W. (William) Haslam.

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

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the Father has done more than this for us ; and yet how few
cry to Him and say, " By this I know that Thou lovest
me ! " ' I thought, and felt then, that you knew something
which I should like to know ; and I have been longing to
speak to you ever since. Oh, I do thank you so much

f »


** Dear friend, I cannot refuse your thanks, but I should
like to see you thanking God more than you thank me."

I knew that she could sing and play, so, pointing to the
piano, I asked her if she would sing a hymn.

" Yes," she said, " I will. What shall I sing ? "

" Find *When I survey the wondrous cross,' " I said.

She did not need to find the music, for she knew it
without ; so, sitting down, she began to sing, till the tears
came into her eyes, and her voice broke down. " I never
knew the meaning of these words before," she said ; " ' Sor-
row and love flow mingled down.' How could I be so blind
and ignorant ? ' Love so amazing, so divine,' does ' demand
my life, my soul, my all ! ' O Lord, take it ! "

After this, I had a few parting words with her, and
pointing to the crucifix I said, " Remember, Christ is not on
the cross now. He died ; that is past. He is risen, and
has ascended up on high. The throne of grace is not the
crucifix or the confessional, but where Christ sits — at the
right hand of God ; and we, as believers, may in heart and
mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell.
Have done, then, with this dead Popery ; you know better
now. Testify for the glory of God."

This lady's conversion vexed her husband greatly, and
brought down the frowns and disapprobation of the reverend
doctor; altogether, it did a deal of mischief in the camp.
The " Sisters of Mercy " with whom she was connected were
kept aloof from her contaminating influence, and soon after-
wards were altogether removed from the place. There was
one, however, a particularly hard-headed looking individual,
who used to stare at me through her round spectacles when-
ever I met her, as if I were an ogre. I heard that she was
a great mathematician. She looked like it ; and evidently
there was no fear entertained of her being converted. She
and one other were left behind ; but otherwise the house,


which had been built at great cost, was empty. The lady
was not allowed to speak to me any more ; but I hope she
continued to go to the true throne of grace, and not to the
crucifix — to a living, not a dead Christ.

All this, doubtless, was intended to sicken me of mj
reverence for the Catholic theory. I was evidently under
an infatuation on the subject, which, for the time, nothing
could dispel. I had some poetic or imaginary fancy of
spiritual catholicity before my mind, which I supposed was
something better than the fleshly spirituality of Methodism,
to which I had taken a great dislike ; but where to find this
Utopia, or how to embody it, I knew not. These specimens
of catholic people I certainly had no sympathy with ; nor
had I any patience with their hollow devotion and their
studied imitation of Popery. I plainly saw that light could
have no fellowship with darkness, or life with death. I was
more and more convinced that when a man has more
sympathy with dead Catholics than with living Dissenters,
he is not a living soul at all. There is no necessity to go to
one extreme or the other. I believe the reformed Church
of England (in her principles, at least) occupies the middle
path between these two extremes, with the excellences of
both, and the faults of neither. I think I was permitted to
be thus unsettled in my mind, because 1 did not keep to
my work with a single eye to God's glory.




WAS at this time invited to preach in a church in
Devonport, where it pleased the Lord to give
blessing to His word. With this exception, my
work was, generally speaking, confined to indi-
vidual cases. I will give an account of a few which present
the most instruction and interest.

The first I will mention is that of one of the curates of
the church in which I was asked to preach. At this time
he was preparing for confession, and his self-examination
had brought him to see and feel that he was a sinner.
Under this course of preparation, the preaching of the
Gospel had much effect upon him, and he came to tell me
of his state. I was able to show him from the Word of God
that he was in a worse condition than he supposed — that
actually, by nature, we are lost sinners now. Under the
operation of the Holy Spirit he was brought to feel this also,
end was very miserable.

One day, while officiating at a funeral, the Lord spoke
peace to his soul ; so great was his joy, that, he said, he


could scarcely refrain from shouting aloud in the middle of
the service. After it was over he went about everywhere,
telling of his conversion, and the Lord's dealings with his

The result of this was that his fellow-curate (who was
also preparing for confession) was awakened, and came to
me in great distress of mind, declaring he " could not say
he was converted," and that he was very unhappy. He
acknowledged that he should not like to die as he was, and
therefore knew he ought not to be satisfied to live in that
state. However, when I got to close dealing with him about
his soul, he said that though he could not say he was saved^
he certainly thought that he was being saved by continual
absolution and the sacrament. Upon this, I was enabled
to show him that he did not go to the means of grace, or
even to the Lord's table, because he was saved, but in order
to be saved ; and that he was working for life, and not from
life. He gave up disputing, and was not long before he too
found peace in believing.

The time was approaching for these two curates to go,
as usual, to confession. They came together to ask me
about it. I counselled them to go, by all means, to the
reverend doctor, who usually received their confession, and
to tell him in their own words how the Lord had convicted
and converted them. I said that Bilney, one of the first
martyrs of the Reformation, when he was converted, went
immediately to make confession to I-atimer, and by doing
so he became the means of his conversion. " Go, by all
means ; you do not know what use the Lord may make of
your testimony."

They went accordingly, but did not meet with the happy
success of Bilney, for they were sent indignantly away one
after the other for saying their sins were pardoned and their
souls saved, and that by direct and personal faith in Christ,


without the intervention of a priest. The reverend con-
fessor, unhke the honest Latimer, said these young men
had come to mock him.

Notwithstanding these instances of usefulness and en-
couragement, I continued to be very unhappy, for want of
more general work, and felt as if God had cast me off. I
can now see that this trying and perplexing dispensation
through which I was passing, was not altogether such a
barren desert as I felt it to be at the time. It was fraught
with many lessons, which have stood by me ever since,
though I must confess I never revert to this period without
many unhappy memories.

I will record one more lesson which I was taught in this
place, and then go on to other subjects.

One warm spring day, while I was sitting in my house
with the doors and windows open, a gentleman came running
into it in great haste, somewhat to my surprise, he being a
perfect stranger to me, and I to him. Standing in the
passage, and looking into the room where I was seated, he
said, " Sir, are you a clergyman ? "

I replied, "Yes, I am."

" For God's sake, come ; follow me ! "

So saying, he went away. I immediately took up my
hat, and ran after him down the side of the square, and
noticing the gate where he turned in, I walked leisurely to
the same place, and found him in the passage of his house
panting for breath. He had run so fast that he could not
speak, but made a sign to me to go upstairs ; then pointing
to a door, he bade me go in. On doing so, I saw at once it
was a sick-chamber, and found myself alone in the presence
of a lady, who was sitting up in the bed. I bowed to her,
and said, " Can I help you ? "

She said, " Oh, no ! it is too late ! "


" Too late for what ? "

" I am dying ; I am lost^I am lost ! It is too late —
too late ! "

" But Christ came, and is present, to save the lost."

'' Oh, yes ! I know all that. I taught it to others, but
I never believed it myself. And now it is too late : I am
lost ! "

*' Then believe it now ! Why not ' now ' ? "

" Because it is too late ! "

" While there is life there is hope ! Lose no more time.
* God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish ' "
(John iii. i6).

" That is not for me. I know that text very well, but it
will not do for me. I am lost! I am lost! It is too late !"

While I was speaking I saw her falling over the side of
the bed. Springing forward, I put out my arm, and, with
her head resting on it, and her despairing eyes looking into
my face, she expired. I could scarcely believe it, when I
saw that flush on her face fade away into the pallor of
death. She was gone ! I placed her poor head on the
pillow, and rang the bell for assistance. Her mother and
sister came in, saying, "" Is it not dreadful ? "

I said, " Look at her. She is gone. She said it was too
late, and that she was lost for ever."

" Oh," exclaimed the mother, " it is most dreadful ! —
most dreadful ! "

This poor young lady used to be a Sunday-school
teacher and district visitor ; but she was never converted,
and she knew it. She had full head-knowledge, but no
heart experience, and thus she died in unforgiven sins.
Lost — for ever lost !

Notwithstanding this, and other solemn lessons which
the Lord was teaching me at this time, I was still restless


and unhappy. I felt as if my life, with its work, was cut off
in the very beginning of its usefulness, and that there
was no more for me to do. As the weather became hot
with the advancing summer, I was more and more dejected
in mind and body. I lived now among strangers, and had
no settled occupation, nor could I apply myself to study.

One very hot and dusty afternoon, as I was slowly
toiling up a steep hill, two women overtook me ; and as they
were passing, I heard one say to the other, in a very sad
and disheartened tone, "I wish I had never been born;"
and the other responded much in the same spirit, though
I could not hear what she said. A fellow-feeling makes us
wondrous kind, and has the effect of drawing out our sym-
pathies. I followed these poor v/omen, and when we were
on the top of the hill, I spoke to them, and then added,
" You seem very weary. Will you come in and take a cup
of tea, and rest a little ? " They thanked me, and consented.
So I took them into the house, and asked for some tea.
While it was being prepared, I said to them, " I overheard
you talking on the road as you passed me. Do you really
wish you had never been born ? " The poor woman who
had uttered these words burst into tears ; and as soon as
she could command her feelings sufficiently, she told me
her sad tale of sorrow and trouble. She was a soldier's
wife, as was also the other, a-nd they were both in the same
distress. " Well," I said, " trouble does not spring out of
the ground ; and we may be equally sure that God, who
sends, or at least permits it, does so for our good. One
thing is certain, that if we humble ourselves under the
mighty hand of God, He can and will hft us up, for He has
promised to do so. He will make all things work together
for our good, if we trust Him. I then asked them if they
had given their hearts to God.

One of them said, " Ah, that is what I ought to have


done long ago ; I know a deal better than I do. I was
brought up well, no mistake ; but I was giddy, and went
after the red-coats, and married an ungodly man, and now
I am suffering for it."

" Dear woman," I said, " you may thank God for hedg-
ing up your path. He might have given you over to pros-
perity and a false happiness, or left you altogether. Thank
God that it is not worse with you ; and give Him your heart.
Do you believe that the Lord Jesus died for you ? " She
would not speak. Then I turned to the other, who was also
crying, and said, " Do you believe ? "

" I did once," she said, in a dejected tone ; " but I have
gone back from everything."

By this time their tea was ready, so I refreshed them
with it ; and after that we resumed our conversation and
united in prayer. They both gave their hearts to God. I
found that they lived not far off, so I had the opportunity of
seeing them from time to time, and was able to instruct
and cheer them on their way. I can see now how God was
speaking to me through these women ; but somehow I did
not hear or recognize His voice then.

About this time, my dear wife became very prostrate in
health and spirits — so much so, that we felt anxious about her.
I went to a famous physician, who was in the neighbour-
hood, and asked him to come and see her. He did so, and
after careful examination, said that there was really nothing
the matter more than that she was one of those persons
who could not live in that limestone town in the summer.
He said, " She will be perfectly well if you take her away
into the country. You must do this at once, for the longer
she remains here, the weaker she will be." He refused to
take any fee, and said he would send a carriage at two
o'clock, and that v/e must be ready to start by that time.
This was more easily said than done ; for where could I


take the children, or how could I leave them at home ?
However, as the doctor was very peremptory, we prayed
about it, and considered how we were to accomplish the

At this critical moment a friend arrived in his carriage,
and said he had driven in from the country to bring some
relatives of his to the train, and did not care to go back
alone. " Would one of us, or both, take pity on him, and
give him our company?" As soon as he heard of our
position he greatly rejoiced, and said, " Come, all of you ;
I have plenty of room ! " He took the invalid, with some
of the children. I shut up the house, and followed with
the others and the nurse, in the fly, which duly arrived at
two o'clock. By five o'clock we were all out in the green
fresh country, and our patient was already revived, and
walking about the garden.

There happened to be a farm-house vacant, which we
took, and removing some of the furniture, made it com-
fortable for the present. This we called "home" for a
little time during my unsettled state.



HEN my family were all comfortably settled and
surrounded by kind friends, I went off to the
north of England, on a visit to a clergyman, who
had invited me. He had already suffered for
doing this on a previous occasion, in the diocese of Oxford;
where the bishop took away his licence, because he had
me to preach for him. The real cause of offence was, that
there was a revival in the parish ; and complaint was made
to the bishop, that people were kept up till " all hours of
the night, howling and praying." His lordship sent forth-
with for my friend's licence ; I advised him to send it, say-
ing, " He will be sure to return it to you ; but perhaps
with a reprimand." Instead of this, the bishop kept it,
and said that he would countersign his testimonials to go
to another diocese. My friend was at first disgusted and
disposed to rebel ; but instead of this, he bore the treat-
ment patiently ; and went to another position and charge

at G , in the north of England.

Thither, nothing afraid, he invited me to come. In this
part of the country I found a hearty lively people, some-


thing like the Cornish. Here I soon regained my spirits,
and got to work in right earnest.

In this place a revival began at once ; and every day
we had people crying for mercy, very much in the way they
did in Cornwall. Among others, there came to the church
on Sunday afternoon, a tall Yorkshireman, in his working
clothes. He stood under the gallery, in his shirt sleeves,
with a clay pipe sticking out of his waistcoat pocket, and a
little cap on his head. I fancy I can see him now, stand-
ing erect, looking earnestly at me while I was preaching,
with his hand on one of the iron supports of the gallery.
As the sermon proceeded he became deeply interested, and
step by step drew nearer to the pulpit. He seemed to be
altogether unconscious that he was not dressed for a
Sunday congregation, or that he was the object of any
special notice. After the sermon, he knelt down in the
aisle, and there he remained. I was called out of the
vestry to go to him, but could not get him to say a word.
I prayed by his side, and after some time he groaned out
an " Amen," then he got up, and went towards the door.
I followed him, and saw that instead of going along the
path, he made across the graves in the churchyard, to a
particular one ; and then he threw himself on the ground,
in vehement and convulsive emotion. He said somethins:
about " Edward," but we could not distinguish what it was.
The sexton said, that this was his son Edward's grave. Poor
man ! he was in great sorrow ; but he kept it all to himself.
He then went home, and shut himself up in his own
room. His daughter could do nothing with him in his
distress. We called several times to see him in the course
of the evening, but in vain.

The next morning I called again, when his daughter
told me that he had gone out early, and had not returned
to breakfast. She appeared to be in a good deal of trouble,


and said she had been to his mine to inquire for him, but
that he was not there. All day long we searched for him.
Some looked in the woods, half-expecting they might find
his body on the ground, or hanging from a tree ; while
others inquired in every direction, with increasing anxiety,
till the evening. Then, as we were returning home in
despair and disappointment, whom should we see in the
green lane between the vicarage and the church, but our
friend. He was looking into the shrubs as if watching
something ; and when we came up to him, he turned to us
with a radiant smile, and said, "The Lord is 'gude.'"
I said, " You are right, He is so."

" Yes, I am right, all right ! thank God ! Think of that I
He saved me this day ! "

" Are you coming to church to-night ? "
" Oh yes, certainly I will be there."
^' But," I said, " have you been home yet?"
" Oh yes, sir, thank you ; my girl knows all about me."
That man was so manifestly changed, and so filled
with the Spirit, that his old worldly companions were afraid
of him. The publican of the inn he used to frequent, was
particularly so, and said he was frightened to be in the same
room with him.

There was a great stir among the people in this place ;
for the fear of the Lord had fallen on them, so that they
were solemnized exceedingly, and many were converted.

The vicar being somewhat timid, began to be afraid of
what was going on ; and wrote to ask counsel of a clerical

neighbour at C , who answered his letter by inviting him

to come over, and bring me with him. He said that he
wanted me to preach in his church on the following Friday
evening, adding, " I have already given notice, and also read
parts of your letter in church. I am sure the people will
come and hear this man ; I expect a large congregation.

''EVER! NEVER!'' 253

Be sure and bring him over ; do not disappoint me on any
account ! "

Accordingly, on the Friday we appeared there, and in
the evening I preached to a large and attentive assembly.
Many were awakened, and some remained behind to be
spoken with; others, who were too shy to do so, went
home; and we heard the next morning that several had
had no sleep or rest all night. Three men, whom we saw
in the morning, had found peace. After this, we drove

slowly back to G , but a messenger had arrived before

us, and said that I must come back again with him, for the
bills were already out that I would preach on Sunday and

following days at C . The vicar was most reluctant to

let me go, but under these circumstances, he at last con-
sented ; so I went back in the carriage the messenger had
brought for that purpose.

At the Sunday morning service, the manner and tone of
the people, and their eager attention, implied that some-
thing was going to happen. There was a deeply solemn
feeling in the church, both morning and evening, which
made it very easy to preach. In the course of my sermon,
I know not why, I was led to speak about the endless
misery of hell ; and some who were present said I asserted,
*' That there was a great clock in hell, with a large dial, but
no hands to mafk the progress of time : it had a pendulum
which swung sullenly and slowly from side to side, con-
tinually saying, ' Ever ! never ! ' 'Ever ! never ! ' " *

This seemed to make a profound sensation among the
people: many stayed to the after-meeting — they would not
go away until they had been spoken with. Among others, the
churchwarden came to me in a very excited state, and said.

* Both Bridaine and Krummacher have expressed somewhat the
same idea.


" What ever made you say, ' Now or never ! — now or
never ! ' ? " He was like one beside himself with emotion
when he thought of the pendulum which I had described.
" Now or never ! — now or never ! " he kept on repeating to
himself, till at last he went away. He was far too excited to
talk of anything else, or to listen either.

Later on in the evening, we were sent for to come in all
haste to his house. There we found him in great trouble
of mind, and afraid to go to bed. After talking to him for
a short time, he went on to say that he had a strange thing
to tell us — " that that very morning he was lying in bed (he
thought he was quite awake), and looking at a little picture
of the crucifixion which was hanging over the fireplace.
While doing so, he saw as plainly as possible some black
figures of imps and devils walking along the mantelpiece
with a ladder, which they placed against the wall, evidently
for the purpose of removing this picture from its place. He
watched them intently, and noticed that they seemed much
troubled and perplexed as to how they were to accomplish
their task. Some of the imps put their shoulders to the
under side of the frame, while others went up the ladder ;
one, in particular, mounted to the top with great dexterity,
to get the cord off the nail, but without success. Enraged
at this, they made various other attempts, but all in vain,
and at last gave up in despair, if not something worse ; for
by this time they appeared furious, and dashed the ladder
down to the ground, as if it were the fault of it, and not
of themselves. In rage and disappointment, they passed
off the scene.

Presently the bedroom door opened, as he thought, and
who should present himself but "Paul Pry" (that was the
name he had given to a Dissenting preacher in the village,
who was a portly man, and always went about with a thick
umbrella under his arm) — the veritable Paul Pry, umbrella


and all, standing at the door. He said to his visitor, "What
do you want here ? " The phantom pointed to the picture
over the mantelpiece, and said, in a quiet, confiding way,
" Now or never ! Do you hear, man ? Now or never ! "
The man was indignant at this untimely intrusion, and bade
his visitor begone ; but, for all that, he still stood at the
door, and said, " Now or never ! — now or never ! " He got
out of bed, and went towards the door, but the figure dis-
appeared, saying, " Now or never ! — now or never ! "

Then he got into bed again, and all was still for a little
while, when suddenly the door opened a second time, and
the vicar appeared, just as Paul Pry had done, and came
towards the bed, as if with a friendly and affectionate concern
for his welfare, and said, " My dear fellow, be persuaded
— it is ' now or never ! ' " Then, taking a seat at the corner
of the bed, with his back leaning against the post, he went
on talking, and saying, again and again, " Now or never ! "

The poor churchwarden remonstrated in vain against
being visited in this manner, and thought it very hard ; but

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 18 of 23)