W. (William) Haslam.

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

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the vicar sat there, and persistently said, "Now or never !"
He became very angry, and bade him go out of the room
immediately ; but the vicar said, " Now or never ! "

"I will * now 'you," he said, "if you do not be off;"
and so saying he rose up in his bed ; while the vicar glided
to the door, repeating, " Now or never ! " and went away.
The poor man, in great distress of mind, turned to his wife,
and asked her what could be the meaning of all this ; but
she only cried, and said nothing.

Then, who should come next but Mr. F , a quiet

man of few words. He had thoughts, no doubt, but kept
them all to himself He came gliding into the room, as the
vicar had done, sat on the same corner of the bed, leant
against the same post, and in the quietest way possible
repeated the same words, "Now or never !"


*' Do you hear him?" said the poor distracted man to his
wife — " do you hear him ? "

" Hear him ? Hear what ? No ! nonsense ! What
does he say ? "

" My dear, there ! Usten ! "

" Now or never ! " said the quiet man.

" There, did you not hear that ? "

" No," she said, *' I can hear nothing," and began to cry
more copiously.

He got up, and said he would take the poker and punish
every one of them — that he would. The strange visitor
made for the door, and, like all the rest, said, as he dis-
appeared, " Now or never ! "

The poor churchwarden continued in a most distracted
state, and during the day met all his three visitors who had
caused him so much anxiety — " Paul Pry," the vicar^ and
the quiet gentleman, none of whom looked at him or spoke
to him as if anything had happened ; but when he heard
me say over and over again in the pulpit, " Now or never !"
pointing, as it were, to the ghostly pendulum swinging there
saying, "Ever ! — never ! " and inquiring of the people, " Do
you see it ? do you hear it ? " it seemed to bring matters to
a climax. He said he turned and looked at the wall to
which I pointed, and almost expected to see that solemn

I did not wait to hear more, but kneeling down, I
begged him to close with the offer of salvation " now.'*
" No," he said, with a sigh, " I am afraid I have refused too

" Don't say so! take it at once, *now;' or perhaps it will
be * never' with you." A man does not often get such a
plain warning as you have had. You had better take care
what you are doing. * Now ! ' why not * now ' ? " He did
accept salvation, and yielding himself to God, received


forgiveness of his sins; and after that became a very
different man.

He had, as may have been suspected from the above
narrative, the besetment of drink, before his conversion,
and it remained a trouble to him after. Conversion and
forgiveness of sins do not put away present bad habits.
Such a master habit as this requires a direct deaUng with.

Zaccheus was a man who had been led astray by the
love of money ; when he was saved, he put his idol away
from him at a stroke. This is the first thing to be done ;
and if it is done in the power of one's first love, it is a more
easy task than afterwards. But it must be done with a firm
and whole heart ; not " Lord, shall I give the half of my goods
to feed the poor ?" but, " Lord, behold, the half of my goods
I do give.'''' " Behold, Lord, I do give up the world, here,
now." " Behold, Lord, I do here, and now, give up drink,
and will totally abstain from it henceforth." This is the
first step ; and the next is not less important, and that is to
carry out the determination in the Lord's power, and not in
our own. The resolution and determination once made,
must be given over to the Lord to be kept by Him ; not
by our own effort and energy, but with perfect distrust of
self and in dependence upon Him to enable us to keep it.
Without this, there is no security whatever for anything
more than temporary success, too often succeeded by a
sorrowful fall. The flesh is too strong for us, and even if it
were not so, the devil is ; these two together, besides the lax
example of the world, are sure to overpower the weak one.
Young Christians need to put away at once the sin, what-
ever it is, that " so easily besets " them, or they will be
entangled by it. There is no real and thorough deliverance,
except by renouncing sin, and self too, giving up and yield-
ing to the Lord.

That soul was saved ; but it was a miserable bondage of


fear in which he lived and died. He was brought home at
last, like a wrecked ship into harbour, who might have
come in with a good freight, a happy welcome, and an
" abundant entrance."

The next day, Monday, we heard of other cases which
were ordinary in their character, and therefore need not be
detailed ; but in the evening there was one which it will be
instructive to mention.

It was that of a clergyman of private means, who came
to this parish as a curate ; but he had given up " taking
duty," because, he said, "it was all humbug reading prayers,
and all that." He drove a tandem, and smoked all day
instead; nevertheless, he was the object of much and
earnest prayer. He also happened to be at church the day
I preached about the clock; and declared likewise that
I said there was a clock in hell. The sermon had evidently
made a great impression upon him. He came to church
again the next day, and heard something else that he was
unable to forget. After the service, as soon as I was free, he
asked me to walk with him, to which I assented, though I
was feeling very tired. We rambled on the beach, and
falked about many things. I tried in vain to bring up the
subject of my discourse. When I spoke about it, he was
silent ; and when I was silent, he went off into other matters.
He talked about Jerusalem and the sands of the desert,
and the partridges, which, he said, were of the same colour
as the sand. Was it from looking at sand always that they
became that colour? Do people become alike who look
much at one another ? Is that why husbands and wives
so often resemble each other ? and so on. These questions
made an impression on me, so that they always come up to
my memory in connection with that evening's walk. Cer-
tainly, the apostle says that, " Beholding the glory of the Lord,

'^ HOW CAN I BE SAVED?'' 259

we are changed into the same image from glory to glory ;"
therefore there may be something in my companion's idea.
But, however interesting the subject might be to consider, I
was far too tired for anything else but real soul-to-soul work,
and therefore proposed that we should return home. We
did so ; and when my friend left me at the vicarage door,
he said abruptly, " Will you let me write to you ? "

*' Certainly," I replied.

" I will write to-night ; but do not trouble to answer in
person ; send me a written reply,"

I said I would. In a few minutes after I received a
short note, the purport of which was, " How can I be
saved?" It is a very simple question, yet one not so easily
answered to a person who already knew the scriptural
answer. However, I had a letter by me which Mr. Aitken
had written to some one under similar circumstances ; so,
taking that for a model, I wrote according to promise,
adapting and altering sentences to meet the present case.
I sent the note, with a message that I would call in the
morning. I did so, but found my friend was not at home.

The laadlady said, " Mr. F went out last night soon

after he received a letter, and has not been home since."
She became alarmed when she heard that we had not seen
him. We too were taken by surprise, and did not know
which way to go in search of him, or what to do. Presently
we met the clerk of the church, who inquired if we had seen

anything of Mr. F ; he had called the night before for

the keys of the church, and had not returned them ; so he
(the clerk) could not get into the church to ring the bell or
admit the congregation.

This threw some light on the matter ; so we went imme-
diately to the church, and with the vicar's keys entered by
the vestry door. Looking about in all directions, we found
our friend on his knees in the nave, where he had been all


night. I went up to him, and, as he did not speak, I asked
if I might pray with him.

He said, *'Yes."

" What shall I pray for ? "

"I don't know."

*' Shall I ask the Lord to come down from heaven again
and die on the cross for you ? "

" No."

" Do you believe that He has done that ? "

"Yes, I do."

"You do believe that He has died iox you — iox youV^
I inquired, laying the emphasis on you — " for you, as if you
were the only person for whom He died ? "

" Yes; I believe He died for me."

" Do you thank Him for it ? "

" No, I do not ; I do not feel anything."

" That may be ; but do you not think you ought to
thank Him for what He did for you ? "

He did not reply.

" How can you feel anything till you have it ? or how
can He give you any feelings till you thank Him for what
He has already done for you ? Make some acknowledg-

" Thank you," he replied ; and without another word
he rose from his knees and went away.

The bell was rung, the people assembled, and we had
the service ; but he did not remain.

Again he disappeared for the whole day, until the even-
ing, when he came into the vestry, and said, " Will you let
me read prayers this evening ? " To this the vicar gladly
assented ; so he put on the surplice for the first time after
several months, and went into church with us.

The fact of his reading prayers again, and more espe-
cially the manner in which he did it, attracted attention.


The earnest tone and meaning he threw into the words of
the prayers, and more particularly into the psalm, pene-
trated much deeper. One lady knelt down and began to
pray for herself in the pew ; others were riveted as by the
power of the Spirit. All through the sermon, I felt that
the Lord was working among the people, and at the close
they were loth to go. Many more remained in the after-
meeting than we could speak to ; manifest was the power of
the Spirit, and much good was done.

There was great joy in the little village that night, and
for several days following the Lord wrought among the
people. Many lasting mementos remain of this week's
ministry, and of the weeks which followed.

Our reticent friend was changed indeed, and imme-
diately gave up the tandem and the pipes. I do not think
he has ever smoked since ; he has had something better
to do.

Smoking is an idle custom, and too often enslaves its
votaries; and even if it does not become a dominant habit,
it certainly teaches no lesson of self-denial. A Christian
man needs not to seek relief in any such way. It is said to
be very soothing when a man is in any trouble or anxiety ;
if so, in this respect it may be said to be next door to the
beer-barrel, or to the use of spirits. If one man may soothe
his feelings with this narcotic, another may stimulate them,
when he is low and cheerless, with alcohol. The Apostle
James says, " Is any merry, let him sing psalms," He does
not say. Is any afflicted or low, let him smoke and drink !
No; "let him pray," and depend upon God. Many a les-
son which might be learned from God on our knees, is let
slip altogether because we think there is no harm in reliev-
ing ourselves by self-indulgence. The flesh is a monster
which is never appeased, much less subdued, by gratifica-


Our friend put away the smoking, and sold his pipes
of various kinds, which must have cost a considerable
sum, for he realized eighty pounds by them. With this
amount, and some addition, he was able to put stained
glass windows into the already beautiful church in which he
received his blessing. This suitable thank-offering was a
lasting memorial of his gratitude, besides being an example
to others, not only to give their hearts to God, but also to
give up their besetments, whatever they might be, and in
doing so be free for God's service.

This young man soon after was removed to a more
arduous sphere, and carried great blessing thither ; as he
did also when he went from thence to a yet more influential
and important place. Though now laid aside by ill health,
he sends tracts and writes letters to many, and so continues
to be, in the hand of the Lord, the means of winning souls ;
and in addition to this, sets an example of a holy and godly

Another little incident I must notice here. While I was
still working in this place, I received a letter from home,
teUing me that they were all well, and very happy in the
country, but that they wanted me back again, and thought
I had been away quite long enough. Besides this, it was
time to be getting summer things, for which they would
want at least ten pounds. I had no money to send ; and
though I might have asked many kind friends, I felt a
difficulty about it. I do not think it was pride. I had put
myself and all my affairs into God's hands ; and though I
was not ashamed to tell our circumstances to any one who
asked me, I made it a rule not to mention my troubles or
wants to any but the Lord. I read the cheerful parts of my
letter at breakfast, and kept the other till I went upstairs.
There, I spread the letter on the bed at which I knelt, and
read to the Lord the part that troubled me. I was praying


about it, when there came a knock at the door, and before

I had time to say " Come in," my friend F entered.

Seeing me on my knees, he apologized for intruding, and
in his shy way put a ten-pound note into my hand, saying,
" I am ashamed it is not more ; but will you accept that ? "
With this, he made for the door; but I detained him, in
order to show him the part of my letter I had not read in
the morning. I said, "I was just reading it to the Lord; and
look, while I was still on my knees. He has sent you with
the answer. It is the exact sum I want, so do not apologize
for it. I thank God and thank you. I will send this off at




T was time now to be returning southward and
homeward ; which I did by several stages, stop-
ping to preach in various places on the way. At
length, I reached the village in Cornwall, where
my family were lodging in the farmhouse I have already

Here, the two clergymen were rather afraid of me, and
avoided asking me to preach in the church. They had
both been converted (or, at least, so they said) more than a
year; but instead of working for God, they were bent on
Romanizing. One of them said that there was no salvation
in the Church of England ; and the other showed me a
sealed letter he had in his desk, which, he said, he " dared
not open." It was from a brother of his, who went to
Rome, and contained his reasons for so doing. "Ah," he
said, " if I open that letter, I feel sure that I shall have to
go too." This fascinating dread was upon him till he really
did go, six months afterwards. I tried to deter these men
from the erroneous step they were contemplating, by getting
them into active work for the Lord. Sometimes I preached


in this church, but more often in the open air. I am sorry
to say my friends were but half-hearted in their co-operation,
so that after a few weeks I left, and went to the west.

On my way thither, a clergyman, who happened to be
inside the coach, gave me his card, and then came outside
for the purpose of talking with me. He asked me if I would
take charge of his church and parish for six weeks. I said
I would, but could not do so for a week or two. We agreed
as to time, and on the promised Saturday I arrived at the

I walked there from a neighbouring town, having several
calls to make on the way, and^' left my luggage to follow by
the van. In the evening, about eight o'clock, I went down to
meet this conveyance, and tell the man where to deliver me
bag. I found a crowd of people in front of the inn where
the van stopped, and heard the driver say, in reply to some
question, " I've not got him, but I've got his bag." "Where
is he ? " said a voice. " I don't know," one said, " but

I saw a queer little chap go into Mrs. M 's house."

*' That's the place," said the driver; "that's where I'm
a-going to take his bag. Come on, and let's see if he'll
have it."

I went in and out among the crowd, as it was dark,
asking questions, and found out that they " would like to
duck the fellow if they could catch him ; " they " did not
want any such Revivalist chap as that amongst them," and
so forth. They were greatly excited, and wondered which
road he was likely to come, for they would go to meet him.
Some one asked, " What is he like ? " One answered, "Oh,
he is a rum-looking little fellow that stoops. I should know
him again anywhere." Hearing this, I held up my head
like a soldier, in order to look as large as possible, and
waited about till they dispersed.

Then I joined a young man, and, talking with him,


ascertained what it was all about. I passed the house where
I was to lodge, for I saw that the people were watching the
door. I came back among them, and, pointing to the door,
said, " Is that where he stops ? "

" Yes," one replied, " he is there. The man brought
his bag and left it ; he is there, sure enough."

I said, " Let us go in and see him ; come along —
come ! "

So saying, I made for the door and knocked, beckoning
to the others to follow me ; but they would not do so. As
soon as the door was opened I went in, and the landlady
speedily closed it after me, saying, " I am glad you are
come. How did you manage to get here? I have sent
word to the constable to look out for you, and he is still
watching somewhere."

"Why," I asked, "what is it all about? What is the

" Why, some of the lads here say, that if they could
catch you, they would give you a good ducking in the

"Indeed!" I said. "Then I don't think I will give
them that pleasure to-night." So, sitting down by the fire,
I made myself comfortable, and after supper went to bed.

In the morning, while at breakfast, I saw a number of
men playing in the open space in fiont of the house.
Some were tossing pence, some playing at ball and other
games, while many were standing about smoking, with
their hands in their pockets.

" There, that's the way they spend their Sundays in this
place," said the landlady.

After watching them from the window for a little time, I
put on my hat and went out, and told them " it was time
to go home and get ready for church ; that would be far
better," I said, " than playing like this on Sunday. It is a


disgrace to men like you— married men, too, with families !
It would be bad enough if you were a parcel of boys. I am
quite ashamed of you ! "

They slunk away one by one, and I walked down the
street to look about me, and to see the schoolroom, where
there was no school; but I intended to have a prayer-
meeting there in the evening, after the service. I put up a
notice to this effect, and then came back to my lodgings, till
it was near church-time, when I set out, arrayed in my
gown and bands, for the sacred edifice.

On the way there I observed stones flying past me in
every direction ; but I walked on, till at last I was struck on
the cheek with a patch of muddy clay which was thrown at
me. There was an universal shout of laughter when the
men and boys saw that I had been hit. I put my hand to
the place, and found that the pat of clay was sticking to my
cheek, so I pressed it there, hoping, by the help of my whis-
kers, that it would remain. I said to the crowd, who were
laughing at me, " That was not a bad shot. Now, if you
come to church you shall see it there ; I will keep it on as
long as I can." So saying, I walked on amidst the jeers of
the people.

When I arrived at the vestry, the clerk was in great
trouble when he knew what had happened. He said, " Do
let me wash the mud off, sir."

" Oh, no," I replied, " I mean to show that all day, if I

During the morning service, at which there were about
fifty people present, I succeeded in keeping on my mud-
patch, and returned to dinner with the same.

In the afternoon I said that I would have a service for
children, as there was no Sunday school, to which about
twenty came. Before addressing them, seeing that they
were intently looking at the patch on my cheek, I told them


how it came there, and that I intended to keep it on all
through the evening service.

This news spread over the whole place, and the con-
sequence was that such numbers of people came out of
curiosity, that the church was filled to overflowing. I
preached without any reference to what had taken place,
and succeeded in gaining the attention of the people ; so
that after the service I said I would have a prayer-meeting
in the schoolroom. We had the place crammed, and not a
few found peace. I announced that I would preach again
the next evening.

A revival soon broke out in that place, and the crowds
who came to the meetings were so great, that we had as many
people outside the large schoolroom as there were in.

At the end of the six weeks the new vicar returned, and
I was able to hand over the parish to him, with a full
church, three Bible-classes, and a large Sunday-school.
This I did, thanking God for the measure of success and
blessing He had given to my efforts in that populous and
wicked place.

After I had left I received a letter from some of the
parishioners, asking me what I should like to have as a testi-
monial of their gratitude and regard ; that they had had a
penny .collection amongst themselves, which amounted to
several pounds, and now they were waiting to know what I
should like !

I wrote to tell them that nothing would please me better
than a service of plate for communion with the sick. They
bought this, and had a suitable inscription engraved, and
then placed it under a glass shade in the Town Hall, on a
certain day for inspection. Hundreds of people came to
see the result of their penny contribution. After this public
exhibition, the communion service was sent to me with a
letter, written by a leading man in the place, saying, " I was


one of the instigators of the opposition to your work here ;
but the very first evening you spoke in the schoolroom
I was outside listening, and was shot through the window.
The word hit my heart like a hammer, without breaking a
pane of glass. Scores and scores of people will bless God
to all eternity that you ever came amongst us."

The revival in this proverbially wicked place, created
such a stir that the newspapers took it up, and thought for
once that I "was in the right place, and doing a good
work ! " The member for the borough sent me twenty-five
pounds^ " begging my acceptance of the trifle." Who
asked him, or why he sent it, I do not know ; but the Lord
knew that we needed help. More than this, the vicar of
the adjoining parish, who used to be very friendly with me
in my unconverted days, but who had declared his oppo-
sition pretty freely since that time, sent me a letter one
Sunday morning by private hand, to be delivered to me
personally. This I duly received ; but expecting that it was
one of his usual letters, and also knowing that I had visited
some persons in his parish who were anxious, I thought I
would not open it till Monday, and so placed ;t on the
mantel-piece. A friend who happened to come in, noticing
it there, said, "I see you have a letter from the Prebendary \
I dare say he is angry with you."

" I suppose he is," I said ; " but it will keep till to-
morrow ; and I do not care to be troubled with his thoughts

" Oh, do let me open it," said my visitor ; " I shall not
be here to-morrow, and I should so like to hear what he
has to say."

With my consent he opened it and read, •'' Dear old
Haslam, you have done more good in that part of my parish
where you are working, in a few weeks, than I have done
for years. I enclose you a cheque for the amount of tithes


coming from there. The Lord bless you more and more I
Pray for me I "

It was a cheque for thirty-seven pounds. The next
morning I went over to see my old friend newly-found, and
to thank him in person for his generous gift. Poor man, I
found him very low and depressed, and quite ready and
willing that I should talk and pray with him. I sincerely
hope that he became changed before I left the neighbour-

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 19 of 23)