W. (William) Haslam.

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

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had never preached with such help before ; he had quite
enjoyed his own sermon, and that now he thought he under-
stood the secret of what I called being ''converted."

He came in the afternoon to the catechising of the
children, and expressed himself very pleased with their
behaviour, and readiness in answering questions.

In the evening, he sat in a part of the church where he
could see the congregation, and the preacher, and so make
his desired observations. The service was, perhaps, a little
more animated than usual, and the sermon may have been
the same. After this was over, he went with me into the
schoolroom, where he heard the people pray, and also
thank God for the morning sermon. Several souls were
brought in that evening.

About ten o'clock at night we returned home, when my
friend declared he had never known a day like this in all


his ministry, and never heard of such things as he had seen.
" Your congregation," he said, " is hke the waves of the
sea, and mine Hke a glassy mill-pond. Now I must have
you come and preach in my church. I wonder what the
effect will be."

I agreed, and we fixed upon the second Sunday, as he
wanted a week to announce my coming.

I was quite eager for the time, and when Saturday
arrived, I set off, intending to stay for several days. On
Sunday morning the church was filled from end to end,
the people being on the tip-toe of expectation. Many
anxious ones remained after the sermon to be spoken with,
about their souls. The church was scarcely cleared, before
the men came to ring the bells for the afternoon service.
This time, the passages, chancel, pulpit -stairs, and every
available corner were crowded, and the congregation cer-
tainly did not look like a " mill-pond," but more like " the
waves of the sea."

At the close of this service, the people begged for
another in the evening.

The vicar said, " Oh, that is impossible, for I dine at six

"But," I involuntarily added, "do not mind the dinner;
I can come, if you like."

He gave me such a look ! I continued, " I have had
dinner enough for to-day. I can take the service alone, if
you are agreeable."

*' But we have no lamps for the church. It cannot be."

I was silenced now, and gave up the point ; when the
churchwarden came forward and said he would be respon-
sible for lighting the church.

The vicar at last consented, on condition that he was
allowed to have his dinner in peace. As the time ap-
proached, however, he put off that important meal, and


joined me in a cup of tea, after which we went together to
the third service.

This time it was as much as we could do to get in, and
when we did succeed a most striking sight presented itself.
The whole church was lighted from the pews. Some of the
wealthier people had lamps, but the others had candles, one
two, or more in their respective compartments. From the
pulpit it looked more like a market scene than a church
congregation. I had liberty in preaching, and the people
were greatly moved, some of them greatly agitated — indeed,
so much so, that the vicar thought he would not have
another service in the church, and accordingly announced
that the Monday evening meeting would be held in a
building which he named, in a village about two miles off.
This was a large barn-like structure, where they cured fish
in the season, but at other times it was unoccupied.

The next day happened to be very wet, and, added to
this, in the evening it began to blow as well. Notwith-
standing this inclemency, when we arrived at the " fish-
cellar," as it was called, we found it crammed with people,
the women and children occupying the ground, and sitting
there on straw, which had been provided for the occasion,
the men and boys were sitting on the cross-beams of the
roof. The heat in the place was stifling beyond all descrip-
tion, for besides being densely crowded below and above,
the wooden shutters were shut, on account of the wind and
rain, the people's wet clothes were steaming, and there was
a strong smell of stale fish. At first we felt as if it would
be impossible to bear it, but after a little time we became
used to the disagreeables, and had other things to think

I gave out a hymn, and after a short prayer commenced
the addres?, speaking as loud as I could, that all the con-
gregation might hear me. During the sermon, the responses


were most vociferous and hearty, and the attention very
encouraging. After speaking for about thirty minutes, I
observed a tall, fine-looking fisherman, in large high boots,
who had come in late. He was standing in the little vacant
space before the table, on which were placed two candles
and a glass of water. I saw, as the address went on, that
though he was very quiet, his breast was heaving with
emotion, as if something was passing in his mind. All at
once, without a moment's notice, he fell on the ground, and
bellowed out a loud prayer for " God's mercy — I want God's
mercy ! " Besides upsetting the table — candles, water, and
all — which went down with a great crash, he fell on one or
two women, who screamed, in their fright and consternation,
as only women can.

If this had been a preconcerted signal, it could not have
been more effectual, for there was instantly a simultaneous
as well as an universal outcry. The whole place v/as filled
with a confused din of voices ; some were praying, some
singing, some shouting, and others exhorting, and that at
the top of their voices, in order to be heard. In the midst
of this I began to sing a hymn, hoping to restore order, and
many joined me ; but it only added more sound to the

The good vicar was overwhelmed with fear and dismay,
as well he might be, at this tumultuous scene. It was bad
enough to stand and look at the waves of the sea ; but when
they rose and broke, as it were, on the shore where he was
standing, and surrounded him, it was altogether too much.
He made for the door, and, waiting there, beckoned me to
him. When I came he suddenly opened it, and drew me
out, saying, " There will be no peace till you are out of this
place." The extreme change from the hot cellar into the
cold and pitiless wind and rain was so gi-eat, that we fled
precipitately to the cottage which stood opposite. Happily,


the door was on ibo V\W\\, ami wo wont in, I folt about in
tlie dark Tor a rluiir. Init not Inulin-; i^no, sat on tlio table,
listening; to tl\o noise and ilin of tbe meeting.

Tlie vioar vainly tluniglit tbat tbe tunuilt would subside
as soon as 1 was gone, tor be said tbat I 'Mnade as nuieb
noise, it" not more, tban any of tbem !" lie went back into
tbe storm to get my bat and eoat, and also tbe inevitable
umbrella, wilbout wbiib wo ^^wc caw get on in C'ornwall.
lie was a long time absent, during wbieb a man wiib beavy
boots eame into tbe dark eottage wbere I was sitting, and
tumbling down on a seat somewbere, bea\ed a beavv sigb.
He evidentlv did not suspeet tbat any one was tbere. At"ier
sigbing and groaning several times, be said to bimseU*
•'Wliat sball I do?— -wbat sball I Ao'f Tbe man is rigbt,
sure enougb : be is rigbt, I'm sure on it — tbat be is."

I disguised my voice, and asked, " Wbat man ? "

*' Ob," he said, '* are you tbere, neighbour ? Couldn't
yer get in ? Wby, 1 mean the man what's been speaking

"What did be sav?*'

" \Vliy, said he. tbe deNil's no fool!' and oi course
ho ain't. lie has books in all his baits, and 1 have
swallowed lots o' tliem. C'>b. what shall I \Xo'> what shall I
do ? "

Then I heard him shutting to his knees, groaning and
praying. I sat still on the table, saying. "Amen! amen !"
every now and then, to bis praver. till be became terriblv in
earnest, and at last got into a state which the Cornish call
*'wrastling in prayer." In this condition he was quite past
heeding any one's presence. 1 bc1jH\l and guided him to
the Cruciued One, and then be lound peace, and began to
]naise Ciod. On coming to himself", he reeogni.axi my
voice. "Wby. you are the very man." be cried, and putting
his great heavy arms round my neck, he nearly strangled


me ! The vicar (who I did not know was in tlic room),
here interposed, and got my release.

" Here you are," he said, " at it again ; and they are
getting worse and worse in the barn — what ever is to be
done? We cannot go home through this rain, and the
carriage will not be here for at least an hour. What am I
to do ? "

I said, " Let us go then to the barn for a short time,
just to see how they are getting on."

After some hesitation, he went in with me, and found
the people praying and rejoicing; but, as I expected, far
too much absorbed to observe our presence.

After a time, some lads noticed me and cried out lustily,
" The parson is here ! The parson is here ! " and in a
moment we were surrounded by a number of happy people,
who were so demonstrative that they made the poor vicar
tremble (as he told me afterwards) with a strange fear.

They said, " You will come again to-morrow ? "•

" Certainly," I replied.

"Oh, no," rejoined the vicar; "on no account. One
night of this work is quite enough — more than enough."

I was very loth to give up ; but a man said, " Never
mind, we will carry it on. This revival will not stop for a
week or fortnight, for certain."

This was terrifying news for the vicar, who turned, and
looking at me with astonishment, said, reproachfully, " How
did you do it ? "

I replied, " This is not my work. I did not begin it,
neither can I stop it ; nor would I, even if I could. I dare
not. I have known persons brought under heavy judg-
ments for hindering a revival. Take my advice, and do
not hinder this. Let these men go on ; they know what
they are about."

Soon the carriage came, and we returned to the vicarage ;


but the dear man was much put out, and evidently very
sorry that he had asked me to come and disturb his mill-
pond. Indeed, he said as much ; so I concluded my visit
the next morning.

Going through the village, I heard that the meeting on
the previous evening was continued till two o'clock in the
morning, and that it was announced there would be one in
the chapel that evening. As the Church refused the bless-
ing, there were others who were happy to receive it.

I returned home sooner than I was expected, and told
my people, at the evening meeting, the things I had seen
and heard j and they " glorified God."



T the time of which I am writing, twenty-six or
twenty-seven years ago, special services for preach-
ing were not called by the name of "Missions." I
think that word has been derived from some Roman
Catholic perverts, who made aggi'essive efforts in London,
which they called " Catholic Missions." From them it has
been adopted by some who love to copy Rome and Romish
phrases. Strange infatuation, by which these Romanizers
in vain court a Church which despises them, and gives them
neither place nor quarter ! However, the word is now well
understood, and its meaning is plainer than any definitions
of mine could make it.

My first journey to " foreign parts " (as the Cornish call it)
was to a town in Devonshire, where I stopped three or four
days. The day I arrived I preached in the church, because it
was the regular evening service ; special services were not
then known, unless it was for some Missionary Society, or
other such advocacy. The idea of preaching to awaken
souls, was considered very strange and fanatical. The
church I preached in had high pews, which prevented my


seeing the occupants. I was told that it was full, and cer-
tainly there were faces visible here and there ; but the
whole congregation was so still, that the dropping of the
proverbial "pin" might have been heard. It was all very chill-
ing and dead, no " Amens ! " or " Glory ! " as in Cornwall ;
indeed, the stillness had such an effect upon me, that I
found it difficult to get on. After making two or three hard
appeals, and meeting with nothing but silence for a response,
I concluded, and came away much disappointed and dis-
heartened. However, the next morning, the vicar showed
me some beads, feathers, and flowers which had been left in
the pews of the church. So I found that the shots had hit
somewhere, or something.

Walking through the town in the course of the day, a
tall mason, with a large whitewash bru':h in his hand, came
running after me (not to whitewash me) but to ask the
question, which he did most eagerly, " Are you the man
that preached last night ? "

I said, "Yes, I am."

" Oh," he replied, "will you preach to-night?"

I answered him somewhat doubtfully, " I suppose not,"
for the vicar did not know what excuse there could be for
my preaching a second time.

He continued, " Will you come to my house and preach
this evening ? I have a good large room at your service,
and can promise you a congregation."

I assented ; so we fixed the time, and made all other
necessary arrangements. On coming down in the even-
ing, I found my mason friend had invited his neighbours,
and finding more had promised to come than his room
would hold, he had opened the folding doors between two
rooms upstairs, taken down three large bedsteads, and
having borrowed forms and chairs, he was able to accom-
modate seventy people. As many as this came, and more,


for men and women stood on the stairs and landing

We sang heartily, and after prayer I felt a little more at
home than I had done on the previous evening ; but it was
not up to Cornwall yet ! In my address I had liberty and
power to hold the people, and we had some conversions
that evening, and the following one also. My mason friend
was greatly cheered and revived, and from this time began
preaching himself, carrying on meetings in various cottages
and farm places.

From there, I went on into Dorsetshire, and arrived at
the vicarage to which I was going, rather late on Saturday
night, very tired ; so much so, that I was glad to go to bed
as soon as possible. On Sunday morning I went to church
and preached to a large congregation, the words which God
gave me. On coming out, the vicar's wife said, " If I had sat
up all night telling you about the people, you could not
have preached more appropriately ; indeed, I am sure that
some of them will think that I told you what to say."

It was so, for this same lady was charged with telling
me to put before some of the congregation things which her
husband dared not ! In the evening the church was
crammed to excess, and the people were most attentive and
eager. Some of them could scarcely restrain their feelings,
so powerfully did the Word come home to them. At the
conclusion of the service, I announced that I had come
there to preach every night for the week, and would visit
them during the day. Accordingly in the morning I called
at several cottages, in one of which King George the Third
used to attend a prayer-meeting with the country people.

In the afternoon I went to the convict prison at Port-
land. It was sad to look upon the prisoners clanking about
in their chains, many of whom were employed in making a


road to the sea. I could not help saying to the chaplain,
who was walking with me, " What a picture is that ! It is ex-
actly how Satan employs unbelievers to make their own road
to hell. As such, they are condemned already, because they
do not believe in Christ ; and for the same reason, their sins
not being pardoned, they are bound in chains."

" Well," said the chaplain drily, " that seems all clear
and scriptural. Would you like to speak to them ? "

*'Yes," I said, "I should."

He then made a sign to the warder, who commanded
that the convicts should give attention, and the order was at
once obeyed.

Standing on the bank, I spoke to them as they were
assembled before me; but instead of telling them of the
devil and chains, as the chaplain expected, I spoke of God's
love to sinners, and said that "chastisement and sorrows
were not sent in anger, but in kindness. God is angry when
the wicked are allowed to go on unpunished ; but when
punished in this world, it is not for expiation of sin (for only
the blood of Jesus can do that), but for the purpose of
awakening and humbling the transgressor, that he may with
contrite heart return to the Lord, who alone is able to
deliver us from sin and from Satan's power. ' It is good,*
said the Psalmist, ' that I have been afflicted : before I was
afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word.' "

Many of the men were so affected, that they sobbed
aloud, arid I could scarcely refrain from doing the same
thing myself After this I prayed that the word spoken
might be blessed to those who had heard it, and then took
my leave. It was not easy to dismiss this sad scene from my
mind, nor have I ever lost the impression it made upon me.

We had a very good time that evening in the church,
and there was much power and blessing. At the close of the
service, I gave out that I would preach again the following


evening, and having no opportunity for an after-meeting, the
word preached was left with prayer for a blessing on it.

The next morning there came an unexpected, as well
as a most abrupt, opposition to the work ; and no wonder,
for it was not likely that Satan would permit it to go on
smoothly. A vicar from the neighbourhood, who had
formerly been a military man, and had still the command-
ing manner of such, presented himself, and tried to terrify
my good and kind friend, the vicar. He told him that he
had heard a great deal about me ; that I was just like
Starkie,* and preached the same doctrines ; and that he was
deputed by other clerg}^men to come and ask that my
preaching might be stopped. Then he went on to say that
I was nothing less than a Jesuit in disguise ; and turning to
me, he said, '' Sir, you know you are ! " I replied, begging
his pardon, " I can assure you I am not. You must be
altogether misinformed." But he said, again turning round,
and sternly looking at me, " You know I am not mistaken
or misinformed ; your countenance betrays you ! " I smiled
at this, not knowing how my countenance looked. He was
quite satisfied with himself, and rather more so because he
thought he had succeeded in extracting a promise from the
vicar that the services in question should be stopped.

This officer-clergyman then went away, saying that he
was quite convinced in his mind that I was a Jesuit, and
nothing should ever dissuade him ; this interview had con-
firmed his thoughts on the subject. My dear good friend
was so afraid of that loud, overbearing man, that he con-
sented to give up the services after that night.

Presently another clergyman, evidently in concert with

* A clergyman who had associated himself with H. J. Prince and
some others, and founded the ** Agapemone " at Spaxton, near Bridge-


the former, called on the same errand. His more gentle
manner and plausible words had greater effect, so that the
vicar more than half decided to have no service, even on
that evening.

Before he had fully made up his mind, it so happened
that there came on a tremendous thunder-storm, accom-
panied with hail and vivid flashes of lightning. This was
considered by him quite providential, and an indication that
God wished the services stopped. When the sexton came
over to the vicarage, a little before the service time, the
vicar said, " Don't ring the bell for church to-night ; it is of
no use : no one can possibly come out this weather ! "

"Why, sir," said the sexton, "the church have been
crammed full this half-hour. It's no use ringing the bell,
sure, for we ain't got no room for no more people."

"Now, that is remarkable," said the vicar. "I do
think, after all, the Lord would have us go on. What do
you think ? " he said, turning to me.

I replied, " Without doubt I think so. I cannot sup-
pose that the Lord would send such men, in such a tone,
to stop His work."

" Well then," said the vicar, " we will go on till the end
of the week."

But this could not be ; for in the morning, as soon as he
had decided to stop the services, I sat down and wrote to
a cousin of mine, in the neighbourhood (and the letter had
gone), to get me the parish church for the next evening,
and said, " I would come to her on a visit for a few days,
as my preaching in this place was brought to an end."

I spoke that evening, and announced that I would do
so again on Thursday. On the following day I went on
this promised visit to another part of the county, and was
not long in the company of my cousin, before I found out
that she had been brought up in Evangelical doctrines, and


hated Puseyism ; but that she had never been converted
In the evening, we went to the Minster Church, the use
of which she had obtained for me. There, I preached
from the words, " Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
(I did not know then, as I do now, that this is a text foi
beUevers.) Accommodating it for my purpose, I made out
that many people assented to evangelical doctrines, without
yielding to them : that is, they heard the knocking, but
did not open the door and receive the Saviour ; therefore,
they remained unsaved ; and if they died like that, would
be lost for ever !

When I first ascended the pulpit, which stood outside of
a high chancel screen, I looked towards the nave, and saw
it filled with high pews, which, as I thought, were for the
most part empty ; whereas, I could see that the choir and
chancel, which was brightly lighted, was full of choir-men
and boys, besides many people ; so instead of turning my
back upon the many in the lighted chancel, and addressing
myself to the unseen few in the large dark nave, I turned
round in the pulpit, and, looking through the screen,
preached to those I could see. The people in the nave,
however, were most attentive to hear ; and after the sermon
came up and asked me why I had turned my back on them,
for they could not hear all I said. Evidently they had
heard something which had interested them. Seeing so
many were anxious, we invited those who wished for further
help, or instruction, to come home with us. Many did so,
and we held a kind of after-meeting, in which my cousin
and several others found peace.

I could not promise to stay there any longer, having
settled to return on Thursday to resume services in the
church previously referred to. Accordingly I went back to
a neighbouring town, where my good vicar had appointed to
meet me. He did so, and, without delay, commenced


telling me, that he had had a long talk with some of his
brother clergymen, and had given his word that the services
were positively to be discontinued after that night ; he also
told me he had taken my place by the coach, and that I was
to start for Exeter the next morning, on my way home.
Then he went on to say that he found it would be danger-
ous to keep me any longer, for he should have the whole
neighbourhood up about it. In his timidity, he would
rather let the work stop, than be embroiled with the neigh-
bourhood !

The evening service was crowded, and the people were
very disappointed that I was not allowed to remain. How-
ever, I told them it could not be, and that I must go —
so took leave of them.

The next morning we rose early, and breakfasted at six
o'clock, then drove out to the turnpike road, to meet the
coach at an appointed corner, at seven. It arrived in due
time, piled up high into the air with passengers and lug-
gage ; but having an inside place secured for me, we were
not dismayed at the outside appearance. The coachman
got off the box, and, instead of opening the coach door as
we expected, put some money into my hand, and, with
a gi-inning countenance, said, "There's your money, sir.
Sorry to say can't take you to-day ; hain't got a crevice of
room anywhere. Good morning, sir." In a moment more
he was up on his box, with reins in hand. " Take you to-
morrow, sir, same time. Good morning." And off he
went ! Imagine our surprise at being left on the roadside
\x\ this unceremonious way. My good little vicar was most
indignant at being thus treated. " I'll make him pay for
that," he said. " I'll punish him — it's against the law."
And then, as if a new thought had suddenly come to him,

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 12 of 23)