Home Testimonies David Brainerd: Take the Water of Life Freely
David Brainerd: Take the Water of Life Freely PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 June 2009 21:49

Here is another story that I found from a website with some modifications by yours truly. Just like the previous biography you read, I hope this story will be an encouragement and conviction to the lives of many readers:

In answer to the question, "What can be done to revive the work of God where it has decayed?" John Wesley said, "Let every preacher read carefully the life of David Brainerd." One of the many who heeded Wesley's counsel was William Carey, and God used Brainerd's life story to open Carey's eyes to the need of all races everywhere and to fire his heart with a passion to speed the gospel to "the uttermost part." It was chiefly the reading of the story of Brainerd's heroic missionary labors that thrust Henry Martyn out as a bundle of fire into the darkness of India and Persia, and caused Robert McCheyne to become the Apostle to the Jews. David Brainerd was born at Haddam, Connecticut, April 20, 1718, and died on October 9, 1747, at the early age of 29. He is remembered not only as the great Apostle to the North American Indians, but also as a chief source of inspiration in the lives of thousands who have been challenged from ease and selfishness to lives of holiness and sacrifice, as they have prayed and wept over his Journal.

At the early age of eight, as he himself expressly states, David came under "a conviction of sin," and subsequently, for prolonged periods, his heart was filled with the most melancholy forebodings. He was terrified at the thought of death and often pictured himself descending into hell. His mood was like that of John Bunyan when under deep conviction. Said Brainerd: "I was much dejected and some times envied the birds and beasts their happiness, because they were not exposed to eternal misery as I knew myself to be." It is interesting to note that John Wesley on one side of the Atlantic and David Brainerd on the other were, at about the same time, passing through a similar religious experience. Just as Wesley, prior to his conversion at Aldersgate, sought spiritual peace by joining others in the Holy Club in a continual round of religious observances, so Brainerd sought to satisfy his soul's deep need of regeneration with the husks of external piety. He attended church services faithfully, read the Scriptures through twice in a single year and joined a group of young men meeting weekly for prayer and Bible study. Others may have been deceived by his zeal, but he was not. "I had a very good outside," he says. "Thus I proceeded a considerable length on a self-righteous foundation." The 53rd chapter of Isaiah led David Brainerd to recognize that his indispensable need was not deeds of external righteousness but the divine remedy of a new birth for the disease of a corrupted nature. He finally realized that no struggles or reforms could change his sin-corrupted nature and that the Law of God -- to quote his own words -- "condemned me, not for outward actions but for the sins of my heart, which I could not possibly prevent."

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah was like an open window, enabling Brainerd to peer into the heart of the Prince of our salvation, and what he saw there melted his heart. His vision of the Saviour's broken heart broke his own heart into penitence and glad surrender. It was on Sunday evening, July 12, 1739, "as I was walking in a dark thick grove," he writes in his Diary, "unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul. My soul was so captivated with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God that I was even swallowed up in Him." In reference to the salvation from his wretched state, he described, “I am an old sinner; and if God had designed mercy for me, he would have called me home to himself before now.” This is what he wrote in depiction of God’s plan for our salvation, “The all-seeing eye of God beheld our deplorable state; infinite pity touched the heart of the Father of mercies; and infinite wisdom laid the plan of our recovery.” On that never-to-be-forgotten day Brainerd found in the Saviour's riven heart a stairway of light leading to the Holy of Holies in the heart of God. Believing that others were just as thirsty as he had been, he longed to proclaim far and wide, especially among the neglected and mistreated Indians, the gospel invitation, "Let him that is athirst come and take the water of life freely."

In his Diary Brainerd makes frequent reference to the ancient patriarch. He spoke of "Abraham's pilgrimage" and of "what a stranger he was here on earth." He longed to be like Abraham and the worthies referred to in Hebrews 11:13, who "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." As a citizen of heaven, he felt that he should be insensible to the enjoyments of this world. "My desires," he wrote on July 19, 1742, "seem especially to be after weanedness from the world, perfect deadness to it, and that I may be crucified to all its allurements. My soul desires to feel itself more of a pilgrim and stranger here below, that nothing may divert me from pressing through the lonely desert, till I arrive at my Father's house." Having experienced all the allurements of the world from his teenage youth, he now wrote, “If you hope for happiness in the world, hope for it from God, and not from the world.” Accordingly, after three years of study at Yale College, he became a missionary to the Indians, under appointment of the Scottish Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

David Brainerd heard of a tribe of particularly ferocious Indians living in the dense forests of the region known as the "Forks of the Delaware." Coming at sunset in sight of the smoke of their campfires, he decides to spend the night in the woods and to proceed witnessing to them in the morning. Little does he realize that several red men, with wolfish eyes and as silent as serpents, have followed him for hours. As he builds a fire, the Indians steal away to their encampment to tell the startling news that a white man is in the woods nearby. "Let us go at once," says the chief, "and kill this paleface, whose people have taught us to drink firewater and then, while we are drunk, have taken our baskets and skins and even our lands for almost nothing." As the warriors silently draw near, they see the white man on his knees, praying most fervently that the Indians might come to realize that the great God of the universe loved them and sent His Son to save them. While he prays, a rattlesnake squirms up to him, lifts its hideous head, flicks its forked tongue close to his face, and then, for no apparent reason, glides away into the darkness. And so does the chief, followed by his men. When David Brainerd enters the Indian village early the next morning, he receives a much more cordial welcome than he had anticipated, for not until later does he learn of the strange events of the preceding night. When the people gather around him in an open place among the wigwams, he opens his Bible, reads from his favorite 53rd chapter of Isaiah and tenderly tells the sweet story of how God sent His Son to die on the cross that He might take away the sin from people's hearts and make them good children of the Heavenly Father. At the close of his message there are tears in the eyes of many of his auditors.

"The paleface is a praying man!" remarks one of the warriors who had gone forth the preceding night intending to kill him.
"And the Great Spirit is with him!" says another, remembering how the rattlesnake had mysteriously failed to strike.
"And he brings a wondrous sweet message!" says the squaw of the Indian chief.
On the way to his work among the Indians at Kaunaumeek, New York, David Brainerd stopped and preached at Montauk, Long Island, at that time chiefly inhabited by Indians; and what was his text? He says: "I went and preached from Isaiah 53-- 'Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him ... [and] make his soul an offering for sin.'"

No man ever yearned more ardently to be like Moses, or succeeded to a greater degree, than did David Brainerd. "I spent the evening," he says, "praying incessantly that I might not be self-dependent but have my whole dependence upon God." In a letter to his brother, January 2,1744, he wrote:
"We should always look upon ourselves as God's servants, placed in God's world to do His work; and accordingly labor faithfully for Him. Let it then be your great concern, thus to devote yourself and your all to God."

Not in self-dependence but in God-dependence, Brainerd found the source of unlimited power, the secret of a gallant spirit, the sacrament of inward peace. His Diary contains innumerable passages of his fervent prayer life to the following:
April 26,1742…Oh, that I could spend every moment of my life to God's glory!
August 30, 1742…My soul longs with a vehement desire to live to God."
November 22, 1745…I have received my all from God. Oh that I could return my all to God."
Wednesday, April 21 ...and God again enabled me to wrestle for numbers of souls, and had much fervency in the sweet duty of intercession...
Lord's Day, April 25…This morning I spent about two hours in secret duties and was enabled more than ordinarily to agonize for immortal souls. Though it was early in the morning and the sun scarcely shined at all, yet my body was quite wet with sweat...
Saturday, December 15…Spent much time in prayer in the woods and seemed raised above the things of this world...
Monday, March 14 ...in the morning was almost continually engaged in ejaculatory prayer...
Thursday, August 4…Was enabled to pray much, through the whole day...
Thursday, November 3…Spent this day in secret fasting, and prayer, from morning till night...

David Brainerd usually spent several hours a day in prayer and frequently devoted an entire day to this purpose. June 14, 1742, he writes: "I set apart this day for secret fasting and prayer. Just at night the Lord visited me marvelously. I wrestled for an ingathering of souls ... I was in such an agony from sun half an hour, till near dark, that I was all over wet with sweat. Oh, my dear Saviour did sweat blood for poor souls. I went to bed with my heart wholly set on God."

Self-abasement was not to Brainerd an end in itself. "It is so sweet," he confides, "to be nothing and less than nothing" that Christ may be "my all in all." Brainerd was also so dedicated in using his time for Christ that he wrote, “Oh, how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose.”

July 21,1744: on hearing that the Indians were planning to hold an idolatrous feast and dance the next day, he spent a day and night in prayer. He writes: "This morning about nine I withdrew to the woods for prayer. I was in such anguish that when I rose from my knees I felt extremely weak and overcome, and the sweat ran down my face and body ... I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls for Christ. I continued in this frame all the evening and night." Thus empowered, he went forth to meet the Indians the next morning, convinced that God was with him in this contest just as He was with Elijah on Mount Carmel; and, wonder of wonders, instead of promptly scalping him when he called upon them to stop their dance, they actually desisted and listened to the missionary preach, both morning and afternoon. Made strong by prayer and the awareness of the divine companionship, Brainerd dragged his tortured body through the forests from village to village, preaching with such tenderness and conviction that the stony-hearted Indians were frequently melted to tears.

His Diary contains this entry, July 6,1744: "I long and love to be a pilgrim; and want grace to imitate the life, labors and sufferings of Paul among the heathen." He and Paul were kindred spirits in being captivated and animated by one great design -- the salvation of lost souls, and in believing that this objective could best be attained by preaching the gospel of Christ and by living a life of self-denial and sacrifice. Almost every page of Brainerd's Diary tells how he "endured hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." His sufferings, caused by a diseased and weakened constitution, were intensified by the rigors of his life among the Indians and his arduous travels through the wilderness. He was frequently in distress for lack of suitable food, exposed to hunger and cold, lost in the forests, caught in storms with no shelter available, obliged to ford raging streams and to spend the night in the woods, in peril from wild beasts and wild savages. Concerning one such incident he relates, "About six at night I lost my way in the wilderness, and wandered over rocks and mountains, through swamps and most dreadful places. I was pinched with cold and distressed with an extreme pain in my head and stomach, so that much blood came from me. But God preserved me, and, blessed be His name, such fatigues and hardships as these seem to wean me more from the earth and I trust will make heaven the sweeter." This man was no secluded saint. He was apostolic in his labors and in the way he gloried in tribulation.

At the end of one year of labor at Kaunaumeek, Brainerd persuaded the Indians to move to Stockbridge, where they came under the ministry of a Mr. Sargeant and later of Jonathan Edwards. Henceforth his parish centered in the area of the forks of the Delaware and extended through wide areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He made the Indian town of Crossweeksung his headquarters and there erected a little hut. For a considerable time he was greatly depressed by the heathen practices of the Indians, by the darkness of their minds and the hardness of their hearts. But he kept on sowing the gospel seeds and watered them with his tears, for he believed "the promises of God." Often he retired into the forest recesses, and the leafy solitudes echoed with the pleadings of his anguished heart on behalf of his "poor Indians."

At length a mighty revival broke out in Susquehannah, and the reaper with joy gathered the precious sheaves. One day while preaching on Isaiah 33, "the Word was attended with amazing power; many scores in that great assembly were much affected, so that there was a very great mourning among them." Suddenly there fell among the Indian population of this area a sense of soul concern. From all directions they came, crowding around the missionary to hear his message and falling down with sobs and groans under conviction of sin. A besotted woman fell down crying, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord." An elderly man, who had been a murderer, a pow-wow (or conjuror), and a notorious drunkard, cried for mercy with many tears. Scores were soundly converted and came to be known as "Praying Indians," for, like their missionary, they spent much time in importunate prayer for the salvation of their people. And what was the message that produced such remarkable results? When one of the men was asked, "Why do you cry so?" he replied, "When I think how Christ was slain like a lamb and spilt His blood for sinners, I cannot help crying." It was the message of Isaiah 53! And when Brainerd called his Christian Indians together for their first communion and talked to them of the great sacrifice represented by the sacred emblems, the whole company was dissolved in tears.


Brainerd's health was failing fast and he gave some consideration to the idea of giving up his missionary journeys and settling down, either among his Christian Indians or at one of the white churches which had extended to him a call. This prospect was immeasurably enhanced by his dreams of domestic felicity, for he was ardently attached to Jerusha Edwards. He realized, however, that he had at most a year or two longer to live, and concluded, after much struggle of soul, that he should "burn out to the last" as a traveling missionary. Falling on his knees in his resignation, he cried: "Farewell friends and earthly comforts; farewell to the dearest, the very dearest of them all. I will spend my life to my latest moments in caves and dens of the earth, if the kingdom of Christ may thereby be advanced." After five years of arduous travel, manifold hardships, and almost incessant pain, the frail consumptive, spitting blood and almost delirious with fever, stumbles down the road to Northampton to die in the home of Jonathan Edwards. Jerusha, the daughter of Jonothan Edwards, was his fiance and constant nurse; and so heartbroken was she at the death of her beloved, she faded like a flower famished for rain, and, just four months later, went to join him in the Celestial City.


At his death, David Brainerd is by no means despondent. He is thinking of where he is going and his soul is exultingly happy. The pilgrim has finished his course and waits eagerly for the chariot to take him home. When someone comes into his room with a Bible, he exclaims: "Oh, that dear Book! I shall soon see it opened! The mysteries that are in it will all be unfolded!" Brainerd's Diary and Journal reveal an ardent and oft reiterated yearning to "burn out" for his Lord and to be "aflame for God." "It is my fervent longing," he said, "to be a flame of fire, continually glowing in the divine service, till my latest, my dying moment." On his deathbed he prayed that He who "was bruised for our iniquities" might "see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied." As his physical powers wane, his spiritual perception heightens. "I was made for eternity," he whispers. "How I long to be with God and to bow in His presence." The light of another world is in his eyes as he murmurs, "Oh that the Redeemer may 'see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.' Oh come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!" And with this petition upon his lips he greets Death as a long-awaited friend, who will forthwith usher him into the presence of the King! On October 9, 1747, he experienced the ineffable joy, which, in prospect, had so long cheered his lonely and heroic pilgrimage -- namely, "to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

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