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The number of orphans had so far increased on my hands as to make it necessary to divide them according to sex, giving to each distinct teachers; and as I discovered those that excelled in talents, I selected them out and gave the instructors suited to their greater capacities, providing that they should be taught not only writing and arithmetic, but also the languages and the sciences; while those who were destined to become mechanics and artisans were instructed in the elements of Christianity, as well as in the three R’s.
The number of orphans and poor students who had board gratis, continually increased, and soon the houses which I had purchased became entirely inadequate to our wants. I had to begin to think about a larger house.
Yet there was no model that I could follow; there was no orphan asylum then in all Germany; I could gain no clear idea of the construction and management of other establishments of a similar character in other countries, as there seemed to be no good accounts printed and circulated; I therefore concluded to send George Henry Neubauer, my general superintendent, to Holland, to examine the orphan asylums there, and to make me a report of them, and the method of conducting them, so that nothing which the experience of others could teach me should be wanting to make the orphan asylum at Halle as perfect as any in existence.
As my limitations became still more uncomfortably straitened, I bought the inn known as the “Golden Eagle,” standing just outside the Roman gate, for fifteen hundred dollars,α and transferred my orphans thither; but I saw very soon that this house was more suitable for a tavern than for my purpose, not to speak of the constant increase of the number of orphans and poor students which soon outgrew even these enlarged accommodations; for in the spring of this year there were a hundred of the former and seventy-two of the latter; so that with the teachers and servants, there were hard upon two hundred people in the house.
The large open place in front of the “Golden Eagle Inn” was going to be appropriated for a drinking shop and other uses, which I thought not favourable to the interests of the large number of young people committed to my care; I therefore ventured to make a contract for its possession, purposing to proceed to the erection of a house which should be large enough to meet all my needs, for the expense for rent to supply me with the house-room I must have, was not inconsiderable.
And as the whole work had been conducted from the very beginning in entire dependence on the providence of God, and as I had never gone on to take any step with the means in hand for its attainment, but always in the sure expectation that God would open a way, although I had not funds in my possession sufficient to build even a small house, let alone a large one, yet God gave me courage equal to making a fixed resolution that I would go on and build at once.
I summoned Neubauer from Holland, and on the 13th of July, 1698, laid the corner-stone of the Orphan House in the name of God. Providence had blessed me so far that I had on hand a considerable quantity of lumber (though not enough for the edifice); but for other materials and funds to pay workmen, I must from week to week to the hand of that living God who had already given me such abundant reason to trust Him.
I counted at first on building the whole structure of wood, and the foundation was laid in that expectation, and was therefore light and comparatively unsubstantial; but the architect pronounced the lot of land so suitable to a more substantial edifice, and remonstrated with me so earnestly, and others joined in with him to so great an extent, that I felt almost persuaded to venture deeper, and build in a more stable manner. I soon came unexpectedly into possession of a fine quarry of stone suitable for foundation work, and this seemed another inducement to build of masonry rather than of wood. Yet all this would have been without avail to me unless I had felt able to trust entirely to the providence of God to bless my undertaking.
Although I had begun with no ready money to pay the labourers, yet God opened the way for me to secure, without any difficulty, the services of a sufficient number of workmen to go on with the house. It was my custom, and one to which they yielded a ready compliance, to commence the day, and to end the week, with prayer. And God showed his special care for the undertaking in protecting all the workmen from every serious danger, and in granting speedy recovery to those who were slightly injured during the progress of the building.
Meantime the work advanced so rapidly, despite its magnitude, and the size of the lot of land, together with the hardness of the soil to be removed for the cellar, that in one year from the day when the corner-stone was laid, the roof had covered the whole, and God had silenced the sneers of those who had made light of the whole undertaking, and who had gone so far as to blasphemously say that they would hang themselves on the walls when they should be high enough. At Easter, 1700, the orphans and the students began to take their meals in the new building; very soon all the rooms of the lower storey were completed, and by Easter, 1701, the rooms of the upper storeys were ready for occupation. The King of Prussia showed his appreciation of the work by giving a hundred thousand bricks for the walls, and thirty thousand tiles for the roof, which was a great help to me, and won my heartiest gratitude. The King also granted me the Royal license and by Act of Incorporation raised the Orphan House to the rank of an institution recognized by the Government.
And now God, who had done all this for the benefit of poor and unfriended orphans, and had become a father to them, inclined the heart of a prominent Christian gentleman to devote a portion of his wealth to found a home for poor widows, and to place it under my care. So I bought a house just outside of Halle, and fitted it up for the accommodation of four widows, a servant and steward, and soon after opened it to this limited number. My means allowed me to provide them with all that was absolutely necessary for life, and to give them about eighteenpenceβ a week for pocket-money, besides all that they might earn by sewing and spinning. In case of sickness they were provided with medicine and a doctor. Prayers were held with them every day, conducted by the steward of their home; and we have reason to think that the influence of this widows’ retreat was very great, and that their prayers redounded to the benefit of the whole city, as well as the institutions which I had under my charge.
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