Godly Saints From The Past: A Look Into The Lives Of Forgotten Saints In Christian History (George Mueller 1805-1898)

George Mueller was a Prussian (German native) born in Kroppenstaedt on September 27, 1805 to Herr Faru Mueller. His father was a Prussian Tax Collector and would often entrust George and his two other brothers with considerable amounts of money, which many times would turn out to be disastrous. Often times George and his brothers would take the money and use it for themselves in ways in which they would never get caught. George would become a regular thief and before he was 10 years old he had stolen from the government funds that were apart of his father’s keeping. George’s father wanted his son to grow to be a clergyman and to make a good living for himself, so that he in turn would support him when he got older. As a result his father sent him to school at the Cathedral Classical School. At the school there was very little supervision over young George so he spent much time in drinking with friends and being wild. In fact his mother died when he was 14 years old and was playing cards the night of her illness and was not even aware that she had died, and then spent the next day in the tavern. In his own words George said “My time was now spent in studying, reading novels, and indulging, though so young, in sinful practices. Thus it continued until I was fourteen years old, when my mother was suddenly removed. The night she was dying, I, not knowing of her illness, was playing cards until 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, being filled with strong beer, we went about the streets half intoxicated.” Just days before George was to be confirmed into the church in which he would be able to partake in the church sacraments, he was actively engaged in wickedness. In his own words he said “Three or four days before I was confirmed , 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 a twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him.”

When George was 15 years old his father was transferred to another town to carry on his tax work, and this left George to stay at home alone to supervise repairs and to study for the ministry. George took full advantage of this opportunity to hone his skills as a thief and take from others to pocket for himself. In his father’s absence, George would collect the money from the villagers that owed his father money. However George would pocket the money for himself and decided to take a trip in what he would later call his “..days of sin.” During his trip George  stayed in expensive hotels and then would sneak out after a week without paying the bill. However after a couple of weeks of doing this it caught up with him and he was finally caught and put in jail for 24 days and along with other criminals including murderers. His father had to come and bail him out.

After this George was sent to school by his father in  Nordhausen, Prussia where he would study from 4am to 10pm. One of George’s teachers told his father that the young man had great promise, but his drinking and debauchery continuously got in the way of those promises. In 1825 when George was 19 years old he entered into Halle University as a student of Divinity to prepare himself for the Lutheran Church ministries. While at the university he reunited with an old acquaintance at a tavern named Beta, who at the time was a backslidden Christian. George and his friend Beta decided they want to take a trip to Switzerland and so they pawned off they belongings to get enough money to go, and then forged letters from their parents in order to get their passport, and they took a several week trip to Switzerland. When they returned to the University, Beta, was disturbed in his conscience for what he had done and made an open confession to his father. After this Beta began to attend a Saturday night meeting in the home of a Christian. George had also heard about this meeting and was very interested and wanted to go along. Beta agreed to let him come, though reluctantly, thinking that George would not like the Christian meeting. However as apart of God’s sovereign plan it would be this meeting that would change George’s live forever.

When they arrived at the Wagner residence for the meeting, George saw something that he had never experienced or seen in his life before this time, and that was people praying earnestly on their knees. He felt so awkward being there that he apologized for his presence, but the host told him it was no problem, and that he was welcome to come as much as he wanted. As George was walking home from the meeting that evening with Beta, he said “ All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening!” On that mid November night in 1825 at the age of 20 God was changed George’s heart forever and the whole course of his life. Soon after in 1826 George began to read literature about missionaries and his heart being stirred in the direction of missions. However when he told his family about this direction of his future they vehemently objected to the idea. His father despised the idea so much that he told George that it he wanted to do missions that he would stop supporting him at the University and he would have to support himself. George was able to provide for himself by taking a well paying job teaching German to American college professors and translating their lectures for them. It was during this time in 1826 that George lived in an Orphan House built by Hermann Francke, a Professor of Divinity at Halle University. It would be here that would plant  a seed in the heart of young George that would set the tone for his future ministry. On August 27th, 1826 George preached his first sermon at a village about 6 miles from the University and in 1828 he graduated from the University.

After graduation George had the desire to become a missionary to the Jews and he applied to a missionary society in London that specified in working with the Jews. As result he was given an invitation to come for a 6 month probation period in London. George left home to go to London on February 10, 1829 and arrived on March 19, 1829. George became fluent in English although he never lost his German accent. His studies while in London in preparation for working with Jews included rigorous and  strict disciplines of study among many things including Hebrew, which in turn took a toll on his health. He was advised by doctors and friend that he needed to go into the country for a change to get fresh air and change of pace for little bit. At their advice he traveled to Teignmouth in Devonshire and would meet a man there by the name of Henry Craik, who would be a loyal friend and associate for many years to come with George. It was there that George attended a service at a small meeting house called Bethesda Chapel, and he was deeply moved by one of the speakers. In August of 1829 he returned to London for his studies with new vigor and passion for the Word of God. He began to gather other students for Bible study and prayer from 6am to 8am. In the evenings he would often times pray till midnight and his passion for God grew. It was during this time that he felt that God was not calling him to work with the Jews alone, and he resigned from the London Society.

George then began to preach in different towns in London and in 1830 became the pastor at Ebenezer Chapel on Teignmouth, to a congregation of 18 people. In January of 1830 while on a monthly preaching engagement he was staying at the home of a invalid named Mrs. Lake. There was a 29 year old young woman named Mary Groves that was taking care of Mrs. Lake and George was greatly attracted to her. On October 7, 1830 they got married, Mary was 29 and George was 24. Shortly after their marriage they made the decision  that they would depend upon God alone for their needs, so much so that they would not even give answers to those that inquired whether they were in need of money at any particular moment. George and Mary would find out that through their faith and trust in God that he would always supply that which they needed whether is be for there on personal needs or needs within the ministry. No matter how bad things would get George would always resort to prayer and God would always supply that which was needed in the exact time that they would need it. In the 1832 George felt that he was to leave Teignmouth to go to Bristol and on April 22 he preached his first sermon in Bristol. It was there in Bristol that a friend offered to rent the Bethesda Chapel  if George and Henry Craik would stay there for at least a year to develop a work there. After taking the offer to develop a work there, George and his wife Mary  moved to Bristol, England to settle on May 25, 1832 and would remain his home till the day that he died. On September 17, 1832 his first child was born named Lydia. Then on February 25, 1834 George founded a missionary institute called “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution For Home and Abroad.” George developed at least 4 objectives in the development of the school:

 

  • To assist Sunday Schools, Day Schools, and Adult schools to learn the Bible
  • To sell Bibles and Testaments to the poor at low prices, and to give them free of cost if possible
  • To aid missionary efforts
  • To circulate evangelistic tracts in English and in various foreign languages
  • To develop an orphan house for children

 

It was placed upon George’s heart that he needed to start an orphanage in Bristol for the many children in England. On December 9, 1835 he presented his ideas to a public meeting, in which although no offering was taken, someone handed him ten shillings and a woman offered herself for the work. Then after 5 days of prayer $300 came in which gave them the ability to be able to rent a house as well as equip and furnish it. George rented Number 6 Wilson St. where he was living and on April 11, 1836, the doors of the orphanage was opened and began with 26 girls between the ages of seven to twelve years old. Then a second house was opened on November 28, 1836 to care for children from babies to seven years of age. In September 1837 a third house was opened for boys over seven years of age. Although there were many trying years for George he continually trusted in God to supply all his needs without making them known to anyone except God alone. Through this George never incurred any debt and God over and again would supernaturally provide for them. There were many stories of God’s supernatural working in the life of George Mueller and his ministry. As an example of one of the many stories there was one morning when as usual George put the plates, cups, and bowls on the table for the children empty, as there was no food to put in them or money to buy them. George Muller knew they would need food soon as the school day would start soon. George lifted his hands and prayed “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.” As soon as he was done praying there was a knock at the door and a baker stood there. The baker said to  George “Mr. Muller I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have any bread for breakfast and the Lord wanted me to give you some. So I got up at 2am and baked some fresh bread and have brought it.” Amazingly no sooner had the baker brought the bread that there was another knock at the door and it was the milkman. His cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage and that he wanted to give the milk to the orphanage so he could empty his wagon and be able to repair it.

In 1843 George felt the need for another home for girls and in July 1844 the fourth orphanage was opened that could house 300 children. Then in 1850 he felt the need for another orphanage and so by faith the funds were provided to house 400 children. In 1853 by faith another orphanage was opened that could house 400 children, and amazingly in 1868 another orphan home was built and another in 1870 that both housed 450 children. George Muller exhausted himself for the Lord’s work he would often answer 3,000 letters a year without a secretary along with managing his orphanages, keeping up with his Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and his pastoral duties of the Bethesda Chapel. His personal income on a yearly basis was about $12,000 but would only keep about $1,800 and would give the rest away. On February 6, 1870 his wife Mary died at the age of 72 from rheumatic fever. George would remarry again on November 30, 1871 to Susannah Grace Sanger. George was 66 when he married Susannah and she was in her late forties.

In 1875 when George was 70 years old he decided it was time for him to go preach around the world and turned the work of the orphanage over to his son-in-law James Wright, and from 1875 to 1892 he traveled the world preaching the gospel. For the next 17 years of his life George would take 16 different trips and travel over 200,000 miles to preach the gospel, in 42 different countries and preaching to nearly 3 million people. He would preach over, 1,000 sermons in his old age and of the man miles he traveled to preached 37,280 of those were when he was between the ages of 81-83. From 1830 to 1898 he preached over 10,000 sermons throughout his lifetime. On January 13, 1894 George’s second wife passed away after 23 year of marriage when he was 89 years old living out his days in one of his orphan houses. George preached his last sermon on March 6, 1898 when he was 92 years old on Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6. Shortly before he died at the age of 92 George had wrote “ I have been able, every day and all day to work with ease, as seventy years since.” Not long after he lead a prayer meeting at his church on Wednesday evening March, 9, 1898. On March 10, 1898 his maid had went into his room to give him a cup of tea at seven in the morning but as she knocked there was no answer. George Mueller was found dead on the floor beside his bed at the age of 92. His funeral took place on March 14th where tens of thousands lined the streets to pay honor to this great man of faith and many whose lives had been saved because of his orphanages.

George was such a man of prayer and faith and getting answers from God that he was often referred to as “the man who gets things from God.”Incredibly in the 40 years that George ran the orphanage he never asked anyone for money but in all his 40 years he raise the equivalent of what would be today 7 million dollars. This is incredible considering at the time he felt called by God to start orphanages he had no more than 50 cents in his pocket.. God raised George Mueller up to rescue children in a time where many children had no one to care for them and often had to beg and steal for food just to survive. In all of George Mueller’s years in the orphanages it is estimated that his homes took care of more that 10,000 orphan children. Therefore because people didn’t care for them the government would take the children and put them to work in workhouses that worked long hours in harsh conditions. It was said that Mueller read his Bible through over 200 times and half of the time it was on his knees. He recorded having known over 50,000 specific answer to prayer that God alone knew that he got answers from God about. He gave away nearly 250,000 Bibles and paid for hundreds of children’s schooling and tuition. Upon his death the The Bristol Times newspaper on the day of his funeral wrote “he was raised up for the purpose of showing that the age of miracles is not past.”

Perhaps saints of the 21st century would do well to heed the advice that George Mueller gave to someone who once asked what words of wisdom he had for them in regards to their own ministry work. George responded by saying “Seek entirely to depend on God for everything. Put yourself and your work into His hands. When thinking of any new undertaking, ask, Is this agreeable to the mind of God? Is it for His glory? If it is not for His glory, it is not for your good, and you must have nothing to do with it. Mind that! Having settled that a certain course is for the glory of God, begin it in His name and continue in it to the end. Undertake it in prayer and faith, and never give up!”

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