David Brainerd – I Long To Live For God (Part 2)
Arranged from the book, The Life of David Brainerd (1718-1747), chiefly extracted from his diary, edited by Jonathan Edwards.
After laboring for about a year at his second post among the Indians with seemingly little results, David Brainerd moved on to a third area. The families here were scattered, but he gathered seven or eight women and children together and preached to them. After hearing him, these women traveled here and there to gather others to come together to hear him preach. About thirty gathered, and they soon showed concern for their souls. Brainerd’s first converts were his interpreter and his wife who made a public confession of faith. The interpreting now took on new life and fervency. After Brainerd finished preaching, the interpreter would continue on, repeating what had been taught and urging it upon the hearers.
More of the Indians became concerned about their souls and inquired how to be saved. Some lay prone on the ground crying for mercy. A few began to pray through to the peace and joy of salvation.
God Powerfully at Work
The congregation was growing in number as new people came. Following one afternoon meeting, Brainerd reported: “There was much visible concern among them while I was discoursing publicly. But afterward…the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a mighty rushing wind.’ I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience almost universally....
“Persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together.... Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for many years, and some little children not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress for their souls, as well as persons of middle age.
“…They were almost universally praying and crying for mercy in every part of the house, and many out-of-doors; and numbers could neither go nor stand. Their concern was so great, each one for himself, that none seemed to take any notice of those about them, but each prayed freely for himself.
“…I must say I never saw any day like it in all respects: it was a day wherein I am persuaded the Lord did much to destroy the kingdom of darkness among this people.”
The Continuation of the Mighty Move of God
The next evening Brainerd was speaking to a small group concerning the fullness and all-sufficiency of Christ’s merits and His willingness to save all that come to Him. Brainerd later wrote in his diary: “A Divine influence seemed to attend what was spoken to them in a powerful manner, which caused them to cry out in anguish of soul.”
Others heard the cries and immediately came together. Brainerd continued offering the Gospel invitation until they were all melted into tears and seemed in the greatest distress to come to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
“Some who had little more than a ruffle made in their passions the day before, seemed now to be deeply affected and wounded at heart, and the concern in general appeared nearly as prevalent as the day before.”
The diary continues with reports of the outpouring of God’s Spirit at this time: “Those who had obtained relief and comfort, and had given hopeful evidences of having passed a saving change, appeared humble and devout....
“I discoursed to the people, and spoke what I suppose had a proper tendency to promote convictions, but God’s manner of working upon them seemed so entirely supernatural and above means that I could scarcely believe He used me as an instrument, or what I spoke as means of carrying on His work.
“…I seemed to do nothing, and indeed to have nothing to do, but to ‘…stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord’ (Ex. 14:13), and found myself obliged and delighted to say, ‘Not unto us,’ not unto instruments and means, ‘but to Thy name be glory.’”
Old Things Passed Away, All Things New
The change in the lives of the converted Indians was evident. Brainerd wrote: “This was a desirable and sweet season indeed. Their hearts were engaged and cheerful in duty, and they rejoiced that they had in a public and solemn manner dedicated themselves to God. Love seemed to reign among them. ...All their deportment toward each other was such that serious spectators might justly be excited to cry out with admiration, ‘Behold, how they love one another!’ Numbers of the other Indians, on seeing and hearing these things, were much affected and wept bitterly, longing to be partakers of the same joy and comfort which these discovered by their very countenances as well as conduct….”
David Brainerd witnessed the deep, authentic work God was doing in their midst as they bowed in sincere and sorrowful repentance, and then experienced dramatic change as they received assurance of sins forgiven and their acceptance with God. The new converts were eager to hear the Word of God and would have attended worship twenty-four hours together, if they had an opportunity to do so. After Brainerd would retire for the day, the Indians would continue praying among themselves for hours longer.
Of the little congregation in the wilderness, Brainerd wrote: “I know of no assembly of Christians where there seems to be so much of the presence of God, where brotherly love so much prevails, and where I should take so much delight in the public worship of God in general…although not more than nine months ago they were worshiping devils and dumb idols under the power of pagan darkness and superstition. Amazing change this! effected by nothing less than divine power and grace. This is the doing of the Lord, and it is justly marvelous in our eyes.”
The strenuous labors were telling more and more on David Brainerd. He had traveled more than 3,000 miles on horseback in his labors among the Indians. He had endured many hardships – sleeping sometimes on the ground and in the open air, exposed to cold and heat and rain. Some nights the wolves howled around him. Like the Apostle Paul, however, he was able to rejoice in these hardships, as he wrote: “Such fatigues and hardships as these serve to wean me from the earth and I trust will make heaven the sweeter.”
Not only did he preach to the Indians several times a week, he also did much visitation among them. His little house was often thronged with visitors. From time to time, he ministered to gatherings of white settlers in the area also. When he became too weak to go to church, the people would gather around his bed so he could minister to them. At last he bid farewell to his beloved Indians and traveled north, barely able to stay on his horse, to the home of Jonathan Edwards, where he was to spend his last months.
His Work Finished
“I am almost in eternity,” Brainerd said as he gradually lost strength and was confined to bed. “My work is done…. All the world is nothing to me. I long to be in heaven, praising and glorifying God with the holy angels. All my desire is to glorify God.” He was only about 30 years of age when he passed into the presence of his Lord.
David Brainerd was reluctant to give consent that his diary from which this account is taken should be published. But he agreed that Jonathan Edwards might use the diary as he saw fit for the glory of God. Through the years, God has used the diary to inspire many to accept the challenge to a life of prayer and wholehearted service to the Lord, and for the advancement of revival. Let our hearts be likewise stirred to pray and to pay the price for revival in our day!