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David Brainerd: Longing for Holiness

Posted On November 1, 2017

“WHEN I REALLY ENJOY GOD, I FEEL MY DESIRES OF HIM THE MORE INSATIABLE”

David Brainerd (1718-1747), the early American missionary to American Indians, recorded the following in his journal:

Thursday, Nov. 4. (At Lebanon) Saw much of my nothingness most of this day: but felt concerned that I had no more sense of my insufficiency and unworthiness. O it is sweet lying in the dust! But it is distressing to feel in my soul that hell of corruption, which still remains in me. In the afternoon, had a sense of the sweetness of a strict, close, and constant devotedness to God, and my soul was comforted with his consolations. My soul felt a pleasing, yet painful concern, lest I should spend some moments without God. O may I always live to God! In the evening, I was visited by some friends, and spent the time in prayer and such conversation as tended to our edification. It was a comfortable season to my soul: I felt an intense desire to spend every moment for God. God is unspeakably gracious to me continually. In times past, he has given me inexpressible sweetness in the performance of duty. Frequently my soul has enjoyed much of God; but has been ready to say, ‘Lord, it is good to be here;’ and so to indulge sloth, while I have lived on the sweetness of my feelings.

But of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry, almost continually; so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable; and the Lord will not allow me to feel as though I were fully supplied and satisfied, but keeps me still reaching forward. I feel barren and empty, as though I could not live without more of God; I feel ashamed and guilty before him. Oh! I see that ‘the law is spiritual, but I am carnal.’ I do not, I cannot live to God.

Oh for holiness! Oh for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God; the language of it is, ‘Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in God’s likeness,’ (Ps 17:15) but never, never before: and consequently I am engaged to ‘press towards the mark’ day by day. O that I may feel this continual hunger, and not be retarded, but rather animated by every cluster from Canaan, to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! O that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey!

–David Brainerd, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, ed. Jonathan Edwards. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), pp. 103-104.

Amen? Brainerd displays a great sense of his own unworthiness, the nothingness of the things of this world, and the all-sufficiency of Christ.

Let him serve as an example for us today.

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