W. (William) Haslam.

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

. (page 6 of 23)
Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 6 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tender ground, when all at once there was heard a shriek
of joy, and in a moment almost the whole class was in
an ecstasy of praise. My friend was greatly dismayed, and
also frightened at the noise, and seizing his hat, he made
hastily for the door. "Stop ! stop !" I said; "you must
stand fire better than that.'' I quietly gave out a hymn,
and asked some of them to help me sing, and then we knelt
down to pray. I prayed in a low voice, and soon all was
still again, excepting the responsive "Amens," and the
gaspings of those who had been thus excited.

It may be asked, why did I permit such things ? I
lived amongst a people who were accustomed to outward
demonstrations ; and by descending to them in their ways I
was enabled to lead many of them to higher things, and to
teach them to rest not so much on their feelings, as on the
facts and truth revealed in the Word of God. But theorize
as we would, it was just a question, in many cases, of no
work, or of decided manifestation. We could not help
people being stricken down, neither could they help it
themselves ; often the most unlikely persons were overcome
and became excited, and persons naturally quiet and
retiring proved the most noisy and demonstrative. How-
ever, it was our joy to see permanent results afterwards,


which more than reconciled us to any amount of incon-
venience we had felt at the time.

When the power of God is manifestly present, the
persons who hear the noise, as well as those who make it,
are both under the same influence, and are in sympathy
with one another. An outsider, who does not under-
stand it, and is not in sympathy, might complain, and
be greatly scandalized. For my own part, I was intensely
happy in those meetings, and had become so accustomed to
the loud "Amens," that I found it very dull to preach
when there was no response. Prayer-meetings which were
carried on in a quiet and formal manner seemed to me
cold and heartless. "They that go down to the sea in
ships, that do business in great waters ; these see the
works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep " (Ps. cvii.
23, 24). Some spiritual mariners never venture out of a
calm millpond, and rejoice in very quiet proceedings ; they
do not look like rejoicing at all. They resemble the people
who are going through a formal duty, and, " like a painted
ship upon a painted ocean," they are never tossed. Most
undeniable it is that many trying things happen in the
excitement of a storm.

I was hardened against criticism, and only wished that
my criticizing friends could show me a more effectual way of
working, and a way in which God's glory might be advanced,
without giving offence.

The very remembrance of these times warms my heart
as I write \ and though I do not know whether I am still
young enough to enter into such things in the same way,
yet I am sure that the manifest presence of the Lord, under
any circumstances, would still stir and rejoice my spirit. My
friend Mr. Aitken used to rise above it all most majestically,
and shout as loud as the loudest. It was grand to see his
great soul at full liberty rejoicing in the Lord. He was


quite at home in the noisiest and stormiest meetings, and no
doubt he thought me a promising disciple, and a very happy
one, too.

Oh, what tremendous scenes we witnessed whenever Mr.
Aitken came to preach at Baldhu ! The church, which was
built to seat six hundred, used to have as many as fifteen
hundred packed into it. Not only were the wide passages
crowded, and the chancel filled, even up to the communion
table, but there were two rows of occupants in every pew.
The great man was king over their souls, for at times he
seemed as if he was endued with power whereby he could
make them shout for joy, or howl for misery, or cry aloud
for mercy. He was by far the most effective preacher I
ever heard, or ever expect to hear. Souls were awakened
by scores whenever he preached, and sometimes the meet-
ings continued far into the night, and occasionally even to
the daylight of the next morning.

To the cool, dispassionate outside observers and the
newspaper reporters, all this vehement stir was very extra-
vagant and incomprehensible, and no doubt they thought
that it was done for excitement; certainly they gave us
credit for that, and a great deal more. They did not esteem
us better than themselves, and consequently we had the full
benefit of their sarcasm and invective.

Cornish revivals were things by themselves. I have
read of such stirring movements occurring occasionally in
different places elsewhere, but in Cornwall they were fre-
quent. Every year, in one part or another, a revival would
spring up, during which believers were refreshed and sinners
awakened. It is sometimes suggested that there is a great
deal of the flesh in these things — more of this than of the
Spirit. I am sure this is a mistake, for I am quite satisfied
that neither Cornish nor any other people could produce
revivals without the power of the Spirit, for they would


never be without them if they could raise them at pleasure.
But, as a fact, it is well known that revivals begin and
continue for a time, and that they cease as mysteriously as
they began.

Sometimes I have known the children of the school
commence crying for no ostensible reason ; when a few
words about the love of God in giving His Son, or the
love of Christ in laying down His life, would prove enough
to kindle a flame, and they would begin to cry aloud for
mercy forthwith. I have seen a whole school of more than
a hundred children Hke this at the same time. An awaken-
ing of such a character was generally a token of the
beginning of a work of God, which would last in power for
four or five weeks, if not more ; then the quiet, ordinary
work would go on as before. Sometimes, for no account-
able reason, we saw the church thronged with a multitude of
people from various parts, having no connection with one
another, all equally surprised to see each other ; and the
regular congregation more surprised still to see the unex-
pected rush of strangers. After a time or two we began to
know the cause, and understood that the coming together
of the people was by the Spirit of the Lord, and so we pre-
pared accordingly, expecting a revival to follow.

On these occasions it was very easy to preach, or pray,
or sing ; we had only to say, " Stay here, or go to the
schoolroom ;" " Stand and sing ;" or, " Kneel and pray ;"
and it was done at once : such was the power of the Spirit
in melting the hearts of the people into entire submission
for the time.



N the midst of these things, we had a scene quite
characteristic of Cornwall, which was the funeral
l| of my late gardener and friend, John Gill. This
man's conversion, it will be remembered, was the
event by which it pleased God to bring my religious state to
a crisis. After my sudden exit from John's cottage, which
I have already described, he continued to pray for me, as
he said he would, until the following Sunday, when he
heard of my conversion. Then he praised God, and that
with amazing power of mind and body for a dying man.
Day by day, as his life was prolonged, he was eager to
hear of the progress of the work.

At last the day of his departure arrived, and he was
quite content and happy to go. A large concourse of
people assembled at the funeral, dressed in their Sunday
best. They gathered by hundreds in front of John's cot-
tage, several hours before the time fixed for the service.
During this interval they sang hymns, which were given out
two lines at a time. Then they set out for the church,
singing as they went along.


In the West it is not the custom to carry the coffin on
the shoulders, but by hand, which office is performed by
friends, who continually relieve one another, that all may
take part in this last mark of respect to the deceased. At
length, they arrived at the " lych " gate, and setting the
coffin upon the lych stone (a heavy slab of granite, put
there for the purpose), they sang their final hymn. At the
conclusion of this, I came out with my clerk to receive the
funeral party and to conduct them into the church. After
the service I was about to give an address, when I was told
that there were more people outside than within the church.
In order, therefore, not to disappoint them, we came to the
grave-side in the churchyard, and from thence I addressed
a great concourse of people.

I told them of dear John's conversion, and of my dis-
appointment and distress on account of it ; then of my own
conversion, and John's unbounded joy ; taking the oppor-
tunity to enforce the absolute necessity of this spiritual
change, and the certain damnation of those who die
without it.

This funeral caused a solemn feeling, and as the people
lingered about, we re-entered the church, and further im-
proved the occasion. Then we went to the schoolroom for
a prayer-meeting, and many souls were added to the number
of the saved.

Among the strangers present was a gentleman who had
come all the way from Plymouth, in order to witness for
himself the wonderful work, of which he had read an account
in the newspaper. After attending several of our services,
he came up to speak to me, and said that he had seen an
account of " the fall of a High Churchman into Dissent,"
which was regarded as a very extraordinary thing, for at that
time some Dissenters were becoming High Churchmen, or
what used to be called then " Puseyites." Having seen me^


and heard for himself of iry conversion, and my adherence
to the Church, he was satisfied, and asked me to spare time
for a httle conversation with him.

He came to my house the next morning, and com-
menced by asking, " Do you really think you would have
been lost for ever, if you had died before you were con-
verted ? " This he said looking me full in the face, as if to
see whether I flinched from my position.

I answered, " Most certainly ; without a doubt."

" Remember," he said, calmly, " you have been baptized
and confirmed ; you are a communicant, and have been
ordained ; and do you really think that all this goes for
nothing ? "

" Most assuredly, all these things are good in their
place, and fully avail for their respective purposes, but they
have nothing whatever to do with a sinner's salvation."

" Do you mean to say,'' he continued, " that the Church
is not the very ark of salvation ? "

" I used to think so," I replied, " and to say that ' there
was no Church without a Bishop, and no salvation out of
the Church ; ' but now I am sure that I was mistaken. The
outward Church is a fold for protecting the sheep, but the
Church is not the Shepherd who seeks and finds the lost

" Well," he said, " but think of all the good nmi you
condemn if you take that position so absolutely."

Seeing that I hesitated, he went on to say that he
** knew many very good men, in and out of the Church of
England, who did not think much of conversion, or believe
in the necessity of it."

*' I am very sorry for them," I replied ; " but I cannot
go back from the position into which, I thank God, He
has brought me. It is burned into me that, except a man
is converted, he will and must be lost for ever."


" Come, come, my young friend," he said, shifting his
chair, and then sitting down to another onslaught, " do you
mean to say that a man will go to hell if he is not converted,
as you call it ? "

" Yes, I do ; and I am quite sure that if I had died in
an unconverted state I should have gone there j and this
compels me to believe, also, that what the Scripture says
about it is true for every one."

" But what does the Scripture say?" he interposed.

" It says that ' he that believeth not is condemned
already, because he hath not believed* (John iii. 18) ; and
in another place, * He that believeth not shall be damned '
(Mark xvi. 16). As surely as the believer is saved and goes
to heaven, as surely the unbeliever is lost and must go
to hell."

" Do you mean Gehenna, the place of torment ? "

"Yes, I do."

" This is very dreadful ! "

" More dreadful still," I said, " must be the solemn
reality ; and therefore, instead of shrinking from the thought,
and putting it off, I rather let it stir and rouse me to warn
unbelievers, so that I may, by any means, stop them on
their dangerous path. I think this is the only true and
faithful way of showing kindness ; and that, on the other
hand, it is the most selfish, heartless, and cruel unkindness
to let sinners, whether they are religious, moral, reformed,
or otherwise, go on in an unconverted state, and perish."

" Do you believe, then," said my visitor, " in the fire of
hell ? Do you think it is a material fire ? "

" I do not know ; I do not wish to know anything about
it. I suppose material fire, like every other material thing,
is but a shadow of something real. Is it not a fire which
shall burn the soul — a fire that never will be quenched —
where the worm will never die ? "


*' Do you really believe all this ? "

" Yes," I said, " and I have reason to do so." I remem-
bered the anguish of soul I passed through when I was
under conviction, and the terrible distress I felt for others
whom I had misled.

" When our blessed Lord was speaking to the Jews, and
warning them against their unbelief and its fearful conse-
quences, He did not allow any ^ cha7'itable Jiopes'' to hinder
Him from speaking the w^hole truth. He told them of
Lazarus, who died, and w^nt to Paradise, or Abraham's
bosom ; and of Dives, who died, and went to hell, the- place
of torment" (Luke xvi.)

" But," he said, interrupting me, " that is only a parable,
or figure of speech."

" Figure of speech ! " I repeated. " Is it a figure of
speech that the rich man fared sumptuously, that he died,
that he was buried ? Is not that literal ? Why, then, is it
a figure of speech that he lifted up his eyes in torment, and
said, *I am tormented in this flame'? (Luke xvi. 24). My
dear friend, be sure that there is an awful reality in that
story — a most solemn reality in the fact of the impassable
gulf. If here we do not believe in this gulf, we shall have
to know of it hereafter. I never saw and felt," I continued,
"as I do now, that every man is lost, even while on earth,
until he is saved, and that if he dies in that unsaved state
he will be lost for ever."

My unknown visitor remained silent for a little time,
and I could see that he was in tears. At last he burst out
and said, " I am sure you are right. I came to try you
upon the three great 'R's' — 'Ruin,' 'Redemption,' and
' Regeneration,' and to see if you really meant what you
preached. Now I feel more confirmed in the truth and
reality of the Scriptures."

I thought I had been contending with an unbeliever all


along, but instead of this I found that he was a man who
scarcely ventured to think out what he believed to its ulti-
mate result — he believed God's Word, but, like too many,
alas ! held it loosely.

This gentleman had experienced the truth of the three
** R's " — that is to say, he had been awakened to know him-
self to be lost and ruined by the fall, redeemed by the blood
of Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost. In other
words, he had been converted, and he knew it.

I found out that at the time of his conversion he was a
beneficed clergyman, and that, as such, not being respon-
sible to any rector or vicar, he began to preach boldly the
things he had seen. His changed preaching produced a
manifest result, and the people were awakened, even startled,
and it would appear he was startled too. Instead of thank-
ing God and taking courage, he became alarmed at the
disturbance amongst his congregation, and finding that his
preaching made him very unpopular, he was weak enough
to change his tone, and speak smooth things. Thus he
made peace with his congregation, and gained their treacher-
ous good-will ; but as a living soul he could not be satisfied
with this state of things. He knew that he was not faithful
to God or to his people; so being a man of competent
means, he resigned his living, and retired into private life —
"beloved and respected," as they said, for being a good and
peaceable man !

At this distance of time I continue to thank God for his
visit to me ; it helped to fix the truth more firmly in my
own soul, and to confirm me in the course in which I was
working, and even contending, in the face of much opposi-
tion. I must say that I have had no reason to waver in my
conviction, and still feel that I would not, for ten times that
man's wealth, and twenty times the amount of good-will
which he enjoyed (if he did enjoy it), stand in his place.


After long observation, I perceive that it is not the
sword of the Word which offends congregations, for preachers
are commended and promoted for declaring the whole truth,
so long as it is judiciously put, and with " much discretion,"
so as not to wound the prejudices of the people. The
majority of congregations rather like to see the sword drawn
out to its full length and flashed with dexterity, and they do
not always object to being hit with it, and even hit hard, so
long as it is done with the flat of the sword ; but they very
quickly resent a touch with its edge, and more a thrust with
its point. They admire sheet lightning, which is beautiful,
as it is harmless ; but forked lightning is something to be
dreaded and avoided. For instance, a man may preach
most eloquently and acceptably on the three " R's," if he
does not apply the subject too pointedly, by telling the
people, both in the pulpit and out of it, that they are now
ruined and lost ; and that, having been redeemed, they are
responsible before God ; and that, if they will not be regene-
rated by the Spirit, they will be damned. They do not
object to your saying, " You hath He quickened," but to
turn these same words into a personal question is too often
considered impertinent ; though, indeed, it is the sincerest
kindness and truest Christian love.

" This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners "
(i Tim. i. 15). He came, and is spiritually present now, every-
where, for this purpose. His real presence with power is
particularly promised to the preacher of the Gospel (Matt,
xxviii. 20). The Lord Jesus is ever present to take especial
interest in the result of preaching. How disappointing then
must it be to Him, to find His servants so often spending their
time and energies upon other objects, however great or
good they may be ! When they do preach the Gospel, it
must grieve Him to see that their object is too often not

" PRE A CH THE WORD / " 79

the same as His ; and when He does apply the Word by
the power of the Spirit, it must also grieve Him to see that
they are afraid of the result.

Gospel preaching should not be to entertain people, nor
even to instruct them ; but first to awaken them to see their
danger, and to bring them from death into life, which is
manifestly the Lord's chief desire.

This was the definite object of my work ; I preached
for and aimed at it ; and nothing short of this could or
would satisfy my longings. In the church, in the school-
room, or in the cottages, we prayed that the Holy Spirit
would bring conviction upon sinners, and then we sought
to lead them to conversion with the clear ringing testimony,
" You must be born again, or die to all eternity."


^\jt first atljristmas-

185I— 2.

HE first Christmas-day, during the revival, was a
wonderful time. The people had never realized
before what this festival was, beyond regarding it
as a season for domestic rejoicing. It surprised
many to see that their past Christmases were a true
representation of their past lives — that they had cheered
and tried to make themselves happy without Christ, leaving
Him out of their consideration in His own world, as they
had on His own birthday. What a Christless and hopeless
life it had been ! What a Christless religion ! Now we
praised the Lord together for His marvellous goodness to
us, and desired that we might henceforth Hve unto Him,
singing in heart and life, " Glory to God in the highest, and
on earth peace, good-will towards men."

When New Year's eve arrived we had a midnight
gathering, and dedicated ourselves afresh to God's service.
It was a blessed season, and several hundreds were there,
who, together with myself, were the fruits of the revival
during the previous two months.

The new year opened upon us with fresh manifestation


of divine power and larger blessings. I endeavoured to
show the people that the Lord was called Jesus, not that
He might save us from hell or death, but from our sins ;
and this while we lived on earth — that our heart and all
our members being mortified from all carnal lusts, we might
live to His glory; that Christ's religion was not intended
for a death-bed, but for a happy and effectual Christian life
— a life showing forth the power of His grace.

After the Christmas holidays, our schoolmaster and his
wife returned. They came back full of disdain and preju-
dice against the work, and even put themselves out of the
way to go from house to house, in order to set the people
against me and my preaching. They said that they could
bring a hundred clergymen to prove that I was wrong ; but
their efforts had just the contrary effect to what they
expected. It stirred the people to come more frequently
to hear, and contend more zealously for what they knew to
be right. The master was particularly set against " excite-
ment" and noise. He said, "It was so very much more
reverent to be still in prayer, and orderly in praise ; it was
not necessary to make such an unseemly uproar ! " I had,
however, discovered, long before this time, that the people
who most objected to noise had nothing yet to make a
noise about ; and that when they had, they generally made
as much or more noise than others.

If a house is seen to be on fire, people cannot help
making an outcry ; which they do not, when they only read
about it. Witnessing a danger stirs the heart; and when
people's eyes are open to see souls in eternal danger, they
cannot help being stirred up, and crying out. I am some-
times asked, " Is there not such a thing as a feeling which
is too deep for expression ? " It may be that at times people
are so surprised and astonished at some sudden announce-
ment of good or bad news, that they are stunned, and for a


time unable to give vent to their joy or grief; but soon
there is a reaction, and then expression is given. Generally
speaking, these so-called "deep feelings" are only deep
in the way of being low down in the vessel— that is to say,
very shallow, and by no means sufficient to overflow.

We read, that "the whole multitude of the disciples be-
gan to rejoice, and praise God with a loud voice, for all the
mighty works that they had seen " (Luke xix. 37). And we
are told, over and over again, in the Psalms, to " praise
God with a loud voice," and to " shout." When we lift up
our voice, the Lord can stir our hearts ; and surely the
things of the Lord have more right, and ought to have
more power, to stir and arouse the soul of man, than a
boat-race, or a horse-race, or a fictitious scene on the stage.
I think people would be all the better for letting out their
hearts in praise to God. It may be it is trying and exciting
to some, but perhaps they are the very ones who need such
a stimulus, and this may be the best way of bringing it out.

Notwithstanding the schoolmaster's opposition, he still
came to church, and was very attentive to the sermons,
taking copious notes. One Sunday, when I had been
preaching on the text, " Cut it down ; why cumbereth it
the ground?" he was heard to say, "Thank God, I am
not cut down yet;" and then he proceeded for the first
time to the after-meeting in the school -room.

When I entered I saw him low down on his knees, and
said how happy I was to see him there. " Oh," he cried,
" I fear there is no mercy — the sentence is surely gone
forth against me, * Cut him down ! cut him down ! ' " And
then the poor man howled aloud in his distress. The
people prayed for him with shouts of thanksgiving, while
he threw himself about in agony of mind, and made a great

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryW. (William) HaslamFrom death into life: or, Twenty years of my ministry → online text (page 6 of 23)