“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” – John 7:37
A Snapshot of the Life of David Brainerd:
Born: April 20, 1718 – Haddam, Connecticut
Died: Oct. 9, 1747 – Northampton, Massachusetts
Missionary to the Indians. Converted on July 12, 1739 while taking a walk, Brainerd had an abbreviated Yale (expelled 1742) education before yielding to his missionary calling. He endured incredible hardships to reach the Seneca, Susquehanna, and Delaware tribes in Kaunaumeek, NY; near Easton, PA; and in Crossweeksung, NJ 1743-47, the latter known as NJ Bethel Mission near Cranbury. He was ordained a Presbyterian in 1744. In Brainerd’s short years of ministry, he rode over 3,000 miles on horseback and saw over 130 Indians converted, mostly the Delaware Indians, near Trenton, NJ. His famed Journal has moved many to missionary service. Both the Journal and his biography were published in 1749 by Jonathan Edwards Sr., with assistance from John Brainerd (1720-81), David’s brother. Brainerd was associated with the Scottish Society for Propagation of Christian Knowledge, 1742-47. He was engaged to Jerusha Edwards (also known as Jemima, daughter of Jonathan Edwards). He died from tuberculosis at the Edwards’ home, followed in death six months later by his fiance on February 14, 1748. He said as he died, “He will come and will not tarry. I shall soon be in glory; soon be with God and His angels.” His favorite Bible verse was John 7:37. – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)
A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:
David Brainerd was indisputably one of the greatest men of prayer in history. His fervent labor in prayer brought forth tremendous fruit in his own short ministry, but in far greater measure, abundant fruit remains. His diaries and testimony spurred many young men and women to dedicate their lives to Christian service. Notably, Jim Elliot, William Carey, and Robert Mcheyne were profoundly moved by his writings.
The testimony of this missionary is not for his missionary methods (although they are profitable). They are not in his sermons (although God used them). Brainerd’s lasting lesson was his constant spirit of prayer that continues to stir many to engage in the work of God. Brainerd’s life was transformed when he began to see God in all His glory (see Isaiah 6). When he understood how unworthy he was to be used by God, he entered into wonderful communion with the Lord. His nearness to Christ is stirring. Brainerd’s utter dependence on the Lord convicts us of our tendency to lean on our own strength.
The following journal entry is one of hundreds of such entries. May God give us all this passion to know Him.
“Retired early for secret devotions, and in prayer God poured such ineffable comforts into my soul, that I could do nothing for some time but say over and over, “O my Saviour! O my Saviour! whom have I but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” If I had had a thousand lives, my soul would gladly have laid them all down at once to have been with Christ. My soul never enjoyed so much of heaven before.”
Brainerd’s commitment to Christ was not merely in words. At age 29, Brainerd was dying. His work and ministry in some ways cost him his life. He labored most earnestly for the souls of men. He longed to reach the Native American population for Christ. In a way, Brainerd reached far more souls than he ever could have imagined. Shortly before passing, Brainerd wrote to his brother, “I would not have spent my life otherwise for the whole world.” David Brainerd understood that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). May we seek God with the same intensity and passion as David Brainerd; no other search is worth undertaking.
A Suggestion for Further Reading…
The Life of David Brainerd – Oswald J. Smith (this is a fantastic condensed version of Brainerd’s extensive journals).
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd: With Notes and Reflections – Jonathan Edwards (Brainerd died in the home of this mighty preacher. He was also engaged to Edward’s daughter at the time of his death. The three of them are buried together).
David Brainerd – 1999, Men of Faith)