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HIS LESSER WRITINGS.
We conclude our account of Bengel as an author, with observing that, in the year 1724, Mr. Ritter received from him literary contributions for the Life of Flacius.” That in 1722, he composed some hymns for Samuel Urlsperger's “ Instructions for the Sick and Dying," at that writer's request. That in 1731 he contributed some annotations on the New Testament, in German, to the editors of the Berlenburg Bible. That he also furnished to the “ Pastoral Collections of Fresenius” some notices respecting pastor Gmelin; and began an Essay “On the wisdom of Christ's manner of conversing with his Disciples,” the substance of which was afterwards transferred to the second edition of the Gnomon. He was solicited to compose a Gnomon for the Old Testament; as also, a System of Divinity ; but he declined both, saying, “ I rather indulge the hope, that my evening of rest may be at hand; so that I hardly feel competent to undertake works like these, or even a small proportion of them. All I do, appears to me more and more poor and defective; and it becomes the settled disposition and desire of my mind, entirely to sink into the free mercy of my God. Yet I could wish to furnish in my own language an exposition of the prophets, similar to that which Mr. Hedinger has given of the New Testament."
His thoughts on the preparation and arrangement of a Compendium of Divinity, are found in “Burk's Collections for Pastoral Theology," p. 841, &c. The most important of those thoughts are, that “the purest, most complete, and every way best divines, were the apostles and their immediate successors. For they were immediately enlightened in the highest degree (by the Spirit of God). If therefore we would have a correct idea of a true theologian, and of genuine theology, we must abstract all that has incidentally (and non-essentially) been superadded to it in the course of ages, by various modes of teaching, by errors, schisms, &c. That which constitutes a good
divine is, to be able to set forth satisfactorily, on every occasion, the ground and order, the plan and method of salvation; as well as to detect and avoid deflections and errors. The Scriptures comprise a compendious system both of history and of doctrine, ready prepared to hand. They are a depository for the church of God from the beginning of the world to the end of it. They treat of the origin, progress, and end of, the world; of the human race, and the church of God; and they show how the living God has, all along, by his doings and testimonies, progressively revealed himself in his omnipotence, justice, and mercy. Examples of a system of doctrine not embodied with the sacred history, may be instanced in the epistle to the Romans, and in that to the Ephesians; or in the first epistle of St. Peter. Each of these may be regarded as a methodical compendium of evangelical truth ; in which the benefits we receive by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are inferred from the doctrine of the blessed Trinity. Appropriate heads for classification of doctrinal points may be found in many single texts of Scripture, as in John xvi. 8; Acts xx. 21; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. vi. 1, 2. Subordinate subjects may be respectively arranged under those heads, by first bringing together scripture testimonies relating to each. As to the best method of arranging topics or common places, perhaps we should begin with the simple text of Scripture, I mean, without any prolegomena or introductory remarks. For we want first to make out what all the several points of doctrine are; in order to decide which are fundamental, and which not. And then for answering the remainder of our purpose we have every requisite information by barely consulting the text of Holy Writ. See John viii. 24; xvii. 3; Gal. v. 2, &c. 2 Tim. ii. 18, &c. Each common place is to be distributed into theses or chief propositions ; in support or illustration of which, select scripture proofs are to be adduced, their force pointed at, and the appropriate application made. It were a good addition, to insert refutations of errors opposite to each doctrine ; having respect to whether such errors lie concealed in our moral corruption, or have been openly adopted by older or more recent sects : and in such refutations we might anticipate and remove those objections and shifts which are used for the defence of each special error.
One of his last works was the Preface (dated 20th Oct. 1752) to the Gnomon which his son-in-law, (Ph. D. Burk, M.A.) had composed upon the twelve minor prophets. In this preface he shows the exact harmony prevailing among all the books of the Old and New Testament; together with the grand comprehensive design in which they unite. He points out at the same time the distinguishing features both of the one and the other, all in his own concise and forcible manner. The last section is remarkably rich in great thoughts. “The Scriptures support the church ; the church guards the Scriptures. When the church flourishes, the Scriptures are had in honour; and when the church becomes sickly, the Scriptures suffer by it. Whatever be the condition of the church at any period, the Scriptures are treated accordingly. This treatment has had its various periods ever since the earliest days of the New Testament. First, we have what may be called their hereditary or legitimate treatment; then, their moral treatment; thirdly, the dry way of handling them; fourthly, the revived; this last was succeeded by the polemical, the doctrinal, the demonstrative; after this, came the critical, the polyglottal period; the period of research into antiquity; the homiletical ;but as yet there does not live in the church the scriptural experience, and scriptural knowledge, which the pure Scripture itself supplies ; and this defect is owing to the wanton opinions in doctrine, which have grown out of the several treatments of Scripture above mentioned, and to our own blindness in the prophetic parts of Scripture. We are therefore called on to make a further progress yet, that we may arrive at that masculine and royal scripture knowledge, without which we cannot come up to the 'perfection' wrought in the man of God' by means of holy
Scripture.' But before this will be attained, men will have to be purified through 'tribulation. Meanwhile, let the present volume be made use of by those who believe that it may help them to acquire a saving knowledge of Scripture; and may the Divine blessing rest upon it, and upon its author !"
We close our chapter with a few subjects upon which Bengel meant to have enlarged, had he had time and opportunity. They are mostly but disputation theses; but, as they are characteristic of himself, so they may serve for useful thoughts to others.
" If I had to make a speech at discretion, I would choose for my subject, self-knowledge ; a science which learned persons find in some respects more easy, and in others, more difficult, than it appears to the rest of their fellow-men. One of the most direct means of getting knowledge concerning ourselves, is to read what an opponent has written against us.
“ A collection of those letters which Roman Catholics at
various times have written to seceders from their communion, would prove one of the best refutations of Popish doctrine. It would be its own evidence what a wretched system of meagre stuff that doctrine is.
“If writing were not now become too laborious for me, I would endeavour to trace out the doctrine of the Hebrew accents. Mr. Boston (of Ettrick) has hit upon the right way of understanding them.*
“ It might be made an interesting subject for disputation, Whether the polemical heat of many a theologian has not considerably abated by foreign travel;' or
“Of Luther's animosity against the canon-lawyers, and of the prejudical influence they had on the Reformation.'
“A whole treatise may be written upon the figurative and tropical language of Scripture ; and here it might be shown that many an additional elucidation is obtained by rightly understanding such figures of speech as Chiasmus, Simultaneum, &c.
“ A book is wanted which might be called, "The Ecclesiastical Year,' showing the origin of Festivals, and of their names; with explanations of the passages of Scripture, selected for such occasions.
" Wherein consists the distinction between an apostate and one who has never been regenerate ?
“ In what manner may the contrast between possession of the devil, and mystical union with God, be stated with respect to the different degrees of these opposite things ?
“ The first book of Arndt's True Christianity,' bound up with his small devotional work entitled “The little Paradise,' would form an appropriate manual."
* In his posthumous work, entitled, Tractatus Stigmologicus Hebræo-biblicus, printed at Amsterdam in 1738. He was the author of the well-known work entitled, “ The Fourfold State."
HIS LITERARY CORRESPONDENCE.
I. On the Criticism of the New Testament. * G. A. Franke, junior, wrote to a friend of Bengel, (8th Oct. 1723,) as follows:
“ As to obtaining Greek MSS. we know not how to advise you; unless Bengel himself will take the trouble to apply to Mr. von Uffenbach ; at whose house I remember to have seen some. And really we think it a great loss of time to go further into the criticism of the New Testament; as scarcely one lection of any consequence is likely to be found in MSS. that has not already been noticed in the printed editions.”
“Let these good men (at Halle) go on cutting out their new channels for the brook of life, to spread fertility in every direction; while I will make it my business to be looking after its hidden chambers and sources among the rocks, in order to clear away all rubbish, that it may run more purely and freely. The latter is a kind of labour little thought of by many, who nevertheless are indebted to it for not a few of the advantages and benefits they at present enjoy. As the nature of what those gentlemen themselves are labouring at, is unknown to the profane, who cannot so much as understand their motives for it, so what I too am engaged in is often not understood even by persons piety.
“ To balance the true and false readings of the sacred text, is but another part of one and the same occupation in the word of God; and the fruit of such labour is, that those who are inclined devoutly to study the Scriptures, are hereby enabled to see many parts and passages of Scripture in a clearer and more important light, and to supply valuable additional communications of their own, something beyond those of dry criticism. One's object is not merely to get readings together, but to collate them for selection ; also for confirmation of readings already received as the true ones; for which latter purpose in several
* See above, ch. iii. sect. 2.