God’s Financial Faithfulness

William Stevenson

Where did they get the money? A ship is costly, and a farm is not bought for nothing, and the daily maintenance of 200 people is no trifle, nor can buildings be put up at eight different settlements without expense, although it be among the Kaffirs. And yet this parish is a plain peasant parish, and Mr. Harms is only a clergyman's son, and his income is scanty enough. Beyond a doubt the Mission costs something. The ship cost 15,000 crowns, and 4000 more to outfit it; and the passengers landed in Africa with 3000 crowns. The printing-press and house cost 3600 crowns; the Refuge Farm was bought for 4000, Africa needed in one year 7000, in another 21,000: the annual home expenses are about 6000. Or, let it be put in another form. 

The expenditure for…

1854 was 14,950 crowns.

1855 was 9642 crowns

1856 was 14,878 crowns.

1857 was 14,781 crowns.

1858 was 30,993 crowns.

1859 was 30,432 crowns.

              115,676 crowns

The income for the same period was—

1854 was 15,000 crowns.

1855 was 9722 crowns. 

1856 was 14978 crowns. 

1857 was 14,796 crowns. 

1858 was 31,133 crowns. 

1859 was 33,065 crowns.

              118,694 crowns.

He Refuses to Beg

Where did he get these 118,000 crowns? Did he send begging letters? Did he go to Holland, or cross to England, or ask a subsidy from the State? He is a foe to beggars. He will not tolerate them in his parish; his doctrine is that no Christian dare be a beggar, nor ask from any but God. No one acts so rigorously on these principles as himself. His scruples are almost prohibitory. Beyond the barest outline of accounts, he excludes money matters and money difficulties from his paper; he will neither mention the sums that have been given (unless incidentally, as an illustration of some truth) nor the names of any who give; though the people are prepared with alms at the annual festival, he never speaks of his wants, nor asks a donation; when he is in urgent difficulty about money, he persists in silence. This may look singular and absurd. But is it not more singular that he has never found this course of conduct to mislead or disappoint him; that he has found his straightforward asking of God abundantly sufficient? When a man makes that discovery, who can blame him for using it? He has one or two pretty certain sources of income. Each of the 11,000 annual communicants lays a gift on the communion-table, as the custom is. This is called the Beichtpfennig, and in most churches is so small a coin that it would be puzzling to reckon it in our money. Suppose that it were a groschen in Hermannsburg, that would raise 370 crowns; the Consistory grants him a share of the regular missionary collection; that amounts to another 200. Among uncertain sources are the mission collections, which average from 2000 to 3000 crowns. But these added together do not make one-tenth part of the amount. The congregation is liberal. There are plain yeomen who have handed him 500 crowns. There are persons who have stripped themselves of all to give.

Giving Is Guided By God

But he has no control over these people. No one will be so bold as to assert that because a clergyman is full of missionary zeal, and has a happy way of inspiring the interest of others, that his people will give up all they have to his schemes. The reverse happens every day. If there are persons who give so largely in that particular community, it is but reasonable to say that it is God who moves their hearts to this liberality. If it is found that their giving is in accurate proportion to a need of which they can have no precise information, it is not only more reverent and scriptural, but more rational, to say that they have been guided invisibly by God, than that they did it by chance, which is equivalent to confessing our inability to know how it was done. And if there has been a child of God praying all the while for this very blessing to his Father who seeth in secret, is it not rational to go back a step farther, and connect the giving with the prayer!

"Before They Will Call, I Will Answer"

Before his own paper was established, Harms put a brief report of his proceedings in two of the country newspapers. The unlikelihood of that report reaching far is self-evident, but almost simultaneously contributions came from New Orleans, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Odessa, and Narva. Harms has no doubt how they came. God put it into men's hearts. This is a cardinal point of his faith. "It is wonderful when one has nothing, and 10,000 crowns are laid in his hand by the dear Lord. I know from whom it all comes. When I remarked to my brother that he was such a master in the art of taking, I thought within myself, Let him take, thou wilt receive. And I went to my God, and prayed diligently to Him, and received what I needed." When the printing-shop was debated there was no money to bear the expense. "I can assure you," says Harms, "that to the question, Shall we print? we did not answer, Certainly we can; but we cried to the Lord, Grant it to us. And He granted it, for we immediately received 2000 crowns, although the thought had not been made known to any one; we had only to take and be thankful." "A short time ago I had to pay a merchant in behalf of the missions 550 crowns, and when the day was near I had only 400. Then I prayed to the Lord Jesus that He would provide me with the deficiency. On the day before, three letters were brought, one from Schwerin with 20, one from Bücksburg with 25, and one from Berlin with 100 crowns. The donors were anonymous. On the evening of the same day, a labourer brought me 10 crowns, so that I had not only enough, but five over." "I must tell you what brought the tears into my eyes, and confirmed me anew in that word, Before they call I will answer. A medicine chest was urgently wanted for the mission. I reckoned up to see if there was enough left to supply it. Before I had finished, and when I had not yet well begun to commend this matter to the Lord, a letter was brought, in which the anonymous writer stated that for some time he had been collecting for the mission, and had determined to purchase a medicine chest. The chest accompanied the letter; he only begged it might soon be sent out for the heathen." When the Refuge was projected, the great obstacle was want of money. After prayer, a pious farmer met him and asked him to mention any way in which he could assist the work, "I took it as a sign from the Lord, and mentioned to him what was in my heart. He sent me, through his wife, who was of one mind with him, 500 crowns. Immediately after a merchant sent me 10, a pastor 100, and then came anonymously 100 crowns. Meanwhile I had not made my intention known." "The year before," he wrote in 1858, "I needed for the mission 15,000 crowns, and the Lord gave me that and 60 over. This year I needed double, and the Lord has given me double and 140 over."

He Has Prayed For Every Want

I have placed these extracts loosely together because they show with great clearness what Mr. Harms believes about his missions, and to what he attributes their success. There is nothing he insists upon with greater earnestness than that, be the expenses what they may, let them increase ever so suddenly, he has never begged. There is nothing he has more delight in telling than that he has prayed for every want, or that without special prayer he has received in reply to his life of faith alone. The difficulties that lay in the way are conceivable enough. He has displayed remarkable firmness and wisdom in removing them. Are firmness and wisdom sufficient to account for it? Have they helped others who possessed and used them to anything like the same results? His mission agency has flourished beyond all precedent. Does it account for that to say that he has a remarkable personality; that he has the power of attracting people to his views, of drawing them in to work out his plans; that he has a congregation filled with the primitive zeal? Does not every one feel that these are no more than auxiliaries, that of themselves they are not explanatory? Are we not driven to one of two solutions, either that Mr. Harms is right, that God has guided him throughout, that it has been a continuous answer to prayer; or that he has been thoroughly deceived, that it is a series of curious coincidences which may at any time be broken, that the appearance of an order and law in it are delusive, that it has been only ten years of happy mistake! These conclusions may be left to the careful thought of those who interest themselves in the subject.

William Stevenson, Praying and working, pp. 361-367.