David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a missionary to the Indians along the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers in colonial America.
Brainerd was born April 20, 1718 in Haddam, Connecticut. On July 12, 1739, "he had a glorious salvation experience. Now he wondered why all the world could not see "this lovely, blessed, and excellent way." He states as he was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of his soul."
In September 1739, he entered Yale University, but was expelled for criticizing the worldliness of some members of the faculty, saying of a professor "He has no more grace than this chair". He was deemed to be “too religious” for the then-Christian school.
Tragically, David Brainerd contracted tuberculosis, whereupon Princeton president Jonathan Edwards provided care for him at his home. On October 9, 1747, Brainerd died at age 29. He was buried on the following Monday with Jonathan Edwards conducting the funeral.
Brainerd began his ministry with the Indians in April, 1743, at Kannameek, New York, then ministered in Crossweeksung and Cranberry (near Newark), New Jersey. Brainerd's first journey to the Forks of the Delaware to reach that ferocious tribe resulted in a miracle of God that preserved his life and revered him among the Indians as a "Prophet of God." F.W. Boreham recorded the incident:
- But when the braves drew closer to Brainerd's tent, they saw the paleface on his knees. And as he prayed, suddenly a rattlesnake slipped to his side, lifted up its ugly head to strike, flicked its forked tongue almost in his face, and then without any apparent reason, glided swiftly away into the brushwood. "The Great Spirit is with the paleface!" the Indians said; and thus they accorded him a prophet's welcome.
David Brainerd kept a journal of his life, which after his death was compiled by Jonathan Edwards into the book The Life And Diary of David Brainerd. This journal lived on to inspire millions, such as William Carey, Oswald J. Smith and John Wesley.
His journal included the following entry:
- FORKS OF DELAWARE, Pennsylvania, Lord's day, July 21, 1745.
- Preached to the Indians ... Divine truth seemed to make very considerable impressions and caused the tears to flow freely. Afterwards I baptized my interpreter Moses Tinda Tautamy and his wife, who were the first I baptized among the Indians...
- Though before he had been a hard drinker...it is now more than six months since he experienced this change; in which space of time he has been exposed to strong drink in places where it has been moving free as water; yet has never desired after it...
- He discourses feelingly of the conflicts and consolations of a real Christian."
David Brainerd also wrote in his journal, "Oh, how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose. Oh, that God would make me more fruitful."
- The Life and Ministry of David Brainerd by Ed Reese
- Biography of David Brainerd by Rit Nosotro
- Biography of David Brainerd by the Sword of the Lord
- David Brainerd: Missionary by Fred Barlow
- American Minute for April 20th: David Brainerd