Category Archives: Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Is this not a joyful life—a heaven upon earth—to have such a God as your God?” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“When the soul is privileged to reflect upon God as his God in Jesus Christ, such a soul will be conscious of the righteousness of God. He will magnify and delight in this righteousness no less than in God’s goodness and love.

He will perceive in this attribute only light, purity, and extraordinary glory. Such a soul rejoices the more in this righteousness, since by virtue of the merits of Christ it is no longer against him unto destruction, but rather for his help and salvation, and to the damnation of the ungodly.

The soul beholding God’s goodness and all-sufficiency, and tasting the power of these is so fully satisfied with this that all the goodness of the creature vanishes. It no longer has any appeal to him.

He can do without it and confesses with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee … but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psa. 73:25–26).

The soul, irradiated by the love of God and ignited with reciprocal love, loses itself in this love and is silent in response to it. He stands in amazement of this love, and finds so much in it that all creature-love loses its appeal.

He no longer perceives any desirability in the creature except where he perceives something of God in it. Therefore he no longer covets the love of others and is readily weaned from all that appears to be desirable upon earth.

Viewing the holiness of God, the soul, not able to endure its brilliant splendor, covers her countenance, exclaiming with the angels, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” He thus becomes enamored with this holiness and desires to be holy as He is holy who has called him.

The soul perceives the sovereignty of the holy will of God, exalting, esteeming, and approving it as such. He rejoices in the full accomplishment of this will relative to all creatures as well as himself.

He submits himself to this will which sweetens and makes all things well. He yields his own will to be swallowed up in the will of God. The Lord’s will is his will both in what he endures and does, and he is thus ready to perform all that is according to God’s will and is pleasing to Him.

Contemplating the magnificence and glory of God, the dignity and glory of all creatures vanish and are in comparison considered to be lowly, insignificant, and contemptible. He neither desires the splendor and glory of the world for himself, nor is he intimidated by the dignity of others who might cause him to act contrary to the will of His God.

In that aspect he deems the dignified and honorable equal to the most insignificant and contemptible even though he will fully subject himself to all whom God has placed over him because God wills it. Rather, he bows in all humility before God the most High, rendering Him honor and glory. His heart and tongue are prepared and ready to speak of the honor and glory of His majesty.

Viewing the omnipotence of God in itself as well as in its manifestation in all creatures, the power of creatures which either is exercised for or against him vanishes. He will neither rely upon nor fear it, but dwelling in the secret place of the most High he abides under the shadow of the Almighty. In that shadow he rejoices over all his enemies, enjoys safety without fear, and is confident.

In contemplating the multifacetted and unsearchable wisdom of God as it is manifested in all His works both in the realm of nature and of grace, he loses his own wisdom, considering it to be but foolishness, as well as all esteem for the wisdom of friend and enemy.

Such a soul is quiet and satisfied with the all-wise government of God, be it in relation to the whole world, the church, his country of residence, times of peace and war, or its effect upon him and his loved ones. He yields in everything to the wisdom of God who knows both time and manner, even though the soul has no prior realization or perception thereof.

The soul, viewing the infallible truth and faithfulness of God, refuses to rely upon human promises. They neither can cause him to rejoice nor can human threatenings terrify him, for he is aware of human mutability.

However, He knows the Lord to be a God of truth who keepeth truth forever. He knows the promises and believes them, being so convinced of their certainty as if they were already fulfilled. He therefore rests in them and has a joyful hope in them.

Behold, is this not a joyful life—a heaven upon earth—to have such a God as your God who promotes both your welfare and your salvation? Can there be sorrow in such a soul?

Does not He who has a God as the God of joy and gladness have every reason to experience immediate comfort? Does not such a walk with God cause the soul to manifest utmost meekness and humility, being cognizant of his own insignificance?

This engenders in the soul a circumspect and unwavering spiritual frame, a quiet and humble submission in all things, and a fearless valor and courage in the performance of his duties, even when the Lord calls to a duty which is extraordinary in nature.

There is a delighting in that which he may have done for the Lord, submissively leaving the outcome to be determined by His government. Such a spiritual frame engenders genuine holiness.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 1: 134-137.

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“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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“The Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Do your sins weigh you down and do you go bowed down because of them? ‘He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:2).

Is the soul ashamed because of its nakedness? He is ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ (Jer. 23:6). He will clothe them with the garments of salvation, and will cover them with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

Is the soul troubled by the wrath of God? He delivers him ‘from the wrath to come’ (1 Th. 1:10).

Do you fear eternal condemnation? ‘There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

Does the soul long for communion with God? He will bring him to God (1 Pet. 3:18).

Is the soul experiencing desertion, sorrow, and grieving as a lonely sparrow? Is it discouraged and at wit’s end? Do bodily troubles afflict such a soul—being numerous, heavy, and of long duration?

In all these things great comfort is to be obtained from this High Priest. He is a Priest in name and in deed. He is the great High Priest, who is moreover a faithful and a merciful High Priest.

Consider this attentively in these two texts:

‘Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted’ (Heb. 2:17–18);

‘For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb. 4:15).

If one believes Christ to be such as He is, why would we not take refuge with Him, and in taking refuge, not believe that He can be touched with our infirmities, will receive us, and will grant us the desire of our hearts?

Many who are weak in faith are of the opinion that the Lord Jesus is not as easily moved as when He sojourned upon earth.

They reason that if they could but interact with Him as the disciples and the women did, enter a home in which He was present, converse with Him as familiarly as Mary and Martha did, or be in His company, then they would touch the hem of His garment, would wet His feet with tears, make their needs known to Him and beseech Him to have mercy upon them, to take away their sins, to give them another heart, and to cause them to feel His love.

Then they would have hope that He would have compassion upon them and help them. But now He is so far away, so high in the heavens, and in such great glory, that they cannot address Him as it were in immediate proximity, nor will He allow Himself to be moved by the prayer of such insignificant persons as they are.

Know, however, that such thoughts are earthly, proceeding from ignorance and a feeble faith. I assure you out of the Word of God that the Lord Jesus is as compassionate now as He was then, taking note of the misery and desires of man as carefully now as He did then.

Therefore, also now one may speak to Him as freely and familiarly as then. It grieves me that one impugns the compassion of the Lord Jesus.

Oh, that one would know Him as He is! How many a weak believer would then have bold access, pour out his heart with tears and supplications, and have confidence that He would help!

Take note therefore that the Lord Jesus, now being in heaven, is not only compassionate as God—that is, in a manner which is natural to His divinity, proceeding from eternal and infinite love, by which He observes and takes to heart the grievous and sinful miseries of His children and is willing and ready to help them—but He is also compassionate as man.

In order to be able to be compassionate, He had to assume the human nature, which is evident from Hebrews 2:14–17ff. For this reason He was tempted with many tribulations and was subject to anxiety and suffering, in order that He would know by experience how grievous suffering is and understand the frame of mind of the one who is in misery.

He would thus be all the more able to have compassion on them (Heb. 4:15). Now consider both natures together, and view Him as God and man, as Mediator and as high priest. This high-priestly office requires compassion of the most sensitive sort.

‘For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God … who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity’ (Heb. 5:1–2).

Since Christ is High Priest, He has the special quality which belongs to this office: compassion. How compassionate He was when He was upon earth! Repeatedly we read, “And Jesus was moved with compassion.”

Not only does the Lord Jesus have this same compassionate nature in heaven (for if a perfect nature can be compassionate, this is likewise true for a glorified nature), but since there is perfection in a larger measure, the quality of compassion must be even more excellent since it flows forth out of love.

The Lord Jesus being also High Priest in heaven, now ministers in this office with superlative excellence. Consequently, He possesses the quality of the High Priest, that is, compassion of the highest excellence.

Take note also of how intimately the Lord Jesus is united to His elect. They have been given to Him by the Father, in order that, as His children, He would deliver, preserve, and lead them to felicity.

Would He then not exercise tender care over them, and be compassionate towards them when they are in distress? They are His bride, children, and members. He has their very own nature—’for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren’ (Heb. 2:11).

When they are in misery and sorrow, they weep and long for Him, and cry out to Him for help and comfort. How can it be any different but that the Lord Jesus is greatly moved to compassion, especially since He is experientially acquainted with the feeling of their suffering?

Perhaps you say, ‘I grieve over sin. This is a grief which the Lord Jesus has never experienced, and thus sin cannot move Him to compassion, but will rather provoke Him to anger.’

I respond to this that it is true that Jesus was holy, and neither knew sin nor committed it. He tasted, however, all the bitter fruits of sin in such a manner as if He Himself had committed them.

He experienced the hiding of God’s countenance, the wrath of God, sorrow unto death, curse and condemnation. He suffered all of this in a measure which exceeds our comprehension.

He knows the soul’s disposition toward the commission of sin, and thus is able to and does have compassion by virtue of experience.

It is true that sin itself is hateful, but He already has fully atoned for it, so that instead of wrath, only compassion remains.

Consider all this together, believing that the Lord Jesus has such compassion for you, and seek to have a lively impression of Him as such. Would not this strengthen you in all your distress?

Lament about your sorrow to Him in a filial manner, and comfort yourself in His compassion, knowing that He has been afflicted in all your affliction (Isa. 63:9).

You may say, ‘Why then does He not help, considering He is able?’

My answer is, ‘It is not the time, and this is to your benefit. He is preparing you to be the recipient of additional grace, because it will be to the honor of God. Even if you have not been delivered as yet, the compassion of a Friend—of such a beloved Lord, High Priest, and Friend—nevertheless comforts. Therefore, await your deliverance with anticipation and in quietness.'”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1992), 1: 556–559.

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“With His all-sufficiency He can fill and saturate the soul to an overflowing measure” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“All creatures, whatever the degree of their perfection may be, are dependent upon an external source for their being and well-being.

God’s perfection, however, excludes such a possibility, as He has no need of anything. No one can add to or subtract anything from His being, neither can anyone increase or decrease His felicity.

His perfection consists in His self-sufficiency, His self-existence, and that He is the beginning— the first (Rev. 1:8). His all-sufficiency is within and for Himself, the אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י (El Shaddai), the All-sufficient One (Gen. 17:1).

‘Neither is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything’ (Acts 17:25).

‘Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to Him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?’ (Job 22:3).

‘My goodness extendeth not to Thee’ (Ps. 16:2).

Thus there is no common ground between the perfection of God and of creatures— except in name. That which is in man is contrary to the perfection of God, however, and thus the perfection of God is an incommunicable attribute of God.

The salvation of man consists in knowing, honoring, and serving God.

Such is our God, who not only is all-sufficient in Himself but who with His all-sufficiency can fill and saturate the soul to such an overflowing measure that it has need of nothing else but to have God as its portion.

The soul so favored is filled with such light, love, and happiness, that it desires nothing but this.

‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee’ (Ps. 73:25).””

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1 (God, Man, and Christ), Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 1: 91.

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“To be irradiated by the light of His countenance” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“The inheritance of the saints in glory, the immediate communion with God, the life of beholding Him, to be satisfied with the Lord’s all-sufficiency, to be irradiated by the light of His countenance, to be embraced by His love, to be surrounded by His omnipotence, to be filled with His goodness, even to shine forth in pure holiness, to be aflame with love, to be incomprehensibly joyful in God, to be among the angels, to be in the company of the souls of the most perfectly righteous men, and while being in His immediate presence, together with them behold and experience the perfections of the Lord, and thus magnify and praise these perfections — that is felicity and that is glory.

To be united with one’s own and yet glorified body; to be conformed to the glorious body of Christ; to stand at the right hand of King Jesus in view of the entire world — particularly of those who have tortured and killed them; there, according to soul and body, to be glorified and crowned as conqueror; to be ushered into heaven by the Lord Jesus and there to eternally experience undiminished fulness of joy without end and without fear —all this is the great benefit which the Lord has laid away for all those who fear Him and put their trust in Him before the sons of men.

Attentively consider the following passage:

‘After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;…What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed eat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:9, 13-17).

Now compare all your suffering and all that is glorious and delightful upon earth with this eternal and felicitous glory, and you will not be able to make a mental comparison, since the difference is too great. Would this then not cause you to rejoice in your suffering? Will this not make you courageous in the warfare in which, by the power of God, the victory is sure and the crown a certainty?

View the Lord Jesus from every perspective. He is so eminently glorious that it is our greatest glory to confess Him as our Lord and King. We are therefore not to be ashamed of Him. God the Father makes confession about Him by declaring from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’

The angels bore witness to Him at His death and resurrection — yes, all angels worship Him. How boldly and joyously have all martyrs professed Him and sealed their profession with their death!

Would you then be ashamed of Him? Is He not worthy of a measure of suffering? He is worthy a thousand times to be professed by you while suffering in some measure. How much good has He done for you!

Out of love for you He left His glory, took upon Himself your human nature, doing so in the form of a servant, became poor so that He had nothing upon which He could lay His head, and took upon Himself your sins and put Himself in your stead as Surety.

How heavy a task it was for Him to deliver you from eternal damnation, to reconcile you with God, and to lead you to glory! God’s wrath upon sin caused Him to crawl over the earth as a worm and to wallow in His own blood — blood coming forth as sweat due to the hellish agony within His soul.

He was betrayed, shackled as an evildoer, and led away captive. The ecclesiastical authorities judged Him worthy of death as a blasphemer of God. He was beaten with fists, and they spat in His blessed countenance.

He was smitten in the face, and He was mocked in a most contemptuous and grievous manner. He was delivered to the Gentiles, dragged from the one court to the other, led along the streets of Jerusalem with a robe of mockery, placed on a duo with a murderer, and had His death demanded as if He were the most wicked among the people.

He was scourged in a most wretched manner and crowned with a crown of thorns, which was pounded into His head with sticks. He was led outside the city while bearing His cross, and died on the cross in the greatest distress of soul while suffering the most extreme measure of scorn and pain.

All this He suffered out of love for you in order to deliver you from sin and damnation. He made a good profession, namely, that He was the King and the Savior — a confession which cost Him His life.

Would you now be ashamed of Him and deny Him? Would you not suffer somewhat for this loving and loveable Jesus, and not show by your suffering how dear and precious He is to you?”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, “A Letter of Exhortation to Be Steadfast in the Confession of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Truth in Time of Persecution and Martyrdom,” The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 3, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 3: 370-371.

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“We are to promote with all our strength the good reputation of our neighbor” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“We are to promote with all our strength the good reputation of our neighbor. We must render him honor and respect and preserve his reputation as much as the truth will allow us to do. If he has faults, they are to be covered rather than recounted.”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 3, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 3: 234.

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“Sweet unity” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Love for our neighbor, humility, and meekness will beget peaceableness. Wherever the first three are to be found, the last will also be found.

Peaceableness is a believer’s quiet and contented disposition of soul, inclining him toward, and causing him to strive for, the maintaining of a relationship with his neighbor characterized by sweet unity— doing so in the way of truth and godliness.”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 4, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 4: 91.

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