I skimmed through volume 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography—it contains a few good anecdotes about the tribulations of publishing and public speaking—but overall it was not as interesting as I had hoped. Maybe volume 2 will be better.
Twain, or Samuel Clemens, didn’t have much good to say about preachers or Christianity, so his short paragraph on George Müller stood out. It reminds us that even when people dislike our gospel, they may still “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:12). Note how Twain is amazed that Müller inspired even the tightfisted Britains to anonymously support his ministry.
Twain wrote (I broke his long paragraph into four sections for readability in our Internet age):
“It is not to be disputed that in matters of charity the English are by a long way the most prodigal nation in the world. Speaking of this, we now and then, at long intervals, hear incidental mention of George Müller and his orphanages; then they pass out of our minds and memories, and we think that they have passed out of the earth. But it is not so. They go on.
They have been going on for sixty years, and are as much alive to-day as ever they were. George Müller is more than ninety years old, now, but he is still at his work. He was poor when he projected his first orphanage for the sustenance of half a dozen waifs; since then he has collected and spent six or seven millions of dollars in his kindly work, and is as poor to-day as he was when he started.
He has built five great orphanages; in them he clothes and teaches and feeds two thousand children at a cost of a hundred thousand dollars a year, and England furnishes the money—not through solicitation, nor advertising, nor any kind of prodding, but by distinctly voluntary contributions. When money runs short Müller prays—not publicly but privately—and his treasury is replenished.
In sixty years his orphans have not gone to bed unfed a single day; and yet many a time they have come within fifteen minutes of it. The names of the contributors are not revealed; no lists are published; no glory is to be gained by contributing; yet every day in the year the day’s necessary requirement of three or four hundred dollars arrives in the till. These splendid facts strain belief; but they are true” (p. 116-17).