A Want for Willing Princely Service in God’s Kingdom
David Brainerd’s diary includes a striking hyphenated word, “gospel-temper.” His journal records,
“Wednesday, Dec. 15. Enjoyed something of God to-day, both in secret and social prayer; but was sensible of much barrenness, and defect in duty, as well as my inability to help myself for the time to come, or to perform the work and business I have to do. Afterwards, felt much of the sweetness of religion, and the tenderness of the gospel-temper. I found a dear love to all mankind, and was much afraid lest some motion of anger or resentment should, some time or other, creep into my heart. Had some comforting soul-refreshing discourse with dear friends, just as we took our leave of each other; and supposed it might be likely we should not meet again till we came to the eternal world. I doubt not, through grace, but that some of us shall have a happy meeting there, and bless God for this season, as well as many others. Amen.” (pp.83–84 Banner edition)
He makes a reference to this gospel-temper four times in his journal, all dealing with a lack of bitterness. Stephen Charnock writes of a “gospel temper” in his Discourse on Delight in Prayer:
“Dulness is not suitable to the duty. Gospel duties are to be performed with a gospel temper. God's people ought to be a willing people, Ps. 110:3, נדבח, a people of willingness, as though in prayer no other faculty of the soul had its exercise but the will. This must breathe fully in every word, as the spirit in Ezekiel's wheels. Delight, like the angel, Judges 13:20, must ascend in the smoke and flame of the soul. Though there be a kind of union by contemplation, yet the real union is by affection. A man cannot be said to be a spiritual king if he doth not present his performances with a royal and prince-like spirit. It is for vigorous wrestling that Jacob is called a prince, Gen. 32:28.”(from Works Vol. 5)
Brainerd was likely affected by Charnock’s writings to produce this phrase. The willingness of one to do the Lord’s work is at the heart of our cheerful disposition toward others. Charnock also calls it “a royal and prince-like spirit.” Anger and bitterness may be caused by our nature to resist the will of God. Brainerd was just entering his mission, and thus was wrestling with what it meant to serve men with gladness in the name of the Lord. On the aforementioned occasion, he “felt a love to all mankind.” Yet, this was not first without want for such love, as he wrote just prior,
“Saturday, Nov. 27. Committed my soul to God with some degree of comfort; left New York about nine in the morning; came away with a distressing sense still of my unspeakable unworthiness. Surely I may well love all my brethren; for none of them all is so vile as I; whatever they do outwardly, yet it seems to me none is conscious of so much guilt before God. Oh my leanness, my barrenness, my carnality, and past bitterness, and want of a gospel-temper! These things oppress my soul.” (p.80 Banner edition)
During the same early season of his mission, he would go on wanting for this gospel-temper (entry on January 19 entry), as well as seeking it to be the case in others (January 28 entry). Do we have this gospel-temper or prince-like spirit in our Christian service? It seems unacceptable if we do not. Is our willingness to serve being demonstrated with such cheerfulness that it may be comparable to our Prince’s willingness to serve us. Our Lord Jesus Christ willingly served us. Shall we not willingly serve him and his people?
There are then two things we must consider: (1) Do we long for such a temper? (2) Having longed for this prince-like spirit, do we pray for it? Why wait? Grant us dear Lord, a gospel-temper, a prince-like spirit, like that of thyself, amen.