Joseph D. McPherson, "Our People Die Well:" Glorious Accounts of Early Methodists at Death's Door (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008), 392 pages. ISBN: 978-1- 4343-2981-3
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2009. Volume 27.
As a reader of early Methodist literature I have often reflected that everyone ought to know the quality of people Wesley and his followers truly were. In their living, suffering and dying they were exceptional people. At times in my reading I have distinctly been drawn by the Spirit to a place of prayer with the plea that God would make me like one of them. Over the years, as a pastor I have told my congregation that I wanted to die well. Joe McPherson now makes it possible for a pastor or anyone else to illustrate the point.
This book is a compilation of ninety-eight early Methodist testimonies as they faced the valley of the shadow of death. It also has a section contrasting the deaths of some notable unbelievers from the same period of time such as the French atheist, Voltaire. McPherson arranges them chronologically beginning with the death of Samuel Wesley, the father of John and Charles Wesley and concludes with that of Adam Clarke. Some are short while others consist of several pages. But all of them breathe a faith in God and his Word that pulls on the human spirit as one reads its pages. The title is taken from an observation made by a physician to Charles Wesley who had watched a number of the Methodists die triumphantly. His words were these, "Most people die for fear of dying; but, I never met with people such as yours. They are none of them afraid of death, but are calm, and patient, and resigned to the last." This led John Wesley to state, "Our people die well."
McPherson is a lifelong student of the early Methodist and his notes and comments joined to several of the testimonies are pertinent and soul-searching. He is the son of well-known author Anna Talbott McPherson. He has been a regular contributor to The Arminian Magazine. I deeply appreciated his thoughts concerning assurance, patience with seekers and quotes from John Wesley's sermons that apply to the story at hand. His observations demonstrate his knowledge of Methodist doctrine.
Religion, if it is meant to be anything, it should be practical. Wesley used the word "experimental." That means it should come to the aid of humanity at every stress point in life. A person should be able to happily prove the sufficiency of his beliefs. If my religion cannot help me live life dealing with the obstinate, the rude, the unkind among people; if it cannot teach and make me a spouse who loves my wife like she should be loved, equip me to work in all of life's unexpected changes and face the end with a great deal of assurance confident of God and his promise, then give me another religion. All my life I have sought for such a religion and blessed be God that I discovered the early Methodists. They have answered my questions helping me to clarify the Scriptures. I have felt more of the convicting and comforting power of the Holy Spirit while perusing their lives than any other book outside the Bible itself. I have read their dying words and felt "O God, let my end be like theirs."
It seems to me a religion that has fit a person to face the last enemy with peace and hope and allows one to admonish all around him in his dying hour of the trustworthiness of the Gospel is one we need to learn, advocate and possess. After all we too will die some day. The question this book forces one to ask is, "how?"
I highly recommend this book to all who know they will die and are seeking to do it well. McPherson is to be commended for his work. We are indebted to him for resurrecting the stories of those who are dead yet speak. Take the time to read this one for yourself.
You may order this book directly from Joseph McPherson for $17.99, plus $2.58 postage/handling.Joseph D. McPherson
878 Lakeside Dr.
Marion, IN 46953