Brainerd spent the the summer of 1742 with a young bachelor friend and a former student of Edwards, Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790). They worshipped and preached in a barn that served as a meeting house for Bellamy's small congregation in Woodbury, Connecticut. Brainerd preached his first sermon on July 30 at Southbury, Connecticut, on 1 Peter 4:8, having been licensed to preach the day before. Then, on August 12, he preached for the first time to Indians, in a place called Scaticock, near the Connecticut-New York border. A striking statement appears in his journal for August 25 'in family prayer, God helped me to climb up near him, so that I scarce ever got nearer.' Brainerd knew the depths, but he also knew the heights. For the next few months he travelled as an itinerant preacher though in September, 1742, he was forced to leave New Haven to escape arrest for unlawful preaching.
He set off on a 175 mile round trip, preaching along the Connecticut Valley. On November 10, older brother Nehemiah, a minister in Eastbury, Connecticut, died, aged 31, from tubercolosis - a reminder to Brainerd that time was short. On November 19, he received a summons from Pemberton, chairman of the SSPCK in New York, to come and discuss ministry to Native Americans. On November 25 he met with SSPCK commissioners, including Jonathan Dickinson, who was no doubt involved in recommending Brainerd. As part of his examination, Brainerd delivered a sermon. He grieved for the congregation, 'that they should sit there to hear such a dead dog as I preach.' Despite his feelings the commissioners were happy and accepted him for the work.
They felt it unwise to head west in winter so Brainerd preached in various places first, bidding farewell to family and friends. He was at Haddam on February 1, 1743 and also preached to Indians on Long Island under the care of SSPCK missionary Azariah Horton. For six weeks he served as supply preacher at East Hampton, Long Island. On his last Sunday there, March 13, though hardly able to stand, he preached an hour and a half. They pressed him to stay permanently (something they continued to do even after he began work among the Indians) but he refused. He said later, 'I never, since I began to preach, could feel any freedom to enter into other men's labours and settle down in the ministry where the gospel was preached before.' He felt he had to preach where Christ was not named nor known.
He had been assigned to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the care of a missionary of four years standing, John Sergeant (1710-1749). Brainerd arrived there on March 31, 1743. His main sphere of work was to be 20 miles further west at a place called Kaunaumeek, where he settled with a Scotsman and his wife, a woman who spoke hardly any English.
With next to no conversation or company, he was very lonely even though the Indians were cordial. His 25th birthday was spent fasting and praying alone in the woods. His diet at this time was hasty-pudding (porridge), boiled corn and bread baked in ashes. His lodging was a heap of straw, laid on boards in a log room with no floor. When Spring came he move into a wigwam. He had to travel a mile and a half daily on foot to reach the Indians. A Stockbridge Christian became his interpreter and friend. They translated Psalms and hymns, and, following a trip back east by Brainerd, were able to start an English school.
By August 1 he had completed building a hut for himself and had a better place to sleep. He writes of the sweetness of religion and a conviction that it was 'worthwhile to follow after God through a thousand snares, deserts, and death itself.' There were problems still, however. He had to go or send 10 or more miles for bread and it would be mouldy and sour before he could eat it all. The worldly conversation of some irreligious Dutchmen oppressed him.
Further trips east included a stop at New Haven for the graduation, which was probably when he first met Edwards personally. Some writers like to speculate that he also met Edwards' 14 year old daughter Jerusha at that time and fell in love with here. We do not know. Staying at Bellamy's he became ill but recovered sufficiently to return to his station on October 4.
On November 29 he began language study with Sergeant in earnest. He continue to preach and to fast and pray regularly though with no marked signs of progress. He bemoans at one point how much of his time is taken up with travelling. His entry for January 24 speaks interestingly of his developing ideas regarding the nature of love, which, if it is virtuous, he says, must be disinterested.
In the Spring of 1744 he received urgent invitations to minister at Millington, Connecticut, and at Easthampton, Long Island. However, on March 11, he preached his last sermon at Kaunaumeek. He persuaded most of the Indians to move to Stockbridge, where they came under the ministry of Sergeant and later Edwards. After a short trip back home, on May 1 he proceeded to his originally intended destination, the Forks of the Delaware river.
Forks of the Delaware
Brainerd took just under two weeks to reach his destination and was well received by the Indians there. On May 28 he left for Dickinson's house in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, three days and 70 miles away. This was to prepare for his examination for ordination. He was ordained in New York on June 11, 1744, with Ebenezer Pemberton preaching on Luke 14:23. Just over a week later he headed back to preach in the highways and byways of the remote wilderness.
Brainerd had to preach sitting down during the August due to ill health. By the end of the summer some 40 Indians were listening to his preaching. He had also made contact with some receptive Indians 30 miles further west. In October, after returning from a trip east, he made an exploratory trip some 70 miles west into the Susquehanna region. He was accompanied by a minister called Eliab Byram, his interpreter Moses Tattamy and two other Indians. It was on this trip that his horse was lamed and had to be put down. That Autumn he travelled east once more,staying again with fellow minister Aaron Burr, then a minister but later to marry Edwards' daughter Esther. Brainerd loved to be on his own with God but he also truly appreciated being with friends and talking about the things of the Lord. 'Friends are a great comfort and it's God that gives them; 'tis he makes them friendly to me.' (06/03/45).
In this period Brainerd lived much of the time with the Hunter family at a place a little way away known as Hunter's Settlement. Brainerd was also supply minister to the Scots-Irish community there. By December, however, he had built himself a little house into which he was able to move. (A stone now marks the site). He spent December 6 in prayer and fasting, 'to implore the blessing of God on myself, on my poor people, on my friends, and on the church of God.' Although Tattamy began to come under conviction for sin, these were not very encouraging times for Brainerd. Hwoever, he was able to write 'Towards night I felt my soul rejoice that God is unchangeably happy and glorious; and that he will be glorified, whatever becomes of his creatures.'
That winter was a particularly bad one, both as regards the weather and a regards Brainerd's depression. He confesses to real struggles with pride and ambition. He found it very difficult to concentrate at times. He continued to look to God, however, and came through this time with a greater sense of dependence on the Lord.
On February 17, 1745, he preached and gave communion at a gathering of white frontiers folk. On March 7 he left for a five week trip east. He rode more than 600 miles seeking to find someone who cold help him in the work and funds to support him. Sadly, eight months later he has to confess that he had found no-one 'qualified or disposed for this good work'. On April 20 (his 27th birthday) he was at Abington for three days of ministry. Weak in body, he left with Tattamy on May 8 for another trip into the Susquehanna region and far beyond. Once again he had horse trouble. This time the horses ate poisoned leaves and so they had to proceed on foot. The trip there and back took 22 days and left Brainerd weak and dejected, depressed and disillusioned about prospects. A week later, however, he took a communion service at Neshaminny for Charles Beatty, where there was a movement of the Spirit, a small taste of what lay ahead.
In November, 1740, however, he returned to Yale and found there had been a marked spiritual change in the school. Whitefield [see pic] had visited on October 27, and revival fires had touched the school. Gilbert Tennent (1703-1764) of New Jersey, author of a famous sermon on The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, also preached in New Haven in March, 1741. All this fuelled opposition to moderates in religion. Brainerd and other students became very zealous and visited each other 'for conversation and prayer'. It was through Brainerd that Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803) came under conviction of sin at this time. In April, New York pastor Ebenezer Pemberton (1704-1777), another revivalist preacher, visited Yale and gave a stirring address on missionary work to the Indians. The next day Brainerd was 23. He vowed to be wholly the Lord's and forever devoted to his service.
The college authorities, as we have said, were opposed to the revival. They forbade students to attend services in connection with it. Davenport's excesses confirmed their worst prejudices. Students favourable to the revival would meet together for fellowship, however, and it was in one of these gatherings that Brainerd made his notorious remark. As we have said, when the rector found out he demanded a public confession before the whole college, even though the remark was made in private. Brainerd's refusal to comply, probably exacerbated by continued attendance at meetings in New Haven, led inevitably to expulsion. He was also accused of saying that he was surprised Clap had not dropped dead for fining students who went to hear Tennent in Milford but this he denied.
The expulsion was clearly a bitter blow to Brainerd but readmission proved impossible, despite his repeated regrets and pleas from a council of Congregational ministers. He waged a constant fight against the bitterness of disappointment over his expulsion. The day of graduation when he would have passed out as top student was a testing one but he was able to cope by God's mercy. At other times he was thrown into deep despair. As time passed, he came to see how mistaken he had been to speak as he did. This only added to his sense of shame and sadness. Undoubtedly Brainerd was constitutionally inclined to depression and no doubt his physical illness added to this. His shameful expulsion and his conviction that he had been misguided in his zeal served only to increase his tendency to depression in this period.
Like other troubles he faced, though it cut him deep, by God's grace he seems to have been sanctified it. The immediate effect was to draw him closer to God. It should also be noted that it was in this period that he came to Edwards' attention, receiving support from him and other like-minded ministers. Another he came to know at this time was Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747) [see pic] who went on to be first president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton College, from which came Princeton Seminary, that bastion for orthodoxy in the following century. Both Dickinson and later Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) saw Brainerd's expulsion as an important catalyst in bringing about the foundation of Old Princeton.
Following Brainerd's expulsion laws were passed forbidding lay preachers, itinerant preachers and other unqualified men. However, attempts were made to provide ways for men like Brainerd to serve the Lord nevertheless. A new association was formed in Connecticut for licensing preachers unable to meet the demands of existing associations. A prime mover in forming this new group was Jedediah Mills (1697-1776). In Spring, 1742, he invited Brainerd to live with him at his home in Riperton, 10 miles west of New Haven, while he contemplated his future. On his 24th birthday Brainerd wrote, "... I hardly ever so longed to live to God and to be altogether devoted to him; I wanted to wear out my life in his service and for his glory ..." But what was he to do? That June he spent several days in fasting and prayer yet still remained in a quandary about the future.
By the time Johnson reached England he was feeling much better but was told that a return to Africa would mean dire consequences for his health. ‘I remember nothing more trying in all my life’ he wrote later, unless it was the conviction of sin he knew when he first sought the Lord. It was a devastating blow and without his dear wife Johnson felt very much alone. Old friends rallied round. The Wigneys welcomed him into their home for a while and Alfred Baynes of the BMS was a great help, as were others. He lodged for a little while in Southampton with another family. His prayer now was ‘Since I cannot labour in Africa, please, Lord, let me do something for Africa’. This prayer too was answered.
On August 4, 1880, he sailed from Liverpool to New York. Kind words from Spurgeon were again a comfort to him, ‘If you don’t get on, let us know. We will not forget you.’ From New York he headed for Chicago, again receiving many kindnesses from different people. His old pastor Mr de Baptiste had arranged for him to speak at the Wood River Association in Jacksonville, where he urged on his fellow African-Americans the needs of Africa. There and at three further associations in Missouri decisions were made to go ahead in outreach to Africa. At this time Johnson also published a 64 page booklet telling of his time in Africa and the great needs of that continent. Most importantly on October 12, 1 881, at Olivet Baptist Church, Chicago at a Baptist General Association of Western States and Territories it was resolved to form an African Mission to promote the sending of ‘coloured brethren’ to preach in the Congo.
Until then, the year 1881 had been taken up with raising funds for the Chicago church, following the rebuild necessitated by the great fire of 1874. Then on July 28 Johnson remarried. The bride, another African-American, was Miss Sara Artimeco McGowan. God later blessed them with a little girl, Ruth. They proceeded to honeymoon on the SS Spain and in England where Johnson also engaged in missionary work. In March 1882 the news came that he had been appointed as missionary and financial agent of the BGAWST. He now moved from Manchester, where he had been based, to London and began on an exhausting round of missions and meetings throughout the British Isles, with the aim of evangelising the lost and stirring believers to missionary endeavour.
On his first visit to Scotland in 1884 he took a mission for W Y Fullerton in Airdrie. He went from there to Hawick. A black man was still a novelty in those days and he mentions some young people there going to check his bed clothes in the morning to see if the black had come off! In Ireland the following year children even took fright at his dark appearance. By far his worst treatment, though, came back in the Southern States of America, on visits there over the next few years. After 1884 various laws were passed in the Southern States discriminating against African-Americans. Nothing shows the stupidity of racism more than the fact that when he wore a red fez, as he sometimes did, and appeared African he was treated with great respect, but once it was discovered that he had been a Virginian slave the rules were all against him. He sought to identify with his people as much as he could and urged them to abandon all idea of using arms. ‘Go and seek God in prayer, as thousands of us did in the old slave days’ was always his counsel.
There were several trips back and forth across the Atlantic in the remaining years of the century. With his new wife’s assistance he launched a magazine The African mission Herald in October 1888. We get some idea of the esteem in which Johnson was held, especially by his own people, when we note the enthusiasm among many for him to be appointed US Consul to the fledgling African State of Liberia. It did not come to that but he was referred to as ‘a man of marked ability and national reputation ... highly endorsed by men of the old and new worlds.’
Health considerations led him to resign from the mission in July 1889. It was not an easy decision. Certainly there was no lessening of his desire to do good for Africa. He wrote ‘Africa for Christ shall be my theme. Africa for Christ, who reigns supreme.’ After a little while he went back to pastoring Union Park church, Chicago, thus uniting a divided congregation. His health did not improve at first but after some months away in Denver, by this time about eight times bigger than when Johnson ministered there, things began to improve. This led to a fresh offer of work for the mission, to which Johnson readily acceded.
Like others he was particularly stirred at this time by the earnest appeals of Dr Henry Grattan Guinness (1835-1910) for the Great Soudan. Much less known and explored than the Congo region the Sudan region was the vast tract of open savanna plains between the Sahara to the north and the equatorial rain forests to the south. The term derives from the Arabic bilad as-sudan - land of the black peoples, and has been in use from at least the 12th Century. The northern reaches of the Sudan comprise the semi-arid region known as the Sahel. The Sudan extends for more than 3,500 miles west-to-east from Cape Verde on the Atlantic to the Ethiopian highlands and the Red Sea. Johnson’s great concern was to see the millions of Muslims and animists in the area won to Christ.
The mission appointed him to travel to Liberia again so in November, 1891 he returned again to England. Sadly, he had to leave his wife and daughter behind as Sarah’s health was not good. In England he met with Grattan Guiness and was at Spurgeon’s funeral in February, 1892. He recalled saying to someone then ‘God never makes a mistake’. The very next morning back in Liverpool he received a letter saying that his little daughter, Ruth, had suddenly died. She was just six and a half This was a great blow and no doubt contributed to the ill health that followed and caused him to postpone his planned trip to Liberia. Thankfully Mrs Johnson’s health improved and she was able to join him in July. They set up house in the London area, in Sydenham.
From Sydenham he travelled to the west country to lead evangelistic missions in association with the YMCA. He especially delighted in the children he met and loved to see them coming to trust in Jesus. After this the Africa trip was again postponed due to ill health. Johnson spent three and a half months of 1893 in hospital. Recuperating in a bath-chair in Bournemouth he found, he says, he had turned into a grumbler, quite forgetting the 56 years he had been kept out of hospital until then. When he was well enough his first sermon was on Romans 8:28! The rest in Bournemouth was greatly appreciated but following a mission in Ireland he fell ill again and once more felt compelled to resign his post with the African Mission.
We have already said that Johnson preached in all four home countries. Over the succeeding years of his life he knew health enough to conduct missions in Belfast, Bournemouth, Bristol, Clitheroe, Cork, Crewkerne, Croydon, Dublin, Edinburgh, Emsworth, Folkestone, Haywards Heath, Ilfracombe, Liverpool, Manchester, Margate, Reading, Southampton, Tewkesbury, Winchester and many parts of London. He also preached in the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and on Guernsey. His travels in America had already taken him to at least 17 states, from Wisconsin to Louisiana, from Colorado to Maryland. With missions it was his policy not to make an issue of payment for his services but to demand that a week of prayer precede the week. He spoke of the Saviour not only in public but also took opportunities for personal witness even to complete strangers. His autobiogaphy gives several examples of apparently genuine conversions.
He and Mrs Johnson lived from the 1890s in Boscombe, Bournemouth. Old age inevitably brings with it the death of good friends. His autobiography notes the deaths of the widows from two families that had been such a help to him - Mrs Stroud Smith on a trip to Liberia, in December, 1893 and Mrs Spurgeon in October, 1903. In 1900 he accidentally knelt on a piece of coal which caused an injury that plagued him the rest of his days. In March of that year he was made a British Citizen. The following year, through the kindness of friends in Putney, a fund was established to provide for him in retirement.
His autobiography went through several editions. It was sold at meetings and by mail from his home. Aged 72 at the close of the seventh edition in 1909 he wrote
‘The hand of God has been with me down the years. He requires an appropriate return. I charge my soul as an unprofitable servant, reviewing all the opportunities and the advantages afforded me. He has kept my heart beating 70 times per minute, 4,200 per hour, 100,800 per day, 3,681,720 per year, and never losing sight of me, who am but one unit out of the 1,800,000,000 people in the world. O my soul, but for the blood of my blessed Jesus, where wouldst thou stand today? I have been to his feet as I have heard his voice saying, ‘Come unto me, and I will give you rest.’ And I have found that sweet rest. And so will all who come to my blessed Jesus.
I still wait his will in whatever word or way or work he gives to me, and look forward to that time of the glorious emancipation of the soul and of the body, too, from the present bondage of this life to the glorious assembly and church of the firstborn written in heaven,. To God be everlasting praise. Amen and Amen.’
Another eighth edition appeared before his death.
He also wrote a number of little booklets and leaflets bearing testimony, such as Out of darkness into light or how Jesus found me; God never makes a mistake; God knows all about it and, for children, Four fingers and a thumb a simple evangelistic tool. From 1910 onwards he was wheelchair bound and became a familiar figure around the streets of Bournemouth. For many local people he was the first black person they had seen up close. He became famous for saying ‘Shake hands - the black won't come off!’ Although he died in 1921, it is said that in Bournemouth the slave chains and whips that decorated his home and his Christian faith were remembered well into the 1980s.
2. Henry Kirke White 21 (1785-1806) Oft in danger, oft in woe
3. Edith Gilling Cherry 25 (1872-1897) We rest on Thee, etc
4. Mary Lundie Duncan 26 (1814-1840) Jesus, tender shepherd, hear me
5. William Ralph Featherston 28 (1842-1870) My Jesus I love Thee
6. Joseph Anstice 28 (1808-1836) O Lord! How happy should we be, etc
7. Joachim Neander 30 (1650-1680) Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, etc
8. Joseph Swain 35 (1761-1796) Come ye souls, by sin afflicted, etc [See pic]
9. Samuel Miller Waring 35 (1792-1827) [Anna Laetitita's uncle] Now to him who loved us, gave us
4. George Wishart (1513–1546) Scottish Reformer Faithful minister who proclaimed the gospel and mentored John Knox, founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Executed for the faith.
5. Richard Cameron (1648-1680) Scottish Covenanter Known as the "Lion of the Covenant". Died in battle during the Killing Times. "Lord, spare the green and take the ripe".
7. Samuel Pearce (1766-1799) Baptist minister Great friend of Fuller and Carey.
9. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–1843) Scots Pastor "Prophet of Dundee" one of Scotland’s most beloved ministers.
There was a case of someone using casswood juice on a man who thankfully lived. As soon as the chief was told about it he put a stop to the practice. Johnson later wrote ‘When we first came to Bakundu we could hardly sleep at night for the yells of the people in their dance and their beating of the drums. This was kept up day and night. They knew nothing of a Sabbath; hence they continued their drum beating all the week round.’ Richardson spoke to the king about passing a law that drums should not be beaten on the Sabbath. From then on Richardson would blow a trumpet on Friday nights reminding people the next day was Saturday and they ought to lay in provisions for the coming Sunday. Many came to a simple but confident faith in the God of the Bible.
Many other changes came. The people generally went naked but began to ask for clothing to cover themselves. They were willing to give the missionaries meat in exchange for shirts. Johnson describes seeing a man come to church with his shirt under his arm. Before the service began he slipped it on, assuming that was the right procedure. People were also keen to see their children taught to read and write. Unlike other peoples of the area they were not warlike but farmers, raising corn, sweet potatoes, yams and cocoa and herding goats, sheep and cattle. They were in the grip of all sorts of petty fears and superstitions, however, that began to melt away at in the face of the gospel. The three ‘Ju Ju’ houses where secret meetings would take place began to lose their attraction. Richardson was even able to hold a meeting in one dispelling any claimed magical properties. Their childlike simplicity mellowed too as they became used to modern inventions such as matches. What a glorious thing it is when men and women are rescued from the living death of superstition and error.
Despite much sympathy for the Christian faith the old king’s superstition clung to him almost to the last. However, there was reason to hope he came to faith before he died. Near the end he told his son, ‘Etau, whatever these men (the missionaries) tell you, believe it, for I have found them to be true men.’ He died three or four months after their arrival. A dying wish was that the Johnsons bring up his youngest son, Ngatee and one of his daughters and that Richardson should immediately start a school for the boys of the town.
Throughout their brief time in Bakundu the Johnsons knew poor health. At the beginning of March, as Thomas’s own health began to improve a little, Henrietta was struck with a fever that she never recovered from, dying on July 9, 1879. They had been married nearly 16 years. Throughout May and June, as they built their new house, she seemed conscious she would not live long. Throughout this period, as before, she found great comfort in daily reading the Bible. On July 5, near the end, she slept all day. She remarked later on what a waste it had been not having been able to read the Bible. Thomas read John 14 to encourage her. In the morning she commented that though her mind was leaving her at times she had not lost sight of rest in Christ and the freedom found in him. Before she died she repeated her favourite text, I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. The natives were moved at the loss of ‘Mamma’. Johnson himself wrote ‘I do not think a more devoted wife ever lived. Her heart and soul and service were with me in all my efforts for my blessed Jesus.’ Her death was reported the following January by Spurgeon in the Sword and Trowel.
Meanwhile Johnson was suffering with his liver, with sciatica and muscular rheumatism. With all the work falling on Richardson, Thomson, back in Victoria, decided it would be best to bring Johnson back down to the coast again. He was in such a bad way that he had to be brought all the way by hammock. The journey was not without incident as they met with opposition from hostile natives on at least three occasions. Johnson never forgot the ‘flashing eyes and awful expressions’ on the tattooed faces of men about to leap on him. But his prayers for safety were answered and he safely arrived in Victoria again. Sadly, there was no improvement in his health, however, and he was ordered by Thomson to return to England immediately. When the next steamer arrived Johnson, scarcely able to walk, was put on board. He arrived in Liverpool in January, 1880.
In August 1877 the Johnsons were joined by Mrs Johnson’s younger sister and her husband, Rev C H Richardson, another African-American eager to go to Africa to preach the gospel. Richardson also became a student at the Pastors’ College and accompanied Johnson on various deputation meetings arranged by the Baptist Union. The Union was only committed to sending Johnson to Africa but he in turn was committed to sharing all he received with Richardson. The two families began language study with retired pioneer missionary, Alfred Saker (1814-1880). Saker [see pic], then in his sixties, was nearing his life’s end. He had laboured for 32 years in the Cameroon, translating the Bible into Douala and advancing the gospel on many fronts.
From the Autumn of 1878 they began a round of farewell meetings culminating in a large gathering at the Tabernacle itself with C H Spurgeon in the chair. In Ten years of my Life in the service of the book fund Mrs Spurgeon refers to a visit from the missionaries to Nightingale Lane. She particularly remembered them singing. A semi-invalid, in her weak physical state she especially appreciated the quaint negro spiritual
Keep inching along, keep inching along, Like a poor inch worm
Jesus Christ will come by and by.
She even had them sing it in the quiet whispers that were used in days of slavery when meetings for worship were prohibited. Mrs Spurgeon’s book fund had started three years before and the song was a great help to her as she personally parcelled up books for sending out to needy pastors. ‘Though prevented by my weakness from taking giant strides’ she says, ‘how gracious is the Lord to allow his unworthy child to creep even inch by inch along the pleasant road of service for him’.
On November 6, 1878, the missionaries bade farewell to London and headed for Liverpool, where they sailed three days later. On November 22 they sighted Cape Verde (Cap Vert), Western Senegal, Africa’s westernmost point. What a moment for Johnson to see Africa for the very first time, the land he had dreamed of since boyhood and where he so longed to bring the gospel. ‘My feelings of joy were indescribable. I could not leave the state room without falling upon my knees and thanking my heavenly Father for permitting me to see the poor suffering land of Africa’. He was so excited he could hardly sleep that night. The next day they sailed up the Gambia river and disembarked at Bathurst (now Banjul, capital of Gambia but then part of Sierra Leone). The town then was a mixture of fine colonial buildings, churches, hospital, barracks, administrative buildings — and native huts of bamboo with grass thatched roofs.
After a short stay the SS Kinsembo sailed down the coast to Sierra Leone capital Freetown. It had been established as a British Colony in 1787 for slaves repatriated from Britain and the US or rescued from shipwrecks. The land was purchased from local chiefs. The Sierra Leone Company administered the settlement until 1808, when it became a crown colony. Freetown lies on sloping ground at the foot of a range of hills and faces one of the best natural harbours on Africa’s west coast. Its fine buildings and many large gardens where banana, orange, coconut and pineapple grew abundantly all impressed Johnson. Again the people were hospitable and several were lively Christians. Several Africans there spoke English.
Next stop was Grand Bassa, in what came to be known as Liberia. Liberia was established by the American Colonisation Society, founded in 1816 to resettle freed American slaves in Africa. The first article in its original code of laws was ‘Christianity is the foundation of all true laws’. As their steamship moved along the coast Johnson was struck by its great beauty. By November 30 they had passed the Cape Mesurado colony, later named Monrovia for President James Monroe, and reached Nifou then Grand Cess. Johnson mentions the fine looking and industrious Kroo people going out in canoes to fish from these places. He also mentions Elmina, Cape Coast and Accra on the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Lagos and Bonny, Nigeria, the next places reached as the ship continued to hug the coast. In Bonny he saw human skulls hanging in the native huts, reminders of the fact that only 15 years before these people had been cannibals though the coming of the gospel was transforming lives.
After a brief stop on the island of Fernando Póo (now Bioko Island, part of Equatorial Guinea) they finally reached their destination on December 14, 1878. This was Victoria, Cameroon. Now known as Limbe, it lies on the Ambas Bay on the Gulf of Guinea, at the southern foot of West Africa’s highest mountain Mount Cameroon (over 14,000 feet), an active volcano. Limbe, now Cameroon’s second port (after Douala) was founded as Victoria in 1858 by Saker and other Baptist missionaries, when the Spanish expelled them from Fernando Póo. They purchased a coastal strip 10 miles by 5 miles that became a haven from slavery, witchcraft and polygamy. One ministry was rescuing people accused of witchcraft and forced to drink poisonous casswood juice as a means of trial by ordeal.
The missionary in charge was Rev Q W Thomson. At this time Victoria’s population was only 500. The people were literate, English speaking native Africans. Most were believers. At 7 am the day after his arrival Johnson heard the bell ring to summon the populace to church, where he preached for the first time on African soil using his sermon on Acts 16:31. ‘I cannot remember ever preaching to a more attentive audience’ he recalled. A day or two later he went down with a fever so was unable to join Richardson and Thomson who, on January 20, 1879, set off 80 miles into the interior to select a new missionary station.
On February 4, Thomson returned without Richardson, whom he had left with two native Christians, in Bakundu, the selected new station, also sick with fever. Two days later Johnson, his wife, Mrs Richardson and another missionary, George Grenfell (1849-1906) later to distinguish himself in the Congo, set off in an open boat up river, rowed by Kroomen. They were followed by a large canoe containing provisions and other men. They had hoped to pass the hostile towns of Mungo and Mbungo by night but were soon behind schedule and unsure of their bearings. On the Friday night they were spotted by a man with a ‘talking drum’ who ‘telegraphed’ their arrival. By Saturday morning a large group of nearly a hundred natives, armed with cutlasses, had surrounded them and they were forced to row to Mungo. There they refused to leave the boat, warning of grave consequences if they were harmed. In the end the Mungo king demanded payment to pass on and was satisfied with the tribute of an overcoat, a blanket, some sugar and rice and a barrel of hard biscuits. Though only six miles from Bakundu the party felt they had little choice but to return to Victoria.
1. A melancholy boy - parentage, birth, parents' deaths (Apr 1718-Mar 1732)
We know little of Brainerd's childhood. The fifth of nine children (4 girls, 5 boys), he was born to Christian parents. Hezekiah Brainerd was a country squire, a JP and one of the King's counsel for the colony. Dorothy Mason was a widow when she married Hezekiah. Her father, Jeremiah Hobart (1630-1715), had been minister in Haddam. Ancestor, Peter Hobart, had ministered at Hingham, Essex before crossing the Atlantic and settling in Hingham, Massachusetts. The Brainerd country house was just above the west bank of the Connecticut River, some miles from the frontier town of Haddam.
A schoolhouse was established in Haddam in 1728. Perhaps David went there. His education was certainly thorough but basic. The simple Congregational church house the family attended was built in 1721 while David was still young. Long sermons and sober worship were the order of the day. The local parson was always treated with the highest respect.
The upbringing would have been strict but loving and Bible-centred. Books like Janeway's Token for children and Pilgrim's Progress would have been used. In those early days Brainerd had some marked religious experiences that he later mentions but they did not last.
When David was only nine his father died, away on business in Hartford. Five years later, in March, 1732, his mother also died. Brainerd confesses that he was a melancholy boy by temperament and no doubt these deaths, though perhaps more common then than now, added to the sense of seriousness with which he was constitutionally possessed.
2. A serious teenager - in his sister's house, studies, conversion (Mar 1732-Sep 1739)
After his mother's death Brainerd lived with newly married sister Jerusha and her husband Samuel Spencer. During this period he struggled to find Christ and knew a good deal of inner conflict. He confesses to hating things he found in Scripture, especially the idea that God could save or damn him. Like so many he wanted to be saved but on his own terms.
In April, 1737, he returned to the farm, where he worked for a year. He then began to study with his pastor, Phineas Fiske, in whose house he lived. Three of six Fiske daughters had married Brainerds; the families were close. Brainerd soon became a serious student of the Bible and took Fiske's advice to spend more time with older people rather than young people interested only in such things as card playing and 'frolics'. He also spent time with more sober-minded young people.
In Autumn, 1738 Fiske also died. All this while Brainerd had been seeking the Lord. Though he sometimes thought himself acceptable, he was not converted. All his religion, he saw, was just show. By February, 1739, he was in the habit of setting aside days for fasting and prayer to seek God. Eventually, on July 12, 1739, he was converted and blessed with a wonderful assurance of salvation in Christ. Unspeakable glory seemed to open to his view. To quote him
Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him, and set him on the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at his honour and glory, as King of the Universe.
I continued in this state of inward joy and peace, yet astonishment, until near dark, without any sensible abatement; and then began to think and examine what I had seen; and felt sweetly composed in my mind all the evening following: I felt myself in a new world, and every thing about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do.
At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed, and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.
2. Hugh Binning 1627-1653 26
3. Henry Scougal 1650-1678 28
5. William Pemble 1591-1623 32
6. Christopher Love 1618-1651 33
7. Joseph Alleine 1634-1668 34
8. George Gillespie 1613-1648 35
9. James Durham 1622-1658 36
10. Thomas Halyburton 1674-1712 38
In the Yale edition Prof Norman Pettit points out that though the text is largely Brainerd's 'the volume as Edwards conceived it belongs to him'. Perry Miller calls it 'a rebuke both to enthusiasts and Arminians' (ie moralists). Edwards had already written several works and was about to work on his famous treatise Freedom of the will when these materials came to hand. (Freedom of the will did not appear until 1754). It seems the Brainerd project took priority because he saw it as providing an excellent example of the sort of qualities extolled in his previous book The Religious Affections (1746). It has been said that Brainerd is the phantom in the background of that work and others. Pettit draws attention to similarities between Brainerd's conversion and that of Edwards's wife Sarah, described anonymously in Some thoughts concerning the revival of religion in New England (1742). Brainerd's journal provided not only his own example but that of other conversions, all judged according to the criteria laid down in Edwards' Distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God in 1741. Brainerd in turn undoubtedly influenced Edwards, who spent most of his last seven years working among Native Americans in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Edwards' work omitted parts of the diary published in 1746 (portions dealing with his work at Crossweeksung Jun 19-Nov 4, 1745; Nov 24, 1745-Jun 19, 1746) [Mirabilia dei inter Indicos: or the rise and progress of a remarkable work of grace among a number of the Indians in the provinces of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Divine Grace Displayed: or the continuance & progress of a remarkable work of grace, etc. Together known as David Brainerd's Journal. Doddridge did an abridgement, 1748.] A complete edition appeared in 1765. Edwards also rewrote parts of Brainerd's testimony and diary, which can be tedious in its repetitions. He also omitted phrases he deemed unsuitable for the Christian public. The book contains a preface (10); Brainerd's edited papers interspersed with Edwards' narrative in 8 parts (378); further 'remains', mostly letters (33); reflections and observations (42); funeral sermon (12) [Page numbers refer to the Yale Edition whcih reinserts missing entries].
In 1822, Sereno E Dwight edited and published the life and diary entire, with letters and other writings. In 1884 a more thorough revision was prepared by J M Sherwood in New York.
These various editions of Brainerd's life, along with subsequent versions, have had great influence over the years. John Wesley (1703-1781) wrote 'what can be done to revive the work of God where it is decayed?' His answer? 'Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd'. (He also thought Brainerd rather proud at times and in need of some Christian perfectionist teaching – but Wesley would!). Associates of William Carey (1761-1734) were expected to read the life three times a year! 'Let us often look at Brainerd in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God. Prayer, secret, fervent, expectant, lies at the root of all personal godliness.'
Henry Martyn (1781-1812), another missionary giant, said 'I long to be like him; let me forget the world and be swallowed up in a desire to glorify God.'
Among others influenced by it are Francis Asbury ('that model of meekness, moderation, temptation and labour and self-denial'), Thomas Coke, Samuel Marsden, Samuel John Mills, Robert Morrison, Livingstone, Chalmers, M'Cheyne, A J Gordon and Jim Elliott. The 20th Century Canadian preacher Oswald J Smith wrote 'When I feel myself growing cold I turn to Brainerd and he always warms my heart. No man ever had a greater passion for souls. To live wholly for God was his one great aim and ambition.'
'His story,' wrote Sherwood, 'has done more to develop and mould the spirit of modern missions, and to fire the heart of the Christian Church, than that of any man since the apostolic age.' 'Have a good look at him' wrote F W Boreham, 'he is a man in a million; he did more than any other to usher in the world's new day.'
A 1969 hit by the Hollies is based on the story.
No burden is he to bear; we’ll get there,
But I know he would not encumber me.
He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother.
If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart isn’t filled with the gladness of love for one another.
The Bible presents Jesus as a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Mt 11:19) who calls believers friends not servants (Jn 15:13-15), and is not ashamed to call them brothers (He 2:11-13, etc). Whoever does the Father's will is his brother and sister and mother (Mt 12:50). Gill notes how the Jews saw the verse as referring to Messiah. They saw it as showing 'that the Messiah, being God, would by his incarnation become a brother to men'.
Christ’s friendship is a favourite theme in evangelical hymns. Albert Midlane’s children's hymn begins
Above the bright blue sky,
A Friend who never changes,
Whose love will never die;
Our earthly friends may fail us,
And change with changing years,
This Friend is always worthy
Of that dear Name he bears.
So wise a Counsellor and Guide,
So mighty a Defender!
I have a rich almighty Friend;
Jesus, the Saviour, is his name;
He freely loves, and without end.
Among the willing workers in the Providence Sunday School and at the church’s weekday adult literacy classes were the Stroud Smith family. Edward Stroud Smith was a help to Johnson with preparing Sunday School. The parents and two daughters were English and members at Western Avenue Baptist Church. They had great sympathy for their poor neighbours. The family were to become lifelong friends. Through them Johnson came to know their pastor, J J Irving, who had trained in England at Spurgeon’s Pastors College. After a while the Smiths returned to England. It was a sad farewell. Johnson had no real expectation of seeing them again, his heart set on Africa not England.
Meanwhile he discovered that the American Baptist Missionary Union had no work in Africa and no organisations were then sending African-Americans to Africa. Adding to his troubles his health was deteriorating and he again became seriously ill. He was nearly 40 now and still lacking the theological education necessary for work in Africa. Despite these disadvantages he was, however, able to secure the agreement of a Dr Murdock of the American Baptist Union to finance the journey from New York to Liberia, the American settlement for freed slaves in West Africa, though he could offer no other financial help.
Then early in 1876 Johnson received two important letters from England. One, from Stroud Smith, told of a conversation with W Hind Smith of the YMCA, Manchester about missionary work in Africa. The other was from Hind Smith himself and said that if Johnson could get to England he would arrange for his enrolment on a suitable course of study in readiness for Africa. Johnson was still gravely ill at the time but mustered the strength to write at once to say he would come. He also informed Dr Murdock of his intention to take up the offer of passage to Liberia. Remarkably he began to recover and arrangements were made for him to leave for England. Friends and members at the mission in Chicago were very kind and on August 19 that same year Thomas and Henrietta set sail for England on the SS Spain.
They arrived in Liverpool on September 1, 1876, and were taken to Manchester by rail, where they were met by the two Smiths. They stayed with the Hind Smiths and on their first Sunday morning went to hear eminent Baptist preacher and commentator Alexander Maclaren at Union Chapel, Oxford Road. By this time Maclaren had been pastor 18 years. A modest, unassuming Scot his expository sermons were very popular at one time. In the afternoon Johnson visited a ‘Ragged School’ where he spoke. Two things struck him on that occasion. The first was a picture he saw of Queen Victoria presenting a Bible to an African Prince. The story behind the picture is that the African had come to England to find the secret of her greatness. The Queen gave him a Bible and told him ‘this is the secret’. The other thing was the singing of some words by the children that Johnson was not able to join in with.
I was not born a little slave to labour in the sun,
Wishing I were but in my grave and all my labour done;
The Johnsons stayed in Manchester with the Hind Smiths whose young boys, Willie and Martin, had met the Jubilee Singers from America and loved to sing some of the negro spirituals with Thomas, including Steal away to Jesus, Mary and Martha just gone along and When he cometh, to make up his jewels. Sadly, just over a year after the Johnsons’ arrival in England, young Martin died. Meanwhile Johnson met various Christian leaders and businessmen, including the Bishop of Manchester and Dr Maclaren, mentioned earlier. A young student from Owen’s College was engaged to help him with his English grammar.
Maclaren gave Johnson’s name to the Baptist Missionary Society in London who invited him to meet them. The trip to the big city was an enjoyable one, especially the visit to the zoo in Regent’s Park. One mishap was being lost on Clapham Common. Johnson’s eagerness to meet Spurgeon led him to ask a bus driver where the great man lived. The man told him which bus to catch to get to Nightingale Lane, the other side of Clapham Common, but when he reached there, alas, Spurgeon was out. By then it was dark and the journey back was not easy or pleasant.
Back in Manchester Hind Smith noticed the damp weather was not agreeing with Johnson so he enquired of Spurgeon whether he might sit in on some lectures at the Pastor’s College. ‘Yes, let the man come’ was Spurgeon’s postcard reply. One can imagine Johnson’s amazement at this privilege. When he had first heard Spurgeon’s name he was, according to law, a ‘thing’, a mere ‘chattel’. Now he was going to study in the great man’s own college.
In accord with college policy the Johnson’s boarded with a family, the Wigneys. Mr Wigney was an elder at the Tabernacle. The college was then meeting in purpose-built premises at the rear of the Tabernacle and had been going for some 20 years. It endeavoured to teach not only theology but other basic subjects too. Tutors then included Archibald Ferguson, David Gracey and George Rogers. Johnson particularly mentions Ferguson, who would invite him to his home in West Ealing, where he was minister of the Baptist Church he had planted. Ferguson had been converted in Dundee in 1839, the year revival came to M’Cheyne’s church under W C Burns, who went on to serve in China.
Spurgeon would give one of his famous ‘Lectures to my students’ on a Friday afternoon and so Johnson soon came to meet his hero. His love and respect for the man were enhanced rather than diminished by this close encounter. ‘I at once fell in love with dear Mr Spurgeon’ he says of their first meeting. Many things about Spurgeon impressed him. ‘In the late Mr Spurgeon’ he writes ‘we had one in whom faith and courage and faithfulness in preaching God’s Word were predominant features of his ministry.’ It was in January, 1877, that the meeting mentioned in a previous post took place. He took great encouragement from Spurgeon’s assurances of help.
After a little while Johnson was accepted formally as a student. He found both tutors and students kind and welcoming. Gaps in his knowledge were sometimes a cause of mirth. He gives an example - his assumption that the world is flat! To be fair to Johnson at least one African-American preacher of the time claimed to teach similar ‘facts’ from the Bible. The most famous sermon of the otherwise reliable John Jasper (1812-1901) of Virginia was ‘The sun do move’. It appealed to Joshua 10 and 2 Kings 20 to disprove Copernicus and Revelation 7:1 to prove the earth flat! There was a great deal for Johnson to learn and quite a few things to unlearn. Ever after he was very grateful for his time there. In his first sermon before the students and faculty he turned to Acts 16:31, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and leaned very heavily on the work of 18th Century Baptist Andrew Fuller, hoping to go undetected. As students can be, they were merciless with poor Johnson. Professor Rogers defended him, however, but with the cutting remark that he saw in Johnson another Andrew Fuller! Johnson took it all in good part.
A nice page of quotes appears here.
Amazon.com currently lists about 12 biographies of Brainerd, of various lengths, available besides the Edwards one.
A biography (in pdf) of John Brainerd, David's brother and successor, is available here.
Jeremiah Burroughs 1600-1646
John Jackson 1600-1648
Sidrach Simpson 1600-1655
Richard Vines 1600-1656
Obadiah Sedgwick 1600-1658
Samuel Rutherford 1600-1660
Anthony Burgess c1600-c1664
Edmund Calamy The Elder 1600-1666
Edward Heyrick 1600-1667
William Bridge 1600-1670
Thomas Goodwin 1600-1679
A Christian History Instititue article begins by asking if God's love be hidden? Then says 'There were five terrible years after Tersteegen became a Christian when he had no sense of God whatever. He came close to despair.' It then describes his life story - schooling, apprentice shopkeeper, frequent illnesses, conversion, devotion, hermit-like existence and piety. It goes on 'His lifestyle embarrassed his well-to-do family, who came to the point they would not even mention his name. When he fell gravely ill, they left him unattended. It was after this that darkness closed around him. For five years he had no impression of God and even began to doubt his existence. Yet he wrote hymns of faith. But mere words were not able to ease his troubled mind. Yet one day God drew so close to Tersteegen that the sorrowing man knew absolute peace. From then until his death, (April 3, 1769), Tersteegen taught others. Anyone could see that the spiritual world was real to him. Hundreds of the poor and farmers gathered daily at his home to hear him speak. He also traveled throughout the region, preaching. While at peace inwardly, he seldom had a moment's peace outwardly, for there were always people clamouring for his spiritual advice.' Clearly somewhat eccentric (he even wrote a dedication of himself to Christ in his own blood) he was clearly a godly man.
This translation by John Wesley has six verse here though we only sang the four in our hymn book on Sunday (1,4,5,6).
Thou hidden Love of God, whose height,
Whose depth unfathomed no one knows,
I see from far Thy beauteous light,
And inly sigh for Thy repose;
My heart is pained, nor can it be
At rest, till it finds rest in Thee.
Thy secret voice invites me still
The sweetness of Thy yoke to prove;
Seems fixed, yet wide my passions rove;
Yet hindrances strew all the way;
I aim at Thee, yet from Thee stray.
’Tis mercy all that Thou has brought
My mind to seek its peace in Thee;
Yet while I seek, but find Thee not,
No peace my wandering soul shall see.
And all my steps to Theeward tend?
Is there a thing beneath the sun
That strives with Thee my heart to share?
Ah, tear it thence and reign alone,
The Lord of every motion there;
Then shall my heart from earth be free,
When it hath found repose in Thee.
No more, but Christ in me, may live!
My vile affections crucify,
Nor let one darling lust survive
In all things nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!
O Love, Thy sovereign aid impart
To save me from low thoughted care;
From all its hidden mazes there;
Make me Thy duteous child that I
Ceaseless may “Abba, Father” cry.
Ah no! ne’er will I backward turn:
Thine wholly, Thine alone I am!
Thrice happy he who views with scorn
Earth’s toys, for Thee his constant Flame;
From the blest footsteps of Thy love!
Each moment draw from earth away
My heart that lowly waits Thy call;
Speak to my inmost soul and say,
“I am thy love, thy God, thy all!”
To feel Thy power, to hear Thy voice,
To taste Thy love, be all my choice.
At this point he was unordained. At a church meeting it was proposed that something be done about this. This put him in fresh consternation in view of his poor education. A council, involving representatives from various Chicago Baptist churches, was fixed for April 15, 1869. Johnson reflects, 50 years on, on how ‘in those days there were thousands of our people who preferred an illiterate man of their own race, who was known to be true to the Evangelical faith, to a white man.’ When we look for men for the ministry adherence to the faith must be the priority.
For 15 days before the council Johnson was able to give himself to prayer and study of God’s Word, walking by the banks of Lake Michigan. What wonderful times he had. Ten ministers (eight white, two black) examined him, hearing his testimony and testing his knowledge of fundamental truths. Several times he had to ask for questions to be clarified. When they asked him what he would do if they refused to ordain him he politely said he would continue to prepare himself for examination until he was found acceptable. He was sure the Lord wanted him to preach. After an hour he was asked to withdraw for a short while and spent an anxious 10 minutes waiting until Dr Taylor of Union Park Baptist Church recalled him. The ordination was held that evening when Dr Taylor preached on He that winneth souls is wise.After several farewell services and many kindnesses, the Johnsons took the Union Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne, then in Wyoming Territory. From there they headed south by stage coach, reaching Denver 24 hours later. They had travelled across miles and miles of open prairie. Apart from occasional sightings of antelope or buffalo and little ‘towns’ of prairie dogs there was nothing to see from one town to the next.
In Denver they were warmly welcomed and were glad to be greeted by familiar faces from Chicago days. Denver was very much a frontier town, just over 10 years old, founded in a gold rush. Twenty miles from the Rocky Mountain range, still today the range’s snow capped peaks rise abruptly from the low foothills to provide a spectacular backdrop to the modern city. At that time lynch law prevailed. Frontier settlements often lacked established law enforcement agencies and so exercised summary justice through vigilantes. Shortly before the Johnsons’ arrival a man had been taken down to a creek and hanged for stealing.
Johnson concentrated at first on his little flock. His lack of confidence providentially forced him to stick close to the Bible. When his stock of subjects from Chicago days began to get low he learned to pray earnestly too. He was greatly helped by a sermon of Spurgeon’s ‘The preachers’ prayer’ (Lecture 3, Lectures to my students). It was in one of a number of good books provided by The Bible Publication Society before he left Chicago. He had a book of Spurgeon sermons too. Having been warned not to plagiarise he found himself often saying, as many have, ‘Mr Spurgeon says’. Eventually he gave it away as he was becoming obsessed with it. As for his sermons he comments that if they produced no light then they certainly did some years later when he used them for a bonfire!
There were only 75 African-Americans in Denver at this time and it was not unusual for them all to be present on a Sunday. They were poor, so collections were small but the nine members did what they could to make the Johnsons comfortable. The first to be baptised was Mrs Johnson herself. She was a great help to him in his ministry in many ways. He also had help from more educated members of the congregation. One Sunday three white people came, which made him especially nervous. As he read from Acts 26:28 he read Almost thou per-su-ad-est me to be a Christian. He noticed a friend jot something down to tell him after but continued to pronounce the word in this way until corrected the next day.
Receiving only $25 a month it was necessary to find other work. He selflessly turned down the opportunity of becoming school teacher for the African-American children on the grounds that he was so poorly educated himself He was able to find a young man acceptable to the board. He felt very much his need of further education and began gathering information on Colorado Territory with the aim of raising money for a college course through a popular lecture back east. He eventually began his lecture course when it was made possible, through George Pullman, to travel back to New York free of charge. (By 1870 two railroads had reached Denver). He remembered going to see the great D L Moody and seeking his help to hire the Farwell Hall, Chicago. This happened but it was a snowy night and Johnson was very disappointed at the turn out.
He reluctantly decided that the sooner he returned to Denver the better. Back there he was taken seriously ill but made a good recovery. His burning desire was still to go to Africa to preach the God’s Word but for now he stuck to his task even though his health declined and, as ever, there was no shortage of get-rich-quick schemes to steer away from. As he plodded to the goal of obtaining a proper theological education and as Denver itself grew, so the little mission grew in numbers too.
In May 1872, after three years in Denver, Johnson returned to Chicago. Before going to Africa he hoped study in Washington but at this time calls came from two churches, one west of Chicago, in Elgin, the other further south in Springfield, Illinois. It was the latter he took up. After only a year there a unanimous call came to Providence Baptist Church, Chicago. This was an altogether more affluent and well-educated congregation and Johnson was embarrassed at his lack of schooling. Someone gave him an English Grammar but it made no sense. He found most help from the regular Sunday School notes he was provided with to teach a Sunday School class, alongside his preaching duties.
Lord's Day, April 25 This morning I spent about two hours in secret duties and was enabled more than ordinarily to agonise for immortal souls. Though it was early in the morning and the sun scarcely shined at all, yet my body was quite wet with sweat ...
Saturday, December 15 Spent much time in prayer in the woods and seemed raised above the things of this world ...
1743 Monday, March 14 ... in the morning was almost continually engaged in ejaculatory prayer ...
Thursday, August 4 Was enabled to pray much, through the whole day ...
Only a man very familiar with the work of prayer can write with that sort of insight.
Something similar could be done with regard to his zeal.
August 30 My soul longs with a vehement desire to live to God.
1744 April 30 Oh that time should pass with so little done for God!
1745 November 22 I have received my all from God. Oh that I could return my all to God.
1746 May 22 I longed to be as a flame of fire, continually glowing in the divine service, preaching and building up Christ’s kingdom, to my latest, my dying moment.
It so happened that in 1742 Brainerd, speaking to some friends, said of Yale tutor Chauncey Whittelsey (1717-1787), whom he thought antagonistic to the revival, that he had 'no more grace than this chair' (a remark that turned out to be quite unjust). A younger student overheard what was said and mentioned it to someone else who in turn spoke to the college's strict and overbearing rector, Thomas Clap (1703-1767) who made the student tell all. Despite Brainerd's expressions of regret his remark, his refusal to make a public confession led to him being expelled. Many, many attempts were made to have him reinstated and in fact the way eventually opened up for his reinstatement, but by then he was wholly taken up with missionary work and a return to college was not realistic. Ironically, in the 19th Century a Brainerd Hall was established on the Yale campus.
2. Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung
3. (Remember The Days Of The) Old School Yard by Cat Stevens
4. Amsterdam The First Days by Brainbox
5. Day Tripper by The Beatles
6. Daydreamer by David Cassidy
7. Daydream Believer by The Monkees
8. That'll Be The Day by Buddy Holly
9. A Day In The Life
10. The Day before you came by Abba
1. Today by The Scaffold
2. Yesterday by The Beatles
3. Tomorrow by Avril Lavigne
4. Another Day by Paul McCartney
5. Everyday by Buddy Holly
6. Bad Day by Daniel Powter
7. Beautiful Day by U2
8. Lovely Day by Bill Withers
9. Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles
10. Day after Day by Badfinger
1. Richard Baxter, famous Puritan, prolific author
2. Richard Sibbes, also famous, works 7 vols
3. Richard Bernard, see my blog
4. Richard Alleine, author Heaven opened, etc
5. Richard Greenham, early puritan counsellor
6. Richard Rogers, wrote on Judges
7. Richard Gilpin, wrote Treatise of Satan's Temptations
8. Richard Mather, New Englander, father of Cotton Mather
9. Richard Steele, author The religious tradesman, etc
10. (Sir) Richard Baker, wrote on certain Psalms
First we have an aerial shot of the Norwegian Island of Utsira from whence come the sea names used on the shipping forecast North and South Utsire. The BBC uses an 'e' for some reason as on the above map. The location of Utsira is shown here. this all arises from a Bloggy Man cartoon, believe it or not.
For the one who is inexplicably depressed himself it is a matter of coping. Perhaps a strategy can be developed along these lines.
1. Do not be surprised by depression. It happens even to eminent Christians. Think of Cowper or Luther or Brainerd. Spurgeon once said ‘I, of all men, am perhaps the subject of the deepest depression at times’. David and Jeremiah are biblical examples. Godliness does not guarantee freedom from depression. There is a sinful depression. Think of angry Cain or pouting Ahab. Depression can also lead to sin. We must not excuse ourselves. However, depression can come unbidden to holy people.
2. When depressed or despondent, take special care to get plenty of sleep and to eat well. This will sometimes be difficult to achieve but if we realise its importance for mental as well as physical well being we will make it a priority. Many have pointed out how when Elijah fled from Jezebel in a fit of depression the first thing God did was to feed him and give him a long rest.
3. Do not be afraid to seek medical advice. It is not a lack of faith. Maybe medication is needed. There is no shame in using drugs to get through depression brought on by physical causes. Scripture condemns Asa not for seeking medical help but for failing to pray about his disease. Of course, on the other hand, it is a sin to pretend we have a medical problem when there is none. We should not be too quick to resort to medicine.
4. Concentrate on ‘getting through’. Depressions tend to be cyclical. They come and go. They can be more intense at certain times. It is common, for instance, to feel worst first thing in the morning or during the night. Remember that. Psalm 27:14 says ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD‘.
5. Beware of thinking too much. This may sound unusual advice. However, when a person is depressed he is not thinking straight and to let thoughts go round and round in a downward spiral does no good. Richard Baxter says ‘Do not exercise your thoughts too deeply, nor too much .... Long meditation is a duty to some, but not to you, any more than it is a person’s duty to go to church who has his leg broken’. When depressed do not waste mental energy on why you are depressed. It is worth analysing at another time but not in the midst of depression.
6. Seek company. The natural tendency of depressed persons is to seek solitude. Rather, seek cheerful company. Remember ‘A cheerful look brings joy to the heart and good news gives health to the bones’ (Pro 15:30). Dr Gaius Davies adds, ‘The role of a confiding, intimate friend is also important in protecting against depression’. Where this is possible such a friend will know you are depressed and with few words can help you through. Under this heading we might also note the need to take care over the music you hear. Music can powerfully affect moods, positively or negatively.
7. Concentrate on your duties. Jay Adams points out how those with less structured life-styles, such as housewives and ministers, can be more prone to depression. As far as possible, keep to daily routines and keep appointments. Try and ‘do the next thing’. At least do the little things that need doing but that require little mental effort. When depressed it is not the time for new initiatives or in depth discussions about the future.
8. Concentrate on maintaining your Christian testimony. All sorts of temptations may come to a depressed believer, it is important not to spoil an otherwise faithful witness by breaking out and doing something foolish that will bring the gospel into disrepute.
9. Keep praying and reading the Scriptures. Praying can be difficult at the best of times. In depression, prayer may seem impossible. Try and pray with others. It is clear that David came to God even at his worst. Ps 42:6 ‘My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you’. Ps 69:1, 2 ‘Save me, O God, ... I have come into the deep waters’. The psalms are a good place to turn to when downcast. Do not forget the great promises either.
10. Above all, trust in the Lord. Ps 42:11 ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God .…’ Isa 50:10 ‘Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God’. Look to the Lord. He will bring you through. Spurgeon says ‘I find myself frequently depressed ... I find no better cure ... than to trust in the Lord with all my heart and seek to realise afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus and his infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.’
1. John Owen, premier theolgain
2. John Bunyan, allegory king
7. John Cotton, New England divine
8. John Davenant, wrote on Colossians
9. John Lightfoot, scholar
10. John Shower, God's thoughts and ways
Bird not Byrds
1. I'm Like A Bird by Nelly Furtado
2. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
3. I'm A Cuckoo by Belle and Sebastian
4. The Snow Goose by Camel
5. Hurkey Turkey by Focus
6. Ride A White Swan by T Rex
7. Year Of The Falcon by Edgar Froese
8. Kite by U2
9. Dove by Tyrannosaurus Rex
10. Try To Use My Wings by Cyril Havermanns