Wilhelmus a` Brakel (1635-1711), a Dutch pastor and theologian, wrote a devotionally-focused systematic theology for his congregation. The Christian’s Reasonable Service was first published in 1700, but was only translated into English in 1992. For all of last year and the first part of this year, I read a portion of his work each day in conjunction with my personal devotions as I worked through the four volume set. This work lifted my soul day-by-day, and I highly recommend it to you for daily reading as well. For Christians who know they should be reading more and better books but struggle to read, this is a great place to start.
Here’s a sampling of the chapter on Spiritual Joy (Vol. 2, pp. 445-467) where we are exhorted to use the means God has given to attain joy:
“Continually exercise faith in Christ, reflect upon truths pertaining to the atonement and God’s way in which he leads man to salvation, and put your trust in Jesus, leaning upon him. To entrust yourself to Him, without seeing Him or apart from any feeling, is the way that leads to joy (1 Peter 1:8).
Secondly, continue to read and acknowledge the Word to be what it really is: the Word of God. Acknowledge that it addresses itself at that particular moment to you. Search for the promises, deem them to be unbreakable, and when you apply them to your soul as such, you will experience joy (Psalm 119:50).
Thirdly, pray much, and acquaint yourself with the Lord, by praying to Him, communing with Him, making request to Him, and laying before Him all that you lack and desire, especially your desire for joy (Psalm 51:8, Psalm 90:14).
Fourthly, engage much in holy contemplation and meditation. Reflect on who and what you are, the ways the Lord has led you hitherto, and upon your former mourning, seeking, and tears. Reflect upon the comforts and deliverances which the Lord has frequently given you, upon the benefits of the covenant of grace (each individually), and upon future glory and all that the soul will forever enjoy there (Psalm 104:34).
Fifthly, be much on guard against yielding to a sinful routine in your life. Even if there are no great falls, this yielding, this drowsy carelessness, and this departing from God will readily rob us of this joy. Rather, one ought to refrain from unrighteousness, and, upon falling, arise each time again and immediately run to the fountain once more; this will time and again, quicken joyfulness. May the God of exceeding joy gladden you! Amen.”