Herman Witsius on Preaching Law and Gospel

Herman Witsius (1636–1708) was a significant figure in the period of High Reformed Orthodoxy (c. 1640–1700). He attempted to build a bridge between the Cocceians and the Voetians, traditionally understood as two competing camps within Dutch Reformed orthodoxy. The debate between the two groups was more complicated than can be sketched here but in some ways it was not unlike the tension that we discuss in our time between systematic and biblical theology. Of course, that way of putting it is misleading because Cocceius wrote a systematic theology (as well as what we would think of as a biblical or covenant theology) and commented on the Heidelberg Catechism and Voetius certainly had a “biblical theology” and a systematic theology, and a catechetical theology and a concern for piety. Nevertheless, there were tensions and Witsius was a mediating figure, who had learned from both, and who sought to affirm both sides where he could.

One of his more interesting works is a treatise he wrote to help sort out some of the confusion that had arisen in the British Isles over the nature of justification, the relation of the law to the gospel, and the relation of justification to sanctification. Covenant Nurture has posted a section of this work and it’s well worth reading.

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