A Missionary’s Walk With God
David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians, had a profound influence on many Christians. It was his walk with God and willingness to deny self that resulted in a powerful revival among the Indians.
One missionary whose life was moved by Brainerd’s example was Henry Martyn, who said,
I thought of David Brainerd and ardently desired his devotedness to God. I feel my heart knit to this dear man. I long to be like him. Let me forget the world and be swallowed up in a desire to glorify God. 1
Working in India, the Lord gave Martyn linguistic abilities which he used in translating the Word of God to different dialects. After studying the Persian language, he was requested to produce a Persian version of the New Testament. Since his knowledge of that language was limited, he later found it necessary to revise his work.
Although he was still young, Martyn’s health had deteriorated; and it seemed necessary to go back to England. However, he felt he could not go without finishing his translation. He moved to the Persian city of Shiraz, in order to get a better grasp of the language. During his time in India and Persia, God used his preaching and soul winning efforts, but he is best known for his determination for finishing the Bible translation.
Martyn found that in order to print his New Testament, the Shah would have to give his permission. So, he traveled about 600 miles to the city of Tabriz, only to find the Shah was unwilling to meet him. He left his New Testament with the British ambassador, Sir Gore Ousaley, who promised to help. Martyn left by horseback and journeyed 1,500 miles to the city of Constantinople, where he planned to sail to England. He never reached his destination. He had consumption, better known as tuberculosis. The extreme heat and difficult journey had taken their toll. He would travel at night, trying to rest during the day. He died just a few days after leaving Constantinople, in the city of Toket.
John Theodore Miller gives us this quote from one who met Martyn during his last days.
I remember perfectly the young man as he came into our home. He was dressed in white and looked very pale. His expression was so luminous, intellectual, affectionate, and beaming with love, that no one thought of his features or form. Character outshone everything. He was the humblest of men. 2
Lettie Cowman, in her biography of her husband, wrote of Henry Martyn,
“When Henry Martyn, that splendid young hero of the cross, lay dying with a fever in Persia, he received a letter asking how the missionary interest of the church at home could be increased. The dying saint said, “Tell them to live more with Christ, to catch more of His Spirit for the spirit of Christ is the spirit of Missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” 3
David Brainerd learned the secret of usefulness in God’s work. Henry Martyn also learned the secret. Charles Cowman, the great missionary to Japan, learned the secret. The secret of affecting others for the cause of Christ is the power that comes from walking with Him.
1 Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jayra (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 133.
2 John Thoedore Miller, Boys and Girls Who Became Great Missionaries (Claysburg, Pa.: Revival Fires Publishing, No date), 43.
3 Lettie B. Cowman, Charles E. Cowman, Missionary Warrior (Los Angeles: The Oriental Missionary Society, 1928), 116.