David Brainerd – Missionary To The American Indians (Part 2)
Arranged from the book, The Life Of David Brainerd (1718-1747), chiefly extracted from his diary, edited by Jonathan Edwards.
David Brainerd experienced severe privations and hardships as he traveled by horseback through the dense woods of the American frontier, endeavoring to evangelize American Indians in the area now chiefly made up of the states of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He was invited, and even urged, to become pastor of churches in settlements of pioneers where living conditions would have been more pleasant and comfortable. But he chose to continue his mission to the Indian people.
"Oh, I longed to fill up the remaining moments all for God!" he wrote.
For about a year he labored and prayed at the first Indian settlement to which he was assigned. There were no apparent converts, although through his studied, careful preaching, backed by hours of prayer, several came to him with tears in their eyes, asking what they should do to be saved.
Through the Wilderness to a New Settlement
To reach his next assignment, he had to travel about 100 miles by horseback through desolate country where there were few settlements. "My heart sometimes was ready to sink with the thoughts of my work, and going alone in the wilderness, I knew not where," he confided in his diary, "but still it was comfortable to think that others of God’s children had ‘wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth’ (Heb. 11:38), and Abraham, when he was called to go forth, ‘went out, not knowing whither he went’ (Heb. 11:8). Oh, that I might follow after God!"
The Indians at the new location were quite scattered and showed little interest in Christianity. He recorded his thoughts in his diary: "To an eye of reason every thing that respects the conversion of the Indians is as dark as midnight; and yet I cannot but hope in God for the accomplishment of something glorious among them …
"In prayer my soul was enlarged, and my faith drawn into sensible exercise; was enabled to cry to God for my poor Indians, and though the work of their conversion appeared impossible with man, yet with God I saw all things were possible. My faith was much strengthened by observing the wonderful assistance God afforded His servants Nehemiah and Ezra, in reforming His people and re-establishing His ancient church. I was much assisted in prayer for my dear Christian friends, and for others whom I apprehended to be Christless, but was more especially concerned for the poor heathen around the world, and those of my own charge. I was enabled to be instant in prayer for them and hoped that God would bow the heavens and come down for their salvation.
"It seemed to me that there could be no impediment sufficient to obstruct that glorious work, seeing the living God, as I strongly hope, was engaged for it. I continued in a solemn frame, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace, that I might be more mortified to this present world, that my whole soul might be taken up continually in concern for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom. Earnestly desired that God would purge me more, that I might be as a chosen vessel to bear His name among those in darkness. …
"My soul was very solemn in reading God’s Word, especially the ninth chapter of Daniel. I saw how God had called out His servants to prayer, and made them wrestle with Him when He designed to bestow any great mercy on His church. And alas! I was ashamed of myself to think of my dullness and inactivity when there seemed to be so much to do for the upbuilding of Zion. Oh, how does Zion lie waste! I longed that the church of God might be enlarged, and was enabled to pray, I think, in faith. My soul seemed sensibly to confide in God, and was enabled to wrestle with Him …"
Guarding the Spirit of Prayer
When Brainerd recognized that the spirit of prayer was upon him he said he "was watchful, tender, and jealous of my own heart, lest I should admit carelessness and vain thoughts, and grieve the blessed Spirit, so that He should withdraw His sweet, kind and tender influences." He was afraid of every idle thought which might grieve the Spirit.
"I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls to Christ," his diary records.
He prayed urgently for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Indian people. He longed to see the power of God manifested among them. Some days he retired five or six times for prayer. As he traveled on horseback he prayed. Sometimes he had wakeful nights because of pain or weariness. These times he prayed as able and meditated on Scriptures. "My soul so much delighted to continue instant in prayer at this blessed season," he wrote once in his diary, "that I had no desire for my necessary food."
(To be continued)