This weeks thought comes to you from, "The Diary of David Brainerd." Brainerd was primarily a missionary to the Indians, but also, on occasion, to any European settlers who attended his services. He worked along the Delaware River "wilderness" in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
He was converted on July 12, 1739 at 21 years old, just one year before the the First Great Awakening exploded through a six week evangelistic tour of New England by the Anglican preacher George Whitefield. Brainerd describes his conversion as an experience which left him filled with "joy unspeakable," a joy which transported him, "to a new world."
Shortly thereafter, he left his home in Connecticut to labor under very difficult circumstances, living in makeshift shelters he constructed in the woods and eventually a rustic cabin. After a short but fruitful ministry, sacrificially preaching to and discipling converts from 1740-1747, he contracted tuberculosis at 28 and died in the house of Jonathan Edwards at 29 years of age. After his death Jonathan Edwards found his diary, felt its contents could edify and challenge the Church, and therefore printed it -- though Brainerd himself was unaware its contents would ever become public, or so well known.
His diary has had great effect. It was read by William Carey and others who were so inspired by his life and sacrificial service that they themselves resolved to leave the comforts of the familiar and pursue a life in missions. The following two excerpts are from Friday and Sunday, February 15 and 17, 1745 (in the cold of midwinter)! My own son David is named after David Brainerd, and his diary, edited by Jonathan Edwards, is well worth the read. Enjoy.
"February 15 (1745). Was engaged in writing again almost the whole day. In the evening was much assisted in meditating on that precious text, John 7:37, "Jesus stood and cried." etc. I had then a sweet sense of the grace of the gospel; my soul was encouraged, warmed and quickened. My desires were drawn out after God in prayer, and my soul was watchful, afraid of losing so sweet a guest as I then entertained. I continued long in prayer and meditation, intermixing one with the other; and was unwilling to be diverted by anything at all from so sweet an exercise. I longed to proclaim the grace I then meditated upon to the world of sinners. O how quick and powerful is the word blessed of God!
Lord's Day, February 17. Preached to the white people (my Indian interpreter being absent) in the wilderness upon the sunny side of a hill. Had a considerable assembly, consisting of people who lived (at least many of them) not less than thirty miles away; some of them came twenty miles. I discoursed to them all day from John 7:37, 'Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst,' etc. In the afternoon it pleased God to grant me great freedom and fervency in my discourse; and I was enabled to imitate the example of Christ in the text, who stood and cried. I think I was scarce ever enabled to offer the free grace of God to perishing sinners with more freedom and plainness in my life. Afterwards I was enabled earnestly to invite the children of God to come renewedly, and drink of this fountain of the water of life, from whence they have heretofore derived unspeakable satisfaction. It was a very comfortable time to me.
There were many tears in the assembly and I doubt not that the Spirit of God was there, convincing poor sinners of their need of Christ. In the evening I felt composed, and comfortable, though much tired. I had a sweet sense of the excellency and glory of God; and my soul rejoiced that he was, 'God over all, blessed forever.' Yet I was too much crowded with company and conversation, and longed to be more alone with God. Oh that I could forever bless God for the mercy of this day, who 'answered me in the joy of my heart.'"
In reading this account it amazes me how the people of that day would walk (or ride horses) 20-30 miles through the cold of winter, into the woods, to sit on the side of a hill in temperatures that most likely would not have exceeded 40 degrees Fahrenheit listening for hours as Brainerd preached about the free grace of God in Christ.
No building, no pews, no cushions, no heat, just outdoors all day, on a hill, in the middle of February! And most, as Brainerd notes, were not even Christians, but sinners yet to find Christ. It's no wonder so many preachers long to be transported back in time to such days! And though we've probably become to soft to ever display such earnestness and commitment, we can still pray for a move of the Spirit of God that would cause tears of gratitude and repentance to flow down our cheeks; a powerful move of God that would "convince poor sinners of their need of Christ."
May it be so, Pastor Jeff