W. (William) Haslam.

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

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love, constrains us to w^ork for His Father's glory ; and that
He, as the object of hope, can and does separate us from
the world and its entanglements, by drawing our affections
to things above and beyond the present. Not having dis-
covered this simple yet important truth, I was restless ; and
from God's Word came down to read the words and
thoughts of men. I fell in with the "Life of Madame
Guyon," Here I found much sympathy, but somehow not
that peace I was looking for. Then I read the writings of
the Port Royal school, the Jansenists, Butler's "Lives of
the Saints," and other such books. These diverted my
mind, employed and interested it ; but I cannot say they
satisfied me. I was craving for something which I had not
found yet, and had to wait three years or more before I
did so.

About this time I was invited to go to a parish in
Plymouth, to a church where sacramental teaching was the
rule. The incumbent was evidently as much dissatisfied
with the state of his congregation as I was with mine. He
wanted something new, and I thought that I did likewise.


Accordingly I went and preached in his pulpit, and the
word spoken produced a marked sensation. My sermon
brought to the vicar's mind many truths he had heard and
loved in early days, and for this reason he urged me to stay
and preach again. Then, to my surprise, he invited me to
leave Cornwall and come to Plymouth, in order to take a
district in his parish, that I might help him occasionally in
his church. This was altogether such an unsought-for thing,
and so unexpected, that I took time to consider. The next
day I told him that I could not entertain his proposition,
and that for three reasons : —

1. I said, *'I am sure that the Bishop would not

2. " I have a debt laid on me by my patron for nearly
^3,000, which I spent in building the church for hirn."

3. " I am responsible for a debt of ^300 as security."
He still urged it, and said he would go and see the

Bishops and speak with him on the subject. In his zeal he
set off that very morning. The Bishop at first said flatly,
*' No ;" and then, upon further inquiry^ recalled the word,
and said, " You may try it if you will." He returned in the
evening with this information, which surprised me greatly.
But what made me wonder still more, was the receipt of two
letters the next morning by the same post — one from London
and the other from Paris, releasing me from the responsi-
bility of the two debts ; and this without any request on my
part. The three difficulties, which were like mountains
before me only three days before, were now removed. I
did not know what to say, and therefore determined, in all
haste, to go home and consider the step.

When I had related these astonishing circumstances to
my dear wife, we agreed to go together to consult with Mr.
Aitken. On arriving I said to him, " You must please to sit
still and hear all before you speak." Then I told him of


the invitation to go to Plymouth,, the result of the preaching,
the unexpected proposal to remove hither, the Bishop's
answer, and the remission of the ;£^3,3oo. " Now," I con-
tinued, " what do you say ? "

" You must go, my brother," he replied ; " for you will
never make Catholics of the Cornish people : the Methodist
mind is far too deeply rooted in them."

Our friend's decision was firm ; and so there remained
nothing for us to do but to follow it. The novelty of the
proposition, and the surprising circumstances connected
with it were exciting, and took away our thoughts for the
time from the place which was to be left. When the
decision was given and accepted, then Baldhu seemed to
lift up its voice, and urge its claims. Certainly it was a
strong tie which bound us to this place ; but nevertheless,
on our return home, I wrote to the Bishop, and proposed
to resign my present incumbency, in order that I might
take a district in Plymouth. He replied in due course, that
he would accept my resignation. After I was thus pledged,
my wife's mind veered from her consent to go ; and Mr.
Aitken changed his tone also, and said that the text had
come to him, " Cast thyself down,*' and that I was tempt-
ing God. Yet all the steps I had taken had been in
prayer, and had been even taken reluctantly, for I was much
attached to Baldhu.

For nearly three months I was torn with distractions ;
sometimes hope lifted up the mist from the horizon, and
then let it down again. I did not know what to do ; the
work at home had come to a stand; but there was one
thing, my successor was not yet appointed, nor had I signed
my resignation ; therefore every now and then the thought
came over me, that I would stay. Then a letter came
from Plymouth, urging me to come away at once, "for
the iron was hot for striking." Sometimes people came


in and said, " You had better go ; " then others would
come and say, " You will do no good if you do go."
It was desolating, as well as distracting beyond descrip-

I had a family of six children and three servants ; it
was a great expense to move there ; and yet, if God was
calling, it was quite as easy for Him to move eleven people
as one ; and I had ten claims upon Him. At last, suspense
was over; for my successor was appointed, and the day
fixed for our going. I signed my resignation, having to pay
four pounds ten shillings for it ; then, suspense was changed
into unmitigated sorrow.

I had designed and built that church and house,
and had seen them rise ; had made the garden, and had
had many happy and wonderful days in this place. I
found it had taken a deep root in my heart, and therefore it
was like tearing one up altogether to go away. But it was
done now, and the friends who had advised me not to
resign, seemed to have their triumph; and those who
advised to go, were discouraged and grieved at my sorrow-
ful state. My dear wife cheered up when she saw me down,
and rose to the occasion; she began to pack up as if
delighted at going, and went about everything most cheer-

I told the people that I could not bear a leave-taking,
but there would be a service in the church, and Holy
Communion, at seven o'clock on the morning we were to
leave. Many came, but the majority could not sum up the
courage to do so. I put my resignation on the offertory
plate, and gave it to God with many tears. A kind neigh-
bour came to officiate for me, so that I did not take any
part in the service; being exceedingly dejected and over-
whelmed with sorrow. It was chiefly for fear, lest I was
doing that which God would not have me do, and taking


my family out from a comfortable home, I knew not
whither, or to what discomforts.

One thing I certainly saw plainly enough, that my affec-
tions were too deeply rooted in earthly things. I had no
idea till then, that that place of my own creation had taken
such a hold upon me. It was well to be loose from that,
and free for my Master's service.

After breakfast we left the old place; many people
stood weeping by the roadsides ; some ventured to speak,
and others only thrust their hands into the carriage windows
for a hearty grasp, without saying a word. It was indeed a
sorrowful day, the remembrance of which even now makes
my heart sink, though it is more than twenty-five years

In the evening we arrived at the house of some friends,
who had kindy invited us to break our journey, and remain
the night with them ; and in the morning we proceeded on
our way to Plymouth. When we reached the house, we
found our furniture unpacked, and distributed in the
various rooms, and the table spread ready for us to take
some refreshment. The word "Welcome" was done in
flowers over the door, besides many other demonstrations
of kindness ; but I am afraid we were all too sorrowful at
the time to show our appreciation of, or to enjoy them.

We never settled in that house, and did not care to
unpack anything more than necessary, or hang up the pic-
tures or texts.

My work did not prosper here, for I found I was un-
equally yoked with strangers, and accordingly felt dry and

I sent my resignation of Baldhu to Bishop Phillpotts,
and with it my nomination and other necessary papers,
saying that I would wait on his lordship for institution on a
certain day.


At the appointed time I went to him, when to my great
surprise, he very calmly said he could not appoint me to
that district. I could not understand this^ for as I told
him, I had only resigned conditionally, and reminded him
that I had asked his permission to resign, for the purpose of
taking this district.

" How can I conscientiously appoint or license you to
anything in my diocese ? " he said, looking me full in the face,
and then in his courteous way he laid his commands on me
to stay to luncheon, saying he would be obliged " if I would
do him this honour ;" he bade me walk in the garden, as he
was busy^ and would be occupied till luncheon.

I felt that I needed a little quiet and fresh air to get over
this climax of my troubles — out of one living, and not into
another; and that with a wife, six children, and three servants,
with very little to live on. Here was a state of things ! I
had plenty to occupy my thoughts and prayers. I feared
and mourned, above everything, lest God should be angry
with me. '' Oh, if I could only know this is the will of
God, then I should not care a fig for all the bishops on the
bench, and would not ask one of them for anything ! "

I was soon roused from m.y reverie, by the presence of
Miss C. P., the Bishop's daughter, who had come out at her
father's request to show me the garden and the view. I had
known this lady slightly for several years, and so she was not
altogether a stranger to me, or I to her. She talked so cheer-
fully and pleasantly, that it came to my mind, "Perhaps, after
all, the Bishop is only trying me. He will not appoint me to
this bare district, because he has something better with which
he means to surprise me." This sanguine thought cheered
me up greatly. At luncheon he was as kind and happy as
if he had neither done anything dishonourable, nor had any
intention of doing so ; so that I felt quite sure something
good was coming. I began to wonder at intervals, " What


part of the diocese I was to be sent to? — Where is there a
vacancy?" and so on.

The Bishop was as friendly to me as he used to be in
other days. After the repast, he summoned me to his study
again. ''Now," I thought, "I shall hear where I am to go;"
but instead of this, he said that he was '^much engaged, and
must take leave of me."

I was more than astonished at this, and said, " I can
scarcely believe that you refuse to appoint me ! "

" I do then, most positively."

" But I have a copy of my letter to your lordship, and
your answer."

"Then you may urge your claim by law, if you please."

*^ No, indeed, my lord, I do not think I will do that."
And then, after a short pause, I said, " You have done for
me what I could not dare do for myself, though I have often
been tempted to do it."

" And pray, what is that ? " he inquired.

" To give up parochial ministration, that I may be free
to preach wherever I am led."

" Could you do that ? "

"I could not do it conscientiously myself; but now
that you have stripped me of harness, I will put on no

The Bishop made his bow, and I made mine ; and that
was the end of our interview.

In my unconverted days I used to be an ardent and
enthusiastic admirer of this man / his charges, his speeches,
and especially his withering, sarcastic letters to Lord John
Russell and others, who came under his tremendous lash,
to my mind made him a great hero. His straightforward
manner also commanded my respect, for, generally speaking,
I had found bishops very smooth and two-sided, or rather
both-sided ;hMi in his case there was no mistake.


It used to be a proud time for me when this Bishop came
into Cornwall, and I was permitted to accompany him, and
to act as his chaplain at the consecration of a church or
burial ground, or to attend him when he went to a Con-
firmation. Sometimes I had the happy privilege of rowing
him in a boat on the sea. He seemed to take such an affec-
tionate and intelligent interest in my parish and my church
work. He asked various questions about my neighbours,
just as if he lived among them and knew all their circum-
stances. He struck me as a wonderful man, and I was his
champion upon all occasions in my unconverted days. Not-
withstanding this, he was too honest to his own views to
favour me after my conversion.

On my return home without a licence, I had but a
poor account to give, and the future prospect looked very



OCCASIONALLY preached in the parish church,
and went to the daily Communion and the daily
service. My spare time I occupied (it was like
going back to brick-making in Egypt) in painting
the church. I laboured for hours and hours to try and make
this great chalk-pit of a place look somewhat ecclesiastical.
All round the church I painted a diaper pattern, surmounted
with a border, which went over the doors and under the
windows. Then on the bare wall at the end I painted a
life-sized figure of our Lord, as a Shepherd leading His
sheep, taken from Overbeck's picture. This, together with
a few other pictures of Christ, warmed up the building
very well. Then for the chancel I had a most elaborate

First, there was a beautiful gilded pattern over the very
lofty chancel arch, which I managed to reach by means of a
ladder. Professional people need scaffolding and platforms,
which I dispensed with, and accomplished the whole space
in less time than it would take them to put up all their
needful erections. Inside the chancel I had twelve niches,


with tabernacle work above them, for the twelve apostles ;
and these were all duly represented after a true medieval

The local newspaper made great fun of these paintings ;
and the reporter would have it^ that "these lively saints
looked very conscious of being put up there, and that they
were constantly * craning ' their necks to look at one
another — as if they would inquire, * I say, how do you like
being there?' " My favourite figure, St. John, upon which I
bestowed extra pains, the provoking man would have it, was
St. Mary Magdalene, leering at the apostle next to Jier^ or at
the one opposite — it did not seem quite clear to him which ;
but her head was down on one side in a bewitching

In the middle of the great undertaking I was called
away for a i&^ weeks. During this time the reporter came
again and again, but saw no progress ; he therefore put an
advertisement into his paper to this effect : —

"Stolen or strayed, a monkish priest, who paints
apostles. He is not to be found. Any person or persons
who can give information concerning this absent personage,
will greatly oblige.'*

My preaching was not acceptable in this church, neither
was my connection with it ; and my apostles were no better
appreciated, for they vrere soon after whitewashed over, and
disappeared like a dream. Sometimes, in damp weather,
they were still to be seen " craning " their necks as hereto-
fore (much to the amusement of the chorister boys) though
with a kind of veil upon them. Doubdess, in a future
generation, when the plaster begins to blister, some anti-
quarian will discover this " wonderful mediceval fresco," and
call the attention of the public to it.

My ideas and dreams about catholic advancement were
thus brought to a calamitous end. This church to which I


had come was one in high credit for much private and
public devotion ; but, alas ! I found what I might easily
have expected, that without spiritual vitality everything
must be dry and dead ! Dry and dead indeed it was. The
conversation of these supposed ascetics was for the most
part secular, and at the highest only ecclesiastical. Their
worship, on which a great amount of pains and cost was
bestowed, was but a form carefully prepared and carefully
executed, as if critics were present ; yet it did not, and
could not, rise to spirituality. A lady presided at the
organ, and had the teaching and training of the choir.
Much of her own personal and religious character were
imparted to the performances, which in tone and manner
were admirable and precise. She made the boys understand
the sense of the words they sang, till I have seen them
even in tears during the singing. The " chaste old verger "
(as our reporter called him), who headed the procession at
least four times a day, up and down the church, was a very
important and successful part of the machinery, and from
him, up to the highest official, everything was carried out
with exact precision.

But oh, how unsatisfying and disappointing it was ! — to
a degree which I was ashamed to own ! How could I be
so foolish, to give up a living, where there was vitality,
though it was rough, for a superficial and artificial sem-
blance of religion ? In the book of Ecclesiastes we read,
that " a living dog is better than a dead lion ;" and though
I had often quoted this saying, I never felt the truth of it so
deeply as now. The dead lion and the dead elephant are
quite immoveable things for a live dog to bark at or fret
about. It was a hard and trying time to me in that place.
I could not see my way, or understand at all what was the
Lord's will towards me.

While in this state of mind I had a vivid dream. I


thought that the ornamental iron grating, which was for
ventilating the space under the floor of the church, was all
glowing with fire, as if a great furnace were raging there.
I tried to cry "Fire !" but could not. Then I ran into
the church, and saw it full of people reverently absorbed in
their devotions. I tried again to give the alarm, and cry
"Fire ! fire !" but I could not utter a sound. When I looked
up, I saw thin, long, waving strings of fire coming up among
the people through the joints of the floor. I called atten-
tion to this, but no one else could see it. Then I became
frantic in my gesticulation, and at last was able to tell some
of the congregation of the great fire which was under them ;
but they looked at one another, smiling, and told me to go
about my business — that I was mad ! I woke out of my
troubled sleep in a very agitated and perturbed state. Since
that, whenever I have seen or heard of churches, where
Church and Sacraments are preached, instead of Christ, as
the one way of salvation, I long to warn the people of the
fire raging underneath, and to show them the way of the
Lord more perfectly.

One day, when I was feeling more desponding and
wretched than before, a lady called, and said she wanted to
speak to me — would I come to her house for this purpose ?
I went, and she was not long before she opened the
conversation by charging me with being very uncharitable.
"You say we are all unconverted."

I replied, " Of course, as children of Adam we are, till
conversion takes place; there can be no mistake about
that ! But when did I say that you were unconverted ? Is
it not your own conscience that tells you that? When we
preach to people as unconverted, those who are changed,
and brought from death into life, know as well as possible
that we do not mean them ; and they pray for a blessing on
the Word, that it may reach others, as it once reached


them. They do not sit there and resent the charge, for
they know what has passed between God and their souls,
and are anxious for others to share the same blessing."
She was silent ; so I continued, *' May I ask you the
question, Are you converted ? Can you tell me that you

She replied, " I do not know what you mean."

" Well then, why do you suppose that I mean some-
thing uncharitable or bad ? "

" Because I knoAV very well it is not a good thing to be
unconverted. But," she added, " it seems such an unkind
thing to put us all down for ' lost,' while you suppose your-
self to be saved."

" You may know more about this some day, perhaps ;
but in the meantime will you allow me to ask you one
thing : Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ ? "

She replied indignantly, " Of course I do. Now, this is
the very want of charity I complain of— the idea of asking
me such a question ! "

She was one of the Rev. 's, (the confessor's)

favourite devotees, and had been absolved by him for
several years j the very idea of asking her if she believed in
the Lord Jesus Christ, made her quite impatient, as well as

I said, " Do not be angry with me, but what do you
believe about Him ? "

" Believe everything, of course ! I believe the creed."

" Yes, I do not doubt that, for a moment. But do you
believe that Jesus died/^rjiw/?"

" Why, yes, certainly : how could I do otherwise ; He
died for us all."

*' That is not the point. I mean, do you believe that
He died ; and that you have a personal mteresf in His
death ? "

« / HA VE PEA CEP 239

She hesitated, and then looking at me said, " Do you
mean objectively, or subjectively ? "

" May I ask what I am to understand by these words ? "

" Dr. taught me that, ' Christ died,' is objective,

and that ' Christ died for me,' is subjective."

" Very good indeed," I answered, " I like that very
much ; it is quite true. But it is one thing to know about
subjective faith, and quite another thing to have it. Now I
will come back to my question. Do you believe that Christ
^\^^ for you ? "

" You evidently mean something that I do not under-
stand," she said, in a perplexed manner.

Then looking at the crucifix on her table, I said, '* What
does that remind you of? "

" Oh, I pray before that every day, and ask the Lord to
take my sins away."

" Then you do not think your sins are forgiven yet. How
can you ask for forgiveness, and have it at the same time ? "

'* Do you mean to say then," she replied, with surprise,
" that you have no sins ? "

" Yes, I mean to say that my sins were atoned for, once
for all, on the cross ; and that, believing this, I have peace
and remission of sins. My past sins are cast like a stone
into the deep ; and as to my daily sins of omission and
commission, I do not take them to the cross like a Romanist,
but to the throne of grace, where the risen and living Christ
is now making intercession for me."

She was silent ; and so was I, inwardly praying for her.

Presently she looked up and said, " I do thank Him for
dying for me. Is that what you want me to say ? "

" Thanksgiving is an indication of living faith. How can
I believe that Jesus died for me, and not thank Him?"

"But do thank Him, and it is very uncharitable of you
to say, not thank Him ; we all thank Him I "


She was gone again, and I wondered whether I should
ever bring her back !

" You remind me," I said, " of three ladies of good posi-
tion, whom I met last year. They all professed to thank
God for Christ's death ; but yet they had no peace, and w
not satisfied. Seeing they were in real earnest, I proposed
to go over the General Thanksgiving in the Prayer-book with
them. Th£y did so, and thanked God for creation, preser-
vation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all — then
as I emphasized this ' above all,' they said, almost together,
' That is where we are wrong. We have not put the redeem-
ing love of God as shown in Christ's death, above allJ These
three ladies found peace and pardon that same evening."

" That has been my mistake too," said the lady interrupt-
ing me. " I have never put Jesus above all; but I do desire
to do so, and that with all my heart."

" Then do so," I said, *' and thank Him for His love in
dying in your stead, and shedding His blood to wash your
sins away."

" He shall have all my heart ! " she exclaimed.

So saying, she knelt before the crucifix, and bowing
gracefully and most reverently, she reproached herself for
not putting Jesus first, and said, " Thou art worthy ! Glory
be to Thee, for Thy great love to me."

Then she rose from her knees, and once more turning to
me, said, " Thank you so much ! God bless you for your
kindness and patience with me ! I cannot tell you how
much I thank you. Do you remember once preaching
about Abraham offering up his son Isaac ? You said, ' God

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 17 of 23)