Holiness, and the Character of God

Taken from, “The Essence of God”
by Wilhelmus à Brakel

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Holiness is the pure essence of the character of God.

Consequently, it relates to the brightness of all His perfections, for which reason He is called a “light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). The Lord continually reveals Himself as holy, in order that the heart of man may continually be filled with deep awe and reverence. “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord … glorious in holiness, fearful in praises?” (Exod 15:11). “Let them praise Thy great and terrible Name; for it is holy. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy” (Ps 99:3,5,9); “Holy is His Name” (Luke 1:49).

The Lord is not merely called holy but is holiness itself. “Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness” (Ps 97:12); “Once have I sworn by my holiness” (Ps 89:35); “Glory ye in His holy Name” (Ps 105:3).

From the holy character of God proceeds the holiness of all His deeds. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut 32:4).
From His holy character proceeds His hatred and contempt for sin. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab 1:13); “For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: Thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Ps 5:4-5).
From His holy character proceeds His delight in holiness. “For in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jer 9:24); “But such as are upright in their way are His delight” (Prov 11:20).

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Wilhelmus à Brakel (2 January 1635, Leeuwarden – 30 October 1711, Rotterdam), a contemporary of Voetius and Witsius, was a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation (known in Dutch as De Nadere Reformatie). This movement was contemporaneous with and greatly influenced by English Puritanism. Scholars in the Netherlands have defined this movement as follows:“The Dutch Second Reformation is that movement within the Dutch Reformed Church during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which, as a reaction to the declension or absence of a living faith, made both the personal experience of faith and godliness matters of central importance. From that perspective the movement formulated substantial and procedural reformation initiatives, submitting them to the proper ecclesiastical, political, and social agencies, and/or in conformity therewith pursued in both word and deed a further reformation of the church, society, and state.”à Brakel and his ministry functioned at the approximate center of this Pietistic movement, both historically and theologically. On a time line, beginning in 1606 with the ministry of the father of the Nadere Reformatie, Willem Teellinck, and terminating in 1784 with the death of Theodorus Vander Groe, à Brakel’s ministry (particularly his most important pastorate in Rotterdam from 1683–1711) marks the center of this time line. However, more significantly, his ministry represents a remarkable balance of the Nadere Reformatie relative to both its early and concluding stages.His prominence as a major representative of this movement is largely due to his magnum opus The Christian’s Reasonable Service. After its initial publication in 1700, this four volume work was quickly recognized as a monumental contribution to the literature of the Nadere Reformatie. It has been argued by scholars that this work is a synthesis of the best Puritan literature published in England and the Netherlands. Nadere Reformatie scholar, F. Earnest Stoeffler puts it this way, “He supplied Reformed Pietism with a theological textbook which…came out of a tradition wholly native to the Netherlands. In it he…preserved the balance between the mystical and ethical elements in Christianity which is so characteristic of the great Pietists in the Reformed communion.”As a result of this work, à Brakel has permanently endeared himself to hearts of Reformed believers in the Netherlands. Already during his lifetime, the affection for him was such that he was fondly referred to as “Father Brakel”—a title by which he is known in the Netherlands until this day. For more than three centuries the influence of The Christian’s Reasonable Service has been such that “Father Brakel” continues to be the most influential of all the representatives of the Nadere Reformatie (frequently referred to today as Dutch Puritanism). Since the publication of The Christian’s Reasonable Service in English, his influence is growing steadily among both scholars and lovers of Puritan literature as well.The uniqueness of à Brakel’s work lies in the fact that it is more than a systematic theology. His selection of the title is already an indication that it was not merely his intention to present a systematic explanation of Christian dogma to the public. 

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