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The Christian's Reasonable Service, 4 Volumes (Brakel)

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First published in 1700, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (De Redelijke Godsdienst) ran through twenty Dutch editions in the eighteenth century alone! The title is derived from Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” It expresses what God requires from man, and particularly from the Christian, that he serve Him in Spirit and in truth—intelligently, rationally, and in harmony with and response to God’s revelation of Himself, His Word.

With a decidedly Puritan flavor and representing  Reformed experiential religion at its best, Wilhelmus à Brakel systematically moves through the major doctrines of the Bible in hopes of seeing the minds of God’s people renewed for the purpose of promoting godliness. Throughout his work, but particularly in the practical application of each doctrine, à Brakel strives unceasingly to exalt the name of Jesus as the name that the Father has given above every other name—there being no other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

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Table of Contents:

Volume One:

Theology: The Doctrine of God

1. The Knowledge of God from Nature

2. The Word of God

3. The Essence of God

4. The Divine Persons

5. The Decrees of God: General Observations

6. Eternal Predestination: Election and Reprobation

7. The Covenant of Redemption Between God the Father and God the Son Concerning the Elect; or, the Counsel of Peace

8. The Creation of the World

9. Angels and Devils

Anthropology: The Doctrine of Man

10. Concerning Man, Particularly the Soul

11. The Providence of God

12. The Covenant of Works

13. The Breach of the Covenant of Works

14. Original and Actual Sin

15. Man’s Free Will or Impotency and the Punishment Due upon Sin

Christology: The Doctrine of Christ

16. The Covenant of Grace

17. The Necessity of the Atonement by the Surety Jesus Christ

18. The Divinity, Incarnation, and Union of the Two Natures in the One Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ

19. The Three Offices of Christ, and Particularly His Prophetic Office

20. The High Priestly Office of Christ

21. The Kingly Office of Jesus Christ

22. The State of Christ’s Humiliation by Which He Made Atonement for the Sins of the Elect

23. The State of Christ’s Exaltation 

Volume Two:

Ecclesiology: The Doctrine of the Church

24. The Church

25. The Duty to Join and Remain with the Church

26. The Communion of Believers with Christ and with Each Other

27. The Government of the Church, and Particularly the Commissioning of Ministers

28. The Offices of Minister, Elder, and Deacon

29. Ecclesiastical Authority and the Use of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation

30. The External and Internal Call

31. Regeneration

32. Faith

33. Distinguishing Marks of Saving Faith

34. Justification

35. The Adoption of Children

36. Spiritual Peace

37. Spiritual Joy

38. The Sealing of the Believer by the Holy Spirit and by Means of the Sacraments

39. Holy Baptism

40. The Lord’s Supper

41. The Practice of the Lord’s Supper Consisting in Preparation, Celebration and Reflection

42. The Life of Faith in Reference to the Promises

43. A Warning Exhortation Against Pietists, Quietists, and All Who in a Similar Manner Have Deviated to a Natural and Spiritless Religion Under the Guise of Spirituality 

Volume Three:

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation (cont.)

44. Sanctification and Holiness

45. The Law of God: General Considerations

46. The First Commandment

47. The Second Commandment

48. The Third Commandment

49. The Fourth Commandment

50. The Fifth Commandment

51. The Sixth Commandment

52. The Seventh Commandment

53. The Eighth Commandment

54. The Ninth Commandment

55. The Tenth Commandment

56. The Glorification of God

57. Love Toward God

58. Love Toward the Lord Jesus

59. The Fear of God

60. Obedience Toward God

61. The Exercise of Hope in God

62. Spiritual Strength or Courage

63. The Profession of Christ and His Truth

64. Contentment

65. Self-denial

66. Patience

67. Sincerity (or Uprightness)

68. Prayer

69. The Lord’s Prayer Explained and Applied; The Address and the First Petition: Hallowed Be Thy Name

70. The Second Petition: Thy Kingdom Come

71. The Third Petition: Thy Will be Done

72. The Fourth Petition: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

73. The Fifth Petition: Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors

74. The Sixth Petition: Lead Us not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil 

Volume Four:

Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation (cont.)

75. Fasting

76. Watchfulness

77. Secret Prayer

78. Spiritual Meditation

79. Singing Spiritual Songs

80. Vows

81. The Practice of Reflecting upon Previous Experiences

82. Love Toward Our Neighbor

83. Humility

84. Meekness

85. Peaceableness

86. Diligence

87. Compassion

88. Prudence

89. Spiritual Growth

90. Regression of Spiritual Life in the Godly

91. Spiritual Desertion

92. The Temptation Toward Atheism or the Denial of God’s Existence

93. The Temptation Whether God’s Word Is True

94. Unbelief Concerning One’s Spiritual State

95. The Assaults of Satan

96. The Power of Indwelling Corruption

97. Spiritual Darkness

98. Spiritual Deadness

99. The Perseverance of the Saints

Eschatology: The Doctrine of the Last Things

100. Death and the Ensuing State of the Soul

101. The Resurrection of the Dead

102. The Last Judgment and the End of the World

103. Eternal Glory

Appendix: The Administration of the Covenant of Grace in the Old and New Testaments

1. The Church of the Old Testament from Adam to Abraham

2. The Church from Abraham to Sinai

4. The Ceremonial Laws Given at Sinai and the Condition of the Church from Sinai to Christ

5. The State of Believers in the Old Testament

6. The Church of the New Testament from the birth of Jesus Christ to the Revelation of John


“Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian's Reasonable Service is a tremendously insightful work that showcases the marriage between scholastic precision and a warm pastoral piety. À Brakel not only challenges the mind as he plumbs the depths of the teachings of Scripture, but he also challenges the heart as readers must grapple with the truth and its implications for their growth in grace. Not only can historians read à Brakel to learn about historic Reformed theology, but scholars, pastors, and laymen can all benefit from a close reading of these wonderful volumes.” — J. V. Fesko, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Seminary California

 “With its fine balance of Reformed doctrinal statement and application to Christian life and personal piety, à Brakel’s Christian’s Reasonable Service provides a superb illustration of the theological project associated with the late seventeenth century development of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie, or ‘Further Reformation.’ Although it abounds in sound definition and detailed exposition, this vernacular theology was intended not for the academic setting but for the purpose of educating the laity in both faith and practice. It remains a significant study in Reformed theology even as it exemplifies the true sense of the old Reformed maxim, Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda—namely, that the doctrine of the church has been reformed but the life of the Christian is always to be reformed, guided by the teachings of the Reformation. The Elshout translation beautifully conveys the sense and the spirit of à Brakel’s work.” — Richard A. Muller, P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary

“No systematic theology compares to Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service for its explicit concern to weld the objective and subjective in theology. Emerging from the Dutch Further Reformation, à Brakel is without equal in exploring both the intricate details of the Reformed theological system whilst ensuring that at every turn theology is done in the interests of piety and the glory of God. In an era when the subjective has either been lost in a sea of postmodernity or viewed with suspicion for its apparent lack of academic integrity, only those who have never read this monumental treatise would dismiss it as guilty of either. An achievement to place alongside Calvin’s Institutes and the systematic theologies of Turretin, Hodge, and Berkhof.” — Derek W. H. Thomas, John E. Richards Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.


Wilhelmus à Brakel was born on January 2, 1635 in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He studied theology at the universities in Franeker and Utrecht and was particularly influenced by his mentor, Gisbertus Voetius. He served four congregations in his native province of Friesland: Exmorra (1662–1665), Stavoren (1665–1670), Harlingen (1670–1673), and his birthplace, Friesland’s capital, Leeuwarden (1673–1683). His Friesland period, however, proved to be a preparation for the great task the Lord had laid away for him in Rotterdam—his final and longest pastorate (1683–1711). After a fruitful ministry of forty-nine years, it pleased the Lord to take this eminent divine—affectionately referred to by the godly as “Father Brakel”—home to Himself in 1711 at the age of seventy-six, to receive the reward of a faithful servant.