WILLIAM HASLAM (1818-1905)
This short biography is taken from Haslam’s two autobiographies, “From Death into Life” and “Yet not I.” These books only take us to 1878, but these still contain a wealth of information which through space constraints I can only give you a taste. The books are written with great wit and skill; I urge you to read them. They are full of stories about individuals who came to Christ under his ministry.
William Haslam was born on January 5th 1818 in Sumatra. His father, an officer in the East India Company; died in 1832 in India. The next we know of William is that he has completed his degree at University College, Durham in 1841. Haslam received his degree, was about to be ordained and was engaged to be married, when he received a letter that had been delayed in arriving; informing him that his fiancée was dying. He raced northwards only to find that he was just in time for the funeral. The strain and the sorrow of this brought on a sickness that he nearly died from. He had an inflammation of the lungs which three doctors said he would not recover from. During his illness he was content in prayer and reading; despite the doctors’ grim pronouncements he felt sure that he would live. He did not read so much the Bible as what were known as the “Oxford tracts.”
There was a move at that time within the Church of England to restore the Church from a secular to a religious state. This movement; led by Newman; encouraged people to trust in religious rites rather than in Jesus. It was almost Catholic in design; in fact Newman eventually became one himself. Haslam admits that he did not look to the Bible for teaching, but to the Church. He says “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 baptised 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.” How many are in this state today?
Haslam was feeling better by the spring of 1842; however the doctor still held little hope of recovery. The doctor suggested that he went to the North of Cornwall, where the environment was more conducive for his recovery. He saw an advertisement for a curate in charge of a parish in that very area, in Perranzabuloe. Within ten days of applying he found himself ordained and placed in his new parish. At his ordination the bishop of Exeter told the ordinates that they were responsible for the souls of those in their parishes. Haslam had not reckoned with this and had no idea what he was to do with these ‘souls.’
He arrived at his large (3,000 people) rundown parish, not knowing quite what to do. After a short time, he formed a musical group and choir who could perform some psalms (there were no hymn books). They became very popular in the church, drawing more people in to attend the services. Haslam then went about restoring the church; finding that he had quite a talent for it. He soon became very popular in the surrounding area, being called upon to advise on many a church or building restoration; even on architectural plans to extend buildings or build schools. His congregation really liked the restored building and brought many neighbours and friends to church.
Haslam seldom preached his own sermons, he adapted Newman’s and as far as he was concerned they were doctrinally perfect, but his congregation did not like them. He was warned by one of his “band” that his sermons were going to drive people away from the church and the following Sunday a group got up and left the church in the middle of the sermon.
One day he was speaking to a Dissenter about the burying of his child when he said “I would bury you all tomorrow if I could; for you are no good.” He felt he was being persecuted for Christ’s sake; little did he know that “many of the people with whom I thus contended and whom I grieved so much, were real spiritual members of Christ, and had only ceased to be members of the Church of England because I did not preach the Gospel.”
As a result of feuds and disagreements, there was hardly anyone left in his congregation when he left the parish in 1846. His position there was dependant on the vicar who lived and worked in another parish thirty miles away; when he died Haslam had to move. He was sad to leave, partly because the climate had done wonders for his health, but he did not have to worry because he was appointed by the Earl of Falmouth to a rather desolate parish called Baldhu, only a few miles away. This parish also had 3,000 people. As there was no church he quickly erected a building which held 300 people and he began work; mainly preaching on holy living rather than conversion. He also got married at this time to Frances Taunton. He designed a church and parsonage, which opened in 1848 and proceeded to minister to his flock in the best way he knew how, as a High Churchman, but he had little success. He wanted to reach the hearts of his congregation, to do them real good, but he did not know how.
In all his teaching and ministrations there was a lot of form but no substance, because he himself remained unsaved. Over the next few years the Lord worked on him; slowly waking him from his slumber. One day his gardener became converted, an event that deeply saddened Haslam as he thought the man was deceived. The gardener became seriously ill and he called for Haslam several times, but Haslam did not want to go to see him. Eventually he paid his servant a visit and began to tell him how deceived he was. The gardener exclaimed “Oh, master! I am sure you do not know about this or you would have told me, I am praying for the Lord to show it to you. I mean to pray till I die and after that if I can, till you are converted.”
Haslam was very disappointed and discouraged as nobody seemed to listen to what he said; something was wrong. He visited his friend Robert Aitken, a remarkable man who was vicar of Pendeen in the far west of Cornwall. He told his friend about his gardener and his disappointment. “Well,” Aitken said, if I were taken ill I certainly would not send for you. I am sure you could not do any good for you are not converted yourself.”
They discussed for some time his spiritual state, particularly the difference between the natural conscience and the work of the Spirit. Haslam went to bed and read a book that discussed precisely this issue. At breakfast the next morning they continued their discussion and he went home with his mind in torment. “I endured the greatest agony of mind for the souls I had misled, though I had done it ignorantly.”
He was in despair for three days. When Sunday arrived he wondered if he should take Aitken’s advice to close the church until he was converted. He decided to read the morning prayers and then dismiss the congregation. On reading the Gospel he decided to say a few words about the passage. As he spoke “I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul. Whether it was something in my words, or my manner 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 the Cornish manner, ‘the parson is converted, the parson is converted, Hallelujah!” and in another moment his voice was lost in the shouts and praises of three or four hundred of the congregation.” As the uproar subsided he found at least twenty people crying out for mercy, including three from his own house.
This happened in 1851; for the next three years the church and area were in revival. Haslam had been determined to do everything in order with no shouting, crying etc. but those thoughts went out of the window when he realised what Holy Spirit was doing in their midst. The church was full to bursting that evening as the word had got around that the “parson is converted.” He preached the Gospel to mostly full houses for some time to come. The following morning a pastor visited who had heard that Haslam had been converted in his own sermon. He did his best to make him recant what he was saying, even commenting that he could see madness in his eyes. Seeing that he was not making any headway, the visitor ordered his horse and said “I cannot agree with you and will oppose you as hard as I can.” Then mounting, he started off, but after a few steps he pulled up. Turning around he said, “Haslam, God stop the man who is wrong.” Haslam said “Amen” and the visitor rode off.
On the following Friday the visitor broke a blood vessel in his throat or chest and did not preach again; only being able to speak in a whisper. The revival went on apace with many coming into salvation; several examples can be read in “From Death into Life”.
A little later Haslam had an unexpected visitor early one morning; his name was Billy Bray. You can read about the life of Billy Bray elsewhere on this website, including the story of his visit to Baldhu. Suffice it to say here that this extraordinary little man had been told by God that He would give him every soul on the hill where the church stood, and Billy had been praying for this for twenty years. He had come three years earlier, but only to find an “old Pusey” (a High Churchman) in the pulpit, however God told him that he had come too early. God finally gave him permission to come late the previous night, so he immediately got dressed and travelled all night to see the fruits of his praying. When he arrived and learned that everyone there was saved, he picked Haslam up and ran with him around the dining room table, rejoicing all the way.
Church institutions are funny things, be they Church of England, Methodist or anyone else; they find it difficult to see truth. Having lived with a lie for so long, they deem the lie to be truth, so Haslam found it with his fellow clergy. Despite the wonderful things of God that were happening in Baldhu and the surrounding area, most clergymen were opposed to Haslam and would not allow him to preach in their churches. His ideas about the necessity for us to be “born again” marked him as a Dissenter and he came across much opposition.
At one point he was had up in front of the local Deanery (vicars from his area) and attacked for what he was doing. One person tried to pass a vote of censure, but it did not have enough support; another failed “to record a protest against revival meetings, as contrary to the usage of the church.” Sermons were preached against him and people were warned against attending his meetings.
Haslam decided in the summer of 1852 to go and preach in his old parish of Perranzabuloe, but the vicar would not allow him to use the church; however he said he could not stop him if he preached on the beach. He found many hundreds of people waiting on the beach; at the end of the service at least fifty people were crying for mercy. This meeting was followed by many more outdoor meetings in different areas and hearts were opened in all of them.
At Mount Hawke 3,000 gathered on the common. “A mighty power of the Spirit of the Lord came on the people and several hundred fell on their knees simultaneously and many began to cry aloud for mercy.” The Holy Spirit cut a swathe diagonally across the meeting, leaving people standing on either side of where Holy Spirit had passed by. After an hour of ministry Haslam told them to go to the school for more prayer. When he arrived at the school he had to climb through a window because so many people were inside and out. He left the meeting at 10.00pm, but it went on day and night for eight days. He took any opportunity to go out to preach, often taking drawing room meetings.
A husband and wife who were Dissenting pastors from another town came to hear him speak, but they were upset at what they had heard and went away angry. They could not sleep that night and in the morning the husband returned to tell Haslam how he felt. Haslam told him that it was God who had wounded him, but only to bring him healing. At this the man agreed to prayer and he came to the Lord. After breakfast he went with the pastor to his home to speak to his wife, but they found her rejoicing in the Lord because she had been in such distress that she had gone into prayer. She had a vision of the words ‘thy sins be forgiven thee’ on the bed cover and she knew then that she was saved. These two salvations were the start of a good work in that town with many coming to the Lord including the Mayor. The local vicar did everything to stop Haslam from holding meetings in his parish. However, on hearing that the Bishop was unable to prevent him from speaking, Haslam did not hesitate, from then on, to preach anywhere he was invited. The idea of vicars preaching outside their parish without the permission of the local vicar was quite new. Later the Earl of Shaftesbury got a Bill through Parliament that clarified the situation and allowed people to speak in any non-ecclesiastical building without the vicar’s permission.
Haslam had a friend who was vicar of Veryan and an Evangelical. They always disagreed with one another because their beliefs were diametrically opposed. Now that he was no longer a High Churchman, Haslam was surprised that his friend still opposed him because he now considered him to be a Dissenter. One day his friend asked him if he could come to Haslam’s church to see his work; Haslam assented. His friend spoke in the morning and was pleased with the atmosphere and how his sermon was received. In the evening he heard Haslam speak and watched him minister later to the several people who were ‘awakened’ that evening. His friend was very excited and said he had never heard such things as he had seen. He said “Your congregation is like the waves of the sea and mine like a glassy mill-pond” and he invited Haslam to his church to preach.
Two Sundays later the Veryan church was packed with many remaining behind for prayer and it was the same for the afternoon service. The congregation asked for an evening service as well, but the vicar was not at all keen. However, he finally consented and this time they could hardly get into the church. The following day there was a meeting in a barn two miles away and that too was crammed to the rafters. At one point in the meeting a large man fell to the ground shouting out for God’s mercy. Almost simultaneously there was a universal outcry; the whole place was filled with a confused din of voices. Some were praying, some shouting, some singing and some exhorting at the top of their voices. The poor vicar was so dismayed that he took him outside to talk to him, as he hoped that things would get back into order if Haslam was not there. A little later they went back in, but the tumult was still going on and some lads on seeing him cried out, “The parson is here! The parson is here!” and in a moment we were surrounded by a number of happy people who were so demonstrative that they made the poor vicar tremble with a strange fear.” On some people asking if he would return the next day the vicar said “Oh no, on no account. One night of this work is quite enough – more than enough.” A man then said “Never mind, we will carry it on. This revival will not stop for a week or fortnight for certain.” This was terrifying news for the vicar, who turned and looking at me with astonishment said reproachfully, “How did you do it?” Haslam told him that it was nothing to do with him and warned him that he knew of some people who were brought under heavy judgement for hindering a revival. The next day it was announced that there would be a meeting in the Methodist chapel that evening.
How often the Church of England has turned away revival with others receiving the blessing. In 1854 Haslam went on a mission to Golant and revival broke out there as well. There was much opposition from the Anglican vicars, so the blessing in the surrounding areas largely went to the Methodist chapels. One senior churchman wrote a letter to his parishioners in which he warned them against revivals in general and Haslam in particular. There was a High Churchman at the Golant meetings who wanted Haslam to come and talk to him. When the pressure of work lessened he went to see him.
At luncheon with the rector and his curate they discussed what Haslam believed and what he had been experiencing. He spoke about letting down nets to catch men and not to smother and kill them in some church system or by some erroneous teaching. He told them that the church system makes apostolic succession and the sacraments the channel of salvation whereas the truth is that salvation is found through the Word of God as applied by the Holy Spirit. They discussed the matter for hours without coming to an agreement. Finally the rector asked him to dine with them and took Haslam upstairs to wash. On entering the room the rector closed the door behind him and confided that he knew that Haslam was right. They prayed together and he believed the rector had found peace, but with educated men it was always more difficult to tell.
The problem still exists today as the educated always have to reason through everything instead of just accepting truth. Over dinner the rector announced that he was converted and invited Haslam to preach in his church on Sunday. Revival broke out in the area and the curate soon became converted as well, but the rector’s wife remained resistant.
He then travelled to Staffordshire for a week of meetings. The curate who invited him was confused, but soon became converted and the work went on with the force of an explosion. The church was crowded every day and they were kept at the schoolroom with the after meeting until midnight or one o’clock. Scores of men and women of all classes, as well as five clergymen, were converted that week. He heard reports that the work continued week after week. Despite the successes, Haslam became dissatisfied with the work because, even though professing conversion, some people slipped back into their former worldliness. He felt that something was wrong, so he cried out to the Lord for help. Soon after he preached from Acts 13:38-39. “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.”
Reading this again opened his eyes to the fact that it was a twofold proclamation. He realised that he had been preaching the first part; forgiveness and salvation through the blood and death of Christ. He now saw that he had not preached about Justification to believers; in fact he had preached the same message to believers after they were converted as he had before they came to know Jesus. Believers needed to be led to the Throne of Grace. He then went into the deepest distress, recognising that he was a vile and self-condemned sinner. He saw his unrighteousness and the corruption of his nature and for a whole week he was in distress of mind. Then, “On Sunday morning, as I was going to the early Communion, my soul was set at liberty. I felt as if a great cloud was lifted up; the light shone into my soul and I had deliverance. I was exceedingly happy in the knowledge that the risen Chris Himself was my help – that He, who has hidden His presence in a pillar of cloud and fire, now was Himself present in Person, my omnipotent Friend and Leader.” He decided not to preach on the subject yet, but after the morning service a stranger came up to him and asked “How long have you known Sanctification?” He then began to teach on Sanctification. He spoke on the passage in Luke about the large catch of fish. He said that firstly the fish are caught in the net, just as people are caught in the Gospel net (which is conviction); secondly the fish are drawn out of their native element, as people are drawn out of the state in which they were in (this is conversion), but they are not yet in the state in which they should be which is why it is so hard to hold them; and thirdly, the fish are laid in the boat, at the feet of Jesus; this is where they need to be drawn. Haslam was disappointed because some came to receive Sanctification, but others felt that they did not need it. He wanted them to believe in the living Saviour and the Giver, but they were happy with only salvation and the gift. He felt a gulf was opening up between him and the congregation.
At that time he was invited to take up a position in Plymouth. Various circumstances persuaded him that it was the right time to move. He was very sad to go and apprehensive in case it was not what God wanted. Before resigning he received permission to move from the Bishop, so he went to see him to get his official papers. At their meeting the Bishop told him “How can I consciously appoint or license you to anything in my diocese?” Haslam was somewhat taken aback and argued that he had already agreed to the appointment, but the Bishop refused point blank. Then the thought came to him that perhaps this was an opportunity to give up parochial ministrations and take up preaching around the country.
After this setback Haslam and his family had no settled home which was worrying considering he now had a wife, six children and three servants. At this time he was asked to go to the North of England. The friend who asked him had already suffered persecution for having Haslam speak in his church in the Oxford diocese. Revival broke out and people complained to the Bishop about the noise and excitement and the vicar was sacked. He was now in another diocese and wanting the same spiritual blessing he had received in Oxfordshire. Revival began immediately with people crying for mercy every day and it spread to a neighbouring parish and to other areas. At the end of the mission he received a letter from his wife asking him to come home and mentioning that they needed £10. He was praying about this in his room when there was a knock on the door. His friend came in and shyly put a ten pound note in his hand.
Haslam received a letter from a lady informing him that she had been praying for six months that he be appointed to her late husband’s church at Carnmenellis in Cornwall and she had written to Lord Palmerston who was the patron. Palmerston finally agreed and to Haslam’s surprise the Bishop of Exeter, in whose diocese the parish was, agreed to the appointment.
However he was not happy there, despite a good salary and a large house, so he accepted an offer to be a curate in Hayle, Cornwall. This was a large parish on the coast, so better for his health. “My rector was a dry Churchman who had no sympathy with me but he seemed glad to get anyone to come and work amongst such a rough, and in some respects unmanageable, set. He had bought a chapel from the Primitive Methodists for Divine service and had erected schools for upwards of three hundred children. These he offered me as my ground of operation, promising, with a written guarantee, that if I succeeded he would build me a church and endow it with all the tithes of that portion of the parish.”
The people in Hayle were spiritually dead. Realising that prayer was key, he gathered a few Christians together to pray for Holy Spirit to come; they prayed privately and together. The congregation began to grow a bit, but nobody seemed ready to make a commitment to Jesus; so he decided to go house to house to find out what was wrong. Within a week five had come to the Lord and from that point the work really began in earnest. Haslam took those who were anxious to his home after the service. He was able to get ninety people in the dining room and forty five in the hall; often people had to stand outside. These meetings became so large that they had to move to the large schoolroom.
One night at 11.00pm he was walking down a street and saw lights on in nearly all the houses; at the same time he heard praying and rejoicing all around him; the whole street was alive. The work was going very well as the revival continued, but some asked him, “This teaching seems all true and scriptural; but what will become of us if you go away and another man comes who thinks otherwise? We have no security as in the chapels that the conversion work will go on and living souls be fed and encouraged. Very few churches have such a work as the Lord is doing here!”
These words turned out to be prophetic. In 1860, after the agreed three years of service and with the church and parish blessed beyond measure the rector came to see Haslam. “‘You know I am no revivalist. I do not like all this uproar. I cannot have it.’ He then went on to say that he wished me to leave, for though he had given a guarantee that if I succeeded he would build me a church and endow it, he could not do anything of the kind now, for he did not consider my work any success whatever – quite the contrary. ‘these converted people (as you call them) are no churchmen!’” Five months later the rector returned to say that he wanted Haslam out within a month (which fulfilled the required six month notice). So Haslam laid the whole thing before the Lord and asked what next. The next day he received an invitation from Bath to take charge of the district of St Paul’s in the parish of Holy Trinity. His people were grieved and angry, but at the end of the year he left for Bath. Haslam felt that the call to Bath was of the Lord, so he did not even go and check out his new area of work.
He arrived at the start of 1861, and was shown Avon Street, which was the centre of his parish, and he was warned that even policemen only walked down it in pairs. He had never had a parish in a city before. Working in the slums was clearly a very different calling than he had been used to. He was warned by the vicar that there was little hope that anything could be done with the people, but someone had to be there to minister.
The next day he was taken around his parish by the scripture reader. There were about one hundred houses in Avon Street and eighteen hundred people. The filth and bad atmosphere were beyond description as up to forty people would live in one house, with the water only being turned on once or twice a day. The people were uneducated and sexual immorality; petty crime and drunkenness were rife amongst them. His guide was all the time most discouraging, but despite the conditions Haslam could not help thinking “What is the use of the Gospel if it cannot touch such people?”
He woke up the next morning very discouraged and tempted to give up the work, but he remembered that the work was not his, but the Lord’s; He would find a way. He decided to visit the sick that he had noted the day before; the first being a shoemaker who was close to death. This man was so afraid of the cold that he would not have any windows open which made the stench in the house terrible. The shoemaker knew he was going to die. However, this did not alarm him because he was sure he was going to heaven. He had read somewhere in the Bible that the poor who suffered in the world went to heaven and the rich went to hell. Haslam told him that he was a lost sinner, but the shoemaker would not accept that, because he was much better than others in the street and did not need saving in this world, as he was going to heaven and that was enough. He agreed though that they could pray together, but was very unhappy with the prayers he heard about his sins. However, he still asked Haslam to return in the afternoon. Haslam left him a text and went to visit other sick people. On returning to the shoemaker, he found him worried about dying before he was saved. He wept on being told about the forgiveness of God, and with more prayer, he gave his life to Jesus. He exclaimed “Oh, wife, only think, if I had died before I should have been lost forever; but now, thank the Lord, I’m saved. I am so happy!”
Haslam went home rejoicing that the Lord had blessed his work on his first day. The first Sunday morning meeting was a disappointment with few attending. More came to the evening service and after preaching Haslam had an after-meeting. He explained to the people that in the service he had put out an invitation from God and the after-meeting was to give people the opportunity of accepting it. A few attended and one man accepted Christ. Bit by bit Holy Spirit did His work and more people gave their lives to Jesus. He started a Bible reading class once a week which very quickly became twice a week and later there was need for even more. The Lord also sent helpers; as people were saved, some of them began to help Haslam with his work.
He was not accepted elsewhere in Bath. When preaching at another church in the city a woman said, “The very idea of that nasty little man from the tramps church coming to teach us!” However in his own church he had free reign and he could work until he dropped. The greatest obstacle to his work was drunkenness. It was rife in his area because the people had no clean water to drink and so all that was available to them was beer. This caused much poverty and unhappiness. Even if there had been enough water, they would have needed wood to make a fire, as well as tea, coffee, sugar and mugs.
Determined to improve their situation, Haslam managed to get a water supply. He also arranged for someone to sell hot coffee up and down the street every morning and evening, and to be at the street corner most of the rest of the day. The Temperance movement was gaining hold at this time; although he did not at first agree with it, Haslam changed his mind and got people in his district to sign the pledge to stop drinking. He quotes that 60,000 people annually went to a drunkard’s grave and that in Great Britain £50 million pounds was spent each year on drink and tobacco. The Gospel and Temperance meetings, as well as the Bible readings, were being much talked about; but it was not like Cornwall and Haslam was not encouraged.
At this time he was invited to carry out a mission for a week in Wiltshire, so he looked around for someone who could look after his church while he was away. He asked a clergyman who was on holiday in Bath and whom he had noticed at some of his services. The man was glad to help as he admired Haslam and marvelled at his success. “‘I assure you,’ he said, ‘this is quite a new thing to me; I have been preaching the Gospel for twenty years and excepting in a few casual instances, I have not been permitted to see any results. Certainly I never went to work with expectation as you do. Here you are going on a mission; and I suppose you fully anticipate that God’s blessings will accompany your efforts as heretofore: and I dare say you will come back and tell us what the Lord has wrought in you.’”
Haslam answered in the affirmative and offered to look at one of the good man’s sermons to see what he could change to be more effective. On arriving in Wiltshire he found that the Rector was the same sort of man as the clergyman who had taken over his church while he was away. It baffled him that saved vicars who preached the Gospel should be without spiritual results in their ministry. The Rector told him that he “hoped that some day the Lord would give him souls, but that of course was dependant upon God’s sovereignty, not on himself.” After a good prayer meeting on the Saturday, the church was well filled on Sunday morning with the presence of God there in manifest power. Many came to the afternoon service and the evening service was completely packed out; two people were even in the pulpit until it was time for him to occupy it. After the last hymn the Rector asked what he was going to do next and Haslam told him, “Ask you to pray.” The Rector looked imploringly at him not to do so, but on the announcement he fell on his knees and begged the Lord to have mercy on him and to forgive his backsliding. The people were melted to tears and began to cry for mercy. The Rector soon found peace and helped with ministering to all the people who had been touched by the Lord. Haslam was very happy; it must have felt like he was back home after the hard work and comparative discouragements of Bath. The Rector took over the work that had begun and it spread to the surrounding areas.
Haslam believed that “All this showed and proved beyond doubt, that when the right means are used, God is willing and ready to give His blessing.” I am not convinced of this; I do not think that there is a formula that one can use. There is no doubt that Haslam carried the anointing of a revivalist and I think that this is why God blessed that meeting. There was also at this time a revival atmosphere around the world. Over the previous four years there had been a great revival in America, possibly the greatest revival Wales had known, a similar revival in Ireland, and while Haslam was preaching in Wiltshire, William Booth was leading a revival in Cornwall.
The fire followed Haslam to his church the following Sunday and several were converted. The next day the clergyman who had looked after the church came to inquire how the mission had gone and was awed by what Haslam told him. “‘Well I must say,’ he exclaimed ‘I have read of such things but have never seen anything of the kind.’” Haslam proceeded to tell him that it was a minister’s duty to go for the salvation of souls, but he must be able at the same time to give witness that Jesus died for him and that he is saved. He then looked over some sermon notes that the clergyman had brought with him and although they were interesting and instructive, there was no net laid down to catch the sinners. He said that this was a sermon of a shepherd and not a fisherman and explained that it needed to be arranged for the purpose of bringing conviction upon the hearers. His friend admitted that many people came to hear his sermons and said nice things about him, but they remained unconverted.
At Haslam’s suggestion he went away and re-arranged the sermon and on returning with the new version Haslam asked him to preach it on Wednesday evening. The sermon was well received and three men came into the vestry to ask what they needed to do to be saved. His friend burst into tears. The clergyman could not wait to get back home and over the next few days he re-arranged several of his sermons and went back to preach on the Sunday. The following day Haslam received a telegram that said “Come in haste. They are crying all around the house. I don’t know what to do.” He went to help his friend for a week and many came to the Lord. Some of the congregation were opposed to this new kind of preaching, but the Rector carried on and the work prospered for several years until he left for another parish. The Rector was a changed man and spoke on salvation wherever he went; trying to make up for the barren twenty years.
Haslam’s health was still not good; at least that is what his doctor told him; that he would go out like the snuff of a candle. He was advised to go to the country for a summer break. A woman gave him a generous cheque and told him to go to Freshford. Haslam, his wife and ten children found lodgings there and he invited his landlady and her household to join them for family worship. This they did and the next morning the number of visitors increased. That evening the room was full, as was the passage, and some were out in the garden. The landlady’s whole family were converted and he was asked to hold meetings in a schoolroom.
It seemed that the area was just waiting for a match to be applied, as many were ready to make a commitment to Christ – young and old, rich and poor. The blessing was not without opposition. People threw stones at the building and then later through the windows. “Souls were converted every day and the work continued without interruption all the time we were there; and was carried on by others after we left, and spread to several villages beyond.” Some urged the vicar to interfere, but he never came anywhere near the meetings. In fact, “One morning, as I was riding up to a gate, he kindly opened it for me and taking off his hat politely, said, ‘You have been opening the door of salvation to my people; I am happy to open this gate for you. Good morning.’”
The vicar even asked him to do a service in his church as he was going away and a packed church received much blessing. This was a real ‘busman’s holiday’ for Haslam, but nothing refreshes one more than to see the Glory of God pour out.
The work in Bath continued well, however it was contested, a sign that Haslam was doing something right. The congregation grew so that the church had to be extended to enable it to hold double the number of people. In the summer of 1862 he was invited to look after a church in Paul in the west of Cornwall for six weeks while the vicar was away. On the first Sunday the church was full for all three services. Revival began again and continued for many nights. There were many remarkable conversions and some wonderful scenes. One day he went to the nearby Mousehole to speak to the sick and old who could not get to the church meetings. A stout woman on crutches came to the meeting and during the address she tossed her crutches in the air, shrieking “I am healed, I am healed; I can walk and leap too!” She leapt almost three feet in the air in her excitement.
He also spoke at Newlyn from a fishing boat which was stranded on the beach and the Lord gave him a miraculous draught of fish. In 1863, while the work in Avon Street was making progress, Haslam was hit by domestic trials. Seven members of his family became ill with scarlet fever, including George who was four years old. George was not badly ill, so he was allowed to play in the nursery. “He was happy but somewhat restless and kept asking for fresh flowers. These were procured for him, but though they were fresh and bright he was not satisfied. Then he begged to be allowed to wear his white summer coat, this wish was gratified, but still he was not at rest. He asked Geraldine Hooper (more of her later) to sing hymns to him and sitting down in his white coat, among his flowers, he looked up into her face and said “Georgy is very ill and getting worse.” He repeated this two or three times in the course of the afternoon. The doctor was sent for but was detained until the evening when it was evident that dear little “Georgy” was passing away. Geraldine asked if he loved Jesus, “Oh yes,” he replied, “Jesus love me and died for me: Georgy do love Jesus. Mamma, do not cry, Georgy is going to be with Jesus.” Soon after he pointed up upwards with his little hand and looked steadfastly as if he saw the Lord. Thus his spirit passed away, leaving a happy expression on his face. Now his longing for the bright flowers and white coat was understood and the cause of his restlessness explained.”
Haslam’s wife was tired and unhappy being in Bath, so they decided to ask the Lord to move them. Two days later he received a letter from Sir Thomas Beauchamp offering him a Rectory in Norfolk, which must have been written as they were praying. The living of Buckenham was worth £300pa with a good house and a population of twenty people. There was the Rectory of Hassingham connected to it, containing eighteen or twenty cottages. Haslam was depressed about this because he wanted another sphere of work and not a tiny living even if it did have a big salary. However, they had that morning read in the Word, “Arise, and go unto Gaza which is desert,” so he knew he had to take the offer. He had three months to prepare his district for the new pastor. When he left; the open-air services, Temperance meetings, Bible readings, Mothers’ meetings and schools were all in good order and well looked after by those who were responsible for them.
Haslam wondered if God had shelved them in a pleasant country place for asking to be moved from Bath. However, there were larger congregations than expected at both churches on the first Sunday. An old gamekeeper who had been praying for God to send them a man that could do them some good came to the service to see the result of his prayers; he was pleased with the Almighty’s choice. Haslam had gone round the cottages earlier and discovered that not a single person knew about conversion and he found it difficult ‘to preach to people so entirely dark and ignorant.”
After the service he noticed five or six in the churchyard who looked as if something had touched them, so he invited them to come to the Rectory at 6.00pm. As they did not say they would come to the Rectory, Haslam accepted the invitation to give a talk three miles away, leaving his wife to look after anyone who might come to the evening gathering. To his surprise, sixty showed up in the Rectory and his wife gave a talk where six found peace. The first Sunday on the job and revival had already begun. The next evening the drawing room was too small for the numbers. He prepared an outhouse for the meetings, but that too became too small, so they moved to a barn that could hold two hundred, but very shortly that was not big enough either. Some people repaired and extended it at their own expense to cope with the demand for space.
Meetings were to take place there every night for eight months; the revival continuing for at least the eight years that Haslam was there. While they were getting their home in order a local vicar came to visit, and perching on a box, they talked about the work. The clergyman said that he had never experienced such things although he preached the Gospel. He said that he had been warned against revivals and dissenters. Haslam said to him “Oh, that will easily account for want of blessing. A revival is the work of God Himself – it is no revival if it is not: and dissenters are not infrequently God’s only witnesses in the parish.” He offered to pray for the clergyman, but the vicar was getting restless and declined. He got up to go, but on the way out he said he would like to pray after all, so they prayed together. He then asked if Haslam would preach in his small church and of course Haslam was delighted to. The barn used for the occasion was stuffed full. Where the people came from was a mystery as there were few houses in the area. The glory of God came and it was a wonderful meeting. The vicar rejoicing; went round and shook hands with all the dissenters in the congregation. Haslam held alternate meetings in his and the vicar’s parishes and there were many salvations. One publican was very angry because his customers were turning away from drinking when they gave their lives to Jesus; and then his own daughter was converted. His anger subsided and when he took his daughter to church one day he was himself converted. He then told all his customers to go to the meetings. The man then determined that being a publican was no fit job for a Christian, so he decided to change his business, but before doing so he wanted Haslam to come and preach in the pub.
On the appointed evening Haslam found people outside the pub and he encouraged them to go in, but there was no room. Every room in the house was filled with over two hundred people and even though many would not be able to see him, they would be able to hear. As he spoke, he heard someone cry out in one of the rooms, and then another, and another. Then someone near him cried out for mercy which seemed to be the cue for people all over to cry out in distress. The work spread on all sides and although churches were closed to him he was able to use barns that had more space. One man said “I never knew before what my grandfather built those large barns for; but the Lord has found good use for them.”
Haslam was so busy he really needed a rest. Since he did not take one voluntarily, the Lord forced him to take one; he had an accident that laid him out for three weeks. He suffered no pain, but the doctors insisted he rest. During this time he had many visitors asking after his health which surprised him because he thought that most people in the neighbourhood were against him. When he was well enough to go out he found that other workers had stepped into the gap and the revival was getting on fine without him. He realised that he was not indispensable; it was the Lord’s work and not his. Three or four farmers became preachers and many others helped in different ways. There was of course frequent opposition; fellow clergyman called him fanatical, disorderly and irregular. They were happy criticising him and complaining about him to the Bishop and then going off to shoot, fish or farm – anything rather than lead their flock from death to life. The Rector’s wives were even harder on him.
Soon Haslam’s wife began to preach and the opposition became much worse. A Rector’s wife wrote to him saying that she and her husband had been praying for revival in Norfolk for years, but “if this is a revival, it has come in such a way that I cannot thank God for it.” At this time, into the heat of battle came Geraldine Hooper from Bath. Geraldine had been a tremendous helper to Haslam in Bath, but had not really stepped out in a preaching capacity until now. Details of her life can be found elsewhere on this website, she was an amazing young woman who tragically died in 1872 at the age of 31. After the Haslam’s left, “she took up our mantle and went forward with a double portion of our spirit and with much more result.” She had a beautiful singing voice and a clear speaking voice and from what I have read about her she must have emanated the love of Jesus. People were really drawn to her. She was hugely successful with large crowds coming to hear her speak. “The people became wild with admiration and their eagerness to hear her was intense. Her fame spread so rapidly that the Norwich papers took up the subject.”
Leaving the revival in the hands of the ladies, Haslam accepted a request to go to Ireland by his friend Mr Bewley. He held thirty-two successful meetings in eight days. One morning he received a letter from his wife reminding him that they needed £100 to cover the costs of moving from Bath and of decorating the Rectory. She suggested that he ask Mr Bewley for help. While he was contemplating the contents of the letter, Mr Bewley asked to speak to him. On asking Haslam if he had enough money, Haslam showed him the letter. Bewley told him that the Lord had told him to give him £100. On returning to Norfolk he found that the ladies had spoken in several parishes and in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. He witnessed one of their meetings when he came home late one evening.
“One evening at the end of January, as I was returning home on a clear and frosty night, I could hear singing, though I was nearly a mile from my house. On approaching nearer I could distinguish the tune and thought I could hear Miss Hooper’s voice. Hastening forward I was astonished at the scene before me. It was a bright moonlit night, with snow on the ground and a cold north-east wind. In spite of this there was a very large concourse of people standing in rapt attention, listening to the preaching. “Miss Hooper, together with Mrs Haslam were standing in a cart, round which were suspended from the trees my drawing-room and dining-room lamps, besides other lights. I was told that the barn was full of people and also the adjoining class room. Standing among the crowd I heard the best part of the address. In her characteristic way she told a humorous story, but one which I have no doubt will be remembered by many to this day. It made the audience smile for the time; but the application of it was very solemn and pointed. Words cannot convey an adequate idea of the tone and manner, or the unction and power with which the simple story was applied; but the effect was marvellous and the result great.”
Geraldine went back to Bath in February 1864. The work of the revival went from strength to strength, particularly in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The meetings were now in larger public halls rather than in churches, to cope with the numbers. The work flowed over into Suffolk and Kent. He had good meetings in the Town Hall in Hythe, Kent, but the local vicar did everything he could to oppose the meetings. It was one of his parishioners who had invited Haslam. The man was very disappointed at his vicar’s attitude and talked about leaving the church; mainly because of the bad doctrine that was being taught. Haslam encouraged him to stay and take notes in the sermon; his friend took this advice and then showed him a list of where the vicar’s doctrine differed from the Bible. Haslam suggested that he show the vicar these differences, which he did, but the vicar was not receptive. Some others from the parish were also fed up with the vicar; they raised money and came to Haslam to talk about building a chapel, but he was very unsupportive. He told them there were plenty of churches and chapels already and that they should fill those up first and work amongst the various congregations. It would be better for them if they carried life to the congregations than separating from them. A number of these discontents joined an Independent church and being in the majority they voted out the minister and brought in a converted man.
Haslam received invitations from all parts to preach the Gospel, but he experienced opposition from all parts as well. Bishops, one after another reprimanded him; sometimes two or more at the same time. In 1865 the church was set against evangelistic work, but by the time Haslam wrote his book (1881) times had changed and there was far more support for this type of ministry. In 1871 he felt the Lord saying that he was soon to leave Norfolk. A few days later he had an invitation from Lord Howe to go to Leicestershire. While there it was suggested that he should have a church without a parish attached to it. Lord Howe had one to give him in London, Curzon Chapel, as soon as it was free. Haslam decided to accept this offer, so he left Norfolk.
People said that all the excitement would cease once he had gone, but ten years later the work was still going on in many places with unabated zeal. His successor at Buckenham was one who built on what Haslam had left. Curzon Chapel was not free yet, so Haslam took the parish of Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire until it was ready. He was there for a little over a year. In that time he extended the vicarage and did up the church and a few people came to the Lord, but he was rather disappointed with the results.
He went to Curzon Chapel in October 1872. There were fifty or sixty people in a church that could accommodate a thousand, and some of those were his friends who had come to support him. He was encouraged by a few salvations early on, but he found work there a struggle. After Christmas he decided to modernise the church, and with Lord Howe’s financial help he made the alterations he wanted. Curzon Chapel was attended by several MPs and Peers. Some of these did not like Haslam and did not like the changes to the Chapel, so they moved to other churches.
One nobleman who came to the church was asked by the clerk whether he wished to take sittings. “‘Oh dear no, the people are all leaving are they not?’ ‘Not at all sir,’ said the clerk, ‘some are going but others are coming. The fact is sir, we are going to work in earnest now, and must clear out the rubbish.’ The nobleman laughed exceedingly and said ‘Oh then take me out; I am rubbish.’ The clerk looked at the number of his pew: seeing his name and who he was, he said, ‘Oh no my Lord, I did not mean you: I cannot take your lordship’s name off; you are not rubbish.’” His lordship in fact remained and ultimately received blessing; but many of the Lord’s and Ladies did leave.
Despite losing so many of the ‘great and the good,’ the Lord brought His blessing and His presence and numbers were increasing. In late spring and summer the area of Mayfair filled up with people who had arrived for ‘the season’ of balls, Ascot, the Derby etc. At this time Haslam’s church was pretty well filled with strangers. After Goodwood ‘the season’ was over and Mayfair became desolate. In February 1873 there was a Mission to London to which five hundred Missioners were invited. In preparation for the mission there was an intercession and instruction day at St Paul’s Cathedral and Haslam was one of the clergy invited to address them. At the Cathedral he saw many of the clergy dressed up like Catholics in hats, capes etc. He surmised that they were at the Mission to promote their Catholic ideas. In his address he spoke against Catholic doctrine, and lifting up the principles of the Reformation, asked why Protestant martyrs were burned at the stake. He said, “Was it not because they declared boldly that Christ is not on the Romish altar, but in the believer’s heart?”
At this point a man in a cassock prostrated himself and several others went down on their knees. At the same time, fifty or sixty others got up and left. After the service he asked a friend “‘Well, did it do?’ ‘Do!’ he rejoined, ‘it has done for you. You will never be asked to preach here any more.’ ‘That may be,’ I replied; ‘but I would not have lost this opportunity for anything.’”
Haslam held a Mission in his church that June to make things more interesting for those who were in London for the ‘season’. On the first Sunday he had a large congregation, including a royal duke and every type of nobleman. Even Disraeli and Gladstone attended, but they made sure that they sat at different ends of the church. The son of his old friend Robert Aitken delivered a powerful message and the numbers attending grew over the course of the Mission. He did another Mission the following ‘season.’
His endeavours were helped by the American evangelist D L Moody being in London and several hundred of his congregation went to hear him. God had taken Haslam from ministering to those in the slums of Bath, to preaching to some of the richest and most influential people in the world. He believed that his ministry had some effect, but it was not so evident as with the lower grades of society. By the fourth ‘season’ he found himself supported by a good and steady congregation. Haslam was happy there. He only had to work hard with his congregation for four or five months a year. The rest of the time he was able to do evangelistic work all over the country. He was in the midst of this happy and prosperous work when he heard that Lord Howe’s only son had died, quickly followed by Lord Howe himself, and then Lady Howe.
Another succeeded to the Earldom who was not interested in spiritual matters and he soon decided to knock down Curzon Chapel to make money out of the property. Haslam therefore resigned in 1878 and joined a Mission Society that had been recently formed in memory of his old friend Robert Aitken. On hearing of his resignation the congregation sent an appeal to the new Lord Howe, signed by 384 people. A deputation of twelve Lords offered to go and see him, but the appeal and the deputation were ignored.
He often regretted leaving Curzon Chapel, having received much generosity and kindness from the congregation. One day at Bible reading that was unusually full, he was given one hundred guineas from servants and ordinary people who attended the chapel. A lady who was in town heard about the gift, and not to be out done, quickly arranged a gift of £250 from those higher up the social ladder.
Unfortunately Haslam’s biography ends here, although he does indicate that for the next ten years he was as busy as ever and could write another book on his experiences. Sadly he never did. He continued his evangelistic ministry with the Church Parochial Mission Society until 1893. In 1877 his wife died, and in 1878 he married again. In 1890 he travelled to India, but by 1893 his health began to fail, growing worse in 1897. He finally died in January 1905 at St Leonards-on-sea where he had lived for several years. His wife died six months later.
Haslam’s two books can be obtained from Libraries but you can download “From Death into Life” from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14578. You can also buy an abridged version of the two books called “Haslam’s Journey”, published by Highland Books. This book puts a little less than 50% of Haslam’s two books into one volume mainly eliminating the theological parts.