Witsius (Wits, or Witsen), Herman
Witsius (Wits, or Witsen), Herman, a Dutch theologian of the Federal school, with mediating tendencies, was born at Eakhuysen, in West Frisia, Feb. 12,1636. His father was a magistrate, and later burgomaster of the town; and his uncle, Peter Gerhard, was a scholar, from whom he doubtless received the exact classical training and the liberal tendencies which distinguished him among the men of his time. He entered the University of Groningen when sixteen years of age, and subsequently studied also at Leyden and Utrecht. The teachers whose influence over him was most pronounced were Leusden, who initiated him into the study of the Old Test.. Scriptures and the Oriental languages with such success that at the age of eighteen years he was able to deliver a learned address in Hebrew; Cocceius; and Justus van den Bogaerdt, a preacher, who made him acquainted with subjective Christianity, and of whom he was accustomed.to say that the best of all his theological acquirements had been obtained at his hands.
Witsius passed the examination pro ministerio with honor in 1656, and became pastor- at Westwoad. In 1661 he was at Wormeren, in 1666 at Goesen, and in 1668 at Leedwarden. In these several fields of labor he earned the reputation of a faithful pastor, a superior preacher, and a scholarly thinker, and was, in consequence, honored in 1675 with a call to a professorship and pulpit at Franeker, and after five years more with a similar call to Utrecht. In 1685 he was appointed chaplain to the embassy sent by the Netherlands to the court of James It of England, and while in England he entered into relations of personal intimacy with prince William (subsequently king William III) . In 1698 he accepted a call to Leyden, which released him from the pulpit, and on Oct. 22,1708, he closed his busy life in death. The principal work of Witsius (De Economia Faderum Dei cum Hominibus Libri IV) was published in 1677, and originated in his desire to meliorate the acrimonious spirit apparent in the controversies between the orthodox and the Federalists. His plan involved no true mediation between the opposing systems, however, but merely the knocking-off of a few of the more prominent angles on the Federal hypothesis; and he succeeded only in raising a storm among the Federalists against himself, without conciliating the opposing party. He was simply and only a scriptural theologian, and incapable of exercising the acuteness of a scholastic apprehension the more, perhaps, because he thought and wrote in classical Latin. The plan of the (Econ. Feed. is confused (lib. 1, De Fad. Dei in Genere; 2, De Feed. Gratic; 3, De Fed. calm Electis; 4:De Doctr. Salutis). The doctrine of Christ's person and work is treated of in the second book, and that of the election of grace and the appropriation of salvation in the third. The fourth book contains a history of Revelation, besides the doctrine of the sacraments. The personality of Witsius was of greater importance to the Church than his theology.
Other works of Witsius are, in Latin, Judceus Christians: — Exercit. in Symb. Apost. et Orat. Dominicam: Egyptiaca (Miscellanea Sacra, Meletemata Leidensia): — Praxis Christianismi cum Imaginibus Spirituali, bus: — and minor productions. In Dutch, Lis Domini cum Vinea sua, etc. It is to be added that he was well acquainted with modern languages also, especially French, in which he frequently preached without difficulty.
See Heringa, Specimen Hist. — theol. de Herm. Wifsio (Amstel. 1861); Gass, Gesch. d. prot. Dogmatik, 2, 318. Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.