Imágenes de páginas

all who by their natural constitution or temper are most disposed to dejection, are the most susceptive of lively and strong impressions on their innagination, or the most subject to those vehement affections, which are the fruits of such impressions. But they must well know, that many who are of a very gay and sanguine natural temper are vastly more so; and if their affections are turned into a religious channel, are much more exposed to enthusiasa, than many of the former. As to Mr. Brainerd in particular, notwithstanding his inclination to despondency, he was evidently one of those who usually are the furthest 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 bad a great insight into humaq nature, and was very discerning and judicious in general; so he excelled in bis judgment and knowledge in divinity, but especially in things appertaining to inward experimental religion. He most accurately distinguished between real, solid piety, and enthusiasm; between those affections 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 ex• ceedingly sensible of men's exposedness to these things; how inuch they tad prevailed, and what multitudes had been deceived by them; of their pernicious consequences, and the fearsul mischief they had done in the Christian world. He greatly abhorred such a religion, and was abundant ia bearing testimony against it

, living and dying; and was quick to discera 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 religion-evincing its falseness and vanity, and demonstrating the great difference between this and true spiritual devotion—which I searcely 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 well sensible of their own disease, and fully convinced that such and such things are to be ascribed to it, as are its genuine operations and fruits. Mr. 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 arisiog from this cause. He often in conversation spoke of the difference between melancholy and godly sorrow, true humiliation and spiritual descrtion, 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.

Bat besides wbat inay be argued from Mr. Brainerd's strength of judgment, 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 obtain them. He moreover declared, that he never in his life had a strong impression on bis imagination, of any outward form, external glory, or any thing of that nature; which kind of impressions abouod among entitusiastic people.

As Mr. BRAINERD's religious impressions, views, and affections in their nature were vastly different from enthusiasm ; so were their effects in hiin 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 Mr. BRAINERD's religion constantly disposed him to a most mean thought of himself, an abasing sense of his own exceeding sinfulness, deficiency, unprofitableness, and ignorance; looking on hinself as worse than others; disposing him to universal benevolence and meekness ; in bonour 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 seen among mankind. Indeed, at the time fore. mentioned, wheu 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 errone. ously desired and sought it. But certainly it is not at all to be wondered at, that a youth, a young convert, one who had bis heart so swallowed up in religion, and who so earnestly desired its flourishing stale-anil who had so little opportunity for reading, observation, and experience-should 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 bimself for bis imprudent zeal and misconduct at that time, even lo the breaking of his heart, and almost to the overbearing of his natural strength; and how much of a Christian spirit he shewed, in condemning himself for that misconduct, as the reader will see.

What has been now mentioned of Mr. 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 ihus joining for a season with enthusiasts, he bad 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. And bereby the reader has the more to con. since him, that Mr. BRAINERD in his testimony against it, and the spirit and behaviour of those who are influenced by it, speaks from impartial conviction, and not from prejudice; because therein he openly condemos his ovn former opinion and conduct, on account of which he had greatly suffered from his opposers, and for which some continued to reproach him as long as be lived.

Another imperfection in Mr. 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 vas very ofteo such, by the seeming calls of Providence, as made it extremely difficult for him 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 to have taken more thorough care, and been inore resolute to withstand temptations 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 soine 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 everinore is in the best saints in this world. Doubtless, natural temper had some iofluence in the religious exercises and experiences of Mr. BRAINERD, as there most apparently was in the exer. eises of devout David, and the apostles Peter, John, and Paul. There was undoubtedly very often some influence of his natural disposition to dejection, in bis religious mourning; some mixture of melancholy with truly godly sorrow and real Christian humility ; some mixture of the natural fire of youth with bis 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 Mr. BRAINERD's imperfections than he himself; or could distinguisk more accurately than he, between what was natural and what was spi. ritual. It is easy for the judicious reader to observe, that his graces ripened, the religious exercises of his heart became more and more pure, and he more and more distinguishing in his judgment, the longer he lived; he had much to teach and purify him, and he failed not to make his advantage.

But notwithstanding all these imperfections, I am persuaded, every pious and judicious reader will acknowledge, that what is here set before him is indeed a remarkable instance of true and eminent Christian piety in heart and practice tending greatly to confirm the reality of vital religion, and the power of godliness-that it is inost worthy of imitation, and many ways calculated to promote the spiritual benefit of the careful observer.

It is fit the reader should be aware, that what Mr. 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 get 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 ; excepting some few things that he wrote in a dying state, after he had been persuaded, with difficulty, not entirely to suppress all his private writings. He shewed 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, he 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 pleased finally to yield so far as that " his papers should be left in my bands, 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, that would, I am sensible, have been a great advantage to the history, if they had been inserted ; particularly the account of his wonderful successes 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 publisbed as it is written in his diary, in connection 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 there. fore 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.


N. B. Those parts of the following Life and Diary which are in a smaller letter, are the words of the publisher, President EDWARDS. They contain the substance of Mr. BRAINEKD's Diary for the time specified. By this mode, needless repetitions were prevented.







MR. David BRAINERD was born April 20, 1718, at Haddam, a towa of Hartford, in Connecticut, New-England. His father was the Worshipful Hezekiah Brainerd, Esq; one of his Majesty's council for that colony; who was the sou of Daniel Brainerd, Esq; a justice of the peace, and a deacon of the church of Christ in Haddam. His mother was Mrs. Dorothy Hobart, daughter to the Reverend Mr. Jeremiah Hobart; who preached a while at Topshield, then removed to Hempstead on Long-Island, and afterwards--by reason of oumbers 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 the public worship in the forenvon, and died in his chair between meeủngs. This reverend gentlemen was a son of the Reverend Peter Hobart; who was, first, minister of the gospel at Hingham, in the counts of Norfolk in England; and, by reason of the persecution of. Ibe Puritans, removed with his family to New-England, and was settled in the ministry at Hinghain, in Massachusetts. He had five sons, viz, Joshua, Jeremiah, Gershom, Japheth, and Nehemiah. His son Joshua was minister at Southold on Long-Island. Jeremiah was Mr. David Brainerd's grand. father, minister at Haddam, &c. as before observed ; Gershom was minister of Groton in Copoecticut; Japheth was a physician; he went in the quality of a doctor of a ship to England, (before the time of taking liis second degree at college) and designed to go from thence lo the East Indies; but never was heard of inore. Nehenniah was sometime sellow of Harvard college, and. afterwards minister at Newton in Massachusetts. The mother of Mrs. Dorothy Hobart (who was afterwards Brainerd) was a daughter of the Reverend, You 11.


« AnteriorContinuar »