1718 - 1746
Missionary to Native American Indiansby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“A life well lived”. What does that vaguely familiar phrase really mean? What determines whether a lifetime was spent “well”? If you went and took a poll, many would say that life well lived is a long-lived life, as well as one lived comfortably, richly, and successfully. That, however, is not true at all. In fact, there are many examples of people who have lived a relatively short life by human standards and have still left a legacy, whether materialistically or spiritually. The famous Austrian composer Wolfgang A. Mozart, for example, died when he was still in his thirties, at an age many would consider young. Yet even today no one would argue that he was one of the greatest composers and musicians of all time. Jesus Christ, in similarity, spent only thirty-three years on this earth. Yet, his life, death, and resurrection have changed the hope of all humanity.
On April 20, 1718, a baby was born into the world that would become another example of a short life well lived. It took place in Colonial America, near a town called Haddam, Connecticut. His days on earth were short; yet, he is still today a role model for all Christians to follow. The name of this baby boy was David Brainerd. He was the sixth of nine children in the home of Hezekiah and Dorothy Mason Brainerd. This family was a very devout Puritan family, and David’s great grandfather of a famous pastor. So little David was raised up in their country house with strict rules follow. These included everyday devotions and private fasting.
However, David Brainerd’s childhood was not happy for long. When he was only nine years old, his father died. It hit David pretty hard, because at that age, he was very close to his father. However, things did not get brighter. Just five years later, when David was fourteen, his mother died, leaving him and his eight brothers and sisters as orphans. Not only did his parents die early; four or five of his siblings would later die in their early thirties’ or younger. This seemed like a foreshadowing of what would later happen to him as well.
After the death of his parents, David moved to East Haddam, where he lived with his older sister, Jerusha, for a few years. Then, when he turned nineteen, he moved to work at a farm that he had inherited. However, David knew that this was not where his heart or mind was. So he moved back to Haddam, where he studied with the Pastor Phineas Fiske. There, David studied the Bible very seriously. Soon, when Pastor Fiske died, he started praying regularly and fasting often, in his search to be at peace with God.
This all led to his ultimate conversion and salvation on Sunday, July 12, 1739. It was half an hour before sunset, as David was in a lonely, dark grove trying to pray. Suddenly, he felt an “unspeakable glory” that seemed to open in his soul. David was so captivated that he suddenly had a desire to seek God’s kingdom. It was then that David asked Christ to enter his heart and be his Savior. Two months later, at the age of twenty-one, David entered Yale University to begin preparing for the ministry. Not long after he enrolled, he found out that he had contracted tuberculosis (which he would die from in only seven years).
In his third year at Yale, David was overhead by another student, saying about a tutor, “he has no more grace than his chair”. This was reported to the faculty, and when David refused to publicly confess this, he was expelled. This took place in the February of 1742, and it was something he would never forget. For the next couple of months, David had a deep feeling of bitterness and of disappointment because of his expulsion. But then, he started praying very fervently to God about how God wanted to work in his life. He also dedicated himself to living his life for God’s glory. Not long after his expulsion from Yale, David started preaching to a small congregation in Woodbury, Connecticut.
A very important day in David Brainerd’s life was on August 12, 1742, when he spoke for the first time to Indians. This led to him being asked to become a member of the ministry to the Indians. Again, he prayed about it to see whether this was God’s will for him. Finally, on March 25, 1742, David Brainerd left his church to become a full time missionary. This is what he is known for, and how he left his legacy. In these short four or five years, David preached to Indians, taught them English, and served them with a really caring heart. Hundreds of them were won over to salvation and baptized. Because of the lack of food and medicine, he again became very ill with tuberculosis. David sometimes felt a lot of pain as he preached, yet he always prayed to God for strength and tried to make himself radiate joy.
However, on October 9, 1746, David’s body couldn’t take it any more. He died in his own home. His last words were "He will come, and will not tarry. I shall soon be in glory; soon be with God and His angels." Jonathan Edwards, the famous American reformer, conducted his funeral.
What is the moral of this story? David Brainerd taught a lesson that should be learned by all Christians. Your life doesn’t have to be long in order for you to leave a mark on history. David did not let his hard times, the deaths, the sickness, the expulsion bring him down. Instead, he trusted in God and did his will. In his last four years, he was able to impact so many people. Today, his legacy still lives on today to show the world the hope that comes through following God’s will. The life of David Brainerd is without a doubt a life well lived.
Curtis, Ken. David Brainerd: One Continual Flame for God. Christian History Institute. 2004, April 13.
< http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps079.shtml >
Harrison, Eugene Myers. Aflame for God. Wholesome Words. 2004, April 13.
< http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/biobrainerd2.html >
Reese, Edward. The Life and Ministry of David Brainerd. Wholesome Words. 2004,
< http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biobrainerd.html >
Shelton, Don O. Chronological Events of David Brainerd’s Life. Wholesome
Words. 2004, April 3.
< http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/biobrainerd5.html >
The National Cyclopædia of American Biography. David Brainerd Missionary.
Wholesome Words. 2004, April 13.
< http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/biobrainerd3.html >