George Muller: Grace as Revelation, part 1

A great hero of the faith, George Muller (1805-1898), is well known and esteemed in the UK for the incredible ministry of faith and compassion that defined his Christian walk. But what is lesser known, is that Muller was led to this country by his love for the Jewish people. Walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) is what led him from his native Germany, to London, and then to settle in Bristol from 1832 to his death in 1898.  

In Bristol, Muller witnessed the suffering of poor and orphaned children that social commentators and prominent authors of the time, such as Bronte and Dickens, were discussing in their writings. But Muller went further than raising awareness of their plight, to take action to meet their needs and alleviate their suffering. These poor and orphaned children were hit the hardest by the cholera pandemic of 1832 and Muller began an outreach programme to help them. By 1839, he had acquired the first of the many homes for orphans he founded over the rest of his life.   

From the time of his arrival in Bristol as a Pastor, to his death by which time he was facilitating the full-time care of 2050 in the purpose-built Ashley Downs home, Muller had travelled 200,000 miles to 42 countries sharing the miracles and testimonies of his life in Christ.  

The great miracle in this journey of faith that he was eager to share, is that by the grace of God, he had never actively raised any money for his ministry. These incredible missionary and social care outputs of his ministry, were achieved without fundraising. Rather, the ministry shared Muller’s biographical account of his life call and the fruit of his labour, and people gave gifts in response as they felt led.  

The defining faith and compassion of George Muller, we perhaps know well but the convictions these were built upon, are not as well publicised. Yet these are vital for us to know, if we too are going to benefit from the lessons of Muller’s walk with the Lord. So, we will take a look back at that which shaped Muller’s early testimonies, and the revelations that assured him of the will of God for his life. 

When Muller was a student of divinity at the University of Halle, he was positively impacted by the orphanages of Halle, which had been founded by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). Francke was a preacher, lecturer and theologian of distinction and influence. Once he had taken up posts at the University of Halle, he remained there 36 years, preaching and teaching, founding an orphanage, printing presses and missionary training and commissioning.

Francke’s legacy in Halle is evidenced by Muller debating with himself about the challenges of setting up an orphanage, over two centuries later: Then, though we be dead, yet should we be speaking. Auguste Franke is long since gone to his rest, but he spoke to my soul in 1826”.

But it was not just in this one cause that Francke’s legacy influenced Muller through the culture at Halle, it was also the missionary passion, and respect for the Judaic roots of the Christian faith. In fact, it was these two latter principles of practical faith and application, that led Muller to England in the first place.  We will explore these elements in part two of this article, next week.