The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

This Day in HIS-story: June 12


HT: Dan Graves

DAVID BRAINERD lived only twenty-nine years, but his faith was responsible for two major events. He helped trigger the formation of Princeton University (as the College of New Jersey) and converted many Seneca and Delaware Indians to Christianity. His journal and diary also had a powerful influence after his death.

Born in 1718, he began to seek the Lord at the age of seven. But not until he was twenty-one did he have “a new inward apprehension or view” of God that propelled him to deep acts of faith. He enrolled in Yale to study for the ministry but never received his degree. A fellow student accused him of saying one teacher had no more grace than a chair. Brainerd admitted making that remark but denied any recollection of another comment attributed to him. The school rejected his response as unsatisfactory, both then and when he later offered a more complete apology. Three professors who took Brainerd’s side resigned in disgust. They were among those who helped found the College of New Jersey.

The Scotland Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge was not put off by Brainerd’s lack of a degree. They commissioned him to carry the gospel to American Indians. The first three years of that work resulted in little fruit. 

Still he persevered. On this day, 12 June 1744, the New Jersey presbytery ordained David Brainerd. He wrote in his diary, 

At this time I was affected with a sense of the important trust committed to me; yet composed and solemn, without distraction. I hope I then, (as many times before) gave up myself to God, to be for him, and not for another. Oh that I might always be engaged in his service, duly remembering the solemn charge I have received, in the presence of God, angels, and men. Amen. May I be assisted of God for this purpose.

Mr. Pemberton, who officiated at the ceremony wrote,

We can with pleasure say, that Mr Brainerd passed through his ordination-trials, to the universal approbation of the presbytery, and appeared uncommonly qualified for the work of the ministry. He seems to be armed with a great deal of self-denial, and animated with a noble zeal to propagate the gospel among those barbarous nations, who have long dwelt in the darkness of Heathenism.

Brainerd’s years of “fatigues and hardships” paid off in 1745. His diary and journal record a number of instances in which the Spirit of God moved individuals and groups to repentance. Soon he was baptizing as many as fourteen at a time. Brainerd had just one more year of good work left in him. In 1747, he became too ill to continue and rode to Jonathan Edwards’s home where he was engaged to one of Edwards’s daughters. They never married. After five months of decline, Brainerd died of tuberculosis.

Protestants such as Henry Martyn and William Carey found in Brainerd’s journal an inspiration to their own mission work.


HT: Dan Graves

David Abeel was deeply disturbed. Although the Gospel had reached the Orient many times during the centuries since Christ’s resurrection, it never took a deep hold there. After long reflection, he concluded that he knew why this was: “…more than half of the women of the world were held in Oriental seclusion. They were unwelcome at birth, married in childhood to men they had never seen, and shut away from all possible teaching except that of their husbands or of other women.” He urged that women from the west step forward to become missionaries to women in the east.

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on this day, June 12, 1804, David Abeel attended the Reform church seminary in his home town. In 1829, he sailed to Canton, China, as chaplain of the Seaman’s Friend Society, thanks to a generous merchant. David Washington Cincinnatus Olyphant promised to support him in overseas work for a year.

When his year was up, David accepted a position under the American board of commissioners for foreign missions. In their behalf, he traveled to Java, Singapore and Siam (Thailand). Meanwhile, he attempted to learn Chinese. By 1833, however, his health had grown so bad that he had to return to the United States.

On the way home, David visited Europe. Wherever he stopped, he reminded Christians of their obligation to spread the Gospel to foreign lands. In England he helped form the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East. Back in the United States, he continued his push to meet the needs of oriental women. One woman who heard the call was Sarah Doremus, who threw herself into the effort so whole-heartedly that she became known as “The Mother of American Missions.”

David published books promoting mission work. This included a journal of his five years of work in China and its surrounding nations. He issued an appeal for more missionaries with the title, The Claims of the World to the Gospel (1838).

His health having recovered somewhat, he returned to the east in 1939. After visiting several of the islands of Southeast Asia, he founded a mission at Amoy in 1842 for the Reformed Church of America. However, by December 1844, his health was so bad that he sailed back to the United States. He died of tuberculosis of the lungs a few months later in 1846.

David Abeel is not a name remembered by many people today, and yet his concern to establish a lasting church in China inspired some notable women and sparked the creation of women’s mission groups. His clear insight had a lasting impact on the way mission work was done in the east.


HT: Dan Graves

James Gilmour was discouraged. Working alone in Mongolia, he poured out his heart to his diary: “preached to 24,000 people, treated 7,500 patients, distributed 10,000 books and tracts…and out of all this there are only two men who have openly confessed Christ.”

Actually two converts in eight months was double the fruit that he had seen in his first fourteen years on the mission field, in which he had won only one convert.

James Gilmour led an unusual–some would say eccentric–life. Born at Cathkin, Scotland, on this day, June 12,1843, he learned to trust Christ from godly parents and grandparents. His mother read him stories of missionaries. The boy loved nature and wandered alone among the hills and glens of his homeland as he would later wander alone in Mongolia.

Because of his parents’ prosperity, he was able to afford an education. He worked hard to master his subjects at Glasgow University and was his class’s outstanding student. Yet to him, Christianity was not merely a classroom exercise. Evenings, he went alone to speak with workers as they walked home, reminding them of their eternal souls. His efforts to save others did not stop at speech. Finding a friend drinking, he opened the window and poured the liquor onto the ground, remarking that it was better for it to be there than in a man who was made in God’s image.

In 1870, he sailed for China, planning to work in Mongolia. Soon after his arrival, 22 Roman Catholic priests were massacred. Gilmour was willing to die if it advanced God’s work, but fortunately calm prevailed. In August 1870, he was able to set out for Mongolia.

He learned Mongolian and engaged in years of seemingly fruitless evangelism. The common folk accepted him because he came with all his goods in a backpack just as their own lamas did. His expenses averaged just six cents a day. But such poverty barred him from inns. Eventually he had to rent a mule just to appear high enough in caste to be accepted as a guest. He healed the sick with simple remedies. Medicine became his main tool for touching lives.

Gilmour began to pray for a helper. He saw a portrait of a young woman. Convinced that God meant her for him, he wrote asking her to marry him. No other correspondence had passed between them and they had never met. Miss Emily Prankard prayed for guidance and was convinced God meant the marriage to happen and accepted Gilmour, sight unseen. Is it eccentric to accept God’s advice? They were happy. She braved Mongolia’s dust storms and tiresome mutton with him, quickly learning the language. Gilmour considered her a better missionary than himself.

Eleven years and two sons later, Emily died. Gilmour sent the boys back to Scotland to be reared by their grandparents. Worn out with travels and lack of necessities, he died in North China at age 47 from a severe and sudden case of Typhus Fever.


Death in Glasgow, Scotland, of James Denney. As a theologian and educator in the Free Church, he strongly defended the penal character of the atonement.


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