William Haslam was a Vicar in the 19th Century. We read some of his story today at college as we were exploring evangelicalism in Britain and how one Sunday morning when he was preaching he was converted! Interesting story. Below is an excerpt of his story. When I read it I was struck that in some way it was like my own story. I too was speaking at the front of a church when I was converted, talking about who I thought God was when suddenly I had a picture of Christ hanging on the Cross. I realised as I was speaking that Jesus had died for me and right there I became His follower and was converted. It was though all of a sudden Jesus became real to me. I too 'felt a wonderful joy and light coming into my soul'.
'The sun was shining brightly, and before I could make up my mind to put off the service, the bells struck out a merry peal, and sent their summons far away over the hills. Now the thought came to me that I would go to church and read the morning prayers and after that dismiss the people. There was no preparation for the Holy Communion that day, and I had deputed the clerk to select the hymns, for I was far too ill to attend to anything myself. The psalms and hymns were especially applicable to my case, and seemed to help me, so that I thought I would go on and read the ante-communion service, and then dismiss the people.And while I was reading the Gospel, I thought, well, I will just say a few words in explanation of this, and then I will dismiss them. So I went up into the pulpit and gave out my text. I took it from the gospel of the day--"What think ye of Christ?" (Matt. 22:42).As I went on to explain the passage, I saw that the Pharisees and scribes did not know that Christ was the Son of God, or that He was come to save them. They were looking for a king, the son of David, to reign over them as they were. Something was telling me, all the time, "You are no better than the Pharisees yourself-you do not believe that He is the Son of God, and that He is come to save you, any more than they did." I do not remember all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did not.Whether it was something in my words, or my manner, or my look, I know not; but all of a sudden a local preacher, who happened to be in the congregation, stood up, and putting up his arms, shouted out in a Cornish manner, "The parson is converted! The parson is converted!Hallelujah!" and in another moment his voice was lost in the shouts and praises of three or four hundred of the congregation. Instead of rebuking this extraordinary "brawling," as I should have done in a former time, I joined in the outburst of praise; and to make it more orderly, I gave out the Doxology--"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow"--and the people sang it with heart and voice, over and over again.My Churchmen were dismayed, and many of them fled precipitately from the place. Still the voice of praise went on, and was swelled by numbers of passers-by, who came into the church, greatly surprised to hear and seewhat was going on.When this subsided, I found at least twenty people crying for mercy,whose voices had not been heard in the excitement and noise of thanksgiving. They all professed to find peace and joy in believing.Amongst this number there were three from my own house; and we returned home praising God.The news spread in all directions that "the parson was converted," and that by his own sermon, in his own pulpit to. The church would not hold the crowds who came in the evening. I cannot exactly remember what I preached about on that occasion; but one thing I said was, "that if I had died last week I should have been lost for ever." I felt it was true. So clear and vivid was the conviction through which I had passed,and so distinct was the light into which the Lord had brought me, that I knew and was sure that He had "brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and put a new song into my mouth" (Ps. 40). He had "quickened" me, who was before "dead in trespasses and sins," (Eph. 2:1).