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CLOSING SCENE OF THE LIFE
REV. DAVID BRAINERD. .
MR. BRAINERD, before he left Boston, had occasion to bear a very full, plain, and open testimony against that opinion, that the essence of saving faith lies in believing that Christ died for me in particular, and that this is the first act of faith in a true believer's closing with Christ.... He did it in a long conference he had with a gentleman, that has very publicly and strenuously appeared to defend that tenet. He had this discourse with him in the presence of a number of considerable persons, who came to visit Mr. Brainerd before he left the town, and to take their leave of him. In which debate he made this plain declaration, at the same time confirming what he said by many arguments, that the essence of saving faith was wholly left out of that definition of saving faith which that gentleman has published; and that the faith which he had defined, had nothing of God in it, nothing above nature, nor indeed above the power of the devils ; and that all such as had this faith, and had no better, though they might have this to never so high a degree, would surely perish..... And he declared also, that he never had greater assurance of the falseness of the principles of those that maintained such a faith, and of their dangerous and destructive tendency, or a more affecting sense of the great delusion and misery of those that depended on getting to heaven by such a faith, while they had no better, than he lately had when he was supposed to be at the point to die, and expected every minute to pass into eternity Mr. Brainerd's discourse at this time, and the forcible reasonings by which he confirmed what he asserted, appeared to be greatly to the satisfaction of those present ; as
several of them took occasion expressly to manifest to him, before they took leave of him.
When this conversation was ended, having bid an affection: ate farewell to his friends, he set out in the cool of the after. noon, on his journey to Northampton, attended by his brother, and my daughter that went with him to Boston ; and would have been accompanied out of the town by a number of gentlemen, besides that honorable person who gave him his company for some miles on that occasion, as a testimony of their esteem and respect, had not his aversion to any thing of pomp and shew prevented it.
Saturday, July 25.....I arrived here at Northamplon ; hav, ing set out from Boston on Monday, about four o'clock, P. M, In this journey, I rode about sixteen miles a day, one day with another. I was sometimes extremely tired and faint on the road, so that it seemed impossible for me to proceed any fur. ther. At other times I was considerably better, and felt some freedom both of body and mind.
Lord's day, July 26..... This day I saw clearly, that I should never be happy ; yea, that God himself could not make me happy, unless I could be in a capacity to please and glorify him forever: Take away this, and admit me into all the fine heavens that can be conceived of by men or angels, and I should still be miserable forever,
Though he bad so far revived, as to be able to travel thus far, yet he manifested no expectation of recovery : He suppos: ed, as his physician did, that his being brought so near to death at Boston, was owing to the breaking of ulcers in his lungs : He told me, that he had had several such ill turns before, only not to so high a degree, but as he supposed, owing to the same cause, viz. the breaking of ulcers; and that he was brought lower and lower every time ; and it appeared to him, that in his last sickness, in Boston, he was brought as low as it was possible and yet live ; and that he had not the least expecta: tion of surviving the next return of this breaking of ulcers : But still appeared perfectly calm in the prospect of death.
On Wednesday morning, the week after he came to Northampton, he took leave of his brother Israel, as never expecte ing to see him again in this world ; he now setting out from hence on his journey to Newhaven.
When Mr. Brainerd came hither, he had so much strength as to be able, from day to day, to ride out two or three miles, and to return; and sometimes to pray in the family ; but from this time he gradually, but sensibly, decayed, and became weaker and weaker.
While he was here, his conversation from first to last was much on the same subjects as it had been when in Boston : He was much in speaking of the nature of true religion of heart and practice, as distinguished from its various counterfeits ; expressing his great concern, that the latter did so much prevail in many places,
He often manifested his great abhorrence of all such doctrines and principles in relig, ion, as in any wise savored of, and had any, though but a remote tendency to Antinomianism ; of all such notions, as seemed to diminish the necessity of holiness of life, or to abate men's regard to the commands of God, and a strict, dil. igent, and universal practice of virtue and piety, under a pretence of depreciating our works, and magnifying God's free grace. He spake often, with much detestation, of such ex. periences and pretended discoveries and joys, as have nothing of the nature of sanctification in them, and do not tend to strictness, tenderness, and diligence in religion, and ineekness and benevolence towards mankind, and an humble behavior : And he also declared, that he looked on such pretended hu. mility as worthy of no regard, that was not manifested by modesty of conduct and conversation. He spake often, with abhorrence, of the spirit and practice that appears among the greater part of separatists at this day in the land, particularly those in the eastern parts of Connecticut; in their condemn. ing and separating from the standing ministry and churches, their crying down learning, and a learned ministry, their notion of an immediate call to the work of the ministry, and the forwardness of laymen to set up themselves as public teachers. He had been much conversant in the eastern part of Connec; ticut, his native place being near to it, when the same princi. ples, notions and spirit, began to operate, which have since prevailed to a greater height; and had acquaintance with some of those persons who are become heads and leaders of the separatists ; he had also been conversant with persons of the same way elsewhere : And I heard him say, once and again, he knew by his acquaintance with this sort of people, that what was chiefly and most generally in repute among them as the power of godliness, was an entirely different thing from that true vital piety recommended in the scriptures, and had nothing in it of that nature. He manifested a great dislike of a disposition in persons to much noise and show in religion, and affecting to be abundant in proclaiming and publishing their own experiences : Though at the saine time he did not condemn, but approved of Christians' speaking of their own experiences on some occasions, and to some persons, with due modesty and discretion.
After he came hither, as long as he lived, he was much in speaking of that future prosperity of Zion, that is so often foretold and promised in the scripture : It was a theme he delighted to dwell upon ; and his mind seemed to be carried forth with earnest concern about it, and intense desires, that religion might speedily and abundantly revive and flourish; though he had not the least expectation of recovery ; yea, the nearer death advanced, and the more the symptoms of its approach increased, still the more did his mind seem to be taken up with this subject. He told me, when near his end, that " he never in all his life, had his mind so led forth in desires and earnest prayers for the flourishing of Christ's kingdom on earth, as since he was brought so exceeding low at Boston." He seemed much to wonder, that there appeared no more of a disposition in ministers and people to pray for the flourishing of religion through the world ; that so little a part of their prayers was generally taken up about it in their families, and elsewhere ; and particularly, he several times expressed his wonder, that there appeared no more forwardness to comply with the proposal lately made, in a memorial from a number of ministers in Scotland, and sent over into America, for united, extraordinary prayer, among Christ's ministers and people, for the coming of Christ's kingdom : And he sent it as
his dying advice to his own congregation that they should practice agreeably to that proposal.*
Though he was constantly exceeding week, yet there ap- a peared in him a continual care well to improve time, and fill it up with something that might be profitable, and in some respect for the glory of God or the good of men ; either profitable conversation, or writing letters to absent friends, or noting something in his Diary, or looking over his former writings, correcting them, and preparing them to be left in the hands of others at his death, or giving some directions concerning a future conducting and management of his people, or employment in secret devotions. He seemed never to be easy, however ill, if he was not doing something for God, or in his service.
After he came hither, he wrote a preface to a Diary of the . famous Mr. Shepard's, having been much urged to it by those gentlemen in Boston, who had the care of the publication : Which Diary, with his preface, has since been published.
In his Diary for Lord's Day, August 9, he speaks of longing desires after death, through a sense of the excellency of a state of perfection.
In his Diary for Lord's Day, August 16, he speaks of his having so much refreshment of soul in the house of God, that it seemed to refresh his body. And this is not only noted in his Diary, but was very observable to others; it was very apparent, not only, that his mind was exhilarated with inward consolation, but also that his animal spirits and bodily strength seemed to be remarkably restored, as though he had forgot his illness. But this was the last time that ever he attended public worship on the Sabbath.
On Tuesday morning that week, I being absent on a journey, he prayed with my family ; but not without much diffi
* His congregation, since this, have with great cheerfulness and unanimity fallen in with this advice, and have practised agreeably to the proposal from Scotland ; and have at times, appeared with uncommon engagedness and fervency of spirit in their meetings and uniteà devotions, pursuant to that proposal : Also the Presbyteries of Newyork, and Newbrunswick, since this, have with one consent, fallen in with the proposal, as likewise some others of God's people in those parts.