This year at the Calvin 21 conference I ran into Rev. Bart Elshout, translator of Brakelâ€™s Christianâ€™s Reasonable Service. Heâ€™s good people. I asked his thoughts on the great theme running through Ã¡ Brakel and received two memorable answers: â€œChrist is so lovely, that believers come back to him a thousand times.â€ Speaking on our perspective of God in faith and prayer, â€œwe are always going out of our way to beg God to be gracious. On the contrary, says Ã¡ Brakel, God goes out of his way to prove he is gracious to us.â€
Speaking to regeneration, Bavinck said that hope characterizes the Christian life. He then thunders down the line rounding up Pelagians. Ã Brakel picks up where Bavinck leaves off: hope has certainty, a special perspective and usefulness for everyday life.
Hope is a propensity, Ã¡ Brakel writes, a principle character given by the Spirit in regeneration. Hope is improved by experience. When it comes to contradictions, roadblocks, hurdles, and the drudgery of the mundane hope is no worse for the wear. God foreknows we need hope and gives it as freely as wisdom (James 1:5, 12). There are many spiritual benefits for exercising hope (against taking the attitude of unbelief and worry) but how are the believerâ€™s goals certain if the â€˜meansâ€™ are obscure?
Ã Brakel says hope gains certainty and confidence in Godâ€™s promises of eternal life, salvation (temporal deliverance), and future benefits as represented in scripture. Some ministers might add to the promises a new car, home, happy marriage, and other stuff to the list which materially would solidify Godâ€™s salvation. Ã Brakel might ask, with scripture, how can anything else compare with the true knowledge of God and his eternal glory (Psalm 73)? Compare anything in life next to experiencing the certainty of salvation and you discover the logic of faith to be correct, God to be true. Ã Brakel believes that hope attains the right way of communion with God: â€œthe result of hope is holy industry.â€*
There are many examples of faith overcoming all odds, but hope often seems to be a missing element from the stories. Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned in ancient Egypt. The Apostles returned to Galilee not knowing what to expect. Rev. Elshout was locked in a basement for five years translating Ã¡ Brakel. Faith touches reason, but hope is included as well, â€œFor I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in usâ€ (Rom. 8:18).
* This is not to disparage prayer for daily needs. Brakel’s treatment of prayer is very generous. Here Brakel confines his view of hope in direct relation to God’s glory in revealing himself and providing eternal salvation.