REVIEW OF THE YEAR 1841.
1. In reading over my journal, I find that the Lord has given me, during this year, many precious answers to prayer, in addition to those which have been recorded in the previous part of the Narrative. I mention the following for the encouragement of the reader: 1. One of the orphan boys needed to be apprenticed. I knew of no suitable believing master who would take an in-door apprentice. I gave myself to prayer, and brought the matter daily before the Lord. I marked it down among the subjects for which I would daily ask the Lord; and at last, though from May 21 to September I had to pray about the matter, the Lord granted my request; for in September I found a suitable place for him. 2. On May 23 I began to ask the Lord that he would be pleased to deliver a certain sister in the Lord from the great spiritual depression under which she was suffering, and after three days the Lord granted me my request. 3. On June 15 I began to ask the Lord to deliver a brother at a distance from the great spiritual nervousness in which he found himself shut up, which not only distressed him exceedingly, and in a great measure hindered him in his service towards the world and the church, but which in consequence was also a trial to the saints who knew and valued this dear brother. This petition I brought many times before the Lord. The year passed away, and it was not granted. But yet at last this request also has been granted to me and to the many dear saints who I know prayed for this dear brother; for though he was for some years in this state, it is now [in 1845] two years and more since he has been quite restored. 4. On June 15 I also began to ask the Lord daily in his mercy to keep a sister in the Lord from insanity, who was then apparently on the very border of it; and I have now [in 1845] to record to his praise, after nearly four years have passed away, that the Lord has kept her from it. 5. During this year I was informed about the conversion of one of the very greatest sinners that I had ever heard of in all my service for the Lord. Repeatedly I fell on my knees with his wife, and asked the Lord for his conversion, when she came to me in the deepest distress of soul, on account of her most barbarous and cruel treatment that she received from him in his bitter enmity against her for the Lord's sake, and because he could not provoke her to be in a passion, and she would not strike him again, and the like. At the time when it was at its worst I pleaded especially on his behalf the promise in Matthew xviii. 19: "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." And now this awful persecutor is converted. 6. On May 25 I began to ask the Lord for greater real spiritual prosperity among the saints among whom I labor 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 .
2. The state of the church with reference to numbers. There are 572 at present in communion, 88 having been added during the past year, of whom 30 have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord among us.
3. The Lord's goodness as to my temporal supplies during this year. He has been pleased to give me by freewill offerings of the saints, L238, 11s. 13/4d.
January 3, 1842. This evening we had a precious public prayer meeting. When the usual time for closing the meeting came, it appeared to me that there was a desire to continue to wait upon the Lord. I therefore proposed to the brethren that those who had bodily strength, time, and a desire for waiting still longer upon the Lord, would do so. At least thirty remained, and we continued till after ten in prayer, whilst several brethren prayed. I never knew prayer more really in the Spirit. I experienced for myself unusual nearness to the Lord, and was enabled to ask in faith, nothing doubting.
Jan. 4. As we have often found it to be the case, so it is now. After a season of more than usual poverty, comes a time of more than usual abundance. To-day the same brother who has been spoken of under November 2, and who has drawn his money out of the savings bank to spend it for the Lord, sent twenty pounds more of it. There came in also from Guernsey one pound, and one pound seven shillings besides. I am now able to order oatmeal from Scotland, buy materials for the boys' clothes, order shoes, etc. Thus the Lord has been pleased to answer all our requests with respect to the pecuniary necessities of the orphans, which we have brought before him in our prayer meetings during the last seven weeks. We have thus had of late an abundance, but the expenses have been great also; for within the last twenty-five days I have paid out above one hundred pounds.
Feb. 5. Saturday. As only ten pounds ten shillings sixpence had been received since January 29, i. e. only so much as day by day was needed to provide necessaries for the orphans, there is again the greatest need. It is now twelve o'clock, and there are no means as yet to meet the expenses of to-day. The words in the prayer of Jehoshaphat, "Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee," are at this moment the language of my heart. I likewise know not what to do, but my eyes are upon the Lord, and I am sure that he will help this day also.—Evening. In the course of the morning came in, by sale of articles, twelve shillings. We were able likewise to dispose of one of the articles which were sent last evening for five shillings. This afternoon one of the laborers gave me ten shillings, and three shillings came in for needlework. By means of this one pound ten shillings we were able to supply all that was needed.
Feb. 8. By what came in yesterday and the day before, the need of yesterday was supplied, and there is enough in all the houses for the meals of to-day; but in none of the houses have we been able to take in any bread; and as yesterday also but little could be taken in, there will not remain any for to-morrow; nor is there money enough to take in milk to-morrow morning. There are likewise coals needed in two houses. Indeed, so far as I know, these three years and seven months, since first the funds were exhausted, we were never in greater poverty; and if the Lord were not to send means before nine o'clock to-morrow morning, his name would be dishonored. But I am fully assured that he will not leave us.—Evening. The Lord has not yet been pleased to send us what is needed for to-morrow, but he has given us a fresh proof that he is mindful of us. Between four and five o'clock this afternoon were sent nine plum cakes, which a sister had ordered to be baked as a treat for the orphans. These cakes were an encouragement to me to continue to look out for further supplies. There was also found in the boxes at the Orphan Houses two shillings and a penny halfpenny, and one shilling fourpence came in for stockings. These little donations are most precious, but they are not enough to meet the need of to-morrow; yea, before nine o'clock to-morrow morning we need more money to be able to take in the milk. Truly, we are poorer than ever; but through grace my eyes look not at the empty stores and the empty purse, but to the riches of the Lord only.
Feb. 9. This morning I went between seven and eight o'clock to the Orphan Houses, to see whether the Lord had sent in anything. When I arrived there, he had just two or three minutes before sent help. A brother, in going to his house of business this morning, had gone already about half a mile, when the Lord was pleased to lay the orphans upon his heart. He said, however, to himself, I cannot well return now, but will take something this evening; and thus he walked on. Nevertheless, he could not go on any further, but felt himself constrained to go back, and to take to brother R. B., at the Boys' Orphan House, three sovereigns. [The donor himself stated this to me afterwards.] Thus the Lord in his faithfulness helped us. Help was never more truly needed, for our poverty was never greater; nor did the help of the Lord ever come more manifestly from himself; for the brother was gone on a good distance, it was between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, and it was so short a time before money would have been needed. Consider this, beloved reader, and with us praise the Lord for his goodness. Praise him particularly that he enabled us to trust in him in this trying hour. There came in besides, to-day, seven shillings sixpence.
Feb. 12. Saturday. Never since the funds were for the first time exhausted had there come in less during any week than during this. We were only able to supply the absolute necessities; but this we were enabled to do. When the meal-times came, the Lord always provided what was needful, and, considering the great distress there is now almost everywhere, our dear orphans are very well provided for. Now this day began not only without there being anything in hand, but our stores were greatly reduced, and we had to procure provisions for two days. One of the laborers gave five shillings in the morning, to provide the means to take in the milk. I collected together some pamphlets, which had been given for sale, to dispose of them, and they were sold about eleven o'clock for four shillings. There came in also by sale of stockings three shillings, and twelve shillings was paid on behalf of one of the orphans. Thus we were provided with means to procure a dinner, and had a little towards purchasing bread, but by no means enough. All the laborers were together in prayer from half-past eleven till one, and we separated comfortably, with the purpose of meeting again in the evening. When I came home there was given to me an old broken silver pencil-case, which, though worth very little, I took as a fresh proof that our Father was mindful of our need. When we met again this evening, we found that three shillings sixpence had come in by sale of stockings, and sixpence for two Reports. As all this was not enough, a few old and needless articles were disposed of for four shillings, also the broken pencil-case for sixpence. I say needless articles, for other articles it did not seem right to us to dispose of, in order that the Lord's own deliverance might be manifest. A laborer was also still further able to give seven shillings of his own. To one of the laborers two shillings had been owed by a certain individual for more than a twelvemonth, which being paid just now, and given by him for the orphans, came in most seasonably. Thus we had one pound eighteen shillings sixpence, as much as was needful to procure provisions till after breakfast on Monday morning. However, the Lord helped still further. Between eight and nine this evening, after we had been together for prayer, and had now separated, some money was given to one of the laborers for himself, by which means he was able to give nine shillings, so that altogether two pounds seven shillings sixpence had come in this day. This has been, of all the weeks, during the last three years and seven months, one of the most trying, so far as it regards the trial of faith. Thanks to the Lord who has helped us this day also! Thanks to him for enabling us already this morning, when we met for prayer, to praise him for the deliverance which we were sure he would work.
Feb. 16. This morning there was now again only sufficient money in hand to take in milk at two of the houses; but as a laborer was able to give six shillings sixpence, we had sufficient for the milk, and had also enough, with the provisions that were in the houses, to provide for the dinner. Nothing more came in in the course of the morning, nor was I able to make inquiries how matters stood. In the afternoon, between three and four o'clock, having once more besought the Lord to send us help, I sat peacefully down to give myself to meditation over the word, considering that that was now my service, though I knew not whether there was a morsel of bread for tea in any one of the houses, but being assured that the Lord would provide. For, through grace, my mind is so fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord, that, in the midst of the greatest need, I am enabled in peace to go about my other work. Indeed, did not the Lord give me this, which is the result of trusting in him, I should scarcely be able to work at all; for it is now comparatively a rare thing that a day comes when I am not in need for one or the other part of the work. Scarcely had I sat down to meditate, when a note was sent to me from the Orphan Houses, in which brother R. B., master of the orphan boys, had written thus: "On visiting the sisters in the Infant and Girls' Orphan Houses, I found them in the greatest need. There was not bread in one of the houses for tea this evening, and the six shillings sixpence was scarcely enough to supply what was needed for the dinner. I therefore opened the box in the Boys' Orphan House, and most unexpectedly found one pound it. Thus, through the kindness of the Lord, we were again abundantly supplied as it regards present necessities." In the evening the Lord, in his love and faithfulness, stretched out his hand still further. I had expounded at the meeting a part of John xi. The last words on which I spoke were, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?" When the meeting was over, as a fresh proof of the truth of this word, a note was given to me in which a sick sister sent me five pounds for the orphans.
Feb. 19. Saturday. Our means were now again completely spent. Our provision stores were, perhaps, even more exhausted than on any previous Saturday. There was not the least human likelihood of obtaining means for sufficient provisions for this one day, and much less for two days. When I went before breakfast to the Orphan Houses, I found a letter from Nottingham, containing one shilling, which had arrived last evening. This was not only a sweet proof that our Father remembered our need, but it was also like an earnest that he would supply us this day also with all we required. In the course of the morning came in by sale of stockings four shillings elevenpence. In the box at my house I found one shilling. One of the laborers gave four shillings tenpence. Thus we were provided with those things which were absolutely needed for this day. We met between eleven and twelve o'clock for prayer. When we met again in the evening, a second letter had arrived from Nottingham, with another shilling. This was a further sweet proof of our Father's loving remembrance of our need; but with all this we were still without any means to provide bread for to-morrow, the Lord's day. At eight o'clock I separated from my fellow-laborers, as I expected brother R. C. to arrive a little after eight at my house. I therefore requested one of the brethren to go with me, in order to take back to the Orphan Houses what the Lord might send in by post or in any other way. It was now half past eight in the evening, and there was no bread yet in any one of the three houses for to-morrow. A few moments after, brother C. arrived, and he had not been more than about five minutes in my house when he gave me half a sovereign which he brought for the orphans. I soon found an opportunity to leave the room for a little, gave the ten shillings to the brother whom I had brought with me from the Orphan Houses, and who was waiting in another room; and thus between nine and ten o'clock sufficient bread could be bought. Observe! For the trial of our faith the Lord had allowed us to be kept waiting so long. When, however, brother C. had arrived, having money for the orphans, he could not delay giving it at once, a matter most worthy of notice. This has been a week full of trials of faith, but also full of deliverances.
Feb. 21. Since Saturday evening came in one pound eight shillings elevenpence. There was also sent from Plymouth a piece of blond, a piece of quilling net, and eleven pairs of children's stockings, for sale. Thus we were supplied with means for that which was requisite for the beginning of this day; but, as our stores had been so reduced at the end of last week, there was not enough for tea this afternoon. Four o'clock had now come, one hour before the usual tea-time, when a brother from Somersetshire came to see the Orphan Houses, and put a sovereign into each of the boxes. Our great need soon brought out the money, and thus we were supplied. [Observe! The brother, as he himself told me a few days after in the course of conversation, had but little time, and therefore rather hastily went over the houses. Had he stayed long and conversed much, as might have been the case, his donations would not have been in time for the tea.] There came in one shilling besides, by needlework done by the children.
Feb. 25. Greater than now our need had never been. Our trials of faith have never been so sharp as during this week. Indeed, so much so, that most of the laborers felt to-day considerably tried. Yet neither this day has the Lord suffered us to be confounded. Through a remarkable circumstance one of the laborers obtained some money this morning, so that all the need of to-day could be amply met.
Feb. 26. My prayer this morning was in particular that the Lord would be pleased now to look in pity upon us, and take off his hand. Indeed, for several days my prayer has been that he would enable us to continue to trust in him, and not lay more upon us than he would enable us to bear. This is now again Saturday. There having been given yesterday a rich supply to the matrons, I knew that not so much as usual would be required this Saturday; still, I thought that one pound ten shillings would be needed. Between ten and eleven o'clock this morning a parcel came from Clapham, containing two pounds two shillings, with two frocks, two petticoats, two chemises, two pinafores, and six handkerchiefs, all new. Thus we were richly supplied for to-day, for only one pound ten shillings was needed.
March 2. This evening were sent, by order of an Irish sister, thirty-three and a half pounds of woollen yarn. Respecting this donation it is to be remarked that last Saturday we had asked the Lord, in our prayer meeting, that he would be pleased to send us means to purchase worsted, in order that the boys might go on with their knitting.
March 9. At a time of the greatest need, both with regard to the day schools and the orphans, so much so that we could not have gone on any longer without help, I received this day ten pounds from a brother who lives near Dublin. The money was divided between the day schools and the Orphan Houses. The following little circumstance is to be noticed respecting this donation. As our need was so great, and my soul was, through grace, truly waiting upon the Lord, I looked out for supplies in the course of this morning. The post, however, was out, and no supplies had come. This did not in the least discourage me. I said to myself, the Lord can send means without the post, or even now, though the post is out, by this very delivery of letters he may have sent means, though the money is not yet in my hands. It was not long after I had thus spoken to myself when, according to my hope in God, we were helped; for the brother who sent us the ten pounds, had this time directed his letter to the Boys' Orphan House, whence it was sent to me.
March 17. From the 12th to the 16th had come in four pounds five shillings elevenpence halfpenny for the orphans. This morning our poverty, which now has lasted more or less for several months, had become exceedingly great. I left my house a few minutes after seven to go to the Orphan Houses to see whether there was money enough to take in the milk, which is brought about eight o'clock. On my way it was especially my request that the Lord would be pleased to pity us, even as a father pitieth his children, and that he would not lay more upon us than he would enable us to bear. I especially entreated him that he would now be pleased to refresh our hearts by sending us help. I likewise reminded him of the consequences that would result, both in reference to believers and unbelievers, if we should have to give up the work because of want of means, and that he therefore would not permit its coming to nought. I moreover again confessed before the Lord that I deserved not that he should continue to use me in this work any longer. While I was thus in prayer, about two minutes' walk from the Orphan Houses, I met a brother who was going at this early hour to his business. After having exchanged a few words with him, I went on; but he presently ran after me, and gave me one pound for the orphans. Thus the Lord speedily answered my prayer. Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. And how should our Father do otherwise? He that has given us the greatest possible proof of his love which he could have done, in giving us his own Son, surely he will with him also freely give us all things. It is worth also being poor and greatly tried in faith, if but thereby the hearts of the children of God may be comforted and their faith strengthened, and if but those who do not know God, and who may read or hear of his dealings with us, should be led thereby to see that faith in God is more than a mere notion, and that there is indeed reality in Christianity. In the course of this day there came in still further thirteen shillings.
March 19. Saturday. As it has often been the case on Saturdays, so it was this day in particular. We began the day in very great poverty, as only seven shillings had come in since the day before yesterday. There was not one ray of light as to natural prospects. The heart would be overwhelmed at such seasons, were there not an abundance of repose to be found by trusting in God. The trial having continued so long, and our poverty having now come to such a degree that it was necessary we should have help in order that the name of the Lord might not be dishonored, I had proposed to my fellow-laborers that we should set apart this day especially for prayer. We met accordingly at half past ten in the morning. By that time had come in four shillings sixpence, seven shillings sixpence, and ten shillings. In the afternoon we met again at three, when ten shillings came in. In the evening, at seven, we met once more, there being yet about three shillings needed to provide all that was required. This also we received, and even three shillings more than was actually needed came in, just when we were about to separate.
April 9. Saturday. Only one shilling sixpence had come in since yesterday afternoon. We needed more money than there was in hand, especially as it was Saturday, but the Lord was pleased particularly to try our faith. In the course of the morning came from some sisters in Dublin, eighteen yards of calico, thirty-four yards of print, forty-three balls of cotton, and a pair of worn lady's boots. This donation came most seasonably, as we had been mentioning repeatedly the need of calico and print in our prayers, and the sewing-cotton and the pair of boots came at once into use. Moreover, this donation was a sweet encouragement to me to continue waiting upon the Lord. Evening was now approaching, and no money had yet come in for provisions, etc., which would be needed on the Lord's day. About six o'clock, I gave myself once more to prayer with my wife, and requested the Lord in my prayer that if the sister who in love to him has taken upon her the service of disposing of the articles which are given for sale had any money in hand, he would be pleased to incline her heart to bring or send the money this evening. After this I sat down peacefully to read the Scriptures, being assured that this time also the Lord would stretch out his hand on our behalf. About half past seven o'clock, the sister, to whom reference has just now been made, came and brought one pound ten shillings fourpence for articles which she had sold, stating that, though she was unwell, yet she felt herself constrained not to delay bringing this money. Thus we had all that was needed, and six shillings more. When I arrived with the money at the Infant Orphan House, about eight o'clock, I found my fellow-laborers in prayer, and while we still continued in prayer a sister sent a large basket of stale bread, being five brown loaves, seven bread cakes, and five French loaves.
April 12. We were never in greater need than to-day, perhaps never in so much, when I received this morning one hundred pounds from the East Indies. It is impossible to describe the real joy in God it gave me. My prayer had been again this morning particularly that our Father would pity us, and now at last send larger sums. I was not in the least surprised or excited when this donation came, for I took it as that which came in answer to prayer, and had been long looked for.
May 6. Only three pounds ten shillings twopence halfpenny had been received since the 2d, on which account there would have been only enough means in hand to provide for the breakfast to-morrow morning, when in this our fresh need we received eighty-six pounds, two pair of gold earrings, a brooch, and two rupees.
May 10. To-day, in closing the accounts, we have left, at the end of this period of seventeen months, in which we have been so often penniless, the sum of sixteen pounds eighteen shillings tenpence halfpenny for the orphans, and forty-eight pounds twelve shillings five and one fourth pence for the other objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
The time now seemed to us to have come, when, for the profit of the church at large, the Lord's dealings with us, with reference to the various objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, should be made known by publishing another Report. For, whilst we, on purpose, had delayed it at this time five months longer than during the previous years, and that during a period when we were in deeper poverty than during any previous time; yet, as from the commencement it had appeared to me important from time to time to make known the Lord's dealings with us, so I judged it profitable still to seek to comfort, to encourage, to exhort, to instruct, and to warn the dear children of God by the printed accounts of the Lord's goodness to us.
Though our trials of faith during these seventeen months lasted longer and were sharper than during any previous period, yet during all this time the orphans had everything that was needful in the way of nourishing food, the necessary articles of clothing, etc. Indeed, I should rather at once send the children back to their relations than keep them without sufficient maintenance.
I desire that all the children of God who may read these details may thereby be led to increased and more simple confidence in God for everything which they may need under any circumstances, and that these many answers to prayer may encourage them to pray, particularly as it regards the conversion of their friends and relations, their own progress in grace and knowledge, the state of the saints whom they may know personally, the state of the church of Christ at large, and the success of the preaching of the gospel. Especially, I affectionately warn them against being led away by the device of Satan, to think that these things are peculiar to me, and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God; for though, as has been stated before, every believer is not called upon to establish orphan houses, charity schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means, yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon him, to trust in him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to his will and in the name of the Lord Jesus. Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Cor. xii. 9, and which is mentioned along with "the gifts of healing," "the working of miracles," "prophecy," and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith which I am enabled to exercise is altogether God's own gift; it is true that he alone supports it, and that he alone can increase it; it is true that moment by moment, I depend on him for it, and that if I were only one moment left to myself my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Cor. xii. 9. It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer, and the growth of which I am most sensible of to myself; for by little and little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years.
This faith which is exercised respecting the Orphan Houses, and my own temporal necessities shows itself in the same measure, for instance, concerning the following points: I have never been permitted to doubt during the last twenty-seven years that my sins are forgiven, that I am a child of God, that I am beloved of God, and that I shall be finally saved; because I am enabled by the grace of God to exercise faith upon the word of God, and believe what God says in those passages which settle these matters (1 John v. 1; Gal. iii. 26; Acts x. 43; Romans x. 9, 10; John iii. 16, etc.). Further, at the time when I thought I should be insane, though there was not the least ground for thinking so, I was in peace; because my soul believed the truth of that word, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Rom. viii. 28. Further: When my brother in the flesh and my dear aged father died, and when concerning both of them I had no evidence whatever that they were saved (though I dare not say that they are lost, for I know it not), yet my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace, under this great trial, this exceedingly great trial, this trial which is one of the greatest perhaps which can befall a believer. And what was it that gave me peace? My soul laid hold on that word, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" This word, together with the whole character of God, as he has revealed himself in his holy word, settled all questionings. I believed what he has said concerning himself, and I was at peace, and have been at peace ever since, concerning this matter. Further: When the Lord took from me a beloved infant, my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace; I could only weep tears of joy when I did weep. And why? Because my soul laid hold in faith on that word, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew xix. 14. Further: When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark, with reference to my service among the saints, judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair had I looked at things after the outward appearance: at such times I have sought to encourage myself in God, by laying hold in faith on his almighty power, his unchangeable love, and his infinite wisdom, and I have said to myself, God is able and willing to deliver me, if it be good for me; for it is written, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Rom. viii. 32. This it was which, being believed by me through grace, kept my soul in peace. Further: When in connection with the Orphan Houses, day schools, etc., trials have come upon me which were far heavier than the want of means, when lying reports were spread that the orphans had not enough to eat, or that they were cruelly treated in other respects, and the like; or when other trials, still greater, but which I cannot mention, have befallen me in connection with this work, and that at a time when I was nearly a thousand miles absent from Bristol, and had to remain absent week after week; at such times my soul was stayed upon God; I believed his word of promise which was applicable to such cases; I poured out my soul before God, and arose from my knees in peace, because the trouble that was in the soul was in believing prayer cast upon God, and thus I was kept in peace, though I saw it to be the will of God to remain far away from the work. Further: When I needed houses, fellow-laborers, masters and mistresses for the orphans or for the day schools, I have been enabled to look for all to the Lord, and trust in him for help.
Dear reader, I may seem to boast; but, by the grace of God, I do not boast in thus speaking. From my inmost soul I do ascribe it to God alone that he has enabled me to trust in him, and that hitherto he has not suffered my confidence in him to fail. But I thought it needful to make these remarks, lest any one should think that my depending upon God was a particular gift given to me which other saints have no right to look for; or lest it should be thought that this my depending upon him had only to do with the obtaining of MONEY by prayer and faith. By the grace of God I desire that my faith in God should extend towards EVERYTHING, the smallest of my own temporal and spiritual concerns, and the smallest of the temporal and spiritual concerns of my family, towards the saints among whom I labor, the church at large, everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, etc. Dear reader, do not think that I have attained in faith (and how much less in other respects!) to that degree to which I might and ought to attain; but thank God for the faith which he has given me, and ask him to uphold and increase it. And lastly, once more, let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that he would be pleased, by his Holy Spirit, to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, begin this his service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for his assistance, and believe that he, for his dear Son's sake, will help me. And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader? Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God's dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in him. But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food for faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost. This leads me to the following important point. You ask, How may I, a true believer, have my faith strengthened? The answer is this:—
I. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James i. 17. As the increase of faith is a good gift, it must come from God, and therefore he ought to be asked for this blessing.
II. The following means, however, ought to be used: 1. The careful reading of the word of God, combined with meditation on it. Through reading of the word of God, and especially through meditation on the word of God, the believer becomes more and more acquainted with the nature and character of God, and thus sees more and more, besides his holiness and justice, what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful being he is, and, therefore, in poverty, affliction of body, bereavement in his family, difficulty in his service, want of a situation or employment, he will repose upon the ability of God to help him, because he has not only learned from his word that he is of almighty power and infinite wisdom, but he has also seen instance upon instance in the Holy Scriptures in which his almighty power and infinite wisdom have been actually exercised in helping and delivering his people; and he will repose upon the willingness of God to help him, because he has not only learned from the Scriptures what a kind, good, merciful, gracious, and faithful being God is, but because he has also seen in the word of God, how in a great variety of instances he has proved himself to be so. And the consideration of this, if God has become known to us through prayer and meditation on his own word, will lead us, in general at least, with a measure of confidence to rely upon him: and thus the reading of the word of God, together with meditation on it, will be one especial means to strengthen our faith.
2. As, with reference to the growth of every grace of the Spirit, it is of the utmost importance that we seek to maintain an upright heart and a good conscience, and, therefore, do not knowingly and habitually indulge in those things which are contrary to the mind of God, so it is also particularly the case with reference to the growth in faith. How can I possibly continue to act faith upon God, concerning anything, if I am habitually grieving him, and seek to detract from the glory and honor of him in whom I profess to trust, upon whom I profess to depend? All my confidence towards God, all my leaning upon him in the hour of trial, will be gone, if I have a guilty conscience, and do not seek to put away this guilty conscience, but still continue to do things which are contrary to the mind of God. And if, in any particular instance, I cannot trust in God, because of the guilty conscience, then my faith is weakened by that instance of distrust; for faith with every fresh trial of it either increases by trusting God, and thus getting help, or it decreases by not trusting him; and then there is less and less power of looking simply and directly to him, and a habit of self-dependence is begotten or encouraged. One or other of these will always be the case in each particular instance. Either we trust in God, and in that case we neither trust in ourselves, nor in our fellow-men, nor in circumstances, nor in anything besides; or we DO trust in one or more of these, and in that case do NOT trust in God.
3. If we, indeed, desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and, therefore, through the trial, be strengthened. In our natural state we dislike dealing with God alone. Through our natural alienation from God we shrink from him, and from eternal realities. This cleaves to us more or less, even after our regeneration. Hence it is that, more or less, even as believers, we have the same shrinking from standing with God alone, from depending upon him alone, from looking to him alone; and yet this is the very position in which we ought to be, if we wish our faith to be strengthened. The more I am in a position to be tried in faith with reference to my body, my family, my service for the Lord, my business, etc., the more shall I have opportunity of seeing God's help and deliverance; and every fresh instance in which he helps and delivers me will tend towards the increase of my faith. On this account, therefore, the believer should not shrink from situations, positions, circumstances, in which his faith may be tried, but should cheerfully embrace them as opportunities where he may see the hand of God stretched out on his behalf, to help and deliver him, and whereby he may thus have his faith strengthened.
4. The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is, that we let God work for us, when the hour of the trial of our faith comes, and do not work a deliverance of our own. Wherever God has given faith, it is given, among other reasons, for the very purpose of being tried. Yea, however weak our faith may be, God will try it; only with this restriction, that as, in every way, he leads us on gently, gradually, patiently, so also with reference to the trial of our faith. At first, our faith will be tried very little in comparison with what it may be afterwards; for God never lays more upon us than he is willing to enable us to bear. Now, when the trial of faith comes, we are naturally inclined to distrust God, and to trust rather in ourselves, or in our friends, or in circumstances. We will rather work a deliverance of our own, somehow or other, than simply look to God and wait for his help. But if we do not patiently wait for God's help, if we work a deliverance of our own, then at the next trial of our faith it will be thus again, we shall be again inclined to deliver ourselves; and thus, with every fresh instance of that kind, our faith will decrease; whilst, on the contrary, were we to stand still in order to see the salvation of God, to see his hand stretched out on our behalf, trusting in him alone, then our faith would be increased, and with every fresh case in which the hand of God is stretched out on our behalf in the hour of the trial of our faith, our faith would be increased yet more. Would the believer, therefore, have his faith strengthened, he must, especially, give time to God, who tries his faith in order to prove to his child, in the end, how willing he is to help and deliver him, the moment it is good for him.
I now return, dear reader, to the Narrative, giving you some further information with reference to the seventeen months from Dec. 10, 1840, to May 10, 1842, as it respects the Orphan Houses, and other objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, besides the facts of which mention has been already made.
During this period, also, 1. Two Sunday schools were entirely supported by the funds of the Institution. 2. There were two adult schools, one for females, and one for males, entirely supported during these seventeen months, in which on two evenings of the week the males, and on two evenings the females, were instructed, quite gratuitously, in reading and writing, and were furnished with books and writing materials gratuitously. There were, during these seventeen months, 344 adults taught in these two schools, and on May 10, 1842, the number under instruction amounted to 110. 3. There were, during these seventeen months, also six day schools entirely supported by the funds of the Institution, three for boys and three for girls. On May 10, 1842, the number of the children who attended these day schools was 363; and the total number who, from the formation of the Institution, March 5, 1834, up to May 10, 1842, had been instructed in the day schools, which are supported by the funds of the Institution, amounts to 2,616. 4. During these seventeen months, 798 copies of the Holy Scriptures were circulated, and from the commencement of the Institution, up to May 10, 1842, 6,842 copies. 5. During these seventeen months was spent for missionary purposes the sum of L126, 15s. 3d. of the funds of the Institution, whereby assistance was rendered to the work of God in Jamaica, in Australia, in Canada, and in the East Indies. 6. At the commencement of these seventeen months, i. e. on Dec. 10, 1840, a new object was begun, the circulation of such publications as may be beneficial, with the blessing of God, to both unbelievers and believers. We laid out for this object during these seventeen months the sum of L62, 17s. 4d., for which 22,190 such little publications were purchased, and of which number 19,609 were actually given away. 7. There were received into the three Orphan Houses 15 orphans, who, together with those who were in the houses on Dec. 10, 1840, make up 106 in all. Of these, five girls were sent out to service, two boys and one girl were apprenticed, one girl was removed by a lady who had placed her for a time under our care, and one was sent back to his relations, as he was injurious to the other children.
There were on May 10, 1842, 96 orphans in the three houses, i. e. 30 in the Girls' Orphan House, 37 in the Infant Orphan House, and 29 in the Boys' Orphan House. Besides this, three apprentices were supported by the funds of the Institution; so that the total number was 99. The number of orphans who were under our care from April, 1836, to May 10, 1842, amounts to 144.
I notice further, in connection with the Orphan Houses, that, without any one having been asked for anything by me, the sum of L5,276, 14s. 8d. was given to me from the beginning of the work up to May 10, 1842, as the result of prayer to God.
The total of the expenditure for the various objects of the Institution, exclusive of the Orphan Houses, during these seventeen months, amounted to L710, 11s. 5d.; the total of the income amounted to L746, 1s. 01/2d. The total of the expenditure for the three Orphan Houses, from Dec. 10, 1840, to May 10, 1842, amounted to L1,337, 15s. 23/4d.; the total of the income amounted to L1,339, 13s. 7d.
ABUNDANT SUPPLIES—RESTING ON THE WRITTEN WORD—"SEEKING AND FINDING"—ERRONEOUS IMPRESSIONS REMOVED—PERSEVERING AND PREVAILING PRAYER ANSWERED—"LENGTHENING THE CORDS AND STRENGTHENING THE STAKES"—A FOURTH ORPHAN HOUSE.
June 3, 1842. For several days past I had not been particularly led to pray for means for the orphans. Last evening, however, I did so, as we had now again no money in hand, there having come in only ten pounds two shillings twopence during the last five days; and in answer to my request two pounds nineteen shillings sixpence came in this morning.
For several months succeeding the last date, means continued to flow in, without interruption, as they were needed. There was no excess of means, nor was there any lack. On Dec. 1, 1842, Mr. Mueller writes:—
Nothing had come in, except five shillings for needlework. The laborers had nothing to give, except one of them one shilling sixpence; yet this little supplied the absolute need, which was only milk. We were unable to take in the usual quantity of bread. Should it be said that the not taking in the usual quantity of bread would at once prove to the bakers that we are poor, my reply is, that that does not follow, because bread has often been sent as a present, as may be seen in the list of articles, given for the orphans, at the end of the printed Reports. But perhaps it may be asked, Why do you not take the bread on credit? What does it matter whether you pay immediately for it, or at the end of the month, or the quarter, or the half year? Seeing that the Orphan Houses are the work of the Lord, may you not trust in him that he will supply you with means to pay the bills which you contract with the butcher, baker, grocer, etc. as the things which you purchase are needful? My reply is this: 1. If the work in which we are engaged is indeed the work of God, then he whose work it is is surely able and willing to provide the means for it. 2. But not only so, he will also provide the means at the time when they are needed. I do not mean that he will provide them when we think that they are needed; but yet that when there is real need, such as the necessaries of life being required, he will give them; and on the same ground on which we suppose we do trust in God to help us to pay the debt which we now contract, we may and ought to trust in the Lord to supply us with what we require at present, so that there may be no need for going into debt. 3. It is true, I might have goods on credit, and to a very considerable amount; but, then, the result would be, that the next time we were again in straits, the mind would involuntarily be turned to further credit which I might have, instead of being turned to the Lord, and thus faith, which is kept up and strengthened only by being EXERCISED, would become weaker and weaker, till at last, according to all human probability, I should find myself deeply in debt and have no prospect of getting out of it. 4. Faith has to do with the word of God,—rests upon the written word of God; but there is no promise that he will pay our debts. The word says rather, "Owe no man anything;" whilst there is the promise given to his children, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," and, "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be confounded." On this account we could not say, upon the ground of the Holy Scriptures, Why do you not trust in God that he will supply you with means to pay your debts which you contract in his service for the necessities of the orphans? 5. The last reason why we do not take goods on credit is this: The chief and primary object of the work was not the temporal welfare of the children, nor even their spiritual welfare, blessed and glorious as it is, and much as, through grace, we seek after it and pray for it; but the first and primary object of the work was, to show before the whole world and the whole church of Christ, that even in these last evil days the living God is ready to prove himself as the living God, by being ever willing to help, succor, comfort, and answer the prayers of those who trust in him: so that we need not go away from him to our fellow-men, or to the ways of the world, seeing that he is both able and willing to supply us with all we can need in his service.
From the beginning, when God put this service into my heart, I had anticipated trials and straits; but knowing, as I did, the heart of God, through the experience of several years previously, I also knew that he would listen to the prayers of his child who trusts in him, and that he would not leave him in the hour of need, but listen to his prayers, and deliver him out of the difficulty, and that then, this being made known in print for the benefit of both believers and unbelievers, others would be led to trust in the Lord. We discern, therefore, more and more clearly that it is for the church's benefit that we are put into these straits, and if therefore in the hour of need we were to take goods on credit, the first and primary object of the work would be completely frustrated, and no heart would be further strengthened to trust in God; nor would there be any longer that manifestation of the special and particular providence of God which has hitherto been so abundantly shown through this work, even in the eyes of unbelievers, whereby they have been led to see that there is after all reality in the things of God, and many, through these printed accounts, have been truly converted. For these reasons, then, we consider it our precious privilege, as heretofore, to continue to wait upon the Lord only, instead of taking goods on credit, or borrowing money from some kind friends, when we are in need. Nay, we purpose, as God shall give us grace, to look to him only, though morning after morning we should have nothing in hand for the work, yea, though from meal to meal we should have to look to him; being fully assured that he who is now (1845) in the tenth year feeding these many orphans, and who has never suffered them to want, and that he who is now (1845) in the twelfth year carrying on the other parts of the work, without any branch of it being stopped for want of means, will do so for the future also. And here I do desire, in the deep consciousness of my natural helplessness and dependence upon the Lord, to confess that through the grace of God my soul has been in peace, though day after day we have had to wait for our daily provisions upon the Lord; yea, though even from meal to meal we have been required to do this.
Dec. 16. Nothing has come in. Three shillings fivepence, which one of the laborers was able to give, was all we had. At six o'clock this evening, our need being now very great, not only with reference to the Orphan Houses, but also the day schools, etc., I gave myself, with two of the laborers, to prayer. There needed some money to come in before eight o'clock to-morrow morning, as there was none to take in milk for breakfast (the children have oatmeal porridge with milk for breakfast), to say nothing about the many other demands of to-morrow, being Saturday. Our hearts were at peace, while asking the Lord, and assured that our Father would supply our need. WE HAD SCARCELY RISEN FROM OUR KNEES when I received a letter, containing a sovereign for the orphans, half of which was from a young East India officer, and the other half the produce of the sale of a piece of work which the sister who sent the money had made for the benefit of the orphans. She wrote, "I love to send these little gifts. They so often come in season." Truly, thus it was at this time. About five minutes later I received from a brother the promise of fifty pounds for the orphans, to be given during the next week; and a quarter of an hour after that, about seven o'clock, a brother gave me a sovereign, which an Irish sister in the Lord had left this day, on her departure for Dublin, for the benefit of the orphans. How sweet and precious to see thus so manifestly the willingness of the Lord to answer the prayers of his needy children!
Dec. 19. Our need with reference to the school fund had been great during the last three weeks, though we had received as much as the teachers absolutely required. Now, however, it was very great, as one brother especially needed to have several pounds within a day or two, and three other teachers also required supplies. It had in addition to this been much in my heart to send some money to several brethren who labor in foreign lands, in dependence upon the Lord only for their pecuniary supplies; but I had been kept from doing so for want of means. On these accounts, therefore, I gave myself again especially to prayer this morning, when, within a quarter of an hour after I had risen from my knees, I received the order for one hundred pounds, which I was at liberty to use as need required.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR, 1842.
1. As to the church. There are 601 at present in communion; 73 have been added during the past year, of whom 27 have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord among us.
2. As to the supply of my temporal necessities, the Lord has been pleased to send me L329, 16s.
Feb. 11, 1843. We had one pound fourteen shillings towards the expenses of this day. But as this was not enough, I asked the Lord still further for help, and, behold, this morning's post brought me a post-office order for two pounds from Stafford, of which one pound seven shillings sixpence is for the orphans. Thus we have three pounds one shilling sixpence, which is quite enough for this day.
Admire with me, my dear reader, if you know the Lord, his seasonable help. Why does this post-office order not come a few days sooner or later? Because the Lord would help us by means of it, and therefore influences the donor just then, and not sooner nor later, to send it. Surely, all who know the Lord, and who have no interest in disowning it, cannot but see his hand in a remarkable manner in this work. Nor will the godly and simple-minded reader say, "There is no difference between this way of proceeding, on the one hand, and going from individual to individual, asking them for means, on the other hand; for the writing of the Reports is just the same thing." My dear reader, there is a great difference. Suppose that we are in need. Suppose that our poverty lasts for some weeks, or even some months, together. Is there not, in that case, a difference between asking the Lord only from day to day, without speaking to any human being not connected directly with the work about our poverty, on the one hand, and writing letters or making personal application to benevolent individuals for assistance, on the other hand? Truly, there is a great difference between these two modes. I do not mean to say that it would be acting against the precepts of the Lord to seek for help in his work by personal and individual application to believers (though it would be in direct opposition to his will to apply to unbelievers, 2 Cor. vi. 14-18); but I act in the way in which I do for the benefit of the church at large, cheerfully bearing the trials, and sometimes the deep trials, connected with this life of faith (which however brings along with it also its precious joys), if by any means a part at least of my fellow-believers might be led to see the reality of dealing with God only, and that there is such a thing as the child of God having power with God by prayer and faith. That the Lord should use for so glorious a service one so vile, so unfaithful, so altogether unworthy of the least notice as I am, I can only ascribe to the riches of his condescending grace, in which he takes up the most unlikely instruments, that the honor may be manifestly his.
Should Satan seek to whisper into your ears, Perhaps the matter is made known, after all, when there is need (as it has been once said about me at a public meeting in a large town, that when we were in want I prayed publicly that the Lord would send help for the orphans, which is entirely false); I say, should it be said that I took care that our wants were made known, I reply: Whom did I ask for anything these many years since the work has been going on? To whom did I make known our wants, except to those who are closely connected with the work? Nay, so far from wishing to make known our need, for the purpose of influencing benevolent persons to contribute to the necessities of the Institution under my care, I have even refused to let our circumstances be known, after having been asked about them, when, on simply saying that we were in need, I might have had considerable sums. Some instances of this have been given in the former part of this Narrative. In such cases I refused in order that the hand of God only might be manifest; for that, and not the money, nor even the ability of continuing to carry on the work, is my especial aim. And such self-possession has the Lord given me, that in the times of the deepest poverty, whilst there was nothing at all in hand, and whilst we had even from meal to meal to wait upon the Lord for the necessities of more than one hundred persons, when a donation of five pounds or ten pounds, or more, has been given to me, the donors could not have read in my countenance whether we had much or nothing at all in hand. But enough of this. I have made these few remarks, beloved reader, lest by any means you should lose the blessing which might come to your soul through reading the account of the Lord's faithfulness and readiness to hear the prayers of his children.
March 8. On Oct. 25, 1842, I had a long conversation with a sister in the Lord, who opened her heart to me. On leaving me I told her that my house and my purse were hers, and that I should be glad if she would have one purse with me. This I said because I judged that at some future time it might prove a comfort to her in an hour of trial, having at the same time, to judge from a circumstance which had occurred two days before, every reason to believe that she had not five pounds of her own. This sister, after I had said so, readily took me at my word, and said, I shall be glad of it, adding presently that she had five hundred pounds. The moment I heard that, I drew back, and said that had I known that she had any money I should not have made her this offer, and then gave her my reason why I had supposed she had no property at all. She then assured me that she possessed five hundred pounds, and that she had never seen it right to give up this money, else she would have done so; but that, as God had put this sum into her hands without her seeking, she thought it was a provision which the Lord had made for her. I replied scarcely anything to this; but she asked me to pray for her with reference to this matter. This whole conversation about the money occupied but very few minutes, and it all took place after the sister had risen and was on the point of leaving me. After she was gone, I asked the Lord if he would be pleased to make this dear sister so happy in himself; and enable her so to realize her true riches and inheritance in the Lord Jesus, and the reality of her heavenly calling, that she might be constrained by the love of Christ cheerfully to lay down this five hundred pounds at his feet. From that time I repeated this my request before the Lord daily, and often two, three, or four times a day; but not a single word or line passed between me and this sister on the subject, nor did I even see her; for I judged that it would be far better that she retained this money, than that by persuasion she should give it up, and afterwards perhaps regret the step she had taken, and thereby more dishonor than honor be brought on the name of the Lord. After I had thus for twenty-four days daily besought the Lord on behalf of this sister, I found her one day, on returning home, at my house; when she told me that she wished to see me alone. She then said to me that from the time she had last conversed with me she had sought to ascertain the Lord's will with reference to the five hundred pounds, and had examined the Scriptures and prayed about it, and that she was now assured that it was the will of the Lord she should give up this money. After she had told me this, I exhorted her to count well the cost, and to do nothing rashly, lest she should regret the step she had taken, and to wait at least a fortnight longer before she carried out her intention. Thus we separated. On the eighteenth day after this conversation I received the following letter:—
I believe the Lord has not permitted you to grow weary of remembering me, but that he has still enabled you to bear me upon your heart in his presence. All is well with me, dear brother. Your petitions have been heard and answered; I am happy and at peace. The Lord has indeed manifested his tender care of and his great love towards me in Jesus, in inclining my heart cheerfully to lay all I have hitherto called my own at his feet. It is a high privilege.
I write in haste to ask you, as we have now one purse, to receive the money at a bank in Bristol. I will direct it to be sent in my name, to be delivered into your hands, etc.
As this whole circumstance is related only for the profit of the reader, and as I knew that the sister still had my letters on the subject in her possession, I wrote to her, requesting her to send them to me, at the time when I published the last account about the Orphan Houses, etc., and extracts of them were given in the last Report, in so far as they might refer to the subject or tend to edification. These extracts are here reprinted. My reply to the above was this:—
BRISTOL, DEC. 6, 1842.
MY DEAR SISTER:
Your letter found me in peace, and did not in the least surprise me. Dealing with God is a reality. Saints have power with him through Jesus. It is now forty-two days since you first mentioned this matter to me. I cannot but admire the wisdom of God and his love to you in allowing me to speak to you as I did [i. e. offering her to have one purse with me, when I thought she had no earthly possessions at all], that thus this great privilege might be bestowed on you to give up this little sum for him. Since that hour I have daily prayed for you, and often thrice or more in the course of the day, that the Lord would make you so happy in himself, and help you with such faith to lay hold on all which he has given you in Jesus, that you might be constrained by love cheerfully to lay down this little sum at his feet. Thus I prayed again at six o'clock this morning for you. Nor have I had the least doubt from the commencement that the Lord did hear my prayer; yea, so fully have I been assured that I had the petition, that again and again I have thanked him that he had answered my prayer, before I saw you eighteen days since, and before your letter came this morning. Moreover, I have been fully assured, since you were last here, that he was carrying on his work in your soul with reference to this matter, and that no subtle suggestions of Satan, nor educational prejudices, nor misinterpretations of the Scriptures, were able to prevail; for I had asked the Lord by his Spirit to overcome them in you, and that, if a brother's word should be needed, he would be pleased to incline your heart to write to me; and as no letter came, I felt fully confident you were going forward in this matter in peace. When I had seen you this day six weeks, and learned about this little sum, I determined never to say or write to you another word on the subject, but to leave you in the hands of the Lord. Thus I purposed again during the last eighteen days; for it was not the money given up, that I cared for in you, but the money given up unto the Lord, and from right motives. On this very account I advised you to wait one fortnight longer, though you had come to the conclusion; but now, having done so, and seeing that you are fully purposed in the Lord to be poor in this world indeed, that the more abundantly you may enjoy his riches, his inexhaustible riches, I change my advice. My word now, beloved sister, is this: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," and "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." Delay then no longer, even as also you have no desire to delay; and the Lord will bless you abundantly in doing so, inasmuch as you do it unto him. As you desire to intrust me with this money, I do not refuse it, knowing many ways to lay it out for him, etc. [Then only follows the direction how the money is to be paid into my banker's hands.]
On Dec. 18, 1842, I received a reply to my letter, which answer was begun to be written on Dec. 8th, but finished on the 16th. I give a few extracts of the letter:—
Since I last saw you, dear brother, I have not had the slightest doubt as to what I ought to do. The word of God has been so clear to me on this head, that I have been kept resting on it, and, in answer to your prayers, no temptation has been allowed to prevail, indeed, I think I may add to arise. But I feel that temptations may come, and that I may in seasons of trial not always have faith to be able to rejoice in this privilege. My heart is so deceitful, and my faith so weak, that I shall greatly need your prayers still. Will you, then, if the Lord enables you, pray that I may never offend my Father by regretting in the least measure this act of obedience, which he has by his grace inclined me to carry out? Before I ever saw you I had asked the Lord to make me willing to give this little sum into your hands, if it were his will I should; but his time to make me willing had not then come; even then I had in a measure given it to you, having written a paper, desiring in case I should fall asleep in Jesus, that you might get possession of it. I had it signed by two witnesses, and I always carried it about with me when I travelled, sealed, and directed to you. When I wrote this, I little thought what grace the Lord had in store for me. You will forgive my being thus tedious, but I am sure you will praise the Lord with me for his gracious dealings with me, etc.
At the end of this letter, which was finished on Dec. 16, the sister tells me that unexpectedly a hindrance had arisen to her having possession of the money, so that it was not likely it could be paid over to me till about the end of January, 1843.
When this letter came, it would have been naturally a great disappointment to me, as the sister had told me in a previous letter that the money should be paid into my hands, and as just at that time in a variety of ways it was desirable that I should have considerable sums. The Lord, however, enabled me to immediately lay hold on that word, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God," Rom. viii. 28, and my soul was in peace, though we had only enough money in hand to provide for one or at the most for two days the necessary provisions in the Orphan Houses. It was but the next day, Dec. 19, 1842, when I received one hundred pounds from A. B., and on Dec. 22, I received fifty pounds from a brother in Bristol, besides other donations; so that within one week after I had had grace to delight myself in the will of God, he gave me about two hundred pounds, whereby I was able to meet all the heavy expenses of replenishing the stores, etc., on account of which I should naturally have been tried in the payment of the money being delayed.
In reply to the letter which I received from this sister on Dec. 18, I wrote another on Dec. 31, 1842, of which I give an extract on this subject:—
I have continued to pray for you, or rather the Lord has enabled me every day once, twice, thrice, or even more, to remember you. The burden of my prayer still has been, that he would be pleased to make you very happy in himself, and enable you to enter into the inheritance which awaits you; further, that you may not be permitted in the least to regret the step which you have taken, but rather consider it a privilege to be permitted to give this little sum back to him who gave it to you, and who gave himself for you. With reference to the delay, I cannot but rejoice. This gives you abundant opportunity to ponder the matter, and afterwards to state to any (who, judging as those who know not how rich the saints are, might blame you) that you did not do the thing in haste. I consider this delay to be for the furtherance of the honor of the Lord. You know my advice to you, to wait at least a fortnight. That you have seen much of your unfaithfulness, etc., I consider to be an especial blessing which the Lord has bestowed upon you, lest this step you have taken should become a snare to you. Humblings last our whole life. Jesus came not to save painted but real sinners; but he has saved us, and will surely make it manifest. I have a passage laid on my heart for you; read the whole of it carefully: 2 Cor. viii. 1-9, especially verse 9.
* * * * *
Day after day now passed away and the money did not come. The month of January was come to an end, and February also, and the money had not come. Thus more than one hundred and twenty days were gone by, whilst day by day I brought my petition before the Lord that he would bless this sister, keep her steadfast in her purpose, and intrust me with this money for his work in my hands. Amidst it all my heart was assured, judging from the earnestness which he had given me in prayer, and that I had only desired this matter to the praise of his name, that in his own time he would bring it about. But I never wrote one single line to this sister on the subject all this time. At last, on the one hundred and thirty-fourth day since I had daily besought the Lord about this matter, on March 8, 1843, I received a letter from the sister, informing me that the five hundred pounds had been paid into the hands of my bankers.
And now I only give a few lines of a letter which I received on July 3, 1844, from the sister who gave this donation, together with my letters for which I had asked her, in order that I may show her state of mind on the subject, after she had had it more than twenty months before her, and after she had for sixteen months actually given up the money. She writes thus: "I am thankful to say that I have never for one moment had the slightest feeling of regret, but it is wholly of the Lord's abounding grace. I speak it to his praise."
On March 31, 1843, I called at the Orphan Houses to make certain arrangements, and one of the sisters told me by the way that she had been asked by Miss G., who with her father occupied the house No. 4 Wilson Street, to let me know that they wished to give up their house, if I would like to take it; but she had replied that it was of no use to tell me about it, for she was sure that I had no thought of opening another Orphan House. When I came home, this matter greatly occupied my mind. I could not but ask the Lord again and again whether he would have me to open another Orphan House, and whether the time was now come that I should serve him still more extensively in this way. The more I pondered the matter, the more it appeared to me that this was the hand of God moving me onwards in this service. The following remarkable combination of circumstances struck me in particular: 1. There are more applications made for the admission of orphans, especially of late, than we are at all able to meet, though we fill the houses as much as the health of the children and of the laborers will possibly admit. 2. If I did take another house for orphans, it would be most desirable it should be in the same street where the other three are, as thus the labor is less, and in times of great need we are near together for prayer, the distribution of the money, etc. But since the third Orphan House was opened, in Nov. 1837, there never has been one of the larger houses in the street to be let. 3. There are about fifteen children in the Infant Orphan House, whom it would have been well some time ago to have removed to the house for the older girls, had there been room; but when a vacancy happened to occur in that house, there were generally several waiting to fill it up, so that unintentionally the female children in the Infant Orphan House remained where they were; but this is not well, nor is it according to my original intention; for the infants were intended only to be left till they are seven years old, and then to be removed to the houses for older boys and girls. This my original plan could be executed better for the future, and at once for the present, were I to open another Orphan House. 4. I know two sisters who seem suitable laborers for this fourth Orphan House, and who have a desire thus to be engaged. 5. There are three hundred pounds remaining of the five hundred pounds which I so lately received. This money may be used for the furnishing and fitting up of a new Orphan House. So much money I have never had in hand at any one time during the last five years. This seemed to me a remarkable thing, in connection with the four other reasons. 6. The establishing of a fourth Orphan House, which would increase our expenses several hundred pounds a year, would be, after we have gone for five years almost uninterruptedly through trials of faith, a plain proof that I have not regretted this service, and that I am not tired of this precious way of depending upon the Lord from day to day; and thus the faith of other children of God might be strengthened.
But most important, yea, decidedly conclusive as these points were, yet they did not convince me that I ought to go forward in this service, if the Spirit's leadings were not in connection with them. I therefore gave myself to prayer. I prayed day after day, without saying anything to any human being. I prayed two and twenty days without even mentioning it to my dear wife. On that very day, when I did mention it to her, and on which I had come to the conclusion, after three weeks' prayer and consideration in the fear of God, to establish another Orphan House, I received from A. B. fifty pounds. What a striking confirmation that the Lord will help, though the necessities should increase more and more. At last, on the twenty-fourth day, having been now for several days fully assured that God would have me go forward in this service, I went to inquire whether Mr. and Miss G. still wished to give up the house. But here I found an apparent hindrance. Having heard no wish expressed on my part to take the house, and the sister in the Orphan Houses, with whom Miss G. had communicated, not having given her the least reason to think that I should do so, Mr. and Miss G. had altered their plans, and now purposed to remain in the house. However, I was to call again in a week, when I should receive an answer. I was not in the least discomforted by this obstacle. "Lord, if thou hast no need of another Orphan House, I have none," was the burden of my prayer. I was willing to do God's will, yea, to delight myself in his will. And just on this very ground, because I knew I sought not my own honor, but the Lord's; because I knew I was not serving myself, but the Lord, in this thing; and because I knew that with so much calm, quiet, prayerful, self-questioning consideration I had gone about this business, and had only after many days, during which I had been thus waiting upon the Lord, come to the conclusion that it was the will of God I should go forward in this service. For these reasons I felt sure, notwithstanding what Mr. and Miss G. had told me, that I should have the house. I also especially judged that thus it would be, because I was quite in peace when I heard of the obstacle; a plain proof that I was not in self-will going on in this matter, but according to the leading of the Holy Ghost; for if according to my natural mind I had sought to enlarge the work, I should have been excited and uncomfortable when I met with this obstacle. After a week I called again on Mr. G. And now see how God had wrought! On the same day on which I had seen Mr. G., he went out and met with a suitable house, so that when I came the second time, he was willing to let me have the one which he then occupied in Wilson Street; and as the owner accepted me as a tenant, all the difficulties were removed, so that after the 1st of June we began fitting up the house, and in July the first orphans were received.
Mr. M. having been invited by several Christians in Germany to visit that, his native land, and to labor there for the promulgation of scriptural truth and the advancement of religion, as well as to publish a German translation of his Narrative, felt that it was his duty to accede to the request. In answer to prayer, he received ample means for his journey, for the support of the orphans during his absence, and for the publication of the Narrative. He left Bristol on the 9th of August, 1843, and returned on March 6, 1844. During the journey he was greatly aided by Providence in the purposes of his mission, and saw much fruit of his labors.
EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY TREASURES—SEEKING THE KINGDOM OF GOD—FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER—THE CHRISTIAN MERCHANT—EXAMPLES—MISTAKES.
In concluding this portion of my Narrative, I would add some hints on a few passages of the word of God, both because I have so very frequently found them little regarded by Christians, and also because I have proved their preciousness, in some measure, in my own experience; and therefore wish that all my fellow-saints may share the blessing with me.
I. In Matt. vi. 19-21, it is written: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Observe, dear reader, the following points concerning this part of the divine testimony:
1. It is the Lord Jesus, our Lord and Master, who speaks this as the lawgiver of his people,—he who has infinite wisdom and unfathomable love to us, who therefore both knows what is for our real welfare and happiness, and who cannot exact from us any requirement inconsistent with that love which led him to lay down his life for us.
2. His counsel, his affectionate entreaty, and his commandment to us his disciples is, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth." The meaning obviously is, that the disciples of the Lord Jesus, being strangers and pilgrims on earth, i. e. neither belonging to the earth nor expecting to remain in it, should not seek to increase their earthly possessions, in whatever these possessions may consist. This is a word for poor believers as well as for rich believers; it has as much a reference to putting shillings into the savings bank as to putting thousands of pounds into the funds, or purchasing one house or one farm after another. It may be said, But does not every prudent and provident person seek to increase his means, that he may have a goodly portion to leave to his children, or to have something for old age, or for the time of sickness, etc.? My reply is, it is quite true that this is the custom of the world. But whilst thus it is in the world, and we have every reason to believe ever will be so among those that are of the world, and who therefore have their portion on earth, we disciples of the Lord Jesus, being born again, being the children of God, not nominally, but really, being truly partakers of the divine nature, being in fellowship with the Father and the Son, and having in prospect "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away," (1 Peter i. 4,) ought in every respect to act differently from the world, and so in this particular also. If we disciples of the Lord Jesus seek, like the people of the world, after an increase of our possessions, may not those who are of the world justly question whether we believe what we say, when we speak about our inheritance, our heavenly calling, our being the children of God, etc.? Often it must be a sad stumbling-block to the unbeliever to see a professed believer in the Lord Jesus acting in this particular just like himself. Consider this, dear brethren in the Lord, should this remark apply to you.
3. Our Lord says about the earth that it is a place "Where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." All that is of the earth, and in any way connected with it, is subject to corruption, to change, to dissolution. There is no reality, or substance, in anything else but in heavenly things. Often the careful amassing of earthly possessions ends in losing them in a moment by fire, by robbery, by a change of mercantile concerns, by loss of work, etc.; but suppose all this were not the case, still, yet a little while, and thy soul shall be required of thee; or, yet a little while, and the Lord Jesus will return; and what profit shalt thou then have, dear reader, if thou hast carefully sought to increase thy earthly possessions?
4. Our Lord, however, does not merely bid us not to lay up treasure upon earth; for if he had said no more, this his commandment might be abused, and persons might find in it an encouragement for their extravagant habits, for their love of pleasure, for their habit of spending everything they have, or can obtain, upon themselves. It does not mean, then, as is the common phrase, that we should "live up to our income;" for he adds, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." There is such a thing as laying up as truly in heaven as there is laying up on earth; if it were not so, our Lord would not have said so. Just as persons put one sum after another into the bank, and it is put down to their credit, and they may use the money afterwards: so truly the penny, the shilling, the pound, the hundred pounds, the ten thousand pounds, given for the Lord's sake, and constrained by the love of Jesus, to poor brethren, or in any way spent in the work of God, he marks down in the book of remembrance, he considers as laid up in heaven. The money is not lost, it is laid up in the bank of heaven; yet so, that whilst an earthly bank may break, or through earthly circumstances we may lose our earthly possessions, the money which is thus secured in heaven cannot be lost. But this is by no means the only difference. I notice a few more points: Treasures laid up on earth bring along with them many cares; treasures laid up in heaven never give care. Treasures laid up on earth never can afford spiritual joy; treasures laid up in heaven bring along with them peace and joy in the Holy Ghost even now. Treasures laid up on earth, in a dying hour cannot afford peace and comfort, and when life is over they are taken from us; treasures laid up in heaven draw forth thanksgiving that we were permitted and counted worthy to serve the Lord with the means with which he was pleased to intrust us as stewards, and when this life is over we are not deprived of what was laid up there, but when we go to heaven we go to the place where our treasures are, and we shall find them there. Often we hear it said, when a person has died, he died worth so much. But whatever be the phrases common in the world, it is certain that a person may die worth fifty thousand pounds sterling, as the world reckons, and yet that individual may not possess, in the sight of God, one thousand pounds sterling, because he was not rich towards God, he did not lay up treasure in heaven. And so, on the other hand, we can suppose a man of God falling asleep in Jesus, and his surviving widow finding scarcely enough left behind him to suffice for the funeral, who was nevertheless rich towards God: in the sight of God he may possess five thousand pounds sterling, he may have laid up that sum in heaven. Dear reader, does your soul long to be rich towards God, to lay up treasures in heaven? The world passes away, and the lust thereof. Yet a little while and our stewardship will be taken from us. At present we have the opportunity of serving the Lord with our time, our talents, our bodily strength, our gifts; and also with our property; but shortly this opportunity may cease. Oh, how shortly may it cease! Before ever this is read by any one, I may have fallen asleep; and the very next day after you have read this, dear reader, you may fall asleep; and, therefore, whilst we have the opportunity, let us serve the Lord.
5. The Lord lastly adds: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Where should the heart of the disciple of the Lord Jesus be, but in heaven? Our calling is a heavenly calling, our inheritance is a heavenly inheritance, and reserved for us in heaven; our citizenship is in heaven; but if we believers in the Lord Jesus lay up treasures on earth, the necessary result of it is, that our hearts will be upon earth; nay, the very fact of our doing so proves that they are there! Nor will it be otherwise, till there be a ceasing to lay up treasures upon earth. The believer who lays up treasures upon earth may, at first, not live openly in sin, he in a measure may yet bring some honor to the Lord in certain things; but the injurious tendencies of this habit will show themselves more and more, whilst the habit of laying up treasures in heaven would draw the heart more and more heavenward; would be continually strengthening his new, his divine nature, his spiritual faculties, because it would call his spiritual faculties into use, and thus they would be strengthened; and he would more and more, whilst yet in the body, have his heart in heaven, and set upon heavenly things; and thus the laying up treasures in heaven would bring along with it, even in this life, precious spiritual blessings as a reward of obedience to the commandment of our Lord.
II. The next passage, on which I desire to make a few remarks, is Matt. vi. 33: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." After our Lord, in the previous verses, had been pointing his disciples "to the fowls of the air," and "the lilies of the field," in order that they should be without carefulness about the necessaries of life, he adds: "Therefore take no thought (literally, be not anxious), saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek;) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." Observe here particularly that we, the children of God, should be different from the nations of the earth, from those who have no Father in heaven, and who therefore make it their great business, their first anxious concern, what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed. We, the children of God, should, as in every other respect, so in this particular also, be different from the world, and prove to the world that we believe that we have a Father in heaven who knoweth that we have need of all these things. The fact that our Almighty Father, who is full of infinite love to us his children, and who has proved to us his love in the gift of his only-begotten Son, and his almighty power in raising him from the dead, knows that we have need of these things, should remove all anxiety from our minds. There is, however, one thing that we have to attend to, and which we ought to attend to, with reference to our temporal necessities; it is mentioned in our verse: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." The great business which the disciple of the Lord Jesus has to be concerned about (for this word was spoken to disciples, to professed believers) is, to seek the kingdom of God, i. e. to seek, as I view it, after the external and internal prosperity of the church of Christ. If, according to our ability, and according to the opportunity which the Lord gives us, we seek to win souls for the Lord Jesus, that appears to me to be seeking the external prosperity of the kingdom of God; and if we, as members of the body of Christ, seek to benefit our fellow-members in the body, helping them on in grace and truth, or caring for them in any way to their edification, that would be seeking the internal prosperity of the kingdom of God. But in connection with this we have also "to seek his righteousness," which means (as it was spoken to disciples, to those who have a Father in heaven, and not to those who were without), to seek to be more and more like God, to seek to be inwardly conformed to the mind of God. If these two things are attended to (and they imply also that we are not slothful in business), then do we come under that precious promise: "And all these things (that is, food, raiment, or anything else that is needful for this present life) shall be added unto you." It is not for attending to these two things that we obtain the blessing, but in attending to them.
I now ask you, my dear reader, a few questions in all love, because I do seek your welfare, and I do not wish to put these questions to you without putting them first to my own heart. Do you make it your primary business, your first great concern, to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Are the things of God, the honor of his name, the welfare of his church, the conversion of sinners, and the profit of your own soul, your chief aim? Or does your business, or your family, or your own temporal concerns, in some shape or other primarily occupy your attention? If the latter be the case, then, though you may have all the necessaries of life, yet could you be surprised if you had them not? Remember that the world passeth away, but that the things of God endure forever.
I never knew a child of God, who acted according to the above passage, in whose experience the Lord did not fulfil his word of promise, "All these things shall be added unto you."
III. The third portion of the divine testimony on which I desire to throw out a few hints, is in 1 John i. 3: "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Observe,
1. The words "fellowship," "communion," "coparticipation," and "partnership," mean the same.
2. The believer in the Lord Jesus does not only obtain forgiveness of all his sins, as he does through the shedding of the blood of Jesus, by faith in his name; does not only become a righteous one before God, through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, by faith in his name; is not only begotten again, born of God, and partaker of the divine nature, and therefore a child of God and an heir of God; but he is also in fellowship or partnership with God. Now, so far as it regards God, and our standing in the Lord Jesus, we have this blessing once for all; nor does it allow of either an increase or a decrease. Just as God's love to us believers, his children, is unalterably the same, whatever may be the manifestations of that love; and as his peace with us is the same, however much our peace may be disturbed; so it is also with regard to our being in fellowship or partnership with him: it remains unalterably the same so far as God is concerned. But then,
3. There is an experimental fellowship, or partnership, with the Father and with his Son, which consists in this: that all which we possess in God, as being the partners or fellows of God, is brought down into our daily life, is enjoyed, experienced, and used. This experimental fellowship, or partnership, allows of an increase or a decrease, in the measure in which faith is in exercise, and in which we are entering into what we have received in the Lord Jesus. The measure in which we enjoy this experimental fellowship with the Father and with the Son is without limit; for without limit we may make use of our partnership with the Father and with the Son, and draw by prayer and faith out of the inexhaustible fulness which there is in God.
Let us now take a few instances in order to see the practical working of this experimental fellowship, or partnership, with the Father and with the Son. Suppose there are two believing parents who were not brought to the knowledge of the truth until some years after the Lord had given them several children. Their children were brought up in sinful, evil ways, whilst the parents did not know the Lord. Now the parents reap as they sowed. They suffer from having set an evil example before their children, for their children are unruly and behave most improperly. What is now to be done? Need such parents despair? No. The first thing they have to do is, to make confession of their sins to God, with regard to neglecting their children whilst they were themselves living in sin, and then to remember that they are in partnership with God, and therefore to be of good courage, though they are in themselves still utterly insufficient for the task of managing their children. They have in themselves neither the wisdom, nor the patience, nor the long-suffering, nor the gentleness, nor the meekness, nor the love, nor the decision and firmness, nor anything else that may be needful in dealing with their children aright. But their heavenly Father has all this. The Lord Jesus possesses all this. And they are in partnership with the Father, and with the Son, and therefore they can obtain by prayer and faith all they need out of the fulness of God. I say by prayer and faith, for we have to make known our need to God in prayer, ask his help, and then we have to believe he will give us what we need. Prayer alone is not enough. We may pray never so much, yet, if we do not believe that God will give us what we need, we have no reason to expect that we shall receive what we have asked for. So then these parents would need to ask God to give them the needful wisdom, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love, decision; and firmness, and whatever else they may judge they need. They may in humble boldness remind their heavenly Father that his word assures them that they are in partnership with him, and, as they themselves are lacking in these particulars, ask him to be pleased to supply their need; and then they have to believe that God will do it, and they shall receive according to their need.