It took me a while but I finally finished The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. David Brainerd worked as a missionary among the American Indians in New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. Brainerd was sickly during his life and died torturously of tuberculosis at age twenty-nine. Men such as John Wesley were inspired by his sincere and strenuous labor on the behalf of others as well as his devotion to prayer.
The book is divided between his diary and journal. The diary is intensely personal and was not mean for publication. In it he recorded bluntly his daily conversations with God. Often he recounts his spiritual need and insecurities, as well as his reliance and then gratitude for God’s provision and grace. A sampling of his diary is found below…
Saturday, October 18. In my morning devotions, my soul was exceedingly melted, and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness.
Friday, April 30. I was somewhat dejected in spirit: nothing grieves me so much, as that I cannot live constantly to God’s glory.
Thursday, April 8. Had raised hopes today respecting the heathen. O that God would bring in great numbers of them to Jesus Christ!
Wednesday, April 21. Felt much calmness and resignation, and God again enabled me to wrestle for numbers of souls, and had much fervency in the sweet duty of intercession.
Brainerd was prone to melancholy and dejection of spirit and to be honest this made his personal diary very tedious to read. I nearly gave up on several occasions but I finally made it to his journal hoping to see what inspired men such as Wesley. His journal was written as a document of accountability for his mission board. The journal is less emotional than his diary and details more his interactions with the Indians…
August 3. I visited the Indians in these parts in June last, and tarried with them some considerable time, preaching almost daily: at which season God was pleased to pour upon them a spirit of awakening and concern for their souls, and surprisingly to engage in their attention to divine truths.
August 7. Preached to the Indians from Isa. 53:3-10. There was a remarkable influence attending the word, and great concern in the assembly… most were much affected, and many in great distress for their souls; and some few could neither go nor stand, but lay flat on the ground, as if pierced at heart, crying incessantly for mercy.
August 15. Preached from Luke 4:16-21, “And he came to Nazareth,” etc. The word was attended with power upon the hearts of the hearers. There was much concern, many tears, and affecting cries among them, and some in a special manner were deeply wounded and distressed for their souls.
September 3. Preached to the Indians from Isa. 53:3-6, “He is despised and rejected of men,” etc. The divine presence seemed to be in the midst of the assembly, and a considerable concern spread amongst them.
October 28. The word of God at this time seemed to fall upon the assembly with a divine power and influence, especially toward the close of my discourse: there was both a sweet melting and bitter mourning in the audience.
I found his journal to be fascinating as I saw the connection between his emotional and choppy private prayer life (the diary) manifested in a powerful and Spirit-filled public ministry (the journal). It so happened I was reading Brainerd’s book as I meditated on the ominous forecast that many of the brethren foretold of ministering in Italy. Things such as Italy being a missionary graveyard, the stony-hearts of the Italian people in receiving the word of God, the Italian people being obstinately set against any faith outside the Roman Catholic Church, not to expect many to be saved, etc.
David Brainerd ministered to a people with pagan notions, idolatrous practices, and obstinately set against Christianity yet he recorded how “God was pleased to pour upon them a spirit of awakening and concern for their souls” and how “the word of God seemed to fall upon the assembly with a divine power and influence.” I serve that same God and I must equally depend upon Him in private prayer for the work He has called us to do in Italy. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit to effectively communicate the gospel and accomplish anything of eternal value in the lives of Italians. Please pray for the Planck family as we seek to reach Italian souls for Christ. Please pray for Italians to be awakened to their spiritual need. We will praise God together for the increase.
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” John 16:8