W. (William) Haslam.

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

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who read their sermons, and all the time pretended to preach


them;" and he especially abhorred those who secreted
notes in their Bibles : " Either have a book, sir, or none ! "

He had a great aversion to Low Church clergymen, and
told me that his stag Robin, who ranged on the lawn, had
the same ; and that once he pinned one of them to the
ground between his horns. The poor man cried out in
great fear ; so he told Robin to let him go, which he did, but
stood and looked at the obnoxious individual as if he would
like to have him down again and frighten him, though he
would not hurt him — "Robin was kind-hearted."

" This Evangelical," he continued, " had a tail coat ; he
was dressed like an undertaker, sir. Once upon a time
there was one like him travelling in Egypt, with a similar
coat and a tall hat ; and the Arabs pursued him, calling him
the ' father of saucepans, with a slit tail.' " This part of his
speech was evidently meant for me, for I wore a hat and
coat of this description, finding it more convenient for the
saddle, and for dining out when I alighted.

He persuaded me to wear a priestly garb like his, and
gave me one of his old cassocks for a pattern; this I
succeeded in getting made to my satisfaction, after consider-
able difficulty.

I came back to my work full of new thoughts and plans,
determined to do what was " right ;" and this in spite of all
fears, whether my own, or those of others.

I now began to think more of the reality of prayer, and
of the meaning of the services of the Church ; I empha-
sized my words, and insisted upon proper teaching. I also
paid more attention to my sermons, having hitherto disre-
garded them; for, as I said, "the Druids never preached;
they only worshipped."

I held up my manuscript and read my sermon, like Mr.
Hawker ; and I wore a square cap and cassock, instead of
the " saucepan" and the "tails." This costume I continued


to wear for several years, though I was frequently laughed
at, and often pursued by boys, which was not agreeable to
flesh and blood; but it helped to separate me from the
world, and to make me feel that I was set apart as a priest
to offer sacrifice for the people.

In course of time I began to make preparations for my
permanent church. I drew the designs for it, passed them,
and obtained money enough to begin to build. There was
a grand ceremony at the stone-laying, and a long procession.
We had banners, chanting, and a number of surpliced clergy,
besides a large congregation.

The Earl of Falmouth, who laid the stone, contributed a
thousand pounds towards the edifice ; his mother gave three
hundred pounds for a peal of bells ; and others of the
gentry who were present contributed ; so that upwards of
eighteen hundred pounds was promised that day. Just
twelve months after, July 20, 1848, the same company, with
many others, and the Bishop of Exeter (Phillpotts) came to
consecrate the ''beautiful church."

In the meantime, between the stone-laying and the con-
secration, the Parsonage house had been built, and, more
than that, it was even papered, furnished, and inhabited !
Besides all this, there was a garden made, and a doorway,
after an ecclesiastical mode, leading into the churchyard,
with this inscription over it : —

** Be true to Church,
Be kind lo poor,
O minister, for evermore."

In this church there were super-altar, candles, triptych,
and also a painted window ; organ, choir, and six bells ; so
that for those days it was considered a very complete thing.
" The priest of Baldhu," with his cassock and square cap,
was quite a character in his small way. He preached in a


surplice, of course, and propounded Church tactics, firmly-
contending for Church teaching. The Wesleyans and others
had their distinctive tenets, the Church must have hers;
they had their members enrolled, the Church must have hers;
therefore he would have a "guild," with the view of keeping
his people together. Outwardly there was an esprit de co?ps,
and the parishioners came to church, and took an interest
in the proceedings ; but it was easy to see that their hearts
were elsewhere. Still I went on, hoping against hope,
" building from the top " without any foundation, teaching
people to live before they were born 1



HE more earnestly I wrought among the people,
and the better I knew them, the more I saw that
the mere attachment to the Church, and punctual
attendance at the services or frequency of Com-
munion, was not sufficient. I wanted something deeper. I
wanted to reach their hearts in order to do them good.

Whether this desire sprang up in the ordinary progress
by which God was imperceptibly leading me, or from a story
I heard at a clerical meeting, I know not — perhaps from
both. My mind was evidently as ground prepared to
receive the warning. The story was about a dream a
clergyman had. He thought the judgment-day was come,
and that there was, as it were, a great visitation — greater
than the Bishop's. The clergy were mustering, and appeared
in their gowns, but instead of being alone, they had part of
their congregations with them. Some had a few followers,
others had more, and some a great many ; and all these
received a gracious smile from the Judge when their names
were called. The clergyman who dreamed was waiting, as
he supposed, with a large number of people at his back.


When his turn came he went forward; but as he approached,
he saw that the Judge's countenance was sad and dark. In
a sudden impulse of suspicion he looked back ; and lo !
there was no one behind him. He stopped, not daring to
go any further, and turning to look at the Judge, saw that
His countenance was full of wrath. -This dream had such
an effect upon him that he began to attend to his parish and
care for the souls of his people.

I also was beginning to see that I ought to care for the
souls of my people — at least, as much as I did for the ser-
vices of the Church. As a priest, I had the power (so I
thought) to give them absolution : and yet none, alas ! availed
themselves of the opportunity. How could they have for-
giveness if they did not come to me ? This absolution I
believed to be needful before coming to Holy Communion,
and that it was, indeed, the true preparation for that sacred
ordinance. I used to speak privately to the members of the
Church Guild about this, and persuaded some of them to
come to me for confession and absolution ; but I was rest-
less, and felt that I was doing good by stealth. Besides
this, those whom I thus absolved were not satisfied, for they
said they could not rejoice in the forgiveness of their sins
as the Methodists did, or say that they were pardoned. In
this respect I was working upon most tender ground, but I
did not know what else to do.

I used to spend hours and hours in my church alone in
meditation and prayer; and, while thinking, employed my
hands in writing texts over the windows and on the walls,
and in painting ornamental borders above the arches. I
remember writing over the chancel arch, with much interest
and exultation, " Now is come salvation, and strength, and
the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ "
(Rev. xii. 10).

I imagined, in my sanguine hope, that the kingdom of


Christ was come, and that the " accuser of the brethren **
was cast down. I thought I saw, in the power of Christ
given to His priests, such victory that nothing could stand
against it. So much for dwelUng on a theory, right or
wrong, till it fills the mind. Yet I cannot say that all this
was without prayer. I did wait upon God, and thought my
answers were from Him ; but I see now that I went to the
Lord with an idol in my heart, and that He answered me
according to it (Ezek. xiv, 3).

One day I saw a picture in a friend's house which
attracted me during the time I was waiting for him. It was
nothing artistic, nor was it over well drawn, but still it
engaged my attention in a way for which I could not
account. When my friend came down, we talked about
other things; but even after I left the house this picture
haunted me. At night I lay awake thinking about it — so
much so, that I rose early the next morning, and went to a
bookseller's shop, where I bought a large sheet of tracing-
paper and pencil, and sent them out by the postman, with a
note to my friend, begging him to give me a tracing of the
picture in question.

I had to wait for more than a fortnight before it arrived,
and then how great was my joy ! I remember spreading a
white cloth on my table, and opening out the tracing-paper
upon it ; and there was the veritable picture of the Good
Shepherd ! His countenance was loving and kind. With
one hand He was pushing aside the branch of a tree, though
a great thorn went right through it ; and with the other He
was extricating a sheep which was entangled in the thorns.
The poor thing was looking up in helplessness, all spotted
over with marks of its own blood, for it was wounded in
struggling tc escape. Another thing which struck me in this
picture was that the tree was growing on the edge of a pre-
cipice, and had it not been for it (the tree), with all the


cruel wounds it inflicted, the sheep would have gone over
and perished.

After considering this picture for a long time, I painted
it in a larger size on the wall of my church, just opposite
the entrance door, so that every one who came in might see
it. I cannot describe the interest with which I employed
myself about this work ; and when it was done, finding that
it wanted a good bold foreground, I selected a short text —
" He came to seek and to save that which was lost."

God was speaking to me all this time about the Good
Shepherd who gave His life for me ; but I did not hear
Him, or suspect that I was lost, or caught in any thorns, or
hanging over a precipice ; therefore, I did not apply the
subject to myself. Certainly, I remember that my thoughts
dwelt very much on forgiveness and salvation, but I
preached that these were to be had in and by the church,
which was as the Ark in which Noah was saved. Baptism
was the door of this Ark, and Holy Communion the token
of abiding in it ; and all who were not inside were lost.
What would become of those outside the Church was a
matter which greatly perplexed me. I could not dare to
say that they would be lost for ever ; but where could they
be now ? and what would become of them hereafter ? I
longed to save John Bunyan ; but he was such a determined
schismatic that it was impossible to make out a hope for
him ! Sometimes I was cheered by the thought that he had
been duly baptized in infancy, and that his after-life was one
of ignorance ; but this opened the door too wide, and made
my theory of salvation by the Church a very vague and un-
certain thing. So deeply was the thought engrained in my
mind that one day I baptized myself conditionally in the
Church, for fear that I had not been properly baptized in
infancy, and consequently should be lost hereafter. I had
no idea that I was lost now : far from that, I thought I was


as safe as the Church herself, and that the gates of hell
could not prevail against me.

I had many conversations with the earnest people in my
parish, but they were evidently resting, not where I was, but
on something I did not know. One very happy woman told
me, " Ah ! you went to college to larn the Latin; but though
I don't know a letter in the Book, yet I can read my title
clear to mansions in the skies." Another woman, whenever
I went to see her, made me read the story of her conver-
sion, which was written out in a copybook. Several others,
men and women, talked to me continually about their "con-
version. I often wondered what that was ; but, as I did
not see much self denial among these converted ones, and
observed that they did not attend God's House nor ever
come to the Lord's table, I thought conversion could not be
of much consequence, or anything to be desired.

I little knew that I was the cause of their remaining
away from church, and from the Lord's table. One thought-
ful man told me, " Cornish people are too enlightened to go
to church ! A man must give up religion to go there ; only
unconverted people and backshders go to such a place ! "
Yet this was a prayerful man. What did he mean ? At
various clerical meetings I used to repeat these things, but
still obtained no information or satisfaction.

I made it a rule to visit every house in my parish once a
week, taking from twelve to twenty each day, when I sought
to enlighten the people by leaving Church tracts, and even
wrote some myself; but they would not do. I found that
the Religious Tract Society's publications were more accept-
able. To my great disappointment, I discovered, too, that
Evangelical sermons drew the people, while sacramental
topics did not interest them. So, in my ardent desire to
reach and do them good, I procured several volumes of
Evangelical sermons, and copied them, putting in some-


times a negative to their statements, to make them, as I
thought, right.

Now I began to see and feel that there was some good
in preaching, and used the pulpit intentionally, in order to
communicate with my people, carefully writing or compiling
my sermons. But I must confess that I was very nervous
in my delivery, and frequently lost my place — sometimes
even myself; and this to the great confusion of the con-

I will tell how it pleased the Lord to deliver me from
this bondage of nervousness, and enable me to open my
lips so as to plainly speak out my meaning.

One day, a friend with whom I was staying was very
late in coming down to breakfast ; so, while I was waiting, I
employed myself in reading the " Life of Bishop Shirley," of
Sodor and Man. My eyes happened to fall on a passage,
describing a difficulty into which he fell by losing his sermon
on his way to a country church. When the prayers were
over, and the psalm was nearly sung, he put his hand into
his pocket for his manuscript, and, to his dismay, it was
gone. There was no time to continue his search ; so he
gave out a text, and preached, as he said, in dependence
upon God, and never wrote a sermon afterwards.

When my friend came to breakfast, he asked me what I
had been doing all the morning. I told him. " Ah ! " he
said, quietly, " why do you not preach in dependence upon
God, and go without a book like that good man ? " "I
preach like that 1 " I said, in amazement, terrified at the
very thought. '*Yes," he answered, mischievously, ''you.
Who needs to depend upon God for this more than you
do?" Seeing that I was perturbed at his suggestion, he
went on teasing me all breakfast time, and at last said
*' Well, what is your decision ? Do you mean to preach in
future in dependence upon God?" I said, "Yes; I have


made up my mind to begin next Sunday." Now it was his
turn to be terrified, and he did all he could to dissuade
me, saying, " You will make a fool of yourself! " " No fear
of that," I replied ; "I do it already ; I cannot be worse.
No ; I will begin next Sunday ! "

I came back with the determination to keep my pro-
mise, but must confess that I grew more and more uneasy
as the time approached. However, on Sunday, I went up
into the pulpit, and spoke as well as I could, without any
notes, and found it far easier than I had feared. In the
evening it was still easier ; and so I continued, week by
week, gaining more confidence, and have never written a
sermon since that day — that is, to preach it. Once I was
tempted to take a book up into the pulpit, feeling I had
nothing to say, when something said to me, " Is that the
way you depend upon God ? " Immediately I put the
volume on the floor, and standing on it, gave out my text,
and preached without hesitation. This going forward in
dependence upon God has been a deliverance to me from
many a difficulty besides this one, and that through many

One day I went, in my cassock and cap, to the shop of
a man whom I regarded as a dreadful schismatic. He sold
the publications of the Religious Tract Society. On enter-
ing, he appeared greatly pleased to see me, and took
unusual interest and pains in selecting tracts, giving me a
double portion for my money. His kindness was very
embarrassing ; and when, on leaving, he followed me to
the door, and said " God bless you ! " it gave me a great
turn. A schismatic blessing a priest ! This, indeed, was
an anomaly. I was ashamed to be seen coming out of the
shop, and the more so, because I had this large Evangelical
parcel in my hand, I felt as though everybody was looking
at me. However, the tracts were very acceptable at home,


and in the parish. I even began to think there was some-
thing good in them. So I sent for more.

Three men, one after another, told me that they had
been converted through reading them. One of these said
that " the tract I had given him ought to be written in
letters of gold;" and a few months after, this same man died
most happily, rejoicing in the Lord, and leaving a bright
testimony behind. I mentioned the conversion of these
three men to many of my friends, and asked them for some
explanation, but got none. Still, the thought continually
haunted me — " What can this conversion be ? "

I had made it a custom to pray about what I had to do,
and anything I could not understand ; therefore I prayed
about this. Just then (I believe, in answer to prayer) a
friend offered to lend me Southey's " Life of Wesley," and
said, " You will find it all about conversion ; " and a few
days after came a tract, "John Berridge's Great Error
Detected." This tract was carefully marked with pencil,
and had several questions written in the margin. I found
out that it came from a person to whom I had given it, and
who was anxious to know its meaning.

I read it with much interest, for I saw that the first
portion of the history of Berridge corresponded with mine ;
but as I went on reading, I wondered what he could mean
by " Justification." What was that wonderful thing which
God did for him and for the souls of his people ? What could
he mean by having his eyes opened to see himself a wretched,
lost man? What was " seeing the way of salvation" ? He
said that he had preached for six years, and never brought
a single soul to Christ ; and for two years more in another
place, and had no success; but now, when he preached
Christ instead of the Church, people came from all parts,
far and near, to hear the sound of the glorious Gospel ;
and believers were added to the Church continually. I


grappled with this subject ; but I could not, by searching,
find out anything, for I was in the dark, and knew not as
yet that I was blind, and needed the power of the Holy
Spirit to awaken and bring me to see myself a lost sinner.
My soul was now all astir on this subject ; but, as far as I
can remember, I wanted the information — not for myself;
but because I thought I should then get hold of the secret
by which the Wesleyans and others caught and kept their
people, or rather my people.

Soon after, my gardener, a good Churchman^ and duly
despised by his neighbours for attaching himself to me and
my teaching, fell seriously ill. I sent him at once to the
doctor, who pronounced him to be in a miner's consump-
tion, and gave no hope of his recovery. No sooner did he
realize his position, and see eternity before him, than all the
Church teaching I had given him failed to console or satisfy,
and his heart sank within him at the near prospect of death.
In his distress of mind, he did not send for me to come and
pray with him, but actually sent for a converted man, who
lived in the next row of cottages. This man, instead of
building him up as I had done, went to work in the oppo-
site direction — to break him down ; that was, to show my
servant that he was a lost sinner, and needed to come to
Jesus just as he was, for pardon and salvation. He was
brought under deep conviction of sin, and eventually found
peace through the precious blood of Jesus.

Immediately it spread all over the parish that " the par-
son's servant was converted." The news soon reached me,
but, instead of giving joy, brought the most bitter disap-
pointment and sorrow to my heart. Such was the profound
ignorance I was in !

The poor man sent for me several times, but I could not
make up my mind to go near him. I felt far too much hurt
to think that after all I had taught him against schism, he


should fall into so great an error. However, he sent again
and again, till at last his entreaties prevailed, and I went.
Instead of lying on his bed, a dying man, as I expected to
find him, he was walking about the room in a most joyful
and ecstatic state. " Oh, dear master ! " he exclaimed, " I
am glad you are come ! I am so happy ! My soul is saved,
glory be to God ! " " Come, John," I said, " sit down and
be quiet, and I will have a talk with you, and tell you what
I think." But John knew my thoughts quite well enough,
so he burst out, " Oh, master ! I am sure you do not know
about this, or you would have told me. I am quite sure
you love me, and I love you — that I do ! but, dear master,
you do not know this — I am praying for the Lord to show
it to you. I mean to pray till 1 die, and after that if I can,
till you are converted." He looked at me so lovingly, and
seemed so truly happy, that it was more than I could stand.
Almost involuntarily, I made for the door, and escaped
before he could stop me.

I went home greatly disturbed in my mind — altogether
disappointed and disgusted with my work among these
Cornish people. " It is no use ; they will never be Church-
men ! " I was as hopeless and miserable as I could be. I
felt that my superior teaching and practice had failed, and
that the inferior and, as I believed, unscriptural dogmas had
prevailed. My favourite and most promising Churchman
had fallen, and was happy in his fall ; more than that, he
was actually praying that I might fall too !

I was very jealous for the Churchy and therefore felt
deeply the conversion of my gardener. Like the elder
brother of the Prodigal Son, I was grieved, and even angry,
because he was restored to favour and joy. The remon-
strance of the father prevailed nothing to mollify his feel-
ings ; in like manner, nothing seemed to give me any rest
in this crisis of my parochial work. I thought I would give



up my parish and church, and go and work in some more
congenial soil ; or else that I would preach a set of sermons
on the subject of schism, for perhaps I had not sufficiently
taught my people the danger of this great sin !

Every parishioner I passed seemed to look at me as if
he said, ''So much (or your teaching ! You will never con-
vince us I "



HIS was a time of great disappointment and dis-
couragement. Everything had turned out so
different to the expectation I had formed and
cherished on first coming to this place. I was
then full of hope, and intended to carry all before me with
great success, and I thought I did ; but, alas ! there was a
mistake somewhere, something was wrong.

In those days, when I was building my new church, and
talking about the tower and spire we were going to erect,
an elderly Christian lady who was sitting in her wheel-chair,
calmly listening to our conversation, said, " Will you begin
to build your spire from the top ? " * It was a strange
question, but she evidently meant something, and looked
for an answer. I gave it, saying, " No, madam, not from
the top, but from the foundation." She replied, " That is
right — that is right," and went on with her knitting.

This question was not asked in jest or in ignorance; it
was like a riddle. What did she mean ? In a few years
this lady passed away, but her enigmatic words remained.

• See Tract, " Building from the Top," by Rev. W. Haslam.


No doubt she thought to herself that I was beginning at the
wrong end, while I went on talking of the choir, organ,
happy worship, and all the things we were going to attempt
in the new church ; that I was aiming at sanctification,
without justification ; intending to teach people to be holy
before they were saved and pardoned. This is exactly what

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Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 4 of 23)