It is the 27th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1805.
It was the era of the French Revolutionary Wars and subsequent Napoleonic Wars. Essentially, after the collapse of the French Revolution and various European wars in their aftermath, Napoleon rose to prominence and began to consolidate his power. Ever an admirer of Alexander the Great, Napoleon set out on a quest to unify Europe and parts of Asia under his empire.
One of the more memorable events of the Napoleonic Wars occurred in this year at the battle of Trafalgar. The famous naval engagement saw thirty-three French and Spanish ships pitted against twenty-seven British ships off the coast of Spain near Cape Trafalgar and the strait of Gibraltar.
British Admiral Horatio Nelson famously led the British Navy in a decisive victory in which not a single British ship was lost. The victory also dashed any hopes Napoleon had of invading England. Furthermore, the battle set the stage for the rise of British Sea Power and the Royal Navy ruling the seas for the rest of the century.
In the same year, to the east in the Austrian Empire, Napoleon had perhaps his most important victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. It was also called the War of the Three Emperors as it pitted the emperors in Russia and Austria against Napoleon, the French emperor. Napoleon’s victory was decisive and is considered perhaps the greatest of his career. His soldiers were rewarded and those orphaned by the war were adopted personally by Napoleon and could add his surname to theirs. The quick victory also held the Prussian military at bay, at least for a time.
And tying a few themes together, Prussia, England, and Orphans, it was on this, the 27th of September in 1805 that the Prussian born, English minister, and advocate for orphans, George Müller was born.
Müller was born in Kroppenstädt, Prussia, and attended university at Halle. Halle pietism was waning, but Müller was certainly influenced by it. He claimed that it wasn’t until he had already begun his theological studies that he had been truly converted. The adverb “truly” is doing a lot of work there, and adverbs like this would be hallmarks of pietism and their offshoots. Müeller took his Halle training to England where he became a pastor and founding member of the Plymouth Brethren. The Brethren were a loose association of protestant Christians of the generally affective variety. There was a split in the group that Müller took part in. The question was what a Christian needed to do in order to become a member, and in order to take communion. Müeller came down on the side of the new “Open Brethren” that allowed non-baptized members to worship in Brethren churches, whereas his opponents formed a group known as the “exclusive brethren.”
But Müller was best known for his work amongst England’s poor and orphaned children. Early in his career when he discontinued “pew rents” at his parish. These “rents” assured a family that they would have a reserved seat at church, and it worked as a tithe for the church. When Müeller refused to demand any rent or tithes on pews, but instead have free will offerings, the church exploded in size and wealth. In 1836 Müeller used the money to pay for a house for orphans. By 1842 he had opened schools adjacent to the homes. By 1850 a new larger orphanage was built and opened with 300 orphans. It is calculated that he and his orphanages cared for over 10,000 British orphans during his lifetime. While the pastor is usually recognized for this, a biographer wrote: “The world, dull of understanding… is inclined to think of him merely as a nice old gentleman who loved children, a sort of glorified guardian of the poor…To describe him thus, however, is to degrade his memory, is to miss the high spiritual aim and the wonderful spiritual lesson of his life”.
When Müller died in 1898, the George Müller Charitable Trust was created to continue his work in perpetuity. Born on this day in 1805, George Müller was 92 years old.
The reading for today is a poem from D.S. Martin, the poet, and curator of the Kingdom Poet’s blog. This is his “Sitting on A Stone
Angels expect to happen what we’ve been told
will happen unlike you or that old man
overawed by incense & Gabriel’s presence
How can this be done?
when told in their old age
he & his wife would have a son Why
shouldn’t the archangel strike him dumb?
Herod was worse hammered against
what Micah foretold brought his shocking
sceptre down on every baby’s head
& then even the fishermen
questioned among themselves
what they’d been clearly shown
So try not to hold my mocking tone
against me when I said Why
do you seek the living among the dead?
as I sat on that rolled-away stone
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of September 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who loves the smell of grapeshot in the morning, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.