In the past year I have been twice challenged to read great books. Old books that have stood the test of time and been useful for generations. New books that are having a significant impact. The first of these challenges occurred in a seminary class (Dr. Wright's Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism) where our professor was shocked that some of us had never read certain great books. I took this personally as a challenge and have added to each new stack of books to read books that would fit into that category. The second of these challenges occurred while listening to the Sovereign Grace podcast on the Pastor and his reading. (found here http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Blog/page/Leadership-Interview-Series.aspx)
The first of these books was The Life and Diary of David Brainerd edited by Jonathan Edwards. I spent an embarrassing length of time reading this book. This was for a couple of reasons. First, I have never read a diary before and found adjusting to this format wasn't easy for me (also embarrassing), I also had developed the habit of reading five (or more) books at a time (also embarrassing and not helpful to boot) and this book usually got the short end of the stick in reading time. However, when I got to the part of the book when God began to bless his Indians with a powerful revival I found that I couldn't put it down.
Now in light of all that I want to say that this truly is a great book, modern American readers may struggle with the style (it does feel like an old book) and some of the older language (even evangelical lingo changes) but it would be well worth investing the time and developing the discipline to read.
Here we find a child of God that struggled deeply with depression, yet was able to be faithful to God in his ministry. Here we find a man whose heart was completely ravished with the glory of Christ yet his body was slowly but surely deteriorating. This for me was the great value of the book. The reports on the revival were amazing and encouraging, and they also give one hope that God in His sovereignty will choose to bless our ministries. But the deepest value was seeing in Brainerd an imperfect saint that in his deep love for Christ persevered to the tragic end.
Repeatedly in the diary we hear of his ups and downs, one day he is gloriously caught up in devotion to Christ, then the next five days his heart is far away and he is distraught by it. I was challenged by his awareness of the lukewarm status of his heart and his passion to regain his intimacy with God. We too often simply accept lukewarm as the status quo and never get worked up about it. A close reading of Brainerd would challenge us to pursue with a greater fervency.
In conjunction with this book I would recommend reading Marsden's biography of Edwards, there we see more of the time that Brainerd spent with the Edwards' and of his romance with Edwards daughter.
Well worth the read. *****