Defending the Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & the American Constitution
Sunday December 21st 2014

David Brainerd, Missionary to Native Americans

American Minute with Bill Federer

Born in Haddam, Connecticut, APRIL 20, 1718, his parents died while he was a young teenager.

He attempted farming, but on July 12, 1739, he had an experience of ‘unspeakable glory’ with God that gave him a “hearty desire to exalt Him, to set Him on the throne and to ‘seek first His Kingdom.'”

This was colonial Indian missionary, David Brainerd.

He attended Yale, but was expelled for saying that a tutor who was fining over-zealous students “had no more grace than a chair.”

David Brainerd was then supported by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge to do missionary work among Native Americans.

David Brainerd worked with a Housatonic Indian settlement near present day Nassau, New York, and started a school for Native American children.

He worked among the Delaware Indians along the Delaware River northeast of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

His interpreter, Moses Tinda Tautamy, helped him minister to Indians along the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, camping at night. He wrote in his Journal:

“FORKS OF DELAWARE, Pennsylvania, Lord’s day, July 21, 1745.

Preached to the Indians…Divine truth seemed to make very considerable impressions and caused the tears to flow freely.

Afterwards I baptized my interpreter and his wife, who were the first I baptized among the Indians…

Though before he had been a hard drinker…it is now more than six months since he experienced this change; in which space of time he has been exposed to strong drink in places where it has been moving free as water; yet has never desired after it…

He discourses feelingly of the conflicts and consolations of a real Christian.”

David Brainerd then worked with the Crossweeksung in New Jersey, where the Indian church grew to 130 members.

David Brainerd wrote in his diary:

“[I] could have no freedom in the thought of any other circumstances or business in life: All my desire was the conversion of the heathen, and all my hope was in God:

God does not suffer me to please or comfort myself with hopes of seeing friends, returning to my dear acquaintance, and enjoying worldly comforts.”

David Brainerd traveled over 3,000 on horseback in his missionary efforts and often slept in the cold, rainy woods.

Overcoming loneliness, lack of food, depression and spitting up blood from advanced stages of tuberculosis, David Brainerd was nursed at the home of Princeton president Jonathan Edwards.

He died at the age of 29.

His diary, published by Jonathan Edwards in 1749 as “An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd” inspired millions, including William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Oswald J. Smith, and John Wesley, who stated:

“What can be done to revive the work of God where it is decayed? Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd.”

David Brainerd’s life played a role in the establishment of Princeton College and Dartmouth College. Yale’s Divinity School named a building “Brainerd Hall,” the only building named after a student who had been expelled.

David Brainerd wrote:

“Oh, how precious is time, and how it pains me to see it slide away, while I do so little to any good purpose. Oh, that God would make me more fruitful.”


The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.