Final Sickness

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
~ 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 1:9

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
~ Romans 8:17-18, Galatians 6:17, Philippians 3:10-11

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
~ Colossians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 13:4, 2 Timothy 2:11, 1 Peter 4:13

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
~ Revelation 1:17-18

Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
~ Psalm 44:22, 2 Corinthians 4:11-12

The Life and Diary of the Reverend David Brainerd With Notes and Reflections, by Jonathan Edwards. The following is an excerpt from this work.

Reflection VIII.

One thing more may not be unprofitably observed in the preceding account of Mr. Brainerd; and that is, the special and remarkable disposal of Divine Providence, with regard to the circumstances of his last sickness and death.

Though he had been long infirm, his constitution being much broken by his fatigues and hardships; and though he was often brought very low by illness, before he left Kaunaumeek, and also while he lived at the Forks of Delaware; yet his life was preserved, till he had seen that which he had so long and greatly desired and sought, a glorious work of grace among the Indians, and had received the wished-for blessing of God on his labours. Though as it were “in deaths oft,” yet he lived to behold the happy fruits of the long-continued travail of his soul and labour of his body, in the wonderful conversion of many of the heathen, and the happy effect of it in the great change of their conversation, with many circumstances which afforded a fair prospect of the continuance of God’s blessing upon them; as may appear by what I shall presently further observe. —

Thus he did not “depart, till his eyes had seen God’s salvation.” Though it was the pleasure of God, that he should be taken off from his labours among that people to whom god had made him a spiritual father, who were so dear to him, and for whose spiritual father, who were so dear to him, and for whose spiritual welfare he was so greatly concerned; yet this was not before they were well initiated and instructed in the Christian religion, thoroughly weaned from their old heathenish and brutish notions and practices, and all their prejudices and jealousies, which tended to keep their minds unsettled, were fully removed. They were confirmed and fixed in the Christian faith and manners, were formed into a church, had ecclesiastical ordinances and discipline introduced and settled; were brought into a good way with respect to the education of children, had a schoolmaster excellently qualified for the business, and had a school set up and established, in good order, among them. They had been well brought off from their former idle, strolling, sottish way of living; had removed from their former scattered, uncertain habitations; and were collected in a town by themselves, on a good piece of land of their own; were introduced into the way of living by husbandry, and begun to experience the benefits of it, etc. These things were but just brought to pass by his indefatigable application and care, and then he was taken off from his work by illness. If this had been but a little sooner, they would by no means have been so well prepared for such a dispensation; and it probably would have been unspeakably more to the hurt of their spiritual interest, and of the cause of Christianity among them. The time and circumstances of his illness were so ordered, that he had just opportunity to finish his Journal, and prepare it for the press; giving an account of the marvelous display of divine power and grace among the Indians in New Jersey, and at the Forks of Delaware. His doing this was of great consequence, and therefore urged upon him by the correspondents, who have honoured his Journal with a preface. The world being particularly and justly informed of that affair by Mr. Brainerd, before his death, a foundation was hereby laid for a concern in others for that cause, and proper care and measures to be taken for maintaining it after his death. As it has actually proved to be of great influence and benefit in this respect; for it has excited and engaged many in those parts, and also more distant parts of America, to exert themselves for upholding and promoting the good and glorious work, remarkably opening their hearts and hands to that end: and not only in America, but in Great Britain, where that Journal (which I have earnestly recommended to my readers) has been an occasion of some large benefactions, made for the promoting the interest of Christianity among the Indians. —

If Mr. Brainerd had been taken ill but a little sooner, he had not been able to complete his Journal, and prepare a copy for the press. He was not taken off from the work of the ministry among his people, till his brother was in a capacity and circumstances to succeed him in his care of them: who succeeds him in the like spirit, and under whose prudent and faithful care his congregation has flourished, and been very happy, since he left them; and probably could not have been so well provided for otherwise. If Mr. Brainerd had been disable sooner, his brother would by no means have been ready to stand up in his place; having taken his first degree at college but about that very time that he was seized with his fatal consumption. Though in that winter that he lay sick at Mr. Dickinson’s in Elizabeth-town, he continued for a long time in an extremely low state, so that his life was almost despaired of, and his state was sometimes such that it was hardly expected he would live a day; yet his life was spared a while longer: he lived to see his brother arrived in New Jersey, being come to succeed him in the care of his Indians; and he himself had opportunity to assist in his examination and introduction into his business; and to commit the conduct of his dear people to one whom he well knew, and could put confidence in, and use freedom with, in giving him particular instructions and charges, and under whose care he could leave his congregation with great cheerfulness. The providence of God was remarkable in so ordering it, that before his death he should take a journey into New England, and go to Boston; which was, in many respects, of very great and happy consequence to the interest of religion, and especially among his own people. By this means, as before observed he was brought into acquaintance with many persons of note and influence, ministers and others, belonging both to the town and various parts of the country; and had opportunity, under the best advantages, to bear a testimony for God and true religion, and against those false appearance of it that have proved most pernicious to the interest of Christ’s kingdom in the land. And the providence of God is particularly observable in this circumstance of the testimony he there bore for true religion, viz. that he there was brought so near the grave, and continued for so long a time on the very brink of eternity; and from time to time looked on himself, and was looked on by others, as just leaving the world; and that in these circumstances he should be so particularly directed and assisted in his thoughts and views of religion, to distinguish between the true and the false, with such clearness and evidence; and that after this he should be unexpectedly and surprisingly restored and strengthened, so far as to be able to converse freely. Then he had an opportunity, and special occasions, to declare the sentiments he had in these, which to human apprehension, were his dying circumstances; and to bear his testimony concerning the nature of true religion, and concerning the mischievous tendency of its most prevalent counterfeits and false appearances; as things he had a special, clear, distinct view of at that time, when he expected in a few minutes to be in eternity; and the certainty and importance of which were then, in a peculiar manner, impressed on his mind.

Among the happy consequences of his going to Boston, were those liberal benefactions that have been mentioned, which were made by piously disposed persons, for maintaining and promoting the interest of religion among his people: and also the meeting of a number of gentlemen in Boston, of note and ability, to consult upon measures for that purpose; who were excited by their acquaintance and conversation with Mr. Brainerd, and by the account of the great things God had wrought by his ministry, to unite themselves, that by their joint endeavours and contributions they might promote the kingdom of Christ, and the spiritual good of their fellow-creatures, among the Indians in New Jersey, and elsewhere. It was also remarkable that Mr. Brainerd should go to Boston, at that time, after the honourable commissioners there, of the corporation in London for propagating the Gospel in New England and parts adjacent, had received Dr. Williams’ legacy for maintaining two missionaries among the heathen; and at a time when they, having concluded on a mission to the Indians of the Six Nations, so called, were looking out for fit persons to be employed in that important service. This proved an occasion of their committing to him the affair of finding and recommending suitable persons: which has proved a successful means of two persons being found and actually appointed to that business; who seem to be well qualified for it, and to have their hearts greatly engaged in it; one of which has been solemnly ordained to that work in Boston, and is now gone forth to one of those tribes, who have appeared well disposed to receive him; it being judged not convenient for the other to go till the next spring, by reason of his bodily infirmity. (The appointment of these gentlemen to this mission has been hitherto much smiled on by Providence; as in other respects, so particularly in wonderfully opening the hearts of many to contribute liberally to so excellent a design. Besides the benefactions in Boston, a number of persons at Northampton with much cheerfulness have given about 160l (old tenor); and a particular person in Springfield has devoted a considerable part of his estate to this interest.) These happy consequences of Mr. Brainerd’s journey to Boston would have been prevented, in case he had died when he was brought so near to death in New Jersey. Or if, after he came first to Northampton (where he was much at a loss and long deliberating which way to bend his course) he had determined not to go to Boston. The providence of God was observable in his going to Boston at a time when not only the honourable commissioners were seeking missionaries to the Six Nations, but also just after his Journal, which gives an account of his labours and success among the Indians, had been received and spread in Boston; whereby his name was known, and the minds of serious people were well prepared to receive his person, and the testimony he there gave for God; to exert themselves for the upholding and promoting the interest of religion in his congregation, and amongst the Indians elsewhere; and to regard his judgment concerning the qualifications of missionaries, etc. If he had gone there the fall before (when he had intended to have made his journey into New England, but was prevented by a sudden great increase of his illness) it would not probably have been, in an measure, to so good effect: and also if he had not been unexpectedly detained at Boston; for when he went from my house, he intended to make but a very short stay there; but Divine Providence, by his being brought to low there, detained him long; thereby to make way for the fulfilling its own gracious designs. The providences of God was remarkable in so ordering, that although he was brought so very near the grave in Boston, that it was not in the least expected he would ever come alive out of his chamber; yet he was wonderfully revived, and preserved several months longer: so that he had opportunity to see, and fully to converse with, both his younger brothers before he died; which he greatly desired; and especially to see his brother John, with whom was left the care of his congregation; that he might by him be fully informed of their state, and might leave with him such instructions and directions as were requisite in order to their spiritual welfare, and to send to them his dying charges and counsels. And he had also opportunity, by means of this suspension of his death, to find and recommend a couple of persons fit to be employed as missionaries of the Six Nations, as had been desired of him. Thus, although it was the pleasure of a sovereign God, that he should be taken away from his congregation, the people that he had begotten through the gospel, who were so dear to him; yet it was granted him, that before he died he should see them well provided for every way. He saw them provided for, with one to instruct them, and to take care of their souls; his own brother, whom he could confide in. He saw a good foundation laid for the support of the school among them; those things that before were wanting in order to it, being supplied. He had the prospect of a charitable society being established, of able and well-disposed persons, who seem to make the spiritual interest of his congregation their own; whereby he had a comfortable view of their being well provided for, for the future: and he had also opportunity to leave all his dying charges with his successor in the pastoral care of is people, and by him to send his dying counsels to them. Thus God granted him to see all things happily settled, or in a hopeful way of being so, before his death, with respect to his dear people. — And whereas not only his own congregation, but the souls of the Indians in North America in general, were very dear to him, and he had greatly set his heart on the propagating and extending the kingdom of Christ among them; God was pleased to grant him — though not to be the immediate instrument of their instruction and conversion, yet — that before his death he should see unexpected extraordinary provision made for this also. And it is remarkable that God not only allowed him to see such provision made for maintaining the interest of religion among his own people and the propagation of it elsewhere; but honoured him by making him the means or occasion of it. So that it is very probable, however Mr. Brainerd during the last four months of his life, was ordinarily in an extremely weak and low state, very often scarcely able to speak; yet that he was made the instrument or means of much more good in that space of time, than he would have been if well and in full strength of body. Thus God’s power was manifested in his weakness, and the life of Christ was manifested in his mortal flesh. Another thing wherein appears the merciful disposal of Providence with respect to his death, was that he did not die in the wilderness among the savages at Kaunaumeek, or the Forks of Delaware, or at Susquehannah; but in a place where his dying behaviour and speeches might be observed and remembered, and some account given of them for the benefit of survivors: and also where care might be taken of him in his sickness, and proper honours done him at his death.

The providence of God is also worthy of remark in so overruling and ordering the matter, that he did not finally leave absolute orders for the entire suppressing of his private papers; as he had intended and fully resolved, insomuch that all the importunity of his friends could scarce restrain him from doing it when sick at Boston. And one thing relating to this is peculiarly remarkable, viz. that his brother a little bore his death should come from the Jerseys unexpected, and bring his diary to him, though he had received no such order. So that he had opportunity of access to these his reserved papers, and for reviewing the same; without which, it appears, he would at last have ordered them to be wholly suppressed: but after this he the more readily yielded to the desires of his friends, and was willing to leave them in their hands to be disposed of as they thought might be most for God’s glory. By which means, “he being dead, yet speaketh,” in these memoirs of his life taken from those private writings: whereby it is to be hoped he may still be as it were the instrument of promoting the interest of religion in this world; the advancement of which he so much desired, and hoped would be accomplished after his death. If these circumstances of Mr. Brainerd’s death be duly considered, I doubt not but they will be acknowledged as a notable instance of God’s fatherly care, and covenant-faithfulness towards them that are devoted to him, and faithfully serve him while they live; whereby “he never fails nor forsakes them, but is with them living and dying: so that whether they live they live to the Lord; or whether they die, they die to the Lord;” and both in his life and death they are owned and taken care of as his. — Mr. Brainerd himself, as was before observed, was much in taking notice (when near his end) of the merciful circumstances of his death; and said from time to time, that “God had granted him all his desire.”

I would not conclude my observations on the merciful circumstances of Mr. Brainerd’s death, without acknowledging with thankfulness, the gracious dispensation of Providence to me and my family, in so ordering that he (though the ordinary place of his abode was more than two hundred miles distant) should be brought to my house, in his last sickness, and should die here. So that we had opportunity for much acquaintance and conversation with him, to show him kindness in such circumstances, to see his dying behaviour, to hear his dying speeches, to receive his dying counsels, and to have the benefit of his dying prayers. May God in infinite mercy grant that we may ever retain a proper remembrance of these things, and make a due improvement of the advantages we have had in these respects! The Lord grant also that the foregoing account of Mr. Brainerd’s life and death may be for the great spiritual benefit of all that shall read it, and prove a happy means of promoting the revival of true religion! Amen.