The ministry of David Brainerd lasted for only four years, from April 1743 until November 1746, when he could not continue due to the contraction of tuberculosis. Brainerd ministered for one year among the Housatonic Indians in the village of Kaunameek located in the present state of New York. Then he sought to evangelize the Delaware Indians who at that time were situated north of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
However, his most fruitful ministry occurred at Crossweeksung, New Jersey, where a revival took place among the Indian inhabitants. The church that he established reached a membership of nearly one hundred and thirty Indians within a year. Although Brainerd had received several invitations to become the pastor of various churches, he declined them and was determined to continue his ministry to the Indians. However, in November 1746, Brainerd became so ill that he could not continue the work. He first moved to the home of Jonathan Dickinson in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, who was one of the American Commissioners of the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. Later, in 1747, he made his way to Northampton, Massachusetts to the home of Jonathan Edwards.
Brainerd suffered greatly during this time and it soon became apparent that he would not recover from the illness. On October 9, 1747, Brainerd died, having been nursed by Jerusha Edwards who would also succumb in February 1748 from the same disease that took Brainerd’s life. They were buried side by side in the Northampton Cemetery. Brainerd’s tombstone listed his age at death as thirty-two and the date as October 10, 1747, both of which were incorrect. However, the greatest legacy of Brainerd’s life was not his ministry among the Indians although God was please to bless it. His legacy is recorded in his holiness and walk with God as recorded by Jonathan Edwards in an account of his life that was published in 1749.
Throughout the years, the life of Brainerd has both challenged and encouraged many persons. Among them are Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India and Burma, William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, Adoniram Judson, the outstanding Baptist missionary to Burma, and Robert Murray McCheyne the Scottish pastor and revivalist whose own life has been a source of encouragement
When looking back over his life, Brainerd frequently expressed the belief that he accomplished little for the Lord and was often prone to discouragement. However, his life is a great illustration that the influence of a life lived for the honor and glory of the Lord does not cease with the individual’s death. The life of Brainerd illustrates the truth expressed in Revelation 14:13 that the works of those who die in the Lord follow them. May the Lord be pleased to raise up a generation of individuals like David Brainerd who will bequeath a lasting legacy of faithfulness to the Lord to the coming generations. If you would like to order a copy of The Life of David Brainerd visit our online bookstore or call Crown Christian Publications at 877-AT-CROWN.