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ROM that time I did not confine myself so much to my own church, but frequently went out to preach in other places, as opportunities occurred; and these were, for the most part, brought about by remarkable and unsought-for incidents.
One Sunday a lady and gentleman came to my church from one of the neighbouring towns; they were professors of religion, and members of some Dissenting body. My sermon that evening was upon wheat and chaff—the former was to be gathered into the garner, the latter burned with fire unquenchable. I said that we were all either one or the other to be gathered or burned. They went away very angry, and complained one to another of my want of charity; they also remarked that I took good care to let the people know that I was not amongst the chaff which was to be burned. The arrows of the Lord had evidently found them, and had pierced the joints in their harness. They could not sleep all night for anger and distress. In the morning the gentleman rose early, and before breakfast had his horse out, and galloped over eight miles to see me.
"HE WOUNDS TO HEAL.”
He came with the intention of finding fault, but instead of this he burst into tears, and told me that he was the greatest of sinners.
He was in sore distress, which increased all the more as he gave vent to his feelings. I could not help rejoicing, and told him that God had wounded him, but that He only wounds to heal, and kills to make alive.
"Ah," he said, "that is the first thought of comfort I have had; it is like balm to my soul."
We knelt down and prayed; then I had the privilege of leading him to Christ, and we praised God together.
I gave him some breakfast, and after that rode back with him to see his wife, whom he had left in the morning in great trouble of mind. We found her up, and rejoicing. It was most touching to witness the mutual surprise and joy of these two loving ones, when they discovered that they were now united in the Lord.
She told us, that after her husband's departure she was in such terrible trouble that she got up to pray, and that while she was on her knees she saw a vision on the bedcover. Before her was printed, in large visible letters, “Thy sins be forgiven thee;" she could scarcely believe her eyes, but with her own finger she traced the letters, and was sure they were there. Taking them as a message from Christ, she rose and thanked Him, and now felt quite sure she was saved. I could not help telling her not to believe in her eyes or her visions, but in Jesus, and the fact that He had died for her. Having thanked God together, they next began to think of their servants; so we sent for them, and both master and mistress told them what the Lord had done for their souls; and while we were praying, they all three cried aloud for mercy, and found peace.
This was the commencement of a good work in that town by drawing-room meetings, and many were gathered
to the Lord. Amongst the number was the mayor of the town, who in his turn wished to have a meeting at his house. As soon as I was able to fix the day, he invited his friends, but or finding that so many more desired to come than he could accommodate, he announced that the meeting would be held at the Town Hall. Great interest was excited, and it was soon evident that even this building would not be large enough, so it ended in the Temperance Hall being selected. The vicar hearing about it, wrote to protest, and asked me to call on him before I went to the place of meeting. He said it was bad enough for me to come to his parish to private houses, but to come to a public room, and that a large one, was quite out of the question.
I endeavoured to show him that the lecture or address I had come to give was not an official or ministerial act; but he would not see that. I also suggested that there was no law against it. He, begging my pardon, said "The 'Conventicle Act' had not been repealed yet, and that no one could lawfully hold a meeting of more than twenty persons."
"But surely," I replied, "that is virtually repealed by the 'Toleration Act.' A clergyman ought not to be in greater bondage in England than a layman, or more restricted. Anybody else can come and preach the Gospel in your parish, and you cannot hinder it. Do not hinder It will do you no harm."
He said, "I cannot conscientiously allow it. It is against the Canons."
"Which Canon is it against ?" I asked.
He took down a book and showed it me; but casting my eyes on one before, and another which followed, I found that we neither of us observed the one or the other. Why, then, be so zealous about this? "Besides," I said, "you are not responsible; you have not asked me, nor have I
NOTICE FOR THE CRIER.
asked your consent. Your conscience need not be troubled about the matter."
But," he said, impatiently, "I am determined that you shall not preach in this parish. I will inform the Bishop." I replied, that "the Bishop had not any jurisdiction in this case; there is no law on the subject. The Conventicle Act only refers to worship, not to service or preaching."
He said, that he "could see no difference whatever between worship and service."
"But," I said, "I am sure the Bishop knows, and will acknowledge, the great difference between these two."
Then, changing his tone, he said, "Now, come, there's a good fellow, don't preach at the Town Hall."
"My dear man,” I answered, "I am not a 'good fellow" at all. I cannot give it up."
"Then," he said, "at least please to defer your address for a week, till we can get the Bishop's decision."
He asked so kindly and earnestly, and made such a point of it, that I consented to wait for the Bishop's answer, and defer the preaching for the week. He was very pleased, and said that I was indeed a 'good fellow;' but the praise I got from him barely satisfied my conscience, and I was ashamed to meet my friends. I had not gone far, before my courage failed; so, going back, I said that "I must withdraw my consent to defer the meeting. I will take the consequences and responsibilities, and go on."
"No, no," said the vicar, "I will arrange for the postponement of your meeting. Look here, I have written out a notice for the crier; he shall go round the town at once, and tell the people that the meeting is unavoidably deferred for a week."
I was very reluctantly persuaded to yield, and then went friend and told him what I had done. He was very much vexed with me, and said, "Then we must go at once
and tell the mayor before he hears the crier." We did so, and found that this personage was disappointed too, and advised me to go away out of sight of the people. Accordingly, my friend and I went to a house which commanded a good view of the town and principal streets, from whence. we could see the people assembling and dispersing. A large gang of them stood opposite my friend's house, and asked if I would not preach to them in the open air; and when they ascertained that the vicar had hindered the preaching, they were much exasperated.
In the evening I went back to my own parish, and had the usual service, which I found very refreshing after so much bickering about technicalities.
The Bishop's letter arrived in due time. In it his lordship said, that he "always had entertained a great esteem for me and my obedience to authority, and highly commended me for postponing or giving up my service at the above town." As he did not say a single word of prohibition, I immediately wrote to the mayor to expect me on the following Tuesday, "for the Bishop had not forbidden me,” and I also wrote to the vicar to the same effect. Large bills, with large letters on them, announced that "the Rev. William Haslam will positively preach in the Temperance Hall at three o'clock on Tuesday next."
The churchwardens of the parish were requested to attend the meeting, and protest, on behalf of the vicar, and also to present the archdeacon's monition. They stood beside me all the time, and after the service was concluded they showed me the archidiaconal instrument, with a great seal appended to it. They said that they "dared not stop that preaching," and so they took their monition back.
This gave rise to a long correspondence in the newspapers, some taking part on my side, and some against me. Thus the question was ventilated, and finally concluded, by a