|Chapter 7||Contents||Chapter 9|
In 1698 the Prussian Government recognized my work and its public utility, by giving me a regular act of incorporation, and by allowing me to solicit contributions in all parts of the kingdom. This my friends considered a great step gained, and I do not wish to say that it may not have been to my advantage, for doubtless it was in accordance with the wise though hidden purpose og God, but the consequences which followed it were, judging by human appearances alone, far from beneficial to my undertaking.
One thing which stood in my way was the cost of collecting contributions. But when you consider the difficulty and expense of procuring a small army of collectors of the right stamp, men both capable and trustworthy, you will see that only in the shrewdest manner could the bare cost of collecting be met, not to speak of accumulating a great sum for an object so little known and understood as mine. For the Orphan House in Halle was the first one of the kind in Germany; the public mind was not prepared to admit its claims unchallenged, and it was a great work to get a hearing. The end was, that only in Berlin and in three provinces did I make any attempt at taking contributions, and there with but meagre [sic] success.
But other evils came in. It was commonly supposed that because the Government had recognized the institution, it had largely endowed it, and would provide amply for all its wants. Those who had known of my trials supposed them at an end, and felicitated me on my good fortune and the happy issue of those wearisome years of poverty and uncertainty. Those who had been donors before, now ceased to give, for they saw no necessity longer of individual contributions, now that the State had taken the Orphan House in charge; and not only so, but they felt free to send us any number of poor and homeless children, supposing that our endowment was ample enough to meet any exigency. It was even reported that I was in the receipt of two thousand four hundred poundsα yearly from the Prussian Government! No wonder that I was overrun with applications! Between the neglect of friends on the one hand, in the fancied idea of my liberal allowance from the King, and the crowds of applicants on the other, I was worse off than I had ever been. I should have been glad to go back to the old ways. In fact, I found the principle of dependence on faith and prayer the best. While I relied on God I was successful, but when I began to felicitate myself on gaining a strong arm of flesh, I began to see my weakness. After all, the way in which I began asserted itself as more reliable in all its contingencies and exigencies than the help of an earthly king, however kindly disposed and strong.
One of the sorest evils we had to contend with, in consequence of the crowded state of the House, was sickness. We were remarkably favoured indeed, in receiving without expense the services of an eminent physician of Leipsic in assisting our own house-doctor in difficult cases, yet the rooms were so full that it made it very difficult to care properly for the sick. Added to this was the fact that the year 1699 was signalized by the prevalence of a peculiarly malignant type of fever which seized on the most vigorous and blooming, sparing the weak and ill-conditioned. We contended with it in vain. It seized upon the teachers as well as the taught, and hurried them into a common grave. No medicine then known seemed to have any power to stay its course: it yielded to no treatment. We knew not which way to turn to stop its ravages, but I bethought me of the power of prayer, and God graciously heard me; and not long after, a physician in another place sent me a specific, which proved efficacious in saving life and in averting the disease. And I am sure that it will not be thought fanciful that God should be able to stay the progress of disease, by blessing the use of natural agents, and by directing the attention to them. He does not arrest sickness by naked power, but He is abundantly able to incline the hearts of skilful [sic] physicians to serve the poor, and He is not less able to direct the mind than the heart, and can easily open human eyes to the hidden uses of nature in healing diseases.
I will not close this chapter without acknowledging the kindness and true Christian spirit of all the people who have approached me claiming to be friends of the enterprise. It might be supposed that some might be drawn to me in hope of pecuniary advantage or selfish aims, but I have never found traces of that spirit; a lofty disinterestedness has always been the most striking characteristic of those with whom I have had dealings. It would be pleasant to speak in detail of benefactors of the House, but I cannot do so; and in fact one wonderful feature of all the Lord’s conduct of this matter has been that the names of the donors have been unknown to me even to this time. This hints at the true undertone of whole; that the springs were indeed moved of God; that men gave “as they were moved of the Holy Ghost.” β Hardly a great gift came accompanied with the name of the donor; that was withheld out of a modesty which I did not always understand, but now know to have been indicative of the need that God should have all the glory.
|Chapter 7||Contents||Chapter 9|