Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1607–1764
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. I–II: Colonial Literature, 1607–1764
 
How Brainerd Found the Excellent Way of Salvation
By David Brainerd (1718–1747)
 
[Born in Haddam, Conn., 1718. Died at Northampton, Mass., 1747. From Dwight’s Revision of the Memoirs by Jonathan Edwards. 1822.]

SOME GLOOMY AND DESPONDING THOUGHTS OF A SOUL UNDER CONVICTIONS OF SIN, AND CONCERN FOR ITS ETERNAL SALVATION.

I BELIEVE my case is singular, that none ever had so many strange and different thoughts and feelings as I.
  1
  2. I have been concerned much longer than many others I have known, or concerning whom I have read, who have been savingly converted, and yet I am left.  2
  3. I have withstood the power of convictions a long time; and therefore I fear I shall be finally left of God.  3
  4. I never shall be converted without stronger convictions and greater terrors of conscience.  4
  5. I do not aim at the glory of God in anything I do, and therefore I cannot hope for mercy.  5
  6. I do not see the evil nature of sin, nor the sin of my nature; and therefore I am discouraged.  6
  7. The more I strive, the more blind and hard my heart is, and the worse I grow continually.  7
  8. I fear that God never showed mercy to one so vile as I.  8
  9. I fear that I am not elected, and therefore must perish.  9
  10. I fear that the day of grace is past with me.  10
  11. I fear that I have committed the unpardonable sin.  11
  12. I am an old sinner; and if God had designed mercy for me, He would have called me home to himself before now.  12
 
  After a considerable time spent in similar exercises and distresses, one morning, while I was walking in a solitary place as usual, I at once saw that all my contrivances and projects to effect or procure deliverance and salvation for myself, were utterly in vain; I was brought quite to a stand, as finding myself totally lost. I had thought many times before, that the difficulties in my way were very great; but now I saw, in another and very different light, that it was forever impossible for me to do anything towards helping or delivering myself. I then thought of blaming myself, that I had not done more, and been more engaged, while I had opportunity—for it seemed now as if the season of doing was forever over and gone—but I instantly saw, that, let me have done what I would, it would no more have tended to my helping myself, than what I had done; that I had made all the pleas I ever could have made to all eternity; and that all my pleas were vain. The tumult that had been before in my mind, was now quieted; and I was somewhat eased of that distress which I felt while struggling against a sight of myself, and of the divine sovereignty. I had the greatest certainty, that my state was forever miserable, for all that I could do; and wondered that I had never been sensible of it before.  13
  While I remained in this state, my notions respecting my duties were quite different from what I had ever entertained in times past. Before this, the more I did in duty, the more hard I thought it would be for God to cast me off; though at the same time I confessed, and thought I saw, that there was no goodness or merit in my duties; but now, the more I did in prayer or any other duty, the more I saw that I was indebted to God for allowing me to ask for mercy; for I saw that self-interest had led me to pray, and that I had never once prayed from any respect to the glory of God. Now I saw that there was no necessary connection between my prayers and the bestowment of divine mercy; that they laid not the least obligation upon God to bestow his grace upon me; and that there was no more virtue or goodness in them, than there would be in my paddling with my hand in the water (which was the comparison I had then in my mind); and this because they were not performed from any love or regard to God. I saw that I had been heaping up my devotions before God, fasting, praying, etc., pretending, and indeed really thinking sometimes, that I was aiming at the glory of God; whereas I never once truly intended it, but only my own happiness. I saw that as I had never done anything for God, I had no claim on anything from him, but perdition, on account of my hypocrisy and mockery. Oh, how different did my duties now appear from what they used to do! I used to charge them with sin and imperfection; but this was only on account of the wanderings and vain thoughts attending them, and not because I had no regard to God in them; for this I thought I had. But when I saw evidently that I had regard to nothing but self-interest; then they appeared a vile mockery of God, self-worship, and a continual course of lies. I saw that something worse had attended my duties than barely a few wanderings; for the whole was nothing but self-worship, and an horrid abuse of God.  14
  I continued, as I remember, in this state of mind, from Friday morning till the Sabbath evening following (July 12, 1739), when I was walking again in the same solitary place, where I was brought to see myself lost and helpless, as before mentioned. Here, in a mournful melancholy state, I was attempting to pray; but found no heart to engage in that or any other duty; my former concern, exercise, and religious affections were now gone. I thought that the spirit of God had quite left me; but still was not distressed; yet disconsolate, as if there was nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy. Having been thus endeavoring to pray—though, as I thought, very stupid and senseless—for near half an hour; then, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul. I do not mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing; nor do I intend any imagination of a body of light, somewhere in the third heavens, or anything of that nature; but it was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I never had before, nor anything which had the least resemblance of it. I stood still; wondered; and admired! I knew that I never had seen before anything comparable to it for excellency and beauty; it was widely different from all the conceptions that ever I had of God, or things divine. I had no particular apprehension of any one person in the Trinity, either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost; but it appeared to be Divine glory. My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable, to see such a God, such a glorious divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied, that he should be God over all forever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him; at least to that degree, that I had no thought (as I remember) at first, about my own salvation, and scarce reflected that there was such a creature as myself.  15
  Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him, and set him on the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at his honor and glory, as king of the universe. I continued in this state of inward joy, peace, and astonishment, till near dark, without any sensible abatement; and then began to think and examine what I had seen; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the evening following. I felt myself in a new world, and everything about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do. At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused it. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.  16
  The sweet relish of what I then felt, continued with me for several days, almost constantly, in a greater or less degree.—I could not but sweetly rejoice in God, lying down and rising up. The next Lord’s day I felt something of the same kind, though not so powerful as before. But not long after I was again involved in thick darkness, and under great distress: yet not of the same kind with my distress under convictions. I was guilty, afraid, and ashamed to come before God; was exceedingly pressed with a sense of guilt: but it was not long before I felt, I trust, true repentance and joy in God.—About the latter end of August, I again fell under great darkness; it seemed as if the presence of God was clean gone forever; though I was not so much distressed about my spiritual state, as I was at my being shut out from God’s presence, as I then sensibly was. But it pleased the Lord to return graciously to me not long after.—[Written about 1739.]  17
 
 
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