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typical interpretations of the epistles to the seven churches, but considered all the events subsequent to the opening of the first seal to be yet future, and, generally speaking, contracted them within too narrow a space; but others, contrariwise, imagined them all to have been long ago fulfilled in the judgments inflicted on the Jews and pagans: again, others found insurmountable difficulties, by assuming that a prophetic day in the Apocalypse must mean a natural year. Campegius Vitringa came nearest to the truth, for he was the first to proceed midway, between supposing either that a prophetic day is a natural year, or that it is simply a natural day. By his help also, we return to the original arrangement; 1. Antichrist; 2. the Millennium ; 3. the end of the world. But I have endeavoured to proceed midway more accurately than Vitringa; and to comprise and concentrate the substance of what the true church of Christ in all past ages, and in despite of so many and various interpretations, has upon good grounds agreed in, respecting the exposition of this prophecy; so that I trust I am the less likely to have missed the truth."
Such is Bengel's account of interpreters who preceded him. We shall now attempt to show what has been done since his time; proceeding upon the same assumption which he regarded as the only true one, namely, that the Apocalypse, a portion of the inspired Scriptures, written by the apostle St. John, is a prophetic history of the kingdom of God, composed according to the connexion of future events, and according to the order of their respective periods. It is hardly necessary to mention that some modern writers have rejected the Apocalypse as spurious; that others have regarded it as only an interesting poetical composition; or that others have pronounced it to be unintelligible and useless, until it shall have its fulfilment in the events. It may therefore be desirable first to notice what some intelligent writers, who agree with Bengel about its principal matters, have found to blame or amend in particular parts of his system, as well as what they have thought fit to do towards extending the knowledge of that system. Among them we have to recognise foreign labourers with those of our own country. The first of the former was Dr. John Robertson, an English physician, who published by subscription a volume of extracts, translated from Bengel's work upon the Apocalypse. * The subscribers to
Bengelius's Introduction to his Exposition of the Apocalypse, with his preface
that publication amounted to six hundred persons, of considerable distinction in England; and it was set on foot chiefly at the instance of the Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist connexion. This translation improves somewhat upon the original, in having many longer paragraphs divided, and passages more simplified; as also in containing all the most valuable of Bengel's notes to the purpose, obtained from the “ Gnomon." In Denmark, John Hammer composed a treatise, entitled, “ Synopsis Explicationis Bengelianæ Apocalypticæ;" and translated the “ Sixty Addresses" into Danish, to which he requested J. F. Reuss to write a preface; who, however, advised him to get printed and prefixed for that purpose, Bengel's little piece entitled, “Discipuli de temporibus."* These same “ Sixty Addresses” were likewise translated into Wendish, by John Lahode; but we have no information as to whether those translations were ever printed.
In Germany, the “ Exposition of the Apocalypse,” says Bengel, became rapidly circulated; and while many authors undertook to examine and illustrate it in a variety of ways, many others were busy in writing against it. His cotemporaries, Müller of Dresden, and rector Jäger of Kyrn, near Treves, drew up tables after his apocalyptical system; but the latter thought it right to differ from Bengel in some respects, as in maintaining that Antichrist has been typified for several centuries, by his precursors the popes; that the two witnesses will in like manner have many special precursors; and that consequently their 1260 days are to be understood as a prophetic period, (commencing from about A. D. 1156, and ending about A. D. 1833,) as likewise their forty and two months; which he thought apply to a treading down, not of Jerusalem, but of the nominally christian church. Moreover, C. Charles Lewis von Pfeil, and John George Bührlin, pastor of Arlesried, published Bengel's system, the former in verse, the latter in question and answer.t As this catechetical work was cheap, and drawn up very plainly and simply, it became extensively circulated, and passed through several editions. Bührlin kept to Bengel's views in every respect; only he expressed the same opinion which many others
to that work; and the greatest part of the conclusion of it, &c. Translated by John Robertson, M. D. London: 1757. Ryall, Fleet-street."
* See above, chap. vi.
+ Bührlin's work appeared with the title of “ The Substance of the Revelation of St. John, or rather of Jesus Christ, drawn from the writings of the late John Albert Bengel, D. D., and arranged in question and answer.” Schaffhausen, 1772. 8vo.
had previously entertained, namely, that Bengel himself might be the third angel. (Rev. xiv. 9.) * He also expected the number 666 to terminate in A. D. 1784; and that the period of the non-existence of the Beast would last till A. D. 1832. In a new edition of this little book printed at Reutlingen, by Kurz, in 1827, we learn that Ernest Bengel (our prelate's son) found fault with it, because, that after asserting what was no other than Bengel's own opinion, namely, that the first millennium will commence in 1836, and terminate in 2836, and that the second will commence in 2836, and terminate in 3836, it denied that Bengel held this opinion; and added, that though Menken of Bremen, and many others, had affirmed that Bengel had advanced it, yet Bengel had gone no farther than to speak of a primary millennium and a secondary millennium, running on collaterally. Now it is true that a notion of this sort was held by several of Bengel's scholars; but whether 'Bengel taught it himself, will best be decided by the following extracts from a letter which he wrote on the ninth of January, 1746.
66 In the first millennium, the time is not purely good throughout, and in the second, it is not purely evil throughout. The judgment upon Gog and Magog will be attended with good, (Ezek. xxxviii. 23,) and the last period of carnal security will, it is to be hoped, not take up many or even entire centuries. I ground my belief of a second millennium, not merely on the absence of the grammatical article, in Rev. xx. 4, but also on the following observations. We find that a millennium will have elapsed previously to that seduction of Gog and Magog, which will issue in their final overthrow; and yet that there will be a millennium extending to the general resurrection. I find the termination of the first millennium to be the commencement of the second. This I infer by comparing the third and seventh verses; for between these, there is formed by the fourth, fifth, and sixth, a
beautiful simultaneum.t The doctrine of the midst of the : years,' and that of the two millennia, confirm each other. In
saying this, we are not to be considered as citing a thing to prove itself, or as reasoning in a circle ; for we may demonstrate the truth of a whole matter by taking the parts, and considering
* What Bengel thought of this opinion will be seen below, in the account of his character ; Part IV. chap. iii.
+ He explains the word simultaneum, that it is an elegance whereby, of two things pointedly referring to the same period of time, the one is divided, and as it were split into two parts, while the other takes us by surprise by appearing parenthetically between such parts.
them in the way of mutual illustration and corroboration, just as we proceed to make out a piece of writing composed in cipher.” These passages decidedly show that Bengel had no notion of two contemporaneous or collateral millennia; neither could he have held it, for it would have been at variance with his whole system.
Another very popular work upon the Apocalypse was that of his son, entitled, “ An Expository Paraphrase of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, according to the late Dr. John Albert Bengel's * Exposition of the Apocalypse,' and to his Sixty Practical Addresses,' by Ernest Bengel, M. A., pastor of Zavelstein : Leipsic, printed by Ulrich Christian Saalbach, 1772;" a new edition of which was published at Reutlingen, in 1825. This paraphrase closely abides by the whole .of Bengel's interpretations. Likewise the following works coincided with Bengel in principal matters, but varied from him in minor ones. 1. A Treatise “ On the True Use of the Apocalypse, by Fehr; with a preface by Crusius.” 2. “ An Introduction to a more clear Understanding of the Apocalypse, (or Revelation of Jesus Christ,) in its chronological and historical predictions; showing that Bengel's system of interpretation is the true one. In two volumes. By George Frederic Fein, privy councillor of Baden. Karlsruhe, 1784.” A second edition was published in 1808, by Macklott. This edition introduces historical and mathematical reasoning, to confirm Bengel's system of interpretation; and indeed what may
be said in favour of it, is nowhere so fully brought together, and so clearly arranged, as in this work. Fein likewise adheres to Bengel throughout, with the exception of a few unimportant alterations of dates; thus he states the second Woe as having commenced A. D. 630, instead of A. D. 634; and the Nonchronus, A. D. 750, instead of A. D. 800. Only, as to the messages of the three angels, he considers the first as denoting the Reformation by Luther; the second, as denoting Bengel's (widely diffused) elucidations of the Apocalypse; and the third, as yet future. At the same time he leaves out the measured everlastingness or æon of 2222; years, because he could not see any showing for it in the text; and for the like reason he shrank from any attempt to ascertain more precisely the end of the world. Of a similar kind were several works of the Würtemberg prelate, Magnus Frederic Roos.* They were grounded upon
* These are as follow :1. An Exposition of those prophecies of Daniel which extend into the period of the
Bengel's interpretation, and were designed to accumulate its historical and scriptural proofs, or to set them in a new light. They also contained examinations of other prophetic parts of Scripture, and elucidated the agreement and coincidence of these with the Apocalypse.* Some of his other works + showed in a plain and easy manner how to make use of the Apocalypse, for improvement of heart and life; and appealed to public events of the most recent date, as attesting the chronological and general correctness of Bengel's system. The following are Roos's own views: 1. That the non-existence of the Beast, (that is, of the papal power in its Hildebrandic consummation, commenced A. D. 1740; since which time, he says, this power has become so weakened and exhausted, that it no longer carries the great Harlot, (the whole Romish church,) but is carried or supported by her. 2. The work marked No. 5, in our preceding note, gives an account of a political Propaganda, a philosophical order or community established since the year 1786; the twofold object of which is, the agitation of the whole human race, to be attempted as soon as the preparations for it shall be matured; and the collection, meanwhile, of as much money and as many adherents as possible, in order to vindicate the people on every occasion against their governments, and to do every thing for bringing about a general toleration of all religions.
Against these and similar interpreters of the Apocalypse there appeared in 1788 an anonymous and very acute opponent, possessed of sincere reverence and high esteem for this book of Scripture, the genuineness of which had been well proved by Dr. Gottlob Christian Storr, in his “New Apology” for it, published five years before. This opponent was John George Pfeiffer, M. A., who published his pious work without even a notice where it was printed. It was entitled, “A new Attempt at the safest Understanding and Use of the Apocalypse in general, and of its Prophetic Periods in particular.” As the best objections
New-Testament Dispensation; and a comparison of them with the Revelation of St. John, according to Bengel's Interpretation. Leipsic, 1770. Second edition, 1795.
2. Reflections on the Present Times, by the aid of the Apocalypse, 1786. 3. Plain and edifying Discourses on the Revelation of St. John, 1788. 4. A familiar Exposition of the Revelation of St. John, adapted to edification, 1789. 5. Instructions for Christians how to conduct themselves at the present crisis, 1790.
6. The important events of the present period elucidated by the prophetic word of God; with intimations of what will soon take place according to it. Minden, 1793.
* See particularly Roos's “ Exposition of the Prophecies of Daniel,” &c.
+ As the “ Familiar and edifying Discourses," and the “ Instructions for Christians,” &c.