For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
~ 1 John 5:4-5
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
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
~ Colossians 3:1-2
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
~ Exodus 23:2
The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
~ John 7:7
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
~ Psalm 34:10
2Co 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
~ 2 Corinthians 5:2
Letters Written by David Brainerd to His Friends.
1. To his brother JOHN, then a student at Yale College in New Haven.
Kaunaumeek, April 30, 1743.
DEAR BROTHER, I should tell you, “I long to see you,” but that my own experience has taught me, there is no happiness and plenary satisfaction to be enjoyed in earthly friends, though ever so near and dear, or in any other enjoyment that is not God himself. Therefore, if the God of all grace would be pleased graciously to afford us each his presence and grace that we may perform the work and endure the trials he calls us to, in a most distressing, tiresome wilderness, till we arrive at our journey’s end the local distance at which we are held from each other at the present, is a matter of no great moment or importance to either of us. But, alas! the presence of God is what I want. I live in the most lonely, melancholy desert, about eighteen miles from Albany (for it was not thought best that I should go to Delaware river, as I believe I hinted to you in a letter from New York). I board with a poor Scotchman; his wife can talk scarce any English. My diet consists mostly of hasty-pudding, boiled corn, and bread baked in the ashes, and sometimes a little meat and butter. My lodging is a little heap of straw, laid upon some boards, a little way from the ground; for it is a log-room, without any floor, that I lodge in. My work is exceeding hard and difficult; I travel on foot a mile and half, the worst of way, almost daily, and back again; for I live so far from my Indians. I have not seen an English person this month. These and many other circumstances as uncomfortable, attend me: and yet my spiritual conflicts and distresses so far exceed all these, that I scarce think of them, or hardly mind but that I am entertained in the most sumptuous manner. The Lord grant that I may learn to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ!” As to my success here, I cannot say much as yet. The Indian seem generally kind, and well disposed towards me, and are mostly very attentive to my instructions, and seem willing to be taught further; two or three, I hope, are under some convictions; but there seems to be little of the special working of the divine Spirit among them yet; which gives me many a heart-sinking hour. Sometimes I hope God has abundant blessings in store for them and me; but at other times I am so overwhelmed with distress, that I cannot see how his dealings with me are consistent with covenant love and faithfulness, and I say, “Surely his tender mercies are clean gone for ever.” But, however, I see I needed all this chastisement already: “it is good for me “that I have endured these trials, and have hitherto little or no apparent success. Do not be discouraged by my distresses. I was under great distress, at Mr. Pomroy’s, when I saw you last, but “God has been with me of a truth,” since that; he helped me sometimes sweetly, at Long Island, and elsewhere. But let us always remember, that we must through much tribulation enter into God’s eternal kingdom of rest and peace. The righteous are scarcely saved; it is an infinite wonder, that we have well-grounded hopes of being saved at all. For my part, I feel the most vile of any creature living; and l am sure sometimes, there is not such another existing on this side hell. Now all you can do for me is, to pray incessantly, that God would make me humble, holy, resigned, and heavenly-minded, by all my trials. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Let us run, wrestle, and fight, that we may win the prize, and obtain that complete happiness, to be “holy, as God is holy.” So, wishing and praying that you may advance in learning and grace, and be lit for special service for God, I remain, your affectionate brother,
2. To the Same.
Kaunaumeek, Dec. 27, 1743.
DEAR BROTHER, I long to see you, and know how you fare in your journey through a world of inexpressible sorrow, where we are compassed about with “vanity, confusion, and vexation of spirit.” I am more weary of life, I think, than ever I was. The whole world appears to me like a huge vacuum, a vast empty space, whence nothing desirable, or at least satisfactory, can possibly be derived; and I long daily to die more and more to it, even though I obtain not that comfort from spiritual things which I earnestly desire. Worldly pleasures, such as flow from greatness, riches, honours, and sensual gratifications, are infinitely worse than none. May the Lord deliver us more and more from these vanities! I have spent most of the fall and winter hitherto in a very weak state of body, and sometimes under pressing inward trials and spiritual conflicts; but “having obtained help from God, I continue to this day;” and am now something better in health than I was some time ago. I find nothing-more conducive to a life of Christianity than a diligent, industrious, and faithful improvement of precious time. ‘Let us then faithfully perform that business which is allotted to us by divine providence, to the utmost of our bodily strength and mental vigour. Why should we sink, and grow discouraged, with any particular trials and perplexities we are called to encounter in the world? Death and eternity are just before us; a few tossing billows more will waft us into the world of spirits, and we hope (through infinite grace) into endless pleasures, and uninterrupted rest and peace. Let us then “run with patience the race set before us,” Heb. xii. 1, 2. And O that we could depend more upon the living God, and less upon our own wisdom and strength! Dear brother, may the God of all grace comfort your heart, and succeed your studies, and make you an instrument of good to his people in your day. This is the constant
prayer of your affectionate brother,
3. To his brother ISRAEL, at Haddam.
Kaunaumeek, January 21, 1743-4.
MY DEAR BROTHER, There is but one thing that deserves our highest care and most ardent desires, and that is, that we may answer the great end for which we were made, —viz., to glorify that God who has given us our beings and all our comforts, and do all the good we possibly can to our fellow-men, while we live in the world; and verily life is not worth the having, if it be not improved for this noble end and purpose. Yet, alas! how little is this thought of among mankind! Most men seem to live to themselves, without much regard to the glory of God or the good of their fellow creatures; they earnestly desire and eagerly pursue after the riches, the honours, and the pleasures of life, as if they really supposed that, wealth, or greatness, or merriment, could make their immortal souls happy. But, alas! what false and delusive dreams are these! And how miserable will those ere long be, who are not awaked out of them, to see that all their happiness consists in living to God, and becoming “holy as he is holy! “O may you never fall into the tempers and vanities, the sensuality and folly, of the present world! You are, by divine providence, left as it were alone in a wide world to act for yourself; be sure then to remember it is a world of temptation. You have no earthly parents to be the means of forming your youth to piety and virtue, by their pious examples and seasonable counsels; let this then excite you with greater diligence and fervency to look up to the Father of mercies for grace and assistance against all the vanities of the world. And if you would glorify God, answer his just expectations from you, and make your own soul happy in this and the coming world, observe these few directions, though not from a father, yet from a brother who is touched with a tender concern for your present and future
First, Resolve upon, and daily endeavour to practise, a life of seriousness and strict sobriety. The wise man will tell you the great advantage of such a life, Eccl. vii. 3. Think of the life of Christ; and when you can find that he was pleased with jesting and vain merriment, then you may indulge it in yourself.
Again, Be careful to make a good improvement of precious time. When you cease from labour, fill up your time in reading, meditation, and prayer; and while your hands are labouring, let your heart be employed, as much as possible, in divine thoughts.
Further, Take heed that you faithfully perform the business you have to do in the world, from a regard to the commands of God, and not from an ambitious desire of being esteemed better than others. We should always look upon ourselves as God’s servants, placed in God’s world, to do his work; and accordingly labour faithfully for him, not with a design to grow rich and great, but to glorify God, and do all the good we possibly can.
Again, Never expect any satisfaction or happiness from the world. If you hope for happiness in the world, hope for it from God, and not from the world. Do not think you shall be more happy, if you live to such or such a state of life, if you live to be for yourself, to be settled in the world, or if you should gain an estate in it; but look upon it that you shall then be happy, when you can be constantly employed for God, and not for yourself; and desire to live in this world, only to do and suffer what God allots to you. When you can be of the spirit and temper of angels, who are willing to come down into this lower world, to perform what God commands them, though their desires are heavenly, and not in the least set on earthly things, then you will be of that temper that you ought to have, Col. iii. 2.
Once more, Never think that you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always look to and rely on him for assistance, yea, for all strength and grace. There is no greater truth than this, that “we can do nothing of ourselves,” John xv. 5, and 2 Cor. iii. 5; yet nothing but our own experience can effectually teach it to us. Indeed, we are a long time in learning, that all our strength and salvation is in God. This is a life that I think no unconverted man can possibly live, and yet it is a life that every Godly soul is pressing after, in some good measure. Let it then be your great concern thus to devote yourself and your all to God.
I long to see you, that I may say much more to you than I now can, for your benefit and welfare: but I desire to commit you to, and leave you with, the Father of mercies and God of all grace, praying that you may be directed safely through an evil world to God’s heavenly kingdom. —I am your affectionate, loving brother,
4. 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 O 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. O how sweet is a spirit of devotion a spirit of seriousness and divine solemnity a spirit of gospel simplicity, love, tenderness! O 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. O 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. ii. 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. O 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 of 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 am. 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, 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,
5. 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,