William Haslam's Friend - Aitken (1851)

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,’ he 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 stayed up reading 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 and 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 and 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.

Robert Aitken was a very unusual man. He started off Church of England, became a Methodist and then returned to the Church of England. He was a Tractarian (believing in sacramentalism) as well as being born again. He was a mentor to Haslam and often spoke in his church. He was a very powerful preacher and many came to the Lord through his ministry. He was an architect as well, designing the church at Pendeen. For more about him go to the following website.