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LETTER X.

To his brother John, at Bethel, the town of Christian Indians in New Jersey; written likewise at Boston, when he was there on the brink of the grave, in the summer before his death.

dear brother,

I am now just on the verge of eternity, expecting very speedily to appear in the unseen world. I feel myself no more an inhabitant of earth, and sometimes earnestly long to “depart and be with Christ.” I bless God, he has for some years given me an abiding conviction, that it is impossible for any rational creature to enjoy true happiness without being entirely “devoted to him.” Under the influence of this conviction I have in some measure acted. Oh that I had done more so! I saw both the excellency and necessity of holiness in life; but never in such a manner as now, when I am just brought to the sides of the grave. Oh, my brother, pursue after holiness; press towards this blessed mark; and let your thirsty soul continually say, “I shall never be satisfied till I awake in thy likeness.” Although there has been a great deal of selfishness in my views; of which I am ashamed, and for which my soul is humbled at every view; yet, blessed be God, I find I have really had, for the most part, such a concern for his glory, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, that it is a satisfaction to me to reflect upon these years.

And now, my dear brother, as I must press you to pursue after personal holiness, to be as much in fasting and prayer as your health will allow, and to live above the rate of common Christians; so I must entreat you solemnly to attend to your public work; labour to distinguish between true and false religion; and to that end, watch the motions of God’s Spirit upon your own heart. Look to him for help; and impartially compare your experiences with his word. Read Mr. Edwards on the Affections, where the essence and soul of religion is clearly distinguished from false affections. 431431    I had at first fully intended, in publishing this and the foregoing letters, to have suppressed these passages wherein my name is mentioned, and my Discourse on Religious Affections recommended: and am sensible, that by my doing otherwise, I shall bring upon me the reproach of some. But how much soever I may be pleased with the commendation of any performance of mine, (and I confess, I esteem the judgment and approbation of such as Mr. Brainerd worthy to be valued, and look on myself as highly honoured by it. ) yet I can truly say, things that governed me is altering my forementioned determinations with respect to these passages, were these two. (1. ) What Mr. Brainerd here says of that discourse, shows very fully and particularly what his notions were of experimental religion, and the nature of true piety, and how far he was from placing it in impressions on the imagination, or any enthusiastical impulses, and how essential in religion he esteemed holy practice, &c. &c. For all that have read that discourse, know what sentiments are there expressed concerning those things. (2. ) I judged, that the approbation of so apparent and eminent a friend and example of inward vital religion, and evangelical piety in the height of it, would probably tend to make that book more serviceable; especially among some kinds of zealous persons, whose benefit was especially aimed at in the book; some of which are prejudiced against it, as written in too legal a strain, and opposing some things wherein the height of Christian experience consists, and tending to build men upon their own works. Value religious joys according to the subject mutter of them: there are many who rejoice in their supposed justification; but what do these joys argue, but only that they love themselves? Whereas, in true spiritual joys the soul rejoices in God for what he is in himself; blesses God for his holiness, sovereignty, power, faithfulness, and all his perfections; adores God that he is what he is, that he is unchangeably possessed of infinite glory and happiness. Now when men thus rejoice in the perfections of God, and in the infinite excellency of the way of salvation by Christ, and in the holy commands of God, which are a transcript of his holy nature; these joys are divine and spiritual. Our joys will stand by us at the hour of death, if we can be then satisfied that we have thus acted above self; and in a disinterested manner, if I may so express it, rejoiced in the glory of the blessed God. I fear you are not sufficiently aware how much false religion there is in the world; many serious Christians and valuable ministers are too easily imposed upon by this false blaze. I likewise fear, you are not sensible of the dreadful effects and consequences of this false religion. Let me tell you, it is the devil transformed into an angel of light; it is a brat of hell, that always springs up with every revival of religion, and stabs and murders the cause of God, while it passes current with multitudes of well-meaning people for the height of religion. Set yourself, my brother, to crush all appearances of this nature among the Indians, and never encourage any degrees of heat without light. Charge my people in the name of their dying minister, yea, in the name of him who was dead and is alive, to live and walk as becomes the gospel. Tell them, how great the expectations of God and his people are from them, and now awfully they will wound God’s cause, if they fall into vice; as well as fatally prejudice other poor Indians. Always insist, that their experiences are rotten, that their joys are delusive, although they may have been rapt up into the third heavens in their own conceit by them, unless the main tenour of their lives be spiritual, watchful, and holy. In pressing these things, “thou shalt both save thyself, and those that hear thee. ”

God knows, I was heartily willing to have served him longer in the work of the ministry, although it had still been attended with all the labours and hardships of past years, if he had seen fit that it should be so: but as his will now appears otherwise, I am fully content, and can with utmost freedom say, “The will of the Lord be done.” It affects me to think of leaving you in a world of sin: my heart pities you, that those storms and tempests are yet before you, which I trust, through grace, I am almost delivered from. But “God lives, and blessed be my Rock:” he is the same Almighty Friend: and will, I trust, be your guide and helper, as he has been mine.

And now, my dear brother, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you inheritance among all them that are sanctified. May you enjoy the divine presence both in private and public; and may “the arms of your hands be made strong, by the right hand of the mighty God of Jacob!” Which are the passionate desires and prayers of Your affectionate dying brother,

DAVID BRAINERD.


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