David Brainerd – Missionary To The American Indians (Part 5)
Arranged from the book, The Life of David Brainerd (1718-1747), chiefly extracted from his diary, edited by Jonathan Edwards.
Writing further about the remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the group of Indians to which he was ministering, David Brainerd’s diary evidences the deep, authentic work God was doing in their midst, as dozens bowed in sincere and sorrowful repentance, and then experienced dramatic change as they received assurance of sins forgiven and their acceptance with God.
Brainerd tells of the eagerness of the new converts to hear the Word of God: "I discoursed from John 4:13,14. There was a great attention, a desirable affection and an unaffected melting in the assembly. It is surprising to see how eager they are to hear the Word of God. I oftentimes thought that they would cheerfully and diligently attend divine worship twenty-four hours together, if they had an opportunity to do so. …
"After public service was over I withdrew, being much tired with the labors of the day, and the Indians continued praying among themselves for near two hours together, which continued exercises appeared to be attended with a blessed quickening influence from on high. I could not but earnestly wish that numbers of God’s people had been present at this season to see and hear these things which I am sure must refresh the heart of every true lover of Zion. To see those who were very lately savage pagans and idolaters, having no hope and without God in the world – now filled with a sense of divine love and grace, and worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth, as numbers have appeared to do – was not a little affecting, and especially to see them appear so tender and humble, as well as lively, fervent and devout in the divine service."
Another recording from the diary says, "The impressions made by the Word of God upon the audience appeared solid, rational and deep, worthy of the solemn truths by means of which they were produced, and far from being the effects of any sudden fright or groundless perturbation of mind. Oh, how did the hearts of the hearers seem to bow under the weight of divine truth, and how evident did it now appear that they received and felt them ‘not as the word of men, but…the word of God.’ None can form a just idea at the appearance of our assembly at this time but those who have seen a congregation solemnly awed, and deeply impressed by the special power and influence of divine truths delivered to them in the name of God. …"
"One man considerably in years, who had been a remarkable drunkard, a conjurer and murderer, and was awakened some months before, was now brought to great extremity under his spiritual distress, so that he trembled for hours together, and apprehended himself just dropping into hell without any power to rescue or relieve himself. Divers others appeared under great concern, as well as he, and solicitous to obtain a saving change."
Of the little congregation out in the wilderness, David 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 as in my own congregation, although not more than nine months ago they were worshipping 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 marvellous in our eyes."
The strenuous labors were telling more and more on David Brainerd. He had traveled more than 3000 miles on horseback in his labors among the Indians. He had endured many hardships – sleeping sometimes on the ground and in the open air. He was exposed to cold and heat and rain. Sometimes at night the wolves howled around him. He did not complain. "Such fatigues and hardships as these serve to wean me from the earth and I trust will make heaven the sweeter." He became able to rejoice in these hardships, like the Apostle Paul.
Of the Indians he wrote: "They are so unwearied in religious exercises and insatiable in their thirsting after Christian knowledge, that I can sometimes scarcely avoid laboring so as greatly to exhaust my strength and spirits." Not only did he preach to his Indians several times a week, but he 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 the church to preach, he lay on his bed and the people gathered around 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," he said as he gradually lost strength and was confined to bed. "I long to be there. 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 was granted the desire of his heart to pass into the presence of his Lord. The work among the Indians was carried on by his brother John, which was of great comfort to David Brainerd.
David Brainerd was reluctant to give consent that the diary from which the above account is taken, should be published. But at last he agreed that Jonathan Edwards might use the diary as he saw fit for the glory of God and for the interest of religion. 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 revivals of religion. Let our hearts be likewise stirred to pay the price for revival in our day!