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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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So called from the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D. D. an American divine, who in his sermons and tracts has made several additions to the sentiments first advanced by the celebrated Jonathan Edwards, late president of New-Jersey College. The following is a summary of the distinguishing tenets of the Hopkinsians, together with a few of the reasons they bring forward in support of their sentiments. 1. That all true virtue, or real holiness, consists in disinterested benevolence. The object of benevolence is universal being, including God and all intelligent creatures. It wishes and seeks the good of every individual, so far as is consistent with the greatest good for the whole, which is comprised in the glory of God and the perfection and happiness of his kingdom. The law of God is the standard of all moral rectitude or holiness. This is reduced into love to God, and our neighbour as ourselves; and universal good-will comprehends all the love to God, our neighbour, and ourselves, required in the divine law, and therefore must be the whole of holy obedience. Let any serious person think what are the particular branches of true piety; when he has viewed each one by itself, he will find that disinterested friendly affections, is its distinguishing characteristic. for instance, all the holiness in pious fear, which distinguishes it from the fear of the wicked, consists in love.

Again; holy gratitude is nothing but good- will to God and our neighbour, in which we ourselves are included; and correspondent affection, excited by a view of the good-will and kindness of God. Universal good-will also implies the whole of the duty we owe to our neighbour, for justice, truth, and faithfulness, are comprised in universal benevolence; so are temperance and chastity. For an undue indulgence of our appetites and passions is contrary to benevolence, as tending to hurt ourselves or others; and so opposite to the general good, and the divine command, in which all the crime of such indulgence consists. In short, all virtue is nothing but benevolence acted out in its proper nature and perfection; or love to God and our neighbour, made perfect in all its genuine exercises and expressions. II. That all sin consists in selfishness. By this is meant an interested, selfish affection, by which a person sets himself up as supreme, and the only object of regard; and nothing is good or lovely in his view, unless suited to promote his own private interest. This self-love is in its whole nature, and every degree of it, enmity against God: it is not subject to the law of God, and is the only affection that can oppose it. It is the foundation of all spiritual blindness, and therefore the source of all the open idolatry in the heathen world, and false religion under the light of the Gospel; all this is agreeable to that self- love which opposes God's true character.

Under the influence of this principle, men depart from truth; it being itself the greatest practical lie in nature, as it sets up that which is comparatively nothing above universal existence. Self-love is the source of all profaneness and impiety in the world, and of all pride and ambition among men, which is nothing but selfishness, acted out in this particular way. This is the foundation of all covetousness and sensuality, as it blinds people's eyes, contracts their hearts, and sinks them down, so that they look upon earthly enjoyments as the greatest good. This is the source of all falsehood, injustice, and oppression, as it excites mankind by undue methods to invade the property of others. Self-love produces all the violent passions; envy, wrath, clamour, and evil speaking: and every thing contrary to the divine law is briefly comprehended in this fruitful source of all iniquity, self-love. III. That there are no promises of regenerating grace made to the doings of the unregenerate. For as far as men act from self-love, they act from a bad end: for those who have no true love to God, really do no duty when they attend on the externals of religion. And as the unregenerate act from a selfish principle, they do nothing which is commanded: their impenitent doings are wholly opposed to repentance and conversion; therefore not implied in the command to repent, &c.; so far from this, they are altogether disobedient to the command. Hence it appears that there are no promises of salvation to the doings of the unregenerate.

IV. That the impotency of sinners, with respect to believing in Christ, is not natural, but moral; for it is a plain dictate of common sense, that natural impossibility excludes all blame. But an unwilling mind is universally considered as a crime, and not as an excuse, and is the very thing wherein our wickedness consists That the impotence of the sinner is owing to a disaffection of heart, is evident from the promises of the Gospel. When any object of good is proposed and promised to us upon asking, it clearly evinces that there can be no impotence in us with respect to obtaining it, besides the disapprobation of the will: and that inability which consists in disinclination, never renders any thing improperly the subject of precept or command. V. That, in order to faith in Christ, a sinner must approve in his heart of the divine conduct, even though God should cast him off for ever; which, however, neither implies love of misery, nor hatred of happiness. For if the law is good, death is due to those who have broken it. The Judge of all the earth cannot but do right. It would bring everlasting reproach upon his government to spare us, considered merely as in ourselves. When this is felt in our hearts, and not till then, we shall be prepared to look to the free grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ, and to exercise faith in his blood, who is set forth to be a propitiation to declare God's righteousness, that he might be just, and yet be the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. VI. That the infinitely wise and holy God has exerted his omnipotent power in such a manner as he purposed should be followed with the existence and entrance of moral evil into the system.

For it must be admitted on all hands, that God has a perfect knowledge, foresight, and view of all possible existences and event. If that system and scene of operation, in which moral evil should never have existed, was actually preferred in the divine mind, certainly the Deity is infinitely disappointed in the issue of his own operations. Nothing can be more dishonourable to God than to imagine that the system which is actually formed by the divine hand, and which was made for his pleasure and glory, is yet not the fruit of wise contrivance and design. VII. That the introduction of sin is upon the whole, for the general good. For the wisdom and power of the Deity are displayed in carrying on designs of the greatest good; and the existence of moral evil has undoubtedly occasioned a more full, perfect, and glorious discovery of the infinite perfections of the divine nature, than could otherwise have been made to the view of creatures. If the extensive manifestations of the pure and holy nature of God, and his infinite aversion to sin, and all his inherent perfections, in their genuine fruits and effects, is either itself the greatest good, or necessarily contains it, it must necessarily follow that the introduction of sin is for the greatest good. VIII. That repentance is before faith in Christ.

By this is not intended, that repentance is before a speculative belief of the being and perfections of God, and of the person and character of Christ; but only that true repentance is previous to a saving faith in Christ, in which the believer is united to Christ, and entitled to the benefits of his mediation and atonement. That repentance is before faith in this sense, appears from several considerations.

1. As repentance and faith respect different objects, so they are distinct exercises of the heart; and therefore one not only may, but must be prior to the other.

2. There may be genuine repentance of sin without faith in Christ, but there cannot be true faith in Christ without repentance of sin; and since repentance is necessary in order to faith in Christ, it must necessarily be prior to faith in Christ.

3. John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, taught that repentance is before faith. John cried, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; intimating that true repentance was necessary in order to embrace the Gospel of the kingdom. Christ commanded, Repent ye, and believe the Gospel. And Paul preached repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. IX. That though men became sinners by Adam, according to a divine constitution, yet they have and are accountable for no sins but personal; for,

1. Adam's act, in eating the forbidden fruit, was not the act of his posterity; therefore they did not sin at the same time he did.

2. The sinfulness of that act could not be transferred to them afterwards, because the sinfulness of an act can no more be transferred from one person to another than an act itself.

3. Therefore Adam's act, in eating the forbidden fruit, was not the cause, but only the occasion of his posterity's being sinners. God was pleased to make a constitution, that, if Adam remained holy through his state of trial, his posterity should in consequence be holy also; but if he sinned, his posterity should in consequence be sinners likewise. Adam sinned, and now God brings his posterity into the world sinners. By Adam's sin we are become sinners, not for it; his sin being only the occasion, not the cause of our committing sins. X. That though believers are justified through Christ's righteousness; yet his righteousness is not transferred to them. For,

1. Personal righteousness can no more be transferred from one person to another, than personal sin.

2. If Christ's personal righteousness were transferred to believers, they would be as perfectly holy as Christ; and so stand in no need of forgiveness.

3. But believers are not conscious of having Christ's personal righteousness, but feel and bewail much indwelling sin and corruption.

4. The Scripture represents believers as receiving only the benefits of Christ's righteousness in justification, or their being pardoned and accepted for Christ's righteousness' sake: and this is the proper Scripture notion of imputation. Jonathan's righteousness was imputed to Mephibosheth when David showed kindness to him for his father Jonathan's sake. The Hopkinsians warmly contend for the doctrine of the divine decrees, that of particular election, total depravity, the special influences of the Spirit of God in regeneration, justification by faith alone, the final perseverance of the saints, and the consistency between entire freedom and absolute dependence; and therefore claim it as their just due, since the world will make distinctions, to be called Hopkinsian Calvinists. Adam's view of Religions; Hopkins on Holiness; Edwards on the Will, p. 234, 282; Edwards on virtue; West's Essay on Moral agency, p. 170, 181; Spring's Nature of Duty, 23; Moral Disquisitions, p. 40.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Hopkinsians'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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