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PR EF A CE
TO THE FIRST GERMAN EDITION.
In undertaking the present work, the author was fully sensible that Bengel deserved a far better biographer; but the solicitation of friends with whose wishes he has always felt it his delightful duty to comply, made him the readier to set about it; especially as among Bengel's numerous descendants he possessed the largest portion of requisite materials, with greater facilities than most of his respected relatives for collecting what remained in other hands. And through the kindness of such relatives and friends, he has been successful in doing it beyond what might have been expected for the memoir of one who died nearly eighty years ago, and who flourished not in the
great theatre of the world, but in the more retired walks of literature and social excellence. Besides the published works of Bengel, and those earlier printed notices of his life, which are specified in the margin below,* the author has availed himself of the following unprinted documents : I. Valuable Memoranda, contained in about 150 quarto leaves,
(somewhat injured by a fire, which happened at Tübingen in 1789,) entitled “ Bengeliana,” or “Remains of Bengel,” committed to writing immediately from his conversations; and partly transcribed from his papers during the years 1738—1752, by Ph. D. Burk, a familiar friend, curate, and son-in-law of the deceased.
* 1. J. J. Moser's “ Account of Würtemberg,” vol. i. p. 211. Tübing. 1729. 2. Ernst Ludwig Rathlef's “ Memoirs of Learned Persons now living,” vol. v.
p. 426. Printed in 1742. 3. J. J. Moser's “ Contributions for a Biographical Dictionary of living Divines,”
pp. 56, 789, 992. 4. Jacob Brucker's “ Picture Gallery of Learned Men now living.” Seventh
Decade. No. 3. 1748. 5. John Philip Fresenius's “ Authentic Memoir of the Life, Death, and Writings
of John Albert Bengel.” 6. Dr. William Gottlieb Tafinger's “ Funeral Discouse at the Interment of J. A.
Bengel, with Notices of his Life.” 1752. 7. A variety of later memoirs of Bengel.
II. A quarto MS. half as large, containing many transcribed
letters of Bengel and his correspondents; with memoranda of
him by others of his curates. III. A folio Memorandum, in which are found notices respecting
the Church of the United Brethren, which he made use of in drawing up the “Sketch of that Church, referred to in Part III.
chapter xv. of the present work. IV. Several fasciculi of his letters in his own hand, with replies to
many of them, some in autograph, and others transcribed. V. A quarto MS. of his Sermon Notes. VI. A variety of detached compositions in his own hand, &c. &c.
These materials have supplied much that well consists with a full account of the life of Bengel; though, for mere biographical narrative, there was very little ; nor could much of the kind be looked for ; because the prominent events of his life, such as belong to more public men, are but few. But it was considered that those who respect his memory would wish to have as much as possible of his edifying remains; and that the larger class of those who were likely to welcome a new memoir of his life, would not be of the most learned description ; a conjecture which was soon verified by the list of subscribers to this work. For the religious turn of thinking (in Germany) since Bengel's time, has taken such a direction among most literary men, and even among very many professed divines, that were Bengel now amongst us, he might with more propriety than ever call himself an “ecclesia monadica;” or “ a speckled bird,” (Jer. xii.) in the ecclesiastical world. Still the author could not well suppress every thing, which was likely to be less attractive to his less learned readers : but whatever is so, he has endeavoured to render popularly plain ; and, it is chiefly on their account that he has subjoined an Appendix* of important matter. Nevertheless, some passages of this work will still fail of interesting those who are quite unlearned ; the particular subject in hand not easily admitting of greater perspicuity : as in ch. i. of Part I., ch. i. of Part II., ch. ii. of Part III. &c. Whoever finds any difficulty in understanding these chapters, may omit them without having occasion to lay aside the book; as all the rest will be found both instructive and edifying.
The author has endeavoured to select from his materials such subjects as appeared the most valuable and interesting; and at the same time to bring together upon each subject whatever observations were plainest and most pertinent; so that the work contains
many valuable remarks upon Education, Pastoral Theology, Pietism, Separatism, Church Government and Liturgical Services ; likewise upon Author
This Appendix is embodied in the present work, under the author's direction.-TR.
ship, Scripture Exegesis, the Spirit of the Times, Doctrinal and Moral Science, Prophecy, the Types of the Old Testament, &c, which will doubtless be read with pleasure by many. Bengel's thoughts upon this variety of subjects are here given just as they were found in his writings; no party or prejudice has been consulted ; a true portrait of Bengel, and nothing else, was supposed to be the thing desired by the reader; and for its completion, Bengel's own writings were found sufficient.
One very important particular here demands a moment's attention. It was considered but justice to Bengel, that this work should comprise his views on the Apocalypse: for not only has his name been farthest known and most remembered on their account, but, by being misconceived or misrepresented, they have been the innocent occasion of very unfavourable opinions in the minds of some respecting him. Thus it has been confidently asserted in some popular publications, that he predicted the end of the world to happen in the year 1836 : an assertion which will be found at variance with every thing he has written. In the present volume it will be seen with what correctness of judgment he contemplated the character of his own times, and with what surprising accuracy he foreshowed that of the times which have since gone by. This surely was a performance which did not entitle him to be ranked with those fanatical prophesiers who at seasons of great excitement and change have suddenly appeared like the fungi of a night's growth, and been nearly as soon forgotten. For though not one thing more than has come to pass of what he anticipated, should be accomplished ; though upon all which yet remains of unfulfilled prophecy he should be found to have erred; still he would deserve to be numbered with those whom God from time to time has gifted with more than common insight into Scripture and human nature, were it only for those discoveries and anticipations which events have already confirmed. If we read with unbiassed attention his sentiments and inferences from the Apocalypse, as found in the following pages, (Part III. ch. vii.) we cannot well avoid the conclusion that he was gifted in no ordinary degree, to have spoken as he has done of future and distant times.
Nor let it be overlooked that Bengel, as he has expressly told us in these pages, “ did not profess to deliver his opinion upon every subject of the kind with equal certainty;" and that he all along exhibits his views “not as articles of faith, but as things which would both admit of and require correction.” As the appropriate season for trying their correctness seems nearly to have arrived, so his own anticipation is already fulfilling, that “he should for a time be slighted and forgotten, but by and by be again resorted to.”
This publication will assist in evincing what further correctness may belong to his views upon prophecy: independently of which, if made use of, not for vain and curious inquiries, but as a repertory of motives to repentance or conversion, to amendment of life, and to patient continuance in well doing, it will be seasonable and useful. Practical, vigorous, and benevolent Christianity is the thing which is everywhere more and more wanted ; and for the promotion of this, the compiler of the following Memoir commends it to the special blessing of Him, for whose honour and glory it was undertaken, and by whose gracious power and continual help it has been carried on and completed.