Herman Witsius.

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tihxary of Che Cheolo^ical ^tmxmvy


From the Library of
James Lenox

»iN^^8^-^^¥&jBl-3 1763 v . li
Witsius, Herman, 1636-1708.
The oeconomy of the
covenants between God and


O.Mvt I


T H E ( JUN 5 1975








A Complete Body of Divinity.


ProfefTor of Div^inlty in the Univerfities of Franeker, Utrecht,
and Leyden ; and alfo Regent of the Divinity College of
the States of Holland and Weft-Friefland.

Faithfully tranflated from the Latin, and carefully revifed.

To which is prefixed.
The Life of the AUTHOR.


— ■ ■ -, ■■ . 2 ■■ «

Printed for Edward D i l l y, In the Poultrj:




.. ^!^ H E famous Herman Witsius, Profeflpr of
J^ Divinity at Utrecht in Holland, and the au-
,th6r of a treatile entitled, ^e Oeconomy of the Cove-
nants between God and Man^ and various other learned
and theological trafts, v/as a writer, not only emi-
nent for his great talents, and particularly folid judg-
ment, rich imagination, and elegancy of compofi-
tlon ; but for a deep, powerful, and evangelical fpi-
rituality and favour of godlinefs : and we moil
heartily concur in the recommendation of his works
to ferioLis Chriftians of all denominations, and eipe-
cially to minifters and candidates for that facred

John Gill, D. E?. John Walker, L. L. I?.

Thomas FIall. John Brine.

William KjNG. Thomas Gibbons, M. A.

The late reverend, learned, and pious Mr. James
Hervey, in his Therpn and Afpafio^ Vol. H. p. 366,
having mentioned a work of the above Wits i us,
iidds, " The Oeconomy of the Covenaras^ written by the
V fam,e hand, is a body of divinity, in its method fo
" welldigefted; in its dodcrines fo truly evangelicaU
" and (what is not very ufual with our fyftematic
" writers) in its language fo refined and elegant -,
** in its manner foaffeftionate and animating-, that
" I would recommend it to every ftudent in divi-
" nity. I would not fcruple to rifk all my repu-
" tation upon the merits of this performance -, and I
':* cannot but lament it, as one of my greated lolfes,
" that I was no fooner acquainted with this mod ex-
" cellent author, all whofe works have fuch a deli-
*' cacy of compofition, and fuch a fweet favour of
" holinefs, that I know not any comparifon more
" proper to reprefent their true charader than the
" golden j)ot which bad manna •, and was, outwardly,
" bright with burniaied gold j inwardly, rich with
" heavenly food."




7o the 'uery reverend^ learned^ and celebrated
Profejfors of Divi?iity in the Univerfities of the
united provinces of Holland', pajlors of the re-
formed churches \ and 2iealous defenders of the
Faith once delivered to the Saints.


"1 HE prefent age furniflies fuch a number
of books, that the world is ahiioft weary
of them, and the church certainly
groans under their weight : as this never flour-
ifhed more than when, in the pure fimplicity of
faith and love, and without any fondnefs for
difputations, it regarded the dodrine of our
Lord alone, and drew the pure and undefiled
truth from thofe writings only, which could
make David nvifer than all his teach ersy and the
man of God perfect^ thoroughly i7i/i?'uthd to every
good work. It is indeed, very difficult to write
any thing now-a-days, which can pleafe. For
ib great is every where the fruitfulnefs of Icarn-

[ 4 ]

ing, or the vain imagination of Iclencc ; To ob-
ftinate the attachment to once received Hypo-
thefes, fo fixed the fludy of particular parts,
and fo malevolent the judgment paffed on other
peoples works (which even fometimes affedls
the minds of good men againfl: their wills) that
whoever thinks by his writings to fatisfy your
dehcate minds, or thofe v^'ho are engaged in a
inore general fearch after knowledge, feems
to attribute too much to his own capacity, and
to be iofnorant of the difpofition of the times.
But I am confcious of the flendernefs of qiy
own abilities : and it is impoflible for a perfon
not to know the world, who is at all converfant
with it. It therefore feems proper to aflign
fome reafons for my appearing in public again ;
and to fliew the defign of the work I now offer
to the churches.

And to whom, reverend and learned Sirsy
fhould I render thefe reafons rather than to you,
who are competent judges of what I v/rite^ and
by whom, next to God and my own confcience,
I long to have my fludies approved. In the
firft place then, I lincerely declare, that it is not
an incurable itch of v^^riting, a raging thirft
after vain glory, an envious difpolition of mind,
a deteflabie defire of widening the wounds al-
ready made in the churches, the odious pleafure
of blackening another's character, by giving a
wrong turn to what is really right ; nor, laflly
the infamous dcfire to make, encreafe, or con-
tinue flrifes, which have cccafioned my writing
at this time. Befides my own declaration to
^he contrary, the whole work itfelf, though


[ s ]

but flightly attended to, will acquit me of aft-
ing on fuch motives.

To fee the minds of tlie godly difturbed by
the inconfiderate affcrtions of fome, and their
uncommon interpretations of the Scriptures;
or the fufpicions of others (not at all times
dilated by charity, whatever fliare prudence
may have in the cafe,) gave me indeed the
greatell concern. And for as much as the doc-
trine of the covenant of grace, by which the
manner of the reconciliation of finners to God is
fhewn, and the manifold difpenfation of that
covenant, have been the unhappy objedt of con-
troverfy in the Netherlands ^ fo that whatever
points are now difputed upon (if we except the
new method of interpreting the prophecies,
and the opinions of the modern philofophy,
which are imprudently introduced into the pre-
fent fyftem of divinity, may and ought to be
referred to this (I have thought this fubjed: in the
firft place deferving my notice. But I have treated
it in fuch a manner, as is agreeable to the truths
hitherto received in the churches; and without
that levity or feverity, which is not confiftent
with the law of love. 0\\ which account I
have not confined myfelf to bare difputations,
v/hich are generally unprofitable ; and, if it
were not that they were feafoned with a degree
of acrimony, would be deftitute of every kind
of elegance.

I have chofe to enter on this fubjed: from its
very beginning : and have endeavoured, as far
as I could, to explain it methodically and clear-
ly, enlightening the obfcurer paflages of Scrip-

A 3 ture.

[ 6 ]

ture, carefully examining the phrafes ufed by
the Holy Ghoft, and referring the whole to
the pradlice of faith andgodUnefs, to the glory
of God in Chrift, that my expofition might
be the more ufeful and entertaining. And aS
nothing was m.ore profitable and deHghtful to
myfelf, fo nothing could more evidently and
fully convince the minds of others, than a clear
and fober demonftration of the truth to the con-
fcience; which, by pleaiing advances, begin-
ning with plain and acknowledged truths, and
connedling them together, gradually leads to
the more abftrufe points, and forces an affent to
them, not lefs ftrongly than to thofe we are
obliged to agree to at the firfl: view ; and at
the fame time, by its efficacy, prefents fome
before unknown truths to the inmoft foul, fix-
ing it with a degree of aftonifliment on the
contemplation of the admirable perfedlions of

I have found it abfolutely neceflfary to op-
pofe different opinions ; either thofe of the pub-
lic adverfaries of the reformed churches, a-
mongft whom I reckon firft the Socinians, and
the Remonftrants, who, by their daring com-
ments have defiled the doc^trine of God's cove-
nants; or thofe of fome of our brethren, who
have taken it into their heads to form new hy-
pothefes, and thereby almoft root out all true
divinity. I perfuade myfelf, it is not in the
power of malice to deny that I have adled
with candour and modefty : I have flated the.
controverfy juftly, not attributing to any one,
any opinion which he ought act to allow to be


[ 7 ]

his own ; and have made ufe of fuch arguments
as had before fatisfied my own confcience ; as
if thefe were not of themfelves convincing, I
could not think that any force would be added to
them by great warmth : Efpecially, I thought
that the opinions of our brethren were to be
treated with candour. And I have never fought
after any inaccurate word, harfli phrafe, or
crude expreflion, in order to criticize on them;
efteeming it much better, to point out how far
all the orthodox agree, and how the more im-
proper ways of expreffion may be foftened ; re-
marking only on thofe fentiments, which are
really different : and thefe, I dare affirm, will
be found to be fewer and of lefs moment, than
they are generally thought to be, provided we
examine them without prejudice. Yet, lean-
not pafs over in filence fome uncouth expref-
fions, foreign interpretations, or contradidory
thefes : and fometimes I note the danger at-
tending fome of them; but without any male-
volence to their authors. For I confefs, I am
of their opinion, who believe that the doctrine
of the covenant has long fince been delivered to
the churches on too good a foundation, to ftand
in need of new hypothefes ; in which I cannot
find that folidity or ufefulnefs, as is neceffary
to eftablifh their divinity.

The obfervation of the threefold covenant of
grace ; the flr/i, under the promile, in which
grace and liberty prevailed, without the yoke,
or the burden of an accufing law 5 the Jeco/i^^
under the law, when the Old-Teftament took
place, fubjedling the faithful to tlie dominion

A 4 of

[ 8 ]

of angels, and the fear of death all their lives,
and lad of all, to the curfe, not allowing to
to the fathers true and permanent bleffings^
the third, under the Gofpel, when the godly
began to be fet at liberty from the dominion
of the angels, from the fear of temporary
death, and the curfe which an exad obfervance
of the ceremonial law carried with it, and at
length enjoyed true and lading bleffings, the
circumcifion of the heart, the law written
there, the full and true remiffion of fins, the
fpirit of adoption, and fuch like things ; this
obfervation, I fay, does not feem to me worthy
to be infifled on in fo many academical led:ures,
fo many fermons, and fuch a number of books,
as have been publiflied in the Latin and our own
languages, as though the whole of theological
learning confifted in thefe. For, in the follow-
ing work I have fhewn that, how^ever thofe
docflrines are explained, they are horrible to be
mentioned ; and are not to be defended without
wrefting the Scriptures.

But I efteem much more dangerous the opi-
nions of fome men, in other refpedls very
learned, who deny that a covenant of works
was made with Adam ; and will fcarce allow
that by the death, with which he was threatened
in cafe he finned, a corporeal death is to be un-
derjftood > and deny that fpiritual and heavenly
bleffings, fuch as we now obtain through Chritt,
v/ere promifed to Adam on condition of perfedt
obedience : and by a mufly diftindion, divid-
ing the fufferings of Chrift into painful and ju-
diciary, affirm, that the latter only, or, as they


[ 9 ]

fometimes foften the expreffion, chiefly were
fatisf;a6lory ; excluding by this means his for-
rows in the garden, the lentence palled on him
both by the Jewifli council, and the Roman
governor, the ftripes with which his body was
wounded, his being nailed to the curfed crofs,
and laft of all his death itfeif. On thele fub-
jedls I have given my mind freely and candidly,
as became a defender of the truth and an oppofer
of falfjood : which laudable character was
given of the emperor Conjlantine the fourth, by
the fixth Oecumenical Synod, which met at
Conjlantinople -, and which is wh'at all of our
order ought to endeavour to deferve.

I have alfo made remarks on fome things of
lefs moment, which did not feem to have a
folid fcriptural interpretation, or are lefs accu-
rately conceived of than they ouglit to be.
Nor has my labour been without profit. Am-
philochius is juftly commended by Bafilius, be-
caufe he thought that no ^ivord ivhich was ufed
concerning God, flooidd be pajjed over without the
moft careful inqw'ry into its meaning. Bat I have
done this without rancour or raillery : not -with
a view of reproving the authors, but that the
fudious readier might be benefited by having their
errors fiewn him, as I remember Polibius (oxnQ^
where exprefles himfelf. And I hope it will
not be taken ill by the learned and ingenuous,
to whom I grant the fame liberty I myfelf take,
if, (to ufe nearly the fame words which Auguf-
tine ufes when he declares his diffent from Cy-
prian) whilft / cannot arrive at their degree of
?nerit, acknowledge my writings i?iferior to many


[ 10 ]

of theirs, love thtir ingenuity , am delighted with
'what they Jay, and admire their virtues ; yet^ I
cannot in all things agree with them, hut make
life of the liberty wherewith our Lord has called
us, Efpecially when they fee, that I have wil-
lingly adopted their own ingenious inventions,
what they have happily found out by fearching
into the original languages, have learnedly re-
covered from the reliques of hitherto unknown
antiquity, have judicioufly confirmed, or clearly
explained ; and have highly recommended
them to the reader.

They will alfo find that, wherever I think
them right, however they may be cenfured
by others, I have cordially defended them, and
have wiped off the ftamp of abfurdity and no-
velty. And this I have done fo frequently and
foUicitoufly that, without doubt, fome will
fay, I have done it too much. But I cannot
yet allow^ myfelf to be forry for having dealt fo
ingenoufly by them. For how could any one
have done otherwife, who is not attached to any
fadtion, or is not a flave to his own or another's
affedtions ; but has dedicated himfelf to truth
alone, and regards not what zny particular per-
fon fays, but what is faid. He who loves the
peace of yerufalemi had rather fee controver-
fies leffened than encreafed : and will vi^'ith plea-
fure hear that feveral things arc innocent, or
even ufeful, which had iomctimes been made
the matter of controverfy.

All good men indeed are juflly offended with
that wantonefs of wit, which now a-days, by
dogmatical attacks, raflily aims to overturn


[ II ]

wife opinions ; and infolently offers a bold, and
often ludicrous, interpretation of prophecy,
ridiculoufly bawling into their affiftance, what
contains nothing but the dodrine of our com-
mon faith and holinefs; by which the publicand
our facred functions arc not a little abufed : and
it is not to be wondered at, if the warmer zeal of
fome has painted this wantonefs as it deferves,
or, perhaps, in too flrong colours. But yet, a
medium is to be regarded in all things : and I do
not approve the pains of fome, who, whilft
they difcourfe on their differences, not only
name fome decades of our controverfies, but
centuries of them ; and freqently with cruel
eloquence are very violent on fome innocent
fubjed:s. Whether this method of difputing
greatly conduces to the promoting of faving
knowledge, or the edification of fouls, I will
not now fay: but I am certain of this; the
enemies of our church are hereby greatly de-
lighted, and fecretly rejoice, that there are as
many and as warm difputcs amongft ourfelves, as
with them. And this, not very fecretly neither :
for they do not, nor will ever, ceafe to caft this
reproach upon us ; which, I grieve to fay, is
not fo eafily wiped away.

O ! how much better would it be to
ufe our utmoft endeavours, to leffen, make
up, and, if it could be, put an end to all
controverfy i' Make this reverend and learned
Sirs, your great concern. This all the godly
who mourn for the breaches in Jofeph -, this
the churches who are committed to your care;
this Jefus himfelf, the king of truth and peace,



require and expedl from you; in the moft earneft
manner theyintreat it of you. If therefore there
he any confolation m Chrf, f a7iy comfort of
love^ if any fellow floip of the fpirity f any bowels y
and mercies : fulfil ye 7ny joy ^ fulfil ye the joy of
all faintsy fulfl y^ the joy of our Lord Jefus
hiffifelf that ye may be bke-?mnded, having the
fame lovCy being of one accord^ of one 7nind.
There have been already more than engugh
quarrels, flanders, and fufpicions -, more than
enough of contentions amongft brethren, which,
I engage for it, will afford no juft caufe of
triumph ; more than enough inteftine divifions,
by which wx deftroy one another ; and
more than enough of paffion. Let the
love of divifions, a thirft after pre-eminence,
and fchifmatical names be hence-forward
baniflied from amongft us. Let all litigi-
ous, fatyrical, and virulent writings be blotted
out ; as they 07ily ferve to revive the fires of hurt-
ful quflions. But if we muft v/rite on thofe
controverfies, let us lay afide all evil difpoli-
tions, which are hindrances to us in our en-
quires, and millead our readers. Let us fight
with arguments, not railings, bearing in our
minds this faying of Arijlophanesy it is difio-
norable^ and by no means becoming poetSy to rail
at each other, Hov/ much lefs does it become
chriilians to do fo ! The ftreams of divinity are
pure : they rife only fi'om the fountain of facred
learning, and ftiould be defiled with none
of the impure waters of the ancient or modern
philofophy. Let us abflain from harili and un-
ufual exprefllons, and from crude and rafli

affertions ;


aflertions ; from whence arife envy^ ft^^f^^ ^^i^-
ings, evil fiir?njjlngs. The inilruments of both
covenants llioukl be handled dih'gently by all,
but with facred fear and trembling. Let none
pleafe himfelf with his conuncntaries, becaufe
they contain fomething new and nr.i;nown by
our predeceflbrs. Let him who thinks he has
found out fomething preferable to the received
opinion, offerit to the publicwith modeily, with
out \«lifying the brethren ; not afferting or deter-
mining raftily, but fubmitting his thoughts to
the cenfure of the learned, and the judgement
of the church; not forcing them on the com-
mon people to the diftradtion of their minds ;
nor haftily offering them to incautious youth,
who are improper judges of fuch weighty mat-
ters. Nor let any rejedl, on account of its no-
velty, what is agreeable to the meaning of the
words, to Scripture phrafes, to the analogy of
faith, or to the relation the text bears to others.
Cajeta72y who is commended by our Cbamelr^
has not badly expreifed himfelf on this head :
If a new fen/e of the text offers itfef, though it
be diflerent Jrom that of divines in general, let
the reader judge of it for himfelf And in another
place he fays. Let none refufe affenting to a new
fenfe of facred writ, becaufe it differs from that
given by the ancients ; for God has not bound him-
felf to the truth of their expoftions of the Scrip-
tures, Let the depths of Prophecy be air
fo diligently fearchcd into : but reverently,
without wrefting the fcriptures, without vio-
lating thofe bounds wherewith it has pleafed
Go4 to keep them from human intuition ; leafl


[ H]
he who attempts to fearch into the majeftyfhould
be overwhelmed by the glory.

Let no one,of however great name,by his au-
thority bind the free confciences of the faithful:
but, as Clejnens Romanus once faid. Let the truth
be takejijrom the Scriptures themf elves; by thefe
alone it fhould ftand or fall in religious affairs :
hy thefe are all controverfiesto be fettled. And it
was by the facred and undefiled Gofpels of our
Lord Jefus Chrift, that the ancient 'councils
were influenced, Neverthelefs, let not any one
inconfiderately on this pretence, withold bis
affent to fuch forms of expreffion which are
taken from the w^ord of God, and are agree-
able to the fcriptures, are the bonds of church
union, the marks of orthodoxy, the bars of
herefy, and the limits of wanton wits ; as tho'
they were the remains of the Babylonifh tower,
which obliged men to think and fpeak a-like
in religion.

Let no one choofe for himfelf a guide out of
the modern divines ; all whofe dictates he is de-
termined to receive and defend as celeftial ora-
cles ; as one who is given as a new teacher and
light of the world, as the ancients faid of Bqfi-
lius 'y and in comparifon of whom, all others ap-
pear as little children or dwarfs; when he
himfelf perhaps protefts, that he would not be
thought the author of any thing new, and
made the head of a fed:. On the other hand, let
no one defpife fuch a man, as if nothing true or
good, nothing ufeful to the underftanding of
the Scriptures could be learned from him : for
Gqd has not put it into the heart of any pious



perfons to fearch the Scriptures night and day,
without opening to them thofe treafures of his
facred wifdom.

Let us preach the good tidings of the Gof-
pel ; let us congratulate the church on account
of them; and make the beft ufe of them our-
felves we can. Let no one who has in general
expreffed the truth in eloquent language, be
heinoufly cenfured on account of an improper
word, or harfh expreffion, which has flipped
from his pen : Poifon does not lie hid in Jyllables ;
nor does truth conjijl in founds but in the inteji-
tion : nor godJifieJs in the tinkling of brafs, but
in the meaning of the things fignified. Yet, let
us all endeavour to exprefs ourfelves as accu-
rately as poffible ; and not take upon us to de-
fend what has been imprudently faid by our
friends, or ourfelves, leaft others blame us for
\\, : but as far as ingenuoufnefs, truth, charity,
and all good men will allow of it, let us pafs
by, cancel or corredt any miflakes ; which has
\>cen the pradtice of fome great men, both
amongft the ancients and moderns, to their ve-
ry great credit. Let none of our brethren be
ftigmatized with the brand of herefy, on
account of what is fuppofed to follow from any
of their expreflfions, when they themfelves deny
and deteft the confequence. Solid learning,
manners conformable to chriftian fandlity, a
peaceable difpofition, and a faithful difcharge
of our duty without noife and confufion, will
procure favor much more than inconfiderate
warm zeal, and the violent efforts of a paflion-
ate mind; which are defigned for the moft


[ i6]

part, to heighten our own glory and Teeming
importance though the caufe of God be made
the pretence for them.

Let fome Hberty alfo be given to learned
men, in explaining texts of Scripture, in the
choice of arguments for the defence of the
common truth, in the ufe of phrafes and terms,
and in refolving problematic queftions, (for in
this our flate of darknefs it is not to be ex-
pected that all men fhould think and fpeak
alike): but let this liberty be confined within the
bounds of modefty, prudence, and love ; leaft
it degenerate into petulant licentioufnefs^ and
turn our Zton into a BabeL

Thefe, revereitd and learned Sirs, are my
earneft wifhes -, thefe my fentiments, which I
recommend to your prudence, faith, and piety ;
as I do yourfelves and your pious labours, to the
grace of ourGreat God and Saviour Jefus Chrift;
who can make you perfect to every good work, to
do his wilU working in you that which is well
pleafing in his fight -, and, at laft, when you hap-
pily have fought the good fight of faith , can blefs
you with an everlafting crown oj glory. This was
long fince, and is now, the moil earneft wifh of,

Reverend and learned Sirs,

Your fellow-labourer, and

Servant in the Lord,

Utrecht, . H. WIT SI US.

Od. 20, 1693.






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