This is the day that … John Haime died in Hampshire, England, in 1784, at the age of 78. In his 70’s his testimony was published by Wesley. It was titled, “A Short Account of God’s Dealings with Mr. John Haime”. Some, however, wonder if Satan should not get a mention in the title, since the devil’s torments on John’s life were enormous.
The exact date of his birth is unknown, but he grew up – in his words – “cursing, swearing, lying and Sabbath-breaking”. Mental torments were part of his life and, in an effort to escape them, he left his wife and children to join the army.
The thought of going to war against the French in 1739 momentarily turned his thoughts Godward, but before long “I was in the depths of despair”. It was after some encounters with the enemy, and what he later believed to be divine deliverance, that Haime found himself with two Methodist soldiers. “We took a room without delay and met every night to pray and read the Holy Scriptures. Some began to listen under the window…”
It was not long before a converted John Haime was preaching to his fellow soldiers. “He talked in such English as a peasant might use, and which peasants would have understood, of sin and judgement, of Christ and His salvation. The crowd about him – war-battered soldiers – hung breathlessly on his lips. They numbered some thousands, the sound of their singing filled the valley. And this scene was repeated in British camps every day – sometimes twice, sometimes thrice a day. The preacher was John Haime …” (Wesley and His Century, by D.W.H. Fitchett, page 226).
Sometimes when the army settled in one place for a time, a wooden tabernacle would be especially built. “I frequently walked between 20 and 30 miles a day,” Haime records, and preached 35 times in the space of seven days. I had at this time three armies against me – the French army, the wicked English army and an army of devils. But I feared them not for my life was hid with Christ in God” (Early Methodist Preachers, , pages 52-53).
The Battle of Fontenoy (11 May, 1745) where the French won a devastating victory, saw Haime’s horse shot from under him. “Someone cried, ‘Haime is gone!’ But I replied, ‘He is not gone yet!’ I had a long way to go (back to camp), the (musket) balls flying on every side. All the way lay multitudes groaning, bleeding, or just dead. Surely I was in the fiery furnace; but it did not singe a hair of my head. I was as full of joy as I could contain.”
Two other mortally wounded preachers sang in celebration of their imminent meeting with their saviour. Another, sensing before the battle that he would be killed, danced a jig in sheer excitement of going to heaven.
Yet Haime had a relapse to his earlier torments, imagining himself as unforgivable and on the brink of hell. Afraid to sleep lest he wake in hell. Even during this continued tussle with the enemy, Haime continued to preach to the lost.
After the war Haime returned to England and met John Wesley for the first time. Wesley even asked Haime to accompany him on some preaching tours.
On his deathbed Haime was heard to say: “This is a good way! Oh, that all may tread this path in the important hour.”
Stories of these soldier-Methodists are as inspiring and challenging as anything one might read in the history of the Church.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.