Last words-words spoken in the presence of death, eternity, and a nearness to God,-are a treasured legacy to survivors. Of the poorest and meanest son of Adam, even of the criminal on the gallows, it is eagerly asked, 'How did he die?' 'What were his dying words?' What wonder, then, that Christians prize the dying testimonies of the saints, and that there is a wide-spread desire, quite beyond the circle of actual acquaintance, to learn how our departed fellow-mortals wrestled with the grim destroyer!"
I am glad to say that the reader will find that question satisfactorily answered in these precious records by the dying testimony and last words of more than three hundred and twenty-five ministers of the gospel and several well-known laymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
I hope that as a church we never forget that for the vantage-ground we are now permitted to enjoy we are deeply indebted to instrumentalities long since passed away.
I have not attempted in this volume a descriptive view of the adventurous scenes of the Christian pioneers of Methodism in the East, West, North, or South, but simply to record the glorious truth that after having "waxed valiant in fight' they died in great peace, or with swelling notes of triumph in their last hours.
In examining the means of the unprecedented success of the first Methodist preachers in the country, I have arrived at the conclusion that while they always aimed directly at the salvation of souls, their success may be chiefly ascribed to their great simplicity and earnestness of manner in preaching the gospel. There was nothing studied, formal, or artificial. The vast concerns of eternity were felt to hang upon the hour; and like judicious husbandmen they aimed at securing the fruit of their labor at once, and in due season.
I have no fear but that my humble effort will be appreciated by my brethren in the ministry, to whom this volume is affectionately dedicated.
Maxwell Pierson Gaddis.