This report will vary somewhat from the norm in that I did not actually read this book but am listening to the audiobook, recently free at ChristianAudio
Edwards, Jonathan. The Diary and Journal of David Brainerd with Preface and Reflections. Banner of Truth.
Brief Overview of the Book (Theme, Perspective, Approach)
Brainerd displays the piety and evangelistic style reminiscent of the Puritans as related by J.I. Packer’s Quest for Godliness. The book is largely excerpts from Brainerd’s private diary and public journal. They give us a picture of a remarkable man of God. As Jonathan Edwards explains, he had two main faults — he was prone to melancholy (depression) and to be a workaholic. His clear strength was that he was able not only to read others but especially himself. He knew his weaknesses and he knew his heart.
Critique (strengths & weaknesses)
From a modern point of view the work includes insensitive language such as savage, heathen, and so forth. However, it appears that Brainerd did not look down on the so-called Native Americans. He even often complained about the behavior of formerly European people when they would come to worship services he held for the so-called Indians. One also wonders about contextualization for his evangelism. He makes some progress in learning some of the languages but sees the most progress as people become more and more familiar with English. His messages are different when one compares how he speaks to an English audience as to an Indian audience. He simplifies things greatly for the latter because of the language problem. But by far the great strength of the work lies in how it displays his Reformed/Puritan piety and a Reformed/Puritan method of evangelism. As Packer said about the Puritans having Spiritual maturity as compared to people today lacking it, we might say the same of Brainerd.
Application (specific, shows just how valuable & relevant the book is)
Physical Self-care — this book is yet another reminder that the minister of the gospel needs to take care of his physical health and to frequently rest from his labors.
Spiritual Self-care A. this book provides an example of how to persevere through depression. The Lord was with him in the midst of it and whenever he was about ready to lay it all down God would show him enough success to keep going until he was quite fruitful. The focus is on being faithful and knowing that God is in charge of the results. This is an important reminder for those who feel that they are failing. B. this book provides an example of Spiritual maturity and self-examination that I need to work towards.
Evangelism — I have a lot to learn from the evangelism Brainerd does. I think I will need to listen to the book again and to try to integrate some of his style into my own.
The most interesting quotes are those where Brainerd is quoting new members of his congregation.