Hopkins, Samuel, Dd

Hopkins, Samuel, D.D.

A noted Calvinistic divine, was born at Waterbury, Conn., Sept. 17, 1721, and was at once set apart by his father for the ministry of the Gospel. He entered Yale College in September 1737. During his collegiate course the town of New Haven was stirred by the preaching of Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent. The students were deeply affected, and Hopkins was one of the converted. After graduation he commenced the study of theology with president Edwards, and, though not an imitator of the president, he was more powerfully influenced by him than by any other man. In 1741 he began to preach, but with great embarrassment and despondency. During his first few months of probation he declined five invitations for settlement. On Dec. 23, 1743, he was ordained over an infant church of five members in Housatonick, now Great Barrington, Mass. He remained in this pastorate twenty-five years. He often preached extemporaneously, and was indefatigable in parochial labor. He gave offence to his people by his practice of reading portions of Scripture in the Sabbath services, a practice which was then unusual in New England. From 1744 to 1763 the prosperity of the church was more or less interrupted by the French and Indian war. Hopkins was obliged often to remove his family, and sometimes to go himself, for safety from Great Barrington. His criticisms on the military movements of the British army are quite acute: "Our generals are very grand. The baggage of each one amounts to five cartloads. Mighty preparations, but nothing done." On the banks of the Monongahela Washington was uttering almost the same words to general Braddock. His church, during his pastorate, increased in membership from five to 116. He labored faithfully among the Indians of his vicinity, and spent much of his time in personal intercourse with Jonathan Edwards, then of Stockbridge. He became unpopular with some members of his parish on account of his strict terms of Church communion, his bold assertions of Calvinistic doctrine, and his staunch patriotism. He was especially disliked by the British Tories. Some of his parishioners would give nothing for his support, and others had nothing to give. In great poverty, he left his parish in 1769. In April 1770, he was installed pastor of the church at Newport, which town was then a port of commercial importance, and for many years the rival of New York. During the first year of his pastorate Hopkins enjoyed a visit from Whitefield. His church in Newport flourished until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In 1776 the town was captured by the British, and remained in their possession three years. Hopkins continued at his post until the last moment, and then was compelled to flee. He spent the interval in assisting his friend, Dr. Samuel Spring, of Newburyport (see Life and Times of Gardiner Spring [N. Y. 1866, 2 vols. 12mo], 1, 12 sq.), and in supplying destitute churches in Connecticut. During his absence his people were scattered, and his meetinghouse nearly demolished. He returned in 1779, and began to preach in a private room, but soon received aid from his friends in Boston and Newburyport for the restoration of his church edifice. He rejected eligible offers of settlement in other places, and remained faithful to his people, receiving no regular salary, but depending on precarious and meager contributions.

As soon as Hopkins commenced his pastoral labors at Newport he began to agitate the subject of slavery. At that time Newport was the great slave- market of New England. Hopkins affirmed that the town was built up by the blood of the Africans. Some of the wealthiest members of his church were slave-traders, and many of his congregation were slave owners. He astonished them by his first sermon against the slave system. The poet Whittier says: "It may well be doubted whether on that Sabbath day the angels of God, in their wide survey of his universe, looked down upon a nobler spectacle than that of the minister of Newport rising up before his slaveholding congregation, and demanding, in the name of the Highest, the deliverance of the captive, and the opening of the prison-doors to them that were bound." Only one family left his church; the others freed their slaves. He continued to preach on the subject, and made himself intensely unpopular throughout Rhode Island. In 1776 he published his celebrated Dialogue concerning the Slavery of the Africans, together with his Address to Slaveholders, copies of which were sent to all the members of the Continental Congress, and to prominent men throughout the country. It was reprinted by the New York Manumission Society as late as 1785. Hopkins entered into correspondence with Granville Sharp, Zachary Macaulay, and other English abolitionists. From them he borrowed the idea of colonizing the blacks; and he devised a colonization scheme, in which he manifested a practical statesmanship unusual for a clergyman. When the Federal Constitution was framed in 1787, he pointed to the clause recognizing slavery in the United States, and said, "I fear this is an Achan, which will bring a curse, so that we cannot prosper." Of a movement so vast as the anti-slavery reform in the United States no one man can claim to be the author; but Dr. Hopkins was most certainly the pioneer in that movement.

It is not, however, as a philanthropist, but as a theologian, that Hopkins is generally known. In his extreme indigence he writes: "I have been saved from anxiety about living, and have had a thousand times less care and trouble in the world than if I had had a great abundance. Being unconnected with the great and rich, I have had more time to attend to my studies, and particularly have had leisure to write my 'System of Divinity,' which I hope will not prove useless." By this system, and by his various independent treatises, he gave occasion for the name "Hopkinsian," as applied to the views of eminent New England divines. He regarded himself as an Edwardean. He had been the most intimate of president Edwards's companions, had revised the president's manuscripts, had carefully edited some of them, and was more exactly acquainted than any other man with the president's original speculations. He wrote the first memoir of Edwards, of which the Encyclopedia Britannica says, it is "equal in simplicity, though by no means in anything else, to the most exquisite biographies of Izaak Walton." The prominent tenets of Hopkinsianism are the following:

1. All real holiness consists in disinterested benevolence.

2. All sin consists in selfishness.

3. There are no promises of regenerating grace made to the doings of the unregenerate.

4. The impotency of sinners with respect to believing in Christ is not natural, but moral.

5. A sinner is required to approve in his heart of the divine conduct, even though it should cast him off forever.

6. God has exerted his power in such a manner as he purposed would be followed by the existence of sin.

7. The introduction of moral evil into the universe is so overruled by God as to promote the general good.

8. Repentance is before faith in Christ.

9. Though men became sinners by Adam, according to a divine constitution, yet they have, and are accountable for, no sins but personal.

10. Though believers are justified through Christ's righteousness, yet his righteousness is not transferred to them.

Dr. Nathanael Emmons (q.v.), who was the most eminent defender of Hopkinsianism, and who described it as characterized by the ten preceding articles, added the following (see Park, Memoir of Emmons) as his own views, and as supplemental to those of his friend Hopkins:

1. Holiness and sin consist in free voluntary exercises.

2. Men act freely under the divine agency.

3. The least transgression of the divine law deserves eternal punishment.

4. Right and wrong are founded in the nature of things.

5. God exercises mere grace in pardoning or justifying penitent believers through the atonement of Christ, and mere goodness in rewarding them for their good works.

6. Notwithstanding the total depravity of sinners, God has a right to require them to turn from sin to holiness.

7. Preachers of the Gospel ought to exhort sinners to love God, repent of sin, and believe in Christ immediately.

8. Men are active, not passive, in regeneration.

Some of these eight propositions are distinctly avowed, others more or less clearly implied in the writings of Hopkins. Emmons regarded Hopkinsianism as in some respects high and intense Calvinism; as, in other respects (the doctrine of general atonement for example), moderate Calvinism; and as, on the whole, "consistent Calvinism." Amid his labors as a reformer and theologian, Dr. Hopkins vigorously discharged his parochial duties, until he was struck with paralysis, in his seventy-eighth year. He continued to preach during the next four years. With a revival of religion his ministry had commenced, with a revival also it ended-the rising and the setting of his sun. He wrote out a list of his congregation, and offered a separate prayer for each individual. Thirty-one conversions followed. After his discourses on the 16th of Oct. 1803, he exclaimed, "Now I have done; I can preach no more." He staggered from the pulpit to his bed, from which he never rose. He died on the 20th of December 1803.

In person Dr. Hopkins was tall and vigorous; in his movements dignified, though unwieldy. His head was large and square, and his face beamed with intelligence. The movements of his mind were like those of his body, powerful, but often clumsy. Inflexible faithfulness to what he deemed his duty, with utter self-sacrifice for the right, was his main characteristic. "Love to being in general" was with him not the mere byword of a sect, but the enthusiastic purpose of his life. He had not the temperament, which inspires enthusiasm, and he had but little tact in personal intercourse with men; but in the depths of his indigence he was true to himself, and showed all the courage of a Hampden. He studied hardly ever less than fourteen hours a day, and sometimes even as many as eighteen in a little room of eleven feet by seven. Every Saturday he fasted, and thus gained spiritual strength for the toils of earth by communion with Heaven. He labored for Indians and selfish white men; for poor Negroes who had then no other friend; and for theological science, which gave him respect, but little bread — vixit propter alios. In 1854 his Works (before repeatedly reprinted) were published by the Massachusetts Doctrinal Tract Society (3 vols. 8vo), containing over 2000 pages, with a Memoir by Prof. Edward A. Park of 266 pages.

The character and writings of Dr. Hopkins have recently been depicted for general readers in a very striking way in Mrs. Stowe's Minister's Wooing. See also Congreg. Quar. Rev. 1864, p. 1 sq.; Hagenbach, History of Doctr. 2, 436, 438; Shedd, Hist. of Doctr. 1, 383, 408; 2, 25, 81,489; Buchanan, Justification, p. 190. For the diffusion of Hopkinsianism and its later modifications, SEE NEW ENGLAND THEOLOGY. On the relation of Hopkins's theory to the orthodox view of redemption, see Bangs, Errors of Hopkinsianism (N. York, 12mo); Hodgson, New Divinity Examined (N. York, 12mo); art. Edwards, in Herzog, Real-Encyklop.; Christian Examiner, 1843, p. 169 sq.; Adams, View of all Religions, p. 168; Spring, On the Nature of Duty; Ely, Contrast between Calvinism and Hopkinsianism (N. Y. 1811); Bib. Sac. April, 1852, p. 448 sq.; Jan. 1853, p. 633, — 671; July, 1862 (art. 6); New Englander, 1868, p. 284 sq.; Life

and Times of Gardiner Spring (N. Y. 1866, 2 vols. 12mo), 2 5 sq. (W. E. P.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.