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Far from realizing these expectations, Bengel's system became popular and wide-spread. His fame and his work were made known by men of different nations. His German biographer tells us :
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.”—p. 337.
He also states that “ the subscribers to 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.” He goes on to say
“ 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.” —
But neither was Bengel without honour in his own country. His biographer proceeds :
“ 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 contem
poraries, 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
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 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.”—p. 338.
So mistaken was Bengel's impression that soon after his death his very name would fall into disrepute as an Expositor of the Apocalypse, that the system and name were continued, or rather renewed, twenty years after his death by his son.
“ 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
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.”—p. 340.
And still the popularity continued and increased :
“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; shewing 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
Of a similar kind were several
works of the Würtemberg prelate, Magnus Frederic Roos. They were grounded upon Bengel's interpretation, and were designed to accumulate its historical and scriptural proofs, or to set them in a new light.”—p. 340.
The system was not, however, without opposition. It was anonymously attacked, in 1788, by Pfeiffer; who did not, however, propose anything like the “Protestant” interpretation of the English school, and who no doubt contributed to promote the interest which it still excited.
Ten years after, the scheme was taken up with all his natural enthusiasm by Professor Jung, more commonly known by the name of Stilling, who was then one of the most popular writers of the day. With his characteristic simplicity, he tells us that one Sunday morning in the month of March, 1798, he had resolved not to go to church, but to work at his “Grey Man,” -a periodical, by means of which he was endeavouring to oppose the infidel and revolutionary doctrines which were abroad. In particular he had resolved to write something relating to the Apocalypse. So he took in band the Karlsruhe book mentioned in the foregoing extract, to prepare himself; and (to be brief) he sat down, and wrote what came to be two octavo volumes, “entitled,” says his biographer, “The Victories and Ultimate Triumph of Christianity, being a familiar exposition of the Revelation of St. John. Nuremberg, 1799 ; and in the Supplement to it, printed in 1805," p. 347. Perhaps there were intermediate editions, but one before us was printed at Nurem
berg, 1822, and the copy contains a further attestation of the popularity of the book in the form of an Index, consisting of 128 pages, by M. Traugott Leberecht Kämpfe, pastor in Langenberg, printed at the same place, in 1812.
Stilling was an enthusiastic admirer, and pretty close follower of Bengel?, though he differed on some points, in that he maintained that the millennium must commence in the year 1816 8.”
Bengel had very plainly and honestly said, “Should the year 1836
pass away without any such remarkable change in public affairs as I have anticipated, some fundamental mistake in the arrangement of my system must be sought after.” This was plain and straightforward ; and it may be hoped and well believed, that if he had lived to see that the year from which he expected so much did so pass away, he would have frankly acknowledged his error.
But before the year 1836 arrived, a modification of the system (still the popular and prevalent one) was made, which provided against its destruction, supposing that even by that most unfortunate event, it should occur. This modification is, indeed, one of the circumstances which have
* In his Introduction, after giving the Apocalyptic progression, which we have extracted, he breaks forth, "jezt ist dieses bewundernswürdige System vollständig, und man wird in meiner folgenden Erklärung der Apocalypse sehen, wie genau es zutrifft; und was es in astronomischen Berechnungen leistet, das findet man in oftgedachtem Carlsruher Buch ausfürlich, so dass mans ohne Erstaunen nicht lesen kann.”—p. 17.
& Memoirs, p. 349.