George Müller: September 27, 1805–March 10, 1898 


✪ George Müller (born Johann Georg Ferdinand Müller) was an English evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down Orphanage in Bristol, England. He was also one of the original founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement. 

During his lifetime, Müller cared & provided homes for 10,024 orphans. He also provided them educational opportunities to an extent that he was even accused by some of raising the poor above their natural station in British life. In total, he established 117 schools offering a Christian education to more than 120,000.

Müller’s early life was not marked by righteous behavior. On the contrary, he spent most of his youth as a thief, liar, drunkard and gambler. By the age of 10, Müller was stealing government money from his father. At the age of fourteen as his ill mother lay dying he was playing cards with friends and drinking. While in seminary at the University of Halle in Germany, Müller described his status at that time in his life:

“wicked behaviour and unrepentant spirit … Despite my sinful lifestyle and cold heart, God still had mercy on me. I was as careless as ever. I had no Bible and had not read any Scripture for years. I seldom went to church; and, out of custom only, I took the Lord’s Supper twice a year. I never heard the gospel preached. Nobody told me that Jesus meant for Christians, by the help of God, to live according to the Holy Scriptures.” …

Then Müller attended a prayer meeting in a private home in 1825 which so moved him that an immediate transformation of his behavior began. he later wrote of the experience: “I have no doubt … that He began a work of grace in me. Even though I scarcely had any knowledge of who God truly was, that evening was the turning point in my life.”

Müller’s father hoped to provide him with a religious education that would allow him to take a lucrative position as a clergyman in the state church. He studied divinity at Halle and there met a fellow student, Beta, who was the friend who invited him to that Christian prayer meeting which would completely change Müller’s life. He was welcomed and began regularly reading the Bible and discussing Christianity with the others in attendance. After seeing a man on his knees praying to God, he was convinced of the need for his own salvation. Müller’s heart was touched and it was the start of a new life for him. He went to his bed, knelt and prayed, and asked God to help him in his life and to bless him wherever he went and to forgive him of his sins. He immediately stopped drinking, stealing and lying. He developed the hope of becoming a missionary, rather than the comfortable clergyman position which his father had envisioned for him. He began to preach regularly in nearby churches.

Müller prayed incessantly about everything and fully expected each prayer to be answered. Müller’s faith in God strengthened day by day and he spent hours in daily prayer and Bible reading. Indeed, it was his practice, in later years, to read through the entire Bible four times a year.

One example of this faith occurred when one of the orphan house’s boiler stopped working and Müller needed to have it fixed as soon as possible. This was problematic because the boiler was bricked up and the weather was worsening with each day. So he prayed for two things; first that the workers he had hired would have a mind to work throughout the night; and secondly, that the weather would improve. On the Tuesday before the work was due to commence, a bitter north wind still blew but in the morning, before the workmen arrived, a southerly wind began to blow and it was so mild that no fires were needed to heat the buildings. That evening, the foreman of the contracted company attended the site to see how he might speed things along and instructed the men to report back first thing in the morning to make an early resumption of work. The team leader stated that they would prefer to work through the night. The job was completed in thirty hours

Müller was spared from going into military service because of his poor health. In 1829 he went to London, but became ill and was sent to Teignmouth to recuperate. There he met Henry Craik, a man who would have a huge impact on him. Henry talked with him about people who sold their possessions and gave to the poor. Müller was extremely intrigued by this teaching. He talked with the members of the missions board who were supporting him about this idea of living exclusively by faith and depending on God to provide through prayer. They ultimately refused to support him on this basis. He wanted to preach where God sent him, not where the mission society sent him. 

Müller also wrote of how he came to believe in the doctrines of election, particular redemption and final persevering grace during his stay at Teignmouth. Craik eventually offered him a job as pastor at Teignmouth of a small congregation of 18 members. During that year he was rebaptized as a believer. 

The theology that guided George Müller’s work is not widely known, but was shaped by an experience in his middle twenties when he “came to prize the Bible alone as his standard of judgement.” He wrote:

That the Word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, he is the teacher of his people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time.

Müller fell in love with Mary Groves who also shared his convictions and within three months they became married. Mary’s brother, Anthony Norris Groves, sold all his possessions to become a “faith missionary.” This inspired George and Mary to live a similar life. 

George and Mary had four children; however, two were still-born. They had a daughter Lydia, and a son Elijah, but Elijah died of pneumonia when he was very young. 

In his early ministry Müller had four objectives: 

1. To assist Sunday Schools, Day Schools and schools for adults and to start new ones. 

2. To sell Bibles and Testaments to the poor at low prices, or even give them away if the person could not pay. 

3. To directly aid & support missionaries. 

4. To circulate religious tracts in English and other languages 

(5.) (Caring for the orphans became the fifth and foremost objective.) 

At the church where he preached, parishioners rented the pews where they sat during services. Müller thought this arrangement was unfair to poor people who could not afford to buy a pew seat. He discontinued pew rentals altogether and put a collection box at the rear of the church. More money was collected through free-will offerings than by renting the pews. 

After two years. Henry Craik asked Müller to move to Bristol to work with him. In the 1800’s orphans had no one to care for them and had to beg for or steal food in order to survive. People did not have pity on them, and the government put these children in work houses where they worked long hours under the harshest of conditions. 

Müller moved to Bristol, England on 25 May 1832, to begin working at Bethesda Chapel. Along with Henry Craik, he continued preaching there until his death, even while devoted to his other ministries. In 1834, he founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, with the goal of aiding Christian schools and missionaries; distributing the Bible and Christian tracts; and providing Day-schools, Sunday-schools and Adult-schools, all upon a Scriptural foundation.

By the end of February 1835, there were five Day-schools – two for boys and three for girls. Not receiving government support and only accepting unsolicited gifts, this organization received and disbursed £1,381,171 – around £113 million equivalent today. By the time of Müller’s death, this money was primarily used to support the orphanages and distribute about 285,407 Bibles, 1,459,506 New Testaments and 244,351 other religious texts, which were translated into twenty other languages. The money was also used to support other “faith missionaries” around the world. This work continues to this day.

The work of Müller and his wife with orphans began in 1836, with the preparation of their own rented home at 6 Wilson Street, Bristol for the accommodation of thirty girls. Soon after, three more houses in Wilson Street were furnished, not only for girls but also for boys and younger children, eventually increasing the capacity for children who could be cared for to 130.

In 1845, as growth continued, the neighbours complained about the noise and disruption to the public utilities, so Müller decided a new, separate building designed to house three hundred children would be necessary, and in 1849, at Ashley Down, Bristol, the new home opened. The architect commissioned to draw up the plans asked if he might do so gratuitously. By 26 May 1870, 1,722 children were being accommodated in 5 homes, although there was room for 2,050.

Charles Dickens heard a rumor that the children in Müller’s care were starving, so he went to Ashley Down to see for himself. He was so impressed with the good care they were getting he wrote the article “Household Words” for the newspaper in November 1857 telling about the work. 

Through all this, Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost more than £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. Müller was in constant prayer that God touched the hearts of donors to make provisions for the orphans. For example, on one well-documented occasion, thanks was given for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. In his autobiographical entry for February 12, 1842, he wrote:

A brother in the Lord came to me this morning and, after a few minutes of conversation gave me two thousand pounds for furnishing the new Orphan House … Now I am able to meet all of the expenses. In all probability, I will even have several hundred pounds more than I need. The Lord not only gives as much as is absolutely necessary for his work, but he gives abundantly. This blessing filled me with inexplicable delight. He had given me the full answer to my thousands of prayers during the [past] 1,195 days.

Every morning after breakfast there was a time of Bible reading and prayer, and every child was given a Bible upon leaving the orphanage, together with a tin trunk containing two changes of clothing. The children were dressed well and educated – Müller even employed an inspector to maintain high standards. In fact, many claimed that nearby factories and mines were unable to obtain enough workers because of his efforts in securing apprenticeships, professional training, and domestic service positions for the children old enough to leave the orphanage.

Müller wrote frequently about the stewardship of money and the non-reliance on earthly riches, and how God would bless the man who kept to these principles and felt that laying his own experiences bare would prove the truth of his claims. His personal income, from unsolicited gifts (he refused any kind of salary) rose from £151 in 1831 to more than £2,000 in 1870. However, he retained only around £300 a year for himself and his family, the rest he gave away as charity.

On 26 March 1875, at the age of 71 and after the death of his first wife in 1870 and his marriage to Susannah Grace Sanger in 1871, Müller and Susannah began a 17-year period of missionary travel which would take them to 42 countries around the World.

George Müller passed away on March 10, 1898 at the age of 92. Thousands of people lined the streets to honor him. Two thousand orphans were in attendance. 

William Henry Harding said:

“The world, dull of understanding, has even yet not really grasped the mighty principle upon which he [Müller] acted, but is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children, a sort of glorified guardian of the poor, who with the passing of the years may safely be spoken of, in the language of newspaper headlines, as a ‘prophet of philanthropy.’ To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life.”

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph wrote that Müller “had robbed the cruel streets of the thousands of victims, the gaels (jails) of thousands of felons, and the workhouses of thousands of helpless waifs.”

After his life, his work has been continued by The George Müller Foundation, which was renamed The George Müller Charitable Trust on 1 March 2009. The Trust maintains the key principle of seeking money through prayer alone and it actively shuns fund-raising activities. The charity works together with local churches in the Bristol area to enable them to reach out and care for their communities, especially children, young people and families with physical, emotional, social or spiritual needs; and encourages giving to support their mission, social care, relief and development work across the world.✪

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