W. (William) Haslam.

From death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry online

. (page 10 of 23)
Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 10 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

3. Mount Hawke.

The next occasion was very different, and quite a con-
trast in its results. I was invited to a neighbouring parish,
which formerly used to be united with Perran at the time
when I had sole charge of it. Here, on the appointed
Saturday afternoon, I found not fewer than three thousand
people assembled on the common. They had erected a
kind of platform, with a canvas awning, to shelter me from
the wind, which always blows with more or less violence in
Cornwall, even when it is not raining.

There I stood and beheld this concourse of people,


evidently full of large expectation. I gave out the
nymn —

'* Oh iox a thousand tongues, to sing
My great Redeemer's praise ! "

This was heartily sung; and after prayer for a blessing,
I announced my text, and spoke from the fact, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Upon enforcing
this as worthy of all acceptation, I pressed the thought, that
the Lord Jesus came more than eighteen hundred years
ago, and that He is present still, and able to work greater
miracles than He wrought then ; for indeed He only began
then to do and to teach what He is doing and teaching
continuously now.

A mighty power of the Spirit of the Lord came on the
people, and several hundreds fell upon their knees simul-
taneously, and many began to cry aloud for mercy. The
strange part was, that the power of the Lord appeared to
pass diagonally through the crowd, so that there was a lane
of people on their knees six or eight feet deep, banked up
on either side by others standing. It extended from the
left-hand corner near me, to the right-hand corner in the

It was quite impossible to go on preaching, so I gave
out a hymn, and then went in among " the slain of the
Lord." After about an hour, some one suggested that we
should go to the school-room, as it was getting dark. The
clergyman of the parish was on horseback in the lane close
by, watching proceedings. I asked him if we could have
the use of the school-room. " Oh yes," he said ; " yes,
certainly — certainly — anything." He seemed very frightened.
The men and women in distress of soul were led to the
room, crying and praying as they went. When I reached
the place, I found it impossible to get in, for it was already
full, besides a throng standing at the door. I was taken to


a window at last, and getting in through that, I stood on
the schoohnaster's table, which was near.

Against the wall the men had, in miners' fashion, set
up with clay some candles, which were beginning to bend
over with the heat of the room. The place was densely
packed, and the noise of the people praying for mercy was
excessive. I could do no more than speak to those who
were near me round the table. As they found peace one
by one, and were able to praise God, we asked them to go
out and let others come. In this way the meeting went on
till ten o'clock, when I left ; and it continued to go on all
night and all the next day without cessation. It will scarcely
be credited, but that same meeting was prolonged by suc-
cessive persons without any intermission, day or night, till
the evening of Sunday, the eighth day after it began. This
kind of thing was not unusual in Cornwall, for we had the
same in our school-room at Baldhu for three days and
nights ; but eight days is the longest period of which I have
any personal knowledge.

I went again and again to see how they were going on ;
but the people were too absorbed to heed my presence ; and
those who were then seeking mercy were strangers to me,
and had not been present at the service on the previous


Uratoxng-rtrottt JH^ings.


ROM that time I did not confine myself so much
to my own church, but frequently went out to
preach in other places, as opportunities occurred ;
and these were, for the most part, brought about
by remarkable and unsought-for incidents.

One Sunday a lady and gentleman came to my church
from one of the neighbouring towns ; they were professors
of religion, and members of some Dissenting body. My
sermon that evening was upon wheat and chaff — the former
was to be gathered into the garner, the latter burned with
fire unquenchable. I said that we were all either one or
the other — to be gathered or burned. They went away
very angry, and complained one to another of my want of
charity ; they also remarked that I took good care to let
the people know that I was not amongst the chaff which
was to be burned. The arrows of the Lord had evidently
found them, and had pierced the joints in their harness.
They could not sleep all night for anger and distress. In
the morning the gentleman rose early, and before breakfast
had his horse out, and galloped over eight miles to see me.


He came with the intention of finding fault, but instead of
this he burst into tears, and told me that he was the
greatest of sinners.

He was in sore distress, which increased all the more as
he gave vent to his feelings. I could not help rejoicing,
and told him that God had wounded him, but that He only
wounds to heal, and kills to make alive.

"Ah," he said, "that is the first thought of comfort I
have had ; it is like balm to my soul."

We knelt down and prayed \ then I had the privilege of
leading him to Christ, and we praised God together.

I gave him some breakfast, and after that rode back
with him to see his wife, whom he had left in the morning
in great trouble of mind. We found her up, and rejoicing.
It was most touching to witness the mutual surprise and joy
of these two loving ones, when they discovered that they
were now united in the Lord.

She told us, that after her husband's departure she was
in such terrible trouble that she got up to pray, and that
while she was on her knees she saw a vision on the bed-
cover. Before her was printed, in large visible letters, "Thy
sins be forgiven thee;" she could scarcely believe her
eyes, but with her own finger she traced the letters, and was
sure they were there. Taking them as a message from
Christ, she rose and thanked Him, and now felt quite sure
she was saved. I could not help telling her not to believe
in her eyes or her visions, but in Jesus, and the fact that
He had died for her. Having thanked God together, they
next began to think of their servants ; so we sent for them,
and both master and mistress told them what the Lord had
done for their souls ; and while we were praying, they all
three cried aloud for mercy, and found peace.

This was the commencement of a good work in that
town by drawing-room meetings, and many were gathered


to the Lord. Amongst the number was the mayor of the
town, who in his turn wished to have a meeting at his
house. As soon as I was able to fix the day, he invited his
friends, but on finding that so many more desired to come
than he could accommodate, he announced that the meeting
would be held at the Town Hall. Great interest was excited,
and it was soon evident that even this building would not
be large enough, so it ended in the Temperance Hall being
selected. The vicar hearing about it, wrote to protest, and
asked me to call on him before I went to the place of
meeting. He said it was bad enough for me to come to
his parish to private houses, but to come to a public room,
and that a large one, was quite out of the question.

I endeavoured to show him that the lecture or address I
had come to give was not an official or ministerial act ; but
he would not see that. I also suggested that there was no
law against it. He, begging my pardon, said " The * Con-
venticle Act ' had not been repealed yet, and that no one
could lawfully hold a meeting of more than twenty

"But surely," I replied, "that is virtually repealed by
the ' Toleration Act' A clergyman ought not to be in
greater bondage in England than a layman, or more re-
stricted. Anybody else can come and preach the Gospel
in your parish, and you cannot hinder it. Do not hinder
me. It will do you no harm."

He said, " I cannot conscientiously allow it. It is
against the Canons."

" Which Canon is it against ? " I asked.

He took down a book and showed it me ; but casting my
eyes on one before, and another which followed, I found
that we neither of us observed the one or the other. Why,
then, be so zealous about this? " Besides," I said, "you
are not responsible ; you have not asked me, nor have I


asked your consent. Your conscience need not be troubled
about the matter."

" But," he said, impatiently, " I am determined that you
shall not preach in this parish. I will inform the Bishop."

I replied, that " the Bishop had not any jurisdiction in
this case ; there is no law on the subject. The Conventicle
Act only refers to worship, not to service or preaching."

He said, that he "could see no difference whatever
between worship and service."

" But," I said, " I am sure the Bishop knows, and will
acknowledge, the great difference between these two."

Then, changing his tone, he said, " Now, come, there's
a good fellow, don't preach at the Town Hall."

" My dear man," I answered, " I am not a * good fellow
at all. I cannot give it up."

" Then," he said, " at least please to defer your address
for a week, till we can get the Bishop's decision."

He asked so kindly and earnestly, and made such a
point of it, that I consented to wait for the Bishop's answer,
and defer the preaching for the week. He was very
pleased, and said that I was indeed a ' good fellow;' but the
praise I got from him barely satisfied my conscience, and I
was ashamed to meet my friends. I had not gone far,
before my courage failed ; so, going back, I said that " I
must withdraw my consent to defer the meeting. I will
take the consequences and responsibilities, and go on."

" No, no," said the vicar, " I will arrange for the post-
ponement of your meeting. Look here, I have written out
a notice for the crier ; he shall go round the town at once,
and tell the people that the meeting is unavoidably deferred
for a week."

I was very reluctantly persuaded to yield, and then went
to my friend and told him what I had done. He was very
much vexed with me, and said, " Then we must go at once


and tell the mayor before he hears the crier." We did so,
and found that this personage was disappointed too, and
advised me to go away out of sight of the people. Accord-
ingly, my friend and I went to a house which commanded a
good view of the town and principal streets, from whence
we could see the people assembling and dispersing. A
large gang of them stood opposite my friend's house, and
asked if I would not preach to them in the open air ; and
when they ascertained that the vicar had hindered the
preaching, they were much exasperated.

In the evening I went back to my own parish, and had
the usual service, which I found very refreshing after so
much bickering about technicalities.

The Bishop's letter arrived in due time. In it his lord-
ship said, that he " always had entertained a great esteem
for me and my obedience to authority, and highly com-
mended me for postponing or giving up my service at the
above town." As he did not say a single word of prohibi-
tion, I immediately wrote to the mayor to expect me on the
following Tuesday, " for the Bishop had not forbidden me,"
and I also wrote to the vicar to the same effect. Large bills,
with large letters on them, announced that " the Rev.
William Haslam will positively preach in the Temperance
Hall at three o'clock on Tuesday next."

The churchwardens of the parish were requested to
attend the meeting, and protest, on behalf of the vicar,
and also to present the archdeacon's monition. They stood
beside me all the time, and after the service was concluded
they showed me the archidiaconal instrument, with a great
seal appended to it. They said that they " dared not stop
that preaching," and so they took their monition back.

This gave rise to a long correspondence in the newspapers,
some taking part on my side, and some against me. Thus
the question was ventilated, and finally concluded, by a


letter from some one, who said, " The Bishop of Exeter is
one of the greatest ecclesiastical lawyers we have, and if he
cannot stop Mr. Haslam, the question is settled ; for be sure
his lordship has all the will to stop this preaching, and
would do so if he had the power."

From that time I never hesitated to preach the Gospel
in any parish or diocese where I was invited. So few of
the clergy asked me, that I was obliged to go out in spite of
them, or, at any rate, without asking their consent, and in
consequence of this, I am afraid I became obnoxious to
many of my clerical brethren. Since then things are much
changed. The Earl of Shaftesbury has succeeded in getting
an Act passed through both Houses of Parliament, to settle
the question about such services. Now any clergyman may
preach in Exeter Hall, or any other public non-ecclesiastical
building, without consulting the vicar of the parish. Besides
this, a general disposition has arisen amongst the clergy,
from one end of the land to the other, to have " missions," so
that there is no need to work independently of clergymen, but
with them, and very cheering it is to be thus employed. It
was not pleasant to witness the scowl and the frown, nor to
get the cold shoulder. Thank God, times are changed
now ; but I must needs tell of some of the scenes I was in,
and the opposition I had to encounter, during the years that
are gone by.



HAVE been telling hitherto of blessing and pros-
perity in the Lord's work. Many more cases
might have been mentioned, and many other
things of not less moment and interest; but
enough has been said, I hope, to show the character of
the work, and give some idea of the amount of blessing
which attended it.

But it must not be supposed that the offence of the
cross had ceased, or that the enmity of the carnal mind was
never stirred ; indeed, I always doubt the reality of a work
which moves on without opposition. On the day of Pente-
cost, when the Holy Ghost was first given, while believers
were rejoicing, and sinners were pricked to the heart, and
some mocked, there arose the opposition of others, who
resisted the influence of the Spirit ; and being " cut to the
heart," they gnashed with their teeth, and went forward in
furious contention against the Lord's work. So it was
with us.

The opposition ran very high, but I do not think it was
of malice or hatred, but rather "righteous indignation."


The instigators of it were serious and earnest persons, who
verily thought they were doing right. They tried first to
save me from what they considered was my infatuation ; and
faihng that, did all they could to save others from my bad
influence. " I bear them record, that they had a zeal for
God, but not according to knowledge." It was just such a
zeal as I had before I was converted ; therefore my heart's
desire was drawn out towards them, and I made continual
efforts to win them.

One dear friend of old time said he felt " so hurt "
because I was changed, and often wondered why " God did
not strike me dead for all the harm I had done to the
Church." Another said that he " should not be surprised
if the very ground opened and swallowed me up for my
fraternizing with schismatics. The sin of Korah, Dathan,
and Abiram was nothing to mine." At the Clerical Meeting,
which I attended notwithstanding all this stir against me, I
was beset on every side with something more than loving
reproaches ; for evidently my old friends were very much
grieved, and could not forgive me for what they considered
the betrayal of Church principles.

A special meeting or synod of the clergy was convened
by the Rural Dean, to take into consideration, among other
things, my defection, and to decide what public notice
should be taken on the subject of this great scandal. I
also attended this meeting, and found my brethren in a very
angry and excited state. One after another got up and
made grievous charges against me, about the proceedings in
my church and parish. The burden of their distress, how-
ever, seemed to be noise and excitement.

They said that " There was brawling in my church, and
howling in my schoolroom, women fainting, and men
shouting in a most fanatical manner. They had not wit-
nessed these scenes themselves, but they were credibly


informed of them. Moreover, they asserted, on good
authority, that I preached a very different doctrine to that
which was authorized by the Church. I had declared that
there was no salvation by the Church and Sacraments, but
by simple faith in Christ ; that any man — it did not matter
what his previous life had been — if he only came to my
preaching, and did as I told him, would be saved." These,
and many other such charges, were made and supported by
shouts of " Hear ! hear ! " and cries of " Shame ! " The
Rural Dean said he was glad Mr. Haslam was present to
answer for himself; he had observed that I had sat very
quietly to hear others, and he now hoped that a patient
hearing would be given to me.

I rose, and said I was very thankful to be there, and to
have this opportunity of testifying before them all that the
Lord had converted my soul !

There was a little interruption here, but after a time I
was permitted to go on. I said that before I was con-
verted, I was even more zealous than any of them against
this change, and greatly prejudiced against it. I actually
flogged a big boy in my school for going to a chapel and
professing to be converted ; this I did before all the chil-
dren, and he promised that he would " never be converted
any more." I could, therefore, well understand their pre-
sent feelings, and said that I was not angry with them, but
rather prayed that they might, in their turn, be enabled to
see these things as I now saw them, and be saved as I

Upon this, there arose a great disturbance. The Rural
Dean gave me credit for candour, and said he thought I
meant well, but that I implied too much against my
brethren ; however, he had said before, and would repeat
it, that I had listened quietly to what others had said, and
that now I was entitled to a patient hearing a little longer.

RELIGIOUS ''excitement:' 137

But this could not be, for I was stopped at every fresh
statement I made, and had so many questions put to me,
that I begged for only one at a time. I was enabled to
stand my ground calmly, and endeavoured to answer the
charges in order as they were brought out. To all appear-
ance, I had to stand quite alone in that tumultuous party.
We had met at twelve o'clock, and after four hours were
still in the heat of the conflict.

At last, to conclude this extraordinary meeting, one of
the clergy rose and said that he felt it was his painful yet
necessary duty to propose that "a vote of censure be passed
on Mr. Haslam." It was not seconded, and so fell to the
ground. Whereupon, another rose " to record a protest
against revival meetings, as contrary to the usage of the
Church." This also failed ; and as no one else had any-
thing to say, the conclave of divines broke up. What they
would have said or done, if I had not attended to be torn
in pieces by them, I know not ; all I can say is, that they
separated without eating me up. Some of them came to
me afterwards, and seemed pleased that I had stood my
ground so good-naturedly, and thought that I had had a
great badgering.

The opposition did not stop there — sermons were
preached in several of the neighbouring churches, and
people earnestly warned against attending certain services,
and told not to countenance them by their presence. The
newspapers also took up the matter, and public report was
not behind in its usual exaggeration.

I give here an extract from a Letter I thought it neces-
sary to write at this time, on " Religious Excitement " :

"My dear Sir, — I have been seriously considering, for some
time, the necessity of making a public statement respecting the work
of God in this place ; with a view partly of drawing attention to an all-
important, though very neglected subject ; and partly with a view of


giving some definite and authoritative form to the various and varied
reports which are in circulation. It is vain to pretend to know nothing
about them, and it is equally vain to suppose that reports about our
proceedings are likely to lose less by repetition, than those on other
subjects of less moment.

"I embrace, therefore, the opportunity which your Sermon on
Religious Excitement offers, to make a statement.

"I do remonstrate against your publishing to the world a ser-
mon avowedly against 'proceedings connected with a neighbouring
church ; ' and that instead of encouragement, counsel, and co«
operation in what I know is the work of God, I receive this public
rebuke. I make this remonstrance the more earnestly, because several
of the opinions you have expressed, are not, as I believe, consistent
with the teaching of our Church ; and lastly, I venture tro be the remon-
strant, because I am the person, and mine the church, which are the
objects of your animadversions.

"You hold deservedly a high position among us in respect of rank
and esteem for your piety and learning ; but at the hazard of incurring
the imputation of arrogance, I cannot, I must not, and I will not be
unfaithful to the light in which I walk, by the grace of God ; and
therefore I do simply and plainly protest, in the first place, against the
supposition that Excitement is a meajts which I am using, or an end I
have in view; secondly, against the supposition that conversion is a
gradual work, which is to be worked out by Sacraments and Means of
Grace ; and thirdly, against a teaching which supposes and actually
declares, that a person may believe, may be pardoned, may be cleansed
from sin, yet not know it.

" In the sense in which you censure Religious Excitement, namely,
as a means to * force, as it were, the Spirit of the Lord, ' and * for the
purpose of strongly working on the animal feelings, etc.,' it maybe
justly censurable. Those who make excitement the end and object of
their endeavours in a religious movement, must soon find the empti-
ness of it ; they throw dust into their own eyes, and will ever verify
your words that * excitement lifts up for a moment and then lets fall
again, ' and that * like dram-drinking, it leaves those that indulge in it
weaker than before.'

"Those who really are engaged in the work of God, and especially
convejsion woj-k, xmxst meet with 'excitement.' It is impossible for a
sinner, under conviction of sin, to remain in a calm imperturbable
state, or when the despairing sinner comes to a knowledge of that


Saviour who made Atonement for him, to help being excited with joy.
Noble or peasant, gentle or uneducated, I am sure there will be excite-
ment, and overflowing joy and gladness.

**A man who never felt himself a lost sinner, and never knew
his need of the Saviour, may reason gravely of the impropriety of
'excitement,' and the man who has never experienced the liberty of
deliverance from the 'horrible pit, and the mire and clay, ' may seem
to be wise on the subject of Christian joy ; but he knows it not. The
outburst of joy in the new-born child of God, is as undiscriminating as
the joyous mirth of children. But it becomes more subdued as the
child grows on to ' the conquering young man, ' and more chastened
still when the ' young man ' attains to that state which St. John terms
'father.' This I have no doubt is the kind of Christian joy you
expect to see, and without which you are not satisfied.* But, dear
friend, remember the perfect Temple was not built in one, but three

" We are at foundation work ; and you rebuke us for an unfinished
temple ! Your rebuke is not undeserved in one sense : we ought to have
attained to great advancements, and to have begun long ago ; but God
has had patience with us. In this beginning there seems to be confu-
sion to superficial observers, and there must be ' excitement ; ' but this,
as I said, is not the end in view, or the means we use. It is not long
since I could reason against 'excitement,' and thought as many do now,
that in connection with religion it is irreverent, and unbecoming.

"Oh, what a snare is this unfeeling 'propriety! ' It is really a dis-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 10 of 23)