“I could bear any sufferings; but how can I bear to grieve and dishonour this blessed God! How shall I yield ten thousand times more honour to Him? O that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to His service for ever! O that I could give up myself to Him, so as never more to attempt to be my own, or to have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to Him!” David Brainerd.
“God was pleased to pour such ineffable comforts into my soul, that I could do nothing but say over and over: ‘Oh my sweet Saviour! Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none on earth I desire beside Thee.’ If I had a thousand lives, I would gladly lay them down for Christ…” David Brainerd.
DAVID BRAINERD’S choice for celibacy was determined by his overwhelming passion to see the native American Indians converted to Jesus. His love for God and the Indians took him through countless battles with depression, despair and self doubts. He also experienced severe physical suffering.
DAVID was born in Connecticut, USA. Both his parents died by the age of 14. When he was 20, he knew a very powerful conviction of his sinfulness that led to his own conversion. It was a turning point in his life:
“One night l had opened to me such a view of my sin that I feared the ground would cleave asunder under my feet, and become my grave; and send my soul quick to hell, before I could get home.”
Brainerd went to Yale University where he was influenced by the great spiritual awakening that was spreading across the nation. However, rash words about a tutor lead to his expulsion in 1742.
In November 1742 he was accepted as a missionary by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge and he was sent to work among the Indians living in New York and New Jersey.
For the next three years he laboured among the Indians without seeing any real fruit. He wrote in his diary:
“I lodge on a bundle of straw, my labour is hard and extremely difficult, and I have little appearance of success to comfort me.”
Much study, with days of prayer and fasting and many attempts to communicate with the Indians, became the pattern of Brainerd’s life. Weak in body — at times not able to stand when preaching— he carried on with faith and courage. He wrote:
“Rode several hours in the rain through the howling wilderness, although was so disordered in body, that little or nothing but blood came from me.”
In June 1745 he came to Crossweeksung (New Jersey). It was here that he made a real breakthrough. On one memorable occasion, the Holy Spirit moved strongly. In his diary he records:
“The power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a mighty rushing wind’, and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it .. I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience almost universally; and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent.”
This started a spate of conversions. Powaws or conjurers were so touched by God during meetings that spirits of conjuration completely left them and they were no longer able to use charms. Another effect among those converted was the ending of drunkenness (which was very common amongst the Indian population).
David became engaged to Jerusha Edwards, the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the revivalist preacher. A fervent Christian, she was a perfect match for Brainerd. But when Brainerd considered his calling in Christ, he came to a clear conclusion:
“The quiet settlement, the certain place of abode, the tender friendship which I thought I might be likely to enjoy in consequence of such circumstances, appeared to me, considered in themselves, as ever before; but considered comparatively, they appeared nothing. Compared with the preciousness of an enlargement of Christ’s kingdom, they vanished like the stars before the rising sun…
From this moment, he was a committed celibate and saw that his missionary work could only be accomplished by such a sacrificial lifestyle:
“If I had ten thousand lives, I would gladly lay them down for Christ!”
Nothing could hold Brainerd back. Travelling on horseback (he averaged 3000 miles a year) in all weather conditions, he relentlessly pursued his vision.
He was finally forced to leave his beloved Indians because of sickness and died soon afterwards from consumption. He was aged 29.
John Wesley asked his leaders this question:
‘What can be done to revive the work of God where it is decayed?’ and answered his own question by saying, ‘Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd.’