We have more than once made reference to the diary of David Brainerd in this historical devotional guide. Often times these entries filled a date in which no other Presbyterian person, place, or event could readily be found, so this writer was thankful for that. But it also set forth the true example of an individual who by his own statement wanted to wear out his life in God’s service and for His glory. How scarce are they found today in Christ’s church!
Talk about a Christian who, by all reports, was skinny and sickly. No modern missionary agency, whether for overseas or in our own country, would even approve of one like this for missionary service. So the very fact that he was a missionary in the first place to native Americans had to be of God. There simply was no other reason for it. God was in the whole plan as well as the details of the plan.
From the time of his ordination until his death was but about three years. As the inscription on his tombstone reads, “Sacred to the memory of the Rev. David Brainerd, a faithful and laborious missionary to the Stockbridge, Delaware, and Susquehanna Tribes of Indians.” And yet his influence upon them doesn’t really tell the whole story. His diary has caused countless in every century since that time to open themselves up to the call of God upon their lives. His life and ministry have stood the test of time, and a stream of workers for the kingdom of God have been sent forth to the nations of the world with the gospel of Christ, at least in part because of his example.
His closing days were precious in more than one way. After discovering that he had tuberculosis, he spent his months in the home of America’s greatest philosopher, Dr. Jonathan Edwards, in Northampton, Connecticut. While there, Dr. Edwards youngest daughter, Jerusha, a mere teenager, took care for him in an atmosphere of spiritual love. Whether they were engaged has never been proved, but there was a loveliness in that relationship which brought words like “we will spend a happy eternity together,” on the day he died, which was October 9, 1747. That eternity came sooner than later, as Jerusha contracted the same dread disease, and died a year later. They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Northampton.
Words to live by: If you have never, dear reader, read the Diary of David Brainerd, it remains available in either book form or on the web in digital format. Open your heart to the words of this young man who died at age 29. Not only will it convict you of your need for more holiness, but it will give you a sense of urgency to take the gospel to unsaved loved ones, to friends, and to strangers, as David Brainerd did in his day. And who knows? Maybe it will send you to far off shores as a missionary, as it has so many since that time now long ago in colonial America.