From Fellow Methodist, James Howell. May we all strive to live and die for the Glory of God!
At age 87, having lived a full, vigorous life, Wesley fell into ill health. He travelled to preach in mid-February of 1791, but then caught a severe cold. Trying to recover, he wrote a letter to William Wilberforce, encouraging him in his quest to banish slavery: “Go on in the name of God till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away.”
His fever mounted, and gradually his housekeeper and closest friends gathered by his bed for the death watch. Unresponsive for days, he suddenly gathered his strength and broke out into a hymn: “I’ll praise my Maker while I have breath, and when my soul is lost in death, praise shall employ my nobler powers; my days of praise shall never be past…” Then he sank into a feeble state, and could say nothing, until late in the day he spoke his final words: “The best of all is, God is with us.” The next morning, March 2, he was dead.
Wesley’s last will and testament stipulated that six poor people should be paid one pound each to carry his coffin, so they would have money to live on for a while. The chapel was draped in black for the funeral service, and his will mandated that the fabric be taken down afterwards and remade into dresses to be distributed to poor women. He had given away all of his money to the poor, and had kept back precisely what was needed to pay the pallbearers and to provide the dresses.
Imagine this kind of end-of-life planning! In my death, will the poor be lifted up in some practical way? How much will I have given away, and what will be left? What will be the manner of my death? Panicked anxiety? Or words of praise and faith passing my lips with my last breaths?
Wesley knew why he had been placed on earth, and his reason for being provided his message to thousands, and this sustained him: “I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over the great gulf, till a few moments hence I am no more seen – I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing – the way to heaven – how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: for this very end he came from heaven.”