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nor will ever cease to cast this reproach upon us; which, I grieve to say, is not so easily wiped away..
Ó! how much better would it be to use our utmost endeaVours, to lessen, make up, and, if it could be, put an end to all controversy! Make this reverend and learned Sirs, your great concern. This all the godly who mourn for the breaches in Joseph ; this the churches who are committed to your care ; this Jesus himself, the king of truth and peace, require and expect from you; in the most earnest manner they entreat it
“ If therefore there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels, and mercies: fulfil ye my joy, fulfil ye the joy of all saints, fulfil ye the joy of our Lord Jesus himself, that ye may be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of oně mind." There have been already more than enough quarrels, slanders, and suspicions; more than enough of contentions amongst brethren, whích, I'engage for it, will afford no just cause of triumph; "more than enough intestine divisions, by which we destroy one another; and more than enough of passion. Let the love of divisions, a thirst after pre-eminence, and schismatical names be henceforward banished from amongst us. Let all litigious, satirical, and virulent writings be blotted out; “ as they only serve to revive the fires of hurtful questions.". But if we must write on those controversies, let us lay aside all evil dispositions, which are hinderances to us in our enquiries, and mislead our readers. Let us fight with arguments, not railings, bearing in our minds this saying of Aristophanes, “it is dishonourable, and by no means becoming poets, to rail at each other." How much less does it become Christians to do so! The streams of divinity are pure: they rise only from the fountain of sacred learning, and should be defiled with none of the impure waters of the ancient or modern philosophy. Let us abstain from harsh and unusual expressions, and from crude and rash assertions; from whence arise envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. The instruments of both covenants should be handled diligently by all, but with sacred fear and trembling. Let none please himself with his commentaries, because they contain something new and unknown by our predecessors. Let him who thinks he has found out something preferable to the received opinion, offer it to the public with modesty, without vilifying the brethren; not asserting or determining rashly, but submitting his thoughts to the censure of the learned, and the judgment of the church; not forcing them on the common people to the distraction of their minds; nor hastily offering them to incau. the glory.
tious youth, who are improper judges of such weighty matters Nor let any reject, on account of its novelty, what is agreeable to the meaning of the words, to scripture phrases, to the analogy of faith, or to the relation the text bears to others. Ca jetan, who is commended by our Chameir, has not badly expressed himself on this head: “If a new sense of the text of fer itself, though it be different from that of divines in general, let the reader judge of it for himself." And in another place he says, “Let none refuse assenting to a new sepse of sacred writ, because it differs from that given by the ancients; for God has not bound himself to the truth of their expositions of the scriptures." Let the depths of prophecy be also diligently searched into; but reverently, without wresting the scriptures, without violating those bounds wherewith it has pleased God to keep them from human intuition ; lest he who attempts to search into the majesty should be overwhelmed by
Let no one, of however great name, by his authority bind the free consciences of the faithful: but, as Clemens Romanus once said, “Let the truth be taken from the scriptures themselves;" by these alone it should stand or fall in religious affairs; by these are all controversies to be settled. And it was by the sacred and undefiled gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the ancient councils were influenced, nevertheless, let not any one inconsiderately on this pretence, withhold his assent to such forms of expression which are taken from the word of God, and are agreeable to the scriptures, are the bonds of church union, the niarks of orthodoxy, the bars of heresy, and the limits of wanton wits; as though they were the re mains of the Babylonish tower, which obliged men to think and speak alike in religion.
Let no one choose for himself a guide out of the modern divines; all whose dictates he is determined to receive and de fend as celestial oracles; as one who is given as a new teacher and light of the world, as the ancients said of Basilius; and in comparison of whom, all others appear as little children or dwarfs ; when he himself, perhaps, protests that he would not be thought the author of any thing new, and made the head of a sect. On the other hand, let no one despise such a man, as if nothing true or good, nothing useful to the understanding of the scriptures could be learned from him :- for God has not put it into the heart of any pious persons to search the scriptures night and day, without opening to them those treasures of his sacred wisdom.
Let us preach the good tidings of the gospel, let us congratulate the church on account of them; and make the best use of
them ourselves we can. Let no one who has in general expressed the truth in eloquent language, be heinously censored on account of an improper word, or harsh expression which bas slipped from his pen:-“ Poison does not lie bid in sylla bles; nor does truth consist; in sound, but in the intention : nor godliness, in the tinkling of brass, but in the meaning of the thungs signified." Yet, let us all endeavour to express ourselves as accurately as possible; and not take upon us to defend what has been imprudently said by our friends, or ourselves, lest others blame us for it; but as far as ingenuous Diess, truth, charity, and all good men will allow of it, let us pass by, cancel or correct any mistakes; which has been the practice of some great men, both among the ancients and moderns, to their very great credit. Let none of our brethren be stigmatized with the brand of heresy, on account of what is supposed to follow from any of their expressions, when they themselves deny and detest the consequence. Solid learning, manners conformable to Christian sanctity, a peaceable disposition, and a faithful discharge of our duty without noise and confusion, will procure favour much more than inconsiderate Warm zeal, and the violent efforts of a passionate mind; which are designed for the most part, to beighten our own glory and seeming importance, though the cause of God be made the
pretence for them.
Let sotme liberty also be given to learned men, in explaining texts of scripture, in the choice of arguments for the de fence of the common truth, in the use of phrases and terms, and in resolving problematic questions, (for in this ou state of darkness, it is not to be expected that all men should think and speak alike): but let this liberty be confined within the bounds of modesty, prudence, and love; lest it degenerate into petulent licentiousness, and turn our Zion into a Babel.
These, reverend and learned Sirs, are my earnest wishes; these my sentiments which I recommend to your prudence, faith, and piety; as I do yourselves and your pious labours, to the grace of our Great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ; " Who can make you perfect to every good work, to do his “ will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his
sight;" and, at last, "when you happily have fought the good fight of faith, can bless you with an everlasting crown “ of glory." This was long since, and is now, the most earDest wish of, Reverend and learned Sirs,
Your fellow-labourer, and
Servant in the Lord,
HERMAN WITS (or, as he is commonly called, Witsius) was descended from reputable parents. His father, Nicolaus Wits, was a gentleman universally esteemed by his fellow-citizens at Enkhuysen, to whom he endeared himself by bis fide lity, modesty, justice, benevoleixe, 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 Johanna, 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 be bore to his church, that he rejected the most profitable offers that were made to him.
The parents of oor 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 wahy, stedfast in the faith. And though it was a place noted for trade and navigation, yet it produced men famous in every branch of literature; 80 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 Latin, Greek, 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 Wallæus 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 or Latin. He also perused his elements of physics, and dipped a little into metaphysical subtilties, and committed to memory most of the theological definitions and distinctious from Wendelin. As his uncle was a man of exemplary piety, and was wont to apply almost to every common occurrence of 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
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 Maatsius, and John Hoornbeekius, 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