Page images


the affair to his serene Highness the prince, and other overseers of the university, they protested his services were most acceptable o he excused himself in a handsome manner to the people of Groningen, in the ". of the year 1680; when, upon the decease of the celebrated Burmannus, 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 to their university and church, to which he consented with little difficulty, notwithstanding the opposition made by those of Friesland, who were loth to part with one who had been so useful among them; for his obligations to the university of Utrecht were such that he thought he could not shew his... more, than by accepting of their inviuation. ... Accordingly, after a most honourable 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 laboured above full eighteen years of his most valuable life, with these celebrated men, viz. Peter Maestricht, Melchior, Leideckerus, 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 seve- .

ral colleagues, men of kearning, piety, peace, and zeal for God; among whom were his ancient colleagues in the church of Leovaarden, Peter Eindhovius, and John Lasdragerus. In the university, besides the fore-mentioned divines, he had not only his own John Leusden, an excellent philologist, but Gerard de Uries, and 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 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 no from all parts of the world, who admired his most

arned, 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


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

- - – --------- - -- ~~~~~~ ~ -z ** r - .* - - - . . * *


33. expense of many restless nights, he might be of service to the university and charch. Nor did he think it sufficient by sermons, lectures, conferences and disputations, to his various stock of learning, but he exposed his treasures to the whole world, present, and to come, in many public and ed. cellent 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 p. of Utrecht be it spo. ken, that, not only in ecclesiastical assemblies; they always ar. knowledged his abilities and prudence, seasotably calling him. . to the highest dignities is synods; but even the mobility, both by deeds and words, testified, that his endowments were perfectly well known to, and highly esteemed of by them. Ånd. therefore they honoured him twice with the *** the highest office in their university, in 1686 and in 1697. And: we must by no means omit, that when in 1685, a most splen. did 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 mest illus. trious Wassenaar, lord of Duvenvorden, and the ordinary ambassador, his excellency, Citters, with the most noble and il. lustrious Weed, lord of Dykveld; that, I say, this last easily persuaded his colleagues of legation to none bat. Witsius for their chaplain: a divine, whom, to the honour of the: Dutch churches, they might present in person to the English. nation, without any 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 bi 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. zo, reputation of Witsius, thus spreadtall over-the-world, made the most illustriess overseers of the university of Ley. den, with the Burgomasters, resolve to givea eal to this greato man, in 1698, in order to make up the loss which was apprehended.from the decease of the Spanhemius, whith seem." ed to be drawing near. And this resolution was approved of by our gracious Stadtholder, William IEI king of Øseat Brio

[ocr errors]


tain, of immortal memory, from that constant piety he en-
tertained 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 accepting there-
of 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 labours of
the pulpit, the 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
Leyded. He entered on . office the 16th of 9. after
delivering a v ve and elegant oration, in which he gave
the o: o#. gan
he discharged this office for the space of ten years; with what
assiduity he laboured, with what wisdem and prudence he
taught, with what elegance he spoke, with what alacritv he
discoursed in disputations, with what piety he lived, with what
sweetness of temper he demeaned himself, with what graceful-
ness he continued to write, with what lustre he adormed 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 super-
intendency thereof to our Witsius, as the mildest tutor they
could employ for their pupils; without detriment to all the
honour and dignity of his professorship, which he enjoyed in
conjunction with §. celebrated Anthony Hulsius. 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 praise of the new inspector, but also ex-
horted all the members of that college to a due veneration for
him, and to shew him all other becoming marks of respect.
Witsius accepted, but with reluctance, this new province;

Modest Divine. And with what fidelity.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

for, had he 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 fláelity and
care, for the advantage of, and with an affection for his pu-
pils, 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 great
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 o: eno-
luments arising therefrom to himself, resigned this other office;
being at the same time also discharged, at his own desire, from
the public exercises of his professorship in the university; for
executing which in the of manner his strength of body was
it. any longer sufficient; the vigour of his mind continued
unaltered; but as he often , he had much rather
desist from the work, than flag 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 uni-
versity have enjoyed so many and so great benefits by him,
had he not found at home the most powerful cordials and sup-
ports; particularly in the choicest and most beloved of wives,
Aletta van Borkhorn, the daughter of Wesselvan, Borkhorn,
a citizen and merchant of character, at Utrecht, and a
worthy elder of the church, and of Martina van Ysen; whom
he married in the middle of the summer of 1660, after three
years spent in the sacred ministry. She was eminent for
meekness, and every civil and religious virtue; she loved and

honoured 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 infirmities of body, was taken from him by a truly
Christian death. He was no less happy in his offspring, espe-
cially in three surviving daughters, Woo. Johanna, and
Petronella, who were i. with every accomplishment that
can adorn the sex, but especially in their duty and affection to
their father, which they shewed, not only {...". olore
especially after the death of their mother: . . . . . . . . . . . .

From what has been said, may sufficiently appear, the ad-
mirable endowments and virtues of this How great
was the force of his genius, in apprehending, investigating
and illustrating, even the most abtruse subjects; the accu-
racy of his judgment, in distinguishing, determining, and ar-

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ranging them; the tenacity of his memory, in retaining and
recollecting them; what readiness of the most charming elon
quence, in explaining, inculcating, and urging them home;
were well known to those whoever saw or heard him. Not
was his gracefulness in a Latin style, as is most apparent from
all he wrote and said, less than #. readiness in the Dutch;
in which, discoursing from the pulpit, with a peculiar decency
of gesture and voice, he ravis 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
with more dignity commended the deceased queen Mary, so
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 in-
creased his knowledge of philosophy, when at the university,
that mone of the quirks or sophisms of infidels could ensnare
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 phi-
lology, Greek and Hebrew: he was well acquainted with the
elegances of profane literature, Latin, Greek, and Oriental;
. borrowing from thence whatever might serve to ex-
plain, in a becoming manner, the sacred scriptures; prudently
avoiding every extreme. . He was perfectly well skilled in
. both ancient and modern, ecclesiastical and civil,
Jewish and Christian, domestic and foreign: and from it he
always selected, with the greatest care, what might princi-
pally be ofJ. use. He thoroughly learned divinity in
all its branches, being as expert in the confirmation and vin-
dication 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 hely 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 rea-
dily 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
old, nor an itch for new things; nor an aversion to new, and
a mad and indolent fondness for old things. He would neither

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »