FROM THE TIME OF HIS EXAMINATION BY THE CORRESPONDENTS OF THE SOCIETY FOR PROPAGATING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, AND BEING APPOINTED THEIR MISSIONARY, TO HIS FIRST ENTRANCE ON THE BUSINESS OF HIS MISSION AMONG THE INDIANS AT KAUNAUMEEK.
“Friday, Nov. 26. Had still a sense of my great vileness, and endeavoured as much as I could to keep alone. Oh, what a nothing, what dust and ashes am I!--Enjoyed some peace and comfort in spreading my complaints before the God of all grace.
“Saturday, Nov. 27. Committed my soul to God with some degree of comfort; left New York about nine in the morning; came away with a distressing sense still of my unspeakable unworthiness. Surely I may well love all my brethren; for none of them all is so vile as I; whatever they do outwardly, yet it seems to me none is conscious of so much guilt before God. Oh my leanness, my barrenness, my carnality, and past bitterness, and want of a gospel-temper! These things oppress my soul.--Rode from New York, thirty miles, to White Plains, and most of the way continued lifting up my heart to God for mercy and purifying grace: and spent the evening much dejected in spirit.”
The three next days he continued in this frame, in a great sense of his own vileness, with an evident mixture of melancholy, in no small degree; but had some intervals of comfort, and God's sensible presence with him.
“Wednesday, Dec. 1. My soul breathed after God, in sweet spiritual and longing desires of conformity to him; my soul was brought to rest itself and all on his rich grace, and felt strength and encouragement to do or suffer any thing that Divine Providence should allot me.--Rode about twenty miles from Stratfield to Newton.”
Within the space of the next nine days he went a journey from Newton to Haddam, his native town; and after staying there some days, returned again into the western part of Connecticut, and came to Southbury. In his account of the frames and exercises of his mind, during this space of time, are such things as these: frequent turns of dejection; a sense of his vileness, emptiness, and an unfathomable abyss of desperate wickedness in his heart, attended with a conviction that he had never seen but little of it; bitterly mourning over his barrenness, being greatly grieved that he could not live to God, to whom he owed his all ten thousand times, crying out, “My leanness, my leanness!” a sense of the meetness and suitableness of his lying in the dust beneath the feet of infinite majesty; fervency and ardour in prayer; longing to live to God; being afflicted with some impertinent trifling conversation that he heard; but enjoying sweetness in christian conversation.
“Saturday, Dec. 11. Conversed with a dear friend, to whom I had thought of giving a liberal education, and being at the whole charge of it, that he might be fitted for the gospel-ministry.† I acquainted him with my thoughts in that matter, and so left him to consider of it, till I should see him again. Then I rode to Bethlehem, came to Mr. Bellamy's lodgings, and spent the evening with him in sweet conversation and prayer. We recommended the concern of sending my friend to college to the God of all grace. Blessed be the Lord for this evening's opportunity together.
“Lord's day, Dec. 12. I felt, in the morning as if I had little or no power either to pray or preach; and felt a distressing need of divine help. I went to meeting trembling; but it pleased God to assist me in prayer and sermon. I think my soul scarce ever penetrated so far into the immaterial world, in any one prayer that ever I made, nor were my devotions ever so free from gross conceptions and imaginations framed from beholding material objects. I preached with some sweetness, from Matt. vi. 33. ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God,' &c.; and in the afternoon from Rom. xv. 30. ‘And now I beseech you, brethren,' &c. There was much affection in the assembly. This has been a sweet sabbath to me; and blessed be God, I have reason to think, that my religion is become more spiritual, by means of my late inward conflicts. Amen. May I always be willing that God should use his own methods with me!
“Monday, Dec. 13. Joined in prayer with Mr. Bellamy; and found sweetness and composure in parting with him, as he went a journey. Enjoyed some sweetness through the day; and just at night rode down to Woodbury.
“Tuesday, Dec. 14. Some perplexity hung on my mind; I was distressed last night and this morning, for the interest of Zion, especially on account of the false appearances of religion, that do but rather breed confusion, especially in some places. I cried to God for help, to enable me to bear testimony against those things, which instead of promoting, do but hinder the progress of vital piety. In the afternoon rode down to Southbury; and conversed again with my friend about the important affair of his pursuing the work of the ministry; and he appeared much inclined to devote himself to that work, if God should succeed his attempts to qualify himself for so great a work. In the evening I preached from 1 Thess. iv. 8. ‘He therefore that despiseth,' &c. and endeavoured, though with tenderness, to undermine false religion. The Lord gave me some assistance; but, however, I seemed so vile, I was ashamed to be seen when I came out of the meeting-house.
“Wednesday, Dec. 15. Enjoyed something of God to-day, both in secret and social prayer; but was sensible of much barrenness, and defect in duty, as well as my inability to help myself for the time to come, or to perform the work and business I have to do. Afterwards, felt much of the sweetness of religion, and the tenderness of the gospel-temper. I found a dear love to all mankind, and was much afraid lest some motion of anger or resentment should, some time or other, creep into my heart. Had some comforting soul-refreshing discourse with dear friends, just as we took our leave of each other; and supposed it might be likely we should not meet again till we came to the eternal world.* I doubt not, through grace, but that some of us shall have a happy meeting there, and bless God for this season, as well as many others. Amen.
* These gentlemen who examined Mr. Brainerd, were the correspondents in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, of the honourable Society in Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge; to whom was committed the management of their affairs in those parts, and who were now met at New York.
† Mr. Brainerd, having now undertaken the business of a missionary to the Indians, and expecting in a little time to leave his native country, to go among the savages into the wilderness, far distant, and spend the remainder of his life among them--and having some estate left him by his father, and thinking he should have no occasion for it among them, (though afterwards, as he told me, he found himself mistaken)--set himself to think which way he might spend it most to the glory of God; and no way presenting to his thoughts wherein he could do more good with it, than by being at the charge of educating some young person for the ministry, who appeared to be of good abilities, and well disposed, he fixed upon the person here spoken of to this end. Accordingly he was soon put to learning; and Mr. Brainerd continued to be at the charge of his education from year to year, so long as he lived, which was till this young man was carried through his third year in college.
“Thursday, Dec. 16. Rode down to Derby; and had some sweet thoughts on the road: especially on the essence of our salvation by Christ, from those words, Thou shalt call his name Jesus, &c.
“Friday, Dec. 17. Spent much time in sweet conversation on spiritual things with dear Mr. Humphreys. Rode to Ripton; spent some time in prayer with dear christian friends.
“Saturday, Dec. 18. Spent much time in prayer in the woods; and seemed raised above the things of the world: my soul was strong in the Lord of hosts; but was sensible of great barrenness.
“Lord's day, Dec. 19. At the sacrament of the Lord's supper, I seemed strong in the Lord; and the world, with all its frowns and flatteries, in a great measure disappeared, so that my soul had nothing to do with them: and I felt a disposition to be wholly and for ever the Lord's.--In the evening, enjoyed something of the divine presence; had a humbling sense of my vileness, barrenness, and sinfulness. Oh, it wounded me, to think of the misimprovement of time! God be merciful to me a sinner.
“Monday, Dec. 20. Spent this day in prayer, reading, and writing; and enjoyed some assistance, especially in correcting some thoughts on a certain subject; but had a mournful sense of my barrenness.
“Tuesday, Dec. 21. Had a sense of my insufficiency for any public work and business, as well as to live to God. I rode over to Derby, and preached there. It pleased God to give me very sweet assistance and enlargement, and to enable me to speak with a soft, tender power and energy.--We had afterwards a comfortable evening in singing and prayer. God enabled me to pray with as much spirituality and sweetness as I have done for some time: my mind seemed to be unclothed of sense and imagination, and was in a measure let into the immaterial world of spirits. This day was, I trust, through infinite goodness, made very profitable to a number of us, to advance our souls in holiness and conformity to God: the glory be to him for ever. Amen. How blessed it is to grow more and more like God.
“Wednesday, Dec. 22. Enjoyed some assistance in preaching at Ripton; but my soul mourned within me for my barrenness.
“Thursday, Dec. 23. Enjoyed, I trust, something of God this morning in secret. Oh how divinely sweet is it to come into the secret of his presence, and abide in his pavilion!--Took an affectionate leave of friends, not expecting to see them again for a very considerable time, if ever in this world. Rode with Mr. Humphreys to his house at Derby; spent the time in sweet conversation; my soul was refreshed and sweetly melted with divine things. Oh that I was always consecrated to God! Near night, I rode to New-Haven, and there enjoyed some sweetness in prayer and conversation, with some dear christian friends. My mind was sweetly serious and composed; but alas! I too much lost the sense of divine things.”
He continued much in the same frame of mind, and in like exercises, the two following days.
“Lord's day, Dec. 26. Felt much sweetness and tenderness in prayer, especially my whole soul seemed to love my worst enemies, and was enabled to pray for those that are strangers and enemies to God with a great degree of softness and pathetic fervour. In the evening, rode from New-Haven to Branford, after I had kneeled down and prayed with a number of dear christian friends in a very retired place in the woods, and so parted.
“Monday, Dec. 27. Enjoyed a precious season indeed; had a sweet melting sense of divine things, of the pure spirituality of the religion of Christ Jesus. In the evening, I preached from Matt. vi. 33. ‘But seek ye first,' &c. with much freedom, and sweet power and pungency: the presence of God attended our meeting. O the sweetness, the tenderness I felt in my soul! if ever I felt the temper of Christ, I had some sense of it now. Blessed be my God, I have seldom enjoyed a more comfortable and profitable day than this. O that I could spend all my time for God!
“Tuesday, Dec. 28. Rode from Branford to Haddam. In the morning, my clearness and sweetness in divine things continued; but afterwards my spiritual life sensibly declined.”
The next twelve days he was for the most part extremely dejected, discouraged, and distressed; and was evidently very much under the power of melancholy. There are from day to day most bitter complaints of exceeding vileness, ignorance, and corruption; an amazing load of guilt, unworthiness even to creep on God's earth, everlasting uselessness, fitness for nothing, &c. and sometimes expressions even of horror at the thoughts of ever preaching again. But yet in this time of great dejection, he speaks of several intervals of divine help and comfort.
The three next days, which were spent at Hebron and the Crank, (a parish in Lebanon,) he had relief, and enjoyed considerable comfort.
“Friday, Jan. 14, 1743. My spiritual conflicts to-day were unspeakably dreadful, heavier than the mountains and overflowing floods. I seemed enclosed, as it were, in hell itself: I was deprived of all sense of God, even of the being of a God; and that was my misery. I had no awful apprehensions of God as angry. This was distress the nearest akin to the damneds' torments, that I ever endured: their torment, I am sure, will consist much in a privation of God, and consequently of all good. This taught me the absolute dependence of a creature upon God the Creator, for every crumb of happiness it enjoys. Oh! I feel that if there is no God, though I might live for ever here, and enjoy not only this, but all other worlds, I should be ten thousand times more miserable than a toad. My soul was in such anguish I could not eat; but felt as I suppose a poor wretch would that is just going to the place of execution. I was almost swallowed up with anguish, when I saw people gathering together, to hear me preach. However, I went in that distress to the house of God, and found not much relief in the first prayer: it seemed as if God would let loose the people upon me to destroy me; nor were the thoughts of death distressing to me, like my own vileness. But afterwards, in my discourse from Deut. viii. 2. God was pleased to give me some freedom and enlargement, some power and spirituality; and I spent the evening somewhat comfortably.”
The two next days his comfort continues, and he seems to enjoy an almost continual sweetness of soul in the duties and exercises of religion and christian conversation. On Monday was a return of the gloom he had been under the Friday before. He rode to Coventry this day, and the latter part of the day had more freedom. On Tuesday he rode to Canterbury, and continued more comfortable.
“Wednesday, Jan. 19. [At Canterbury] In the afternoon preached the lecture at the meeting-house; felt some tenderness, and something of the gospel-temper: exhorted the people to love one another, and not to set up their own frames as a standard to try all their brethren by. But was much pressed, most of the day, with a sense of my own badness, inward impurity, and unspeakable corruption. Spent the evening in loving, christian conversation.
“Thursday, Jan. 20. Rode to my brother's house between Norwich and Lebanon; and preached in the evening to a number of people: enjoyed neither freedom nor spirituality, but saw myself exceeding unworthy.
“Friday, Jan. 21. Had great inward conflicts; enjoyed but little comfort. Went to see Mr. Williams of Lebanon, and spent several hours with him; and was greatly delighted with his serious, deliberate, and impartial way of discourse about religion.”
* It had been determined by the commissioners, who employed Mr. Brainerd as a missionary, that he should go as soon as might be conveniently to the Indians living near the Forks of Delaware river in Pennsylvania, and the Indians on Susquehannah river; which being far off, where also he would be exposed to many hardships and dangers, was the occasion of his taking leave of his friends in this manner.
The next day he was much dejected.
“Lord's day, Jan. 23. I scarce ever felt myself so unfit to exist, as now: saw I was not worthy of a place among the Indians, where I am going, if God permit: thought I should be ashamed to look them in the face, and much more to have any respect shown me there. Indeed I felt myself banished from the earth, as if all places were too good for such a wretch. I thought I should be ashamed to go among the very savages of Africa; I appeared to myself a creature fit for nothing, neither heaven nor earth.--None know, but those who feel it, what the soul endures that is sensibly shut out from the presence of God: alas! it is more bitter than death.”
On Monday he rode to Stoningtown, Mr. Fish's parish.--On Tuesday he expresses considerable degrees of spiritual comfort and refreshment.
“Wednesday, Jan. 26. Preached to a pretty large assembly at Mr. Fish's meeting-house: insisted on humility, and stedfastness in keeping God's commands; and that through humility we should prefer one another in love, and not make our own frames the rule by which we judge others. I felt sweetly calm, and full of brotherly love; and never more free from party spirit. I hope some good will follow; that Christians will be freed from false joy, and party zeal, and censuring one another.”
On Thursday, after considerable time spent in prayer and christian conversation, he rode to New London.
“Friday, Jan. 28. Here I found some fallen into extravagances; too much carried away with a false zeal and bitterness. Oh, the want of a gospel-temper is greatly to be lamented. Spent the evening in conversing about some points of conduct in both ministers and private Christians; but did not agree with them. God had not taught them with briers and thorns to be of a kind disposition towards mankind.”
On Saturday he rode to East Haddam, and spent the three following days there. In that space of time he speaks of his feeling weanedness from the world, a sense of the nearness of eternity, special assistance in praying for the enlargement of Christ's kingdom, times of spiritual comfort, &c.
“Wednesday, Feb. 2. Preached my farewell sermon, last night, at the house of an aged man, who had been unable to attend on the public worship for some time. This morning spent the time in prayer, almost wherever I went; and having taken leave of friends, I set out on my journey towards the Indians; though I was to spend some time at East Hampton on Long Island, by leave of the commissioners who employed me in the Indian affair;* and being accompanied by a messenger from East-Hampton, we travelled to Lyme. On the road I felt an uncommon pressure of mind: I seemed to struggle hard for some pleasure in some here below, and seemed loth to give up all for gone; saw I was evidently throwing myself into all hardships and distresses in my present undertaking. I thought it would be less difficult to lie down in the grave; but yet I chose to go, rather than stay.--Came to Lyme that night.”
He waited the two next days for a passage over the Sound, and spent much of the time in inward conflicts and dejection, but had some comfort.
On Saturday he crossed the Sound, and landed at Oyster-Ponds on Long Island, and travelled from thence to East Hampton. And the seven following days he spent there, for the most part, under extreme dejection and gloominess of mind, with great complaints of darkness, ignorance, &c. Yet his heart appears to have been constantly engaged in the great business of religion, much concerned for the interest of religion in East Hampton, and praying and labouring much for it.
“Saturday, Feb. 12. Enjoyed a little more comfort; was enabled to meditate with some composure of mind; and especially in the evening, found my soul more refreshed in prayer, than at any time of late; my soul seemed to ‘take hold of God's strength,' and was comforted with his consolations. O how sweet are some glimpses of divine glory! how strengthening and quickening!
“Lord's day, Feb. 13. At noon under a great degree of discouragement; knew not how it was possible for me to preach in the afternoon. I was ready to give up all for gone; but God was pleased to assist me in some measure. In the evening, my heart was sweetly drawn out after God, and devoted to him.“
The next day he had comfort and dejection intermingled.
“Tuesday, Feb. 15. Early in the day I felt some comfort; afterwards I walked into a neighbouring grove, and felt more as a stranger on earth, I think, than ever before; dead to any of the enjoyments of the world, as if I had been dead in a natural sense.--In the evening, had divine sweetness in secret duty: God was then my portion, and my soul rose above those deep waters, into which I have sunk so low of late.--My soul then cried for Zion, and had sweetness in so doing.”
This sweet frame continued the next morning; but afterwards his inward distress returned.
“Thursday, Feb. 17. In the morning found myself comfortable, and rested on God in some measure.--Preached this day at a little village belonging to East Hampton; and God was pleased to give me his gracious presence and assistance, so that I spake with freedom, boldness, and some power. In the evening, spent some time with a dear christian friend; and felt serious, as on the brink of eternity. My soul enjoyed sweetness in lively apprehensions of standing before the glorious God: prayed with my dear friend with sweetness, and discoursed with the utmost solemnity. And truly it was a little emblem of heaven itself.--I find my soul is more refined and weaned from a dependence on my frames and spiritual feelings.
“Friday, Feb. 18. Felt something sweetly most of the day, and found access to the throne of grace. Blessed be the Lord for any intervals of heavenly delight and composure, while I am engaged in the field of battle. O that I might be serious, solemn, and always vigilant, while in an evil world! Had some opportunity alone to-day, and found some freedom in study. O, I long to live to God!
“Saturday, Feb. 19. Was exceeding infirm to-day, greatly troubled with pain in my head and dizziness, scarce able to sit up. However, enjoyed something of God in prayer, and performed some necessary studies. I exceedingly long to die; and yet, through divine goodness, have felt very willing to live, for two or three days past.
“Lord's day, Feb. 20. I was perplexed on account of my carelessness; thought I could not be suitably concerned about the important work of the day, and so was restless with my easiness.--Was exceeding infirm again to-day; but the Lord strengthened me, both in the outward and inward man, so that I preached with some life and spirituality, especially in the afternoon, wherein I was enabled to speak closely against selfish religion, that loves Christ for his benefits, but not for himself.”
During the next fortnight, it appears that, for the most part, he enjoyed much spiritual peace and comfort. In his diary for this space of time are expressed such things as these; mourning over indwelling sin and unprofitableness; deadness to the world; longing after God, and to live to his glory; heart-melting desires after his eternal home; fixed reliance on God for his help; experience of much divine assistance both in the private and public exercises of religion; inward strength and courage in the service of God; very frequent refreshment, consolation, and divine sweetness in meditation, prayer, preaching, and christian conversation. And it appears by his account, that this space of time was filled up with great diligence and earnestness in serving God, in study, prayer, meditation, preaching, and privately instructing and counselling.
“Monday, March 7. This morning when I arose, I found my heart go forth after God in longing desires of conformity to him, and in secret prayer found myself sweetly quickened and drawn out in praises to God for all he had done to and for me, and for all my inward trials and distresses of late. My heart ascribed glory, glory, glory to the blessed God! and bid welcome to all inward distress again, if God saw meet to exercise me with it. Time appeared but an inch long, and eternity at hand; and I thought I could with patience and cheerfulness bear any thing for the cause of God; for I saw that a moment would bring me to a world of peace and blessedness. My soul, by the strength of the Lord, rose far above this lower world, and all the vain amusements and frightful disappointments of it. Afterwards, had some sweet meditation on Gen. v. 24. ‘And Enoch walked with God,' &c.--This was a comfortable day to my soul.”
* The reason why the commissioners or correspondents did not order Mr. Brainerd to go immediately to the Indians, and enter on his business as a missionary, was, that the winter was not judged to be a convenient season for him first to go out into the wilderness, and enter on the difficulties and hardships he must there be exposed to.
The next day he seems to have continued in a considerable degree of sweetness and fervency in religion.
“Wednesday, March 9. Endeavoured to commit myself and all my concerns to God. Rode sixteen miles to Mantauk,* and had some inward sweetness on the road; but something of flatness and deadness after I came there and had seen the Indians. I withdrew, and endeavoured to pray, but found myself awfully deserted and left, and had an afflicting sense of my vileness and meanness. However, I went and preached from Isa. liii. 10. ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him,' &c. Had some assistance; and, I trust, something of the divine presence was among us. In the evening, I again prayed and exhorted among them, after having had a season alone, wherein I was so pressed with the blackness of my nature, that I thought it was not fit for me to speak so much as to Indians.”
The next day he returned to East Hampton; was exceeding infirm in body through the remaining part of this week; but speaks of assistance and enlargement in study and religious exercises, and of inward sweetness and breathing after God.
“Lord's day, March 13. At noon I thought it impossible for me to preach, by reason of bodily weakness and inward deadness. In the first prayer I was so weak that I could hardly stand; but in the sermon God strengthened me, so that I spake near an hour and a half with sweet freedom, clearness, and some tender power, from Gen. v. 24. ‘And Enoch walked with God.' I was sweetly assisted to insist on a close walk with God, and to leave this as my parting advice to God's people here, that they should walk with God. May the God of all grace succeed my poor labours in this place!
“Monday, March 14. In the morning was very busy in preparation for my journey, and was almost continually engaged in ejaculatory prayer. About ten, took leave of the dear people of East Hampton; my heart grieved and mourned, and rejoiced at the same time; rode near fifty miles to a part of Brook-Haven, and lodged there, and had refreshing conversation with a christian friend.”
In two days more he reached New York; but complains of much desertion and deadness on the road. He stayed one day in New York, and on Friday went to Mr. Dickinson's at Elizabeth-Town. His complaints are the same as on the two preceding days.
“Saturday, March 19. Was bitterly distressed under a sense of my ignorance, darkness, and unworthiness; got alone, and poured out my complaint to God in the bitterness of my soul.--In the afternoon, rode to Newark, and had some sweetness in conversation with Mr. Burr, and in praying together. O blessed be God for ever and ever, for any enlivening and quickening seasons.
“Lord's day, March 20. Preached in the forenoon: God gave me some assistance and sweetness, and enabled me to speak with real tenderness, love, and impartiality. In the evening, preached again; and, of a truth, God was pleased to assist a poor worm. Blessed be God, I was enabled to speak with life, power, and desire of the edification of God's people; and with some power to sinners. In the evening, I felt spiritual and watchful, lest my heart should by any means be drawn away from God. Oh, when I shall come to that blessed world, where every power of my soul will be incessantly and eternally wound up in heavenly employments and enjoyments, to the highest degree!”
On Monday he went to Woodbridge, where he speaks of his being with a number of ministers;† and, the day following, of his travelling part of the way towards New York. On Wednesday he came to New York. On Thursday he rode near fifty miles, from New York to North-Castle. On Friday went to Danbury. Saturday, to New Milford. On the sabbath he rode five or six miles to the place near Kent in Connecticut, called Scaticoke, where dwell a number of Indians,‡ and preached to them. On Monday, being detained by the rain, he tarried at Kent. On Tuesday he rode from Kent to Salisbury. Wednesday he went to Sheffield. Thursday, March 31, he went to Mr. Sergeant's at Stockbridge. He was dejected and very disconsolate, through the main of this journey from New Jersey to Stockbridge; and especially on the last day his mind was overwhelmed with exceeding gloominess and melancholy.