As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
~ Psalm 42:1-2
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
~ Isaiah 6:8
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
~ Romans 12:2
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
~ Philippians 1:21-23, 2 Timothy 4:6-8
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:31
The Life Of David Brainerd, From His Diary And Journal. Compiled by Jonathan Edwards.
To his brother Israel, at college: written in the time of his extreme illness in Boston, a few months before his death.
Boston, June 30, 1747.
My Dear Brother,
It is from the sides of eternity I now address you. I am heartily sorry that I have so little strength to write what I long so much to communicate to you. But let me tell you, my brother, eternity is another thing than we ordinarily take it to be in a healthful state. Oh, how vast and boundless! Oh, how fixed and unalterable! Oh, of what infinite importance is it, that we be prepared for eternity! I have been just a dying now for more than a week; and all around me have thought me so. I have had clear views of eternity; have seen the blessedness of the godly, in some measure; and have longed to share their happy state; as well as been comfortably satisfied, that through grace I shall do so: but oh, what anguish is raised in my mind, to think of an eternity for those who are Christless, for those who are mistaken, and who bring their false hopes to the grave with them! The sight was so dreadful I could by no means bear it: my thoughts recoiled, and I said (under a more affecting sense than ever before), “Who can dwell with everlasting burnings?” Oh, methought, could I now see my friends, that I might warn them to see to it, that they lay their foundation for eternity sure. And you, my dear brother, I have been particularly concerned for; and have wondered I so much neglected conversing with you about your spiritual state at our last meeting. Oh, my brother, let me then beseech you now to examine, whether you are indeed a new creature? Whether you have ever acted above self? Whether the glory of God has ever been the sweetest and highest concern with you? Whether you have been reconciled to all the perfections of God? In a word, whether God has been your portion, and a holy conformity to him your chief delight? If you cannot answer positively, consider seriously the frequent breathings of your soul: but do not however put yourself off with a slight answer. If you have reason to think you are graceless, oh give yourself and the throne of grace no rest, till God arise and save. But if the case should be otherwise, bless God for his grace, and press after holiness. (Mr. Brainerd afterwards had greater satisfaction concerning the state of his brother’s soul, by much opportunity of conversation with him before his death.)
My soul longs that you should be fitted for, and in due time go into, the work of the ministry. I cannot bear to think of your going into any other business in life. Do not be discouraged, because you see your elder brothers in the ministry die early, one after another. I declare, now I am dying, I would not have spent my life otherwise for the whole world. But I must leave this with God.
If this line should come to your hands soon after the date, I should be almost desirous you should set out on a journey to me: it may be, you may see me alive; which I should much rejoice in. But if you cannot come, I must commit you to the grace of God, where you are. May he be your guide and counsellor, your sanctifier and eternal portion!
Oh, my dear brother, flee fleshly lusts, and the enchanting amusements, as well as corrupt doctrines, of the present day; and strive to live to God. Take this as the last line from,
Your affectionate dying brother,
To a special friend. The Forks of Delaware,
July 31, 1744.
Certainly the greatest, the noblest pleasure of intelligent creatures must result from their acquaintance with the blessed God, and with their own rational and immortal souls. And oh how divinely sweet and entertaining is it to look into our own souls, when we can find all our powers and passions united and engaged in pursuit after God, our whole souls longing and passionately breathing after a conformity to him, and the full enjoyment of him! Verily there are no hours pass away with so much divine pleasure, as those that are spent in communing with God and our own hearts. Oh how sweet is a spirit of devotion, a spirit of seriousness and divine solemnity, a spirit of gospel simplicity, love and tenderness! Oh how desirable, and how profitable to the Christian life, is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over ourselves; when our souls are afraid of nothing so much as that we shall grieve and offend the blessed God, whom at such times we apprehend, or at least hope, to be a father and friend; whom we then love and long to please, rather than to be happy ourselves, or at least we delight to derive our happiness from pleasing and glorifying him! Surely this is a pious temper, worthy of the highest ambition and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians. Oh how vastly superior is the pleasure, peace, and satisfaction derived from these divine frames, to that which we, alas! Sometimes pursue in things impertinent and trifling! Our own bitter experience teaches us, that “in the midst of such laughter the heart is sorrowful,” and there is no true satisfaction but in God. But, alas! how shall we obtain and retain this sweet spirit of religion and devotion? Let us follow the apostle’s direction, Phil. 2:12, and labour upon the encouragement he there mentions, verse 13, for it is God only can afford us this favour; and he will be sought to, and it is fit we should wait upon him, for so rich a mercy. Oh, may the God of all grace afford us the grace and influences of his divine Spirit; and help us that we may from our hearts esteem it our greatest liberty and happiness, that “whether we live, we may live to the Lord, or whether we die, we may die to the Lord; that in life and death we may be his!
I am in a very poor state of health; I think scarce ever poorer: but through divine goodness I am not discontented under my weakness and confinement to this wilderness. I bless God for this retirement: I never was more thankful for any thing than I have been of late for the necessity I am under a self-denial in many respects. I love to be a pilgrim and stranger in this wilderness: it seems most fit for such a poor ignorant, worthless, despised creature as I. I would not change my present mission for any other business in the whole world. I may tell you freely, without vanity and ostentation, God has of late given me great freedom and fervency in prayer, when I have been so weak and feeble that my nature seemed as if it would speedily dissolve. I feel as if my all was lost, and I was undone for this world, if the poor heathen may not be converted. I feel, in general, different from what I did when I saw you last; at least more crucified to all the enjoyments of life. It would be very refreshing to me to see you here in this desert; especially in my weak disconsolate hours: but I think I could be content never to see you or any of my friends again in this world, if God would bless my labours here to the conversion of the poor Indians. I have much that I could willingly communicate to you, which I must omit, till Providence gives us leave to see each other. In the mean time, I rest.
Your obliged friend and servant,
To a special friend, a minister of the gospel in New Jersey.
The Forks of Delaware, Dec. 24, 1744.
Rev. and Dear Brother,
I have little to say to you about spiritual joys, and those blessed refreshments and divine consolations, with which I have been much favoured in times past: but this I can tell you, that if I gain experience in no other point, yet I am sure I do in this, viz. that the present world has nothing in it to satisfy an immortal soul: and hence, that it is not to be desired for itself, but only because God may be seen and served in it. And I wish I could be more patient and willing to live in it for this end, than I can usually find myself to be. It is no virtue I know to desire death, only to be freed from the miseries of life: but I want that divine hope which you observed when I saw you last, was the very sinews of vital religion. Earth can do us no good; and if there be no hope of our doing good on earth, how can we desire to live in it? And yet we ought to desire, or at least to be resigned, to tarry in it; because it is the will of our all-wise Sovereign. But perhaps these thoughts will appear melancholy and gloomy, and consequently will be very undesirable to you; and therefore I forbear to add. I wish you may not read them in the same circumstances in which I write them. I have a little more to do and suffer in a dark disconsolate world; and then I hope to be as happy as you are. — I should ask you to pray for me were I worth your concern. May the Lord enable us both to “endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;” and may we “obtain mercy of God to be faithful to the death,” in the discharge of our respective trusts!
I am your very unworthy brother, And humble servant,
To a young gentleman, a candidate for the work of the ministry, for whom he had a special friendship; also written at the same time of his great illness and nearness to death in Boston.
Very Dear Sir,
How amazing it is, that the living who know they must die, should notwithstanding, “put far away the evil day,” in a season of health and prosperity; and live at such an awful distance from a familiarity with the grace, and the great concerns beyond it! And especially it may justly fill us with surprise, that any whose minds have been divinely enlightened, to behold the important things of eternity as they are, I say, that such should live in this manner. And yet, Sir, how frequently is this the case! How rare are the instances of those who live and act from day to day, as on the verge of eternity; striving to fill up all their remaining moments in the service and to the honour of their great Master! We insensibly trifle away time, while we seem to have enough of it; and are so strangely amused, as in a great measure to lose a sense of the holiness and blessed qualifications necessary to prepare us to be inhabitants of the heavenly paradise. But oh, dear Sir, a dying bed, if we enjoy our reason clearly, will give another view of things. I have now, for more than three weeks, lain under the greatest degree of weakness; the greater part of the time, expecting daily and hourly to enter into the eternal world: sometimes have been so far gone, as to be wholly speechless, for some hours together. And oh, of what vast importance has a holy spiritual life appeared to me to be at this season! I have longed to call upon all my friends, to make it their business to live to God; and especially all that are designed for, or engaged in, the service of the sanctuary. O, dear Sir, do not think it enough to live at the rate of common Christians. Alas, to how little purpose do they often converse, when they meet together! The visits even of those who are called Christians indeed, are frequently extremely barren; and conscience cannot but condemn us for the misimprovement of time, while we have been conversant with them. But the way to enjoy the divine presence, and be fitted for distinguishing service for God, is to live a life of great devotion and constant self-dedication to him; observing the motions and dispositions of our own hearts, whence we may learn the corruptions that lodge there, and our constant need of help from God for the performance of the least duty. And oh, dear Sir, let me beseech you frequently to attend the great and precious duties of secret fasting and prayer.
I have a secret thought from some things I have observed, that God may perhaps design you for some singular service in the world. Oh then labour to be prepared and qualified to do much for God. Read Mr. Jonathan Edward’s piece on the affections, again and again; and labour to distinguish clearly upon experiences and affections in religion, that you may make a difference between the gold and the shining dross. I say, labour here, if ever you would be a useful minister of Christ; for nothing has put such a stop to the work of God in the late day as the false religion, and the wild affections that attend it. Suffer me therefore, finally, to entreat you earnestly to “give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation” on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them, and never be content with a superficial knowledge. By this means your thoughts will gradually grow weighty and judicious; and you hereby will be possessed of a valuable treasure out of which you may produce “things new and old,” to the glory of God.
And now, “I commend you to the grace of God;” earnestly desiring that a plentiful portion of the divine Spirit may rest upon you; that you may live to God in every capacity of life, and do abundant service for him in a public one, if it be his will; and that you may be richly qualified for the “inheritance of the saints in light.” — I scarce expect to see your face any more in the body; and therefore entreat you to accept this as the last token of love, from
Your sincerely affectionate dying friend,
P.S. I am now, at the dating of this letter, considerably recovered from what I was when I wrote it; it having lain by me some time, for want of an opportunity of conveyance; it was written in Boston. — I am now able to ride a little, and so am removed into the country: but have no more expectation of recovering than when I wrote, though I am a little better for the present; and therefore I still subscribe myself,
Your dying friend, etc.
To his brother, John, at Bethel, the town of Christian Indians in New Jersey; written likewise at Boston, when he was there on the brink of the grave, in the summer before his death.
I am now just on the verge of eternity, expecting very speedily to appear in the unseen world. I feel myself no more an inhabitant of earth, and sometimes earnestly long to “depart and be with Christ.” I bless God, he has for some years given me an abiding conviction, that it is impossible for any rational creature to enjoy true happiness without being entirely “devoted to him.” Under the influence of this conviction I have in some measure acted. Oh, that I had done more so! I saw both the excellency and necessity of holiness in life; but never in such a manner as now, when I am just brought to the sides of the grave. Oh, my brother, pursue after holiness; press towards this blessed mark; and let your thirsty soul continually say, “I shall never be satisfied till I awake in thy likeness.” Although there has been a great deal of selfishness in my views; of which I am ashamed, and for which my soul is humbled at every view; yet, blessed be God, I find I have really had, for the most part, such a concern for his glory, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, that it is a satisfaction to me to reflect upon these years.
And now, my dear brother, as I must press you to pursue after personal holiness, to be as much in fasting and prayer as your health will allow, and to live above the rate of common Christians; so I must entreat you solemnly to attend to your public work; labour to distinguish between true and false religion; and to that end, watch the motions of God’s Spirit upon your own heart. Look to him for help; and impartially compare your experiences with his Word. Read Mr. Jonathan Edwards on the Affections, where the essence and soul of religion is clearly distinguished from false affections. (I had at first fully intended, in publishing this and the foregoing letter, to have suppressed these passages wherein my name in mentioned, and my Discourse on Religious Affections recommended: and am sensible that by my doing otherwise, I shall bring upon me the reproach of some. But how much soever I may be pleased with the commendation of any performance of mine (and I confess, I esteem the judgment and approbation of such a person as Mr. Brainerd worthy to be valued, and look on myself as highly honoured by it), yet I can truly say, the things that governed me in altering my forementioned determination, with respect to these passages, were these two: (1) What Mr. Brainerd here says of that discourse, shows very fully and particularly what his notions were of experimental religion, and the nature of true piety, and how far he was from placing it in impressions on the imagination, or any enthusiastical impulses, and how essential in religion he esteemed holy practice, etc. For all that have read that discourse, know what sentiments are there expressed concerning those things. (2) I judged, that the approbation of so apparent and eminent a friend and example of inward vital religion, and evangelical piety in the height of it, would probably tend to make that book more serviceable; especially among some kinds of zealous persons, whose benefit was especially aimed at in the book; some of which are prejudiced against it, as written in too legal a strain, and opposing some things wherein the height of Christian experience consists, and tending to build men upon their own works.) Value religious joys according to the subject matter of them: there are many who rejoice in their supposed justification; but what do these joys argue, but only that they love themselves? Whereas, in true spiritual joys the soul rejoices in God for what he is in himself; blesses God for his holiness, sovereignty, power, faithfulness, and all his perfections; adores God that he is what he is, and that He is unchangeably possessed of infinite glory and happiness. Now when men thus rejoice in the perfections of God, and in the infinite excellency of the way of salvation by Christ, and in the holy commands of God, which are a transcript of his holy nature; these joys are divine and spiritual. Our joys will stand by us at the hour of death, if we can be then satisfied that we have thus acted above self; and in a disinterested manner, if I may so express it, rejoiced in the glory of the blessed God. — I fear you are not sufficiently aware how much false religion there is in the world; many serious Christians and valuable ministers are too easily imposed upon by this false blaze. I likewise fear, you are not sensible of the dreadful effects and consequences of this false religion. Let me tell you, it is the devil transformed into an angel of light; it is a brat of hell, that always springs up with every revival of religion, and stabs and murders the cause of God, while it passes current with multitudes of well-meaning people for the height of religion. Set yourself, my brother, to crush all appearances of this nature among the Indians, and never encourage any degrees of heat without light. Charge my people in the name of their dying minister, yea, in the name of him who was dead and is alive, to live and walk as becomes the gospel. Tell them, how great the expectations of God and his people are from them, and how awfully they will wound God’s cause, if they fall into vice; as well as fatally prejudice other poor Indians. Always insist, that their experiences are rotten, that their joys are delusive, although they may have been rapt up into the third heavens in their own conceit by them, unless the main tenour of their lives be spiritual, watchful, and holy. In pressing these things, “thou shalt both save thyself, and those that hear thee.” —
God knows, I was heartily willing to have served him longer in the work of the ministry, although it had still been attended with all the labours and hardships of past years, if he had seen fit that it should be so: but as his will now appears otherwise, I am fully content, and can with utmost freedom say, “The will of the Lord be done.” It affects me to think of leaving you in a world of sin: my heart pities you, that those storms and tempests are yet before you, which I trust, through grace, I am almost delivered from. But “God lives, and blessed be my Rock:” he is the same Almighty Friend: and will, I trust, be your guide and helper, as he has been mine.
And now, my dear brother, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you inheritance among all them that are sanctified. May you enjoy the divine presence both in private and public; and may “the arms of your hands be made strong, by the right hand of the mighty God of Jacob!” Which are the passionate desires and prayers of
Your affectionate dying brother,
Jonathan Edwards on his publishing David Brainerd’s Diary And Journal.
(I had at first fully intended, in publishing this and the foregoing letter, to have suppressed these passages wherein my name in mentioned, and my Discourse on Religious Affections recommended: and am sensible that by my doing otherwise, I shall bring upon me the reproach of some. But how much soever I may be pleased with the commendation of any performance of mine (and I confess, I esteem the judgment and approbation of such a person as Mr. Brainerd worthy to be valued, and look on myself as highly honoured by it), yet I can truly say, the things that governed me in altering my forementioned determination, with respect to these passages, were these two:
(1) What Mr. Brainerd here says of that discourse, shows very fully and particularly what his notions were of experimental religion, and the nature of true piety, and how far he was from placing it in impressions on the imagination, or any enthusiastical impulses, and how essential in religion he esteemed holy practice, etc. For all that have read that discourse, know what sentiments are there expressed concerning those things.
(2) I judged, that the approbation of so apparent and eminent a friend and example of inward vital religion, and evangelical piety in the height of it, would probably tend to make that book more serviceable; especially among some kinds of zealous persons, whose benefit was especially aimed at in the book; some of which are prejudiced against it, as written in too legal a strain, and opposing some things wherein the height of Christian experience consists, and tending to build men upon their own works.)