W. (William) Haslam.

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

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continually ever since his birth. She said, when he was a
very little child, she heard him one night sobbing and
praying in his room — " O Lord, save me up for a good
boy ! " She thought this was in answer to her supplication ;


but as he grew up he became thoughtless and careless, Hke
too many others of his age.

" Some five or six months ago," she said, " he had a
dream or vision, and saw you so plainly that he pointed you
out to me, among other clergymen, and said, ' Mother, that
man is to be our minister one day : I saw him a little time
ago, in a dream, as plainly as I see him now ; I know that
is the man.' We did not know who you were then, or where
you came from, and never saw you again till you came
lately to this parish to be our minister.

" Last night," continued the mother, " after he returned
from church, my William was very unhappy and restless ;
and in the night I heard him crying and praying aloud for
mercy, in great distress. He told me this morning, when I
asked him about it, that he dreamt that the last day was
come, and that the world was on fire : and he began imme-
diately to try to pray, but could not ; yet he went on trying
till he heard some one laugh out at him, and say, * Ho ! ho !
my boy, you are too late ! — ho ! ho ! — too late ! I have got
you now — you are too late ! ' This frightened him so
much that he woke up, and getting out of bed, began on
his knees to pray in earnest for the Lord to have mercy on
his soul."

Being much interested in the young man, I begged her
to send him to me in the evening. She did so ; and when
he arrived I frankly told him what I had heard about him,
and particularly about his distress and prayer the night

*' Your mother has prayed for you for years ; and when
you were a little boy you prayed the Lord to save you : last
night, again, you were constrained to cry for mercy. These
are all tokens of God's good intentions and purposes towards
you. Can you trust Him ? "

As he hesitated (for so many like to feel something


before they make the venture of faith), I continued, " These
tokens are better than feehngs, for they are facts and sure
signs by which you may know that the Lord is calling you."

We may well understand that it was not long before the
Lord, who had so marvellously opened his eyes to see his
sins, enabled him by the same Spirit to see Jesus as His
Saviour, and to rejoice in the forgiveness of his sins. Then
I asked him to sit down again, for I was curious to hear
about the dream or vision which he had had some months
before he ever saw me.

" William," I said, " did you ever see me before I came
to this parish ? "

"Yes," he replied, " I saw you once in a vision, more
than six months ago ! "

" Do you mind telling me about it ? "

After a little hesitation, he answered, " I often dream
things. One night I dreamt that I was walking on a wild
barren common ; there were many bare places where people
had cut turf, and there were prickly furze-bushes about. I
knew there were some old open mine-shafts there, for people
sometimes fell into them in the night j but I was walking
along without thinking of danger, and was not afraid, though
it was dark, and I was alone. I don't know how long I
went on like this, but next I found I was walking with you.
I could see you very plainly, just as if it had not been dark,
and you were talking about Jesus and His love to sinners.
I liked your words very much, and was so taken up with
them that I do not know when it became light ; for now I
could see the rough common, and a path, and we were
walking in it. Going along this path, we came to a wall,
and I could not go any further ; but you walked on as if
there were no wall. Presently you stopped, and, turning to
me, said, ' Why don't you come on ? '

** I answered, * I cannot.*


"'Why not?'

" ' Because there is a wall here.'

" * No,' you said, ' there is no wall — it is an open door.'

" I was surprised at your saying that, for I could feel the
ivall and see it.

" ' What would you do if there was no wall ? Do that.
It is not a wall, but a door,' you said ; * walk on forward ! '

"When I ventured forward I found your words were
true. It was, indeed, an open way, leading into a beautiful
garden. I was very happy, and said, 'Whose garden is

" You answered, ' It is the Lord's, and you are to dress
it and work in it.'

"Then I saw the Lord Himself. He came forward,
and bidding me welcome, said that you should teach me for
three years. Then I awoke."

From this extraordinary narration I gathered three
things for myself

First, that God intended me to come to this place.

Secondly, that I was to labour here for three years.

Thirdly, that I was to teach the people not to wait for
feelings, but to act upon the Word of God.

This last intimation was so clearly signified by
William's dream, that it came upon me with striking force.
I had been speaking on this very subject more than once
and had ventured so far as to say that I thought this
delusion about waiting for feelings was from the devil, to
hinder the work of God in the soul. It certainly did
hinder us, very much ; and, moreover, it was most distress-
ing to see people, who were manifestly impressed under
the power of a present God, waiting for Him ; because
they did not feel some token, which they had set their
minds upon.

Day by day souls were being given in the Church, and


also in the cottage meetings; so that I could not help
seeing that the Lord had begun to use me again. Some
came to the meetings who had been awakened under the
ordinary preaching of the Gospel; some because others
brought them; and some out of curiosity. One of the
latter cases I will mention.

A married woman, N. R , heard people talking of

the work which was going on. It seemed to her to be
such a strange thing in connection with a Church minister
that she came to a cottage meeting to judge for herself,
without the remotest idea of being converted. God's ways
are not as ours ; while she was listening, the Word reached
her with power, so that she was convicted and converted,
and came out of that cottage a rejoicing believer, lost in
wonder, love, and praise. She was indeed strikingly and
manifestly changed, and did not hide it. It was such a
joy and surprise to her that she could not help telling every
one. Out of the abundance of her heart her lips spoke to
tell of the loving-kindness of the Lord.




iHE church (so-called) in which I now ministered
had been built by persons who intended to
accommodate the largest number of people for
the smallest amount of money. It was scantily
built, and almost square, with galleries on three sides. On
the remaining one there used to be a pulpit, conspicuously
placed in the middle of the wall. This important portion
of the edifice was now removed to one side, to make
room for a Communion table, the seats in front being
arranged chancel-wise, facing one another, for the choir.
This place was quite a damper to my ecclesiastical tastes ;
besides being ugly in the extreme.

I tried by putting ornamental scrolls over the windows,
and by staining the glass in them, to make some improve-
ment. I also painted a diaper pattern round the side walls;
and upon the high blank wall behind the Communion
table exercised all the skill I possessed, but fear it was
somewhat in vain, though I laboured hard. The designs
looked very well on paper, but when displayed on the wall
gave no satisfaction ; so one after another they disappeared.


till my dissolving views, as they were called, ended in a
large floriated cross of gold, with a monogram intertwined
in it, on a dark background.

When once, however, the Lord began to bless the
Word, and souls were awakened, despite all anti-ecclesias-
tical appearances, my heart was drawn towards the ugly
place, and I loved it greatly. I could never have believed
that my former tastes and tendencies could have been so
completely changed as they were.

In those days it war a strange thing to hold an after-
meeting in a church ; it was never done, even by the i^^^
who had such meetings. Therefore, I took the anxious
ones and others to my own house for the inquiry meeting,
after the evening service. Having taken up the carpet in
the drawing-room, we fitted it up with chairs and forms to
accommodate ninety people, while half as many more
occupied the hall, and often numbers stood outside the
windows. In this house it pleased God to give us very
many souls, who were brought in week by week for several
months. I believe every room in that house, like the
rooms at Baldhu Parsonage, was consecrated as the birth-
place of one or more of God's children.

The number of those who attended the after-meeting
became so great, that we found it necessary to go to the
large schoolroom. This place will also be remembered
in eternity, and many a soul will say of it, " I was born

One night, when I returned home from a distant meet-
ing, I was called to see a person in great distress of soul.
As I went down the street at eleven o'clock, I was surprised
to see lights in almost all the houses, and what was more,
to hear voices in urgent and importunate prayer, as also the
voice of thanksgiving. The whole street was alive, and
indeed there was a most "joyful noise" on every side. I


was praying or rejoicing in one house or another all through
the night, which was one never to be forgotten.

A glorious work of salvation was going on without the
extravagant noise and excitement we used to have in former
years. I was exceedingly thankful for this also, and began
next to consider what was to be done with these new con-
verts. Besides inviting them to the church services, for
which they needed no pressing, I urged them to read their
Bibles at home, bidding them to mark any passages where
they wished for explanation, that I might have something
good and profitable to speak about when I visited them.
Then I invited them to Bible-classes ; instead of to expe-
rience meetings, which Cornish people rely upon so much.
On these occasions I endeavoured to instruct the people
from God's Word, and put Christ before them as the object
of faith, hope, and love. After prayer I encouraged them
to ask questions, which made these gatherings interesting
and also instructive on the very points upon which they
required information.

I found that these Bible-classes were a great blessing to
those who attended them, but more than all, perhaps, to
myself; watering other souls with the water of life I was
more abundantly watered. The questions of the people
drew my attention to distinctions and differences I had not
noticed before, and helped to take off the coloured glasses
through which I had hitherto read the Word.

I observed that the third, sixth, and twentieth chapters of
St. John's Gospel had been held and interpreted by me in
a way that I now saw to be altogether wrong. I had taken
the first of these as bearing on Baptism, the second on the
Holy Communion, and the third on Priestly Absolution.

I pondered much over these chapters, and marvelled
how they could have been so diverted from their original
and obvious meaning ; and, more wonderful still, that count-


less millions in Christendom had so received them for many
generations. It was a bold thing, and seemingly presump-
tuous to suppose that I was right and all Christendom
wrong ; but I soon found that mine was no new discovery,
and that if millions who followed traditions without com-
paring them with the Bible, thought on one side, there were
also millions who did read their Bibles, and thought on
the other.

It was perfectly clear, moreover, that one obvious motive
or policy had dictated the false application of the three
chapters. It will be observed that p?'iest 7'iile is established
in them ; for, according to this teaching, no one can enter
the kingdom of God without priestly operation in baptism ;
no one abide or be fed in it without the same in Holy Com-
munion ; nor any one receive absolution from sin, and final
release from hell to heaven, apart from sacerdotal action.

On the other hand, I saw spiritual men, as sure as
they were of their own existence that their new birth took
place, not at baptism, but at their conversion. There-
fore they were convinced that the third chapter of St.
John, in which our Lord's conversation with Nicodemus
is recorded, refers to that spiritual change which takes
place at conversion, and not to baptism, which was not
even instituted for two or three years afterwards (Matt,
xxviii. 19).

Again, as to the sixth chapter. A spiritual man knows
that he feeds continually on the body and blood of Christ,
it is the " Bread which came down from heaven " for him.
The Lord said, " He that eateth Me, even he shall live by
Me " (John vi. 57). They know how they received spiritual
life, and also how it is continually maintained ; therefore
they could not allow themselves to be carried away with
such a palpable fiction as transubstantiation, or any other
doctrine kindred to it. The sixth chapter does not refer to


the Lord's Supper, but the Lord's Supper refers to the
reality which is mentioned in it.

Lastly, as to the twentieth chapter of St. John, on the
authority of which it is supposed and asserted that Christ
left power with His Church and priests to forgive sins. Of
this we- may say, He has not delegated any such powers at
all. When He gave commission to His disciples (not
exclusively to the apostles), He said, "Lo, I am with you."
Our power is not imparted to us from Him, but is in Him.
We have no power at all, but in Him, and no grace but
that which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. ii. i). It is His pre-
sence. His real, promised presence by the Holy Ghost,
which is spiritual power ; and this is given directly to in-
dividuals by God Himself, and is not transmitted through
other channels.

The Lord Jesus, on His resurrection day, said to His
disciples, in the upper room — and, be it remembered, that
all the eleven were not there (and some women may have
been) — " Peace be unto you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost :
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained"
(John XX. 23).

Is it possible or reasonable to suppose that our Lord
intended by these words to constitute all that assembly
absolving priests ? The apostles and early Christians (both
men and women) never thought so, either before or even
after the day of Pentecost, when they were taught and led
by the Holy Ghost. The apostles did not exercise any so-
called priestly functions ; they all preached the Gospel, and
as ministers and witnesses, declared, through Jesus Christ,
the forgiveness of sins. Their testimony was then, as such
testimony ever will be, the savour of life or the savour of
death. It was thus they remitted and retained sins ; and
yet not they, but God by them.


While I was thus ruminating, a book came into my
hands which interested me greatly. This I read and re-
read, and made an abstract of it. It was the " Life of
Adelaide Newton." What struck me in it so much was, to
find that this lady was able to hold spiritual communion
with God by means of a Bible only. Is it possible, I
thought, to have such close communion with God, apart
from the Church and her ministrations ? I do not hesitate
to say that this was the means, under God, of stripping off
some remains of my grave-clothes, and enabling me to
walk in spiritual liberty, instead of legal and sacramental

Human reasoning would say, *' What, then, is the use
of ministry and sacraments ? Let us dispense with them,
and be independent of them altogether." This is no better
than saying that we will continue in sin that grace may
abound ; and the same answer which the apostle gives will
do for this also : " God forbid ! "

It does not follow, because some people make too
much of ministry and sacraments, making them absolutely
necessary to salvation, that we should, on the other hand,
disregard them. There is another and a happier alterna-
tive, and that is, to realize they were made for us, not we
for them ; therefore we should not be subject to them, but
rather they should be subject to us, and be used by us, not
in order to obtain God's grace and salvation, but to show
that we have already done so. In our obedience to God's
ordinances, we acknowledge our allegiance to Him, and
our submission to His will.

For fear that my people should go off, as too many do,
into disregard of the " means of grace," because sacramental
people make too much of them, I began a class for exposi-
tion and explanation of the Prayer-book. I commenced by
showing them that the Church of England is the Lord's


candlestick in this country, not the candle, and certainly
not the light, but the candlestick which the Lord set up
here, possibly even as early as the days of the apostles, to
show the true light, which is Christ. And though Romish
corruptions supervened, it pleased God, at the time of the
Reformation, to raise up men to deliver us from them, and
to restore true Bible teaching.

Thus I endeavoured to show them, that the system of
the Church of England was one which should commend
itself to their regard, as quite agreeable to Scripture ; and if
it is not carried out according to its intention, that is not the
fault of the system, but rather of those who administer it

Next, as to worship.

The object of our assembling in the house of God is
not, I said, so much to hear sermons, or get instruction, as
in Bible, or other classes, but rather " to render thanks for
the great benefits we have received at God's hands, to set
forth His most worthy praise, to hear His most holy word,
and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary
as well for the body as the soul." That worship is
devotion towards God ; it consists more in giving than
in getting. Some of the people were greatly interested
when I pointed out to them, that the order of our Ser-
vice was exactly the same as the order of their spiritual
experience, in conviction, conversion, and Christian life.

For example, the Morning Service begins with a sentence
such as, " To the Lord our God belong mercies and for-
givenesses, though we have rebelled against Him ; " then
comes the Exhortation, which moves us to surrender our-
selves ; then the Confession, which is the act of surrender.
Immediately after this is declared the Absolution and
forgiveness of sins, "to all who truly repent, and un-
feignedly believe the Gospel.""

Then comes the Lord's Prayer, which leads us, at once,


into the place of children, accepted in the Beloved : then
follow acts of thanksgiving —

" Open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise."
" Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the
strength of our salvation."

These, and such-like explanations, helped to enlist the
interest of the people ; and whereas, before, they only used
to endure the prayers, while waiting for the sermon, now
they engaged in them intelligently, and even with more
delight than in extempore prayer.

As to the Communion Service I bade them notice that
it begins with the Lord's Prayer, in which we draw near
to our Father, not as sinners, but as His children ; asking
for a clean heart and for grace to live according to His
will; then, we approach the table, unworthy, indeed, to
take even the crumbs under it, but trusting in His mercy.
We do not go there to offer a sacrifice of Christ's body, but
of our own, as a thanksgiving to God, offering and presenting
ourselves — spirit, soul, and body — a Hving sacrifice to His

Every week we took some subject from the Prayer-book,
noticing the special seasons in their order, such as Advent,
Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Whit-
suntide, each with their respective teaching.

I was now happy in my work ; but it did not, of course,
go on as sweetly as the theory sets it forth. We made,
however, as straight a course as we could, under contending
winds and currents. The intelligent part of my congrega-
tion, however interested they were in the work outside the
church and the worship within, nevertheless, had their
misgivings and doubts, which they did not hide. They
said : '* This teaching seems all true and scriptural ; but
what will become of us if you go away, and another man


comes who thinks otherwise ? We have no security as in
the chapels, that conversion work will go on, and living
souls be fed and encouraged. Very few churches have
such a work as the Lord is doing here ! "

This, indeed, was the sad part of working in the Church
of England then. Even still, there is much discouragement
on this head; and too many living souls, who would not
willingly go, are driven away from their own Church, to seek
teaching in other communions ; but they cannot take their
children and servants to witness priestly ceremonials, or to
hear sacramental, as opposed to spiritual teaching ; neither
can they conscientiously give countenance to these things,
by going themselves.

However, I endeavoured to pacify the people by
begging them to be thankful for present privileges, and to
trust God to lead them for the future.

It is an awful thing to see and know that people come
for bread, and get a stone ; for fish, and they get a serpent;
and for an egg, they are offered a scorpion (Luke xi. ii, 12).
Exceedingly trying it is to be frowned upon by clerical
brethren in the presence of Dissenters, who, to say the
least, do know the difference between life and death. In
one church we have the service elaborately rendered, and
the sermon is nothing; in another the sermon is every-
thing, and the service most slovenly ; and, too often, souls
remain unawakened, and perishing on all sides.


Win Mork €anixnnti.


HILE I was at Hayle, I had so much to do among

the people, and so many meetings, that I seldom

had leisure to go out for preaching elsewhere ;

nor do I remember that I had many invitations

to do so. Occasionally I went to preach at Penzance,

wliere a good work was steadily progressing at St. Paul's

Church ; but otherwise, I seldom left my pulpit.

Everything was now going on in a way which satisfied
me, after all my tossings to and fro. I was surrounded
with a happy people, who were living and working for the
Lord. All the week they were busy, and also on the watch
for souls. On Sunday they came regularly to church, with
an intelligent idea of worship, and joined heartily in the
services of the day. At eight o'clock in the morning they
assembled in large numbers for the Holy Communion ;
then we had the usual morning and evening services in the
church, concluding with a prayer meeting. In the after-
noon we had something else. There was the Sunday
school for some of our workers ; tract distribution for others :
many went out to preach in the villages ; and others went


with me either to the sands, the common, or on board some
ship, for an evangeUstic service. The day of rest was not
one of inactivity, but of useful and happy occupation for
the Lord. Many a former Sabbath-breaker, now changed
and rejoicing in God, was amongst us, dehghting in the
Christian privilege of working for the Master. It was a day
that many of them looked forward to and spent with intense
delight ; and on Monday evening we met to tell what we
had seen and heard of the Lord's goodness to ourselves and

Whenever the good ship " Cornwall " was in harbour, it
was expected there v/ould be a preaching on " board of
her," under the well-known Bethel flag. The mate of this
vessel had been a terribly wicked man, and a most daring
blasphemer. It pleased God to convert his soul in a
remarkable manner; and now nothing would do but he
must work for God.

One Sunday, when he was at Cardiff, he heard that a
vessel which had left that port on the previous Friday
morning had gone down with all hands. He was greatly
grieved about this ; for one of the seamen of the vessel was
in former times a friend and companion of his. He had
prayed for his soul, but hitherto without any success, and
this added to his grief To his amazement, he saw his

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 21 of 23)