W. (William) Haslam.

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

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I was doing. I had planted the boards of my tabernacle of
worship, not in silver sockets (the silver of which had been
paid for redemption), but in the sand of the wilderness.
In other words, I was teaching people to worship God, who
is a Spirit, not for love of Him who gave His Son to die for
them, but in the fervour and enthusiasm of human nature.
My superstructure was built on sand ; and hence the con-
tinual disappointment, and that last discouraging overthrow.
No wonder that my life was a failure, and my labours inef-
fectual, inasmuch as my efforts were not put forth in faith.
My work was not done as a thank-offering, but rather as a
meritorious effort to obtain favour from God.

Repentance towards God, however earnest and sincere,
without faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, is not complete
or satisfying. There may be a change of mind and will,
producing a change of actions, which are done in order to
pacify conscience, and to obtain God's favour in return ; but
this is not enough. It is like preparing the ground without
sowing seed, and then being disappointed that there is no
harvest. A garden is not complete or successful unless the
ground has been properly prepared, nor unless flourishing
plants are growing in it.

Repentance with faith, the two together, constitute
the fulness of God's religion. We have to believe, not in
the fact that we have given ourselves — we know this in
our own consciousness — but in the fact that God, who is
more willing to take than we to give, has accepted us. We
rejoice and work, not as persons who have surrendered our-


selves to God, but out of loving gratitude, as those who
have been changed by Him to this end.

I will go on now to tell how I was brought at this
critical period of my life to real faith towards our Lord
Jesus Christ. This was done in a way I knew not, and
moreover, in a way I little expected. I had promised a
visit to Mr. Aitken, of Pendeen, to advise him about his
church, which was then building ; and now, in order to
divert my thoughts, I made up my mind to go to him at
once. Soon after my arrival, as we were seated comfortably
by the fire, he asked me (as he very commonly did) how
the parish prospered. He said, "I often take shame to
myself when I think of all your work. But, my brother,
are you satisfied ? "

I said, " No, I am not satisfied." *

"Why not?"

"Because I am making a rope of sand, which looks
very well till I pull, and then, when I expect it to hold, it
gives way."

" What do you mean ? "

"Why," I rephed, "these Cornish people are ingrained

I then told him of my gardener's conversion, and my
great disappointment.

" Well," he said, " if I were taken ill, I certainly would
not send for you. I am sure you could not do me any
good, for you are not converted yourself."

" Not converted ! " I exclaimed. " How can you tell ? "

He said, quietly, " I am sure of it, or you would not
have come here to complain of your gardener. If you had
been converted, you would have remained at home to
rejoice with him. It is very clear you are not converted ! "

* See Tract, ** Are you Satisfied ? " by Rev. W. Haslam.


I was vexed with him for saying that, and attempted to
dispute the point ; but he was cahn and confident ; while I,
on the other hand, was uneasy, and trying to justify myself.

In the course of our conversation, he said, "You do
not seem to know the difference between the natural con-
science and the work of the Spirit." Here he had me, for
I only knew of one thing, and he referred to two. How-
ever, we battled on till nearly two o'clock in the morning,
and then he showed me to my bed-room. Pointing to the
bed, he said (in a voice full of meaning), " Ah 1 a very holy
man of God died there a short time since." This did not
add to my comfort or induce sleep, for I was already much
disturbed by the conversation we had had, and did not
enjoy the idea of going to bed and sleeping where one had
so lately died — even though he was a holy man. Resolving
to sit up, I looked round the room, and seeing some books
on the table, took up one, which happened to be Hare's
" Mission of the Comforter." Almost the first page I
glanced at told of the difference between the natural
conscience and the work of the Spirit. This I read and
re-reaJ till I understood its meaning.

The next morning, as soon as breakfast was finished, I
resumed the conversation of the previous night with the
additional light I had gained on the subject. We had not
talked long before Mr. Aitken said, " Ah, my brother, you
have changed your ground since last night ! "

I at once confessed that I had been reading Hare's
book, which he did not know was in my room, nor even in
the house. He was curious to see it.

He then challenged me on another point, and said,
" Have you peace with God ? " I answered, without hesi-
tation, "Yes," — for, for eight years or more I had regarded
God as my Friend. Mr. A. went on to ask me, " How did
you get peace?" "Oh,"' I said, "I have it continually. I


get it at the Daily Service, I get it through prayer and
reading, and especially at the Holy Communion. I have
made it a rule to carry my sins there every Sunday, and
have often come away from that holy sacrament feeling as
happy and free as a bird." My friend looked surprised,
but did not dispute this part of my experience. He con-
tented himself by asking me quietly, " And how long does
your peace last ? " This question made me think. I said,
" I suppose, not a week, for I have to do the same thing
every Sunday." He replied, '^ I thought so.''

Opening the Bible, he found the fourth chapter of St.
John, and read, " Whosoever drinketh of this water shall
thirst again." " The w^oman of Samaria drew water for her-
self at Jacob's well, and quenched her thirst ; but she had
to come again and again to the same well. She had no idea
of getting water, except by drawing, any more than you
have of getting peace excepting through the means you use.
The Lord said to her, ' If thou knewest the gift of God,
and who it is that saith to thee. Give me to drink; thou
wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee
living water,' which should be ' a well of water springing
up into everlasting Hfe ' " (John iv. 10 — 14). My friend
pointed out the difference between getting water by draw-
ing from a well, and having a living well within you
springing up.

I said, '' I never heard of such a thing."

" I suppose not," he answered.

" Have you this living water?" I continued.

"Yes, thank God, I have had it for the last thirty years."

" How did you get it ? "

" Look here," he said, pointing to the tenth verse :
" Thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have
given thee living water."

"Shall we ask Him?" I said.


He answered, " With all my heart ; " and immediately
pushing back his chair, knelt down at his round table, and
I knelt on the opposite side. What he prayed for I do not
know. I was completely overcome, and melted to tears.
I sat down on the ground, sobbing, while he shouted aloud,
praising God.

As soon as I could get up, I made for the door, and
taking my hat, coat, and umbrella, said that " I was really
afraid to stay any longer." With this I took my departure,
leaving my carpet-bag behind. It was seven miles to
Penzance, but in my excitement I walked and ran all the
way, and arrived there before the coach, which was to have
called for me, but brought my carpet-bag instead. In the
meantime, while I was waiting for it, I saw a pamphlet, by
Mr. Aitken, in a shop window, which I bought, and got
into the train to return to Baldhu. My mind was in such
a distracted state, that I sought relief in reading. I had
not long been doing so, when I came to a paragraph in
italics : " TJien shall He say unto them, Depart from Me ; I
never knew you^ The question arrested me, What if He
says that to you ?

Ah, that is not likely.

But, what if He does ?

It cannot be. I have given up the world ; I love God ;
I visit the sick; I have daily service and weekly com-

But, what if He does ? — what if He does ?

I could not bear the thought ; it seemed to overwhelm

As I read the pamphlet, I saw that the words were spoken
to persons who were taken by surprise. So should I be.
They were able to say, " We have eaten and drunk in Thy
presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets : in Thy
name we have cast out devils, and done many wonderful


works." Yet, with all this, He replied, " Depart from Me,
I never knew you." I did not see how I could escape, if
such men as these were to be rejected.

Conviction was laying hold upon me, and the circle
was becoming narrower. The thought pressed heavily upon
me, " What a dreadful thing, if I am wrong ! " Added to
this, I trembled to think of those I had misled. " Can it
be true ? Is it so ? " I remembered some I had watched
over most zealously, lest the Dissenters should come and
pray with them. I had sent them out of the world resting
upon a false hope, administering the sacrament to them for
want of knowing any other way of bringing them into God's
favour. I used to grieve over any parishioner who died
without the last sacrament, and often wondered how it
would fare with Dissenters !

My mind was in a revolution. I do not remember how
I got home. I felt as if I were out on the dark, boundless
ocean, without light or oar or rudder. I endured the
greatest agony of mind for the souls I had misled, though
I had done it ignorantly. " They are gone, and lost for
ever ! " I justly deserved to go also. My distress seemed
greater than I could bear. A tremendous storm of wind,
rain and thunder, which was raging at the time, was quite
in sympathy with my feelings. I could not rest. Looking
at the graves of some of my faithful Churchmen, I won-
dered, " Is it really true that they are now cursing me for
having misled them ? "

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday passed by, each day
and night more dark and despairing than the preceding
one. On the Sunday, I was so ill that I was quite unfit to
take the service. Mr. Aitken had said to me, " If I were
you, I would shut the church, and say to the congregation,
* I will not preach again till I am converted. Pray for me !'"
Shall I do this ?


The sun was shining brightly, and before I could make
up my mind to put off the service, the bells struck out a
merry peal, and sent their summons far away over the hills.
Now the thought came to me that I would go to church
and read the morning prayers, and after that dismiss the
people. There was no preparation for the Holy Com-
munion that day, and I had deputed the clerk to select
the hymns, for I was far too ill to attend to anything myself.
The psalms and hymns were especially applicable to my
case, and seemed to help me, so that I thought I would go
on and read the ante-communion service, and then dismiss
the people. And while I was reading the Gospel, I thought,
w'ell, I will just say a few words in explanation of this, and
then I will dismiss them. So I went up into the pulpit and
gave out my text. I took it from the Gospel of the day —
"What think ye of Christ?" (Matt. xxii. 42).

As I went on to explain the passage, I saw that the
Pharisees and scribes did not know that Christ was the Son
of God, or that He was come to save them. They were
looking for a king, the son of David, to reign over them as
they were. Something was telling me, all the time, " You
are no better than the Pharisees yourself — you do not
believe that He is the Son of God, and that He is come to
save you, any more than they did." I do not remember
all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into
my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did
not. Whether it was something in my words, or my man-
ner, or my look, I know not ; but all of a sudden a local
preacher, who happened to be in the congregation, stood
up, and putting up his arms, shouted out in Cornish manner,
" The parson is converted ! the parson is converted !
Hallelujah ! " * and in another moment his voice was lost

This scene is well depicted in the accompanying Illustration.


in the shouts and praises of three or four hundred of
the congregation. Instead of rebuking this extraordinary
"brawling," as I should have done in a former time, I
joined in the outburst of praise ; and to make it more
orderly, I gave out the Doxology — " Praise God, from
whom all blessings flow " — and the people sang it v/ith
heart and voice, over and over again. My Churchmen
were dismayed, and many of them fled precipitately from
the place. Still the voice of praise went on, and was swelled
by numbers of passers-by, who came into the church,
greatly surprised to hear and see what was going on.

When this subsided, I found at least twenty people
crying for mercy, whose voices had not been heard in the
excitement and noise of thanksgiving. They all professed
to find peace and joy in believing. Amongst this number
there were three from my own house ; and we returned
home praising God.

The news spread in all directions that " the parson was
converted," and that by his own sermon, in his own pulpit !
The church would not hold the crowds who came in the
evening. I cannot exactly remember what I preached
about on that occasion ; but one thing I said was, " that if
I had died last week I should have been lost for ever." I
felt it was true. So clear and vivid was the conviction
through which I had passed, and so distinct was the light
into which the Lord had brought me, that I knew and was
sure that He had " brought me up out of an horrible pit,
out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and
put a new song into my mouth" (Ps. xL). He had "quick-
ened " me, who was before " dead in trespasses and sins "
(Eph. ii. i).

I felt sure, as I said, that if I had died last week I
should have been lost for ever. This was a startling and
an alarming word to rnany of rny earnest people, who said,


"Wliat then will become of us?" I replied, "You will be
lost for a certainty if you do not give your hearts to God."

At the end of this great and eventful day of my life —
my spiritual birthday, on which I passed from death to life
by being " born from above " — I could scarcely sleep for
joy. I awoke early the next morning, with the impression
on my mind that I must get up and go to a village a mile

off, to tell James B of my conversion. He was a good

and holy man, who had often spoken to me about my soul ;
and had been praying for three years or more on my

I had scarcely gone half-way before I met him coming
towards me : he seemed as much surprised to see me as I
was to meet him. He looked at me in a strange way, and
then, leaning his back against a stone fence, he said, " Are
you converted ? "

" Why do you ask me ? " I replied. " I am just on my
way to your house, to tell you the good news — that I have
found peace. My soul is saved."

The dear man said, " Thank God ! " and it came from
the very depths of his heart. Shedding tears of joy, he went
on to say, " This night I woke up thinking of you ; you
were so strongly in my mind, that I got up and began to
pray for you ; but I could not ^ get hold:^ I wrestled and
cried aloud, but it was all of no avail ; I begged the Lord
not to give you up ; but it seemed I could not pray.
After trying for more than two hours, it came to my mind
that perhaps jjw/t were converted. This thought made me so
happy, that I began to praise the Lord ; and then I had
liberty, and shouted so loud that it roused up the whole
house, and they came rushing into my room to know what-
ever was the matter with me. ' I am praising God,' I said ;
* praising God — the parson is converted ! — I feel sure he is.
Glory be to God ! Glory be to God ! ' They said, ' You


must be dreaming ; you had better lie down again, and be
quiet' But it was of no use, I could not sleep ; and so
soon as the light began to break, I dressed myself, and
have come out to see whether it is true."

" Yes," I said, "// is true ; the Lord has saved my soul;
I am happy ! " I thanked him then and there for all the
help he had been, and for the patience he had so long
exercised towards me. We spent a happy time together,
thanking and praising God, and then he returned home to
tell his friends and neighbours the news.

After breakfast a visitor arrived, who was on an errand
of quite another kind. The report had by this time spread
far and wide, that I was converted in my own pulpit, and
by means of my own sermon ; also, that I had said, " If
I had died last week, I should have been lost for ever ! "
My friend having heard this, immediately mounted his
horse and rode over to see me about it. He at once put
the question, " Did you say, last night, in your pulpit, that
you were saved; and that if you had died last week you
would have been lost for ever?"

I answered, " Yes, indeed, I did ; and I meant it."

He looked quite bewildered, and stood for a long time
arguing with me ; then taking a chair he sat down, and
began to sympathize and pity me, saying how grieved he
was, for he could see madness in my eyes. He tried to
divert my thoughts, and begged that I would go out for a
ride with him. Seeing that he made no impression by his
various arguments, and that he could not prevail upon me
to recall my words, he ordered his horse; but before
mounting, he said, "I cannot agree with you, and will
oppose you as hard as I can."

" Very well," I replied ; " but let us shake hands over it :
there is no need that we should be angry with one another.''


Then mounting, he started off, and had not gone more
than a few yards, when, suddenly pulling up, he turned,
and placing his hand on the back of his horse, called out,
*' Haslam, God stop the man who is wrong ! "

I answered, "Araen," and off he trotted.

On the Friday following he broke a blood-vessel in his
throat or chest, and has never preached since. His life was
in danger for several weeks^ though in course of time he
recovered, but I have heard that he has never been able to
speak above a whisper. God has most undoubtedly stopped
him ; while He has permitted me to preach for the last nine-
and-twenty years, on the average more than six hundred
times a year.

From that time I began to preach the Gospel, and was
not ashamed to declare everywhere what the Lord had done
for my soul. Thus from personal experience I have been
enabled to proclaim the Word, both as a " witness " and a
" minister."

I, who before that time used to be so weak, that I could
not preach for more than fifteen or twenty minutes for three
consecutive Sundays without breaking down, was now able
to do so each day, often more than once, and three times
every Sunday.


185 1— 4.

N the providence of God, my conversion was the
beginning of a great revival work in my parish,
which continued without much interruption for
nearly three years. At some periods during that
time there was a greater power of the divine presence, and
consequently more manifest results, than at others ; but all
along there were conversions of sinners or restoration of
backsliders every week — indeed, almost every day.

I was carried along with the torrent of the work, far
over and beyond several barriers of prejudice which had
been in my mind. For instance, I made a resolution that
if I ever had a work of God in my parish, it should be
according to rule, and that people should not be excited
into making a noise, as if God were deaf or afar off; also,
that I would prevent their throwing themselves into extra-
ordinary states of mind and body, as though it were neces-
sary that they should do so in order to obtain a blessing.
I intended to have everything in most beautiful and exem-
plary order, and that all should be done as quietly and with
as much precision as the working of a machine. No


shouting of praises, no loud praying, no hearty responding ;
and, above all, no extravagant crying for mercy, such as I
had witnessed in Mr. Aitken's parish.

But notwithstanding my prudence and judicious resolu-
tions, "the wind blew as it listed; we heard the sound
thereof, but could not tell whence it came, or whither it
went" (John iii. 8). In spite of all my prejudices, souls were
quickened and born of the Spirit. I was filled with rejoic-
ing, and my heart overflowed with joy to see something
doing for the Lord.

Anything is better than the stillness of death, however
aesthetic and beautiful, however reverential and devout a
mere outward ceremonial may appear. Imposing pageants
and religious displays may excite enthusiastic religiosity
or devotionism ; but they do not, and never can, promote
spiritual vitality. Far from this, they draw the heart and
mind into a channel of human religion, where it can some-
times overflow to its own satisfaction ; but they never bring
a sinner to see himself lost, or unworthy by nature to be a
worshipper, and consequently, as such, utterly unfit to take
any part in religious ceremonies.

On the Monday after my conversion we had our first
week-day revival service in the church, which was filled
to excess. In the sermon, I told them once more that
God had " brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of
the miry clay, and set my feet upon the Rock, and . . . put
a new song in my mouth " (Ps. xl. 2 — 3). I had not
spoken long, when some one in the congregation gave a
shriek, and then began to cry aloud for mercy. This was
quickly followed by cries from another and another, until
preaching was altogether hopeless. We then commenced
praying for those who were in distress, and some experienced
men who were present dealt with the anxious.

I cannot tell how many people cried for mercy, or how


many found peace that night ; but there was great rejoic-
ing. I, who was still in my grave-clothes, though out of
the grave, was sorely offended at people praying and prais-
ing God so heartily and so loudly in the chiuxh. I thought
that if this was to become a regular thing, it would be akin
to "brawling," and quite out of order. Practising singing
and rehearsing anthems in the church, I did not think
much about ; but somehow, for people to cry out in distress
of soul, and to praise God out of the abundance of their
hearts, was too much for me. I was sadly perplexed !

At the close of the service, I told the people I would
have a short one again the next evening, in the church, and
that after that we would go into the schoolroom for the
prayer- meeting. Thus ended the second day of my spiritual

On Tuesday evening we assembled in the church,
and then went to the schoolroom for the after-meeting.
There the people had full liberty to sing, praise, and
shout too, if they desired, to their hearts' content, and
truly many availed themselves of the opportunity. In
Cornwall, at the time I speak of ^^now twenty-nine years
ago), Cornish folk did not think much of a meeting unless
it was an exciting and noisy one.

In this schoolroom, evening by evening, the Lord
wrought a great work, and showed forth His power in
saving many souls. I have seldom read of any remarkable
manifestations in revivals the counterpart of which I did
not witness in that room ; and I saw some things there
which I have never heard of as taking place anywhere else.
I was by this time not afraid of a little, or even much
noise, so long as the power of the Lord's presence was
evident. The shouts of the people did not hinder me, nor
did their loud praying, nor their hearty responses.

There were some subjects on which it was impossible


to venture without eliciting vehement demonstrations. A
friend of mine, who had come from some distance on a
visit, went with me on one occasion to an afternoon Bible-
class. I asked him to address the people, and in a quiet
way he proceeded to talk of heaven. As he described
the city of gold, with its pearly gates, its walls of jasper, its
foundations of sapphire and precious stones, and to tell them
that " the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon,
to shine in it ; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the
Lamb is the light thereof" (Rev. xxi. 2 — 3), I began to
feel somewhat uneasy, and feared that he was venturing on

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