Mosheim, Johann Laurenz Von

Mosheim, Johann Laurenz von a German theologian noted as an ecclesiastical historian of great merit, was born of a noble family at Lubeck, October 9, 1694. He was educated at the Gymnasium of Lubeck and the University of Kiel, where, shortly after the completion of his studies in 1718, he succeeded Albert zum Felde as professor of philosophy in 1719. In 1723, at the invitation of the duke of Brunswick, he became professor of theology in the University of Helmstadt, where he remained until 1747; when, after having at various times refused several tempting offers from the high schools of Leipsic, Dantzic, Kiel, and others, he was appointed to the professorship of theology at Gottingen and the chancellorship of the university. Here his lectures on theology attracted all classes of students. He died September 9, 1755. He was thrice married. By his first wife he had two sons and one daughter, and by his third wife one daughter, afterwards duchess of Noailles. Mosheim is regarded as the most learned Lutheran theologian of his time. With a superior classical education he combined a thorough knowledge of the English, French, and Italian languages and their literature, and was such a master of the purest German that he was esteemed one of the founders of modern German pulpit literature. The whole number of Mosheim's works is 161. He himself printed at Helmstadt in 1731 a catalogue raisonnee of the works which he had brought out up to that time. Among his theological works, special attention is due to one on Bible morality, entitled Sittenlehre der Heiligen Schrift (new ed. continued by J.P. Miller, Helmst. 1770-78, 9 volumes, 8vo). But his most important contributions to theological literature are his ecclesiastical histories, of which his best known work is the Institutiones Historice Ecclesiasticae, Antiquioris et Recentioris, libri iv. It is written in Latin, and was first published in 2 volumes, 12mo in 1726, and the enlarged edition, in composing which he examined the original authorities, was published in 4to in 1755, just before his death. Another edition was published in 1764, with an account of Mosheim's writings by Miller, one of his pupils. It was translated into German by Von Einem and by J.R. Schlegel. Schlegel's translation is the better, and is enriched with valuable notes. It has also been translated into French, Dutch, and English. The first English version was made in 1764 by Dr. Maclaine, but is very unfaithful. Dr. Mclaine's professed object was to improve Mosheim's style, by adding words and rounding off periods. His alterations and additions constantly express his own sentiments instead of Mosheim's, and sometimes flatly contradict the author. SEE MACLAINE. In 1832 a faithful translation, with valuable notes, was published by Dr. Murdock, of New Haven, Conn., of which there are many reprints; revised, N.Y. 1839. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History extends from the birth of Christ to the beginning of the 18th century. Each century is treated separately, under the two heads of external and internal history. The internal history comprises "prosperous events," or the extension of the Church by the efforts of its public rulers and private members, and "calamitous events," such as persecutions and infidel attacks. The internal history includes the history, 1, of the Christian doctors; 2, of the doctrines and laws of the Church; 3, of its ceremonies and worship; 4, of heresies. This arrangement is open to several objections, of which the chief are that it is too artificial; that what Mosheim calls external and internal history constantly run into each other (and indeed it is not easy to understand how any part of the history of a community can be said to be "external" to it); and, lastly, it imposes on the historian the necessity of deciding what no human mind can decide, namely, what events are prosperous and what calamitous to the Church. But the work of Mosheim is open to a graver objection. He has not treated his subject with the proper spirit of pious interest, though his own orthodoxy is undoubted. Nevertheless, his deep knowledge, his patient research, his general candor and impartiality, and his philosophical spirit, entitle Mosheim to a place among the best Church historians. His works gave an impulse to the study of Church history in Germany, which has produced, among other works, those of Pfaff, Baumgarten, Walch, Semler, Schrockh, Henke, Schmidt, Neander, etc. Of these, that of Schrockh, a pupil of Mosheim, is the fullest, extending to 45 volumes, 8vo. "In his Ecclesiastical History," says Hagenbach — certainly a most competent critic — "Mosheim has labored with a candor which grants to all who differ from him an impartial presentation of their views, and insures justice to all; he has subjected their systems to a thoroughly scientific treatment, and in this he has been very happily likened to Melancthon." The most discriminating estimate of Mosheim seems to us to be that of Hase, who says: "Mosheim, conscious of historical talents, with a power of combination always bold, and sometimes extravagant, and an acquaintance with men in various and friendly relations, is universally acknowledged to have been a master of ecclesiastical historical writing" (Ch. Hist. page 9). Mosheim's other important works on Church history are his tract, De Rebus Christianorumn ante Constantinum (Helmst. 1753), and Infstitutiones Historice Christiance Majores (1739), which is a full Church history of the first century: — Dissertationes ad Hist. Ecclesiasticam pertinentes (new ed. Altona, 1767, 2 volumes): — and Versuch einer unparteiischen Ketzergeschichte (Helmst. 1746-48, 2 volumes). Among his other works are a Latin translation, with notes, of Cudworth's Systema Intellectuale (Jena, 1738): — six volumes of Sermons (1747). Mosheim's interpretations of Scripture are found in his Observationes Sacrae (Amsterdam, 1721); his Cogitationes in N.T. locc. select. (Hannov. 1726); his Erklarung des I. Br. an d. Corinther (1741, new ed. by Windheim, 1762); his Erkl. d. beyden Br. an d. Timoth. (1755); and in his volumes of sermons, Heilige Reden. His exegesis is usually broad and learned, and betokens good-sense and sound erudition. Mosheim was greatly distinguished as a preacher. His style was formed on the model of the English and French preachers, Tillotson and Watts, Saurin, Massillon, and Flechier. He has been compared to Fdnelon for the graces of his style. His talents were of a very high order, his learning was immense, and his character was exemplary. Says one: "In depth of judgment, in extent of learning, in purity of taste, in the passion of eloquence, and in a laborious application to all the various branches of erudition and philosophy, he had certainly very few superiors." "Mosheim's noble character," says Hagenbach (German Rationalism, page 75), "is just as lovely as his learning was thorough and comprehensive. There is almost no domain of theology which he did not live to adorn and bless... In the study of morals he, for a time at least, created an epoch, and in the history of German pulpit eloquence a new period dates from him. He has been termed the German Tillotson, the German Bourdaloue. What Michaelis wanted in fine taste was largely present in Mosheim, and gave to all his learned works, as well as to his sermons, an indescribable charm. Mosheim in faith was thoroughly orthodox, yet mild and patient towards others, and in this respect really unlike many of that school." We think Hagenbach, however, goes too far when he calls Mosheim also "the father of modern Church history;" as such no one deserves to be named except the learned and sainted Neander. He it was who first treated ecclesiastical history as it should be treated. SEE NEANDER. See Doring, Gelehrte Theol. Deutschl. d. 18ten u. 19ten Jahrh. volumes 2 and 4; Gessner, Memoria J.L. Moshemii (1755); Lucke, Narratio de Moshemio (1837); Rossler, Ueber Mosheim als Prediger; Sachs, Geschichte der Predigt. v. Mosheim bis Schleiermacher (Heidelberg, 1866); Dowling, Introd. Eccles. Hist. p. 192,193; Schaff, Ch. Hist. i, 22, 223, ad passim; Kahnis, German Protestantism, page 118; Bibl. Sacra, January 1851, page 68; Christ. Remembr. 1862, page 46.

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