“May 26, 1860.—Day after day, and year after year, by the help of God, we labour in prayer for the spiritual benefit of the Orphans under our care. These our supplications, which have been for 24 years brought before the Lord concerning them, have been abundantly answered, in former years, in the conversion of hundreds from among them. We have, also, had repeated seasons in which, within a short time, or even all at once, many of the Orphans were converted. Such a season we had about three years since, when, within a few days, about 60 were brought to believe in the Lord Jesus; and such seasons we have had again twice during the first year. The first was in July, 1859, when the Spirit of God wrought so mightily in one school of 120 girls, as that very many, yea more than one-half, were brought under deep concern about the salvation of their souls. This work, moreover, was not a mere momentary excitement; but, after more than eleven months have elapsed, there are 31 concerning whom there is full confidence as to their conversion, and 32 concerning whom there is like-*wise a goodly measure of confidence, though not to the same amount, as regarding the 31. There are therefore 63 out of the 120 Orphans in that one School who are considered to have been converted[Pg 62] in July, 1859. This blessed and mighty work of the Holy Spirit cannot be traced to any particular cause. It was however, a most precious answer to prayer. As such we look upon it, and are encouraged by it to further waiting upon God. The second season of the mighty working of the Holy Spirit among the Orphans, during the past year, was at the end of January and the beginning of February, 1860. The particulars of it are of the deepest interest; but I must content myself by stating, that this great work of the Spirit of God in January and February, 1860, began among the younger class of the children under our care, little girls of about 6, 7, 8 and 9 years old; then extended to the older girls; and then to the boys, so that within about 10 days above 200 of the Orphans were stirred up to be anxious about their souls, and in many instances found peace immediately, through faith in our Lord Jesus. They at once requested to be allowed to hold prayer-meetings among themselves, and have had these meetings ever since. Many of them also manifested a concern about the salvation of their companions and relations, and spoke or wrote to them, about the way to be saved.”
Mr. Müller relates the following incidents in connection with the purchase of the land for the Fourth and Fifth Orphan-Houses, after receiving five thousand pounds for the Building Fund:
“I had now, through all that had come in since May 26th, 1864, including this last-mentioned donation, above Twenty-Seven Thousand Pounds in hand. I had patiently waited God’s time. I had determined to do nothing, until I had the full half of the sum needed for the two houses. But now, having above Two Thousand Pounds beyond the half, I felt, after again seeking counsel from God, quite happy, in taking steps for the purchase of land.
“My eyes had been for years directed to a beautiful piece of land, only separated by the turnpike road from the ground on which the New Orphan-House No. 3 is erected. The land is about 18 acres, with a small house and outhouses built on one end thereof. Hundreds of times had I prayed, within the last years, that God for Jesus’ sake would count me worthy, to be allowed to erect on this ground two more Orphan-Houses; and hundreds of times I had with a prayerful eye looked on this land, yea, as it were, bedewed it with my prayers. I might have bought it years ago; but that would have been going before the Lord. I had money enough in hand to have paid for it years ago; but I desired patiently, submissively, to wait God’s own time, and for Him to mark it clearly and distinctly that His time was come, and that I took the step according to His will; for whatever I might apparently accomplish, if the work were mine, and not the Lord’s, I could expect no blessing.
But now the Lord’s mind was clearly and distinctly made manifest. I had enough money in hand to pay for the land and to build one house, and therefore I went forward, after having still asked the Lord for guidance, and being assured that it was His will I should take active steps. The first thing I did was, to see the agent who acted for the owner of the land, and to ask him, whether the land was for sale. He replied that it was, but that it was let till March 25th, 1867. He said that he would write for the price. Here a great difficulty at once presented itself, that the land was let for two years and four months longer, whilst it appeared desirable that I should be able to take possession of it in about six months, viz., as soon as the conveyance could be made out, and the plans be ready for the New Orphan-House No. 4, and arrangements be made with contractors.
But I was not discouraged by this difficulty; for I expected, through prayer, to make happy and satisfactory arrangements with the tenant, being willing to give him a fair compensation for leaving before his time had expired. But, before I had time to see about this, two other great difficulties presented themselves: the one was, that the owner asked £7,000 for the land, which I judged to be considerably more than its value; and the other, that I heard that the Bristol Waterworks Company intended to make an additional reservoir for their water, on this very land, and to get an Act of Parliament passed to that effect.
“Pause here for a few moments, esteemed Reader. You have seen, how the Lord brought me so far, with regard to pecuniary means, that I felt now warranted to go forward; and I may further add, that I was brought to this point as the result of thousands of times praying regarding this object; and that there were, also, many hundreds of children waiting for admission; and yet, after the Lord Himself so manifestly had appeared on our behalf, by the donation of £5,000, He allows this apparent death-blow to come upon the whole.
But thus I have found it hundreds of times since I have known the Lord. The difficulties, which He is pleased to allow to arise, are only allowed, under such circumstances, for the exercise of our faith and patience; and more prayer, more patience, and the exercise of faith, will remove the difficulties. Now, as I knew the Lord, these difficulties were no insurmountable difficulties to me, for I put my trust in Him, according to that word: “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.” (Psalm ix. 9, 10).
I gave myself, therefore, earnestly to prayer concerning all these three especial difficulties which had arisen regarding the land. I prayed several times daily about the matter, and used the following means: 1. I saw the Acting Committee of the Directors of the Bristol Waterworks Company regarding their intended reservoir on the land, which I was about to purchase, and stated to them, what I had seen in print concerning their intentions. They courteously stated to me, that only a small portion of the land would be required, not enough to interfere with my purpose; and that, if it could be avoided, even this small portion should not be taken.
2. This being settled, I now saw the tenant, after many prayers; for I desired, as a Christian, that if this land were bought, it should be done under amicable circumstances with regard to him. At the first interview, I stated my intentions to him, at the same time expressing my desire that the matter should be settled pleasantly with regard to himself. He said that he would consider the matter, and desired a few days for that purpose. After a week I saw him again, and he then kindly stated, that, as the land was wanted for such an object, he would not stand in the way; but that, as he had laid out a good deal on the house and land, he expected a compensation for leaving it before his time was up. As I, of course, was quite willing to give a fair and reasonable compensation, I considered this a very precious answer to prayer.
3. I now entered upon the third difficulty, the price of the land. I knew well how much the land was worth to the Orphan Institution; but its value to the Institution was not the market value. I gave myself, therefore, day by day to prayer, that the Lord would constrain the owner to accept a considerably lower sum than he had asked; I also pointed out to him why it was not worth as much as he asked. At last he consented to take £5,500 instead of £7,000, and I accepted the offer; for I knew that by the level character of the land we should save a considerable sum for the two houses, and that by the new sewer, which only a few months before had been completed, running along under the turnpike road near the field, we should be considerably benefited. In addition to these two points I had to take into the account, that we can have gas from Bristol, as in the three houses already in operation.
And lastly, the most important point of all, the nearness of this piece of land to the other three houses, so that all could easily be under the same direction and superintendence. In fact, no other piece of land, near or far off, would present so much advantage to us, as this spot, which the Lord thus so very kindly had given to us. All being now settled, I proceeded to have the land conveyed to the same trustees who stood trustees for the New Orphan-Houses No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3.—I have thus minutely dwelt on these various matters for the encouragement of the reader, that he may not be discouraged by difficulties, however great and many and varied, but give himself to prayer, trusting in the Lord for help, yea, expecting help, which, in His own time and way, He will surely grant.”
“As in the case of No. 2, so also in the case of the New Orphan-House No. 3, I had daily prayed for the needed helpers and assistants for the various departments. Before a stone was laid, I began to pray for this; and, as the building progressed, I continued day by day to bring this matter before God, feeling assured, that, as in everything else, so in this particular also, He would graciously be pleased to appear on our behalf and help us, as the whole work is intended for His honour and glory.
“At last the time was near when the house could be opened, and the time therefore near when the applications, which had been made in writing during more than two years previously, should be considered, for the filling up of the various posts. It now, however, was found that, whilst there had been about 50 applications made for the various[Pg 49] situations, some places could not be filled up, because either the individuals, who had applied for them, were married, or were, on examination, found unsuitable. This was no small trial of faith; for day by day, for years, had I asked God to help me in this particular, even as He had done in the case of the New Orphan-House No. 2; I had also expected help, confidently expected help: and yet now, when help seemed needed, it was wanting. What was now to be done, dear Reader? Would it have been right to charge God with unfaithfulness? Would it have been right to distrust Him? Would it have been right to say, it is useless to pray? By no means. This, on the contrary, I did; I thanked God for all the help, He had given me in connection with the whole of the enlargement; I thanked Him for enabling me to overcome so many and such great difficulties; I thanked Him for the helpers He had given me for No. 2; I thanked Him, also, for the helpers He had given me already for No. 3; and instead of distrusting God, I looked upon this delay of the full answer to prayer, only as a trial of faith, and therefore resolved, that, instead of praying once a day with my dear wife about this matter, as we had been doing day by day for years, we should now meet daily three times, to bring this before God. I also brought the matter before the whole staff of my helpers in the work requesting their prayers. Thus I have now continued for about four months longer in prayer, day by day calling upon God three times on account of this[Pg 50] need, and the result has been, that one helper after the other has been given, without the help coming too late, or the work getting into confusion; or the reception of the children being hindered; and I am fully assured, that the few who are yet needed will also be found, when they are really required.”
March 12, 1862.—It was in November, 1850, that my mind became exercised about enlarging the Orphan Work from 300 Orphans to 1000, and subsequently to 1150; and it was in June, 1851, that this my purpose became known, having kept it secret for more than seven months, whilst day by day praying about it. From the end of November, 1850, to this day, March 12, 1862, not one single day has been allowed to pass, without this contemplated enlargement being brought before God in prayer, and generally more than once a day. But only now, this day, the New Orphan-House No. 3 was so far advanced, that it could be opened. Observe then, first, esteemed Reader, how long it may be, before a full answer to our prayers, even to thousands and tens of thousands of prayers, is granted; yea, though those prayers may be believing prayers, earnest prayers, and offered up in the name of the Lord Jesus, and though we may only for the sake of the honour of our Lord desire the answer: for I did, by the grace of God, without the least doubt and wavering look for more than eleven years for the full answer; * * * and I sought only in this matter the glory of God.
On May 25th, I began to ask the Lord for greater real spiritual prosperity among the saints, among whom I labour in Bristol, than there ever yet had been among them; and now I have to record to the praise of the Lord that truly He has answered this request; for, considering all things, at no period has there been more manifestation of grace and truth, and spiritual power among us, than there is now while I am writing this for the press (1845). Not that we have attained to what we might; we are far, very far from it; but the Lord has been very, very good to us, and we have most abundant cause for thanksgiving.
So far as I remember, I brought even the most minute circumstances concerning the Orphan-House before the Lord in my petitions, being conscious of my own weakness and ignorance.
There was, however, one point I never had prayed about, namely that the Lord would send children; for I naturally took it for granted that there would be plenty of applications.
The nearer, however, the day came which had been appointed for receiving applications, the more I had a secret consciousness, that the Lord might disappoint my natural expectations, and show me that I could not prosper in one single thing without Him.
The appointed time came, and not even one application was made. I had before this been repeatedly tried, whether I might not, after all, against the Lord’s mind, have engaged in the work.
This circumstance now led me to lie low before my God in prayer the whole of the evening, February 3, and to examine my heart once more as to all the motives concerning it; and being able, as formerly, to say, that His glory was my chief aim, i. e., that it might be seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God,—and that my second aim was the spiritual welfare of the orphan-children,—and the third their bodily welfare; and still continuing in prayer, I was at last brought to this state, that I could say from my heart, that I should rejoice in God being glorified in this matter, though it were by bringing the whole to nothing.
But as still, after all, it seemed to me more tending to the glory of God, to establish and prosper the Orphan-House, I could then ask Him heartily, to send applications. I enjoyed now a peaceful state of heart concerning the subject, and was also more assured than ever that God would establish it.
The very next day, February 4, the first application was made, and since then 42 more have been made.”
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.
June 25, 1834: These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.
June 26, 1834: I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I feel now this morning more comfortable.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.Psalm 55:17
April 21, 1832:
I would offer here a word of warning to believers. Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls.
On the 19th I had left Dartmouth, conversed a good deal that day, preached in the evening, walked afterwards eight miles, had only about five hours’ sleep, travelled again the next day twenty-five miles, preached twice, and conversed very much besides, went to bed at eleven, and arose before five.
All this shows that my body and spirit required rest, and, therefore, however careless about the Lord’s work I might have appeared to my brethren, I ought to have had a great deal of quiet time for prayer and reading the word, especially as I had a long journey before me that day, and as I was going to Bristol, which in itself required much prayer.
Instead of this, I hurried to the prayer meeting, after a few minutes’ private prayer. But let none think that public prayer will make up for closet communion.
Then again, afterwards, when I ought to have withdrawn myself, as it were, by force, from the company of beloved brethren and sisters, and given my testimony for the Lord, (and, indeed, it would have been the best testimony I could have given them,) by telling them that I needed secret communion with the Lord, I did not do so, but spent the time, till the coach came, in conversation with them.
Now, however profitable in some respects it may have been made to those with whom I was on that morning, yet my own soul needed food; and not having had it, I was lean, and felt the effects of it the whole day; and hence I believe it came that I was dumb on the coach, and did not speak a word for Christ, nor give away a single tract, though I had my pockets full on purpose.
About the same time, also, my wife and I had grace given to us to take the Lord’s commandment, “Sell that ye have, and give alms,” Luke xii. 33, literally, and to carry it out. Our staff and support in this matter were Matthew vi. 19-34, John xiv. 13, 14. We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus. It is now twenty-five years since we set out in this way, and we do not in the least regret the step we then took. As I have written down how the Lord has been pleased to deal with us since, I shall be able to relate some facts concerning this matter, as far as they may tend to edification.
Nov. 18, 1830. Our money was reduced to about eight shillings. When I was praying with my wife in the morning, the Lord brought to my mind the state of our purse, and I was led to ask him for some money. About four hours after, a sister said to me, “Do you want any money?” “I told the brethren,” said I, “dear sister, when I gave up my salary, that I would for the future tell the Lord only about my wants.” She replied, “But he has told me to give you some money. About a fortnight ago, I asked him what I should do for him, and he told me to give you some money; and last Saturday it came again powerfully to my mind, and has not left me since, and I felt it so forcibly last night that I could not help speaking of it to brother P.” My heart rejoiced, seeing the Lord’s faithfulness, but I thought it better not to tell her about our circumstances, lest she should be influenced to give accordingly; and I also was assured that, if it were of the Lord, she could not but give. I therefore turned the conversation to other subjects, but when I left she gave me two guineas. We were full of joy on account of the goodness of the Lord. I would call upon the reader to admire the gentleness of the Lord, that he did not try our faith much at the commencement, but allowed us to see his willingness to help us, before he was pleased to try it more fully.
The next Wednesday I went to Exmouth, our money having then again been reduced to about nine shillings. I asked the Lord on Thursday, when at Exmouth, to be pleased to give me some money. On Friday morning, about eight o’clock, whilst in prayer, I was particularly led to ask again for money; and before I rose from my knees I had the fullest assurance that we should have the answer that very day. About nine o’clock I left the brother with whom I was staying, and he gave me half a sovereign, saying, “Take this for the expenses connected with your coming to us.” I did not expect to have my expenses paid, but I saw the Lord’s fatherly hand in sending me this money within one hour after my asking him for some. But even then I was so fully assured that the Lord would send more that very day, or had done so already, that, when I came home about twelve o’clock, I asked my wife whether she had received any letters. She told me she had received one the day before from a brother in Exeter, with three sovereigns. Thus even my prayer on the preceding day had been answered. The next day one of the brethren came and brought me four pounds, which was due to me of my former salary, but which I could never have expected, as I did not even know that this sum was due to me. Thus I received, within thirty hours, in answer to prayer, seven pounds ten shillings.
About Christmas, when our money was reduced to a few shillings, I asked the Lord for more; when, a few hours after, there was given to us a sovereign by a brother from Axminster. This brother had heard much against me, and was at last determined to hear for himself, and thus came to Teignmouth, a distance of forty miles; and having heard about our manner of living, gave us this money.
With this closes the year 1830. Throughout it the Lord richly supplied all my temporal wants, though at the commencement of it I had no certain human prospect for one single shilling: so that, even as it regards temporal things, I had not been in the smallest degree a loser in acting according to the dictates of my conscience; and as it regards spiritual things, the Lord had dealt bountifully with me, and had condescended to use me as an instrument in doing his work.