went together in the evening. As I did not know the manners of believers, and the joy they have in seeing poor sinners, even in any measure, caring about the things of God, I made an apology for coming. The kind answer of the dear brother I shall never forget. He said: "Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you." We sat down and sang a hymn. Then brother Kayser, now a missionary in Africa, fell on his knees and asked a blessing on our meeting. This kneeling down made a deep impression upon me; for I had never either seen any one on his knees, nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees. He then read a chapter and a printed sermon; for no regular meetings for expounding the Scriptures were allowed in Prussia, except an ordained clergyman was present. At the close we sang another hymn, and then the master of the house prayed. Whilst he prayed, my feeling was something like this: "I could not pray as well, though I am much more learned than this illiterate man." The whole made a deep impression on me. I was happy; though, if I had been asked why I was happy, I could not have clearly explained it.
When we walked home, I said to Beta: "All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening." Whether I fell on my knees when I returned home, I do not remember; but this I know, that I lay peaceful and happy in my bed. This shows that the Lord may begin his work in different ways. For I have not the least doubt that on that evening he began a work of grace in me, though I obtained joy without any deep sorrow of heart, and with scarcely any knowledge. But that evening was the turning-point in my life. The next day, and Monday, and once or twice besides, I went again to the house of this brother, where I read the Scriptures with him and another brother; for it was too long for me to wait till Saturday came again.
Now my life became very different, though not so that all sins were given up at once. My wicked companions were given up; the going to taverns was entirely discontinued; the habitual practice of telling falsehoods was no longer indulged in; but still a few times after this I spoke an untruth. I read the Scriptures, prayed often, loved the brethren, went to church from right motives, and stood on the side of Christ, though laughed at by my fellow-students.
In January, 1826, I began to read missionary papers, and was greatly stirred up to become a missionary myself. I prayed frequently concerning this matter, and thus made more decided progress for a few weeks. About Easter, 1826, I saw a devoted young brother, named Hermann Ball, a learned man, and of wealthy parents, who, constrained by the love of Christ, preferred laboring in Poland among the Jews as a missionary to having a comfortable living near his relations. His example made a deep impression on me. The Lord smiled on me, and I was, for the first time in my life, able fully and unreservedly to give up myself to him.
At this time I began truly to enjoy the peace of God which passeth all understanding. In my joy I wrote to my father and brother, entreating them to seek the Lord, and telling them how happy I was; thinking that, if the way to happiness were but set before them, they would gladly embrace it. To my great surprise an angry answer was returned. About this period the Lord sent a believer, Dr. Tholuck, as professor of divinity to Halle, in consequence of which a few believing students came from other universities. Thus also, through becoming acquainted with other brethren, the Lord led me on.
My former desire to give myself to missionary service returned, and I went at last to my father to obtain his permission, without which I could not be received into any of the German missionary institutions. My father was greatly displeased, and particularly reproached me, saying that he had expended so much money on my education, in hope that he might comfortably spend his last days with me in a parsonage, and that he now saw all these prospects come to nothing. He was angry, and told me he would no longer consider me as his son. But the Lord gave me grace to remain steadfast. He then entreated me, and wept before me; yet even this by far harder trial the Lord enabled me to bear. After I had left my father, though I wanted more money than at any previous period of my life, as I had to remain two years longer in the university, I determined never to take any more from him; for it seemed to me wrong, so far as I remember, to suffer myself to be supported by him, when he had no prospect that I should become what he would wish me to be, namely, a clergyman with a good living. This resolution I was enabled to keep.
Shortly after this had occurred, several American gentlemen, three of whom were professors in American colleges, came to Halle for literary purposes, and, as they did not understand German, I was recommended by Dr. Tholuck to teach them. These gentlemen, some of whom were believers, paid so handsomely for the instruction which I gave them, and for the lectures of certain professors which I wrote out for them, that I had enough and to spare. Thus did the Lord richly make up to me the little which I had relinquished for his sake. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him."
Whitsuntide, and the two days following, I spent in the house of a pious clergyman in the country; for all the ministers at Halle, a town of more than twenty thousand inhabitants, were unenlightened men. God greatly refreshed me through this visit. Dear Beta was with me. On our return we related to two of our former friends, whose society we had not quite given up, though we did not any longer live with them in sin, how happy we had been on our visit. I then told them how I wished they were as happy as ourselves. They answered, We do not feel that we are sinners. After this I fell on my knees, and asked God to show them that they were sinners. Having done so, I went into my bedroom, where I continued to pray for them. After a little while, I returned to my sitting-room and found them both in tears, and both told me that they now felt themselves to be sinners. From that time a work of grace commenced in their hearts.
Though very weak and ignorant, yet I had now, by the grace of God, some desire to benefit others, and he who so faithfully had once served Satan, sought now to win souls for Christ. I circulated every month about three hundred missionary papers. I also distributed a considerable number of tracts, and often took my pockets full in my walks, and distributed them, and spoke to poor people whom I met. I also wrote letters to some of my former companions in sin. I visited, for thirteen weeks, a sick man, who, when I first began to speak to him about the things of God, was completely ignorant of his state as a sinner, trusting for salvation in his upright and moral life. After some weeks, however, the Lord allowed me to see a decided change in him, and he afterwards repeatedly expressed his gratitude that I had been sent to him by God to be the means of opening his blind eyes.
Having heard that there was a schoolmaster living in a village about six miles from Halle, who was in the habit of holding a prayer meeting at four o'clock every morning, with the miners, before they went into the pit, giving them also an address, I thought he was a believer; and as I knew so very few brethren, I went to see him, in order, if it might be, to strengthen his hands. About two years afterwards, he told me that when I came to him first he knew not the Lord, but that he had held these prayer meetings merely out of kindness to a relative, whose office it was, but who had gone on a journey; and that those addresses which he had read were not his own, but copied out of a book. He also told me that he was much impressed with my kindness, and what he considered condescension on my part in coming to see him, and this, together with my conversation, had been instrumental in leading him to care about the things of God, and I knew him ever afterwards as a true brother.
This schoolmaster asked me whether I would not preach in his parish, as the aged clergyman would be very glad of my assistance. Up to this time I had never preached; yet I thought that by taking a sermon, or the greater part of one, written by a spiritual man, and committing it to memory, I might benefit the people. I set about putting a printed sermon into a suitable form, and committing it to memory. There is no joy in man's own doings and choosings. I got through it, but had no enjoyment in the work. It was on August 27, 1826, at eight in the morning, in a chapel of ease. There was one service more, in the afternoon, at which I needed not to have done anything; but having a desire to serve the Lord, though I often knew not how to do it scripturally, and knowing that this aged and unenlightened clergyman had had this living for forty-eight years, and having therefore reason to believe that the gospel scarcely ever had been preached in that place, I had it in my heart to preach again in the afternoon. It came to my mind to read the fifth chapter of Matthew, and to make such remarks as I was able. I did so. Immediately upon beginning to expound "Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc., I felt myself greatly assisted; and whereas in the morning my sermon had not been simple enough for the people to understand it, I now was listened to with the greatest attention, and I think was also understood. My own peace and joy were great. I felt this a blessed work.
On my way to Halle I thought, this is the way I should like always to preach. But then it came immediately to my mind that such sort of preaching might do for illiterate country people, but that it never would do before a well-educated assembly in town. I thought the truth ought to be preached at all hazards, but it ought to be given in a different form, suited to the hearers. Thus I remained unsettled in my mind as it regards the mode of preaching; and it is not surprising that I did not then see the truth concerning this matter, for I did not understand the work of the Spirit, and therefore saw not the powerlessness of human eloquence. Further, I did not keep in mind that if the most illiterate persons in the congregation can comprehend the discourse, the most educated will understand it too; but that the reverse does not hold true.
It was not till three years afterwards that I was led, through grace, to see what I now consider the right mode of preparation for the public preaching of the word. But about this, if God permit, I will say more when I come to that period of my life.
It was about this time that I formed the plan of exchanging the University of Halle for that of Berlin, on account of there being a greater number of believing professors and students in the latter place. But the whole plan was formed without prayer, or at least without earnest prayer. When, however, the morning came on which I had to apply for the university testimonials, the Lord graciously stirred me up prayerfully to consider the matter; and finding that I had no sufficient reason for leaving Halle, I gave up the plan, and have never had reason to regret having done so.
The public means of grace by which I could be benefited were very few. Though I went regularly to church when I did not preach myself, yet I scarcely ever heard the truth; for there was no enlightened clergyman in the town. And when it so happened that I could hear Dr. Tholuck, or any other godly minister, the prospect of it beforehand, and the looking back upon it afterwards, served to fill me with joy. Now and then I walked ten or fifteen miles to enjoy this privilege.
Another means of grace which I attended, besides the Saturday-evening meetings in brother Wagner's house, was a meeting every Lord's-day evening with the believing students, six or more in number, increased, before I left Halle, to about twenty. In these meetings, one or two, or more, of the brethren prayed, and we read the Scriptures, sang hymns, and sometimes also one or another of the brethren spoke a little in the way of exhortation, and we read also such writings of godly men as were calculated for edification. I was often greatly stirred up and refreshed in these meetings; and twice, being in a backsliding state, and therefore cold and miserable, I opened my heart to the brethren, and was brought out of that state through the means of their exhortations and prayers.
As to the other means of grace, I would say, I fell into the snare into which so many young believers fall, the reading of religious books in preference to the Scriptures. I read tracts, missionary papers, sermons, and biographies of godly persons. I never had been at any time of my life in the habit of reading the Holy Scriptures. When under fifteen years of age, I occasionally read a little of them at school; afterwards God's precious book was entirely laid aside, so that I never read one single chapter of it till it pleased God to begin a work of grace in my heart. Now the scriptural way of reasoning would have been: God himself has consented to be an author, and I am ignorant about that precious book, which his Holy Spirit has caused to be written through the instrumentality of his servants, and it contains that which I ought to know, the knowledge of which will lead me to true happiness; therefore I ought to read again and again this most precious book of books, most earnestly, most prayerfully, and with much meditation; and in this practice I ought to continue all the days of my life. But instead of acting thus, my difficulty in understanding it, and the little enjoyment I had in it, made me careless of reading it; and thus, like many believers, I practically preferred, for the first four years of my divine life, the works of uninspired men to the oracles of the living God. The consequence was, that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.
The last and most important means of grace, prayer, was comparatively but little used by me. I prayed, and prayed often, and in general, by the grace of God, with sincerity; but had I prayed as earnestly as I have of late years, I should have made much more rapid progress.
DESIRE FOR MISSIONARY LABOR—PROVIDENTIAL RELEASE FROM MILITARY SERVICE—VISIT AT HOME—LED TO THE LAND OF HIS FUTURE LABORS—PROGRESS IN RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE—DESIRE FOR IMMEDIATE USEFULNESS.
In August, 1827, I heard that the Continental Society in England intended to send a minister to Bucharest, the residence of many nominal German Christians, to help an aged brother in the work of the Lord. After consideration and prayer, I offered myself for this work to Professor Tholuck, who was requested to look out for a suitable individual; for with all my weakness I had a great desire to live wholly for God. Most unexpectedly my father gave his consent, though Bucharest was above a thousand miles from my home, and as completely a missionary station as any other. I now prepared with earnestness for the work of the Lord. I set before me the sufferings which might await me. And he who once so fully served Satan was now willing, constrained by the love of Christ, rather to suffer affliction for the sake of Jesus than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. I also prayed with a degree of earnestness concerning my future work.
One day, at the end of October, the above-mentioned brother, Hermann Ball, missionary to the Jews, stated that he feared, on account of his health, he should be obliged to give up laboring among the Jews. When I heard this, I felt a peculiar desire to fill up his place. About this very time, also, I became exceedingly fond of the Hebrew language, which I had cared about very little up to that time, and which I had merely studied now and then, from a sense of duty. But now I studied it, for many weeks, with the greatest eagerness and delight. Whilst I thus from time to time felt a desire to fill up brother Ball's place, and whilst I thus greatly delighted in the study of Hebrew, I called, in the evening of November 17, on Dr. Tholuck. In the course of conversation he asked me whether I had ever had a desire to be a missionary to the Jews, as I might be connected with the London Missionary Society for promoting Christianity among them, for which he was an agent. I was struck with the question, and told him what had passed in my mind, but added that it was not proper to think anything about that, as I was going to Bucharest; to which he agreed.
When I came home, however, these few words were like fire within me. The next morning I felt all desire for going to Bucharest gone, which appeared to me very wrong and fleshly, and I therefore entreated the Lord to restore to me the former desire for laboring on that missionary station. He graciously did so almost immediately. My earnestness in studying Hebrew, and my peculiar love for it, however, continued.
About ten days after, Dr. Tholuck received a letter from the Continental. Society, stating, that on account of the war between the Turks and Russians, it appeared well to the committee for the time being to give up the thought of sending a minister to Bucharest, as it was the seat of war between the two armies. Dr. Tholuck then asked me again what I now thought about being a missionary to the Jews. My reply was that I could not then give an answer, but that I would let him know, after I had prayerfully considered the matter. After prayer and consideration, and consulting with experienced brethren, in order that they might probe my heart as to my motives, I came to this conclusion, that I ought to offer myself to the committee, leaving it with the Lord to do with me afterwards as it might seem good in his sight. Accordingly, Dr. Tholuck wrote, about the beginning of December, 1827, to the committee in London.
It was not before March, 1828, that he received an answer from London respecting me, in which the committee put a number of questions to me, on the satisfactory answers to which my being received by them would depend. After replying to this first communication, I waited daily for an answer, and was so much the more desirous of having it, as my course in the university was completed. At last, on June 13, I received a letter from London, stating that the committee had determined to take me as a missionary student for six months on probation, provided that I would come to London.
I had now had the matter before me about seven months, having supposed not only that it would have been settled in a few weeks, but also, that, if I were accepted, I should be sent out immediately, as I had passed the university. Instead of this, not only seven months passed over before the decision came, but I was also expected to come to London; and not only so, but though I had from my infancy been more or less studying, and now at last wished actively to be engaged, it was required that I should again become a student. For a few moments, therefore, I was greatly disappointed and tried. But on calmly considering the matter, it appeared to me but right that the committee should know me personally, and that it was also well for me to know them more intimately than merely by correspondence, as this afterwards would make our connection much more comfortable. I determined, therefore, after I had seen my father, and found no difficulty on his part, to go to London.
There was, however, an obstacle in the way of my leaving the country. Every Prussian male subject is under the necessity of being for three years a soldier, provided his state of body allows it; but those who have had a classical education up to a certain degree, and especially those who have passed the university, need to be only one year in the army, but have to equip and maintain themselves during that year. I could not obtain a passport out of the country till I had either served my time or had been exempted by the king himself. The latter I hoped would be the case; for it was a well-known fact that those who had given themselves to missionary service had always been exempted. Certain brethren of influence, living in the capital, to whom I wrote on the subject, wrote to the king; but he replied that the matter must be referred to the ministry and to the law, and no exception was made in my favor.
My chief concern now was how I might obtain a passport for England, through exemption from military duty. But the more certain brethren tried, though they knew how to set about the matter, and were also persons of rank, the greater difficulty there appeared to be in obtaining my object; so that in the middle of January, 1829, it seemed as if I must immediately become a soldier. There was now but one more way untried, and it was at last resorted to. A believing major, who was on good terms with one of the chief generals, proposed that I should actually offer myself for entering the army, and that then I should be examined as to my bodily qualifications, in the hope that, as I was still in a very weak state of body, I should be found unfit for military service. In that case it would belong to the chief general finally to settle the matter; who, being a godly man himself, on the major's recommendation, would, no doubt, hasten the decision, on account of my desire to be a missionary to the Jews.
Thus far the Lord had allowed things to go, to show me, it appears, that all my friends could not procure me a passport till his time was come. But now it was come. The King of kings had intended that I should go to England, because he would bless me there and make me a blessing, though I was at that time, and am still, most unworthy of it; and, therefore, though the king of Prussia had not been pleased to make an exemption in my favor, yet now all was made plain, and that at a time when hope had almost been given up, and when the last means had been resorted to. I was examined, and was declared to be unfit for military service. With a medical certificate to this effect, and a letter of recommendation from the major, I went to this chief general, who received me very kindly, and who himself wrote instantaneously to a second military physician, likewise to examine me at once. This was done, and it was by him confirmed that I was unfit. Now, the chief general himself, as his adjutants happened to be absent, in order to hasten the matter, wrote, with his own hands, the papers which were needed, and I got a complete dismissal, and that for life, from all military engagements.
On February 5 I arrived at my father's house; it was the place where I had lived as a boy, and the scene of many of my sins, my father having now returned to it after his retirement from office. There were but three persons in the whole town with whom my soul had any fellowship. One of them was earning his daily bread by thrashing corn. As a boy I had in my heart laughed at him. Now I sought him out, having been informed that he was a brother, to acknowledge him as such, by having fellowship with him, and attending a meeting in his house on the Lord's-day evening. My soul was refreshed, and his also. Such a spiritual feast as meeting with a brother was a rare thing to him.
I left my father's house on February 10, and about February 22 arrived at Rotterdam. My going to England by the way of Rotterdam was not the usual way; but, consulting with a brother in Berlin, who had been twice in England, I was told that this was the cheapest route. My asking this brother, to be profited by his experience, would have been quite right, had I, besides this, like Ezra, sought of the Lord the right way. But I sought unto men only, and not at all unto the Lord, in this matter. When I came to Rotterdam, I found that no vessels went at that time from that port to London, on account of the ice having just broken up in the river. Thus I had to wait nearly a month at Rotterdam, and needed much more time than I should have required to go by way of Hamburg, and also much more money.
[Footnote 12: Then I proclaimed a fast, to seek of God a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.—Ezra viii. 21.]
On March 19, 1829, I landed in London. Soon after my arrival, I heard one of the brethren speak of Mr. Groves, a dentist, who, for the Lord's sake, had given up his profession, which brought him in at least L1,500 a year, and who intended to go as a missionary to Persia, with his wife and children, simply trusting in the Lord for temporal supplies. This made such an impression on me, and delighted me so, that I not only marked it down in my journal, but also wrote about it to my German friends.
[Footnote 13: To avoid the necessity of reducing the sums named to federal money, it may be stated that a pound (L.) is equal to about $4.88, a sovereign to the same, a shilling (s.) to about 28 cts. and a penny (d.) to 2 cts. For convenience of computation, when exactness is not required, we may call the pound $5.00, and the shilling 25 cts.—ED.]
I came to England weak in body, and, in consequence of much study, as I suppose, I was taken ill on May 15, and was soon, at least in my own estimation, apparently beyond recovery. The weaker I became in body, the happier I was in spirit. Never in my whole life had I seen myself so vile, so guilty, so altogether what I ought not to have been, as at this time. It was as if every sin of which I had been guilty was brought to my remembrance; but at the same time I could realize that all my sins were completely forgiven,—that I was washed and made clean, completely clean, in the blood of Jesus. The result of this was great peace. I longed exceedingly to depart and be with Christ. When my medical attendant came to see me, my prayer was something like this: "Lord, thou knowest that he does not know what is for my real welfare, therefore do thou direct him." When I took my medicine, my hearty prayer each time was something like this: "Lord, thou knowest that this medicine is in itself nothing, no more than as if I were to take a little water. Now please, O Lord, to let it produce the effect which is for my real welfare, and for thy glory. Let me either be taken soon to thyself, or let me be soon restored; let me be ill for a longer time, and then taken to thyself, or let me be ill for a longer time, and then restored. O Lord, do with me as seemeth thee best!"
After I had been ill about a fortnight, my medical attendant unexpectedly pronounced me better. As I recovered but slowly, my friends entreated me to go into the country for change of air. I thought that it might be the will of God that I should do so, and I prayed therefore thus to the Lord: "Lord, I will gladly submit myself to thy will, and go, if thou wilt have me to go. And now let me know thy will by the answer of my medical attendant. If, in reply to my question, he says it would be very good for me, I will go; but if he, says it is of no great importance, then I will stay." When I asked him, he said that it was the best thing I could do. I was then enabled willingly to submit, and accordingly went to Teignmouth.
A few days after my arrival at Teignmouth, the chapel, called Ebenezer, was reopened, and I attended the opening. I was much impressed by one of those who preached on the occasion. For though I did not like all he said, yet I saw a gravity and solemnity in him different from the rest. After he had preached, I had a great desire to know more of him; and, being invited by two brethren of Exmouth, in whose house he was staying, to spend some time with them, I had an opportunity of living ten days with him under the same roof. It was at this time that God began to show me that his word alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, he is the teacher of his people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time. Indeed, of the office of each of the blessed persons, in what is commonly called the Trinity, I had no experimental apprehension. I had not before seen from the Scriptures that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world; that in him that wonderful plan of our redemption originated, and that he also appointed all the means by which it was to be brought about. Further, that the Son, to save us, had fulfilled the law, to satisfy its demands, and with it also the holiness of God; that he had borne the punishment due to our sins, and had thus satisfied the justice of God. And, further, that the Holy Spirit alone can teach us about our state by nature, show us the need of a Saviour, enable us to believe in Christ, explain to us the Scriptures, help us in preaching, etc. It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously. But the particular difference was, that I received real strength for my soul in doing so. I now began to try by the test of the Scriptures the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those principles which stood the test were really of value.
My stay in Devonshire was most profitable to my soul. My prayer had been, before I left London, that the Lord would be pleased to bless my journey to the benefit of my body and soul. In the beginning of September I returned to London, much better in body; and as to my soul, the change was so great that it was like a second conversion. After my return to London, I sought to benefit my brethren in the seminary, and the means which I used were these: I proposed to them to meet together every morning from six to eight for prayer and reading the Scriptures; and that then each of us should give out what he might consider the Lord had shown him to be the meaning of the portion read. One brother in particular was brought into the same state as myself; and others, I trust, were more or less benefited. Several times, when I went to my room after family prayer in the evening, I found communion with God so sweet that I continued in prayer till after twelve, and then, being full of joy, went into the room of the brother just referred to; and finding him also in a similar frame of heart, we continued praying until one or two; and even then I was a few times so full of joy that I could scarcely sleep, and at six in the morning again called the brethren together for prayer.
After I had been for about ten days in London, and had been confined to the house on account of my studies, my health began again to decline; and I saw that it would not be well, my poor body being only like a wreck or brand brought out of the devil's service, to spend my little remaining strength in study, but that I now ought to set about actual engagement in the Lord's work. I wrote to the committee of the Society, requesting them to send me out at once; and, that they might do so more comfortably, to send me as a fellow-laborer with an experienced brother. However, I received no answer.
After having waited about five or six weeks, in the mean time seeking, in one way or other, to labor for the Lord, it struck me that, considering myself called by the Lord to preach the gospel, I ought to begin at once to labor among the Jews in London, whether I had the title of missionary or not. In consequence of this, I distributed tracts among the Jews, with my name and residence written on them, thus inviting them to conversation about the things of God; preached to them in those places where they most numerously collect together; read the Scriptures regularly with about fifty Jewish boys; and became a teacher in a Sunday school. In this work I had much enjoyment, and the honor of being reproached and ill-treated for the name of Jesus. But the Lord gave me grace, never to be kept from the work by any danger, or the prospect of any suffering.
Mr. Mueller was led, toward the close of 1829, to doubt the propriety of continuing under the patronage of the London Society. It seemed to him unscriptural for a servant of Christ to put himself under the control and direction of any one but the Lord. A correspondence with the Society, evincing on his part, and on their part, entire kindness and love, resulted in a dissolution of his relation to them. He was left free to preach the gospel wherever Providence might open the way.
On December 30, I went to Exmouth, where I intended to spend a fortnight in the house of some Christian friends. I arrived at Exmouth on December 31, at six in the evening, an hour before the commencement of a prayer-meeting at Ebenezer Chapel. My heart was burning with a desire to tell of the Lord's goodness to my soul. Being, however, not called on, either to speak or pray, I was silent. The next morning, I spoke on the difference between being a Christian and a happy Christian, and showed whence it generally comes that we rejoice so little in the Lord. This, my first testimony, was blessed to many believers, that God, as it appears, might show me that he was with me. At the request of several believers, I spoke again in the afternoon, and also proposed a meeting in the chapel every morning at ten, to expound the epistle to the Romans. The second day after my arrival, a brother said to me, "I have been praying for this month past that the Lord would do something for Lympstone, a large parish where there is little spiritual light. There is a Wesleyan chapel, and I doubt not you would be allowed to preach there." Being ready to speak of Jesus wherever the Lord might open a door, yet so that I could be faithful to the truths which he had been pleased to teach me, I went, and easily obtained liberty to preach twice on the next day, being the Lord's day.
LEANING ON JESUS.
A DOOR OPENED—TOKENS FOR GOOD—TRUST EXERCISED IN THE STUDY AND MINISTRY OF THE WORD—THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT—TRUSTING IN GOD FOR DAILY BREAD—BLESSEDNESS OF WAITING UPON THE LORD—"OWE NO MAN"—"ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH BE IT UNTO YOU"—THE GIFT OF FAITH, AND THE GRACE OF FAITH.
After I had preached about three weeks at Exmouth and its neighborhood, I went to Teignmouth, with the intention of staying there ten days, to preach the word among the brethren with whom I had become acquainted during the previous summer, and to tell them of the Lord's goodness to me. In the evening, Monday, I preached for Brother Craik, at Shaldon, in the presence of three ministers, none of whom liked the sermon; yet it pleased God, through it, to bring to the knowledge of his dear Son a young woman. How differently does the Lord judge from man! Here was a particular opportunity for the Lord to get glory to himself. A foreigner was the preacher, with great natural obstacles in the way, for he was not able to speak English with fluency; but he had a desire to serve God, and was by this time also brought into such a state of heart as to desire that God alone should have the glory, if any good were done through his instrumentality.
On Tuesday evening, I preached at Ebenezer Chapel, Teignmouth, the same chapel at the opening of which I became acquainted with the brother whom the Lord had afterwards used as an instrument of benefiting me so much.
During the week ensuing, Mr. M. preached almost daily at the same place, a blessing attending his labors.
By this time, the request that I might stay at Teignmouth, and be the minister of the above chapel, had been repeatedly expressed by an increasing number of the brethren; but others were decidedly against my remaining there. This opposition was instrumental in settling it in my mind that I should stay for a while, at least until I was formally rejected.
I preached again three times on the Lord's day, none saying we wish you not to preach, though many of the hearers did not hear with enjoyment. Some of them left, and never returned; some left, but returned after a while. Others came to the chapel who had not been in the habit of attending there previous to my coming. There was a great stir, a spirit of inquiry, and a searching of the Scriptures, whether these things were so. And, what is more than all, God set his seal upon the work, in converting sinners. Twelve weeks I stood in this same position, whilst the Lord graciously supplied my temporal wants, through two brethren, unasked for. After this time, the whole little church, eighteen in number, unanimously gave me an invitation to become their pastor. They offered to supply my temporal wants by giving me fifty-five pounds a year, which sum was afterwards somewhat increased, on account of the increase of the church.
That which I now considered the best mode of preparation for the public ministry of the word, no longer adopted from necessity, on account of want of time, but from deep conviction, and from the experience of God's blessing upon it, both as it regards my own enjoyment, the benefit of the saints, and the conversion of sinners, is as follows: First, I do not presume to know myself what is best for the hearers, and I therefore ask the Lord, in the first place, that he would graciously be pleased to teach me on what subject I shall speak, or what portion of his word I shall expound. Now, sometimes it happens that, previous to my asking him, a subject or passage has been in my mind, on which it has appeared well for me to speak. In that case, I ask the Lord whether I should speak on this subject or passage. If, after prayer, I feel persuaded that I should, I fix upon it, yet so that I would desire to leave myself open to the Lord to change it if he please. Frequently, however, it occurs that I have no text or subject in my mind, before I give myself to prayer for the sake of ascertaining the Lord's will concerning it. In this case, I wait some time on my knees for an answer, trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit to direct me. If, then, a passage or subject, whilst I am on my knees, or after I have finished praying for a text, is brought to my mind, I again ask the Lord, and that sometimes repeatedly, especially if, humanly speaking, the subject or text should be a peculiar one, whether it be his will that I should speak on such a subject or passage. If, after prayer, my mind is peaceful about it, I take this to be the text, but still desire to leave myself open to the Lord for direction, should he please to alter it, or should I have been mistaken. Frequently, also, in the third place, it happens that I not only have no text nor subject on my mind previous to my praying for guidance in this matter, but also I do not obtain one after once, or twice, or more times praying about it. I used formerly at times to be much perplexed when this was the case, but, for more than twenty years, it has pleased the Lord, in general at least, to keep me in peace about it. What I do is, to go on with my regular reading of the Scriptures, where I left off the last time, praying (whilst I read) for a text, now and then also laying aside my Bible for prayer, till I get one. Thus it has happened that I have had to read five, ten, yea, twenty chapters, before it has pleased the Lord to give me a text; yea, many times I have even had to go to the place of meeting without one, and obtained it, perhaps, only a few minutes before I was going to speak; but I have never lacked the Lord's assistance at the time of preaching, provided I had earnestly sought it in private. The preacher cannot know the particular state of the various individuals who compose the congregation, nor what they require, but the Lord knows it; and if the preacher renounces his own wisdom, he will be assisted by the Lord; but if he will choose in his own wisdom, then let him not be surprised if he should see little benefit result from his labors.