For it is utterly impossible that the decree of God should fail; that the promises of God should come to nought; that the word of salvation should be preached in vain; that the prophecies respecting the perpetuity of Christ’s kingdom should fall to the ground; or that Christ should lose the reward of His labor, and become a Master without disciples, a King without subjects, a Bridegroom without a bride, a Head without a body.
Do you share Witsius’ certainty? And perhaps even more importantly, is your certainty based on factors sociological, historical, or coincidental? Or do you, like Witsius, know the security of the Church of God rests in the infallible work of her Savior and Eternal Beloved?
(Quote: Symbolum XXIV.xxiii)
This gathering is effected by the word of the Gospel; for although God in some respect invites men to himself by the works of nature (Acts 17:27; Rom 2:4), no invitation of that sort is sufficient for constituting the Church; but the word of supernatural revelation must be added (I Cor 1:21)… The preaching of the Law, that the minds of men may be rightly prepared: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” But the preaching of the Gospel is chiefly made use of: “This only would I learn of you: did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The invitation given by the Gospel is termed our Calling: “Them he also called” (Rom 8:30). Hence, too, the frequent designation of “the called,” and the very word Ecclesia, the Church.
Quoted from Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed XXIV.vi p. 352
By a DIVINE, I mean one who, imbued with a substantial knowledge of Divine things derived from the teaching of God himself, declares and extols, not in words only, but by the whole course of his life, the wonderful excellencies of God, and thus lives entirely for His glory. Such were in former days the holy patriarchs, such the divinely inspired prophets, such the apostolic teachers of the whole world, such some of those whom we denominate fathers, the widely resplendent luminaries of the primitive Church. The knowledge of these men did not lie in the wire-drawn subtleties of curious questions, but in the devout contemplation of God and his Christ. Their plain and chaste mode of teaching did not soothe itching ears, but impressing upon the mind an exact representation of sacred things, inflamed the soul with their love, while their praiseworthy innocence of behavior, in harmony with their profession, and unimpeached by their enemies, supported their teaching by an evidence that was irresistible, and formed a clear proof of their having familiar intercourse with the most holy God.
Vero Theologo p. 13
Often the path of ministry seems to be filled with insurmountable obstacles. For those engaged in vocational ministry such as pastors and missionaries, there are often discouragements and trials to meet them on their path. It is instructive that when Herman Witsius was met with doubt and anxiety as he was about to embark on a new call to academia at Frankfurt, he recalled his external call:
My only consolation is, that I have not sought after this place by unworthy artifices, nor indeed by any improper efforts, but have, on the contrary, been summoned and drawn hither by the unanimous wish of the prince and nobles, and the concurrent earnest desire of the whole Church, in which things the judicious bid me recognise a distinct call from God.
Drawing from a rich Scriptural vein of callings both internal (I Timothy 3:1) and external (Acts 13:1 – 3) as important for ministry, Witsius reminds those seeking to serve the risen Christ of aids to confirm our calling in the midst of doubtful scenarios. We dare not thrust ourselves into the Lord’s work if He has not confirmed our calling, and to do so deprives ourselves of assurance when our ministries are storm-tossed.
But grace is needed for us all – pastor or regular Christian – when we serve in the strength which God supplies (I Peter 4:10 – 11). (more…)
“From the holiness of God flows a mortal and implacable hatred of sin. It is as much the nature of holiness to ‘hate iniquity, as to love righteousness’ (Ps. 45:8). Sin is ‘an abomination to his soul’ (Prov. 6:16), that is, to his very essence, and essential holiness: and neither sin only, but also the sinner is the object of his hatred. ‘For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord thy God,’ (Deut. 25:16). He therefore separates from himself, and from his chosen people, all whom he cannot make partakers of his favour: and so he cannot but inflict upon them that punishment which is the effect of his hatred. According to Solomon’s reasoning, Prov. 16:5, ‘Every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord.’ And the consequence is, He shall not be unpunished. In the same manner David reasons, Ps. 5:4, 5, 6, ‘Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in wickedness.’ Thou hatest sin, and the sinner too, because of it. ‘Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity.’ And surely the fruit of this must be exceeding bitter: ‘Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing.’ And thus from the holiness of God, arises a hatred of sin and the sinner; from hatred, punishment.”
Economy of the Covenant Between God and Man (Escondido, CA: den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1990), vol. 1, p. 96.
“The doctrine of justification diffuses itself through the whole body of divinity, and if the foundation here is well laid, the whole building will be the more solid and grand; whereas a bad foundation or superstructure threatens a dreadful ruin. The pious Picardians, as they were called in Bohemia and Moravia [i.e., the churches of which John Huss was the most prominent example], valued this article at its true price when in their confession of faith, Art. vi. speaking of justification, they thus write: ‘this sixth article is accounted with us the most principal of all, as being the sum of all Christianity and piety. Wherefore our divines teach and handle it with all diligence and application, and endeavor to instill it into all.’”
Quoted from the wonderful (though now defunct) Johannes Weslianus
Voetius not only overlapped with Witsius for 40 odd years, but he was an important subject in the Dutch Reformed world in which Witsius lived and breathed. Not only was Witsius heavily influenced by Voetius, but Witsius’ own work was – in a sense – an attempt to reconcile the best of Voetius and Cocceius and their respective methodologies. Any careful study into Witsius must grapple with Gijsbert Voet, and hopefully the following biography presents a clear albeit brief look into this important Dutch father.
Biography of Voetius
Born in the small fortified city of Heusden as the son of Paulus Voet and Maria de Jongeling, Gisbertus (or Gijsbert) Voetius’s early years were dominated by the experience of war. Heusden was on the front line in both a military and a religious sense, as it was situated on the southern bank of the river Meuse that would later form the borderline dividing Catholic and Protestant parts of the country. Voetius’s relatives were directly involved in the conflict with Spain. Grandfather Nicolaas Dirkszoon Voet, heir to a Westphalian noble family, died in prison in ’s Hertogenbosch where he was kept on account of his support of William the Silent. Several members of Gijsbert’s mother’s family would flee the city, leaving all their possessions behind in order to accompany the Prince of Orange to Breda. Voetius’s father meanwhile saw his own property being demolished in the rampage around Heusden. Having joined the State militias for a second time in 1592, he was killed in the siege of Bredevoort in 1597, leaving behind the sickly Maria with four children.
Gijsbert was then only eight and went to live with the local blacksmith, expenses being defrayed by the city government. Noticing his excellence in the study of letters, the Heusden magistrates decided to prolong their sustenance. In 1604 they sent their youngster – of small stature, but intellectually mature – as ‘the city’s student’ to the Leiden State College. Voetius seems to have felt at home there. The daily readings of the Scriptures and the Heidelberg Catechism as well as the College’s propaedeutic courses in philosophy doubtlessly contributed to his later belief in the importance of a well-defined body of student material, such as it appears in his Exercitia et bibliotheca studiosi theologiae of 1644. In philosophy, Voetius showed a special predilection for the works of Bartholomaeus Keckermann (1571–1609), but his philosophical schooling was far from one-sided. Together with fellow students such as Simon Episcopius and Caspar Barlaeus, both of whom, like his professor in logic Petrus Bertius, would later become champions of the Arminian cause, Voetius read a huge amount of ancient literature. He studied Lucretius’s De rerum natura alongside Aristotelian, Stoic and neo-Stoic classics of physics, ethics and psychology, and also read more recent works on medicine, natural history and geography. He further exercised his mathematical skills, attended chemical and anatomical experiments, and is said to have learned to play the zither, the organ and the flute. (more…)