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Sweetly set on God – piety of David Brainerd

By Dustin W. Benge
October 2016 | Review by Tim Martin
  • Publisher: Reformation Heritage
  • ISBN: 978-1-80178-452-0
  • Pages: 159
  • Price: 7.55
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Book Review

This handy little book is an introduction to David Brainerd (1718-1747), pioneer missionary to the native Americans. It is part of a book series sketching out the lives and ministries of divines in the Puritan tradition, stretching from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries. The series’ title is ‘Profiles in Reformed spirituality’, edited overall by Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin.

The first third of the book provides an overview of Brainerd’s life. The remainder contains 51 excerpts from his diaries and journals, arranged under various subject headings.

The great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, was the first to realise that Brainerd’s writings were far too precious a gift to the church to fall into obscurity. Since first publication in 1749, his biography of the missionary has never been out of print.

Though Brainerd is best remembered for his missionary endeavours, the inner life of this saintly young man has been a challenge and inspiration to many who followed in his footsteps. Such figures include Henry Martyn and Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who also died in the bloom of youth while leaving a lasting fragrance of Jesus Christ for future generations. What Isaac Watts said of our Lord’s influence on men may be seen in turn in Brainerd: ‘They marked the footsteps that he trod, his zeal inspired their breast’.

John Piper’s comments on Brainerd are especially encouraging to our sin-sick souls today: ‘Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.’

Sweetly set on God provides a useful welcome to newcomers and will, hopefully, whet their appetites for more. The well-seasoned reader will find this a slim volume which slips easily into a pocket for a long journey.

Tim Martin


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