« PrejšnjaNaprej »
him to despondency, is no just ground to suspect his extraordinary devotion to have been only the fruit of a warm imagination. All who have well observed mankind, will readily grant that many of those who by their natural constitution or temper, are most disposed to dejection, are not the most susceptive of lively and strong impressions on their imagination, or the most subject to those vehement affections, which are the fruits of such impressions. Many who are of a very gay and sanguine natural temper are vastly more so; and if their af fections are turned into a religious channel, are much more exposed to enthusiasm than many of the former. As to BRAINERD notwithstanding his inclination to despondency, he was evidently one of those who usually are the farthest from a teeming imagination; being of a penetrating genius, of clear thought, of close reasoning, and a very exact judgment; as all know who knew him. As he had a great in sight into human nature, and was very discerning and judicious in general; so he excelled in his judgment and knowledge in divinity, but especially in experimental religion. He most accurately distinguished between real, solid piety, and enthusiasm ; between those af fections that are rational and scriptural-having their foundation in light and judgment-and those that are founded in whimsical conceits, strong impressions on the imagination, and vehement emotions of the animal spirits. He was exceedingly sensible of men's exposedness to these things; how much they had prevailed, and what multitudes had been deceived by them; of their pernicious consequences and the fearful mischief they had done in the Christian world. He greatly abhorred such a religion, and was abundant in bearing testimony against it, living and dying; and was quick to discern when any thing of that nature arose; though in its first buddings, and appearing under the most fair and plausible disguises He had a talent for describing the various workings of this imaginary enthusiastic religionevincing its falseness and vanity, and demonstrating the great difference between this, and true spiritual devotion-which I scarcely ever knew equalled in any person.
His judiciousness did not only appear in distinguishing among the experiences of others, but also among the various exercises of his own mind; particularly in discerning what within himself was to be laid to the score of melancholy; in which he exceeded all melancholy persons that ever I was acquainted with. This was doubtless owing to a peculiar strength in his judgment; for it is a rare thing indeed, that melancholy people are sensible of their own disease, and convinced that such things are to be ascribed to it, as are its genuine operations and fruits. BRAINERD did not obtain that degree of skill at once, but gradually; as the reader may discern by the following account of his life. In the former part of his religious course, he imputed much of that kind of gloominess of mind, and those dark thoughts, to spiritual desertion, which in the latter part of his life he was abundantly sensible, were owing to the disease of melancholy; accordingly he often expressly speaks of them in his diary, as arising from this cause. He often in conversation spoke of the difference between melancholy, and godly sorrow, true humiliation, and spiritual discretion, and the great danger of mistaking the one for the
other, and the very hurtful nature of melancholy; discoursing with great judgment upon it. and doubtless much more judiciously for what he knew by his own experience.
But not to argue from BRAINERD's strength of judgment merely, it is apparent in fact, that he was not a person of a warm imagination. His inward experiences, whether in his convictions or his conversion, and his religious views and impressions through the course of his life, were not excited by strong and lively images formed in his imagination; nothing at all appears of it in his diary from beginning to end. He told me on his death-bed, that although once, when he was very young in years and experience, he was deceived into a high opinion of such things-looking on them as superior attainments in religion, beyond what he had ever arrived at-was ambitious of them, and earnestly sought them; yet he never could attain them. He moreover declared, that he never in his life had a strong impression on his imagination, of any outward form, external glory, or any thing of that nature; which kind of impressions abound among enthusiastic people.
AS BRAINERD's religious impressions, views, and affections in their nature were vastly different from enthusiasm; so were their effects in him as contrary to it as possible. Nothing, like enthusiasm, puffs men up with a high conceit of their own wisdom, holiness, eminence, and sufficiency; and makes them so bold, forward assuming, and arrogant. But the reader will see that BRAINERD's religion constantly disposed him to a most humble estimation of himself, and abasing sense of his own sinfulness, unprofitableness. and ignorance; looking on himself as worse than others; disposing him to universal benevolence and meekness; in honour to prefer others, and to treat all with kindness and respect. And when melancholy prevailed, and though the effects of it were very prejudicial to him, yet it had not the effects of enthusiasm; but operated by dark and discouraging thoughts of himself, as ignorant, wicked, and wholly unfit for the work of the ministry, or even to be among mankind. Indeed, at the time just mentioned, when he had not learned well to distinguish between enthusiasm and solid religion, he joined, and kept company with some who were tinged with no small degree of the former. For a season, he partook with them in a degree, of their dispositions and behaviours; though, as was observed before, he could not obtain those things wherein their enthusiasm itself consisted, and so could not become like them in that respect, however he erroneously desired and sought it. But certainly it is not at all to be wondered at, that a youth, a young convert one who had his heart so swallowed up in religion, and who so earnestly desired its flourishing state-and who had so little opportunity for reading, observation, and experienceshould for a while be dazzled and deceived with the glaring appearances of mistaken devotion and zeal; especially, considering the extraordinary circumstances of that day. He told me on his death bed, that while he was in these circumstances, he was out of his element and did violence to himself, while complying in his conduct with persons of a fierce and imprudent zeal, from his great veneration of some whom he looked upon as better than himself. So that it
would be very unreasonable that his error at that time should nevertheless be esteemed a just ground of prejudice against the whole of his religion, and his character in general; especially considering, how greatly his mind was soon changed, and how exceedingly he afterwards lamented his error, and abhorred himself for his imprudent zeal and misconduct at that time, even to the breaking of his heart, and almost to the overbearing of his natural strength; and how much of a Christian spirit he showed, in condemning himself for that misconduct, as the reader will see.
What has now been mentioned of BRAINERD, is so far from being a just ground of prejudice against what is related in the following account of his life, that, if duly considered, it will render the history the more serviceable. For by his thus joining for a season with enthusiasts, he had a more full and intimate acquaintance with what belonged to that sort of religion; and so was under better advantages to judge of the difference between that and what he finally approved, and strove to his utmost to promote, in opposition to it. In his testimony against it, and the spirit and behaviour of those wh are influenced by it. he also speaks from impartial conviction, and not from prejudice; because he thus openly condemns his own former opinions and conduct, on account of which he had greatly suffered from his opposers, and for which some continued to reproach him as long as he lived.
Another imperfection in BRAINERD, which may be observed in the following account of his life, was his being excessive in his labours ; not taking due care to proportion his fatigues to his strength Indeed, the case was very often such, by the seeming calls of Providence, as made it extremely difficult for to avoid doing more than his strength would well admit of; yea, his circumstances and the business of his mission among the Indians, were such, that great fatigues and hardships were altogether inevitable. However, he was finally convinced, that he had erred in this matter, and that he ought to have taken more thorough care, and been more resolute to withstand temptation to such degrees of labour as injured his health; and accordingly warned his brother, who succeeds him in his mission, to be careful to avoid this error.
Besides the imperfections already mentioned, it is readily allowed that there were some imperfections which ran through his whole life, and were mixed with all his religious affections and exercises; some mixture of what was natural, with that which was spiritual; as it evermore is in the best saints in this world. Doubtless, natural temper had some influence in the religious exercises and experiences of BRAINERD, as it most apparently had in those of David and Peter, of John and Paul. There was undoubtedly very often some mixture of melancholy with true godly sorrow, and real Christian humility; some mixture of the natural fire of youth, with his holy zeal for God; and some influence of natural principles, mixed with grace in various other respects, as it ever was and ever will be with the saints, while on this side heaven. Perhaps none were more sensible of BRAINERD's imperfections than himself; or could distinguish more accurately than he, between what was natural, and what was spiritual. It
is easy for the judicious reader to observe, that his graces ripened, that the religious exercises of his heart became more and more pure, and he more and more distinguishing in his judgment, the longer ho lived. He had much to teach and purify him, and he failed not to make his advantage.
Notwithstanding all these imperfections every pious and judicious reader will re dily acknowledge, that what is here set before him, is a remarkable instance of true and eminent piety, in heart and practice-tending greatly to confirm the reality of vital religion, and the power of godliness;-that it is most worthy of imitation, and in many ways calculated to promote the spiritual benefit of the careful observer.
The reader should be aware, that what BRAINERD wrote in his diary out of which the following account of his life is chiefly taken, was written only for his own private use; and not to obtain honour and applause in the world, nor with any design that the world should ever see it, either while he lived, or after his death; except a few things which he wrote in a dying state, after he had been persuaded. with difficulty, not entirely to suppress all his private writings. He showed himself almost invincibly averse to the publishing of any part of his diary after his death; and when he was thought to be dying at Boston, gave the most strict, peremptory orders to the contrary. But being by some of his friends there, prevailed upon to withdraw so strict and absolute a prohibition, he was finally pleased to yield so far, as that his papers should be left in my hands, that I might dispose of them as I thought would be most for God's glory, and the interest of religion."
But a few days before his death, he ordered some part of his diary to be destroyed, which renders the account of his life. the less complete. And there are some parts of his diary here, left out for brevity's sake, which would, I am sensible, have been a great advantage to the history, if they had been inserted; particularly the account of his wonderful success among the Indians; which for substance, is the same in his private diary with that which has already been made public. in the journal he kept by order of the society in Scotland, for their information. That account, I am of opinion, would be more entertaining and more profitable, if it were published as it is written in his diary, in connexion with his secret religion, and the inward exercises of his mind, and also with the preceding and following parts of the story of his life. But because that account has been published already, I have therefore omitted that part. However, this defect may in a great measure, be made up to the reader, by the public journal. But it is time to end this preface, that the reader may be no longer detained from the history itself.
* The extracts in the Journal, are in this edition for the first time incorporated with the rest of the Diary.
From his birth, to the time when he began to study for
DAVID BRAINERD was born April 20, 1718, at Haddam, in Connecticut. His father was Hezekiah Brainerd, Esq.; one of his Majesty's council for that colony; who was the son of Daniel Brainerd, Esq.; a justice of the peace, and a deacon of the Church of Christ in Haddam. His mother was Dorothy Hobart, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Hobart; who preached a while at Topsfield, then removed to Hempstead on LongIsland, and afterwards-by reason of numbers turning Quakers, and many others being so irreligious that they would do nothing towards the support of the gospel-settled in the work of the ministry at Haddam; where he died, in the 85th year of his age. He went to public worship in the forenoon, and died in his chair between meetings. This Rev. gentleman was a son of the Rev. Peter Hobart; who was, first, minister of the gospel at Hingham, in the county of Norfolk, in England; and owing to the persecution of the Puritans, removed with his family to New-England, and was settled in the ministry at Hingham, in Massachusetts. He had five sons, Joshua, Jeremiah, Gershom, Japheth, and Nehemiah. Joshua was minister at Southold, on Long-Island. Jeremiah was David Brainerd's grandfather. Gershom was minister of Groton, in Connecticut. Japheth was a physician; he went as surgeon of a ship to England, before the time of taking his second degree at college, and designed to go from thence to the East Indies; but never was heard of more. Nehemiah was fellow of Harvard college, and afterwards minister at Newton in Massachusetts.-The mother of Dorothy Hobart was a daughter of the Rev. Samuel Whiting, minister of the gospel, first at Boston, in Lincolnshire, and afterwards at Lynn in Massachusetts, New England. He had three sons, who were ministers of the gospel.
DAVID BRAINERD was the third son of his parents. They had five sons and four daughters. Their eldest son is Heze