The city of Bristol, in the southwest of England, is the seat of one of the most remarkable enterprises of modern times. Facing upon one of the public squares are two large, plain, substantial buildings, which might well attract the attention of a stranger. They are not store-houses or factories, public libraries or museums —they are the homes of seven hundred orphans, who have neither father nor mother, and who, otherwise destitute and friendless, are here fed, clothed, instructed, and in other respects cared for. Besides these two buildings a third and still larger one, capable of accommodating four hundred and fifty more children, and costing $112,000, has been more recently built.
The statement of these facts at once suggests an inquiry as to the manner in which this large, and expensive, and noble charity has been established and supported. Is it a government enterprise? What nobleman, with a heart as large as his purse, has inaugurated and carried forward, and is still sustaining the work? Or what association of individuals, or churches, or societies is managing the work and furnishing the necessary supplies? The institution rests on no such basis as this. At its head is simply George Müller, who says the work is the Lord's, and that he himself is only His servant and steward in the premises. The funds are, and ever have been, the voluntary contributions of individuals at home and abroad, given, as Mr. Müller heartily believes, in answer to prayer. This, as he says, is the secret of the whole matter: scriptural living and believing prayer.
The whole current of Mr. Müller's views and practice for the last thirty years, in connection with which we have this remarkable outgrowth of Christian charity, has been tending in this direction. While he was yet only the pastor of a small church in Teignmouth, in 1831, with a very limited salary, he was constrained, from conscientious motives, to relinquish even that, trusting for his support to the free-will offerings of those to whom he ministered; and at the end of the year, upon ascertaining the total amount of his receipts, he finds occasion to rejoice in the step, as his salary would not have amounted to nearly as much. Thus blessed in this measure, he was led to devote to the work of the Lord all his own little property, and to cast himself entirely on the arm of Him who careth for those who trust in Him. So well pleased was he with this mode of life, that he began to feel a strong desire to be able to convince others, by some visible demonstration, that God is a hearer and answerer of prayer, and that the command of Christ to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, with the promise that in so doing all temporal things shall be provided, and similar passages, are to be taken in a liberal sense and most implicitly trusted. This desire led, in the first instance, after much prayer and meditation, to the establishment of an Orphan House, the care of which, not less than of himself and his family, he proposed, God willing, to cast upon Him. Having announced his purpose, articles of furniture, etc., were at once contributed, and in a few weeks he was ready to make a beginning. But there were no applications for the reception of orphans! This was an unexpected feature in the enterprise, and it led Mr. Müller again to inquire of the Lord whether it were in accordance with His will, and to pray, if it were, that he would now send children. The very next day there was an application, and in a few days as many as forty-three. A house was accordingly rented and a beginning made.
From that day to this the course of the enterprise has been onward, until it has reached the position indicated above. Sometimes, indeed, they have been brought into straits (for Mr. Müller will purchase nothing unless he has the means in hand), but God has always appeared in their behalf and honored the confidence of His servants ere they have been in distress. Contributions are never asked for, nor is there any agency for securing funds; but gifts, varying in amount from a few pence to fifteen thousand dollars, are constantly flowing in. Mr. Müller, though needing for current expenses about $100,000 per year, says he is at rest, for God's promises will not fail.
Besides providing for the orphans, Mr. Müller has the care of two churches, and expends large sums of money for foreign missionary work under his own supervision, and for the circulation of the Scriptures, etc. His receipts for this department were one year fifty thousand dollars, a large part of which was actually expended. The total receipts were, for current expenses, building fund, and foreign missionary work, eta. £72,182, equal to more than $350,000. The Rev. Dr. Sawtell, chaplain to British and American seamen at Havre, France, who was in this country and addressed several audiences upon this subject, having recently visited Mr. Müller's establishment, fully confirmed the reports which have otherwise reached us with respect to this wonderful work. He said the half had not been told him.
Taken from "Müller and Harms," Five Years of Prayer and the Answers, by Samuel Prime