Heroes of the Faith
Concise stories of significant Christian leaders
© Peter J. Blackburn 1999
Heroes of the Faith
George Muller George Müller
George Müller was born September 27, 1805, in Kroppenstadt, Prussia, the son of a government tax-collector. As a youth he was wild and drunken. Still undisciplined, he began training for the Lutheran ministry at the University of Halle. Then, at the age of twenty, in a students' prayer meeting, he was converted.
With a strong call to evangelism, he left Halle and went to London to train as a missionary to the Jews. But he fell ill and was sent to Devon to recuperate. There he took charge of a small Independent chapel, preached widely in the area, the pattern of his future ministry began to take shape.
Müller started his lifelong association with the Brethren and married Mary Groves, sister of A.N. Groves. Giving up a small church salary, the couple committed themselves to live by faith alone. In 1832 they moved to Bristol, and, under Müller's forthright evangelical ministry, the rundown Bethesda chapel was transformed.
Müller was convinced that if Christians took Scripture seriously there would be no limits to what they could achieve for God. He began the Scriptural Knowledge Institution (S.K.I.) two years after arriving in Bristol. Its four aims were: to organise schools on a scriptural foundation; to provide education for poor children; to circulate the Scriptures; and to support missionaries. It was well supported.
By the time the Müllers arrived in Bristol, cholera had swept through the city and the wealthy fled to the country from their splendid homes in Clifton. The poor lived - and died - in squalid, narrow streets where children grovelled for food in the garbage heaps.
In 1834 a fifth aim was added to S.K.I. - "to feed, clothe and educate destitute orphan children." Believing that this was God's will, Müller was certain the Lord would provide what was necessary - £1000 to begin a home and the right people to run it. In April 1836 Müller opened a home for thirty orphaned girls. The expenses were £240 for the year, the income that came in amounted to £840. In December he opened another home for infants and nine months later a third for boys. Altogether he then had nearly one hundred children under care. By 1870 the orphan homes, transferred to Ashley Down, had 2,000 resident children. Their life included a good general education, a great deal of practical work, a healthy diet, and daily worship and prayers.
By the 1880s S.K.I. had received more than £1,000,000 for its projects, of which £700,000 was for the orphanages. Yet Müller never made an appeal for money. The children never went hungry or ill-dressed. Never a debt went unpaid. But there was no security except the faith the God knew and would provide. God did so, though often at the very last moment, when there was not a penny in the purse and no food on the tables. Müller's homes existed by a never©ending succession of answered prayers and miracles of faith.
After 1870, things changed. Mary Müller died. Two years later George married Susannah Sanger, who equally shared his whole way of life. He handed over the running of the homes to James Wright, his son-in-law.
But, far from retiring, Müller began a new stage of life. From 1875 to 1892 he ministered extensively throughout the world (including three tours of Australia), preaching, speaking, and conducting Bible-teaching missions. He encouraged Christians to love and use the Bible, to listen to God and to trust him. His expositions were compelling because they were filled with the things that had happened to him, his homes, and his children.
In 1898, George Müller died and the streets of Bristol were lined with silent people paying tribute to a man everywhere known and respected.