PREACHING AND TEACHING
Extracts from the Journal of David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians.
CROSSWEEKSUNG, in New Jersey, March, 1746
March 1. Catechised in my ordinary method. Was pleased and refreshed to see them answer the questions proposed to them with such remarkable readiness, discretion, and knowledge. – Toward the close of my discourse, divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and produced tears and sobs in some under concern; and more especially a sweet and humble melting in sundry that, I have reason to hope, were truly gracious.
Lord’s day, March 2. Preached from John 15.1-6. The assembly appeared not so lively in their attention as usual, nor so much affected with divine truths in general as has been common. Some of my people, who went up to the Forks of Delaware with me, being now returned, were accompanied by two of the Indians belonging to the Forks, who had promised me a speedy visit. May the Lord meet with them there. They can scarce go into a house now, but they will meet with Christian
conversation, whereby, it is hopeful, they may be both instructed and awakened.
Discoursed to the Indians again in the afternoon, and observed among them some liveliness and engagement in divine service, though not equal to what has often appeared here. -I know of no assembly of Christians, where there seems to be so much of the presence of God, where brotherly love so much prevails, and where I should take so much delight in the public worship of God, in the general, as in my own congregation: although not more than nine months ago, they were worshipping devils and dumb idols under the power of pagan darkness and superstition. Amazing change this! effected by nothing less than divine power and grace!
“This is the doing of the Lord, and it is justly marvellous in our eyes!”
March 5. Spent some time just at evening in prayer, singing, and discoursing to my people upon divine things; and observed some agreeable tenderness and affection among them. Their present situation is so compact and commodious, that they are easily and quickly called together with only the sound of a conk-shell, (a shell like that of a periwinkle), so that they have frequent opportunities of attending religious exercises publicly; which seems to be a great means, under God, of keeping alive the impressions of divine things in their minds.
March 8. Catechised in the evening. My people answered the questions proposed to them well. I can perceive their knowledge in religion increases daily. And what is still more desirable, the divine influence that has been so remarkable among them appears still to continue in some good measure. The divine presence seemed to be in the assembly this evening. Some, who I have good reason to think are Christians indeed, were melted with a sense of the divine goodness, and their own barrenness and ingratitude, and seemed to hate themselves, as one of them afterwards expressed it. Convictions also appeared to be revived in several instances; and divine truths were attended with such influence upon the assembly in general, that it might justly be called “an evening of divine power.”
Lord’s day, March 9. Preached from Luke 10.38-42. The word of God was attended with power and energy upon the audience. Numbers were affected and concerned to obtain the one thing needful. And sundry that have given good evidences of being truly gracious, were much affected with a sense of their want of spirituality; and saw the need they stood in of growing in grace. And most that had been under any impressions of divine things in times past, seemed now to have those impressions revived.
In the afternoon proposed to have catechised in my usual method. But while we were engaged in the first prayer in the Indian language, (as usual), a great part of the assembly was so much moved, and affected with divine things, that I thought it seasonable and proper to
omit the proposing of questions for that time, and insist upon the most practical truths.
And accordingly did so; making a further improvement of the passage of Scripture I discoursed upon in the former part of the day.
There appeared to be a powerful divine influence in the congregation. Sundry that I have reason to think are truly pious, were so deeply affected with a sense of their own barrenness, and their unworthy treatment of the blessed Redeemer, that they looked on Him as pierced by themselves, and mourned, yea, some of them were in bitterness as for a first-born. – Some poor awakened sinners also appeared to be in anguish of soul to obtain an interest in Christ. So that here was a great mourning in the assembly; many heavy groans, sobs, and tears! and one or two persons newly come among us, were considerably awakened.
Methinks it would have refreshed the heart of any who truly love Zion’s interest, to have been in the midst of this divine influence, and seen the effects of it upon saints and sinners. The place of divine worship appeared both solemn and sweet!, and was so endeared by a display of the divine things, could not but cry, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!” – After public worship was over, numbers came to my house, where we sang and discoursed of divine things; and the presence of God seemed here also to be in the midst of us.
While we were singing, there was one (the woman mentioned in my Journal of Feb. 9) who, I may venture to say, if I may be allowed to say so much of any person I ever saw, was “filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” and could not but burst forth in prayer and praises to God before us all, with many tears, crying sometimes in English and sometimes in Indian, “O blessed Lord, do come, do come! O do take me away, do let me die and go to Jesus Christ! I am afraid if I live I shall sin again! O do let me die now! O dear Jesus, do come! I cannot stay, I cannot stay! O how can I live in this world! Do take my soul away from this sinful place! O let me never sin any more! O what shall I do, what shall I do! dear Jesus, O dear Jesus,” &c. – In this ecstasy she continued some time, uttering these and suchlike expressions incessantly. And the grand argument she used with God to take her away immediately, was, that “if she lived, she should sin against him.”
When she had a little recovered herself, I asked her, if Christ was not now sweet to her soul? Whereupon, turning to me with tears in her eyes, and with all the tokens of deep humility I ever saw in any person, she said, “I have many times heard you speak of the goodness and the sweetness of Christ, that He was better than all the world. But O! I knew nothing what you meant, I never believed you! I never believed you! But now I know it is true!” or words to that effect. – I answered, And do you see enough in Christ for the greatest of sinners? She
replied, “O! enough, enough! for all the sinners in the world if they would but come.” And when I asked her, if she could not tell them of the goodness of Christ; turning herself about to some poor Christless souls who stood by, and were much affected, she said, “Oh! there is enough in Christ for you, if you would but come! O strive, strive to give up your hearts to Him!” &c. And upon hearing something of the glory of heaven mentioned, that there was no sin in that world, &c. she again fell into the same ecstasy of joy, and desire of Christ’s coming; repeating her former expressions, “O dear Lord, do let me go! O what shall I do, what shall I do! I want to go to Christ! I cannot live! O do let me die!” &c.
She continued in this sweet frame for more than two hours, before she was well able to get home. -I am very sensible there may be great joys, arising even to an ecstasy, where there is still no substantial evidence of their being well-grounded. But in the present case there seemed to be no evidence wanting, in order to prove this joy to be divine, either in regard of its preparatives, attendants, or consequents.
Of all the persons I have seen under spiritual exercise, I scarce ever saw one appear more bowed and broken under convictions of sin and misery (or what is usually called a preparatory work) than this woman. Nor scarce any who seemed to have a greater acquaintance with her own heart than she had. She would frequently complain to me of the hardness and rebellion of her heart. Would tell me, her heart rose and quarrelled with God, when she thought He would do with her as He pleased, and send her to hell notwithstanding her prayers, good frames, &c. That her heart was not willing to come to Christ for salvation, but tried every where else for help.
And as she seemed to be remarkably sensible of her stubbornness and contrariety to God, under conviction, so she appeared to be no less remarkably bowed and reconciled to divine sovereignty before she obtained any relief or comfort. Something of which I have before noticed in my Journal of Feb. 9. Since which time she has seemed constantly to breathe the spirit and temper of the new creature; crying after Christ, not through fear of hell as before, but with strong desires after Him as her only satisfying portion; and has many times wept and sobbed bitterly, because (as she apprehended) she did not and could not love Him. –
When I have sometimes asked her, Why she appeared so sorrowful, and whether it was because she was afraid of hell? She would answer, “No, I be not distressed about that; but my heart is so wicked I cannot love Christ;” and thereupon burst out into tears. – But although this has been the habitual frame of her mind for several weeks together, so that the exercise of grace appeared evident to others, yet she seemed wholly insensible of it herself, and never had any remarkable comfort and sensible satisfaction till this evening.
This sweet and surprising ecstasy appeared to spring from a true
spiritual discovery of the glory, ravishing beauty, and excellency of Christ: and not from any gross imaginary notions of His human nature;
such as that of seeing him in such a place or posture, as hanging on the cross, as bleeding, dying, as gently smiling, and the like; which delusions some have been carried away with. Nor did it rise from sordid, selfish apprehensions of her having any benefit whatsoever conferred on her, but from a view of His personal excellency, and transcendent loveliness, which drew forth those vehement desires of enjoying Him she now manifested, and made her long “to be absent from the body that she might be present with the Lord.”
The attendants of this ravishing comfort, were such as abundantly discovered its spring to be divine, and that it was truly a “joy in the Holy Ghost.” – Now she viewed divine truths as living realities; and could say, “I know these things are so, I feel they are true!” -Now her soul was resigned to the divine will in the most tender points; so that when I said to her. What if God should take away your husband from you, (who was then very sick), how do you think you could bear that? She replied, “He belongs to God, and not to me; He may do with him just what He pleases.” Now she had the most tender sense of the evil of sin, and discovered the utmost aversion to it; longing to die that she might be delivered from it.
Now she could freely trust her all with God for time and eternity. And when I questioned her, how she could be willing to die, and leave her little infant; and what she thought would become of it in that case? She answered, “God will take care of it. It belongs to Him, He will take care of it.” Now she appeared to have the most humbling sense of her own meanness and unworthiness, her weakness and inability to preserve herself from sin, and to persevere in the way of holiness, crying, “If I live, I shall sin.” And I then thought I had never seen such an appearance of ecstasy and humility meeting in any one person in all my life before.
The consequents of this joy are no less desirable and satisfactory than its attendants. She since appears to be a most tender, broken-hearted, affectionate, devout, and humble Christian, as exemplary in life and conversation as any person in my congregation. May she still “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ.”
March 10. Toward night the Indians met together of their own accord, and sang, prayed, and discoursed of divine things among themselves. At which time there was much affection among them. Some who are hopefully gracious, appeared to be melted with divine things. And some others seemed much concerned for their souls. Perceiving their engagement and affection in religious exercises, I went among them, and prayed, and gave a word of exhortation; and observed two or three somewhat affected and concerned, who scarce ever appeared to be under any religious impressions before. It seemed to be a day and evening of divine power. Numbers retained the warm
impressions of divine things that had been made upon their minds the day before.
Lord’s day March 23. There being about fifteen strangers, adult persons, come among us in the week past – divers of whom had never been in any religious meeting till now -I thought it proper to discourse this day in a manner peculiarly suited to their circumstances and capacities; and accordingly attempted it from Hos. 13.9. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself,” &c. In the forenoon I opened, in the plainest manner I could, man’s apostasy and ruined state, after having spoken some things respecting the being and perfections of God, and His creation of man in a state of uprightness and happiness. In the afternoon endeavoured to open the glorious provision God has made for the redemption of apostate creatures, by giving His own dear Son to suffer for them, and satisfy divine justice on their behalf. – There was not that affection and concern in the assembly that has been common among us, although there was a desirable attention appearing in general, and even in most of the strangers.
Near sun-set I felt an uncommon concern upon my mind, especially for the poor strangers, that God had so much withheld His presence, and the powerful influence of His Spirit, from the assembly in the exercises of the day; and thereby denied them of that matter of conviction which I hoped they might have had. And in this frame I visited sundry houses, and discoursed with some concern and affection to divers persons particularly; but without much appearance of success, till I came to a house where divers of the strangers were; and there the solemn truths I discoursed of appeared to take effect, first upon some children, then upon divers adult persons that had been somewhat awakened before, and afterwards upon several of the pagan strangers,
I continued my discourse, with some fervency, till almost every one in the house was melted into tears; and divers wept aloud, and appeared earnestly concerned to obtain an interest in Christ. Upon this, numbers soon gathered from all the houses round about, and so thronged the place, that we were obliged to remove to the house where we usually meet for public worship. And the congregation gathering immediately, and many appeared remarkably affected, I discoursed some time from Luke 19.10. “For the Son of man is come to seek,” &c. Endeavouring to open the mercy, compassion, and concern of Christ for lost, helpless, and undone sinners. -There was much visible concern and affection in the assembly; and I doubt not but that a divine influence accompanied what was spoken to the hearts of many. There were five or six of the strangers, men and women, who appeared to be considerably awakened. And in particular one very rugged young man, who seemed as if nothing would move him, was now brought to tremble like the jailer, and weep for a long time.
The pagans that were awakened seemed at once to put off their
savage roughness and pagan manners, and became sociable, orderly, and humane in their carriage. When they first came, I exhorted my religious people to take pains with them (as they had done with other strangers from time to time) to instruct them in Christianity. But when some of them attempted something of that nature, the strangers would soon rise up and walk to other houses, in order to avoid the hearing of such discourses. Whereupon some of the serious persons agreed to disperse themselves into the several parts of the settlement.
So that wherever the strangers went, they met with some instructive discourse, and warm addresses respecting their souls’ concern. – But now there was no need of using policy in order to get an opportunity of conversing with some of them about their spiritual concerns; for they were so far touched with a sense of their perishing state, as made them tamely yield to the closest addresses that were made them, respecting their sin and misery, their need of an acquaintance with, and interest in, the great Redeemer.
Lord’s day, March 30. Discoursed from Matt. 25.31-40. There was a very considerable moving and affectionate melting in the assembly. I hope there were some real, deep, and abiding impressions of divine things made upon the minds of many. There was one aged man, newly come among us, who appeared to be considerably awakened, that never was touched with any concern for his soul before. – In the evening catechised. There was not that tenderness and melting engagement among God’s people that appeared the evening before, and many other times. They answered the questions distinctly and well, and were devout and attentive in divine service.
March 31. Called my people together, as I had done the Monday morning before, and discoursed to them again on the necessity and importance of their labouring industriously, in order to their living together, and enjoying the means of grace, &c. And having engaged in solemn prayer to God among them, for a blessing upon their attempts, I dismissed them to their work. – Numbers of them, both men and women, seemed to offer themselves willingly to this service; and some appeared affectionately concerned that God might go with them, and begin their little town for them; that by His blessing it might be a place comfortable for them and theirs, in regard both of procuring the necessaries of life, and of attending the worship of God.
April 25. Of late I apprehended that a number of persons in my congregation were proper subjects of the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, and that it might be seasonable speedily to administer it to them; and having taken advice of some of the reverend correspondents in this solemn affair, I accordingly proposed and appointed the next Lord’s day, with leave of Divine Providence, for the administration of this ordinance; and this day, as preparatory thereto, was set apart for solemn fasting and prayer. The design of this preparatory solemnity
was to implore the blessing of God upon our renewing covenant with Him and with one another, to walk together in the fear of God, in love and Christian fellowship: and to entreat that His presence might be with us in our designed approach to His table; as well as to humble ourselves before God on account of the apparent withdrawment (at least in a measure) of that blessed influence which has been so prevalent upon persons of all ages among us; as also on account of the rising appearance of carelessness, vanity, and vice, among some, who, some time since, appeared to be touched and affected with divine truths, and brought to some sensibility of their miserable and perishing state by nature. And that we might also importunately pray for the peaceable settlement of the Indians together in a body, that they might be a commodious congregation for the worship of God; and that God would blast and defeat all the attempts that were or might be made against that pious design.
The solemnity was observed and seriously attended, not only by those who proposed to communicate at the Lord’s table, but by the whole congregation universally. In the former part of the day, I endeavoured to open to my people the nature and design of a fast, as I had attempted more briefly to do before, and to instruct them in the duties of such a solemnity. In the afternoon, I insisted upon the special reasons there were for our engaging in these solemn exercises at this time; both in regard of the need we stood in of divine assistance, in order to a due preparation for that sacred ordinance some of us were proposing, with leave of Divine Providence, speedily to attend upon;
and also in respect of the manifest decline of God’s work here, as to the effectual conviction and conversion of sinners, there having been few of late deeply awakened out of a state of security. The worship of God was attended with great solemnity and reverence, with much tenderness and many tears, by those who appear to be truly religious: and there was some appearance of divine power upon those who had been awakened some time before, and who were still under concern.
After repeated prayer and attendance upon the word of God, I proposed to the religious people, with as much brevity and plainness as I could, the substance of the doctrine of the Christian faith, as I had Formerly done, previous to their baptism, and had their renewed cheerful assent to it. I then led them to a solemn renewal of their baptismal covenant, wherein they had explicitly and publicly given up themselves to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, avouching Him to be their God; and at the same time renouncing their heathenish vanities, their idolatrous and superstitious practices, and solemnly engaging to take the word of God, so far as it was, or might be, made known to them, for the rule of their lives, promising to walk together in love, to watch over themselves, and one another; to lead lives of seriousness and devotion, and to discharge the relative duties incumbent upon them
respectively, &c. This solemn transaction was attended with much ,gravity and seriousness; and at the same time with utmost readiness, freedom, and cheerfulness; and a religious union and harmony of soul seemed to crown the whole solemnity. I could not but think in the evening, that there had been manifest tokens of the divine presence with us in all the several services of the day; though it was also manifest there was not that concern among Christless souls that has often appeared here.
May 5. Visited my people again, and took care of their worldly concerns, giving them directions relating to their business. – I daily discover more and more of what importance it is like to be to their religious interests, that they become laborious and industrious, acquainted with the affairs of husbandry, and able, in a good measure,to raise the necessaries and comforts of life within themseslves; for their present method of living greatly exposes them to temptations of various kinds,
May 9. Preached from John 5.40. “And ye will not come to me,” &c. in the open wilderness; the Indians having as yet no house for public worship in this place, nor scarce any shelters for themselves. Divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and it was a season of solemnity, tenderness, and affection.
Baptized one man this day, (the conjurer, murderer, &c. mentioned in my Journal of August 8, 1745, and February 1, 1746), who appears to be such a remarkable instance of divine grace, that I cannot omit some brief account of him here. He lived near, and sometimes attended my meeting in, the Forks of Delaware for more than a year together; but was, like many others of them, extremely attached to strong drink, and seemed to be no ways reformed by the means I used with them for their instruction and conversion. At this time he likewise murdered a likely young Indian; which threw him into some kind of horror and desperation, so that he kept at a distance from me, and refused to hear me preach for several months together, till I had an opportunity of conversing freely with him, and giving him encouragement, that his sin might be forgiven for Christ’s sake; After which he again attended my meeting some times.
But that which was the worst of all his conduct, was his conjuration. He was one of them who are sometimes called powows among Indians;
and notwithstanding his frequent attendance upon my preaching, he still followed his old charms and juggling tricks, “giving out that himself was some great one, and to him they gave heed,” supposing him to be possessed of a great power. So that when I have instructed them respecting the miracles wrought by Christ in healing the sick, &c. and mentioned them as evidences of his divine mission, and the truth of his doctrines, they have quickly observed the wonders of that kind which this man had performed by his magic charms. Whence they had a high
opinion of him, and his superstitious notions, which seemed to be a fatal obstruction to some of them in regard of their receiving the gospel. And I have often thought it would be a great favour to the design of gospellizing these Indians, if God would take that wretch out of the world; for I had scarce any hope of his ever coming to good. But God, “whose thoughts are not as man’s thoughts,” has been pleased to take a much more desirable method with him, a method agreeable to His own merciful nature, and, I trust, advantageous to His own interest among the Indians, as well as effectual to the salvation of this poor soul. To God be the glory of it.
The first genuine concern for his soul that ever appeared in him, was excited by seeing my interpreter and his wife baptized at the Forks of Delaware, July 21, 1745. Which so prevailed upon him, that with the invitation of an Indian, who was a friend to Christianity, he followed me down to Crossweeksung in the beginning of August following, in order to hear me preach, and there continued for several weeks in the season of the most remarkable and powerful awakening among the Indians; at which time he was more effectually awakened, and brought under great concern for his soul. And then, he says, upon his “feeling the word of God in his heart,” as he expresses it, his spirit of conjuration left him entirely; that he had no more power of that nature since, than any other man living. And declares that he does not now so much as know how he used to charm and conjure; and that he could not do any thing of that nature if he was never so desirous of it.
He continued under convictions of his sinful and perishing state, and a considerable degree of concern for his soul, all the fall and former part of the winter past, but was not so deeply exercised till some time in January; and then the word of God took such hold upon him, that he was brought into great distress, and knew not what to do, nor where to turn himself. – He then told me, that when he used to hear me preach from time to time in the fall of the year, my preaching pricked his heart and made him very uneasy, but did not bring him to so great distress, because he still hoped he could do something for his own relief: but now, he said, I drove him up into “such a sharp corner,” that he had no way to turn, and could not avoid being in distress.
He continued constantly under the heavy burden and pressure of a wounded spirit, till at length he was brought into the acute anguish and utmost agony of soul, mentioned in my Journal of Feb. 1, which continued that night, and part of the next day. – After this, he was wrought to the utmost calmness and composure of mind, his trembling and heavy burden was removed, and he appeared perfectly sedate:
although he had, to his apprehensions, scarce any hope of salvation.
I observed him to appear remarkably composed, and thereupon asked him how he did? He replied, “It is done, it is done, it is all done now.” I asked him what he meant? He answered, “I can never do any more to
save myself; it is all done for ever, I can do no more.” I queried with him, whether he could not do a little more rather than to go to hell. He replied, “My heart is dead, I can never help myself.” I asked him, what he thought would become of him then? He answered, “I must go to hell.” I asked him if he thought it was right that God should send him to hell?
He replied, “O it is right. The devil has been in me ever since I was born.” I asked him if he felt this when he was in such great distress the evening before? He answered, “No, I did not then think it was right. I thought God would send me to hell, and that I was then dropping into it; but my heart quarrelled with God, and would not say it was right He should send me there. But now I know it is right, for I have always served the devil, and my heart has no goodness in it now, but is as bad as ever it was,” &c. – I thought I had scarce ever seen any person more effectually brought off from a dependence upon his own contrivances and endeavours for salvation, or more apparently to lie at the foot of sovereign mercy, than this man now did under these views of things.
In this frame of mind he continued for several days, passing sentence of condemnation upon himself, and constantly owning, that it would be right he should be damned, and that he expected this would be his portion for the greatness of his sins. And yet it was plain he had a secret hope of mercy, though imperceptible to himself, which kept him not only from despair, but from any pressing distress; so that instead of being sad and dejected, his very countenance appeared pleasant and agreeable.
While he was in this frame, he sundry times asked me when I would preach again, and seemed desirous to hear the word of God every day. I asked him why he wanted to hear me preach, seeing ‘his heart was dead, and all was done’? That “he could never help himself, and expected that he must go to hell?” He replied, “I love to hear you speak about Christ for all.” I added, But what good will that do you, if you must go to hell at last? – using now his own language with him; having before, from time to time, laboured in the best manner I could, to represent to him the excellency of Christ, His all-sufficiency and willingness to save lost sinners, and persons just in his case; although to no purpose, as to yielding him any special comfort. – He answered, ”I would have others come to Christ, if I must go to hell myself.” – It was remarkable, that he seemed to have a great love to the people of God, and nothing affected him so much as the thought of being separated from them. This seemed to be a very dreadful part of the hell to which he thought himself doomed. It was likewise remarkable, that in this season he was most diligent in the use of all means for his soul’s salvation; although he had the clearest view of the insufficiency of means to afford him help. And would frequently say, “That all he did signified nothing at all;” and yet was never more constant in doing, attending secret and family prayer daily, and surprisingly diligent and
attentive in hearing the word of God: so that he neither despaired of mercy, nor yet presumed to hope upon his own doings, but used means because appointed of God in order to salvation; and because he would wait upon God in his own way.
After he had continued in this frame of mind more than a week, while I was discoursing publicly he seemed to have a lively soul-refreshing view of the excellency of Christ, and the way of salvation by Him, which melted him into tears, and filled him with admiration, comfort, satisfaction, and praise to God. Since then he has appeared to be an humble, devout, and affectionate Christian; serious and exemplary in his conversation and behaviour, frequently complaining of his barrenness, his want of spiritual warmth, life, and activity, and yet frequently favoured with quickening and refreshing influences. And in all respects, so far as I am capable to judge, he bears the marks and characters of one “created anew in Christ Jesus to good works.”
His zeal for the cause of God was pleasing to me when he was with me at the Forks of Delaware in February last. There being an old Indian at the place where I preached, who threatened to bewitch me and my religious people who accompanied me there; this man presently challenged him to do his worst, telling him that himself had been a great conjurer as he, and that notwithstanding, as soon as he felt that word in his heart which theses people loved, (meaning the word of God), his power of conjuring immediately left him. – And so it would you, said he, if you did but once feel it in your heart; and you have no power to hurt them, nor so much as to touch one of them, &c – So that I may conclude my account of him by observin