Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brainerd


It is scarcely possible for us to imagine pictures of
greater moral sublimity than those of Brainerd, which
sometimes gleam upon us even from slight hints in
his journal. At times we behold the lonely man with
drawing far into the dark forest, and there, in some
natural inner temple, formed by the intermingling
branches of the beautiful white and yellow pine, the
dark cypress, and the golden-flowered tulip-tree,
monarchs of the wood,against which no feller has
ever come up praying for his Indians, and startling
by the strange sounds the passing savage, as he tracks
the steps of some beast of chase. At other times, we
find him in his solitary log-hut of rudely-hewn pine
or cedar, standing some miles remote from any dwell
ings of the Indian, with his door closely fastened to
keep out the wolf or bear, and seated near his lighted
torch, after a day of consuming toil, breaking far in
upon the hours of midnight, in reading some book of
deep thought or writing in his journal. At times
the storm rages, thunder peals through the echo
ing forest, arid trees torn from their roots, or broken
through their stems, fall to the earth with the noise
of artillery and frighten even the wild beasts to their
lair. On some such lonely night, we may conceive
ourselves watching the earnest missionary s pen as he
traces in his journal, in passages like the following,
the record of recent experience, or the reflection of
present feelings and anticipations :
"About six at night I lost my way in the wilder
ness, and wandered over rocks and mountains, down
hideous steeps, through swamps, and most dreadful
and dangerous places. The night being dark, and
few stars to be seen, I was greatly exposed, much
pinched with cold, and distressed with an extreme
pain in my head, and attended with sickness at my
stomach. I have frequently been thus exposed, and
sometimes lain out the whole night, but God has
hitherto preserved me, and blessed be his name ! Such
fatigues and hardships as these serve to wean me
from the earth, and I trust will make heaven the
sweeter."

... harvest at length came with something of
primeval promise and fruit. Among Brainerd's ear
liest converts was an ancient Indian, whose head was
white with the snows of a hundred years ; and on
evenings after the chase was ended, little companies
began to gather towards the missionary's hut, to lis
ten to the strange story of the gospel. Brainerd was
never able to speak with fluency in the tongues of the
Indian tribes ; and it is remarkable that he had little
influence among the Indians until the heart of his
interpreter was renewed. There have been writers
on missions who, overlooking this essential feature in
the case, have argued from the eventual triumphs of
Brainerd in proof of the efficacy of preaching by in
terpreters. The reverse conclusion would be more
correct. Interpreters are not generally converts; and
it was not until this young Indian became "one soul"
with his master, by his common faith, that much good
was done. And there is a reason behind these facts
which explains them : To teach Christianity to others,
we must not only convey ideas but sympathies ; but
how unfit to be the medium of the latter, is the man to
whom the gospel has never come with power!
He is like a broken electric cord, through which the life
current will not pass.
Going forth now with a companion who shared
no little of his own fervour, and whom faith had
suddenly made eloquent, his mission entered on a
new life. He was now among the Indians of Crossweeksung,
in Jersey, near to the sea. The chiefs in
general regarded him with little favour, for he
wanted the noble and athletic form which in Eliot
at once commanded the respect of savage hearts.
But his deep emotion won the interest of the women ;
and after his first public address in this new region,
he was accompanied by many of them for fifteen
miles, who, walking near to his horse's head, received
new instruction, and helped to circulate on every
side intelligence of the wonderful teacher. The in-
terest spread, in some districts, with the speed of a
prairie fire ; and now the glad missionary often
found himself towards evening, after the chase, sur
rounded by three or four thousand huntsmen and
warriors, eager to listen to the message from the
Great Spirit. The web of Brainerd's journal, which
had so often been woven with gloom, at this period
breaks out in brightest colours.

(Taken from Great Missionaries by Andrew Thomson; 1862; London, T. Nelson and Sons)

(See also our earlier post entitled "Brainerd Up the Tree")

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