David Brainerd is on a bit of a break from his journal writing, but we have his letters we can read as well. This letter is to his brother Israel, at college: written in the time of his extreme illness in Boston, a few months before his death.
MY DEAR BROTHER, Boston, June 30, 1747.
IT is from the sides of eternity I now address you. I am heartily sorry that I have so little strength to write what I long so much to communicate to you. But let me tell you, my brother, eternity is another thing than we ordinarily take it to be in a healthful state. Oh, how vast and boundless! Oh, how fixed and unalterable! Oh, of what infinite importance is it, that we be prepared for eternity! I have been just a dying now for more than a week; and all around me have thought me so. I have had clear views of eternity; have seen the blessedness of the godly, in some measure; and have longed to share their happy state; as well as been comfortably satisfied, that through grace I shall do so: but oh, what anguish is raised in my mind, to think of an eternity for those who are Christless, for those who are mistaken, and who bring their false hopes to the grave with them! The sight was so dreadful I could by no means bear it: my thoughts recoiled, and I said, (under a more affecting sense than ever before,) “Who can dwell with everlasting burnings?” Oh, methought, could I now see my friends, that I might warn them to see to it, that they lay their foundation for eternity sure. And you, my dear-brother, I have been particularly concerned for; and have wondered I so much neglected conversing with you about your spiritual state at our last meeting. Oh, my brother, let me then beseech you now to examine, whether you are indeed a new creature? whether you have ever acted above self? whether the glory of God has ever been the sweetest and highest concern with you? whether you have ever been reconciled to all the perfections of God? in a word, whether God has been our portion, and a holy conformity to him your chief delight? If you cannot answer positively, consider seriously the frequent breathings of our soul: but do not however put yourself off with a slight answer. If you have reason to think you are graceless, oh give yourself and the throne of grace no rest, till God arise and save. But if the case should be otherwise, bless God for his grace, and press after holiness.*
My soul longs that you should be fitted for, and in due time go into, the work of the ministry. I cannot bear to think of your going into any other business in life. Do not be discouraged, because you see your elder brothers in the ministry die early, one after another. I declare, now I am dying, I would not have spent my life otherwise for the whole world. But I must leave this with God.
If this line should come to your hands soon after the date, I should be almost desirous you should set out on a journey to me: it may be, you may see me alive; which I should much rejoice in. But if you cannot come, I must commit you to the grace of God, where you are. May he be your guide and counsellor, your sanctifier and eternal portion!
Oh, my dear brother, flee fleshly lusts, and the enchanting amusements, as well as corrupt doctrines, of the present day; and strive to live to God. Take this as the last line from
Your affectionate dying brother,