GOD AND MAN.
A COMPLETE BODY OF DIVINITY.
BY HERMAN WITSIUS, D. D.
Late Professor of Divinity in the University of Franequer, Utrecht, And Leyden; and also Regent of the Divinity-College of The States of Holland and West Friesland.
To which is prefixed,
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
A New Translation from the Original Latin.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
Printed by George Forman, No. 64, Water-Street.
For Lee & Stokes, No. 25, Maiden Lane
The text of this and other superb works are available on-line from:
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Reprint and digital file March, 2000.
Preface by the Willison Center, March, 2000
We have, from an original printing of the 1798 American version of Herman Witsius’s Oeconomy of the Divine Covenants transcribed the Title page, Preface to the Edinburgh Edition, and the American Recommendation in addition to the biography by Dr. Marck, which was extracted from his funeral oration for Dr. Witsius. These selections serve to shed interesting light on how well esteemed Dr. Witsius was in life, and for a long period afterwards and in several continents his influence continued on in the form of recommended reading by leading American Divines, of whom Ashbel Green, Samuel Miller, and William Rogers are numbered.
Modern reprints of some of Dr. Witsius’s works, including the Oeconony of the Divine Covenants are currently available, please check your local bookstore, or on-line booksellers for availability.
R. E. Creech, Director,
The Willison Center
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things, prudence and charity; which he professed was his common creed]
The following begins the transcription:
PREFACE to the EDINBURGH EDITION, BY THE TRANSLATOR.
The following celebrated work of the great WITSIUS, originally wrote in elegant Latin, was first published when the author was Professor of Divinity at Franequer. It passed through two editions before the year 1693, when he republished it with very considerable additions and improvements, and prefixed a dedication to King William III, the glorious deliverer of the British nation from all the horrors of popery and slavery, and a pacific address to the Reverend the professors of divinity and ministers of the gospel in the united provinces. The book was eagerly read and highly valued by all, who had a true taste for the excellent gospel-truths it contained and illustrates. A translation of it into English was first published, in three large volumes Octavo, at London, in 1763; and, though indifferently executed, yet met with great encouragement. A demand being made for the work in this country, freed from the many gross typographical blunders and other errors with which the London copy abounded, the Editor has been prevailed upon to review the whole translation; has carefully compared every sentence with the original, corrected many mistakes, supplied a variety of omissions, and endeavoured to give the author’s true sense. In making the translation, the several editions have been consulted, particularly the third, and one printed at Herborn in 1712, four years after the author’s death. And though the Editor dare not say, the work will overlook all inaccuracies, and favorably receive a book, honestly intended and plainly calculated for general utility.
As this excellent Body of Divinity was for near a century only known to persons skilled in the learned languages, to the very great loss of those who had not received a liberal education; and as every attempt for spreading the knowledge of gospel-truths, particularly those relating to the covenants of works and grace, which enter so deeply into the Meditorial scheme, merits the public attention; so the Editor hopes, that his countrymen will give suitable encouragement to a work, eminently calculated for the method of scriptural doctrines concerning the fall of man, and the method of his recovery by the obedience, satisfaction, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he begs, that ministers and other gentlemen who have read this work, and know the value thereof, will recommend it unto others, who have not only enjoyed that advantage, as a book very proper to be read not only by the clergy and students of divinity, but by all sorts of persons with pleasure and profit.
The following recommendations were prefixed to the former English translation of this work.
"The famous HERMAN WITSIUS, Professor of Divinity at Leyden, in Holland, and author of a treatise entitled, The Oeconomy of the Covenants between God and Man, and various other learned and theological tracts, was a writer, not only eminent for his great talents, and particularly solid judgement, rich imagination, and elegancy of composition; but for a deep, powerful, and evangelical spirituality and favour of godliness: and we most heartily concur in the recommendation of his works to serious Christians of all denominations, and especially to ministers, and candidates for that sacred office.
John Gill, D.D. John Brine,
John Walker, L.L.D. William King,
Thomas Hall, Thomas Gibbons, M.A."
And the late excellent Mr. Hervey, in his Theron and Aspasio, vol. Iii. P. 90. Of his works, Edinburgh edition, 1769, having mentioned a work of this author, adds, "The Oeconomy of the Covenants, written by the same hand, is a body of Divinity, in its method so well digested; in its doctrines so truly evangelical; and (what is not very usual with our systematic writers) in its language so refined and elegant; in its manner so affectionate and animating; that I would recommend it to every student in Divinity [and to every Christian.] I would not scruple to risk all my reputation upon the merits of this performance: and I cannot but lament it, as one of my greatest losses, that I was no sooner acquainted with this most excellent author; all whose works have such a delicacy of composition, and such a favor of holiness, that I know not any comparison more proper to represent their true character than the golden pot which had manna; and was outwardly bright with burnished gold, inwardly rich with heavenly food."
The Author of the Oeconomy of the Covenants was a Professor of Divinity in Holland, very eminent for his piety, and justly celebrated for a writer of great talents, accurate judgement, and refined taste. Among his works, which all are in high estimation with the learned of every denomination, there are none more interesting and universally admired than this upon the Covenants. Great erudition, solid argument, and accurate criticism, are here happily employed in establishing the truth and vindicating the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. No book that has been published since the reformation of the Church is more worthy the attention and study of candidates for the ministry; and every pious reader, who wishes to have his faith confirmed, and religious affections raised, will here be fully gratified. Those who can peruse it in the original Latin, will discover a beauty and sublimity of style, which the translator has not been able to reach; the version however is abundantly accurate to convey the ideas, and is not destitute of sufficient neatness to please a candid reader.
As it has long been our wish that an American Edition of this invaluable work might appear, we comply without the least hesitation with the request of the Editor, to express our sentiments respecting the book, and earnestly recommend it to all those who have a relish for sound doctrine and a taste for elegant literature.---While the press is daily teeming with the frivolous productions of romance, or the more pernicious effusions of infidelity, we have no doubt there are still many to be found who prefer edification to amusement, and truth to error, and therefore hope the proposals will meet with immediate and suitable encouragement.
J.H. LIVINGSTON, SAM MILLER,
(Signed) WM. LINN, JOHN M’KNIGHT,
JOHN M. MASON, G. A. KUYPERS,
JOHN N. ABEEL, BENJ. FOSTER,
JOHN RODGERS, PHILIP MILLEDOLER.
We the Ministers of the Gospel, in Philadelphia, heartily concur with our Brethren of New-York, in the foregoing recommendation.
J. HENRY CH. HELMUTH, WM. ROGERS,
ASHBEL GREEN, WM. HENDEL,
WM. MARSHALL, THOMAS USTICK,
TO THE FRIENDS OF PURE CHRISTIANITY,
OF EVERY DENOMINATION.
THE FOLLOWING WORK
GREAT DOCTOR WITSIUS,
ELEGANCE OF STYLE,
PURITY OF DOCTRINE,
SOLIDITY OF JUDGEMENT,
STRENGTH OF REASONING,
CANDOR OF SENTIMENT,
WARMTH OF ADDRESS,
FERVOR OF PIETY;
TO PROMOTE GENUINE CHRISTIANITY,
I NSTRUCT THE IGNORANT,
RECLAIM THE ERRONEOUS,
ESTABLISH THE ORTHODOX,
AGAINST ALL ADVERSARIES WHATEVER,
IS MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
L I F E
A U T H O R.
Extracted from Dr. Marck’s Funeral Oration of him.
Herman Wits (or, as he is commonly called Witsius) was descended from reputable parents. His father, Nicholaus Wits, was a gentleman universally esteemed by his fellow citizens at Enkhuysen, to whom he endeared himself by his fidelity, modesty, justice, benevolence, and unaffected piety in every character he sustained, either in the church or in the city; for in the former he was first a deacon, and afterwards a ruling elder, and treasurer in the latter. His mother was Joanna, a gentlewoman of great piety and prudence, the daughter of Herman Gerhard; who, after many dangers and distresses, obtained a calm and secure settlement in the church at Enkhuysen; where he preached the gospel, for upwards of thirty years, with great reputation; and such was the affection he bore to his church, that he rejected the most profitable offers that were made to him.
The parents of our Witsius, having vowed to devote a child to the ministry, did, upon the birth of this son, call him after his grandfather, praying that in Herman the grandson, might be revived the spirit of the grandfather; and that , endued with equal, if not superior talents, he might imitate his example.
Herman Witsius was born on the 12th of February, 1636, at Enkhuysen, a town of West Friesland; one of the first that threw off the Spanish yoke, asserted their own liberty, and once enlightened with the truths of the gospel, retained the purity of worship ever after, and, in the very worst times of Arminianism, continued, above many, steadfast in the faith. And though it was a place noted for trade and navigation, yet it produced men famous in every branch of literature. So that Witsius, even in his native place, had illustrious patterns to copy after.
The care which these pious parents took of young Witsius during his tender infancy, was not intermitted as he began to grow; for, being still mindful of their vow, they brought him up in a very pious manner, instructing him in the principles and precepts of religion and Christian piety. In his sixth year they sent him to the public school of the town, to learn the rudiments of the Latin tongue; from which, after spending three years, and being advanced to the highest form there, his uncle by the mother, Peter Gerhard, took him under his own private and domestic tuition; a person well skilled in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and philosophy. But his principal study had been Divinity. This man, then disengaged from all public business, and being as fond of his nephew as if he had been his own son, taught him with that assiduity, that, before he was fifteen, he made no small proficiency in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and acquired such knowledge in logic and other parts of philosophy, that, when he was afterwards removed to the university, he could study without a master. At the same time he learned the ethic compendiums of Wallaus
And Burgersdicius, with so much care, as to be able to repeat most of the sentences, very frequent in Burgersdicius, from the ancients, whether Greek of Latin. He also perused his elements of physics, and dipped a little into metaphysical subleties; and committed to memory most of the theological definitions and distinctions from Wendelin. As his uncle was a man of exemplary piety, and was wont to apply almost to every common occurrence life, some striking passages of both testaments, which he often repeated, either in Hebrew or Greek, while rising, dressing, walking, studying, or otherwise employed; so, by his example and admonitions, he stirred up his nephew to the same practice. Whence it was, that at those tender years he had rendered familiar to himself many entire passages of the Hebrew and Greek Testament, which he was far from forgetting when more advanced in life.
Being thus formed by a private education, in 1651, and the fifteenth year of his age, it was resolved to send him to some university. Utrecht was pitched upon, being furnished with men very eminent in every branch of literature, with a considerable concourse of students, and an extraordinary strictness of discipline. What principally recommended it, were the famous divines, Gisbert, Voetius, Charles Maastsrius, and John Hoornbeeckius, all of them great names, and ornaments in their day. Being therefore received into that university, he was, for metaphysics, put under the direction of Paul Voetius, then professor of philosophy; and being, moreover, much taken with the study of the Oriental languages, he closely attended on the celebrated John Leusden, who taught those languages with incredible dexterity; and under him he construed almost the whole Hebrew text, as also the commentaries of Solomon Iarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi on Hosea, and the Chaldee paraphrase of Jonathan on Isaiah, and of Onkelos on a part of the Pentateuch. Moreover, under the same master, he just touched on the mysteries of the Masora, and the barbarous diction of the Talmud; namely, the parts published by John Cocceius, under the title of Sanhedrin and Maccoth, and by Constantine Lempereur, under that of Bahba Bathra: under the same master he learned the elements of the Syriac and Arabic languages; which last, however, he afterwards less cultivated than the others. What proficiency he made in the Hebrew, appeared from a public specimen he gave, at the instigation of Lesden, of a well-written Hebrew oration about the Messias of the Jews and Christians, in 1654. But though almost quite swallowed up in those studies, he by no means neglected the study of divinity, to which he knew all the others were only subservient; but in that sublime science he diligently used, as masters, the greatest men, and best seen in the sacred scriptures, whose most laudable memory no lapse of time shall ever be able to obliterate; namely Gisbert Voetius, John Hoorbeekius, Gaulterus Bruninsius, and Andrew Essenius. By whose instructions, together with his own extraordinary application, and truw piety towards God, what proficiency he made, the reader may easily judge for himself. However, he had a mind to see Groningen, to have the benefit of hearing the famous Samuel Maresius: whither he went in 1654, after the summer vacation, chiefly applying to divinity; under whose direction he made exercises in French, by which he gave so much satisfaction to this great man, that, notwithstanding his many avocations, he deigned to correct and purge those declamations of Witsius from their solecisms and other improprieties, before they were recited in college. Having thus spent a year at Groningen, and obtained an honorable testimonial from the theologiacal faculty, he next turned his thought to Leyden. But the plague then raging there, he resolved to return to Utrecht, in order to build farther on the foundation he had happily laid; and, therefore, he not only carefully heard the professors in divinity at this time, as before, both in public and private, but cultivated a peculiar familiarity with the Very Reverend Justus van den Bogaerdt, whose piety, prudence, and admirable endowments he had such a value for, that he imagined, perhaps from youthful inexperience, no preacher equal to him. From his sermons, conversation, and example, he learned the deeper mysteries of the kingdom of God, and of mystical and spiritual Christianity. From him he understood how great the difference is between any superficial knowledge, which scholastic exercises, books learnedly written, and a close application, may procure to minds quite destitute of sanctification; and that heavenly wisdom, which is acquired by meditation, prayer, love, familiar converse with God, and by the very relish and experience of spiritual things; which proceeding from the Spirit of God, internally illuminating, convincing, persuading, and sealing, gloriously transforms the whole man into the most holy image of Christ. In a word, he owned, that by means of this holy person he was introduced by the Lord Jesus to his most secret recesses, while, before, he too much and too fondly pleased himself in tarrying in the porch; and there, at length, learned, disclaiming all vain presumption of science, humbly to sit down at the feet of the heavenly Master, and receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child. But that it may not be thought, he so applied to the forming of his mind to piety, as to neglect for the future all academical studies, the theses he wrote on the Sacred Trinity, against the Jews, from their own writings, may, and ought to be, a proof to the contrary; and which he published in the month of October 1655, to be disputed under the moderation of the famous Leusden; which, though warmly attacked by the most experienced academicians, yet the moderator thought the respondent acquitted himself so well, as to supercede his interpolation on any account; and when, according to custom, he returned solemn thanks to the moderator for his trouble, this last very politely and truly made answer. He had stood in no need of his help.
The time now seemed to require, that our Witsius, very famous at the two universities, should be employed in the public service of the church, and first, as usual, give specimens of his proficiency. Therefore, in the month of May, 1656, he presented himself at Enkhuysen to a preparatory examination, as it is called, together with his fellow student, John Lastdraerus, with whom he had a familiarity from his youth, and whom he afterwards had for his most intimate colleague and fellow-laborer, first in the church of Leovaarden, and then at Utrecht. And upon this occasion he was not only admitted to preach publicly, which he did with uncommon applause, but gave general satisfaction, that there was scarce a country-church in North Holland, where he then resided, which, wanting a minister, did not put his name in the number of the three candidates, from which the election is usually made. And, at the instigation of the Reverend John James le Bois, minister of the French at Utrecht, he ventured, upon leave given, to preach publicly to the French church at Dort, in their language. And from that time he often preached in French, both at Utrecht and Amsterdam; as also sometimes in the course of his ministry at Leovaarden. But because he imagined, there was still something wanting to the elegance of his language, he proposed very soon to take a tour to France, and pay his respects to the great men there, and at the same time have the pleasure of hearing them, and improving in their language.
But providence disposed otherwise; for the following year, 1657, and the twenty-first of his age, being lawfully ordained there on the 8th of July. This village lies almost in the mid-way between Enkhuysen and Horn, and is united with the parish of Bienne Wijsent. And here, for four years and upwards, he labored with the greatest alacicity of a youthful mind; and with no less benefit; for, by frequent catechizing, and with the greatest prudence suiting himself to the catechumens, both boys and girls, they, who before were grossly ignorant, could not only give proper answers on the principal heads of our religion, but prove their assertions by suitable texts of scripture, and repeat a whole sermon distinctly, when examined on it, to the joy as well as shame of their parents and older people. The reputation of so faithful and dextrous a pastor being thus widely spread, the church of Wormer, in the same tract of North Holland, sufficiently numerous and celebrated, but then too much distracted by intestine commotions, imagined they could not pitch upon a fitter guide to allay their hearts, and form their minds. This call Witsius not only accepted, passing to that charge in October 1661, but spent there four years and a half, doing every thing in his power to promote Christian unanimity and the common salvation; and as he saw the extensive fruits of his labours among them, so he was universally beloved. Wherefore he could not bear to remove from them to the people of Sluys in Flanders, who offered him great encouragement to preach; but the people of Goese in Zealand succeeded in their call, and he repaired to them about Whitsuntide 1666, and was so acceptable to all by his doctrine, manners, and diligence, as to live there in the most agreeable peace and concord with his learned, pious, and vigilant fathers, and the third, who was younger, he loved as his brother. He was much delighted with this settlement, and often wished to grow old in this peaceful retreat. But the people of Leovaarden, in West Friesland interrupted these thoughts; who, in November 1667, called him, with a remarkable affection, to that country, that he might prove a shining light, not only in the church, court, and senate of that place, but to all the people of Friesland, who flocked thither from all parts to the assembly of the states; but the people of Goese, doing all they could to hinder his removal. It was April 1668 before he went to Leovaarden. And it is scarcely to be expressed, with what vigilance, fidelity, and prudence he conducted himself; even at a time of such difficulty, when the enemy, having made such incursions into Holland, and made themselves masters of most its towns, and struck a panic into all, when a man of such spirit and resolution was absolutely necessary. Nor do I know of any before or since, whose labours were more successful, and who was more acceptable to the church, the nobility, and the court. And therefore he was for some time tutor to Henry Casimir, the Most Serene Prince of Nassau, hereditary governor of Friesland, too untimely snatched away by death, and with remarkable success he instructed, in the doctrines of religion, his Most Illustrious sister Amelia, a very religious princess, afterwards married to the Duke of Saxe-Eisenach; and he presided at the procession of faith, which both princes publickly made, to the great edification of the church, in the presence of the Princess-mother, Albertina of Orange.
It is not, therefore, to be wondered, that when, through the injury of the most calamitous times, and the decease both of the venerable and aged Christian Schotanus, and of John Melchior Steinbergius, scarce installed in the professorship, the theological interests of the university of Francquer seemed to be fallen to decay; and the extraordinary and truly-academical endowments of our Witsius were perfectly well known in Friesland, by an experience of seven whole years; that, I say, he was appointed to the ordinary profession of divinity, in the year 1675, in the academy of his native country, thus happily to be restored. Which opportunity also the church of Franquer prudently laid hold on, being then without a second minister, very cheerfully to commit to him, now appointed professor, the sacred charge. Having, therefore, accepted both these calls, he came to Franquer; and, after being declared Doctor of Divinity in the academical assembly, by the divine his coleague, he was, on the 15th of April, installed professor of the same,; anfter delivering a solemn oration, with the greatest applause of a concourse of people from all parts; in which he excellently expressed the character of a genuine divine; and as such he soon after demeaned himself, together with the venerable and aged Nicolaus Arnoldus, his most intimate colleague.
In the pulpit Witsius addressed himself with so much gravity, elegance, piety, solidity, and usefulness, that the general inattention were made both on great and small. The academical chair also gained a warmth from his sacred fire, to which, from the different and most distant parts of Europe, the youth, intended for the ministry, reformed in great numbers. And not to be wanting in his duty, or disappoint the intention of those who called him, in any particular, he no sooner entered the university, than, notwithstanding his many daily public and private labours, in both his offices, he set himself to write, and in a very little time published, besides Select Academical Disputations, mostly tending to establish the peace of the church, and a smaller dissertation, two works pretty large and learned, which went through several editions, and were spread over Europe; being every where read with universal approbation. And besides, there was nothing of extraordinary importance to be transacted, even with the schismatic followers of Labadie, who had then fixed their principal residence in West Friesland, which both the nobility and the overseers of the church did not think proper should be dispatched by this man.
About this time, Mr. J. Marck, on his return from his studies at Leyden, commenced his acquaintance with Witsius, who recommended him as pastor to the church of Midlumen, between Franequer and Harlingen; and afterwards procured him the degree of Doctor in Divinity; and, by his interest with his Serene Highness and others, Dr. Marck was appointed third ordinary professor of divinity, in 1676.
But the justly-renowned character of our Witsius was such, that others, envying their happiness of the people of Friesland, wanted to have the benefit of his labours themselves. This was first attempted by the overseers of the university of Goningen, who to procure a worthy successor to the deceased James Altingius, as well in the theological and philosophical chairs, as in the university-church, about the close of the year 1679, sent to Franequer a reverend person, to offer the most honorable terms, in order to prevail on Witsius. But that attempt proved unsuccessful. For, communicating the affair to his Serene Highness the Prince, and the other overseers of the university, they protested his services were most acceptable to them, and he excused himself in a handsome manner to the people of Groningen. But those of Utrecht very soon followed the example of Groningen, in the beginning of the year 1680; when, upon the decease of the celebrated Burman, they judged it necessary to have a great man, to add to the reputation of their university, and to maintain the ancient piety of their church; and being well assured, that none was fitter for all those purposes than Witsius, who was formerly one of their own students, they therefore dispatched a splendid deputation to Franequer, to entreat him to come and be an ornament in their university, and church, to which he consented with little difficulty, notwithstanding the opposition made by those of Friesland, who were loath to part with one who had been so useful among them; for his obligations to the university of Utrecht were such, that he thought h could not shew his gratitude more, than by accepting of their invitation. Accordingly, after a most honorable dismission from the afflicted Frieslanders, he came to Utrecht, and was admitted into the ministry of that church, on the 25th of April, and, four days after, into the professorship of the university, after delivering a most elegant oration on the excellence of evangelical truth, which fully answered universal expectation. And it can scarce be expressed, how happily he lived in credit, and labored above full eighteen years of his most valuable life, with these celebrated men, Peter Mastricht, Melchior Leydeckerus, and Hermannus, then Halenius, after the example of the doctors, his predecessors, whom he always had in the highest veneration. In the ministry he had several colleagues, men of learning , piety, peace, and zeal for God; among whom were his ancient colleagues in the church of Leovaarden, Peter Einhovius, and John Lastragerus. In the university, besides the forementioned divines, he had not only his own John Leusden, an excellent philogist, but Gerhard de Vries, and John Luitsius, famous philosophers, who, for the benefit of the church, prepared the youth intended for the ministry. Before his pulpit he had a Christian magistracy, and the whole body of the people, who admired and experienced the power of his elocution, their minds being variously affected with religious impressions. Before his academical and private chair, he had not only a large circle of promising youths from all parts of the world, who admired his most learned, solid, prudent, and eloquent dissertations; but doctors themselves daily resorted in great numbers to learn of him. And therefore he declined no labour, by which, even at the expense of many restless nights, he might be of service to the university and church. Not did he think it sufficient, by sermons, lectures, conferences, and disputations, to produce his useful and various stock of learning, but he exposed his treasures to the whole world, present and to come, in many public and excellent writings to last for ever, and never to decay, but with the utter extinction of solid learning and true piety itself. And to the commendation of the of the people of Utrecht be it spoken, that, not only in ecclesiastical assemblies, they always acknowledged his abilities and prudence, seasonably calling him to the highest dignities in synods; but even the nobility, both by deeds and words, testified, that his endowments were perfectly well known to, and highly-esteemed by them. And therefore they honored him twice with the badges of the highest office in their university, in 1686 and 1697. And we must by no means omit, that when, in 1685, a most splendid embassy of the whole United Provinces was decreed to be sent to James King of Great Britain, afterwards unhappily drawn aside and ruined by the deceitful arts of the French and Romish party; which embassy was executed by the most illustrious Wassenaar, Lord of Duvenvorden, and the ordinary ambassador, his Excellency Citters, with the most noble and Illustrious Weed, Lord of Dykveld; that, I say, this last easily persuaded his colleagues of legation to employ none but Witsius for their chaplain; a divine, whom, to the honor of the Dutch churches, they might present in person to the English nation, without and apprehension either of offence or contempt. Nor was Witsius himself against the resolution of these illustrious personages; for he went cheerfully, though indisposed in body; and, on his return in a few months after, owned, that having conversed with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London, and with many other divines, both Episcopal and Dissenters in discipline, he observed not a few things, which made an increase to his stock of learning, and by which he was better qualified to act prudently on all future occasions. And the English from that time owned, that being thus better acquainted with Witsius, he ever after justly deserved their regard and applause.
The reputation of Witsius, thus spread all over the world, made the most illustrious overseers of the university of Leyden, with the burgomasters, resolve to give a call to this great man, in 1698; in order to make up the loss which was apprehended from the decease of the great Spanhemius, which seemed to be drawing near. And this resolution was approved of by our gracious Stadtholder, William III, King of Great Britain, of immortal memory, from that constant piety he entertained towards God, and that equal fidelity and prudence he exercised towards our church and university. Nor was there the least delay either in determining or executing that call to the professorship of divinity, or in his attempting thereof. For though the people of Utrecht could have wished otherwise, yet our Witsius had several weighty reasons why he thought it his duty to comply with the Leyden invitation; judging it was entirely for the interest of the church, equally as for his own, that, hereafter exempted from the labors of the pulpit, he might, with the greater freedom, devote the rest of his aged life to the benefit of the university; but especially, as he was made acquainted with his Majesty’s pleasure, by the illustrious Pensioner Heinsius. And when his Majesty admitted him into his royal presence, he signified the satisfaction he had with his accepting the call to the chair of Leyden. He entered on his office the 16th of October, after delivering a very grave and elegant oration, in which he gave the character of the Modest Divine. And with what fidelity he discharged this office for the space of ten years; with what assiduity he laboured; with what wisdom and prudence he taught; with what elegance he spoke; with what alacrity he discoursed in disputations; with what piety he lived; with what sweetness of temper he demeaned himself; with what gracefulness he continued to write; with what lustre he adorned the university; are things so well known to all, as may supersede any particular enlargement.
But he had scarce passed a year at Leyden, when the High and Mighty States of Holland and West Friesland did, on the recommendation of the overseers of the university, in the room of Mark Essius, the piously-deceased inspector of their theological college, in which ingenious youths of the republic are reared for the service of the church, commit the superintendency thereof to our Witsius, as the mildest tutor they could employ for their pupils; without detriment to all the honor and dignity of his professorship, which he enjoyed in conjunction with the celebrated Anthony Hulfius. When he was installed in this new office, the illustrious president of the supreme court of Holland, and overseer of the university, Hubert Roosenboomius Lord of Sgrevelsrecht did, in a most elegant Latin discourse, in the name of all the nobility, not only set forth the praises of the new inspector, but also exhorted all the members of that college to a due veneration of him, and to shew him all other becoming marks of respect. Witsius accepted, but with reluctance, this new province, for he had not judged a submission to the will of the states, and his laying himself out for the service of the church, to be his duty, he would not have complied with it. However, he executed this great charge with the greatest fidelity and care, for the advantage of, and with an affection for his pupils, equally with that of his professorship in the university; till, in the year 1707, on the 8th of February, on account of his advanced age, and growing infirmities, he, with the greatest modesty, in the assembly of the overseers and burgomasters, notwithstanding all their remonstrances and entreaties to the contrary, both in public and private, and all the great emoluments arising therefrom to himself, resigned this other office; being at the same time also discharged, at his own desire, from the public exercise of his professorship in the university; for executing which in the old manner his strength of body was scarce any longer sufficient; the vigour of his mind continued unaltered; but, as he often declared, he had much rather desist from the work, than slag in it.
And it is not to be thought, that Witsius would have been equal to so many and great labours, and the church and university have enjoyed so many and so great benefits by him, had he not found at home the most powerful cordials and supports; particularly in the choicest and most beloved of wives, Aletta van Borkhorn, the daughter of Wessel van Borkhorn, a citizen and merchant of good character, at Utrecht, and a worthy elder of the church, and of Martina van Ysen; whom he married in the middle of 1660, after three years spent in the sacred ministry. She was eminent for meekness, and every civil and religious vitue; she loved and honored her husband, in a manner above the common; with whom he lived in the greatest harmony and complacency, about four and twenty years, in North Holland, Zealand, Friesland, and at Utrecht; at length, in the year 1684, after many great and long infirmaties of the body, she was taken from him by a truly Christian death. He was no less happy in his offspring, especially in three surviving daughters, Martina, Joanna, and Petronella, who were endued with every accomplishment that can adorn the sex, but especially in their duty and affection to their father, which they shewed not only before, but more especially after the death of their mother.
From what has been said, may sufficiently appear, the admirable endowments and virtues of this man. How great was the force of his genius, in apprehending, investigating, and illustrating, even the most abstruse subjects; the accuracy of his judgement, in distinguishing, determining, and arranging them; the tenacity of his memory, in retaining and recollecting them; what readiness of the most charming eloquence, in explaining, inculcating, and urging them home; were well known to those who ever saw or heard him. Nor was his gracefulness in a Latin style, as is most apparent from all he wrote and said, less than his readiness in the Dutch; in which, discoursing from the pulpit, with a peculiar decency of gesture and voice, he ravished the minds of the faithful to a holy assent, and unbelievers and the vicious themselves he filled with astonishment, shame, and terror. And as none will be found, from reading his funeral discourse, to have more dignity commended the deceased Q. Mary, to his many sacred poems must have affected a mind so learned and so pious. There was no branch of learning, necessary to adorn a divine, in which he did not greatly excel. He so increased his knowledge of philosophy, when at the university, that none of the quirks or sophisms of infidels could insnare him, nor any artifice induce him to make shipwreck of the faith, or embrace or encourage any of the errors of the times. He was master of the whole compass of sacred philology, Greek and Hebrew; he was well acquainted with the elegancies of profane literature, Latin, Greek, and Oriental; skilfully borrowing from thence whatever might serve to explain, in a becoming manner, the sacred scriptures; prudently avoiding every extreme. He was perfectly well skilled in history, both ancient and modern, ecclesiastical and civil, Jewish and Christian, domestic and foreign; and from it he always selected, with the greatest of care, what might principally be of present use. He thoroughly learned divinity in all its branches, being as expert in the confirmation and vindication of doctrines, and in shewing their connection, as in confuting errors, discovering their origin, and distinguishing their importance. Above all, he was in love with, revered, and commended the holy scriptures; as that from which alone true wisdom is to be derived; and which, by long practice, he had rendered so very familiar to himself, as not only to have the original words, upon all occasions, very readily at command, but to be able directly, without hesitation, to explain the most difficult. Nor did he, in this case, rest on any man’s authority; most rightly judging such a conduct to be inconsistent with the divine glory of the Christian faith, declaring and demeaning himself the most obsequious disciple of the Holy Spirit alone. Hence he had neither a disdain for the old, and an itch for new things; nor an aversion to new, and a mad and insolent fondness for old things. He would neither be constrained by others, nor constrain any one himself; being taught neither to follow, nor to form a party. That golden saying pleased him much; Unanimity in things necessary; liberty in things not necessary; and in all things, prudence and charity; which he professed was his common creed. Nor can we have the least doubt of his zeal for the faith once delivered to the saints, and for true piety towards God, which he expressed in his writings, when at Leovaarden and Franequer, against some dangerous opinions; then starting up both in divinity and philosophy; of which also he gave a proof at Utrecht and Leyden, when publicly testifying in writing, that he could not bear the authority of reason to be so extolled above the scripture, as that this last should be entirely subject to its command, or be overturned by ludicrous interpretations. His zeal, in his latter days, was greatly inflamed, when he observed all ecclesiastical discipline against those who would overthrow the Christian faith, and even right reason itself, publicly trampled upon under the most idle pretences, and every thing almost given up to a depraved reason, to the subverting the foundations of Christianity; while some indeed mourned in secret, but were forced to be silent; and therefore he declared his joy at his approaching dissolution, on account of the evils he foresaw were hanging over the church; and often called on those who should survive, to tremble when the adversary was triumphing over the doctrines of salvation, and all true piety, to the destruction both of church and state; and that by men, whom it least became, and who still artfully dissembled a regard for religion, and for ecclesiastical and civil constitutions; unless God, in his wonderful providence, averted the calamity, and more powerfully stirred up the zeal of our superiors, against Athiesm, Pelagianism, and the seeds of both. T don’t speak of those smaller differences, observable for some time past, in the method of ranging theological matters, in some modes of expression. All are well apprized with what equity and moderation Witsius ever treated these differences in opinion; and if ever any was inclined to unanimity and concord with real brethren, he was the man, who never did any thing to interrupt it; but every thing either to establish or restore it, and to remove all seeds of dissention. This is what that genuine christianity he had imbibed, prompted him to; and what he was ready to give way to the rashly-angry, and either made no answer to injurious railers, or repaid them even with those ample encomiums, which, in other respects, they might deserve. Thus lived our venerable Witsius, giving uneasiness to none, but the greatest pleasure to all, with whom he had any connection, and was not easily exceeded by any in offices of humanity and brotherly love. There was at the same time in him a certain wonderful conjunction of religious and civil prudence, consummated and confirmed by long experience, with an unfeigned candour. Neither was any equal to him for diligence in the duties of his office, being always most ready to do every thing, by which he could be serviceable to the flocks and pupils under his care, for the benefit of the church. He did not withdraw from them in old age itself, nor during his indisposition indulge himself too much. His modesty was quite singular, by which he not only always behaved with that deep concern in treating the holy scriptures and its mysteries; but also, by which he scarce ever pleased himself in the things he most happily wrote and said; and when his best friends justly commended his performances, he even suspected their sincerity. Nor could any under adversities be more content with his lot, even publicly declaring at Utrecht, that he would not exchange his place in the university and church, either with the royal or imperial dignity. And to omit other virtues, or rather in the compass of one to comprize all; he was not in appearance, but in reality, a true divine, ever discovering his heavenly wisdom by a sincere piety towards God and his Saviour. For he was constant in the public acts of worship, unwearied in the domestic exercises of piety, giving, in this, an example for the imitation of others in the fear of the Lord, incessantly taken up in heavenly meditation, and continued instant in prayer, both stated and ejaculatory; and shone in them, when under the dictates and impulses of the Holy Spirit. In fine, his chief care was, by avoiding evil and doing good, to demean himself both towards God and man, as became one who had obtained redemption through Christ, and, by divine grace, the hope of a blessed eternity in heaven; which he constantly panted after, with the utmost contempt for the things in the world.
His writings are numerous, learned, and useful. In 1660, almost at his entrance on the ministry, he published his Judaeus Christianizans, on the principles of faith, and on the Holy Trinity. When at Wormer, he put out in Low Dutch, 1665, The Practice of Christianity, with the spiritual characters of the unregenerate, with respect to what is commendable in them; and of the regenerate, as to what is blameable and wants correction. At Leovaarden, he gave also in Low Dutch, The Lord’s controversy with his vineyard, and, at the same time, briskly defended it against opponents. Of his Franequer labours, we have, besides smaller works, afterwards comprised in larger volumes, his Oeconomia foederum Dei cum homibus, translated into Low Dutch by Harlingius; and his Exercitationes sacrae in symbolum apastolorum, translated also into Low Dutch, by Costerus. At Utrecht, came out his Exercitationes sacreae in orationem Dominicam; his Egyptiaca and Decaphylon with a dissertation on the Legio fulminatrix Christianorum, and the first volume of his Miscellanea Sacra, and a good deal of the second; besides some smaller works also. And at Leyden, he published at last the second volume of his Miscellanea Sacra complete; and at this last place he set on foot what he calls his Meletemata Leydensia, to be occasionally enlarged with a number of select dissertations. Indeed, all these writings are justly in great repute, their style being polite, the subjects useful, and the whole replenished with various branches of learning, and a beautiful strain of piety, all which may deservedly commend them to the latest posterity.
He had been often, formerly, afflicted with racking and painful diseases; whence, sometimes, arose the greater apprehension of a far earlier departure by death. And nothing, under divine providence, but his vigour of mind, joined to his piety, could have preserved him so long to the world; and that with so perfect an use of his senses, that, not long before his death, he could read, without hesitation, the smallest Greek characters by moon-light, which none besides himself can do. But, with his advanced years, he sometimes had cruel fits of the gout, and stone in the kidneys; and once in the chair, in the midst of a lecture, a slight touch of an apoplexy. These disorders were, indeed, mitigated by the skill of the famous Dr. Frederic Deckers; but now and then, by slight attacks, threatened a return; for his wavering and languishing state of health, indicated the past disorders not entirely extirpated, gave apprehensions of a future fatal distemper; which was occasioned by the sudden attack of a fever on the evening of the 18th of October. This fever, though very soon removed, left his body exceeding weak, and his mind in a state of lethargy, an indication that his head was affected. The good man himself, considering these symptoms, with great constancy and calmness of mind, told the physician, and his other friends then present, that they could not fail to prove mortal. Nor indeed without cause; for his senses were gradually weakened by repeated slumbers; however, about his last hour he sensibly signified to Dr. Marck who attended him, his blessed hope, and his heavenly desires, as he had frequently done before; and then about noon, on the 22d of October 1708, he sweetly departed this life, in the 73d year of his age, and entered into the joy of his Lord.