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Faith's Work Perfected

Chapter 11 Contents Chapter 1

Faith's Work Perfected;


Francke's Orphan House At Halle


A.H. Francke

[August Hermann]
Professor in the Halle University, and
Founder of the Orphan House.

Edited and translated by

Wm. L. Gage

[William Leonard]

Sampson, Low, Son & Marston,
Milton House, Ludgate Hill.

[α ωξζ – 1867 – א ףס״ז]

Harrild Printer London


Dedication by Mr. Wm. L. Gage

Google Digital Books

Introduction, by the Editor

I. First Footfalls of Divine Providence

II. The Work Widens

III. A House Needed

IV. Students Helped

V. Out from the Narrow into the Broad

VI. Relief from Pecuniary Embarrassments
through the direct intervention of Providence

VII. Special Providence Continued

VIII. The Act of Incorporation
Sickness in the House

IX. Greater Difficulties
than the Want of Money: Triumphant Deliverance

X. The Result

XI. Closing Note by the Editor


Will the aged father of my sainted mother

accept the dedication of this little book

which, had she lived,

I should have inscribed to her

in filial love,

she having passed to her rest, I offer it to him,

to whom she was largely indebted

for those lessons

which afterwards were conspicuously illustrated

by her beautiful example.


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Editor's Introduction

No visitor stops at the city of Halle in Germany in order to take the great theologian Tholuck by the hand; or to look at him with more timid respect in the lecture-room, without halting in one of the large public squares, and wondering what is the use of an immense yet not tasteless pile of buildings, which cluster there, and form one of the chief architectural features of the city. In palatial importance they entirely eclipse the University of Halle, spacious as even that is; and no hotel, no private mansion, not even that in which Napoleon took up his residence while he held the place, can be compared with it for a moment. This congeriesα of buildings occupies and entire square, and it is a good walk to compass it. I passed unchallenged up the staircase leading to the main entrace; thence through the lofty hall, with a bookseller's shop on the one side, and a drug shop on the other, into the spacious rectangle enclosed by buildings on all sides, and looked around me, endeavouring to conjecture the uses of the place. That instant an unseen bell struck; presently the square filled with such thronging multitudes of boys and girls, that it was plainly a school or a system of schools. Soon a young, intelligent-faced man walked by; him I accosted, and learned that I was standing within the world-renowned precincts of Francke's Orphan House.

A few days later a friend took me to a little bookstall in a retured street— so retired, that I wondered how any one ever found it out; in fact, not even a bookstall, but a lodging-room, where a Mr. Petersen, student of divinity, kept a meagre assortment of books, old and new, and now and then, thorugh the kindness of friends, found a purchaser. This Mr. Petersen presently showed me a thick, square, worn book, very old and dingy, leather bound, coarsely printed, and wholly unattractive. He assured me that its contents were valuable— that it contained Francke’s own account of the founding of the Orphan House, from the very inception to the perfect completion— with a valuable mass of appendices and original documents, throwing light upon the whole of that most remarkable history of the Triumph of Faith. For the trifling sum of two shillingsβ I became the possessor of this rare volume, whose worth I then only partly knew.

The next day as I was walking with Professor Tholuck, he remarked, “Before you leave Halle, you must, if possible, possess yourself of a curiosity.” I inquired what it might be. “At the bookstall of Mr. Petersen, number so and so, in such and such a street,” he went on to say, “you will find a book entirely out of print, and very rarely met; the entire history, from Francke’s own hand, of the development of this great Orphan House of Halle. The price is only twenty silver groschen.” γ I looked at him in amazement. How, thought I, do you know this? you, one of the most eminent of theologians, familiar with the contents of a litte, retired bookstall? Of course I was not slow to answer that only the day before, I had found the book and become its possessor.

That book, bearing the curiously quaint title

The Most Blessed Footsteps
Of The Living and Reigning
The Loving And Faithful God
For The Shaming Of The Unbelieving,
And The Strengthening Of The Believing
Disclosed Through The True And Circumstantial
History Of The
Orphan House In Halle

I have carefully perused and collated, drawing out and combining all that illustrates the great doctrines of faith and answered prayer. Much of it is now but cumbrousδ detail; the local regulations of the school, the lists of books, the catalogue raisonneε of donations, the minute working of all the parts, were not to my purpose, and I have not used them, excepting in selections which seemed to illustrate the theme. The “Footsteps,” the first of the bundle of pamphlets, I have retained in full. It was translated into Dutch and English about 1705, but it would probably be a hopeless task to try resuscitate a quaint English version: the work is better done afresh. Of the continuations to the “Footsteps” I have made a careful use, and have tried to incorporate such of them as are pertinent.

There are two points of significance in the work of Francke, to which special attention ought to be called. One is the great ability, learning, and scope of the man. In this respect he seems to stand above any other one whose career has been familiar to the world as exhibiting an equally trusting faith in the living God. George Mueller, while a man of powerfully organizing mind, is not known to the scholarly world as a lettered man, and never puts forth any effort to conciliate and convince the unbelief of men of nice and dainty culture. He has the simplicity of a child, but it is in his faith alone that he is most great, daring, and strong. His efficiency is that of prayer, enjoined with those humble qualities which, our Saviour assures us, are to inherit the kingdom of God. Heinrich Stilling, the well-known German mystic, whose autobiography was much read years ago, was able, by his downright honesty, his transparent purity, and his rare unworldliness, to win even Goethe as a friend; but I have long thought that Goethe was drawn to him as a study, as representing one phase of life, as the typical Pietist, rather than out of any deep sympathy or thorough appreciation of the man. And there is in Stilling such a romantic love of the marvellous, such a preference of it to any other thing, and so many whimsical vagaries (not all fully unfolded in his Autobiography, but hinted at), that many would not be led to confess the power of prayer after reading that quaint, simple, and richly affectionate book with its wealth of faith and domestic love; who would perhaps be hindered rather than helped. So Huntingdon, author of the Bank of Faith, has so much egotism, so many foolish conceits (witness, for illustration, his habit of appending S.S. to his name on the title-page of his book and on all occasions, which the reader learns at last, signifies Sinner Saved), that one wearies of his ignorance and of his diffuseness. True, the essence of good is there; the Christian can read that book and draw strength from it, but the man of the world, I have thought, might only be hardened by it.

But Francke is an entirely different type of man. He stands out as notable in his age as Dante does in his. He was a profound scholar, an eloquent preacher, a correct thinker, and a man of wonderful energy and organizing power. With Spener he founded the order of Pietists, and in an age when a subtle infidelity on the one side, and a dead traditional and entirely respectable religious formality on the other, were robbing Germany of all deep and quick religious life, he was one of the very few, who preserved the sacred fire. Spener and Francke and Frelinghuysen, the poet, are a trio whose Christian services to their age cannot be overrated. Any one who reads the admirable resume of Francke’s life which is contained in Herzog’ invaluable Encyclopaedia, will discover that great as was the founding of the Orphan House, it was but a fragment of his life work. And going over the “Footsteps” the reader will not discern one trait of weakness; the style is simple and direct, but utterly free from conceit and folly. Francke wins upon the reader as a wise and energetic man: wonderfully supported by his faith, wonderfully answered in his prayer, but uniting the child-life soul with a large power of influencing men, a comprehensive insight into character, and great sagacity and scope of understanding. Carlyle has caricatured him in his riblad, zig-zag way (History of Frederick the Great, vol. ii. p. 18), and multitudes have accepted the lightning-like sketch as a faithful portrait. “Did English readers,” writes this remorseless pen,

ever hear of Francke? Let them make a momentary acquaintance with the famous German saint. August Hermann Francke, a Luebeck man, born 1663; Professor of Theology, of Hebrew, Lecturer on the Bible; a wandering, persecuted, pious man; founder of the ‘Pietists,’ a kind of German Methodists, who are still a famed sect in that country; and of the Waisenhaus at Halle, grand Orphan House, built by charitable beggings of Francke, which also still subsists; a reverend gentleman, very mournful of visage, now sixty-four, and for the present at Berlin, discouring of things eternal in what Wilhelmina thinks a very lugubriousζ manner. Well, but surely in a very serious manner! The shadows of death were already around this poor Francke, and in a few weeks more he had himself departed. But hear Wilhelmina, what account she gives of his own and the young Grenadier Major’s behaviour on these mournful occasions. The King had fallen into one of his hypochondrias, and had Francke, the Halle Methodist, giving ghostly counsel; his Majesty ceased to have the newspapers read at dinner, and listened to lugubrious Francke’s exhortations instead. Hear Wilhelmina—

His Majesty began to become valetudinary,η and the hypochondria which tormented him rendered his humour very melancholy. Monsieur Francke, the famous Pietist, founder of the Orphan House at Halle University, contributed not a little to exaggerate that latter evil. This reverend gentleman entertained the King by raising scruples of conscience about the most innocent matters. He condemned all pleasures; damnable all of them, he said, even hunting and music. You were to speak of nothing but the Word of God only; all other conversation was forbidden. It was always he that carried on the improving talk at table, where he did the office of reader, as if it had been a refectoryθ of monks. The King has us treated to a sermon every afternoon; his valet-de-chambreι gave out a psalm, which we all sang. In a word, this dog of a Francke (cechien de Francke [sic]) led us all the life of a set of monks of la Trappe.

The reader may give what credence he will to this account. I find no further proof of its accuracy than what every giddy, frivolous girl like Wilhelmina finds harsh and hard in a sedate, elderly clergyman, and what the virulent Carlyle finds in almost every Christian. Francke was an earnest, serious man, looking at life as a weighty thing— cheerful, hopeful, and happy; nowhere showing a sour or morbid spirit, and looked up to by even his opponents as a man of great talents, and a pillar in the land.

Another point is the magnitude of the work which he accomplished. I speak now of the Orphan House; but that was enough for any man’s monument. With a capital of only fourteen shillings,κ and trusting in the living God’s willingness to answer the prayer of faith, and believing in the fact that He does answer the prayer of faith, he dared to begin that great undertaking, and was safely carried through it, and in a very few years saw it the foremost educational institution in Germany, and the most extensive eleemosynaryλ asylum in the world. Before his death he witnessed over two thousand children sheltered at once within its walls, and all its departments— the Orphans’ Home, the Theological Seminary, the Normal School, the Publishing, the Bookselling, and the Apothecaries’ Departments, the Library, the Establishment for Widows, poor Students in the University, the Poor of the suburbs of Halle, and for strolling Beggars— in full and successful operation. It has changed but little from that time to this. The ample funds in possession of which he was able to leave the Orphan House have still increased, and when I was in Halle there were nearly four thousand children taught there; a corps of almost two hundred teachers were maintained, many living within the building; while the various appointments, the dining-rooms and reading-rooms, the school-rooms, hospital, and library, the offices and gymnasium, were all that were needed for the accommodation of such a host.

I will not go here into any recital of the history of the institution— this Professor Francke has fully done in the “Footsteps.” He takes the reader from the first stage, when money was counted in pence and halfpence,μ up to the last, when the House was in the receipt of a princely sum every year, four thousand poundsν coming in from a single source. Carlyle has said this was the result of “charitable beggings.” It was not. Francke appealed to no man for money. The King of Prussia did, indeed, after the institution was recognized as a power, grant a license to take collections for it in the parish churches of the kingdom; but the cost and the trouble were so great that it was soon abandoned, and indirectly led to pecuniary loss rather than gain. The book is an effective illustration of the truth the we live and move, as well as have our being, in God;ξ that He is a living God, the prompter of every holy work; that his Spirit does indeed work within us, to will and to do after his good pleasure.ο Francke relied implicitly upon such a God. He believed so profoundly in Him that his belief became act. He knew that the Spirit of God was equal to the work which he wished to see done, and he was not disappointed. He did not sit down with folded hands expecting to see a fair and stately building, fitly appointed, spring into being before his eyes. He worked incessantly, he planned, he brought men together, he assigned them their task; then he prayed. He asked the living God to move the hearts of his children to give according to their means for an object whose end was the glory of Christ. Had God left Himself without a witness, this prayer had been in vain; had there not been the Spirit of Christ in the people’s hearts, only needing quickening and direction, this prayer had been in vain. But the “seed of the kingdom” was yet in the land. Infidelity and spiritual deadness had not buried it so deep but it might sprout yet, and bear fruit to the glory of God.

It is, of course, an open question, whether, in all the minute details of life, God palpably leads us, and always shows us the reason why He leads us as He does; and I think there is no advantage gained to Christianity in commenting on unanswered prayer with too close an appearance of intimacy with the Divine counsels respecting our lives. The faith of some may be strengthened, but the unbelief of others may be hardened by it. But in such a work as this, as well as in that part of George Mueller’s life which relates to his career as pastor in Teignmouth and Bristol, there is the evident work of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men, manifested in that normal method of diffusive beneficence which to bestow its gifts. The hearts of German Christians a hundred and sixty years ago had the same love of Christ which animates those who live to-day [sic]; and it only needed to be kindled by the power of Francke’s life and preaching to prompt to giving even without direct appeal. There is surely no need of mysticism in this. It is one of the most open manifestations of the genuine Christian life. And Francke has painted it, not in glowing colours, but in an even-tempered tone, warm and devout, indeed as he could only be, but dispassionate, calm, and over-flowing with good sense and wise discrimination.

An interesting fact connected with Francke, is that by the law of spiritual genealogy, he was probably the religious father of George Mueller. It is interesting to think that in Halle, Mueller must have known much of the career of Francke. He carried recollections to England, and in due time he too, in much the same way as the German of 1700, began his Orphan House. Thus do good men span the centuries; thus being dead, they yet speak;π though they rest from their labours, their works do follow them. It seems a little thing to the readers of George Mueller’s life, that in his early manhood he made that sojourn in Halle during his wanderings; but it was the means doubtless, of giving the great Bristol Asylum to the world.

It is a great pleasure to introduce so sound and healthful a book to the world. It has lain locked up in an obscure and difficult tongue for more than a century and a half, and yet it contains the eternal, indestructible truth of Christ. To cull this little faggot, I have had to turn over more than a thousand pages, yet the author’s kindling fervour has made it a pleasant task, even when I have thought the words not concentrated enough for translation and publication. The gleaning of what is given here had been a delightful task to beguile the weary hours of a sick-room away; and it has been not the least among numberless mercies, that, while cut off from wonted activities by an invalid’s lot, I could still speak from my chamber to the world.

W.L. Gage


α congeries – a disorderly collection; a jumble; Oxford on Mac.
β It is assumed that Mr. Gage normalized monetary units and values to those in use in the year of publication, 1867. British units are assumed, dollars are assumed to be American, and using the “economic power” value of, each respective unit from 1867 equals $2140 and £1918 in a.D. 2015. The 2017 exchange rate of £=$1.25=€1.2 is used to compute modern values as well. A British shilling is 1/20 of a pound, so the 2 shillings above would be modern £190/$240/€230. A penny (“pence,” plural) was 1/240 of a pound, sometimes abbreviated “p.” A crown was 1/4 of a pound.
γ A “groschen” is the German equivalent of a “thick penny,” with the “thin penny” represented by a pfenning. It is not clear from cursory internet research what silver standards standards were in 1867, except that the Prussian thaler was 1/14 of a Cologne mark of silver (about 234 g) and 24 groschen per thaler; each grosch was further divided into 12 pfenning. Thus, 20 groschen would be 5/6 of a thaler, Assuming for the sake of convenience the pound sterling equalled a Cologne mark, 5/6 of 1/14 of a pound is just a little less than 1/100, which per note β converts to modern £19/$24/€23.
δ cumbrous – cumbersome, Ibid. note α
ε a descriptive catalog of works of art with explanations and scholarly comments, Ibid.
ζ looking or sounding sad and dismal, Ibid.
η a person who is unduly anxious about their health, Ibid.
θ a room used for communal meals, especially in an educational or religious institution, Ibid.
ι a ruler’s personal secretary, Wikipedia.
κ Per note β, £1300/$1700/€1600
λ of, relating to, or dependent on charity; charitable, Ibid. note α
μ Per note β worth about £8/$10/€10.
ν Per note β, £7.7 millions/$9.6 millions/€9.2 millions.
ξ Acts xvii.28.
ο Philippians ii.13.
π Hebrews xi.4.

Chapter 11 Contents Chapter 1