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
CHAPTER 1 The Broken Nest, 1841.
CHAPTER 2 Religious Life.
CHAPTER 3 Ordination.
CHAPTER 4 Antiquarian Researches and Ministry, 1843-46.
CHAPTER 5 The New Parish, 1846.
CHAPTER 6 The Awakening, 1848-51.
CHAPTER 7 Conversion, 1851.
CHAPTER 8 The Awakening, 1848-51.
CHAPTER 9 The Visitor, 1851.
CHAPTER 10 The First Christmas, 1851-52.
CHAPTER 11 Dreams and Visions, 1851-4.
CHAPTER 12 Billy Bray, 1852.
CHAPTER 13 Cottage Meetings, 1852.
CHAPTER 14 Open-Air Services, 1852.
CHAPTER 15 Drawing-Room Meetings, 1852-53.
CHAPTER 16 Opposition, 1853.
CHAPTER 17 Individual Cases, 1853.
CHAPTER 18 A Visit to Veryan, 1853.
CHAPTER 19 A Mission in the "Shires." 1853.
CHAPTER 20 A Stranger from London, 1853.
CHAPTER 21 Golant Mission, 1854.
CHAPTER 22 The High Church Rector, 1854.
CHAPTER 23 A Mission in Staffordshire, 1854.
CHAPTER 24 Sanctification.
CHAPTER 25 The Removal, 1855
CHAPTER 26 Plymouth, 1855
CHAPTER 27 Devonport, 1855
CHAPTER 28 A Mission to the North, 1855
CHAPTER 29 Tregoney, 1855
CHAPTER 30 Secessions, 1856
CHAPTER 31 Hayle, 1857-58
CHAPTER 32 Bible Readings, 1858-59
CHAPTER 33 The Work Continued, 1859
CHAPTER 34 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 record.
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 freely.
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 eternity.
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.
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 teachable, or even all these together, and yet remain dead souls.
As a boy in India, I remember being greatly struck with the calmness of the Hindoos, as contrasted with the impatience and angry spirit of the English. On one occasion I observed one of the former at his devotions. He, with others, had been carrying me about in a palankeen all day in the hot sun. In the evening, he most reverently took from his girdle a piece of mud of the sacred river Ganges, or Gunga, as they call it, and dissolving this in water, he washed a piece of ground, then, having washed his feet and hands, he stepped on this sacred spot, and began to cook his food. While it was preparing, he was bowed to the ground, with his face between his knees, worshipping towards the setting sun. A boy who was standing by me said, "If you touch that man he will not eat his dinner." In a thoughtless moment I did so with my hand, and immediately he rose from his devotions; but, instead of threatening and swearing at me, as some might have done who belong to another religion, he only looked reproachfully, and said, "Ah, Master William!" and then emptying out the rice which was on the fire, he began his ceremony all over again. It was quite dark before he had finished his "poojah," or worship, and his meal. This man's religious self-possession made a greater impression on me than if he had abused or even struck me, for hindering his dinner. I thought to myself, "I will be a Hindoo when I grow up!" And truly I kept my word, though not in the same form; for what else was I in my earnest, religious days!
This is an important question to settle, and, therefore, I will give three examples from Scripture.
No one can doubt the zeal of Saul of Tarsus. This was no easy-going, charitable creed, which supposes all good men are right. He was sure that if he was right, as a natural consequence Stephen was wrong, even blasphemous, and as such worthy of death. Therefore, he had no scruples about instigating the death of such a one. Notwithstanding all this uncompromising and straightforward religiousness, he needed to be brought from death to life.
Again: look at Cornelius, who was "a devout man that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" (Acts 10:2). There can be no mistake about this man with such a testimony; and yet he also needed to hear words whereby he and all his house should be saved (Acts 11:14). Next: Nicodemus, I suppose it will be admitted, was an earnest and religious man. Evidently, he was one of those who "believed in the name of Jesus, because he saw the miracles which He did" (John 2:23). This man, humble and teachable as he was, came to Jesus, and said, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him." Yet he was told, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again" (John 3). As surely as all mankind are dead in Adam, so surely every man needs spiritual life. In this respect it was no new thing which the Lord Jesus propounded to Nicodemus. The spiritual change of heart he referred to has always been the one condition of intercourse with God. All God's saints, even in the Old Testament times, had experienced 'this. Hence the Lord's exclamation, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"
It may be urged that these three men were not in the Christian dispensation. Let this be granted; but the point at hand is that they needed spiritual life, though they were such good religious men. It will not be very hard to prove that even baptized men in the Christian dispensation need to be raised from death unto life just as much as any other children of Adam. It is clear, both from Scripture and experience, that baptism, whatever else it imparts, does not give spiritual vitality.
St. Peter's testimony is this, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him" (Acts 10: 34, 35). Accepted to be saved, not because there is any merit in his works, but because God sees that there is real sincerity in his living up to the light he has. The heathen who know there is a God, and do not worship His as God, are given over to idolatry (Rom.1); but, on the other hand, those who do worship Him, and give Him thanks, are taken in hand to be guided into life and truth. Therefore are we justified in hoping that earnest and religious men, though they be dead, if their religion is really towards God, will be brought to spiritual life.
It was a happy winter to me, however, notwithstanding my spiritual deficiencies; and the recollection of it still abides in my memory. I had now no desire for the world and its pleasures. My mind had quite gone from such empty amusements and frivolities; even the taste I used to have for these things was completely taken away.
I was happier now than ever I had been before, so that I am convinced from personal experience that even a religious life may be one of joy, though by no means so satisfying and abiding as a truly spiritual one. I was happy, as I have already said, and longed for the time when I could be ordained, and devote my energies to work for God in the ministry.
Ordination and First Parish, 1842.
On the returning spring, as I was feeling so much stronger, and altogether better, I thought I would go and see the physician who had sounded me some months before. He, after a careful examination, still adhered to his previous opinion, and gave very little hope of my recovery, but suggested that if I went to the north coast of Cornwall there might be a chance for me.
On my return home, I took up an "Ecclesiastical Gazette," though it was three months old, and looked over the advertisements. There I observed one which invited a curate for a church in that very neighbourhood. It was a sole charge; but, strange to say, a title for holy orders was offered also. In reply to this I wrote a letter, asking for particulars, in which I stated my Church views, and that I was ordered to that part of the country for the benefit of my health.
The Vicar, who resided in another parish, thirty miles off, was so eager to get help for this one, that he wrote back to say he had sent my letter to the Bishop, with one from himself, and that I should hear from his lordship in a few days.
I was surprised at this precipitation of affairs, and all the more so when I received a note from the Bishop of Exeter (Phillpotts), bidding me come to him immediately, that I might be in time for the Lent ordination.
Accordingly, I started westward, and having passed my examination, I was sent with letters dimissory to the Bishop of Salisbury (Denison), to whom I was also sent, a year afterwards, for priest's orders. I was very weak, and much exhausted with travelling, but still went on, though I know not how.
The long-desired day at length arrived, and I was duly ordained; but instead of being full of joy, I became much depressed in mind and body, and could not rouse myself from dwelling upon the Bishop's address, which was very solemn. He told us that we were going to take charge of the souls of our parishioners, and that God would require them at our hands; we must take heed how we tended the Lord's flock. Altogether, it was more than I had calculated upon; and feeling very ill that afternoon, I thought that I had undertaken a burden which would certainly be my ruin. "What could I do with souls?" My idea of ordination was to be a clergyman, read the prayers, preach sermons, and do all I could to bring people to church; but how could I answer for souls which had to live for ever? and what was I to do with them?
In the evening, I so far roused myself as to go amongst the other candidates, to sound them, and ascertain what were their feelings with regard to the Bishop's solemn address! They merely thought that it was very beautiful, and that he was a holy man; and then some of them proposed that we should all go in a riding party, to see Stonehenge, the next day. It was especially thought that a drive on the Wiltshire plains could do me a great deal of good, if I did not feel strong enough to ride on horseback. I agreed to this, and went with them to see this famous temple of Druidical worship; and after that set off for Plymouth, on my way to the far west. But, alas! the charm of ordination had fled, and I was more than half sorry that I had undertaken so much. It had been done so precipitately too, for even now it was only ten days since I had seen the physician.
After resting a day, I proceeded to Truro, and then took a post-chaise and drove out to my first parish, called Perranzabuloe, which was situated about eight miles from Truro, on the north coast of Cornwall. I alighted at an old manor house, where I was to have apartments with a farmer and his family. Being much fatigued, I soon retired to bed, anything but happy, or pleased with the bleak and' rough-looking place to which I had come.
I slept well, however, and the next morning felt considerably better, and was revived in spirits. After making many inquiries about things in general, I obtained the keys, and made my way to the parish church, which was about ten minutes' walk from the house. Here, again, I was greatly grieved and disappointed to see such a neglected churchyard and dilapidated church; and when I went inside, my heart sank, for I had never seen a place of worship in such a miserable condition. Moreover, I was told that the parish was seven miles long, and that its large population of three thousand souls was scattered on all sides, excepting round the church.
I had left my friends a long way off, and was alone in a strange place, with an amount of work and responsibility for which I knew I was thoroughly unprepared and unfit. However, I sauntered back to my lodgings, and began to ruminate as to what was to be done.
I had now sole charge of this extensive parish, for the duties of which I was to receive the very moderate stipend of forty pounds a year; but of this I did not complain, for my board and lodging, with washing, and the keep of a horse included, was only twelve shillings a week, leaving me a margin of nearly ten pounds for my personal expenses. The questions that troubled me were—what was I to do with three thousand people? And how was I to reach them?
In due course Sunday morning arrived, and with the help of a neighbouring clergyman, who kindly came over, as he said, "to put me in the way," I got through the service (being the only one for the day at that time), having about a score of listless people, lounging in different parts of the church, for a congregation. This was my first Sunday in my first parish.
Just at this time a book was sent me by a kind friend, entitled "The Bishopric of Souls," which terrified me even more than the Bishop's charge had done; for I felt that, notwithstanding my ardent desire to serve and glorify God, I had not the remotest conception how to do it, as regards winning souls. The author of this book took it for granted that every one who had the office of a pastor, had also the spiritual qualification for it; but experience proves that this is by no means the case. My ordination gave me an ecclesiastical position in the parish; the law maintained me in it; and the people expected me to do the duties of it: but how to carry all this out, except in a dry and formal way, I did not know.
As time went on, my parochial duties increased. I had to baptize the children, marry the young, visit the sick, and bury the dead; but I could not help feeling how different was this in action, to what it was in theory. I had had a kind of dreamland parish in my head, with daily service, beautiful music, and an assembly of worshipping people; but instead of this, I found a small, unsympathizing congregation, who merely looked upon these sacred things as duties to be done, and upon me as the proper person to do them. When I went to visit the sick I had nothing to say to them; so I read a few Collects, and sometimes gave them a little temporal relief, for which they thanked me; but I came out dissatisfied with myself, and longed for something more, though I did not know what.
Notwithstanding all these trials and disappointments, my health was gradually improving. I found that the air of this place was like meat and drink, and gave me an appetite for something more substantial. I very often frequented the beach, with its beautiful cliffs, and was much exhilarated by the bracing sea air; indeed, I had, and still retain, quite a love for the place. As my strength and energy increased, I rode about the parish all day, making the acquaintance of the people, and inviting them to come to church.
During my visits, I found out that the church warden was a good musician, and that he knew others in the parish who were able to play on various instruments; so in order to improve the services, and make them more attractive, I urged him to invite these musical people to his house to practise; and in due course we had a clarionet, two fiddles, and his bass viol, with a few singers to form a choir. We tried over some metrical psalms (for there were no hymn-books in those days), and soon succeeded in learning them. This musical performance drew many people to church. The singers were undeniably the great attraction, and they knew it; consequently I was somewhat in their power, and had to submit to various anthems and pieces, such as "Vital Spark." "Angels Ever Bright and Fair," and others, not altogether to my taste, but which they evidently performed to their own praise and satisfaction.
Finding that the people were beginning to frequent the church, I thought it was time to consider what steps should be taken about its restoration, and made it the subject of conversation with the farmers. It awakened and alarmed many of them when I said that the church must be restored, and that we must have a church rate. The chief farmer shook his head, saying, "You cannot carry that;" but I replied, "According to law, you are bound to keep up the fabric, and it ought to be done. I will write to the Vicar at once about it." He was a non-resident pluralist.
The farmer smiled at that, and said, laughing, "I will pledge myself that we will do as much as he does." It so happened that the Vicar, equally incredulous about the farmers doing anything, promised that he would do one half, if they would do the other.
Having ascertained this to my satisfaction, I immediately sent for the mason of the village, who played the clarionet in the church, also his son, who was "one of the of the fiddles," and consulted with them as to how this matter was to be accomplished. They, being in want of work at the time, readily advised me in favour of restoration. The churchwarden (the "bass viol") said "that he had no objection to this proceeding, but that he would not be responsible. In two months," he added, "would be the annual vestry meeting." "That will do," I said, interrupting him; and I made up my mind that I would at once restore the church, and let the parishioners come and see it at that time.
Having made all necessary preparations, we commenced one fine Monday morning with repairing the roof and walls; and while the men were employed outside, we took out the windows and opened all the doors, to let the wind blow through, that the interior of the building might be thoroughly dried. This done, we next coloured the walls, also the stone arches and pillars (they were far too much broken to display them); and having cleaned the seats and front of the gallery, we stained and varnished them, matted the floor, carpeted the sacrarium, and procured a new cloth for the Communion Table, and also for the 'pulpit and reading-desk.
All this being completed, I painted texts with my own hands on the walls, in old English characters. I had great joy in writing these, for I felt as if it was to the Lord Himself, and for His name, and finished with Nehemiah's prayer, "Remember me, O my God, concerning this; and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof" (Neh. 13:14).
Altogether, it was a pretty church now, and a pretty sum was to be paid for it. I told the vestry that I alone was responsible, but that the Vicar had promised to pay one half if the vestry would pay the other. It seemed to be such a joy to them to get anything out of him, that they made a rate at once; and upon the Vicar's letter, raised the money and paid off the debt.
The people were much pleased with their church in its new aspect, and brought their friends and neighbours to see it. Besides this, I observed something which gratified me very much. It was that when they entered the church they did so with reverence, taking off their hats and walking softly, in place of stamping with their heels and coming in with their hats on, as they too often had previously done, without any respect or concern whatever. A neglected place of worship does not command reverence.
My church now began to be the talk of the neighbourhood. Numbers of people came to see it, and among them several clergymen, who asked me to come and restore their churches.
There were many places where the people could not afford to rebuild the structure. In such, I was invited to exercise my skill in repairing, as I had done with my own; in others, I was asked to give designs for restoring portions of the edifice; and in some, for rebuilding altogether. In this district, schools were not built nor parsonage-houses enlarged without sending for me.
For several years I was looked upon as an authority in architectural matters. I rode about all over the county from north to west, restoring churches and designing schools, and was accounted the busiest man alive; and my horse, my dog, and myself, the "three leanest things in creation," we were to be seen flying along the roads, day and night, in one part or another.
The Bishop of Exeter, who at that time presided over Cornwall, appointed me to make new "Peel" districts.* I designed nineteen, and made all the maps myself, calling on the Vicars and Rectors for their approbation. I was at this time a very popular man, and it was said that "the Bishop's best living" would be given to me in due time.
* The "Peel" districts were the new ecclesiastical districts created under the Church Extension Act, introduced by Sir Robert Peel. ___
Antiquarian Researches and Ministry, 1843-6.
Another thing which raised my name in and beyond the county was the "Lost Church" at Perranzabuloe. There was an old British church existing in some sand-hills in the parish, and it was said to be entire as far as the four walls. The hill under which it was buried was easily known by the bones and teeth which covered it. The legend said that the patron saint, St. Piran, was buried under the altar, and that close by the little church was a cell in which he lived and died. This was enough. I got men, and set to work to dig it up. After some days' labour we came to the floor, where we discovered the stone seats, and on the plaster of the wall the greasy marks of the heads and shoulders of persons who had sat there many centuries ago. We found the chancel step, and also the altar tomb (which was built east and west, not north and south). It was fallen, but enough remained to show the original shape and height of it.
I put a notice in the newspapers, inviting people to come and see the old church which had been buried for fifteen hundred years. In the presence of many visitors, clerical and lay, we removed the stones of the altar, and found the skeleton of St. Piran, which was identified in three ways. The legend said that he was a man seven feet high; the skeleton measured six feet from the shoulder-bones to the heel Again, another legend said that his heart was enshrined in a church forty miles away; the skeleton corresponded with this, for it was headless. Moreover, it was said that his mother and a friend were buried on either side of him; we also found skeletons of a male and female in these positions. Being satisfied on this point, we set the masons to work to rebuild the altar tomb in its original shape and size, using the same stones as far as they would go. We made up the deficiency with a heavy granite slab.
On this I traced with my finger, in rude Roman letters, "SANCTUS PIRANUS." The mason would not cut those crooked letters unless I consented for him to put his name in better ones in the corner. I could not agree to this, so his apprentice and I, between us, picked out the rude letters, which have since (I have heard) been copied for a veritable Roman inscription.
My name was now up as an antiquary, and I was asked to be the secretary (for the West of England) to the Archaeological Society. I was supposed to be an old gentleman, and heard myself quoted as the "venerable and respected Haslam," whose word was considered enough to settle a knotty point beyond doubt. I was invited to give a lecture on the old Perran Church, at the Royal Institution, Truro, which I did; illustrating it with sketches of the building, and exhibiting some rude remains of carving, which are now preserved in the museum there.
The audience requested me (through their chairman) to print my lecture. This I undertook also; but being very young in literary enterprises, I added a great deal of other matter to the manuscript which I was preparing for the press. There was much in the book * about early Christianity and ecclesiastical antiquities. I imagined that this parish was, in British and Druidic times, a populous place, and somewhat important. There was a "Round," or amphitheatre, for public games, and four British castles; also a great many sepulchral mounds on the hills, the burial-place of chieftains. I supposed that St. Piran came here among these rude natives (perhaps painted savages) to preach the Gospel, and then built himself a cell by the sea-shore,+ near a spring or well, where he baptized his converts. Close by, he built this little church, in which he worshipped God and prayed for the people.
* "The Church of St. Piran." Published by Van Voorst. + This little building still remains entire, under the sand. Some pieces of British pottery and limpet-shells were found outside the door.
The words of the poet Spenser do not inaptly describe this scene of other days:—
A little, lowly hermitage it was, Downe in a dale— Far from resort of people, that did pas In treveill to and fro: a litle wyde There was a holy chappell edifyde, Wherein the hermite dewly wont to say His holy things each morn and eventyde; Thereby a crystall streame did gently play, Which, from a sacred fountaine welled forth away.
Here then, more than fourteen centuries ago, people called upon God; and when their little sanctuary was overwhelmed with the sand, they removed to the other side of the river, and built themselves another church; but they still continued to bury their dead around and above the oratory and resting-place of St. Piran.
When my book was published, there ensued a hot controversy about the subject of it; and some who came to see the "Lost Church" for themselves, declared that it was nothing more than "a modern cowshed;" others would not believe in the antiquity I claimed for it: one of these even ventured to assert his opinion in print, that "it was at least eight centuries later than the date I had fixed;" another asked in a newspaper letter, "How is it, if this is a church, that there are no others of the same period on record?"
This roused me to make further research; and I was soon rewarded by finding in the registry at Exeter a list of ninety-two churches existing in Cornwall alone in the time of Edward the Confessor, of which Lam-piran was one. With the help of another antiquary, I discovered nine in one week, in the west part of the county, with foundation walls and altar tombs, of which I published an account in the "Archaeological Journal." This paper set other persons to work, who discovered similar remains in various parts of the country; and thus it was proved to demonstration that we had more ecclesiastical antiquities, and of earlier date, than we were aware of.
Next, my attention was directed to Cornish crosses; about which I also sent a paper, with illustrations, as a good secretary and correspondent to the same Journal. My researches on this subject took me back to a very remote time. I found crosses among Roman remains, with inscriptions, something like those in the Catacombs near Rome—these were evidently Christian; but I found crosses also among Druidic antiquities. I could not help inquiring, "Where did the Druids get this sign?" From the Phoenicians. "Where did they get it?" From the Egyptians. "Where did they get it?" Then I discovered that the cross had come to Egypt with traditions about a garden, a woman, a child, and a serpent, and that the cross was always represented in the hand of the second person of their trinity of gods. This personage had a human mother, and slew the serpent which had persecuted her.*
* These traditions came to the Egyptians from an ancestor who had come over the flood with seven others. _____
Here was a wonderful discovery! The mythology of Egypt was based on original tradition, handed down from Antediluvian times! From further investigation, it was evident that the substance of Hindoo mythology came from the same source; as also that of the Greeks, Chinese, Mexicans, and Scandinavians. This is how the Druids got the cross also: it was in the hand of their demi-god Thor, the second person of their triad, who slew the great serpent with his famous hammer, which he bequeathed to his followers.
I was beside myself with excitement, and walked bout the room in a most agitated state. I then made a table or harmony of these various mythologies, and when placed side by side, it was quite clear that they were just one and the same story, though dressed up in a variety of mythological forms, and that the story was none other than that of the Bible.
In my architectural journeys I used to entertain, people with these wondrous subjects; and one evening I had the honour of agitating even the Bishop of Exeter himself, who, in his enthusiasm, bade me write a book, and dedicate it to him. I did so. "The Cross and the Serpent" is the title of it, and it was duly inscribed to his lordship.
It excites me even now to think about it, though it is thirty-five years since I made these discoveries. The old librarian at Oxford declared that I was mad, and yet he could not keep away from the subject, and he was never weary of hearing something more about it. This reverend Doctor said, "If you are right, then all the great antiquaries are wrong." I suggested that they had not had the advantage I possessed of placing their various theories side by side, or of making their observations from my point of view.
Notwithstanding all these external labours, which engrossed my earnest and deep attention, I did not neglect my parish. I felt, however, that my parishioners did not know anything about ecclesiastical antiquities or architectural science; and that they knew nothing, and cared less, about Church teaching. They did not believe, with me, that in order to be saved hereafter, they ought to be in the Church, and receive the Holy Communion—that there is no salvation out of the Church, and no Church without a Bishop. They were utterly careless about these things and from the first had been an unsympathetic and unteachable people. I feel sure that had it not been for other interesting occupations which engaged my mind, I should have been altogether discouraged with them.
I tried to stir them up to a zeal worthy of their ancestors, who were such good and loyal Churchmen, that King Charles the First wrote them a letter of Commendation, and commanded that it should be put up in all the churches. I had a copy of this letter well painted, framed, and placed in a conspicuous part of my church. Then I prepared an original sermon, which I preached, or rather read, to inaugurate the royal letter.
My text was taken from Heb. 12:22-24, "Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." I applied these words to the Church of England, and rather reproached the Cornish people for not being more loyal and scriptural!
I think I was more roused by my sermon than any one else; and no one asked me to print it, but I did for all that, with a copy of the king's letter. I am sorry to say that the public did not care sufficiently about it to buy copies enough even to pay for printing.
It fell very flat, but I attributed that to the degeneracy of the times, and of Cornish people in particular. The fact was, they understood that text far better than I did, and knew that "the Church of the first-born" was something more spiritual than I had any conception of.
From the commencement of my ministry I did not, as a general rule, preach my own sermons, but Newman's, which I abridged and simplified, for in that day I thought them most sound in doctrine, practical and full of good common sense. Indeed, as far as Church teaching went, they were, to my mind, perfect. They stated doctrines and drew manifest conclusions; but my people were not satisfied with them then; and I can see now, thank God! that, with all their excellences, they were utterly deficient in spiritual vitality.
Their author was one whom I personally admired very much, but by his own showing, in his "Apologia." he was a man who was searching not for God, but for a Church. At length, when he grasped the ideal of what a Church ought to be, he tried by the Oxford Tracts, especially No. XC, to raise the Church of England to his standard; and failing in that, he became dissatisfied, and went over to the Church of Rome.
Once, when I arrived at a friend's house in the Lake district, I was told that there was a most beautiful view of distant mountains to be seen from my window. In the morning I lifted the blind to look, but only saw an ordinary view of green fields, hedges, trees and a lake. There was nothing else whatever to be seen. In the course of the day, a heavy mist which had been hanging over the lake was dispersed, and then I saw the beautiful mountains which before had been so completely veiled that it was difficult to believe in their existence.
So it was with me. I could see ecclesiastical things, but the more glorious view of spiritual realities beyond them, in all their full and vast expanse, was as yet hidden.
Whether my extracts from Newman's Sermons were more pointed, or whether I became more impatient with my congregation, I cannot tell, but it was very evident that my words were beginning to take effect at last; for as I went on preaching and protesting against the people and against schism, my "bass viol" called on me one day, and said, "If you go on preaching that doctrine, you will drive away the best part of your congregation." "Excuse me," I answered, "not the best part; you mean the worse part." "Well," ho said, "you will see."
On the following Sunday, I gave out my text, and had scarcely read three pages of my manuscript when I heard a voice say, "Now we will go." With this, the "bass viol," the other fiddles, the clarionet, the ophicleide, and the choir, came stumping down the gallery stairs, and marched out. Some of the congregation followed their example, with the determination never to come back to the Church again. I waited till the noise was over, and then went on with my sermon meekly, and thought myself a martyr for Church principles.
I little thought that the people were being martyred; yet they were right, and enlightened in the truth, while I was altogether in the dark, and knew nothing about it. From this time there was a constant feud between the parishioners and myself. I thought that they were schismatics; and they knew that I was unconverted, and did not preach the Gospel.
One day, a Dissenter called to pay a burial fee for the funeral of his child, which he had purposely omitted paying at the proper time because he wished to tell me a piece of his mind. I was absent on the occasion on some architectural or archaeological business, which was to me all important. "I know," he said, "why you went away and would not bury my child." "Do you?" I asked. "Yes; it was because I am a Dissenter." "Oh!" I said, "I would bury you all to-morrow if I could; for you are no good, and can do none either."
This went round the parish like wildfire, and did not advance my popularity or do my cause any good.
Seriously at this time I thought that separation from the Church of England was a most deadly sin—it was schism. Idolatry and murder were sins against the Mosaic law; but this was a sin against the Church. I little dreamt then 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; that, in fact, I was the cause of their leaving the services; that I was the schismatic, for I was separated from Christ: they only, and that for a good reason, had separated from the communion of the Church of England, which I misrepresented.
The Church of England's teaching since the Reformation, like that of the primitive Church, is based not on baptism, but conversion. Baptism was intended according to the Lord's commandment (Matt 28:19), for the purpose of making disciples*—that is, to graft members into the body of Christ's Church outwardly. Whatever special grace is given to infants and others at baptism, is given upon the condition of personal faith and repentance. Until a baptized person has been enabled by the Holy Ghost to repent and believe the Gospel, he is not really a new-born child of God, or raised from death into life, though nominally, in the words of the Catechism, he has "been made a child of God."
* See Greek
Since the feuds and dissensions in my parish, the church was almost deserted, and left chiefly to myself, my clerk, and a few poor people, who, for the most part, were in ill favour in the chapels.
One day I was absorbed in writing, or rather rewriting, a text over the porch door of the church. It was, "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." A man who was standing at the foot of the ladder said, "Heaven is a long way from that gate, I reckon." I pretended not to hear him, but his speech stuck to me. I knew only too well from this, and many other indications, that the people had no respect for the church under my ministrations.
The New Parish, 1846.
About this time the news reached us that the Vicar was dead; and thus ended my connection with Perranzabuloe. As the Dean and Chapter would not appoint me to succeed, I had no alternative but to make arrangements for my departure.
In one sense I was not sorry to go; but for various other reasons I much regretted having to leave a place where my health had been so wonderfully restored and sustained, and in which I had received so many tokens of God's favour. It is true that my labours were of an external character; but these I thought most important, and did them with all my might as unto the Lord. I took the work as from Him, and did it all to Him, and for Him, thanking Him for any token of success or commendation which I received.
I also regretted leaving the place before I had done any good to the people; for, with all my endeavours, I had not succeeded in persuading them to receive my idea of salvation by churchmanship.
However, the door was shut behind me; and this crisis happened at the exact time of another important event in my life. I was just engaged to be married, and therefore had an additional interest in looking for a sphere of labour which would suit me, and also the partner of my choice, who was in every respect likely to be an effectual helpmeet This was soon found and we agreed together to give ourselves to the Lord's work (as we thought) in it.
One of the "Peel" districts in the neighbourhood of Truro, which I had designed, called Baldhu, was on the Earl of Falmouth's estate: it came to his Lordship's mind to take an interest in this desolate spot; so he bought the patronage from the commissioners, and then offered it to me, to Be made into a new parish. This I accepted, with many thanks, and began immediately to dream about my plans for the future.
It was a time of great distress in that place amongst the tenants, on account of the failure of the potato crop; so his lordship employed some hundreds of the men in breaking up the barren croft for planting trees; there he gave me a good central site for a church.
Now I made up my mind to have everything perfect, and with my own rules and regulations, my surpliced choir, churchwardens, and frequent services, all after my own heart, it could scarcely fall to be otherwise. I thought that having free scope, mine should be a model place. The district was in a barren part of a large palish; three thousand souls had been assigned to me; and I was to go and civilize them, build my church, school-house, and, indeed, establish everything that was necessary.
To begin with, I took a room which was used for a village school in the week, and for a service on Sunday. This succeeded so well, that in a few months I determined to enlarge the building in which we assembled, as speedily as possible. Having made all necessary plans, and procured stones, timber, and slate, we commenced operations at five o'clock one Monday morning, and by Saturday night had a chancel (which I thought most necessary) ready for Sunday use!
All the world came to see this sudden erection. This temporary church now held three hundred people; and with the addition of a new choir and hearty service, it was a great success, or, at least, so I imagined, for in those days I did not look for more.
I entered upon my work here with renewed energy and sanguine hope. I had, of course, gained more experience in the various duties of my ministry, and had, moreover, a clearer perception, as I thought, how sacramental teaching, under the authority of the Church, ought to work. I preached on holy living, not conversion, for as yet I knew nothing about the latter.
In 1847, I went on a visit to a very remarkable man, who had a great effect upon me in many ways. He was the Rev. Robert Hawker, of Morwenstow, in the extreme north of Cornwall.*
* See his "LIFE," by Rev. Baring Gould.
This friend was a poet, and a High Churchman, from whom I learned many practical lessons. He was a man who prayed, and expected an answer; he had a wonderful perception for realizing unseen things, and took Scripture literally, with startling effect. He certainly was most eccentric in many of his ways; but there was a reality and straightforwardness about him which charmed me very much; and I was the more drawn to him, from the interest he took in me and my work.
He knew many legends of holy men of old, and said that the patron saints of West Cornwall were in the calendar of the Eastern Church, and those in the north of Cornwall belonged to the Western. His own patron saint, Morwenna, was a Saxon, and his church a Saxon fane. He talked of these saints as if he knew all about them, and wrote of them in a volume of poems thus:—
"They had their lodges in the wilderness, And built them cells along the shadowy sea; And there they dwelt with angels like a dream, And filled the field of the evangelists With thoughts as sweet as flowers."
He used to give most thrilling and grand descriptions of the storms of the Atlantic, which broke upon the rocky coast with gigantic force, and tell thrilling stories of shipwrecks; how he saved the lives of some of the sailors, and how he recovered the bodies of others he could not save. Then in the churchyard he would show you—there, a broken boat turned over the resting-place of some; here, two oars set up crosswise over several others; and in another part the figure-head of a ship, to mark the spot where the body of a captain was buried.
The Vicarage house was as original as himself. Over the door was inscribed—
"A house, a glebe, a pound a day; A pleasant place to watch and pray. Be true to Church, be kind to poor, O minister, for evermore!"
The interior was furnished with old-fashioned heavy furniture and the outside was conspicuous for its remarkable chimneys, which were finished off as models of the towers of churches where he had served. The kitchen chimney, which was oblong, perplexed him very much, till (as he said) "I bethought me of my mother's tomb; and there it is, in its exact shape and dimensions!"
He had daily service in his church, generally by himself, when he prayed for the people. "I did not want them there." he said. "God hears me; and they know when I am praying for them, for I ring the bell."
He had much influence in his parish, chiefly amongst the poor, and declared that his people did whatever he told them. They used to bring a bunch of flowers or evergreens every Sunday morning, and set them up in their pew ends, where a proper place was made to hold them. The whole church was seated with carved oak benches, which he had bought from time to time from other churches, when they were re-pewed with "deal boxes!"
On the Sunday, I was asked to help him in the service, and for this purpose was arrayed in an alb, plain, which was just like a cassock in white linen. As I walked about in this garb, I asked a friend, "How do you like it?" In an instant I was pounced upon, and grasped sternly on the arm by the Vicar. "'Like' has nothing to do with it; is it right?" He himself wore over his alb a chasuble, which was amber on one side and green on the other, and was turned to suit the Church seasons; also a pair of crimson-colored gloves, which, he contended, were the proper sacrificial colour for a priest.
I had very little to do in the service but to witness his proceedings, which I observed with great attention, and even admiration. His preaching struck me very much; he used to select the subject of his sermon from the Gospel of the day all through the year. This happened to be "Good Samaritan Sunday," so we had a discourse upon the "certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho," in which he told us that "the poor wounded man was Adam's race; the priest who went by was the Patriarchal dispensation; the Levite, the Mosaic; and the good Samaritan represented Christ; the inn was the Church; and the twopence, the Sacraments."
He held his manuscript before his face, and read it out boldly, because he "hated," as he said, "those fellows who read their sermons, and all the time pretend to preach them;" and he especially abhorred those who secreted notes in their Bibles: "Either have a book, sir, or none!"
He had a great aversion to Low Church clergymen, and told me that his stag Robin, who ranged on the lawn, had the same; and that once he pinned one of them to the ground between his horns. The poor man cried out in great fear; so he told Robin to let him go, which he did, but stood and looked at the obnoxious individual as if he would like to have him down again and frighten him, though he would not hurt him—"Robin was kind-hearted."
"This Evangelical," he continued, "had a tail coat; he was dressed like an undertaker, sir. Once upon a time there was one like him travelling in Egypt, with a similar coat and a tall hat; and the Arabs pursued him, calling him the 'father of saucepans, with a slit tail.'" This part of his speech was evidently meant for me, for I wore a hat and coat of this description, finding it more convenient for the saddle, and for dining out when I alighted.
He persuaded me to wear a priestly garb like his, and gave me one of his old cassocks for a pattern; this I succeeded in getting made to my satisfaction, after considerable difficulty.
I came back to my work full of new thoughts and plans, determined to do what was "right" and this in spite of all fears, whether my own, or those of others.
I now began to think more of the reality of prayer, and of the meaning of the services of the Church; I emphasized my words, and insisted upon proper teaching. I also paid more attention to my sermons, having hitherto disregarded them; for, as I said, "the Druids never preached; they only worshipped."
I help up my manuscript and read my sermon, like Mr. Hawker; and I wore a square cap and cassock, instead of the "saucepan" and the "tails." This costume I continued to wear for several years, though I was frequently laughed at, and often pursued by boys, which was not agreeable to flesh and blood; but it helped to separate me from the world, and to make me feel that I was set apart as a priest to offer sacrifice for the people.
In course of time I began to make preparations for my permanent church. I drew the designs for it, passed them, and obtained money enough to begin to build. There was a grand ceremony at the stone-laying, and a long procession. We had banners, chanting, and a number of surpliced clergy, besides a large congregation.
The Earl of Falmouth, who laid the stone, contributed a thousand pounds towards the edifice; his mother gave three hundred pounds for a peal of bells; and others of the gentry who were present contributed; so that upwards of eighteen hundred pounds was promised that day. Just twelve months after, July 20, 1848, the same company, with many others, and the Bishop of Exeter (Phillpotts) came to consecrate the "beautiful church."
In the meantime, between the stone-laying and the consecration, the Parsonage house had been built, and, more than that, it was even papered, furnished, and inhabited! Besides all this, there was a garden made, and a doorway, after an ecclesiastical mode, leading into the churchyard, with this inscription over it:—
"Be true to Church, Be kind to poor, O minister, for evermore."
In this church there were super-altars, candles, triptych, and also a painted window; organ, choir, and six bells; so that for those days it was considered a very complete thing. "The priest of Baldhu," with his cassock and square cap, was quite a character in his small way. He preached in a surplice, of course, and propounded Church tactics, firmly contending for the Church teaching. The Wesleyans and others had their distinctive tenets, the Church must have hers: they had their members enrolled, the Church must have hers; therefore he would have a "guild," with the view of keeping his people together. Outwardly there was an esprit de corps, and the parishioners came to church, and took an interest in the proceedings; but it was easy to see that their hearts were elsewhere. Still I went on, hoping against hope, "building from the top" without any foundation, teaching people to live before they were born!
The Awakening, 1848-51.
He more earnestly I wrought among the people, and the better I knew them, the more I saw that the mere attachment to the Church, and punctual attendance at the services or frequency of Communion, was not sufficient. I wanted something deeper. I wanted to reach their hearts in order to do them good.
Whether this desire sprang up in the ordinary progress by which God was imperceptibly leading me, or from a story I heard at a clerical meeting, I know not—perhaps from both. My mind was evidently as ground prepared to receive the warning. The story was about a dream a clergyman had. He thought the Judgment day was come, and that there was, as it were, a great visitation—greater than the Bishop's. The clergy were mustering, and appeared in their gowns, but instead of being alone, they had part of their congregations with them. Some had a few followers, others had more, and some a great many; and ail these received a gracious smile from the Judge when their names were called. The clergyman who dreamed was waiting, as he supposed, with a large number of people at his back When his turn came he went forward; but, as he approached, he saw that the Judge's countenance was sad and dark. In a sudden impulse of suspicion he looked back; and lo! there was no one behind him. He stopped, not daring to go any further, and turning to look at the Judge, saw that His countenance was full of wrath. This dream had such an effect upon him that he began to attend to his parish and care for the souls of his people.
I also was beginning to see that I ought to care for the souls of my people-at least, as much as I did for the services Of the Church. As a priest, I had the power (so I thought) to give them absolution; and yet none, alas! availed themselves of the opportunity. How could they have forgiveness if they did not come to me? This absolution I believed to be needful before coming to Holy Communion, and that it was, indeed, the true preparation for that sacred ordinance. I used to speak privately to the members of the Church Guild about this, and persuaded some of them to come to me for confession and absolution: but I was restless, and felt that I was doing good by stealth. Besides this, those whom I thus absolved were not satisfied, for they said they could not rejoice in the forgiveness of their sins as the Methodists did, or say that they were pardoned. In this respect I was working upon most tender ground, but I did not know what else to do.
I used to spend hours and hours in my church alone in meditation and prayer; and, while thinking, employed my hands in writing texts over the windows and on the walls, and in painting ornamental borders above the arches. I remember writing over the chancel arch, with much interest and exultation, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ." (Rev. 12:10).
I imagined, in my sanguine hope, that the kingdom of Christ was come, and that the "accuser of the brethren" was cast down. I thought I saw, in the power of Christ given to His priests, such victory that nothing could stand against it. So much for dwelling on a theory, right or wrong, till it fills the mind. Yet I cannot say that all this was without prayer. I did wait upon God, and thought my answers were from Him; but I see now that I went to the Lord with an idol in my heart, and that He answered me according to it (Ezek. 14:3).
One day I saw a picture in a friend's house which attracted me during the time I was waiting for him. It was nothing artistic, nor was it over well drawn, but still it engaged my attention in a way for which I could not account. When my friend came down we talked about other things; but even after I left the house this picture haunted me. At night I lay awake thinking about it—so much so, that I rose early the next morning, and went to a bookseller's shop, where I bought a large sheet of tracing-paper and pencil, and sent them out by the postman, with a note to my friend, begging him to give me a tracing of the picture in question.
I had to wait for more than a fortnight before it arrived, and then how great was my joy! I remember spreading a white cloth on my table, and opening out the tracing-paper upon it; and there was the veritable picture of the Good Shepherd! His countenance was loving and kind. With one hand He was pushing aside the branch of a tree, though a great thorn went right through it; and with the other He was extricating a sheep which was entangled in the thorns. The poor thing was looking up in helplessness, all spotted over with marks of its own blood, for it was wounded in struggling to escape. Another thing which struck me in this picture was that the tree was growing on the edge of a precipice, and had it not been for it (the tree), with all the cruel wounds it inflicted, the sheep would have gone over and perished.
After considering this picture for a long time, I painted it in a larger size on the wall of my church, just opposite the entrance door, so that every one who came in might see it. I cannot describe the interest with which I employed myself about this work; and when it was done, finding that it wanted a good bold foreground, I selected a short text-"He came to seek and to save that which was lost."
God was speaking to me all this time about the Good Shepherd who gave His life for me; but I did not hear Him, or suspect that I was lost, or caught in any thorns, or hanging over a precipice; therefore, I did not apply the subject to myself. Certainly, I remember that my thoughts dwelt very much on forgiveness and salvation, but I preached that these were to be had in and by the Church, which was as the Ark in which Noah was saved. Baptism was the door of this Ark, and Holy Communion the token of abiding in it; and all who were not inside were lost. What would become of those outside the Church was a matter which greatly perplexed me. I could not dare to say they would be lost forever; but where could they be now? and what would become of them hereafter? I longed to save John Bunyan; but he was such a determined schismatic that it was impossible to make out a hope for him! Sometimes I was cheered by the thought that he had been duly baptized in infancy, and that his after-life was one of ignorance; but this opened the door too wide, and made my theory of salvation by the Church a very vague and uncertain thing. So deeply was the thought ingrained in my mind that one day I baptized myself conditionally in the Church, for fear that I had not been properly baptized in infancy, and consequently should be lost hereafter. I had no idea that I was lost now; far from that, I thought I was as safe as the Church herself, and that the gates of hell could not prevail against me.
I had many conversations with the earnest people in my parish, but they were evidently resting, not where I was, but on something I did not know. One very happy woman told me, "Ah! you went to college to larn the Latin; but though I don't know a letter in the Book, yet I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies." Another woman, whenever I went to see her, made me read the story of her conversion, which was written out in a copy-book. Several other, men and women, talked to me continually about their "conversion." I often wondered what that was; but, as I did not see much self-denial among these converted ones, and observed that they did not attend God's House nor ever come to the Lord's table. I thought conversion could not be of much consequence, or anything to be desired.
I little knew that I was the cause of their remaining away from church, and from the Lord's table. One thoughtful man told me, "Cornish people are too enlightened to go to church! A man must give up religion to go there; only unconverted people and backsliders go to such a place!" Yet this was a prayerful man. What did he mean? At various clerical meetings I used to repeat these things, but still obtained no information or satisfaction.
I made it a rule to visit every house in my parish once a week, taking from twelve to twenty each day, when I sought to enlighten the people by leaving Church tracts, and even wrote some myself; but they would not do. I found that the Religious Tract Society's publications were more acceptable. To my great disappointment, I discovered too, that Evangelical sermons drew the people, while sacramental topics did not interest them. So, in my ardent desire to reach and do them good, I procured several volumes of Evangelical sermons, and copied them, putting in sometimes a negative to their statements, to make them, as I thought, right.
Now I began to see and feel that there was some good in preaching, and used the pulpit intentionally, in order to communicate with my people, carefully writing or compiling my sermons. But I must confess that I was very nervous in my delivery, and frequently lost my place—sometimes even myself; and this to the great confusion of the congregation.
I will tell how it pleased the Lord to deliver me from this bondage of nervousness, and enable me to open my lips so as to plainly speak out my meaning.
One day, a friend with whom I was staying was very late in coming down to breakfast; so, while I was waiting, I employed myself in reading the "Life of Bishop Shirley," of Sodor and Man. My eyes happened to fall on a passage, describing a difficulty into which he fell by losing his sermon on his way to a country church. When the prayers were over, and the psalm was nearly sung, he put his hand into his pocket for his manuscript, and, to his dismay, it was gone. There was no time to continue his search; so he gave out a text, and preached, as he said, in dependence upon God, and never wrote a sermon afterwards.
When my friend came to breakfast, he asked me what I had been doing all the morning. I told him. "Ah!" he said, quietly. "Why do you not preach in dependence upon God and go without a book like that good man? .... I preach like that!" I said in amazement, terrified at the very thought. "Yes." he answered, mischievously, "You. Who needs to depend upon God for this more than you do?" Seeing that I was perturbed at his suggestion, he went on teasing me all breakfast time, and at last said, "Well, what is your decision? Do you mean to preach in future in dependence upon God?" I said, "Yes; I have made up my mind to begin next Sunday." Now it was his turn to be terrified, and he did all he could to dissuade me, saying, "You will make a fool of yourself!" "No fear of that," I replied; "I do it already; I cannot be worse. No; I will begin next Sunday!"
I came back with the determination to keep my promise, but must confess that I grew more and more uneasy as the time approached. However, on Sunday, I went up into the pulpit, and spoke as well as I could, without any notes, and found it far easier than I had feared. In the evening it was still easier; and so I continued, week by week, gaining more confidence, and have never written a sermon since that day—that is, to preach it. Once I was tempted to take a book up into the pulpit, feeling I had nothing to say, when something said to me, "Is that the way you depend upon God?" Immediately I put the volume on the floor, and standing on it, gave out my text, and preached without hesitation. This going forward in dependence upon God has been a deliverance to me from many a difficulty besides this one, and that through many years.
One day I went, in my cassock and cap, to the shop of a man whom I regarded as a dreadful schismatic. He sold the publications of the Religious Tract Society. On entering, he appeared greatly pleased to see me, and took unusual interest and pains in selecting tracts, giving me a double portion for my money. His kindness was very embarrassing; and when, on leaving, he followed me to the door, and said "God bless you!" it gave me a great turn. A schismatic blessing a priest! This, indeed, was an anomaly. I was ashamed to be seen coming out of the shop, and the more so, because I had this large Evangelical parcel in my hand, I felt as though everybody was looking at me. However, the tracts were very acceptable at home, and in the parish. I even began to think there was something good in them. So I cent for more.
Three men, one after another, told me that they had been converted through reading them. One of these said that "the tract I had given him ought to be written in letters of gold;" and a few months after this same man died most happily, rejoicing in the Lord, and leaving a bright testimony behind. I mentioned the conversion of these three men to many of my friends, and asked them for some explanation, but got none. Still, the thought continually haunted me—-What can this "conversion" be?
I had made it a custom to pray about what I had to do, and anything I could not understand; therefore I prayed about this. Just then (I believe, in answer to prayer) a friend offered to lend me Southey's "Life of Wesley," and said, "You will find it all about conversion;" and a few days after came a tract, "John Berridge's Great Error Detected." This tract was carefully marked in pencil, and had several questions written in the margin. I found out that it came from a person to whom I had given it, and who was anxious to know its meaning.
I read it with much interest, for I saw that the first portion of the history of Berridge corresponded with mine; but as I went on reading, I wondered what he could mean by "Justification." What was that wonderful thing which God did for him and for the souls of his people? What could he mean by having his eyes opened to see himself a wretched, lost man? What was "seeing the way of salvation"? He said that he had preached for six years, and never brought a single soul to Christ; and for two years more in another place, and had no success; but now, when he preached Christ instead of the Church, people came from all parts, far and near, to hear the sound of the glorious Gospel; and believers were added to the Church continually. I grappled with this subject; but I could not, by searching, find out anything, for I was in the dark, and knew not as yet that I was blind, and needed the power of the Holy Spirit to awaken and bring me to see myself a lost sinner. My soul was now all a stir on this subject; but, as far as I can remember, I wanted the information-not for myself; but because I thought I should then get hold of the secret by which the Wesleyans and others caught and kept their people, or rather my people.
Soon after, my gardener, a good Churchman, and duly despised by his neighbours for attaching himself to me and my teaching, fell seriously ill. I sent him at once to the doctor, who pronounced him to be in a miner's consumption, and gave no hope of his recovery. No sooner did he realize his position, and see eternity before him, than all the Church teaching I had given him failed to console or satisfy, and his heart sank within him at the near prospect of death. In his distress of mind, he did not send for me to come and pray with him, but actually sent for a converted man, who lived in the next row of cottages. This man, instead of building him up as I had done, went to work in the opposite direction-to break him down; that was, to show my servant that he was a lost sinner, and needed to come to Jesus just as he was, for pardon and salvation. He was brought under deep conviction of sin, and eventually found peace through the precious blood of Jesus.
Immediately it spread all over the parish that "the parson's servant was converted." The news soon reached me, but, instead of giving joy, brought the most bitter disappointment and sorrow to my heart. Such was the profound ignorance I was in!
The poor man sent for me several times, but I could not make up my mind to go near him. I felt far too much hurt to think that after all I had taught him against schism, he should fall into so great an error. However, he sent again and again, till at last his entreaties prevailed, and I went. Instead of lying on his bed, a dying man, as I expected to find him, he was walking about the room in a most joyful and ecstatic state. "Oh, dear master!" he exclaimed, "I am so glad you are come! I am so happy! My soul is saved, glory be to God!" "Come, John," I said, "sit down and be quiet, and I will have a talk with you, and tell you what I think." But John knew my thoughts quite well enough, so he burst out, "Oh master! I am sure you do not know about this, or you would have told me. I am quite sure you love me, and I love you—that I do! but, dear master, you do not know this—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." He looked at me so lovingly, and seemed so truly happy, that it was more than I could stand. Almost involuntarily, I made for the door, and escaped before he could stop me.