15 Rules for Expectant Parents

On January 9, 2013 my dear wife Sarah gave birth to our precious daughter Anna in Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following day Dr. Joel Beeke and his wife came to visit us in the hospital. Dr. Beeke prayed for us and gave us a book as a gift. The title of that book is The Duties of Parents. The book was originally written in Dutch by Jacobus Koelman (1632–1695). Koelman, like his contemporaries Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676) and Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635–1711), was a leader of the Dutch Further Reformation—a movement that was similar to the seventeenth-and-eighteenth-century English Puritanism.

In chapter one of his book, Koelman gives fifteen rules for expectant parents:

  1. Pray to the Lord fervently and continually before entering marriage so that you do not by foolish and rash marriage get yourself entangled in many snares that can no longer be removed, or can only be removed with great difficulty later.
  2. Under no circumstances enter a marriage to someone who is a stranger to true religion.
  3. Do not marry an ungodly…worldly, vain person….Such a partner will be a hindrance to the performance of all one’s duties for good, but especially to bringing up one’s children for the Lord.
  4. If, contrary to your opinion and expectation, you find that your companion is not regenerate and without grace, then do your utmost to bring about his or her conversion.
  5. Be especially careful in a second marriage if you have children from the first. Since the love of stepfathers or stepmothers is not as great as that of natural parents, the upbringing will not be as painstaking, tender, Christian, and holy, at least if grace does not amply make up for this lack of natural affection.
  6. Sanctify the marriage bed by prayer.
  7. Now when it becomes known that the mother is pregnant, pray together seriously, not only for a safe delivery but also for the sanctification of the child, thanking the Lord in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  8. Be tenderly concerned that the mother does not harm the physical well-being of the child in her body by what she eats, by emotional agitation, or in some other way.
  9. When the child has been born, let the mother herself breastfeed [the child], if she in anyway has the strength and ability to do so. This demands love for the child and increases mutual love between the mother and the child.
  10. When you receive children, be sure to bring them early to the fellowship of God’s covenant of grace and to Christian baptism.
  11. You only have to publicly promise before God and the church that you will bring up your children in the truth and in godliness. Therefore, bring no godparents, because that is a human institution that is not blessed by God, has proceeded from the papacy, and is very superstitiously used there.
  12. Be mindful that at baptism you give your children good, Christian names with a positive meaning that can incite them to pursue the virtues indicated or recalled by the names.
  13. Do not be satisfied with the external baptism administered in the church but continue to occupy yourself with baptism through your earnest prayers and by the renewal of the solemn promises made before the Lord and his church at the time of baptism….Pray that [God] may regenerate [your children].
  14. At this point and henceforth, practice your faith by attending to God’s promises concerning help, blessing, and grace for your children.
  15. Therefore, do not believe unconditionally that all your children are beloved by God in Christ and will certainly inherit salvation or that they are truly sanctified in Christ and already born again and in a blessed state, for that is unknown and uncertain. The Lord freely loses and loves whom he will, has compassion on whom he will, and rejects whom he will. Some he sets apart from the womb; others he regenerates and converts when they are old. You must therefore regard them as children who are still in danger of being lost, as guilty and corrupt, and who must be converted. You must therefore pray for them and instruct them in the faith and in the Word. You must bring them up in all godliness so that they themselves in their own person may consent to that covenant with God and surrender themselves to it in order to be saved.
Dutch Further Reformation Dutch Reformed Piety Gisbertus Voetius Jacobus Koelman Parents Wilhelmus à Brakel

à Brakel’s Spirituality of Virtues and Its Implications for Soul Care

This paper will highlight one of the key components of his spirituality as he discusses it in The Christian’s Reasonable Service (CRS), namely his emphasis on virtues. à Brakel’s exposition of virtues is unique and of great value for Christian soul care. In order to demonstrate this, an introduction to à Brakel’s life and his major work The Christian’s Reasonable Service (CRS) will be provided, followed by an analysis of his treatment of the virtues. The paper will conclude with observations regarding the uniqueness of his spirituality of virtues and make comments and suggestions regarding the implications of it for Christian soul care.


The essay is by Lydia Kim-van Daalen, a Ph.D. student in Pastoral Theology and Christian Psychology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

To read her entire article, click here.

Dutch Reformed Piety Further Reformation Piety Spirituality Wilhelmus à Brakel

A Brakel’s Use of Doctrine in Calling Sinners to Repentance and Faith

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century Baptist preacher said “Soulwinning is the chief business of the Christian minister, indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer.” In 2 Timothy 4:5 the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, to not only preach the Word, but to do the work of an evangelist in order to fulfil his ministry. Evangelism and soul-winning ought to occupy the mind and heart of every minister of the gospel. It is clear from Brakel’s works that he had a great concern for the salvation of the unconverted. Throughout his instruction in Christian doctrine and practice there are numerous sections where he seeks to exhort and persuade sinners to come to Christ for salvation. From this it is evident that Brakel was more than just a theologian. He was a pastor with a heart for the lost. He no doubt preached as he wrote, pleading with and exhorting sinners of their need of Christ. We can learn from Brakel in this today.


The article is by Jonathan Holdt, a Th. M. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to read his entire paper.

Evangelism Faith Gospel Repentance Wilhelmus à Brakel

“Satisfied with the Lord’s All Sufficiency”: Wilhelmus à Brakel’s Theology of Joy

The subject of this paper is the theology of Wilhelmus à Brakel, a Reformed Dutch pastor and theologian who lived in the 17th and start of the 18th centuries. The thesis of this paper is: Joy in God is central and pervasive to true religion in the theology of Wilhelmus à Brakel. Hence comes the paper’s title, “Satisfied with the Lord’s All-Sufficiency,” a phrase taken from Brakel’s own pen (3.370).1 This paper does not try to establish that joy is the center of Brakel’s theology, but that it is central. Joy stands among his core concerns and permeates his theology.


The article is by Paul Smalley, the Teaching Assistant to Dr. Joel R. Beeke at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He has an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and served as a pastor for twelve years in the midwestern United States.

Click here to read his entire article.

Dutch Reformed Piety Further Reformation Joy Wilhelmus à Brakel

Wilhelmus à Brakel and the Importance of Hope

Hope is the least prominent of the three Christian virtues, faith, hope, and love. Christians believe that faith is God’s gracious gift which is essential for salvation, it is required in order to come to God in a manner that pleases Him, and it is the means through which God’s people are justified. Christians know that love is the greatest of the three virtues. (1 Cor. 13:13.) The life of the Christian must be characterized by love; love for God, and love for one’s neighbor. (Luke 10:27.) Although hope is not the greatest of the three virtues, analysis of The Christian’s Reasonable Service by Wilhelmus à Brakel gives much evidence to argue that hope is integral to biblical experimental Christianity, it is worthy of study and promotion, and it is fundamental to a God-glorifying life.


The article is by Derek Baars, a recent graduate of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and is currently a candidate for the ministry in the Free Reformed Churches of North America.

Click here to read his entire article.

Hope Wilhelmus à Brakel

Seeking God in Personal Devotions In Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service

Oftentimes the believer finds himself far from God, and not basking in His love and communion. Perhaps some sin is plaguing them that has caused a rift in the relationship between a loving and merciful God, and a believer who struggles with sin. This plaguing sin could lead to a period of doubt in the believer’s life, a doubt that could cause the believer to feel distanced and cold in his heart towards His Savior. The greatest struggle then is to pursue relations and communion with God, because of this sin, because of unbelief, because of a lack of love or warmth, because a lack of discipline and prayer, or because the believer does not cast himself upon God’s Word and the promises contained in it. The believer at this time becomes introspective, and fails to look to Christ, but rather dwells in his experience of unbelief and laxness.


The paper is by Maarten Kuivenhoven, a pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is currently a Th.M. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary where he received his M.Div. degree.  He is married to Jennifer and has two children.

Click here to read his entire article.

Devotion Wilhelmus à Brakel