"Remind me whenever your salary is due," Robert Hardey had told Hudson Taylor breezily. This was his cue. He made up his mind never to speak to his employer about his pay, but ask God to do the reminding.
For a while there was no difficulty. But then the time came when a quarter's salary was due, and Hardey had apparently forgotten. On totting up his weekly accounts one Saturday night, Taylor found he had only a single coin left one half-crown piece. He prayed hard.
Next day, after the Sunday morning service, he made his way along a familiar rutted farm to the dockland area of Hull where hundreds of Irish laborers lived crowded together in slums and lodging houses. The area was notorious for violence and crime, and the police seldom visited it in groups of less than six. Perhaps because he worked for the well-loved Dr Hardey, Taylor found he could go into much of the area alone visiting patients, handing out tracts and even preaching to small groups. "At such times," he recorded, "it almost seemed to me as if Heaven were begun below, and that all that could be looked for was an enlargement of one's capacity for joy."
At about ten o'clock in the evening, he was addressed in a strong Irish accent."My wife is dying. Will you please come and pray with her ?" Taylor agreed, but asked: "Why haven't you sent for the priest?" "I did. But he refused to come without a payment of eighteen pence. I don't have enough my family is starving."
Taylor thought of his solitary half-crown. It was all he had, and it was in one coin. Back at his room, he had enough food for tomorrow's breakfast but nothing for lunch.
"It's very wrong of you to have allowed matters to get to this state. Why haven't you applied to the relieving officer?"
"I have, and am to meet him tomorrow. But I'm afraid she won't last the night." If only, thought Taylor, I had two shilling coins and a sixpence instead of his half-crown, how gladly I would give these poor people a shilling!
Taylor followed the man into a courtyard where, on his last visit, they had torn his tracts to pieces and promised far worse treatment if he ventured there again. Anxiously he followed the man up a narrow flight of stairs into a dirty room.
Five children with hollow cheeks and eyes stood looking at him. Their mother lay exhausted, holding a newly born baby.
If only I had two shillings and a sixpence. Taylor thought again.
"Don't despair," he found himself saying. "There's a kind and loving Father in Heaven."
But something inside him said, You hypocrite! Telling these people about a loving God, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half-a-crown!
He turned to the man. "You asked me to come and pray with your wife."
He knelt down. "Our Father, who art in Heaven," he began.
But his conscience spoke too. Dare you kneel down and call Him Father with that half-crown in your pocket? He could hardly get through the prayer.
"You see what a terrible state we're in, Sir," said the man. "If you can help us, for God's sake do!"
Taylor looked at him, and then at his wife and children. He remembered the words in Matthew 5:42, "Give to the one who asks you."
He put his hand in his pocket, and took out the half-crown.
"You may think it a small thing for me to give you this," he said as he handed over the coin. "But it's all the money I have. What I have been trying to tell you is true. God really is a Father, and may be trusted."
As he walked through now-deserted streets and along the dark and muddy farm track to his cottage, his heart was "as light as his pocket". Back at No 30 he ate a bowl of thin porridge, and decided that he wouldn't have exchanged it for a prince's feast.
"Dear God," he prayed as he knelt beside his bed, "your Word says that he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord. Don't let the loan be a long one, or I shall have no lunch tomorrow!"
The woman lived, and the child's life was saved. Taylor reflected that his own spiritual life might have been wrecked had he not had the courage to trust God at that time.
Next morning, as he was eating his breakfast, Hudson Taylor heard the postman knock at his door. Mrs Finch handed him a letter. The handwriting was unfamiliar and his landlady's wet hand smudged the postmark. Opening it, he discovered a pair of kid gloves inside a blank sheet of paper. As he held them, a gold half-sovereign fell to the floor.
"Praise the Lord!" he exclaimed. "Four hundred percent for twelve hours' investment; that is good interest. How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they lend their money at such a rate!"
He resolved that "the bank which could not break" it was a phrase George Muller loved should have all his money. "If we are faithful in little things," he concluded, "we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life."