Voetius (Voet), Gysbertus, Dd
Voetius (Voet), Gysbertus, D.D.
theological professor at Utrecht, and one of the most noted men in the Dutch Reformed Church of the 17th century. He was born March 3,1588, at Heusden, in Holland. He early distinguished himself, while a student at Leyden, by his industry and extraordinary memory, and profited greatly by the teachings of Gomaruls, Arminius, and Trelcatius, Jr. —the first-named having the greatest influence over his mind. Assuming the station of a tutor in the Logica, he became noted for his keen and bold defense of the strictest form of Calvinism. In 1611 he became pastor at Blymen, and labored among the Roman Catholic population of that village for the extension of Protestantism with great success. In 1617 he accepted a call to his native town of Heusden, his leading motive being a desire to antagonize Remonstrantism, which was there flourishing. He preached eight times in each week, and often acted as reader and precentor to his congregations. In 1618 he was delegated to the Synod of Dort, and was influential in shaping the actions and results of that body. He afterwards remained at Heusden, but extended the area of his labors so as to make his influence felt against Arminianism and for the support of the Reformed theology in other cities also. In 1634 he was called to the post of professor of theology and Oriental science at Utrecht; and to this he added, three years afterwards, the office of pastor to the Utrecht congregation. When the Utrecht school was elevated into a university in 1636, he inaugurated its new career with a sermon on Lu 2:46. In the same year he issued a work entitled Proof of the Power of Godliness, which is important as a characterization of his tendency to insist upon a consecrated1 as the attestation of an orthodox faith. This tenancy he illustrated in his own person by the fidelity with which he performed every pastoral duty. The street in Utrecht on which he lived bears his name to this day, and his portrait is honorably placed in the senate chamber, in recognition of his services to the community.
Voetius was especially noteworthy as a scholar. His industry was such that he rose at four o'clock in the morning to begin the studies whose results he imparted to his academical hearers, or to the public in his numerous books. He gave instruction, public and private, in Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, as well as theology, and in the forty-two years of his professorship gathered about him a circle of cultured friends which included many of the foremost personages of the time. His great ambition was the achievement of the overthrow of Arminianism, and this influenced his scholarly character as well as his general conduct. His exegesis lacked independence, and aimed less at the discovery of what constitutes religious truth than at the invention of philological and other arguments to defend the theological system he preferred. His dogmatics were pervaded with the spirit of scholasticism, and were expressed in a "barbarous artificial terminology" (Tholuck, Akad. Leben des 17ten Jahrnh. 2, 216) and an insufferably dry and diffuse style. He was predominantly polemical, the Aristotelian philosophy, as modified and improved by Christian thought, being one of his chief supports. He had no sympathy with Zwinglianism or Melancthonianism, and no admiration for Grotius. Erasmus was to his mind an Arian, Pelagian, Socinian, and skeptic. He hated with a perfect hatred, every person who could be even suspected of scattering the seed of doubt. He was a Calvinist, also, in his conception of the relation sustained to each other by the Church and the State, and steadily claimed for the former the right to govern her own spiritual possessions and appoint her ministers. His views upon this question were violently assailed by L. Molinieus, of London, in 1668.
As a controversialist, Voetius was vehement, and not careful as respects the choice of his weapons. His works-afford abundant evidence that he believed, in a practical way, that the end hallows the means. His most violent campaign was that directed against the Cartesian philosophy in the persons, at first, of the Utrecht professors Renerins and Rhegius (1639- 42), but eventually of Des Cartes himself; and in this he was defeated in consequence of the exposure of his duplicity in persuading his friend Schoock, professor at Groningen, to write a polemic against Cartesianism, many. f whose statements he shaped in person; and then denied that he was in any way: connected with the publication of that work. Another important incident in the career of Voetius was his contest with Cocceius (q.v.), which lost its theological and ecclesiastical character in a brief time, and became bitterly political and personal, and was not even terminated by the decease of the two belligerents. The partisans of the Cocceian Federal theology were republicans in their general tendency, while the Voetians were, as a rule, Orangeists. The last decades of the life of Voetius were agitated by a controversy with the celebrated Jean de Labadie, begun on account of the separatist tendency of the latter. Several works of attack and defense were issued on either side; but peace had not been restored when Voetius died. Nov. 1, 1676. He left three sons: Paul, professor of jurisprudence at Utrecht; Dani-2, professor of philosophy; Nicholas, preacher at Heusden and Utrecht; and a grandson, John, professor of jurisprudence at Herborn and then at Utrecht.
With all the faults of his character, Voetius was an earnest and sincere Christian, and a most devoted servant of the Church. Few men have in any age exercised greater influence over the Church of their time and country. No satisfactory life of Voetius has yet been written; but comp. Gobel, Gesch. d. christl. Lebens in d. rhein. —westph. evang. Kirche, 2, 1; Bulrman, Traj. E'ud. p. 396 sq.; Yprey, Gesch. d. chr. Ke7r in de 18. Eeuw, 8:122 sq. The most notable works of Voetius are, kExercit. Pietatis (Gorinch. 1644): —Selectae Disputatt. Theol. (Traj. 1648, 5 vols.): — Politic. Eccles. (Amsterd. 1663, 4 vols.): —Diatribe de Theologia (1668): Erpenii Biblioth. Arabica cum Augmento (1667): —Exercitia et Biblioth., Studiosi Theologia (Lips. 1668 sq.). See, in addition, Disquis. Hist. — theol. de Puugnc inter Voet. et Cartes. (Ludg. Bat. 1861); and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.