Review of Reviews,  17 (1898), 325–37.

Character Sketch. George Müller of Bristol



Regular Feature, Biography


Technology, Telegraphy, Progress, Sound, Scientific Practitioners, Piety, Religion, Experiment, Methodology, Scientific Naturalism, Psychical Research

    Reflects that 'I sometimes amuse myself by imagining the mental processes of an intelligent scientist of 1870 if he could suddenly be transported to the present day, and confronted with the spectacle—the familiar, ordinary spectacle—of a telephone'. In an imaginary dialogue set in 1898, the scientist from 1870, a Mr Jones, exclaims, 'Why on earth are you talking into that hole in the wall? Have you gone mad?', and leaves 'in a huff, thoroughly convinced that by the immutable laws of sound every man of science and commonsense must know perfectly well that it is all fudge, this talk of a Central and a telephone'. If, however, he were to overcome his initial scepticism and test out the telephone, it is certain that Mr Jones would soon 'become a subscriber to the Telephone Exchange, and constantly use the agency the very existence of which he had declared to be beyond the bounds of possibility'. (325) This 'little introductory apologue' is necessary to a consideration of the work of the late philanthropist George Müller, because it shows the open-minded attitude required in approaching 'his discovery—or rediscovery, if so it may be called—of the practical utility of that well-nigh forgotten and universally neglected Telephone which in theological dialect is called the Prayer of Faith, with its stupendous corollary of a God that heareth and answereth prayer'. For without postulating something 'called God, and which in one department, at least, corresponds strictly to the Central Telephone Exchange, it is as absolutely impossible to explain the phenomenon of the Orphanages at Bristol, as it was for Mr. Jones, the scientist of 1870, to account for the phenomenon of telephonic communication between London and Dover'. (326) Müller set himself to prove the thesis that 'God listens to prayer' by raising money for a series of orphanages and childrens homes, and 'That he was enabled to write Q.E.D. after it, with the confident certainty of Euclid himself, few will deny who follow his story' from the 1830s. He was 'an experimental philosopher', and set out to 'feed the orphans as the best means of making a scientific investigation by the experimental method into the nature and existence of God'. Indeed, 'Professor Tyndall long after suggested a prayer gauge in a hospital ward, but the Bristol philanthropist had anticipated the President of the British Association by nearly half a century'. (334) Also recounts how when Müller once 'wanted £100 very badly, he prayed that it might be laid upon the heart of one particular person to give him £100. And lo, it came to pass, even as he had prayed! The £100 came along next day. Telepathy, no doubt! Yes' (335).

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