This Week in Texas Methodist History January 27
Littleton Fowler, missionary to the Republic of Texas, died at his home in Sabine County on January 29, 1846 at the age of 42.
Most modern Americans have their last days on earth managed by teams of professionals. They become passive objects of attention rather than active participants in “shuffling off this mortal coil.”
In nineteenth century America, “good deaths” were often choreographed by the dying person. A good death occurred at home in the presence of family and friends. The dying person said appropriate farewells and often distributed keepsakes. Sacraments were administered. Hymns and prayers were sung and prayed. Christian ministers were expected to offer some sort of testimony about the assurance of their entrance into heaven--sort of a final sermon that he had kept the faith.
Littleton Fowler’s death conformed to the social expectations of the era. An account of Fowler’s last hours was widely distributed. This one is copied from John McFerrin’s History of Methodism in Tennessee, (1873).
Some time before his last illness, he requested Rev. S. A. Williams to preach his funeral-sermon from the text: ' I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.' The last time Mr. Fowler himself preached, he used that text. It was in Douglass, and the sermon was equal to one of his best efforts. Mr. Fowler retained his intellectual faculties unclouded till the last. On the day before he died, he addressed his physician, who was skeptically inclined: ' Doctor, I have tried the religion of Jesus Christ for more than twenty-five years, and I find it now what I believed it to be all the time. It gives me consolation in my dying hour. I have no fear of death. I shall be happy and live in heaven forever. 0 I hope you will study the gospel more, and yet believe in it to salvation !' After this his friends sang a favorite hymn—' 0 land of rest, for thee I sigh !' During the ensuing night, he turned to his brother, Judge A. J. Fowler, and said : ' Jack, am I not dying ?' His brother told him he thought he was. 'Well,' said he, 'you should have told
me so. It does not alarm me. I feel that I must die; death to me has no terrors. I feel that I can walk through the valley and shadow of death, and fear no evil. God is with me.' His children were called to his bedside. He gave each one a Bible, a word of advice, and an affectionate farewell. Still later, and after a brief season of repose, he awoke as from a dream, and exclaimed : ' 0 what a glorious sight! I have seen the angelic hosts, the happy faces of just men made perfect,' and repeated the couplet: -. Farewell, vain world, I'm going home; My Saviour smiles, and bids me come. "His sight failing him, he inquired of Mr. Woolam if there were no lights in the room. He was told there were.. 'Ah, well,' said he, ' my sight grows dim. Earth recedes, heaven is approaching. Glory to God in the highest!' Soon after this he expired. ' There was no struggle,' says Mr. Sexton, ' no violence, but there was the cold reality, too real.'