W. (William) Haslam.

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

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to consider that private judgment on the subject of Scripture
statements was very presumptuous. I got, moreover, into a
legal state, and thought my acceptance with God depended
upon my works, and that His future favour would result
upon my faithfulness and attention to works of righteous-
ness which I was doing. This made me very diligent in
prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds ; and I often sat and dreamed
about the works of mercy and devotion which I would do
when I was permitted to go out again.

Like persons in this state of mind, I also relied on ordi-
nances, and was subject to them. I took it for granted
that I was a child of God, because I had been baptized and
brought into the Church ; and having been confirmed and
admitted to the Lord's Table, I concluded that I was safely
on the way to Heaven. I see now the error of this very
earnest devotion, and that I was going about to establish
my own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteous-
ness of God. I like to remember these days and tell of


them, not because I am proud of them — far otherwise ; but
because they show the kind forbearance and patience of God
towards me, and, besides this, they give me a clearer idea of
the state of very many earnest people I meet with, who enter
upon a religious path in much the same way.

Such persons make the two mistakes already referred to
They start with believing in their surrender of themselves,
instead of God's acceptance of it ; and secondly, they make
their continuance therein depend upon their repeated acts
of devotion. They live and walk by their own works, not
by faith in the finished work of Christ. What shall I say
to these things ? Shall I denounce them as delusions or
superstitious legality ? No. I would far rather that people
should be even thus religious than be without religious ob-
servances — far rather that they should be subject to the
Prayer-book teaching than be the sport of their own vain
imaginings. If men have not given their hearts to God and
received forgiveness of sins, it is better that they should
give themselves to a Church than yield themselves to the
world and its vanities.

If I had to go over the ground again under the same
circumstances, I do not think I could take a better path.
Church teaching by itself, with all its legalities, is superior
to a man's own inventions; and the form of godliness
required by it, even without spiritual power, is better than
no form or profession of religion.

To say the least. Church teaching, when it is correctly
followed, instructs the conscience, restrains and guides the
will, and imparts a practical morality which we do not find
in any other system. I have more hope of people who rest
in some distinctive and positive dogmas than of those who
merely deal with negations. The former may be reached
by spiritual teaching ; the latter are but shadowy adver-
saries with whom it is impossible to engage.


Therefore, when I see a man, for conscience towards
God, giving up the world, and taking up with reverential
worship, with even superstitious veneration for ecclesiastical
things, because they are so — when I see a man, who was
careless before, become conscientious and true in all his
outward dealings, very particular in his observance of private
and public prayer, exercising self-denial, living for others
rather than himself, bearing and forbearing in all quietness
and meekness — I cannot do otherwise than admire him.
This, surely, is far more lovely and admirable than the
opposite of these things.

Instead of joining in the outcry against such persons, I
feel rather in sympathy, and have a desire in my heart to win
them to still better things, and to show them '^ the way of
God more perfectly." I feel that they are stirred as I was,
and are struggling in self-righteousness, not because they
wilfully prefer it to God's righteousness, but because they
are yearning for true and spiritual reality. They are in a
transition state, and the more restless they are, the more
assured I am that they will never attain real rest and satis-
faction to their souls till they have found God, and are
found of Him in Christ Jesus.

But the question may be asked, " Is it possible for
unsaved people (spiritually dead) to be so good and reli-
gious? Is not such a state an indication of spiritual
vitality ? " I answer, without hesitation, that it is possible.
Religion by itself, irrespective of the subject-matter of a
creed, may have a quieting and controlling effect upon the
soul. The Hindoo, the Moslem, the Jew, the Romanist, as
well as the Protestant, may each and all be wonderfully
self-possessed, zealous, devout, or teachable, or even all
these together, and yet remain dead souls.

As a boy in India, I remember being greatly struck with
the calmness of the Hindoos, as contrasted with the im-


patience and angry spirit of the English. On one occasion
I observed one of the former at his devotions. He, with
others, had been carrying me about in a palankeen all day in
the hot sun. In the evening, he most reverently took from his
girdle a piece of mud of the sacred river Ganges, or Gunga,
as they call it, and dissolving this in water, he washed a
piece of ground, then, having washed his feet and hands,
he stepped on this sacred spot, and began to cook his food.
While it was preparing, he was bowed to the ground, with
his face between his knees, worshipping towards the setting
sun. A boy who was standing by me said, " If you touch
that man he will not eat his dinner." In a thoughtless
moment I did so with my hand, and immediately he rose
from his devotions ; but instead of threatening and swear-
ing at me, as some might have done who belong to another
religion, he only looked reproachfully, and said, "Ah,
Master William ! " and then emptying out the rice which
was on the fire, he began his ceremony all over again. It
was quite dark before he had finished his " poojah," or wor-
ship, and his meal. This man's religious self-possession
made a greater impression on me than if he had abused or
even struck me, for hindering his dinner. I thought to
myself, " I will be a Hindoo when I grow up ! " And truly
I kept my word, though not in the same form ; for what
else was I in my earnest, religious days !

This is an important question to settle, and, therefore, I
will give three examples from Scripture.

No one can doubt the zeal of Saul of Tarsus. His
was no easy-going, charitable creed, which supposes all good
men are right. He was sure that if he was right, as a
natural consequence Stephen was wrong, even blasphemous,
and as such worthy of death. Therefore, he had no
scruples about instigating the death of such an one. Not-


withstanding all this uncompromising and straightforward
religiousness, he needed to be brought from death to life.

Again : look at Cornelius, who was " a devout man that
feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the
people, and prayed to God alway" (Acts x. 2). There can
be no mistake about this man with such a testimony ; and
yet he also needed to hear words whereby he and all his
house should be saved (Acts xi. 14).

Next : Nicodemus, I suppose it will be admitted, was an
earnest and religious man. Evidently, he was one of those
who "believed in the name of Jesus, because he saw the
miracles w^hich He did" (John ii. 23). This man, humble
and teachable as he was, came to Jesus, and said, " Rabbi»
we know that Thou art a teacher come from God, for no
man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be
with him." Yet he was told, " Except a man be born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God." " Marvel not that I
said unto thee, Ye must be born again " (John iii.). As
surely as all mankind are dead in Adam, so surely every
man needs spiritual life. In this respect it was no new
thing which the Lord Jesus propounded to Nicodemus.
The spiritual change of heart He referred to has always
been the one condition of intercourse with God. All God's
saints, even in the Old Testament times, had experienced
this. Hence the Lord's exclamation, *' Art thou a master
of Israel, and knowxst not these things?"

It may be urged that these three men were not in the
Christian dispensation. Let this be granted ; but the point
at hand is that they needed spiritual life, though they were
such good religious men. It will not be very hard to prove
that even baptized men in the Christian dispensation need
to be raised from death unto life just as much as any other

WINTER OF 1 841. 15

children of Adam. It is clear, both from Scripture and
experience, that baptism, whatever else it imparts, does not
give spiritual vitality.

St. Peter's testimony is this, "Of a truth I perceive that
God is no respecter of persons ; but in every nation he
that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with
Him" (Acts X. 34, 35). Accepted to be saved, not because
there is any merit in his works, but because God sees that
there is real sincerity in his living up to the light he has.
The heathen who know there is a God, and do not worship
Him as God, are given over to idolatry (Rom. i.) ; but, on
the other hand, those who do worship Him, and give Him
thanks, are taken in hand to be guided into life and truth.
Therefore are we justified in hoping that earnest and reli-
gious men, though they be dead, if their religion is really
towards God, will be brought to spiritual life.

It was a happy winter to me, however, notwithstanding my
spiritual deficiencies ; and the recollection of it still abides
in my memory. I had now no desire for the world and its
pleasures. My mind had quite gone from such empty
amusements and frivolities ; even the taste I used to have
for these things was completely taken away.

I was happier now than ever I had been before, so that
I am convinced from personal experience that even a reli-
gious life may be one of joy, though by no means so satisfy-
ing and abiding as a truly spiritual one. I was happy, as I
have already said, and longed for the time when I could
be ordained, and devote my energies to work for God in
the ministry.




[N the returning spring, as I was feeling so much
stronger, and altogether better, I thought I would
go and see the physician who had sounded me
some months before. He, after a careful exami-
nation, still adhered to his previous opinion, and gave very
little hope of my recovery, but suggested that if I went to the
north coast of Cornwall there might be a chance for me.

On my return home, I took up an " Ecclesiastical
Gazette," though it was three months old, and looked over
the advertisements. There I observed one which invited a
curate for a church in that very neighbourhood. It was a
sole charge ; but, strange to say, a title for holy orders was
offered also. In reply to this I wrote a letter, asking for
particulars, in which I stated my Church views, and that I
was ordered to that part of the country for the benefit of
my health.

The Vicar, who resided in another parish, thirty miles
off, was so eager to get help for this one, that he wrote back
to say he had sent my letter to the Bishop, with one from
himself, and that I should hear from his lordship in a few


I was surprised at this precipitation of affairs, and all
the more so when I received a note from the Bishop of
Exeter (Phillpotts), bidding me come to him immediately,
that I might be in time for the Lent ordination.

Accordingly, I started westward, and having passed my
examination, I was sent with letters dimissory to the Bishop
of Salisbury (Denison), to whom I was also sent, a year
afterwards, for priest's orders. I was very weak, and much
exhausted with travelling, but still went on, though I know
not how.

The long-desired day at length arrived, and I was duly
ordained ; but instead of being full of joy, I became much
depressed in mind and body, and could not rouse myself
from dwelling upon the Bishop's address, which was very
solemn. He told us that we were going to take charge of
the souls of our parishioners, and that God would require
them at our hands ; we must take heed how we tended the
Lord's flock. Altogether, it was more than I had calcu-
lated upon ; and feeling very ill that afternoon, I thought
that I had undertaken a burden which would certainly be
my ruin. " What could I do with souls ? " My idea of
ordination was to be a clergyman, read the prayers, preach
sermons, and do all I could to bring people to church ; but
how could I answer for souls which had to live for ever ?
and what was I to do with them ?

In the evening, I so far roused myself as to go amongst
the other candidates, to sound them, and ascertain what
were their feelings with regard to the Bishop's solemn
address ! They merely thought that it was very beautiful,
and that he was a holy man ; and then some of them pro-
posed that we should all go in a riding party, to see Stone-
henge, the next day. It was especially thought that a drive
on the Wiltshire plains would do m.e a great deal of good,
if I did not feel strong enough to ride on horseback. I


agreed to this, and went with them to see this famous
temple of Druidical worship; and after that set off for
Plymouth, on my way to the far west. But, alas ! the
charm of ordination had fled, and I was more than half
sorry that I had undertaken so much. It had been done
so precipitately too, for even now it was only ten days
since I had seen the physician.

After resting a day, I proceeded to Truro, and then
took a post-chaise and drove out to my first parish, called
Perranzabuloe, which was situated about eight miles from
Truro, on the north coast of Cornwall. I alighted at an
old manor house, where I was to have apartments with
a farmer and his family. Being much fatigued, I soon
retired to bed, anything but happy, or pleased with the
bleak and rough-looking , place to which I had come.

I slept well however, and the next morning felt con-
siderably better, and was revived in spirits. After making
many inquiries about things in general, I obtained the keys,
and made my way to the parish church, which was about
ten minutes' walk from the house. Here, again, I was
greatly grieved and disappointed to see such a neglected
churchyard and dilapidated church ; and when I went in-
side, my heart sank, for I had never seen a place of worship
in such a miserable condition. Moreover, I was told that
the parish was seven miles long, and that its large popula-
tion of three thousand souls was scattered on all sides,
excepting round the church.

I had kft my friends a long way off, and was alone in a
strange place, with an amount of work and responsibility
for which I knew I was thoroughly unprepared and unfit.
However, I sauntered back to my lodgings, and began to
ruminate as to what was to be done.

I had now sole charge of this extensive parish, for the
uties of which I was to receive the very moderate stipend


of forty pounds a year ; but of this I did not complain, for
my board and lodging, with washing, and the keep of a
horse included, was only twelve shillings a week, leaving me
a margin of nearly ten pounds for my personal expenses.
. The questions that troubled me were — what was I to do with
three thousand people ? and how was I to reach them ?

In due course Sunday morning arrived, and with the
help of a neighbouring clergyman, who kindly came over,
as he said, " to put me in the way," I got through the
service (being the only one for the day at that time), having
about a score of listless people, lounging in different parts
of the church, for a congregation. This was my first Sunday
in my first parish.

Just at this time a book was sent me by a kind friend,
entitled " The Bishopric of Souls," which terrified me even
more than the Bishop's charge had done ; for I felt that,
notwithstanding my ardent desire to serve and glorify God,
I had not the remotest conception how to do it, as regards
winning souls. The author of this book took it for granted
that every one who had the office of a pastor, had also the
spiritual qualification for it ; but experience proves that this
is by no means the case. My ordination gave me an eccle-
siastical position in the parish ; the law maintained me in it ;
and the people expected me to do the duties of it : but how
to carry all this out, except in a dry and formal way, I did
not know.

As time went on, my parochial duties increased. I had
to baptize the children, marry the young, visit the sick, and
bury the dead ; but I could not help feeling how different
was this in action, to what it was in theory. I had had a
kind of dreamland parish in my head, with daily service,
beautiful music, and an assembly of worshipping people ;
but instead of this, I found a small, unsympathizing con-
gregation, who merely looked upon these sacred things as


duties to be done, and upon me as the proper person to do
them. When I went to visit the sick I had nothing to say
to them ; so I read a few Collects, and sometimes gave them
a little temporal relief, for which they thanked me ; but I
came out dissatisfied with myself, and longed for something
more, though I did not know what.

Notwithstanding all these trials and disappointments, my
health was gradually improving. I found that the air of this
place was like meat and drink, and gave me an appetite for
something more substantial. I very often frequented the
beach, with its beautiful cliffs, and was much exhilarated by
the bracing sea air ; indeed, I had, and still retain, quite a
love for the place. As my strength and energ>' increased, I
rode about the parish all day, making the acquaintance of
the people, and inviting them to come to church.

During my visits, I found out that the churchwarden was
a good musician, and that he knew others in the parish who
were able to play on various instruments ; so in order to
improve the services, and make them more attractive, I
urged him to invite these musical people to his house to
practise ; and in due course we had a clarionet, two fiddles,
and his bass viol, with a few singers to form a choir. We
tried over some metrical psalms (for there were no hymn-
books in those days), and soon succeeded in learning them.
This musical performance drew many people to chuich.
The singers were undeniably the great attraction, and
they knew it ; consequently I was somewhat in their power,
and had to submit to various anthems and pieces, such as
"Vital Spark," ''Angels Ever Bright and Fair," and others,
not altogether to my taste, but which they evidently per-
formed to their own praise and satisfaction.

Finding that the people were beginning to frequent the
church, I thought it was time to consider what steps should
be taken about its restoration, and made it the subject of


conversation with the farmers. It awakened and alarmed
many of them when I said that the church must be restored,
and that we must have a church rate. The chief farmer
shook his head, saying, "You cannot carry that;" but I
repHed, " According to law, you are bound to keep up the
fabric, and it ought to be done. I will write to the Vicar at
once about it." He was a non-resident pluralist.

The farmer smiled at that, and said, laughing, " I will
pledge myself that we will do as much as he does." It so
happened that the Vicar, equally incredulous about the
farmers doing anything, promised that he would do one half,
if they would do the other.

Having ascertained this to my satisfaction, I immediately
sent for the mason of the village^ who played the clarionet
in the church, also his son, who was ''one of the fiddles,"
and consulted with them as to how this matter was to be
accomplished. They, being in want of work at the time,
readily advised me in favour of restoration. The church-
warden (the " bass viol ") said " that he had no objection
to this proceeding, but that he would not be responsible.
In two months," he added, "would be the annual vestry
meeting." "That will do," I said, interrupting him ; and I
made up my mind that I would at once restore the churchy
and let the parishioners come and see it at that time.

Having made all necessary preparations, we commenced
one fine Monday morning with repairing the roof and walls ;
and while the men were employed outside, we took out the
windows and opened all the doors, to let the wind blow
through, that the interior of the building might be tho-
roughly dried. This done, we next coloured the walls, also
the stone arches and pillars (they were far too much broken
to display them) ; and having cleaned the seats and front
of the gallery, we stained and varnished them, matted the
floor, carpeted the sacrarium, and procured a new cloth for


the Communion Table, and also for the pulpit and reading-

All this being completed, I painted texts with my own
hands on the walls, in old English characters. I had great
joy in writing these, for I felt as if it was to the Lord Him-
self, and for His name, and finished with Nehemiah's prayer,
" Remember me, O my God, concerning this ; and wipe not
out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my
God, and for the offices thereof" (Neh. xiii. 14).

Altogether, it was a pretty church now, and a pretty
sum was to be paid for it. I told the vestry that I alone
was responsible, but that the Vicar had promised to pay one
half if the vestry would pay the other. It seemed to be
such a joy to them to get anything out of him, that they
made a rate at once ; and upon the Vicar's letter, raised the
money and paid off the debt.

The people were much pleased with their church in its
new aspect, and brought their friends and neighbours to see
it. Besides this, I observed something which gratified me
very much. It was that when they entered the church they
did so with reverence, taking off their hats and walking
softly, in place of stamping with their heels and coming in
with their hats on, as they too often had previously done,
without any respect or concern whatever. A neglected
place of worship does not command reverence.

My church now began to be the talk of the neighbour-
hood. Numbers of people came to see it, and among them
several clergymen, who asked me to come and restore their

There were many places where the people could not
afford to rebuild the structure. In such, I was invited to
exercise my skill in repairing, as I had done with my own ;
in others, I was asked to give designs for restoring portions
of the edifice ; and in some, for rebuilding altogether.


In this district, schools were not bu'lt nor parsonage-houses
enlarged without sending for me.

For several years I was looked upon as an authority in
architectural matters. I rode about all over the county
from north to west, restoring churches and designing schools,
and was accounted the busiest man alive ; and my horse, my
dog, and myself, the " three leanest things in creation," we
were to be seen flying along the roads, day and night, in one
part or another.

The Bishop of Exeter, who at that time presided over
Cornwall, appointed me to make new " Peel " districts,* I
designed nineteen, and made all the maps myself, calling on
the Vicars and Rectors for their approbation. I was at this
time a very popular man, and it was said that " the Bishop's
best Uving " would be given to me in due time.

* The "Peel " districts were the new ecclesiastical districts created
under the Church Extension Act, introduced by Sir Robert Peel.



Antiquarian Iterarrlj^s antr JJlinistrg*


N OTHER thing which raised my name in and
beyond the county was the " Lost Church " at
Perranzabuloe. There was an old British church
existing in some sand-hills in the parish, and it
was said to be entire as far as the four walls. The hill
under which it was buried was easily known by the bones
and teeth which covered it The legend said that the patron
saint, St. Piran, was buried under the altar, and that close
by the little church was a cell in which he lived and died.
This was enough. I got men, and set to work to dig it up.
After some days' labour we came to the floor, where we dis-
covered the stone seats, and on the plaster on the wall the
greasy marks of the heads and shoulders of persons who
had sat there many centuries ago. We found the chancel

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 2 of 23)