By Dustin W. Benge
David Brainerd (1718–1747) yearned for the salvation of Native Americans scattered along the colonial trails of America and farther west. From 1742 to 1747 he toiled among tribes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Initially he saw little to encourage him and seriously considered abandoning his labors among them altogether. But in time the situation reversed itself, and scores of Native Americans came to know Christ. Brainerd’s poor health, however, eventually forced him to abandon his missionary efforts, and at age twenty-nine he died.
Brainerd spent his last days in the home of his celebrated friend, Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Before his death, Brainerd consented to leave his diary with Edwards for publication. That volume has had an untold impact on the lives of others because it reveals Brainerd’s devotion, earnestness, sincerity, and self-denying spirit.
Missionaries such as Henry Martyn (1781–1812), William Carey (1761–1834), and Jim Elliot (1927–1956) have spoken of the great inspiration they received from reading Brainerd’s diary. These are some of the last entries Brainerd made:
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 havens that can be conceived of by men or angels, and I should still be miserable forever. . . . Oh, to love and praise God more, to please Him forever! This my soul panted after and even now pants for while I write. Oh, that God might be glorified in the whole earth! . . . Was still in a sweet and comfortable frame; and was again melted with desires that God might be glorified, and with longings to love and live to Him. . . . And oh, I longed to be with God, to behold His glory and to bow in His presence!
It is clear that Brainerd’s desire was to magnify God’s glory before the world. He also looked forward to his earthly departure because he longed to see the glory of God in heaven. What exactly does the phrase "the glory of God" refer? It is the sum of who God is—the sum of his attributes and divine nature. Throughout history, God has endeavored to show all men and women His glory.