Diary of a Life on the Brink of Eternity

Mike Pettengill | June 22, 2015

David Brainerd (1718-1747) was an American missionary in the 18th century whose influence far outstripped his tenure on the field. Brainerd, who died at the age of 29, served as a Christian missionary to Native Americans prior to the founding of the United States.

Brainerd tellingly wrote in his diary, “Oh, I love to live on the brink of eternity.” The spirit contained in this statement and the accompanying actions of a life well lived are remarkable.

Change in Course

Brainerd enrolled in Yale to study to become a preacher. While at Yale he began to first experience the symptoms of the tuberculosis that would ultimately claim his life. He was intelligent, passionate, and a little foolish during his time at Yale. His studies came to an abrupt halt when in 1742 he accused his tutor of having “no more grace than a chair.” This controversy resulted in his expulsion from Yale.

Due to a Connecticut law at the time, Brainerd could not preach without a college degree. His desire to be a pastor was dead. Instead of serving as a pastor, it was suggested Brainerd devote himself to missionary work among the Native Americans.

Missions Work

On April 1, 1743, Brainerd began…

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