|Guest Article: Stephen McCaskell is the producer of the forthcoming documentary on Martin Luther titled LUTHER. He is married to his wife Samantha and they have three children.
“Consider how great a man Luther is, and what excellent gifts he has; the strength of mind and resolute constancy, the skillfulness, efficiency and theological power he has used in devoting all his energies to overthrowing the reign of Antichrist and to spread far and near the teaching of salvation. I have often said that even if he were to call me a devil I should still regard him as an outstanding servant of God…” – John Calvin
Luther indeed was a man gifted of God with excellent gifts. From childhood through University, Luther was consistently at the top of his class. He set his sights on being a lawyer, as to his father’s wish, and his studies to do so were rigorous. He awakened at 4am and was sleeping by 8pm everyday. Students were given only two meals each day and were required to study and speak Latin, even outside of the classroom.
He graduated second overall in his class for his Masters of Liberal Arts degree and was planning on entering law school, but God had very different plans for young Luther.
In June of 1505, as Luther was travelling back home to visit his parents he was suddenly caught in a violent storm. A bolt of lightning struck the ground near him, knocking him off his horse and injuring his leg. Terrified, he cried out and made an oath to St Anne that should he survive the storm, he would become a monk.
That moment was the beginning of a journey for Luther which would eventually lead him to reform the church, bringing her back to the truths laid out in scripture. But in the process of becoming one of the most influential men in history, he also became controversial and stubborn, even to those within the movement.
Continuing John Calvin’s quote:
“…But with all his rare and excellent virtues he has also serious faults. Would that he had studied to curb his restless uneasy temper which is so ready to boil over everywhere… Flatterers have done him much mischief, since he is by nature too prone to be over-indulgent to himself.”
It’s important to note that Luther wasn’t perfect. And while those closest to him would say that his harshness came from his zeal for the truth, we must be careful that we do not venerate the man.
With the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation right around the corner, now is a perfect time for a fresh look at this pivotal time in history. We have partnered with some of the top Luther scholars in the world, including Dr. Carl Trueman, to help us tell the story of Luther, a gifted, but flawed child of God who was used mightly by God.
If you’d like to pre-order a copy of the documentary or would like to purchase a screening license to show your church, you can do all that and more at www.lutherdocumentary.com
In my doctoral work in seminary, I studied expository preaching. Out of the myriad of books I read during my time in seminary, the one book on preaching that still grips my heart perhaps more than any other is one written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones titled, Preaching and Preachers. That book was my first real introduction to this bold preacher of the gospel. Although written over 40 years ago, it has a way of remaining current and contemporary in ways that other books do not. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was known by many as “The Doctor” since he was a medical doctor who became a “surgeon for souls.” It was in his book on preaching that originated as a series of lectures for preachers that he defined preaching as “Logic on fire.”
Matthew Robinson and his team at Media Gratiae have produced an excellent resource on the life and legacy of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones titled, Logic on Fire. In a professional and classy manner, they chart his early life, pre-ministerial life, and his ministry. During the documentary, you will hear from a great list of preachers (R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, Anthony Mathenia, John Snyder, Jeremy Walker, Iain Murray, Kevin DeYoung, Conrad Mbewe, John MacArthur, Richard Owen Roberts, and Sinclair Ferguson to name a few). In addition to the preachers, you will likewise hear from family members of Lloyd-Jones such as Ann Beatt (the younger daughter of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones), Elizabeth Catherwood (the eldest daughter), Adam Desmond (the youngest grandchild), Christopher Catherwood (the eldest grandson) and Jonathan Catherwood (the middle grandson). As you can imagine, the story told through the lens of preachers and family who’ve been shaped by Lloyd-Jones and his preaching is captivating. You will be pulled in by the testimony of his daughters.
For those who don’t know D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his ministry, he was trained as a medical doctor and later became a pastor. His early ministry was in Aberavon, Wales. Lloyd-Jones would eventually be called to serve the historic Westminster Chapel in London. Under the preaching of God’s Word, the Westminster Chapel would be filled with people who longed to hear from God. Lloyd-Jones’ no-nonsense style of preaching was used by God to pierce the hearts of unbelievers and to disciple the flock of God. Logic on Fire presents the story of Lloyd-Jones in such a manner that the Lloyd-Jones expert and novice would both walk away having learned something and been encouraged at the same time. For instance, one night recently, my wife watched the documentary with me for the first time and she loved it.
As I read the two volume work by Iain Murray on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I recall the being impacted by Lloyd-Jones’ absolute trust and confidence in the power of God in ministry. Upon arriving to serve the church at Sanfields, they immediately had questions about how to answer their growth problems. They had various activities going on within the church such as football, musical events, and a dramatic society. Some members approached D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and suggested that they could be successful if they majored on their children’s ministry. However, to their surprise, the new pastor wasn’t interested in using such things to attract people. In fact, the secretary was very surprised at Lloyd-Jones’ response to the question about the use of such means to attract people to the church. He was interested in the regular church services of 11am, 6pm, a Monday evening prayer service, a mid-week worship service on Wednesday, and a Saturday morning men’s meeting. In the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, all of the other things could go. When the Committee asked what they were to do with the wooden stage for the dramatic society, Lloyd-Jones shocked them by saying, “You can heat the church with it.”
Logic on Fire does a great job of documenting Lloyd-Jones’ emphasis on God’s Word, prayer, and his utter dependence upon the Spirit of God. Imagine if more preachers were focused on God’s Word, on their knees in prayer, and depending upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Where would the evangelical church be today if we had more men like The Doctor. Paul Washer described the ministry of Lloyd-Jones as the “unflinching tenacity to strip himself of every tool or armor of the flesh and to hold on to only the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of intercession.”
As you can imagine, the documentary is loaded with great insight into this man who was used by God to shake the United Kingdom and beyond with the gospel of Christ. As you will see, on the Logic on Fire website, the full set comes with 3 DVD discs, 5 printed postcard prints, a 128 page clothbound book, and it all wraps up in a neatly designed case for storage.
Who would benefit the most from this documentary?
- The pastor who labors in the Word of God each week.
- The church as a whole (a great tool for the church’s library).
- The man who has a desire to serve as an elder in the local church.
If you’re looking for a classy and professional gift for a pastor or seminary student – this is it.
- Where to purchase the documentary? Logic on Fire website.
- Cost: $39.95
- *Don’t overlook the “extras” in the set. You will hear many compelling stories and information that documents the ministry and work of Lloyd-Jones.
Logic on Fire: Trailer 2
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the lives of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, the Oxford martyrs, and John Rogers. Today’s focus is on a man named John Knox.
John Knox’s Early Life and Conversion
John Knox was born near Edinburgh, Scotland 1515, and we don’t know much about his early life until he bursts from the pages of history in his 30s. He was ordained as a Catholic priest and at some point in the 1540s he was converted to Christianity. He was greatly influenced by Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. Hamilton was martyred for his faith and Wishart would be burned at the stake for his Protestant doctrine too. However, as Wishart traveled and preached, he needed a bodyguard to travel with him. He hires John Knox as the sword bearer. After Wishart is arrested and martyred, Knox goes into hiding. These two men had a profound impact upon his life and greatly influenced his doctrine and desire to enter the cause of the Reformation.
John Knox’s Courageous Ministry
The time of Knox’s life marks a low in Scotland spiritually. Corrupt ministers and evil Roman Catholic methods and beliefs prevailed. However, through the thundering voice of Knox, Scotland would be turned toward God. From the preaching of John Knox, we have some juicy quotes, but we likewise have some embarrassing moments as well. With his courageous heart came a tongue that was difficult to tame.
Some juicy quotes from the preaching and writing ministry of John Knox:
- I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.
- A man with God is always in the majority.
- I am no master of myself, but must obey him who commands me to speak plain and to flatter no flesh upon the face of the earth.
- The prayers of the great cloud of witnesses rebuke us in our prayerlessness.
John Knox was not afraid of the devil, and he wasn’t afraid of any person in the flesh – including royalty. He had the ear of King Edward VI, the king of England, and he preached a sermon condemning the Book of Common Prayer’s assertion that we must receive communion on our knees. Knox insisted that it had zero Scriptural grounds.
On another occasion, Knox stood before Queen Mary of Scots, and he actually caused her to burst into tears. She was 18 years of age and Knox at that time was in his mid 40s. She was angry with Knox’s rumors about her marriage plans, and if the truth were known, she greatly feared Knox. In fact, at one point, this Roman Catholic Queen said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” Nevertheless, Knox insulted her as well as other women in his booklet titled, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Although he had good reason to oppose Mary I (Bloody Mary) and others such as Mary Queen of Scots, he could have approached it in a more careful manner than he did. He wrote, “Nature, I say, doth paint [women] forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble and foolish, and experience hath declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel and lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment. And these notable faults have men in all ages espied.”
John Knox was not perfect, but he was a man who loved God. He prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I die!” God raised up Knox for a unique purpose at a unique juncture in church history and Scotland’s history. It would be through his praying, his preaching, and his work as a reformer that the Presbyterian Church would be founded. A staunchly Reformed preacher and anti-Catholic, Knox would devote his life to the Reformation of Scotland and beyond. Mary Queen of Scots went on record in 1561 as stating that John Knox was the most dangerous man in her Kingdom. Burk Parsons writes:
He reinvigorated God’s shepherds throughout the nation; this, in turn, reformed the church and, thus, in God’s providence, revived the country. Most notably, what inspired the pastors perhaps more than any other characteristic in Knox was that he did not fear men, because he feared God—he was a man willing to offend men, because he was unwilling to offend God. 
John Knox’s Legacy of Faithfulness
According to a Roman Catholic chronicler, “John Knox, a Scotsman by nation and a great enemy of the Catholic Church, arrived in the town. This man was so audacious and learned and factious, and so eloquent that he managed men’s souls as he wished.”  Knox stood firm in a time of spiritual compromise, national conflict, and religious persecution. He would travel across Scotland preaching the gospel and many people were saved. Through the unflinching resolve of Knox and others who helped in the cause, the people of Scotland could worship freely, sing hymns of the faith, and hear the preaching of the Word in their language. The tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church was overcome and the work of Reformation spread. This caused the church to bloom across Scotland.
When John Knox died in 1572, he was buried on what is today known as “The Royal Mile” in Edinburgh, Scotland. At his burial, it was said of Knox, “Here lies a man who in his life never feared the face of man.” Today, if you visit Edinburgh, you will find a small museum in the house on the main stretch that leads up to the castle called The Knox House. It was here in this house that John Knox lived for the remaining 18 months of his life. If you travel up toward the castle from there, you will come to St Giles’ Cathedral approximately 1/4 of a mile from The Knox House. If you walk behind the Cathedral and look in parking place #23, you will see a stone marker with these words, “The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St Giles graveyard of John Knox the great Scottish Divine who died 24 Nov 1572.”
It’s not about the nobility of your gravesite 500 years after your birth, but about the nobility of your legacy for Christ that matters most. Some of us will lie beneath parking lots 500 years after our life ends, but will our legacy survive? For Knox, a parking lot could not extinguish the flames of his legacy for Jesus. What about your legacy? Will your life be remembered or will you be another worthless life among the archives of human history? Spend your life for King Jesus and die without regret. It’s not about how you’re buried, it’s about how you die.
- Burk Parsons, “Give Me Scotland, or I Die“
- Taken from “The Ancient Chronicles of Dieppe”
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the lives of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, George Muller, and the Oxford martyrs. Today’s focus is on a man named John Rogers, also known as Thomas Matthew.
The Salvation of John Rogers
John Rogers was born in about year 1500. After being educated in Cambridge, he eventually became a Catholic priest and was granted a position during the Reformation. In God’s providence, Rogers would move to Antwerp, Holland where he would become the chaplain for the Merchant Adventurers. This corporation was led by Thomas Poyntz, and as God would have it, William Tyndale was hiding out in his home to do his translation work of the Bible. It’s almost as if God brought John Rogers to the home of Poyntz and said, “John Rogers, meet William Tyndale.”
John Rogers and William Tyndale became friends, and it was through this friendship that Rogers started listening to the doctrine of Tyndale. Soon Rogers would renounce the Catholic faith and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. After his conversion, he continued to grow in the faith, although he would not be able to sever himself fully from popery until after Tyndale’s death. One thing that certainly strengthened his faith was watching Tyndale, his friend, die for his faith and his work as a translator of the English Bible. Soon after Tyndale’s martyrdom, Rogers met a woman named Adriana de Weyden. They married and moved to Wittenberg.
The Sacrifice of John Rogers
In God’s providence, as Tyndale was finally located and arrested in the home of Thomas Poyntz, although his property was confiscated, his translation work of the Old Testament found its way into the possession of John Rogers. The details are unclear as to how Rogers ended up with this great treasure, but we can be sure it was nothing short of God’s meticulous providence.
Rogers dedicated himself to completing the work of his friend William Tyndale. Two years later in the year 1537, after working under a pseudonym Thomas Matthew, the work was finished. The first printed English Bible of the Old and New Testaments translated from the original biblical languages was now complete. Although Miles Coverdale had completed the Coverdale Bible in 1535, the Old Testament was a translation from Martin Luther’s work and the Latin text, but not translated from the original languages. That is what set the Matthew Bible apart from the Coverdale Bible.
John Rogers got a copy of the Bible into the hands of archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Rogers asked him to get it before the king and ask him to license it. Cranmer immediately recognized the quality. He presented it to Thomas Cromwell and it was then presented to King Henry VIII. Cromwell was asked, “Does this book contain any heresy?” Cromwell assured King Henry VIII that there was no heresy in the Matthew Bible, and the rest is history. The first complete Bible to be printed in the English language (taken from the original biblical languages) had now been licensed by the king. The dying prayer of William Tyndale had been answered, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” John Rogers wanted to honor Tyndale in the work of the Matthew Bible, but his name was viewed as an evil heretic among the Roman Catholic Church. So, Rogers included a large decorative WT at the end of Malachi. This was a way to honor his friend without putting his name on the Bible.
Over time, John Rogers would continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. His positions, his doctrine, and his work in the Reformation was not appreciated by the Roman Catholic Church. After Queen Mary I came to power, the pressure was intensified upon anyone who preached and taught in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. John Rogers was eventually arrested and sentenced to be burned at the stake. In 1555, as he was being led to the stake, his family was there on the street at Smithfield among other witnesses. As he passed by his family, he saw his youngest of eleven children for the first time as they marched him to the stake.
According to John Foxe, in his famous work known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Rogers stood firm when asked to recant of his doctrine. Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered, “That which I have preached I will seal with my blood.” Woodroofe replied, “Then, you are a heretic. That will be known on the day of judgment.” According to Foxe’s record, when the flames were ignited, he washed his hands in the flames as he was burned. In a short time, this faithful Christian, Bible translator, husband, and father was gone. Rogers was the first martyr under the reign of Queen Mary I, known in history as Bloody Mary.
The Legacy of John Rogers
Sometimes great men offer great service to God and remain unnoticed throughout history. John Rogers is a name that some people know from history, but his name certainly is not well recognized. In God’s providence, John Rogers was used to bring about the printing of the first completed Bible in the English language (translated from the original biblical languages). The Bible is known as the Matthew Bible.
If you visit London today, you will find a small plaque on the wall outside of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The plaque reads beginning with the arch above the plaque these words, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. The noble army of martyrs praise thee!” On the plaque beneath the arch, it reads, “Within a few feet of this spot, John Rogers, John Bradford, and John Philpot, and other servants of God suffered death by fire for the faith of Christ in the years 1555, 1556, 1557.”
As I stood in that very spot, I thought about how dangerous it is to follow Christ. At certain times in history, it seems that it’s less dangerous, but there is always a danger, always a risk to follow Christ. Rogers remained faithful to the end and remains an example to us who walk in his footsteps. As I stood before the monument, I thought about D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. What were his thoughts as he walked by this monument? Perhaps Rogers impacted Lloyd-Jones. We are all leaving behind a legacy to be remembered. Will we be found faithful in the day of testing? What will be the legacy that we leave to our family, friends, and our church?
Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the lives of John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and George Muller. Today’s focus is on the Oxford martyrs – Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer.
The Catholic Queen – Bloody Mary
Queen Mary I, the daughter of King Henry VIII, tried to correct her father’s attempt to sever England from the rule of Roman Catholicism. Her agenda was to move England back to a firm connection to Roman Catholic authority. This agenda would cause 288 Reformers to be burned at the stake. Of these, 1 was an archbishop, 4 were bishops, 21 were clergymen, 55 were women, and 4 were children.  Therefore, Queen Mary became known as Bloody Mary.
The Blood of the Martyrs
Augustine was once quoted as saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” A seedbed of martyrs often gathered in a little pub in Cambridge called The White Horse Inn to talk about the gospel and biblical theology. It would be there that men such as Robert Barnes, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Bilney, Robert Clark, John Frith, and John Lambert. Some actually believe William Tyndale was one of the group who would meet to discuss the Word of God. 
This group would produce two archbishops, seven bishops, and nine martyrs of the faith. Bloody Mary was vehemently opposed to anyone who would preach and teach in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. Converts would be rebaptized and this was an open sign that they had renounced the Catholic faith. Bloody Mary took issue with those who refused to confess that the presence of Christ was among the people in the Catholic Mass. This was one of the primary issues that she had with Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer. According to John Piper:
And why were they burned? Because they stood by a truth—the truth that the real presence of Jesus’ body is not in the eucharist but in heaven at the Father’s right hand. For that truth they endured the excruciating pain of being burned alive. 
These were truths worth dying for. For Bloody Mary, they were worth killing for. For the evangelical church today it would hardly seem like an issue worthy of sacrificing your life. The present day evangelical church has lost sight of what it means to be Protestant. Ecumenical unity and a refusal to offend others has led to blurred lines and muddy religious waters. Does the evangelical church today have any doctrines worthy of death?
Augustine was right, these men didn’t die in vain. The bowels of the Roman Catholic Church had been pierced in 1517 and desperation was setting in as the Word of God continued to spread far and wide. Freedom for us today seems so easy and “free” but it cost Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and others their lives. We have much to be thankful for.
The Unquenchable Flame
After imprisonment in the Tower of London, Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were transported to Oxford to stand trial for their beliefs and doctrine. They refused to honor the pope and his teachings. They all refused to embrace the Catholic Mass and the doctrine of Transubstantiation. As Latimer and Ridley were prepared to die at the stake by fire in 1555, the crowd of Catholic supporters gathered around them in streets of Oxford. They taunted them and laughed at them. Their close friends also gathered to support them. Records tell of friends weeping as they bid them farewell.
As Latimer and Ridley came together at the stake, they embraced one another and then knelt to pray. After praying they were bound to the stake and the flames were ignited. John Foxe records the words of Latimer to Ridley. He said, “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.” As the flames engulfed their bodies, they died in ease according to the witnesses. After their bodies were burned, the flame eventually burned out, or did it?
Just as Latimer promised Ridley, the flame of the gospel continues to burn in England and beyond. The Bible has now been printed and distributed openly in the common man’s language. Bloody Mary’s evil reign was short lived. If you visit the city of Oxford today, you will find a large monument dedicated to the martyrs in the middle of the intersection of St Giles’, Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street, in a very well traveled popular location. Information about the memorial is provided on a memorial board that explains the martyrs memorial. It likewise points people to nearby Broad Street where a cross in the road marks the very spot where the martyrs were burned. If you travel there, as my wife and I did recently, you will find the cross in Broad Street as a place where many pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles are passing frequently. The flames on their bodies have long disappeared, but the flame of their legacy and their unwillingness to capitulate on the gospel of Jesus Christ remains bright.
We can learn much from these men who remained faithful to the end. As we see a growing trend of Christian persecution that’s starting to get media attention, it would serve us well to evaluate our faith. Is your faith the real thing or would the fires of persecution cause you to recant Jesus Christ? May you be found faithful in the day of testing.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, let us mediate upon the blessings of the gospel and the great freedoms that many of us enjoy as we embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ without the threat of Christian persecution. We have much to be thankful for.
Colossians 3:15-17 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- John Charles Ryle, Light from Old Times (Moscow, Idaho: Charles Nolan Publishers, 2000, first published 1890), 36.
- Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace – A Long Line of Godly Men, Vol. 2 (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011), 452-453.
- John Piper, “Contend for the Faith” a sermon preached on November 25, 1984.
Recently, my wife and I spent nine days in London and traveled out each day to various cities such as Bristol, Bedford, Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon our return home, I decided to write a series of posts on the lives of specific people from church history that left us with testimonies of genuine faith in the gospel, perseverance under persecution, and remained steadfast to the end. The goal in this series of articles is to lightly explore their lives and focus on their perseverance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. A life that finished well in the gospel is a life worth remembering. We have already looked at the lives of John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon. Today’s focus is a man known as Muller.
George Muller’s Salvation and Doctrine
George Muller was born in Kroppenstaedt, a Prussian village, on September 27, 1805. George Muller was born as a German, but also as a sinner. He loved his sin and excelled in it. According to his very own testimony, he was a liar and a thief.  After finding himself in jail for stealing at 16 years of age, his father devised a plan for his life that would be a good occupation for his son and a good retirement plan for himself. Muller’s father sent him to the University of Halle to study divinity and prepare for the ministry. There was no desire for God by George or his father.
In November of 1825, when Muller was 20 years old, he was invited to a Bible study and that was the turning point for this man. He would come to discover his true happiness in God. Later, he would discover the doctrines of grace, although he had often spoken evil of the doctrine of election. Muller came into contact with a particular man who taught him the doctrines of grace, and it literally changed his life and subsequent ministry.
The doctrinal conviction of George Muller in God’s sovereignty changed the way he looked at the world, the way he trusted God, the way he prayed, and the way he preached. The present day stereotype of Calvinism as a missions killing doctrine is simply not accurate. If anyone could put that to death by demonstrating what real Calvinism looks like in the pulpit and in mission, it’s George Muller.
George Muller’s Preaching Ministry
George Muller spent his life in Bristol, England (west of London). He gave his life primarily to one church for 66 years. It’s estimated that he preached nearly 10,000 sermons to the flock that God entrusted to his care. Muller had challenges that he faced, people to care for, orphans to minister to, and he did all of this while preaching every week for over six decades. His passion was relentless. His preaching was God centered and Christ exalting. He didn’t manipulate people for results, yet many people came to faith under his preaching and were discipled in God’s Word.
Early in his life, he had ambitions to become a missionary. At the age of 70, he set out to travel to different countries to preach the gospel. He visited 42 different countries over a period of 17 years and preached to between 3 and 4 million people.  Muller would often preach in the people’s known language since he knew six languages fluently (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, and English).
George Muller’s Legacy of Faith
George Muller had a love for God and this self denying and God glorying pursuit led him to engage in ministry to orphans. In Bristol during his time, there was a massive problem with orphans. When Muller recognized it, he put his hand to the plough and never looked back. Muller prayed for God to provide the land, and God provided. He prayed for God to provide the housing, and God provided. He then prayed for God to provide the children, and God provided. The first orphan entered Muller’s care on 11th of April 1836. The first entry into their log books was Charlotte Hill.  Over the course of Muller’s ministry, he would care for over 10,000 orphans and through his ministry beyond his death, 17,000 orphans in total would be ministered to. He was serving as unto the Lord rather than unto men.
During Muller’s ministry, he experienced hardships and trials. He married Mary Groves at the age of 25, and they had four children, two of which were stillborn. His son Elijah died when he was only 1 year old. Mary preceded him in death. If you travel to Bristol, you can see the sermon text from Mary’s funeral in the little one room museum devoted to George Muller. As he preached her funeral, more than 800 people gathered outside in overflow and were unable to enter due to the crowd. Muller said of his wife Mary:
Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to seeme. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”
Yet through the death of his children and the death of his wife, he never became sidetracked in his mission for God. He would marry Susannah Sangar at 66 years of age. She too would precede him in death. Yet, Muller kept serving God.
George Muller loved orphans because he loved God and God had demonstrated love to Muller who was lost in his sin. Muller had unshakable faith in God to provide. He never asked people for money, but he did ask God for the people’s money. He was constantly on his knees praying. Two years after the first orphans entered his care, he had no money. On the morning of August 18th, 1838 he writes in his journal, “I have not a penny in hand for the orphans. In a day or two many pounds will be needed. My eyes are up to the Lord.” By that evening, he wrote in the journal, “Before this day is over, I have received from a sister 5 pounds. She had some time since put away her trinkets to be sold for the benefit of the orphans. This morning, whilst in prayer, it came to her mind, I have this 5 pounds, and owe no man anything, therefore it would be better to give this money at once, as it may be some time before I can dispose of the trinkets. She therefore brought it, little knowing that there was not a penny in hand.” 
George Muller lived among the orphans and loved them dearly. He invested in them by teaching them the gospel, educating them, and although he received grief because the orphans were often better educated than those who came from good homes in Bristol, the business owners eventually had to compete for the orphans who were “graduating” from the care of Muller.
One famous story about Muller’s faith is taken from a specific time when the orphans were out of food:
“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.” Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children. 
Eventually George Muller’s work was finished. He led a prayer meeting at his church on the evening of Wednesday, March 9, 1898. The next day a cup of tea was taken to him at seven in the morning but no answer came to the knock on the door. He was found dead on the floor beside his bed.  The orphan-loving pastor was gone at age 92. The city of Bristol came to a standstill. All of the factories and shops closed. People lined the streets to pay tribute to the orphan-loving, Christ exalting, gospel preacher known by many as – Muller. According to Arthur Pierson, “A thousand children gathered for a service at the Orphan House No. 3. They had now for a second time lost a ‘father’.”  As the streets were lined with people, the casket made its way to the cemetery followed by a train of orphan children.
Today, if you visit Bristol you will discover a tragedy. Nobody knows George Muller. Things changed over time and the way orphans were cared for changed politically, and so the mission of Muller and his care for the children was blessed by God. Eventually, the orphan houses became empty and were eventually sold. Muller saw the change coming and after his death, they continued to care for orphans and assist in providing care, but the orphan house ministry was no more. Over time the orphans disappeared from the streets. The orphan houses were sold. Today, if you walk the streets of Bristol and come to Ashley Down orphan houses, you will discover that of the five houses, two are apartments, and three are owned by a college.
As my wife and I stood in the intersection and looked at the busy streets from beneath an umbrella, I asked Kari – “Why don’t we go into the visitor’s center and just ask them if they know the history of the buildings?” She reluctantly agreed. As we entered the busy building full of people, we approached a desk and I asked the lady, “Excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to know the history of this building would you?” She said, “Hang on.” She then got up and got a book with a blank cover and handed it to my wife and I and said, “There is a table over there, go take a seat and have a little read.” As we opened this book, it was a collection of approximately 40 photocopied pictures of all of Muller’s work with the oprhans. As my wife and I sat in the busy college campus, we wiped tears away as we considered the history and work of this man that Bristol has forgotten.
We departed from that building and made our way to the cemetery where Muller was buried. We walked the street and arrived after dark. After discovering a way to enter the already closed cemetery, we asked permission at the newly constructed cafe to find a grave although it was already closed. After receiving permission, we walked up a muddy pathway in the dark to the location that we had on a small general map that was provided to us at the museum. It took a little effort, but we found his grave by flashlight. I must admit, I’m grateful to my wife for hanging with me on this journey.
It’s hard to believe that this man of faith is buried back in a wooded cemetery in a city that has failed to remember him. One thing is for certain, George Muller may be forgotten by Bristol, but he is remembered by God. George Muller persevered in the faith and we can learn much from his life that was spent for the glory of God.
- George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller, or A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer, compiled by G. Fred Bergin (Denton, Tex.: Westminster Literature Resources, 2003), 1:10.
- Arthur T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol and His Witness to A Prayer-Hearing God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1999), 257. Originally published as “Authorized Memoir” (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1899).
- Roger Steer, George Muller – Delighted in God (Christian Focus Publications, Denmark, 2012), 65
- Ibid., 77.
- “George Mueller, Orphanages Built by Prayer”
- Pierson, George Mueller, 285.
- Ibid., 286.