« PrécédentContinuer »
mentioned prepares the mind and the heart for willing and cheerful obedience, yes for uniform fidelity, as a matter of conscience, in things great and small. That such persons are no longer "carnal,” but “spiritually minded” (Rom. viii. 5—16), and have the real life of Christ within them; they keep his commandments, and abide in him (1 John iii. 24). That he considered it a gracious favour from God, and a blessed commission, to have to tell them of these things.
Thus entered Bengel, in the name of the Lord, on a station very different from his former one; he had exchanged a life of long toil and activity, for one of comparative rest and quietness ; and that constant intercourse with ardent students and with learned men, from which he had hitherto derived such benefit, was now superseded by a life of comparative solitude. He had also left the busy vicinity of the metropolis (for his Denkendorf being but three leagues from Stuttgart, he would sometimes pleasantly call it the suburbs), for a remote and country seclusion. The literary works he had undertaken were now nearly completed,* and he considered himself to be already approaching so near the end of his course, as not to be likely to venture afresh upon any similar undertaking. Here then he experienced such a sort of void, that the longer he lived, the more tedious did the bare concerns of this world seem, and the more desirable the attainment of his heavenly home. On the 20th of September, 1741, he writes: “I have been undergoing, for several days past, an experience comparatively new to me; so much more than ever do I feel myself to be like an empty vessel, as my work of nearly thirty years is fast running to its close ; but it is good for me to learn the littleness of all our human efforts." Nevertheless, he gradually accommodated himself to his new condition; and on the 20th of May, 1742, he writes : “My solitude affords me advantages for meditation on the Apocalypse, and upon other subjects more aloof from the noise and distraetion of human opinions ; indeed, the leisure I enjoy, after so many years of incessant business, would seem strange to me, if I did not learn to improve it. I must needs have some probationary exercises to go on with, while I remain in this life.”
* On the same day that he was elected prelate of Herbrechtingen, his “GNOMON" received its imprimatur.
This learned and pious man's work was not yet done ; he had only shifted upon a resting station, where he could enjoy more quiet for literary labour, recruit his strength for new activity, and give it to those immediate employments of the ministry, which, as he sought after them with exemplary earnestness and piety, now increased upon him daily. The impressive sermons preached by him and by his excellent coadjutors soon stirred up such a feeling in their congregations, that many with wonder and delight expressed that they had never heard such preaching before. Persons thus awakened to the value of real Christianity soon wished for instruction in personal religion beyond what they could gain from public discourses; and the more eager they were to listen to these, the more they felt their need of private spiritual application. They therefore waited upon their faithful pastor, requesting him to satisfy their desire for the truth; and he readily complied with their request. He commenced regular meetings for edification, similar to those he had held at Denkendorf, and he now expounded, first the four Gospels throughout, and afterwards the Revelation of St. John. His Apocalyptical expositions were undertaken principally at the urgent desire of Oetinger, and this was the origin of Bengel's well-known “ Sixty Practical Addresses” upon that prophecy, which were published from notes taken by his hearers, with his own corrections and improvements. From his expositions of the four Gospels, taken in notes by Mr. Käuflein, who was tutor in his family, we here insert a few fragments.
From his private Expositions at Herbrechtingen.
ON THE GOSPEL OF ST. MARK.
*Ch. i. 16. When we have most to attend to worldly business, we are apt to think we are farthest diverted from the right way; whereas, upon these very occasions, we may be really nearest to it. It was in the midst of temporal occupations that fishermen were called to the intimate discipleship of the Lord.
Ch. i. 35. There is something very precious in the morning hours. If at such seasons we leave the
best relatives and friends, and retire awhile for silent prayer, we shall find our spirits refreshed, as the fields with the dew of the morning.
of our very
Ch. i. 37. It is only when a Christian has collected his mind by prayer, that he can find himself enabled to make any beneficial impression upon others. Then he will be enabled to do it, and often with great effect. For the heavenly unction upon him will give forth a sweet influence, which needs not a multitude of words. As one who has just been engaged in a quarrel, shows it by his very appearance, so does the sweet composure of communion with God betray itself in those who have been enjoying it.
Ch. ii. 10. How many troubles may a single sin often bring upon us ! How will it be if people go on in sin till all their transgressions shall rise up against them as in battle array ! Let us then at once become acquainted with Jesus. There is forgiveness with Him.
Ch. ii. 15. Thus can even a feast be made the occasion of leading those into the kingdom of God who are now far from it. Here we see Jesus holding kind and familiar intercourse with people of the humblest rank. Hereby they came in contact with virtues that win the heart; namely, with undefiled innocence, gracious goodness, and benevolent earnestness to help others in the right way. Let us study to imitate Christ in all this.
Ch. iii. 5. What is this hardness of men's hearts? It is being so devoid of spiritual feeling, as to mistake good for evil, and evil for good. O let us therefore labour to abide in Jesus, stedfastly and immovably, that the mists of our worldly-mindedness may be scattered by the mind of Christ rising like the sun within us.
Ch. ii. 28–30. There are many sins against the Ghost. The most horrible is that of blaspheming Him; for this is crimen læse majestatis, a sort of high treason against the Majesty of heaven. Such a grievous sin the Scribes committed by a single saying ; but then they had been long ripening into such depravity, and never could have been guilty of it all at once. In Matt. ix. 10, 11, we may see something like the commencement of it. While some chose to utter the dreadful blasphemy, others perhaps heard it with an approving laugh, and thus made themselves partakers in the horrible sin. How dangerous then is it to consort with ungodly persons, among whom no check or restraint being felt, sins of every name are the more easily incurred.
Ch. iii. 34. Here we may learn, that they who have entered into spiritual life, through the grace of God the Father, are to be regarded as Christ's brethren and friends, because they really are
such. But what a relationship is this ! And here observe that Jesus does not except from this relationship the very lowest and meanest of mankind. Therefore let every one of us who would enjoy such an unspeakable honour, give himself up at once to " the will” of God “ the Father.”
Ch. vi. 2. The people of Nazareth stumbled at outward circumstances, and this kept them back from faith. thing frequently happens now. What though we enjoy some little advantage above our neighbours ? If we make a mirror of it, we then look the wrong way, and thus getting wrong in our direction, we stumble and fall. And we must take equal care not to be led away by our partialities; as, for instance, by excessive admiration of any sermon, exposition, piece of poetry, or whatever may happen to strike and dazzle us. What the Scripture calls “stumbling,” or being “offended,” is any such shock to our faith as hinders us from properly recovering, rising, and advancing; and all because we unduly regard things exterior and circumstantial.
Ch. vi. 4. (Instead of " despising” humble appearances, or “the day of small things,” especially as to the work of God's servants,) we must learn to infer and expect greater things from less; but if so, forasmuch as we have such abundant testimony of the actual death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and of his session at the right hand of God, &c., what will not that sinner have to answer for, who persists to the end of life in his rejection of the divine message upon these subjects !
Ch. vi. 50. “ It is 1.” (“I am he.") This satisfied and consoled the disciples. When any true disciple at present has become so intimately acquainted with the Lord Jesus, that if he say unto that disciple's soul, “ It is l,” or “ I am he,” or “I am,"* he can become immediately satisfied and consoled, how good is it! He said the same on another occasion, namely, to his enemies in the garden of Gethsemane; but it produced a very different effect. When the soul is already favoured with a sound constitution, any temporary disorder in it may easily be rectified by a single saying of Christ. It is with faith as with a kindled brand, which, when it is only in a sleeping glow, may be put into a flame by a single breath.
''Esca equ, “ I am," “ It is I,” “I am He;" the expression in the Greek Testament being one and the same for each rendering. This observation explains that of Bengel in the next sentence; for in the two cases which he here adduces, the two Greek words need little more than to be turned into two German words of the same meaning, each for each, and the German expression, like the Greek, admits of either signification.—TR.
Ch. vi. 56. Why did they desire only to touch the border of his garment ? for it is not said that they wished to get a piece of it. The Saviour's own presence was what contented them. Here is no Romish faith in relics. When religion degenerates into human inventions, we may be sure that God has no more to do with it.
Ch. vii. 6. The Lord Jesus kindly took his disciples' part against the Pharisees. The disciples were unfledged pupils, under his own wing, and therefore must be protected. What a blessing is it to be really his friends, however exposed and helpless we may be in other respects.
Ch. vii. 7. Here we may see at once what true worship is. The heart must be near to God. Communion with Him is all our salvation. Is this what we are chiefly endeavouring to maintain? It is true He is a consuming fire; but we may draw near to him by that “new and living way" which “the kindness and love of God our Saviour" have “opened to us." (If in this way we approach him,) then we may say, O God! thou art my God! Then is a man's accusing and terrified conscience, which drives him from God and from himself, made tranquil and easy. God can then gain the heart; and all its humble and meekly submissive approaches to him become accepted as a service with which He is well pleased. As a man's heart is, so is he. (It is the state of the heart that must, after all, determine what we really are in spiritual respects.) Though we may have amassed treasures of understanding about the letter of Scripture, all this is but as so much household furniture, (in the midst of which a man may remain as insecure or as wretched as ever. We read of an apostle's hearers, that they were "pricked in their heart," and so converted. In like manner) we must be “pricked in the heart” (by a conviction of sin; deeply affected by a sense of our ingratitude to God, our guilt, pollution, helplessness, and misery;) in order to apprehend and lay hold of Jesus in his love. AH will then terminate in the firm conviction, that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed of God.
Ch. ix. 31. Jesus knew, beforehand, the whole amount of his sufferings, in all their connexions and bearings; and therefore never foretold them without likewise foretelling his resurrection: neither did he foretell this without foretelling his sufferings. Thus does true faith apprehend the latter and the former as one entire matter, and makes very much of every thing pertaining to either. Here is something for exercising the heart; something which must never be lost sight of in the darkest night of