The Proof of the Living God

AS FOUND IN THE PRAYER LIFE OF GEORGE MÜLLER, OF BRISTOL.
BY REV. ARTHUR T. PIERSON, D. D.

In Psalm 68:4, we are bidden to “extol Him who rideth upon the heavens by His name, JAH, and to rejoice before Him ;” and in the next verse, He is declared to be “a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, in His holy habitation.”

The name, “Jah,” here only found, is not simply an abbreviation of “Jehovah ;” but the present tense of the Hebrew verb to be; and expresses the idea that this Jehovah is the Living, Present God; and, as the heavens are always over our heads, He is always a present Helper, especially to those who, like the widow and the orphan, lack other providers and protectors.

George Müller, of Bristol, undertook to demonstrate to the unbelieving world that God is such a living, present God, and that He proves it by answering prayer; and that the test of this fact might be definite and conclusive, he undertook to gather, feed, house, clothe, and also to teach and train, all available orphans, who were legitimate children, but deprived of both parents by death and destitute.

Sixtyfive Years of Proof

This work, which he began in 1833, in a very small and humble way, by giving to a few children, gathered out of the streets, a bit of bread for breakfast, and then teaching them for about an hour and a half to read the Scriptures, he carried on for sixty-five years, with growing numbers until there were under his care, and in the orphan houses which he built, twenty-two hundred orphans with their helpers; and yet, during all that time, Mr. Müller’s sole dependence was Jah, the Living, Present God. He appealed to no man for help; and did not even allow any need to be known before it had been supplied, even his intimate co-workers being forbidden to mention any existing want, outside the walls of the institution. His aim and purpose were to effectually apply the test of prayer to the unseen God, in such a way as to leave no doubt that, in these very days in which we live it is perfectly safe to cut loose from every human dependence and cast ourselves in faith upon the promises of a faithful Jehovah. To make the demonstration more absolutely convincing, for some years he withheld even the annual report of the work from the public, although it covered only work already done, lest some should think such a report an indirect appeal for future aid.

A human life thus filled with the presence and power of God is one of God’s choicest gifts to His church and to the world.

Demonstration and Illustration

Things unseen and eternal are, to the average man, distant and indistinct, while what is seen and temporal is vivid and real. Practically, any object in nature that can be seen or felt is thus more actual to most men than the Living God. Every man who walks with God, and finds Him a present Help in every time of need, who puts His promises to the practical proof and verifies them in actual experience; every believer, who, with the key of faith, unlocks God’s mysteries and with the key of prayer unlocks God’s treasuries, thus furnishes to the race demonstration and illustration of the fact that “He is, and is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

George Müller was such an argument and example — a man of like passions, and tempted in all points, as we are, but who believed God and was established by believing; who prayed earnestly that he might live a life and do a work, which should be a convincing proof that God hears prayer, and that it is safe to trust Him at all times; and who furnished just such a witness as he desired. Like Enoch, he truly walked with God, and had abundant testimony borne to him that he pleased God. And, when on the tenth day of March, 1898, it was told us of George Müller, that “he was not,” we knew that “God had taken him”: it seemed more like a translation than like death.

The Man Himself

To those familiar with his long life story, or who intimately knew him and felt the power of personal contact, he was one of God’s ripest saints, and himself a living proof that a life of faith is possible; that God may be known, communed with, found, and become a conscious companion in the daily life. He proved for himself and for all others who will receive his witness, that to those who are willing to take God at His word and to yield self to His will, He is “the same yesterday and today and forever;” that the days of divine intervention and deliverance are past only so far as the days of faith and obedience are past; that believing prayer works still the wonders of which our fathers told in the days of old.

All we can do in the limited space now at our disposal, is to present a brief summary of George Müller’s work, the details of which are spread through the five volumes of his carefully written “Journal,” and the facts of which have never been denied or doubted, being embodied in five massive stone buildings on Ashley Down, and incarnated in thousands of living orphans who have been, or still are, the beneficiaries upon the bounty of the Lord, as administered by this great intercessor.

His Life Purpose

One sentence from Mr. Müller’s pen marks the purpose which was the very pivot of his whole being: “I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.” This prepared both for the development of the character of him who had such singleness of aim and for the development of the work in which that aim found action. Mr. Müller’s oldest friend, Robert C. Chapman, of Barnstaple, beautifully says that “when a man’s chief business is to serve and please the Lord, all his circumstances becomes his servants;” a maxim verified in Mr. Müller’s life work.

No Visible Support

Mr. James Wright, Mr. Müller’s son-in-law and successor, said, in reviewing the sixty-five years of work, “It is written (Job 26:7) ‘He hangeth the earth upon nothing‘ — that is, no visible support. And so we exult in the fact that ‘The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad’ hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement, ‘upon nothing,’ that is, upon no visible support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God.”

Blessed lesson to learn: that to depend upon the invisible God is not to hang “upon nothing,” though it be upon nothing visible. The power and permanence of the invisible forces that hold up the earth after sixty centuries of human history are sufficiently shown by the fact that this great globe still swings securely in space and is whirled through its vast orbit, and without variation of a second still moves with divine exactness in its appointed path. Mr. Muller therefore trusted the same invisible God to sustain with His unseen power all the work which faith suspended upon His truth and love and unfailing word of promise, though to the natural eye all these may seem as nothing.

Summary of Work Done

In the comprehensive summary contained in the fifty-ninth report, remarkable growth is apparent during the sixty-four years since the outset of the work in 1834. During the year ending May 26, 1898, the number of day schools was seven and of pupils 354; the number of children in attendance from the beginning 81,501. The number of home Sunday Schools, twelve, and of children in them 1,341; but, from the beginning, 32,944.

The number of Sunday Schools aided in England and Wales, twenty-five. The amount expended in connection with home schools, £736. 13s. 10d.; from the outset, £109,992. 19s. 10d.

The Bibles and parts thereof circulated, 15,411; from the beginning 1,989,266. Money expended for this purpose the past year £439; from the first, £41,090. 13s. 3d.

Missionary laborers aided, 115. Money expended £2,082. 9s. 6d.; from the outset, £261,859. 7s. 4d.

Circulation of books and tracts, 3,101,338; money spent £1,100. 1s. 3d.; and from the first, £47,188. l1s. 10d.

The number of orphans on Ashley Down 1,620, and from the first 10,024.

Money spent that year, £22,523. 13s. 1d., and from the beginning £988,829.

To carry conviction into action sometimes requires a costly sacrifice; but, whatever Mr. Muller’s fidelity to conviction cost in one way, he had stupendous results of his life work to contemplate even while he lived.

Giving With Praying

Let any one look at these figures and facts, and remember that one poor man who had been solely dependent on the help of God and only in answer to prayer, could look back, over more than three score years and see how he had built five large orphan houses, and taken under his care over ten thousand orphans, expending for them within twelve thousand pounds of a round million! This same man had given aid to day schools and Sunday Schools, in Britain and other lands, where nearly one hundred and fifty thousand children have been taught, at a cost of over one hundred and ten thousand pounds more. He had also circulated nearly two million Bibles and parts thereof, at cost of over forty thousand pounds; and over three million books and tracts, at a cost of nearly fifty thousand pounds more. Besides all this, he had spent over two hundred and sixty thousand pounds to aid missionary laborers in various lands. The sum total of the money thus expended during sixty years thus reached very nearly the astonishing aggregate of one and a half million of pounds sterling ($7,500,000). Mr. Müller’s own gifts to the service of the Lord found, only after his death, full record and recognition. In the annual reports, an entry recurring with strange frequency, suggested a giver that must have reached a very ripe age: “from a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven.” If that entry be carefully followed throughout and there be added the personal gifts made by Mr. Müller to various benevolent objects, the aggregate sum from this “servant” reaches, up to March 1, 1898, a total of eighty-one thousand, four hundred and ninety pounds, eighteen shillings and eight pence. After his death, it first became known that this “servant of the Lord Jesus” was no other than George Müller himself who thus donated, from money given to him or left to him for his own use by legacies, an amount equal to more than one-fifteenth of the entire sum expended from the beginning upon all five departments of the work (£1,448,959). This is a record of personal giving to which we know no parallel.

His Investments

Mr. Müller had received increasingly large sums from the Lord which he invested well and most profitably, so that for over sixty years he never lost a penny through a bad speculation! But his investments were not in lands, or banks, or railways, but in the work of God. He made “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” and, when he failed, they received him into everlasting habitations. He continued year after year to make provision for himself, his beloved wife and daughter only by laying up treasure in heaven. Such a giver had a right to exhort others to systematic beneficence. He gave as not one in a million gives — not a tithe, not any fixed proportion of annual income, but all that was left after the simplest and most necessary supply of actual wants. While most disciples regard themselves as doing their duty if, after they have given a portion to the Lord, they spend all the rest on themselves, God led George Müller to reverse this rule and reserve only the most frugal sum for personal needs that the entire remainder might be given to him that needeth. An utter revolution in our habits of giving would be necessary were such a rule adopted. Mr. Müller’s own words are: “My aim never was, how much I could obtain, but rather how much I could give.” Yet this was not done in the spirit of an ascetic, for he had no such spirit.

His Stewardship

He kept continually before him his stewardship of God’s property; and sought to make the most of the one brief life on earth and to use for the best and largest good the property held by him in trust. The things of God were deep realities, and, projecting every action and decision and motive into the light of the judgment seat of Christ, he asked himself how it would appear to him in the light of that tribunal. Thus he sought prayerfully and conscientiously so to live and labor, so to deny himself, and, by love, serve his Master, and his fellowmen that he should not be “ashamed before Him at His coming.” But not in a spirit of fear; for if any man of his generation knew the perfect love that casts out fear it was he. He felt that God is love and love is of God. He saw that love manifested in the greatest of gifts — His only begotten Son; at Calvary he knew and believed the love that God hath to us; he received it into his own heart; it became an abiding presence manifested in obedience and benevolence; and, subduing him more and more, it became perfected so as to expel all tormenting fear and impart a holy confidence and delight in God.