David Brainerd on the Effects of Preaching the Doctrines of Grace

David Brainerd noted that preaching doctrine – not morality – wrought an inward change in the hearts of his hearers, causing them to lead morally upright lives. The doctrine that fueled this change was the total moral bankruptcy of man and the complete freeness of God’s effectual grace.Secondly, It is worthy of remark that numbers of these people are brought to a strict compliance with the rules of morality and sobriety, and to a conscientious performance of the external duties of Christianity, by the internal power and influence of diving truths (the peculiar doctrines of grace) upon their minds; without their having these moral duties frequently repeated and inculcated upon them, and the contrary vices particularly exposed and spoken against…

Those doctrines which had the most direct tendency to humble the fallen creature; to show him the misery of his natural state; to bring him down to the foot of sovereign mercy; to exalt the great Redeemer, discover His transcendent excellency and infinite preciousness, and so to recommend Him to the sinner’s acceptance, were the subject matter of what was delivered in public and private, and from time to time repeated and inculcated upon them…

There was indeed no room for any kind of discourses [on the precepts of morality and external duties]… My great work therefore was to lead them into a further view of their utter helplessness and the total depravity and corruption of their hearts; that there was no manner of goodness in them, no good dispositions nor desires, no love to God nor delight in His commands; but on the contrary, hatred, enmity, and all manner of wickedness reigning in them. At the same time it was necessary to open to them the glorious and complete remedy provided in Christ for helpless perishing sinners, and offered freely to those who have no goodness of their own, no works of righteousness which they have done to recommend them to God…

These were the doctrines, and this the method of preaching, which were blessed of God for the awakening, and, I trust, for the saving conversion of numbers of souls; and which were made the means of producing a remarkable reformation among the hearers in general… The happy effects of these peculiar doctrines of grace… plainly discover, even to demonstration, that instead of their opening a door to licentiousness, as many vainly imagine and slanderously insinuate, they have a direct contrary tendency; so that a close application, a sense and feeling of them, will have the most powerful influence toward the renovation and effectual reformation both of heart and life…

Cleanse first the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also… The only effectual way to have the outside clean is to begin with what is within; and if the fountain be purified, the streams will naturally be pure. Most certain it is, if we can awaken in sinners a lively sense of their inward pollution and depravity, their need of a change of heart, and so engage them to seek after inward cleaning; their external defilement will naturally be cleansed.” (Diary and Journal of David Brainerd, vol. 2, pg. 164-166, 169, 170; emphasis his).

photo: annia316

David Brainerd on Preaching Christ and Him Crucified

David Brainerd concludes his journal (chronicling roughly 11 months during which God was producing a “great work” among the Indians Brainerd was evangelizing) with 4 closing observations, 2 of which I found to be particularly encouraging. We’ll look at the first today and the other later on in the week.

Like Paul, Brainerd saw first hand the power of preaching Christ and Him crucified. “First, I cannot but notice that I have in the general, ever since my first coming among these Indians in New Jersey, been favored with that assistance which to me is uncommon in preaching Christ crucified, and making Him the centre and mark to which all my discourses among them were directed… thus God was pleased to help me not to know any thing among them, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Thus I was enabled to show them their misery and undone state without Him, and to represent His complete fitness to redeem and save them. This was the preaching God made use of for the awakening of sinners, and the propagation of this ‘work of grace among the Indians.'” (Diary and Journal of David Brainerd, Vol. 2, pg. 159-160, 163; emphasis his)

photo: Donald Macleod