W. (William) Haslam.

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

. (page 15 of 23)
Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 15 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

We did, and told him to sit down while we read a little

The rector began, and, as he went on, Sam's face lit
up with joy, until the rector came to the sacramental pas-
sages; then any one could see Sam's interest was gone. He
became very restless, and at last interrupting, said, respect-
fully, " If you please, sir, is there much more of that ? "

" Why, Sam," said his master, " don't you like it ?"

"No, sir," he said ; "that man ain't converted at all !"

"Well, that is strange," said the rector; "I saw his
interest went off just at the very point where you took
exception to the sermon. You and Sam understand some-
thing that I do not know. "


Thus our sermon-reading concluded, and, besides this,
my witness had given his testimony.

I had stayed already two hours longer than I intended,
and was tired of talking. The rector asked me to remain,
and dine with him, and promised that he would send me to
church in the evening in time for the service. I agreed to
this ; so he kindly took me upstairs to wash and rest.
Coming into the room with me, he shut the door, and said
in confidence,

*' I know you are right ; my mother taught me all this
when I was young!"

"Then," I said, "we had better kneel down and pray
about it."

We did so. In his prayer he entreated very earnestly
that the scales might fall from his eyes, and that these
truths which he loved when he was young might be brought
to him again.

He was only praying for truth, and not for pardon and
salvation ; so I pointed this out to him.

" Yes — yes," he said 3 ** Lord, save me ! Lord, save
me ! Pardon me ! "

I believe he found peace before he came down ; but it is
more difficult to pronounce in the case of educated, than in
that of uneducated people. In the latter, the transition from
darkness to light and life is often very manifest ; whereas in
the case of the educated, the effect is not so clear.

However, he came down to dinner, and it was not long
before he roused the anger and contempt of his wife and
curate, by saying, "I am converted." They tried hard to
laugh him out of it, and asked him which of the chapels he
would join ? They suggested he had better be a Bryanite ;
Mr. Haslam is king of the Bryanites ; and so on !

I was happy to hear all this, and could not help telling
them so : first, because the rector was counted worthy of


such taunts; and, secondly, because their natural enmity
was raised. I said that I hoped that they would both be
converted also, and that very soon.

When I was leaving for my service, the rector, in bidding
me good-bye, said, that he '' was sorry he could not go with
me ; but would I come and preach in his pulpit on
Sunday ? " I promised that I would.

On the way, Sam, who was driving me to church,
became much excited, and seemed beside himself for joy.
Putting up his arms all of a sudden, with reins and whip in
either hand, in the act of praising God, he frightened the
horse, so that it ran away at full speed.

"Oh, never mind— never mind !" he said, "don't be fright-
ened ! No doubt the old devil 'ud like to upset both on us ;
but I am sure the dear Lord will take care of us : don't fear."

Certainly there was need, for the horse went headlong
down a long narrow hill, and if anything else had been on
the road, we must have come into disastrous collision. We
were, however, carried safely down, and reached the church
in good time.

Sam's joy, I need scarcely say, was all about the master's
conversion, and the fact that I was to preach in their church
on Sunday — two circumstances he did not fail to announce
to every one he met.

He put up his horse, and stayed for the service. In the
after-meeting, when he prayed, he sent up his prayer with a
thanksgiving for these two things, which set the congre-
gation praising God also.

Thus the revival, which began on one side of the river,
passed over to the other, and brought out people from
another town, and also villages beyond. There was a great
awakening in that part of the country. The curate found
peace on the Sunday, and many more ; but not the rector's
wife. She continued her opposition most vigorously.


The wisdom of the serpent is seen in capturing the wife
first ; but still I am sure in this case that the serpent's
wisdom was outwisdomed, for her persecution made her
husband pray and work all the more earnestly.

People in these days did not regard " missions " so
complacently as they do now. The very idea of preaching
night after night, not for some Missionary Society, or for
collections, but simply for the conversion of souls and the
salvation of sinners, seemed to cast a slur upon ordinary
preachers, as if they did not aim at such a thing ; and upon
people generally, as if we meant to imply that they needed
it. Most certainly they did.

I believe ordinary preachers in the churches of that
neighbourhood did not expect conversions ; and most of the
people were unconverted. I could not help telling them so,
which only roused their wrath so much the more.

From this place I returned home; for my prolonged
absence, I found, was likely to bring me into trouble.
Other clergymen might go away for months, travelling or
salmon fishing ; but if I was absent for a few weeks, I was
supposed to be neglecting my parish. On my return, I had
much to tell, and did not expect to be invited out again in
a hurry; for very few clergymen would willingly desire to be
drawn into such a whirlwind of storm and trouble, as my
visits usually involved.



^ ffii^sian in ^taffortrsljm.


HE work at Baldhu, which had been going on
ahmost incessantly for three years, was now
beginning to flag ; that is to say, there was not
that ardent and eager attendance at the services
and meetings, to which we had been accustomed in the
revival time. We had had occasional lulls like this before,
but they did not last more than a few weeks ; and then the
" swallows " returned, and the bright hot summer of work
came again with its loud songs and pleasant fruits. This
dulness was continuing longer than usual; the crowded
congregations were falling off; strangers did not come from
a distance ; and people at home were not so lively. How-
ever, the classes were continued, as also the services at the
church, and the number of communicants did not decrease.
Still any one could see that the revival was over. It was
rather discouraging to me, and a cause of triumph to some
outsiders ; but we were occasionally cheered by work
amongst visitors, and with sick-bed cases.

The majority of the people were complacently waiting
for another tide of revival; this was their custom, but it sat


very uneasily upon me. I did not like it, nor agree to il ;
but at that time I knew not what else to do, but wait as
others did. I said that we looked like vessels which had
come so far up the river with the tide ; and now that it had
turned we were stranded and fast in the mud. Sometimes
I changed the figure to one not so ignoble, and likened
ourselves to the stately vessels anchored in Falmouth har-
bour, which were there because the wind was contrary.
We were wind-bound too, and dependent on circumstances ;
but my idea of true religion was that we ought not to be like
this. I rather took for our type the great steamers which
are propelled by powerful engines, and come in and go out,
and proceed on their voyage without regard to wind or
tide. We ought to be constrained, I said, from within by
the love of God, and thus be enabled to show the power
of grace by riding over all obstacles and triumphing in the
midst of discouragements. '' He giveth songs in the
night." Any bird can sing in the sunshine.

The self-restraint and self-control I had exercised in
my churchy days, and which I supposed was derived from
sacraments, I found wanting in my new work. We required
something with authority, such as church and priest supply.
I could not, however, conscientiously go back to that legal
system, nor did I think there was any need, for I was sure
there was something somewhere to be had, which should
and would supply our want, if I could but discover it. It
appeared to me that my people, without this, were subject
to impulse, and consequently in bondage to their feelings.

In this time of lull I found that the steadfastness of
some was shaken ; but I had known others, who had gone
further back than these, return at a revival time with new
vigour. In this way, some of the Cornish people professed
to be converted scores of times.

While ruminating on these things and praymg over


them, I was surprised by receiving a letter pressing me very
much to come at once and preach in a parish in Stafford-
shire, near Birmingham. Mr. Aitken had been on a
mission in the north, and on his return had stopped a night
at this place, and preached one of his alarming and awaken-
ing sermons. The effect was so great that the people,
together with their clergyman (a curate in sole charge) were
in much trouble and anxiety about their souls ; there was
a gloom hanging over them, as if they had been sentenced
to some dreadful doom, and did not know what to do, or
how to avert it.

It is a good thing to wound, but it should be with the
object of making whole ; it is a blessed thing to show
sinners their lost condition, but only for the purpose of
getting them to lay hold of the great salvation which is
provided for such.

In his perplexity the curate went to see the Bishop
(Lonsdale) of Lichfield. When his lordship had ascer-
tained the cause of the trouble, he took up a pamphlet
which was lying on the table, and said, " If you cannot get
Mr. Aitken back; send for this gentleman, and pay his
expenses." "This gentleman," meant the author of the
pamphlet, which his lordship held in his hand, namely,
myself; "his name and address are here," said the Bishop;
" take the book and read it carefully ; he seems to have
both knowledge and experience in such matters."

I was written to forthwith, and the letter urged me to
" come at once." In compliance, I started off that night,
and reaching the place on Saturday afternoon, opened a
mission the same evening without further notice. On
Sunday I preached three times, and went to the school-
room for the after-meeting. There we had a scene which,
for noise and confusion, was quite Cornish. Men and
women cried aloud for mercy, while some believers who


were there shouted for joy. The curate in charge was
completely bewildered, but felt he could do nothing ; and
seeing, as he remarked, that I appeared to understand
it all, and know what I was about, he thought he had
better remain still, till the noisy meeting was over. That
same night, before he retired, he gave his heart to God.

The work went on in this place with the force as of an
explosion ; just as if hungry desires had been pent up a
long time, and now they had vent and opportunity to be
satisfied. The church was crowded every day, even in the
week; and we were kept in the schoolroom night after
night till twelve and one o'clock.

The town was a dark, smoky, sulphury place, and the
air filled with exhalations and iron filings from the various
works. It was a dreadful atmosphere, and everything was
black and dirty; the red fires from the furnaces around
glared all night long, and presented an awful appearance.
To come from the pure air and beautiful scenery of Corn-
wall into such a place as this, was most trying and uncom-
fortable ; but the reward was great. The work was deeply
interesting, and scores of men and women of all classes,
besides five clergymen, professed to be converted that

The devil did not leave us alone ; he was very angry,
and raised up a great opposition. The rector of the old
church, who used to be most benevolent and smiling, sud-
denly changed, and made it his business to call on the
curate in charge of the church, to tell him that he was quite
sure that his friend the vicar (who was away at the time in
ill health) would never have sanctioned this excitement.
The curate said that the Bishop had bid him invite Mr.
Haslam, and that he had done so, not knowing anything
further about me or my work. The rector went off to
write to the Bishop forthwith, and in the meantime ordered


bills to be posted all over the town, warning people against
*' the Cornish fanaticism at St. James's," which, of course,
had the effect of drawing out a greater concourse of

What with excessive work and bad air, by Friday even-
ing I was quite exhausted. I came out of the pulpit to the
vestry, and remembering that Cornish miners, in order to
recover themselves after climbing ladders, often found it
necessary to lie down flat on the ground, I thought I would
try the same plan for a few moments while the people were
going out to the schoolroom. I did so ; and while I was
in this position a clergyman came in and asked me if I was
ilL " No," I said ; " I am only resting for a short time."

" Very well," he said, " rest on ; but Hsten to me. The
Bishop has sent me here to see and hear you, and this is
my report to his lordship." Opening out a paper he held
in his hand, he read : " St. James's crammed to excess with
a most orderly and devotional congregation ; their attention
to the sermon marked and rivetted ; sermon from St. Luke
XV., verse 2, 'This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with
them.' The exposition of chapter most vivid and instruc-
tive ; never heard better, or so good ; the application fer-
vent and pointed; altogether, most edifying service."
" There, that is my report, so you need not be afraid of
anything you hear. I will tell the Bishop all about it.
Thank you very much for what I have heard. God bless
you. Good-night ! "

" Oh," I said, springing up from the ground, " do not
go yet ! the best part is to come. You have only seen me
let down the nets; come now and see them pulled up."

" What is that ? " he said. " Where am I to come ? "

"To the schoolroom," I replied, divesting myself of
my gown and bands, and putting on my coat with all haste.
" Come with me ! "


He seemed a little afraid, and asked many questions.
When we reached the place we could scarcely get in^ and
the noise certainly was tremendous.

"What is all this confusion about?" he asked. "I
think I had better not go in to-night."

*' Oh, come in ! come in ! " I said ; " do not fear." But
somehow he slipped off in the dark, and I did not see him
again. When I entered, almost the first thing I noticed was
the two curates of the parish church, taking notes. However,
I did not heed them, or ask to see what they had written ;
for I would always rather have real work, though with a
noise, than orderly, respectable stillness, and spiritual death.

On Saturday I rested, but was very unwell all day, and
did not know how I should be able to work on Sunday.
When the morning arrived, my strength and voice were
gone ; it was impossible to preach. The people met
together and had a prayer-meeting before the service, ask-
ing the Lord to restore me. The curate was so much
cheered, that he came to me and said, " If you only get up
and try, we feel sure you will be able to preach." I got up,
but had to go to bed again, for I was very ill.

Just before eleven o'clock a visitor arrived — a very
queer-looking little man, in a black suit of Quaker cut, and
a college cap without a tassel, with the corners of the square
board rounded off. Standing by my bed-side in this cos-
tume, he said that he was a convert of Mr. Aitken's, and
had come all the way from Birmingham to hear me.
" Moreover," he said, " I am a herbal doctor. Please let
me feel your pulse."

He did so, and looking grave, sounded my lungs, put
his ear to my chest, and then asked, " What is the matter
with your left lung ? "

I replied, " I don't know. Three doctors told me, more
than fourteen years ago, that it was all gone."


"Well," he said, "you stay quietly in bed till I come
again at half-past eleven."

When he returned, he bade me get up and dress, and
then gave me a cupful of something very hot with cayenne,
at the same time telling me that I should be quite strong
enough to preach by twelve o'clock.

So I was. I preached that morning, and again in the
afternoon \ after that I went to bed till six o'clock, when I
took another dose, and in the strength of it preached a long,
loud sermon to a crowded congregation ; after which I
attended the after-meeting, and was there till twelve o'clock
at night. I then set off to the station, accompanied by at
least two hundred people, and left by the one o'clock train
for Birmingham, to the house of my new friend the herbal
doctor. He nursed me like a mother, and let me go on my
way home to Cornwall the next day.

I never heard any more of the rector of the parish, or of
the Bishop, but was frequently cheered by letters saying that
the work thus begun was going on week after week in the
same place. Some years after, when I was passing, I stopped
there for a few days, and gave them " a lift," as they called
it ; and I then saw with half a glance that they had become
practised workers — that both clergymen and people were
fitted to missionize the whole country side.

One's great object in this mission work is not only to
save souls, but to encourage believers to do their part ; that
so the effect of a mission may be continued and extended.
God has a twofold blessing for us. He says " I will bless
thee, and make thee a blessing ; " and it is well to remember
that the benefits we receive are not so much to be kept for
self, as to be imparted and transmitted to others, even as
they were transmitted to us.


HEN I returned from the far-off mission in Stafford-
shire, whether from over-fatigue or other causes, I
was much depressed in mind as well as body, and
quite out of heart with the Church of England.
It is true I found the converted people in Staffordshire were
not so leavened with Dissent as in Cornwall, and that there
was some attachment to the Church ; but still I could see
that Churchmen there, as elsewhere, distrusted spirituality,
and preferred to work on their own ecclesiastical or sacra-
mental lines ; they chose to draw water to quench their
thirst, rather than to ask, and receive (directly from Christ)
the living water.

If a bishop accidentally invited me, or if a clerg}^man
cordially did so, they were marked exceptions. I felt myself
to be obnoxious to the majority of my clerical brethren who
professed to represent the Church ; but, somehow, I was con-
vinced that, as a converted clergyman, I represented the
Church of England more truly than they, and that the prin-
ciples of the Reformation were the principles I was working
upon. This was trial from outside, which, however trying


to flesh and blood, is by no means so bad as misgiving from

I was discouraged also about the work in which I had
been engaged ; for there was evidently an imperfection about
it. I observed that some people over whom I rejoiced as
converted, went back to their former worldliness, which per-
plexed and troubled me more than I can describe. I knew
from my own experience, that conversion was necessary to
salvation and a new life ; but when people professed to be
saved, and did not live a new life, I was sure there was
something wrong. My dear friend, Mr. Aitken, said, " My
brother, this work is the Lord's ; you must go to Him and
ask what is wrong. Lie on your face before Him, till He
shows you His will about the matter ! "

This I did; for, shutting myself up in the church, I cried
to the Lord till I felt that an answer would come in due

Soon after, I was led to preach from the text, '' Through
this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by
Him all that believe are justified from all things " (Acts xiii.
38, 39). This opened my eyes to see that the proclamation
was twofold — that through Christ Jesus, pardon was offered
to any and every sinner as such, and moreover, that by the
same Christ Jesus, every believer — that is, every one who
had received the forgiveness of his sins — was justified from
all things.

Those who know how old familiar texts flash upon the
mind with new meaning, will understand my surprise. God
was speaking to me in answer to my inquiry. I had been
preaching forgiveness and salvation through the blood-
shedding and death of Christ; and confining myself to this,
as if salvation were all. I now saw that I had not preached
about Justification to believers, as fully as I had dwelt on
the subject of pardon to sinners ; indeed, that I had preached


to believers the same Gospel which I preached to them
before they were converted ; that is, that Christ died for
their sins, but not the " yea rather, that is risen again." No
wonder they did not stand, if their standing-place before God
their Father was not simply and plainly put before them.
Believers having been brought from death unto life, from
the cross to the resurrection-side of Christ's grave, should be
led to the Throne of Grace, where Christ sits at the right
hand of God, making intercession for them. Once en-
lightened on the subject, it was easy to see that this truth
was set forth all through the Bible.

For instance, when the prodigal son received pardon,
immediately his father called the servants and said unto
them, " Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and
put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet." Here,
besides pardon, is standing — union — strength ; and over
and beyond these, the feast of rejoicing.

When the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt,
it was not that they should escape from bondage only, but
that they should be led, and even carried, by God through
the wilderness. Moses illustrated this in a simple yet com-
prehensive figure, when he wrote, " As an eagle stirreth up
her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her
wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings : so the Lord
alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him"
(Deut. xxxii. ii, 12).

The thousands who perished in the wilderness were
persons of whom it may be said that they professed to come
up out of Egj'pt, and did so in act ; but God, who looks
upon the heart, saw that they wTre still lingering in that
place ; for when they were in trouble, they said, " Would
God that we had died in the land of Egypt ! or would God
we had died in this wilderness ! . . . Let us make a
captain, and let us return into Egypt " (Num. xiv. 2 — 4).


This is one secret of the "going back " which I have
noticed. People came out as converted, whose hearts were
still entangled in the things of this world, or in some beset-
ments with which they were fettered. Those who are really
converted should come out, as Caleb and Joshua did. They
left Egypt behind them altogether, and finally, in their trials
and troubles in the wilderness, they looked for deliverance,
not in going back, but in going forward, assured that if lions
were before, there were dragons behind.

Another lesson which we may learn from these two, is,
that they compared difficulties and giants, not with them-
selves, but with the Lord. It was true that they were not
able to conquer their enemies or take their cities, but, as
they said, "the Lord is able to give us the victory." In this
I saw how Joshua trusted God, also how God wrought a
great deliverance.

I urged the people to consider that we were not created
and redeemed to be saved, but saved to glorify God in our
lives ; but I grieve to say, this teaching did not meet with
the acceptance I hoped for. I wondered at their slowness of
heart to believe in the "risen" Christ, and was sure that this
was reason enough for their instability ; and I felt that there
would be nothing else while they continued to receive only
a part of the Gospel instead of the whole.

One thing leads to another. While I was thus making
discoveries, my attention was drawn to a hymn which spoke
of "Jordan's stream," and " death's cold flood," as if they
were the same thing. Now, I had always regarded Jordan
as death ; but the question in my mind was — -What is all
that fighting and conquering in the land of Canaan, if
Canaan represents heaven ? I observed, moreover, that the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 15 of 23)