Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1985

Publication Title

Journal of the Early Republic


David Brainerd, Missionaries, Missionary Movement, USM


Despite a tragically short life marked by illness, personal loss, and repeated disappointment, the Connecticut evangelical minister David Brainerd became a revered figure among early 19th-century evangelical missionaries. Thanks to Jonathan Edwards's extremely popular and highly romanticized 'Life of Brainerd' (1748), Brainerd's meager missionary achievements took on heroic proportions. Missionary groups looking for a new role model found inspiration in Brainerd's work among Eastern Indian tribes and discovered the revivalist-pietist impact of the First Great Awakening. An outgrowth of Brainerd's popular appeal was the emphasis Edwards placed on disinterested benevolence and regeneration. Although disinterested benevolence fired missionary zeal, it could not overcome ethnocentrism and selfish attention to personal conversion. In Edwards's hands, Brainerd's life resembled a Puritan devotional work, and it provided a model for 19th-century missionary memoirs.


Available in JSTOR Arts & Sciences VII Collection