*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 9th of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
I try to stay away from hyperbole, but today I’m willing to get close to the edge. Today we memorialize a man who died on this day in 1747 at the age of 29. And, if you’ve been listening you might recognize the man who saved his ministry: future first President of Princeton Jonathan Dickinson. And the man in whose house he was ministered to and died was another future president of Princeton: Jonathan Edwards. And so you might know that this man, who I will suggest is the most significant missionary in modern history: David Brainerd.
Here are the main beats of his life:
Born in 1718 in Connecticut he lost both of his parents early in his teenage years and suffered from what appears to be something like a deep depression that would be interrupted with flights of brilliant mania. He suffered from Tuberculosis. He went to Yale but was kicked out of college and thus made ineligible for the ministry. Before he died at 29 he was engaged to Jonathan Edwards's daughter and he gave her tuberculosis and she died soon after he did. But it was Jonathan Edwards who was so enamored with the young missionary to the Delaware Indians he edited his journals, had them published, and this would become the best-selling missionary book of the century. Of all of his popular works, Edwards's best-selling book was this one, full title: “An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd”. William Carey and Adoniram Judson as well as just about everyone in their traditions has carried with them, their Brainerd book with their Bible.
Brainerd’s life was wholly caught up in the First Great Awakening and the New Side/Old Side debates about revivals and their new ecstatic worship practices. Brainerd had been attending Yale when that college was doing everything it could to quell the disorderly revivals and the New Side. When Brainerd was said to have made a few off-handed remarks against the “Old Side” faculty he was dismissed from the college. This enraged the moderates: chief amongst them being Jonathan Dickinson. Dickinson helped Brainerd work with the Scottish Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He would be ordained and work as a missionary. He recorded the revivals he lead amongst the Delaware. It would be natural that a New England New Sider with a desire to minister to the indigenous would connect with Jonathan Edwards.
But work in the wilderness did not suit the weak physical makeup of Brainerd. Upon falling ill he went to Elizabethtown, New Jersey to stay with the Dickinsons. In the Spring of 1747, he made a turn for worse and went back to New England to convalesce with Jonathan Edwards. It was on this, the 9th of October in 1747 that Brainerd succumbed to his illness. Despite his short and tumultuous life, the 29-year-old frail missionary would be memorialized 2 years later with Edward’s account of his life through his journals.
The last word for today comes from John 4:
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[f] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 9th of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite “sides” include New, Old, B, Side-by, and mashed potatoes. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who sometimes enjoys the creamed spinach. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.