George Muller’s Ilfracombe retreat

Posted in Blog, Christianity, George Muller

We are grateful to the Victorians who built the paths which take us up Capstone Hill in Ilfracombe. If you took a stroll there, say in 1865, you might have seen a tall, slim gentleman, in his sixtieth year, always neatly dressed, and very erect, his step firm and strong. His name was George Müller (1805-1898) and he had come to England from Prussia in 1830 and made his home in Bristol. There, in 1836, he had founded the Müller Homes for Children – the work continues today under the name of the George Müller Foundation.

Müller was very fond of Ilfracombe and often came here for a break: he loved to wander around the harbour, protected from the sea winds by Capstone hill. If the weather were fair he would take friends and family with him up Capstone or the other hills which surround the town.

How many of the people of Ilfracombe knew that the story of his life was on one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the Christian church? He devoted his life to demonstrating that, as he put it, there is ‘reality in the things of God’. He took a bold view of Christianity. For him the Christian faith was more than a fine system of ethics, the account of a people who believed in a Creator God and the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, though he believed it was all these things. For him Christianity concerned a God who remained in the nineteenth century a living reality, who knew and loved George Müller and answered prayer.

He embarked on the venture of faith which was to make him famous just as Charles Dickers was writing Oliver Twist – the novel which drew the public’s attention to one of Britain’s major social problems, the plight of orphans. He summarised the challenge which faced him like this: ‘Now if I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained, without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an orphan-house, there would be something which, with the Lord’s blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God, besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted of the reality of the things of God.’

Though he went quietly about his work, the first children’s home he established in Bristol for just thirty children amounted to an invitation to unbelievers to watch the work he had begun to see if there was a God who would finance it. And here was a challenge to believers not only to see what God would do, but to consider their response if He proved faithful.

What happened? During the next 63 years Müller received nearly one and half million pounds and the many branches of his work included the care of some ten thousand children. He claimed that neither he nor his staff ever issued an appeal for funds nor asked any individual to support his work. No evidence has been produced to disprove this.

The story of his life is an exciting one* and his insights into our faith are profound. I plan to write a little more about George Müller here in coming months – as well about another surprising visitor to Ilfracombe.

* George Müller: Delighted in God, by Roger Steer, is available on Amazon either as a paperback or in a kindle edition.