I admired George Muller's works in caring for orphans and his faith in God to provide for his need. However, I find it troubling that he didn't accept illegitimate orphans.

George Muller was a Prussian who came to Britain in 1829 in order to train for Christian missionary service. Some years later, inspired by the example of August Francke's orphanage in Halle (founded in 1696), George Muller began a similar work in Bristol. Muller's Homes - a complex of five gigantic barracks at Ashley Down, Bristol - provided accommodation for over sixteen hundred orphans mainly aged from seven to twelve years, who received an elementary education and were trained for trade or domestic service. The outstanding characteristic of Muller's work was that it depended entirely on faith in God: George Muller had no personal resources, yet he never asked for money; his Institution never went into debt; all his assistants were committed Christian believers and, on leaving, children were apprenticed to Christian employers or placed in service in Christian homes. His orphanages never attempted to be children's hospitals or reformatories; incorrigible delinquents were reluctantly expelled, and, curiously enough, George Muller did not accept illegitimate children. But the scale of Muller's work created a public awareness of the problem of orphan children, and aroused Christians to their responsibilities. George Muller was one of the early founders of the (open) Christian Brethren.

link Emphasis mine

What is his Biblical reason for not accepting illegitimate children?


While searching, I found this article and learned that it was not easy to adopt illegitimate child during their times:

I know it’s hard to believe, but foundlings [illegitimate children] generally died in the streets because there was no home for them, and adoption, as it is known today in the western world, has generally been illegal throughout most of history.


British almshouses (poorhouses) were more difficult to get into than either of the other institutions [Charles Spurgeon's and Muller's orphanages] mentioned in the first paragraph. Spurgeon and Muller both lamented the cruel system of gathering signatures, securing votes, and the complex paper work necessary to place a child into an almshouse. Most almshouses were notoriously horrible places. 90% of the foundlings who went into almshouses died before reaching 10 years old. It took Thomas Coram, a wealthy retired shipbuilder who was shocked to see dead babies in the streets of London, years to get legal permission to open the first home for foundlings. Afterwords his legal charter was repeatedly debated, and at one point rescinded, because saving foundlings was considered a corrupting influence on society.

Could it be that George Muller tried to avoid running afoul with the law or is it that, sadly, he shared with the his society the social stigma on illegitimate children?

  • 2
    Interesting. However, I wonder why you are asking for his biblical reasons. Perhaps he had socio-economic reasons? If the answer turns out to be practical or non-biblical how should one answer? Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 6:24
  • @JonEricson I strongly lean to socio-economic (or cultural) reasons. Nonetheless, his non acceptance of illegitimate orphans does not seem to reconcile with the man of faith. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 6:38
  • I think the question here (at least the one that would be best suited to this site) is whether George's reasons were faith based or not and if so what exactly those reasons were based on (whether Biblical or not) and how they compared to other faith based actions of the church at the time or other similar actions.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 7:20
  • @Caleb hmm, something like that, though except for how his views on orphanage compares with other church-base ones. Could you explain why he has to be compared with other church-base orphanages? Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 7:43
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    The George Muller Charitable Trust website (yes, it's still going!) makes no mention of this at all. That might be understandable (if the claim is true), but it may indicate that it's not possible to verify whether the claim is true or not; and consequently whether there is really a reason or not. I think a primary source is needed. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 10:38

2 Answers 2


According to The Life of Trust: Being a Narrative of the Lord's Dealings With George Müller, his autobiography:

I began the service of caring for children who are bereaved of both parents, by death, born in wedlock, and are in destitute circumstances, on Dec. 9, 1835. —Chapter XVII, "Reaping Bountifully", p. 294.

That, it seems, confirms the criteria he used. Later he explains his primary purpose in establishing a house for orphans:

This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the orphan house. I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children, bereaved of both parents, and seek in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life. I also particularly longed to be used by God in getting the dear orphans trained up in the fear of God; but still, the first and primary object of the work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still. That I was not mistaken, has been abundantly proved since November, 1835, both by the conversion of many sinners who have read the accounts which have been published in connection with this work, and also by the abundance of fruit that has followed in the hearts of the saints, for which, from my inmost soul, I desire to be grateful to God, and the honor and glory of which not only is due to him alone, but which I, by his help, am enabled to ascribe to him.—Chapter VII. "Home for Destitute Orphans", p. 115.

In other words, his goals were in order:

  1. Show that God answers prayers,
  2. Do good for orphans in this life, and
  3. Bring orphans to faith.

He further explains when considering the possibility of opening another house:

The many distressing cases of children, bereaved of both parents, who have no helper. I have received two hundred and seven orphans within the last sixteen months, and have now seventy-eight waiting for admission, without having vacancies for any. I had about sixty children waiting for admission about sixteen months since, so about two hundred and thirty children have been applied for within these sixteen months. But, humanly speaking, for the next sixteen months the number of applications will be far greater, as the work is now so much more widely known; except it be that persons may hear that the new Orphan House is quite full, and on that account may consider it useless to apply.—Chapter XX, "A New Victory of Faith", p. 366.

He goes further to explain the difficulty orphans who don't have influential sponsors have getting help from other charitable institutions for orphans. Because of this, Müller seems to have been willing to make certain exceptions:

I feel myself particularly called upon to be the friend of the orphan, by making an easy way for admission, provided it is really a destitute case.—Chapter XX, "A New Victory of Faith", p. 365.

Whether admitting a child born out of wedlock was one possible exception, I don't know.


Without further information, we can only speculate what his reasons were. Certainly the general attitude toward marriage and legitimacy played a part. But limited space and an abundance of applicants likely had a role as well.


Did George Muller have a Biblical basis for not accepting illegitimate orphans?

While it is difficult to know the reasons another person did something, we can consider some of the things that may have influenced his decision;

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

By addressing a portion of a problem he might have avoided the depletion of resources that would occur if he became the dumping ground for an entire nation. The testimony he desired to put forth would have become a circus instead.

1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

He may have felt that by making the consequences of immorality less difficult (such as taking care of the offspring of prostitutes, etc.) he may have been enabling or even supporting such actions.

Today most people have a perspective of social control and solution such that they think that they are making life easier and better by providing support for all. The idea that all problems of society are solvable is relatively recent and manifestly wrong. The Biblical view is different;

Matthew 26:11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

Proverbs 23:9 Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Proverbs 29:21 He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

Modern social programs do not produce gratitude, but dependency, delinquency, and depravity.

George Muller was not so much attempting to fix society as to demonstrate the mercy, provision, and faithfulness of God.

We will never know his thought process, however we may consider that he knew the temper of his time and correctly estimated that even though he used a narrow filter, he would still have an abundant number of children with which to work.

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