SchröcKh, jOhann mAtthias
Schröckh, Johann Matthias a Protestant theologian of Germany of eminent culture and extended usefulness in the department of historical learning, was born at Vienna July 26, 1733, and was early destined for the pulpit. His education was obtained chiefly at the Lutheran Gymnasium of Presburg, the Steinmetz School at Klosterbergen, near Magdeburg, and the University of Göttingen. Mosheim and J. D. Michaelis were then in the faculty of the latter institution, and their influence over Schröckh was such that his attention became predominantly fixed on history and the Oriental languages, and he was led to form habits of independent research, and to cultivate an attractive historical style qualities which adhered to him through life. After his graduation, he was associated with an uncle, Prof. Karl A. Bell, of Leipsic, in editing several learned periodicals; but he also found time to perfect his knowledge of Greek and Roman antiquities under the tuition of professors Christ and Ernesti. In 1756 he received the master's degree, and became a tutor in the university, and subsequently custodian of the library, and in 1761 he was made professor extraordinary. The uncertainty of further preferment in the University of Leipsic, and the unsatisfactory income which he derived from literary labors, now decided him to accept a call to the chair of poetry in the University of Wittenberg, which he held until 1775, when he was transferred to the chair of history, in the duties of which station he spent the remainder of his life. He projected a three years' course, in which he was accustomed to traverse not only the history of literature, the Church, the Reformation, theology, and Christian antiquities, but also that of European states, Germany and Saxony in particular, and also of diplomacy; and, in addition to these labors, he issued numerous reviews, editions of works written by his friends, and independent works of more or less importance. His fidelity to his work was acknowledged by the government at Dresden, who transmitted to him a testimonial in writing and an honorary donation, together with the offer of a titular patent as councilor of state, which latter he declined. He was married to Frederica Pitzschig, by whom he had four children, all of whom died in early childhood; and he died Aug. 2, 1808. in consequence of a fall experienced in his library, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of his birth.
As a writer of history, Schröckh was thoroughly qualified by his learning, impartial love of truth and devotion to morality, untiring industry in the work of collection and research, and the clearness, simplicity, and logic of his style. He was deficient in the critical apprehension and philosophical penetration needed to discover the internal connection of events; and his style, as a whole, lacks the picturesque coloring and pregnancy of meaning which characterize a classical writer. He was not a master in the art of descriptive writing, but, nevertheless, a meritorious and successful author. His works were numerous, but have been superseded by more complete and thorough books of later origin. They include biographies of learned men, and of other persons eminent in the history of the world; textbooks and manuals of history, and other similar works, none of which possess permanent value. The Historia Religionis et Ecclesioe Christianoe in Usum Lectionum, published in a seventh edition by Marheinecke in 1828, is noticeable chiefly because of its wealth of material, its judicious references to sources and helps, the systematic arrangement of its contents, and its excellent Latin. The great work of his life, beyond question, is the Ausführliche Geschichte der christlichen Kirche, in 45 vols., the last two of which were completed by Prof. Tzschirner after the author's death. The work covers eighteen centuries of the Christian Church, and is characterized by impartiality and completeness to a remarkable degree. No work has yet appeared which combines so great magnitude with so many advantages as does that of Schröckh , though the earlier volumes, being intended simply to furnish a comprehensive course of reading in Church history, leave much to be desired on the part of cultured readers.
See an article by Schröckh in R.G. Bayer's Allgem. Magazin für Prediger, etc., vol. 5, No. 2, p. 209-222; Politz, J.M. Schröckh's Nekrolog (Wittenberg, 1808); and notices respecting the life of Schröckh contributed to the Allgens. Zeitung, 1808, Nos. 247 and 248, p. 985-989. A faithful and instructive delineation is given by his friend K.L. Nitzsch in J.M. Schröckh's Studienweise u. Maximen (Weimar, 1809). H.G. Tzschirner's J.M. Schröckh's Leben, Karakter, u. Schriften was prefixed to pt. 10 of Schröckh's Kirchengeschichte seit der Reformation, and has also been published separately since 1812, with portrait. A complete list of Schröckh's works is given in Mensel's Gelehrtes Deutschland, 8, 314 sq.; 10, 627, and 15, 381. See also Wähler, Gesch. d. hist. Forschung u. Kunst, vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 813 sq.; Stäudlin, Gesch. u. Lit. d. Kirchengesch. (Hanover, 1827); Baur, Epochen d. christl. Kirchengesch.-Schreibung (Tüb. 1852).