William Haslam.

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Produced by Michael Madden

FROM DEATH TO LIFE: Twenty Years of My Ministry.


Rev. William Haslam,

(Late Incumbent of Curzon Chapel, Mayfair)

Reprinted by Rev. W. J. Watchorn.

This edition completes 130,000 copies.

Standard Book Room, Brockville, Ontario


The Broken Nest, 1841.

Religious Life.


Antiquarian Researches and Ministry, 1843-46.

The New Parish, 1846.

The Awakening, 1848-51.

Conversion, 1851.

The Awakening, 1848-51.

The Visitor, 1851.

The First Christmas, 1851-52.

Dreams and Visions, 1851-4.

Billy Bray, 1852.

Cottage Meetings, 1852.

Open-Air Services, 1852.

Drawing-Room Meetings, 1852-53.

Opposition, 1853.

Individual Cases, 1853.

A Visit to Veryan, 1853.

A Mission in the "Shires." 1853.

A Stranger from London, 1853.

Golant Mission, 1854.

The High Church Rector, 1854.

A Mission in Staffordshire, 1854.


The Removal, 1855

Plymouth, 1855

Devonport, 1855

A Mission to the North, 1855

Tregoney, 1855

Secessions, 1856

Hayle, 1857-58

Bible Readings, 1858-59

The Work Continued, 1859

The Dismissal, 1860-61


This volume is not so much a history of my own life, as of the Lord's
dealings with me; setting forth how He wrought in and by me during the
space of twenty years. It will be observed that this is not, as
biographies generally are, an account of life on to death; but rather
the other way - a narrative of transition from death into life, and that
in more senses than one.

I had been given over by three physicians to die, but it pleased the
Lord, in answer to prayer, to raise me up again. My restored health and
strength I thankfully devoted to a religious and earnest life. In the
height and seeming prosperity of this, the Lord awakened me to see that
I was dead in trespasses and sins; still far from Him; resting on my own
works; and going about to establish my own righteousness, instead of
submitting to the righteousness of God. Then He quickened me by the Holy
Ghost, and raised me up into a new and spiritual life.

In this volume the reader will meet with the respective results of (what
I have called) the Religious, as distinguished from the Spiritual, life.
The former produced only outward and ecclesiastical effects, while the
latter brought forth fruit in the salvation of souls, to the praise and
glory of God.

One object in writing this book is to warn and instruct earnest-minded
souls, who are, as I was once, strangers to the experience of salvation,
seeking rest where I am sure they can never find it, and labouring to do
good to others when they have not yet received that good themselves.
They are vainly "building from the top;" trying to live before they are
born; to become holy before they have become justified; and to lead
others to conversion before they have been converted themselves.

A second object is - to draw the attention of every earnest, seeking, or
anxious soul, to consider the Lord's marvellous goodness in first
bearing with me in my religious wanderings, and then using me for His
glory in the salvation of hundreds.

Another desire I have is - to cheer the hearts of believers who are
working for God, by relating to them what He has done through me, and
can do again, by the simple preaching of the Gospel. Here the reader
will meet with narratives of the Lord's work in individual cases, in
congregations, and in parishes - wonderful things which are worthy of

I have not shunned to tell of the mistakes I fell into after my
conversion, hoping that others may take heed and profit by them; and
then I shall not have written in vain.


The Broken Nest, 1841.

At the time in which this history begins, I had, in the providence of
God, a very happy nest; and as far as temporal prospects were concerned,
I was provided for to my liking, and, though not rich, was content. I
had taken my degree; was about to be ordained; and, what is more, was
engaged to be married; in order, as I thought, to settle down as an
efficient country parson.

With this bright future before me, I went on very happily; when, one
evening, after a hard and tiring day, just as I was sitting down to
rest, a letter was put into my hand which had been following me for
several days. "Most urgent" was written on the outside. It told me of
the alarming illness of the lady to whom I was engaged, and went on to
say that if I wished to see her alive I must set off with all haste. It
took me a very short time to pack my bag and get my travelling coats and
rugs together, so that I was all ready to start by the night mail. At
eight o'clock punctually I left London for the journey of two hundred
and eighty miles. All that night I sat outside the coach; all the next
day; and part of the following night. I shall never forget the misery of
mind and body that I experienced, for I was tired before starting; and
the fatigue of sitting up all night, together with the intense cold of
the small hours of the morning, were almost beyond endurance. With the
morning, however, came a warm and bright sunshine, which in some degree
helped to cheer me; but my bodily suffering was so great that I could
never have held up had it not been for the mental eagerness with which I
longed to get forward. It was quite consonant with my feelings when the
horses were put into full gallop, especially when they were tearing down
one hill to get an impetus to mount another.

At length, the long, long journey was over; and about thirty hours after
starting, I found myself staggering along to the well-known house. As I
approached the door was softly opened by a relative who for several days
had been anxiously watching my arrival. She at once conducted me
upstairs, to what I expected was a sick chamber, when, to my horror, the
first thing I saw was the lid of a coffin standing up against the wall,
and in the middle of the room was the coffin, with candles burning on
either side.

I nearly fell to the ground with this tremendous shock and surprise.
There was the dear face, but it seemed absorbed in itself, and to have
lost all regard for me. It no longer turned to welcome me, nor was the
hand stretched out, as theretofore, to meet mine. All was still; there
was no smile - no voice - no welcome-nothing but the silence of death to
greet me.

The sight of that coffin, with its quiet inmate, did not awaken sorrow
so much as surprise; and with that, something like anger and rebellion.
I was weak and exhausted in body, but strong in wilful insubordination.
Murmuring and complaining, I spoke unadvisedly with my lips.

A gentle voice upbraided me, adding, that I had far better kneel down in
submission to God, and say "Thy will be done!" This, however, was not so
easy, for the demon of rebellion had seized me, and kept me for three
hours in a tempest of anger, filling my mind with hard thoughts against
God. I walked about the room in the most perturbed state of mind, so
much so, that I grieved my friends, who came repeatedly to ask me to
kneel down and say, "Thy will be done!" "Kneel down - just kneel down!"
At length I did so, and while some one was praying, my tears began to
flow, and I said the words, "Thy will be done!" Immediately the spell
was broken and I was enabled to say from my heart, again and again, "Thy
will be done!" After this I was conscious of a marvellous change in
mind; rebellion was gone, and resignation had come in its place. More
than that, the dear face in the coffin seemed to lie smiling in peace,
so calm and so lovely, that I felt I would not recall the spirit that
was fled, even if it bad been possible. There was wrought in me
something more than submission, even a lifting-up of my will to the will
of God; and withal, such a love towards Him that I wondered at myself.
God had been, as it were, a stranger to me before. Now I felt as though
I knew and loved Him, and could kiss His hand, though my tears flowed

The funeral took place the same morning: it was a time of great emotion;
sorrow and joy met, and flowed together. I thought of the dear one I had
lost, but yet more of the God of love I had found; and to remember that
she was with Him was an additional comfort to me. The funeral service
was soothing and elevating beyond expression; and yet, when it was all
over, such a sense of desolation came upon me, that I felt utterly
forlorn and truly sad.

My nest was now completely stirred up; but instead of bemoaning its
broken state, I could see the eagle fluttering over her young ones
(Deut. 32:1). I was conscious that God was looking on, and that He had
not forsaken me in this great wreck.

The strain and excitement I had undergone naturally brought on an
illness. I was seized with inflammation of the lungs, and was
dangerously ill. From this, and other complications which supervened,
the doctor pronounced that I could not recover, and bade me prepare for

Judges and doctors, when they pass sentence of death, seem to regard
religion as necessary preparation for it. Too common, also, is this
idea, even among those who do not belong to these respected professions.
My own opinion was much the same at that time.

Having received this solemn warning, I took down the Prayer-book, and
religiously read over the office for the Visitation of the Sick. I
became so interested in this exercise, that I determined to read it
three times a day. The prayer for a sick child especially commended
itself to my mind, so that, by changing a few words, I made it
applicable to my own case, and used it not only three, but even seven,
times a day. In substance, it petitioned that I might be taken to heaven
if I died; or that, if it should please God to restore my health, He
would let me live to His glory. I did not at that time expect my days
would be prolonged, nor had I any wish to live, for the world was now
perfectly blank and desolate to me. I felt as if I could never be happy
again; to be with God would be far better!

I little dreamed that if I had died in that unpardoned and Christless
state, I should have been lost forever; for I was profoundly ignorant of
the necessity of change of heart - perfectly unconscious that I must be
born again of the Spirit. This vital truth had never come to my mind; I
felt a love for God, and in my ignorance I wished to die.

One morning the thought came to me, as I was sitting all alone by the
fire, "What have I been praying for? - that the Lord would take me to
heaven if I died; or, if I lived, that He would let me live to His glory?"
Why, this is heaven both ways! - heaven in heaven, or heaven on
earth - whichever way it pleases God to answer my prayer. Somehow I felt
certain that He would answer it. I was exceedingly happy, and could not
help thanking Him. From that day I began to feel better, and became
impressed with the idea that I was to live, and not die. The doctor
smiled at me when I told him so, for he did not believe it. He, and two
other physicians, had told me that my lungs were diseased; indeed, six
months afterwards, all three sounded me, and declared that one lung was
inoperative, and the other much affected.

Yet, notwithstanding the doctor's discouraging announcement - for he told
me, also, that "it was one of the fatal signs of consumption for the
patient to feel or think he was getting better" - I had a certain
conviction that I was to recover. As soon as the medical man had gone, I
put on my coat and hat and went out for a walk. I trembled much from
weakness, and found it necessary to move very slowly and stop often; but
under the shelter of a wall, courting the warmth of the bright-shining
sun, I managed to make my way to the churchyard.

While I was sitting there alone, the great bell struck out unexpectedly,
and caused me to shake all over; for I was in a very weak condition. It
was the sexton tolling to announce the departure of the soul of some
villager from the world. Having done this, he came out with his boards
and tools to dig the grave. He did not observe me sitting by; so he at
once commenced, and went on diligently with his work. The ground had so
often been broken before that it did not take him long to accomplish his
task; he gradually got deeper and deeper into the ground, till he
disappeared altogether from my sight. I crept to the edge of the narrow
pit in which he was, and looking into it, I could not help thinking of
those words of Kirke White -

"Cold grave, methinks, 'twere sweet to rest
Within thy calm and hallowed breast!"

I had no fear of death, but rather felt that I should welcome it even
more than restoration to health.

I have even now a most vivid remembrance of this, and place it on record
to show how delusive' are our feelings: because I did not feel any
danger, I took it for granted that there really was none. That day,
however, was an eventful one in my life; for, in the gladness of my
heart, I gave myself to God, to live for Him. I had given my will
before, and now I gave my life, and was happy in the deed. I did not
know at that time that faith does not consist in believing that I have
given myself, even if I meant it ever so sincerely; but in believing
that God has taken or accepted me.

At the outset, I began with the former - a merely human faith - and its
result was consequently imperfect. I was spiritually dead, and did not
know it. Alas! What multitudes there are who are utterly unconscious of
the fact of this spiritual death, though there are few things more
plainly declared and revealed in the Word of God.

The full meaning of the word death is too often misunderstood and
overlooked. There are three kinds referred to in the Word of
God - spiritual, natural, and everlasting. The first is a separation of
the soul from God; the second, that of the body from the soul; and the
last, that of the unbelieving man, body and soul, from God forever.

It will be seen that there is one characteristic which is common to all
three kinds - that is, separation; and that there is no idea of
finality - death is not the end. When the Lord God created man, we
suppose that He made him not merely in the form of a body, but a man
with body and soul complete; and afterwards that He breathed into this
living man the Spirit, and he became a living soul. As such, he communed
with the eternal God, who is a Spirit. In this spiritual state he could
walk and converse with God in the garden of Eden. When, however, he
disobeyed the command which had been given to him, he incurred the
tremendous penalty. The Lord God had said, "In the day that you eat of
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall surely die." He
did eat, and he died there and then; that is, he forfeited that 'Spirit
which had quickened his soul, and thus became a dead soul; though, as we
know, he remained a living man for nine hundred years before his body
returned to its dust.

By his one act of disobedience, Adam opened in an instant (as an
earthquake opens a deep chasm) the great gulf, the impassable gulf of
separation which is fixed between us and God. By nature, as the children
of Adam, we are all on the side which is away from God; and we are
become subject also to the sentence pronounced against the life of the
body. We know and understand that we are mortal, and that it is
appointed unto men once to die; but we do not seem to be aware of the
more important fact of the death of our souls. Satan, who said to our
first parents, "Ye shall not surely die," employs himself now in
deceiving men by saying, "Ye are not dead;" and multitudes believe him,
and take it for granted that it is actually true. Thus they go on
unconcerned about this awful and stupendous reality.


Religious Life.

With returning health and strength, I did not think of going back into
the world, but rather gave myself more fully to the purpose for which I
supposed that my life had been restored. I felt a thankfulness and joy
in my recovery, which confirmed me more and more in my determination to
live to the glory of God.

When I was able to return to the South, I did so by easy stages till I
got back to the neighbourhood of London; and there it was ordered that I
should be shut up for the remainder of the winter.

During this season of retirement, I spent my time most happily in
reading and prayer, and found great delight in this occupation. I was
able to say, with the Psalmist, "I love the Lord, because He has heard
my voice and my supplication;" and, like him, I could say, "I will call
upon Him as long as I live; I will walk before Him in the land of the
living; and I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of
the Lord." That is, in secret or private life; in social intercourse
with my fellow-men; and in the worship of the sanctuary, I will seek the
glory of God. I used to have much pleasure every day in asking God to
give me a deeper sense of His love, that I might unfeignedly thank Him,
and show forth His praise with my life as well as my lips.

All this, be it observed, was because God had saved not my soul, but my
life; for as yet I had not, like the Psalmist, felt any trouble about my
soul. I knew nothing of what he describes as the "sorrows of death and
the pains of hell." I had not been awakened by the Spirit to know the
danger and sorrow of being separated from God (which is spiritual
death). I was perfectly unconscious that between God and myself there
was the "impassable gulf" I have already referred to, and consequently I
had not experienced such overwhelming anxiety as made the Psalmist cry
out, "O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul." I knew nothing of the
necessity of passing from death to life, and therefore I could not say,
"The Lord has delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my
feet from falling."

The only thing I knew was that God was good to me, and therefore I loved
Him, and was thankful, not for the sake of getting His favour, but
because I thought I had it. I turned over a new leaf, and 'therewith
covered up the blotted page of my past life. On this new path I
endeavoured to walk as earnestly in a religious way, as I had before
lived in a worldly one.

This mistake into which I fell was natural enough and common as it is
natural; but for all this it was very serious, and might have been fatal
to me, as it has proved to multitudes. I did not see then, as I have
since that turning over a new leaf to cover the past, is not by any
means the same thing as turning back the old leaves, and getting them
washed in the blood of the Lamb.

I have said before that I did not know any better; nor was I likely to
see matters in a clearer light from the line of study in which I was
chiefly occupied. I was absorbed for the time, not so much in the Bible
as in the "Tracts for the Times" - a publication which was engaging much
attention. These Oxford tracts suited me exactly, and fitted my tone of
mind to a nicety. Their object was the restoration of the Church of
England from a cold, formal condition, into something like reality - from
a secular to a religious state; this also was my own present object for
myself. I read these writings with avidity, and formed from them certain
ecclesiastical proclivities which carried me on with renewed zeal.

I suppose I learned from the perusal of them to interpret the Bible by
the Prayer-book, and to regard the former as a book which no one could
understand without the interpretation of the Fathers. Certain it is,
that I did not look to the Bible, but to the Church, for teaching, for I
was led to consider that private judgment on the subject of Scripture
statements was very presumptuous. I got, moreover, into a legal state,
and thought my acceptance with God depended upon my works, and that His
future favour would result upon my faithfulness and attention to works
of righteousness which I was doing. This made me very diligent in
prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds; and I often sat and dreamed about the
works of mercy and devotion which I would do when I was permitted to go
out again.

Like persons in this state of mind, I also relied on ordinances, and was
subject to them. I took it for granted that I was a child of God,
because I had been baptized and brought into the Church; and having been
confirmed and admitted to the Lord's Table, I concluded that I was
safely on the way to Heaven. I see now the error of this very earnest
devotion, and that I was going about to establish my own righteousness
instead of submitting to the righteousness of God. I like to remember
these days and tell of them, not because I am proud of them-far
otherwise; but because they show the kind forbearance and patience of
God towards me, and, besides this, they give me a clearer idea of the
state of very many earnest people I meet with, who enter upon a
religious path in much the same way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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