“Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey”
– David Brainerd (1718-1747)
“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart
and be with Christ, which is better by far;”
Philippians 1:23 (NIV)
David Brainerd, an American, was one of the most influential missionaries in church history. Yet, for all of his remarkable influence on missions, he was a most unlikely missionary. David’s father died when he was 9 and his mother when he was 14.
At 21 years of age he entered Yale to prepare for the ministry. However he was expelled in his third year because of his remark about a tutor named Whittelsey.
Brainerd commented that the man “has no more grace than a chair.” By that he meant the man was not a Christian. It was a sad departure as he was academically ahead of his classmates.
By being banished from Yale Brainerd was kept from the ministry in Connecticut his home state.
Instead, Brainerd was given a license to preach by “New Light” ministers whose name referred to the fact they preached the evangelical Gospel with fervour and passion.
Then he was given a commission to be a missionary to the North American Indians. He continued this work for 4 years until his death at 29.
Brainerd suffered from tuberculosis his entire adult life and it appears the disease was the cause of his untimely death. He also suffered from bouts of depression as did many in his family.
So from an earthly point of view there were many reasons for Brainerd being disqualified from being a preacher. However the two outstanding qualities that did make him a remarkable servant of the Lord was his devotion to the Saviour and his passion for the souls of people.
Brainerd spent the last few weeks of his short life in the home of his fiancé Jerusha Edwards who nursed him there. Sadly she contracted the same disease and died within months of David.
The powerful influence of David Brainerd in the years since his brief ministry is to be seen in his utter devotion to the work of bringing the Gospel to those who need a Saviour.
In his diary David speaks of worshipping the Lord as follows, “My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, the loveliness and the greatness and other perfections of God that I was even swallowed up in him…”
May my readers have such great sights of our wonderful God and Saviour that earth bound things fade away by the display of God’s majesty. To be in God’s presence is indeed “better by far” as our verse indicates.
May the Lord hasten the day when all of His people are assembled together forever.