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how it came there, and that I intended to keep it on all through the evening service.
This news spread over the whole place, and the consequence was that such numbers of people came out of curiosity, that the church was filled to overflowing. I preached without any reference to what had taken place, and succeeded in gaining the attention of the people; so that after the service I said I would have a prayer-meeting in the schoolroom. We had the place crammed, and not a few found peace. I announced that I would preach again the next evening.
A revival soon broke out in that place, and the crowds who came to the meetings were so great, that we had as many people outside the large schoolroom as there were in.
At the end of the six weeks the new vicar returned, and I was able to hand over the parish to him, with a full church, three Bible-classes, and a large Sunday-school. This I did, thanking God for the measure of success and blessing He had given to my efforts in that populous and wicked place.
After I had left I received a letter from some of the parishioners, asking me what I should like to have as a testimonial of their gratitude and regard; that they had had a penny collection amongst themselves, which amounted to several pounds, and now they were waiting to know what I should like!
I wrote to tell them that nothing would please me better than a service of plate for communion with the sick. They bought this, and had a suitable inscription engraved, and then placed it under a glass shade in the Town Hall, on a certain day for inspection. Hundreds of people came to see the result of their penny contribution. After this public exhibition, the communion service was sent to me with a letter, written by a leading man in the place, saying, "I was
THE VICAR'S LETTER.
one of the instigators of the opposition to your work here; but the very first evening you spoke in the schoolroom I was outside listening, and was shot through the window. The word hit my heart like a hammer, without breaking a pane of glass. Scores and scores of people will bless God to all eternity that you ever came amongst us."
The revival in this proverbially wicked place, created such a stir that the newspapers took it up, and thought for once that I was in the right place, and doing a good work!" The member for the borough sent me twenty-five pounds, "begging my acceptance of the trifle." Who asked him, or why he sent it, I do not know; but the Lord knew that we needed help. More than this, the vicar of the adjoining parish, who used to be very friendly with me in my unconverted days, but who had declared his opposition pretty freely since that time, sent me a letter one Sunday morning by private hand, to be delivered to me personally. This I duly received; but expecting that it was one of his usual letters, and also knowing that I had visited some persons in his parish who were anxious, I thought I would not open it till Monday, and so placed it on the mantel-piece. A friend who happened to come in, noticing it there, said, "I see you have a letter from the Prebendary; I dare say he is angry with you."
"I suppose he is," I said; "but it will keep till tomorrow; and I do not care to be troubled with his thoughts to-day."
"Oh, do let me open it," said my visitor; "I shall not be here to-morrow, and I should so like to hear what he has to say."
With my consent he opened it and read, "Dear old Haslam, you have done more good in that part of my parish where you are working, in a few weeks, than I have done for years. I enclose you a cheque for the amount of tithes
coming from there. The Lord bless you more and more! Pray for me!"
It was a cheque for thirty-seven pounds. The next morning I went over to see my old friend newly-found, and to thank him in person for his generous gift. Poor man, I found him very low and depressed, and quite ready and willing that I should talk and pray with him. I sincerely hope that he became changed before I left the neighbourhood, but I never heard that he declared himself.
By this time, while I was still in Tregoney, Mr. Aitken had found his way to the village where my family were lodging, and he was preaching at the church with his usual power and effect. Night after night souls were awakened and saved. The vicar's wife was in a towering rage of opposition. Poor woman! she declared that she "would rather go to Rome than be converted ;" and to Rome she went, but remained as worldly as ever.
It matters very little whether unconverted people join the Church of Rome or not; they are sure to be lost for ever if they die in their unconverted state: for nothing avails for eternal salvation but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
|FTER the mission which Mr. Aitken had held, people came out so decidedly, that the vicar and curate, who had all along kept aloof, doubting, fell back into a kind of revulsion, and began to read and lend Romish books. Eventually, they themselves decided to join the Church of Rome. Whether they were ever really converted or not, I cannot tell. I thought and hoped they were, but they seldom stood out on the Lord's side. They certainly had light, and may have had some experience. At any rate, they chose such a harlot as the Church of Rome for the object of their love, instead of Christ Himself.
I loved the curate. He was the man who had the unopened letter in his desk,* of which he harboured such a dread. Sad to say, he ended by falling away at last. Poor man! he went over to Rome, and never held up his head any more. Evidently disappointed, and ashamed to come back, he lingered on for some months, and then died.
* See page 264.
Not long after his secession, we accidentally met in a quiet lane, in another part of the county, where I was walking for meditation. Perhaps he was led there for the same purpose. Meeting so unexpectedly, there was no opportunity to evade one another. I felt a trembling come over me at seeing him, and he was none the less moved. We held each other's hands in silence, till at last I said, "How are you? I love you still."
"I cannot stand it!" he said; and snatching his hand out of mine, he ran away.
I never saw him again, but mourned for him till he died. I cannot help thinking that he is safe, and that he died in a faith more scriptural than that of the Church of Rome.
Why do men secede, and break their own hearts, and the hearts of those who love them? Rome seems to cast a kind of spell upon the conscience, fascinating its victims much as the gaze of the serpent is said to hold a bird, till it falls into its power; or as a light attracts a moth, till it flies into it, to its own destruction. Such seceders mourn and dread the step; pray about it, think and think, till they are bewildered and harassed; and then, in a fit of desperation, go off to some Romish priest to be received. A man who had an honourable position, a work and responsibility, suddenly becomes a nonentity, barely welcomed, and certainly suspected.
Romish people compass sea and land to make proselytes; and after they have gained them, they are afraid of them, for their respective antecedents are so different, that it is impossible for them to think together. They get the submission of a poor deluded pervert, but he gets nothing in return from them but a fictitious salvation. They gain him but he has lost the kind regard and sympathy of friends he had before, and with it all that once was dear to him; and he voluntarily forfeits all this upon the bare self