I was then, and maybe even now, a little intimidated by dogmatics and institutes and treatises. Thus I began my foray into the realm of dead theologians with a less daunting selection, an autobiography recommended by my blogging pastor friend. The Autobiography Of George Muller is one man's account of his life of faith, its struggles, its losses, and its victories.
George Muller was a German Christian who pastored in Bristol, England in the 1800's. His great passion was caring for the orphaned children of his country, a pervasive and nearly epidemic problem at the time. Through the course of his ministry he established homes for orphans and cared for thousands of children, doing so in full dependence on the Lord for the necessary funds. He never asked for donations nor did he take a salary. Over and over and over again he records the Lord's amazing and timely provision. His autobiography is a stirring testimony to God's faithful sufficiency!
His motivation for the establishment of the orphan homes extended beyond the practical; in meeting the orphans' needs wholly through the provision of the Lord, Muller sought to demonstrate the trustworthiness of God. He writes,
[B]y giving my brothers visible proof of the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord, I might strengthen their faith. I want to be the servant of the Church in the particular point on which I had obtained mercy--in being able to take God at His Word and to rely on it.
This seems to me best done by establishing an orphan house--something which could be seen by the natural eye. If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith obtained, without asking any individual, the finances for establishing and carrying on an orphan house, this might strengthen the faith of the children of God. It would also be a testimony to the unconverted of the reality of the things of God.
This is the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly desire to be used by God to help the poor children and train them in the ways of God. But the primary object of the work is that God would be magnified because the orphans under my care will be provided with all they need through prayer and faith. Everyone will see that God is faithful and hears prayer.
And God was indeed faithful. I read one estimate that Muller collected close to $150 million in today's dollars. That I am writing this post proves his testimony endures.
In a passage personally encouraging to me, Muller emphasizes the priority of fellowship and intimacy with the Lord through His Word...
The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished. I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed; or I may, in other ways, seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, may result in this work being done in a wrong spirit.
The most important thing I had to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed...As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time unless he eats, so it is with the inner man. What is the food for the inner man ? Not prayer, but the Word of God--not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe. No, we must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts.
His autobiography is not only an account of orphans and ministry, it is also a personal chronicle of the Lord's grace and His sometimes severe mercy. On June 25, 1834, Muller writes a one sentence entry, "Our little boy is so ill that I have no hope of his recovery." The next day's account relates the sobering news,
My prayer last evening was that God would support my dear wife under the trial. Two hours later, the little one went home to be with the Lord. I fully realize that the dear infant is much better off with the Lord Jesus than with us, and when I weep, I weep for joy.
The Autobiography Of George Muller is an accessible, encouraging, and profoundly Biblical introduction to reading the dead theologians. It is perhaps not the most theologically dense among our recommendations, yet this small book is encouraging and thought provoking just the same.