By John Kershaw
A few interesting memories of an old barber in Chatham, 1865.
"The Lord will provide." The following circumstances will demonstrate this fact.
Many years ago, being engaged to supply at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, when I arrived at my lodgings I found a letter waiting for me, requesting me to go down to Chatham to preach the Word of life, giving me directions to go by the steamer to Gravesend, and from thence to Rochester by an omnibus; and that when I arrived at the inn where it stopped, I was to inquire for old Mr. Taylor, the barber, in College Yard. From these directions I found the old man's house, it being near at hand.
He gave me instructions where I was to make my home during my stay amongst them. From several years' acquaintance with him, I found him to be a humble, God-fearing person, well known to William Huntington, who would always have him to shave him when he visited Chatham, and each time gave him half-a-crown. The good old man related to me, at different times, several of the Lord's gracious and providential dealings with him, which greatly interested me, proving that "Jehovah Jireh will provide."
The following is an instance. That dear and esteemed man of God, William Tiptaft, like myself was for several years one of the regular supplies at Zoar Chapel. He also received an invitation to preach the gospel at Chatham, to go by the packet and omnibus, and call at Mr. Taylor's, College Yard. When it was made known at Chatham that he was coming, a friend of Mr. Tiptaft's, who had lived in Berkshire but was then residing at Chatham, wrote to invite him to make his house his home when he came. With this request he complied.
He left London by the steamer. As they went down the river, the question arose in his mind, "Shall I first go to my friend, with whom I am to stay, and after dinner go to Mr. Taylor's, or shall I go to the latter first?" The conflict and exercise of his mind for some time was so great that he felt certain something of importance would be the result, and he besought the Lord to decide the matter for him.
Before he left the steamer, he felt his mind settled to call at Mr. Taylor's before proceeding to his friend's.
When he entered the house, he made himself known, and the dear old man, much agitated, said, "I am glad to see you; but sorry you have called at this time. I have been fearing the arrival of the omnibus, as I did not wish you to witness my present distress. These two men you see here are bailiffs, whom my landlord has put into the house for rent. I have lived in the house more than twenty years, and have always been enabled to pay my rent until this year, and what I owe is ten pounds, due six weeks since."
Mr. Tiptaft at once saw the reason he was to call at College Yard first, and that the Lord meant him to pay the rent. He inquired if the landlord lived near and, being informed he lived in the town, he sent one of the bailiffs for him. When he came, Mr. Tiptaft said to him, "You are distressing these old people for rent who have lived in the house more than twenty years, and have paid their rent up until the last year; and as it has only been due six weeks, it appears to me harsh and unfeeling to come upon them so hastily."
He replied, "Sir, it may appear so to you; but I have my family to maintain out of my rents, and if my tenants cannot pay me, I must have them out, and get others who can."
Mr. Tiptaft requested him to remove the men, promising, on his return to Abingdon to remit the ten pounds. The landlord replied, "I cannot remove them on the word of a stranger. You may, or may not send me the money." Mr. Tiptaft then asked him if he knew Mr ____, mentioning his friend from Berkshire. He replied, he did, and considered him highly respectable. He was requested to see him, and state to him the circumstance, and Mr. Tiptaft's promise to remit the money.
He did so, and shortly returned, telling Mr. Tiptaft he had seen his friend, who said, "If Mr. Tiptaft fails, you may look to me for the money." "That is enough for me, and I will dismiss the men."
The dear old couple, like Manoah and his wife, looked on with wonder, that the very man whom he was afraid of seeing should be the honoured instrument of his deliverance, and could joyfully sing with the poet:
"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform."
The first time I went to London after these things had taken place, I received another letter to go to Chatham, and to call at Taylor's in such a street. I was surprised to find he had left the house where he had followed his calling for so long a time, and when I arrived, inquired the reason, and received from him the information above stated.
He also told me that before Mr. Tiptaft left Chatham, he had consulted with some of the friends, and they came to the conclusion that Taylor had better leave the house as, through advanced age, he would be unable to meet the rent and would be again in the same difficulty, and it would be better to have a smaller place, with less rent. So he removed.
Another year rolled round, when I had to pay my annual visit to the metropolis, and received my usual letter to go to Chatham, requesting me to call at old Taylor's, College Yard. At this I was greatly surprised, wondering how it could be that he was again in the old house. When I got there, I inquired the cause from my poor brother.
He replied, "You know all about my having to leave." I replied, "I do."
"Well," said he, "the Lord is very good to us. Before we left this place it had got into a very dilapidated state, and you know we could not pay the rent, much more repair it, and the Lord very kindly removed us out of the way to the house you saw us in last year. When we were gone, the landlord gave it a thorough repair, making it as you now see it, which, had it been done while we were in, would have much inconvenienced us with work-people and other things.
Several months after it was completed, my late landlord called upon me quite unexpectedly and inquired if my present house or the house in College Yard was the better for my business. I replied, The house in College Yard by far is the better.' He then told me that after I left his house, he had it put into good repair, and put a notice in the window, 'This house to be let,' but never had a person to inquire the rent; so 'I am come to tell you that if you will go back, you shall have it for the same rent as you pay for this; and if you are never able to pay me any rent, I will never send any more bailiffs to trouble you.' "
As the dear man related these things to me, his countenance shone, while he blessed and praised the Lord for His great goodness to such poor, unworthy creatures.
How true it is,
"The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower!"