Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Hopkins, Samuel (theologian)

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HOPKINS, Samuel, theologian, b. in Waterbury, Conn., 17 Sept., 1721; d. in Newport, R. I., 20 Dec., 1803. He was brought up on a farm, graduated at Yale in 1741, and trained in theology by Jonathan Edwards. In 1743 he was ordained pastor of the church at Housatonnuc (afterward Great Barrington), Mass., but in January, 1769, he was dismissed because his church was reduced in numbers. On 11 April, 1770, he was settled over a hurch in Newport, R. I. In December, 1776, when the British took possession of Newport, he retired to Great Barrington. During the summer of 1777 he preached to a large congregation at Newburyport, Mass., and subsequently at Canterbury and Stamford, Conn. In the spring of 1780, after the evacuation of Newport by the British, he returned, but found his congregation diminished and impoverished. For the remainder of his life he was obliged to depend on the weekly contribu- tions of his hearers and the assistance of friends. In January, 1799, paralysis deprived him of the use of his limbs. He was an early advocate of the emancipation of negro slaves, freed his own, and originated the idea of sending the liberated slaves to Africa to act as agents of civilization. The agitation that was begun by him led to organized political action in Rhode Island and the passing of a law, in 1774, forbidding the importation of negroes into the colony, followed after the Revolution by an act of the legislature declaring all children of slaves that should be born subsequent to 1 March, 1785, to be free. He was the author of the modifications of the Calvinistic theology that came to be known as Hopkinsianism. He believed that the inability of the unregenerate is owing to moral and not to natural causes, and that sinners are free agents and deserving of punishment, though all acts, sinful as well as righteous, are the result of the decrees of providence. The essence of sin, he thought, consisted in the disposition and intention of the mind. Dr. Hopkins was an exceedingly modest and devout man, and exemplified the disposition of unselfishness and benevolence which he regarded as the basis of a Christian life. He was the original of one of the principal characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's “Minister's Wooing.” His theological theories, which created an epoch in the development of religious thought in New England, were first presented from the pulpit, and were developed, with some modifications, after his death, by his friends, Stephen West, Nathaniel Emmons, and Samuel Spring. Among his published sermons are “Sin, through Divine Interposition, an Advantage to the Universe; and yet this is no Excuse for Sin or Encouragement to it” (1759); “An Inquiry whether the Promises of the Gospel are made to the Exercises and Doings of Persons in the Unregenerate State” (1765); “The True State and Character of the Unregenerate” (1769); and “An Inquiry into the Nature of True Holiness” (1773). His “Dialogue Showing it to be the Duty and Interest of the American States to Emancipate all their African Slaves” appeared in 1776. His theological views were expounded in “A System of Doctrines Contained in Divine Revelation” (1793). He published a “Life of President Edwards” and lives of Susannah Anthony (1796), and Mrs. Osborn (1798). A dialogue on the nature and extent of true Christian submission, an address to professing Christians, and sketches of his own life were included in a collection of his works published by Dr. Stephen West (Stockbridge, 1805). A subsequent edition of his collected writings contains a memoir by Dr. Edwards A. Park (Boston, 1852). A “Treatise on the Millennium,” originally published with the “System of Divinity,” was reissued in 1854.