David Brainerd and G.K. Chesterton: The Diary & Journal and The Everlasting Man

Books are swell things, good books are good things, great books are great things. Being able to read and finish one, on the other hand, for me is a miracle these days. I have been trying to make a go of quite a few titles, probably about a dozen or so in the past year; while I have made prolific attempts, I seem to start one more before I can manage to finish another. Therefore, instead of displaying all the books I have read, it will be much easier, in addition to being more honest with myself, to simply list a handful of titles I am currently reading. Obviously, I have no place in even voicing a complete opinion about these titles, let alone giving off the air of being authoritative, since I haven’t finished the two which follow. As I have made known before, my blog entries are merely exercises, and that also goes for this one. If the book titles I share are of interest to anyone who gets lost trying to find something else to read, that will make this all the more useful.

 

1. The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton

The Everlasting Man

I bought an older copy of The Everlasting Man at Ken Sanders’ Rare Books while on a day trip in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. This paperback has since spent its time on my shelf, where I casually have picked it up now and again until last week. I have only barely gotten through the introduction and briefly made a dent in the first chapter, The Man in the Cave. I am sorry I have waited this long to get to know Chesterton. I am thoroughly enjoying what I am reading. When I had previously thought of G.K., like many other people, I never got past him as a writer in the mystery genre (which I, surprise, have also never read). When I did a little web sleuthing on Wikipedia (where it must be true because everyone says it is!), it appears C.S. Lewis, among many others, was incalculably influenced by this writer and contemporary of H.G. Wells. As such, I can see a glimmer of Lewis’ Mere Christianity already in The Everlasting Man. A twinkle in Chesterton’s eye, if you will.

 

In the summary on the back of the copy I have, it says, “The Everlasting Man propounds the thesis ‘that those who say that Christ stands side by side with similar myths, and his religion side by side with similar religions, are only repeating a very stale formula contradicted by a very striking fact.'” This was said of a literary work published in 1925, which makes this book timeless and justifies itself as being considered a classic. Below I include a personal favorite Chesterton-ism of mine from this book thus far:

One of my first journalistic adventures, or misadventures, concerned a comment on Grant Allen [who was, according to Wikipedia, “a Canadian science writer and novelist, and a successful upholder of the theory of evolution”], who had written a book about the Evolution of the Idea of God. I happened to remark that it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book about the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen.

 

Pure gold.

 

2. The Diary and Journal of David Brainerd

Diary and Journal of David Brainerd

John Piper’s sermons and book, The Hidden Smile of God, first introduced me to Brainerd when I was a bachelor (of the non-swashbuckling sort) almost ten years ago. For the life of me I haven’t a clue why I hadn’t made an attempt until this past Christmas to acquaint myself with this 18th century saint and Protestant missionary and friend of the New England pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. The Diary & Journal of David Brainerd is an excellent book. Despite it being a diary, and initially not intended for publication, the way Brainerd cast his cares and woes unto the Lord is a refreshing and humbling turnabout when compared to much of today’s Christian literature. He was not afraid of penning many confessions of his sinful state, of his conversion, and the sins he struggled with until his early death. He described his state before his conversion as

being like the troubled sea, and my thoughts confused, I used to contrive to escape the wrath of God by some other means, and had strange projections, full of atheism, contriving to disappoint God’s designs and decrees concerning me, or to escape God’s notice and hide myself from Him. But when, upon reflection, I saw these projections were vain, and would not serve me, and that I could contrive nothing for my own relief, this would throw my mind into the most horrid frame, to wish there was no God, or to wish there were some other God that could control Him.

 

Upon his conversion, after viewing himself as only a soul broken because of his sin and rebellion against his Creator can, the reality of grace was that much sweeter. Later he wrote,

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.

 

David Brainerd is another voice, another testimony of God’s holiness and extension of grace to wretched, filthy, vile man. His life also refutes the fairy tale, starry-eyed misconception that the Christian’s life, if full of enough faith, is always a happy banquet. Like Job, Brainerd experienced hardship, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But like Job, God did not leave Brainerd. He was with him, as He is with all of His children.

 

More to Come

 

Maybe if I was highly energetic and meticulously well organized, I might lay out a preview of future topics. But I am not. If these posts seem opened-ended, let me know. Feedback is more than welcome. I will say this, that stylistically I am currently an open-ended writer. Hope to continue with this because I enjoy it very much. [Closing inspirational quote from some awesome person goes here.]

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